Ham&High letters: CS11 - the debate continues, Kenwood, elective surgery at The Royal Free, 100 Avenue Road, Clean Camden App, housing crisis and Brexit

An artist's impression of CS11 at Swiss Cottage. Picture: TfL

An artist's impression of CS11 at Swiss Cottage. Picture: TfL - Credit: Archant

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

Road safety begins with the cyclist

Harvey Goodman, St Johns Wood, writes:

I’m writing after reading the headline on August 2: Delays to gyratory work ‘could be fatal’.

I hope this means a complete change to the ridiculous new proposition for Swiss Cottage.

I have lived for many years not more than 200 yards from the proposed nightmare that will happen should this ridiculous scheme go ahead.

In 40 years of driving around the one-way system I can say it works perfectly well at all times and all traffic conditions, without causing any severe traffic, just normal peak time congestion.

Firstly, it would be interesting to know how many of the fatal accidents that have been mooted have taken place in the last 20 years relating to cyclists at this location.

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As a driver, with more than 40 years of accident free driving, my observation and experience of cyclists is the complete disregard for any rules which apply to motorists.

Cyclists blatantly disregard traffic lights, ride on pavements and threaten pedestrians, both verbally and physically. They give no signals and are oblivious to any form of normal road discipline.

Perhaps, cyclists should have to take a test, pay some kind of tax and have insurance, the same as millions of other road users.

Changing the system that has been in place for many years will certainly not improve the inexcusable behaviour of a few, which impacts on so many motorists.

Relief at CS11 delay - but how do we keep our cyclists safe on roads

David Reed, Eton Avenue, Belsize Park, writes:

Like most local residents and regular users of the Finchley Road through Swiss Cottage, I am massively relieved to hear the CS11 “cycle superhighway” project has been postponed at least until September.

Most of us still cannot see how the traffic on the already gridlocked A41 could be squeezed into a two-way system in front of the Odeon cinema. And this, coupled with disruption to several local routes caused by other local road works, seemed likely to cause many motorists to spill out into neighbouring streets looking for ways to avoid the chaos.

I am in favour of making cycling safer, but the CS11 is a typical example of where such schemes fail: trying to integrate cycle paths with major roads is a mistake, bikes simply do not mix with cars, buses and the rest, so they should be kept well apart.

And many of these schemes are not necessary.

I used to cycle from Swiss Cottage to Holborn on a route using side roads, with just two pinch points, north of Camden town and down by St Pancras, both of which junctions were controlled by traffic lights: annoying but safe!

All around London there are similarly grandiose and expensive schemes to CS11 but, from what I read, cycling accidents are still high.

Of course one reason why is the behaviour of cyclists, both the aggressive and timid varieties. I regularly encountered one of the former, who wriggled around one of my traffic-light-controlled junctions only to push me out into the traffic I knew was behind me. Meanwhile, the timid cyclists wobble along in the gutters, nearly invisible and readily upset by grids and potholes, with potentially disastrous results; again, in one case I witnessed, the cyclist had no helmet and was hospitalised.

So my suggestions for cyclists, based on my dad’s advice some decades ago, is: cycle as if cars are trying to kill you!

Ride high, wear hi-vis clothing and use good lights so they can see you, make sure you wear a helmet in case they don’t – and stay off major roads (and pavements!).

And while I am here, although all local people have been massively inconvenienced by the road repairs in Hampstead, let’s spare a thought for those guys doing that hot and heavy work during this torrid weather. It’s a tough job in any conditions, in this heat they deserve a bonus!

Anti-CS11 faction must think again

Dr Mayer Hillman, Netherhall Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

The proponents of CS11 would like to see a much higher proportion of journeys in London made by cycling on safe routes rather than by motorized means.

After all, it is in the public interest: the more people that are encouraged to do so, the more we will all be relieved of road congestion, rat-running, hazardous air pollution, danger, noise and the limitations on children’s independence – and we’ll all be fitter and healthier. In the Netherlands, well over a quarter of journeys, including those made by the elderly are made by cycle.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui and some Camden and Westminster residents, the great majority no doubt motorists, are opposed to such a progressive strategy. She claims to support cycling and refers in her article to “many quietways” that could be used as safe alternatives to what has been put forward without specifying any realistic practical locations. She proceeds to express grave concern about the consequences of rat-running onto “quiet residential streets” – as if the current level of traffic is sacrosanct – and will have to find other ways of making the same journeys that they do now. Such a spurious viewpoint ignores the fact that it is the often-repeated intention of those in charge of this aspect of London’s future to greatly reduce this level to really essential journeys, for instance, as has been achieved in many European cities that have catered for safe cycling and in the City, and by drastically reducing the school run by encouraging children to walk or cycle and not for parents choosing schools which cannot be reached in these ways. What a treat the roads are now that we have school holidays. Moreover, her expression of concern about the effects of displaced traffic re-locating itself to “quiet residential streets” overlooks the fact that air pollution is far more damaging to the health of people living in the numerous high density blocks of flats on main roads such as Finchley Road and is therefore deserving of far more attention than people in its hinterland.

One can only wonder how opponents of CS11 would feel if they were to cycle through the Swiss Cottage gyratory. Or would they prefer them to use motorised means? And what howls of horror would they emit if traffic passed both ways in front of the Odeon – as it used to – and local authorities proposed instead to make traffic go round the current gyratory system as we have had to tolerate to all too long! Try crossing it on foot!

Events are vital to Kenwood’s future

Sam Cooper, Manager of Kenwood, writes:

I would like to respond to Michael Palin’s letter about the closure of some areas of the estate for the summer concerts and the House Festival.

Kenwood is – and always will be – free to visit. But it is not free to maintain. It cost English Heritage £1.7m last year to care for Kenwood. Far from simply “pocketing the money” from these events, as Mr Palin suggests, the income we receive goes straight back into looking after Kenwood.

The fact that areas of Kenwood are closed before, in between, and after these events is frustrating, I appreciate that. We will look again at how we can increase access while ensuring that people are not at risk from the events’ equipment and infrastructure. We will make good the landscape but we need to wait until the current heatwave passes before we reseed and returf the pasture grounds.

And whereas previously, concerts often took place over the entire summer, this year’s concerts were deliberately held over two consecutive weekends in order to keep the inevitable disturbance to a minimum. For the same reason, we were keen that the House Festival took place soon after the concerts. And for the landscape, it’s always preferable for the heavy matting required for these events to go down once and come up once, instead of on multiple occasions.

English Heritage is a not-for-profit charity. Yes, we receive some government funding but that is decreasing every year and in four years’ time, it will stop completely. We therefore rely more than ever before on the support of our visitors, our members, our donors and our local communities.

Given my role I’m perhaps a little biased but I completely agree with Mr Palin that Kenwood is one of English Heritage’s “finest resources”. The income we receive from this summer’s events will help renew the Sham Bridge and resurface the South Terrace. Far from “degrading” Kenwood, these events play a vital role in securing its future.

Elective surgery move is a concern

Susan West, Nassington Road, Hampstead, writes:

The Royal Free will shortly be moving elective surgery to Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.

This seems to represent a significant change for the people of Camden and has apparently been decided with very little public consultation or awareness. My own GP is unclear on much of the detail.

I would be concerned if I had to go to Chase Farm for surgery. The journey from most of the borough to Enfield is not particularly easy even made by car. For example, the quickest bus route from South End Green (four buses) is 112 minutes and the fastest train route (two trains and a bus) is 67 minutes. Camden patients having day surgery will be at a particular disadvantage as they will be faced with a tricky journey by public transport unless they can be collected by car.

Chase Farm Hospital was in special measures although it has been rebuilt and is now managed by the Royal Free Foundation Trust and although rated Good in 2016 recommendations were made, some relating to the safety of surgery. I still have a concern that something as important as surgery is being transferred without a period of evaluation and assessment.

The Royal Free should issue much clearer information to Camden residents and GPs about the services which will remain at the Royal Free and which will move.

Developer must overhaul plans

Kate Fairhurst, Swiss Cottage Conservatives, writes:

I was surprised to hear that Camden’s Planning Committee will consider the construction management plan for 100 Avenue Road yet again on August 16.

This 24-storey tower is not a simple piece of engineering, and the planning committee identified many fundamental flaws with the proposal when it voted to reject it on July 19. As the committee noted, the lorries using Winchester Road - instead of accessing the site solely via the A41 (Finchley Road/Avenue Road) - means the death of Swiss Cottage Market, incursions into the Swiss Cottage Open Space, harm to local businesses and residents, and much more besides.

Given it’s being heard less than a month later – and thus apparently re-submitted no more than a week after it had been rejected – how can the developer have amended these harmful plans at all?

In particular, since July 19, the acceptance of a judicial review of Cycle Superhighway 11 will have changed the facts on the ground quite significantly. This is not to mention that many councillors and potential objectors will be away on holiday in August. This will mean less scrutiny, and far more likelihood of the previous decision being reversed without the fundamental rethink that is required.

This construction management plan does not need a sticking plaster, minor amendments, or just more supporting evidence. It needs completely revisiting, and given the short turn-around time, it does not seem possible this has taken place.

Clean Camden app gets results

Hamish Hunter, Nassington Road, Hampstead, writes:

The local elections may have now been and gone, but the issues aired during the campaign remain.

One of the most significant and noticeable, especially in Hampstead, is the vexed issue of rubbish collections.

Residents will be keenly aware of the roadworks which have recently been taking place on Rosslyn Hill. A by-product of these works has been that business waste placed on the pavement has been left uncollected because the collection vans can’t get to them.

Almost immediately, Rosslyn Hill became dotted with piles of rubbish bags, boxes, and loose waste. Most significantly, an enormous mound (picture attached) grew up outside Lloyd’s Bank. It was putrid and gross, and no one was doing anything about it. I took it upon myself to tweet a photo, report it on the Clean Camden App (highly recommended), and raise the issue with Camden’s cabinet member for the environment Adam Harrison. In less than an hour, Cllr Harrison had got back to me promising to look into the problem and the next day Veolia had assured me that they had put a plan in place to deal with the issue for the remainder of the roadworks.

All in all this was a good result for Hampstead and I’m glad that that this was resolved so promptly once I raised the issue. However, I was left wondering why on earth someone hadn’t thought of it before the roadworks began.

Housing crisis still needs solving

Cllr Dawn Barnes, Crouch End ward and Haringey Liberal Democrat spokesperson on housing, writes:

Like virtually everyone else in Haringey, the local Liberal Democrats are relieved to have formal confirmation at last month’s cabinet meeting that our Labour-controlled council will not proceed with the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) and instead set up a council-owned housing company to develop homes.

As early as July 2017, Liberal Democrat councillors were warning that the HDV did not deliver enough genuinely affordable housing and involved too much financial risk. In early 2018, we called for the scheme to be scrapped and proposed a 100 per cent council-owned housing company as an alternative, based on a similar model implemented in Lib Dem-run Sutton. In February, Liberal Democrats called an extraordinary full council meeting that led to the national Labour party ordering its local leadership in Haringey to pause the scheme.

We can’t help feeling that had Labour listened earlier to the warning voices from the Lib Dem council group, the wider community, or even their own ranks, they would have spared Haringey taxpayers two and half million pounds of costs which could have been spent more wisely by a council dealing with huge cuts to local services.

However, we need to look to the future. Few people will mourn the HDV, and the outsized financial risks and involvement of a controversial conglomerate that came with it. However, we can’t let its failure become an excuse for timidity when it comes to house building. We have a serious housing supply crisis in Haringey. The Labour leader and his group need to move quickly to make sure that the wholly-council-owned housing company can start delivering large numbers of homes, and soon.

People’s vote is gaining support

Jonathan Livingstone, Frognal Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

The campaign for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal gathers new supporters at a rapid pace with over 370,000 signing the Independent’s petition following its launch in July

Another vocal supporter is Oxford City Council - becoming the second council to join calls for a vote on the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations. I have written to the Conservative councillors who represent me on whether they would support a similar council motion as I am concerned on the negative impact in Camden.

Cllr Rea confirmed recently that all Liberal Democrat councillors would be resoundingly in favour of a motion backing a People’s Vote. I am also hopeful that many Labour councillors would follow her lead as the chairman of Camden Labour Party’s Brexit working party - Lazzaro Pietragnoli - tweeted prior to the local elections that “voting Labour in any ward at the local election in Camden will deliver a (politically and tactically) stronger message against Brexit than voting for Green, LibDem or independent candidates”.

We all suffer with a No Deal Brexit

Doug Crawford, full address supplied, writes:

A No Deal Brexit looks increasingly likely and if that happens everyone will suffer – no matter how they voted in the referendum.

Crashing out of Europe without a deal will have a negative impact on the economic prosperity and quality of life of every citizen.

In this scenario it is difficult to see how the wage stagnation that has bedeviled many households since the 2008 crash is going to be reversed, resulting in even greater hardship and inequality – and rising inequality adversely effects everyone, not just the poorest in society.