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What does the future hold for Hampstead? Play streets for kids could be on the cards

PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 February 2014

Janine Griffis Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

Janine Griffis Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Why would anyone leave Hampstead? The question was posed at a public meeting about plans for a new community pressure group, and for one attendee the answer was simple: only death could wrench him away.

Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum brain storming session at Burgh House

Hampstead Town councillor Chris Knight may have been joking when he scrawled this response, but there are many who would echo the sentiment about loyalty to NW3.

The people of Hampstead love their area – and that is why some 50 residents and workers, including Cllr Knight, ­attended a meeting at Burgh House last month to set up a new neighbourhood forum.

They spent an afternoon discussing what is important about the area and this week their thoughts and suggestions were published in a report titled A Living Village: Themes for Hampstead’s Future.

The report will serve as a starting point for the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, which is in the process of applying to Camden Council to be officially designated under the Localism Act.

So what could the future hold for Hampstead if the forum’s supporters have their way?

The top priority for those who contributed to the report was to maintain Hampstead’s “village atmosphere”, although it was highlighted that this does not mean “just keeping it the same”.

“All communities depend for their vitality on embracing change,” the report says. “For example, many residents think it is very important to encourage greater diversity among Hampstead’s shops and businesses.”

The familiar bugbears of mega-basements and oversized developments are also mentioned.

Residents want to keep buildings on an “appropriate scale” and they called for more affordable housing to be built, citing the former Hampstead Police Station in Rosslyn Hill and the old nurses’ hostel in New End as possible sites.

The forum was also unanimous in its opposition to any attempts to encroach upon Hampstead Heath.

“The Burgh House meeting saw the forum as a means for residents and those who work locally to unite constructively to deal with threats to the neighbourhood,” the report says.

“If they were able to decide collectively what was most important, they could be more effective than was possible otherwise.”

Other ideas included greater protection for trees to help keep Hampstead leafy.

It was suggested that two or three trees should be planted for every one felled, and that “magistrates should issue heavier fines for breaching tree regulations”.

Some residents called for streets to be de-cluttered with the removal of unnecessary road signs and estate agents’ placards.

A suggestion was made that “street wardens” could be appointed to keep an eye on litter, water leaks and lighting.

Another idea was to create “play streets” for children, with adults standing at either end of roads to ­inform cars that youngsters are about.

There was also an emphasis on the elderly, with the report saying: “The view was expressed that there needs to be better care for those with Alzheimer’s/dementia, and that NHS services could be better monitored and reviewed by residents.”

Speaking about the report, campaign leader Janine Griffis said: “What’s really exciting is the fact that people were so excited by the prospect of coming up with their own ideas.

“There’s an incredible level of ­attachment to Hampstead and I’m not sure all neighbourhoods have this. The more we talk to people, the more these ideas come forward.”

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, of the Hampstead Shops Campaign, said: “It’s a first step and it’s really important that Hampstead has this kind of forum where people come together to think about what kind of community they want to live in.”

Cllr Knight said: “I think the idea of a forum is absolutely splendid for Hampstead, it can give use greater controls over what goes on in the place, particularly on the planning side. I think it can achieve quite a lot.”

The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum will hold its first annual general meeting on Thursday, March 6 at 7pm at Hampstead Community Centre in Hampstead High Street. For more details visit www.hampsteadforum.org.

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