Councillor column: a place to come to for education and leisure

Woodhouse councillor Geof Cooke on the schools, sports and arts activity in his ward

Geof Cooke, a Labour councillor for Woodhouse ward in the London Borough of Barnet
Cllr Geof Cooke – Labour, Woodhouse

I have been a councillor for Woodhouse ward since 2006 but, before that, I had two other periods on Barnet Council, representing Colindale and Brunswick Park for a total of 12 years so I go back a long way and I have personal knowledge of much of the borough.

in the early 1980s, Labour had just a small group of councillors in Barnet, and I was opposition leader for 6 years. Later, we grew to become the larger party in a coalition (in which I was Environment cabinet member) and, after another 20 years in opposition, I am very pleased to serve as Chief Whip in our first majority administration.

Like a lot of Londoners, I am here by choice, not by birth. Having arrived first as a student, I became involved in local politics and have stayed involved because I am passionate about the importance of fairness in our community life, about the need for advocates who listen to their constituents and speak up for what is right in a democracy and about the role of councils and governments being active for the common good.

Woodhouse ward covers the eastern side of North Finchley from the North Circular Road to the Whetstone fringe, bounded by the High Road and Church Path to the west and Friern Barnet Lane to the east. Before the 2022 boundary change, an area west of the High Road including Finchley Memorial Hospital and also Coppetts Close were in the ward but an area around Friary Park was not.

As well as the park, Glebelands Open Space and Glebelands Local Nature Reserve are in the ward with the adjacent Finchley Rugby Club and Wingate and Finchley Football Club. The character of the ward is largely residential but it is noted for the number and quality of its schools: Woodhouse College, The Compton School, Wren Academy and the new Imperial College Mathematics School as well as Sacks Morasha Jewish Primary School and Summerside School which hosts Barnet’s provision for deaf children of primary age.

In recent years, new bus routes have been introduced in the ward and the new S1 Superloop orbital express bus towards Walthamstow will further enhance connectivity as will the nearby S10 to Harrow.

Around half of North Finchley town centre, including North Finchley Library, is within the ward and the long-awaited redevelopment of the town centre and also Great North Leisure Park are major issues for the ward. I am very keen that local voices are heard on the appearance and public amenity value of both developments.

The council administration wants the borough to be a destination of choice, not just a dormitory suburb. Woodhouse is already a place to come to for a good education and for leisure such as 10-pin bowling, swimming and cinema and the artsdepot arts centre is only just outside the ward. I want the amenities on offer to be enhanced to produce an attractive, successful town centre with a thriving evening economy.

Geof Cooke is one of 2 councillors representing Woodhouse ward, along with Anne Hutton (also Labour).

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