Ham&High letters: Co-op in Belsize Park, social housing, 100AR, CS11 and cycling on pavement

Mohammed Ali, Aamir Shafiq's colleague at the Late Late Store in Belsize Village. Picture: LINDA GRO

Mohammed Ali, Aamir Shafiq's colleague at the Late Late Store in Belsize Village. Picture: LINDA GROVE - Credit: Archant

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

Co-op will kill shops like ours

Aamir Shafiq, The Late Late Store, Belsize Lane, writes:

The Late Late Store has been serving local residents and the community of Belsize Village for more than 50 years. We have seen the village grow and propser into the joyous community it is today. The people who walk through our doors are welcomed seven days a week. Not only are they our customers: they are considered our friends and family. We have built a reputation within the community not just for providing a service but for going above and beyond, which is what we feel Belsize Village stands for: a family who love, trust and care for each other.

Unfortunately, with the Co-op store moving into the Village, it is more than likely small businesses like ours will be negatively affected and in most cases forced to shut down. As many of our residents are aware, with large corporate supermarkets it is almost impossible to build the same type of connection residents of the Village share with us and our neighbouring stores. Knowing our customers and community on a first-name basis and appreciating what they stand for has been key to keeping our business running.

The Late Late Store and our neighbouring businesses have always aimed to look after the children within the area and have seen many grow into the commendable adults they are today. We strive to keep Belsize Village clean and free from pollution. We therefore urge you to stand together against this corporate giant that seeks to destroy what our community stands for.

Social housing at tragic fire site must be kept when homes are rebuilt

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Cllr Andrew Parkinson, Conservative, Frognal and Fitzjohns ward; and Rebecca Shirazi, vice chair (campaigns), Hampstead and Kilburn Labour, write:

This week, Camden Council began to decide the future of 31 Daleham Gardens – the council-owned and maintained property in Frognal & FItzjohns ward that was destroyed in a tragic fire last year and which resulted in the loss of a life.

There were three social homes in the building. We stood for different parties in Frognal & Fitzjohns earlier this year but we’re agreed that it’s vital Camden guarantees they will be replaced on a like-for-like basis in any future development on the site.

Frognal & Fitzjohns has the lowest amount of social housing in Camden. Only 7 per cent of properties are social rented, compared with 33pc of properties borough-wide.

And this tiny stock of social housing is declining. According to census data, the amount of social rented housing in Frognal & Fitzjohns fell by 37pc between 2001 and 2011: more than double the loss of any other ward in Camden.

This loss has been exacerbated by Camden’s recent approach of selling off its properties to private developers. In May this year, it announced the sale of Branch Hill house care home in Frognal & Fitzjohns, resulting in the loss of more than 50 affordable care beds. This follows the council’s decision in 2014 to sell off Wells Court in Hampstead village, which had provided sheltered housing since the 1970s.

This is changing the social fabric and local community character of our neighbourhood: where replacement accommodation is provided, rarely is it in Hampstead. There is also a human cost, with long waiting times for social housing, forcing many to live in poor quality temporary accommodation.

Given this, and the difficulties in achieving the building of new social housing, the council must do everything it can to maintain its existing social housing stock.

This should be something that all parties are able to agree on. Camden Labour’s manifesto for the 2018 local elections promised that it was “determined to build more council housing”. Likewise, the Conservative manifesto made clear that it would oppose the loss of affordable housing and named several sites in NW3 where the party had opposed the loss of affordable housing.

That is why, although we stood for different parties in Frognal & Fitzjohns in the elections in May, we are united in calling on the council to save this vitally important social housing.

Developer’s latest plan is just as bad

Janine Sachs, chair, Save Swiss Cottage; Edie Raff, chair, CHRA (and former chair, SSC); and Peter Symond, chair, CRASH, write:

Following the debacle I described in the previous Ham&High issue on August 30 (“Postpone 100AR until October”), developer Essential Living (EL) has just now responded with a completely new construction management plan (CMP) in an attempt to disguise the fact it had never declared its plans to route 50 or more construction vehicles through Swiss Cottage Open Space via the children’s adventure playground from the A41.

Since October, this CMP has morphed from 13 to 29 appendices as a result of the community’s constant requests for clarification. The net result is a shambolic, obfuscating, confusing, cumbersome mess! Not all appendices correlated before and they do less so now. Even at this late stage, it is not for lack of technical expertise that it is almost impossible to understand exactly what EL proposes to do. Even the new plans conveniently omit the number of HGVs that are to go into the Open Space from the A41.

EL should have made things clear at the outset a year ago.

EL is now appearing very magnanimous and reasonable with this new proposal by offering a concession only to route the unwanted “14 lorry movements” through Winchester Road, Eton Avenue Market and the Open Space for seven months during demolition – as long it’s allowed to route all the other lorries into the Open Space from the A41.

This “deal” is obviously unacceptable. Other feasible alternatives to construct 100AR only from the A41 have been dismissed and should not be.

What is clear is that this is an entirely new proposal that, as such, ought to be newly presented for an entirely new public consultation.

CS11: Learn from Genoa tragedy

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, local campaigner, writes:

I refer to Steve Edwards’ letter in your pages on CS11 on August 16, 2018.

My comments were based on TfL’s own predictions, first set out in its slides to the Hampstead residents’ public meeting in early 2016 and again later in private stakeholder meetings. TfL’s rat running data, albeit out of date 2014 figures, is an important indication of traffic movements.

In his zeal to promote CS11, Mr Edwards comfortably proclaims from Highgate a revolution that emphases the movement of people above motor vehicles, oblivious as he is to the systemic problems inherent in CS11, namely:

n CS11 is taking place at the same time as HS2 gets going but TfL purposefully excludes HS2 so residents are ignorant of the true impact;

n 24 storeys of 100 Avenue Road are being built next to CS11 and at the same time as CS11, thus luring cyclists into a dead end alongside thousands of lorries – a health and safety nightmare.

Mr Edwards has referred to “taking back the roads”. TfL, the cycling lobby and others refer to a “modal shift” that amounts to the same thing. TfL’s “modal shift” mantra means reducing road space to force a build-up of traffic so drivers become frustrated and leave their gilded cages at home.

Their dogma assumes drivers won’t start their journeys earlier and sit in their vehicles for longer, creating more congestion and pollution.

TfL’s own predictions suggest the roadblock at Swiss Cottage will reduce Finchley Road traffic by 15 per cent – not much of a reduction from the 2m vehicles a year that will look for alternatives north and south of the roadblock to go about their business.

A modal shift needs an increase in public transport capacity, yet TfL is cutting bus routes in NW3 including the 82 and C2 buses, and reducing the number of buses on the C11 and 274 routes.

TfL’s finances have been thrown into stark focus – it is running a £1bn deficit and it cannot afford the refurbishment of the Westway and Marylebone flyover on the A40 due to “restrictions on capital investment” at least until 2020/21 – the same time as the government’s gift of £1.2bn to fund cycling around the country comes to an end.

As an aside, people are dying in our streets because the government is cutting funds to police forces around the country – and yet cycling gets a gift of £1.2bn!

Given the recent collapse of the flyover in Genoa, Italy, it is folly for TfL to be spending hundreds of millions on cycleways including £24m on CS11 – where money seems no object – and yet failing to maintain its road stock. TfL’s cycling strategy is driven by Sustrans, the cycling organisation (which many may not have heard of) to which TfL has effectively outsourced the management of its road space. Sustrans is the “delivery agent for TfL”, is in partnership with a range of organisations including local councils, and has co-designed the cycle superhighways. Being so in thrall to one cycling organisation effectively means TfL has abandoned the issue of balance on its roadways to the cycling lobby.

Sustrans has such a foothold within TfL that it felt comfortable criticising Westminster for obtaining an injunction against TfL – a startling position to take and an attack on the rule of law.

Even the London Assembly is in thrall to the cycling lobby. It prepared its recent report on London’s cycling infrastructure after speaking mostly to those in the cycling fraternity. Where is the balance we need to be a healthy city?

In the final analysis, TfL and Sustrans are likely to inflict a catastrophic impact on the lives of residents not just in NW3 but throughout London. A possible collapse of the Marylebone flyover as tragic as that in Genoa is one possible consequence of TfL’s takeover by Sustrans resulting in its failure to fund essential road maintenance.

TfL has no effective watchdog, being a law unto itself. What tragedy awaits us that will act as a wake up call to TfL and Sadiq Khan?

It’s unsafe to ride on the pavement

Nick Harding, St Ann’s Gardens, Chalk Farm, writes:

I hope those who are against cyclists being allowed to ride on the pavement will respond by September 10 to the consultation to “improve” safety along Prince of Wales Road.

It may seem incredible but we are being invited to agree to cyclists descending Haverstock Hill and wanting to turn left into Prince of Wales Road being allowed to mount the pavement near the church and “share” it with pedestrians, cutting the corner and avoiding the traffic lights. To assist them, the kerb on Haverstock Hill would be dropped.

A Google search of “Prince of Wales Road Walking, Cycling and Road Safety Improvements” should produce the consultation document with its invitation to comment.

There are many other proposals in this document that merit scrutiny, not least the main one – which is to create a physically segregated cycle path on one side of Prince of Wales Road, a road that is surely too narrow to safely have one.

If I am right in thinking that few have been aware of this consultation – I live close to Prince of Wales and came across the consultation by accident only in the last week – I hope the period for response will be extended beyond September 10.

Reasons to reject the Co-op’s bid

Linda Grove, local campaigner, writes:

On Saturday, local resident campaigners set up a stall in Belsize Village with a selection of foods and goods our local shops Crescent Fruiters, The Late Late Store, Roni’s and the pharmacy sell. These would be the very things that the Co-op will sell too, putting our local shops out of business.

On Saturday morning, the Village was buzzing with families getting together after a long week and by mid-afternoon on Sunday it was laid back and peaceful, where people stop to say hello. You just wouldn’t think you were in London. We really don’t want to lose this peaceful environment and we will if a supermarket takes over the XO site.

I understand the local Lib Dems have met with the Co-op representatives and we would like them to publish what was said in this meeting.

Here is some licensing information prepared by Cllr Maria Higson for Ham&High readers. If you care about keeping our tranquil village, where people come daily to sit in the square to drink their coffee and chat from all over north London, please consider giving your objections to Camden.

The Co-op does not require planning permission to open a store at 29 Belsize Lane. This means there will be no planning application. However, the Co-op has applied for an alcohol licence, and this requires Camden to hold a consultation. Not only that, but the Co-op proposes selling alcohol from 6am to 11pm seven days a week, much longer hours than are ordinarily allowed.

By requesting to sell alcohol from 6am to 11pm every day, the Co-op has asked for a licence well outside the hours for which Camden ordinarily grants licences, which are 8am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 10.30pm on Sundays.

At a minimum, the Co-op should be subject to the same licensing hours as other stores. These are the hours all nearby supermarkets – such as the Tesco Express shops in Englands Lane and Heath Street and Budgens in Haverstock Hill – and the independent Late Late Store abide by. It is unjustified to extend the hours longer than these.

All objections need to be by email to licensingrepresentation@camden.gov.uk quoting the address 29 Belsize Lane, NW3 5AS, and licence application 091555. Objections need to be received by Thursday next week.

Licensing is a precise area of law. Just four narrow reasons are permitted to reject applications. Below are the four grounds with examples of how the Co-op application does not meet the licensing objectives.

Public nuisance. Deliveries to the Co-op would cause major issues on Belsize Lane. It is generally a residential area, where even limited noise and disturbance would amount to public nuisance.

Prevention of disorder. The area is primarily occupied by small independent businesses, with few having CCTV, making it more vulnerable.

Public safety. There are currently no proposed conditions in the application for minimum staffing during licensed hours of alcohol sales.

Protection of children. The site is located near a large number of schools. Camden’s licensing policy requires all staff to be trained in asking for ID, but the application requires only that staff may not sell alcohol until they have received the training.