Ham&High letters: Brexit, Abacus Belsize Primary School, policing and waste management

Boris Johnson delivers his maiden speech as prime minister. Photograph: PARLIAMENT TV.

Boris Johnson delivers his maiden speech as prime minister. Photograph: PARLIAMENT TV. - Credit: Archant

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

Election can stop Brexit

Sara Conway, Labour parliamentary candidate for Finchley & Golders Green, writes:

I'm surprised to see Mike Freer MP is part of Boris Johnson's No Deal Brexit government.

Mr Freer has previously claimed he is against No Deal, which Boris Johnson is recklessly threatening to inflict on our constituency and our country. Last year Mr Freer supported a vote to stop the UK leaving the EU by revoking Article 50.

He said at the time: "I have always been consistent that I do not support a 'no-deal' exit from the European Union."

Now Mr Freer has decided to keep his government job under a prime minister whose team are committed to leaving the EU by October 31 "come what may, with or without agreement" - supporting this dangerous gamble, instead of standing up for the people who elected him.

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MPs from Labour and other parties are not going to let No Deal happen. The Conservatives will be forced into another general election to try to get a majority in parliament and take the UK out of Europe with.

Here in Finchley and Golders Green, people will only be able to remove their Brexit-supporting Conservative MP by voting Labour, who came a very close second last time.

In that election, I am the only candidate who supports staying in Europe, urgent action to protect our environment, and ending austerity - investing in our local services including schools, hospitals, social care and police.

Abacus is important alternative to private and faith schools

Jenny Kananov Shayo, Lyndhurst Gardens, Hampstead, and 50 other parents; Cigdem Akkaya, Alexandra Arrango-Larche, Edoardo Barra, Oranit Berger, Ismail Bulus, Oded Caspi, Roy Cohen, David Crawford, Hedzer and Janne de Haan, Debbie and Bryan Edery, Karen Li and Laurence Foster, Giulia Gallea, Vincent Garcia Anderegg, Caterina Gennaioli, Atheka Gury, Al Hadi Ali, Helena Harris, Sonale and Siris Karadia, Farhan and Shireen Lalji, Sebastian Larche, Fiona Murphy, Angels Oliva-Girbau, Marta Rolak Delorca, Jaume Sanchez-Elias, Alina and Philip Shawcross, Ofer Shayo, Richard Sherwood, Mandy and David Simpson, Raluca and Marius Socol, Dori Stein, Tali and Tom Treivish, Eze and Robin Vidra, Tanya and Oleg Vorobeichik, Dafna Wachman Cohen, Michal and Asaf Yacobi, Maya and Barak Zimerman and Gabriela Zutel, write:

Many things have been said about Abacus Belsize Primary and whether or not the school should or shouldn't move to the former police station building on Rosslyn Hill

It has become a topic of a strong and emotional debate among the local community members. However, I believe there is one important aspect related to the nature of the community Abacus is currently serving, that has not been sufficiently emphasized.

Abacus Belsize Primary was established in 2013 because there was a need for a secular state school in Belsize Park. If you look you will see that the majority of the schools in the area are private. A family that can't afford or chooses not to send their children to a private school is left with only two options, both of which are faith schools.

Considering the fact Belsize Park is a home to families of diverse faiths and religions as well as atheist families, it is clear that if it wasn't for Abacus, many would have been left without a proper educational alternative for their children.

For example, Belsize Park has a large Jewish community and many members of this community, my family included, are non-religious and in need of a secular school. I personally know several Jewish families who have been living here in the past and moved up north because of the challenges involved in securing a place in a state funded secular school.

I can safely say that those of us who were lucky to get a place in Abacus feel at home there, because Abacus is an inclusive school that brilliantly accommodates families of different ethnicities and faiths. It is a place where children are fortunate to learn about various cultures and traditions, a place where they can celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Chinese New Year and Eid. In a world full of conflict and division this sort of educational environment should be welcomed, promoted and celebrated. Rather than being a cause of a dispute it should be a source of pride and joy for the local community.

My family, and the many other families who benefit from this wonderfully inclusive school, would like to ask the community to embrace us and our children in their educational pursuits by supporting Abacus and its move to Rosslyn Hill.

Why can't school remain in Belsize?

Todd Berman and Andrew Neale, co-chairmen, The Hampstead Committee for Responsible Development, write:

The several letters posted on your letters to the editor page from Belsize residents promoting the scheme to force the Abacus Belsize School into the old Hampstead Police Station do not in any way reflect the overwhelming opposition from the Hampstead community.

Hampstead residents are saying no to this scheme.

No one is suggesting that Abacus Belsize School be closed. On the contrary, the Abacus Belsize School's parents deserve a permanent location for their school - but in Belsize, its catchment area where its students live. Schools need to be at the heart of their communities: Abacus Belsize School needs to be in Belsize to best serve Belsize families.

Virtually every Hampstead community and planning organisation, local GP and dental surgeries, residents' associations and local residents have opposed the application in writing to Camden Council. If you have not done so yet, please write to David Fowler, principal planner, at Camden Council (David.fowler@camden.gov.uk), opposing this scheme.

The fact is there is no need for a new state primary school (2018 Annual School Places Planning Process Report, Camden Council.) Local schools are already seeing a reduction in their ability to fill school places, which means a cut to their budget. In any case, local Hampstead children would not be allowed to attend the Abacus Belsize School (Abacus website.)

The Abacus proposal would increase traffic in Hampstead by creating a new school run. It would increase congestion on the walkways and the roads; it would increase pollution in an area which is already dangerously above legal pollution levels; it would rip apart the heritage of the old Hampstead Police Station and the Conservation Area in which it sits; and all this damage would be done when the school places simply are not needed.

The Abacus Belsize School scheme would violate well in excess of 17 national and local planning rules and policies. On planning grounds alone Camden Council should refuse it. An analysis of the environmental impact filed by Southwest Environmental Ltd states: "….to allow planning permission for a school at this location would be akin to knowingly expose children to significant harm."

There were much less expensive, better fit for purpose sites for Abacus available in Belsize that were rejected because Abacus Belsize insists it deserves a gold plated site in Hampstead, a location where it will have excess space that will give it income (c £150k per year) that other local state schools don't receive. Do we really need the most expensive free school ever built in the UK here in Hampstead? And this when our local state schools are being starved of funding?

The old Hampstead Police Station has been left empty for over five years. As a site for the Abacus Belsize School it will not create jobs or economic benefit for Hampstead - it will increase traffic, congestion and pollution.

When Abacus Belsize School finally locates its permanent site in Belsize it will be a win-win for both our communities: Abacus Belsize parents will get what they have always asked for, a permanent school site in their Belsize catchment area; and Hampstead residents will have avoided yet another totally unnecessary school run with its pollution, congestion and traffic.

Let's bring the Hampstead Police Station back to life for the Hampstead community - but not as a commuter school.

Reopen station for extra police

Susan West, chairwoman, Hampstead Safer Neighbourhood Panel, writes:

When the prime minister announced 20,000 new police officers he may have forgotten that there aren't enough police stations to go round these days so the new officers may find it a challenge to store all the equipment they need to do the job.

Hampstead police station still stands empty so could be returned to service and become a beacon in the community again. Linda Grove's statement that the station was closed because it wasn't fit for purpose is incorrect; it was about saving money. Modern police stations were closed at the same time. Hampstead's fine old police station died by a thousand cuts so that its eventual closure would appear less of a community loss, encouraging fewer protests.

The last occupants of the building were two local Safer Neighbourhood Teams, including our own Hampstead team. It was a perfect location from which to patrol, offering a visible and reassuring presence in the community and also a place to report non-urgent crime and discuss crime concerns with a sympathetic officer. Perhaps the Edwardians knew a thing or two.

Plans for 20,000 police welcomed

Andrew Dismore, London Assembly member, Barnet and Camden, writes:

I am writing in response to Jessica Learmond-Criqui, whose most recent letter provides further proof that this important debate over police resources is in danger of going around in circles.

It has now become something of a wearying formality for me to address some of the glaring errors made by Ms Learmond-Criqui in my opening paragraphs.

Firstly, in her most recent letter, she chooses to repeat her observation that the £462,794 budget set aside for community events at Dock Beach in Newham could be diverted to the Metropolitan Police. As I made clear in my previous letter, the funding for these events comes from local business rates and the rules dictate that the proceeds can only be spent in the local area.

Ms Learmond-Criqui then goes on to unfairly claim that the mayor has cut the Met's budget. The mayor is investing record amounts of money into the police from City Hall. It is the government that sets the police funding settlement and so they are squarely responsible for the £1 billion that the Met will have to withhold from their budget by 2022/2023.

At the end of her letter, she lays the gauntlet down to me to influence the mayor to stem the rising tide of crime. I can reassure her that I have and will continue to hold robustly the mayor to account on violent crime and all issues affecting Londoners. Moving forward, the new prime minister has pledged to deploy 20,000 more police officers across the UK in the next few years.

After years of campaigning on this issue, this is obviously a welcome and refreshing move in the right direction. However, I share the concerns of the College of Policing who have recently warned of the logistical challenges involved with training the new officers due to the current lack of instructors. I will be scrutinising the prime minister's plans to vet, train and allocate the 20,000 officers over this short period of time.

In any case, to get to grips with violent crime, we must see the boost to officer numbers complemented by an ambitious strategy to tackle poverty and social inequality, as well as a pledge to plug the yawning gaps in youth service provision in the capital.

Despite our differences, I am glad that Ms Learmond-Criqui is in agreement that we desperately need to see comprehensive national leadership on this.

How authority deals with waste

Cllr Clyde Loakes, chairman, North London Waste Authority (NLWA), writes:

I am writing in response to your comment piece, 'Big plans to burn half our rubbish'.

I would like to highlight the work North London Waste Authority is doing to advance the future of waste management in north London - to provide a better service for residents and for the environment.

A key focus for the authority throughout planning for this vital project was to consult the community on our plans.

We ran two stages of consultation during November 2014 and May 2015 where we leafleted 28,000 homes and business near this site, provided 15 separate opportunities for residents to meet the project team, attended local community groups, held roadshows and provided information through local media, libraries and adverts in local train stations.

Engagement with the local community continued beyond this period and we update residents on our progress through newsletters, social media and information available on our website.

You're right that we have been increasing our activity to help residents reduce waste and recycle more in recent years because it is in all our best interests to prevent waste - saving money and tackling the climate emergency.

The authority has been committed to this for over 10 years - reducing waste by 10,000 tonnes each year.

Our planning for the new facility relies on boroughs achieving a 50per cent recycling target when all are currently in the 20s and 30s percentage area, and also takes into account the huge growth in housing over the coming years in these boroughs.

We hope there are many others who share your views that we need to produce far less waste.

Everyone - manufacturers, residents and the government - needs to do their bit. We agree that producers need to be held to account for the packaging they produce. On two recent occasions we have actively called on the government to a) reform the UK producer packaging system and b) allow for enforcement of compulsory recycling as the current "voluntary" approach is simply no longer viable in a Climate Emergency setting.

However, there is still household waste that needs to be dealt with. Failure to replace the current plant at Edmonton would mean more waste going to landfill, resulting in 140,000 additional tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, more land required, and higher costs to local authorities and ultimately residents.

This project reflects both our concern for the environment and the north London community. It will enable us to generate low carbon energy from waste which can heat and power up to 127,000 homes, more than all those in Hackney. We are delivering the first facility in the UK to clean emissions with Selective Catalytic Reduction technology to remove nitrogen oxide. This helps us operate 60pc better than the Environment Agency's required safe standards.

Since the government approved our proposal there has been significant work to prepare for construction in order to deliver this important community asset for north London safely, on time and on budget.