Ham&High letters: The Magdala, parking, supporting Christchurch, climate protests, People’s Vote, scaffolding site and Theresa May

Campaigners had fought to reopen the The Magdala Pub. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Campaigners had fought to reopen the The Magdala Pub. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

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

On rejection of Magdala pub plan

Hamish Hunter, Nassington Road, Belsize Park, writes:

I am (on balance) disappointed that the planning application to reopen the Magdala Pub in Hampstead’s South End was rejected last week. The developers’ plan involved reopening the pub but converting the existing function room above to a residential flat.

Many of my neighbours joined a campaign to reject this plan, spearheaded by comedian Frank Skinner.

I regret this turn of events, as now the Magdala Tavern pub will remain empty and not in use – whereas this application would have seen it return as a pub.

Former Hampstead councillor Tom Currie did great work ensuring that, when it closed originally, the Magdala secured Asset of Community Value status.

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But that status alone cannot mean that the building is left vacant indefinitely.

The recent application appeared to me to be a good way forward – not sacrificing the space entirely for flats, but recognising that running a pub is not an easy economic enterprise.

I do hope that the Magdala does one day reopen as a pub to serve our neighbourhood and that, with the recent campaign to object, we have not inadvertently made that prospect more remote.

Parking charges a last minutes cash-grab by money hungry council

Eric Peel, South Hampstead, writes:

I support many of the concerns voiced by Cllr Oliver Cooper in his recent article on the threatened 60 per cent overall increase in Camden’s residents’ parking charges on April 1, with only 23 days’ notice given. Current inflation is only around 2.5pc.

Camden is being disingenuous in suggesting that this last-minute cash-grab is purely driven by a desire to align with the Camden Clean Air Action Plan and Transport strategies, as it is not making any significant efforts to further discourage ownership of the most polluting vehicles that emit toxic NOx/PM10/2.5 fumes. It is these toxic fumes that cause local poor air quality and health problems to vulnerable residents and children, not the non-toxic CO2.

The “diesel surcharge” within Camden’s proposed new charge structure is still only 22pc, as it has been for the last few years. Camden should be following the lead taken by the mayor of London in implementing his Ultra-Low Emission zone (ULEZ) on April 9 and by the borough of Merton in clamping down on the most polluting diesel vehicles, where they have instituted a £150pa diesel surcharge, introduced gradually over a three-year period.

Camden should seriously consider an increase in its “diesel surcharge” to 50pc for 2019/20 and 100pc for 2020/21.

This will then fit well with the mayor of London’s central London ULEZ requirement where all diesel vehicles that do not meet the latest Euro 6 standard will have to pay £12.50 a day to enter the congestion charge zone.

The mayor is also introducing a scrappage scheme as a further incentive.

At the same time Camden should reduce the proposed increases for cleaner petrol and electric vehicles, and substantially increase its roll-out of charging points in CPZ areas. Without this, most residents will not be able to run EVs, for fear of not being able to easily recharge them overnight.

Please email Camden’s transport planning officer, brenda.busingye@camden.gov.uk, with your views.

Vehicle owners being ‘mugged’

Charles Marks, Lymington Road, Hampstead, writes:

Camden sent out an email notification on March 8 to all resident parking permit holders babbling on about air quality and delivering visions etc and giving residents just three weeks to respond to their “proposed” permit price increases.

Of course, these price increases were not spelled out in the email. That would have been too easy, obvious and the right thing to do. They were pretty well hidden and hard to find in a PDF on the Camden website.

If you managed to work out how to view the document (no clickable link, or properly formatted URL for recipients to just click on in the email) and then downloaded the correct of the two PDF documents (why not link directly to the document or a web page summarising the hikes?), you will have found that resident permit prices for all but electric and the very most efficient/newest vehicles are to increase by almost 70 per cent from April 2019. Oh, and to add insult to injury, if you own one of the very most polluting of cars then your increase will only be 60pc.

Apart from the increase being ridiculously out of proportion and disguised as doing something for the environment, procedurally, giving just three weeks’ notice and hiding the information for all but the most IT literate cannot be allowed.

When I pointed this out directly by telephone to Brenda Busingye at Camden (principal transport planner) who sent the email, she informed me that three weeks is the usual time required for traffic management changes. Really? So they are giving the same notice that is given for a short-term parking bay suspension.

So far – as of March 13 – they had received 400 email responses. I am sure many, many more have not managed to find the information required to realise the extent of this unjustifiable increase.

Until such time that Camden has borough-wide electric vehicle charging points on every street and allows residents to run cables across the pavements to charge their electric vehicles, this sort of “mugging” of vehicle owning residents cannot be allowed to continue.

The mayor is already forcing older/more polluting vehicles off the road with the ULEZ that comes into operation next month (and then extends to inside the North/South Circular in 2021).

Please read about the charges at camden.gov.uk/parking-permit-charges and email brenda.busingye@camden.gov.uk to let them know what you think.

We condemn New Zealand attacks

Cllr Abdul Hai and Phil Rosenberg, co-chairs, Camden Faith Leaders Forum, along with all Camden faith leaders, write:

As faith leaders in Camden, our hearts go out to the victims and survivors of the terrorist attacks against mosques in New Zealand, and their families.

We condemn utterly the hatred that underpins this sort of heinous and evil violence.

We note with sadness that these attacks took place in the context of widespread and growing levels of Islamophobia.

We must build a safer world for all

The Mitzvah Day Team, Finchley Road, Hampstead, writes and open letter:

To our Muslim friends and neighbours,

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and wider communities of our Muslim brothers and sisters who lost their lives at the Linwood and Al Noor Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We recognise this as a deliberate and callous act, with truly tragic consequences.

We hope that all communities can come together in peace and harmony, in renewed efforts to build a safer world.

With our deepest condolences.

Show support for climate protesters

Sophie Erskine, Muswell Hill, full address supplied, writes:

I just wanted to express how much I support those children (and adults) who were striking against climate change on Friday.

The awful reality is that it’s actually not just the young people of today whose lives will be threatened by climate chaos. It’s all of us.

Many of us alive now will not reach old age because of the changes we are now forcing on the planet.

The sooner we all realise this, the sooner we can take the steps needed to give ourselves longer on Earth.

It is admirable that these young people are mobilising, but we must all support them.

Join my campaign for ‘people’s vote’

Jonathan Livingstone, Frognal Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

Parliament is deadlocked following two record defeats for the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement with a third vote having been ruled out by the speaker.

This dislike of a blindfold Brexit is matched by the public at large with analysis by YouGov showing that the Withdrawal Agreement is the preferred choice of voters in just two constituencies versus 600 for remaining and only 30 for no deal.

I have canvassed local opinion regularly at Tube stations in the past few weeks and there is growing support in Camden for a final say on Brexit now we know the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.

I will be campaigning again for a “people’s vote” at Hampstead Tube station during the morning commute tomorrow (Fri) as we make the final push for a record turnout for the “Put It to the People” march from Park Lane to Parliament Square on Saturday.

We need to send a clear and unambiguous message to politicians on the need to involve the public in the final Brexit sign-off.

Daffodils planted at scaffolding site

Linda Grove, garden organiser Royal Free Hospital charity, writes:

Volunteers, Patrician Langley, Gil Lipworth, Aggie Smith and Mercedes Bosch, of the Royal Free Charity volunteer gardeners, planted 100 daffodils on the last garden on Pond Street by John’s flower stall.

As you may remember, last week scaffolding collapsed and landed in the garden but the determined volunteers tidied up the space and made it lovely for all to look at as they go up and down the hill.

Kind residents in Belsize Lane and Hampstead Hill school sponsored the cost of the daffodils and bark for the path, for which the community are extremely grateful.

If the garden gives you pleasure, be sure to make a donation to the charity which is on the first floor by the car park.

Alternatively contact the Royal Volunteer Team on 020 7830 2306, or email alix.temple@nhs.net.

It’s time for May to finally step down

Céline La Frenière, Talacre Road, Kentish Town, writes:

We should all be increasingly concerned about Mrs May’s apparent collusion with the European Union.

Her peddling a Brexit deal, which is so obviously against the best interest of the United Kingdom, is alarming. To blackmail Parliament three times in a row to vote for her rotten deal is just short of bullying.

Even an average person could figure out that Mrs May’s deal to withdraw from the EU will most certainly render any further negotiation with the EU difficult and if not downright disadvantageous.

French president Emmanuel Macron’s warning that the UK will be trapped in a customs union after Brexit unless Downing Street offers European fishermen full access to British waters during the coming trade negotiations is only the beginning of what’s to be expected.

If our MPs vote for this rotten deal the EU will definitely have us under its control in every way, taking what it wants and offering little in return. If it can keep us trapped inside the EU paying enormous fees and having no say in how it is run, then why should it relent at all?

More to the point, recently, the chief official of the European Union, Martin Selwayr, Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man, nicknamed the “monster”, boasted in his local paper about how good the Withdrawal Agreement was for the EU, and how bad for Britain.

There you have it, from the horse’s mouth!

By pushing her flawed deal, May appears to be collaborating with the enemy and trying to blackmail the UK into falling for her and the EU’s strategy.

Thank God for speaker of the house John Bercow who seemed set on frustrating yet a third vote on May’s deal.

But will common sense prevail when everyone is suddenly panicking at the approach of the March 29 deadline?

Unless we back off on the 29th without a deal, Brexit will not happen. Might it be best, therefore, to stay inside the European Union until a strong, capable, intelligent leader emerges who will be able to lead us confidently into a successful Brexit? Unfortunately, Mrs May is not it. Her stubbornness, which is admired by some, is not a proper substitute for wisdom and true and informed leadership.

She must, therefore, go. The sooner, the better.