Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Guest Blog - North Finchley Business Forum – a few points that came up

By Paul Evans - 

(originally posted on Finchlinks - http://www.finchlinks.com/2011/10/north-finchley-business-forum-a-few-points-that-came-up/#more-303 )

Last night, I was at the North Finchley Business Forum meeting, hosted jointly by Barnet Council and a company called North London Business. It was interesting, and (up to a point) very positive.
Parking. It came up at the meeting, y'know?
It is the first in a series of meetings – the next one is pencilled in for late November (details to follow – join the LinkedIn group to stay in the loop).
There was a lot of good intentions from the council officers there, and some potentially interesting developments for the area surrounding a bid to the Lord Mayor’s Outer London Fund, a subject that I’ll return to another day soon here.
North London Business appear to be instrumental to the continuing energy around the meetings and, presumably, any bidding that is done. They say that they’ve a budget of £300.00 to do the research that they handed out at the meeting (details to follow), the publicity, and four meeting (including last night’s one). That’s a lot to do for that budget.
Predictably, and understandably, the meeting was dominated with barely supressed rage about the parking situation – the ramped-up charges, the decision (which I’ve only just heard about) to remove all of the parking ticket machines so that they can only be bought online, with a mobile phone, and from selected shops.
I don’t think we need fortune telling-skills to know how that one is going to work out.
Either way, on the parking issue, leaving aside the policy issues, I think the biggest problem is the lack of human dialogue.
There’s a lot to disagree with in the policy itself (more here), but there are also a lot of simple suggestions that could be put to a human being who has the ability to open negotiations with local people on this issue. Ideas like ‘pay-for-what-you-use’ parking in the car-parks or the situation where North Finchley’s CPZ runs from 9am-5.30pm instead of the one-hour restriction elsewhere nearby.
As Cllr Schneiderman put it on Twitter…..
“Just attended N Finchley business forum – to say there was some anger about parking is putting it mildly! Officers left to take flak as usual”
We were, however, promised a higher-quality witness from the council on this subject at the next meeting.
Other highlights: Steve Murrant – the Enforcement Investigation Manager at the council (Google tells me he’s a former Chief Inspector, so mind how you go!) spoke about plans to discourage street-drinking, outlining an enforcement plan that he claimed had worked very well in Cricklewood and elsewhere. The meeting was urged to become more involved in the Safe Neighbourhood Team and in ‘Shopwatch’ – a meeting that takes place every three months (but one that had mixed reviews from the businesses in the room).
It was agreed that the police would be invited to come to the next meeting.
Also, the question of the Arts Depot came up. The possibility of it housing a library to replace proposed closures in North Finchley and Friern Barnet (outlined here by Cllr Rams with counter-commentary from Vicky here and as reported, with some scepticism, in Private Eye recently) and the anticipated ‘footfall’ that it would bring to the area was thought to be pertinent to The Bid.
But what about the venue’s role in helping to regenerate the area? Well, the meeting resolved to invite someone from the Arts Depot to the next meeting.
In summary, a lot came up, each issue worth a short article of it’s own.
  • Parking (and parking, parking and parking!)
  • The stats that we were given at the meeting (interesting – watch this space)
  • The Bid
  • The Arts Depot – the library and the wider role of the venue regenerating the area
  • Anti-social behaviour, petty crime and making North Finchley feel safer
I’ll try and post a few of them here, but if you want to weigh in, please let me know!
One last thing though. Initiatives like this have been kicked off before, only to dissolve into nothing. A few people at the meeting offered examples to illustrate their frustration.
Personally, I like to stay as positive as possible on this kind of thing. I think that the meeting was handled very well and the officers at the Council were keen to do anything that they can to work with local businesses to improve the area. With someone there from the Council (on parking), the police and the Arts Depot, the next meeting should be worth going to.
Paul Evans runs the Finchlinks Community blog, where this post is taken from. Finchlinks aims to promote local business and community. The Barnet Eye is always pleased to promote community based initiatives in the London Borough of Barnet

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