Ham&High letters: 100 Avenue Road, Highgate Vampire, Heath Ponds, NHS coordination, Oriel Place, tackling violence and immigration policy

Protesters opposing the demolition of 100 Avenue Road stand with placards in front of the site while

Protesters opposing the demolition of 100 Avenue Road stand with placards in front of the site while demolition begins. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

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

Thank you for joining a valiant fight

Janine Sachs, chairperson of Save Swiss Cottage, wrote:

We want to thank all those who fought so valiantly for a better 100 Avenue Road Construction Management Plan (CMP) to build Essential Living's 24-Storey Swiss Cottage Tower.

Sadly the final decision has now been unilaterally taken by Camden's Chief planning officer to approve the amended CMP - without regard to the recommendation by the mmbers' briefing panel that the plan go to full a public hearing.

Nor has any regard been given to the substantial material increase in construction lorries using the open space side of the site (a stealthy 325 per cent increase since the original 2017 CMP) and to the gyratory, nor to the resultant increase in nitrogen dioxide levels in the green space - many families are taking their children elsewhere now.

The only concessions are an extra PM10 dust monitor; lowering the base-line for measuring PM10 and a £30,000 bond payable by the developers in the event of a CMP breach (but no on-site visits to check for breaches).

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No significant concession has been made in the twp-year history of the CMP. The reason for no longer using the Winchester Road and the market route is because, as we predicted, it is impractical to do so, not because of residents concerns.

The main justification for this hugely disruptive change is that it will shorten the programme by three months (initially pitched as 11) to bring giant articulated lorries (the longest allowed on roads) into the open space to carry prefabricated units. Of course this is a huge blow to the 100 Avenue Road CMP process because since unelected officials overturned the scrutiny of the public planning committee, no more consultation on any further amendments, however material, will be worth its salt, unless Camden revise their constitution to come in line with other council constitutions that have a more democratic decision making process.

Remembering the Highgate Vampire

Erin Chapman, Canada, writes:

I am a journalist that has covered the Highgate Vampire case before in numerous articles and I have been in touch with many local people throughout the years.

March 13, 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of the great vampire hunt that happened at Highgate Cemetery on March 13, 1970. I want to hear from anyone who was at the cemetery that night or anyone who just has something to tell about the case. I am putting together an anniversary article and would love to hear from you. Send in a letter to the Ham&High and I will read it there, and you can email me directly at erinchapman@vamped.org

This event was a huge part of history for the cemetery and I think it is important to hear everyone's story. Thank you.

The Heath Ponds

John McPartlin, Creighton Avenue, Muswell Hill, writes:

The question of whose ponds they should be is indeed what matters. (The ponds, and to whom they belong) February 20.

In more or less their present form the ponds go back to early Victorian times and had always been there for everybody's free enjoyment, until Mrs Thatcher dived in and removed them from an elected democratic body, the GLC, which had funded and maintained them to general satisfaction, and gave them as a free gift to the City of London Corporation.

This is the wealthiest authority in the whole country but if, as it now tries to claim, it really cannot afford to run them then they should be returned once more to public control so this can be done properly.  

It is instead taking liberties - our ones - and wants instead to introduce compulsory charges and install gates and barriers at an amenity that has in the past always been there for everyone's pleasure and benefit.

Funding could come in a small part from local council tax, but primarily from an overall London authority of elected deputies, who are in tune with and accountable to public opinion, in order to ensure that they can be fully invested in to meet the increased usage and new need. 

Instead of being threatened with a latter day poll tax they should continue to be what they have always been, the People's Ponds, for as has been said before, and quite rightly, of all the options on offer, democracy is the least worst.

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

In response to Bernard Walsh's letter, February 13, I have swum freely and unrestricted in the Hampstead Ponds since my working class boyhood. The Hampstead Heath Act has made that desirable, lawful and permissible since 1871. I merely expect the vastly wealthy City of London Corporation to honourably and lawfully, fulfil the commitment and obligation it accepted, when it took over stewardship of the Heath and its ponds, from the GLC.

Better-off swimmers are eager and willing to make voluntary, philanthropic donations to the upkeep of the Ponds, so that hard-up Londoners may continue to freely experience the beauty and quietness of Hampstead's Ponds - as they have always done - allowing the City Corporation, to divert money from the Heath to build its prestige concert hall for financially distressed City types and fat cats? Charity beginning at home?

But neither I, nor anyone else, has ever been invited or encouraged by the City Corporation to make such voluntary, philanthropic donations. Where are the notices (I have asked for repeatedly at committee meetings, over many years) inviting the support and philanthropy of better heeled pond bathers? They do not exist!

Only confusion reigns.

Or is it calculation? Having once, famously, failed to close the Ponds, to save money, now milk them with above cost charges?

That is what it looks and feels like to us who have been in the so called consultation process: more manipulating than listening.

The City of London Corporation should hold its head in shame at such betrayal of obligation and mission...

Coordinating the NHS

Linda Grove, Highgate Village, writes:

My lovely husband has had major surgery last year at Barts and although they saved his life he has multiple medical problems since this time.

All of the care and services that we have received from each of the hospitals and from our brilliant GP practice at Adelaide Road have been excellent, apart from one general anaesthetic, which has been followed up by us but the damage has been done, and his memory has been greatly affected.

The biggest challenge for us as a couple, is to keep track of records and appointments which on a regular basis are not connected.

You have to be 'on the ball', to follow everything up yourself and ask questions, checking, checking, checking. None of the different departments seem to connect, everyone being a specialist in their own field but no conductor conducting the orchestra.

We recently discovered that one of the drugs he is taking clashes with bananas, something I had been giving my husband by the boat load to build him up .

Don't get me wrong, we have every faith in the NHS and the high standard of medical care we receive but it needs one organisation who centralise the notes and appointments.

Thank you to all the medical staff who have supported us, especially those Philippine health professionals who Boris wants to get rid of with all the other nationals who do the jobs we don't want to do.

Oriel Place railings

Sebastian Wocker, The Hampstead Village Voice, writes:

Despite warnings of increased antisocial behaviour from residents and the local SNT (Safer Neighbourhood Team), they've now ripped up the antique railings of Oriel Place. Another bit of old Hampstead vandalised.

But when I say they, it's hard to establish who they are because they all deny it's them 'wot dunnit'.

After deciding the 100-year-old railings were "not attractive enough to keep" and being strongly in favour of their removal, Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum chairman Janine Griffis ignored the warning letter from the SNT, yet when challenged tells us we should be holding Camden Council to account. I suppose that's called delegation?

Meanwhile Cllr Stephen Starke, also dead keen on the £100k project, assured me "if it does go drastically wrong, we can always replace the railings." Why do I not feel reassured?

For some reason the Hampstead BID (business improvement district) too is laying claim to the project on its website: "Even the most carefully designed space may not manage to design out every issue, but we work to minimise them as much as possible through the design...' We?

Since when was the BID responsible for town planning?

Last I heard, local residents didn't even get to vote for the BID and now it's rearranging the entire neighbourhood.


The overriding point is — all that was really needed was a lick of paint, a new bench and someone to open and shut the gates, but with so many parties involved, who do we hold to account for the removal of another part of Hampstead's traditional antique street furniture?

And who takes the blame when Oriel Place Garden turns into a hang out for drunks, junkies and vagrants? It's obvious: "Them".

Tackling violence

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly Member for Enfield & Haringey, writes:

It has been very encouraging to see City Hall recently announce a further £100 million of investment targeted at tackling violence in our capital.

It is particularly welcome that over half of this new funding will go towards addressing the root causes of crime.

In the last round of the Mayor's Young Londoners Fund, we already saw over £1.5 million go towards supporting youth engagement projects in Enfield and a previous round saw £1.5 million awarded to Haringey.

I hope to see the rollout of more early intervention initiatives in Enfield and Haringey on the back of this funding.

To be effective in the fight against violent crime, we need a strategy that places a proportionate focus on both enforcement and preventative measures.

This is why it is also positive that the hundreds of millions of pounds of extra investment that the mayor has put in to the Met, including the £45 million this year, has led to police officer numbers slowly starting to recover.

We have also seen the government finally intervene and pledge that over 1,000 more officers will be on our streets by next year.

However, due to the damage caused by a decade of cuts, which are still yet to be reversed, we need the government to ensure future funding is in place for the recruitment of at least 6,000 new police officers over the next few years.

Immigration policy

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

Another week, another disastrous immigration policy from the government.

We know that pay is not a fair, or even accurate, way of assessing someone's real value to our society or economy.

There are thousands of people in this country doing incredibly important jobs for very low pay.

There are also many immigrants living here who are making a huge contribution to our local communities. In Hampstead and Kilburn, we've always had a proud tradition of welcoming immigrants, whether that's from the Commonwealth, Nazi Germany, Ireland, Somalia or any other country.

The idea of shutting people out of the UK by a crude immigration system that allocates 'points' based largely on how much they earn is not just wrong, it is downright foolish.

Just take social care, where staff are doing some of the most valuable work in looking after older and disabled people, in far too many cases for just the minimum wage. Under the new immigration rules, people looking to move here to help provide this care will be denied entry.

Average pay in this sector is below the lowest salary threshold, meaning that even if the government classified care work as officially being in 'shortage' - which it hasn't so far - these workers could still not come to the UK.

The dedicated people who educate our young children will also be penalised by the policy.

The chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), Purnima Tanuku OBE, has pointed out that average salaries in early years are below the new minimum salary for immigrants, making it even more difficult to staff nurseries properly at a time when they are already struggling to recruit.

As your representative, I will continue to champion the diversity in our constituency and the contribution of immigrants.