There are plans afoot to redevelop the North Finchley/Tally Ho shopping centre and to turn it into a thriving, prosperous and lively place where people would want to visit.
Barnet Council has been in consultation with various interested groups and has produced a supplemental planning document based on these consultations. We are glad to see that they have taken on board our proposals for closing the bus station and extending the Lodge Lane car park as outlined in our last Newsletter. The Council has put forward a series of proposals for the redevelopment of the area, but whether such proposals can be fully implemented or are even practical is questionable.
The observations below relate to some of the key elements of Barnet Council’s proposals for fundamental changes to North Finchley/Tally Ho town centre, for which the Council is now consulting. The key document is the “North Finchley Town Centre Framework Draft Supplementary Planning Document “ (or “SPD”). These proposals have been summarised by Friern Barnet and Whetstone Residents’ Association with the penultimate paragraph added by ourselves.
As with all consultations you are invited to comment. The closing date for the Council to receive comments is 27 November 2017 and full details of how to submit comments, together with the draft SPD and supporting documents can be found through the Council’s webpage https://engage.barnet.gov.uk
The Council is aiming to adopt the final version of the SPD in February 2018, when it will become one of several formal planning policies that apply to the North Finchley town centre area. This is important, because it is much harder for residents to successfully object to an application which complies with the relevant planning policies, such as the SPD. In effect, the Council will use the SPD to set a policy regime that favours the sort of developments that the Council itself wishes to encourage. If one wishes to comment on the policies themselves it is important to do so no later than the 27 November closing date.
The SPD area focuses on Ballards Lane and the High Road in North Finchley and runs from Waitrose and Homebase in the south to just near Kwik-Fit on the corner of Woodside Lane in the north; as well as properties fronting the High Road and Ballards Lane it includes various Council car parks.
A key proposal in the SPD is a plan to re-configure the North Finchley road network , with Ballards Lane north-bound through-traffic re-routed to Kingsway and then to the High Road, which would be converted to 2-way operation ( where now south-bound only, between the Tally-Ho pub and the Arts Depot). This would enable the Ballards Lane section of road to be made more pedestrian friendly, while restricting vehicles using it to buses and local traffic. The bus station would be closed. Buses would be moved to stands on the street (it is not suggested where). The SPD states that in comparison to Whetstone, East Finchley and Finchley Church End, North Finchley appears to be “offering considerably greater road space to traffic” so that road space could be “reallocated” from use by traffic to footway widening, narrower road crossings, street planting, bus waiting and cycle lanes.
Unfortunately, no traffic study has been carried out. The plans to effectively close part of Ballards Lane and convert the High Road to 2-way operation may be unworkable. Also, there is a lack of detail on proposed locations for bus stands, cycle lanes and the like. Whilst the draft SPD is strong on “vision” (the term occurs frequently in the document) it lacks detail on the highway proposals and how their delivery would be guaranteed. To be fair to the SPD’s authors, the document recognises that a detailed technical study of traffic flows, junction operation and the like will be required, but surely such a study should be carried out before the SPD becomes planning policy, and not afterwards? What if the study shows the proposals would cause traffic chaos and are unworkable – where does that leave the other SPD policies?
The SPD identifies six “Key Opportunity Sites” ( see plan) with “potential for comprehensive mixed use development which will drive the town centre’s regeneration”-
- The Tally-Ho Triangle and Arts Depot The vision for this site is that the buildings between the Arts Depot and the Tally-Ho pub would be demolished (including the recently renovated Grand Arcade) and replaced with an area of cafes, restaurants and shops at ground level, with residential above, rising to up to 12 storeys near the 16 storey Arts Depot building, gradually sloping down to 3 storeys by the Tally-Ho. A new courtyard space should be provided by the entrance to the Arts Depot. This space might become a new site for the North Finchley Market (currently in the Lodge Lane Car Park). The bus station would close and could be used for retail, community or leisure uses.
- Ballards Lane/Nether Street This site contains the Finchley United Services Club (behind the war memorial) and various office buildings (some now converted to residential use and generally seen as of poor quality) and runs up to the junction of Nether Street and Ballards Lane. A comprehensive redevelopment is proposed with “a landmark building of up to 12 storeys “ adjacent to the war memorial, falling to 4 storeys towards the Ballards Lane shopping parade. The building would provide offices on the lower floors and potentially shops and leisure uses. Upper floors could include flats. The building line would be brought forward (so Ballards Lane could become something of a narrow canyon at this point).
- Finchley House Lying on the corner of the High Road and Kingsway, this site is currently an elderly 9 storey office block and 6 terraced houses with converted ground floor uses. It is a prominent site and its redevelopment could take the form of a building of “approximately” 12 storeys height, with employment uses on ground and first floors and flats above.
- ”East Wing” This site lies opposite the Arts Depot “triangle”, running from Argos in the north down to the junction of Woodhouse Road and the High Road (the “Sea Rock” restaurant). The objective is that this site, together with the Arts-Depot and / Tally Ho Triangle, should become part of a “strong retail, leisure and cultural anchor to the town centre”. The SPD envisages that the Argos building would be retained and the upper floors used as flats and that the rest of the site would be redeveloped as shops, cafes and restaurants at ground floor and flats above. The residential frontages of the south of the site should be retained (they are seen as contributing positively to local character).
- Friern Park/ High Road This lies between Friern Park and Stanhope Road on the east of the High Road and contains the” Bohemia”, Santander, McDonalds, Tesco, WH Smith and other, smaller shops. The SPD states that the Bohemia and Santander buildings should be retained ( as they contribute to local character) and that the rest of the site should be redeveloped to include shops and restaurants with flats above in 4-6 storey buildings (the current buildings are 3 storey) .
- Lodge Lane This site is Lodge Lane Car Park and YVA House fronting it. In the SPD we are told that “redevelopment should seek to improve the sense of arrival to the town centre” and that “redevelopment should encourage a more efficient use of land whilst continuing to provide an important town centre parking function”. Redevelopment should continue to provide retail and similar uses at ground floor with residential and “other suitable town centre uses” above in buildings of up to “approximately” 6 storeys in height” . Existing car parking levels should be maintained as a minimum (but the SPD does not state the parking would continue to be for public use) and a 2-level decked car park should be considered.
In addition to the proposals for the “Key Opportunity Sites”, the SPD has a number of smaller scale plans. Thus, retail frontages and shopping parades which are not redeveloped should be enhanced by merging adjacent units to create larger units better suited to modern needs and flats above shops should be improved, including creating access from the high street rather than through service yards at the rear. The SPD strategy for high street itself, the “public realm”, envisages narrowing the carriageway width in the High Road, widening the pavements and incorporating planting where possible, lining the street with trees, and creating “resting and dwelling places “, particularly near Lodge Lane.
Whilst large numbers of new flats are proposed (although the SPD is silent as to how many but it could be as many as 2000), and with new flats will come more people, the SPD makes no specific provision for additional “social infrastructure”, such as a new health centre. We have been told that this omission is because the provision of health centres is a matter for the NHS, not Barnet Council. However, that should not prevent the Council allocating a suitable site for such a use.
This, then , is Barnet Council’s “vision” for North Finchley Town Centre- a future of “tree-lined boulevards”, more flats, modern and larger, but fewer shops, a new public courtyard space and a re-configured road network. In many ways it has much to commend it, but the SPD is weak on how the vision will be delivered. The reconfiguration of the road network is unsupported by a traffic study, and so may be impracticable. The SPD calls for a “co-ordinated and comprehensive approach”, but (deliberately) has no phasing strategy and any “masterplan” is to be driven by developers, not by our Council.
We have seen how the inglis Barracks site has been driven by developers who naturally put profit before service.
Please make use of the consultation process to make your views known to the Council.