Climate change, Mary Feilding Guild, the Ponds, Finsbury Park, cladding and WAC Arts

The blossom in Golders Hill Park. Picture: Dr Bruce Lloyd

The blossom in Golders Hill Park. Picture: Dr Bruce Lloyd - Credit: Dr Bruce Lloyd

Climate change has not gone away

Dania Saed, Year 11, Parliament Hill School, writes:

2020: the year that shook the world. 

One year on and we are still in the midst of one of the greatest global crises the world has faced in history. Whilst Covid dominated the headlines, our attention turned away from other just as equally urgent issues that are silently taking their toll on the world. Climate change.

The issue of climate change has still not gone away, no matter how hard we try to ignore it. In fact, we are witnessing just as catastrophic repercussions of climate change than we have ever seen before, and Covid-19 is posing a serious threat in deferring global efforts in combating the increasingly alarming rates of climate change.  

Here at Parliament Hill School, the Climate Action Group recognise the damage that Covid has inflicted upon global efforts in combatting climate change, but we still remain determined to maintain the progress made and continue to uphold our values. 

We stand united as a school community, and as young women who have been inspired by countless female climate activists across the world, such as the likes of Greta Thunberg, India Logan Riley, Nakabuye Hilda F and many more, in the fight against climate change, because we know that there is more power in unity than division, and that we only have one planet to fight for, so we should make it count. Together. For us, but most importantly for generations to come, who will undoubtedly appreciate our efforts.  

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Finchley Road

Rosemary Coleman, Greencroft Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

I am writing with regard to the continued lane closure of the Finchley Road between the Underground station and the O2 Centre.

It is almost a year since the closure and the subsequent rat runs that have ensued, in particular where I live in Greencroft Gardens it is causing much concern, as the back-up of vehicles with idling engines is permeating the air even inside the house.

Surely it is now time to reverse the decision to widen the pavement taken in the early days of the Covid pandemic, as has now been done in other areas of Hampstead? This was taken out hastily as a precaution to social distancing but I now feel that the fallout from the pollution that this has caused, that this decision is and will be a far bigger risk to our, and our children/grandchildren’s health than that of Covid-19.

Reading reports in the local press sight that there are conflicts within Camden Council regarding the reopening of the traffic lanes. These should be immediately resolved, for as any further delay is only adding to the already dangerous air pollution, plus the stress to drivers negotiating this Swiss Cottage bottleneck on one of the main arterial roads out of London.

Stop idling

Exhaust from car fumes

Exhaust from car fumes - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Prof Mark Geller, Belsize Grove, Belsize Park, writes:

Every day during my NW3 walks (since lockdown), I ask drivers, who are parked and still running their engines, to turn off the ignition to protect air quality. Most drivers graciously comply. 

There needs to be a campaign in NW3 against idling parked vehicles. If everyone followed this example, there is a chance that we could collectively improve air quality in NW3, at least marginally. 

Mary Feilding Guild

A relative of a Mary Feilding Guild resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

So many questions are raised by Ham&High’s article last week about the alleged presence of Legionella bacteria in the former Mary Feilding Guild. This finding is just one more episode in the dismal tail of events that has led sixteen frail and elderly women to be forced out of the home that was to have provided care and companionship for the remainder of their lives. 

How could the trustees of Mary Feilding Guild have failed to maintain MFG’s hot water and other systems adequately, to keep residents safe from pathogens and other dangers as alleged? And could they, as vendors, really have hidden this information so successfully from the new owner? Although, to be fair, such an act might have been in keeping with their characteristic lack of openness. 

And how could a sophisticated businessman like Mr Mitesh Dhanak, new owner of the now Highgate Homes, have allowed the wool to be pulled over his eyes in this way? Unless of course this could play to his ultimate advantage. How convenient for Mr Dhanak now to have prime Highgate real estate on his hands now, bought at an advantageous price and with a ready-made excuse to shut the home down immediately. 

Curiously left out of this tale has been the newly renovated wing at MFG. While completely free of Legionella, it remains mysteriously unoccupied. It could have accommodated all 16 residents safely while deficiencies elsewhere were rectified. But instead, Mr Dhanak chose closure, raising the question as to whether he is a fit person to be responsible for the welfare of elderly people, if that had indeed been his intention.

And all the while, MFG trustees insisted that the Guild’s sale would result in “business as usual” for residents and staff. But within days of the sale’s completion, residents were being forced to leave, with dedicated staff being made redundant. Did the trustees’ haste to divest themselves of their responsibility towards the Guild, its residents and staff, and the legacies of former residents, mean that they failed to build any meaningful commitment to “business as usual” into the sale agreement? It seems that we may never know.

Chris Kaufman, Derwent Road, Southgate, writes:

I read in the Ham & High that Highgate Care home owner Mitesh Dhanak is concerned about health issues like Legionella in the former Mary Feilding Guild home. 

Knowing some of the traumatised residents, aged 88 to 104, to whom together with staff, he served three month eviction notices during a pandemic his concern for their health is open to question. They are experiencing sleepless nights, raised blood pressure, anxiety and insecurity with the break up of their community and friendships.

According to occupants of the home there were tests and safety procedures carried out every week before the take-over. None have taken place since to the best of their knowledge.

Residents and staff were assured by the Mary Feilding trustees that the house would continue as a going concern. How could they have been so gullible?

Let’s hope the council shows a bit more nous when Mr D comes knocking at their door for permission to demolish Mary Feilding/Highgate Care house on health grounds.

The Ponds

Swimmers enter the Hampstead Heath mixed bathing pond in London as it reopens to the public followin

The Heath's bathing ponds and Lido will reopen on March 29 - Credit: PA

Anne Fairweather, chair, City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Committee, writes:

In response to Judith Perle’s letter (Ham&High), it is simply not true to suggest that the City of London Corporation is trying to “profiteer” from swimming on the Heath, nor do we recognise the figures quoted on the cost per swimmer. 

The Hampstead Heath charity subsidised swimming at the bathing ponds by just under £600,000 during 2020-21, and has continued to employ lifeguards and undertake works to ensure the Bathing Ponds remain safe, accessible facilities for everyone to enjoy.

Charging for swimming is not about making a profit, it’s about putting Heath swimming on a sustainable long-term footing so that future generations can continue to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming outdoors.

The City Corporation remains committed to supporting swimming in the three Bathing Ponds and the Lido on the Heath.

Open Arms

Bruce Kent, Finsbury Park, full address supplied writes: 

I live next to Finsbury Park and have serious concerns about a proposed music event called “The Open Arms”. The organisers have requested that this take place in Finsbury Park over the summer. 

It would last from mid-May until mid-September, from 12 noon until about 9pm, Wednesday to Sunday - so nine hours a day, five days a week, for 18 weeks, plus two Bank Holiday Mondays.

The park can and does cater for a variety of interests and tastes. But I strongly object to the sale of alcohol which is part of this proposal. We do not forget the alcohol-fuelled near riot which took place in the park during a music event in October 2018. The location proposed is only separated from the children’s play area by the Mackenzie Gardens. There are several pubs nearby and we do not need another one in the Park.

Furthermore, during a summer when we expect most people to spend their holidays at home, we will need all available space in Finsbury Park for free public enjoyment, not private commercial purposes. Not to mention noise pollution and extra parking problems.

Cladding scandal

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

So many of my constituents in Hampstead and Kilburn have faced a living nightmare as a result of the cladding scandal, which is shamefully still not resolved nearly four years on from Grenfell.

The fact that leaseholders in West Hampstead have been forced to take legal action as a result of soaring costs for the remediation of flammable building materials – as reported by the Ham&High – shows just how bad it has got. These residents have some of highest fire safety repair bills the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign group has seen, yet the government is not supporting them.

Last month, I joined an important meeting with many of my constituents from Camden and Brent who have been affected by the cladding scandal. It was heart-breaking to hear the stories of people whose lives have been turned upside down and who are trapped in unsafe buildings they cannot sell, facing eye-watering bills for problems that they had no part in creating.

This is something I have raised repeatedly in parliament, and I have voted many times now for action that would shield leaseholders from costs, speed up remediation works and pursue the developers who built unsafe housing. Unfortunately, the government whipped their MPs to vote against this every time and the Conservatives have allowed irresponsible developers to get off scot-free. The cladding scandal must not be allowed to continue.

I will keep using my voice to speak up for leaseholders who have been so badly let down.

WAC Arts

Wac Arts Concerns Group (WACG) and 350 supporters write:

It is with great sadness that we will no longer meet or communicate with Wac Arts. Despite three meetings and extensive correspondence, it has been become clear that the organisation has chosen a direction with which the WACG and members of the wider community are not aligned. 

Many of our concerns - particularly regarding previous salaries and pay structures - have been either dismissed as no longer relevant or a mere difference in opinion on approaches to practice. These complaints do not span the entire last decade, as Wac Arts erroneously claims, but the past five years. We find WA’s current plan of action to be lacking in urgency, detail and effectiveness, and despite our efforts to feedback and contribute, we have been reminded that the board’s decision on all matters is final. Since many trustees are relatively new, it is regrettable that the board appears to see little value in the views expressed by WACG, a group including award-winning artists, writers, teachers and entrepreneurs with distinguished reputations in the performing arts and in arts education.

At present, there is still no alumni, parent, student, disability, active artistic practitioner or education representation on the board, despite multiple vacancies and our repeated requests since last June. Many dedicated staff members have left as recently as last week, despite the current leadership having been in place for two years now. The 1 per cent pay rise Wac Arts refers to resembles the heavily criticised recent increase for our undervalued nurses. Remaining on-the-ground staff, who continue to do their tireless utmost, are battling with dwindling budgets and loss of expertise within their teams. 

Pledges made in WA’s public Statement of Intent last July have already been broken. 
Maintaining the quality of WA’s educational services and pedagogy does not appear to be a primary focus. Current attitudes and approaches reflect a corporate perspective. Trust in the senior management team has eroded and the community relationship is severely damaged - for many, beyond repair.

Since the WACG, along with nearly 350 supporters, raised concerns we have been met with extreme resistance and multiple trustees have walked away, with no-one currently taking full responsibility for the subsequent mess. This replicates a worrying pattern of youth charity takeovers seen across London. Even within the highly restricted dialogue we have been permitted to have, most of our reasonable and informed suggestions are disregarded. Therefore, we feel our energies and expertise are wasted in further discussion.

Our commitment is to providing high quality arts experiences for young people who might not otherwise have access. 

So, we will turn our attention to alternative ways of continuing the pedagogy and practice of WA’s 40 year legacy by working with partners who share our values.