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Timely call for meeting of minds on Heath's future

PUBLISHED: 13:01 29 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 07 September 2010

THERE will be a great deal of interest this week in Bob Hall s call for a meeting of minds on the future of Hampstead Heath. Writing today in View From The Heath, his monthly Ham&High column, Mr Hall refers to important recent decisions that will be welc

THERE will be a great deal of interest this week in Bob Hall's call for a meeting of minds on the future of Hampstead Heath.

Writing today in View From The Heath, his monthly Ham&High column, Mr Hall refers to important recent decisions that will be welcomed by all Heath lovers.

In welcoming Camden Council's recent decision to reject a controversial method of development for Fitzroy Farmhouse, and applauding Boris Johnson's pledge to protect strategic views of the city from the Heath, he also sounds a note of warning about the number of proposed developments that could impact on this treasured natural resource. Their number is such that he believes the time has arrived to establish a common statement by all interested parties to help protect the Heath and its immediate environs, while also setting out clear and useful guidelines for developers.

Since these guidelines would not be legally enforceable, presumably part of the purpose for such a common statement would be to open up a meaningful and constructive dialogue with developers who have retained at least a modicum of social responsibility.

In turn this might deflect the need for the kind of pitched battle residents and lobby groups have had to wage against obviously unsuitable schemes like the proposed Fitzroy Farm development, which was close to being accepted until Camden councillors took a stand and turfed it out, against the advice of their own planning officers.

After a period when Heath users always seemed to be at odds with the management, Mr Hall's stewardship has been both constructive and assured. His call for a return to the early 1980s when Camden had a balanced, rational and recognised policy on the Heath is both welcome and timely and it is significant that more than a quarter of a century later, he believes the task of formulating a new policy should be approached with some urgency.

We suspect that organisations like the Heath and Hampstead Society and the Highgate Society will not require a second invitation. Three local authorities, Camden, Barnet and Haringey will also have to be involved, along with the mayor's office. While a consensus might be more difficult to achieve when politicians of various hues become involved, this is a necessary call to action and who would disagree with the need to preserve and protect the Heath for future generations to enjoy?


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