Ham&High letters: Gritters, planning, electric points, policing, school praise, Harben Estate, antisemitism, culture bid, Hippodrome and rubbish collections

Snow on Hampstead Heath.

Snow on Hampstead Heath. - Credit: Archant

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

Was Camden gritting worth the money?

Cllr Jonny Bucknell (cons), Belsize ward, writes:

Now that the snow has gone one has to ask the question of whether the gritting effort was worth the money.

Camden has four small gritters. Each one has a capacity of three tonnes of grit before it has to return to the depot.

The policy is to grit the main roads first and leave the side roads until later.

With the snowfall that came with the Beast from the East, the gritting team were completely overloaded.

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The borough looked like the French Alps. Everyone was sliding all over the place but got there in the end.

The policy of gritting the main roads is ludicrous because the traffic invariably keeps these clear. If any gritting should be done it is on the hills and side roads. Camden would be better off having a small rapid response team for the steep roads, doubling the number of grit bins and asking people to be neighbourly and grit their own roads.

It is important to keep the buses moving and each bus should carry a bag of grit in case it gets into a skid.

On two occasions I have rescued stranded buses. It only take a sprinkling of grit to get them moving again.

The moment the grit went down all the snow melted. We all trod the grit into our houses. Was it all worth the effort?

Camden has a socialist tradition that everyone relied on the council but in times like these it is neighbourliness, not the state, that makes the difference.

Consultation on planning a ‘charade’

Edie Raff, chairman, Cresta House Residents Association, writes:

In response to the government’s announcement today (March 5) that councils will have to hand over control of their provision of new housing in the borough to the government if they don’t build enough new homes - I have an excellent solution - albeit a despairing and cynical one - forged in years of participation in futile planning consultations, deciphering official documents, writing letters of objection, gathering signatures, raising funds and preparing for the courts - all to fight planning applications for ludicrously inappropriate developments like 100 Avenue Road that can not be won.

The solution: stop the public planning application process. Stop consulting with the public. Stop the time-wasting charade of pretending that local residents can have a meaningful say in their community.

Just let councils get on with their cosy and lucrative discussions with developers and extract the highest possible CIL and Section 106 payments from them that they can as compensation for whatever harm the council is about to allow the developer to inflict on the local community and however many fewer than legally required ‘affordable’ homes they claim they can viably provide while retaining their profit margins.

Let the developers get on with whatever they want. They do, anyway, in the end. And for sure, without the pesky input of the local community, more homes will get built and a lot sooner. And the developer, the council and local residents will all save time, money and effort. It’s a win win win solution!

Electric correction

Cllr Peter Mitchell, cabinet member for Environment Haringey Council, High Road, writes:

Danny Freeman complains about the lack of electric vehicle charging points in Haringey (Charge up electric car points), but Haringey Council has recently published plans for 75 new charging points at 23 locations across the borough, as well as replacing existing faulty points. In addition, we are exploring options for rapid recharging points and lamp column recharging points. This is part of Haringey’s new Transport Strategy.

New patrols

Cllr Merik Apak, cabinet member for Better Homes, Camden Council, writes:

The last few weeks have borne witness to tragic events, which have undoubtedly caused many residents of the borough to be concerned for their and their family’s safety.

I want to reassure all residents that we take their safety seriously and have been proactively working to address their concerns.

The council’s new Responsive Security Patrol has been working closely with the Police and Community Safety Teams in the borough during this challenging time.

With high visibility foot patrols, officers wearing body worn cameras and an additional dedicated hot spot vehicle they have been successfully deployed across the borough over the two last weeks.

At the last council meeting, we announced additional investment to boost this service and provide increased reassurance and support for residents on our estates.

We will invest a further £150,000 and extend the hours of the security patrol to run from 4pm until 3am.

This will ensure a proactive presence as our young people are returning home from school in hot spot areas and the ability to improve liaison with local Community Safety Teams and the Police. The extended service will additionally launch drop-in sessions in local TRA halls to offer residents reassurance and personal safety advice.

If anyone is in danger you should call the Police on 999. If you have concerns about community tensions please contact us on: 020 7974 4444 or by email at: communitysafety@camden.gov.uk

School praise

Cllr Oliver Lewis, Maddy Raman, Anna Wright, Labour candidates for Highgate ward, Camden, write:

We are delighted that work has begun building the much needed new classrooms, facilities and LaSwap Sixth Form centre at Parliament Hill and William Ellis schools. This investment in education, as part of Camden’s wider programme of investment and regeneration, is an excellent example of Labour’s commitment to our communities in the face of austerity and government cuts to council funding. We are grateful to the many residents, parents, pupils and teachers who have contributed their time and effort to help shape this £35 million investment in our schools. We also want to thank local residents for their willingness to put up with the building work for the sake of Camden’s children who will benefit from these new facilities far into the future.

Harben Concerns

Cllr Don Williams, Conservative deputy leader, Swiss Cottage, writes:

The residents of the Harben Estate have been suffering multiple heating and hot water failures since October 2017. In the last two months with temperatures at record lows, the heating and hot water system has broken down no less than 10 times for many residents of the estate.

Reasons given include burst hot water pipes, old piping and radiators, blockage along the line, etc. But, the reason that takes the prize is: Ongoing maintenance and upgrades in each flat and the boiler operations.

To the innocent bystander, the obvious question is: Why would anyone do a major upgrade to large residential blocks in the winter? Isn’t this a job for summer or, at the most, late Spring through early Autumn?

While these untimely upgrades take place and major pipes keep bursting, we have residents suffering from the extreme cold conditions. Camden Conservatives have been listening to residents, many of whom have become ill in the absence of heating and hot water. On multiple occasions, we have made our concerns known to the council and have demanded fixes and a resolution to the heating/hot water issues, in this most severe of winters.

To be truthful, many short and long term fixes have been implemented but can anyone really say that Camden is working well for its residents when the vulnerable have to suffer repeatedly in these cold conditions? Of course not!

Let’s be sensible and halt any major disruptive upgrades until the weather improves considerably.

Our friends in Rowley Way, Kilburn, seem to be suffering in like manner and are also complaining. Doesn’t this show that winter, and especially the coldest winter in many years, isn’t the right time to be fiddling with heating and hot water systems?

Antisemitism dismay

Sara Tal Kalman, full address supplied, writes:

I read with dismay the recent accounts of Cllr Rosenberg’s experiences of antisemitism, and the unhelpful letter in last week’s paper (Recent antisemitism claims unfounded), which exposed the writers and the harm they are causing to Labour’s reputation.

I am not a member of any party, but voted Labour in the last election, despite reservations due caused by reports of unchecked antisemitism in the party.

I had met Tulip Siddiq at an event in my local synagogue and been very impressed by her. But it was Cllr Rosenberg who convinced me that it was important to support those who could bring the party back to its roots of inclusiveness and equality.

Those writing last week, through their willingness to tar their adversaries with such broad brushes, e.g. anyone even associated with the democratic country of Israel as supporting ‘apartheid’, betrayed not only their ignorance about the conflict but their prejudices too.

I have known Phil for a long time. As it happens, Phil studied Hebrew and Arabic at university, volunteered with a number of peace NGOs in Jerusalem and now runs a programme to support Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation at the Board of Deputies. In short, he does far more to help the prospects of peace than these people with their silly and nasty motions. I hope that Labour will now seize the challenge of confronting antisemitism and returning to its mission of helping the most vulnerable in society.

Culture bid thanks

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, cabinet member for Promoting Culture and Community Services, writes:

I want to thank every person, business and organisation who supported Camden’s bid to be London Borough of Culture. I particularly want to thank Ham & High readers as well - their create ideas made our bid strong.

Whilst it’s disappointing to have not won the overall prize, out of the 20 remaining councils that bid, we were one of only six to get standalone project funding. I am also pleased that we received the highest of these runner up prizes so we now get to deliver an exciting project that will use leading technology to tell the cultural stories of Camden’s communities and renowned institutions.

Via a smartphone, thousands of diverse cultural and historical stories and places of interests across the borough will be highlighted in augmented reality along ‘culture routes’ around the borough, with the development of the project particularly focussing on working with communities and residents who feel that they are rarely able to access mainstream cultural provision in Camden and London.

In granting us a Cultural Impact Award and funding for the project the Mayor of London said he’s sure that this project will bring Camden’s communities closer together.

This will build on the collective work done whilst producing our borough of culture bid, where we have already strengthened existing partnerships with organisations in Camden, and created improved and new relationships with organisations that will ensure that there is a legacy from the bid.

Just one example is our work with Tileyard Studios, where young people from Camden’s estates are being upskilled in music and music production – not only offering them opportunity, but for some also tackling broader issues, such as youth safety and anti-social behaviour.

In developing this bid we drew together and galvanised Camden’s cultural community, uniting and collectively promoting the huge cultural offer of our borough and we will build on this work and spirit as we move forward with the delivery of our new Cultural Framework and the Camden Alive project.

Hippodrome confusion

Dr R Ahmad, Dunstan Road, writes:

I am shocked and frustrated that the main headline of the Childs Hill Conservative election leaflet is all about opposing the Hippodrome development plans for is to be an Islamic centre, due to parking concerns!

This is bemusing to me as for the last six years I have been discussing parking problems with Cllr Peter Zinkin regarding the parents at The Rimon school . Parents regularly block people’s driveways and even park in residents drives at school pick off and drop of times.

Cllr Zinkin’s advice to local residents was to use traffic cones twice daily!! Why doesnt Cllr Zinkin issue the same advice to the residents who are now raising concerns now; or is he not taking our issue seriously.

In addition the BBC Hippodrome operated for many years as a busy concert hall and more recently a church. Did people not have parking problems then? This smells very odious. Surely the Conservatives should be sorting out other issues closer to home.

Most dissapointing and also discriminatory.

Please can you clarify what steps will be taken to address the Rimon parking problem first?

Will you be having the parking problems faced by Dunstan road residents due to The Rimon School as the main article in your next leaflet?

I await your response to the concerns raised and what practical steps will be taken to over come this.

Rubbish dates

Alex Shinder, Hampstead Hill Gardens, writes:

One of the unintended disadvantages of the new reduced refuse collection service is that the infrastructure was built for the old style of collection and is not adaptable to the new. Dwellings have their own designated refuse storage areas within the curtilage enabling collectors to enter, collect and reenter with emptied waste bins. Under the new system bins have to be left on the street and if dwellers are away on business they will return to unemptied bins and be tempted to use emptied bins belonging to their neighbours. On street collection only works properly if there are designated street collection points (very often in the form of underground hoppers) where people can bring their waste. This is not feasible in Camden at least not in the short term.

So while the initiatives to save cost and encourage the environment are excellent, creating bad will amongst neighbours sharing a community is unfortunate. It would be better to reintroduce the collections from within the curtilages and retain most of the benefits and to remove this problem.