Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Barkingpride

Yesterday evening about 200 locals crammed into the Aldborough room at Fullwell Cross library to have their say on the proposals for the regeneration of Barkingside Town centre. These are people who care, and more to the point are proud of their High Street. They don’t want significant change, Hotels, or more high rise flats. They just want a High Street with a decent range of shops, that is clean and safe, and where they can socialise.

The council leader, Keith Prince, was there as was the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Nick Hayes, plus several other councillors and hopefuls. Our MP, Lee Scott, was tied up with a 3-line whip [don’t they have some wonderful phrases] at Parliament. They didn’t say much, but they were not there to speak. They were there to listen and they certainly did that. But listening is one thing and acting is another. So let’s try to put it into perspective and manage expectations.

The trouble is that the council can’t actually do much and they don’t have a great deal of money. They cannot control the market which dictates what is and what is not a viable business. They cannot control rents or Business rates. The latter are set by National government. But they can to a degree control the infrastructure and the general look and feel of a place. And it is that - smart, functional, attractive - which can generate interest from the sort of businesses and investors we would like to see.

To pick out a few general points.

The High Street is in competition with supermarkets who have free parking. But if we use the library or the swimming pool we get our parking fee refunded. The point of charging for parking is to deter commuter and all day parkers. So, a scheme whereby parking fees are refunded when you spend, say, a fiver in a local shop would not go amiss – Keith did take this suggestion on board.

Street clutter is a sore point. But the general feeling is that we want more places to sit and more trees and planting. So it’s more a question of what type of street “clutter” is offensive. Advertising seems to be the big offender. And what is that green box? Does anyone know?

The Piazza by the swimming pool has been a forgotten and ignored opportunity for many years. Farmers markets, street markets, antiques or Art fairs etc. could all be accommodated here, but there has been no drive to organise these things, nor the will to resurface the area such that it can support weighty vehicles or provide the services such events need.

The suggestion that, with the resurgence of the Cinema, Gala Bingo might like to consider reverting back to that function was met with some considerable approval. And d’you know it might just work. I’d go. And it might just give the yoof summink to do.

I’m not going into the specifics of each proposal. Suffice to say that we like our roundabout, it IS a “focal point” and with the Oak tree representing past times does identify the place. Developing part of the Craven Gardens car park may be an option but only to improve amenities. The Fairlop Polyclinic, should it go ahead, has to go somewhere and the existing clinic in Fencepiece Road does not seem big enough.

Generally the proposals to soften the landscape, provide trees, planting and community spaces were well received. “Development” was not.

The question now is, will it fly?

19 comments:

  1. Some reflections, before you post up your report:-

    Do you mean to say that that Anne Marie (or whatever her name be) is being paid £70K for this stuff?

    Did you notice how the old canard of “why don’t we pedestrianise the High Street” got a mention?
    About every 12-15 years it comes around. Then they spend their money doing the study
    and conclude that it’s just not practical, traffic-flow wise.

    Another thing that surprised me: how many people in the audience still seem to think
    Alan Sugar owns most of the High Street. That was decades ago. Neither does Eagle Star Insurance.
    OK, so the Pie & Mash shop Block is owned by one landlord, but the rest of the High Street is mostly
    individual smaller (greedy?) landlords.

    That was the one omission from the panel tonight, Landlords! But you'd hardly expect Them to turn up.

    Ultimately, of course, it all comes down to money. There ain’t none, and there won’t be for a good few years while we are still in this recession. And even after that, most of us will be in our bath chairs and couldn’t care.

    And Cllr. Prince thinks he will still be leader of this Council when they get round to maybe
    doing something about the High Street?
    What an appalling waste of money at a time when we can ill afford the Council we’ve got as it is.

    Finally, let me play Devil's Advocate here: is Barkingside High Street, as a viable shopping space, Worth saving?

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  2. Last night's public meeting to look at the detail of the consultants' recommendations for Barkingside was, in my view, highly successful. It was packed to capacity, generally well controlled by the B21 Chairman, with some very relevant - passionate, even - views from the floor. Each item put to the vote had a very clear majority (whether for or against) and the Council can be in no doubt what people expect to see. The Council needs to give a high priority to this scheme before Barkingside turns into another Gants Hill.

    I was somewhat puzzled by one proposal - thankfully rejected. That was the one that would have seen the northern end of the High Street having its roundabout turned into a "town square" with the principal traffic flow out of the High Street directed into Forest Road. Did anybody tell the consultants about the low bridge at Fairlop Station?

    It was interesting to hear how many people wanted the High Street cleared of street clutter - some of it introduced by Redbridge Council, but most of it put there in the last couple of years by TfL (Transport for London)at huge cost met from our council tax. TfL requires major reorganisation to make it fit for purpose. Perhaps that could happen quickly, and simultaneously with the regeneration of the High Street.

    B21 have done well on this one. We now look to priority, and genuine, action from Redbridge Council.

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  3. Ray Frensham in his "bath chair"? Isn't his brainalready there?

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  4. Yesterday, at the packed meeting, I picked up on two comments.
    No provision for cycling, perhaps people in this area don't want to use their bicycles! In fact, we do but the road facilities are poor. Narrow roads, parked cars and cycling are not a match made in heaven. Cycling to Sainsbury's from Fullwell Avenue is near impossible.
    (I know that primary schools are training the pupils to cycle, which is brilliant and I know that Redbridge is offering one to one tuition to prospective cyclists which is good too and, I hope, not too expensive!)
    Second aired comment: why do we complain so bitterly about congestion in the High Street? If we are so keen on using our cars, we should not complain if the streets come to a standstill.
    I feel that the impact of so many schools within the area (some with wide catchment areas to compound the problem) was not really taken into consideration.
    I also feel that the impact of youths enjoying the attractions of the High Street was not properly acknowledged.
    Not that I have any good ideas for a solution to congregated youths near fast food shops as well as tobacconist's!
    annesevant

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  5. Well done to John Sharrock for his excellent Chairmanship.

    There appeared to be a strong feeling for doing something useful with the "piazza" in front of the Swimming Pool, and about time.

    Many comments came down to issues relating to traffic and parking. The traffic lights all the way from Tesco to Fullwell Cross need to be phased and synchronised so as to control flow north and south. Technology is available to do this but is not cheap. Another difficulty is a lack of off-street parking. It does not matter how pretty the paving slabs look if you cannot get there. Unfortunately, people do need cars for shopping.

    Parking policy actually encourages people to park for long periods (more revenue)and we need short-term FREE parking. However, Parking Management in Redbridge is actually Parking TICKET Management and not Management of vehicles.

    If anyone wants to actually see what Barkingside could look like then pay a visit to LOUGHTON as they seems to have got it right there.

    There is also a sneaking suspicion that the funding of improvements to Barkingside is contingent upon the provision of high-rise housing. There is too much talk of this being "developer-led".

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  6. I would look at Loughton ONLY in respect of parking arrangements. There were comments last night about the drawn out nature of Barkingside High Street. It is both short and compact when compared with the Loughton shopping centre!

    I agree unreservedly with Jawal1's final paragraph. Indeed, the original report brought to Cabinet in September 2007 by the then Cabinet Member for Resources (thankfully now departed) was predicated entirely on land sales and massive housing development. That approach has virtually destroyed both Ilford and Gants Hill. It should not be allowed to spread like some disease to other parts of the borough that still have the potential to be attractive.

    It was heartening too to hear Nick Hayes (the Cabinet Member for Planning & Regeneration) outline just how important design is now in planning applications. Let us hope that the policy will continue and become more evident.

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  7. I was very grateful to B21 for organising the meeting, but dare I say that its Chairman needs to sharpen up his crowd management techniques a bit?

    And we do need better car management because if the High St is to remain economically viable, it must attract shoppers from a wider area than the immediate neighbourhood, starting with the affluent homeowners of Repton Park.

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  8. Interesting thought, Judith - the home owners of Repton Park shopping in Barkingside High Street! Perhaps an east London branch of H-rods?

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  9. Oh Judith, at least he had a crowd to manage. After the meeting, in the pub, someone apologised for missing last weeks Area 3 meeting - because they had fallen asleep. I replied "so did we, but we were there"!!

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  10. Judith!
    The Chairman did an excellent job!
    It was a crammed crowd of people who were not 'impressed' by some proposals and still remained polite throughout.
    Most people who wanted to were given the opportunity to express their opinion and we were given the opportunity of a show of hands on several occasions.
    Praise when praise is due, the Chairman did well in most unusal circumstances!
    annesevant

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  11. Morris, in an ideal world, to attract the Repton Park crowd, the High Street would offer an M&S food outlet, a decent quality shoeshop, high grade ladies lingerie shop, a considerably upgraded Boots, a quality healthfood retailer, a first-class homeopathy clinic, etc.

    And someone would offer a substantial sum to attract both KDS, the whitegoods and service retailer currently sited in Beehive Lane, and a good fishmonger to relocate to the High Street.

    Dream over, back to reality.

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  12. B21 said "And it might just give the yoof summink to do."

    Well, if the council wanted to involve youth properly they should consult with the youth council of Redbridge for their opinions! Have we got one?

    After all - da yuf of 2day is gonna b da rents of tomoz! init!

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  13. I believe that there are problems that homeopathy can give a lot of help to, from personal experience, B21 - and a recent study has shown that 50% of modern pharmaceutical therapies have no effect on patients, so ya boo sucks!

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  14. In which case may I introduce my sweary friend Dr Punk Science.
    Just type "homeopathy" in the search box at top left.
    Beware bad language.

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  15. Leave homeopathy alone!
    Even if it is a placebo, it won't kill you!
    And, who knows, you might even find the lone molecule, which has to be somewhere because there is no fission involved in homeopathy.
    On a personal note, Guinness is my preferred self-medication!
    annesevant

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  16. Punk science? Is that synonymous with climate change?

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  17. I'm all for things such as 'thieves blend', this being a herbal concoction which kept a band of thieves alive during the black death.

    Too bad that they were hung when caught!

    Then there are things such as Graviola, a south American rainforest herb which often helps people with certain well known diseases.

    re: Barkingside, I miss WH Smiths and the wide range of magazines which they stock.

    I admit that I sometimes use them as a public reading room, but often this leads to me flashing my credit cards too. Take away the former, and the latter goes too.

    Simon

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  18. The "Yellow Advertiser" report on MOnday's meeting is here

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