Plaque installed for Dave Simcock

If you are wandering down West End Lane you might have noticed a new plaque on the bench opposite Cycle Surgery. It is in memory of Dave Simcock. Who was Dave Simcock?

Dave bench 2

Dave Simcock, who died last year, was a long time committee member of WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity and Transport). On Monday May 22nd, members put up the plaque on the bench in his memory.

Virginia Berridge, former chair of WHAT, remembered Dave’s enthusiasm for anything to do with trains and railways. He was always up with the latest news and keen to attend consultation meetings called by the rail companies. He was a long-term attender of Thameslink meetings and reported on its plans for new stations and rolling stock. He was also an assiduous deliverer of the WHAT newsletter in the days when it was a paper copy.

Who's who of WHAT remembering Dave Simcock

Who’s who of WHAT remembering Dave Simcock

Dave was ill for some time but never let his illness get in the way of his enthusiasm. During a meeting outside the Overground station with representatives of Tfl talking about plans for the redevelopment of the station, he became ill and an ambulance was called. Dave was attended to by ambulance staff but never lost his interest in the meeting and rejoined when he could.

Gill Becket, Dave’s partner, attended the gathering. KOVE (Kilburn Older Voices Exchange) was also there as the group had worked with WHAT and Camden to have the benches installed. Good wishes were sent by Tulip Siddiq who recalled how Dave had encouraged her to stand in the constituency. Claire-Louise Leyland, the Conservative candidate commented recently that when Camden consults it often has world experts in the field living the borough; Dave was West Hampstead’s resident expert on all matters rail related and helped WHAT punch above its weight when dealing with First Capital Connect (Thameslink) or London Overground.

WHAT about the new recycling regime?

At local amenity group WHAT’s AGM last week, the thorny topic of rubbish was the theme. Following the departure of WHAT’s founder and long-time chair, Virigina Berridge, this was the first blooding of new co-chairs John Saynor and Mary Tucker.

John opened the presentation by saying that most attendees were keen recyclers (hopefully true). Therefore, is Camden’s main challenge to persuade those who don’t or won’t recycle to do a better job? Particularly in West Hampstead with a high turnover of renters.

Richard Bradbury, Camden’s head of recycling, gave a fast, well-rehearsed presentation with many slides. He emphasised that 85% of the contents of a Camden bin could be recycled, yet residents only manage 25%, which is pretty feeble whatever your political persuasion.

Richard proposed a outcome-focused plan to make the new rubbish contract a success: increased recycling, less fly-tipping, less contamination of recycling bins/better technology, educating the public, and flexible responses to specific problems. He handed out an update on what can be recycled.

Camden's latest recycling info

Camden’s latest recycling info

Then came a lively and productive Q&A session. From which we found out some of the details. We’ll get a leaflet telling us our fortnightly area dates for a whole year. People with babies need to pre-book extra nappy collections. We can now recycle black food trays. Shredded paper is acceptable, even though its fibres have been broken down. And there will be one-off collections for textiles and batteries (as well as large items), to be ordered via the website.

You can recycle so much that it goes onto two pages!

You can recycle so much that it goes onto two pages!

Technology to the rescue! There’ll be an app from which you can take photos of any problems and send to them to Veolia, the contractor. Vans will also have CCTV to check accuracy of collections with the footage saved for 3 months and to spot fly-tipping hotspots. The fly tipping penalty will be a fixed charge of £200 if Camden can actually get the right evidence. The whole thing sounded a bit “shop your neighbour”, though everyone at the meeting was too polite to say so – and maybe some neighbours deserve to be shopped?

The representatives from Veolia were surprised by all the exceptions residents raised. For instance, they could only say they’d ‘look at ways to contain the waste’ in response to Solent Road’s bag-ripping foxes. If you can’t get your recycling – or any – bin on or next to your pavement you’ll have to ring up and ask for an ‘assisted service’. This will presumably mean Veolia would exeed its allotted 15.6 seconds per property – which translates as “one step in”. If you currently have green or brown wheelie bins you’ll have to get stickers if you want to use your bins.

Green/garden waste will be collected weekly, but it’s £75 for a year or £60 for the nine months from spring to autumn. These collections (three sacks a week) can be shared with neighbours, but only if you pre-register. Pensioners will get a discount, though the details are still being decided.

Still ‘no’ to soft plastics like dry cleaners’ coverings and junk mail wrappers. Caddy liners? ‘They don’t last a fortnight. Change them weekly.’ Light bulbs won’t be collected. Rats? ’Keep your receptacle clean.’ (And ‘No comment’ to query about new commercial rubbish collectors springing up across Camden.)

It’s strange to think that it was only a few years ago that we were getting bi-weekly rubbish collections, and soon we will have only fortnightly. West Hampstead already has a rubbish problem, with regular fly tipping, although time banded collections on West End have improved things. We will have to see how things change with the new contract from – and you couldn’t make this up – 1st April.

What has WHAT ever done for us?

The library has been hosting an exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of local campaign group WHAT. So, what is WHAT and what has it ever done for us?

Plenty, it turns out.

WHAT stands for West Hampstead Amenity and Transport, though it hasn’t always! It’s a local pressure group that addresses “local transport, open space, local shopping, planning issues and all aspects of the local environment.” Fairly comprehensive then.

Specifically, WHAT lobbies transport interests, the council and developers, holds public meetings and (of course) issues a newsletter.

WHAT began as a response to Camden’s May 1973 Road Network and Environmental Policy Management document. They were sexier times, the 1970s.

This plan was set to change the face of West Hampstead. It This proposed a borough-wide network of main distributor roads, which would take the main bulk of traffic. Between them would be environmental areas that would be traffic free. The main distributor roads in this area were to be Finchley Road, West End Lane, Fortune Green Road and Mill Lane.

Camden’s proposals sparked a torrent of protests and many local groups formed under the banner of ‘No to the Network’. WHAT was one of these groups. In mid-July of 1973, college lecturer Don Hill organised a petition on West End Green against the new network policy. He took this to Camden council, who promised to oppose any increase in traffic flow along West End Lane. Don and his wife Claire decided to form a group called West
Hampstead Action on Traffic (WHAT).

In September, WHAT staged a bigger protest at West End Green. Local families and residents brought the late afternoon traffic to a halt in protest against the GLC (Greater London Council) and Camden policy. The protests worked and the plan was dropped.

A page from a membership book shows Ken Livingstone as an early member of WHAT.

It would be another four years before WHAT’s name was changed to West Hampstead Amenity and Transport to reflect its widening interests.

What has WHAT done?
The group has been involved in a very wide range of issues over the years.

The West Hampstead interchange: WHAT has been involved with the idea of an interchange at West Hampstead since the 1970s. Here is a discussion document it published (price 20p) in 1979 urging better use of the railway lands.

WHAT wanted a craft and light industrial development with plenty of pedestrian access. Many years later, these issues are still live as development takes place at West Hampstead Square.

At the same time the Ring Rail group had ideas for this area and also for the development of what was then called the North London Line (now the Overground) into a rail ring round London. This finally came to fruition last year when the Overground network tied up the final missing link.

Most recently WHAT has been working closely with London Overground about its plans to develop the station and to put in a lift.
Sainsbury’s trolleys: In 2001, West Hampstead was littered with trolleys from the O2 Sainsburys. WHAT gathered up all the trolleys it could find, wheeled them to the O2 site and demanded to see the manager of the store. Sainsburys subsequently employed a man with a van to go round the area collecting the trolleys. It also introduced the electronic barrier which prevents trolleys being wheeled into West Hampstead.

Buses: WHAT has lobbied about the bus service for many years. This includes lobbying against bus noise and vibration at West End Green, with the result that there are now bye-laws that prohibit buses from keeping their engines running. In 2005, WHAT’s long running battle to get bus stops near the stations was successful although since then, developers have suggested taking them away again!

Thameslink: In 2004, Thameslink wanted to stop trains stopping at West Hampstead and Kentish Town for at least six months because of work going on further down the line. WHAT gathered many hundreds of signatures for a petition against this; Camden got involved and Thameslink changed its minds!

Local planning: WHAT comments regularly on local planning applications and is closely involved in the current Neighbourhood Development Forum.

Looking to the future
Aside from commemorating all the work WHAT has done, the exhibition, which runs until November 16th, is also a reminder that WHAT is only as strong as its membership. It’s always on the lookout for new people to join. Members can come along to any monthly committee meetings and it only costs a fiver for two years’ membership. Here’s the form.

Bench for elderly attracts litter and noise

You’d think a bench would be an uncontroversial object. Just a few pieces of wood, not getting in anyone’s way. Doing its bench thing.

You’d be wrong, so terribly terribly wrong.

KOVE, which stands for Kilburn Older Voices Exchange, together with WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities & Transport), managed to get Camden to install a bench on the corner of Hemstal Road and West End Lane. Those of you who live in the frozen northern wastelands of Fortune Green may not even know where that is. Hemstal is the first turning to Kilburn after you leave the shops of West End Lane heading south. It also has, somewhat bafflingly, one of those Legible London signs.

That’s quite the jaunty perch

Anyway, I was sent a press release by KOVE telling me about this bench.

“After consulting members of the community, the site was chosen to help give people a rest from walking the steep incline.

Mrs Dawda, a local resident, said, “I often feel breathless walking up Hemstal Road and so a chance to have a rest is very good. In fine weather, I can also just sit to have a read and chat to new people. It is a great improvement to the area.””

Mel Wright, KOVE coordinator explained, “This bench is part of our ongoing campaign for community seating in Kilburn and West Hampstead. We carried out a survey a little while back about what older people needed to help improve the quality of their lives. One of the main priorities was somewhere to sit and rest whilst going out. People with chronic health conditions and disabilities are sometimes marooned at home unless they can be assured of a sit down when they go out to do shoping or visits. This new seat is a valuable community resource to be enjoyed by everyone and we hope that like all the other benches it will be treated with respect.”

A noble aim Mel, a noble aim. Just seems there’s been one small problem, and local residents association WHGARA (I do apologise for all the acronyms in this article) has been quick to pounce on it.

Camden contacted local councillors and neighbourhood police teams before the bench was put in place and ‘no significant issues were raised at the time’, but it seems the council didn’t speak to residents of St James’ Mansions. That’s the building behind the bench. They are now complaining of long evenings of nuisance and noise and days of litter.

Graffiti (from a satisfied diner?)
Photo via WHGARA

It turns out that there used to be a bench roughly in the same place, but it was removed some years ago because of similar problems.

WHGARA is categorical in its condemnation of the whole sorry affair:

The bench is in the wrong place and attracting the wrong users. Elderly people have not been seen sitting on this bench – builders on their lunchbreak, yes! Drinkers and drunks and people fast asleep in the evening, yes! The council have neglected to supply any litter bins and all the cans, pizza and takeaway boxes and fish and chip wrappers end up on the gardens behind the bench in St James’ Mansions front gardens.

One might argue that you can’t really legislate for who uses a public bench, unless you want to stick one of those “priority seat” stickers from the tube on it. If a builder wants to sit down and have a sandwich at lunchtime, then I think that’s fair enough. A litter bin would be sensible though.

The problems in the evening are slightly more challenging, though one wonders whether, as the occasional patrol car drives up West End Lane, an officer could wind the window down and have a quiet word with any rowdy bench-abusers. Whether the graffiti is related to the bench is hard to prove from a photo, but either way, it seems a shame to have to rip up the bench.

New Overground station to be built next year

At the end of last month, Camden held its annual public meeting on transport issues in the north of the borough for the first time. A good proportion of the questions on the night related to the local area.

WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities & Transport) asked for an update on the platform and lifts upgrades at West Hampstead Overground station.

Work will start on new Overground station next year
Photo via James Lovett

Some context is needed here. TfL have recognised that the Overground station needs an overhaul. It handles more than 3 million passengers a year, making it one of the busier train stations in the country. According to WHAT, a new footbridge and station building, with lifts and wide access, will be constructed about halfway down the existing platforms. This will allow the station building to continue to function until the new one is ready. The first stage will be to lengthen and widen the platforms to allow use of 5-car trains on the Overground (which are due early 2015). Building work on the station is expected to take place during 2014, with completion hoped for in early 2015.

WHAT has lobbied for this for the last two years and wants to ensure that the provision of lifts is co-ordinated with the Ballymore housing development next door. The money that TfL allocated for installing the lifts was on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, but given the length of the Ballymore build, it will have to be applied for again. The consensus seems to be that there won’t be a problem in having it awarded again.

Cycle hire at West Hampstead Thameslink
Emily Turner asked whether TfL had considered expanding Cycle Hire to West Hampstead Thameslink? The existing plan is to expand the Barclays “Boris” Bike scheme around Westminster and the City of London where demand is greatest. TfL has no plans to expand further north-west. In 2012, the scheme extended to Camden Town, with the northernmost docking station on Castlehaven Road towards Chalk Farm. A further extension to West Hampstead would require a number of docking stations throughout the area to the north-west of Swiss Cottage, which, say TfL may presentsome topographical and operational difficulties.

TfL met with Camden officers in March 2013 to discuss Camden’s aspirations for Cycle Hire and these will be considered within wider discussions for the building programme in the King’s Cross area.

Personally, I think our part of NW London should look at one of the alternative bike hire schemes that are popping up elsewhere in the country. These require less infrastructure than Boris Bikes and would benefit people moving around the area rather than just commuting to and from work, which would lead to limited numbers of bikes being available during the day. I’m looking into this in more detail.

West End Lane disruptions
WHAT asked if Camden could outline how it plans to deal with disruptions, such as those occurring on West End Lane due to burst water mains?

The council explained the impact the bridges and train lines have on the options for road diversions around West Hampstead, which can lead to bus passengers being a long way off course. It also said that planning for unexpected disruptions is difficult and usually consists of diversions and these will be announced by the driver. On occasion a disruption will sometimes lead to a longer term response being required, which may include the use of information at bus stops.

Bus stops
WHAT (again) asked TfL for an update on bus reliability and on the use of information during bus journeys, and live information at key locations to keep passengers informed of changes and delays to buses.

TFL has a large amount of bus data available, which is used to measure performance by the bus operators and enforce service level agreements in contracts. Camden said it would consider paying for real-time bus information at key locations in West Hampstead through Section 106 money (the money paid by developers to offset the impact of new developments).

Jubilee Line
WHAT asked TFL to provide an update on Jubilee Line closures and the impact these have on the West Hampstead community, particularly during the Christmas period. It also pointed out that more explanation about the nature of the works would be appreciated, rather than “engineering works” being a catch-all term.

TFL confirmed that essential maintenance to reline a section of the tunnel near Bond Street started on June 16th and will require three remaining closures and two late Sunday starts in 2013, with some intermittent closures also required in 2014 and possibly 2015.A full list of all planned closures is available on the TfL website.

Around Christmas, the Jubilee Line will be closed from Waterloo to Finchley Road from Thursday 26th December to Monday 30th Dec.

Traffic lights and other issues
WHAT asked for an update on the proposal to improve the traffic lights outside West Hampstead tube station.

The installation of secondary signals at the West End Lane / Broadhurst Gardens junction is scheduled for this financial year.

June Perrin: Could Camden review the traffic light sequence at the junction of Kilburn High Road and Quex Road? 

An scheme is being developed in this area, which could include the phasing of the signals.

Mel Wright asked whether there are plans to improve pedestrian crossing times along Kilburn High Road, perhaps using the live countdown technology. 

TFL confirmed that Quex Road has been identified as one of 200 sites in London for the implementation of live countdown

Maryam Alaghband: Could TFL could comment on the traffic light system at Swiss Cottage gyratory where traffic going south onto Park Road collides with traffic coming from Avenue Rd and going to Finchley Rd? 

David Harris: Can the traffic lights from Finchley Road and Fitzjohns Avenue be timed so that both lights do not allow the traffic to move together in such a way that the traffic becomes a racing track where the motorists cross in front of one another in order to reach the right lane?

Same answer to both questions: “TfL is reviewing this site and although there are likely to be significant challenges in terms of maintaining network resilience at this location by the full or partial removal of the gyratory system, TfL will be seriously considering the options available and will welcome community involvement in the development of these plans.”

David Douglas: Can TFL plant more trees at the gyratory to combat air pollution; and can air quality information at Swiss Cottage be publicised?
The ground conditions along Finchley Road have proved to be very challenging for planting new trees. TfL proactively looks for suitable places to plant new trees, but on this occasion, the ground conditions meant that this area was not suited, and the trees would not have prospered.

An overview of pollution levels in Camden is published on the London Air Quality Network website and there is specific data for the Swiss Cottage monitoring station.

WHAT’s happening at Thameslink?

People have been asking what’s happening on platform 1 on the Thameslink station – the answer is a waiting room. But there are more things going on at the award-winning station that may not be as visible.

Local campaign group WHAT regularly meets with First Capital Connect and has all the latest updates:

  • The new shelter on platform 1 will have a space for staff so they can answer customer queries speedily and be more in touch with the passengers.
  • There will also be a retail outlet on platform 1.
  • Oyster cards will soon be on sale at the station.
  • FCC trains will stop using London Bridge station for some years after 2014. FCC expects that West Hampstead will become a major interchange for their passengers, transferring to the Jubilee line.
  • WHAT has pressed for better information from station staff when things go wrong. They have also asked that staff be fully briefed about alternative travel options and which tube lines are closed at weekends.
  • WHAT would also like to see an art market on the station forecourt, and apparently FCC have been  receptive
  • Finally, WHAT is pressing for FCC to be included in Camden’s annual transport meeting, which will take place next month.
Here’s what the waiting room will (sort of) look like

WHAT focuses on transport

Dennington Park Road is the place to be on January 30th. One one side of the road, the Conservatives are holding their US-style primary to determine who will be their candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn in the next general election. On the other, in the library, those good burghers of West Hampstead, WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities and Transport, for those of you who didn’t pay attention in class last term) are holding their AGM followed by a public meeting about transport. Who said West Hampstead wasn’t edgy?

There are a few transport updates to share with you, based on WHAT’s meeting with Camden late last year. There were four points on the agenda for that meeting:

  • The traffic lights at the Finchley Road/Fortune Green Road junction had been installed without consultation and have apparently made the junction even more dangerous as they confuse drivers. TfL has promised to “take action”.
  • The lights at the junction of Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane are also deemed dangerous for pedestrians (As a regular user of these, the only danger I see is from the cars and cyclists who deliberately jump the lights). Camden is apparently going to install extra lights here. I’m not entirely sure how many more traffic lights that stretch of West End Lane needs?
  • The lack of a lift at the Overground station, despite funding being available.
  • General pedestrian congestion and safety in the area between the three stations (gold star if you knew that that is generally called the “interchange”).

After the meeting, Camden’s cabinet member for transport, Phil “20mph” Jones promised a separate transport meeting in the north of the borough for full airing of grievances. And it has come to pass. Phil will share the platform with Barnet & Camden London Assembly member Andrew “Colemanator” Dismore and a guy from TfL called Steve.

WHAT’s AGM runs from 7.30pm-8.15pm. There’s 15 minutes for refreshments and then the public meeting gets underway with a 9.45pm finish time. All are welcome.

Transport spotlight on West Hampstead

Tonight, Camden council is holding a public meeting about transport issues in the borough. Isabel Dedring, London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport, and Councillor Phil Jones, Camden’s Cabinet Member for Sustainability will discuss residents’ ideas for improving transport.

Officers from Camden Council and TfL will also be on hand to answer your questions.

Thanks to WHAT, there is a whole section of the agenda dedicated to West Hampstead. The topics being raised are:

  • Progress on lift installation at West Hampstead Overground station.
  • Traffic light changes by TfL without consultation at Fortune Green Road/Finchley Road junction
  • Pedestrian flows in the area of the three stations at West Hampstead
  • Safety issues regarding traffic light grouping at junction of Broadhurst Gardens and West End Lane.
  • Request for purchase of Oyster cards to be made available from West Hampstead Thameslink Station.

The meeting will be held from 6pm to 8.30pm in the Camden Centre in King’s Cross, Bidborough Street, WC1H 9JE. Do go along if you’re interested, or contact Antony Holloway in the transport strategy service if you have any questions on or 020 7974 2087.

Public meeting Oct 22nd

I know normally I’m exhorting you to go to Kilburn for comedy on a Monday night, but on October 22nd I suggest you head down a bit later. Why? Because there’s a public meeting that is really worth turning up to if you want to understand and contribute to the shaping of West Hampstead over the years to come.

WHAT (the local action group) in conjunction with the West Hampsead Neighbourhood Development Forum, is holding a public meeting to bring everyone up to speed with how the NDF is evolving and, more crucially, to set the boundaries of the area to be covered.

This is a subject I’ve touched on recently (read the comments on that link to get up to speed with the latest), and nothing has yet been finalised, especially in terms of where the southern boundary of the Neighbourhood Development Plan should be. You might believe, as I do, that as the area around the stations is likely to see the greatest development pressures the people who live both north and south of the train lines should very much be included. However, as things stand, the cutoff point for the plan could well be the tube line itself, so those living within spitting distance of the O2 car park, for example, may have little influence on plans to redevelop it, while people living the best part of a mile to the north may be far more involved.

You don’t need to do any background reading to come along – all will be explained. Help me lower the average age of attendees, find out what’s happening in West Hampstead, and have your say.The “other speakers” mentioned below are from Urban Design, Planning Aid and Camden’s planning department.

WHAT’s up with the Jubilee Line

Two members of the WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities and Transport) committee recently attended the Camden annual transport meeting with TfL. The Jubilee Line spokesperson reported that problems on the line are almost solved.

However, as many of us know, this doesn’t match the reality. At the last WHAT Committee meeting, members decided to keep personal logs of any problems we encountered on the Jubilee Line. These
will be collated and forwarded to TfL.

If you would like to participate, please note dates, times and reasons given for the delay and forward to . The committee suggests we monitor for the whole of October.

Do WHAT now?

If you’re interested in all things West Hampstead – and lets face it, if you’re not then you may be on the wrong blog – perhaps you should consider joining WHAT. What? Yes, WHAT. The jokes are almost endless*

WHAT stands for West Hampstead Amenities and Transport and has been going for more than 30 years as a non-political community group that cares about local issues and ensures residents have a voice in local affairs through lobbying, meetings etc. As far as I know, it’s the most prominent and wide-reaching of the various local community groups. Like all such organisations, it does of course need fresh blood – not least to ensure that it continues to reflect the local population’s thoughts and ideas.

So, if you want to get involved and join WHAT, then you can find a membership form right here.

*that’s the end of the jokes

WHAT survey

Some of you will and some of you won’t have heard of WHAT. WHAT stands for West Hampstead Amenities & Transport. It’s a campaign group that’s been around a long time and has been very active in issues such as the West Hampstead interchange project that was a credible proposal some years ago.

Anyhoo…, it’s carrying out a short survey but doesn’t have such good access to the younger population in the area. Which is where I come in.

It’s looking for people who are 25–40 and who live (this bit’s important) in either the West Hampstead or Fortune Green wards. Here’s a map if you’re not sure which ward you live in.

It’s a survey about local community facilities – doesn’t matter whether you use them or not, they’re interested in everyone’s views, and also what you might use if it was available. It will take about 10–15 minutes to fill in. There’s a Word doc. and an Excel sheet to complete, which I can mail you.

If you’d like to participate, please drop me a mail (link is top right) or DM me on Twitter with your e-mail address. WHAT is ideally looking for a mix of longer-standing and recently arrived residents, so let me know how long you’ve lived here too, please. I’ll mail out the questionnaires over the next day or two.

Thank you very much