The Barnet Society Public Meeting, February 22nd 2018 – Report by Jenny Brown
Question from the Barnet Society Chair: What about empty residences in Barnet – approx 4,000 of them are “long term empty”?
Questions from the public showed concern about homelessness, high rents and unaffordable homes.
The Conservative comment from their woman representative, was that “the law needs to change. We have to house homeless people – it is statutory,” she said in relation to a question asking how it is right that we spend £25 million on providing emergency accommodation.
An audience member said the Conservatives had introduced “Right to Buy”
Liberal Democrat comment was they are the only party wanting to stop “Right to Buy.”
Amy from Labour refuted. She spoke about The new London Plan recently published by Sadiq Kahn, giving alternative ways to provide affordable housing.
- Paul Edwards added that between 40% and 50% of social housing will be expected from developers because there will be the political will to negotiate this if Labour win.
- Developers reap profit from being allowed to supply the housing market, where in Barnet £400,000 is considered affordable and some units sell for a million, showing scope for the developer to afford to build social housing on site. Rental provides housing revenue to maintain rather than sell the social homes.
- In addition 800 Council homes would be built across Barnet for social rent. He said the Tories have caved into developers all over the borough
The Green Party:
- Ways to use building apprenticeships under supervision to build self builds with the involvement of those who will be living in them.
- Pre-fabs were discussed as viable and realistic.
- Council to take over empty properties and rent them out. The rental is then paid to the property owner. The Council presumably fix the rental so it is a social rental rather than market rental.
- The policy is “renovate not demolish”, with zero VAT on home renovation.
Robin Bishop, expressed concerns that the 32 London Boroughs have targets to build homes with density now abolished apart from in “conservation areas”. Robin and Nick from the Barnet Society showed concern that the new Labour London Plan would mean 3,300 new homes in High Barnet and Underhill by 2025.
Robin suggested to the meeting, that the next Council administration could draw up it’s own targets rather than following the new London Plan, in view of the 27,000 new homes across Barnet that the Conservative Council set as their own target and which is being met.
The Green belt and Ark secondary school were heated issues. Someone asked why a special school was not achieved. Councillor Longstaff said “We could not do anything because Barnet did not own the land saying the Dept for Education owned the land.”
Paul Lemon, labour candidate for High Barnet, talked about improvements to transport if both the London Assembly and Barnet Council were Labour.
- The cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians need to share our public roads
- Electric charging points paid for by the Mayor will make a start towards alleviating air pollution. Integrated transport hubs/tram/light rail, suggested.
- East to West transport links are poor.
- The same number in High Barnet commute to work in Hertfordshire and beyond, as commute to work in central.
- Cllr. Longstaff suggested Barnet Hospital build another layer of parking which could benefit those coming to Barnet. He said CPZ’s are always only after consultation.
- Barnet currently makes between £5.5 M and £6 Million per year from parking charges and fines.
- Trains from Finchley to High Barnet have been cut.
- Lorries should be kept out and pay to come into our towns was popular and received applause.
The High Street.
In general the audience felt there was a lack of vision from the panel.
That we need to create reasons for people to come to this destination.
Walks in the woods, Barnet museum, Theatre space, community events around food, music and culture was suggested.
Spaces to sit with cover from wind and rain was suggested by Lib. Dems.
The Lib. Dems. spoke strongly in support of library staff and building libraries back.
Cllr. Longstaff said we are lucky because some boroughs they have closed theirs where as Barnet, he claimed, have kept ours going, increased stocks of books and built two new libraries!
Residents challenged on this as did the Lib. Dems.
Recreation, was raised – before QE girls became an Academy, the community could use the swimming pool, trampoline and other facilities. Recreation can bring people here and serve us.
Residents were concerned about the number of eating places, betting shops and charity shops.
Shops that sell craft and hobby things such as “Hobby Craft” could be approached and invited in.
Street cleaning was discussed. There was a strong mood in favour of bringing services “back in-house”. Paul Edwards said “We are committed to bringing services back in-house.”
Capita Contract was brought up. Cllr. Longstaff, standing in High Barnet for the Conservatives, stated that Council Tax would need to rise by 4% if services were brought back in- house.
Some thought the “litter police” should be catching more people.
On the whole, the event will hopefully lead to more ideas to maintain our High Streets – maybe a toy library/toy exchange with space to play chess/ board games, as a way of using an empty shop (instead of creating another charity shop). Strong support for markets. The teenage market had been successful but not sure if that can continue now that the land that Barnet market was held on, has been sold.
Barnet Market with all it’s historic links is being minimised to a band stand and bit of pavement at the back of the Spires. The meeting noted the losses to Barnet since the Tory administration. Great to have Public Meetings with every chair taken and over a dozen, standing at the back