Ham&High letters: Park gates, Green school run, CPZ, zebra into pelican, credit card scam warning, women’s talk and Brexit

Campaigners are against plans to keep parks permanently unlocked. Picture: KEN MEARS

Campaigners are against plans to keep parks permanently unlocked. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

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

Sign petition to keep our parks secure

Roger Chapman, chairman, Friends of Cherry Tree Wood, writes:

Barnet Council proposes to remove the current service that locks Barnet park gates overnight.

This will mean all currently locked parks in the borough being left open all night.

The Friends of Cherry Tree Wood in East Finchley believe that the removal of this service is a false economy.

Doing so will lead to increased anti-social behaviour including vandalism, as happened when parks were left unlocked between 1999 and 2002.

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Barnet Council in 2002 decided to lock parks again on the basis that the cost of shutting the parks would be offset by the council not having to pay for repairs caused by night-time vandalism.

Having learnt their lesson once we don’t want them falling into the same trap again.

A final decision will be taken by Barnet Council on March 14, 2019, at the Environment Committee.

We are calling upon Barnet Council to ensure that parks continue to be locked at night.

• If people agree with our position you can sign our petition to keep Barnet Parks locked overnight sign here.

Green school run is a great idea and more should follow example

Linda Grove, founder of Abacus, Royal Free volunteer gardener and community campaigner, full address supplied, writes:

Congratulations to Abacus Belsize Primary school for being the first school in NW3 to work with parents and staff to sign a contract stating they will either walk their children to school or take public transport.

This is for everyone’s wellbeing.

I was delighted to open my Ham&High this week to read that Valeria Pensabene has formed the Green School Runs group to work with parents and schools to stop this madness of delivering children to the school gate instead of addressing the pollution they are all adding to that is killing us all.

Ham&High editor Ramzy Alwakeel says it all when he writes: “The school run [...] contributes to the catastrophe of climate change [and] chokes schoolchildren with toxic air.”

The responsibility stands with parents, private schools and Camden for never having addressed this problem despite other members of the public trying to kick-start action. We now have a fabulous new councillor Maria Higson, who I am sure will support the green school run and get action from Camden.

Hopefully our dedicated MP Tulip Siddiq will join forces and let this be a cross-party effect to solve this problem for once and for all.

Parents need to search their hearts and badger their headteachers to provide school buses to reach our special Hampstead before it’s destroyed.

I also read this week that Camden Council wants to get rid of the crossing by Gail’s Bakery in Rosslyn Hill. Imagine the race track that will provide through Hampstead! Again, councillor, protect our neighbourhood or else we will all lie down on it to stop the thoughtless Camden Council!

Traders affected don’t back plan

Mark Swenarton, Highgate Village, writes:

Further to your report on last week’s packed public meeting in Highgate [on the CPZ proposal], there are some points that also need to be raised.

Camden proposes to increase residents’ parking hours in the Camden side of the village from 10am till 12 to 8.30am till 6pm.

The Highgate Neighbourhood Plan requires the village be treated as a single community; yet the businesses on the Haringey side of the high street were not consulted at all. The process for arriving at the proposed change was, therefore, inherently flawed.

Furthermore, of the 28 businesses that responded, we learned, all were against it! Yet Cllr Anna Wright (Labour, Highgate) had the nerve to claim that Camden was “very concerned about businesses in the borough”.

Camden has said there was virtually a 50:50 split between those in favour and those against the proposal (actually 50.8 per cent against). But this relates only to part of the area consulted – the sub-area closest to the village – and for the consultation as a whole the result was very different. The meeting was flabbergasted when Cllr Sian Berry revealed that, in the CA-U parking area as a whole, the response was 82.6pc against the proposed change.

Likewise, the verdict of those at the meeting was overwhelmingly against the change. When it was put to a vote, of the 160-plus present, all but two voted against the proposal – nearly 99pc. And the two who supported it freely said they were from Highgate New Town zone, not the village. In other words – not one of the residents or businesses from the village who attended the meeting supported the change.

The Highgate Society has undertaken to facilitate (via its website) the writing of objections to the Traffic Management Order when it is published this week. It is surely a travesty that local people have to rely on an amenity society to stand up for them against the local council.

For those who wish to contact Camden directly, we were told that an email address CAU.review@camden.gov.uk will be set up to collect responses.

Traffic woes and public transport

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Hampstead, writes:

I agree with Cllr Stephen Stark regarding the plan to make the High Street Oriel Place/Flask Walk zebra crossing into a pelican crossing.

lt is a ridiculous idea and very anti-social.

While the alleged reason is to help traffic flow and avoid delaying buses approaching the crossroads traffic lights, it would mean two sets of traffic lights within about 100 yards of each other – hardly a help to keep traffic moving. The end result would be that pedestrians frustrated with waiting would take a chance and cross between vehicles anyway. At a time when the mayor is trying to prioritise pedestrians and cycling over traffic, this is counter-productive as the crossing is a main “desire line” route between both sides of the high street.

However, I support the removal of the parking bays below the Greenhill Wall as this is a major source of problems for buses to pass other traffic, mainly due to the grossly oversized Chelsea tractors that seem to be the fashion, particularly on the school run. They don’t even fit within the marked lines of parking bays and cause problems everywhere particularly in trying to park.

As regards the rat-run on the higher road in front of Greenhill, the only way to make it safer for pedestrians is to abolish the parking bays here so vehicles do not have to scrape the kerb to get by – again, mainly caused by grossly oversized cars nearly hitting pedestrians with nearside mirrors. The route has to be maintained as it is the only way for local traffic from Rosslyn Hill to get to the Fitzjohn’s Avenue area without causing more congestion in the high street. Short of abolishing the pavement altogether, there is no other solution.

It is very unreasonable for Cllr Stark to demand instant provision of electric buses on the 268 and 603 routes. Apart from the cost, which must run into thousands each, they have to be built, acquired, and drivers trained, by an already cash-strapped Transport for London (TfL) – which as a Tory councillor he should be well aware of. And I think we should salute the 46 bus drivers, not to mention the 268, who have become highly skilled in manoeuvring these monsters in length and width through the awful congested streets of the village, often within literally an inch of an adjacent vehicle. In this context I would support a width restriction for all vehicles other than buses and a ban on heavy vehicles. That would really make a difference.

Warning after credit card scam

A Hampstead resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

I fell prey to the latest scam involving ticket parking meters.

Scammers appear to have developed a method of retrieving the card details. Within an hour I had large sum of money withdrawn from my accounts.

The bank and police were extremely helpful. The fraud and theft squad were too. The moral of this story: trust no one! Watch out for parking meters!

Reserve space for women’s talk

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

To mark International Women’s Day 2019, I’ll be hosting a discussion in Parliament on March 11 from 7pm to 8.30pm: “Women-led households – the challenges of austerity and Universal Credit”.

Recently, Claire Woods was one of four working single mums to win a High Court battle against the Department for Work and Pensions that could force the government to look again at the way the deeply flawed Universal Credit system is pushing thousands of people into poverty.

I’m delighted that Claire will be speaking at my event, alongside Dr Rupa Huq MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Single Parent Families; Ema Howling, a mum from the North West London friendship group supported by Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families; and a representative from Haringey Citizens Advice Bureau.

Places are free but limited, so please reserve yours at catherinewest.org.uk

Revoking Article 50 is only option

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, local campaigner, writes:

D Shepherd wrote in your letters pages that “the PM’s subterfuge is nothing new” and mentioned me by name. I now reply to D Shepherd in this letter.

You suggested that I would learn of the lengths taken by the Labour Party via its members to devise a policy that “alone offers some strategic thinking in the wake of the Tory hash”. This is certainly news as the Labour Party policy to date on Brexit has been opaque, changeable and quite startlingly unimpressive for a “party in waiting”. I personally have struggled to understand Labour’s position. Keir Starmer MP has tried his best but has often been at odds with his leader, who professes to support remain, but is secretly a leaver. Even now, when the Tory government has invited Labour to have talks, it is not Keir Starmer, the Labour Brexit spokesman who was invited to No 10, but Seamus Milne, Corbyn’s spin doctor. Even with a foot in the door at a time of national soul searching, Labour is not interested in what’s good for the country, but rather, what is good for the Labour Party – party before country. Where is the strategic thinking in that act of self-interest?

You mentioned that Mrs May was not elected by party members. Each party has its rules for electing its leaders. The Labour Party is structured differently from the Conservative Party but its choice of leader is no less legitimate because of such differences. Mrs May, at least for the next 11 months, remains the unchallenged leader of the Tory Party.

I am not a fan of the way negotiations are going and consider that Mrs May has merely kicked the ultimate outcome on her deal into the long grass. Parliament won’t agree to her deal or no deal and she won’t get the “alternative arrangements” through the EU. The only solution now is to revoke Act 50 so we can pause, regroup and work out what to do. All parties should be headed in that direction so that we don’t all commit mass suicide by jumping off the only cliff presented by this leader.

No-deal Brexit means no gain

Doug Crawford, Belsize Park, full address supplied, writes:

Sovereignty, the desire to take back control of our laws, money and borders, lay behind many people’s desire to leave the EU, even if it meant increased economic hardship – and many believe that this is a price worth paying.

However, as the prospect of crashing out of the EU with no deal becomes ever more likely, it is clear that the sovereignty many seek will not be delivered and we will suffer the pain without any gain.

When considering “taking control over of our laws”, people forget that the UK has the power to veto any EU legislation that it feels is not in its best interests and has supported the vast majority of laws passed by the EU – which have greatly benefited UK citizens in terms of employment and consumer rights and environmental protection.

However, if we crash out of the EU without a deal we will have to revert to World Trade Organization rules, over which we have no influence whatsoever, and any trade deals we enter into after leaving the EU are likely to require a watering down of the protections we currently enjoy. So control over our laws may be extremely limited.

Our net contribution to the EU is about £8billion after we deduct our rebate and EU investment in UK infrastructure, jobs and training (primarily targeted at deprived areas of the country). This £8bn expenditure benefits us through participation in international research projects, technology development and collaborative security arrangements – which will all be lost when we leave. In addition, if we trade under WTO rules we will incur tariffs of approximately £6bn, and this is before the costs of additional infrastructure, logistics and manpower to manage trade under WTO terms. In other words, we are unlikely to save any money and it could cost us more.

Finally, let’s look at immigration – of which 50 per cent is non-EU and already under UK control. There is no doubt many communities are feeling the pressure of immigration, but these have largely been brought about as a result of government failure to invest adequately in schools, hospitals, etc. We are already feeling the effects of reduced immigration in the fields of health and social care to our cost. And the price we will have to pay for securing free trade deals with other countries will likely be the granting of more visas – in other words, the reduced immigration levels many seek are unlikely to be delivered, but our quality of life may well be diminished as a result of depleted services. Leaving the EU without a deal will fail to deliver the sovereignty many seek while making us poorer.