On Tuesday, I spoke at the Charlotte Street Association hustings. It was an exciting night, with the Lib Dems and Tories coming under heavy attack from the audience for their decision to expand South Camden Community School instead of building a new school south of the Camden Road.
Ten of the twelve main party candidates were there, and an audience big enough to leave standing room only in the Drill Hall bar area.
Education and housing were major issues, but with the audience mostly coming from Fitzrovia, the most vital questions were about planning, planning enforcement, and the steady drive to turn Fitzrovia into an extension of Covent Garden. The creeping rise in late licenses, the failure to offer a 24-hour noise hotline, and the danger posed by Derwent Partnership’s ‘improvement’ schemes are the biggest issues threatening an area where it often seems that Camden Council has forgotten people actually live.
As you would expect, the candidates from all the parties were saying that they would resist development, and the destruction of the character of the most lovely area of Central London. But it’s easy to be a Green in these situations. We are the one party who can confidentally stand up and say we do not believe in growth and profit for their own sake, allowing them to ride roughshod over people’s lives, that the plans of organisations like the Fitzrovia Partnership have nothing to recommend them, and that we are prepared to fight them not just at a ward level, but at a council, a London-wide and even a national level.
At the hustings, Fitzrovia residents made it clear that Camden Council has treated it as an area where business and commerce are more important than residents. This has gone on for four years under the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, and for decades before that under Labour. However their local candidates spin it, Bloomsbury is doomed to a steady erosion of everything we love about it if Camden Council remains controlled by these three parties.