H&H letters: Free rugby, learning disabilities, dogs on the Heath, NHS, free tennis, schools and planning

England's Owen Farrell (centre) lifts the Autumn Nations Trophy after victory in the final against F

England's Owen Farrell (centre) lifts the Autumn Nations Trophy after victory in the final against France at Twickenham Stadium - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

And now they have ruined the rugby

Lester May, Reachview Close, Camden, writes: 
Enjoyment of the Autumn Nations Cup rugby on the box was ruined, its having required an Amazon Prime subscription to watch some matches. 
Amazon despatches millions of parcels daily, many with too much air in the box, now it contrives to deprive us of free-to-air sport on the box. Amazon is flowing through too much of our lives. The only place that doesn’t get too much Amazon is the Exchequer, the company rather coy about paying taxes. It’s time to stop Amazon killing our high street, killing sport on the telly and making a killing at the Chancellor’s expense.

Learning disabilities
Cllr Pat Callaghan, cabinet member for a healthy and caring Camden and Cllr Angela Mason, cabinet member for best start for children and families, writes:
It was fantastic to hear the news that Camden’s Learning Disability Service won Team of the Year 2020 at the Royal College of Psychiatrists awards. This award was truly deserved and recognised the team’s outstanding commitment to supporting people with learning disabilities as well as their families.
The service, which is an integrated venture between the Council, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and the Whittington Health NHS Trust, have found innovative and personal ways to support people with learning disabilities to live more independently and thrive within their local communities.
Because of their person-centred model of care, the team have also managed to significantly decrease the rate of admissions to mental health hospitals by 85% in the last five years and instead provide tailored support and care at home to meet the needs of the individuals they work with. They are constantly finding ways to improve their service to ensure people with learning disabilities are supported in the best way possible.
This is an amazing achievement, so congratulations to the whole team and a huge thank you for your work which is positively shaping the lives of many Camden residents. 

Dogs on the Heath
Anna Farlow, Friends of Hampstead Heath, full address supplied, writes:
Dog owners should be aware that the City of London’s regulations, due to take effect next April cover two separate issues - a Licensing Scheme for professional dog walkers, which people may know about, and a Code of Conduct for anybody walking their dog or dogs on the Heath. Interested parties would be best advised to check the Pooches of Hampstead Heath Facebook page for information on a subject which will almost certainly change their lives forever.    
The code of conduct stipulates under “unacceptable behaviour” that you should not walk more than four dogs at once and avoid congregating with other dog walkers if this means there are more than four dogs present in one place at any one time. This immediately presents a problem, for example, for a friend who has been happily walking his own dogs (never less than six) on the Heath for nearly 50 years. Under the new code of conduct he would not be able to do this, even if he is with his wife. 
Bearing in mind that the largest users (stakeholders in City of London’s terms) of the Heath are quite probably the dog-owning community who are a very sociable group of daily visitors, frequently walking their dogs together, I regret that many of us will be breaching the code of conduct, largely in ignorance. 
Judging by your story concerning the over-zealous reaction of the City of London’s to the activities of a 10-year-old child gathering wild berries to make jam for charitable causes I do wonder how the dog-owning community will react when challenged about their “unacceptable behaviour” after decade of pleasant walks together.

Praise for our health services
Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn and shadow minister for children and early years, writes:
I am consistently blown away by the efforts of staff in our local health services, who have been working tirelessly to keep us safe at this most difficult of times. The talent, bravery and dedication they have shown throughout this pandemic has been an inspiration.
The heroic work of staff in the Royal Free Hospital has been on display in the latest series of Hospital on the BBC, which I would encourage everyone to watch on catch up if you missed it live. I paid tribute to the hospital workers in Parliament last month, and I will continue to do everything I can to get doctors, nurses and all staff the support they need.
The great news about vaccines has been a ray of light at a dark time, and I’m very proud that the Royal Free has been chosen as one of the first “hubs” for the vaccine roll out. We are still a long way from being able to return to normal, but this gives us all a flicker of hope that we won’t have to endure the hardship and pain of this pandemic indefinitely.
It is fitting that the brilliant workforce at the Royal Free who have been on the frontline against Covid-19 will be the first to start bringing it to an end by distributing the vaccine. I know that we will be safe in their hands, and I know I speak on behalf of the whole community in Hampstead and Kilburn when I say thank for all that you are doing.

Tennis for all
Cllr Alessandra Rossetti (Alexandra ward), Haringey Liberal Democrat spokesperson on leisure and culture, writes:
This U-turn on the tennis courts remaining free of charge is a relief. Numerous comments on our petition pointed out that tennis was a fun, socially-distanced, outdoor activity and said they’d hate to see children whose families couldn’t afford to pay excluded. There is a review of fees for parks and sports currently under way. My colleagues and I will campaign to make sure charges for tennis do not get quietly get reintroduced through that route.

Early shutdown of schools
Paul Renny, Haringey UNISON schools convenor, writes:
We are heading into the end of the lockdown and a relaxation of the Covid rules which will allow three families to celebrate together over five days at Christmas.
I urge the government to decide to shut all schools early (going online to teach) to allow a period of isolation before this relaxation, which could result in a spike in Covid infections and increase in deaths of elderly members of families.
The government and the opposition must stop using School Staff, Students as a virility statement of the fight against Covid and listen to the scientific advice and those working in schools
Safety for workers, students in schools, their families and extended families should be the priority of all Politicians. An early Christmas shutdown for Schools, is the least the government can do to prepare to limit the dangers of a further increase of infections and deaths after the Christmas break. 

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Planning decisions
John Stratton, Thurlow Road, Belsize Park, writes:
I totally agree with Peter Symonds’ letter about Heather Johnson’s misuse of her casting vote at the appalling nonsense that is supposed to be Camden’s Planning Committee.  
I have commented before on the ludicrous situation where she, as chair of the planning committee either uses her casting vote to agree a bad proposal or persuades others to do so to avoid the applicant going to appeal on a refusal. It makes a nonsense of the supposed democratic procedure of having a committee that should make decisions on the desirability or otherwise of any proposed development, not with one eye on the potential appeal costs, otherwise what is the point of having a committee at all? Readers will recall the recent shocking case of the committee being bypassed when the head of planning made a ruling decision on an aspect of the wretched Swiss Cottage development for specious reasons.
I cannot understand why when other cabinet members regularly have their portfolios changed, Heather Johnson seems to be a permanent fixture as chair of the planning committee. It is about time the leader of the council appointed someone in her place who has a greater understanding of and sympathy for the community’s views – if is it a sensible decision the Planning Inspectorate should support it.   
The biggest worry now is the government’s proposal  to bring in the awful planning bill which is virtually a developer’s charter. Instead of giving them carte blanche to build where they want, legislation should require priority to be given to social housing, and the views of the community regarded as of prime importance. As the bill stands, local organisations would have the right to express a view, but no right to see it implemented. 
As I understand it, virtually every heritage and conservation organisation that I am aware of is strongly against the bill’s proposals, even also, I believe some Tory MPs, so let us hope it falls when it goes to a vote. With the mess the government is in at present, nothing would surprise me.

Human rights
Nandita Dowson, director, CADFA, writes:
As it approaches Human Rights Day (December 10) I would like to invite your readers to join one or all of a number of online events about human rights in Palestine organised by Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. 
There is a lot of misunderstanding about what is going on in Palestine – our charity looks at this from a human rights perspective. We particularly hope that people might join these events who know little about Palestine. 
We welcome anyone who believes in human rights for all people.
What is going on in Palestine is tragic. Just yesterday in one day we heard that a 13-year old boy had been shot in the stomach by an Israeli soldier and killed. 
And that another boy had been beaten so badly by Israeli forces that his jawbone and teeth were broken. And that an Israeli settler put fire in the church at Gethsemane in Jerusalem, trying to burn it down – luckily two Muslim boys stopped him.
Our charity works for human rights by building understanding of what is happening. 
We bring people together in positive projects, organise visits between here and Palestine and campaign for human rights. 
Currently we are working with women in Palestine on media projects, with students in Palestine in talks for students here; we are building links between schools in both places, and we are based at Café Palestina in Kentish Town, where people can eat delicious Palestinian food. 
We welcome your readers and their organisations to join us.