Through our conversations with the community, there is a desire for the town centre to reflect the pride and love they hold for the place they live. The Community Plan prioritises the development of Chipping Barnet’s local identity and character to develop a holistic narrative for the Town Centre that enhances its existing assets and attractions.
Why it is important
Chipping Barnet is Barnet’s oldest and most northerly town, nestled in the very edge of the Greenbelt, enclosed by green space and within two Conservation areas. Its context has contributed to its gradual development from its origin as a Market Town, that gives it it’s charming ‘village feel’ today. With its large, settled population, local pride holds importance and is articulated locally through its rich historical heritage and distinct green and leafy location. Despite this inherent pride, people still feel that Chipping Barnet Town Centre needs to do more to communicate its local distinctiveness better. Barnet’s Growth Strategy 2030 establishes a commitment to developing a borough of thriving local town centres and identifies a key objective to work with communities to develop, promote, and celebrate their unique characteristics.
“I have lived here for 35yrs, there is a lovely sense of community, & history”
“It has a rich history and a small town feel but it’s become run down”
“If only people knew!”
“We have a chance to make High Barnet unique and interesting”
A rich history to bring to life
Chipping Barnet has a history of responding to changing social, economic, and physical conditions. The origin of this place as a Market town (with its official market charter granted 1199) gave the town centre its name – Chipping or Chepe was the Old English term for a marketplace. The town took advantage of being located on a vital intersection of the Great North Road and St Albans road trade routes, to becoming a bustling 18th-century staging post, building its economy around providing services to travellers. This bustling high street was visited frequently by the writer Charles Dickens and played inspiration for Oliver Twist. The various historical public houses that remain today are a remembrance of this time. The connection of the railway network by the end of the 19th century, which later became a tube terminus by the mid-20th century; supported significant residential-led development that in turn supported the town centre to continue to grow as a retail destination.
There are several groups already developing and sharing this distinctive narrative for Chipping Barnet. These include the local Barnet Museum with their educational outreach and interventions in the town centre, and most recently the Barnet Medieval Festival has taken advantage of the historic event ‘The Battle of Barnet’ to host a successful and growing festival. Though significant initiatives, it is felt locally there is an opportunity for Chipping Barnet Town Centre to create a calendar of seasonal events that communicate this historical narrative whilst also increasing footfall to the town centre.
Celebrate and activate heritage assets
Chipping Barnet’s historic town centre hosts a built environment of significant quality and historic importance with numerous listed buildings across two conservation areas Wood Street and Monken Hadley. Of note is Grade II* listed St John the Baptist Church that crowns the ascent up Barnet hill. Though most of the historical buildings remain in use, it is the local opinion that a number of these buildings are being underutilised and could have improved accessibility for the wider community to help develop its visitor economy. Some facilities identified currently include:
- The Tudor Hall next to Barnet and Southgate College
- The Old Courthouse which stands at the entrance to the Old Court House Recreation Grounds
- The Hyde Building (old library building) accessed from Church Passage.
- Access to St John the Baptist Church tower to see the spectacular views down Barnet Hill.
There is a significant opportunity to invest in maintaining the quality of this historical architecture, whilst looking to diversify the use of these buildings where vacant, so they continue their original civic role and meet the new and emerging needs of today’s local community. Some members of the community identified that there was potential for the town centre to make more of its historic assets through coordinating for them to be opened to the public annually, as a part of Open House to help attract visitor footfall to the town centre.
Maintain an attractive and dynamic high street
The community feels that more can be done to help make the town centre a vibrant and attractive destination to visit. They indicated there was a need to encourage the local business community to curate and maintain high-quality shopfronts along the high street, that celebrate and strengthen the local identity and heritage. There is an opportunity for traders to collaborate and consider a seasonal variation of shopfronts, to maintain interest for visitors to return. There is an opportunity for this to coincide with local festivals such as Barnet Medieval Festival and Christmas Festival, that happen throughout the year.
Furthermore, the community felt that there is an ongoing need for the council to collaborate closely with the business community around town centre maintenance – rubbish collection, cleaning, and deliveries – to maintain a pleasant experience for those visiting the town centre. Local initiatives such as the High Street Clean-Ups organised by Green Beings are highly appreciated and demonstrate the community’s commitment to assuring their town centre remains an attractive place for all.