Should Billy Fury Way be closed?

If you’ve ever needed to get from West End Lane to Finchley Road on foot, chances are you’ve peered down Billy Fury Way, the footpath linking the two roads, and then decided to keep walking and taken a brighter-lit alternative, such as Lymington Road or Blackburn Road.

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The Billy Fury mural as seen from West End Lane

Now, Cllr Philip Rosenberg is questioning whether the path, which was given a makeover only three years ago, should be kept open at all, and is inviting locals to give their opinions on what the future of the footpath should be. Discussion has already started on Twitter, with different viewpoints being aired:

Philip Rosenberg recently met with representatives of the Lithos Road Residents’ Association, who complained of the antisocial behaviour the path, which links through to their road, seems to attract, such as drinking, drug use, people “loitering”, and dumping of rubbish.

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A pile of cans close to the Finchley Road end of the path

At yesterday’s Safer Neighbourhoods meeting, he raised the issue with local police, who confirmed it is a problematic area to patrol, and often used as an escape route by criminals.

There seem to be a few options to make Billy Fury Way a safer, more salubrious footpath: the first is improving it with better lighting, a thorough clean-up, and more police patrols. Philip Rosenberg points out that this would require investment which, after the last round of police and council funding cuts, may be better spent elsewhere especially if the path is not well-used by locals. This is why he wants to understand locals’ thoughts on a second option of permanently closing the path altogether. This would probably mean closing the middle section from the path at the back of the Blackburn Road student accommodation to the path into the Lithos estate. This would still provides access at either end but cut off any getaway route.

Over to the residents of West Hampstead: Is Billy Fury Way a convenient cut-through, or a crime hotspot? Do you use it at present, and would you be more inclined to walk down it in the daytime or nighttime if the lighting was better or if it felt safer somehow? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet Cllr Rosenberg @PhilR_R

billyfury_bridge

View of the railway bridge section of path, looking towards West Hampstead

The even less salubrious Finchley Road end of the path

The even less salubrious Finchley Road end of the path

  • Martyn Griffiths

    I have lived next to Billy Fury Way for over 20 years and never use it. My main concern as a resident, is that it is used as a public toilet, particularly by the steps from West End Lane. I understand that there were plans to remove the hoardings on West End Lane and open up the steps thus creating a less enclosed area which would possibly deter anti-social behaviour, but nothing seems to have materialised. There are regularly groups of people drinking in the alleyway, resulting in littering and unfortunately relieving themselves! I would like to see the entrance redeveloped with better lighting as the smell and appearance of the lane as it is is not pleasant for those of us who live nearby.

    • Tom in London

      …and at the Finchley Road end there’s a long section that is very enclosed and lonely, with nowhere to escape to should anything happen. All the adjoining properties have barred off their doors/gates. That section is completely littered with dog shit. This could all be remedied. Closing BFW is not the solution.

      • Jay Gee

        … Most times I need to go from one to the other I would much rather skip down through the O2 and through the carpark, then take Blackburn Road. Much more “likely”, pleasant etc.

  • Charles M

    Similar view to Martyn above. I have lived very near the path for 30 years and probably walked down it twice. If it is being mis-used or under utilised, then perhaps it should be closed off – of course that needs to be done properly so it really cannot be used then otherwise it will be even “safer” for the drinkers etc.

  • Simon

    I don’t think the naming of these paths helps – names like Black Path and Billy Fury Way creates a certain image which in my humble opinion isn’t consistent with a safe and pleasant walking experience.

    Camden Council ought to upgrade the Blackburn Road walking path from West End Lane through to the O2 Centre, and then close Billy Fury Way permanently.

    • Tom in London

      Perhaps “Val Doonican Way” might be less threatening?

  • James Earl (Chair, NDF)

    One of the main problems with BFW is the entrances to it being less than welcoming. There is money (sitting in Camden Council’s bank account) from the student development to pay for a new and much improved entrance from West End Lane. I and others have been asking Camden Council officers to bring forward plans for this work – but after months (or even years) of promises, nothing has materialised! Perhaps Phil can push this forward? At the Finchley Road end, the pub is due to be redeveloped, so there’s an opportunity to use S106 money from this development to improve this entrance too. The part of the path around the student block has already been successfully opened up – and there’s no reason to suggest that developer contributions can’t improve the rest of the path. Closing BFW seems a massive over-reaction – let’s use the money already there to start improving it!

  • Paul F

    I think it would be a great shame to close the path. It is a useful car free cut-through. If it is indeed a crime hotspot it is an unreported one. I can only recall one or two incidents in the 26 years I’ve lived in WH. The police saying it’s a problematic area to patrol presumably means that would have to get out of their cars and walk. I agree that blokes using it as a toilet at the WH end is a problem and that could be addressed by opening out that end as has been suggested – it would of course be sensible to include bogs in the new Overground station but that won’t happen. I agree also that the development at the FR end allows scope to improve things there. It would in any event be folly to close the path before the new station is built as I’m guessing there’ll be periods when it’s closed and there’ll be a good few people walking along it to Finchley Road and Frognall station (which was of course the path’s original purpose before the WH station was built). So my view is improve don’t shut. It’s just so lazy to say “it’s not nice, let’s just shut it”.

  • John Bryant

    As the former councillor who got the footpaths named in the area, so that they could be easily identified on maps used by the emergency services, it would be ridiculous to go through the bureaucratic nightmare of closing a public right of way (and the ire of the Ramblers Association who would soon react) when improvement schemes can be funded, as noted by other correspondents. I would suggest that Cllr Rosenburg concentrates his efforts on releasing the Section 106 funds available to pay for the improvements. His duty should be to maintain or enhance public facilities rather than close them down because they are “difficult” to maintain or police.

  • William

    I can’t believe Councillor Philip Rosenberg is even considering closing Billy Fury Way. I know the footpath may look a bid dodgy but I’ve been using it for over 25 years and have never encountered any problems. The council could and should improve the path but as far as I’m concerned, closing it isn’t an option!

  • phil

    Sounds amazingly defeatist to suggest closing it, without trying something first. It’s pretty clear that no-one’s even attempted a clean-up in the past few months/years.

  • Joel Derbyshire

    Most of the discussion so far has been about users of the footpath but I think there is a broader impact the path is having on residents (like me) who’s property overlooks the path. Often the side of my property looks like a
    third world country, with smashed class, rubbish, graffiti, couches, tables and
    barrels of god knows what. As a taxpayer and resident, I can only imagine the amount of money that Camden must spend every month removing and cleaning up and I would like to see this money spent on preventative measures; however, I’ve been told by Camden officials that a return on investment through prevention is not a consideration when making a decision, which seems crazy to me. If it is not possible to close the entire path, I would like to see Camden investing money in preventative measures or prevent flytipping and vandalism for the parts that remain open.

  • Chris

    So if the police don’t appear to see the path as a crime problem (neither in terms of crime hotspot nor as an escape route), one wonders, if this discussion isn’t a bit of a red herring, distracting from actual problems that the new (Labour) council won’t or isn’t willing to address efficiently. Surely the Liddell Road development and the massive amount of fly tipping affect more people. But they are less easy to address.

  • Tom in London

    The secret is: OVERLOOK. There are long stretches of BFW with no windows overlooking. This is what makes using it undesirable. It would not be beyond the wit of man (or LB Camden) to encourage the owners of properties backing on to BFW to open up new windows that look out on to it. These windows could be at first floor and above.

  • Daniel Cane

    Is this why this Philip Rosenberg got into politics, to give-up on things he perceives as a problem? I bet his parents are ashamed of him.

  • Linda Goddard

    Surely as this is a memorial to Billy Fury who used to record at the Decca studios at Broadhurst Gardens, the council should keep it and clean it up. It is disgusting that it’s been allowed to get in this state, if they had kept on top of it they wouldn’t have to be digging into their pockets now. Maybe a Facebook page asking for donations would be good, ( although it shouldn’t have to come to this !! ), also what about his mates : ie, Marty Wilde, Joe Brown etc putting on a tour to raise funds !!