Who’s Who: Local campaigner Peter Symonds talks about why he loves West Hampstead

Peter Symonds

Peter Symonds - Credit: Archant

Peter Symonds, 70, of Canfield Gardens is involved with local residents’ associations and has lived in West Hampstead for 30 years. When he is not opposing basement applications he is a TV actor and director.

What brought you to West Hampstead?

I had friends who lived in the ground floor flat of this house and they offered me the chance to buy the top floor flat. When I first came here in the 1970s, it was fairly run-down, full of rooming houses and bedsits. Now it’s become the precinct of rich bankers and people who are turning these houses back into single occupancy.

What is your favourite thing about the area?

It is probably one of the best served places in London for transport.

What is the worst thing?

People moving in and putting in basements! We now have 11 among 50 houses in this stretch of Canfield Gardens.

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If you had £100 to blow in West Hampstead where would you spend it? I would take friends to the Guglee Indian restaurant in Finchley Road. It’s really terrific and very different.

What is missing from the area?

I would like a good art house movie theatre, not just the Odeon with the regular sort of cinema.

What makes you smile on your way home?

When I do see people who have made a real effort to have a garden in the street I live in – that makes me smile and makes me happy. Unfortunately, more and more people are paving over their gardens to put in parked cars.

If you were mayor for a day, what would you change?

Rather than the present government loosening planning controls, I would firm up planning controls. We are closing down the green space.

What tips would you give to somebody moving in to the area?

Use the small, local shops as much as you can because they’re very vital to the area and they do need to be supported.

Where in the world would you twin with West Hampstead?

Greenwich Village in New York. There is much now in West End Lane which is very similar to areas of the village in New York, with all the restaurants and little shops, and I think it’s very pleasant.

If you had to write your own epitaph what would it say?

He tried to make a difference to this lovely area.