In 1976, Brent Cross opened as the UK’s first American-style mall. Our first out-of-town shopping centre. Those covered consumer palaces we’ve come to know and hate.
I had a job there in the Christmas holidays of 1981, in an independent toy shop. I doubt there are any of those left there.
Years later I actually went shopping there. I needed a smart suit for smart meetings. I didn’t find one. I asked the assistant why only plain, unexciting clothes were on view? Oh, came the reply, the stylish stuff’s in the Oxford Street branches. We only stock middle-market lines at Brent Cross!
But that is not the reason I would suggest that this consultation include the option of demolishing Brent Cross and building a lovely new community there, with an enterprise, craft and business centre, rather than superannuated retail outlets.
We oppose out of town shopping centres wholesale.
- Because they don’t generate jobs. They suck jobs away from elsewhere.
- Because they do generate car journeys – adding to pollution, road congestion, and a culture of car dependence. Barnet is reportedly estimating that there will be 29,000 extra car journeys per day in the area! and
- Because they erode community:
- they deplete high streets – the heart of communities – by sucking shoppers out
- they take money out of the locality
- they augment the power of large multinational corporates at the expense of the independents
- they erode the personal contact and service that can be found on high streets
- all the supply chains and people suffer (are subject to the unfair bargaining position of huge outlets)
No expansion of that model should be pursued, full stop. Especially as our high streets are in crisis.
Given that planning permission has already been given to the bulk of this anachronistic development, what really is there to comment on?
The hopelessly environmentally unprogressive building specifications?
The sterile, corporate development?
The risible claims of “pioneering environmental standards”?
The perpetuation of the car culture, just as the time is ripe for transforming it?
We welcome the long-overdue investment in an area that has been neglected and declining perhaps because of the alien monstrosity that was parked in its midst back in 1976.
But turning Cricklewood into a Hong Kong-style consumer palace cannot work without the industry and business generation that Hong Kong has in the streets and offices around its shiny malls. Without that, what we see here is another palace to credit-fuelled consumerism that will do little for the local people – who may well be gentrified out of the area – and promote the continued decline of the rest of Barnet.