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Development triggers new Residents’ Association around Maygrove Road

A constitution for West Hampstead’s newest residents’ association has just been finalised, and residents are now waiting for a meeting to formally adopt the constitution and elect its committee.

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The MILAM Residents’ Association will represent the interests of people living in Maygrove, Iverson, Loveridge, Ariel and Medley Roads.

As with many residents’ associations, the catalyst for setting up MILAM was to fight a particular cause, in this case the disruption caused by construction work on the Regal Homes development on Maygrove Road.

Monica Regli, who lives on Maygrove Road, said that she and many of her neighbours became frustrated with the lack of communication both from the developer and Camden Council when the works started. A short stretch of the road was closed for three months, causing significant problems with traffic which affected not only Maygrove but also the surrounding streets.

Monica Regli, of the new MILAM residents' association

Monica Regli, of the new MILAM residents’ association

A few people complained, but Monica felt that residents’ concerns were not being addressed satisfactorily. “Individual complaints were just being batted away – we needed to unite,” she said. She set up a Facebook group and Twitter account where Maygrove residents could air their views, and immediately noticed that as a group, they started to be taken more seriously. Among the group’s first followers on Twitter was Regal Homes, closely followed by many local councillors.

Fortune Green councillor Lorna Russell suggested that residents formalise the group by setting up a Residents’ Association, and also open it up to residents of the surrounding streets facing many of the same issues. The area now covers about 1,000 households. Monica said she was nervous about taking on this task, not having had experience of setting up such an association before, but received overwhelming support from Lorna and other councillors including Flick Rea and Philip Rosenberg, James Earl, chair of the West Hampstead NDF, and Sue Measures of Sidings Community Centre, where meetings were held.

James Earl, who is also chair of the Fordwych Residents’ Association, said that the FRA welcomed the establishment of MILAM. Maygrove Road used to be covered by this neighbouring group, although the other four roads were not. “We think an RA for this area is badly needed and will be able to do a very useful job in representing the views of residents in this (often overlooked) area.” he said, adding “I hope the FRA and the MILAM RA will be able to work closely and productively in the years ahead.”

Cllr. Flick Rea, too, said she hoped that MILAM would “flourish,” and explained why she is a keen advocate of such groups: “Working together achieves so much more, and gives residents a stronger voice when making representations to the Council. They can also help bring people together and create a sense of community, which can be difficult when there is no obvious focal point.”

Monica’s background in law helped when it came to drafting the constitution and ensuring that all residents’ feedback was captured. She is keen to emphasise, however, that she does not intend to take charge of proceedings and that MILAM is for all residents, whether they simply want to sign up or get more heavily involved.

What’s next on the agenda for MILAM after the Regal Homes development? Liddell Road – and its planned tower block – inevitably looms large. Even for West Hampstead, these five streets are surrounded by an unusually high concentration of planned development, and residents understandably want to be aware of, and have a say in, how these proposals will unfold in the months and years to come.

But Monica insists it’s not all about the negative. “This is also a positive way of bringing people together” she points out, saying that since the group came together on social media, her road has felt like more of a community. Social events and street parties are some of the plans on the horizon. “It’s great to feel that we’re keeping an eye out for each other and making the area feel more secure.”

You can contact the group through its Twitter or Facebook pages, or by emailing moc.l1561021864iamg@15610218646wnev1561021864orgya1561021864m1561021864.

Basement excavations top CRASH agenda

If you can’t afford to buy a bigger flat or house, what’s the next best option? To extend. If you live in a ground floor flat, then you can either go out into the garden, or down into the ground. Or both. Basement excavations are proving an incredibly popular way of gaining floorspace, but on some streets there are so many (and they are so large), that neighbours are growing increasingly concerned. On Canfield Gardens, there will be six basements in a row of nine houses if the latest one gets planning permission.

South Hampstead looks lovely from up high - but the issues lurk down below

South Hampstead looks lovely from up high – but the issues lurk down below

This will be the main topic of discussion at Tuesday night’s AGM of CRASH. CRASH is the slightly strange acronym chosen for the local residents association in South Hampstead – the conservation area between Belsize Road, Finchley Road, Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane.

CRASH used to be moderately active up until a couple of years ago. Residents associations (bodies that the council formally recognises as representing a group of streets) often wax and wane depending on the enthusiasm and energy of their leadership. CRASH had very much waned.

Peter Symonds, chair of CRASH today, became involved when his then neigbhour – French rugby legend Thomas Castaignède – sought to excavate a basement. As a result, Symonds has since become something of an expert on basement excavations and their implications.

Aside from the impact they might have on water tables, building foundations, and the underlying geology of the area, basement excavations can also cause misery for neighbours both adjacent to and above the flat in question. Symonds points out that while the owner of the flat usually has to move out during the works, this is a cost they factor into the decision. Flats above don’t have any choice in the matter, and yet a basement excavation can go on for months, or even years.

The issue is a problem across this part of Camden. Crediton Hill Residents Association chair Larry Trachtenberg, recently suggested a moratorium on all such plans until more research into their impact had been conducted.

Frances Wheat, Camden’s head of Devleopment Control, will be speaking at CRASH’s AGM along with the relevant planing area team manager Bethany Arbery. The talk is entitled “Planning: What it’s all about and how you can get involved”, but expect the Q&A part to focus pretty heavily on that thorny basement issue.

Symonds has breathed new life into CRASH, but is very keen to get new members – not just for their £5 annual subscription, but so the group can be more representative. CRASH covers an unusually large area for a residents group, which means there are many issues besides basements that arise.

If you live in those streets and are even remotely interested in issues that affect the area, then why not sign up – it’s only a fiver! – and why not come along on Tuesday night to the Crossfield Centre on Fairhazel Gardens (roughly opposite The Arches wine bar) from 7pm. If you’re a property owner, then CRASH can help you navigate Camden planning and the conservation area restrictions, and if you’re a tenant, then you might find some good contacts for other problems such as parking, litter, overhanging foliage etc. etc.

You can read more about CRASH on its much improved website.