Covid Catch22, 100AR, the Ponds, BAME vaccinations and cancer support

La Crêperie de Hampstead's socially distanced queue up Perrin's Lane. Picture: Peter Goldsmith

La Crêperie de Hampstead's socially distanced queue along Perrin's Lane - Credit: Pete Goldsmith

Catch22 variant strikes in Hampstead

Pete Goldsmith, Ornan Road, Hampstead, writes:

Hampstead Creperie aka La Créperie de Hampstead has been closed for being too successful. 

Are Camden council inadvertently putting out of business a local landmark and iconic North West London street stall with a massive loyal following? 

Some might find it strange that the authorities licensed another stall, also selling crepes, to open only yards away during social distancing, before shutting both down for creating localised overcrowding. Where’s the logic and fairness in that? Why shut the long-establishedd Hampstead Creperie which has been trading in that same spot for over 35 years?

Is it possible that Camden council has a virulent form of Covid-19 which permeates into the brain creating catch 22 tendencies in the mind, Covid Catch22.

If Camden council continue to insist that a successful, well ordered, safely run business with an exemplary queue must close; whilst other businesses nearby stay open, the diagnosis and prognosis is poor for them and the consequences could be dire for Camden residents.

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If establishments can only open if they don’t attract customers, what other nutty decisions are around the corner from Camden Council? Will they only empty bins? Will residents parking only be allowed for residents who don’t own a car? Will they only charge council tax to those who cannot pay?

Hampstead Créperie is a part of the fabric of Hampstead and has helped Camden locals enjoy themselves safely during social distancing and successive lockdowns.     

This begs the question: “Camden Council, are you feeling well?”
If you are one of the legion of loyal customers who have queued sensibly for a crepe, please make you displeasure known and get this travesty reversed.

A way out

Monika Caro and David Reed, chair and treasurer respectively of Save Swiss Cottage Action Group, writes: 

There is a simple way for the developers to get out of the mess they are in with their over-development of the 100 Avenue Road site in Swiss Cottage: build something smaller, Ham&High! The good thing is that this creates a golden opportunity for Camden’s planning department to make this happen.

As cost is the main concern of the developers – Essential Living (Swiss Cottage) Ltd (based in the Channel Islands, I wonder why!) – the planners should make them abandon the expensive, obtrusive and ugly 24-storey tower, which is inevitably more   expensive to build. They should ask the developers to build something smaller and more in keeping with the historic nature of the area. This would still be profitable, given the insane level of rents and house prices in this city.

But do EL care about anything other than money? If they had shown any concern for the area in the first place they could have done this years ago and had a smaller, but still profitable building in use by now. Instead they ignored the more than 900 complaints from local residents at the start, and didn’t listen to the numerous reasonable arguments in the public inquiry, so now they are facing reality: this set of buildings is unviable. This confirms what we’ve said before: greed, arrogance and stupidity are never a good combination.

There are also serious concerns about the impact of Covid on building works which are likely to continue for many months more. In addition, most large companies now realise they do not need all of their staff in offices all of the time. Smaller offices means fewer people passing though London, the very people EL were planning to house in their awful buildings.

So we hope Camden’s planners will now use this opportunity to ‘take back control’ and make EL give us a more suitable building for this historic neighbourhood, and one with at least some affordable homes for local people.

Funding shortage?

Robert Sutherland Smith, chairman, United Swimmers Association, writes:

I respond to your report “MPs challenging City Corporation”  on  announced  increases in newly imposed charges for individual leisure swimming in the fish and duck ponds of Hampstead Heath. 

Shortly after taking over the management of Hampstead Heath from the LCC/GLC in the late 1990s the City Corporation attempted to banish swimming in the fish and duck ponds (a non-sporting, leisure pursuit) as unaffordable.

Not publicised by the City Corporation –  in its great tradition of secrecy – was the  obscured fact that the Thatcher government had already paid for the entire annual upkeep of Hampstead Heath henceforth, through the ‘City Offset’; an arrangement whereby annual taxation, which normally went to Her Majesty’s Treasury, is reportedly paid to the City Corporation to meet the cost of running Hampstead Heath, including freely swimming in the fish and duck ponds, as an individual leisure pursuit, under the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act. 

On that basis there appears to be no shortage finance, then or now. Worse; the Corporation appear now, to have arranged to be paid twice: once from diverted central government funds (the City Offset) and now (wrongly and needlessly)  from charges for an individual leisure activity which is meant to be free by act of parliament. 

It is reported that expenditure on running Hampstead Heath is estimated to have been in decline, in real terms, in recent years. 
That, plus City Offset cash and the new revenue from charges, indicates financial surpluses above  costs. 

Where do the implied budget surpluses go? Inevitably, to the City of London Corporation, to run an wasteful, near chaotic (see Lord Lisvane’s  Report, published late 2020) uneconomic, possibly cash-strapped City Corporation?   

The City Corporation needs proper parliamentary scrutiny and arguably, proper reform. We have a stake in that.

Not self-isolating 

Baroness Dido Harding during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Test and Trace leader baroness Dido Harding says that a significant amount of people are not self-isolating - Credit: PA

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly member for Enfield and Haringey, writes:

Baroness Dido Harding, who leads the government’s struggling Test and Trace scheme, has finally acknowledged what we have known for a long time – that a significant number of people are not self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms for financial reasons.

In fact, a recent government-funded study has revealed that, during the first lockdown, just 18 per cent of respondents in the UK with a temperature, a continuous cough or loss of smell and taste had stayed home as the guidelines ask.

Whilst there will be multiple reasons behind these findings, and I really do urge those with symptoms to isolate, there are actions the government could be taking right now to increase compliance with the rules.

In recent weeks, we have heard concerns from councils about the government’s current self-isolation payment system.

Some case studies have shown that local authorities are rejecting the majority of applications because the criteria are too narrow, whilst other already cash-strapped councils have spent millions of pounds of their own money to meet surging demand and amidst a shortfall in funding from government.

For the sake of our community’s safety, the government must urgently fix these issues. They must make it financially viable for people to stay at home and raise Statutory Sick Pay so it is in line with the London Living Wage.

Reduce the spread 

Cllr Khaled Noor, Muslim Professionals Forum Chair, writes:

People from the black and ethnic minority (BAME) community feature high in the coronavirus statistics: we are disproportionately more likely to become infected and to die; and we are more likely to be on the front line, risking our lives to help others.

We mourn each and every death from our diverse communities. We pray for all those whose lives have been cut short and we send our condolences to every bereaved and grieving family.

As the virus continues to take lives, we urge everyone to follow the lockdown guidelines. Stay home; observe social distancing; wear a mask – and encourage everyone to have a vaccination when they are invited.

Cancer care

Emma Tingley, head of partnerships, Macmillan Cancer Support, London and South East, writes:

The start of 2021 is proving to be an acutely challenging time for people with cancer, the NHS and for cancer care. Indeed, it’s clear that this is the most worrying time in recent history to get a cancer diagnosis.

At Macmillan, people are calling our support line every day to tell us about the heightened anxiety, loneliness and distress that they are feeling.

On our support line – open seven days a week, 8am – 8pm, on 0808 808 00 00 – specially trained nurses, counsellors and financial support advisors are available to help anyone affected by, or worried about, cancer. They can provide comprehensive information and advice, as well as emotional support, to help people with cancer cope with the additional strain of the coronavirus pandemic.

We know doctors and nurses are working in unspeakably difficult conditions and are having to make tough decisions every day. Healthcare professionals are doing everything they can to keep cancer care on track, but we also know that some treatment – operations, for example – are being cancelled or postponed because essential services such as ITU are full of seriously ill people with Covid-19.

What is absolutely vital is that if there are changes to treatment plans, these must involve the person living with cancer and be communicated clearly.

Although some changes may be needed for treatment plans, this is not the case everywhere or for all treatments or tests.

Healthcare professionals are doing everything they can to make hospitals a safe environment so it’s really important that people with cancer who have been invited for tests or treatment do attend.

GPs are open if you are worried about possible cancer symptoms, and screening and other vital tests have resumed in a Covid-safe way. 

As well as our support line, comprehensive cancer information and support, including our latest guidance on the impact of coronavirus on cancer care is also available on and our online community is there to provide emotional and peer support.

We are doing whatever it takes to make sure our vital support continues to be available. 

We urge the public to do their bit to reduce the spread of coronavirus, which will relieve pressure on the NHS.