Ham&High letters: Pollution fee, moped crime, Royal Free, police suport, 100 Avenue Road and disappointing Christmas lights

Sadiq Khan's pollution charge has been criticised. Picture: PA IMAGES

Sadiq Khan's pollution charge has been criticised. Picture: PA IMAGES - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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

Pollution fee is ‘money maker’

D E Coltman, North End Road, Hampstead, writes:

The Mayor of London has come up with another money-making idea to hit the motorist – a pollution charge.

The scheme (ULEZ -Ultra Low Emission Zone) is being promoted as a means to clean up London’s air. But any motorist who can afford £12.50 a day will still be able to drive into London and continue polluting.Surely if Mr Khan is serious then the driver of any potential polluter should be issued with a warning that the vehicle will not be allowed to enter the area again under the threat of a high penalty charge or even prosecution after, of course, proving that the vehicle in question has higher than allowable emissions.

Barnet Council has jumped on a similar bandwagon. The residents’ parking fee is no longer just about parking. It now includes an emission charge (an additional £15 - £115). So a car pollutes the atmosphere even when stationary with the engine switched off! That’s a money-maker!

Moped tweet suggestion

Most Read

Tim Goss, of Perrins Court, Hampstead, writes:

Referring to your article last week in which Diane Abbott tweeted that it is “potentially very dangerous” to be knocked off ones moped by police whilst attempting to evade arrest, might I suggest she follows up with something along the lines:

“I have given the matter further thought - and come up with a much better way for all of us, whether law abiding or not, to avoid injury. If summoned to stop by a police officer, STOP.”

Staff and volunteers at hospital are great but NHS sell-off is wrong

Linda Grove, Belsize Park, writes:

So the Royal Free Trust didn’t know about the communities opposition towards their decision to develop essential workers accommodation in Queen Mary’s House?

I know that they did from the local residents meeting group that I’m apart of, but they were obviously trying to keep the wraps on their closed door decision by keeping the Ham&High out of last week’s meeting with 10 residents, 10 Royal Free Trust management staff and MP Tulip Siddiq.

This is unacceptable in our area where we live. The management may be employed by the trust but they are making decisions in our neighbourhood where we live and they are obliged to consult residents groups. They do the same, time and time again. The trust kept residents out of any planning for the Pears building and now we hear through the grapevine that they are going to construct a Maggie’s Centre in the car park on Fleet Street, the very area that residents suggested for the Pears build. Of course the Maggie’s Centre is a good thing but why can’t they be transparent with the the community and discuss their plans.

Belsize Park, St Stephens Church and the homes on Pond street have suffered greatly from the Pears build with cracking, noise and pollution. Luckily residents have formed a group with the trust, Camden and Willmott Dickson and things are much more transparent now, but this only came about because residents were on the case.

I am concerned about even more building work starting elsewhere on the site putting people at risk from the pollution.

The hospital has a fine team of volunteers and the trust would be at a loss without them. People want to engage, so why not use this valuable source around them instead of being secretive and us finding out information via the back door.

It would seem that whilst the managers of the trust intend to sell local property in order to fund their expensive projects, they are not just loosing assets for the next generation but they are not maintaining the upkeep of the outside of the Royal Free Hospital, which quite frankly looks totally uninviting to anyone.

There is also the sale of The Hoo, in Lyndhurst Gardens. where unwell folk have found solace and help from its dedicated team which has been put on the market. I have visited and seen the building and friendly staff who are shattered at the loss of their home. Can we not find a benefactor who can help this centre stay open? Our priorities seem wrong.

I would like to ask our elected councillors to take a visit to the Hoo and see if there is anyway they can help with yet the sale of another NHS building.

As residents, we can all help by joining the various committees at the hospital and making ourselves aware of what devastation the trust is causing our environment and highlight the little care the trust shows for its essential workers.

Family silver sold off across NHS

Janet Shapiro, Haringey Keep Our NHS Public, writes:

Residents must be grateful for your double page spread on the estates policy of the Royal Free Hospital, headlined: Royal Free bosses ‘unaware there was such opposition to plans for the nurses’ housing’ on December 6.

I also thank editor Ramzy Alwakeel’s demand for democracy on page 12. We need local newspapers that help to raise awareness.

Of course the public and the press acting on their behalf should be fully informed. Local people should be able to object to the disposal of public assets, and to hold at bay greedy speculators eager to profit from land in such a prime location.

There has been loss of public control of hospital sites in many different places. One occurred way back in 2006 when residents objected to the demolition of Hornsey Central Hospital to make way for a rebuild as Hornsey Central Neighbourhood Health Centre. This was not the combined resource for local authority and medical health services with respite beds and myriad services that the local community had campaigned for in 1999 and been promised. Instead the existing centre was funded through a LIFT scheme (similar to Private Finance Initiative) that now limits public use of the premises.

The estates strategy plan of the Royal Free is being replicated in hospitals across England, encouraged and directed by NHS England. The objective is for hospital trusts to derive financial returns from the sale of assets deemed “surplus to requirement” in order to reduce their deficit. Of course the “deficit” is caused by the cost of services delivered not being covered by government funding.

The only way residents can exercise their democratic rights (after all they pay for NHS services) is through local authority overview and scrutiny panels. The timetable for these can be found at council websites. For the five boroughs in North Central London (NCL) there is a joint health overview and scrutiny committee (JHOSC).

Health activists set up an NCL NHS Watch Group. At the last meeting of the NCL JOSC, held in public on November 30, NCL NHS Watch made a submission on Financial Update: Estates. They argued that North London Partners had not supplied detailed information of past asset sales as JHOSC had requested. Doubts were expressed as to whether the policy was clinically effective and cost effective. Following committee discussion the committee demanded full information.

Thus the reported concerns in Hampstead are part of a London wide and nationwide process being carried out beneath the radar. The public have to ask why our family silver is being sold off in this way.

Labour does not support our police

Cllr Oliver Cooper, leader, Camden Conservatives, Hampstead Town ward, writes:

Last week’s Ham & High featured our Labour London Assembly member Andrew Dismore and Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott attacking rises to police pay and the police’s tactics of tackling moped muggers respectively.

These two stories show Labour are increasingly tough on crime-fighters and tough on the solutions to crime.

While I was baffled by both stances, I was particularly concerned by Dismore’s misrepresentation of police funding.

Since October, the government has announced increases of available police funding by £780 million a year. That increase – a rise of over six per cent and almost three times inflation – is on top of the £468m extra (a four per cent rise) in the last year recorded by the Office for National Statistics.

So while it’s true that funding rose more slowly while the government was clearing Labour’s deficit, Dismore’s talking points are now well out of date.

Just this coming year’s increase is enough to fund the pay and pension contribution increase for every officer in the country and have enough left over to hire 4,000 more constables, too. If that extra money is allocated between police forces in proportion to current funding, that’d be 1,000 more police for London.

That is – however – only if elected police and crime commissioners like Sadiq Khan, who are responsible for policing in their areas, choose to do so. Sadiq Khan may choose not to fund new officers, but that is his choice, not the government’s, which is giving him and other PCCs the funding to do it.

I’m pleased that the number of officers joining the police nationally is at a 10-year high. More well-paid police on the front line is exactly the solution we need.

It’s also the solution we’ve proposed in Camden, where Camden Conservatives have proposed hiring new officers through the Met’s “buy one, get one free” match-funding scheme for the last eight years: each time, voted down by Camden’s Labour administration.

Police funding is increasing at its fastest rate in over 10 years and it is important to have a real conversation about what to spend it on – because there are competing priorities.

However, opportunistically attacking an announcement to pay police officers more for party-political ends is not what a good public servant does.

Council treats us like lab rats

Elaine Chambers, Swiss Cottage, full address supplied, writes:

On November 15, 2018 Camden Council’s planning officers led by J McClue, chaired with conspicuous bias and an apparently permitted double vote by H Johnson (Lab), and backed by Cllrs A Harrison (Lab), D Beales (Lab) and M Boyland (Lab) condemned me and the residents of Winchester Road to being lab rats, in the full knowledge of Camden’s already grossly polluted borough.

This planning meeting did place the planning committee in the difficult position of having to choose between two unpalatable options for Essential Living’s incredible multi-lorry-bound CMP. The only moral choice here would have been to reject both plans, as others did, or abstain. Johnson voted twice “for” the plan with noticeable glee. Harrison, who lectures at UCL on pollution, made no attempt to point out any harm attributed to the two CMPs. Beales and Boyland were both anxious to get the plans through regardless of any impact on the residents.

So in effect, these arrogant councillors recklessly, with utter disregard for our health, knowingly volunteered us to breathe in known toxic particulates that exceed EU regulations for over four years for the greater good of Camden’s coffers, and in the interests of the Winchester project and future “affordable” occupants of the 100 Avenue rebuild.

As much as I would like to help our local community, and I believe I’m not a mean person, I try to do my bit for society; however, this is a step too far. I did not volunteer to suffer this for the greater good of some future objective. I will not be a lab rat. I withdraw my voluntary role and wish to know what these cllrs intend to do about it. assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/749657/COMEAP_CV_Mechanisms_Report.pdf

The committee on the medical effects of air pollutants (COMEAP) marks the most comprehensive review to date and found clear evidence that exposure to small particles of air pollution has a wide range of effects on the cardiovascular system, including irregular heartbeat and blood clots. Reported in July this year 2018.

Adopting more stringent WHO air quality guidelines into UK law is a crucial step in protecting the nation’s heart health.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF’s) view. Our chief executive, Simon Gillespie, said: “This thorough report gives us a clear view of the damaging impact air pollution has on our heart and circulatory system. While there are steps that people can take to reduce their exposure to air pollution we can’t expect people to move house to avoid air pollution – Government and public bodies must be acting right now to make all areas safe and protect people from these harms.”

Winchester Road has a nursery, an after school club, a toddlers’ ballet class and senior citizen’s home as well as family homes.

These councillors have unspeakable arrogance to volunteer us all as lab rats.

Support residents not developers

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Hampstead, writes:

I note from a recent letters page that – yet again – Camden’s planning chairman Cllr Heather Johnson gave a casting vote to approve an application which is highly contentious and detrimental to the local community – The 100 Avenue Road CMP.

Why is it that she – presumably elected by local residents to represent their interests – appears to take no notice of the strong feelings against such proposals? I do not understand why whilst other councillors are moved around and given new responsibilities with changes of leader or new elections.

Cllr Johnson appears to retain her fiefdom and seems determined to be always on the side of the developers. I also cannot understand why if the newly submitted plan was so different and the officers projected outdated diagrams and maps, why these were not challenged by councillors at the time. It is about time the leader of the council, for whom I have a great respect, exercised her authority and replaced the chairman of the planning committee with someone who is genuinely independent and cares more for the community than the developers – that is what we elect councillors for - to look after their constituents.

If it is argued that to refuse such applications would cause Camden a costly appeal by the developers, then it is about time (long past too) that the planning law was changed in favour of local residents’ interests first, otherwise what is the point of wasting time and effort on very detailed and excellent local plans (which are approved by Camden) and then totally ignored in planning applications. I have raised this point before without ever receiving a satisfactory answer despite pressure from both our local MP (who has also protested) and the numerous local amenity societies who put a great deal of work into these plans.

Does it need a change of government before common sense prevails and the benefits for society first are legislated for against developers? Jeremy Corbyn has already hinted at such a move if he comes to power and the sooner the better.

Christmas lights don’t bring cheer

Nigel Osner, Willifield Way, Hampstead, writes:

Once again Temple Fortune prepares for its Christmas street decorations.

It was better, perhaps, when we had none.

We have eight fairly simple lights. There are four lights on each side of the road, generally on every other lamppost. This is not enough for the main shopping area.

In the past we have had one red light and seven white lights. Now they more or less match, although I haven’t studied them this year. However, we are lucky if all eight work. Nothing is ever done to restore the light which doesn’t work.

I realise someone has paid for these and the gesture must have been well meant. However, and this may seem harsh, these lights are cheerless. They are best described as the sort of lighting Ebenezer Scrooge would provide if he was obliged to by a local by-law!

Moped crime tactic support

Terry Wood, Deepdene House, Manor Road, Stoke Newington, writes:

In an attempt to combat moped crime in London, police have to resort to desperate measures. This includes a tactic to knock thieves off their bikes.

I have seen moped gangs terrorising people while they go on their stealing sprees.

Mobile phone theft is linked to organised crime.

Pregnant women and even and elderly lady waiting for an ambulance have been robbed.

Decent people don’t want to walk the streets in fear. They want the police to do more. This new crackdown has led to a dramatic fall in moped crime yet Diane Abbott accuses the police of being above the law.

If you are a victim of crime look to the police to defend and protect you. Not Hackney’s MP, the shadow home secretary.