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Ham&High letters: Bona Fide, Nazanin, buses, history lesson, Heathside school, the Heath, Regent's Park, road safety and EU elections

PUBLISHED: 16:30 02 May 2019

Brian and Deanna Bogdanovic at Bonafide Studios which is celebrating its 20 year. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Brian and Deanna Bogdanovic at Bonafide Studios which is celebrating its 20 year. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

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

Congrats to BonaFide

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey & Wood Green, writes:

Congratulations to Deanna on 20 years of BonaFide Studios (Ham & High).

Shoreditch's loss was Muswell Hill's gain and Deanna's studio has become a much loved heart of the cultural community here – providing space for budding musicians to explore their creativity and along with a wonderful team of volunteers helping to make the Muswell Hill summer and Christmas festivals a fantastic opportunity for creative people to perform and build their confidence.

I'm very concerned that government changes to school curriculums are reducing the number of young people choosing to study music. Creativity should be encouraged and embraced, not just because creative industries are such an important feature of our economy but because of the joy it can bring, helping young people to express emotions, work collaboratively and boosting confidence.

I'll continue to argue in parliament that the creative arts should be an important part of the curriculum.

Here's to the next 20 years of BonaFide sharing the joy of music in Muswell Hill.

Iran prisoner swap offer for Nazanin is another 'false dawn' in campaign

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

I have dealt with many tough cases in my four years as an MP. From constituents who have been failed by Universal Credit to those at the mercy of our cruel immigration system, my inbox is always full of personal tragedies.

Acting on casework is fundamental to my job, and because success is often dependent on the fast-changing circumstances of peoples' lives, it is as important as my commitments in parliament

There are fewer clearer examples of this than the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the innocent West Hampstead charity worker who was arbitrarily arrested in Iran three years ago.

Throughout Nazanin's detention, her human rights have been abused and her basic freedoms denied.

She has been separated from her family in north London, and it has been a privilege to campaign alongside them since the day she was arrested.

This week, there was a key development in her case. Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, suggested that she could be “exchanged for Iranian prisoners” who are being held in Australia and the United States.

This marks the first public acknowledgment by Iran that they are holding this innocent British citizen for diplomatic leverage. However, there is plenty of room for scepticism.

Zarif has previously claimed to be powerless to influence the case, suggesting Nazanin's future lay in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The case has also seen several other “false dawns”, most memorably when Nazanin was granted temporary release to be with her daughter for just three days.

As Richard Ratcliffe says, linking Nazanin's case to a complicated deal that is almost impossible to do could simply be a displacement tactic. Regardless of this, I am encouraged that the conversation in Iran is moving towards Nazanin's release.

With her four-year-old daughter Gabriella possibly returning to the UK this summer, continued imprisonment is likely to cause greater suffering for her mental and physical health.

Given this, it has never been more important for campaigners to speak up and demand that this innocent mother is freed and then returned home.

Follow the campaign to free Nazanin at hamhigh.co.uk

Why cut buses to tourist attractions

Lester May, Reachview Close, Camden Town, writes:

Since Saturday, April 20, buses no longer serve Gower Street but travel in both directions along Tottenham Court Road.

If plans proceed to turn Gower Street into a two-way street as well, surely one of the routes from each of the Camden Town area and Islington area should be re-routed to serve Gower Street for the University of London and the British Museum?

It is perverse to re-route buses further away from one of the most visited places in London.

History lesson for benefactors

Simon Nicholls, Grove Road, Finchley, writes:

Late 19th century Frances Burdett-Coutts donates Gospel Mission Hall to Camden Borough. Cost to the borough: £0,000,000.

Early 21st century Camden borough offers to sell the same hall to the public. Asking price: £1,500,000.

Lesson for would be benefactors: don't bother!

Your gift will be swallowed and afterwards exploited by fat cats on the council.

Heathside School has my support

Hollie Thomas, staff member, Heathside Lower School, writes:

I have been a member of staff at Heathside, in the lower school, for five years.

Heathside has the most wonderful, family feel to it and I feel very fortunate to work there. It is a joyous place to work and everyone has the children's best interest at heart, especially Melissa Remus. The children thrive here!

Speaking also as a parent of a child who attends Heathside (my son is pre-nursery) I am extremely happy with the progress and confidence that my son has exhibited since being there.

Even at the age of three-and-a-half, he is flourishing daily and that is all down to the loving, caring, community atmosphere of the school and the right balance of nurturing, play and education.

Throughout my five years at Heathside Melissa has gone above and beyond the role of a manger to support me at work.

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There have been times when I have gone through personal difficulties, including illness and bereavement, of which during, Melissa has shown me so much understanding and compassion and has been such a pillar to me.

I don't know what I would have done without a manager and head teacher as supportive and kind as her.

Curb development for Heath homes

Robert Sutherland Smith, Widecombe Way, Barnet, writes:

The lamentable account in the national press in April, of the litigation following the botched and costly development of the property at 36 Milfield Lane, which runs alongside Hampstead Heath, starkly illustrates the nature of the problem of property development next to the Heath.

Put simply, it attracts too much money, too little sense of proportion and too small a concern for the interests of the rest of us.

How can a £2 million budget for a domestic dwelling, reach a £3 million overrun and take an entire decade to complete? It puts the weekly shop at Sainsbury's in proportion!

These Heath edge property developments are not situations where people wish to buy a home for security, on a mortgage, but who rather, aim to destroy a house to build another and much more. The amount of steel and concrete, reportedly creating an underground swimming pool, gymnasium and what else in the Milfield Lane site, was staggering and threatening to the Heath's water fed environment. It disrupted life in the little lane for several years.

To build a house with its own private underground swimming pool, right next to the free and open swimming ponds of Hampstead Heath, seems like a rejection of paradise.

The site was left as a man made ruin of concrete and steel, for 10 long years; resembling, I always thought, one of the late Field Marshall Rommel's wartime, concrete gun emplacements on the French coast.

Now eventually completed, it rather resembles a discrete, upmarket, gated, Swiss abortion clinic.

Regent's Park and a president's visit

A resident, The Hyde, Barnet, full address supplied, writes:

One of the reasons the Crown Estates Paving Commission (CEPC) refused to back the CS11 proposals for Regent's Park gates closing to traffic was security in the outer circle where the US Ambassador's Residence at Winfield House remains one of the capital's most highly guarded landmark sites.

Founded by statue in 1824 the CEPC has security responsibility for all the Crown Estate, including its Regent's Park freehold.

That means the CEPC gets to call all the shots and not the Mayor of London.

This is a situation that has been successfully tested in the law courts at judicial review on a number of occasions since 2010.

I expect all this means that Mr and Mrs Trump will be sleeping peacefully in their heavily guarded Winfield House beds during the upcoming presidential state visit next month!

Transport and construction woe

David Reed, Monika Caro and Katherine Bligh, Save Swiss Cottage Action Group, write:

We liked your juxtaposition of the two pictures in a recent edition of the Ham&High: showing the section of Finchley Road where a 94-year old pensioner was killed recently, alongside the glamourised view of the Swiss Cottage gyratory system which Camden aims to remove as soon as it can (Cycling at the forefront of Camden's 20-year transport strategy, H&H April 11).

A few years ago, when I enquired about the lack of speed cameras, Transport for London (TfL) told me they are only installed if there has been a death, so I look forward to their installation shortly.

I have seen at least two other accidents in recent weeks on this section of road, fortunately not fatal, so it is time for action at long last.

And, as an ex-car driver and ex-cyclist, I am wholly behind the idea of encouraging cycling but, even 20 years ago, going up Fitzjohn's Avenue on my bike was beyond me, and I bet most councillors would find it tough! And where cyclists will go from Swiss Cottage nobody knows! So I hope Cllr Adam Harrison is certain that the gyratory can be removed without shoving traffic down all the local side roads, trying to avoid the inevitable chaos as 12 lanes of north-south traffic are reduced to six.

But I forgot, he and the rest of the council has happily approved a Construction Management Plan for the awful set of blocks of private flats they allowed to be dumped on the tiny site at 100 Avenue Road, right alongside this system. And this involves letting all the demolition and construction traffic pass through the tiny northeastern corner of the site, rather than solely from the frontage of the whole building on Avenue Road. This forces dozens of noisy and polluting demolition trucks across all the pedestrian routes to the local shops, buses and tube station, used by thousands of people an hour, in a process continuing for up to four years!

These monster trucks are then directed through the pedestrianised Market Square on Eton Avenue (even when the markets are operating!), and out in front of Mora Burnet House, home to dozens of house-bound older people, and off down Winchester Road, the narrowest local street, which is already highly congested with all those Chelsea tractors with kids too feeble to walk to school, not forgetting all the delivery vehicles and so on.

But it's not too late.

Camden must persuade TfL to release one lane of the six on Avenue Road at this point of the gyratory and allow it to be used by all the 100 Avenue Road construction traffic, so that all vehicle movements can be directly from the main road and not through the local streets where it actively endangers the whole of the local community and all users of the Swiss Cottage leisure facilities.

This approach would also make the proposed use of a key section of the Swiss Cottage Park unnecessary, so they will not destroy the avenue of cherry trees through the park and inconvenience everyone by shoving the north-south path onto temporary surfaces under the trees. All this situation makes it tough for many to use, including wheelchair and buggy users, not forgetting people with walking sticks.

We need joined-up thinking which is seemingly in short supply in Camden and TfL.

This must be done before someone else is seriously injured or killed.

EU elections vote: know the process

Cllr Nick da Costa (Lib Dem), Alexandra ward, Haringey, writes:

There are over one million non-UK EU citizens in London (including 54,000 just in Haringey).

They were not allowed to vote in the Brexit referendum, even though they were arguably the people with the most to lose from the result.

There is a real risk this will happen again in the European elections due to take place on Thursday, May 23.

All voters need to ensure they are registered to vote by May 7. You can do this at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Unfortunately, there is an additional step for non-UK EU citizens.

They have to fill out a specific “European Parliament voter registration form” to let their council know that they will be voting in the UK rather than their home country. The forms can be found at yourvotematters.co.uk and also need to be returned by May 7.

It is frustrating that this unnecessary step is required. When it was first applied in 2014, it prevented an estimated 700,000 people from voting. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

I urge everyone reading to make sure that not only are they are registered to vote but to politely ask if their friends, family and colleagues are as well and if they need to fill out the second form as well.

Voting in European elections is the legal right of every EU citizen. We all need to act to make sure administrative hurdles don't take that away from anyone.

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