Ham&High letters: Nazanin’s garden, Haverstock Hill questions, Co-op from old XO, remember Violet Mary Methley, Brexit, Pond Street garden, 100 Avenue Road and IHRA

Three-year-old Max plays in Nazanin's garden. Picture: JESSICA GROVE

Three-year-old Max plays in Nazanin's garden. Picture: JESSICA GROVE - Credit: Linda Grove

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

Little Max loves his garden

Linda Grove writes:

My little three-year-old grandson Max likes to play in Nazanin’s garden and rearrange the memory stones on his way home from nursery.

He knows about Gabriella and Nazanin and asks his mum when they will be coming home.

I would like to invite any children to paint more stones for Gabriella and Nazanin and place them at the children’s garden by the Royal Free Hospital.

Max is one of many children who also likes to jump on the stepping stones the RFH volunteer gardeners observed and kept in their newly designed garden in Pond Street.

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This is an area of land that is jointly owned by Camden Council and the hospital.

It was derelict until a group of local residents got together to make a garden all the way down Pond Street.

We are looking for donations to continue the garden down towards Marks & Spencer, to carry on the path for the children and for volunteers.

If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, please contact sharon.howarth1@nhs.net, who we lease with at the Royal Free Charity office.

Email farce shows how building site tragedies occur

Barry Fox, Holmefield Court, Belsize Grove, writes:

Every time there is a tragic fire, toppled crane, fallen sign or collapsed scaffolding, the same question is asked: how could it happen when there are supposed to be tight building licence controls?

The way my persistent questions about site control in Haverstock Hill next to Belsize Park Tube

were handled after the builder went into liquidation makes it a

lot easier to understand how tragedies happen.

I contacted Camden Council, saying I could find no record of any application to erect the huge metal scaffolding that overhangs the heavily used public footway to Camden’s housing estate and the tennis club, adding I had “contacted the advertised agents, Lorenz, but they have been wholly unhelpful”.

Camden’s building control officer replied, completely ignoring what I had written: “The agent may be able to provide you with further details of when works is [sic] likely to resume.”

When I complained about this absurd reply, the same building control officer wrote: “Camden’s streetworks team have advised that a scaffold license is only required if it were erected on or over the public footpath.

“I visited the site [and] do not recall seeing such as [sic] situation from my inspection.”

Camden’s streetworks operations officer also wrote: “The structure in question is not on the public highway.”

So I sent them all photos showing how the scaffolding was clearly “over the public footpath”, with copies to council leader Georgia Gould, Camden building control and Camden planning.

No one has ever explained how a building control officer can visit a building site and not see that it overhangs a public footway and thus needs a licence to protect the public.

Meanwhile Camden’s planning assistant has reported that Camden’s planning site inspector judges the matter of scaffolding erected over a public footway without a licence by a builder

who has gone bust as only a “priority C” matter and warrants a Camden site visit only in about three weeks “to assess the problem”.

For the record I also contacted Tulip Siddiq MP and council leader Georgia Gould.

Both auto-confirmed receipt – but neither of them has shown any interest.

Don’t open Co-op in Belsize Village

Moira Baughan, Belsize Lane, writes an open letter to Jo Whitfield, chief executive of the Co-operative’s food arm:

It would seem there are plans afoot to convert the old XO restaurant building into a Co-op in Belsize Village (“Locals worry Co-op could destroy village life as shop eyes former XO site”, Ham&High).

There is mounting opposition to this in the area as there so often is in these situations – but please consider the following points.

This is a small urban community where people know one another and the local shops are supported strongly by the residents.

There is a greengrocer, a brilliant Late Late Store, a wonderful pharmacy and a cafe, and a small square where children play in the summer. It has a feeling of safety and is delightfully old-fashioned. A supermarket would be a bad fit on so many levels.

A supermarket of any size would destroy everything this little village represents. The roads are narrow and would struggle to accommodate delivery lorries and the pollution that would inevitably follow. There are many schools in the area and young children would be at risk. And the likelihood of a Co-op flourishing in such a small residential area where the footfall is light is remote.

It’s impossible to see this as progress and young and old alike are feeling resentful that the atmosphere and well being of such a community is under threat. I, and many like me, beg you to reconsider.

Do you remember writer who died in Hampstead?

Mike Buckingham, Crosskeys, Wales, writes:

Although now deeply unpopular, Violet Mary Methley was a children’s writer who would be familiar to an older generation of your readers, occupying as she did until her death in 1953 a place barely a step below Enid Blyton.

She was born at Seal, Sevenoaks, in January 1882, and died at Hampstead on March 8, 1953, the funeral being on March 17 at Hendon.

Since several of her books have an Australian setting or feature Australian characters in a British setting there is a presumed connection with that country.

That, and the fact that the family name may have been Frances and that she was a supporter of the Guiding movement, is all we know. Is there anyone among your readers who shares my curiosity about this seemingly reclusive character?

A people’s vote is NOT undemocratic

Jonathan Livingstone, Frognal Gardens, Hampstead, writes:

I write in response to Mr Ricklow’s letter of in which he claims I am “flying in the face of democracy” by calling for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

His claim is demonstrably nonsense as the overwhelming majority of voters do want a people’s vote, with recent Survation polling on the second anniversary of the Brexit vote giving a 23 point margin in favour.

Public opinion has shifted following broken Brexit promises including the non-existent extra NHS funding, unfulfilled pledges on trade deals and failing to gain control over fishing.

Best for Britain analysis published earlier this month showed 112 constituencies had switched from “leave” to “remain” since 2016 meaning that more than half of all constituencies now favour remaining in the EU.

Vote Leave was found to have broken the law by the Electoral Commission and referred to the police in July.

Boris Johnson was its key figurehead and made his dislike of the prime minster’s Chequers Brexit deal clear by resigning from the government.

If it’s acceptable for him to walk away from it, the voters must also have opportunity to snub it via a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

Help us garden in Pond Street

Sharon Howarth, Royal Free Hospital, writes:

If you would like to help in any way with the volunteer gardens in Pond Street, there are many ways – not only with time or donations, but also with networking contacts that we can follow up on.

We are happy for the grant we receive from the Royal Free Hospital Charity, but the site is bigger than the finance will stretch to, so if you, or an organisation you know, could donate top soil, bark or sponsor a large shrub, it would help the volunteers extend the garden down to the flower stall in Pond Street.

We are always looking for new volunteers to help with the garden – whether you are a gardener or not.

It’s great if you have garden knowledge, but anyone can bring their hands to help with heavy-duty lifting, raking up leaves or general maintenance.

Please make contact through the hospital charity in the first instance and we will then make contact with you.

Brexit is worse than that, Maria

Camden Liberal Democrats, write:

Cllr Maria Higson, a governor at the Royal Free Hospital and Hampstead Town councillor, told your newspaper on August 16 that in the event of a no deal Brexit, “staffing will be the key issue” for the NHS, including our beloved Royal Free Hospital.

Staffing is one of several key issues facing the hospital in the event of any Brexit, let alone a disorderly one. The Liberal Democrats have consistently pointed to the fact that the NHS losing up to 5.6 per cent of its nationwide staff who are EU citizens will have a worsening impact on an already strained healthcare system.

For London, the situation is more marked. Before Article 50 was triggered last year, about 15pc of London’s NHS workforce were EU citizens.

Due to the uncertainty already caused by a looming Brexit, the Royal Free has been one of a handful of hospitals in the capital with the highest number of staff departures.

Cllr Higson appears to believe good planning will be sufficient to manage the long-term and wide-reaching effects of Brexit, including in the event of no deal, stating that: “I know one of the things the NHS is good at doing is planning.”

While it is welcome and expected that the Royal Free and other parts of the NHS will be preparing for the very real risk of a “no deal” scenario, such an impending disaster is entirely avoidable.

Should the government adopt the Liberal Democrat policy of having a vote on the final deal negotiated with the European Union, the British people would have an opportunity to rethink whether such costs are really worth it.

We believe the threat to tax revenues that underpin the NHS’s funding, the impact on staffing, and the further risk of running out of essential medicines and isotopes, specifically in the event of no deal, are costs too great for the country to bear.

We hope Cllr Higson, as a Royal Free governor and local councillor, will recognise this and change her stance according to what is in the best interests of the UK generally and in particular the NHS.

In the meantime, the Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for an exit from Brexit.

Postpone 100AR until October

Janine Sachs, Save Swiss Cottage, writes:

Astonishingly, it has only just come to light after discovering last-minute word changes buried deep in different documents, that 100 Avenue Road developer Essential Living (EL) plans to send about 50 construction lorries a day into Swiss Cottage green space from the A41.

This will be via the children’s adventure playground near the library – turning around up by Hampstead Theatre to go back out onto the A41 – for up to three years.

It appears we have all been blindsided by the false premise that only 14 lorry movements a day would use the open space from the Winchester Road access – because that is all EL has shown us in its site logistics plan. This glaring omission cannot be blamed on a typo.

It looks like the plan is to assault the open space and the amenity from all fronts.

Why did Camden officers not report these facts when they recommended this construction management plan (CMP) to the August planning committee?

In response to our request for clarification of this huge discrepancy, Camden officers inform us that the “the developer

is preparing a further set of

plans/schedules that will more clearly articulate the movements proposed in the CMP (which) may be ready in the next couple of weeks”.

This timing is unacceptable as will too closely coincide with when officers write up their next report to recommend the CMP for the September 20 planning committee meeting, leaving insufficient time for the community and our councillors to digest such substantive changes – which could, in effect, amount to an entirely new plan, which by rights ought to have an entirely new public consultation.

At the very least, the next CMP hearing should be postponed until the October meeting, when hopefully the CMP is fully clarified and understood by all.

On the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism

John McPartlin, Creighton Avenue, Muswell Hill, writes:

The problem with the IHRA definition (“Labour wrong on antisemitism row”, Ham&High letters) is that it deliberately conflates criticism that is justified of Zionism as an ideology with a general prejudice against Jewish people per se in order to defend Israel and its policies.

That is why Jeremy Corbyn and others are right to oppose the full adoption of this flawed terminology, and they seek to exercise legitimate freedom of speech on Palestine.