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Two months ago, in September, years of hard work and patience finally paid off with the enthusiastic public response to Love Barnet’s first pop up shop, Number 89. Building on this success and keeping up the momentum, two more exciting Love Barnet projects will be opening their doors in November. We’d like to put this into perspective and explain how Love Barnet came about.

The story began many years ago when local stakeholder groups such as The Barnet Society, Hadley Residents Association and then Barnet Residents Association established to preserve the green belt and the area we now call High Barnet. More recently other smaller groups have formed.

Gail Laser continues the story. “I live in High Barnet and have for many years been involved in the local community. I currently Chair Love Barnet Business & Traders Group, representing all local businesses, traders and retailers, and Vice Chair both The Barnet Society and Chipping Barnet Town Team.

Several years ago some of us joined together and with the promise of some funding from Barnet Council, looked at how we could improve our High Street. What seemed rather fortuitous at the time came about when Boris Johnson announced a two round funding that was to be made available by bidding, for areas within London, not likely to benefit from either Crossrail or the Olympics. This was called the Outer London Fund (OLF). The bid had to go through the local council, in our case Barnet, and they had to act as conduit and banker. It was also a request that the bid was compiled by local stakeholder groups or town teams and we were the only already formed team within the Borough. It’s a long story, but we prepared a two-step bid as there was to be a Round Two.

However, once the Council became involved they insisted that we had to complete all the work in Round 1 and would not be able to bid in Round 2 because High Barnet is considered a wealthy area! Of course this made it all rather complicated and the process became difficult, awkward and caused many problems. We did what we could, won our bid which, when submitted by the Council was for £470,000 of the £500,000 available to each applicant. Round two would have been worth more than £1,000,000.

Nonetheless, winning enabled us to make a start on some town centre improvements such as de-cluttering the high street, painting some shop fronts, and improving Christ Church Garden for the benefit of the entire community. We also wanted to create a website. Digital media seemed to be the simplest way of bringing businesses, retailers and the community together all under one roof. We wanted to encourage local people to shop locally and to have a vehicle that all local businesses could advertise, promote, market, and so on. However, the website was never signed off.

I continued to have the bit between my teeth and knew that to move on we would need to have a website. As luck would have it, I met a lovely lady at a local networking group. Carol Verity Mann who owns a company called We ‘Get’ Digital and works with her partner Mike from her house in Cockfosters. Carol offered to create a “LOVEBARNET” website using ideas from our original OLF model and more. She did this at extremely low cost for the benefit of the Barnet community and this is how Love Barnet established as its own entity, Facebook currently being its best communication medium.

Meanwhile, following on from this and wanting to do so much more, a local Town Team regrouped and was established. I am only one in the team of local representatives in the Chipping Barnet Town Team Group. The Group is made up of local stakeholders plus representatives from Barnet and Chase Farm Hospital, Barnet Churches, David Byrne (Principal of Barnet and Southgate College), Capita, Barnet Council, Penny Baxter representing disability, and Theresa Villiers MP. We are Chaired by Councillor David Longstaff.

The overall aim of the Committee is to support, encourage and engage with our local businesses, traders and the wider community. Our intention is to promote Chipping Barnet’s heritage, conservation area and other assets to support establishing a new and exciting identity and profile that will encourage local people, people from all walks of life and ages, as well as those from further afield, to shop locally and make use of the local amenities that we are so fortunate and proud to have such as the Museum and Courthouse Gardens and charitable organisations such as The Eleanor Palmer Trust (EPT).

At one of our meetings, local resident and disability representative Penny Baxter told me about the possibility of premises that could be available to use as a pop up shop on Barnet High Street and owned by local charity the EPT…

How exciting, finally I might be able to get a shop for the community that could act as a showcase for local entrepreneurs as well as a place where locals can pop in and find out what we are doing and where we can be proactive in involving the public at large, finding out their views and opinions and so on. A space where we can promote local businesses and retail offering as well as our excellent schools, the Museum and anything else that will add to that which we are aiming to achieve.

It has now been two months since the opening of Number 89, the shop we have been able to open with the kind support of the EPT, our story continues. Thanks to an agreed arrangement with William Pears, owners of The Spires we are about to open two more Love Barnet pop ups there: another gift shop, Billy and Betty, and a café with children’s play area, Tea Station.

It’s such an exciting time, so please follow us on social media for news about other upcoming projects in Chipping Barnet. What’s more, as a community organisation, we really want to hear from you and value your comments and feedback. None of this has been possible without your support.”