Cycleway proposals withdrawn

We have an update for you about the “Barnet Cycleway” (see previous post  ( below) of  12 January.

Following  FBWRA “lobbying” of Councillors the Cycleway proposals have been dropped from the Agendas for the meetings of the two Council Committees that were due to consider them this month and in early February. We believe that Council Officers have been told to go “back to the drawing board”, as it were.

One of FBWRA’s criticisms of certain aspects the proposals was that they were unpopular with those, mostly local residents, who had responded to the June 2019 consultation, but there were other issues, apart from “not listening to ordinary people”, as well – unfortunately we did not have space to cover them in the Newsletter article-  we are doing so now.

First, “gold plating” ( a term used to describe how a simple proposal is made  more complicated, or given a wider scope, than is actually necessary to achieve the original objective)-

If it goes ahead the Barnet Cycleway has to meet the TfL Cycleway criteria – otherwise the Mayor of London will not provide the money to pay for it!  These criteria recognise a range of different designs and “highway environments” as being acceptable for a Cycleway.  Council officers seem to have been pursuing a strategy of “gold-plating”, by imposing elements of the scheme in excess of those required to meet the Cycleway criteria.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request made to the Council, FBWRA was provided with a copy of a “Sponsor and Quality Criteria Review “document relating to the proposals. This seems to show that, in relation to the controversial Ashurst/Buxted Road junction, all the Cycleway criteria are satisfied with the exception of that relating to traffic speed. Consequently   it is unnecessary to restrict access through the junction (as proposed) to reduce vehicle speeds; speeds can be reduced by other strategies.

The above is borne out by a comment from Sustrans (instructed by the Council to design the scheme) about this junction in this review document- “[the] new layout is to reduce traffic” yet, as explained above, TfL’s Cycleway criteria analysis seems to show this is unnecessary, and the only issue that actually needs to be tackled to meet Cycleway criteria here is to slightly reduce traffic speed (not volume) – so – gold-plating

Second, Council officers pursuing their own “agenda”, rather than following directions from elected Councillors.

When Council officers wrote to local residents last month, reporting on the consultation outcome and setting out how officers intended to push ahead with the scheme (despite its unpopularity), they wrote that the proposal for what would initially be a “temporary traffic filter” at the  Ashurst/Buxted Road junction was to prevent rat running traffic between Friern Barnet Lane and Woodhouse Road (even though preventing “rat running” as such is unnecessary for the creation of the Cycleway – see above).

However, the entire Cycleway scheme has been presented to Councillors as a cycling scheme, not as an initiative to tackle “rat- running”.  On 2 September 2019 Council officers held a meeting with Councillors representing Woodhouse and Coppetts Wards, which was attended by Councillors Hutton, Cooke and Rawlings. Officers from Barnet, Re and Sustrans also attended. Councillors were told that it was “Useful to remember that this is a cycle scheme” and that the” purpose of the scheme- [is] ensuring cyclists can safely navigate through the area.” (This is from another FOI response provided to FBWRA). No mention of rat-running.

We understand from an email sent to FBWRA by a Council officer that “political instruction” for the Cycleway proposals   derives from Chipping Barnet and Finchley and Golders Green Area Committees’  “parallel decisions” on 26 October 2016 regarding the scheme including arrangements for approval of concept designs for consultation.

The Officer  Report to the  Committees  in 2016 makes no reference to reducing rat-running as being an objective of, or of measures to reduce it as being  part of, the proposals.  Instead, the Report states:

The routes, intended to form a cross-London network of high quality, low-traffic cycle routes, will mainly use quieter back streets, parks and other greenspaces, and will be particularly suited to less confident cyclists who want to use low-traffic routes, while also providing for existing cyclists who want to travel at a gentler pace.

A route linking North Finchley and Hornsey is proposed and the agreement of the committee to Quietway Delivery Plan for the route, as far as it affects the committee’s area  is sought to provide TfL with assurance that the scheme is supported before releasing funding for further work.”

As mentioned above, the Report considered by the Committee in 2016 made no reference to reducing rat-running as being an objective of the proposals, nor do the Minutes of the meeting make any such reference.

So, there appears to be no “political instruction” for measures to be taken to reduce “rat- running” through the Ashurst/ Buxted Road junction – instead, Council officers have been pursuing this objective as a “frolic of their own”.

It is good to see our democratically elected Councillors taking back control.

David Thompson

Chairman, FBWRA

COUNCIL DEPOT PROBLEMS WORSEN

You may know that the Council’s  Oakleigh Road Depot has been experiencing ground movement (“subsidence”) on the main access road to the site since opening in 2017, which has been kept under regular monitoring. Recently the Council has advised that the monitoring has shown the movement has got worse.

The Depot stands at the top of a tree-lined embankment, at the bottom of which is Oakleigh Road South. The Council, which has been advised that the ground movement is “unusual”, has been concerned at the possible risks involved, potentially including “structural failure of the area” (i.e. a landslide).  As a precaution the footpath adjacent to the embankment has been closed.

Our picture shows Council refuse trucks returning to the Depot along Oakleigh Road South. The barriers closing the footpath can be seen and in the foreground movement of the boundary fence will be noted.

Barnet Cycleway- secrecy over Consultation responses greeted with disbelieving laughter

Barnet Council officers refused to provide the data obtained in response to the  Council’s public consultation on the controversial  proposed  Hornsey to North Finchley  “Barnet Cycleway”.

The consultation was carried out in June and July 2019, but it was only in mid- December that the report was released on the Council consultation website, even though the draft report was discussed with local councillors as long ago as 2 September.   However, when Friern Barnet & Whetstone Residents Association (FBWRA) made a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to the Council in late October, asking for the consultation data to be provided, the Council  responded, nearly a month later, refusing the request on the basis of an exemption from the FOI  for information that is “in course of completion, unfinished or incomplete” applied. As FBWRA Chairman David Thompson  put it – “  The FOI request was for full data sets of aggregated responses to the consultation.  As the consultation closed in July it does not seem credible that the results had not been aggregated ( to the extent that this was required) more than four months later. In fact, when I reported the Council  response to the FBWRA Committee  in early December the reaction was disbelieving laughter! “

David also commented  “ I had an email from  a Council officer in late September  from which it is clear that at that time-

  1. the results of the consultation had been analysed; and
  2. the results of the consultation show a mix of support and concern across the route” – so the results were known, otherwise that conclusion could not have been reached,

yet the aggregated data sets were supposedly still  “in the course of completion, unfinished or incomplete” almost 2 months later, in late November” .  If the data was still incomplete in November, how was it possible for the results to have been analysed and a draft report produced by early September?

Were Council officers seeking  to keep  the consultation results quiet until they had worked out how to handle a series of unwelcome results arising from the consultation?

The subsequent release of the report on the Consultation shows that the proposals are massively unpopular-only  37.6% of those responding  agreed or strongly agreed with the proposals for the Cycleway overall while  56.4% disagreed or strongly disagreed.  Opposition to the plans for the Buxted Road/ Ashurst Road   junction was even stronger – here  only  25.6% of those responding  agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal  while  73.1% disagreed or strongly disagreed. We understand that, undaunted by this set-back, Council officers will seek Councillor approval to press ahead.

“383 Day” in Friary Park – Friary Park Community Event 20 September 2019

FBWRA had a stall at the “Community Event” organised by the Council and held in Friary Park on 20th September.  The Council’s chosen theme was “Together we are Barnet”.

The line-up included a new look 383 community bus which TfL is looking to introduce (although we were assured the service, running from Woodside Park Underground Station to The Spires shopping centre, will be unchanged), music and dancing by members of the  Barnet Asian Woman’s Association (who use part of Friary House in the park for meetings),  and who also provided a free lunch for those attending,   members of Community Focus (also from Friary House) and the Friends of Friary Park.

Sadly, the event was held 11 a.m. – 1.p.m. on a Friday – not exactly peak time in the park, but even so it was  pleasant in the late summer sunshine.

FBWRA Summer Splash 2019

The FBWRA 2019 Summer Splash was held at Friary Park Bowling Club. Previous years’ Splashes had been held adjacent to Friern Barnet Library. As well as changing the venue we also moved the event to early August from later in the month. By accident or design we had a significantly increased turnout, with about 50 members attending –  up about 1/3rd from the previous year.

Members attending the event had the opportunity to try their hand at bowls, with tuition available from experts- Bowling Club President (and FBWRA Member) Barry Carmody and other Club members were on hand to assist.

Committee Member Harry Gluck took pictures to record the occasion for posterity !

Friern Barnet Traffic Scheme

In the January 2019 issue of the FBWRA Newsletter we reported on proposals for a traffic scheme in Friern Barnet as set out in the Friern Barnet Lane, Buxted Road, Ashurst Road and Friern Park Discover Community Engagement Report January 2018 , a scheme which is directed at facilitating a proposed  “ Quietway” cycle  route from Hornsey  through Friern Barnet to North Finchley that is being funded by TfL .

You can access the Newsletter  article here:

https://www.fbwra.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2019-January-Newsletter.pdf

FBWRA is now working with members and other residents of the local roads who would be most directly affected by the Scheme were it to be implemented, and we have funded a survey of residents’ opinions on the proposals. 

At the beginning of April members of FBWRA including our Chairman, Kate Salinger, and other members of the FBWRA Committee and also other local residents met with two of the Councillors (Cllr. Geof Cooke and Cllr. Barry Rawlings) representing Woodhouse and Coppetts Ward respectively, parts of both of would be affected by the Scheme, to discuss the proposals.


Buxted Road/ Ashurst Road junction, which would be diagonally closed, stopping through traffic between Woodhouse Road and Friern Barnet Lane and causing more congestion and pollution.

Following on from that meeting FBWRA has written to other Councillors and to Council officers, to ensure that FBWRA’s views on the proposals are known to  the relevant “stakeholders”- this is important as the proposals  are soon to be  finalised prior to their submission to a Council Committee for approval, and we have been concerned to get our, and residents’ view across before any decision is made.

Full details can be found elsewhere on this site here: https://www.fbwra.org/issues/friern-barnet-traffic-scheme/

Put Out More Flags 2019

Last year, in the July edition of our Newsletter (which you can see here: https://www.fbwra.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-July-Newsletter-Ver-2-PDF-1.pdf  )  we lamented that there was no flag of St George  flown on Barnet Council buildings- and that a  reconnaissance to Barnet House, the Council offices in Whetstone, on St George’s day, had disclosed –not a St. George’s Flag proudly flying in the breeze, but a bare flag pole (there are two there, the other was occupied by the British Union Flag).

This year FBWRA contacted the Council  – in fact, we went straight to the top- and asked  John Hooton, the Council’s Chief Executive, what plans there were for flying  St. George’s Flag at  Hendon Town Hall and at Barnet House this April 23rd and, indeed on future St. George’s Days.

With a little nudging (Chief Executives have many demands on their time) the reply came – “Yes we will be flying the St George’s flag on St George’s day.”

“And where?” ,  we asked.

“The flag will be flown at Hendon Town Hall and Barnet House.”

Success!

However, there is probably still some way to go before Barnet begins to complete with Nottingham for the exuberance of its St George’s Day celebrations- below is a picture of Nottingham’s Council House:

Picture courtesy of Fast Graphics Ltd, Nottingham.

UNICORNS MAY COME TO COPPETTS WOOD

We understand, from a normally reliable source, that it is planned to introduce one of the rarest species of creatures to the Coppetts Wood Nature Reserve in Friern Barnet.

Coppetts Wood (and  neighbouring the Glebelands)  were designated a Local Nature Reserve by the Borough of Barnet in 1997 and now much of the task of managing them is undertaken by volunteers, the Coppetts Wood Conservationists. Coppetts Wood was once part of a vast woodland known as Finchley Wood. The surviving fragment  now contains a rich diversity of different habitats for wildlife and includes a section of Ancient Woodland.

It is hoped that very early next month specimens of Scotland’s national animal, the unicorn, will be introduced to Coppetts Wood.

Unicorns such as this may be introduced to Coppetts Wood Nature Reserve in April

As most will be aware, the unicorn is extremely rare, although in recent years sightings of them in the U.K. have increased. Well known recent sightings include in Sunderland, in the early hours of the morning of 24th June 2016 and most recently in London, in Westminster, where Government Ministers were reported to be demanding that the creatures should be culled-  at a Cabinet meeting on 18th December last year Justice Secretary David Gauke reportedly spoke of one of the Westminster creatures as: “a unicorn that needs to be slaughtered”, adding that: ” the responsibility of Cabinet ministers is not to propagate unicorns but to slay them.”   Of course, as unicorns are very popular with some people and are commonly much loved as symbols of purity and grace, comments such as those by Mr Gauke caused  a degree of unhappiness to many.

Mr Gauke should have known better- as the renowned author J.K. Rowling once wrote “ it is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn.  Only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime.” 

The final arrangements for the release of the unicorns in Coppetts Wood have yet to be announced, although we do understand that Mr Gauke will not be invited.  We hope to have further details later.

115 flats scheme for Oakleigh Road North

Property developers Taylor Wimpey have announced  proposals for the redevelopment of former MoD land  in Oakleigh Road North , which  relates to the  eight former “Officers’ houses” facing the United Reformed church. They have sent letters to many local residents, but we believe the proposals merit wider publicity, so we have emailed our members and publishing this post on this site.

The proposals include:
115 new purpose-built  “high-quality”  flats.
A range of housing sizes to meet a range of local needs and provide greater choice.
New  shared ownership opportunities and affordable rented homes, with a London Plan compliant level of affordable homes.
Improved   pedestrian connectivity for residents of Sweets Way through Oakleigh Road North to Totteridge and Whetstone station.
95 car parking spaces, 191 cycle spaces and electric vehicle charging points

Taylor Wimpey are hosting a “public event” on Wednesday 27th  February  from 3pm to 8pm.at  the Friary Hall, Christ Church, Oakleigh Park North, Whetstone N20 9AR.  The public event is intended to give local residents and stakeholders the opportunity to view and comment on the proposals before a detailed planning application is submitted to Barnet Council.
There will be a series of information boards available and members of the development team will be on hand to answer questions.

For more information email debbie.thorpe@marengocomms.com or call the team on 0800 689 5209 or visit their website www.taylorwimpey.co.uk/proposed-developments/england/london/whetstone/land-at-oakleigh-road-north-whetstone

The website states that it is planned to submit a planning application to Barnet Council in March.

2019 AGM

FBWRA’s 2019 AGM will be held on Thursday 2nd May , starting at 7.30 p.m. (doors open 7.15 p.m.) at

St. John’s Parish Centre ( behind the church), Friern Barnet Road, N11 3EQ.

Please note that this is a change from the April date previously announced on this site.