Ham&High letters: Pears building, Queen Mary’s House, anti-Semitism, loneliness, leaving councillors, knife crime, Swiss Cottage and fire mix-up

Work on the Pears building at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: LINDA GROVE

Work on the Pears building at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: LINDA GROVE - Credit: Linda Grove

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

Fairness needed over Pears Building

Linda Grove, Belsize Grove, Hampstead, writes:

Residents in Belsize Park and Hampstead are faced with years of hell from building noise and pollution, all of which could have been managed with better consultation from the hospital .

A new-hoarding has gone up by Hampstead Green which is not high enough.

Residents will have a full live show of the contractors workings for several years to come.

Several of the hospital board members live in the area ,and their silence is noticeable, as the build is not on their doorstep but in Belsize Park. I wonder why they are so quiet .

Most Read

These same people shout about Abacus Belsize Park Primary school’s home in the old police station because they think the traffic will increase and destroy a historic area! Abacus is a walk to school establishment and that’s why it was set up by its founders. Belsize is a dead hole and there is no school for our children and it seems residents would prefer luxury flats for the wealthy , not an area I wish to live in with only one type of housing. We are heading the same way as Kensington and Chelsea with absent landlords and no social housing for workers.

I live opposite St Christophers school and most of the parents there - like all the other private schools - drive their children from other areas, the traffic I hate but I love to hear the sound of children, a joyous sound.

So let’s have some fairness from the vocal residents of Downshire Hill , a bit less about thinking about themselves but the community and historic buildings we are lucky to have in our area.

Concern over Queen Mary’s House plan

Cllr Oliver Cooper, Cllr Stephen Stark and Cllr Tom Currie, Conservative, Hampstead Town, write:

As Hampstead’s councillors, we are concerned by the proposal to fully transform Queen Mary’s House – the former hospital that now houses NHS staff at the top of Heath Street and East Heath Road – into luxury flats: a project dubbed ‘Hampstead Gardens’.

With the movement over the decades of services that were at Queen Mary’s to the Royal Free’s main site, it makes sense for the Royal Free to want more staff accommodation near Pond Street.

However, it makes little sense for Camden to miss out on this opportunity to increase the number of homes for key workers. As the Royal Free expands – with its expenditure in Hampstead up by well over £100m since 2010 and its staff numbers in Hampstead rising – it needs more, not less, staff accommodation.

Hampstead has lost a huge number of affordable properties in recent years: undermining our social mix and making it harder for Royal Free staff to live locally.

In part, this is because of ever-higher property prices. But it’s also because Camden Council has refused to apply its own requirement for affordable housing to be preserved. This requirement is enshrined in policy H5 of the Camden Plan and previously in Camden’s Development Policy 4, but it’s often ignored.

Hampstead Conservatives fought strongly against the loss of hundreds of affordable housing units and key worker accommodation across Hampstead, such as the Hyelm flats at 79 Fitzjohn’s Avenue and the nurses home at 29 New End.

Sadly, despite the damage done to the social mix and local community character, both were given the go-ahead: by Camden’s Planning Committee and the Planning Inspectorate respectively.

At a minimum, Hampstead Conservatives urge Camden Council to make it clear that development will not be permitted on this site unless it preserves key worker accommodation on a like-for-like basis in Hampstead.

Ideally, the site – with indicative plans showing a massive 160,000 sq ft (15,000m2) of usable floorspace – affords plenty of opportunity for the site to continue to host accommodation dedicated to key workers as well as the new private properties required to fund new worker accommodation on Pond Street.

We were delighted to see the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan further the principle that Camden must preserve affordable housing and we will be backing it at the referendum to adopt the plan in June.

However, as we’ve seen, all the rules, plans, and policies in the world can’t stop bad developments if Camden doesn’t enforce those rules. Camden must immediately set out its stall and guarantee that no development can go ahead at Queen Mary’s unless it preserves Hampstead’s unique social mix and character.

Antisemitic scene not recognised

Charley Allan, Crouch End ward; Amnon Baron Cohen, Fortis Green ward; Dana Carlin, Hornsey ward; Frances Carter, Hornsey ward; Sue Einhorn, Stroud Green ward; Monica Gorta, Muswell Hill ward; Naomi Gorta-Slight, Muswell Hill ward; Sue Hughes, Hornsey ward; Jeff Jerome, Crouch End ward; Miriam Levin, Crouch End ward; Erica Levy, Crouch End ward; Phil Rose, Bruce Grove ward and Alan Stanton, Tottenham Hale ward, write:

We write as Jewish members of the Labour Party in Haringey in response to last week’s letter from anonymous local residents.

We do not claim to speak for all Jews - we can only reflect our own experience as members of different wards and holding a variety of positions in Haringey Labour.

Anti-semitism - and all racism - is a stain on humanity. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Jews and non-Jews alike to fight it wherever it arises. But the Haringey Labour Party is not one of those places. Haringey Labour represents a spectrum of political viewpoints, where Jewish members, like members from all communities, are made to feel welcome. We do not recognise this “Labour Party colleagues’ incessant hate campaign against them for being Jewish” as a reflection of reality.

While we have not personally experienced anti-semitism in the Party, of course we know this does not mean that there aren’t incidents, as sadly this exists in society. But the mark of a mature organisation is one that can deal with these speedily and appropriately. For example, we can refer to one incident in Haringey where an offending member had his candidacy immediately suspended on the basis of a tweet that could be considered anti-Semitic. As Jeremy Corbyn has said, we have to be committed to eliminating anti-Semitism wherever it exists.

We disagree with Councillors Goldberg and Doron’s claim that it is now “impossible to be a Jewish Labour councillor”. We wonder if those residents who wrote to the Ham&High last week are aware that most of the members attacked in the Sunday Times article they quote are themselves Jewish.

We have a number of Jewish candidates and sitting councillors who are standing in the local elections in May, as well as many other Jewish members and activists who continue to uphold the proud Jewish tradition of fighting injustice and inequality for the common good.

As Jews, we support the Labour Party because we believe in social justice and community. We urge voters on May 3 to vote for a Labour Party that is anti austerity and that defends public services, to support a Party that works for the many not the few.

Loneliness in Camden

Maria Higson, Conservative council candidate for Hampstead Town, writes:

As our society gets older, loneliness and social isolation will become ever-pressing issues.

I’m pleased to see newspapers and magazines raise awareness of the problem, and loneliness is even tackled by the current best-selling book: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

It’s timely that this week, the BMJ-published Heart published the largest-ever study into the issue: observing 480,000 British people over seven years. For those of us working in the NHS, it made for interesting reading, showing a clear correlation between loneliness and social isolation on one hand and the incidences of heart attacks and strokes on the other (although – unlike the Daily Mail’s coverage of the paper! – this may be due to known risk factors linked to both. For example, depression is known to be linked to both loneliness and to poor physical health).

However, the harm caused by loneliness and social isolation isn’t confined to just physical health benefits. These are issues that can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life, too.

Following the release of a report by the Jo Cox commission on loneliness, the first ever minister for loneliness was appointed in January. Here in Camden, residents are calling for more action – corroborating the comments I heard at the Camden 2025 public meeting at Hampstead Community Centre.

Despite the pressures that the ageing population puts on adult social care, other councils have implemented innovative ways to help. The Local Government Association and Age UK recommend many practical and cost-effective steps that councils can take to combat loneliness.

They give one example of best practice from Conservative-run Kensington & Chelsea. Due its older population, K&C spends more on adult social care than Camden, and so has looked for new ways to work with volunteers and partner organisations.

This led to the creation of the Age UK shopping service: providing elderly residents with transport and volunteer support for a four-hour shopping trip. The service costs K&C £15 per trip, but that’s actually less than the cost of providing in-home care for the same few hours. Not only does this help vulnerable people get out and socialise, but it saves money to be reinvested into the service, too.

Camden Conservatives have made a number of proposals to tackle the issues of loneliness and social isolation of schemes. We will launch a scheme to vet prospective lodgers on request, to help older residents let out unused rooms. We will encourage inter-generational volunteering, especially among our schoolchildren and university students. And we’ll follow best practice from other boroughs to provide a range of activities for residents.

I’m glad that social isolation has risen up the agenda: with popular culture and politics finally catching up with what healthcare professionals already knew. There are concrete steps Camden can take to end loneliness – all Conservatives elected in May will work tirelessly to make that a reality.

Tributes to councillors

Justin Hinchcliffe and Sakina Chenot, Liberal Democrat candidates for Fortis Green, write:

The 2014-18 council for Haringey met for the last time on March 19, and most of its 57 members will not be returning after the May 3 council elections when every seat is up for grabs.

Some are retiring willingly, and others have been deselected or otherwise squeezed out by far-left activists in the Labour ranks, and others (who want to return) should be voted out by the electorate. So now is a good time to thank those Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors (there are no Conservative or Green councillors here) for their many contributions to public life in our borough over the last four years.

We Lib Dems will be saying ‘farewell’ to Cllrs Gail Engert and Martin Newton (Muswell Hill and Fortis Green councillors respectively) who are retiring after almost 30 years of combined service to their constituents.

They have been effective and hard-working and modest with it! As Lib Dem candidates for the Fortis Green ward, we know from speaking to residents that Martin will be an extremely hard act to follow, and no one has done more to preserve all that is best about our area--nor fought harder to improve the rest. Fortunately, our experienced and hardworking colleague Cllr Viv Ross is seeking re-election.

Martin, thank you so very much. We will all miss you! You deserve a long and happy retirement from civic life and we wish you all the best for the future.

Detectors needed for knife crime

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Belsize Park, writes:

You asked for suggestions to overcome the dreadful outbreak of knife crime in Camden.

Now that the mayor has authorised the increased use of ‘stop and search’, I see no reason why metal detector arches, as previously used by police and at some night clubs should not be reintroduced randomly in the streets with police attendance. And also, why not at school entrances as some pupils are also known to carry knives - shocking but true.

With the ‘copy cat’ incident of a young boy bringing a large penknife into school - no doubt inspired by reports of other incidents - depending on the school, it might also be sensible for one to be installed at primary school entrances. Whether they should be manned by teachers or the police is a matter for the school authorities but they would certainly act as a deterrent. The fact that some girls are also reported to be carrying knives emphasises the urgent and drastic nature of any counter-measures needed.

Swiss Cottage concerns

A Swiss Cottage resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

I was very concerned to hear that in a meeting last week, Labour Council candidate Simon Pearson consistently voted against clear public statements condemning anti-semitism outright. Instead he consistently voted against the statements supported by our local MP and council leader, choosing instead to water these down.

One has to wonder, who does Mr Pearson really represent? It certainly isn’t the many Jewish resdients of Swiss Cottage like myself. Instead he is supporting a narrow extreme political group who seek to pass the buck and blame to the media, Labour MPs, other parties - anyone but the anti-semities themselves.

Mr Pearson, why? Why won’t you speak up for us unequivocally? I hope he will consider his position and engage the Jewish community in Swiss Cottage to explain himself.

Camden Council mix-up over fire

Cllr Stephen Stark, Conservative, Hampstead Town, writes:

I have been contacted by a resident moved to a flat in Hampstead Town ward who was a victim of the fire at 31 Daleham Gardens, NW3 in which one person tragically lost their life.

The resident has expressed her concern to me about the absence of communication from Camden Council and the cloak of secrecy surrounding this event.

Notwithstanding the trauma the resident, 72-years-old, has experienced and the continued lack of support and isolation, she has received a ground rent demand in respect of the burnt out property along with a note of outstanding service charge.

Why is Camden Council compounding the suffering of victims and showing gross insensitivity by sending out ground rent demands and by failing to communicate with residents in a supportive way?