Ham&High letters: Planning, decorations, overseas aid, Scouts and benefits

Linda Grove with the Christmas tree in Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove

Linda Grove with the Christmas tree in Belsize Village. Picture: Linda Grove - Credit: Linda Grove

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

Stand up for community on planning

Peter Symonds, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

Edie Raff’s account of Camden’s deplorable decision to allow Deliveroo yet another trial period for its operation at Swiss Cottage (Opinion) reminded me of too many of my own depressing battles with Camden planning during the time I was chair of CRASH (The Combined Residents’ Associations of South Hampstead).

Such is Heather Johnson’s terror of the likely legal cost to Camden were an application to be refused and appealed, that she has repeatedly used her deciding vote as chair of the committee to ensure some contentious proposal is approved.

At the numerous planning meetings for Essential Living’s 100 Avenue Road project, for example, it was invariably her casting vote that ensured their reviled proposal came to fruition.

The remnants of that now-abandoned 24-storey monstrosity today blights Swiss Cottage for all to see.

At the October 15 committee meeting, Ms Johnson again engineered the process to ensure that, rather than risk their appealing against the refusal the entire planning committee seemed decided upon, Deliveroo had to be placated with a further nine-month trial period, so avoiding an appeal but making it unlikely they will now ever be evicted from the site.

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Deliveroo has already had three years to clean up its act.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, councillors have never even made a site visit to view for themselves the problems imposed on local residents by this totally unsuitable site. Nor will they have witnessed the danger of a spread of the pandemic caused by groups of non-socially distanced Deliveroo drivers congregating around the premises awaiting delivery orders But the wellbeing of residents apparently counts for nothing. Deliveroo cannot but be encouraged by this decision to totally disregard the concerns of residents.

The October 15 planning decision shames Camden planning. It confirms, yet again, my long-held opinion that Camden’s planning process is unfit for purpose. Power lies solely in the hands of the rich and influential.

Until Camden planners, chaired by the likes of Heather Johnson, opt to stand up for the rights and wellbeing of residents rather than those with the resources to fight costly legal battles, the entire planning process is worthless and a complete waste of time.

This mess

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, writes:

Your article about refuse collection (Ham&High) is right on the money but does not go far enough; I have suffered missed collection after missed collection due to the arrogance of this wretched department.

Their web site fails to provide a means to contest and delivers bogus reasons. They appear to refuse to handle traditional round bins but often the wheelie bin is too heavy to be manipulated up a considerable change of level. Bin men can’t handle bins, I was told, due to health and safety.

They have left huge piles of fetid rubbish for weeks during the summer without any processing of my formal complaints filed with the council.

The complaints office is just as bad and when two dysfunctional department combine, then we get problems.

We need an investigation into refuse collection but we also need the same for the complaints department who could have and should have sorted out this mess years ago.

Get decorating!

Linda Grove, Belsize Lane, writes:

The children have had such a restricted life this year with the Pandemic restrictions that I thought they needed a-bit of fun and something to make them smile.The Crescent Fruiterers have donated this Christmas tree (pictured) to the community.

I am invited all children to display any decorations that they want to on the Christmas tree, homemade or bought.

No rules, just fun!

Begins at home

Lester May, Reachview Close, Camden Town, writes:

The Archbishop of Canterbury was quick to tweet that the temporary cut in the Overseas Aid Budget to 0.5 per cent of GDP is “shameful and wrong”.

That’s a cut from about £15bn to £10bn, less as GDP reduces.

His church has assets of over £8bn but only 0.75m people attend Church of England Sunday services.

When Justin Welby takes a sabbatical next year, he should take time to reflect how some of that money can be used to help the world’s poor, not just his dwindling organisation.

HM Government has already spent huge sums funding vaccine research and the results will benefit many worldwide – that’s foreign aid to my mind, too. Charity, though, begins at home.

The UK should help itself while helping those overseas.

One way is to gift British-made products to British charities to give to worthwhile projects overseas.

Such products would boost companies in our islands, provide employment and help the poor overseas, resulting in higher tax take for the Treasury and fewer benefit payments – a multiple win-win.

A walking city

Caroline Russell AM, Green Party, writes:

Transport for London (TfL) has sent me new data showing that nearly half of all journeys in London were taken by walking or cycling during the first lockdown - 46 per cent of journeys between April and June.

Londoners got a real taste of clean air and quieter streets, and these figures show they got on and made the most of it.

Given half a chance, many Londoners will walk and cycle as their main way of getting around. Our streets and parks have been so full of people of all ages walking and cycling, and children riding bikes are no longer an unusual sight.

Now the mayor must do all he can to avoid a car-jammed city, and help boroughs provide safe conditions for walking and cycling throughout London for good. This means bringing forward more money for low-traffic neighbourhoods, smooth accessible pavements with tactile paving in the right places and new cycle lanes to link up a city-wide network.

Traffic clogged and polluted roads are not inevitable, so long as the mayor takes this important action.

The big race

Bear Grylls, Chief Scout, writes:

This year has been tough on every single one of us. Scout Groups in Hampstead are doing their best to help young people gain skills and find their place in the world. But some groups around the UK have told us they’re struggling to pay their bills and even keep the lights on. We can’t afford for that to happen. We won’t let it.

That’s why we’ve launched an epic new challenge – our Race Round the World. We’re asking everyone to travel a mile or more (or do a project at home) and get sponsored for it.

Miles will be added to the total and help us get the 43,000 miles round the world. It’s about a lot of us, doing a little, to make a massive difference.

You can donate directly, or travel a sponsored mile (anyway you like) and support us in our mission to save our groups and Race Round the World. You can sign up in less than a minute at scouts.org.uk/raceroundtheworld

This is our moment to show we care; to show solidarity and friendship. Join me on the startling line for the biggest race of the year.

Make benefits system fairer

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

One in nine households in our capital won’t able to escape the cold this winter as they struggle to meet the costs of heating their homes.

We have recently marked Fuel Poverty Awareness day (Friday, November 27) which has highlighted the stark choice facing many low-income families and vulnerable Londoners of putting food on the table or keeping warm.

This could be the bleak reality for yet thousands more who are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to the pandemic.

It really doesn’t have to be this way and with its Green New Deal, City Hall plans to slash household energy bills through low-carbon heat and energy-efficiency projects.

In the meantime, the government need to repair the holes they have poked in our welfare system over the last decade.

It was disappointing to see the chancellor’s spending review fail to commit to keeping the uplift in universal credit payments beyond April, or increase the rate of local housing allowance to cover average rents.

With unemployment rising, and in-work poverty at an alarming level, government ministers simply cannot put off taking action on making our benefits system fairer any longer.

• Clarification

Due to an editing error last week, the Ham&High wishes to clarify that, in her column, Edie Raff was raising concerns about the risk of a return to an “unbridled” Deliveroo presence in Swiss Cottage, following the decision by Camden Council to give the Deliveroo Editions site a second extension to remain.