Town Team Meeting Notes for 7 May 2021

Chipping Barnet Town Team

(held via Zoom due to Covid-19 restrictions)

Meeting Notes

7 May 2021

1.Apologies:   Penny Baxter (PB), Susan Skedd (SS), Theresa Villiers (TV), new member – Kate James (KJ)   
 In Attendance:  Robin Bishop (RB), Nanna Blomquist (NB), Bob Burstow (BB), Neil Coker from 4.30pm (NC), Susi Earnshaw (SE), Gail Laser (GL), Janet Littlewood (JL), David Longstaff (DL), Chris Nightingale (CN), Mike Noronha (MN), Ken Rowland (KR), Ave Vinick (AV), Ashleigh Watkins (AW).   Neil Coker, Principal and Assistant Chief Executive of Barnet College and Kate James, Head of Wood St Centre, Barnet College (not present) welcomed to Group.   
2.    Minutes of previous meeting and matters arising not covered below.   The minutes from 5 March 2021 were agreed.     
 Matters arising not covered in Agenda.   CN asked if there was an update from TV on festival insurance.  BB said the matter was still on-going nationally.  SS had been in contact with the Council and the Medieval Festival organisers had to persuade the Council that what was being offered was as far as possible controlling the possibility of infection.  Controlling crowd movement in an open air festival with no seating was very difficult.   BB congratulated MN and his team on recovering 11 of the 12 medieval banners which had blown down in the high winds on Monday night.  MN acknowledged Bouygues work in this and said they had done a brilliant job.  The banners had been mended and restored using double fixings.                             
3.   a)  Tabling of AOB for Item 8   Whalebones       
4.                                                                    Air Purity Measures   NB reported that she had attended a meeting with Global Action who were working with the Council and some other boroughs promoting clean air initiatives.  They could give us 10-15 air diffusers to measure pollution levels in the area which would stay in place for 3-5 weeks.  She wanted suggestions for locations to site these diffusers, ideally where there was lots of pedestrian traffic, where young people congregated and around bus stops.  She was meeting them again on 13 May to discuss this.  Hopefully by the end of the month they would be in place to start monitoring so up-to-date data was available to feed into future initiatives.   KR mentioned that a committee member on Barnet Residents Association had noticed the number of parents who waited outside QE Boys’ School with their car engines idling.  She had written to the Head and he had agreed to message parents about this reminding them of the emissions problems and that it was illegal.  Apparently in the past there had been a London-wide idling campaign which Barnet had chosen not to join, but there were other campaigns which could be adopted to stop this, particularly around schools, eg St Catherine’s was participating in a scheme whereby Vale Drive was closed to vehicular traffic every day at peak school times.   GL said she had written to Environmental Health about the black soot which accumulated on her window sills and on paving stones outside her house which came from traffic.   NB said that the diffusers would not measure visible pollution, which was particulate matter from the combustion process, tyres and tarmac, but the invisible noxious gases in the air like CO2  and nitrogen oxide.   DL said it was for schools to try and educate parents about this.  Whilst it was illegal to leave your car idling, the police had to warn the person first and could not issue a fine unless the person failed to turn the engine off.   NB said the campaign really needed to start with the children, getting them to draw pictures for posters.  GL suggested after the summer replacing the Medieval Banners with clean air banners designed by children.  She asked if AW could help set up a meeting with the Council.  AW agreed to ask Paul Bragg who would lead on this to have a meeting. AW said there was a team in the Council collecting this data in other town centres so would introduce NB to them to talk about locations if nothing came from the meeting on 13th.  AV suggested talking to NC and the College.                All                                                                       AW    
5.      Moving Obstructive Advertising Items from the High St   GL had noticed more applications coming in for telephone-type hubs and unnecessary street clutter.  There had been a decluttering of the High St about 12 years ago and it was gradually coming back.  She particularly mentioned the black telephone box outside Botannika.  KR said he had emailed about the Virgin broadband box and the black kiosk outside Botannika to see if anything could be done about removing them as they were now in the middle of the pavement rather than at the kerb.   SE mentioned two bins outside the Bull, one of which had been covered up.  KR reported that there were 3 or 4 along the High St which had been decommissioned but because they were fixed to the ground they could not just be taken away.  Operations Manager, Mark Hunt, was working on getting them replaced and removed.                               
6.  Prospective Spires Sale   KR reported that BRA had decided to get on the front foot on this because it potentially could have a bigger impact on the town centre than the station carpark development.  All the correspondence with the Council had been circulated to the Town Team.  He had had a response to his last email from Stephen McDonald which apologised for not getting back but he was talking to Planning & Estates colleagues, which showed that discussions were going on within the Council.  When KR received that response hopefully things would be clearer.  It was vital a planning framework was put in place quickly.  The current one dated back to 2012 and it was urgent this was updated to inform and guide any developer as to what the Council’s expectations were for the site.  The Council was the freeholder and therefore wore multiple hats.  There was a head lease and a deed of variation which conferred some protection to Waitrose because the presence of a supermarket on the site was written into the lease.  KR’s understanding was that if a buyer wanted to demolish the Spires and build 20-storey blocks of flats, the Council would need to give permission and they could not unreasonably withhold or delay it.   KR thought this was important enough to involve the CEO, John Hooton, as he felt someone at the top was needed to deliver the planning framework. He also thought a public consultation was needed quickly and early, and something put in place about continuity of trade and trader confidence as it was easy for traders who might be on short leases to lose confidence and move away.   He volunteered himself and Gordon Massey from BRA to lead on this on behalf of the Town Team, and would welcome anybody from the Town Team who was interested.   BB was reminded of the Brakeshear House planning brief which the Barnet Society and BRA were heavily involved in.  RB confirmed it was a joint effort and, although not 100% successful, did influence the planning brief.  It was a shame the affordable work space idea would probably not come to fruition.  KR said that the planning brief had influenced and improved the scheme.   DL said he would speak to John Hooton about the Spires and the conflict of interest between being the planning authority and the freehold owners of the site and what that could entail.  He mentioned the Draft Local Plan which was not yet adopted and would be going to the Housing & Growth Committee soon, the same committee which would deal with the Spires.  Comments could still be sent to him and he would try and make sure they were included, although the consultation had closed at the end of March and final publication was imminent.   KR said as soon as he knew more about the Spires, he would inform the Town Team.  BRA would continue with what they were doing.  RB said the Barnet Society would be very keen to play its part.  He suggested somebody contacted TV to see if she had an update after her email to the Town Team, “Given the uncertainty caused by this proposed sale, perhaps we could have a briefing from the owners of the Spires and/or Savills at the next Town Team meeting to try to get a clearer understanding of the implications of the sale documents including the options involving flats.  I am due to meet someone called Tim Cornford [from Savills] to discuss this next week and will report back to the Town Team.”   DL said he had been at the meeting with TV and he had not learnt anything he did not already know, other than there had been a lot of interest from over 40 companies because of the low asking price.  He confirmed that the carpark and Waitrose both had quite long contracts so they could not just be pushed out.  KR said as freeholders the Council had the right to vary the lease and agree it internally, which was one of the dilemmas with this sort of thing.                                                                                          DL              
7.First Discussion of Community Plan Recommendations   AW said that the consultants had been through the comments received on the Community Plan and had now consolidated these into a draft engagement summary identifying the initial five projects which the Council would be taking to the Housing & Growth Cttee recommending approval.    He would go through the five projects now but would send out a Word document setting out the projects which needed to be fleshed out.  He asked for any information which members of the Town Team had which was missing in the outline and which should be considered to make sure the consultants had as much information as possible.   Routes & Riches.  This received the most support from the Community.   Focusing on the town centre and the neighbouring green spaces, developing a graphic identity for Chipping Barnet and identifying specific interventions across the town centre.  There would be a map produced.  A lot of people had mentioned the rambling economy and the potential for the town.  Local walks would be collated and compiled into a graphic identity to help develop the visitor economy for the town centre.Activating the Public Realm.  Also received a lot of support.  The junction of the High St and Wood St outside the College had been identified as an area of concern.  People wanted the public realm to support access and make that a nicer part of the town centre.  It would identify opportunities in the public realm and create an outline submission of what the historic centre could be and what it needed to live up to expectations and the historic context. Play Masterplan.  Initially to focus on the Old Courthouse Gardens and the opportunities for play there but also to better integrate that park with the town centre, to make people aware of the park.  During the consultation people had highlighted the state of the play equipment and poor connections between the café and play areas.This project was related to the strong call for more flexible workspace which was probably the biggest thing people asked for in relation to Covid.  This was about finding a High St unit and had a quicker timeline than the other projects.  The consultants would look at a co-working space and an incubator retail and family hub, develop a business case and brief so we could understand how much that would cost and then we could work out how that would be realised on the High St.An employment hub, building on the need for work space and creative space, as Alston Works had been mentioned by a few people during the consultation.  This would be about trying to understand what an employment hub was for Chipping Barnet.  There would be an assessment of what sites were suitable, were there any sites in the town centre suitable and then developing a model for Chipping Barnet to create employment.  The consultants thought there was a need for further detail and they wanted to engage with the market and understand what the employment hub needed and then look for sites across the town centre.   This would definitely be longer term.  They were all ambitious projects but this one was probably the most ambitious and would take longer to realise.   KR said this was strongly linked with the co-working space.  The High St had been mentioned but there were also empty units in the Spires.  AW said he had been in contact with the Spires because there were two units there which had been vacant for quite a while and he had asked for information on costs.  This sort of thing took time.  If anyone had information on a vacant unit, he would appreciate that information.  JL mentioned the former Statons buildings in front of Savoro which had been vacant but now had a planning application.  She said units were not vacant very long before being snapped up so speed was of the essence.  AW agreed that everyone had to work quickly.  A typical model was to be identified on the High St first.   GL said it would be good to involve a couple of young people from the College who had aspirations to go into business so they could see what was needed on a typical high street.  Graphic design students could also benefit.   AW said there were three workshops built into the next stage covering the Play Masterplan; the work space and employment hub would be clustered together, and then the public realm and way finding also clustered together.  There had already been a workshop at the College about the Draft Community Plan and champions from the College were needed for each project.  NC agreed it was a great idea.  Kate James was the best contact.  One of the key challenges for the College was to secure meaningful employment experiences for business study students so this would be very beneficial.  Graphic design students were always looking for live briefs.    NC hoped to have a conversation with AW about the flexible work space, the creative work space and the employment hub because he felt the College should be actively involved in those kinds of developments and it was possible the College could provide space for that.  The part of the College that jutted out towards the High St which at the moment was rather untidy office space was something which had troubled him from the beginning as it was not a good shopfront for the College.  He was hopeful of getting the ground floor vacated.  He had been thinking of using that space for new curriculum developments like games development, screen skills, broadcast media, media production, but was open to other discussions.  He was more than happy for people to come to the College for a meeting.  RB said that when the brief for the College had been developed some 15 years ago the Barnet Society had hoped that area would be the public face of the College where students could interact with the public, so was very happy if something like this could happen.    BB suggested the Red Lion on the corner of the High St and Fitzjohn’s Avenue which went back a long way.  The building had 3 if not 4 storeys and he thought the upper floors were just empty or used for storage.  He did not know what the landlord would think but there was perhaps an opportunity there.  In the past Wimbletech had been offered space in one of the back bars but that had not worked out.  GL thought the idea was to have the co-working space and employment hub visible on the High St so wondered if the Red Lion would be suitable.   AV asked whether the Museum would be involved with the Play Masterplan, to link the Museum with the Old Courthouse Gardens.  He did not want the opportunity to be missed.  AW said the Museum came into the Activating Public Realm project as there was an opportunity for way finding towards the Museum.  MN said the Museum extension was its own project.  There were one or two developments which he could not share at the moment but the Museum would need the Town Team’s support.   The extension at the back was not acceptable to the planning officers because it encroached on green space but that could be over-ruled with political and public support.   KR said that safety at the Wood St/High St junction had been agreed as an aim years ago.  AW said he had chased that but had had no response.  KR was disappointed that things were promised but nothing materialised.   DL asked if AW would be sending any other documentation when he sent information about the five projects because at some stage the Town Team needed to see all the information gathered.  AW said the engagement summary would become a public document after it had been adopted by the Housing & Growth Cttee and he was constrained by that.  KR wanted the document to read so he could understand the thought processes which got to the five projects and it would be too late if it was published after the Cttee had given permission. He wanted the document shared for transparency reasons.  DL and AW agreed to discuss this next week.   GL hoped for some quick action.  DL said some, but not all, of the projects could be started immediately.                    AW                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             AW/DL
8.Any Other Business   The Whalebones developers have lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.   
   Meeting Ended 5.15 pm 

Future meetings in 2021: 9 July, 3 September, 5 November

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