Through conversations with the community, it is apparent that residents want to see investment in their town centre to support it to become a thriving place to live, work and visit. To support this aim, the Community Plan looks to consolidate existing identified strategic sites and review how they can holistically deliver the wider priorities established in this Plan. This Community Plan calls for civic and employment-led development, that is high-quality, sustainable and context-sensitive; with the focus always to create a thriving town centre, fit to serve the diverse needs of its community both today and tomorrow.
Why it is important
The Barnet Growth Strategy 2030, identifies the need for Barnet’s Town Centres to prioritise diversification and intensification to support them to become thriving places to visit, work and live. By 2030, Barnet’s population is projected to grow from 396,600 (2018) to 449,000, and studies undertaken by the WLA (West London Alliance) demonstrate a demand for an additional 50,000sqft of employment (office and industrial) floorspace by 2030 within the borough. The Draft Local Plan, Barnet’s Growth Strategy 2030, the Chipping Barnet Town Centre Strategy (2013) and the Spires Planning Framework (2012) identify Chipping Barnet as having the infrastructure and capacity to accommodate a proportion of this growth. This investment is critical to securing additional community, leisure and social infrastructure, improving the public realm, and boosting footfall to support the town centre to thrive.
As indicated in the Growth Strategy 2030, in town centres with areas of complex land ownership, the council is committed to leading in identifying development opportunities to ensure that the development delivered is high-quality, contextualised, and delivers the more comprehensive community benefits for the town centre – as set out in the six other priorities within this community plan.
Workspace is crucial to employment opportunities
New homes can enliven the town centre & increase footfall
Identify potential sites for development
Opportunity to support workspace & community uses
Adapt to new work patterns
There is evidence of demand for new forms of workspace, especially within the context of COVID-19, as it is expected that more people will adopt flexible working arrangements, working from or closer to home. Barnet ranks in London’s top 5 boroughs of people working from home, with 20% of residents working flexibly (Working Lives Report 2017). Chipping Barnet reflects the characteristics that are common amongst high ranking locations with many residents in Professional (29.8%) and management positions (14.7%), and therefore more likely to change work patterns, freelance or combine having a family with running a business
Centre for Cities research has also found a correlation between the health of town centres and the amount of employment space offered on or near the high street. The increased diversity of people using the high street attracts new retail and hospitality businesses to open and sees an overall drop in vacancies. With the rising trend of people wanting to live and work more locally, there is an opportunity for the high street to capitalise on this benefit.
Maintain existing and create new employment space to meet local demand
The West London Alliance Workspace study (2019) found Barnet to be lacking in sufficient amounts of workspace to accommodate its high proportion of micro-businesses (91% of all businesses). The report suggests that the significant sectors within Barnet (Manufacture of textiles; Construction; Insurance; Real estate) create demand for maker space, incubators, accelerators, and co-working in particular. There have been attempts in recent years to accommodate shared workspace and co-working within the town centre, however, suitable premises were not found.
The availability of employment space has been affected by Permitted Development Rights; this has seen the reduced supply and affordability of workspace nationally. This has significantly impacted the provision of smaller industrial spaces at the edge of town centres; that act as vital incubators for small businesses and the creative industry. Presently, the borough has seen a loss of over 220,000sqm of B1a office space (2017). To help protect from further loss, in 2019 Barnet Council put Article 4 measures in place across the Chipping Barnet Town Centre, including nearby protected employment sites Hadley Manor Estate and Alston Works – which currently host a mix of business from photography studios, to stained glass makers, and upholsterers.
There is a need for the council to work proactively with landowners and developers, and where possible leverage its own land ownership, ensuring future development in the town centre prioritises the provision of new, affordable flexible, and sector-specific workspace, including light industrial space, to create new job and skills development opportunities for local people. There is opportunity to repurpose vacant retail units and introduce workspace uses to the Spires Shopping Centre as a way to meet workspace demand and diversify the activities on the high street.
Provide homes to meet specific local need
People living in and around town centres generates multiple benefits for the local economy and providing frequent footfall to support businesses. In the Barnet Council Resident perception survey 2017, the availability of more affordable housing was indicated as the second priority for residents in the borough. When coupled with the fact that the population in Barnet is projected to increase by 16% by 2041(Barnet’s Housing Strategy 2024); it is projected that Barnet needs to provide up to 3,060 new homes a year going forward to accommodate this growth. As set out in the Growth Strategy 2030, town centres like Chipping Barnet have the transport connections and infrastructure to accommodate a proportional amount of this required housing growth.
The older population (aged 65+) in Barnet is predicted to increase by a third between 2018 and 2030, with High Barnet and Underhill wards where 17.15% of the population is older, projected to grow to 25.8% (https://jsna.barnet.gov.uk/2-socio-economic-environmental-context). As more people lead longer and healthier lives, there is an opportunity in Chipping Barnet to ensure new housing caters to the varied and specific needs of the elderly and vulnerable residents so they maintain their independence and freedom.
The Older Women’s Co-housing scheme in Chipping Barnet, just off the high street, is an excellent example of how a sensitive development can address a locally specific user group’s need, whilst providing affordable homes for elderly and vulnerable residents who benefit greatly from the independence offered from their ease of access to the town centre.
Ensure all investment prioritises the delivery of the wider community aims set out in this Plan
Though wanting to see investment in their town centre, conversations with residents indicated that they would like development in their town centre to:
- Be sensitive and high-quality, showing an appreciation that Chipping Barnet Town Centre sits within two conservation areas Wood Street and Monken Hadley and the need to protect the area’s unique character and appearance.
- Be developed closely with the Community from the project brief, so the Community meaningfully help shape this investment to ensure it contributes to the collective well-being of the town centre and its Community.
- Support existing and new community groups to access purpose made space to improve their capacity to provide a rich daily/weekly programme of activity that helps activate and drive footfall to the town centre.