Have you signed up for planning alerts?

There is a service available from Barnet Council that makes it easy to find out about planning applications in your area. The council will send you email updates if you sign up for planning alerts at Barnet’s website.

There is a very simple online form that asks you to choose whether you want alerts about planning applications in your local ward or close to your postcode location. Once you sign up, you will receive an email each time a planning application is lodged for a property in your local area.

Barnet is exploring different way to make information available to residents and the planning alert service is a good example of providing information in a more easily digestible manner.

Planning applications have always been available for public scrutiny but by providing an ‘opt in’ alert service the council has made it much easier for residents to access the information they want.

It is important that residents are involved in planning decisions in their local community and this service will encourage more local people to take a more active role.

Planning alerts, along with other website features such as FixmyStreet and Barnet PledgeBank have improved the online experience for Barnet residents and made it easier to interact with the council.

We will continue to explore new way to engage with residents and provide them with the information they want in ways they want to receive it.


My thoughts on the recent disorder

Barnet was left relatively unscathed a couple of weeks ago during the disorder that affected much of London. This was in part thanks to the excellent tactics of the Barnet police, led by Chief Superintendent Basu but good fortune and local geography also played a part.

I was away for the week of the riots working on a youth camp with the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade. As I have mentioned previously, we are the oldest Jewish youth organisation in the country and each year we take 200 youngsters away camping. I have been involved for last 17 summers both as a member of the youth group and now as a leader.

The camp, which takes place in East Mersea, near Colchester is a wonderful example of how traditional values can be passed on to young members of our society. Activities and entertainment are provided for the members from first thing in the morning until they go to bed. They are split up into ‘platoons’ each with their own theme, and take part in round robin activities, sport, shows and competitions. Like a traditional Boys or Girls brigade there is a daily parade, tents are inspected for tidiness and there are drill competitions. The camp is one of the highlight of my year and the members seem to enjoy it, with numbers rising every year.

The reason I mention this in the context of the riots is that I had to decide if I should return to my day job during these problems. As well as a Barnet Councillor I am the head of office for the Conservative Party on the London Assembly. The riots had a huge impact on the members I look after and my staff who were working overtime to ensure that they were being supported. There was also some discussion during this period about the Assembly also being recalled.

I decided not to return. I believe the work that we do on this camp is vital. The objective of our organisation sums up perfectly what we are trying to do, it says, “The Object of the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade is to train its members in loyalty, honour, discipline and self respect that they shall become worthy and useful citizens and a credit to their Country and their Community.” Maybe the growth of uniform organisations such as this and the Scouts and Girl Guides, could go a long way to solve the challenges we are currently facing.

Future Libraries

Last Friday, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Local Government Group released a joint report on the future of libraries – ‘Future Libraries: Change, options and how to get there’. The report highlights some of the innovative ways that local authorities are modernising library services.

You may remember that the Museums Libraries and Archives Council have previously praised Barnet’s strategic library review, describing it as ‘impressive’. So it is no surprise that much of what is recommended in the joint report mirrors what we plan to do in Barnet.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • running library services with other council or community services
  • sharing back office costs with neighbouring boroughs
  • partnering with the private and third sectors
  • involving the local community with the running of local library services.

We plan to improve library based access to other council services and run two link libraries – Grahame Park and Child’s Hill – integrating library services within other public services.

We are in discussion with a neighbouring borough to share library support services and costs

During the public consultation the idea of providing library services from shops was discussed, and while this idea was ridiculed by some, it is now recommended by the report.

We have also given the community the opportunity to come up with ideas for running community library services in Friern Barnet and Hampstead Garden Suburb.

You can read more about the joint report on the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council’s website.


Library strategy approved, community ideas welcome

Back on 26 July, Cabinet agreed our plans for the Library service.

The objectives of the new library strategy are to:

  • increase reading, literacy and learning opportunities for children
  • promote reading and learning opportunities for adults
  • engage with communities and offer improved community spaces, access and resources
  • provide easier access to wider world of knowledge and information.

The main highlights are –

  • spending an extra £10,000 per year on more books
  • offering longer opening hours
  • giving a better online service
  • setting up new schemes to reach those with low levels of literacy
  • making sure every building is accessible and fit for purpose
  • merging back offices with one of our neighbours.

The strategy aims to move Friern Barnet Library and North Finchley Library in to the artsdepot to create a new landmark library. Officers will now commence detailed negotiations with artsdepot trust. We also proposed working with the Garden Suburb Institute to move the Hampstead Garden Library into their premises, though we will also consider any community proposals which come forward.

Cabinet gave community groups until the 31 October to come forward with community ideas about how they can carry on running a community library facility in their areas. Libraries services wouldn’t have to be run from the same location but would need to be run at a low cost to the council.

We listened when the community said they wanted a library service based on literary and learning and we will listen to the community’s ideas for their local library services.

We will seriously consider the proposals we receive for running Friern Barnet and Hampstead Garden Suburb libraries and welcome the contribution from local people. If you have a proposal please email Tom Pike, Head of Libraries. Tom is on leave for the next couple of weeks but will respond on his return.