Ham&High letters: The Streatery, Boris, TV licence, AXA v the trees, Cummings’ effect, housing and the ponds

Belsize Village's streatery where customers are being served alfresco. Picture: Belsize Village Busi

Belsize Village's streatery where customers are being served alfresco. Picture: Belsize Village Business Association - Credit: Archant

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

Going out to eat - out on the street

Brianna, Lyndhurst Road, Belsize Park, writes:

I’m writing in support of the Streatery at Belsize Terrace. It has made our village come to life and allows us to celebrate our community (so important in the midst of the pandemic). At this point, my family is not comfortable eating inside a restaurant so we are very thankful that we have the option to support our local businesses while remaining safe. Besides enjoying eating at the Streatery, my husband and I now take our pup on nightly walks down to the village just to be a part of the amazing atmosphere.

Jeremy Grundy, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

I want to say what a magnificent success the Belsize Streatery has become. Not only has it brought people together in such a pleasant way, it has added tremendously to the recovery and success of all of the local business and completely smartened up the whole place. It’s almost like going back in time, seeing neighbours identifying and sharing in real community activities. In my opinion, the Streatery should become a permanent aspect of Belize life. We must all support this wonderful local initiative and make it a continued success.

Katherine Koegan, Belsize Park, full address supplied, writes:

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I am resident of the Belsize Village area and I’m writing to show my support for the Belsize Village Streatery.

I have enjoyed it so far and would like to see it continue through the end of September as suggested by the local business association. This is a wonderful addition to our area and much needed in these difficult times we are living in.

Please allow the streatery to stay open for the duration of the summer.

Dr David Rose, Belsize Park, full address supplied, writes:

The Belsize Streatery has been a fantastic innovation for Belsize Village. Since it started, the streatery has brought a vibrant, family-friendly atmosphere to the village while supporting our great local restaurants and cafes with much-needed extra income. It has been very well organised, cleared away every night before 10pm, and has also led to the cleanest village that I’ve known since moving here.

There is no doubt that the Streatery should carry on throughout the summer and the council should consider long-term plans for rubbish collection and for further innovative use of the square to help key businesses.

Dmitri Alibegov, Belsize Park Gardens, Belsize Park, writes:

I am writing in support of the wonderful Belsize Village Streatery. For the past two weeks it’s been providing a welcome breath of fresh air to Belize Park and Hampstead residents. It is really a great project, almost unbelievable that the Belize Village Business Association managed to pull it through, but it is now at risk as Camden Council has not yet extended its license beyond July 18. Why is totally beyond me, what’s not to like? It provides a safe socialising environment to residents and guests, it improves the overall image of the village, it provides custom to local hospitality businesses, I really do not understand what objections can Camden have!

Please provide your support...

• Editor’s note: The Streatery licence is expected to be extended this week. It was initially given a temporary licence due to the short notice of the changing lockdown restrictions. This was extended until July 31, and is expected to be further extended until September 27.

A walking disaster

Dr Saul Zadka, Hampstead Garden Suburb, writes:

Readers of this newspaper should take the lead in demanding that the current prime minister has to resign after at least 20,000 people, many of them in my neighbourhood, died because of his Covid policy.

As a resident who voted for him twice to be a mayor and for his party to parliament in order to avoid his repulsive antisemite rivals, it is paramount to convey the fact that Johnson is a walking disaster. This lame duck politician will inflict more misery on us if we keep him in number 10 even for a few more months.

One should look at his ministers in order to conclude that they share an equal responsibility for the pandemic fiasco. They are a bunch of mediocre misfits chosen by the PM in order to outshine them. In the end he proved to be as moron as they are.

My local MP, Mike Freer, did not like my YouTube video clip (under the headline “Crime Minister”) and I am not surprised.

His party is far too long in power and four more years of Boris will take Britain to the brink.

Defend the Beeb

Janet Shapiro, Connaught Gardens, Hornsey, writes:

In a week’s time, we lose the free TV licence for over-75s. Severe poverty is suffered by many aged over-75 and few will be online. Loss of the free licence will make them more isolated. The free licence is one of the universal pensioner benefits awarded because of our disgracefully low basic state pension; the concession should be funded from taxation not BBC funds.

It is now important for young and old to wake up in defence of the BBC, a national treasure like the NHS. Unions representing the many professionals struggling to produce quality services warn us that the BBC is under attack, quoting Lord Hall, director general, who said the BBC now had 24 per cent less to spend on its UK public services than if the licence fee had risen with inflation over the past decade.

The Co-operative Party identifies the problem and claims that “we need a BBC that is accountable to the people who pay for it, and which is independent of politicians and political interference”.

Licence-fee payers should be made individual members of the BBC Trust, and treated as such, with greater say over how it is run and the service it provides. party.coop/campaign/stand-up-for-a-peoples-bbc

This is important for all generations, not just for those pensioners dependent on BBC TV services during the pandemic. In rural areas, pensioners are often in possession of a bus pass but without any buses. Will this be the future for the BBC, we pay our licence but lose the quality services? A plethora of TV providers and fancy commercial streaming cannot replace a professional public service.

The trees

Julian Glaser, Hampstead, full address supplied, writes:

I am writing regarding your article “Protest blocks tree surgeons in Highgate nature reserve”, July 17, 2020

It is very hard to sympathise with AXA the insurers on this issue. AXA is demanding that the Local Authority cut down oaks in ancient woodland. The oaks are a community asset, major and irreplaceable parts of a complex, interwoven and hugely valuable biological system.

Eye-witness and botanical evidence is that the oaks predate the nearby building. AXA has long been alerted by earlier insurance claims to the risks from adjacent trees and a prudent insurer has the expertise to price such risks into their policies. Over many years AXA has taken the money. AXA must now pay for whatever remedial work is required: that is what insurers are for.

It is not surprising that property damage has now occurred. For AXA for instance to propose no more than decorative making-good is simply irresponsible. Remedial work must also secure the building into the future - oaks or no oaks. This might indeed include adequate underpinning. Anything less is unlikely to fulfil AXA’s stated intention to “bring some peace of mind to our policyholder” since, among other apparent subsidence risks, two large oaks and the many other mature trees of Queen’s Wood will remain close by even if these four magnificent trees are ripped from the fabric of the woodland ecosystem. Is AXA then proposing continued depredations on the ancient woodland should these risks turn out in fact to cause damage over coming years?

Consistent with the social and environmental responsibility much vaunted on their website, AXA might like to shoulder its obligation to implement a permanent and sustainable solution - and perhaps to send a representative to engage with the concerned community - instead of trying to offload its liabilities onto the council-tax payers of Haringey.

One rule...

lan Taylor, Haringey, full address supplied, writes:

Has Dominic Cummings moved to Highgate?

In Highgate this afternoon, I saw a van drive up Swains’ Lane and turn right, illegally, into Pond Square. It was a LB of Camden van. One rule for us etc.

Why the delay?

Cllr Dawn Barnes, Crouch End ward, writes:

It cannot be right that there are nearly 2,000 homes empty in Haringey when so many people desperately need homes. Therefore, I am glad that Haringey Council has decided that it will start to use empty dwelling management orders (EDMOs) as a tool to bring them back into use.

The power to issue EDMOs has been available since 2006, yet the Labour councillors who run Haringey Council have until now refused to use this power, even though the problems of homelessness and empty properties are hardly new.

Haringey Liberal Democrats have been calling for this to change for years. However, we were repeatedly rebuffed by Labour. For example, my colleague Cllr Paul Dennison raised this at a cabinet meeting in February 2019, only to be told that the “use of EDMOs was an expensive process and counter cost effective for the council to pursue”.

Haringey Labour either need to explain what has changed since then or apologise for neglecting a tool which could have prevented homelessness.

The Ponds

John McPartlin, Creighton Avenue, Muswell Hill, writes:

Anger at plans to charge (July 9) is true, as the Hampstead Heath Ponds have now begun to trial reopening for swimmers once more to enjoy.

The problem with this, however, is that they are now under the control of the City of London Corporation, an outfit that exists not to serve the interests of users but to make money from its new ownership. Entry had always in the past traditionally been free but it now has imposed a £4 entry fee for a limited time slot visit that now must be pre-booked online and paid for in advance. The Men’s Pond now looks for like a fortress with the new fencing and the wire mesh that has been installed and entry is controlled by a security guard.

The Ponds need to be brought back once more under democratic control of an elected body, such as the GLA, where such issues about usage can be freely and openly discussed with a body that is accountable to those who have put it into office for what it does.