LSE’s excellent report on improving Mill Hill – what lessons for elsewhere in Barnet

I have just finished reading LSE student’s great report on how to improve Mill Hill. I think it is a fantastic piece of work and much can be taken from it for other areas in Barnet. To read go to http://www.lse.ac.uk/geographyAndEnvironment/MillHillReport.pdf

Some of the ideas put forward are long term, and expensive but others are quite reasonable easy steps (and affordable) to improve the quality of life for residents.

Mill Hill Neighbourhood Forum who commissioned the report should be praised for its creativity in getting professionals to help inform their plans for the Neighbourhood Development Plan. The recommendations I feel are relevent to other areas in Barnet are:

  • Green walls
    • One of the great things about Barnet is the great road links. The M1 goes straight through the middle of the Hendon constituency providing easy access out of London and the A406 and A1 also are major arteries through the borough. A great proposal in this plan is to make the M1/Rail bridge at Mill Hill Broadway a green wall to improve the air quality for residents. The same thing could be done along the whole stretch of the M1 in Barnet. This would really improve the air quality for residents along the whole western stretch of the borough. In West Hendon we have a stretch of about 1.5 miles of M1 wall where this could be done.
  • Designated bin zones
    • One of the worst things we have in the borough is the number of bins. The sheer number means that after the weekly collection most of our streets are littered with empty bins and on a windy day that means bins all over the road and walkways. Have fixed designated bin places makes a lot of sense, not just for Mill Hill but across the borough.
  • Creation of a local BID
    • I am a big fan of Business Improvement Districts. I think the idea of local businesses taking ownership of the areas they work in results in better outcomes for the consumer and means that business owners are more invested in the local area. So far Barnet does not have a BID, although I know that Gail Laser has done some work in High Barnet in trying to get the businesses on board there.

There are other great ideas in the report too, such as the community arts initiative and partnerships in the area as well as the section on improving cycling in the area, but these are the ones that stand out for me that could easily be expanded across the borough if the will was there from the local authority.

Neighbourhood plans are great and some of the reforms in this area by central government are good. My only sincere criticism is that Neighbourhood plans are biased towards areas of relative affluence. Because of the complexity and level of detail required, and most importantly the skillset needed, these plans are generally only put together (and get completed) in areas where the local population have the residents with the required skills and time to devote to this kind of project.

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