27 November 2013

Hopscotch - hopping mad


One of the joys of having started this blog is that Mr Mustard has met so many lovely people in the London Borough of Barnet (and he doesn't mean councillors who are a bunch of ......save that blog for another day Mr Mustard and besides there has already been a hatchet job from the inside by you know who). Two of those people are the owners of Hopscotch Sweets which is conveniently situated to the east of Barnet Church on the walking route of the many residents who use High Barnet tube. Having flogged up the steep hill the temptation to pop in for 100g of liquorice allsorts or dark chocolate brazils is high (Mr Mustard can recount this from personal experience) and Michael and Alice are excellent shopkeepers and lovely people (they even survived a visit from you know who demanding that they remove a poster about a certain councillor who was killing the High St. It looks like we might need a new one about an actor who doesn't act much?).

When Michael got David Longstaff's misguided missive (he must have grabbed the wrong script in haste; they certainly weren't golden words from goldenarse) he told Mr Mustard this:

What I was looking for was a commitment from the council to provide support for the High St in general, pointing out some specifics. David’s reply completely missed the point, was completely inaccurate and was personally insulting – I don’t have the time to dignify it with a reply.

but evidently he was more annoyed than he realised as he has now commented upon the "more direct" email in some detail as follows:


I’m afraid I found your reply has completely missed the point I was making and that I found your response somewhat insulting.

Whilst I greatly value your support as an engaged community representative, unlike your fellow ward councillors, and have always held you in friendly respect, I think that some considerable inaccuracies need to be addressed.

Comments in Christmas red below.

Yours sincerely

Michael Kentish

Dear Michael Kentish,

East Barnet doesn't have a tube station. High Barnet does have a tube station. If you want free parking I can assure you the car parks will be full of commuters.
Not if there is a restriction, such as one hour, as in the CPZs.

The High Barnet Town Team agreed to maintain the baskets if the Council bought and installed them, but did not. The HBTT is now defunct.
I thought the Town Team had been resurrected – and that you are a leading member of it!

High Barnet had a publicly funded Christmas Tree in 2011. East Barnet did not.
Funded by the GLA – NOT Barnet council.

High Barnet had OLF money in 2011. East Barnet did not.
Yes, HB is a larger shopping area. This was GLA money, not Barnet council money. East Barnet were not in a position to apply for funding

Several shops had makeovers with that money... and even then Pacino could only be motivated to put up one half of their shutters. Did you email them to complain about their lack of pride?
The shops that had makeovers were chosen because they were central to the vistas that a motorist sees on approaching the town. They did not ask for the makeovers – and those that did went without. Pacino’s had problems with their landlord who wanted them out and he succeeded by not maintaining the structure – and hence the new development that is going on, in contravention of planning and Conservation Area rules.

As 'Barnet Traders' did you constantly write to the previous owner of the market as she ran it into the ground and destroyed footfall?
Yes we did, and joined with the Friends of Barnet Market in their fantastic campaign.

What about the owners of the former 'Greggs' shop? Have you contacted them about their pride? I did speak with the owners this week and told them it was in a dilapidated state. There are 'legal' issues that need to resolved first, but I have implored them to get on with it.
Well done, much appreciated!

This year High Barnet had the Freedom Parade by the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. East Barnet did not. That parade brought a lot of people to the High Street, but that parade could have been done anywhere in the borough.
We supported this very actively. If you remember, I copied you in the chain of emails I sent to officers and the mayor’s office in an attempt to get some publicity going. We flooded social media to generate interest. We printed and put up posters at our own cost because of the lack of material. Yes, it brought out a lot of locals, who then simply melted away the moment it was over. The council had the bright idea of bussing the troops out asap to the other side of the borough for lunch instead of giving them the freedom to roam the town and enjoy the personal greetings and thanks of residents before being fed at the town barracks! The result – business takings were drastically down, but that was not the point was it?

There is free parking on the High Street. There hasn't been free parking on the High Street for many years.
I do not think that two shared loading bays are going to turn the town around, do you?

The local Barnet Resident Association (redacted) and Barnet Traders (redacted) had a recent meeting with Cllr. Cohen regarding the parking changes. It was agreed that parking was greatly improved (figures confirm that), but that Moxon Street Car Park needed changes and they will be announced very soon, along with another parking change.
Excellent – I await more news. I trust it will be that a second meter will be installed for redundancy, as we had before you ripped them out, and that they will be cash enabled.

There is free parking after 2.30pm at the north of the High Street. There are no restrictions on Meadway, there are one hour restrictions on the streets west side of Barnet Hill/Wood Street. You frequently complain that this is not close enough for your shop, but if you needed vehicular access then why set up shop on a narrow bend with double yellows on both sides of the street?
This is so insulting and unbelievable! It also betrays your complete ignorance of business and local economics. And it is not what I would expect of a locally elected representative of the council. Is Waitrose operating on Hadley Green? Is Iceland moving down to new premises on the Meadway? Where we are is at the heart of Barnet, by the church and the new garden, in the Wood Street Conservation Area. Where the historic Squeeze is and on the site of the original Barnet Market! I really don’t need to go on!

There is free parking on the weekends up to Christmas in December.
That’s a good start. But Saturdays (Sunday is free) are more for big shopping trips to Brent X and London Colney. We need Free after Three in the week, cash meters and more.

High Barnet has had substantial amount of money put into transforming the Churchyard Gardens; and nearly £20,000 this year on further works. East Barnet hasn't, to my knowledge.
Again, not Barnet council money. There could have been £2,000,000 from the GLA but the council declined to engage with Round 2 of our application for OLF funding!

The High Road has been resurfaced. East Barnet's, to my knowledge, has not.
Again, not Barnet council money. This was a Tfl obligation. I understand that additional funding of up to £2,000,000 was offered by Tfl to enhance the High Street streetscape but the cash was left on the table by the council – it was just too much trouble.

High Barnet has a tremendous Remembrance Parade - over 500 residents involved or watching this year. The best attended in the borough. The High Street was looking excellent. Was your shop open to serve the visitors?
How distasteful can you get? When we used to trade on that day we shut the shop for the duration in respect. No, we do not open on Sundays at present as the takings no longer cover our costs.

The Council is a major stakeholder in the Chipping Barnet Town Team. The Barnet Traders should have a major part to play as a stakeholder in the Town Team. For reasons I don't understand, the most successful trader in High Barnet was once part of the Barnet Traders, but hasn't been for three years. His presence would surely have a galvanising effect on the Barnet Traders. Why is he not part of Barnet Traders?
I think you are referring to a local landlord and property developer. With the latter hat on his recent work has been respected, but there was a major conflict of interest where he used the BTA to his advantage and was unaccountably and secretly engaged with the council over property, land banking and planning matters. His portfolio of tenants represent EVERYTHING that is symptomatic in the decline of the high street and includes at least one each of the following (from what we know): a money shop, a charity shop, an optician and an estate agent and not a single independent business. Many believe his aim was to drive down freehold prices to acquire an extensive portfolio. It was a ridiculous situation for him to be chair of a traders group! Again, it betrays your business knowledge – landlords are the scourge of the high street and have been instrumental in their decline.

If you want the Christmas Tree lights switched on by the Mayor, then you could have requested it through the Mayor's office, or asked a local Councillor for advice on contacting the Mayor.
We do not want the mayor to switch the lights on thank you. My point was that the council seems to be very busy supporting other high streets.

The Mayor does open the Barnet Christmas Fayre each year - because the organisers request it.

I believe redacted has been in discussion with Council officers and arranged Christmas lights - 'simple design but elegant' her email said.
But WHERE ARE THEY? Eleventh hour or what, when every other high streets had them glowing, in some instances for weeks. (Will be here by the weekend - Mr Mustard)

I will speak with Cllr. Cohen, but money and resources are tight. High Barnet is a large area with a large number of demands. The area does get a reasonable share. One always wants more and that's what I'm constantly trying to deliver.
Thank you, much appreciated.


Cllr. David Longstaff
Cabinet Member for Safety and Resident Engagement

In May 2014 you get the chance to vote for new councillors. Have a look through the candidates and see if you find any who promise to take more positive steps to save the High Streets, which are under siege from all quarters, and in which councillors should be heavily investing our money, of which they are mere custodians, for the good of society.

Let Mr Mustard anticipate that Goldenarse will now send him an email trying to rescue the situation as despite the recent backing on twitter of you know who (the backing of a person who said this about him "promoted too soon and a lightweight" may not be worth having) he is up the creek without a paddle and losing electoral sympathy at a bad time, demanding that Mr Mustard set out his priorities for the High Street and saying which budgets he would cut to fund investment in the High Street. Well it isn't Mr Mustard's job to do such a thing but if Goldenarse cares to send him a list of all the financial support that Barnet Council gave to business in his ward of High Barnet in the year ended 31 March 2013 then he will try and find some space in his diary (Mr Mustard has 2 jobs, the blog, 50 PCN to appeal and his role as an unpaid SPAD for the parking department so is somewhat busy, busier than an actor who isn't seen in many roles that is for sure) to give a detailed reply. Mr Mustard doesn't hold out much hope after that though; remember the Longstaff Letters after which silence was golden.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

Update 11:38 on 27 November 13.

The Cabinet member for Engagement has now decided to engage. Marvellous.

He has been in touch with Hopscotch and the following will happen:

The outcome is that the council will contribute an amount equal to the total cost of the tree and decorations, thus freeing up an extra amount for further initiatives such as hanging baskets.

He will also look into whether the council’s water bowser could be deployed in maintaining troughs and baskets over the spring and summer.

Hurrah. What a pity that Mr Mustard has to pillory councillors into action but at least they are starting to see sense.

A much larger conversation needs to take place about the role of the High Street in modern day society and what positive steps the council should be taking to make barnet a place where High Streets thrive. Cash parking meters or free time-limited parking would be a very good start. After that how about closing the offices in the North London Business Park and spreading all council officers across the borough in and around the various High Streets to generate trade for shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants after having brought all jobs back in-house of course.

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