Ham&High letters: HS2, The Avenue Nursery, police pursuits, Jimmy McGrath, Heathrow expansion, cows on Heath, parking, Barnet libraries, Brexit, Magdala and rubbish

Stop HS2 demo, Euston Square Gardens. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Stop HS2 demo, Euston Square Gardens. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

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

HS2 will add to pollution

Annie Lawler, Abbey Road, Camden, writes:

I am writing about HS2 and how inappropriate it is, based on the promises made by our government and councils on Climate Change. What benefit is there to people living in this area of this line?

First of all, I think the original idea was to make fast links to the north of England, therefore increasing the possibility of these areas generating greater prosperity. But with budgets and time scales now way out of line, this is unlikely to fulfil these objectives and improvements will be minimal at best.

Secondly, if we are really serious about tackling climate change, we should be investing in more sustainable, local transport services. HS2 is likely to make pollution for residents in the Ham&High area worse in terms of both the pollution from the construction and the running of these lines and the destruction of natural local environments.

Surely our money would be much better spent investing in improving public transport and discouraging driving in London.

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We’re all on Jimmy’s side

Carol Green, Fellows Road, Hampstead, writes:

A wonderful cartoon from Ken Pyne on Jimmy McGrath v Camden Council last week. Jimmy is well known in Hampstead and beyond for his tap dancing on the bar. May he win his case against Camden Council!

Residents should have final say on school’s fourth expansion bid

Mike Klein, Jacksons Lane, Highgate, writes:

The recent planning application (0427) to extend the evolution of The Avenue Nursery into a pre-prep school has engaged a lot of opinion.

I don’t envy the job of the planning committee to balance the amenity of the school’s close neighbours against the educational needs of private pupils living much further away.

A fact that has got lost in the smoke and mirrors is that it is not the school itself that is the problem. The objections relate to this fourth expansion of the school as it transforms from a small nursery to a pre-prep school. Originally it was an unassuming end-of-terrace house in a residential block which is still a quiet residential block. Now, the impact on the neighbours will be pushed well beyond the limits they can live with.

Mapping the comments to the application clearly shows that 60 per cent of the 48 objectors actually live in the Green Triangle bounded by Highgate Avenue, Southwood Avenue and Jacksons Lane, which overlooks the school’s grounds. Are not those residents best placed to judge whether or not – and how – the school is impacting their lives?

No objections to the school having 40 pupils, or even 60. Some concerns at 75; very strong resistance beyond that.

It is not that the turnover of local residents has changed towards a majority of school-hating people. It is simply that the noise and traffic disruption associated with the school has exceeded the levels local residents can reasonably be compelled to absorb.

Supporters appear to be the result of canvassing of parents and others associated with the school on the basis of endorsing the work that the school does. None of them lives within the Green Triangle.

Indeed, a 0.2m circle only includes 14pc of the supporters so even they are not well-placed to assess the negative impact of the school. That same 0.2m circle includes 85pc of objectors and, as residents, have reacted en masse because the school is right in their laps and affects them directly.

Some of the supporters have labelled the residents as NIMBYs – which is curious as 60 pupils were accepted without a murmur. Surely, it is only for local residents to define and decide what is acceptable – not to be told by distant parents with their own priorities and objectives what local residents MUST accept for the sake of what the supporters consider to be the greater good.

There is a more old-fashioned and equally prejudicial label for an organised group of supporters – a claque.

Met must review police pursuits

Cllr Simon Pearson, Swiss Cottage ward, Camden, writes:

I gave evidence at the recent re-opened inquest into the death of Onese Power back in 1997 (Ham&High).

My family and I were the cyclists caught up in the police chase which ended with Mr Power’s death. His widow has concluded that her husband was chased to his death. The jury found that the risk of the chase was inadequately assessed and not communicated to the central command, and that this was a contributory factor to the collision which ended Mr Power’s life.

The spokesperson for the Met police said that policies and procedures have been reviewed many times since 1997. However, the family’s barrister in his summing-up referred to the recent decision of the Met to allow chasing police to knock suspects off their motorbikes. This rule change, when considered with the ongoing statistics of deaths and serious injuries of innocent third parties caught up in police chases, suggests that the police have learnt little in the last 20 years.

I sincerely hope that the Met will, as it promises, “carefully consider the jury’s findings to see if there is more [it] could and should do to ensure pursuits are carried out as safely as possible”. I particularly urge it to consider the safety of those with disabilities who cannot perceive or react to the danger of pursuits.

Pub ‘singled out’ over BID snub

Ken Pyne, Well Walk, Hampstead, writes:

I, like many of us, have become increasingly baffled by Camden Council’s continued persecution of Jimmy McGrath at the William IV.

Quite a few other businesses in Hampstead refused to pay the BID money, so why have he and his pub – which is now thriving, has raised thousands for charity and is much loved by the local community – been singled out? It is the type of going concern any sensible council would want to encourage, not hinder.

As Sherlock Holmes once remarked: “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

So... is it because he is Irish?

Airport operators ‘go back on word’

Eugene Myerson, Annington Road, Fortis Green, writes:

I was very interested to read Jessica Learmond-Criqui’s letter in last week’s Ham&High about the aircraft noise impact of Heathrow’s further expansion.

I write as a veteran expert transport witness at three airport inquiries – London City Airport, Heathrow Terminal 4, and Heathrow Terminal 5.

Airport operators will say anything at such inquiries that they think will help them get planning permission – if they go back on their word, no one holds them to account.

At the City Airport Inquiry, the operator promised: “No jets will be allowed to use the airport.” Now they either want to have jets or already have them.

At the Heathrow T4 Inquiry, the operator promised there would be no T5 if permission were granted for T4: “T4 will be the last expansion of Heathrow.” And now look.

At the T5 Inquiry, the operator promised not to ask for a third runway – I did not believe them then, and I was right.

I retired as the London Borough of Hounslow’s transport policy adviser in 1997. During the seven years I worked there, I was told that teachers in primary schools in the borough stopped speaking when an aircraft flew overhead, because the children could not hear them. As Hounslow lies underneath two main flight paths, that could be as frequently as less than two minutes at peak times. Ms Learmond-Criqui mentions “quieter” planes. I prefer the term “less noisy.”

I live far from Heathrow, in between East Finchley and Muswell Hill. Yet even here I am disturbed by aircraft noise – obviously not as badly as people in Hounslow, but it is still disturbing. If the High Court judicial review does not prevent the third runway from being built, great swaths of west London containing hundreds of thousands of homes will be badly affected by aircraft noise where they are currently free of it. Three “urban villages” will have been devastated or destroyed. Why the House of Commons voted in favour of Runway 3 is a mystery to me.

If Parliament won’t protect London’s citizens, perhaps the High Court will. I live in hope, but without much optimism.

Plea to reconsider Heath cow plan

Sara Mark, East Heath Road, Hampstead, writes:

I am writing concerning your story “Hampstead Heath groups plot return of grazing cows to north London” in the Ham&High.

A proposal for cows on the Heath appears to have been accepted for trial from June 2019. This will affect walkers, cyclists, joggers, dog walkers, swimmers and all who enjoy the recreational facilities of the Heath. Throughout my childhood our garden was next to a field of cows so I have some observations.

(1) Though the number of cows may be small, it will mean another area fenced off as a stockade and unavailable to the public.

(2) Each cow produces a large number of cow pats. These will drain into the springs, streams and eventually the ponds. The effluent, which will not remain in the stockade, will be distributed on boots and shoes all over the heath.

(3) The aroma will attract horse flies and other biting insects.

(4) Unsupervised dogs, outside the stockade, may harass the cows. There is a risk of vandalism to the fencing which could result in dogs entering the stockade or cows emerging from the stockade and endangering the public.

(5) There is also a risk that effluent will be carried on footwear into Kenwood House.

We are asking the Heath and Hampstead Society to reconsider the proposal without delay. A similar letter is being sent to the Heath Superintendant, English Heritage at Kenwood House and Village Voice.

Why do I pay for ‘Chelsea tractors’?

Roland Grimm, Hilltop Road, West Hampstead, writes:

I received a letter about proposed increases in residents permits.

This plan is further evidence of the disgusting sneaky takeover of our streets by the super-rich.

I have lived at my present address since 1986. It used to have many more normal cars. Now, in my street alone, luxury “Chelsea tractors” often outnumber practical city cars by 10 to one. Many of these monsters don’t even fit the width limitation of bays.

I see lazy, rich people use the monsters mostly for one person, two at the most. I should be paying a fraction of the permit cost and a fraction of road tax of the selfish owners of these extravagant cars. Can someone tell me why that is not so?

Full debate on library debacle

Keith Martin, Friern Park, North Finchley, writes:

Sam Volpe writes about the complaint from Save Barnet Libraries to the culture minister Jeremy Wright.

The principal point at issue is the policy of Barnet Council to exclude from its library policy the provision of comprehensive and efficient public library services.

At the meeting of Barnet Council’s Community, Leadership and Libraries committee on March 7, this complaint had been on the original agenda for discussion. However, the item was removed from the agenda, supposedly to be debated in June “to allow the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to rule on the complaint.”

In an enlightening confrontation, Barbara Jacobson, whose application to address the meeting had been accepted, was interrupted during her comment by the committee chairman Reuben Thompstone, who tried unsuccessfully to silence her comments as “out of order”, because of the self-imposed regulations he had put into effect that items not of substantive content on the agenda were inadmissible for discussion.

Thus did he seek to suppress and censor discussion of the letter to the culture minister. It would have been laughable had it not been an abuse of his role as chair of the meeting.

We are promised a full debate at the meeting in June. It is a test case whose outcome is awaited with interest by other local authorities in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, The Library Campaign and trade unions such as Unison.

We must be told Tories’ Brexit view

Hamish Hunter, Nassington Road, Hampstead, writes:

The Conservatives in Camden appear to have abandoned their former policy of maintaining a Trappist silence on the question of Brexit.

Frognal Cllr Henry Newman is almost a daily fixture on the television as a talking head advocating for the Prime Minister’s deal. Hampstead Cllr Oliver Cooper, who proudly posed for a selfie with his EU referendum ballot for Leave, has similarly been hacking for Mrs May’s deal, although with zero media prominence (no doubt much to his chagrin and Tory Party Central Office’s relief).

On the opposing side, Cllr Gio Spinella last year bravely defied the whip to abstain and voted in favour of a “people’s vote” in full council, and of course former councillors Andrew Marshall and Claire-Louise Leyland were prominent supporters of Remain.

All this leads me to ask: whilst there is no doubt that Camden Council has no say over the Brexit negotiations, surely it is right that councillors are seen as community figures and representatives who can speak about issues wider than the narrow remit of a local authority? So what is the Camden Conservative position? Does it back the official party policy of leaving with Mrs May’s deal? Or, following previous precedent on issues such as HS2, has it departed from the central party line to supporting a softer, or no, Brexit?

I’m sure, at the very least, the thousands in Camden who signed the petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked would like to know.

We can’t just ‘get on with’ Brexit

Norma Cohen, Agincourt Road, Hampstead, writes:

I am writing to you out of concern about our councillor for Frognal & Fitzjohns ward, Henry Newman, who clearly needs to get out more.

Mr Newman is insisting on Twitter that ordinary people he meets in his area – those not involved in politics – just want Prime Minister Theresa May “to get on with it”. I live down the hill from Mr Newman and that is not what I am hearing here. Local businesses from the dry cleaners to the newsagents to various pub managers say that, already, footfall in the area is down. The school teachers, health care workers and accountants in this neighbourhood say they fear worse will happen when Britain is cut off from its neighbours.

Moreover, what is “it”? The political party that proposed Britain’s departure from the European Union can’t even agree among itself what “it” means in practice. How are MPs supposed to “get on with it”? If MPs are dragging their heels, it’s because they are being flooded with mail from constituents terrified of what comes next. I notice that Mr Newman is the director of a pro-Brexit body OpenEurope. Maybe its members are the “ordinary people” he is hearing from?

Magdala Pub application

Fiona Lafferty, South Hill Park, Hampstead, writes:

Hamish Hunter bemoaned in his letter last week that the Magdala Tavern would remain “empty and not in use” following the rejection of the planning application to build more flats in the upstairs function room.

He will be pleased to note that a licensing application to reopen the Magdala has already been submitted to Camden Council.

This is excellent news. It goes to show our local councillors, Maria Higson, Oliver Cooper and Stephen Stark, along with our wonderful supportive community, really can make a difference.

Dumped rubbish needs attention

Dr Emiliano De Cristofaro, Belsize Park, writes:

There is a constant mess of abandoned rubbish next to the recycling and donation bins near Swiss Cottage station – specifically, in College Crescent Road. During the weekend there are piles of abandoned clothes, mattresses, and all sort of random junk.

It is pretty bad and I suspect also unsanitary.

What can be done about it?