Let’s level up Barnet! A plea to council leader Barry Rawlings

Cllr Rohit Grover on pavements and creative thinking

A selfie of Barnet councillor for Garden Suburb, Rohit Grover with a mended pavement in his ward
Hill Top, Garden Suburb – (Credit – Cllr Rohit Grove

Forgive me for making a statement of the obvious, but my guiding principle as a ward councillor is that residents always know what’s best for the areas they live in. This is a principle that’s served me well – especially when I was first elected and completely clueless how to go about the role.

On the one side residents were asking me to help them in all sorts of ways, and on the other council officers were telling me why most of these things couldn’t be done. This may be an over-simplification, but it’s also a fundamental truth that anyone who’s battled against bureaucracy will recognise. 

Garden Suburb was planned over 100 years ago as a model community with people of all classes living together in beautiful houses set in a verdant landscape.

I don’t think anybody would claim that each element of this founding ethos has survived the test of time, but the great joy of representing this area is that many of its residents still hold these ideals dear, and they are supported by a web of organisations and community groups who think the same. Their collective wisdom, experience and ingenuity have provided me with the arguments and conviction to achieve things that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Take pavements, for example. As one of Barnet’s conservation areas, broken or uneven paving slabs should be replaced on a like-for-like basis rather than patched up with black tarmac.

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Tree-lined streets, however, are of particular importance to the design and philosophy of the Suburb – and there’s the rub, because tree roots tend to break through paving slabs rendering their replacement impractical, which means that once broken they have to be replaced with the dreaded black tarmac (mixed in with rubber crumb to add some flex).

So what’s the big deal? Well, this stuff matters in conservation areas where streets are regarded not only as routes to get from A to B but destinations in themselves. Barnet is blessed with 16 conservation areas, which provide valuable amenity to all who care to visit them – not just residents. Once we let go of the little things that make up our conservation areas, they’re gone forever. 

But with a little creative thinking there’s always a way. Step forward one of my constituents, a conservation expert who came up with the ingenious suggestion of mixing golden shingle into the black rubber crumb so as to improve the aesthetic appeal of the streetscape.

Those who know me well might call me a bit of a pavement geek, so I’m not embarrassed to admit the pleasure I’ve taken in the result – which has been transformative! But it’s also got me thinking: if we can do this in the Suburb, why not everywhere else? 

Come on Barry, if you really want this borough to be a destination and not a dormitory, let’s level up Barnet!

Rohit Grover is a Conservative councillor for Garden Suburb ward

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