Friern Barnet and Whetstone Residents Association
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Friern Barnet and Whetstone Resident’s Association Chairman’s Speech : 21.04.2016

Honourable Member, Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is said that procrastination is the thief of time. Consider then that my time has been well stolen. When I first attended an AGM of this august society, I was in my late 30’s and felt very much on the lower eschelons of attendees at that meeting. I never envisaged standing before you, delivering a Chairman’s report with a virtually captive audience in front of me. But DID I procrastinate about writing this report. It was only the fact that by 2.00 pm this afternoon I thought that it was NOW OR NEVER that led me to the typeface.

What has led to my being here as Acting Chairman?

A whole catalogue of mishaps, illness and death in fact. The last committee elected had no idea that some of them would have serious illnesses during the following year or that the stalwart Len Bull would die so suddenly. All this and other happenings meant that last year there was no AGM. Not many of you can have seen that as a major problem in your lives as no-one even murmured about it.

In September of last year, Harry felt he could no longer carry on and the committee had a dilemma. Perhaps our organisation could merge with the Finchley Society?

Maybe it should close altogether? Then someone had a different idea and I have no clue as to who the person was who suggested approaching MOI.

Instinctively I said NO, protecting my free time and then I thought…WHY NOT. If I offer my services for 2 years, decisions can be made after that time as to whether there is still a role for a Resident’s Association in the area. You see, I believe that there is. I firmly believe that the community of Friern Barnet and Whetstone is like a large village in many ways and it is very important to keep it that way. If an active residents association can be a part of that, GOOD. We have councillors representing us, and I am delighted to see so many of them here tonight. However, whatever party our councillors represent, they cannot have an apolitical view and THAT is what I hope the RA’s have. When we tell our members that we can speak for them, hopefully we do it in their best interests with no political bias. I accept that there are cases where councillors from all parties agree, particularly in the case of the proposed development of the North London Business Park….11 storey blocks….do we really need 11 storey blocks with all the extra…traffic….schools…. doctors…the whole infrastructure bit? The mind boggles. Keep moaning, councillors. Be very sure that the FBWRA will.

The FBWRA does its best to speak on behalf of residents and hopefully help to make the area a more pleasant place in which to live.

So what has the association done over the last year? Well, thanks to the amazing work of Robert Newton, it has kept in touch with all the proposed developments in our area


and opposed those that were deemed to be excessive or overbearing. I have mentioned the NLBP but smaller proposals are also targeted. I think particularly of the proposal to build a very a small house on the site of a small garage which would have been extremely overbearing for all the properties that surrounded it. So far, with our support, this application has been refused.

We are members of the London Green Belt Council whose aims, as I am sure you must have guessed, are to maintain the Green Belt in its present form, prevent urban sprawl and protect the countryside from greedy developers. Sadly, as Robert has now resigned from the FBWRA ( and I do hope this had nothing to do with my advent, Robert), we need a committee member to be our representative on that Council. Very vital work it does too.

Robert was also our representative on FORAB….which I think stands for Federation of Resident’s Associations in Barnet and he was a great conduit of information. One woman or man can stand against a flood, one organisation can also do so but when many organisations stand together, they become much more powerful. And FORAB can be powerful. However, once again, a committee member is needed who is able to take on the role of being our FORAB representative. It is beginning to sound as if Robert Newton performed all the major tasks on our committee. Well, he did do an awful lot and we were all very sorry to see him leave as family life and an attempt at real retirement took over. Robert, we have missed you greatly and your boots will be hard to fill. Please accept this as a token of our esteem, admiration and thanks.

Loraine Patel did sterling work with our website but stood down from the committee during the year. We need to thank Loraine for all she did but also make a plea for a computer literate personage to offer to take over the running of our website. We are extremely grateful to Loraine for recently updating it. Bruce Standing also resigned during the year due to ill health. We are delighted that he is better and thank him for his work as our treasurer.. Loraine and Bruce, please accept these bottles as a small token of our gratitude.

Another matter we take a keen interest in is Friary Park and Richard Testar, from the Friends of Friary Park keeps us updated on all park related issues. You will have noted that the Park is our main item of interest this evening so I will say no more about it apart from thanking Richard for his work.

Ollie Natelson is a Coppetts Wood enthusiast and revels in the very natural woodland there. The association was pleased to donate £400 to help create a data base which would hold details of all the flora and fauna in the wood. We wait to read it. I have always been amazed by how quickly Ollie can identify even the tiniest plant… some which I consider to be weeds. Well done, Ollie.

When Harry decided he could not continue as Chairman he said that he would carry on producing the newsletters. Although not strictly a matter of reporting for 2015, I think you will agree with me that he does this expertly and with the help of Yvonne


Ruge and her merry team of deliverers, all the newsletters are delivered. There is another one nearly off the press so watch your letter boxes!!!!

Michael Harald is an exemplary secretary. He can condense 10 minutes of my prattling into a sentence. Brilliant. One couldn’t ask for a better or more efficient secretary.

Similarly, David Thompson. I will begin to call him ”No sooner said than done Thompson”, as the speed with which he completes whatever task he has decided to pursue is phenomenal. He has largely taken over Robert Newton’s planning portfolio and it will not be long before our planners will tremble at the sight of his name. He was also assiduous at dealing with the accounts. …..and with chasing up old members….how good he has been can be measured by how many of you are here tonight. Many more and we would have had to hire a larger hall!!

We do have plans to increase our member ship and will shortly deliver a flyer to every house in our area inviting them to join the association. Apologies to those of you who already are members but with a mass delivery it is hard to remove the names of a few people.

What shall we do with an increased membership? Well, I am of the opinion that we ought to hold other meetings throughout the year which deal with matters that affect parts of our area.

Burglaries and car crime are problems in Oakleigh and Coppetts Ward, although our local police do their best to prevent it.. I think we should invite them to a meeting to discuss general crime prevention and security. Perhaps, just for the ladies, a self protection course wouldn’t go amiss.

Proposals for development at Pinkham Way are proving to be a nightmare for those living in the southern part of our area but do not be complacent.If there is a decision made at some time to place a waste disposal facility of any type on Pinkham Way, then a wrong wind will let all of you know where the smell is coming from and that is apart from the effect of noxious gases you cannot see. I would like there to be a meeting held that really enables us to understand what is going on there.

Other matters of local interest are always popping up and I would like to see the FBRWA at the forefront of bringing such matters to the attention of local people.

Finally, there is the Friern Barnet Show. I would LOVE that to be a part of the summer calendar in this area again. Don’t ask me HOW, just let me know that you agree and maybe some of us can get together and start moving on it. Adult fancy dress? My son Stephens tightrope walker friends? My mind is FULL of ideas.

Maybe too many ideas and I have held you captive for long enough.


Ladies and Gentlemen, here endeth the first Annual Report from Acting Chairman Kate. I hope you will accept it.

 

 

Chairman's Report  2014- Harry Gluck

 

2014 AGM Chairman’s Report

First I would like to make some apologies. The reason that the AGM is late this year was my fault.  I was so caught up in other activities (which I will get to later).  Similarly, there have been few Newsletters of late for the same reason.

To start I would like to pay tribute to our Deputy Chairman, Len Bull, who died in March of this year.  Len has been involved with Association for at least the last 10 years or so, certainly for all the time I have been on the Committee.  Len was an unassuming, modest man of great charm, who did important work for the Association.  He will be missed.

During the last year the Association has put in great efforts in the area of planning.  This work had been done by Bruce Standing and Robert Newton.  The effort has been colossal.  My colleagues have had to monitor what is going on, as well as, what is about to happen, they have to get the appropriate planning documents and understand the obscure language in which they are written.  They have to assess any detrimental impact the planning proposals would have on the residents of Friern Barnet and Whetstone.  If they find out that the proposals are disagreeable to the local residents, then they have to put forward their reasoned objections, based on existing planning rules and regulations.  There are meetings to attend and the planning proposals have to be monitored by Robert and Bruce, as the plans are likely to go through a number of changes.  Always Robert and Bruce work to lessen the impact of the planning proposals.

In the last year or so there have been a number of large planning applications that have been approved subject to revision, the revisions applied; the proposals re-submitted and then given final approval.  These proposed developments, in total, are going to significantly change the nature and character of the area, along the High Road, between the old Furnitureland site and Whetstone.  There are also nascent plans for significant developments along the High Road around the Tally Ho, North Finchley.

The list I am going to read out is for the larger developments.  I will use the term “units” as short for “units of housing”.  A unit maybe considered a 2,3or 4 bedroom house (detached, semi or terraced) or a flat.   It is quite a broad term as a unit of measure.  There are parallel measures like the number of bedrooms and the number of parking places which will be found with the planning applications.  But not to complicate matters, I will keep to units of housing.  So, …..

Northway House – the big office block opposite M&S (a conversion) – 145 units

Former BP Garage  -  next to M&S - 22 units

Furnitureland site – 60 units

Old Police Garage site – 95 units

EMC site  just north of the Furnitureland sand and on the same side of the road - (opposite Swan Lane open space & High Trees estate) – 69 units

White Rose Motors & Woodside cars (opposite old police garage site) - 17 units

Well Grove - off Chandos Avenue (Brethren site) - 70 units

Sweets Way – old Army housing (latest revision) – 291 units

Site next to Lawson’s (Catalyst Housing) – 36 units

B&Q – 130 units (initial application) – may be refused (unlikely) - may be reduced

this gives a total of 935 units of housing.  It is a lot of development in a small stretch of road.  From the 2011 census there is an average of 2.4 persons per household, which gives a total increase in population of over 2,000 persons.  Other than Sweets Way, none of the sites were previously residential.  So, this area will have another 900 cars heading to work on a weekday morning.

In case some of you were not aware, Barnet (356,000 in 2011) is a more populous borough than the city of Leicester (330,000 in 2011).  The GLA have issued directives that Barnet must increase its population in the next few years.  The total number and the end year keep changing.  For someone who has lived here for a long time these are important numbers and dates.  Because, the questions to answer are, “what is it going to be like?” and “do I want to keep living here?

In most of these instances the Association, usually in conjunction with other residents’ organisations, like the Finchley Society, have submitted reasoned objections - as to the nature and impact of the proposed developments.  The effect of these objections has, on the whole, been to reduce the size of the development.

There is no protection from the Council for Whetstone.  There is no overall plan for this area.  Whetstone is not what is called a “strategic town centre”, Whetstone is a lowly “district town centre”.  Effectively there is no overall plan.  There are number of metrics (measurements) that are used in the planning guidelines for development.  One would conclude that it is all smoke and mirrors.  The average resident has a hard time coming to grips with anything substantial in the planning rules. 

There are supposed to be guidelines, such as the number of habitable room per hectare for an urban centre, like Whetstone.  It would seem reasonable that the number of habitable rooms per hectare in an urban centre should be less than that for a central, inner city area.  Residents may have a little difficulty envisioning what 100 rooms per hectare might look like. Let’s pretend that we can handle the measure “habitable rooms per hectare” and understand what it means, if not in absolute terms then in relative terms (the smaller the better for us).

A small illustration.  The guidelines for the development on the old BP garage site allows for a range between 200 – 700 habitable rooms per hectare.  This is interpreted by the planners and council planning officer to mean 700 habitable rooms per hectare.  In fact the council officer allowed 818 habitable rooms per hectare, as 818 is just above 700, which is 17% above the limit.  But, 800 is the central London density.

You may say, “Hold on, what’s the council planning officer doing interpreting allowable housing density”, surely council officers work under the strategic direction of the leader of the council and the councillors.

Each application has to be considered on its merits.  However, once a precedent has been set it has proved difficult, if not impossible to turn down the next application.  So, if one six storey application has gone through, then should it be wanted, development on the site next door is almost certain to get planning permission. 

I have listed 10 significant sites.  There are other large sites that are could be redeveloped – Lawson’s, Gerson’s and the even Barnet House itself.  There are terraced rows of single storey and two storey shops that are vulnerable to redevelopment.   The police station is scheduled to become a school at the moment but there could always be a change of plan.

As well as monitoring major developments, Bruce and Robert have been concerned with slowing down the rate of conversion of family houses to flats.  There is an identifiable shortage of family houses in our area.  Each conversion cuts down the size of the family house pool.  The area is especially short of 4 bedroom family houses.

Before I leave housing I would like to mention what has happened just down this road to a building we knew as the Turrets.  What we have now is a large cuboid, currently wrapped up in plastic sheets.  It overwhelms the surrounding landscape.  This housing development is in the middle of a traffic light zone.  Coming straight out of the ground, it has no amenity space.  If not at first then after a while there will be children.  They will have a choice of play areas, either, among the traffic or on the railway lines.

With the developments I have mentioned, many come straight out of the ground.  Instead of selling apartments where passing pedestrians could pass within inches of an apartment window, the developers propose shops or offices on the ground floor.  There is no shortage of office space in Finchley and there are plenty of empty shops.

My efforts in the lat year have been drawn towards the Friern Barnet Community Library, where I am a Trustee, as well as being the Treasurer.  Getting this project off the ground has been effectively a full time job, even more than a full time job.  There have been lots to do and like all voluntary organisations – not enough Indians. 

So, for example, when lead was stolen from the roof, I had to deal with it- all of it – from getting it patched up, to putting in the insurance claim, getting roofers to turn up and gives quotes, getting a quote approved, supervising the repair work, paying the builder and getting reimbursed from the insurance company.  This is similar to what one would do if the lead was stolen from one’s house in the country, except that I have to deal with the Council as well.

The Library is open 8 hours a day for 6 days a week.  It is manned entirely by volunteers, each doing a 2 hour shift.  This means that the Library is manned by over 40 volunteers a week.  We have volunteers from every decade from teenagers to 80 year olds.  With one or two exceptions the rota volunteers area charming bunch.  We have a young lady, Annette, who comes from the Isle of Dogs in every Saturday morning and has been doing so for over a year.  She is apolitical but believes in libraries.   Annette has a full time job as a librarian at one of our learned societies.  Other than Annette our volunteers come from the local community; we have had a few from Muswell Hill and Southgate but they did not last.

There was a bit of argy-bargee from a couple of discontents, who wrote some nasty letters to the press.  (I don’t mean from the Councillors – they are always jousting).  These discontents were a couple of volunteers who didn’t like the way things were being done.  A month ago, the Friern Barnet Community Library voted for its new trustees, at its AGM in June.  The discontents were not elected and besides the local councillors, past and present, the new trustees are an apolitical bunch. 

The Library exists because the local community want it to exist.  The local community were prepared to agitate for its continued existence and it survives because of the effort the local community are prepared to put in.  The local community includes the local councillors, past and present, as well as the leader of the Council, Richard Cornelius, who undertook the political task of “closing the deal”.  At a recent “Any Questions” event at the Library, Richard Cornelius (Conservative) and Alison Moore (Labour) were on the panel  The event was attend by another group of noisy discontents, some of whom claim to be possessors of the soul of the Library. They are not trustees, they do not do a weekly shift as part of the volunteer roster, they are not members and they do not even come into the library in normal opening hours.

The Library has a two year lease which finishes in May/June of next year.  It is looking for a longer lease.  With a longer lease we will be eligible for awards from funding bodies that are only prepare to award money to bodies that have a medium to long term future.

I have to mention Princess Park.  As you may recall there are two parkland areas to the sides of the main drive, one to the east and one to the West.  These two areas were supposed to be handed over for public access when building works finished.  The tranche of land to the West was handed over some years ago.  The hand over of the East tranche was held back because of the building of East wing extension.  Part of the planning of the East wing extension was that the old cricket pavilion was demolished and the sales office on the North side be removed.  What happened?  Well the cricket pavilion has been demolished, the sales office remains open and Comer Homes have put up notices, on the East side, forbidding the public to use it.  Our Councillors, to start off with, need to correct this.

Now for the depressing part.  Like many other local voluntary groups, we are running out of people who are prepared to put in the necessary time and effort to ensure the continued existence.  We need officers with time and energy.  We require a couple of hours a week and commitment to do what is necessary.

As mentioned we have lost Len Bull.  Bruce Standing our treasurer has suffered hospitalisation and ill health and can no longer continue as treasurer.  Michael Harold, our secretary, has been seriously unwell in recent weeks.  We need new blood, so, see me afterwards.