Ham&High letters: Basements, more CS11 discussion, police cuts, a People’s Vote and the St John’s Wood Post Office closure

Residents on the narrow and pedestrianised Streatley Place, with Hampstead Town Councillor Stephen S

Residents on the narrow and pedestrianised Streatley Place, with Hampstead Town Councillor Stephen Stark demonstrating the width of the steps outside number 6, the site of the new proposed development. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Ham&High readers this week.

Basement developers’ pursuit of profit is threat to ‘unique’ area

Linda Chung, Hampstead, writes:

I would like to thank the Ham and High for highlighting the planning application for 6 Streatley Place, planning ref: 2018/2859/P.

This is another example of developers fancying their chances. They spot a nice patch of land in the heart of a unique piece of Hampstead - “perfect” for a lucrative development.

They then draw plans with only superficial thought to the protected heritage of this conservation area - the site sits steeply atop Streatley Place, a narrow alley way surrounded by 19th Century buildings, many of which are Grade II listed.

They take advantage of a previous approval, but add another floor of basement excavation, exceeding the depth permitted by Camden. Not only do they hope Camden might forget previous objections that still stand, but both failed to formally notify interested parties of this new threat. Developers with time and money use this well-known tactic - just chip away at Camden and objectors, till they give in. The grounds for objection are indisputable. The River Fleet lies beneath and neighbours can produce evidence of surface flooding, and in their homes. The developers produce no credible construction management plan that will meet the stringent conditions of safety and environmental protection. Amongst the objections, I notice one that accorded with my thoughts. The site has been undisturbed for many years, and consists a workshop and stores, some of which is likely to date back to the early-to-mid 19th century. It has become a wildlife sanctuary and should be protected as an open space that benefits the area. It appears that someone had similar thoughts in 2002 and was given permission to create a garden with conditions that no independent dwelling could be built there and the large trees must be kept intact.

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The subsequent approval rode roughshod over these excellent conditions but at the very least, Camden must now refuse the current application and give reasons as to why they ignored their original conditions for development.

If you agree, there is still chance to send objections, by email to stuart.clapham@camden.gov.uk, or post to Planning Development, 5 Pancras Square, N1C 4AG, quoting the Planning Application Ref 2018/2859/P.

It’s time we put an end to the school run

Debbie Bourne, Kathie Conn, Ben Paul, Stephen Taylor, Rachel Wrangham, from Camden Air Action, write;

Jessica Learmond-Criqui spotted a real flaw in the CS11 plan. (H&H 2 Aug, p.6)

TfL complacently foresees some commuter traffic spilling from a less-capacious Finchley Road and through Hampstead side streets. Hampstead Hill School generously helped fund the Hampstead Forum NO₂ survey, and its pupils are right to object to the prospect of adding more motor traffic to the school run on Pond St.

The remedy, though, is not to cancel CS11 but to restrain the overspill with measures to impede commuter traffic driving through Hampstead. There are reasons enough for this already, even without CS11. It is long past time to tackle the notorious Hampstead School Run, which clogs roads throughout the borough.

Camden has announced ambitious air-quality targets, to get our air within World Health Organisation limits by 2030. There is plenty to do, especially to protect vulnerable growing lungs. We hope for good results from the Ultra-Low Emission Zones proposed for Hampstead Schools. The tidal flow control at the north end of Grafton Rd stopped a commuting rat run. Similar controls might be needed at the entrances to Heath Drive and Arkwright Roads.

Right now we Londoners need to reduce motor vehicle journeys, and CS11 is part of larger plans to help us do that. The kids on Pond St are in the front line and are right to demonstrate, but have been recruited to the wrong cause. They should be demanding roads they can cycle on.

Over the next twelve years Camden aims to get our air safe to breathe. Join Camden Air Action and help hold them to it. Come and talk to us on 9 September at the street party in York Rise, NW5.

CS11 opposition is misinformed

Steven Edwards, Kingswear Road, Highgate, writes:

And so the so-called CS11 “debate” continues, despite the extreme contrast in supporting evidence and facts.

The letters continue and we have “Relief at CS11 delay - but how do we keep our cyclists safe on roads” where writer David Reed expresses opinions that demonstrate the superbly remarkably successful campaign of misinformation, hearsay stoked up by the H&H stalwart of pro-rat-running propaganda Jessica Learmond-Criqui; but suggesting little to people who want to cycle other than ‘go on the back roads’, ‘dress in hi-viz’…oh and ‘use lights’! Well thanks so much for that David, but people from The Netherlands, Barcelona, Copenhagen or Waltham Forest might suggest there is more to taking children around by bike as indeed there is allowing them to cycle freely by themselves. They might suggest that it’s not a good idea to force cyclists to take the back streets in all cases, even if where this option meant those streets were made safe to do so with ‘low-car’ or ‘no-car’ measures in place.

David Reed reckons that he speaks for “ most local residents and regular users of the Finchley Road through Swiss Cottage” and is “massively relieved at hearing of the postponement of the CS11 project’ continuing the dangerously spun yarn of chaos and gridlock across the capital that would ensue, following the Criqui-Learmond line, that there is ‘just no alternative’ to their single-occupancy, three mile average, non-essential journey, using an lethally, inappropriately-sized machine.

Some ‘achievement’ then this dismantling of a scheme that would have meant children wouldn’t have to cross five lanes of traffic to get to the cinema at Swiss Cottage! A big well done there! Such a stupendous ‘victory’ might well be celebrated with a speedy drive via that handy Regents Park short cut to a West End theatre to celebrate! Such fun!

That old adage, ‘children should be seen and not heard’ still rings loudly for some. Except in this case the children are neither seen, nor heard, strapped in the back of their parents urban assault vehicle, ’SAT-NAVing’ around the back streets of Hampstead (where incidentally not a peep is heard about rat-running from Ms Criqui and chums…just fancy that!)

Another addition to the vast array of evidence for prioritising riding and walking, is the personal / economic drain in (hu-)man hours and cost of ferrying children around by car. For society as a whole this ‘taxi-service’ that lasts until they’re old enough to get their own car is, as we ought to know by now, more than a bit inconvenient.

Talking of inconvenience, with the world literally on fire, from Wanstead in south London, through to Athens, California and, even the Arctic Circle the delusionistas and denialists, those pushing a grand deceit amy find that there is quiet a price to pay for the wanton and criminal delay in a revolution that emphasises the movement of people above personal motor vehicles.

Policing questions need answering

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, local compaigner, writes:

In your paper two weeks ago, I asked Andrew Dismore to answer two questions. First, did he have the mayor’s authority to reject a referendum. Second, what were the mayor’s plans to keep Londoners safe in light of his diktat to remove over 1,000 police officer posts from the Met in his budget for this financial year. Many of your readers will know that Mr Dismore and I have been exchanging open correspondence in your paper since April 19, 2018 when I blamed Mayor Khan for the state of crime and the Met in our great capital.

Mr Dismore has not replied in last week’s paper so I put the questions to him again in this week’s paper.

Meanwhile, Mr Cairns has written in last week’s paper referring to my letter above. He states that I have been repeating myself, seem fixated with a referendum and that corporation tax rises could cure the Met deficit. It does not seem that Mr Cairns has read the correspondence from me and Mr Dismore since April on Met cuts and the state of crime. At the risk of repeating myself, I blamed the mayor for the state of the Met and state of crime in my article of April 19, 2018 in your paper. I stated that his diktat removed a PC and Inspector from our Met team. Mr Dismore commented sharply that in your paper that I should “put up or shut up” in relation to the diktat issued by the mayor and provide evidence of my statement.

I proved in correspondence that the mayor in his budget not only cut the two posts I mentioned but also cut 113 in Camden and Islington and 1000+ overall in London. The budget is personally signed off by the mayor. I put up, but will not shut up.

I then put to Mr Dismore that the mayor has washed his hands of the Met – he can’t raise any more money from the government (so his idea of raising corporation tax just won’t work) and he has given up on getting any more money from anywhere else. Without more funds, the Met is doomed to destruction as the only cuts it can now make are to its personnel, having sold off the family silver of police stations over the last few years.

Crime is out of control, moped crime is at an all time high, anti-social crime is no longer addressed by the Met who are now targeting the use of their limited resources. The Met is being destroyed.

A referendum was one way out, but according to Mr Dismore, the mayor, who is the CEO of the Met, won’t use it. I have put Mr Dismore to proof that the mayor has dismissed this out of hand and I await his reply.

Labour wrong on antisemitism row

Clara Weiss, NW3, writes;

I checked the IHRA definition of antisemitism and couldn’t find anything that would “stifle criticism of Israel’s treatment of of Palestinians.” [Camden Palestine Solidarity Campaign].

In fact the IHRA clearly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. Apart from references to the Holocaust and the state of Israel the words Jew or Jewish could be supplanted with any other race, religion, creed or gender and be relevant.

I see no reason why the Labour party should not adopt the IHRA’s comprehensive definition of anti-semitism.

Criticism must be allowed to be aired of any mistreatment of Palestinians, Jews or anyone human (or animals for that matter). Name calling and hate incitement is what should be rooted out, whether on a march or at the dinner table. We are all first and foremost human.

Public transport must improve

Anthony Kay, Swiss Cottage, writes:

Whatever ones views may be on the benefits of cycling, or the behaviour of some cyclists, most of those living near Swiss Cottage and so having to walk across the gyratory on a more or less daily basis, are likely to believe that it should be improved.

So when replying to the CS11 Consultation, both my wife and I were in favour in principle of improvements to the gyratory, although we were opposed to nearly everything else proposed.

However, in view of our limited acceptance in part of one of the suggestions, I would not be too surprised if both my wife and I have been included as an extra two supporters of the scheme rather than as being opposed to it.

Whatever is done to make the conditions for cyclists better and safer, only a small minority will use it as a means of transport; so there is a concern that in improving things for them the conditions for everyone else are being too adversely disadvantaged. What might reduce congestion and pollution is an improvement in public transport. But then all TfL current proposals are quite the opposite with a reduction in the number of buses per hour on the Finchley Road. The CS11 proposals themselves require an existing bus lane to be closed, and they have also admitted that bus journey times will increase. Until recently, there were three routes into town, nos. 13, 82 and 113, but route 82 has now been abolished. Also TfL now wants to reduce the number of buses an hour on routes C11 and 274.

People’s Vote call is undemocratic

Howard Ricklow, Fitzjohn’s Avenue, NW3 6NY, writes:

Jonathan Livingstone (your opinions August 9) is flying in the face of democracy. The so-called “People’s Vote” is nothing less than an attempt to re-run the Referendum simply because Jonathan and his Remainer friends will not accept the will of the people.

Time to get over it Jonathan. We are leaving that decaying, autocratic, bullying dictatorship as soon as possible and restoring our sovereignty.

We must avoid risky hard Brexit

Sarah O’Keefe, Agincourt Road; Phil Thornton, Lisburne Road and Doug Crawford, Savernake Road, Open Britain Hampstead members, write: Despite one of the hottest summers on record, the Brexit negotiations seem frozen. As we proceed with glacial slowness towards a resolution in March, this summer is going to be a decisive time in the battle to stop a hard and destructive Brexit that would devastate health services, send the pound crashing, and – the government has just told us – force us to hoard food.

The reason is that the tide is turning in favour of holding a People’ Vote on the terms of whatever deal the government manages to bring back from Brussels.

Hampstead & Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has called for the people to have the final say, as has former cabinet minister and London MP Justine Greening, and most recently The Independent and The Economist news websites.

Voters across north-west London who overwhelmingly backed the case to stay in the EU need to use the summer to send a strong message to their MPs — all of whom voted remain in 2016 — that they want a vote on the final deal.

While Ms Siddiq has come out strongly in favour, so far Holborn & St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer and Finchley & Golders Green MP Mike Freer have chosen to put their respective party above their country.

People want their MP to reflect their views especially in October when Theresa May will bring a deal back to the Commons that is likely to dismay both Remainers and Leavers.

Open Britain Hampstead, the local branch of the national campaign, will be running street stalls and carrying out surveys of local residents and businesses over the summer in order to gauge the scale of demand for a referendum.

We know that Sir Keir is in a tricky spot as, whatever he thinks personally, he has to support the line of the Labour party as its shadow Brexit Secretary. Mr Freer too may feel he needs to support a government that lacks a majority.

But as John Maynard Keynes said, when the facts change you can change your mind. Even more helpful is the former Brexit Secretary David Davis who said: “If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy.”

Westminster has shown it is incapable of making a decision and with both Tories and Labour divided on the most momentous issue to face our country since the Second World War, the only truly equitable option is to give the people the final say.

This is where the Ham&High’s readers can help. If everyone who reads this letter were to write one to Mr Freer or Sir Keir, they would return to parliament after the recess to find a pile of thousands of letters on their desks.

MPs do respond to views of their constituents so if you want a final say on the Brexit deal please write to Mike Freer or Sir Keir Starmer at The House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA or email them at keir.starmer.mp@parliament.uk or mike.freer.mp@parliament.uk

Let’s turn up the heat and thaw out the Brexit paralysis.

Have your say on Post Office move

Hervey F Blake, NW8, writes:

It is disappointing to hear that the Post Office in St John’s Wood is earmarked for closure.

The long serving and dedicated staff were informed on August 9th that it would be closing by the end of the year,probably November (just in time for the Christmas rush!)

The following day very detailed leaflets explaining the proposed plans were available in the Post Office.

It is planned to re-locate the Post Office situated in Circus Road, near to a main road next to thriving Westminster Library, close by to two hospitals, many bus stops, a very busy underground station and many food shops and cafes, to a small grocery shop in Charlbert Street. This is a quiet mainly residential street far from the life and bustle of the high street.

St John’s Wood stretches out a long way and for those living the other side of Wellington Road it will be a fair walk to access Post Office Services and parking will be very limited.

We are not all young or technophobes and would like to continue with the convenient location and expertise of our friendly Post Office staff, who will probably be made redundant.

The local public consultation continues until 19th September, so I hope that loyal customers will pick up a leaflet from the Post Office and then make their views known via the many ways available.