Ham&High letters: Community Energy Fortnight, vehicle emmissions, Kenwood, Airbus, Hampstead Heath, EU citizens and Brexit

Workmen installing solar panels similar to those on Muswell Hill Methodist Church. Picture: SIMON BU

Workmen installing solar panels similar to those on Muswell Hill Methodist Church. Picture: SIMON BURT/PA WIRE - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

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

Celebrating our energy volunteers

Dr Joanna Macrae, Leighton Road, Kentish Town, writes:

Amidst the gloomy news about pollution in London and uncertainty about climate change, there is some hope!

Friday marked the beginning of Community Energy Fortnight, a celebration of the work of hundreds of volunteers around the country, including Power Up North London (PUNL) that has projects in Camden and Islington.

Crowdsourcing funding from local neighbourhoods, we are contributing to London’s green infrastructure, installing solar panels on churches, city farms, in parks and GP practices.

Since being installed last year, the solar panels installed on PUNL’s first project at St Anne’s Church, Highgate, has saved more than 9.2 tonnes of CO2 and generated 19,001 kWh of clean energy.

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This approach is a great opportunity to cut carbon emissions, cut pollution and democratise energy ownership.

While central government has slashed support for this kind of work, the London mayor and progressive councils such as Camden and Islington have been very supportive.

Community energy provides a real opportunity to green up London. It’s time to make it happen.

PUNL will be lauching its second community share offer this summer.

You can find out more at powerupnorthlondon.org

Community is plagued by over-development and high vehicle emmissions

J Franklin, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

Anthony Kay’s letter last week made interesting reading and has a familiar ring for those of us living nearby.

Our most acute problem is a plague of “developmentitis”: every time a house is sold – and many have been over recent years – the property developers swoop in, to turn yet another element of our Victorian “conservation area” into an all-singing, all-dancing edifice fit for a high-net-worth individual. The works continue for years and benefit only the developers and their clients, who have no interest in or involvement with the neighbourhood.

There is no local value in these massive redevelopments, partly because the homes created are sold mainly as investments for overseas buyers, and partly because the extensive alterations and extensions permitted by planning laws and regulations are fundamentally changing the very essence of the area, by leaving in place almost nothing of the original houses. We are turning into a mini-Bishop’s Avenue, a deeply depressing thought for those who love their neighbourhood.

However, despite the people power rhetoric of the last few governments, residents – whose taxes fund local services – have no control of their destinies. This would not happen in a commercial relationship: then we would stop throwing good money after bad. However, we are in a straitjacket.

South Hampstead High School (SHHS) is a local developer. With Camden Council’s go-ahead, it demolished a Grade II-listed house as part of its redevelopment of the senior school. There is an impression among many in the neighbourhood that we enter its collective conscience only when it wishes to nurture cooperation for its development plans. We have recently received flyers about the latest, mentioned by Mr Kay, for the redevelopment of its junior school sites over a two-year period. Public, neighbourhood benefit does not feature, and this is no surprise. SHHS holds events throughout the school year. When the venue is the playground of one of the Netherhall Gardens sites, neighbours are subjected to hours of intermittent shouting, clapping and whooping. The school never, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, gives residents advance notice of these events.

During term times, our small enclave is required to accept high levels of vehicle pollution from the cars that feed SHHS and the other independent schools in the area. (The government Vehicle Certification Agency notes: “The principal air-quality pollutant emissions from petrol, diesel, and alternative-fuel engines are carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, un-burnt hydrocarbons and particulate matter… the emissions from large numbers of cars add to a significant air quality problem.”) Where now are the much-vaunted school travel plans in which students moved seamlessly from private cars to public transport? As the health implications of vehicle emissions are well-rehearsed, I should be interested to see comment on this from Camden Council.

I would also encourage those concerned about vehicle emission levels to make known their concerns to Cllr Adam Harrison, whose letter followed Anthony Kay’s. SHHS, the Church of St Thomas More and the Freud Museum, all in Maresfield Gardens, appear to be holding an increasing number of evening events. Our CPZ ends at 6.30pm and it is frequently the case that if one drives home in the mid- to later evening, there is no street parking anywhere near one’s home. Perhaps we should consider an extended CPZ to fix this particular nuisance.

I have strayed from the central theme of Anthony Kay’s letter, but perhaps this indicates the degree of frustration I feel.

‘Unforgettable and unique’ Kenwood

Matthew Greenburgh, Frognal Lane, West Hampstead, writes:

How fantastic it is to have the Kenwood concerts back after too long a gap.

On Sunday the unlikely combination of the Bootleg Beatles and the Adam Facade joyously dispelled the gloom of a typical British summer evening and created an unforgettable and unique experience. Hopefully this coming weekend’s concerts will generate as much pleasure and also enough revenue to help English Heritage support Kenwood and justify bringing the wonderful concerts back next year.

Tories wrong to lambast Airbus

John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Hampstead, writes:

I was shocked and very angry to hear on the news today (Monday) that some Tory MPs have expressed annoyance that Airbus have actually had the nerve to communicate their deep concern at the highest level regarding the potential effects of Brexit on the future of the firm’s trade and therefore also the future of more than 10,000 employees and consequent supply chain of smaller firms.

lt just confirms to me yet again what a truly nasty party the Tories are with no concern for people who rely on such firms to earn a living. It proves how out of such they are with popular opinion and real life – the sheer arrogance of it is breathtaking. And to crown it all, the most strident opponent of the Heathrow extension – Boris Johnson, their pet buffoon – is conveniently out of the country when the crucial vote is taken so he doesn’t have to make a decision as to whether to toe the party line or revolt. What a hypocrite. It says everything about their shambolic disorganised out of touch collection of MPs who are supposed to represent the people – what a shower!

n Whilst I can understand why the Heath & Hampstead Society objected to placing of directional maps on obelisks in the High Street, I disagree with Linda Chung’s comments regarding their legibility.

Apart from the fact that it is presumptuous to assume that everyone has a mobile phone (I do not), from what I have seen on other peoples, information is so small it is itself difficult to read, and one has only to witness the number of zombie-like tourists trying to work out where they are and which way they are looking to confirm that.

The beauty (and clarity) of those in London (not just Camden) are that they are placed so that the map is oriented facing towards the way one is looking rather than always with north at the top. I have consulted them many times in central London to check streets or directions and found them most helpful. [Editor’s note: I actually fell foul of precisely this feature during a run recently when I mistakenly thought the map was oriented with north upwards and therefore turned around and ran 2km in the wrong direction.]

Don’t let Heath become lost Eden

Robert Sutherland Smith, Widecombe Way, East Finchley, writes:

Is a new spirit of public distain abroad on Hampstead Heath? I hope not!

I refer to your reader Ken Pyne’s experience (“Cyclists must take care on the Heath”, letters) in which he describes the surliness and distain encountered from a bicycling member of Hampstead Heath staff, contrasting it with former “friendliness... care and consideration”.

In normal civil society we are told no one is above the law. That does not seem to be the perception on Hampstead Heath, according to your correspondent.

There are other, similar, episodes: the swimmer and runner who had understandably, if unwisely, temporarily halted the destruction of some flora on the Heath, who was later the recipient of a “menacing” comment while out running. It was reportedly called out by a member of staff from a passing Heath vehicle.

I was myself a recipient of a curious “put down” when questioning a situation involving extravagant pantomime officiousness: “Your boss is the superintendent,” I was told dismissively. As it happens he is not! We seem to have a pattern. Where is all this stuff coming from?

It used to be called Happy Hampstead! Not another lost Eden I hope? I am too optimistic to think so!

EU nationals need rights enshrined

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, writes:

Over two years ago, I argued EU citizens must have their status in Britain unilaterally guaranteed. I believed this was a principled way to support over three million people – including thousands in Hampstead and Kilburn – who have contributed immeasurably to life in our country

Despite this, it took until last week for the home secretary to announce the rules for EU citizens seeking settled status in post-Brexit Britain.

The move to simplify the documentation process was long overdue and welcome. The challenge for the government is to answer the remaining questions EU nationals have over the announcement. For example, the government has changed immigration rules using secondary legislation 58 times since 2012. Therefore the decision to use secondary legislation to implement settled status won’t encourage confidence that the new rules are legally binding on the government. That is why I am happy to echo the calls of the 3 Million group, who have demanded settled status rules are enshrined in any agreement reached with the EU27.

Another concern lies with the potential of “no deal”. The government’s rejection of any meaningful vote on the terms of the deal means a failure to conclude negotiations successfully must be considered a genuine possibility.

When asked whether the new rules would stand in the event of “no deal”, ministers have responded by saying: “We have confidence there will be a deal.” This complacency is unacceptable and the Home Office must urgently build the infrastructure to prepare for any possible outcome.

The reputation of the Home Office has been gravely damaged by successive crises, not least its treatment of the Windrush generation. As a constituency MP, I can attest to the fact that it routinely fails visa applicants, the majority of whom have complied with the rules.

With more than 3.5million people seeking to guarantee their futures, ministers need to set out how exactly the Home Office will prevent another crisis, and deliver the certainty EU nationals deserve.

Facing the ‘harsh’ reality of Brexit

Gary J Smith, Asmara Road, West Hampstead, writes:

I enjoyed your article on a new book by Hampstead area mixed comprehensive school educated broadcaster Robert Peston.

He may, however, think more extensively on the UK’s future if he were to consider some forward thinking from a passing seasoned American businessman aged 77.

I too am a Remainer and loathe the right wing populist nationalist, but dominating, part of the current Conservtive Party and especially the quite dangerous Boris Johnson and silly Hampstead visitor Jacob Rees Mogg.

However, it seems to me that Brexit is going to take place the way these type of people want it and so we may well have to just face the harsh reality.

My friend, a successful Californian businessmen visiting London (he does much advertising for Chinese companies as his main business), summed it up like this: “You are very good people in Britain. You are so flexible and in the main most people from England work hard, remain loyal and often put up with a lot but soldier on. You are a society that has seen bad times but bounce back. I am pleased to employ as many Englishmen [a term applicable to all Brits in America] as they are such outstanding workers and so extremely well educated. You will get through all of this Brexit stuff. You will make it. However you are in for very severe four or maybe five years as the shockwaves will be heavy and many business models will suffer adversely. There will be losers. It will be very tough times governed by uncertainty and depression over jobs.”

It now also seems there is no pro-EU feeling in the opposition Labour Party who have chosen to go with the age old and often destructive Trade Union movement. The Labour Party could win the general election if they were pro-EU. The votes lie in the now prosperous southern parts of England and the big cities where the Remain vote was substantial and not in the depressed north or impoverished Wales where the Leave vote cut off the EU hand that fed them but where left-leaning MPs still dominate the simplicity of their politics.

Labour’s leaders have been far too left wing. These go back to include London elected George Landsbury whose Labour Party was reduced to around 30 MPs in 1931 mainly in London and South Wales. Add more recently both Michael Foot of Hamsptead who crashed as Labour leader in 1983 and the hapless Neil Kinnock who went down badly both in 1987 and again in 1992 when a change of administration looked both inevitable and necessary. They did not represent the country and the way it thinks – ever.

I predicted they would lose and so I now predict again sadly that Corbyn, so popular in London, cannot take the whole country as he is too left wing and always was.