Barnet’s identity is founded on its distinctive history and building heritage. We must do something to draw the attention of more residents and potential visitors and investors to our existing assets.
The Council is consulting us on projects to help regenerate the Barnet High Street area here. Our web post on 1 February described how the Barnet Society has responded to the Community Plan by agreeing five priorities: something old, something new, something for children, something for young people and something green.
We are fortunate to have some fascinating heritage connected to our town, centred around the historic heart. These heritage assets have great potential for drawing new and additional visitors which will increase footfall, attract investment and boost the shops and businesses in the High Street. The Council have identified three Emerging Projects to help boost this potential:
• Routes & Riches Wayfinding
• Barnet Museum
• Opportunity Cluster: Historic Centre
Routes & Riches Wayfinding will improve wayfinding and orientation around the town centre. It could result in a series of specially-commissioned signs or markers which will highlight the locations of our many places of historical and architectural interest, as well as our town centre green spaces and significant buildings such as Barnet & Southgate College and the Hospital.
Such signs would complement those already commissioned and installed by Barnet Museum over the last couple of years, and could include maps, details about public transport and car parks, walking routes to/from the tube station, walking routes to woods and open spaces outside the town centre and cycle routes further afield. All this will help attract visitors and offer valuable information for those who live and work here.
At The Barnet Society we fully support the identified need of Barnet Museum to expand capacity to host visitors and increase its educational offer whilst strengthening connections to its surroundings and Old Courthouse Park. Additional exhibition space is required to display the burgeoning collection of historical artefacts from the Battle of Barnet and findings from the ongoing archaeological investigations. Additional space is also required for increased school/college visits and evening lectures and will include wheelchair access/facilities. Such a project is tangible, achievable and will directly respond to six of the seven Key Principles for Chipping Barnet identified by the Council’s team following last year’s public consultation (and will positively contribute to the seventh).
The Barnet Society previously assisted the Museum in making a planning application for a proposed two-storey (plus basement) extension to the rear of the existing building, but this was refused, principally on the grounds of loss of open space in the park. Support for this project now could enable a new Feasibility Study to look at exciting new proposals, to justify use of the Museum Garden for such an extension and to form the basis for fundraising for a new building.
The consultants have identified an Opportunity Cluster around the historic centre of the town, focussing on St John the Baptist’s Church. The area surrounding the church is currently dominated by traffic, especially when approaching up Barnet Hill, but it contains a number of historic assets including Tudor Hall, the Museum and the Mitre public house as well as complementary civic uses such as The Bull Theatre, Barnet & Southgate College and Old Courthouse Park.
The emerging project idea is to improve the appearance and safety of the main junction through widening and greening – an idea that The Barnet Society has been pushing for many years. It will also look at further enhancing Church Passage, improving access to College Square and Old Courthouse Park, making more of the various restaurants on offer and promoting events. This will make the historic heart a more welcoming place for those who live and work here and will draw in more visitors. Let’s make the most of what we have!
Don’t miss the opportunity to let the Council know these are important and worthwhile projects to pursue through the Community Plan!
The Society would like to hear how you rate these ideas. If you’re a member, we’ve already written to you, so email us at the address in the letter. If you aren’t a member, please contact us via the comment box below – and do consider joining us.