Ham&High letters: Flower Seller, Cllr Kober, Highbury Fields Pool and Gym, HS2, Cllr Leyland, action group and election

Micahel Silliton and John Cousans from The Flower Seller in Muswell Hill. Picture: MICHAEL SILLITON

Micahel Silliton and John Cousans from The Flower Seller in Muswell Hill. Picture: MICHAEL SILLITON - Credit: Archant

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

Object to ‘grotesque’ development plan

Justin Hinchcliffe, Fortis Green Liberal Democrats, Haringey, writes:

Thanks to the eagle-eyed Muswell Hill and Fortis Green Association, local Lib Dem councillors and Ham and High’s subsequent coverage, the controversial planning application on the site of where The Flower Seller is located on Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, is well and truly in the public domain.

Cllr Engert has submitted her views on the application - and I have too. Here’s what I submitted (my opposition is self-explanatory): “I object to this application, which is in the heart of the Muswell Hill Conservation Area (MHCA). I have known Central Muswell Hill (of which Fortis Green Road is a part) for more than 25 years and share the view of many residents that what makes it special is that it contains London’s finest and most complete collection of Edwardian Baroque’ architecture.

“95 per cent of Muswell Hill’s retail centre is comprised of this: Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill Broadway, the first stretch of Colney Hatch Lane and also Hillfield Park. The visual amenity and cohesion of the Fortis Green Road stretch was already undermined by the grotesque Sainsbury’s store back in the 1970s. This new development opposite is another nail in the coffin of Muswell Hill’s architectural heritage. It involved the demolition of original attractive fabric and its replacement by something which is stylistically out of sympathy with its neighbours. I also believe that it is an over-development of the site. Overall this development can only contribute to a further decline in Muswell Hill’s “village setting”. Small businesses like The Flower Seller, occupying perhaps one of the smallest retail premises in the area, will be driven out, leaving the big chains the only businesses in a position to afford higher rents in this new-build. And small businesses like the Flower Seller which make Muswell Hill a welcome alternative to the bland and uninspiring ‘choice’ seen in many shopping districts. Please reject this application based on the reason I give--and help keep this part of Haringey special!”.

The deadline to comment on this application draws near. You can make your voice heard, support our small businesses and the area’s splendid appearance by visiting planningservices.haringey.gov.uk/portal/servlets/ApplicationSearchServlet?PKID=323533 or quoting reference number HG/2017/3640 by post.

Leader’s legacy will be ‘draconian’ cuts

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Martin Hewitt, Victoria Road, Wood Green, writes:

When all the claims of “the sexism, bullying and undemocratic behaviour” have died down, Haringey residents can look objectively at Claire Kober’s legacy as council leader, at what she actually achieved before proposing the Haringey Development Vehicle.

Since 2015 cuts were implemented in council nursery provisions, school support, youth services, public health and adult social care for vulnerable adults with dementia, learning and physical disabilities. In adult services alone, following cuts in 2010, further cuts in 2015 involved the closure of 17 centres, with only two adult day centres for dementia and learning disabilities left ready for privatisation.

This is Kober and her hand-picked, unelected cabinet’s legacy for the borough, threatening the life chances of many from early years to old age.

Whilst the council has endured eight years of austerity, the deep 40 per cent cut in central government grants to Haringey Council since 2010 was average for London boroughs and no excuse for one of the most draconian onslaughts on its residents inflicted by any council.

We need a leader who listens to us

Natasha Sivanandan, Wood Green, (in personal capacity), writes:

I am a Labour Party member and member of Momentum and glad to hear that Cllr Kober will quit in May.

I am sad that she complains about bullying when, in my personal opinion, she used her power to bully others. For example, as co-chairman of the Friends of Highgate Library Shepherds Hill (FOHLSH), our group came up against her appalling lack of democracy and accountability last year in the way she dealt with the proposal to close Highgate Library and relocate it in Jacksons’ Lane.

No-one who ignores the views of local Labour Party members or the views of ordinary working class people in Haringey who overwhelmingly oppose the HDV, and who ignores the views of black women like myself who pointed out the disproportionate and discriminatory impact of her housing policies on black and ethnic minority groups and single women and the vulnerable, deserves to lead the Labour Group in Haringey. It is time to drop the HDV and the Wood Green Area Action Plan and I hope the newly elected council in May will do both.

We deserve better than Claire Kober and I really hope that whoever replaces her in May 2018 will listen to the views of ordinary working class people - and particularly those who are most vulnerable and marginalised in our society - in order to solve the great problems we face. Haringey people have a great deal to look forward to if those in power really start listening to local people.

Poor planning in pool saga

Kate Pothalingam, Highbury Liberal Democrats, writes:

The incompetence of our council is clearly demonstrated by the fact that not only has the new extension to the Highbury Fields Pool and Gym breached the council’s own planning rules, but the council has opened an enforcement case against the contractors – effectively taking action against itself! You really couldn’t make it up.

The contractors building the extension at Highbury Pool appear to have complacently disregarded the plans approved by the council.

The problem with the finished building was highlighted by local residents and amenity groups who had worked closely and constructively with the council at the planning stage to ensure an attractive building. So, it is really disappointing to hear that following an inspection, the council’s planning department says that there are some “material discrepancies between the scheme as built and the approved plans”. What a waste of effort for all involved.

Why weren’t these discrepancies identified at an earlier stage, when they might have been easily rectified? So far, we have no idea how much these “mistakes” will cost to put right, or whether they can be put right at all.

The whole saga suggests poor project management and oversight of the works by the council.

All this comes on top of a string of complaints from users of the centre, centring on long overdue repairs and cleanliness issues. Yet another example of an incompetent, complacent and unaccountable council with no effective scrutiny.

High speed rail to become obsolete

Cllr Jonny Bucknell, Belsize ward, writes:

Just before Christmas I made a small piece of history which is another nail in the coffin of HS2.

I had just had a roof repaired and wanted a meeting between myself, the roofer and the builder.The roofer and myself were standing on the roof and everyone could see the problems clearly.

The piece of history was that the builder had already gone home to Poland for Christmas. We made the link by Skype though our smartphones.

Skype is still in its infancy. I have made a number of attempts at Skype that do not work but the technology is improving.

The main problem is the capacity of the broadband. As a country we are consuming broadband faster than anyone can upgrade the network but we will get there in the end.

The moment the first HS2 train, in this weapon of mass destruction, leaves London and pulls in at Birmingham, high speed rail will become obsolete.

Cllr Leyland had ‘dedication’

Tom Simon, councillor for Belsize 2009-14 and candidate for 2018, Belsize Liberal Democrats, writes:

Following the announcement that she won’t be seeking re-election, I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work that Cllr Leyland has done for Belsize over the last eight years

We disagreed politically, but Cllr Leyland had a genuine dedication to public service. I’ve no doubt that many Belsize residents will be sorry to see her go, as will her Conservative colleagues.

In the local elections in May, Belsize voters will have the chance to elect new councillors to represent them. Belsize Liberal Democrats were only 24 votes behind last time. Luisa Porritt, Ben Newman and I offer a blend of experience and youthful energy, as well as a commitment to fighting against Brexit, an issue which deeply divides both the Conservatives

and Labour.

Candidates must stand by words

Henry Newman, Andrew Parkinson, Gio Spinella, Siobhan Baillie, Frognal & Fitzjohns Conservatives, write:

It was interesting to see last week’s letter by the Labour candidates for Frognal & Fitzjohns ward (Public Sector Should Provide).

They demanded that the “public sector should now be the default provider of public services”. The candidates went on to pledge that if they win they will “do everything...to ensure public services provided by the council are brought in-house wherever sensible and possible”.

Will the Labour candidates live up to this promise by campaigning to cancel the new contract for rubbish collection signed by the council’s Labour administration? This contract slashed rubbish collections down to once a fortnight in most of the north of the borough - breaking a manifesto promise made in 2014 to maintain weekly collections.

We’ve heard time and time again from local residents who want to see recycling rates increase but are horrified by the problems resulting from fortnightly collections. They tell us that fly-tipping and littering, as well as rodents and vermin, are all on the rise.

We hear concerns that fortnightly collections are particularly difficult for those houses converted into flats, where many families need to share the same bins.

If this commitment is more than just grandstanding, we look forward to working with Frognal & Fitzjohns Labour to reverse this damaging new outsourcing contract and restore weekly collections for all.

Next meeting for action group

Janet Shapiro, coordinator of Hornsey Pensioners Action Group, writes:

Members of Hornsey Pensioners Action Group (HPAG) have active minds, and are still learning, so the topic of our AGM on February 21 will be Adult and Community Education.

We hope to find out what activities are out there for us. We meet as usual at 1.30pm at Hornsey Parish Church Hall, Cranley Gardens, N10 3AH. All are welcome.

HPAG is part of a bigger group, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) Britain’s largest pensioner organisation representing around one million older people, active in over 1000 affiliated groups across the UK.

You could say that NPC is the trade union for retired people, speaking up for the retired, but the NPC also safeguards the prospects for the younger generations; they will one day benefit from our negotiations.

The latest NPC publication is ‘Dignity and Security in Older Age: The State Pension’. It sets out in great detail actions that the NPC recommends for future government, covering the provision of an adequate state pension, protecting occupational pension schemes, preventing fuel poverty and maintaining the state pension age at 66 from 2020.

The document recognises that inequality is not a question of age, but of social class and wealth.

This can be found at the NPC website, but also on ours hornseypag.org.uk

February 1 was Dignity Action Day. Of course dignity is dependent upon having a secure income as in the above document explains. But for many, dependent on the care of others, the current Social Care crisis puts their dignity at risk. Yet the house of commons Social Care Briefing Paper released on January 26 that announces the forthcoming Green Paper on older people (England), includes in section 5 a list of independent experts that does not include the NPC. Age UK is included, why not the NPC?

We may ask, what is the point of retired people gaining wisdom, learning from their experience, if this expertise is ignored by government? Nevertheless, we shall not give up and continue to speak out for ourselves and all generations.

Labour has real chance in election

Keith Martin, Friern Park, Finchley, writes:

Election fever is in the air, both locally May 3 and nationally at any moment. As usual, the political parties are competing for the title of incompetence; which of them will fail to gain power.

Nationally the front runners are the Conservatives, among whom Theresa May won the contest in June 2016 for incompetence by blowing her “unassailable” lead in the opinion polls.

Locally Labour have the best hand of cards for winning elections.

A Momentum-driven surge of students keen to support Jeremy Corbyn and less keen to start life after college in massive debt for university loans. So one would think that Labour will win the elections both locally and nationally.

As long as they don’t repeat the mistakes of earlier years by competing so ardently with the Lib Dems and splitting the vote and letting in the tired “no policy” Tories.

“When will they ever learn?” sang Pete Seeger. It is this competitiveness which drove Shirley Williams to found the Lib Dems and persists with some current socialists preferring suicide at elections to a shared win. This is frustrating for activists such as Momentum supporters.

History shows there is a precedent from 1994 to 2002 for a powerful team of Labour and Lib Dem councillors to run Barnet council in cooperation.

Lib Dem mayors such as Susette Palmer and Jack Cohen sat alongside Labour, and these years saw the genesis of artsdepot, opened in 2004, and the Barnet Festival.

The contrast now between Conservative and socialist policies is stark. Tories have reacted to austerity with a relentless and misguided policy of outsourcing, cost cutting at the expense of quality services and ignoring expert local advice. Posts of borough legal officer, borough architect and borough librarian have been abolished and replaced by predictable fiascos of ten-year contracts with incompetent outsourcers such as Capita, now in a national crisis. Recommended reading on this shambles is John Dix’s blog reasonablenewbarnet.blogspot.co.uk.

Labour’s manifesto for the many, not the few, sets out policies for hospitals and the NHS, social services, schools, housing, education, libraries and sensible parking charges.

Socialists must work together to elect a national and local government based on Labour values such as those of Attlee’s 1945 Labour government, policies advocated by Barnet Unison’s manifesto and that of Jeremy Corbyn, policies and actions recommended in Mr Reasonable’s blog, and a comprehensive and efficient public library service as defined in the 1964 Libraries Act.