3:21pm Tuesday 8th January 2013
By Chris Hewett
A three-year campaign to preserve an historic court house that “opens a window to Barnet’s past” could be concluded on Wednesday evening.
Campaigners fighting the demolition of the Barnet Court House, in High Barnet High Street, say their protests will be vindicated if plans to convert the building rather than destroy it are approved.
Developers were blocked in their attempts to bulldoze the stand-out Victorian structure last year but have since come back with proposals to convert the empty building into nine flats and two shops.
The historic façade of the former court house, built in 1916, will be preserved under the plans, along with much of the original building.
The application has been recommended for approval by council officers and the authority’s planning committee will assess the plans at Hendon Town Hall on Wednesday evening.
Barnet Residents’ Association has fought numerous applications to destroy the building over the past few years with the help of campaign group The Barnet Society.
The society’s planning and environment officer Derek Epstein said: “This building is the gateway to the town centre. It is important to preserve all of the historic assets in the town and this is one of them.”
The court house was recently listed as a building of local importance and BRA member Elizabeth Butt, who lives opposite the building, is credited with spearheading the campaign for its survival.
The campaign included a petition that gathered 79 signatures and was submitted to the committee assessing last year’s plans to demolish the building.
BRA chairman Gordon Massey said: “That would have been disastrous for the area but we are realistic – once a building has served its purpose you can’t preserve everything.
“The battle was to protect what you can see from the High Street and if these plans are approved we would have done that.”
Members of the council's current planning committee carried out a site visit to the building this morning in preparation for tomorrow's meeting.
Some neighbours remain unhappy with the current plans over fears the development will cause congested parking in surrounding roads.
Eight submitted written complaints to the council and two are due to speak at the meeting on Wednesday night, which begins at 7pm.
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