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Archive for the ‘Highgate’ Category

Railway_Bridge_2014

Network Rail plans to close the footbridge from November. Councillor Sian Berry has written to them to ask for plans to be delayed while local people are properly consulted about improving access.

Residents in Kentish Town and Highgate wards have been in touch with us, very concerned about Network Rail’s plans to rebuild the footbridge that runs between York Rise and Ingestre Road over the two railway lines.

The bridge needs to be raised for the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking line – a great improvement to transport, which will also reduce the amount of diesel fumes in our area. However, the first anyone heard of this – local councillors included – was when a letter from Network Rail arrived on local doorsteps telling us the works would start in November and inviting us to an ‘information event’ to see the plans already in finished form.

The plans are for an even higher set of steps, with no new ramps to help with disabled, bike or pushchair access, and residents are rightly fed up that they have no opportunity to influence these or to ask for other improvements.

Councillor Sian Berry, who represents Highgate, asked Camden Council to intervene, but they replied that under planning rules they can only comment on the appearance of the bridge, and not enforce any other local policies. We believe this is not right, and that Network Rail has as much of a duty as any public service organisation to consider accessibility under Disability Discrimination (DDA) laws, and a moral duty to carry out meaningful consultation.

There are also serious questions about a sewer pipe that runs alongside the bridge, and whether it will be fully operational during and after the works, and if this will affect flood risks in vulnerable Dartmouth Park.

Councillor Berry wrote to Network Rail on 19 October asking for a pause in the works and a meaningful consultation with local residents, and to Thames Water about the flood risk.

Download the letter here

 

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by Green Cllr Maya de Souza

As the Camden New Journal reported, Camden’s Labour administration has proposals for the Highgate Newtown Community Centre site. The proposals, released for consultation last week, involve demolishing and rebuilding some of the centre and building substantial private sector housing. The downsides would be loss of the key part of the youth centre ie the old church on Winscombe Street, closure of a dedicated children’s centre, and construction of a large five-storey block of flats.

All of the homes are intended to be for private sale; none for the affordable housing so vital with the pay differentials and inequality we have in London. Immediately there will be a tension created between raising funds by selling these homes and having a community centre on site, with a tall building casting a shadow on the reduced courtyard of the Centre and buyers being put off by young people, children etc

So Camden Greens are calling for, not only a careful assessment of need for children’s services before a decision is made to lose this dedicated facility and protection of youth services in the area, but also an innovative approach to the housing development.

What we would like to see is this space used for innovative affordable housing which takes from the housing co-op movement and from the history of the nearby Holly Lodge Estate. This would involve space-saving apartments, built to a very high standard of design, combined with more communal space, for social activity and some spare rooms for hire for visiting children or grandchildren.

This would not only be for older people, but also for others who like to have some support or community activity. This site is ideal as some of the community centre space could be used out of hours. In this way, we could make these homes affordable appealing to those who struggle to live in the area, whilst improving well-being through addressing isolation. Homes would be to live in not for buy to lets, strengthening community and taking away speculation.

This closer community way of life worked well for Holly Lodge Mansions – hugely innovative in its time providing safe supportive housing for women. Once again we need innovation with our ageing population and ever increasing house prices, and I am confident that our many architects can come up with some excellent design.

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By Cllr Maya de Souza

At Camden’s Health Scrutiny meeting on July 2,  the Whittington Health’s  Board were back following the heated meeting a few months ago, soon after the hospital’s mass sell-off proposal came to light, which led to a mass protest march.

Dr Greg Battle led the delegation  and this time began with an exposition of the hospital’s clinical strategy. He said other strategies like estates were derived from it.  But the clinical strategy is what the change is really about.

It was very well presented and the clinical plan seemed pretty persuasive, innovative in part. Councillors almost looked relieved. So did Tom Foot, the journalists who broke the news of the sell-off, sitting in the wings.  Though one has to ask whether its really quite so easy to reduce costs in the health service, and if it were why this hasn’t happened before.

So this is the strategy.  It has  three elements:

  • a. enhanced recovery: which means getting people active and fit earlier. No sitting around in expensive beds waiting to get better.
  • b. ambulatory care : co-ordinating care so that patients can be turned round quickly. Dr Battle talked about avoiding “hospitalisation- associated disability” and a radically very different A&E experience which focused on avoiding people being admitted unless monitoring was needed.
  • c. Integrated care: this means links from intensive care to mental health and social care. Dr Battle referred to the  Haringey example, with real time telecoms with all relevant people. He explained that lower level care approaches like encouraging and supporting people to give up smoking can be more effective than other interventions.

There was a lot of other seemingly good stuff. But the best was a sort of assurance that beds wouldn’t be lost if they were needed. They’re expecting not to need quite as many beds but before trying to close any they will consult and will explore all options. The Board assured councillors they would only give up beds if not needed once the new approach had been tried out. They would adopt a flexible approach so beds will be available if needed.

This all looks good but people will want to hear more of this and see it in writing.  Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition Chair, Shirley Franklin, was in attendance and said that the Board did intend to close down beds, and hospital was on red alert with 94% occupancy. Cllr Bryant, ordinarily a very fair chair, refused to let her speak, so we heard no more.

So it looks as of there is no longer a plan to do certain things within certain timeframe. There has been a partial rethink, not a complete rethink in my view.

We will need to keep a close eye on the detail, as the board’s interest in becoming a Trust will drive them to show a healthy financial state and may encourage bigger cuts than manageable.  Also as commissioning becomes more GP-driven I fear the incentives will be against hospitals and for the services that GPs provide, again possibly all excessive pressure to reduce the size of hospitals.

But I think it’s fair for the campaigners including us Greens to claim a partial victory.

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by Natalie Bennett

In a letter in the Ham & High of May 2, 2013, Mr Uys (Drivers faced with trolley jam) expresses eloquently the frustration of  Highgate High Street residents, workers and visitors with the thoroughly anti-social behaviour of the Tesco store there, but the problem is much wider than this one store.
Camden Green Party members talk regularly to residents near Tesco and Sainsbury stores in Kentish Town High Street, Fortess Road and Swain’s Lane, among others, who are plagued by trolleys blocking pavements, HGVs blocking roads, and noisy unloading at all hours of the day and night.
These supermarket chains are simply anti-social and abusive of the power of their size, and are being allowed to get away with behaviour that advantages them against their independent competitors – stores that are of far greater benefit to their local communities and provide far more jobs and business opportunities for suppliers.
Independent stores typically get deliveries by small vans, from a range of independent wholesalers and food manufacturers, and they have storerooms in which stock is held (on which they pay business rates).
By contrast the chains stock the stores straight from HGVs three or four times a day, using the public space of the pavement, and road, without any respect for the rights and needs of others.
When Camden Green Party had a pop-up shop in Fortess Road, the Sainsbury’s Local opposite regularly littered the highway with traffic cones, blocking off an HGV-sized space outside their store. They have no right to do that – only the arrogance of size and sense of entitlement that has infected far too many of our large companies, as demonstrated also by the way they continue to squeeze down staff wages, enforce casualisation on unwilling workers and employ unconsciounable zero-hours contracts.
The Green Party seeks on a national level to ensure that supermarkets pay the true social cost of their way of conducting business, or make major changes. On a local level, our councillors seek to ensure that noise abatement cases are brought by local authorities to address the nuisance that occurs.

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By Cllr Maya de Souza

The recent outcry about plans to slash funding for Highgate Library, reflects the current administration’s lack of openness and transparency about its plans for our libraries.

In mid-2011, a decision was made to radically reform our library provision, taking three libraries out of direct council control and giving them to communities to fund.

Two other libraries, Highgate and Regent’s Park, were also subject to change: the former to lose over 60% of its funding, and the latter to be closed and for a homework club-type arrangement to be set up instead.

I immediately raised questions about the cuts, pointing out that it seemed that if no alternative funds were found for Highgate Library, it was at risk of closure. It was not possible to see how a library already running on a shoe-string could struggle on with such severe cuts – if it did, it could not have anything like the same level of service.

And there was no evidence at all that any of the possible schemes and sources of funding mentioned by officers and Cabinet Members would come to fruition at all.

When Alexis Rowell, our Green candidate, pointed out in by-election material – leading up to the narrow election of Labour councillor Sally Gimson, that Highgate Library was clearly still at risk, Labour denied this strongly. They said that the library was not at risk and that it would stay open.

However, this June – nine months later – the Council held a public meeting led by Cllr Leach where it was stated that almost 75% of funds would be lost and admitted that they had no thought-out plans for ensuring sufficient funding for the library come April 2013 – now only about nine months away.

Cllr Leach admitted that the current funding level involves running a library on a shoestring. Clearly without 75% of its funds the library is at risk!

Residents have now put forward a proposal for a community-led steering group to explore options and guide the council as to the library’s future, and they have asked for the funding cuts to be put on hold until after a solution has been found.

Highgate Greens and I are pushing for funding cuts to be reduced, and in any event put on hold pending a solution.

We will be seeking to ensure that we do not lose this invaluable community resource. We think the library needs to be made even better, NOT starved of funding.

The sums involved are manageable, considering that Camden has cut its budget faster than is necessary.

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by Natalie Bennett

We’re now in the final stages of the Alexis for Highgate campaign. The Highgate byelection has kept us very busy over the past month, but it has been great meeting and talking to so many Highgate residents. And it’s also brought us a string of visitors from around the country, including Green Party leader Caroline Lucas.

Today deputy leader Adrian Ramsay will be joining us.

If you’d like to find out more about the campaign, you can read our campaign page on the Camden site, or visit Alexis’s blog.

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By John Collins, veteran Highgate Green Party member

In his new book, Camden: A Political History, available from tomorrow from The Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town, and probably also other good local bookshops, former local Tory leader Piers Wauchope says the Greens were “such an unknown phenomenon” in 2006 that the main parties were “baffled by their appeal…especially in Highgate”.

Perhaps he was misled by his own otherwise excellent statistical appendix, where he strangely omits any reference (on p.367) to the Highgate ward Green Party candidate Ronnie Eyres, who polled 628 votes in 1994, well ahead of all three Lib Dems.

In fact the Greens were ahead of the Highgate Lib Dems in four of the five elections from 1990-2006, and, as Wauchope duly acknowledges, won their first two seats in 2006.

Editor’s note: CNJ editor Richard Osley has also been commenting on the coverage of the Greens, specifically of Sian Berry.

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