Ham&High letters: Belsize Streatery, cycling, libraries, NPRF and summer poem

Belsize Village's streatery. Picture: Belsize Village Business Association

Belsize Village's streatery. Picture: Belsize Village Business Association - Credit: Archant

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

Street dining arrives in the village

Guneet Luther, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

I would like to express my support in the opening of the Belsize Village Streatery.

Having dined there on a couple of occasions now, it is clear to see this is greatly helping local businesses whilst dealing with Covid restrictions.

I have worked and lived in the NW3 area for over 10 years now and have never seen the village with such a community feel and as lively as it is now.

Having spoken to local business and residents, we all support the ‘streatery’ idea and hope the licence will continue for as long as possible. As businesses all over the country struggle, we must support our local business and do allow can to ensure they thrive.

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Bob Padron deserves a mention as he has done a fantastic job in bringing the community together, especially during these extremely difficult and testing times.

Lew Meltzer , Belsize Lane, Belsize Village, writes:

It seems a shame that, after much discussion as to how the pedestrianised centre of Belsize Village could be utilised into a pleasant community space, we have the ‘Streatery’ imposed on us whether we wanted it or not.

Heralded as a means of regenerating the local restaurant trade devastated by the effects of Covid, the Streatery, according to an article in the Ham&High (June 24), would put Belsize Village ‘on the map’ with alfresco dining and 100 tables placed across designated areas.

How odd, one may consider, that this appeared to be cut and dried over a month ago and yet the majority of residents hadn’t received notice of the public consultation until just over a week before the scheme was to launch!

In a letter (dated June 18) Belsize Ward councillor, Luisa Porritt, gave residents just four days in which to comment on the plans.

Camden Council (in a letter also dated June 18) gave a period of 14 days from the date of the letter. Unfortunately, having not received the notice until June 26, we had officially but barely a week.

Come July 4, the village was transformed, the licence granted (within 24 hrs of opening) and a publicity launch backed by a grant of £30,000.

What a blatant waste of public resources at a time eating out was the last priority on people’s minds.

So the restaurants had suffered; everyone was in the same boat. Did we either want or need another eatery in our village already swamped with nine restaurants placed almost next door to each other? Their dwindling custom was evident long before Covid. Who could possibly benefit from such a scheme? Certainly not local residents!

It’s not so much a case of the scheme being preposterous, but one of our choice to object being totally disregarded. Even under Planning & Licensing relaxed consultation periods from 21 to 14 days, this was obviously in the bag from the very start.

If this was some deluded individual’s idea of “selling Belsize Village”, they have failed. To be hallmarked as one great eating space, brings indigestion to a whole new level.

Regan Chernichen, Belsize Park resident, writes:

I wanted to write in support of the lovely Belsize Park Streatery in Belsize Village.

We had lunch there yesterday and enjoyed it so much. It has really brought the community together and is a lovely space. It’s been great being able to eat at and support our local restaurants again.

We really hope it continues into September (at least!)

Menace of motorbikes

Antony Porter, Westminster, full address supplied, writes:

It is thought-provoking that despite growing public concerns about pollution and noise, local governments have so far failed to limit, or better still eliminate altogether, the menace of motorbikes.

Many of the riders act responsibly but many do not.

We are accustomed to witnessing motorcyclists speeding around and breaking limits, producing pollution that can affect our lungs as well as noise that can frighten and deafen us.

Furthermore, why are some of their number plates damaged or illegible? And why are there so many sporting “L” plates? If these are failing to comply with the rules of the road, why are they allowed to continue to travel around?

The motorcycling industry is very powerful. Every time you breathe in, somewhere in the world yet another motorbike rolls off the production line. And in Britain, there are around 350 motorbike deaths every year.

Street clutter

Will Coles, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

As a cyclist and an NW3 resident, I am all too keen to get people out of their cars and onto their bikes or using their feet. The issue of traffic in Hampstead is notorious, especially during the morning school runs.

For the last 18 months or so our area has been inundated with dockless private hire bikes, which are often left abandoned in our streets. This cluttering of our streets with these bikes has been a general nuisance and has caused real problems for people with mobility issues trying to navigate our streets. I am pleased to see that the council has started to make moves to curb this.

Since July 4, rentable e-scooters have been made legal on UK roads while privately owned e-scooters are still prohibited. This seems absurd: scooters that are properly stored in people’s homes are forbidden while scooters that can be left in the street when used. There is a very real risk that we are going to see a repeat of the problems caused by private bike hire bikes.

I (and I’m sure many others!) will be keeping a close eye on how this unfolds in Hampstead and across the rest of Camden.

Bringing back the books

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, cabinet member, Promoting Culture & Community Services, writes:

We know how well-loved our libraries are in Camden, they play a vital role in supporting communities, offering a space where people can meet, learn and discover new skills. That’s why we, alongside our residents, are keen to have them reopened as soon as possible but in a safe way that protects both visitors and our staff.

Following the recent guidance from government, we have been working on plans to make sure Camden’s libraries can be reopened safely. This includes a phased approach, with limited computer access available at two libraries in the first instance. This will be followed by further venues over the summer period.

The safety of our residents and staff is our top priority, so we are doing all we can to ensure that the necessary safety measures are in place to make sure buildings are ‘Covid secure’ and residents are able to adhere to social distancing guidance before reopening.

This includes completing full risk assessments of all our libraries in consultation with our union colleagues, and we will release more information on our steps to reopening with dates as soon as we can.

Our library staff have been exceptional throughout this pandemic and many of them have been redeployed to support other critical services such as the emergency response for residents who needed to be shielded from Covid-19, this included working in food banks.

They have also continued to offer access to our online digital library, as well as expanding the range of online events and resources available – I know this has been a lifeline to many of our residents during a difficult time.

The Home Library Service (HLS) has also delivered books to residents on the government’s shielded list, and over the summer the service will resume deliveries to its existing housebound customers with an aim to expand its offer to more people in the borough.

I’d like to thank our residents for their continued patience and look forward to welcoming them back to Camden’s libraries soon.

Funding our libraries

Keith Martin, Friern Park, North Finchley, writes:

Since 2010 800 libraries have been closed. 10,000+ jobs lost, 4,000 PCs scrapped, books pulped and collections dispersed. All these cuts must be restored to former levels and volunteers replaced by librarians. This is the requirement of the 1964 Libraries Act which stipulates the provision of a comprehensive and efficient public library service. A single security guard in an unstaffed library clearly fails to provide this statutory requirement.

‘I shall do what it takes,’ promised the chancellor. A society where learning is respected is a society which provides this comprehensive service.

The chancellor’s £1.57 billion funding of culture, the arts, theatre and sport is of course welcome.

What is disturbing is that, so far, it fails completely to provide funds for public libraries, which are the other side of the education coin for future generations of children as well as for adults. The chancellor Rishi Sunak and the team of culture ministers under Oliver Dowden have been alerted to this omission and asked to rectify it in the chancellor’s budget statement.

When public libraries reopen after the pandemic, this needs to be the moment for celebration of what has been missing from public investment these last 10 years.

Government must end NRPF now

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly member for Enfield and Haringey, writes:

The government cannot afford to ignore the growing chorus of calls from politicians and charities to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

Blocking access to welfare support for those with the wrong immigration status has plunged families into an underclass of our society.

It is particularly galling that this condition has not been lifted during this pandemic, which has hit the most vulnerable and disadvantaged the hardest.

NRPF has tied the hands of local authorities and mutual aid groups seeking to lend a helping hand to those in need during lockdown.

So, it was astounding to see the prime minister recently admit to not knowing anything about it.

His government must get to grips with the bleak reality that hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are children, are facing with NRPF. It’s vital they are given the state support they desperately need in these difficult times.

Butterfly Of Summer

Joanna Maria John, Kentish Town, writes:

Butterfly of summer you dance,

Flutter and gently glide,

Where spring and summer stand side by side,

You flutter through spring’s door,

You love the warm sunshine,

The birds that sing, the sweet scented flowers and much more.

Summer awaits, you dance all the while,

Where Nature celebrates,

You love the warm sunny weather,

The sunshine and flowers that merge together,

You love the sun that smiles

And watches over you,

You love the bright colourful rainbow

In the skies so blue,

You love the revitalising showers

That fall from the blue sky so clear,

In spring and summer

The happiest times of the year.