Ham&High letters: Carers, lockdown peace , Beckford, Rhodes, housing, the Ponds and freedom

The Royal Air Force (RAF) Red Arrows fly in formation with four Typhoon aircraft over central London

The Royal Air Force (RAF) Red Arrows fly in formation with four Typhoon aircraft over central London in 2008. Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/PA - Credit: PA

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

Stories of those who have suffered

Linda Grove, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

As a carer for my husband, I would like to join with those who are in the same boat by telling the readers that our family members who need care have suffered greatly and unnecessarily during lockdown .

Many of the elderly have underlying health issues which have been made worse by doctors not having face-to-face consultations with their patients, it’s equally not satisfactory for them either.

You may be able to diagnose a simple problem but when someone is having balance and walking problems, as my husband has, a neurologist needs to see their patients. Even a video call would be preferable to a phone call.

To get my husband seen urgently, it has taken my social networking skills and it shouldn’t be like that. Not everyone is able to do that. We have a right to a well-oiled medical system.

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We, personally, are worn out by the system not the doctors and nurses. Perhaps others would like to write in too so we can hear their story.

In the clouds

Lester May, Reachview Close, Camden Town, writes:

One of the few benefits of lockdown has been the relative peace and quiet. The Royal Air Force Typhoon Display Team, one of 10 RAF display teams, has cancelled its programme due to the pandemic. Yet the RAF said it has “already started planning for the 2021 season” and vowed to bring “noise louder than ever before”. What planet is the RAF on? It’s certainly not in tune with the British public which won’t want taxpayers money spent on more noise. The defence secretary needs to take a close look at the RAF and ensure it is fit for purpose – front-line defence, not fun and games, not showing off and noise.

Renaming Beckford

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Hampstead, writes:

With the raised awareness of social injustice resulting from the Black Lives Matter campaign the pressure to rename Beckford Primary School is understandable.

Surely the most fitting tribute would be to rename it after its first black headmistress, Beryl Gilroy, one of the most deserving pioneers in education. And with the ongoing debate about statues with undesirable associations, it would be a wonderful gesture of appreciation if one to commemorate her could be erected outside the school or nearby.

This would be not only a tribute to a remarkable and courageous woman, but an education for the pupils to show them that we are all equally worthy and deserving of consideration.

On Rhodes

Keith S Gold, Highgate Avenue, Highgate, writes:

I am delighted that the council are reviewing street naming in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, as I am sure you will agree the review must be scrupulous in being both historically and contextually accurate. The case of Thomas Rhodes is most pressing in this regard.

Thomas Rhodes was a respected landowner who gave us the land for Alexandra Palace, as a local benefactor making his fortune in local Farming, he had no link to slavery, this is documented in the Haringey archives.

As such it would be a grievous harm to his reputation and the history of Haringey if he was wrongly associated with the actions of his great nephew Cecil Rhodes.


Cllr Justin Hinchcliffe, Cllr Sakina Chenot and Cllr Viv Ross, Liberal Democrat members, Fortis Green ward, write:

We read your article (Haringey pinpoints potential housing sites) with interest. As Fortis Green councillors, we welcome the provision of more affordable housing and look forward to seeing applications for homes that meet the highest design and environmental standards and where tenants can thrive and feel proud of their new homes.

Without restriction

John McPartlin, Creighton Avenue, East Finchley, writes:

Some serious questions have arisen about Hampstead Ponds, which has always been an amenity that Londoners could use without any charge. It was Mrs Thatcher who removed control from the GLC who had formerly always had ran them well to everyone’s satisfaction and give them instead as a free gift to the unelected City of London Corporation, which is now bringing in these charges. The division screen at the Men’s Pond, that was installed without notice being given, serves no purpose and should have been removed some time ago. It is also the only place in the whole of London where naturist sunbathing is freely permitted and has always been popular, but which most probably will also be removed, once more without consultation of users.

The Corporation, in previous meetings with Naturist Action Group, agreed that naturist sunbathing is not prohibited under its rules, and had given an undertaking that this would in future be permitted on the Heath, subject to proper behaviour being observed, and park officials had been instructed not to intervene when this was conducted properly. How ironic that restriction is being brought in at this pond.

Control of the ponds should be restored to the successor body the GLA, which is accountable to the electorate and open to discussion over their use with the public rather than left with an unpopular authority that has no mandate from the people of any kind.

Family homes

Cllr Oliver Cooper, leader, Camden Conservatives, writes:

Last week, Camden Council gave itself permission to replace a large number of homes intended for families with one-beds that aren’t fit for children as part of its Community Investment Programme (CIP) development on Agar Grove.

This wasn’t a one-off. Since 2015, just a fifth of homes built in Camden have had three or more bedrooms, compared to half across the country.

This prioritising of one-beds – both when new homes are built and when existing homes are subdivided – makes it harder and more expensive to raise children in the borough. This has huge consequences, especially for our schools.

Camden has already closed St Aloysius Primary and is about to close Carlton Primary and merge or shrink other schools: in large part because it has failed to build enough family homes to raise children locally.

The low supply of new family-sized homes also makes them more expensive, as the number of family homes on the market at any one time is very low. This ensures that those that can afford them can also afford to send their children to private schools.

Already, Camden has the second-highest proportion of children attending independent schools in the country, and the lack of new family homes further reduces the proportion going to state schools.

Yet this can’t be blamed on developers. Camden Council just gave itself permission to reduce further the number of family homes it itself is building in its own Community Investment Programme.

And this isn’t a price that has to be paid to build enough homes overall, as Camden’s housing stock is growing considerably slower than across the rest of Inner London. It’s a choice, and by making our borough less family-friendly, it’s killing our state schools.

It is therefore imperative that Camden builds family homes of all tenures in its CIP developments, not ever more one-beds.

It must also review its planning guidance to ensure it encourages developers to build family homes rather than mostly one-beds – and, moreover, requires them to adhere to it.

Often - with the exception of a solitary Labour councillor last week - my Conservative colleague and I are the only members of the planning committee that take seriously the existing requirement for developments to prioritise two- and three-bed homes. However, the only way to keep schools viable is to build more homes of all tenures that are fit for families.

Care allowance

Cllr Pippa Connor (Muswell Hill ward), Haringey Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Health and Social Care, writes:

We know that in Haringey huge numbers of carers are providing amazing care for their loved ones. Due to Covid-19 even more people are now carers – one estimate is that nationwide 4.5 million extra people have taken on unpaid caring responsibilities in a matter of weeks.

Haringey Council has promised an improved offer on respite care “as we recognise the strain many of you may be under” but has yet to deliver. Carers across the country are calling for the carers allowance to be raised from the inadequate £67.25 pw it is currently set at.

Last week was Carers Week. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if both Haringey Council and the government marked that by stepping up to support carers as they support so many others.

What price freedom?

Keith Martin, Friern Park, North Finchley, writes:

The Tory government’s habit of looking for economic justification for policy decisions is ingrained into their thought process, to the detriment of concepts such as freedom, health, housing, education or culture.

What price freedom?

In the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently under house arrest in Iran, it appears to be a £400 million debt to Iran. Boris as foreign secretary prevaricated and continues as PM to do so.

What price health and the pandemic?

The chancellor is encouragingly generous with support for businesses in danger of insolvency, but the humanitarian aspects to people are clouded by the interests of business.

What price education, culture and public libraries?

A relatively small government funding by the chancellor would enable local authorities to comply with their statutory duty under the 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act to provide a comprehensive public libraries service.

This should be the culture minister’s immediate priority. It is long overdue.

Neither Boris nor his cabinet have shown any talent for this aspect of government. Before Boris, Theresa May was similarly unwilling to take action for three years on Brexit.

A competent politician pursues policies based on listening, discussion, decision and action. Many fall at the first hurdle.

We elect governments to take decisions on many subjects, some of which require careful thought and research; to take action not to dither.

OK, decisions are often about money, but politicians should never neglect the concept of freedom and potential benefits to the nation’s health, housing, education and culture.