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Ham&High letters: Abacus school, reporting crime online and pollarding trees

PUBLISHED: 16:30 07 November 2019

The former Hampstead Police Station, in Rosslyn Hill, which Abacus Belsize Primary School want to turn into a school. Picture: Harry Taylor

The former Hampstead Police Station, in Rosslyn Hill, which Abacus Belsize Primary School want to turn into a school. Picture: Harry Taylor

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Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Why Abacus school must be secured

Jenny Kananov Shayo, Hampstead, writes:

I am writing on behalf of Abacus Belsize Primary's parents in response to a recent article about our school (Ham&High). I would like to stress why it is vital that Abacus' planning application is approved by Camden council.

To start, Abacus is not a new school. It was established in 2013 because there were no primary, state funded and secular schools in Belsize Park.

Abacus is now accommodating children from reception to year 6 and it is an outstanding school that is very much loved by children and parents.

It isn't surprising that it has become popular and has been oversubscribed in the last couple of years.

The move to the former police station building is not going to change anything besides the fact that the school will now be close to families it has brilliantly been serving for over six years. The school is much needed for families in Belsize Park, which according to Camden council report, is an area with the highest birth rates in Camden.

The old police station building is in fact slightly outside the school's catchment area. However, this is because no other proper alternative has been found. Multiple and extensive searches have been conducted over the years, but it is very difficult to find an available site that is big enough and suitable to accommodate a primary school.

The money spent on purchasing the building went from one governmental department to another and the building remains in public hands.

The police station building has been standing empty and neglected for years and converting it into a school would breathe new life into the building and the surrounding community.

With regards to the planning application, it's important to mention that it was submitted after careful investigation and consultation with Camden officers. Aspects such as noise, pollution, traffic congestion and heritage were all addressed in the application and reasonable solutions were proposed.

Abacus' families are committed to a car-free policy simply because we all live in this area and care about clean air for our children.

Many of the families in Abacus don't even own a car. We're used to walking, scooting or cycling to school.

Those who live further away can use public transportation (eg C11, 46, 168, 268).

This will not change when the school moves to Rosslyn Hill and we will not be increasing pollution levels. In fact, the existing school buses (six to seven every day at this point) that drive our children to school are a source of pollution, so moving the school closer to families' homes would actually make the air cleaner for Camden residents.

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There are children who will be graduating from Year 6 in Abacus in Summer 2020.

These children were promised to have a school that is a walking distance from their homes and this promise has been obviously broken. What we all should be doing is making sure that this doesn't happen again and that a permanent solution is found now.

After a thorough search into many sites and buildings, the former police station is what suits best and as a public building it makes perfect sense for it to be converted into a school.

- Do you have a child at Abacus Belsize Primary School? Email your opinions to letters@hamhigh.co.uk and we will print them on this page and online at hamhigh.co.uk

Met's response to my son's assault was 'impressive'

Lorraine Margolis, Muswell Hill, London, writes:

My 21-year-old autistic son was assaulted at a bus stop by two youths in an unprovoked attack. I despaired as I reported the crime online.

I was wrong. I have been hugely impressed with the care and concern and detail given to the investigation from the local force in Muswell Hill and in particular to Pc Christopher Bowman of the roads and transport policing command. Film footage also showed an elderly person at the bus top, a shopkeeper and the bus driver all attempted to help.

I write to thank the Metropolitan Police and these three citizens for restoring my faith in these dark and divided days.

Let our leaves drop naturally

Kirsten de Keyser, Green Party parliamentary candidate, Holborn and St Pancras, writes:

One day last week Camden Council's crew of tree surgeons turned up at College Gardens in Royal College Street. I spent my morning coffee break closely observing their arboreal acrobatics, as they applied their muscle power to pollarding the little park's thirteen majestic plane trees to within an inch of their lives.

A couple of hours later the lads in hard-hats were gone, leaving behind a group of forlorn looking, naked and scarred tree trunks.

There may be valid horticultural reasons for such aggressive activity but, as lorry loads of lush green foliage cascaded to the ground, it occurred to me that, in just a few hours, we were losing our invaluable carbon sink, capable of absorbing around half a tonne of CO2 per year.

The leaves would, of course, have fallen anyway, so why not let them fall naturally in early winter? In the meantime, the trees would soak up many lungfulls of CO2 and other pollutants. Delaying pruning until after the natural leaf drop would also make the job considerably quicker and easier, halving the time chainsaws would be burning up petrol or electricity or whatever chainsaws burn.

If we want to solve our air quality problem, we have to work smarter instead of blithely ploughing on regardless, just because that's what we've always done.


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