7.30 am this morning I arrived at Cafe Buzz for the inaugural North Finchley traders forum. The meeting was set up by Paul Evans of the Finchlinks website, with the mission to start the process of reinvigorating the North Finchley High Street shopping Centre.
Paul kicked off the meeting by stating that the aim of the meeting was to bring business owners together to try and reinvigorate the High Street. He said that although Parking charges were the hot issue, there were other issues and other things which could be done to help.
Helen Michael, who is the owner of Cafe Buzz on the High Street mentioned the Mayor of Londons fund and the opportunity to spend some of the £1million fund on tarting up the High Street. Although she felt that this was a minor issue, compared to the damage caused by parking charges, she felt that as the cash was there, it should be utilised as effectively as possible.
Dr Julia Hines, attending as a representative from Age UK, suggested that shop owners should consider ways to enable elderly customers to shop more effectively and suggested a home delivery service was one way to assist elderly shoppers.
Veronica Woolf, who owns www.traxtoworks.co.uk a company assisting people to find better jobs assisting in personal development, stated that the day Owen Owen department store closed was the start of the decline of North Finchley.
David Boxer, a local businessman suggested that the migration of "The Multiples" (ie large chains) was symbolic of the decline of the High Street. He asked how business could combat the funding requirement, which the council use to justify an unfair parking regime. He suggested a scheme to welcome back shoppers.
John Greenaway from Kinleigh Folkard and Howard KFH.CO.UK estate agents suggested that High Streets were not reliant on multiples and succesful High Streets such as Crouch End had "moved beyond the multiples". He suggested that traders must see beyond the parking issue (many other people felt that it was such an overriding issue that this was impossible).
Helen Michael stated that the Arts Depot should be an engine driving the North Finchley trading community, but it seemed to exist in it's own little world with no interaction with other businesses.
Roger Tichborne of millhillmusiccomplex.co.uk (and author of this blog), suggested that traders should consider pooling resources for advertising and leveraging better deals from local papers. he also suggested that local papers should focus advertising by area, so that we have a focus on a specific High Street or area. Mill Hill Businesses have done that this week for the local Press newspapers.
Keith Martin suggested that the formation of Barnet Council in 1966 had destroyed local accountability and suggested that decision making be devolved to a more local level.
Paul McCrossan suggested that traders needed to work to create a sense of community and outlined several ideas for doing this.
There was much lively discussion around these issues. It was agreed to hold another meeting in approx 6 weeks and to concentrate on the subject of High Street regeneration.
Many of the delegates suggested that it would be nice to see representation from Barnet Council at the next meeting.Check http://www.finchlinks.com/ for details of future meetings.