Suburb association chairwoman announced
Katie Davies LEADING an association representing more than 2,000 homes and with a history of almost 100 years may be intimidating to some, but the new chairwoman of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents Association is taking it in her stride. Temple Fort
LEADING an association representing more than 2,000 homes and with a history of almost 100 years may be intimidating to some, but the new chairwoman of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents Association is taking it in her stride.
Temple Fortune Lane resident Janet Elliott was announced as chairwoman of the association earlier this month, taking over from outgoing chief David Lewis.
Ms Elliott will be following in the footsteps of people like Peter Mandelson's father, Tony, in the role and is looking forward to the challenge.
"I am very pleased and hope I shall do a reasonable job and I will enjoy it as well - there is no point in doing it if you can't enjoy it," the retired education worker said.
"I had never been on a residents association before I moved here in 1994, but I decided to join because I didn't know a lot of people.
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"At that point I didn't know what it did although I knew a lot about Hampstead Garden Suburb as a concept.
"My husband, John, was ill and I wanted something I could do from home with him so I became the membership secretary and then I was asked onto the association's council.
"I said no until about six months after John died when I thought an evening out was something I could take up."
Now she has been announced as chairwoman of the group, Ms Elliott may be looking forward to the role, but realises there will be challenges ahead.
"One of the difficulties is putting together what people want and what is good for Suburb," she explained.
"For example, a person may want a hard surface outside his home to keep his car on but no one wants the Suburb full of hard surfaces.
"We don't set out to anger people unnecessarily but it is a balancing act and you can't do an effective job if you are liked by everyone all the time."
The residents association was founded in 1911 and has faced several challenges since then.
In its early years, the group prevented a train track running through the conservation area.
More recently it bared its teeth to Barnet Council when councillors decided to put a controlled parking zone into the area.
Members turned on the three Conservative ward representatives in the borough elections and called for residents to support their Liberal Democrat rivals.
Now Ms Elliott says there are two issues dominating the agenda.
"Planning and highways are the issues which concern people most strongly," she said.
"For example, there are still many different views on the Henrietta Barnett School development. Everyone wants the school to have new buildings but there are issues since it is facing Central Square."
But community spirit is the way to keep the area intact, Ms Elliott said.
"People here are friendly in a way I haven't found in other areas," she said. "When we had the big centenary event in 2007 large numbers of people came out to celebrate and volunteer.
"It wouldn't be what you would call a mixed area - in terms of income - but it is much more inclusive in terms of the different professions and different faiths of people who live here.
"We have people who have just moved here, people who have lived here all their lives and we have all different ages.
"After my time I would live to look back and think I've made a positive influence on the area.