Through our conversations, the community expressed the need to enhance the quality of the pedestrian experience in the town centre to make it more accessible, safe, pleasant, and attractive; removing the barriers that deter people, particularly the most vulnerable residents, from visiting and using it. The Community Plan prioritises the provision of supportive infrastructure and physical improvements that promote active modes of travel (walking, cycling, public transport), to ensure the town centre is a healthy and attractive destination for all to visit.
Why it is important
With the UK government declaring a climate emergency in May 2019, we must address transport’s significant effect on the environment and rethink how we move around. In response, Barnet has set out a clear vision for the future in its adopted Long-Term Transport Strategy 2040: ‘Barnet will have an efficient, convenient and reliable transport network, which enables safe, healthy and inclusive travel, protects the natural environment and supports the borough’s growth’. The COVID-19 crisis has further emphasised the importance of local movement and high-quality public realm by reminding us of the value of accessible walking and cycling infrastructure, and adaptable, usable public spaces.
Presently, over 110,000 of existing daily trips made by Barnet residents could have been walked; with 89% of these journeys presently driven, and 40% of these trips being less than 1km. When coupled with 50% of Barnet’s residents failing to achieve the recommended level of daily physical activity; it emphasises a critical need to consider how the town centre can be made more accessible via active modes of transport – walking, cycling, and public transport. Furthermore, evidence suggests that promoting active travel to town centres also benefits the economic health of high streets. University College London’s research for Transport for London found that people walking, cycling and using public transport spend on average 40% more each month than those who drive by car.
“Convenient -within walking distance of my home”
Steep & inaccessible routes especially impact older & disabled residents
“The road has so much traffic it makes it impossible to linger”
The High Street is designated an Air Quality Focus Area due to high air pollution
Create a healthy high street
Through conversations locally, many felt the town centre could do more to improve its public realm, including accessibility around some high street shops to make it a more attractive, green, and accessible place for all. As set out within ‘Barnet’s Long Term Transport Strategy 2040’ and ‘Growth Strategy 2030’, Barnet is committed to improving the quality of the public realm within its town centres following the healthy streets approach. This approach puts people, and their health, at the heart of decision making; to ensure we deliver a more inclusive town centre that encourages people to walk, cycle, and use public transport. This is critical for town centres, as evidence shows that well planned and high-quality public spaces within town centres can boost commercial trading by up to 40% and generate significant private sector investment in places (CABE Space 2004).
The recently completed pavement widening along the Chipping Barnet High Street is an excellent local example of how this approach can improve the pedestrian experience. There is an opportunity to build from this exemplar and identify further opportunities to improve the public realm to create a comprehensive healthy environment that makes the town centre a destination for all.
Reduce congestion and improve air quality
Chipping Barnet Town Centres is designated as an Air Quality Focus Area by the Greater London Authority. This mainly results from its location along the intersection of three main arterial routes, which is compounded by congestion issues resulting from commuter traffic moving between these. Furthermore, this intersection of these main arterial routes also results in frequent congestion occurring around the town centre with; journey times dramatically skewed – during morning rush hour in 30 minutes on average, you can get nearly 20km to the north but only 2 km to the south. The monitored concentration of nitrogen dioxide in Barnet High Street was 51.1µg/m3 in 2017, significantly higher than the UK Air Quality Objective of 40µg/m3.
There is a strong need and opportunity to improve the health of the high street by promoting and improving the infrastructure to support active modes of travel to and around the town centre, reducing the reliance on personal cars, undertaking traffic-calming measures and junction improvements to reduce congestion and working with businesses to consolidate deliveries and utilise e-technology to deliver last-mile goods locally.
Improve accessibility of town centre by active modes of travel
Chipping Barnet is identified as a key centre with greater walking potential within Barnet’s Long-term Transport Strategy. Promisingly data gathered by the Spires indicates that already over 63% of people visiting the town centre already do so by using active modes of transport – walking, cycling, and public transport. Through engagement, local people felt that the routes into and around the town centre, from the wider neighbourhood, need to be improved to put greater priority for all ages to walk into the town centre; whilst preventing rat-running through nearby residential roads trying to avoid congestion on A-roads.
Walking: The town centre’s location on Barnet Hill means the topography of the area has a considerable level change, mainly down to the south-east from the central section of the High Street, to the platform level of the High Barnet Tube. Though navigable by most, this topography significantly impacts older and disabled residents’ ability to move around the town centre and is not helped by the under-provision of seating for rest. This is a key opportunity that Transport for London must prioritise through the redevelopment of High Barnet Station to improve the accessibility of the station from the town centre.
Bus: Whilst there are good connections south/south-east with High Barnet tube station and frequent buses running along the A1000 from central London and North Finchley, there are more limited services to the surrounding residential areas, especially west towards Arkley, and north towards Hadley Wood. As identified within the Long-Term Transport Strategy, there is a need for a pilot of an on-demand bus service to provide a viable option for residents in these areas to access the town centre using public transport.
Cycling: In Chipping Barnet there is currently limited provision of cycle infrastructure. The A1000 is identified as a key strategic route for cycling within the Long-Term Transport Strategy. Despite the lack of infrastructure, the A1000 is a route taken daily by many leisure road cyclists. Given the topography around Barnet Hill and demographics locally, complementary measures to support the community to access electric bicycles will be needed to help support local uptake. As the final destination on this proposed strategic A1000 route, there is an opportunity for the town centre to utilise the opportunity to host a cycle hub within the town centre to act as a destination for those using the cycle route for leisure use.
Provide a more effective parking offer
Currently, across Chipping Barnet town centre there are three public and one privately owned main car park, two at either end of the town centre. These collectively provide 650+ spaces for vehicles to visit the town centre at one time, with the addition of on-street parking to the main and side streets. The Spires data indicates that currently, only 37% of town centre customers visit by vehicle and in conversation indicated that their Car Park rarely – only at peak teams – reaches half capacity.
Through conversation, those who use the car parking identified a need to improve road signage (including capacity indicators), increase disabled parking, and simplify the payment process to ensure a consistent tariff offered across the various car parks that is more geared towards shoppers than commuters.
There is a need to undertake a comprehensive town centre car parking review to identify opportunities and improve the effectiveness of the parking offer and identify opportunities to consolidate this where viable to support the broader economic development opportunities for the town centre.