Fun and enjoyment but also frustration -- that was the buzz when hundreds of residents and visitors enjoyed a day out at the Barnet Vale Festival in support of a long-running campaign to refurbish and reopen the former pavilion in Tudor Park.


Attendance was the best-ever, a real boost for the organisers, but underlying the renewed enthusiasm was their mounting annoyance at the snail’s pace of Barnet Council’s response.

Despite repeated reminders months have gone by as the Friends of Tudor Park and Pavilion wait for the council’s estates office to issue documents regarding a future lease on the vacant, boarded up, but rapidly deteriorating former pavilion.

Without head of agreement terms on a proposed 25-year lease, the organising committee cannot make further progress in their bid to apply for a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Simon Cohen, chair of the friends’ committee, said that after four years battling with Barnet Council, they were all in danger of getting exhausted by the delays. What they feared most of all was a loss of momentum in their project.

Councillors who attended the festival were asked in no uncertain terms to try to put pressure on the council’s estates department to issue the relevant documents as quickly as possible.

(See above, Barnet Vale Councillor David Longstaff; committee chair Simon Cohen; High Barnet Councillor Emma Whysall; and committee vice chair Simon Kaufman.

A campaign to save the abandoned cricket pavilion – which is 104 years old – and to re-open it for the use of the community and visitors to Tudor Park was initiated by Simon Cohen in 2020.  He personally carried out a survey to see what amenities Barnet Vale residents would like to see provided.

Bringing the dilapidated property back to life – as a focal point for the community – gained strong support.

With the backing of Robin Bishop, then chair of the Barnet Society, he attended an area committee considering grants from Barnet Council's community infrastructure fund.

Barnet Council agreed to allocate £200,000 towards restoration of the building, funding for use within two years, which necessitated action to get the project off the ground. Estimates for the refurbishment range from between £500,000 and £800,000.

Once the council agreed in mid 2021 to help with funding, Simon founded the Friends of Tudor Park and Pavilion. As soon as charitable status had been secured an expression of interest was submitted to the National Lottery Community Fund for a possible grant.      

Although they obtained a positive response, the friends were told they needed to secure a lease on the building before an application could be considered.

“That is where we are now. We are still waiting.”

Committee vice chair Simon Kaufman is equally frustrated. “We were told in January we were the preferred partner for refurbishing the pavilion and the council promised in March to send us draft terms for a lease. Four months have now gone by without us getting the paperwork.

“We have a team of volunteers which is desperate to start work on the project, but it is hard keeping up the enthusiasm when all we get is promises, promises, and no action from the council.”

Councillor Longstaff, who described himself as a long-term supporter of restoring the pavilion, said he was as annoyed as the organising committee.

“This really has all got bogged down within council departments. It has been going on since 2016 and what we need now is a pro-active response.”

Councillor Emma Whysall praised the great enthusiasm of those campaigning for the pavilion’s restoration. It was just the kind of community-led project which Barnet Council wanted to encourage and that had been endorsed by the promise of a grant.

“Our estates and legal teams are busy at the moment and paperwork like this does take time to prepare, but I’ll also do what I can to speed it up.”

Committee chair Simon Cohen -- seen above here asking youngsters for their opinions – said they were determined to continue canvassing the opinions of residents to make sure they had community support.

He is standing for the Liberal Democrats in a forthcoming Barnet Council by-election in Barnet Vale and if he became a councillor his priority would be to get the re-opening of the pavilion across the line.

At a question-and-answer session seeking ideas for the pavilion’s restoration, Robin Bishop, who leads for the Barnet Society on planning and environment, praised the dedication of the organising committee and thought it would be wonderful to get the 104-year-old building back into use.

(See above, from left to right, Simon Cohen, David Ellis, Robin Bishop, Simon Kaufman)

Mr Bishop hoped a restored pavilion could become a venue for all sorts of community activities. This would help reinforce the importance of preserving Tudor Park playing fields and green space which were designated as Metropolitan open land.

Unfortunately, there was constant pressure for housing development and the friends of Tudor Park needed to be on their guard.

Mr Bishop said fields around Whalebones in High Barnet were in a conservation area but three months ago Barnet Council gave permission for 115 new homes to be built there.

“We were shocked at it happening, but if the planners are prepared to build 115 homes on such an historic part of High Barnet what is to stop someone doing something similar in Tudor Park?”

David Ellis, a local landscape architect, thought it was important to ensure the pavilion was embedded within a wider vision for Tudor Park which should emphasise its significance in terms of ecological landscape and biodiversity.

Perhaps the biodiversity could be increased by rewilding in the boundaries around the playing fields.

Simon Cohen rounded off the festival with a final appeal to all those who had attended to apply pressure on their councillors.

“Ask them why is this pavilion still uninhabited and derelict? Why is it taking so long to sort this out when the longer the council leave it, the more expensive it will be to repair the building?

“We are ready and waiting to share our working ideas on what would be a piece of community-led design.”