Through our conversations with the community, it became apparent that the residents are keen to contribute their time and resources towards local community-led projects. The emerging projects within this Community Plan aim to provide ways for local residents and businesses to invest their time, skills, resources, and networks to help shape a town centre for all. The Community Plan prioritises collective decision-making and collaboration to build the community’s agency, enthusiasm, and deliver local initiatives that are fit to serve their needs.
Why it is important
Chipping Barnet has great potential to grow and diversify its social capital. With a large percentage of the resident population being highly skilled and people keen to devote their time and energy to improve their town centre. Currently, there is an active Town Team representing an affiliation of local organisations and groups, as well as numerous other active resident groups, societies, and charities. All this activity is a testament to the dynamic community base who push local issues and drive change to improve their local area, some of these initiatives include the creation of the Teenage Market, Barnet Medieval Festival, and Christmas Fayre.
With a coordinated plan and supportive governance and funding structures, the local community can be better enabled to deliver creative and responsive projects. As demonstrated in reports by Power to Change community-owned businesses create ‘destination places’ and are critical to drawing people back to the high street and help to increase local, and drive new, footfall which supports retail and leisure-based businesses to thrive. Community-led infrastructure is also proven to be more resilient with community shops, for instance, having a survival rate of 94% and community pubs having a 100% survival rate in contrast to the wider industry in which 14 pubs closed each week in the second half of 2018.
Active community supporting community-led projects
Local people’s involvement is key to the town centre’s success
The community offer high levels of skills & resources
Passionate about making a change in Chipping Barnet
Create an active community with a shared direction
Our research has demonstrated high levels of skill, knowledge, networks, entrepreneurship, and activism latent in the community. However, people generally feel there to be a lack of strategic organisation across groups, businesses, landowners, and the council, holding back what they can achieve. The creation of this Community Plan looks to create a strategic plan for the community to work together to implement collective change for their high street.
It is essential, in the future to ensure Town Centre Governance, has representation across the community – residents, businesses, and organisations – to ensure that the diverse needs of all are heard and catered for within Chipping Barnet. There is also an opportunity to formalise community volunteering opportunities (eg Community TimeBanks) around town centre projects and initiatives to build the social capital available for delivering projects identified within this strategic plan.
Utilise crowdfunding potential
The social and economic capital present in Chipping Barnet is an asset that presents an opportunity for local initiatives to crowdfund for projects, and trial community investment initiatives to grow their businesses. Local residents have already demonstrated their philanthropic commitment to support local projects. These include initiatives such as the Barnet Environment Centre, the outdoor classroom for We Are GROW and the Teenage Market demonstrating the capacity of local projects to generate crowdfunding amounts of up to £160,000. This commitment to invest locally presents an opportunity that the town centre needs to utilise.
Better facilitate the delivery of community-led initiatives and events
Whilst the council continues to work closely with the community, and play a part in the Town Team Governance by supporting local initiatives such as the Teenage Market and Barnet Medieval Festival, the community feels there is an opportunity for the council to do more to simplify and support them to undertake processes and navigate systems, to help community led-initiatives to flourish. This was of particular importance for those members who currently coordinate community events and markets locally. They identified a need for the council to improve communication of processes to make it clear and as simple as possible. There is an opportunity for the council to provide useful toolkits that offer step-by-step processes, communicate timelines, and indicate any costs to enable these groups.
Improve communication of the town centre offer
Through engagement, many people communicated that they did not know where to go to find out what was available and happening within their town centre. Currently, in Chipping Barnet there are several community-led platforms that communicate the riches, events, activities, and high street offer within Chipping Barnet and the surrounding area. Two key platforms for this being ‘High Living’ and ‘Love Barnet’. During COVID-19 these groups have utilised their platforms to support local businesses over this lockdown period, which has resulted in the launch of a recent town centre business directory. That provides residents with comprehensive oversight of the retail and services currently available for them to purchase from their local high street.
As we advance, there is a need for these key groups to work together to develop a branding and communication strategy for the town centre to strengthen and develop local engagement and build community participation within the Town Centre.