Covid care, UCS, Crouch End, planning and horses

University College Hospital

Lester May was treated for Covid at University College Hospital - Credit: Archant

With the same decency and respect

Lester May, Reachview Close, Camden Town, writes:

Having a light breakfast in my bed in a Covid-19 high-dependency respiratory ward in University College London Hospital, I sought some light reading material. I found myself reading every side of a 24g packet of Corn Flakes. The multiple languages struck me as a metaphor for the hospital staff, medical and others.

Isolating at home with some sort of lurgy, I was in no pain but, one night, that changed markedly. I completed an NHS form online in the small hours and, within half an hour, a doctor phoned me. In the next hour or so, two London Ambulance guys were at my front door. It was all rather impressive.

I was astounded by the tests conducted by staff on admission to A&E. In my seven decades, I have not really been ill and have little experience of the NHS. I’d tested positive for the virus and spent the next 10 days in various recovery wards, hating every moment of an oxygen mask clamped to my head but able to observe the NHS at work.

In various wards, moving beds as I made progress, I met NHS staff from our islands, all sorts of Britons, some new here or long-settled from places overseas, and many others – nurses and doctors who were immigrants from countries far and wide. One young nurse from the Philippines had been here only six weeks, others from West Africa, Cyprus and the US, another a doctor from Russia.

The teamwork was clear to see. Pleasant, often cheerful, unfailingly courteous, calm and caring and, my gosh, hard-working in their restrictive PPE, seeing the NHS at work was a privilege (albeit one I’d rather have missed out on!). The calmness and bedside manner of consultants and ward staff alike was magnificent to witness and experience. How lucky I was to be in the care of our wonderful NHS.

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The staff I saw were, together, like one of those National Geographic poster maps showing the faces of the people of the world. It struck me how plain daft, and wrong of course, it is for anyone to mistreat any of these caring people, particularly on racial grounds and so on (I witnessed no such thing myself).

If only we could learn to treat everyone in our islands with the same decency and respect. Perhaps an outcome of the pandemic to hope for might be not only to look after the precious NHS but to treat all those we meet, as we go about our lives, as if they were NHS staff – about one in 48 is indeed employed by the National Health Service. 

Next stop: Crouch End Broadway

Rob Adamson, East Finchley, full address supplied, writes:

Maddie Tarrant’s picture  of Crouch End Broadway is delightful.  

Whatever our usual mode of transport, I believe we long to see less road congestion and fewer accidents, so how good if one day the picture can include northern entrances to an Underground station: “Crouch End Broadway.” 

The Victoria line provides an invaluable, high frequency orbital service from Walthamstow to Finsbury Park. Between Finsbury Park and Oxford Circus and from Victoria to Oxford Circus, the line’s capacity is inadequate. Let there be a new line with interchanges so attractive that people would see it as a strong alternative to car use: 

Crouch End Broadway – Finsbury Park – Camden Town with Camden Road – Regent’s Park with Great Portland Street – Bond Street – Victoria. 

It would shorten many people’s journeys and attract people who currently drive across north London. It would relieve many central London and local stations (Turnpike Lane, Hornsey, Harringay, Archway).

Crossrail 2, if it is ever built, could take a more valuable and direct route across London: Victoria – Waterloo – Farringdon – Old Street etc – providing relief for the Great Northern and, by linking Farringdon to Waterloo, relieving the M25 and M3. (I expect the New Southgate branch will never be built – it would contribute so little and there are now more valuable alternatives). 

With pride and sadness

Outgoing UCS chair of governors Simon Lewis OBE and headmaster Mark Beard.

Outgoing UCS chair of governors Simon Lewis OBE and headmaster Mark Beard - Credit: Alexandra Tilling Photography

Simon Lewis OBE, UCS chairman of governors (2015–21), writes:

I stepped down last month as chair of UCS after 15 years on the council with a mixture of sadness and pride. UCS helped me, without payment, to become the first student from my local comprehensive to win a place at Oxford. Both my sons were educated at the school. I was privileged to lead an outstanding council, all of whom are volunteers, and to have helped appoint and work with the talented headmaster, Mark Beard, and his committed team. The school is in great shape academically and with its continuing focus on a Benthamite liberal ethos.

The pupils, who now cover the four to 18 age range, receive an outstanding education. UCS has also been on a journey to widen access by increasing the provision of bursaries and reaching out to local state schools to encourage applications.

The pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted the resource gap between state schools and independent schools. Providing online learning requires significant financing in the school and at home. All the evidence already is that children in disadvantaged areas are being hardest hit by disrupted schooling and probably the biggest post Covid challenge for the UK will be the impact on social mobility.
That is why I believe that the work UCS is doing to close this gap is so important. 

We need more bursaries, more sharing of resources with the state sector, a way to reduce fees or moving towards “needs blind” education. 

Thanks to the generosity of UCS my life journey was hugely enhanced and I am keen that this opportunity is not lost to the next generation of school children.

At it again

Cllr Danny Beales, cabinet member for investing in communities, Camden Council, writes:

“Permitted development rights” – three dry but important words that generate very different reactions. For property developers, they will create sensations of glee. For local communities and councils, they inspire nothing more than frustration and dread. And, now, they may spell the end of the high street. 

In short, these “rights” mean landlords no longer need to receive planning permission from the local authority to make a change to their building, sometimes even major alterations. The government previously allowed offices to become flats, with no thought of the quality of housing or impact on local services. And they are it again. This time they want commercial uses like shops to convert straight to housing, without anyone local having any say.  

Imagine the recently closed, former flagship Habitat store on Tottenham Court Road becoming a block of bedsits – all without local consultation or a decision by the democratically elected planning committee. We can see how it might happen: retailers facing a tough few years decide to sell to a speculative property developer who converts our local post office, newsagent or hairdresser to a few pokey private flats. And all without the need to provide affordable housing either.  

A resident recently approached me as their councillor about the fumes and noise from a new cafe making his life hell. Where did this come from? Yet another change the government has introduced under cover of Covid. It enables cafes, restaurants, shops and offices to all to change use between each other. Upsettingly, the government has neutered local councils’ ability to judge if these proposals are suitable.  

As retail guru Mary Portas recently told Camden councillors, our high streets must become places of more activity – not less. Places for leisure uses, fun and social interaction. 
Turning shops into flats will make our high streets gap-toothed, with less reason to visit, to browse, to meet a friend for a coffee at the café that’s now a house. 

The Tories themselves know this vandalism will not create jobs or deliver the quality homes we need. The government commissioned UCL to study the impact of their earlier series of permitted development rights – and buried the findings because they revealed the terrible impact this constant deregulation has. Just over 20% of homes created through these rights met the minimum liveable space standards, almost three-quarters only had windows on one side of the home, and some had no windows at all! Why does the government want people to live in rabbit hutches on dying high streets?  
Camden has strongly objected to the government’s Trojan horse proposals. The question is as ever: Will the Conservative government continue to pay lip service to localism, whilst prioritising the interests of property speculators and party donors? 

If you also feel the rights of communities to have their say about planning proposals should come before that of speculative property developments – if you want to save our high streets – please share your views with the government department responsible: PublicServiceInfrastructure& 

Seen the light

Dr Bernard D Cummings, Priory Road, South Hampstead, wrote to Camden Council’s complaints department:  

I realise that these are dark times for everyone but imagine our neighbourhood’s surprise this morning to see that Camden Council in its infinite wisdom has decided to install not one but two street lamp posts less than two metres apart from each other outside 84 Priory Road, South Hampstead. 

Both lamp posts were fixed in place this morning by two very enthusiastic able-bodied council workmen. The only reason for this remarkable engineering feat can surely be that the council wishes to impart more light on citizens? 

Please explain and remove one of the lamp posts as a matter of urgency.

Priory Road is in the South Hampstead Conservation Area and so such negative streetscape features as the above – notwithstanding the recent highly controversial imposition by Camden Council of multiple welded steel green cages (cycle hangars) by 84 Priory Road – are an abrogation of the council’s duties under LPA Policy Guidelines for Conservation Areas.

Protecting horses

Fiona Pereira, campaigns manager, Animal Aid, writes:

Animal Aid is at the forefront in campaigning for race horses. We expose disturbing issues that affect their welfare. Figures just released by Animal Aid for 2020 show shocking deaths and whip abuse across racecourses in Great Britain.

Readers may be surprised to know that 130 race horses were killed as a result of racing in 2020 – all of the horses suffered horrific deaths. Animal Aid’s Horse Deathwatch website names racing’s victims and the circumstances surrounding their fatal races.

We have also led the campaign to ban the use of the whip in racing. Racing allows jockeys to hit their horses for “encouragement” with seven strikes deemed “acceptable” in a Flat race and eight strikes in a Jump race. Alarmingly, these rules are repeatedly broken year-on-year. In 2020 there were 299 breaches of the rules for hitting horses above the strike limits or on the “wrong” part of their body or for using excessive force.

For readers who wish to find out more about our horse racing campaign, and to help bring an end to the use of the whip, please visit