Ham&High letters: The Heath Ponds, Jean Simmons, HS2, climate, help with waste and role of state

Swimmers enjoying the mixed bathing pond of Hampstead Heath. Picture: PA IMAGES

Swimmers enjoying the mixed bathing pond of Hampstead Heath. Picture: PA IMAGES - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

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

Ponds should be free for 'The People'

Robert Sutherland Smith, chairman United Swimmers' Association of Hampstead Heath, writes:

'The situation is not sustainable.' This reference to the Hampstead swimming ponds by the City of London chairman of its Hampstead Heath Management Committee is puzzling, insofar as they have been that way for the nearly 150 years: firstly, under the Metropolitan Board of works; then the London County Council and then the Greater London Council.

The City Corporation appears to run a permanent austerity policy and that seems to be what is unsustainable. How can it continue running Hampstead Heath, of which the ponds are an integral part, with ever diminishing funding?

Late last year, the complaint was made that Hampstead Heath was being starved of the funds, in order that other newer City activities may be cross subsidised by diverted funds.

There seem to be a number of problems. First, the CoL does not appear to prioritise existing obligations over new ones; secondly, government's reportedly make continuing requests for use of the long established charitable funds which support Hampstead Heath and other commendable institutions. The HS2 was cited as one such cuckoo in the nest of the golden goose of the City's admirable charitable endeavours. If so, why? The Lord only, knows.

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I have attended meetings this month which demonstrate that the swimming associations and their membership are questioning but also positive in finding a successful solution which preserve both freedom and cash flow.

The swimmers, although faithful to the objectives of the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act - that the Heath (including its Ponds) should be free for the use of Londoners (or 'The People' as they like to call us these days) for leisure and recreation. I have long urged the management of Hampstead Heath to make explicit, promotional efforts to effectively promote voluntary, non-compulsory, charitable contributions from visitors to the ponds by advertising for them at the ponds themselves. They have failed to do so The Corporation has good cause which needs to be better understood, not hidden under a bushel, as it is at present. The swimming associations would of course, support and commend such laudable self promotion.

Swimmers have always been willing to assist in such an effort that would benefit the charity coffers of the CoL. One swimmer has suggested a volunteer 'observer corps', to assist the professional life guards watch over swimmers on hot days of overcrowding, operating a little like the volunteer RNLI to save life guarding costs.

Voluntary contributions raised for the promotion of such a good cause gets over the difficulty of the requirements of the 1871 Act to keep the Heath free: as intended by those who originally saved it from commercial exploitation. I am sure that one time Lord Mayor, John Wilkes, (search 'Wilkes and liberty') would have approved.

I think it is also desirable - if difficult - for the Corporation to remind treasury ministers. If and when they come calling for funds, that it has important, existing, obligations and budget to meet.

In the case of the swimming ponds, the amounts are microscopic in national accounting terms.

That should be the crucial and legitimate point of democratic contact between 'the people', the City Corporation and Members of Parliament.

If and when government seeks to blunderingly undermine the City's mission on Hampstead Heath, 'the people' need to know of it.

Jean Simmons burial

Helen Rapley, Hampstead, writes:

Last week in Your Opinions, Walter Roberts of Brecknock Park estate asked about the actress Jean Simmons.

An internet search reveals she was born in Crouch End or Crouch Hill, spent some of her childhood in Cricklewood and attended The Aida Foster Theatre School in Golders Green. I couldn't find any information on her specific address in Crouch End/Hill. The Highgate Cemetery have confirmed that she is buried there in the West Cemetery but her grave is not on the usual guided route.

Alternative to HS2

Dek Messecar, Albert Street, Camden, writes:

We're told that building HS2 is the only way to increase rail capacity. Most people would prefer to use the money improving/upgrading all the existing lines, but it's not possible to work on a railway that is working at full capacity 24/7, all year 'round.

However, The Great Central Railway, most recent and best engineered of the Great Victorian Railways was unwisely closed in the1960s. Since then it has been running steam trains for sighteers and waiting for work to begin unhindered 24/7 year 'round to re-commission, improve, and upgrade this line at cost saving of 99 per cent and a reduction in construction time of 30 years.

The Great Central Railway with it's European guage track was built for 125 mph trains. With longer trains and platforms it could be carrying passengers in five years.

HS2 Will still be in Camden Town for the next 17 Years. Birmingham, etc, is 35 years away.

Tony Connor, SHOUT2 (South Hampstead Opposition to Underground Tunneling), writes:

I recently raised an FOI request to Camden Council requesting the depth of foundations for a number of residential blocks across the borough that lie above the alignment of the HS2 twin tunnels including the Chalcot towers.

The response from the council was that they have no such data for any of the blocks. We know from expert advice that a safe distance between the top of a rail tunnel and the base of foundations should be at least 2.5 times the diameter of the tunnel. For HS2 this would mean approximately 25 metres, yet when we met them, we provided evidence to SCS, the main works contractors for HS2, of at least one block directly over the route having base foundations that are barely five metres above the planned tunnels, with the possibility that others including the Chalcot blocks could have even deeper ones which may be deeper than the tunnels.

The response from Camden also stated that neither HS2 or SCS J/V have asked the council for this data.The question therefore is, as they have done no structural surveys on any of these buildings themselves, relying on 'desktop research' instead, how could HS2 or SCS J/V plan the alignment and depth of the twin tunnels without having the information of the depth of their foundations along the planned route?

Climate Action Plan

Cllr Adam Harrison, cabinet member for a sustainable Camden, writes:

The last 12 months saw climate change surge - rightly, and belatedly - to the top of the national and international agenda. Depressingly, at a time when we need to ramp our global response up to levels hitherto unseen, we are lumbered with world leaders from Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, who is allowing the lungs of the world to burn, to Donald Trump, who airily dismisses "prophets of doom", even as news emerges of the rapid melting of the Thwaites glacier - the largest and most important on the planet.

Faced with all this, it is easy to feel helpless. But as I said at the climate rally held outside Camden Council in September, we must be the ones to lead regardless. This means starting at the grassroots.

In 2010, Camden Labour fulfilled its manifesto pledge for a cabinet member for sustainability and appointed Angela Mason (now heading up our schools work) to the role. The 10-year plan we agreed then has overseen nearly a 40 per cent fall in carbon emissions in the borough. Long-term ambition matters. From creating the low-carbon Somers Town energy centre, to holding the country's first Citizens' Assembly on the climate crisis last year, we have always sought to rise to this challenge.

Now, we need your help too, to let us know your ideas and what we can do in the borough to help slow the pace of global overheating. Camden's draft Climate Action Plan asks us all to look at the broad areas of people, places, buildings, and organisations and where in these domains we can reduce carbon. These will help us deliver on the 17 recommendations made by the Citizens' Assembly and advance us towards a zero-carbon future. Please head to camden.gov.uk/climateplan, share your thoughts, and support us to go as far as we can on carbon reduction, as quickly as we can.

Help with rubbish?

David Reed, Eton Avenue, Belsize Park, writes:

I have just received a letter from Veolia, who now provide Camden's rubbish collection service, asking if I still need help to put out my recycling/rubbish, and responded by saying that I have seen absolutely no evidence of any such help!

In fact the very opposite: much of the time they do not even return our bins and those of most of our neighbours to where they were placed by us.

Since the new Veolia 'service' started, we have placed our bins in our front garden, a metre from the edge of our property, and about the same distance from our yard where our bins have been emptied and returned for over 100 years (not that I am that old, but the house is).

So can I call on our councillors to deal with this issue by creating a new contract with a new supplier, or at least make Veolia do a proper job? We want a service which collects bins from the storage area at the side of our house, perhaps four metres from the pavement, and returned there when emptied. Anything less is a disservice.

Time moves on

Mr Andrew Rodwell, Kilburn Square, Kilburn, writes:

Never underestimate the good sense of the British people. Boris Johnson's Conservatives elected in areas of the midlands and north of England where Labour had ruled for decades. The unions did a lot for British workers in the past, but times have moved on.

The way forward for this country is to allow people to keep more of the money they earn and reduce the role of the state. Brexit is fantastic news for worldwide trade and investment.

The UK has the lowest unemployment rate since the early 1970s and I've noticed more work available and an increase in my temporary worker wages.