Ham&High letters: NHS volunteers, e-bikes, Cllr Jonathan Simpson, planning Paper, Fleet Road and parking

Performing Production CIC (community interest company) launched the Unlock Your Creative Potential a

Performing Production CIC (community interest company) launched the Unlock Your Creative Potential arts collective in Shepherds Hill on Saturday, aimed at local musicians and creatives. The CIC is a not-for-profit organization that helps communities, especially the disadvantaged. From left are Donna King, Kevin Byrd and Marianne Hyatt. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

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

Hugely grateful to our volunteers

Caroline Clarke, group chief executive, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, writes:

The excellent piece written by your reporter Harry Taylor in last week’s paper really highlights the invaluable contribution volunteers make to our hospitals – this has been especially true during the pandemic.

Harry was one of hundreds of volunteers working at the Royal Free London carrying out all manner of crucial tasks – taking supplies around the hospital, handing out scrubs to staff, supporting the staff respite centre, making gowns used by staff as part of their personal protective equipment and much, much more.

Many of those who volunteered were out of work or on furlough because of the lockdown and we had a huge range of people offering their time, including actors and restaurant workers. I do hope that like Harry they have taken something positive from the experience. We certainly could not have delivered such exceptional care to patients without the support of these unsung heroes – thank you all.

Now that lockdown has come to an end and we have passed the initial peak of Covid-19, many of those who volunteered will have returned to their usual jobs.

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However, we still have an army of regular volunteers who help keep our hospitals going – a service delivered to us by the Royal Free Charity. We continue to be hugely grateful for their support.

Riding roughshod

Angela Humphery, Willoughby Road, Hampstead, writes:

I was horrified to read in the Daily Mail (August 11) that journalist Harry Wallop had chosen ‘elevated Hampstead Heath, North London, to put five e-bikes to the test for Mail readers who are considering making a purchase’.

Worse he actually states that his ‘4.75-mile route involved main roads, a couple of roundabouts and a rugged, bumpy track through woodland to recreate a rural commute.’

There are just four marked cycle paths on the Heath as this wonderful London green lung is primarily for walkers not riders. And never ever through woodland. What was he thinking? Our woodlands are where dogs are let off the lead and where children wander freely, parents not having to keep a constant eye out for vehicles of any sort.

However, during lockdown things have got worse for us foot-soldiers, with many more pedal-bikes off-piste on the Heath and even an e-scooter or two. And now some idiot testing out the most dangerous of all two-wheelers through our quiet and peaceful woodland riding roughshod over our bluebell beds and other such flora. On yer bike, Mr Wallop. If I ever catch you in my neck of the woods, I shall give you a bloody great wallop.

The queen

Michael Woods, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

I have been pleased to read JJ Connolly’s interesting article about the history and changing nature of Kings Cross.

I write, however, since I had not even finished reading the second sentence when I was struck by something. Connolly may be well versed in some of the history of Kings Cross in recent times, and even going back a few centuries, but he is staggeringly wrong about the era of Queen Boudica. Boudica was the queen of a Celtic people among the Ancient Britons who were known as the Iceni and her revolt against the Romans was in around or just after 60 AD. The first English people, namely Germanic people in the form of the Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes, did even not begin to arrive and settle in Britain until nearly 400 years later... and yet Connolly has them acting as “resistance fighters” under Queen Boudica of the Celtic Iceni against the fairly recently arrived Romans!

I think that the rest of his article is interesting and informative, but I find it impossible to let this point lie and hope that someone could point out this error.

A ‘thank you’ to Cllr Jonathan Simpson

Esther Cohen, Duke’s Road, Camden, writes:

I write as one of the 20,000 people who work in the cultural sector in Camden to thank Cllr Jonathan Simpson for all his work for the cultural sector locally. I was sad to learn that he had stepped down from Camden Council’s ruling cabinet - but know that his work has helped bring cultural opportunities to thousands locally. Over the last year I’ve been lucky enough to take part in the wonderful Camden Alive project which brought spectacular projects to communities throughout the borough. Culture changes lives.

The help he’s been giving to us through Covid-19 to protect local culture has been vital. The spirit of Camden is too precious to lose - it’s the reason why so many of us call this area our home.

So thank you Cllr Simpson. I hope he continues to work with us for years to come as a local councillor in King’s Cross.

Georgia Kaufmann, Camden, full address supplied, writes:

It is with disappointment that I read in the Ham&High that Cllr Jonathan Simpson has stepped down from his cabinet role promoting culture and communities. Like many I feel gratitude for the work he’s done to bring culture to many in our borough. His support of local charities and the voluntary sector will have reached countless people in Camden over the years. This work, which he continued even in strict lockdown, became even more important during the pandemic.

His enthusiasm and passion for culture in all its forms meant that he threw himself into many diverse aspects of Camden’s vibrant arts and music scene. With over 20,000 jobs in the creative sector in Camden, it’s a vital part of our local economy. From JW3 to the Camden Mela, to supporting the work of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, he brought the same energy and enabling approach. Council leader Georgia Gould will find a successor to him but he will be a hard act to follow.

Knowing him he will continue work hard for King’s Cross residents as their local councillor. But in the meantime on behalf of many of us in Camden – thank you.

For the future

Marx de Morais, Camden, full address supplied, writes:

In its white paper called Planing For the Future, the government presents its vision for a developer-friendly change in the planning system.

The word planning is used almost in a misleading way here because the main aim of this white paper is to weaken the planning system. In the introductory sentences it is warmly pointed out that Conservation Areas will continue to be highly protected. But what does ‘conservation’ mean in the UK? When it comes to protecting our architectural heritage and grown neighbourhoods, we are often far behind the example of other developed countries. In Hampstead, we have seen for years what a hollow and meaningless word conservation has become in the UK. Whether on Kidderpore Ave, Oak Hill Way and elsewhere, developers have practically carried out a reverse exorcism and cast out the Hampstonian soul from whole parts of our neighbourhood in exchange for architectural horror.

It is all the more frightening when you get to the actual details in the white paper regarding our Conservation Areas. If we leave all the decorative descriptions aside, the end of our neighbourhoods as we love them and in which we like to live is described here: “Ensuring the planning framework is responsive to changes, and timely decisions are made. We want local authorities to concentrate on the most historic buildings and architectural specialists earn autonomy from routine listed building consents.”

In other words: We’ll cram approval processes down the throats of communities and local authorities, take away their planning rights and hand these over straight to developers.

Perhaps it is necessary to take a bit of the decorative whitewash from the white paper at face value. Perhaps the only salvation, for Hampstead as a neighbourhood that we and our guests love and in which we like to live, will soon be, that we provide a new level of protection for our heritage assets; an international one.

Our Fleet Road

Tahir Nawaz, Save Our Street, Fleet Road, Belsize Park, writes:

As a resident of Fleet Road, living opposite the relocated 168 bus stand and additional 24 stand, I was heartened to read in Michael Boniface’s article, South End Green Streatery opens amid calls for pedestrianised slip road (Ham&High) that Camden are still undecided about whether to close the slip road at South End Green where the 168 usually stands.

Hampstead Town ward residents may be petitioning for its closure but we NW3 residents and traders in Gospel Oak Ward on the south side of the green who are worst affected by these constant and thoughtless attempts to move the buses to outside our homes – on Fleet Road and the one-way system - certainly haven’t been consulted. Indeed this time the bus stands have arrived before any notification was received at all. Perhaps a suitable spot for the bus stands could be found in Hampstead Town Ward instead since these are the people who are so keen to move them.

A Maryon Mews resident is quoted in your article as saying since the slip road has been kept open to traffic, the dining area (at the streatery) has been subject to heavy vehicles passing close to the tables, thus diminishing the area designed to be tranquil and free from air pollution.

Oh dear. Try living on Fleet Road where in addition to already being the busiest road in the area and the route of three buses – the 24, C11 and 46 – we now have the relocated 168 and additional 24 bus stands as well. Try living with constant noise, disruption and pollution 24/7. I can’t even open my windows any more day or night.

Parking permit

Andrew Winton, full address supplied, writes:

You can imagine my horror and disgust last weekend when I had to renew my controlled parking zone permit and found that the cost had rocketed from £171 to £292. Using Camden’s own figures, they have raised over £600 million between the introduction of CPZ charges in 2002 and 2018 so they clearly see it as an easy way to get money. Now, with no prior warning or consultation, they have raised the charge by 70%. How on earth are they allowed to do this? Why are such increases not regulated, as council tax is?

I have an MOT which shows the emissions from my car are less than 10% of the allowable limit. Further, when I enter the number plate in the TfL database, it passes the allowable limit for the London ULEZ. So I do not drive a polluting car and it is ridiculous that Camden can arbitrarily pick an age and then decide that anything older than that is automatically bad. Surely the annual mileage is more relevant? How does a parked car pollute more than one that spends its time idling in traffic in Camden?

There is absolutely no justification for this disgraceful cash grab.

It’s just another example of Camden Council syphoning cash from a section of its population because it can.