Author Deborah Moggach: ‘Influx of wealthy is killing community spirit in Hampstead’

'I'd leave like a shot if I didn't have children and grandchildren nearby': Deborah Moggach says the

'I'd leave like a shot if I didn't have children and grandchildren nearby': Deborah Moggach says the influx of wealthy residents is killing community spirit in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Hampstead author Deborah Moggach says the loss of local community means she’d leave the area “like a shot” if she didn’t have children and grandchildren living nearby.

The novelist and screenwriter, whose work includes the novel behind film hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the screenplay for Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, grew up in Camden Town and has lived for years in a period cottage overlooking the Heath.

But the 64-year-old, whose grandmother was born in Keats House, says an influx of wealthy residents is killing off the once thriving community spirit.

“Hampstead is full of rich people who are never there because they are always on holiday or working. When property is used as pension pots and investments for rich people, it makes areas dead.

“People are so disconnected and isolated. In Hampstead, the erosion of local communities and shops has made us poorer spiritually and socially.

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“At Christmas, we went carol singing. In Hampstead, we got £3 because most houses were empty or behind boards for basement excavations. In Muswell Hill, people invited us in for mince pies.”

Her anecdote only adds weight to last week’s news that Muswell Hill was declared one of the top five most desirable places to live in London by The Sunday Times. Hampstead and Highgate were nowhere to be seen.

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Moggach’s new partner lives in Presteigne, a small town in Wales on which she has based the setting of her new novel Heartbreak Hotel, and where she claims community spirit is thriving.

“I love it in Wales. I’d move there like a shot if I didn’t have kids here,” said the mother-of-two.

“I don’t want to romanticise small town life, but you walk down the high street and know everyone. You can buy everything, there’s a butcher’s, a fishmonger’s and no huge supermarket. There’s this continuity with people that, as a Londoner, I invest with romanticism.”

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