Ham&High letters: Streatery, GPs, Merchant Navy, electoral reform, toxic air and fly-tipping

The Everyman cinema in Hampstead paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who died on Friday, with the slog

The Everyman cinema in Hampstead paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who died on Friday, with the slogan 'Wakanda Forever', referencing the actor's most famous role in the film Black Panther. Picture: André Langlois - Credit: André Langlois

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

Let’s make the ‘Streatery’ permanent

Brenda Beary, Parliament Hill, writes:

I would like to say what a pleasure it is to enjoy a meal out safely at one of the restaurants in the South End Green Streatery. The dining area has been made attractive with umbrellas, plants and bunting so that the rain is no deterrent. Many thanks to Camden Council for facilitating the Streatery so quickly.

I do hope the arrangement can be made more permanent.

Limits to phone consultations

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, West Hampstead, writes:

David Winskill’s piece on the slow morphing of the health service (View from the street: We need transparency about emerging NHS changes), raises many useful points but omits the matter of GP consultations usually being replaced by telephone calls.

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This idea has been around for many decades and has been discarded for that amount of time because it is ridiculous. It was ridiculous then and is ridiculous now. It is being introduced now as a cheap and shoddy expedient. Because so many symptoms will be missed, in due course, in my view, it will generate a tidal wave of law suits for negligence.

The NHS provided the media with a video of such a consultation. The doctor was discussing a rash on the patient’s shoulder, and suggested that it was quite red. However, had the venetian blinds behind him been opened up a bit more, the screen would have shown a more pink and less “angry” rash. Had they been more closed, it would have appeared darker and more serious. And so we have a diagnostic system that depends on the setting of a venetian blind which will be responsible for medical decisions and the consequences.

I’m not saying that there is no role for telephone consultations in GP practice but that it is limited if, in a year or so, GPs prefer not to spend half their week in law courts.

I went to the Pond

A Kentish Town resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

With apologies to AA Milne, here’s my take on his poem ‘I went into a house’:

I went to the women’s pond but it wasn’t the women’s pond

It had blissful water and reeds so tall

But it hasn’t got




It isn’t like the women’s pond at all.

I am sure other swimmers could supply their own words, like spontaneity, frivolity, friendliness, etc. It is just a swimmers’ facility at the moment and better than nothing, but I hope we get our ponds back after lockdown.

Our essential workers at sea

Lieutenant Commander Les Chapman (Senior Warden, Honourable Company of Master Mariners), Mark Dickinson (General Secretary, Nautilus International), Rear Admiral Jeremy Larken (Managing Director, OCTO), Vice Admiral John McAnally (National President, Royal Naval Association), Captain Justin Osmond (Chief Executive, Shipwrecked Mariners Society), Guy Platten (Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping), Captain John Sail (National Chairman, Merchant Navy Association), Commodore Bob Sanguinetti (CEO, UK Chamber of Shipping), Catherine Spencer (CEO, Seafarers UK, King George’s Fund for Sailors), Rear Admiral Bruce Williams (Editor, The Naval Review), Rear Admiral David Snelson (Chief Harbourmaster, Port of London, 2006-11), Commodore Barry Bryant (Director-General, Seafarers UK 2002-19), Commodore Michael Clapp (Commodore, Amphibious Task Group, Falklands War 1982), Michael Everard (Prime Warden, Shipwrights’ Company, 1989-90), Commodore Jamie Miller (Naval Regional Commander, Wales and Western England 2004-17), Captain Martin Reed (Master, Honourable Company of Master Mariners 2017-18), Commodore Ronald Warwick (Commodore, Cunard Line 1990-2006), Captain Malcolm Farrow (President, The Flag Institute), Captain Malcolm Smith, Captain Gordon Wilson (Head of Defence Studies (Navy) 1987-93), Lieutenant Colonel Ewen Southby-Tailyour, Commander Giles Collighan (Hon Secretary, The Anchorites) Commander Mike Evans, Commander David Hobbs, Commander Sharkey Ward, Lieutenant Colonel Ian Berchem, Lieutenant Commander Jamie Black (Chairman, City Naval Club), Lieutenant Commander Mike Critchley, Lieutenant Commander Bob Eadie, Lieutenant Commander Lester May, Richard Shuttleworth (President, The Old Pangbournian Society), and Dr Anthony Wells write:

Today (September 3) is Merchant Navy Day. The annual service at the Merchant Navy Memorials, Tower Hill, and the Annual National Service for Seafarers, administered by charity Seafarers UK, at St Paul’s Cathedral in mid-October, are cancelled.

Early Lockdown panic buying caused shortages. Supermarkets and suppliers did their best to steady the ship and soon most of us could again buy essential goods. One reason that was possible was the same reason it’s been possible for our having uninterrupted supplies of most things for most of our lives – merchant ships bring goods to our ports 24/7 365 days a year.

Some 95 per cent of UK trade by volume (75pc by value) comes and goes by ship. Merchant seafarers are often unsung heroes in our nation’s story, their ships bringing energy supplies and goods to our islands whatever the weather or circumstances. Over 30,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Second World War (a death rate higher proportionately than in any of our armed forces), merchant ships carrying the food, fuel, armaments and troops essential to victory around the globe.

The seven seas are an unforgiving environment and, while sailors sometimes enjoy calm seas and a prosperous voyage, heavy seas, storms, hurricanes and danger are ever present – over one hundred merchant seafarers died last year. Early this year cruise ships were at the centre of another storm – Covid-19.

Over fifty thousand other ships – bulk carriers, general cargo, specialist and container ships, tankers, ferries and trawlers – have, however, continued to ply the seas, wearing our Red Ensign or Blue Ensign or flags of other seafaring nations. Twenty million containers are crossing the globe right now. Of the world’s 1.6 million merchant seafarers some 300,000 are stuck at sea, unable to leave their ships, world travel restrictions having denied routine crew changes.

For many seafarers life is hell right now, without them your life might be hell too. Let’s salute Merchant Seafarers – our essential workers at sea.

Electoral reform

Allan Lewis, Hillrise ward, Islington, writes:

I write in response to David Brown’s letter regarding electoral reform.

Mr Brown is correct to point out that a significant majority of Labour Party members support electoral reform, specifically some form of proportional representation: as a Make Votes Matter supporter, so do I. However, if we want electoral reform, it isn’t enough just to persuade Labour MPs. Major constitutional reform demands cross-party consensus; we’ve seen the result of instead resorting to a referendum.

It should be clear that the two major parties stand to gain little from electoral reform. If Labour wants to gather support for such a policy it needs to work with other parties, including but not limited to the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and even the Brexit Party, all of whom would expect to gain substantially from a more proportional electoral system. While the Conservatives appear to be wedded to the status quo, unity amongst all of the other major parties would at least apply some pressure and publicise the issue.

Internal debates within the Labour Party won’t persuade the public of the benefits of electoral reform: what’s needed is for all sides to speak up about the gross unfairness of the current system.

A symptom of social injustice

Joanne McCartney, London Assembly Member for Enfield & Haringey, writes:

We have yet more evidence from the Office of National Statistics, suggesting a link between air pollution and higher Covid-19 mortality rates.

Toxic air disproportionately affects the poorest in our capital and even before the pandemic, contributed to the premature deaths of almost 10,000 Londoners per year.

This is an awful symptom of social injustice, but with the right political will, we can do something about it.

City Hall figures show that in the wake of the ULEZ and other mayoral schemes coming into force, London has seen a drop in toxic NO2 emissions which is five times greater than other parts of the country.

In this success, when it comes to the air that we breathe, we cannot afford to be complacent.

This is why the government needs to amend its Environment Bill to give cities more funding in this area and allow London to access the Clean Air Fund, so even more can be done at a regional level.


Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member, writes:

Viral videos of a van upending wood, rubble and plastic on a quiet street in Croydon in July and another of a woman trying to dump furniture outside an Enfield resident’s gate have shocked Londoners. These videos highlight the massive increase in fly-tipping across the capital since lockdown.

Figures from the Clear Waste app show fly-tipping has increased on average by 383 per cent between April and July compared to March.

Although many waste and recycling centres have reopened, fly-tipping is still a problem. This may be because people aren’t aware that tips are open again or they find it too much hassle to use new Covid-safe booking systems.

The big question is what will happen to this fly tipping? More than likely it will be burned, rather than recycled. In 2018-19 recycling rates in London were 33.4pc, up just 0.3pc on the previous year and well below the 50pc target. At the same time, the amount of waste sent by London’s local authorities for incineration went up by nearly three per cent to 58.3pc.

It is time for the mayor to set targets on reducing the overall waste produced in London to cut the amount of stuff that gets burnt and improve the rates of reuse and repair.

• Have you seen an increase in fly-tipping around the Heath and the villages? Send your photographs and stories to the Ham&High’s newsroom at editorial@hamhigh.co.uk - Ed