Ham&High letters: CMP, dog walking, Brexit, Magdala, The Heath cows and Haringey Council

An articulated lorry carrying a 14 tonne excavator, turned into the Hampstead Theatre terrace. Pictu

An articulated lorry carrying a 14 tonne excavator, turned into the Hampstead Theatre terrace. Picture: JANINE SACHS - Credit: Janine Sachs

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

CMP breach?

Edie Raff, chair, Cresta House Residents Association; Janine Sachs, chair, Save Swiss Cottage; David Reed, treasurer, Save Swiss Cottage Action Group; Elaine Chambers, chair, Winchester Road Residents Association; and Peter Symonds, chair, Combined Residents Association, South Hampstead, write:

A serious breach of the Construction Management Plan (CMP) occurred last month when an Essential Living articulated lorry carrying a 14 tonne excavator, turned into the Hampstead Theatre terrace because there was not enough room for it to turn around on site.

The CMP allows no waiting or idling in the surrounding streets, but this lorry waited in Eton Avenue for 13 minutes behind one of its scaffolding trucks (which had been waiting for one hour and 50 minutes). Then around midday, using the gates reserved for “Emergency Access for Fire Appliance” only, it continued to traverse the full length of the Hampstead Theatre terrace and reverse into the site. It needed to do this in order to leave the site into the market square.

When asked what they were doing the traffic marshals said they had no other option. How many more times during this build will there be no other option other than to infringe the CMP?

This massive articulated plant lorry carrying the excavator was a great deal longer than the 10.2-metre tipper trucks designated for Winchester Road, market and open space. Why have these vehicles not been factored into the CMP? How can the developers justify using the access designated for fire appliance emergency only and in so doing the path along the sensitive Hampstead Theatre terrace, which, mercifully, due to the rain, was not frequented by the public on this particular day?

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Tranquility of Heath is ruined by irresponsible dog walkers too often

A Cricklewood resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

One would think a healthy and relaxing pursuit for a 76-year-old pensioner, such as I am, would be a daily walk on the Heath with the dog.

Not so. I am often threatened by a breed to be avoided at all costs – the irresponsible dog walker (IDW). The IDW is easily identified by the large number of dogs, of all shapes and sizes, roaming freely around him or her.

Another trait, should you unfortunately happen to interact with one of them, is that they are “never” at fault. Whatever untoward incident may occur between your pooch and one of their pack, it is “always” you or your dog to blame.

Yesterday, I turned off a footpath into one of the main paths on West Heath to be met by two IDWs with 10 dogs between them. One of the pack “stole” my dog’s ball and as I turned to walk in the opposite direction there was a skirmish between my dog and one of the pack. My dog, thankfully, came when called. I then noticed one of the IDWs examining the dog involved in the skirmish. “Your dog may have injured mine,” she called after me. No question of too many dogs (the Corporation of London guidelines for dog walkers on its properties is four dogs per person), a canine knock-for-knock stand off or innocent until proven guilty. None of that – my dog is to blame! Neither dog has been hurt and I walk away minus the ball.

Less than five minutes down the track, a single IDW with nine dogs crosses my path.

“Nine dogs are too many for one person,” I shout after him; admittedly, my dander is up. I am immediately accused of being a sad old lady who needs to get a life and told he is sorry for my dog. As he looks almost as old as I am and as we are both walking dogs on the Heath, I wonder what he means by “getting a life.” The only difference between us, at this moment in time, that I can see, is that he is walking nine dogs for which he will be paid extremely well and I am attempting to walk one dog for pleasure.

Off he goes, an accident waiting to happen, oblivious of the stress he has caused me or how scared other users of the Heath may be when confronted by one man and his nine dogs coming towards them. He may be Cesar Millan (he certainly thinks he is), but how are we to know?

May I urge all dog owners who employ dog walkers to ensure they have not employed an IDW? You may think your treasured pet is one of four dogs having a great time on the Heath when this may not be the case.

Do not be an IDO – an irresponsible dog owner.

Brexit is not ‘will of the people’

Rebecca Shirazi, vice-chairman (campaigns), Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party, writes:

The Conservatives have let down this country with how they have handled Brexit.

The process has been farcical; and even though Corbyn has negotiated a much better deal than May, Labour must step up and support remain.

There is no possible deal that is better than remain and we must be honest about this, regardless of how the referendum went. I alongside 20,000-plus constituents in Hampstead and Kilburn signed a petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked and firmly believe that revoking Article 50 is the right course of action.

We must challenge the false narrative that has been spun about Brexit being “the will of people”. It’s not the will of people – the vote was on a knife edge and on a different day, with a different level of turnout, it could have gone the other way.

There is no mandate for anything. We can’t even change the Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party standing orders on anything less than a two-thirds majority, which is the norm in politics for constitutional changes.

Labour must come out in support of remain and fight tooth and nail to win the argument and voices on the left of the party need to lead the argument for remain being the socialist position.

Raising a toast to Magdala pub plan

Hamish Hunter, Nassington Road, Hampstead, writes:

I was indeed pleased to read, in the letter last week from prominent local Conservative member Fiona Lafferty, that a new licensing application for the Magdala pub has been submitted to Camden Council.

She is correct; it is excellent news. I hope the application is successful and I look forward to toasting the pub’s reopening over a drink there with Ms Lafferty soon.

I do, however, have to admit to being rather confused by her comment that this new application “goes to show” that the local councillors “really can make a difference”.

Whilst no doubt generally true, I’m not exactly clear on what role she is suggesting the local councillors played here. Is Ms Lafferty suggesting that they are somehow responsible for the appearance of a new application? That they encouraged the applicant to apply for the licence, or have assisted him with the application? Supporters of the reopening of the Magdala will no doubt want to hear all about what they did to “make a difference” so that we can all offer them the appropriate praise and credit.

I am sure she will enlighten us in these pages next week.

Why can we never finish a project?

David Holladay, name and address supplied, writes:

Both large – HS2, Brexit – and small – station upgrades or commuter cycle parking – projects are often two years late, not delivered as originally specified or not always the right solution.

We seem to be regularly starting the job before working out whether the project has been assessed to make sure it actually delivers what is really needed. Often the surveys and preparation to see if you can actually deliver what has been promised, and how this can be done, are missing.

Contingency plans for delivering key hardware (new trains especially new fleets are often delayed) in time, or having contingency plans in place – like not scrapping trains that could be used, if the new trains won’t arrive before the old ones have to be sent elsewhere – are not given enough consideration (as TfL has managed to do with the Barking to Gospel Oak service, despite over a year of everyone knowing this could happen).

‘People’s vote’ is only way to decide

Phil Thornton, Lisburne Road, Hampstead, writes:

I was delighted to see that you covered the historic record-breaking march in central London by people from Hampstead and elsewhere campaigning for a “people’s vote” on Theresa May’s dreadful Brexit deal (March 29).

It was a joyous, colourful and peaceful event and the fact that a million people [sic – see below] were on the march will have undoubtedly strengthened the will of some wavering MPs to rightly vote down the deal last Friday.

But I was baffled to see the story contained an estimate of the crowd at 400,000. It seems that number has come from an article in a niche tech magazine called Wired and was based on an estimate by an expert in crowd estimation that has since been enthusiastically taken up by the pro-Brexit brigade. [Have we had enough of experts, then? – ed]

For their part, the organisers say they estimated the size of the crowd spilling in from side streets and into Hyde Park as being significantly bigger than the last “people’s vote” march on October 20 when there was an unchallenged estimate of 750,000.

One can take that with a pinch of salt if one wants, but the “people’s vote” organisers have backed this up using information amassed from stewards, staff and volunteers on the ground along the entire march route from Marble Arch to Parliament Square, as well as by examining aerial pictures from television helicopters.

High density crowds were also reported along Oxford Street towards Bond Street Tube station. This was also visible in the aerial footage of the demonstration. Peak crowd densities were estimated at 4.5 people per square metre. The Wired magazine expert says it was two per metre.

If we leave the statistics to one side, perhaps the most telling verdict came in the same edition of your paper from Sir Keir Starmer MP, the shadow Brexit secretary. He said that every week people stop him and come to his surgeries to ask what Brexit will mean for their jobs and the economy. His answer: “I share the anxiety people feel. This is the most turbulent period I can remember in our country’s history,” he wrote. “It’s a national crisis. We urgently need to find a way to break the impasse.”

A “people’s vote” or a second referendum is the perfect way to break that logjam – the country can have an intelligent and well-informed debate about the actual issues involved rather than trading in pie-in-the-sky promises.

Both leavers and remainers can engage on the issues and the people will decide.

That will be a real exercise in democracy – a much better use of time than engaging in crowd estimation methodology.

Pro-Brexit stance is at odds with us

Marx de Morais, The Heights, Swiss Cottage, writes:

Recently, my Camden councillor Henry Newman announced he knows very few people who are in favour of a “people’s vote”, claiming instead almost everyone he knows outside of politics is in favour of Theresa May’s deal.

It may not have been written on the back of a bus, but it is as believable as Mr Newman’s claim in December that he lost half of his friends following the 2016 referendum. What has seen a 50 per cent reduction as a result of being on the wrong side of the Brexit debate is the number of Camden Conservatives’ local councillors, with the opposition reducing from 12 elected representatives to seven following last year’s local elections.

Despite having a strong focus on local issues and hard-working local councillors, Mr Newman’s pro-Brexit stance is at odds with local opinion on the biggest issue facing our country and epitomises the challenges the Conservative brand faces in pro-EU areas.

Mr Newman is a director of Open Europe described by the Economist as the Eurosceptic group that controls British coverage of the EU. Local voters in a ward that voted nearly 80pc for remain are instead far more likely to support Open Britain who back a “people’s vote” on Brexit.

This past weekend, possibly the largest ever demonstration in British history took place. Over one million Britons [sic, again – ed], including thousands from our neighbourhood, took to the streets fighting for a “people’s vote”. Mr Newman has tweeted regularly since the weekend, but not once does he mention either the historic “people’s vote” march nor the record breaking six-million strong revoke petition, nor is there mention of it on the Open Europe website.

I have, therefore, invited my former Tory colleague Henry to spend a day in his ward with Open Britain to discuss the Brexit concerns of those he represents. On two out of three doors he would meet people who are in favour for a “people’s vote” and on more than every third door he would meet someone who had even signed the mentioned petition.

Personally, I think Henry is a really nice guy and that’s why I wish for him that he gets to know more people and winning new friends, people and friends with others than his opinions.

Henry, I respect you very much – let us spend a day together in your ward. In the end we will not only have a capable and smart councillor in you, but also one who understands and knows his constituents much better than before.

Cows on Heath views welcome

John Beyer, chairman, Heath Sub-Committee, Heath and Hampstead Society writes:

Thank you to Sara Mark for raising points in her letter to the Ham&High last week about proposals for cows on the Heath.

We will bear them in mind as we develop the project, which is still at an early stage.

We need stability not uncertainty

Cllr Liz Morris, Highgate ward, writes:

Following your article last week on the resignation of Cllr Berryman, Haringey’s cabinet member for finance, residents are asking me what is going on at Haringey Council and whether they should be worried about the political leadership of the country’s first “Corbyn Council”.

Cllr Berryman’s resignation follows the sacking of two cabinet members less than three months ago amid accusations of leaking and rows.

To lose one cabinet member looks unfortunate; to lose three in as many months is deeply concerning! What is even more worrying are the reasons that Cllr Berryman gave in his scathing resignation letter where he cited a lack of “proper process” for decision making and “decisions that I consider financially risky and imprudent”.

This is at a time when Labour has failed to meet millions of pounds in budgeted savings and must find further savings of £20million in the next financial year. Add in the crippling uncertainty over Brexit and the need for sound financial management and stable leadership has never been greater. What Haringey residents get instead from Labour are politicians distracted by their battles with their supposed “comrades”.

This needs to stop.

Our borough deserves a capable administration with proper authority.

Continuing fight for ‘people’s vote’

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

The debate over how to implement the EU referendum result was always going to spark huge division. However, the mismanagement of negotiations has left our country as an international laughing stock.

In the past week, I cast two sets of “indicative” votes. These votes were instigated by backbench MPs of all stripes, exasperated by the government’s failure to achieve consensus and were intended to find an agreeable way to proceed. These efforts also failed.

Once again, I voted in favour of retaining a customs union with the EU, for Labour’s planned approach and for revoking Article 50 in its entirety.

Similarly, I voted against Brexit “on WTO terms” (the “no deal” scenario) and against iterations of Brexit that reduce the rights and protections that we currently enjoy.

By failing to agree on any of the options, I appreciate how farcical Parliament appears to the general public.

I have lost count of the number of emails from constituents demanding that the issue is returned to the people, precisely because “politicians have failed” and because “Parliament is facing an impossible stalemate”.

And who can blame them? The chaos in Parliament is causing serious harm to businesses across the country, with stockpiling surging, investments on hold and thousands of manufacturing jobs already lost. Lives are in limbo, and the cliff edge is fast approaching.

In voting against triggering Article 50 two years ago, I was making the point that Britain was woefully underprepared to set the clock on our exit from the EU, and so it has proved.

I will continue to fight for the general election or “people’s vote” that Britain so desperately needs to break the impasse.

My constituents elected me to do what is best by the country, and I have no faith that MPs, left to their own devices, can find a way through the current mess.