Thursday 5 April 2018

The sorry tale of woe that is Bunns Lane Car Park

One of the most important sources of income for Barnet Council is Mill Hill Station car park in Bunns Lane. I've been reliably informed that this is the single biggest cash cow for Barnet Council in there portfolio of car parks. It costs £5 to park for more than 90 minutes, a complete rip off for anyone who wants a leisurely lunch or a perm in the Broadway. I fully understand that £5 is not entirely unreasonbable for commuters parking all day, given the going rate for parking, but in most car parks and in most areas this means that parking for more than 4 hours is charged at the top rate.

The charges are £1 for 30 mins, £2 for 60 mins, £3 for 90 mins and £5 for any longer. Given that to walk from the car park to walk to most shops in the Broadway would take 5-10 minutes, in reality the minimum, the car park is prohibitively expensive for all but the commuters. 

The Barnet Eye can claim a small victory for commuters using the car park (and for my customers at Mill Hill Music Complex). I campaigned for decades for a station entrance on Bunns Lane Car Park. Back in 2004,  First Capital Connect were having a lot of complaints from passengers on the line due to removal of fast trains from Mill Hill. The then Managing director, Elaine Holt visited Mill Hill and bought commuters a coffee at the then Fratelli's coffee bar in the Broadway to listen to commuter complaints. I took the opportunity to suggest that an entrance be installed on Platform 4 to the car park. Holt stated that this was not easy as they would need the agreement of the council who owned the car park. Luckily the former Mill Hill Lib Dem Councillor Wayne Casey RIP was present and he said that if Holt was serious, he'd ensure that the council sorted it out. It was done within a year. It has been most useful for commuters and also great for customers of my studio in Bunns Lane who arrive at the station and walk to the studio. 

One reason I was keen for this to be done was because it would facilitate an easy solution to step free access to the station. If they installed a DDA compliant footbridge and a dropped kerb entrance, then Mill Hill Broadway Station would have disabled access. Have a look at the bridge at West Hampstead station, we urgently need one of these. Sadly both the train operators and the council have no interest in pursuing this solution. They have been seeking funding for a solution that installs a lift from the main bus station area. This should be done as well, however using Bunns Lane car park would be a quick fix. The footbridge would be needed anyway. 

The whole story of Bunns Lane Car Park is a sorry tale of woe. Unlike most Mill Hill Residents, I know the full story. My family have lived in Mill Hill since the 1940's (although I was born in '62). My uncles used to own Fanning Builders Depot and supplies. Their depot was on the site of what is now the car park. In the early 1970's, the council issued a compulsory purchase order for the site. They wanted to erect a multi story car park for Mill Hill Broadway. My Uncles split their business. The building side moved to a Depot in Daws Lane and the supplies side moved to what is now Lawsons on Grahame Park Way. 

I was quite excited by the prospect of a multi story car park in Mill Hill. It seemed terribly modern and exciting to my teenage boy mind. Having moved my uncles out, nothing happened. After a couple of years, a single story car park was built. I was hugely disappointed as it seemed like a massively missed opportunity for Mill Hill. Within a couple of years, the car park was full to bursting every day. 

Eventually the Council decided that the solution to the overcrowding was to charge customers. Initially the charges were reasonable. In 2002, it cost £2 a day. When the Tories took charge of the council that year, one of their first acts was to increase the charges to £5 a day. This was purely a financial matter. The local Conservatives always talk about how they provide value for money, but they have massively increased all manner of stealth taxes like parking fees.  

As Bunns Lane Car park is around the corner from the offices of the Barnet Tories in Churchhill House, I was quite amused to see  tweets this week from Shaun Baily and Andrew Boff, Tory dignitarys visiting Matthew Offord this week. Both posed for pictures in Bunns Lane Car Park
These misleadingly implied that they were out with Mill Hills Tory candidates canvassing in Mill Hill Ward. As any Mill Hill resident knows, Bunns Lane is in Hale Ward. Oddly, the Barnet Tories have not managed to find anyone who actually lives in Mill Hill ward to represent them and have had to bus in their candidates from Hale. No wonder they felt more comfortable there.

I was rather disappointed that whilst they were visiting the car park, they didn't have a look around. There is fly tipped rubbish, litter, trip hazards,  potholes and signs warning of hazards to your vehicle that are completely inappropriately placed. I find it unbelievable that candidates can have their picture taken within yards of all of this and not even bother to mention it. Whilst Bunns Lane Car Park is not in Mill Hill ward, it is hugely important to the businesses in the Broadway and local commuters. The following tweets demonstrate just some of the things I saw walking around the car park this morning.
In short, Bunns Lane Car Park is a disgrace. The charging structure does nothing to help the businesses in the Broadway. The litter and fly tipping is a disgrace. The entrance to the station needs to be fully accessible. The pot holes and trip hazards need fixing and the signage needs to be placed in the appropriate place.

We need a plan to make Bunns Lane Car Park work for our community. The Mill Hill Neighbourhood forum is promoting plans for a development on the site. We agree that the car park needs to be sorted out, but we want to see the following practical, short term steps taken to make it work better for the people who live in Mill Hill.

1. Introduce a charging strategy that is more helpful to Mill Hill Businesses. Due to the walk to the Broadway, we think the costs should be 50p for 1 hour, £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 3 hours,  £4 for 4 hours and £5 all day. This is more reasonable for people having a hairdo and a coffee in the Broadway.

2. Fix the potholes, trip hazards, bad signage, clear the flytipping and litter and ensure that the car park is kept in a state that it's cash cow status should merit.

3. Ensure that the entrance to platform 4 is fully accessible. Work with the train operators to get a DDA compliant footbridge as soon as possible, there is no need to wait for a lift from platform 1. That can be phase II.

4. Ensure that any plans for redeveloping the car park include more spaces and better access for local residents.

It is my firm belief that many of the problems in the London Borough of Barnet are not due to lack of cash, but to bad management of resources. It would have cost exactly the same amount of money to put the badly placed hazard sign in a visible and eye catching position as to its badly placed location. removing trip hazards will lower the risk of the council being sued. Some of them were clearly as the result of works which were not properly finished. Mill Hill desperately needs councillors who do not look for the spot in the car park where you can have the best photo opportunity with your celebrity buddies. We believe that councillors should be doing their job and getting things done. 

1 comment:

Paul Frankenberg said...

I received to my horror an election promo from the Tory party claiming to spend £50.00 million on Barnet Roads, given that at present one cannot drive down Oakleigh Park North without going into a pothole, ( there is only one-way traffic Monday-Friday caused by local council employees parking on both sides of the road)This opposite the council's offices ,so even they may have noticed the road's condition, I find this claim as are the other claims to build leisure centres, improve schooling and libraries fatuous, I can no longer bring myself to vote labour after a lifetime as a socialist and the existing party seem intent on destroying what is left of local communities please forward me the name of the Lib Dem candidate.