Wednesday 11 March 2015

Proof that Barnet Council doesn't care about Small Businesses

Before I go into the details of this, let me tell you a little story about my business, Mill Hill Music Complex. About 20 years ago, we had a small issue. We used to open on a Saturday morning, but we had virtually no customers for our rehearsal studios. Was it worth the trouble? Many of our customers enjoy a good Friday night out and have hangovers on a Saturday morning. So we did what any sensible business does, we looked at the options and decided to see if we find a different market for our services. We announced that all sessions between 11am and 2pm on a Saturday morning would be half price. We thought this would open the studios up to young musicians, who are at school during the week and want to rehearse in a professional studio. We put a couple of ads in the local paper and hey presto, within a couple of weeks, every session was full. After about three months, one of our regular customers, who is orthodox Jewish asked why we didn't do the same on a Sunday morning. At the time we didn't open. He said that we were missing out on a huge local market who couldn't rehearse on a Saturday. So we said we'd try it for a month and hey presto, Saturday and Sunday mornings became the most popular time of the week, with studios booked weeks, if not months in advance.

So you may ask what all this has got to do with Barnet Council? Well this Sunday Barnet Council are closing the street where our business is based from 9am to 2.30pm for the "Vitality Half Marathon". There will be no vehicle access during this period to the industrial estate where we run our business from. We are not the only business affected. There is a car steam cleaning business who will lose the busiest pariod of the week. For many of our customers, this is a major issue. They have gigs and recordings which this will affect massively. It is bad enough to have the disruption, but perhaps the worst aspect of this is that we only found out on Monday by chance reading of this article in the local paper - - no one from the organisers or the Council had nipped in to see us or ask how this may affect our business. We had no chance to make alternative arrangements for customers and we are left with no option but to refund many customers. The organisers glibly said that we could advise customers to park in Bunns Lane Car Park or surrounding roads. This is all very well, but many musicians bring guitars, amplifiers, keyboards and drum kits.  How are they meant to lug these 1/4 of a mile from the Station car park. As to parking in surrounding roads, these are all under the Saracens Match Day curfew from 1pm, so this is no use at all.

We have no objection in principle to a half marathon, but the organisers and the council must take into account the needs of local businesses and residents and conduct proper consultations with them before planning such events. Vitality are a huge brand and presumably they expect this to be good for their business. Sadly it is very bad for our business and we have no benefits at all. As ever with Barnet Council, the huge vested interests win and local residents (in this case local kids who are musicians) and local business lose out.

In the scheme of things, for most residents this in itself may not be an issue, but it shows once again that Barnet Council has no interest in consultations with residents and businesses. I daresay that there are probably quite a few Barnet Tory councillors who are quite happy that this has cost my business a few quid. Was this a consideration in not informing us? Are they malicious or just plain incompetent? I've no idea, but I will ask the question.

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