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Local elections 2018: The candidates

The local elections are on May 3rd. This is when you get the chance (and “you” includes EU citizens) to vote for three councillors for the ward you live in. All the ward councillors who are elected form Camden council (or Brent council for those of you the other side of the Kilburn High Road).

For those of you new to the whole local politics thing, we wrote a useful 101 guide to it last time around that’s worth reading so you understand what you are (and are not) voting for (obviously many of the links in that article are out of date, but the key messages are the same).

We are going to take a look at the two wards that are fully in West Hampstead: Fortune Green and West Hampstead itself. Some of you will live in Kilburn ward and others in Swiss Cottage ward (anyone living in the Gardens area between West End Lane and Finchley Road falls into that ward). Kilburn ward is hardcore Labour, Swiss Cottage has been Tory for quite some time, though two long-standing councillors are standing down this year, so it’s now considered up for grabs. But our focus is on West Hampstead and Fortune Green.

In any election it’s important to know who you are voting for. Some people always vote on party lines. Many people (most people) don’t vote in local elections at all, though plenty still have a good ol’ whinge about everything the council does. In the current political climate, some voters – especially Labour voters and Remain Tories – may find voting on party lines harder than usual, which means that it’s even more important to understand the individuals you want to represent you. As our interview with departing councillor Phil Rosenberg suggests, the individuals do matter.

The general election last year showed Labour strengthening its hold in the area. There’s even talk in Camden of a total clean sweep of the council with a chance that traditional Tory areas Swiss Cottage and Belsize and even Hampstead and Frognal might go red. Most sane people would accept that a one-pary state with no opposition was not healthy for democracy at any level.

What are the big issues?

Brexit: Most of you know that this was one of the most devout Remain constituencies in the country. Labour’s manifesto suggests you “let Theresa May know how you feel about Brexit by voting Labour”, which given Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of clarity on Labour’s stance on Brexit seems like an odd line to take. Of course the local elections have almost no bearing whatsoever on Brexit, but given that it’s almost the only political story in town at the moment, it’s bound to play a part in how some people vote.

Rubbish: This is squarely within the remit for local elections and the Conservatives  are unsurprisingly going big on it given their poor Brexit credentials in a Remain area. Candidates are calling for the reinstatement of weekly rubbish collections. After huge problems when the new system was introduced a year ago, yes it’s been a year, gradually things have got better. Sure fly-tipping is an issue, but it was actually an issue before as well. As Cllr Phil Rosenberg said things are now at a granular level and Camden are now getting round to dealing with street by street issues (which they should have done much earlier).

Growth: West Hampstead continues to experience high levels of development – although many of the major sites are now accounted for, if not fully developed. However, the O2 car park and the area around Blackburn Road generally is still up for grabs and while nothing may happen here over the next four years, it could be a major issue. None of the parties have much to say about it – but if you get the chance to grill the candidates on the doorstep or at the hustings then this could be a good topic.

Crime: Councils do not really have much responsibility for crime, though they do of course liaise closely with the police in many areas. Crime is on the up in our local area, by more than the average rise across Camden, but there’s not a great deal councillors can do about this other than to remain engaged and listen to residents concerns. Crime is more relevant in both the general election and the mayoral/London Assembly elections.

Are there hustings?

Yes. Local groups WHAT and the NDF are holding a joint hustings of all the candidates, yes both West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards, on Monday 9th April 7:30pm in the Synagogue Hall. Council election hustings are relatively rare given the number of candidates involved, so if you get the chance do go along.

CNJ deputy editor, Richard Osley, did a good summary of it on his blog. Or as he put it, on a polite night in West Hampstead

Enough waffle – show me the candidates

Ok, ok… First West Hampstead, or you can jump straight to Fortune Green.

West Hampstead ward

In the general election, West Hampstead was seen as the swinging bit of a swinging constituency. The reality was that Tulip Siddiq grew her majority considerably and West Hampstead swung resolutely Labour. It should be an interesting ward – and with three new Labour candidates maybe it’s not quite as clear cut as some pundits would have you believe.

Parties are listed in the order of last election and we will have updated this page once now all the nominations are in. 

Labour

WH Labour candidates: Peter Taheri, Nazma Rahman and Shiva Tiwari

Labour has three new candidates as existing councillors Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde are stepping down and Angela Pober, who was elected on the Labour ticket but has been sitting as an independent since September 2015, will certainly not be standing for Labour again. The final date for nominations is April 6th, and Angela has proved elusive of late so we don’t know if she’s going to stand again as an independent.

Nazma Rahman
Nazma is a nutritionist and a West Hampstead resident for nearly a decade and elsewhere in the borough before that. She has brought up two children in the area and if elected she is “determined to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people in West Hampstead. I want to tackle crime locally, improve rubbish collection in the area and ensure that our recycling rates continue to rise”. She is also concerned about housing, law and order (she recently suffered an attempted break-in).

Peter Taheri
Peter is a barrister who represents the police and says “I can bring to the table my experience as a barrister representing mainly police forces and other public bodies, which has given me a very concrete overview of the vital work that our police and other public services do and a deep understanding of the importance of protecting and supporting these precious services. My job gives me the skills to analyse and articulate arguments and standing up for public services is something I do day-in, day-out”.

Peter has just stood down as the local party chairman, and acted as Tulip Siddiq’s agent in the last election.

Shiva Tiwari
Shiva moved with his young family a couple of years ago to the area and since then had got stuck in, as a trustee of the West Hampstead Community Centre and a governor of Swiss Cottage School.

“If elected, I will work my hardest to improve the quality of life for all people who live and work in West Hampstead. My focus will be on fighting the recent uptick in petty crime, improving the collection of commercial waste on West End Lane & Mill Lane, campaigning for more affordable housing and controls on private landlords and ensuring that Camden is creating enough high quality school places to give local children the best possible start in life”.

None of the candidates mention development and the growth area. Over the last four years none of the three sitting councillors has really championed the growth area at the council. Phil Rosenberg was the most active, and was a regular at NDF meetings, but without a champion in the town hall (and ideally someone with an interest in urban design), West Hampstead could continue to be shortchanged.

Liberal Democrats

West Hampstead was once a Lib Dem stronghold holding all three seats. Are these three going to be able take back the ward?

WH Lib Dem candidates: Nancy Jirira, Roger Fox and Mukal H

Roger Fox
Roger is a fresh face in West Hampstead. “I think I bring a different perspective to our local councillors as a young private renter and someone starting a life in London”. He joined the Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of the EU referendum and is now chairman of the Camden Lib Dems. This is his first time standing as a candidate.

Mukal Hira
Nuruzzaman (known as Mukal) Hira has lived in West Hampstead for almost three decades. “As a father of two teenagers I have seen many changes that have affected our community. If elected, I am determined to tackle youth crimes and anti-social behaviour across the Borough”.

Back in 2006 he stood as a candidate for Respect in St. Pancras and Somers Town, getting a ‘respectable’ 781 votes before switching to the Lib Dems in 2008.

Nancy Jirira
Nancy has lived in West Hampstead for decades so she is “well aware of the local challenges”. She is an active member of the congregation of St. James Church (aka the Sheriff Centre). She works in the NHS, and is a familiar face. She was a Fortune Green councillor, elected in a by-election in 2008 and retaining her seat in 2010. She narrowly missed out in 2014, losing out (by 17 votes!) to Labour’s Richard Olszewski.

The Lib Dems are the first party to have their local website up and running so you can find out more about the candidates here.

Conservatives

WH Conservative candidates: David Brescia, Sedef Akademir and Mohammed Salim

Sedef Akademir
Sedef is campaigning for “cleaner, greener and safer West Hampstead”. She’s also concerned about the rise in crime which she says is up by 42% in the past year.

David Brescia
David is a familiar face in West Hampstead, he’s lived here for 20 years and is actively involved in local groups including the NDF. He is campaigning for a restoration of weekly bin collections which is the Conservatives’ top pledge. “We’re also fighting for a passenger lift and wider entrance at our overcrowded tube station”.

Mohammed Salim
Mohammed lives in West Hampstead and runs Spice Tree restaurant on Mill Lane. He says that “voting Conservative in the upcoming local elections is to get the bin collections restored to weekly, the garden tax abolished, and more local police officers and CCTV cameras to combat the rise in crime”.

Green Party

WH Green candidates: Jane Milton, David Stansell and Helena Paul.

Jane Milton

Jane thinks that “although they may feel a strong leaning towards us, they mistakenly believe that Green votes are wasted ones. Often people don’t realise that the greater degree of proportional representation at a local level really does give them more power to choose. We as a party do try to get the message home that Greens can be powerful and effective locally, but I do think we need to do a lot more work on this”.

David Stansell

Another long-term West Hampstead resident, David is a management consultant who runs his own firm helping energy companies transition 100% to renewable energy. His two main reasons for standing are ‘recycling and cycling’. His experience dealing the public sector made him observe that ‘the solution to many of local problems comes from not getting everyone together and agreeing on the baseline of the issue’.

Helena Paul

As a member of the NDF she recently led a project to monitor the air quality in West Hampstead and came up with some shocking results as the air quality, on the Finchley Road, in particular, was very poor.

“We must get TfL to prioritise improving West Hampstead Jubilee line station with an entrance on the same side of the road as the other two stations, while the interchange between the three stations needs addressing. There are already proposals for all this – let’s get on with it!”

You can read more about the candidates on the Camden Green Party website.

Fortune Green

Unlike West Hampstead, where three new councillors are guaranteed, all three sitting councillors in Fortune Green are standing again, which makes it a simpler but no less interesting ward.

In 2014, the Lib Dems suffered a collapse in their vote across Camden but Cllr Flick Rea managed to retain her seat in Fortune Green and with 1,151 votes, got the highest number in the ward. She has held the seat since 1986. She was the sole remaining Lib Dem in Camden and said she woke up understanding survivors guilt. Also elected were Labour’s Lorna Russell and Richard Olszewski, though the Lib Dems and even the Tories came close to nicking a seat.

Who is standing?

Parties are listed in the order of last election and we will update this page once all the nominations are in, but our focus is on the three main parties. 

Labour

FG Labour candidates: Richard Olszewski, Sorin Floti and Lorna Russell

Sorin Floti
Newcomer Sorin, if elected, would be the first Romanian councillor in Camden. Sorin quit the world of finance to do a masters in social policy at LSE and has been active in a number of groups including mentoring young people via the Prince’s Trust. As a Romanian he is “personally affected by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but am also aware of how it will affect everyone’s lives”. So this is one of his top issues, along with education and housing.

Richard Olszewski
Richard was a councillor for Regent’s Park from 1994 to 2002 and was then an advisor to senior Labour MP John Reid. Richard thought he might squeeze through if he stood in Fortune Green in 2014 and squeeze through he did, beating Lib Dem Nancy Jirira by 17 votes for the third Fortune Green seat. He is the relatively new Camden cabinet member for Finance. His priorities are ‘supporting our schools and early years services’, ‘providing more housing of all types, but especially council housing and low-rent accommodation’ and ‘campaigning against Brexit’.

Lorna Russell
Lorna has been one of the most visible and engaged local councillors over the past four years. “I have worked hard to represent the residents of Fortune Green at all levels of the Council. I am proud of the work I have done to support the community here, and hope that this is recognised by voters in May”. Her priorities are housing, crime (she has been a victim of burglary AND a phone theft), and getting a fair deal for EU residents”. Lorna stood up for the area over the controversial Liddell Road scheme showing a certain degree of independence when needed.

Liberal Democrats

FG Lib Dem candidates: Flick Rea, Adrian Bridge and Tracey Shackle

Adrian Bridge
The impetus to get involved in local politics came in the wake of the EU referendum. “We believe that with the Tories both nationally and locally in disarray, there is a clear need for a strong and effective opposition in Camden. We do not think that one-party rule is the best way forward in a democracy and would seek to provide rigorous scrutiny of what will almost certainly be a fresh Labour administration”.

Flick Rea
Flick was first elected a local Fortune Green councillor in 1986, and has lived in the area for even longer. She knows Fortune Green well. She says “my local priorities include protecting and improving our parks and green spaces, opposing overlarge unsuitable developments such as the Gondar Gardens Reservoir scheme – protecting our bus routes, and fighting to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists on Fortune Green Road, Mill Lane, West End Lane as well as major roads (Finchley Road and Shoot up Hill)”.

Tracey Shackle
Tracey works as an education practitioner in both pupil referral units & mainstream schools solving problems, which has given her good contacts to Camden officers and in “getting things done”. And if Tracey doesn’t get elected? “If I don’t get elected this May, those of us who didn’t will be back even stronger next time around! Lib Dems fight back!”

Conservative

FG Conservative candidates: Shamin Ahmed, Axel Kaae, Philip Taylor

The Conservatives are pushing a return of weekly bin collections and more police as key policies. They are (understandably) quiet on Brexit.

Shamin Ahmed
Shamin says that the Conservatives are pledging “an extra officer in every ward – paid for by the saving from installing LED street lights and leveraging the matching funding from the Met”.

Axel Kaae
“Our manifesto sets outs some really innovative plans to solve these problems and do so much more and I’m sure Fortune Green voters will consider them carefully”.

Philip Taylor
When asked how the Conservatives could turn round a poor general election showing, Phil replied “Luckily for us, Fortune Green voters are smart! They understand this is a local election and will vote on the issues and services which affect them every day”.

Green Party

Rather ironically, the Greens only have one candidate standing for Fortune Green. Her name is Helen Jack, but we don’t know any more about her. Even on the Camden Green Party website they don’t list anything (yet) although there is something for the candidates standing in West Hampstead.

Camden ‘criminalises’ West Hampstead dog owners

There have been rumours that Camden was changing the rules on taking dogs into the cemetery, a popular walking spot for local dog-owners, but there had been nothing concrete. So WHL thought it would ‘doggedly’ investigate the issue.

‘Criminal’ activity taking place in the cemetery… dogs being walked (the image is deliberately blurry)

It appears that a change was indeed added to a piece of legislation introduced last February – a PSPO. This stands for a Public Spaces Protection Order and was introduced because of “complaints relating to the fear and intimidation caused when dogs are not controlled or misused by their owners. Such lack of control can result in attacks on other animals and, even though rare, attacks on humans can occur”.

We weren’t aware that this was such problem with this in the cemetery. Rather the cemetery is a popular place for West Hampstead dog owners to take their (pretty well mannered) dogs for a short stroll. Most do take their dogs off the lead, but they keep them under control, as their dogs potter beside them.

WHL was there this Sunday mid-morning and in the space of ten minutes spotted 6 or 7 dogs being walked, most off the lead. When we spoke to their owners, they were aware that it was a cemetery and responded accordingly; putting the dog on the lead if someone was tending a grave, picking up after their dog and keeping them under control. But they were also wanted somewhere they could walk their dog and especially for those without a car there were few other options.

The PSPO replaces Dog Control Orders which were introduced in 2007, they superceded the existing bylaws that previously required dogs to be on leads in the cemetery. Camden says this was unpopular and cause for concern for the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery and ward councillors at the time. Again, this is news to the ward councillors.

It was also suggested that “this would prevent the distress experienced by people visiting graves. It would also make it easier for Officers to issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for dog fouling”. Camden Parks department reported that it had “many reports and complaints about dog fouling and dogs running over graves in recent years”.

This was news to the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery which said that there had been a complaint every now and then, but not many. And local Councillor Lorna Russell said that she hadn’t received a single complaint about dogs not being on leads in the cemetery, so the issue wasn’t on her radar. Cllr Rea a former councillor responsible refused in the past to include a clause to let all dogs be in leads in parks, which it is what her officers had then recommended. This just wasn’t realistic.

As for dog-fouling we are not aware of any FPNs actually being issued. Instead, the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery agreed that in recent years dog owners have become much more responsible about picking up any faeces ‘deposited’ by their dogs.

The Friends said that the main area of concern was that at the back of the cemetery, where some dog owners would play fetch by throwing balls for their pets, but a simple ‘no ball games’ sign would have been enough. It also seems to have grown as there are a few ‘professional’ dogwalkers who should know better.

The majority of the visitors to the cemetery are dog walkers so rather than alienate them it would seem far more productive to positively engage with them, as they act as the eyes and ears to report problems, rather than alienate them as Camden have done.

Camden Parks department also claims that the legislation was introduced following ‘consultation’ but again no-one seems to have been aware of it. Cllr Rea and Russell weren’t actively informed until after the legislation was in place, but even then it still isn’t clear.

The other problem with the new approach is that there is ‘no enforcement’. Camden simply doesn’t have the resources – and given that Camden is having to make savings to the budget it’s is difficult to see them getting them. WHL thinks that given the pros and cons of the matter, it was probably better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Narcissus Road seeks Play Street status as Camden works on open space provision

Stop for a minute. Close your eyes and think about your memories of playing as a child.

More likely than not, it was outdoors or in your local park. Yet children today are evermore glued to their iPhones, iPads or TV screens and if they do ‘play’, they are driven to a play date at someone’s house. How do we get children outdoors and playing again? In a bid to do this, Camden Council is operating a scheme called Play Streets and is also improving local parks.

Play Streets is a scheme by which a local road is closed to traffic for a period of time, with Camden-supplied signage and residents acting as marshals to ensure compliance. You can find more details here.

This year, residents of Narcissus Road are planning to join the Play Streets scheme. Initially, the plan is to close the road for one Sunday afternoon a month. Officers from Camden have visited the road and identified the section from Glenbrook to Pandora Road as suitable.

The next step is that residents need to get agreement from 70% of the street, then they will be good to go for this year.

Menelik vs. Asmara finals last summer image:Daniel Leon

The scheme is not new to West Hampstead. For the last two years, residents of Menelik Road have been running a play street on the last Sunday of the month from March to October. Julia Marcuson, who has organised it, said that apart from the delays in getting it started, which were frustrating, “it’s been very successful”.

Other than the play streets, Camden is also responsible for our local parks and is just finishing a renovation of the Iverson Road open space. This has suffered from inevitable delays but given that it’s been cold and wintry, this hasn’t caused to much trouble. There was consultation on the changes, but we will have to see how much more use the space will get this summer after more than £100,000-worth of renovations.

The same is true of the Sumatra Road open space, which also has been renovated. It was only a few years ago that it had £50,000 spent on it under a Labour government initiative to encourage more outdoor play. Although without much consultation, anecdotal evidence suggests that usage hasn’t increased that much (real data is impossible to come by, unfortunately) and it seems a shame to rip out all the equipment that wasn’t installed that long ago.

Down at Kilburn Grange, the adventure playground, which was only installed in 2010 – at a cost of £950,000 – was shut after six years. Camden current masterplan for the Grange involves tearing it down completely and building another one elsewhere in the park.

There are a couple of other local spaces that been improved recently: Mill Lane open space and Fortune Green. The Mill Lane space was improved as part of the rebuilding of Emmanuel School. It seems like a missed opportunity. It required some fairly extensive remedial works and Camden Parks department have said never again to large sand pits – which are popular with the local cats.

Fortune Green has been probably the most successful local parks improvement. This was led by a friends group [disclosure: I’m the chair], set up because of the poor state of the green. The friends weren’t overly ambitious and made it an aim to increase the simple open space for kids to run around, cycle, play football and just enjoy. Which they do. It has led to a significant increase in use of the space by all ages, including children. Especially the younger ones who use the ever popular playground at all times of the year.

The theme linking these initiatives is the degree of involvement of local parents in making things happen, getting involved and providing input and getting the best outcomes. Making play happen, it appears, requires some effort.

Italian embassy chef cooks live at Scavolini Store West Hampstead

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Danilo Cortelleni, the head chef to the Italian Ambassador and Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, cooked up an Italian feast at the Scavolini Store West Hampstead, on the edge of Fortune Green on Tuesday evening.

Danilo took centre stage in the wonderful Diesel Social kitchen, where he created a host of delicious Italian food for guests to enjoy.

It was a real treat to watch the Masterchef star in action as he cooked dishes from his latest book, 4 Grosvenor Square. As the Prosecco flowed, we got an opportunity to watch a top chef in action, and learned a few Italian cooking secrets too.

As soon as Danilo started cooking, the showroom filled with delicious aromas. He tantalised our taste buds with his amazing cooking, and the finished results tasted as good as they looked and smelled.

Delicious dishes included marinated Sicilian red prawns with burrata mousse, pumpkin risotto with sage and gorgonzola cheese and Danilo’s show stopping multicolour ravioli with ricotta.

“You can’t have an Italian cooking demonstration in an Italian kitchen without fresh pasta. The multicolour ravioli looks hard to make, but as everyone saw, it is not that complicated, once you overcome the fear”, says Danilo.

You can tell that Danilo cooks from the heart, as he talks about the importance of putting love and care into every dish.

“The basic rule of Italian cooking is that you must love the ingredients and put care into the preparation. If you don’t put love into what you are doing it won’t work. It is the same with the place where you cook the food. If the food is comforting, the space where the food is cooking needs to be comforting too. I can talk for a good slice of Italians, especially ex-pats living in London, when I say that the kitchen and the food makes you think of home. My cooking tonight is a celebration of Italian life and that is why I have loved cooking at Scavolini, it feels familiar and homely”, says Danilo.

Brani Hadzhi, showroom manager says: “We are so pleased that Danilo could join us in the showroom. It was great to see our two fully working display kitchens being used by such a prestigious chef. Danilo’s cooking brought the authentic a taste of Italian food to West Hampstead tonight. We hope this is the first of many visits from Danilo”.

“Scavolini kitchens are how we Italians feel a kitchen should be, everything is where it should be. The Scavolini designers understand how you use space and how you move around, and the kitchens work well.

In the two and half years since it opened the Fortune Green showroom has quickly become a destination store for stylish contemporary and traditional Italian kitchen, bathroom and living room furniture.

The team at the Scavolini Store has also become a part of the local community. They sponsor the Friends of Fortune Green monthly clean up and took part in the annual Jester Festival.

“Our clients are mostly from North London and we particularly enjoy meeting and getting to know the locals. Many have become friends, for example, we recently hosted the local Women’s Institute for one of their monthly meetings. We love opening the showroom to the community and will be holding more events in 2018”, says Brani.

Two West Hampstead venues celebrate their first birthday

It’s been one year since One Bourbon changed hands and name from One Sixty. To celebrate, it held an anniversary event last week and had a small refurb. When I popped in this week on a regular night there was a distinct buzz. Since the rebrand, there has been a slight shift in emphasis to the drinks side with fifteen beers on offer and whisky bourbon galore.

One Bourbon has many more than one bourbon.

Food does remain a big part of the business and the chef has used the occasion to update the menu. Old favourites remain such as the buffalo wings (they are hot!) and the ribs, but new are ox-cheeks (both as tacos and nuggets) plus there are more vegetarian options with spicy lentil tacos and a veggie burger and some cheese dishes including grilled haloumi.

One Bourbon also has live music on Fridays – if you fancy a bit of blues and rock n’ roll.

One year for the Green Room

On September 29th, The Green Room on Fortune Green had its first anniversary. It’s a more homey operation than One Bourbon – more of a neighbourhood bar that has been building business over the past year.

The quirky Green Room vibe

To celebrate this milestone The Green Room held a party and ran a raffle to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Care (the anniversary fell on the Macmillan fundraising day) collecting a useful £800 for the cause. The bar has DJs on Sundays, live music and shows sports events as well.

The menu, which started with Sunday roasts (I feel it’s time for an update to the ‘Who has the best Sunday roast in West Hampstead?’ story) now includes burgers and other bar favourites (with quite a few sharing options) during the week. It also holds theme menu nights; recent cuisines include Cuban and Mexican.

Crime on the rise in West Hampstead

Is crime in West Hampstead on the rise, or are we just made more aware of it through social media? And through the rare but higher-profile crimes such as moped-based thefts or the recent acid attack. WHL met up with Sergeant Mark Townsend to discuss.

Certainly there is a sense that our relatively quiet part of north-west London has seen more crime of late, but do the statistics back that up? And what are the police doing about it?

Crime stats are available from the College of Policing website and are broken down by wards: Fortune Green, West Hampstead, plus parts of Swiss Cottage and Kilburn that make up ‘West Hampstead’. The numbers are a couple of months behind with the most recent figures being for June. Given that crime levels are generally relatively low, increases can be seasonal or statistically not significant, however, the data does suggest a rise in crime.

monthly Reported crime

As you can see from the chart, across the previous few months, monthly crime levels are actually fairly stable, with the exception of Kilburn, where crime is somewhat higher overall. However if you compare it with the same period last year it’s clearer that the trend is upwards. There is an average rise of 15% for the wards and a startling 50% jump in Fortune Green, confirming anecdotal (or tweetendotal) evidence that crime is on the up.

Crime 2016 vs 2017

Crime in Fortune Green up by 50%

Of course it’s important to know what types of crime are causing the increase. In Fortune Green, it’s largely a rise in burglaries and thefts from cars. From April to Jun 2016 (2Q) there were 31 burglaries in Fortune Green, but that had nearly doubled to 55 in 2017. Likewise from April to June  2016 there were 43 theft from cars, but in 2017 that rose to 78.

Fortune Green ward; breakdown of crimes

Fortune Green ward; breakdown of crimes

Here is a breakdown of which crimes make up the total. It is important to point out that West Hampstead is still relatively safe, but not as safe as it was. It is now about average for London, although still safer than Camden overall.

FG ward's relative position in the crime tables.

FG ward’s relative position in the crime tables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These monthly stats are important because they alert the police to any hot spots and allow the Safer Neighbourhoods ward panels to decide crime priorities. Its is really important that you let the police know if you are victim of crime.

How can the police make our neighbourhood safer?

Sgt Mark Townsend has been at West Hampstead for two years and in the force for 13 years. He is in charge of three Safer Neighbourhood teams: Fortune Green, West Hampstead and Kilburn. Although the teams are separate, they do support for each other and coordinate on problems at the ward boundaries. West Hampstead and Fortune Green have two PCs each and one PCSO. Kilburn, with its higher crime rate, has four PCs and one PCSO. Alongside the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams there are response teams (these are the officers who respond to and investigate crimes) based at Kentish Town police station.

There are more changes in the pipeline as earlier this year Camden’s force merged with Islington. This merger is one of two pilots in London – the other is a merger of three east London boroughs. The aim is to turn what thirty London borough forces into 16 policing areas. Therefore further mergers are on the cards as are cuts to police numbers. Numbers are down already. In March 2010, there were 33,367 full-time officers in London. This had fallen to 31,782 in by March 2016 (both numbers include long-term absentees, currently about 1,000 officers).

With burglary and theft from cars on the rise, residents can play their part in making it harder for criminals. Sgt Townsend said that one of his biggest problems is people being lax with their own security. Car doors should always be locked (and anything valuable hidden out of sight), and mopeds should have a disk lock and be secured to the ground. All the oft-repeated advice about securing lower-ground floor flats and being careful not to leave communal doors open or letting in random people to communal flats without checking naturally apply too.

How to report a crime

If you are the victim of a crime, what’s the correct procedure? If it is urgent, call 999, but for less urgent matters call 101, which can take a minute or two to connect. If you are not sure on the level of urgency, Sgt Townsend said call 999 and they will direct your call as appropriate

If anyone wants to report something suspicious they can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 – or do it anonymously online, though this means you’ll have no follow up and the police can’t ask for more details. You can also report it directly the Safer Neighbourhoods teams where they can follow up.

Nevertheless, it is important to report a crime, and today the best way to do this is online, although there can be an urge to talk to a real person straight away. Four out of five crimes can now be reported online, even car collisions. The reasons to report all crime, apart from having it investigated, is that it then gets included in those crime stats, which themselves shape the police force’s priorities. Those priorities are updated on the police college site, and the Metropolitan Police pages for each ward’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams (Fortune Green , West Hampstead and Kilburn).

The Met’s site is still in beta, and could be more user-friendly, for example with photos of team members, which would make it more personable, though there are other attempts to modernise the service and make policing more visible. Kilburn Safer Neighbourhood team got smartphones about a year ago and have been tweeting more and more actively . Initially, Sgt Townsend said the team was unsure about this, but they have grown more comfortable with the idea and now eagerly report their successes and ward rounds. There are also Twitter account for Fortune Green and West Hampstead, but they are less achieve and specific than Kilburn, but with time should be more informative.

Safer Neighbourhood Panels

The crime stats are supposed to help the police together with the Safer Neighbourhood Panels (SNP)  decide what the crime priorities are for the area. Recently this has been drifting due to a change in personnel, however, earlier this year local activist Miles Seaman has taken over.  He has been working at reactivating the SNP by ensuring the the meetings are more regular and issues are raised in an orderly fashion. Confusingly, the police also ask for input about which crime priorities on the Safer Neighbourhoods website, but with only 4 votes last month it’s not very democratic.

What next?

So crime indeed has been on the rise in the area.  The question is what to do now?  Firstly, Sgt Townsend says please take personal responsibility, it is astonishing that the number of thefts that take place from unlocked cars. Given that we are facing continued cuts in police numbers this is all the more important. The Safer Neighbourhood Team numbers are safe.  For the moment.  But WHL thinks the police can also do their bit – they have been very slow to take up social media and their websites are – to say the least – clunky. A lot of local policing is know the faces of the bobbies (or PCSOs) on the beat but all we have are grey boxes, nor are their links to the email addresses or a phone number to contact the teams.

The Safer Neighbourhoods panel should hopefully be more pro-active under new chairmanship. Likewise we also haven’t seen much activity from our local councillors (or indeed from the local opposition), but we are happy to be corrected on this.

There is concern about releasing CCTV footage when crimes are committed. WHL has his wallet stolen in Costa coffee (doing an interview about crime, how’s that for irony) but Costa refused to release the footage even though the thief was caught on camera. Sgt Townsend thinks it is time to take a more sensible approach because the police don’t have the resources to follow up.

One example over the past year of everyone pulling together (including WHL) was on improving the Black Path and Billy Fury Way. Both paths had become overgrown and felt unsafe, this resulted in a few incidents. Last August WHL and a number of locals turned out to start cutting it back  and this galvanised Network Rail into action, thanks to help of the Police and local councillors. The overgrown foliage has been cut back, the lighting is improved, the path resurfaced and, that bit at least, is now a safer part of the neighbourhood.

And finally, here is some simple crime prevention advice from the Safer Neighbourhoods Team.  Stay safe West Hampstead.

Crime prevention

A newcomer’s view of the Jester Festival

The Jester Festival is such a central part of the West Hampstead year – and of the last 45 years – that it’s bit difficult to get an unbiased perspective. So this year WHL asked Irene, as newcomer to the area to take a fresh look. This is what she found…

I moved to the neighbourhood a year and a half ago, running away from the tourists of Camden Market and a hellish Northern/Central line commute. Having lived in four different countries during the previous six years, I had been longing to put down roots somewhere that felt like home. West Hampstead turned out to be that place and the Jester Festival represents everything I love about West Hampstead.

All the fun of the fair, Jester 2017 style

All the fun of the fair, Jester 2017 style

As I got to know and love the neighbourhood – my leafy street, the village atmosphere, the shops and cafés – I decided to find out more about the community by getting to know my neighbours and working to protect our little slice of London. The Jester Festival was the perfect opportunity to do so.

The sun was shining as I and a friend from south London approached Fortune Green on Sunday; before I could see it I could hear jazz in the distance. We arrived to find stalls lining the paths, kids running around, families enjoying their picnics and even couples dancing to the rhythm and blues. It was the perfect village fête, London-style, everyone seemed to be having a great time and in every stall there were friendly faces happy to chat; from local businesses trying to attract new customers to the neighbours’ associations gathering support.

Stand-out attraction, literally, was the climbing wall, a big hit among the younger ones. They didn’t seem to mind one bit when they slipped and were left swinging from their ropes. The political party stalls were pleasantly low-key and more focused on having fun than in campaigning. Especially popular was Labour’s raffle – the children jumped for joy every time they managed to win a box of chocolates.

My favorite stall ? Herbal Haven – I loved getting lost in a hundred colours and aromas, and bought as many plants as I could carry to replenish my small balcony garden.

Fabulous Foliage at Herbal Haven

Fabulous Foliage at Herbal Haven

As part of my WHL research I talked to a wide variety of residents, and everyone was equally welcoming. They told me how they enjoyed the unique family atmosphere of the festival, how many activities there were for the kids and how they enjoyed the fact that all their neighbours were there. Volunteers went on about what a fantastic opportunity the festival was to give back to the community, and the vendors mentioned that it didn’t even feel like work. I only heard one complaint – there weren’t enough toilets for everyone.

There was also time to learn more about some local hot topics. The Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), a local voluntary organisation that works to influence planners and developers when making planning decisions in the area, explained its concerns about overcrowding at West Hampstead tube station and with the current development proposals on Gondar Gardens reservoir. These worries seemed to be shared by many of the neighbours, as they were collecting a lot of signatures.

Ravenous after all that chatting, we struggled to agree on what to eat. There was Indian, Greek, and French on offer – everything seemed equally delicious. Decisions, decisions. Finally, we went for the galettes (savoury buckwheat crêpes), gone in 60 seconds. After that it was off to the Lib Dems stall to try their famed cakes. They didn’t disappoint – the lemon drizzle and the fruity chocolate brownie, which we were told were the most popular, were absolutely mouth-watering (and waistline-busting).

Overall impression? With that galette on the grass, the smooth jazz in the air and the children running around felt very similar to happiness. And my friend, who had come from Stockwell to spend the day with me? She decided that she wanted to move to West Hampstead.

Great Get Together Weekend – Jo Cox would have been proud of West Hampstead

It was a hot weekend in West Hampstead but with the ‘Big Lunch/ Jo Cox Great Get Together there was some really cool stuff going on. On Saturday night it was cycle-powered outdoor cinema and on Sunday a number of Big Lunches in the ‘hood.

By popular demand the first outdoor screening of the summer, organised by the Friends of Fortune Green, was back to cycle-power. The film was ‘Arrival’, which overall proved a popular choice although the audience of over 325 either loved it (“it was best film I’ve seen in ages”) or didn’t (“what was that all about?”); but even those who didn’t quite get the film enjoyed that fantastic atmosphere. Normally, by the end of the film it’s sweaters and blankets but not this time as it was still 23 degrees at 11pm.

Outdoor film - a cool thing to do on a hot night.

Outdoor film – a cool thing to do on a hot night.

Before the film started MC Simon Inglis thanked FOFG for putting it on and electric pedals for the system, and wished a speedy recovery to Councillor Flick Rea, in the audience with her arm still in sling. He also asked for donations to help fund the film, and the audience responded generously giving £925; so next up the kids-friendly film on August 12th (date for your diaries).

After the late-night film screening it was a gentle start for the Big Lunches on Sunday. Down in the Iverson Road Space, Monica Regli from MILAM reported that “It was sweltering hot so we had to keep moving the tables but we had a really good turnout. She heaped praise on member Carlotta Fiocchi-Sassoon the main organiser, although “everyone chipped in (and a special thank you to Sidings)” Monica was especially pleased that there was a great community spirit, “you could hear everyone networking and swapping information. Just what the country needs right now – a really positive effect.”

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Mingling on Iverson at the MILAM lunch.

Up in Fortune Green ward it was take your pick. Probably the award for best village fete atmosphere was the Ravenshaw event on Glastonbury Street – although with a street name like that you can’t but help have a great atmosphere. It was a really well planned , but their secret weapon was their paddling pools! Popular on a hot day with the kids … and eyed enviously by the adults.  Their raffle raised a tidy sum for a local charity and #Grenfelltower.

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

Jimmy the juggler kept the kids entertained

A short walk away Hillfield Residents Association had about 75 adults and kids turn for their Big Lunch. Co-organiser Sandie Evans said “I’ve met the nicest people – and how did I NOT know Neil and Amanda – they live practically opposite and we’ve both lived on the Street for over 15 years”! Hillfield’s secret weapon was resident Jimmy who just happened to be juggler and kept the kids entertained for hours, although thankfully for him given a brief break by the arrival of police horses.

Everyone loves a police horse!

Everyone loves a police horse!

For the cultural historians among you that old buffet staple potato salad is out (there was none), pasta salad came in second place but the winner by far was couscous salad – there was enough to resurface the M1. Hillfield’s raffle was for #troysmission, the West Hampstead toddler with cerebral palsy whose mum is seeking to raise £50,000 for a potentially life changing operation for him.

Couscous the new potato salad

Couscous – the new potato salad

And a short walk away from Hillfield, neighbours Gondar Gardens and Agamemnon, 65 of them, sat down under four massive gazebos (on a very hot day) for their lunch. Their secret weapon was magician, Tom Grubb, who kept the (admittedly by this stage slightly boozy) residents bamboozled.

Tom the Magician bamboozled the boozy residents of Gondar

Tom the Magician bamboozled the boozy residents of Gondar Gardens (although some were on the water!)

Chairman David Yass said “There was a very nice community feel – one of my neighbours said to me I’ve lived here 30 years and met someone who lives across the street who I had never talked to before – isn’t that wonderful.” WHL can’t really put it any better than that.

Cinema on Fortune Green – Arrival in West Hampstead

FilmonFortuneGreen_ft

This Saturday, the Friends of Fortune Green is putting on its first screening of the summer. The film will be Arrival it’s a science-fiction movie from last year that got generally pretty good reviews. it will make you think and feel, but I don’t want to give too much away.

Due to popular demand, the screening will be cycle-powered. So, West Hampstead we need your leg power. There will be a couple of kid-suitable bikes for the younger audience members. But not too young as it’s a PG-13.

Arrival

As we’re almost at the longest day, and it needs to be dark for anyone to see the screen, the film will start at about 9.15pm. However, as those of you who’ve been to previous Films on Fortune Green will know, you need to get there early to bag a good spot.

It is an obvious bring-a-picnic event but Fortune Green offers other options; the Green Room is offering a hotdog, tortillas and popcorn special (best to pre-order), Nautilus has fish n’ chips (obvs) or if it’s a curry you’re after there is Bombay Nights. Whatever you chose, please take your rubbish home with you and keep the Green clean!

This weekend is also the Big Lunch/Jo Cox Great Get Together, so the aim is not only to show a great movie but to bring West Hampstead together at what continues to be a febrile time. Come along, meet your neighbours, celebrate your neighbourhood.

How much does it cost? It’s free; but… this screening is more expensive than the last couple. It’s costing more than £2,000 (including £100 to Camden for use of the park). A good part of this cost is sponsored by local estate agent Benham & Reeves (thank you) but the Friends are having to dip into their reserves so – if you can afford a donation it will allow them to put on future films (and if you don’t they can’t)!

There is a second summer screening planned for August 12th. As it is during the summer holidays it will be more kid-friendly (and will start earlier), though the exact film is to be decided.

Tree of freedom marks one year of Nazanin’s imprisonment

One year ago, today, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was just a hassled mum trying to get to the airport with a toddler. It was the end of a two week trip to Tehran to visit her parents for Nowruz (Persian New Year). However, instead of returning to her normal life back here in West Hampstead, she was arrested at the airport by the Revolutionary Guard, had her passport seized and has spent the past year in prison separated from Gabriella, her daughter in Tehran and Richard, her husband in London.

After she was detained at the airport she was held in a prison in Kerman province, 1000 miles south of Tehran, including at least 46 days in solitary confinement. On 14 August she faced a secret trial and was convicted of being “one of the chief members of networks of adversary institutions, who — with the direction and support of foreign media and espionage services — has committed her criminal acts over the past few years”. She was sentenced for five years in prison and transferred to Tehran’s Evin jail. She appealed, but her sentence was confirmed in January.

At the time of her appeal the Kerman branch of the Revolutionary guard apparently added two extra charges; that her husband was spy (he isn’t, he is an accountant) and that she acted as head of recruitment for the BBC Farsi service. In fact she worked as a project assistant for BBC Media Action. She now works for the charitable arm of the Thompson-Reuters Foundation, which doesn’t operate in Iran (good interview with Monique Ville, the head on of the Thompson-Reuters Foundation on Radio 4 Today programme – link below).

Richard Ratcliffe adding another card for his wife to the tree on Fortune Green Photograph: Gareth Fuller PA

Richard Ratcliffe adding another card for his wife to the tree on Fortune Green Photograph: Gareth Fuller PA

To mark one year since the arrest, Richard, family and supporters organised an event in Fortune Green, her local park. On a beautiful Spring day. As well as marking one year imprisonment, this weekend had special resonance in Iran. Saturday was the 12th day after Nowruz when prisoners can have their sentences commuted. One prisoner was released on bail  on Saturday, but sadly not Nazanin.

The event involved tying ribbons round a tree on the Green with cards attached. On each card was the answer to the question – what would you do if you had one extra day of freedom? Some of the cards were read out; from Nazanin herself, from the families of other prisoners, from former prisoners, from family and others. It was very moving. You can’t miss the tree as it is festooned with ribbons and cards, which will stay up until Easter.

Reading out some of the answers to the question 'What would you do with a day of freedom?'

Reading out some of the answers to the question ‘What would you do with a day of freedom?’

Nazanin’s wish reads “My fondest dream has always been to arrive at our home. You ask me if I want to have a cup of tea, then make me one. I just sit back and watch you two play. This is the image I had most when in solitary confinement. How I wish I could watch you both dance in the middle of our sitting room to the Michael Jackson music – like when Gabriella was only tiny.”

One local, Maria Feeney, spoke of how she as been moved to start a ‘bale of peace’, some cloth she was given to her by the Village Haberdashery, with the idea that she will place it in local businesses for people to write or sew on “to raise our voices and bring the story back”. It is a apt artistic project as Nazinin loved finding fabrics for her daughter Gabriella. Expect to see it around West Hampstead, and when finished she hopes to exhibit it in Tehran.

After the readings some of the younger supporters went off with Richard to help the Friends of Fortune Green plant some day lillies for Nazanin, ready for her and Gabriella’s return. The event ended with Father Jonathan from Emmanuel Church, who came up after the Sunday service, to add a few words.

FullSizeRender

The event garnered good press coverage, it was on BBC London news last night, as well as Sky news and on the Radio 4 Today programme (scroll to 2:36).  Richard also appeared this morning on Good Morning Britain and the Victoria Derbyshire show. It appeared in the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph and is in the solidly supportively Ham & High this week. Watch out also for something on CNN, as chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, fellow British-Iranian, is doing a story on it.

When asked how he felt it went, Richard replied “I was really touched by the support. The longer we go on campaigning the more difficult it is to make it real, but what could be more real than being in our local park, where Nazanin came with Gabriella.  It is what she wants to come back to”.

Tulip as been active in her support of the cause, joining Richard last year in handing in a 50,000 signature petition to Downing Street. She and the family have been in contact with junior Foreign office minister, Tobias Ellwood, but so far Boris Johnson has refused to meet them. The Telegraph reported Amnesty International was criticising Boris for lack of action on the case.

If you haven’t already done so, you can sign the petition – it is just shy of 900,000 signatures.  This is also a good way to follow the campaign as Richard posts updates there, or for the twitterate among you, follow the campaign @freenazanin.

The sun shines on the Jester Festival (mostly)

Once again West Hampstead pulled off its successful local festival, the Jester Festival on Fortune Green. It started the same year that Britain joined Europe, so this year was the 44th. It was an eclectic mix of funfair, live music and stalls from a host of local groups.

All takes all sorts to make a Jester festival

All takes all sorts to make a Jester festival

If you wanted a glimpse of what Remain Britain looks like, then the Jester festival is in its own small way a good example. In some ways a typical British fete with balloons, cakes and jam for sale and a noisy traditional fun fair; but in other ways different. For example, the wide cross-section of locals and the most popular food choices – Greek filo pies (delicious), Indian curries and French crepes. However, not much sign of an out-of-touch West Hampstead elite; rather it was all, reassuringly, down to earth.

The local political party stalls, energised by recent activity, had a host of new faces. Local MP Tulip Siddiq visited the Festival on Saturday and promptly won in the Labour Party raffle, but any hint of it being anything other than free and fair were swiftly denied. The Lib Dems again boosted their coffers by selling sold more cakes and biscuits than one thought humanly possible. The Tories, bouyed by a long planned but well timed visit from Theresa May last week, were out in force.

All the fun of the fair

All the fun of the fair

The Jester remains a family-focused festival. Along with the funfair there were a whole host of other sponsored (i.e. free) activities for children; ranging from the spell-binding story telling tent, to the popular climbing wall and the entertaining circus school. Not forgetting the obligatory face painting. Additions this year were the mini-Olympics organised by Aston from Sidings Community Centre and trampolines at the fun fair, both went down a storm.

For adults, the Jester puts on a surprisingly good line up of music. Varying from the local Fortune Green choir via Jazz and Cajun, to Big Joe Lewis and his Blues band. Alas Saturday’s main band, local rockers Mr Meaner, were welcomed by a rain shower at the start of their performance and the audience melted. However, the shower didn’t last long, the sun returned, and they played with gusto. Overall the weather, which had threatened to be pretty mixed, turned out better than forecast – much to the relief of Jester organisers.

The view from the stage

The view from the stage

Other local groups at the Festival included the Neighbourhood Development Forum and – a safe distance away – Stop the Blocks. Lots of interest at both stalls, where the hot topic was redevelopment of 156 West End Lane.

The popular Jester Tester quizzes sold out, all 300 of them, boosting the coffers of the Friends of Fortune Green. Local community centres Sidings and WHCA were there, explaining their activities. WHAT, the local amenity group that has been at Jester pretty much since the beginning, was also present. Other groups included Hampstead School, promoting the school to potential parents and the WI, promoting its talks, workshops and social events.

All in all, West Hampstead’s social capital was given a useful boost at a confusing time nationally; and thousands of locals spent a pleasant couple of hours at a fun festival in our neighbourhood, meeting friends, supporting local groups and eating cake.

Big Lunch proves a big deal

It was national Big Lunch weekend recently, and there were a number held in upper West Hampstead (aka Fortune Green): Ravenshaw Street, Gondar Gardens, Ingham Road and Achilles Road. How did they turn out?

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

Ingham resident Susie Steiner, reported that “the great British weather wasn’t being very co-operative, especially early on, so the Ingham Road Big Lunch, scheduled for Fortune Green, turned out to be a wet lunch and Ingham Road residents repaired indoors for their get together. There was a brilliant turn-out, nevertheless, lots of food, toddlers and free-flowing fizz. Much credit to the organisational skills of Hannah Borthwick, who provided the Ingham pavlova”.

Said Pavlova. Photo via Susie Steiner

Said Pavlova. Photo via Susie Steiner

Spellbinding!

Spellbinding! Photo via David Yass

Starting slightly later, Gondar and Agamemnon Residents Association avoided the early rain and were able to stay outdoors. What kept them so well entertained on an overcast but fortunately dry Sunday afternoon in June?

“Aside from the usual Big Lunch necessities (home-cooked food brought to share, the opportunity to play football, cricket and mini-tennis in the middle of the road), the rabbit that GARA pulled out of the hat was… Tom the spellbinding magician who wowed children of all ages with his wonderful tricks” said Chair of GARA, David Yass.

Down at Ravenshaw Street “it was a great success despite the rain!” said organiser Georgina Thorburn, “we probably had 60-100 people coming and going throughout the afternoon. We also had a West Hampstead fire service bring one of their engines for the kids to view, mounted police offices (on horses) and an ice cream truck. There was also free face painting, arts and crafts for the kids and a raffle, which raised over £100 for Great Ormond Street hospital”.

Over in Achilles Road there were a whole host of activities over the day; “We had a fire engine and police horse visits, a Strike Pads demo, Zumba class, table tennis, kids’ doughnut-on-a-string eating challenge, face painting, bouncy slide, water balloon and spoon race (OK that one didn’t work too well!) but the subsequent water balloon fight was fun”, according to organiser Cecilia Yee.

Zumba on Achilles Road. Photo via Cecilia Yee

Zumba on Achilles Road. Photo via Cecilia Yee

Something that united them all was the delicious food that people brought to share. Nothing like a street party to bring out the great British Baker in all of us. Although, Gino’s Tiramisu on Achilles Road, took the biscuit so to speak, but as it would take a Zumba class to work off the calories, it was fortunate that Achilles Road had organised one.

Food glorious food! photo via Achilles Road

Food glorious food! Photo via Achilles Road team

Our local councillors Flick Rea, Lorna Russell as well as local MP Tulip Siddiq popped along, Tulip bringing baby Azalea. Also in a nice touch local touch, Achilles Road ran a fund-raising raffle on the day to raise money for new football goals at the nearby Fortune Green play centre. Ravenshaw also had a raffle, which raised £100 for Great Ormond Street hospital.

Final word to Janet Pedder, who helped organise the event on Achilles Road, but which applies to all of them. “It was just so fabulous to have the road free of cars and for the kids to be able to run, scoot and cycle the length of it with no fear or safety concerns. And we all met neighbours who we hadn’t made contact with before. It was such a happy and relaxed atmosphere”.

Film on Fortune Green: Easy right?

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

Watching a film is a great communal experience. Watching that film outdoors surrounded by your friends and neighbours is even better. But it doesn’t happen by accident. As well as taking on the role of editor of West Hampstead Life, I’m also involved with the Friends of Fortune Green (FoFG). This is the fifth year of FoFG’s outdoor film screenings, so here’s a behind-the-scenes peak at putting on the outdoor film screening of Brooklyn this Saturday (June 4th) at 9pm (doors ‘open’ around 7pm).

First decision: what film? This is the judgement of Paris. Whatever we choose some are happy, others not. But be aware, dear reader, there are several factors that limit the films we can choose. We can only start screening at sundown, which at this time of year it is c. 9pm. If the screening has to end by about 10.30pm that means the film can be about 90 minutes long. This first screening starts later (sundown in August is 8pm), so it is aimed at an older audience, but it still needs to be suitable. For example, I’d forgotten the language in the Blues Brothers (our September 2013 offering) was, well, rather blue. It prompted Javi (aged 8) to comment with a smile the next day, “it was a bit rude”. Recently we realised that  films are available for public screening more quickly than when we started back in 2012. You, the people, seem to like recent movies, as we get bigger audiences so more recent films are to the fore. Hence, Brooklyn

Photo via Eugene Regis

Photo via Eugene Regis

However, it’s not just a question of ‘putting on a DVD’. To show a film legally we need a public screening licence, which costs c. £300. We also need to hire equipment, a decent projector, a good sound system and a big enough screen. It’s not cheap, but working with the more community-minded suppliers the hire cost is c. £400. If we get the popular cycle-cinema guys back for the August screening (not promising) that will cost a bit more.

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

Get there early to get a good view! Photo via Peter Coles

On top of that, we have to pay Camden £100 for putting on an event on the Green. Yes really. In all fairness it does take officer time to monitor events taking place in parks across Camden (and they are seeking to raise revenue). They also need to review our health and safety form – we have to submit one of those too. As well as that, we have to apply to Camden for a TENS (temporary events licence). It’s a cumbersome seven page on-line form to fill in. So in total around £800 to put each screening, which is why we are really grateful to the local businesses that sponsor them. Thank you Benham & Reeves! (FoFG do ask for donations at screenings, as this adds to the pot should the day come when we can’t get a sponsor and we have to self-fund and also to help fund other activities and events).

So that’s everything? Not quite. We have to publicise the films! This involves leafleting the houses in the surrounding streets with 500+ flyers , time-consuming but not too bad if you do with someone else, as well as putting up posters and sending out e-flyers. Leaflet, e-flyer and posters all need drafting and copying. On the film night we have to set up the (heavy) equipment, steward the event and at the end pack the equipment up again – in the dark. The stuff on the night is the bit most people see but it’s just final one of many steps.

Finally, not forgetting the great British weather. From about ten days in advance we keep a beady eye on the long range forecasts with anxiety levels rising and falling along with the barometer as we get closer to the date and the forecast changes. Latest update – anxiety levels have fallen since this morning’s forecast for Saturday night is OK! Might be a spot of rain early evening but on the whole it’s good and warm(ish). Phew. See you at Brooklyn in West Hampstead.

So there you are: how to put on a outdoor film screening. Not quite as simple it appears, but worth the effort.  It’s not just me, it’s a joint FOFG committee effort but if you would like to help at this or future screenings don’t be shy, speak to a steward on Saturday.

Air ambulance lands in NW6 twice in an hour

Thankfully we rarely see the London Air Ambulance hovering over West Hampstead, but this lunchtime the red helicopter landed first on Fortune Green, and then about an hour later in Kilburn Grange Park.

The red helicopter was back within the hour and looked as if it was trying to find a landing spot in Kilburn. It eventually set down in Kilburn Grange park and shortly afterwards a Kilburn resident tweeted a photo of ambulance crews.

Although one person had tweeted that there had been a stabbling, which was then picked up by a couple of other people, the cause of the commotion has not been confirmed. But here’s what Donks80 saw:

Later in the evening, the police were still in attendance:

Replacement trees planted on Fortune Green

Newly-planted limes opposite mature trees on the main avenue

Newly-planted limes face mature trees on the main avenue

If you’re a regular visitor to Fortune Green, you might have noticed the green has lost a few trees over the past months, some due to storm damage, some due to disease.

lime_tree_label2Yesterday, Camden contractors replaced some of the missing trees.

New lime trees have been planted along the main path heading towards the cemetery where several young trees have died.

Spring-flowering white cherry trees (Prunus Serrula) have been planted in the bed alongside Alfred Court to replace the diseased whitebeams. Over a period of time the plan is to replace all the whitebeams with cherries.

A Liquidambar tree has been planted in the bed opposite the Fortune Green Road entrance to replace the sycamore that was badly damaged in the St Jude’s storm.

The Friends of Fortune Green said “We look forward to watching them grow.” Keep an eye out next time you’re on the green and see if you can spot the new specimens.

If you’re interested in being involved with the upkeep of Fortune Green Open Space, keep an eye on the Friends of Fortune Green Events page – they’re always looking for volunteers.

Alfred_Court

Scooter showroom fails to comply in bike parking row

Residents in Fortune Green have become increasingly unhappy with motorcycle showroom Capital City on Fortune Green Road, and have persuaded Camden to take action. Capital City has, however, failed to comply.

According to locals, who are reluctant to be named after what they claim have been some altercations with the showroom owners, the business continues to break numerous rules: parking motorcycles for sale on the pavement and road and thereby making it hard for pedestrians to pass (especially those with pushchairs or in wheelchairs), trading at unauthorised times, and causing noise disturbance.

The business is, they point out, also unauthorised to place vehicles on its own forecourt, as the premises is classified for A1 retail use, not a motorcycle showroom. Nearby neighbours complain that the parked vehicles can at times occupy up to five parking spaces in an area where parking is already limited, and that they are being disturbed by the noise and fumes of cycle repairs being carried out.

Camden’s planning department has issued two enforcement notices, the first of which was issued in March and concerns a timber structure erected to the rear of the building used as a garage, for which Capital City has no planning permission. Elizabeth Beaumont, Appeals and Enforcement Team Manager at Camden, confirmed in an email that “The enforcement notice for the rear extension was not complied with and prosecution procedures have begun.”

The second enforcement notice deals with the various breaches of planning controls. Capital City was given the choice to either cease using the unit as a motorcycle showroom, or to cease storing bikes on the forecourt, cease causing disturbance with repairs and only open for trading during designated hours and days. It had to either appeal or comply with the notice by October 4th, but Elizabeth Beaumont confirmed that this, too, had received no reaction: “A visit yesterday [Oct 7th] confirmed the notice had not been complied with and we are now commencing with prosecution procedures for this matter as well.”

This was also verified by a local resident who photographed the shop the day compliance was required. It clearly shows bikes parked outside.

Motorcycles on the forecourt and road

Motorcycles on the forecourt and road

Open for Sunday trading against regulations

Open for Sunday trading against regulations – note the ‘OPEN 7 DAYS’ sign

The same resident also alleges that Capital City has been using the road outside its premises and that of its neighbour, Nautilus, to park its motorcycles for sale, contravening the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 which prevents more than two motor vehicles from being sold outside on a public highway within 500m of each other.

West Hampstead Life spoke to Capital City about these alleged breaches of the planning regulations and asked if it planned to comply. Nick, one of the business’s owners, claimed not to have received the enforcement notice concerning the planning breaches, but said that he was in discussions with Camden’s planning department about making alterations to the wooden garage structure. He was unhappy to have received “abusive letters from people” and been “shouted at” whilst “trying to adhere to the rules”.

He said he was aware of the rule preventing vehicles to be advertised for sale on the road, but that motorcycles parked on the street were in fact “customers’ bikes brought in for repair”, and were legally parked on a stretch of the road which is available for public parking after 12pm, not residents’ parking bays.

This is countered by a photograph taken by another neighbour, who also claims Capital City had two cars for sale outside its showroom.

Img_1582_600

It now seems that the only end to this situation is if Camden successfully manage to prosecute the business. Residents meanwhile are increasingly frustrated by Capital City’s unwillingness to change its behaviour, and by the slow-moving processes of the planning department – the issue was first flagged to Camden at least 12 months ago.

Camden relents on BBQs in local parks

minibbq

Ever thought it’d be nice to have a summer barbecue on Fortune Green? Up to now, it’s been strictly prohibited – not just on Fortune Green but in all of Camden’s parks.

Not any more! From July 21st, you can now get your grill on in Fortune Green, West End Green, Kilburn Grange Park and any other parks run by Camden (this means Hampstead Heath, Regents Park and Primrose Hill are still sausage-free zones).

Cllr Sally Gimson, Camden’s cabinet member for sustainability and environment, has ruled that portable barbecues can be used for a trial period of one year. Disposable barbecues are still banned as are gas barbecues, but there are plenty of eligible barbecues on the market (there’s a mini Bodum one currently for sale at habitat in the O2 centre).

Obviously, Camden expects people to be responsible and no doubt the Friends of Fortune Green – and local residents generally – will be hoping that impromptu hot food picnics don’t lead to more litter in parks. In the meantime, the next Film on Fortune Green is August 30th. I like my steaks rare please.

Local election 2014: The results

As the dust settles after an emotionally intense Friday evening at the Somers Town Community Centre, it’s time to recap the results from the four wards we’ve been covering.

First up, West Hampstead

John Bryant Liberal Democrats 836
Natalie Eliades Conservative Party 800
Nick Grierson Conservative Party 811
Richard Griffiths Green Party 327
Zane Hannan Green Party 343
Keith Moffitt Liberal Democrats 943
Magnus Nielsen UKIP 202
David Pearce Trade Union and Socialist Coalition 67
Angela Pober Labour Party 1,166
Gillian Risso-Gill Liberal Democrats 901
Phil Rosenberg Labour Party 1,179
Andrew Saywell Conservative Party 715
Quentin Tyler Green Party 250
James Yarde Labour Party 1,082
Total (inc. rejected)   9,622
Turnout   38%

Labour managed the clean sweep here (something residents will hope they can do to the streets as well), with the shock being the removal of Keith Moffitt. One suspects that if Keith had been standing in Fortune Green he’d have got back in, but the slightly more transient nature of the West Hampstead population may well have meant that national politics played a larger role here and his personal reputation counted for less.

West Hampstead share

Fortune Green next

Ian Cohen Conservative 893
Juan Jimenez Green Party 326
Nancy Jirira Liberal Democrats 950
Leila Mars Green Party 403
Lucy Oldfield Green Party 318
Richard Olszewski Labour & Cooperative Party 967
Andrew Parkinson Conservative 739
Flick Rea Liberal Democrats 1,151
Lorna Russell Labour & Cooperative Party 1,028
Nick Russell Liberal Democrats 865
Tom Smith Conservative 686
Phil Turner Labour & Cooperative Party 904
Total (inc. rejected)   9,246
Turnout   39.2%

Hard to know what’s more astonishing here: Flick coming top of the poll on a day when the Lib Dems were obliterated nationally or Labour dispatching the Tories into a distant third. The Lib Dems actually came top in Fortune Green with 32.1% of the vote, vs. Labour’s 31.3%. The Conservatives were well back at just 25%, although Ian Cohen’s 893 placed him fifth overall only 11 votes off fourth placed Phil Turner. Despite the outspoken animosity between some Labour people and Flick, hopefully these three councillors can work together on local issues.

Fortune Green share

From the two marginals, to the two safer seats

Kilburn

Sarah Astor Green Party 402
Douglas Beattie Labour 1,661
Richard Bourn Green Party 276
Maryam Eslamdoust Labour 1,611
Thomas Gardiner Labour 1,543
Janet Grauberg Liberal Democrats 876
Sheila Hayman Green Party 286
Jack Holroyde Liberal Democrats 746
James King Liberal Democrats 883
Nick Vose Conservative 411
Tim Wainwright Conservative 409
John Whitehead Conservative 357
Total (inc. rejected)   9,483
Turnout   38.31%

It was billed as a two-way fight, and that’s exactly what it was although in the end Labour’s margin of victory was more comfortable than many had thought. The Lib Dems – two of whom are former Kilburn councillors – found that their local credentials weren’t enough to unseat the incumbent Labour couple who have moved out of the area, while Mike Katz’s replacement came top of the poll.

Kilburn share

And finally… Swiss Cottage

Chris Butler Liberal Democrats 300
Tom Franklin Green Party 433
Roger Freeman Conservative 1,294
Andrew Haslam-Jones Liberal Democrats 230
Helen Jack Green Party 367
Andrew Marshall Conservative 1,340
Jill Newbrook Liberal Democrats 347
Ben Nunn Labour 1,029
Sheila Patton Green Party 339
Simon Pearson Labour 1,008
Gretel Reynolds Labour 960
Don Williams Conservative 1,221
Total (inc. rejected)   8,886
Turnout   34.67%

A low turnout in Swiss Cottage, which is predominantly made up of the redbrick properties of South Hampstead. The Conservatives were always expected to hold this comfortably, but in the end the margins were a little close for comfort, with Labour polling very strongly indeed – in no other local ward did two candidates get more than 1,000 votes and not get a seat.

Swiss Cottage share

Labour sweep Lib Dems out of West Hampstead

Labour_victory

Labour pulled off an astonishing victory yesterday evening, and redrew the political map of north-west Camden. West Hampstead and Fortune Green have been a fortress for the Liberal Democrats, with each ward headed by a popular councillor: Keith Moffitt in West Hampstead and Flick Rea in Fortune Green. This morning Keith – one time leader of Camden Council – is no longer a councillor, while Flick becomes the Lib Dems only councillor in the borough.

Labour won five of the six seats available in the two wards as well as holding Kilburn fairly comfortably despite a robust campaign from the Lib Dems. Swiss Cottage was a safe Conservative hold, although Labour ran them much closer than expected and before postal votes were counted it looked as if an upset was even possible.

Last night belonged to Labour, which gained 10 seats in Camden to give it 40 of the 54 on offer. All 10 were taken from the Lib Dems, who also lost two to the Conservatives in Hampstead Town and Belsize. The Greens kept their seat in Highgate, where turnout almost hit 50%, albeit with a different councillor – Sian Berry replacing Maya de Souza. The Greens will be disappointed not to have got a second seat there.

It was apparent as soon as the count got going that the situation looked good for Labour and worrying for the Liberal Democrats. With the dubious benefit of knowing what had happened in the rest of the country well before the count even began, the orange rosettes were already nervous and stress levels were clearly rising. There was an air of despondency hanging over the Conservatives milling around the counts for West Hampstead and Fortune Green – especially the latter ward, where they had high hopes of getting at least one seat.

Camden_count

Of the two wards, West Hampstead was called first but everyone knew the result. Only Keith had any chance of surviving the cull but there was no recount called, which meant the gap couldn’t be that close. John Bryant was the first name to be called and polled just 836 votes – the lowest of the Lib Dems and only 25 clear of Nick Grierson, who was the highest polling Conservative. Keith cleared 943 votes, but with a turnout of 38%, it was always going to need more than 1,000 to get in. Angela Pober was the first Labour candidate to be called out (names are are read out in alphabetical order) and she brought in 1,166. Gillian Risso-Gill took 901 votes – the farmers market hadn’t been enough to save her. Labour’s Phil Rosenberg won 1,179 votes – the most of anyone in the ward, and then James Yarde brought up Labour’s tail with 1,082 – 139 votes ahead of Keith and bringing 20 years of council service to an end.

West Hampstead's new councillors  James Yarde, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg. with Tulip Siddiq (second left)

West Hampstead’s new councillors James Yarde, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg. with Tulip Siddiq (second left)

Keith wiped away a small tear and then made a point of congratulating all the newly elected councillors. Not all losing candidates that night were as gracious. Nor were all winners. Night like these can bring out the worst of tribal party politics, though there were mercifully examples of generosity of spirit from all parties.

In the end, a combination of hard graft by the Labour candidates and the national swing had been too much for the personal vote for Keith to overcome. It was still a surprise. Labour had known that Keith would be the hardest incumbent to dislodge, and it proved the case, but it’s always a coup to remove the leader of a party.

The CNJ's Dan Carrier interviews Keith Moffitt after he loses out to Philip Rosenberg in West Hampstead

The CNJ’s Dan Carrier interviews Keith Moffitt after he loses out to Philip Rosenberg in West Hampstead

Attention switched to Fortune Green, where a recount was ordered. We already knew that the Tories were out of this. “If only Ian Cohen had had six more months”, one Conservative told me, seeming to forget that the Conservatives only finalised their list of who was standing across the two wards at at the last minute. Ian himself was still smiling, taking the hit on the chin. He’ll still be popping up at local meetings I’m sure.

Waiting for the Fortune Green recount

Waiting for the Fortune Green recount

Lorna Russell had already been told she’d polled enough to get in – and promptly collapsed. Labour really hadn’t held out that much hope for Fortune Green, expecting the Tories to do well and the Lib Dems to put up a strong fight. No-one but no-one had really thought Flick was vulnerable and, as these pages suggested, perhaps the other two Lib Dems could ride that wave to safety.

Keith Moffitt and Flick Rea look anxiously at ballot papers

Keith Moffitt and Flick Rea look anxiously at ballot papers

The reality was that Flick came home very safely – she actually topped the poll in Fortune Green, proving that personal votes can and do make a difference. Lorna was a surefire second, which meant the recount was between Labour’s Richard Olszewski and incumbent councillor Nancy Jirira.

Finally, the returning officer called everyone up to announce the final two wards – Fortune Green and Highgate. Fortune Green was first. The Conservative’s Ian Cohen (once thought of as a possible Lib Dem candidate) had done very well: 893 votes, more than 150 ahead of the next Conservative and narrowly in fifth place overall. Close but no cigar. Nancy was the next from the big three to be called – 950 for Nancy, agonisingly short of the 1,000 mark. Then Richard… 967. It was enough. Just 17 votes between them. Labour supporters whooped and cheered, knowing they’d done the unthinkable and obliterated the Liberal Democrats in their own backyard.

Flick took 1,151 votes and Lorna 1,028. Labour’s Phil Turner got 904 votes.

That left Flick Rea as the de facto leader of the Lib Dems in Camden. Outside the Somers Town community centre, she was in a feisty mood, and expect her to make a nuisance of herself in council meetings.

What does it all mean for local residents? At one level, not much – after all Camden was Labour before yesterday and remains Labour now – only with even more control. The Conservatives become the official opposition party.

On a more local level, it means that our new councillors have some big shoes to fill. They’ll have to learn fast how to navigate their way around the council and expectations will be high. Up in Fortune Green, Flick may well find that she’s bombarded with queries from locals who know and trust her to help them and simply don’t know much about the new Labour councillors. She’ll need to work with them though if she’s not to drown in case work.

It had been a long afternoon and evening. Labour gathered on stage for a victory celebration worthy of any cup-winning football team. Frank Dobson MP – who’d appeared for the photoshoots with winning teams in his Holborn & St Pancras constituency – had long gone home, but Hampstead & Kilburn hopeful Tulip Siddiq was very much still around. She’ll be hoping that the Labour surge in north-west London carries her to Westminster next year, while her Conservative rival Simon Marcus has to pin his hopes on a blue revivial nationally if he’s to stand any chance.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Phil, Angela, James, Lorna, Richard and Flick for winning their seats in two closely fought battles. We’ll be talking to them all – as well as some of the Lib Dems who’ve been pushed out of the way – over the coming days. You can also see a full breakdown of all the votes and the swings for the parties. I’ll leave the last word to long-time resident Tony Penfold, who tweeted last night: “Some good people who helped make West Hampstead what it is have left the stage, newbies now have to walk the walk. Whamp is watching”.

A sweaty few hours for local Lib Dem councillors

Camden’s late count means candidates will be sweating it out for longer than most, especially those in tight wards – which includes West Hampstead, Fortune Green and possibly Kilburn.

We woke up to the news that Labour and UKIP have made gains in councils that have declared so far, while the Lib Dems have taken a beating.

In West Hampstead and Fortune Green, the Lib Dem candidates, five of whom are incumbent councillors, still have a few more hours to see whether they can buck the trend. The BBC is calculating a 13% drop in support for the Lib Dems but they aren’t being wiped off the political map – as I write they’ve lost only four more seats than the Conservatives (from a much smaller base of course), and have retained 237 to date. They are losing 1 out of every three seats. The challenge they have locally is that the margins are tight in West Hampstead (remember, that Labour fell just 77 votes short in 2010 off a much higher turnout). Fortress Fortune Green was markedly safer with a 446 seat cushion over the Conservatives. Check out “What happened in 2010” for more detail on share of votes in the local wards.

Holding all six seats in the two wards would be a great result for the Lib Dems and Labour would definitely feel miffed if they can’t nick at least one – but expect West Hampstead at least to go down to the wire. A split ward is more than possible.

Over in Kilburn, in a two-way fight that got nasty right before polling day, it would be a minor miracle if the Triple-J Lib Dem team of James, Janet & Jack could buck the national trend and unseat Labour. But a ramping up of candidate sniping suggests that Labour aren’t as confident as they perhaps should have been (or arguably would have been if they hadn’t kicked Mike Katz off the slate).

Overall, it’s hard to see Labour not retaining control of the Town Hall – they’d need some strange results for that to happen. But all eyes will be on West Hampstead – the most marginal ward in the country’s most marginal constituency?

Magnus Nielsen, UKIP

Hustings hoo-ha takes away from real issues

Monday night’s hustings for West Hampstead & Fortune Green wards in the local elections turned out to be popular. Some 150 people turned up to Emmanuel School hall to hear what 21 of the 26 candidates across the two wards had to say.

One of those candidates – UKIP’s Magnus Nielsen – took all the headlines the following morning after a peculiar answer to the question of low voter turnout where he mused that perhaps all the efforts made in the 19th century to extend the voter base might have been misguided.

The audience reaction – more laughs than gasps – tells you how little it resonated with voters. Yet, with one headline grabbing soundbite, the rest of the candidates’ efforts to discuss the issues that actually matter to local residents have been subsumed.

It was fairly clear that Nielsen was playing to the gallery with this and other bon mots throughout the evening. What West Hampstead voters – and quite possibly UKIP itself – might have found more disappointing was that Nielsen clearly hadn’t prepared a meaningful three minute pitch to voters unlike all the other candidates.

A lengthy intro about why someone with a Danish name was standing for UKIP means that half of his three minutes was about the war, and the other half consisted of a few digs at the EU.

There was nothing about West Hampstead, or even Camden and it rather felt as if it had been dreamt up at the last minute. Such a lack of respect for the audience and the electorate suggests that, despite the occasional bout of political hubris (“when I’m elected councillor”), the likelihood of Nielsen sitting in the council chamber for the next four years is even slimmer than it might have been at the start of the evening.

Traffic at heart of Fortune Green shisha bar and college’s future

When is traffic relevant and when is it not in determining planning applications? This is the question in Fortune Green where a shisha bar and a higher education college are both seeking planning permission, which may hinge on the council’s understanding of congestion levels.

Earlier this month, Camden contacted the The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC) to tell them its proposed move into the empty unit next to Tesco in the Sager building, is unlikely to receive permission because it will generate too much traffic. It is deemed “unacceptable in principle”.

Meanwhile, Monte Cristo – the shisha bar that is retrospectively applying for change-of-use permission for the premises at 56-58 Fortune Green Road – doesn’t mention traffic at all in its application.

Photo taken April 23rd by Eugene Regis

Photo taken April 23rd by Eugene Regis

No-one locally has objected to the NSPC’s application. The school went to considerable lengths to explain to local residents that its impact on traffic would be negligible and it has support from the local residents associations. The NSPC’s transport statement is here and the travel plan is included on page 14 of this document.

It’s worth remembering that the same residents kicked up a stink at the proposal to open a private primary school in the same building because of the traffic impact. Camden rejected that proposal on precisely those grounds. Residents are, however clearly convinced by the NSPC’s arguments despite being inherently nervous about the impact of any new use on that site (a site that has been empty since the building was completed a few years ago).

No such luck for Monte Cristo. Locals have objected in force to its application. Some objections relate specifically to the shisha smoking, but the majority refer to the parking and traffic situation that has arisen since it started trading.

Unlike the NSPC, Monte Cristo’s application has no travel assessment; its document states that these are “not essential” for the scale of the business. Instead, it says that “a high proportion of customers, thought to be about 75%, live within one mile of the premises”, and that the staff “arrive mainly by public transport”.

This may be the case, but it hasn’t stopped many complaints from local residents, mostly with concerns about the extra traffic and parked vehicles the café attracts. Comments close tomorrow, May 2nd with a decision expected June 6th.

Here are four extracts from objections already submitted to Camden:

“Since the opening, traffic problems in the area have boomed, largely because guests of Monte Cristo park with impunity on the pavements, driveways and other areas on a narrow bend in a major artery.”

“There is an increase in disruption, noise and pollution from customers, who predominantly drive to the shisha bar. The cars are parking on both sides of the road on double yellow lines on a regular basis causing congestion.”

“Currently, users of the cafe are parking dangerously on both sides of the road, causing poor visibility to road users and damaging the pavements in the process.”

“The people have now taken to parking outside on both sides of the road. That means traffic jams as the buses try to get down the road and the cars have to wait to let them through.”

There are many other objections, including general noise and the open charcoal burner on Burrard Road. The full application details, and objections are here.

Professor Emmy van Deurzen, director of the NSPC, said that it would be “a terrible blow” to her organisation if permission were to be refused, as they have already invested considerable time and money into preparing for the move.

Alex McDougall, planning officer for Camden, said that the NSPC would need to present a more robust travel plan. The council had been due to decide this week, but has granted them a two week extension to gather and demonstrate local support. Professor van Deurzen is now preparing further documentation, and is appealing to local people to show their support by writing to Alex McDougall at Camden’s planning department (), quoting the following reference details: 2014/1403/P – Unit 5, 63 Fortune Green Road, NW6 1DR.

If the NSPC’s proposal, which has resident support and improves the diversity of employment in the area, is rejected on traffic grounds, it will be interesting to see whether Camden gives the go ahead to Monte Cristo in the face of considerable opposition – or asks it too for a more detailed explanation of how it plans to address the parking and traffic issues it seems to be causing.

Psychotherapy school heading to Fortune Green?

The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC), a small psychotherapy college, is planning to move into one of the vacant units at 53 Fortune Green Road – also known as The Sager Building and Alfred Court.

It has nearly come to a 15-year rental agreement for the vacant unit adjacent to Tesco at Alfred Court, and is now at the stage of applying for a change of use to D1 – the planning category assigned to colleges. At the moment the unit is classified for retail use.

The Alfred Court unit (currently unoccupied)

The unit (currently unoccupied)

Another educational establishment, the Abercorn private school, applied to move to these premises but its proposal was rejected last year by Camden Council amid many local residents’ objections. Most objections were related to transport issues: the school would have occupied a larger part of the premises than the 3,000 square feet the NSPC is seeking to use.

Jimmy Baker, Chair of the Joan Court Residents Association (Joan Court is the half of the building directly above Tesco and the proposed new school) said that his group is supportive of the NSPC’s application, with no major concerns: “As far as the application is going I don’t know of any major objection and personally I think it would be great for the area.”

The NSPC held a public meeting at the end of last month to meet local residents, answer questions, and address any concerns. Professor Emmy van Deurzen, founder and director of the school, believes it was a success. “It went very well – we feel very supported by the residents of Alfred Court and Joan Court”. Some residents from the nearby Greek Streets, she said, expressed concerns about parking, but she hopes that she was able to allay their fears as the vast majority of staff and students will use public transport or cycle.

She also pre-empted other potential concerns that local residents may have, such as the issue of noise. As the college teaches only postgraduate students, and many courses are taught online, she does not anticipate any problems.

James Earl, Chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum, said “The NDF has been working with the NSPC on its proposal to move into Alfred Court. The NDF supports the location of this sort of business in the area and welcomes the willingness of the NSPC to engage with the NDF and other local groups on its plans.”

Professor van Deurzen describes West Hampstead as “the perfect location for our business”. She and her husband (and the college’s co-founder), Professor Digby Tantam, live in Cleve Road, and feel very embedded in the community.

She is hoping that local residents will welcome the school and that the NSPC can give something back to the community in the form of a low-cost counselling service. She points out that it is bringing higher education and new jobs to the neighbourhood, and that staff and students will use and support other local businesses. The school also plans to offer the neighbourhood a public lecture programme.

The NSPC was founded in 1996 by the two psychotherapy university professors. Since 2010, it has been based in Belsize Road, but has been given notice to leave its current premises as the building is being converted into flats.

For the time being, the NSPC’s offices are still in the Belsize Road building, but students are currently being taught on a temporary basis at Swiss Cottage Library.

As well as the NSPC, which delivers masters and doctoral degrees in psychology, psychotherapy and coaching jointly with Middlesex University, the two directors also run a psychotherapy and counselling practice called Dilemma Consultancy.

The NSPC is awaiting the outcome of Camden’s decision to allow the change of use and van Deurzen is “optimistic” that this will be granted. Camden’s final decision is expected on April 29th and assuming it’s given the green light, building work will begin to turn the empty building into what she describes as a “boutique institution for higher education”. If everything goes to plan, the college should open for the start of the September term.

Tom eats late at Yuzu

I’ve foolishly neglected Fortune Green when eating out recently. On my list are Bombay Nights (any excuse to eat more curry), and the renowned Nautilus for some good old fish and chips. Last week though, a late-evening pit-stop at Yuzu proved an interesting choice on the eve of the new F1 season (this doesn’t really work as the race was in Australia, not Japan, but never mind..)

Synopsis? I sense a really fine restaurant, but perhaps I didn’t see the very best of it on this occasion – not that it wasn’t enjoyable.

Arriving after 10pm, the place was packed and buzzing, and service was excellent throughout. I note a “your recent requests” section on the website, showing people’s customisation of orders – nice work

My salmon teriyaki was delightful. How pleasing it is when salmon is just-done, pink in the middle, delicate and flavoursome. I was happy with the portion size of my mixed, crunchy, stir-fried vegetables, though the soy sauce had a slight bitter edge of which I wasn’t sure was deliberate? Of extras, I thought I was ordering a side of cooked greens, but in fact this was a salad – more obvious on the website menu where it is described as such. This was a large portion by default, which made for a rather pricey side dish, but with the nice touch of warmed cherry tomatoes, all was gobbled up.

Salmon

Salmon

Bream was declared all gone a few minutes after ordering, but sea bass replaced this in a subtle dish with red chilli, a citrus dressing and soy sauce, and which like everything else was elegantly presented.

Sea bass

Sea bass

An Argentinian Shiraz turned out to be a Shiraz / Malbec blend, and whilst having a decent finish and stiff tannins was perhaps a touch light, surprisingly. Not that I was making any effort to match grape and grub anyway; sometimes (OK, often) I’ll go for a heavy red when something else would be far more apt, I’m such a simpleton when gasping for a drink.

Glancing round, the various sashimi plates looked really impressive, and I’d certainly like to try more in general at Yuzu. It’s clearly popular with locals, and the staff were warm and enthusiastic, but in a nicely reserved way.

Please rest assured that my worrying phase of sharing desserts has passed for now; though in this instance I skipped pudding anyway. Actually, some might say that’s even more worrying!

Angela Griffin’s “edgy” West Hampstead

Actress and local resident Angela Griffin was interviewed for the Metro’s “My London” feature, published last Friday. Asked where she would set the denouement of her (hypothetical) novel, the one-time Coronation Street star singled out West Hampstead as somewhere with “a little bit of edge”.

NovelinWhamp

Her location of choice: Hampstead Cemetery in Fortune Green. It’s certainly an atmospheric location and has already got my mind racing with possible lurid soap-style plots and intrigue.

We may be edgy, but I do like a happy ending – epitomised here by Angela’s tweet to @WHampstead on the matter:

Recycle your Christmas tree in West Hampstead

The magical, twinkling glow of the Christmas tree can become an unbelievably depressing sight in the cold light of January once all the presents are unwrapped and pine needles are littering the carpet.

Step outside your house after Twelfth Night, and chances are the pavements will also be strewn with festive detritus, as already spotted by these locals:

How and where can you dispose of your Christmas tree responsibly? Just take it to one of Camden’s recycling drop-off points (full list here) between now and 16th January.

There are two in NW6: one on Fortune Green, and one at Kilburn Grange Park (Messina Avenue). There’s also a drop-off point on Netherhall Gardens if you’re the Finchley Road side of West Hampstead. On estates there might be a drop-off point too – check with the estate manager.

For one Fortune Green resident, Christmas tree ennui must have kicked in early, as captured in this snap by @photografter

Here's one I threw away earlier

Here’s one I threw away earlier

According to Camden’s website, Christmas trees will be recycled into paper, packaging and compost. A much more fitting end than carpeting the #whamp pavements.

West Hampstead buildings on award shortlist

Emmanuel School is by far the most controversial local building to be shortlisted in the Camden Design Awards. This council sponsored celebration of high quality design seeks to reward schemes that:

  • are inclusive, sustainable and fit for purpose
  • demonstrate high quality in design, materials and construction
  • respond sensitively to their context and reinforce a sense of place
  • enrich the lives of those who live and work in and around them.

There are eight categories of which five have local entries including the Thameslink station. The inclusion of Emmanuel School’s new building will raise a few eyebrows though. The school has come in for criticism from locals for its choice of grey rather than red brick. Not only is it shortlisted in the Camden Community Designs category, but it’s also got into the People’s Choice award shortlist. I suspect it won’t win.

Category: Don’t Move – Improve
Best householder conversion, alteration or extension – large or small
Canfield Gardens
Scenario Architecture

An analysis of our client’s patterns of use exposed and astonishing fact: 90% of the owners time was spent in only 10% of the available space- the dark lower ground floor dining area. The new design is based on a bold architectural decision of opening and thus losing floor area on the ground floor. The previously unused living areas of the ground floor are now connected in a unified space, providing designated and interconnected zones for the different everyday activities and allowing all available space to be used.

The design scheme makes it possible to provide adequate ambient and direct natural light to all, previously dark, living spaces making them attractive for the allocated activities. A feature wall at the lower ground floor was designed to provide spatial continuity between kitchen dining and living areas. It consists of an entrance space, with shoe storage, a sitting/ gathering space and a fireplace with integrated sitting area. On the bedroom level a bespoke en-suite bathroom combines digital production techniques with traditional manually applied finish. The form was CNC cut and assembled on site. It was then finished with an application of traditional Moroccan plaster achieving a single surface element.

 
 

More detail: 1; 2; 3; 4

Category: Designing for Growth
Best non-residential scheme – new or improved
West Hampstead Thameslink Station
Landolt + Brown

West Hampstead Thameslink Station has seen major changes through both the Thameslink Programme and the Access for All Programme with longer platforms to accommodate 12 car trains, a new passenger footbridge giving step-free access to each platform, and reducing the major pinchpoint created by the old footbridge and entrance/ exit.

The station also benefitted from a brand new ticket office on the opposite side of the station to the old cramped facility incorporating a new gateline, automatic ticket machines and a small retail unit and giving passengers fully covered access to the platforms.

The railway embankment leading to the new station was built-up to widen the pavement from 1.5m to 12m. Incorporating the existing lime trees into this new public space and allowing the station to be seen from West End Lane, were also central to the new station design. The glazed brick wall, designed to reflect the changing colours of the lime trees above, brightens the approach to the station and draws people towards it. The space has become a wellused local meeting place and the venue for West Hampstead’s weekly farmer’s market, as well as giving some relief to the narrow and congested pedestrian environment along West End Lane.

 

Category: Breathing Spaces
Best new or upgraded street, park, garden, cemetery, play area etc.
Kilburn Grange Park playcentre and adventure playground
Erect Architecture

The site of the Kilburn Grange Park adventure playground is the remainder of a Victorian Arboretum within an existing park. Its theme is playing in and around trees.

The playcentre provides internal as well as covered external play space. It is also a short breaks centre for special educational needs children facilitating overnight stays. The building is a timber frame, timber clad building. Its undulating biodiversity roof is a natural extension of the landscape, which dominates the scheme. Large roof overhangs frame the landscape. The timber structure is exposed. The main internal play space is a “tree room” dominated by a tree column from which the primary structure branches off. Natural light filters between the beams to create an atmosphere of being under a tree canopy.

The playpark consists of new topographies, landscapes and site-specific climbing structures. Different scales, speeds, uses, types of inhabitation and play as well as materialities and moods are carefully arranged. Children can experience different seasons or even just hours of the day.

The dense adventure structure plays with the characters of the trees. It tells tree stories. The structure is complex with small-scale spaces of varied materials. A series of recycled doors quotes domesticity but also allows for routes through to perpetually change and spaces to expand and contract. Different degrees of secrecy oppose vantage points into the park.

These spaces of different qualities create a rich experience and invite the imagination.

 

Renovation of Fortune Green
Friends of Fortune Green with Penny Brenan and BBUK

We think the scheme should be entered for a design award because we have significantly improved Fortune Green, for a pretty low budget. We have updated what was a very tired open space and intergrated with the surrounding area in a modern, design concious but also more ecological way. We have also worked with the Parks Department and are, perhaps, coming up with a new model of how to improve other areas and parks in the borough. On top of all that we think the scheme is looking good and we would be pleased to be recognised by Camden with a design award, either for improving the park and also for the community involvement – or both!

 
 

Category: Camden Community Designs
Scheme which has had the most positive impact on the local community
Emmanuel School
Hawkins\Brown

The existing Emmanuel Church of England Primary School was operating out of cramped Victorian buildings and temporary classrooms. The decision to expand to 1FE meant acquiring a new site across the road and the construction of a new school building to house years 2–6.

The project being submitted for the Camden Design Awards is the initial new build phase. The project includes the new building and associated play learning facilities. The Public Open Space immediately behind the school was also given an overhaul as part of the project, with new play equipment and landscaping, led by bid landscape working with Hawkins\Brown.

The early years unit will remain in the existing buildings, which are currently being refurbished as phase 2 of the works, and is due to complete shortly.

The architecture of the new Emmanuel School building was shaped by the community that surrounds it. The multiple constraints and influences of a sensitive conservation area, a confined urban site, an ambitious client and an enthusiastic user group have resulted in the design of a state of the art learning environment for the young children in the area.

The school is stacked vertically with teaching spaces located above the partially buried school hall. The playground includes a vibrant amphitheatre, multi-use games area and three external play decks, all of which maximise the potential of a very compact, sloping site on a residential street. The school was designed from the inside – out with generous windows playfully arranged to frame views of the surrounding area, and create light and airy classrooms for the children.

The building services have been designed to create a sustainable, and energy efficient environment. The roofline is articulated by four natural ventilation chimneys, which provide fresh air to the classrooms but prevent traffic noise from disrupting lessons. A ground source heat pump provides the heating and cooling for the building, and solar panels on the metal roof help to reduce the carbon footprint.

 

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Category: People’s Choice
Shortlisted from 10 entries across all other categories
Emmanuel School
Hawkins\Brown
See above

Category: Quality for Life
New or improved, private or social – includes housing-led schemes
No local entries

Category: Enhancing Context
New or refurbished building which best enhances a conservation area and/or listed building
No local entries

Category: The Heritage Award
Rewarding exemplar schemes of alteration, conversion, refurbishment, or simply the sensitive repair, of historic buildings and sites.
No local entries