Ham&High letters: Pond Street bark, Eversholt Road, Heathrow consultation, public transport, pedestrians, the Heath, NHS check-up and H&H film critic

Max Lowenstein ,four, playing on the Pond Street bark path. Picture: LINDA GROVE

Max Lowenstein ,four, playing on the Pond Street bark path. Picture: LINDA GROVE - Credit: Linda Grove

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

Donate £1 for Pond St bark

Linda Grove, Belsize Park, writes:

The Royal Free Hospital volunteer gardeners noticed how much the children love running along the bark path on Pond Street on their way to and from school and it was decided to keep the path for children to enjoy.

One bag of bark, costing about £6, lasts five months so it’s necessary to continually replace it. If you would like to donate a £1 towards the cost of the bark that would be gratefully appreciated and it would mean that your child could continue to skip along the path on their journeys to and from school.

You can either give your pound to the Royal Free charity office which is on the ground floor by the car park at the front or give it to a garden volunteer on Saturday morning.

Volunteer gardeners are welcome, please contact the Ham&High who will send your request to me.

Most Read

Eversholt Rd closure threat

Cllr Roger Robinson, St Pancras and Somers Town ward and chairman, Disability Oversight Panel, writes:

I have sent an email to Camden Council demanding HS2 is told urgently and in tough language that we cannot accept Eversholt Street closing up entirely – except for a cycle path – from May until December 2019.

I and the other disability champions appointed by the council are working hard to create a fully accessible Camden for disabled people and prevent a major road being closed for eight months. The closure, loss of public transport and access is not acceptable.

Heathrow consultation is set to baffle us but it’s vital we all have our say

Jonathan Checkley, Oakeshott Avenue, Highgate, writes:

Like me, many readers out there will recently have received a leaflet about the Heathrow Airspace and Future Operations Consultation.

My brains have almost melted down trying to understand it. It is a Gordian flightpath knot. But after some considerable struggle I feel I have made some progress and I think many out there will be alarmed at what I have discovered.

Firstly, it seems to me that flightpaths, or flightpath envelopes as they call them, are very important. A flightpath envelope is a main flightpath into or out of Heathrow, with its minor variations that widen the corridor along which planes fly, thus creating an “envelope”.

Clearly we are most concerned about the ones that come over Hampstead and Highgate, since they are the noisiest for us. Flights departing from Heathrow are noisier than arriving flights because they are working harder to climb. The direction of take off and landing is very important. Mostly the prevailing wind comes from the west and, it being safer for planes to take off and land heading into the wind, this means that usually (70 per cent of the time in fact) planes are arriving via Hampstead and Highgate and taking off over Slough (about which Betjeman had something relevant to say), which is wonderful because Slough is too far away to bother us.

The other 30pc of the time they can come our way, which is bad. But there are some times, when the windspeed is very low, that planes can take off and land either in an easterly or westerly direction. One of the issues they are consulting on is what our preference is at such times. Well clearly it is a no brainer that we are against easterly take off as much as it can be avoided. This is one easy conclusion to draw, but there are still many different flight path envelopes to choose between. Deciding on which of these are good and bad is nigh on impossible from the data given in the consultation documents.

So I sent a list of questions to the consultation asking for the missing data. In particular there is no data presented on what the present (ie today, before any changes) flight paths are, what the altitude of aircraft is above Hampstead and Highgate, and what the noise levels in decibels are. Because this current data is missing it is impossible to compare with the future alternatives.

Secondly, there are two phases on which they are consulting. Firstly, they intend to alter the arrival flightpaths before the third runway is operational, in order to make better use of the existing two runways. There is a flightpath envelope called I1 under which there will be up to 25 flights per hour arriving over Hampstead and Highgate at between 3,000 and 4,000 ft, with the noise level always being above 60 decibels and in three of the 25 being above 65 decibels. Sixty decibels, they say, is the volume of an ordinary conversation indoors one metre away. This will be somewhat noisier than at present. When the new third runway is built things get considerably worse. There will be even more frequent flights – at least 50pc more than at present – at lower heights and with further increased noise.

This is all very bad for Hampstead and Highgate, between which lies Hampstead Heath, an oasis of relative peace and tranquility – at least that’s how it is today. But after the runway and flightpath changes, bring your earplugs. You won’t need sunglasses because the density of aircraft will blot out the sun anyway.

Thirdly, I am concerned that because of the complexity of this consultation, and the fact important data is missing, many members of the public will be put off because it is too difficult to understand. Then there will be few responses. Then they will do what they want and claim: “Well, no one commented on that.” This seems to me to make it a sham of a consultation.

Fourthly, when you read the consultation documents, they are full of high-sounding strategic principles (eg keeping carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft to a minimum, minimising the impact on local communities, etc, etc) which, on the face of it, sound very reasonable indeed. For this reason many people will simply read those (they are quite high profile and scattered throughout) and think, OK, I can go with that. But the devil, I believe, lies in the detail which, perhaps, they are trying to keep from us and, knowing which, one might come to a very different conclusion.

If after reading this you want to fly off to some foreign part, at least you will have more choice of flights to get there. But, before you go, respond to the consultation.

Public transport cuts not helpful

Anthony Kay, Swiss Cottage, full address supplied, writes:

As someone who walks everywhere whenever possible as first choice, and then uses public transport, with my car as the last choice, I am a great believer in reducing the volume of cars on the roads and extending alternative facilities as much as possible.

Also living in Swiss Cottage and so having to walk across the gyratory on a more or less daily basis, I believe that it should be improved. So when replying to the CS11 consultation, both my wife and I were in favour in principle of improvements to the gyratory, although we were opposed to nearly all of the details being proposed.

Unfortunately, many of the recent letters you have published from cyclists indicate I feel a rather superficial, short-sighted and self-centred, and even regrettably a selfish, approach to the fundamental flaws in the CS11 proposals. These would result in gridlock both on the main Finchley Road, but also in neighbouring side streets, which motorists will turn into rat runs, thus increasing the overall level of pollution.

Whatever is done to make the conditions for cyclists better and safer, only a small minority will use it as a means of transport; so there is a concern that in improving things for them the conditions for everyone else are being too adversely disadvantaged. What might reduce congestion and pollution is an improvement in public transport. But then all TfL current actions and proposals are quite the opposite with a reduction in the number of buses per hour on the Finchley Road. The CS11 proposals themselves require an existing bus lane to be closed, and they have also admitted that bus journey times will increase. Until recently, there were three routes into town, numbers 13, 82 and 113, but route 82 has now been abolished. Also TfL has reduced the number of buses an hour on routes C11 and 268.

Pedestrians are not treated fairly

Harvey Sanders, Finchley Road, Camden, writes:

I refer to your report on the successful campaign to stop the zebra crossing in Hampstead High Street at the Oriel Place junction being converted into a toucan crossing (Ham&High).

This is clearly a great outcome for pedestrians and rightly so as it is my understanding that a significant proportion of all journeys in Camden are made on foot, possibly even more than are made by car.

Moreover, the Camden Draft Transport Strategy (November 2018) anticipates that “half of all residents’ trips [are] to be made on foot by 2041”.

In this context, I was bemused by the comment made by TfL in relation to this issue which was, as you reported: “Transport for London [...] acknowledged the crossing was popular but results in vehicles frequently stopping to allow pedestrians to cross.”

It is little wonder that pedestrians face such battles when the TfL sees them as an impediment to the flow of motor vehicles!

Furthermore, such apparent disdain for pedestrians is also shown by the length of time they have to wait when trying to cross at the type of light-controlled pelican or toucan crossings that TfL wanted to install in Hampstead High Street, which are presently to be found in other locations.

An acknowledgement by TfL of the need to make appropriate and adequate provision for the free, easy and safe movement of pedestrians would be more than welcomed. I look forward to hearing what it has to say.

Don’t ‘land grab’ near our Heath

Robert Sutherland Smith, chairman, United Swimmers Association, Barnet, full address supplied, writes:

If further demonstration of the fact that domestic residential development on the rural fringes of Hampstead Heath drives away all sense of balance and simple logic – if any is needed – it must be the appallingly distorted initiative to seek planning permission for five – yes, five – densely packed houses on the site of 55 Fitzroy Park with garages, abutting onto the narrow country lane that runs past the Kenwood swimming pond and wild life ponds.

This little country lane is a place for walking, people, flora and fauna, not motor vehicles. Nor is it suitable to the rusticity of Fitzroy Park which is a country hamlet. This land grab, in its ambition for maximum “pile em high” capital gains, makes the biblical miracle of the loaves and fishes look appealingly modest by comparison.

Why do these people want to detract from the very essence of the thing they greedily covet; the quiet and undeveloped nature of Hampstead Heath and its fringes? Those things exist for us all and cannot be built upon, on such a scale, without inevitably destroying them. That is why we all wish to live in such a place but cannot, because of our reluctance to obliterate them. The old anarchist Prudhon’s observation about property being theft seems indisputably true in this case!

There are plenty of other sites for such dense property development in other parts of London, including Camden. Or they might try Hollywood.

Demand NHS health check-up

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, Hampstead, writes:

I agree with much of what our MP says abut the NHS (“Save our NHS while we still can”) but, in my view, the real issue is about prevention, this being better and cheaper than watching patients become ill and then trying to cure them.

The reason we see few broken down cars beside the road has to be down to the MOT system. It works. The NHS has a similar system but it is routinely ignored by almost all GPs and they are getting away with it.

Tinyurl.com/healthchecknhs goes to a description of what they have paid for and are entitled to. Data used to be collected on the success of the scheme. Tinyurl.com/healthchecknhsfoi takes us to a Freedom of Information request asking how many patients have been given the service and, in effect, why it is being disregarded. After an 18-month runaround, it would appear that an office has been created to find out but still nothing is forthcoming.

I cost the NHS £3,000 because of a broken leg, which was caused by a lack of bone density. This would have been discovered at an NHS MOT check and I would have been told to ramp up my calcium. Cost to the service: £3,000. I know of a case where the patient’s father actually died of prostate cancer and his son was not given any MOTs. The estimated cost of this stupidity has been laced in five figures. This foolishness must stop. People should demand their check-ups and those responsible for not running the scheme properly must be identified and replaced. The NHS cannot afford not to do this.

Film critic views not to my liking

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, writes to Ham&High film critic Michael Joyce:

I have been reading your film crits ever since you have been employed by the H&H to write them, and have becoming increasingly sick of your sarcastic, patronising and snide remarks week after week.

I do not expect you to agree with other critics but it seems to me that the only films you consider worthwhile or indeed enjoy are those involving violence, killings, slashing, brutality and car or bike chases, the more crashes there are the better. In this dreadful era of knifing and killings reported almost every day, and the brutalised versions of computer games and so-called “drill” music, promoting and encouraging such awful trash is appalling, but it is what you seem to want.

The strong cast and cutting edge acting by Keira Knightley in “Colette” together with the gorgeous costumes and decor you dismissed as below par, and the latest infuriating write up of “On the Basis of Sex” was a gross example of your vitriol: “two genres that show Hollywood at its most ridiculous and phoney” and “Jones and Hammer are just like every idealised perfect on-screen relationship”. Both comments are untrue and unnecessary and fortunately I ignored them and much enjoyed the true story of a brave and determined woman fighting for others’ rights.

The classic example was the H&H edition of February 21 where you give four stars to a revenge thriller Cold Pursuit taking up half a page, and a small but grudging review of On the Basis of Sex to which you give two stars.