Covid, O2, police, village square, Notting Hill Genesis and the Suburb

Angela Humphery, with Ricky Gervais, demonstrating social distancing on Hampstead Heath. Picture: An

Angela Humphery, with Ricky Gervais, demonstrating social distancing on Hampstead Heath - Credit: Angela Humphery

Social distancing on the Heath

Angela Humphery, Willoughby Road, writes:

I was appalled while doing my morning walk on the Heath on Sunday morning to see the paths crowded with fellow walkers not social distancing and few wearing masks.

Many girls were walking three abreast passing me a less than a foot away and when I held out my walking pole to show the two metres they should keep between us, I was verbally abused.

While the young who seem totally unaware of how dangerous the situation is feeling immortal, those of us in our 90s know we are not. How can we convince them to help us oldies stay safe by keeping away from us?

In the picture above I’m showing local comedian and Heath walker Ricky Gervais how to keep a safe distance!

Please help us by staying at home

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Siobhan Harrington, CEO, Whittington Health NHS Trust, writes: 

I am writing to you to give your readers the latest information about how Covid-19 is affecting Whittington Health NHS Trust, as I have tried to do throughout the pandemic.

Like the rest of the NHS across London, Whittington Health is experiencing real pressure as a result of a rapid increase in Covid positive patients. It is once again heartening to see that as my colleagues work so hard, lots of you have been in touch to ask how you can help us.

To them and to everyone I say that the most important thing we can all do is to follow the national lockdown rules: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

I want to pay tribute to my hard working and dedicated colleagues as they continue to provide safe, effective and compassionate care under the most difficult conditions. To help support them we are asking you to donate what you can afford in order to support our staff through this difficult time. Even if it is just enough for a cup of coffee, your support will mean a great deal to them as they work so hard on all of our behalves.

Late last month we had to take the difficult decision to temporarily stop performing non-urgent adult services to free up staff and space on our wards to treat patients who require emergency, critical or Covid-19 care.

I am extremely sorry to anyone whose treatment has been disrupted as a result. I am acutely aware of the impact which this decision will have on those who are waiting and I can assure you that the decision was not taken lightly or until all other possibilities had been exhausted.

Finally, I want to reassure you that if you need urgent health advice or treatment you should not delay getting help. Your pharmacy, GP, NHS111 and our hospital A&E Department remain open and safe to use – and if you need help with something urgent, but non-life-threatening NHS 111 can now book time slots at our A&E department for those who need them.
Please use NHS resources responsibly at this particularly busy time.

Clapping is cheap

Betty Cairns,Victoria Road, Muswell Hill, writes: 

I wholeheartedly agree with the views expressed by Janet Shapiro (Your Opinions, January 7) particularly on the matter of NHS England Integrating Care and also of those of Brenda Allen on the NHS Protection Amendment and the Scrutiny Amendment.
Earlier I watched the prime minister and MPs “clapping for carers”. Later I watched that same PM and his supporting MPs voting to back-date agreed pay increases for 2021 for certain favoured public sector workers. But not nurses, who were to be held to the agreed date-April 2021. 

Clapping is cheap, clapping brings popularity but it does not pay bills. We are once again asking NHS staff to put their skill, compassion and, often, their lives on the line for us all.

Shame alone should lead to an immediate payment of the scheduled April increase. But it won’t, will it?

O2 Centre

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Belsize Road, writes:

Having tried to respond to the consultation on the proposed O2 Centre redevelopment, I became frustrated at the “tick box” sections without the ability to make a collective observation.   

So here is mine: whilst the idea of a town square and linear park sounds attractive, as is that of opening up access between Finchley Road and West Hampstead, the figure of up to 2,000 homes is grossly excessive. It implies numerous tower blocks, which is the last thing the site needs.

London is dominated by these monstrosities and to build even more on what is an open site would destroy the much vaunted advantage of the greening of the site, apart from all the recent concerns about fires and escape risks. 

If provided, housing should be a mixture of low rise and maybe some blocks up to a maximum of three storeys, with the latter preferably at the edge of the site, not in the middle and more than half must be social housing or for low rent, otherwise it would be a wicked waste of site potential with Camden crying out for social and family homes of varying sizes. To provide luxury flats and expensive housing would be a crime but one can see the developers rubbing their hands at such potential despite their declared good intentions. Exactly the same has happened around Kings Cross and Somers Town.

Whist no one could claim that the present O2 is an architectural masterpiece it provides the essential Sainsbury’s supermarket and around 10 cinema screens.

Whilst most of the other chain restaurants and cafes would not be missed and could be found elsewhere Sainsbury’s is widely used and it is critical that it be retained. Similarly despite all the arguments about car use, the car park is essential for families, the elderly and those who cannot easily use public transport.   

The Vue cinema is another asset and should be retained in any building on the site as it is the only reasonably priced one in the area and the number of screens give plenty of choices for viewing.

The West Hampstead end of the site is another matter. The car park that end is very little used and the Homebase Store is not so essential. That half of the site I would support being used as proposed, for housing and critical green space preferably with mature trees to soften the impact, and an attractive approach from West Hampstead. 

I support the proposals in principle but with the restrictive qualifications I have listed, mainly the retention of Sainsburys with car park provision, no Tower Blocks and no cramming of the site which would undo all the greening advantages the developers are claiming.

Praising the police

Marx de Morais, Frognal, Hampstead, writes:

Hearts of gold, not copper! This doesn’t just apply to the Gospel Oak, Haverstock and Belsize Metropolitan Police teams who came to the rescue at the Queen’s Crescent Community Centre last week. 
It applies to all volunteers here and in all other community centres, charities, and food banks in our country. Heartwarming scenes where people did what we always do in Britain in times of darkness, coming together and giving comfort to the most vulnerable and isolated. That give us hope for the future after the Covid pandemic. I’m not the biggest “clapping for...” fan because what we need is real change.

But nevertheless I would like to mention a few names here that represent all those everyday heroes who are now there for others, without payment, often forgotten and without recognition. Thank you very much Fiona, Alma, Imagine, Susan, Mary, Finn, Luke, Richard, David, Wendy, Belinda and all who do good with the goodness of their heart. Let us continue, together we #GiveHopelessnessNoChance.

The planters

People sitting on the CIL-funded planters at Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove.

People sitting on the CIL-funded planters at Belsize Village - Credit: Linda Grove

Linda Grove, Belsize Village, writes:

People are sitting on the planters in Belsize Village square, where the sun is, because this is where the benches used to be before The Belsize Village Business Association had Camden move them for the street eatery.

The benches were moved, without any consultation, and I would like Camden to move, with consultation, the benches onto the four sides of the square to make the grouping of people more sympathetic in a visual and social sense. 

This great space is even more useful and important to residents during lockdown. I am also concerned that this group submitting a request to Camden for CCTV and rubbish bin storage, again without consultation with the community. The place they have elected for the bin store to be placed isn’t suitable at all as it blocks the street sign and our Banksy and is against a resident’s wall. There are better locations.

It is great that people want to be involved and make changes but it must be with proper consultation.

Inquiry needed 

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, West Hampstead, writes:

Your article on the shocking case involving Notting Hill Genesis housing association, (No move for family with disabled child ) is not surprising.

A glance at their Trustpilot rating shows them rated 71per cent bad (a suspiciously meteoric change from 98pc a week or two ago) and some of the reviews tell a disgracefuil story.

There is no excuse. According to their accounts, they make a profit of about £2m per week. They have the resources to get their job done properly, but since the merger between Genesis and Notting Hill, most tenants report that the service has got worse and worse.

Both associations were too big previously but now, their size has made them unmanageable. With 1,000 empty dwellings, how can they be unable to find the family suitable accommodation? Why is their chief executive paid quarter of a million pounds for running a dysfunctional mess? An independent inquiry is needed.

The Suburb

Micky Watkins, author of Henrietta Barnett, Social Worker and Community Planner, writes:

Shelley-Anne’s description of the view of the Suburb from the Heath Extension is a delight to read. 

However I would like to correct one detail. Shelley-Anne says the first clod was turned to create the Suburb in Central Square.

In fact, Henrietta dug the first sod in 1907 to build the first house in Hampstead Way. After the ceremony, Henrietta, architects, dignitaries and workmen crossed the Finchley Road to a celebration lunch in the Royal Oak.


Pippa Bark-Williams, associate professor, the Institute of Health Informatics at UCL, writes:

I am writing to draw your attention to a study looking at the needs of older people with hearing impairment during lockdown and to request volunteers aged 70 and over.  

For some older people who have been advised to self-isolate for long periods of time during the Covid-19 pandemic, video calling has been a lifeline, helping to keep in touch and reduce isolation and loneliness. However, technology is far from ideal and for those with difficulties with hearing, difficulties such as sound distortion, time lags and lip reading can create barriers. We are particularly interested in finding out what does and does not help. 

We’ve launched a national survey at UCL (University College London) and we’d love you to take part, whether you use video calls frequently or hardly at all and whether you love them or loathe them (or something in between).