Through our conversations with the community, there were calls for the Town Centre to better integrate into people’s everyday lives, with locally relevant retail alongside complementary activities such as opportunities to socialise, work, exercise, celebrate culture and play. The Community Plan prioritises this need and seeks to identify opportunities to diversify the types of spaces and activities to create new reasons to visit and return to Chipping Barnet town centre.
Why it is important
Evidence shows that presently there is a lack of diversity in the patterns of people’s visits and use of the Town Centre. Predominantly the town centre currently supports shorter and occasional stays for: ‘top-up’ shopping, local services, and infrequent socialising and/or attendance only for one-off events, such as annual Christmas and Remembrance Sunday events. The Spires data shows that people typically visiting the town centre stay for a maximum of 50 minutes and typically only visit once a week. As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, there is a need for our local town centres, to create a safe and inviting environment that meets the varied and diverse needs of the local community, so they are encouraged to visit more frequently and for more extended periods.
Additionally, the continued growth of the ‘staycation’ industry across the UK in recent years presents an opportunity for Chipping Barnet to make more of its unique green location and proximity to central London to develop a unique visitor economy. Barnet has already seen a growth in the hotel sector by 13% over the past five years with compared to 9% across London, which has contributed to increased visitor numbers to the borough. Furthermore, the protection afforded by Greenbelt policy, and the All London Green Grid policy framework’s identification of a potential Regional Park within the Brent Valley and Barnet Plateau, has the potential to attract considerable investment locally to create a green spaces network, which could improve local benefit and access.
Provide more reasons for families to visit and stay
Create better links between the high street & surrounding green spaces
Create spaces for students & workers to meet & socialise
Better cater for visitors, ramblers & cyclists
Develop an outdoor visitor economy around rambling
Chipping Barnet’s unique location, with easy access to green surroundings for rambling and cycling, its proximity to London – only 35minutes by a direct train from central London – and a wealth of historic heritage present an opportunity to develop a unique visitor economy. The access to the numerous green spaces around Chipping Barnet is highly valued, with residents specifically mentioning its natural and ‘wild’ quality, even citing it for the reason they live here. People speak about using it for walks, jogging, cycling, and an environment that is excellent for children to explore. These green spaces already serve as educational resources for local organisations.
Through engagement the community felt that there is a unique opportunity for Chipping Barnet to make more of its Rambling potential and better integrate this through increasing awareness within the town centre; so it becomes a hub from which to explore. There are already many available walks; including the London Loop and Barnet’s Healthy Heritage Walks. However, signage to these from the town centre is lacking, and many walks were unknown to most. There is an opportunity to work with the Ramblers and Barnet Cyclists to identify and map local routes and how to access them from the town centre. Then a communication and wayfinding strategy can be developed to communicate these routes to locals and visitors in the town centre.
Also, the local community felt there is an opportunity to explore the creation of a community-led Chipping Barnet Visitor Centre, to create a group that champions and celebrates the offer of the local area to help make Chipping Barnet a destination to visit.
Make Chipping Barnet a place for all the family to visit and socialise
Outer London boroughs, such as Barnet, are seeing a growth in families with movement out from inner London alongside higher percentages of older people due to improved life expectancy, promoting the borough’s ambition to become London’s most family-friendly borough. Barnet is one of 7 UK Councils to commit to the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative.
During the engagement, many people raised in conversations that the high street offer currently does not reflect their needs, with young people and families especially expressing the lack of provision, particularly to meet and socialise in the town centre. There is an ongoing need to support the high street to transition into its role as a space for social exchange. And there is an opportunity for the activities, businesses, public spaces, and parks in Chipping Barnet to better cater for children and young people, and to become a more playful environment for all the family to visit.
A key opportunity is to integrate better and utilise its green assets; especially Courthouse Recreational Ground and Hadley Green. There is a need to create destination play spaces with complementary uses such as cafes, so they act as hubs of activity and attract families and young people locally and further afield to visit the town centre for the day.
Capture footfall from key civic institutions
The presence of Barnet Hospital and Barnet and Southgate College Wood Street Campus brings a multitude of benefits to the town centre. Both organisations are large employers and also draw large numbers of users, both locally and beyond Barnet, to these facilities daily. However, through engagement with the organisations and users, it became clear that the town centre needs to do more to advertise its offer. Both organisations outlined that a key opportunity was around creating demand to meet the lunch-time provision for their staff and users. These groups identified a need to grow the food offer, and better advertise the leisure and entertainment offer, to attract these users to stay after visiting their facility.
Through engagement, the College also expressed wanting to support the Town Centre as part of its educational offer. The College plays an active role in mobilising students into projects around the high street, including initiatives to undertake shop front improvements and fit-out pop-up shops. Also, the College has plans to launch performing arts courses in September 2021, which presents exciting opportunities for collaboration with the Bull Theatre to help develop the leisure and evening economy for the town centre.