Ham&High letters: People’s Vote, ban lorries from open space, bin ‘assistance’, Community Infrastructure Levy, BID, Camden crime, Brexit and thanks for dog rescue

Anti-Brexit protestors in Parliament Square during June's People's Vote march. Picture: PA/MATT CROS

Anti-Brexit protestors in Parliament Square during June's People's Vote march. Picture: PA/MATT CROSSICK - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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

People’s Vote transparency

Cllr Nick da Costa (Lib Dem), Alexandra ward, opposition spokesperson for Mental Health and Wellbeing, writes:

Earlier this month, Hornsey and Wood Green Labour Party sent voters an autumn report for Catherine West MP saying she would “continue to call for a People’s Vote” and that this “vote must keep the EU membership deal we currently have on the table.”

However, just last week at a Haringey full council to debate a Liberal Democrat motion on Brexit and the People’s Vote, every Labour councillor present voted to remove all references to a People’s Vote and put in non-committal language about “a public vote” that conspicuously avoided saying whether keeping “the EU membership deal we currently have” would be an option. Indeed, they would not even properly call for a general election saying they would only back one if “parliament vote[d] down the government’s Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal”.

It is frankly extraordinary that the Labour group in the fifth-most Remain voting borough in the country is saying that if Theresa May can get a deal through parliament, then they are okay with that even if it is a hard Brexit or a transitional agreement that just delays crashing out with no-deal for a few years.

In light of this, I hope no more literature will go out from Haringey Labour, touting their MPs view on a People’s Vote, without giving the important context that they are uniformly rejected by her party’s local councillors.

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Campaign to ban lorries from our ‘open space’ gathering more support

Edie Raff, chairman of Cresta House Residents Association, (former chairman, Save Swiss Cottage), writes:

Residents in despair about Essential Living’s (EL’s ) 100 Avenue Road development have reason for some cheer following Thursday’s opportunity to let Camden’s Parks department hear the views of local people through the Engagement Drop-in: Swiss Cottage Open Space licence request.

It was for those who will be most adversely affected if EL’s vehicles are allowed to commandeer a significant part of the open space outside the developers boundary. One of the most serious consequences of which would be to bring even more harmful pollution directly and unnecessarily right alongside the area where children play and adults congregate.

But what is even more fortuitous for residents is that Cllr Adam Harrison, cabinet member for improving Camden’s environment - who called the meeting - and who will be collating the public’s responses towards the council’s decision on behalf of all of us, takes a firm stand against air pollution:[Adam Harrison: We must widen our mission for clean air: CNJ: 08:02:2018]. In this article he made clear that Camden Council now adopts WHO standards on air pollution and that he personally wants to galvanise a campaign to drive particulate matter and N02 (the very stuff of EL’s vechicle movements) levels “right down”.

What better opportunity for Camden to “do their bit” to “to shift traffic away from where young people are gathering” and for users of the open space not to have to “taste the pollution” in the three to five or more years it will take to complete EL’s proposed build. And then to follow Cllr Harrison’s lead and at the least not allow EL to break the existing covenant that prevents them from using even more of the open space that in effect works to keep these heavy, noisy and polluting vehicles that much further away from the general public. Please join us and request ‘NO lorries through the Open Space’ by emailing: parks@camden.gov.uk - Ref: SCL/001

Bin ‘assistance’ scheme failing

Mick Farrant, Oak Village, Kentish Town, writes:

There is a far more serious issue concerning refuse collection (Residents flouting bin collection rule).

At the launch of the “new, improved” waste collection contract residents were assured there would be an “assistance” scheme for those with disabilities who would have difficulty in moving their wheelie bins to the statutory one metre from the pavement. We now learn that there are now 3,000 residents who have applied for assistance and that some, many, do not need it.

My attempts to get assistance reveal what seems to be a range of very disturbing issues. About nine months ago I was visited by two officials. I mentioned that I had sought assistance but was then told by one that I did not merit it. I was not given any reason but felt I had to divulge my several chronic health conditions in support of my “application”. I confirmed these in writing. I was told that the system was to be “reviewed” and one of the “best practice” criterion under consideration was a letter from my GP, plus a “certification” that nobody else in the premises was capable of moving the bins. Much correspondence ensued, including photographic evidence that one of my bins weighed 25kg. I have repeatedly asked for a copy of the policy/process and criteria for deciding on eligibility for “assistance”. I am still waiting!

As I got no satisfactory response from the officer I approached the cabinet member for this area of work (Cllr A Harrison) and have also got no response on the request for a copy of the policy or my question on the acceptability of the behaviour of the officer concerned which I found distressing as it seemed to belittle my serious heath conditions.

I think I, personally, have now been granted full assistance and there has been some assurance that a letter from my GP will not now be required. However, my concern is also for the other 2,999 applicants.

Let us have say on £4.9m fund

Maria Emilia Jennings, Shepherds Hill, Highgate, writes:

In Haringey People magazine the council claims to be running a borough-wide online consultation on what residents priorities are for the £4.9 million raised from Community Infrastructure Levy - haringey.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning/planning-applications/pre-application-guidance/community-infrastructure-levy-cil/community-infrastructure-levy-funding-consultation.

It’s quite extraordinary that Haringey Council should prohibit one third of Haringey residents from having a say on what improvements are needed in their neighbourhoods through the design of their questionnaire. Residents from Highgate, Crouch End, Finsbury Park and Stroud Green are excluded from the survey.

There is no legislation that requires councils to exclude residents living in designated neighbourhood areas from consultation processes. Neither has Highgate Neighbourhood Forum suggested that residents living in the plan area be excluded - I know this as I’m the secretary of Highgate Neighbourhood Forum.

Following the threatened sell off of Highgate Library many, many residents want to see a lift for Highgate Library to provide access for disabled people and disabled children, who are presently excluded from classes in the community rooms on the first floor. Friends of Highgate Library are concerned that residents are being stopped from having a say about their plans for Highgate Library - savehighgatelibrary.wordpress.com/

Haringey Council say residents shouldn’t be allowed a say on £4.9 million fund and instead they should contact their neighbourhood forum, or planned neighbourhood forum, which is nothing more than sub-contracting democracy.

Do businesses really need BID?

John P Graham, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

I thoroughly agree with Jimmy McGrath’s current stand not to pay this levy to contribute to Hampstead’s Business Improvement District (BID) organisation.

He rightly queries what the BID actually provides and pays for.

Street cleaning costs should be underwritten from business rates which all businesses pay, similar to other councils who also pay for their summer flower baskets and their Christmas illuminations so why not Camden Council? What benefit are the flower baskets anyway since, after a short time, they completely lose their attractiveness, wilt and just become perching points for pigeons and we all know the legacy that these creatures leave behind when they fly away.

Last year the Hampstead BID arranged the winter festival; a poor effort, resembling nothing more than an oversized outdoor fete, in comparison to previous years when this was always an excellent event, organised by the NW3 Business Group.

Whilst still on the subject of the BID’s winter festival, surely this should be self-funded from the fees charged to the stallholders. These traders attend similar events all over London throughout the year and do not run businesses in Hampstead anyway, so why should this event be funded by Hampstead businesses, under the guise of the BID?

Although other “improvements” may be funded out of the levy, I do wonder if the BID is really necessary and may eventually bring on more problems that it will solve.

As for the BID’s claim that member-businesses will benefit from deals arranged by the organisation, I beg to disagree. There is so much supplier-competition in the market place these days from businesses falling over each other via discounting and plying for trade that any street-based business owner with a basic acumen of sourcing goods and services, should easily be able to negotiate sustainable deals without needing to rely on an umbrella organisations such as the BID.

As for utilising £1.2 million of raised levy over the five years, that works out at just £240,000 each year. It’s hardly a large enough amount of money to do anything that would really make much of a difference.

Camden Town situation worse

Chris Fagg, Vice Chair, Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board, writes:

A long hot summer in Camden Town has seen little improvement in relentless, in-your-face drug dealing, aggressive begging, rough sleeping, obstructive pavement clutter and drifts of litter.

This is according to residents and local businesses who contribute to the monthly Camden Community Safety Partnership meeting, which I attend on behalf of the Camden Safer Neighbourhood Board (CSNB).

Meanwhile, in the face of council and police cuts, local businesses are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds per year in private security wardens (who inevitably lack the wide legal powers of the police) in an effort to keep dealers and beggars at bay.

One positive development is that many residents and businesses welcome the planned closure of the Camden High Street market on Buck Street.

A visit last Saturday afternoon highlighted issues. Camden High Street on a warm afternoon was reeling under the crush of visitors parading four or five abreast, with pavement obstruction by traders extending their displays over two metres beyond the permitted limit, and reducing the surging crowds to single file between Hawley Crescent and the canal bridge. I watched pedestrians stepping into the road in order to bypass the congestion caused. No police or council presence was visible.

By 7pm the shops are shut and Camden Town, along with the rest of the borough, is given over to Camden’s much-vaunted Night-Time Economy (NTE).

Despite heavy council investment in uri-lifts, the spectacle of public urination in the late evening early hours remains an unsavoury concern for residents, along with epic quantities of litter.

Elsewhere, in Seven Dials and Covent Garden, residents report rough sleeping and heroin addiction dominating the night hours.

The two hard-working police teams tasked to police the Night-Time Economy and paid for by the Late Night Levy imposed on pubs and clubs have to cover the whole borough, all 24 square miles of it, three nights a week between 9pm and 4am. It’s not enough.

These are the uncomfortable truths, which must be faced. Right now, Camden Council and Central North police have to understand that the situation is bad, and getting worse.

Give us Brexit facts not opinion

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, West Hampstead, writes:

It is beyond extraordinary that a man with as long a distinguished career in law as Sir Keir Starmer appears not to know that difference between, on the one hand, a fact, and on the other, an opinion, a projection, an estimate or the result of an opinion poll (Stakes ‘too high’ to leave without a deal).

He says “such an approach will cause huge economic harm ... we risk the worst of all possible outcomes: no deal ... the consequences would be catastrophic ... etc”. These are presented as facts: they aren’t.

They are opinions; that’s all. They cannot be proved.

He goes on to say that if Labour vote down the prime minister’s deal, “we would demand a general election.” Setting aside the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, does he not realise that all three big parties are split on the subject of the referendum? Does he not realise that a single issue matter cannot be resolved in this way? General Elections are about schools, housing, defence, health, economics etc. The election would be a complete dog’s dinner - a muddle of gargantuan magnitude.

The confusing of facts with opinions has become endemic and foolishness can be used as a cover for wrongdoing. It is time for a law to criminalise the telling of lies by those in authority or influence, punishable with very serious consequences.

I hope that I may depend on Sir Keir to take up the cause and promote it through to fruition.

Thanks for dog rescue support

Anna Farlow, Lyndale Avenue, Hampstead, writes:

A big thank you to the jogger(s) who attempted to rescue my half- witted dog from the enclosure next to the Viaduct bridge on Saturday morning.

And kudos to the heath constabulary and wardens whose excellent system meant that five minutes after I had telephoned them a warden was unlocking a gate and releasing my idiotic and by now traumatised (as was I) retriever.

Perhaps the City of London could now remove the log which was placed under a separate gate to stop dogs going into the area since (as seen on Saturday) it also stops them getting out.