Sunday, 5 March 2017

Cycle Superhighway may not be so super for buses

Amidst the controversy raging around the Cycle Superhighway (CSII) scheme one aspect seems to have been largely overlooked – not the least by Transport for London. At a time when TfL is about to reduce the numbers of bus routes using the Finchley Road, it is ensuring by the proposed new road arrangements at Swiss Cottage that the remaining buses will be subject to delay.

I have challenged TfL over these delays which they admit will affect northbound buses by an "up to 2 minutes" delay (which in my book means at least twice as much!) So why would anybody choose to switch from their car to a bus?

I also think it is unwise to proceed with the scheme until the question of the HS2 traffic is sorted or there may well be the sort of traffic overspill chaos the scheme’s opponents are predicting especially in view of the unknown effects of the monstrous Avenue Road development.

Everyone wants pleasant safe green travel but at the moment I'm not sure the left hand of TfL knows what the right hand is doing. They need to sort it out for the sake of all of us, particularly the unfortunate residents in the vicinity of Swiss Cottage.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

War on Waste - is it Armageddon?

Bursting bin bags everywhere -Is this the future?
In April Camden’s new waste 
contract comes in to force.
This has caused widespread
concern in the north of the
Borough with the flames
fanned for political reasons
with talk of "bin bias". This
will run on possibly until
the next Council Elections
in May 2018.

Admittedly it is our area (as well as NW3 & 5) who will see their weekly “general waste” collection go from weekly to fornightly (recycling remains weekly) and this will indubitably bring problems.

The fact that Camden Council is performing very poorly in achieving its recycling targets (and has even fallen back since the days of the Lib Dem led administration 2006-10 ) plus the need to cut costs has led them to consider a new strategy coinciding with a new waste contract. The theory being that if you encourage people to recycle more, you can reduce the amount that goes to landfill and the number of times you have to pick up general waste thus reducing cost.
The strategy is laudable but the way Camden proposes to implement it is extremely ill-conceived and the poorly thought out communications are only making it worse. At present it is difficult to see how it can work without costing a lot more, leaving much of the Borough in a mess and annoying many of its residents.
To make it clear – most of the North of the Borough – except for housing estates - are proposed to continue weekly recycling including food waste while “general waste” ( ie everything else) will only be picked up once a fortnight.
In most of NW6/2 the average property has a front outside space barely big enough to hold one bin, let alone several where the house has been subdivided into flats. But the Council has waved a magic wand over such streets and declared: “homes chosen for fortnightly pickups have large outside storage spaces so rubbish will not spill into the street".
This, not to put too fine a point on it,  is “rubbish”!  But the Council is prepared to be “flexible” – or so it says. I recently met a group of concerned local residents with officers who talked through potential problems with them. You can accept a new general waste “wheelie” or opt for orange bags which you can continue to store in a regular rubbish bin.  If you have young children, please note, nappies can be collected separately while if you are vulnerable or elderly you can have an “assisted collection” and you don’t actually have to put your bags/bins etc on the pavement.
The problem will arise chiefly from those multiply occupied properties with short term tenants who will not know or understand the rules and just bung everything into the nearest bin or leave bulging carrier bags by the bins. This could certainly lead to a build-up of uncollected and festering rubbish, as some people believe and it will need a great deal of time/better information /education for landlords and letting agents as well as tenants.
So will the new contract lead to a rubbish apocalypse? Better levels of recycling at lower cost? Or just a proportion of disgruntled residents who – like most of us – dislike change? Time will tell!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

My heart leaps up... Not very much

am normally cheerful as the days grow longer and the daffodils appear on Fortune Green, but this year does not hold out quite the same hope of better things. The world, London, Camden and West Hampstead all seem to be in a mess. 
In my own immediate neighbourhood, the removal of the recycling bins on Fortune Green Road have aroused some comment - mostly favourable because they had become a notorious fly-tipping spot, but it gives people who live over shops locally a problem with recycling. It's not the only problem I get reported to me all the time - missed or incomplete refuse collections, inconsiderate builders leaving their rubbish on the pavement, people dumping bits of unwanted furniture and even people dumping their Christmas trees weeks too late. (And thanks to Camden, as ever, for supplying the tree recycling dump on the Green). 
Moving a little further off, there are still huge problems with the lights at the top of Fortune Green Road and Finchley Road where the light phasing causes huge congestion in Fortune Green Road at busy times (and total chaos last week when there was a serious pedestrian accident in the area). I am asking TfL to have yet another look at this junction as part of the proposals for a cycle "Superhighway" down Finchley Road. Fortune Green Road congestion is also continually caused by the Shisha bar's thoughtless customers - a nuisance which will, at least, go on till May, when the temporary stay of execution granted to them by the Government Planning Inspector runs out.

Moving a little further off, there are still huge problems with the lights at the top of Fortune Green Road and Finchley Road where the light phasing causes huge congestion in Fortune Green Road at busy times (and total chaos last week when there was a serious pedestrian accident in the area). I have asked TfL to have yet another look at this junction as part of the proposals for a cycle "Superhighway" down Finchley Road. Fortune Green Road congestion is also continually caused by the Shisha bar's thoughtless customers - a nuisance which will, at least, go on till May, when the temporary stay of execution granted to them by the Government Planning Inspector runs out.
On down the hill, there is the prospect of losing our public toilets - again! The Labour Council want to save £40k a year by closing them. We know West Hampstead values its loos - when Labour closed them some 10 years ago, the local Liberal Democrats collected signatures on a large petition against closure and one of the first acts the incoming Lib Dem led Council carried out was the reinstatement of our valued loos. Public toilets were introduced by the health conscious and civic-minded Victorians and to many of us, still mark a civilised society. I am asking the Labour Council to think again for the sake of the vulnerable, the elderly and those with young children.

Meanwhile in West Hampstead, we have lots of trouble brewing over Camden's plans for the old Council offices at 156 West End Lane - these plans have roused a vigorous local opposition couple and with the ongoing dissatisfaction over the Liddell Road proposals, the nearly completed tower blocks of the "Ballymore site" and developments in Iverson and Maygrove Roads make us feel as if the West Hampstead we know and love is disappearing. There will be many new residents (mostly in expensive and private flats) and there will not be the facilities for them - no new doctors surgeries, streets and trains already overcrowded, and strain on public utilities. This is just too much, and all at once.

For the time being, our library, which appeared to be under immediate threat, seems safe but much needs doing to secure it a sustainable future; our fire station is only safe until the Mayor makes more cuts, there are fewer police on our streets, there is the threat of reduced waste collections, our childrens and youth services are in difficulties and our roads are ever more dangerous with our air scarcely safe to breathe! We need a different sort of change - political change - some of which may come about at this year's Mayor and Assembly Elections. (And it will come as no surprise that my vote will go to the most experienced candidate  Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon and, locally, to our young and enthusiastic candidate, Zack Polanski standing for the Liberal Democrats for Camden and Barnet  
But at least for today, the sun is shining and just maybe, one feels “things can only get better”! Well one can always hope.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Once again Camden Council have started a consultation during the school holidays - fortunately, at least, this one goes on till October! But it's a vital consultation which affects many people, especially impacting on young children and their families about the future of our libraries.

West Hampstead library is particularly vulnerable to cuts and even closure as it is expensive to run being on two floors and needing extra staff. Possible closure is just one of the options on the table which will be decided by Camden's Labour cabinet later this autumn. Last time there was a really serious threat to our library (as well as a number of others) it was nearly twenty years ago and at least the decision was taken by the full Council. This was a famous victory for the libraries, with a number of Labour Councillors defying the leadership and voting to keep them open. I hope today's Labour Councillors would show the same courage - to vote for what is right rather than just obeying the leadership. ( Although over the planning applications for Liddell Road, sadly, the views of local people did not prevail sufficiently strongly).

Meanwhile a busy community campaign has sprung up to support our local library - across party lines and under the overall umbrella of the Friends of West Hampstead Library ( FoWHL). We held a very successful street stall with people queuing up to sign the petition and join FoWHL on a warm Saturday a week ago, and plan others at the end of the month. There will also be a public meeting to put ideas to the Labour cabinet member, Cllr Abdul Hai, on September 10th in the Library at 7.30pm. Anything you can suggest to help make the library balance its books for example by extending sessions, opening Sundays for crafts, later evenings for book events or study sessions or configuring the space more efficiently will be welcome! Please come along and show West Hampstead definitely supports its local library!

Also you can respond to the consultation on line at Or by picking up a copy in the library.
And sign the petition at:

Please help us all to Save our Library!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A walk round West Hampstead - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Walking around in West Hampstead and Fortune Green today in the wonderful sunshine, it occurred to me how many things there are to celebrate in our area and, curiously, how many of these only arrived comparatively recently. Some- if not all- changes are definitely good!
I was delighted to attend the first anniversary celebration today of the Sherriff Centre – our local church with a post office (and much more!) and to record my heartiest congratulation to Fr Andrew Cain for his vision and tenacity in making it happen!
Then I visited the Farmers Market which seems to have gone from strength to strength. Busy and popular, it owes a debt to ex West Hampstead Lib Dem Councillor, Gillian Risso-Gill for getting the project off the ground and making it the success it is today. For the record, I bought some delicious bread, a joint for my Sunday lunch, some lovely bacon and chops and had a happy time exploring the plant stall.
Further back down the road, I managed to blank out the Ballymore development which, I fear, will take us all a long time to get used to, (and even longer to celebrate as one of the best things about West Hampstead!) But we do now have our agreed Neighbourhood Development Plan (with thanks to James Earl, Keith Moffitt and a host of others who fought a cross-party campaign to win a ”Yes” vote in our local referendum). This should give us a local say in opposing and moderating unsuitable local developments. The next big issue will be the Travis Perkins site which has already sparked opposition by residents in Lymington Road.

Further up the road, after my regular visit to our much loved West Hampstead Library (see previous post) I was delighted by the variety of interesting shops which have appeared in West End Lane in recent months and by the hanging flower baskets kindly supplied by the newly energised West Hampstead Business Association who have a host of ideas for brightening up our high street.

As I got up to Fortune Green, my delight lessened slightly at the sight of the neighbourhood nuisance which is the Monte Cristo shisha cafĂ©, but cheered up by the “No Parking” notices outside. Sadly, these are only temporary while the footway opposite is being repaired, and will probably lead to their customers parking their flashy cars all over the area! There is still no news on the enforcement appeal against Camden’s decision to refuse them planning permission – the government inspectorate is apparently short of staff and is taking its time!
But Fortune Green itself always cheers me up – on a lovely sunny day, it was full of people enjoying themselves including a dog who was so good dribbling a football, he should have been signed up for the England squad! All in all a good morning in West Hampstead – I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

How we can ALL save our library

Local authorities are in a very difficult situation. They are being starved of resources by the swivel-eyed Scrooges in Whitehall, who still seem convinced they can cut back to the bone without affecting public services. Camden Council, faced with similar problems to other London Councils, is better placed than some, but will have suffered virtually halving its budget by 2017. Many services are statutory (care for the elderly and waste collection to name two services where costs are rising) but other services don’t have the same level of protection.

Sadly, the Labour cabinet has worked out it needs to save £800,000 from its library budget. A consultation exercise has been launched this week – it’s online at where you can find all sorts of costs and statistics about individual libraries as well the questionnaire which contains a wide range of cost-saving options. Thy say nothing is ruled out – even for the sake of argument- closing Swiss Cottage library! But it is crystal clear West Hampstead library is at risk. It is expensive to run (staff needed on 2 floors) and is not as well visited as libraries in other areas. It is also not considered to be in an area of deprivation which is one criteria for maintaining a library in Camden.

Because our library is at risk, we all need to campaign to save it and provide it with a future. West Hampstead Cllr Phil Rosenberg has started an online petition which already has a large number of signatures and is supported by the Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL) and is inspiring a cross-party campaign of the type that was recently so successful in supporting the Neighbourhood Development Plan (see next post) So please get signing and tell your friends and neighbours! Also the future of our library will be discussed at the forthcoming Area Action Group – details to be announced – at which you will be able to question councillors and officers.

Let’s not just leave it to a few people – let’s make this a genuine West hampstead camapign involving everyone and send a message to the Town Hall: “HANDS OFF OUR LIBRARY!”

Monday, 14 July 2014

Summer fun and a very tall story!

Of the many events this summer, the Jester is always one of our favourites. This year the weather looked unpromising but actually was kind to us. One comment was made as to why we didn't hold it in May because there was less competition then, and it's a simple answer - because the weather in May is even more unreliable than it is in July - even if we do compete with the final weekend of Wimbledon! Undaunted by the recent election results, the Lib Dems held their usual successful cake stall (thanks to all contributors)and managed to cope somewhat short-handed as many of us were participating on the Saturday with the wedding celebrations of Russell Eagling and Ed Fordham who were both, for obvious reasons, missing from the line-up on the stall for the whole weekend!

The Council have now produced their plans for the new school and housing next to the railway lines on the industrial site on Liddell Road (off Maygrove Road)by the railway line. We always thought the scheme was flawed because it featured a split site expansion of Kingsgate school in Kilburn, and would throw off all the businesses currently on site in favour of housing. However, the latest version of the plans have surprised and horrified many local residents.

Because the Labour Council intends to make a huge profit on the site as well as paying for the school, it will sell most of the site on to a private developer. The scheme currently includes a planned 14 storey tower block of private housing, and, against Camden’s own policies, will provide no affordable housing whatsoever. Our new Labour councillors are facing their first big challenge of serious local opposition to this massive new scheme. So what will our new Labour councillors do? Will they simply toe the Labour Town Hall party line or will they join with local people in opposing this new assault on the character of our area?

Looking west - Maygrove Road runs up the centre of the picture
and in the top right is the bottom of Sumatra Road

Camden are holding various drop in events on the plan:
Tuesday 19 July
9am-12pm at Sidings Community Centre
1pm-4pm in West Hampstead Community Centre,Dornfell St
6.30pm-8.30pm at Sidings Community Centre
Wednesday 16 July
5pm to 8pm at West Hampstead Library, Dennington Park Road.
Also there is a meeting on Tuesday 22nd July at 7pm at Sidings Community Centre, to discuss the planning application.
For more information you can contact us or go to