Current Issues

Air quality monitoring in Belsize/Swiss Cottage – volunteers needed

As you may have seen from the August Newsletter, we are looking for volunteers to help our local authority with a community air pollution monitoring project. We are very grateful to those of you who responded, but if the project is to go ahead we need more people to come forward.  The project is important as it will help us, and Camden Council, to identify NO2 levels so that action can be taken where it is needed.
The task we are asking you to undertake is not onerous.  It will only require an hour or two once a month on a specific day when the monitoring tubes have to be replaced and the used ones posted (paid packaging will be provided) or hand-delivered back to Camden Council. The main constraint is that the task must be done on the specified day. For this reason we need more than one volunteer for each monitoring station, so that if the normal person is unavailable a replacement can step in.  The other constraint is that the tubes have to be posted off on the same day.  But we hope many of you will think that a maximum of twelve hours or so over a year is not too great a commitment for such a worthwhile task.
It is not necessary for monitors to be members of the BRA and if you do volunteer,  teaming up with a friend may make sharing the task easier.
There are more details in the newsletter. Do please let us know as soon as possible if you are interested. We need to know by the end of September. Please email info@belsize.org.uk.

Message from Camden re Air Quality Improvement

Camden is seeking feedback from our residents, schools and businesses on how we can improve the air we breathe and we would like to hear from you.
We all have a role to play in improving air quality in Camden, that’s why we’re asking you to help develop our Clean Air Action Plan.
During our ‘Camden 2025’ community conversations you told us that air quality is vitally important, with participants in particular asking that we work together to improve the air that we share.
With this in mind, we launched our Camden Clean Air Partnership in July, bringing together residents, local businesses and campaigners for a ‘Design Day’, exploring practical ideas for air quality improvement.
Key themes covered on the Design Day included:
1.       Transport emissions
2.       Construction and development emissions
3.       Public health and awareness raising
4.       Delivery, servicing and freight
5.       Communities and schools
6.       What can you do to help improve local air quality
Now we’re opening the discussion wider with a new website where you can have your say. We’re keen to capture as many of your voices as possible to help us develop our Clean Air Action Plan which will launch next year.
Please note that this engagement is not a formal consultation our future Clean Air Action Plan but rather a review of the Design Day outputs, which will inform the Action Plan development. Read the full details of actions from the design day and join the conversation by Sunday 30 September.
To leave your feedback visit https://camdencommunitychallenges.commonplace.is/

Transport Matters

The BRA Chair, Prabhat Vaze, attended two meetings in July and reports as follows:

Camden Transport Strategy Workshop
Camden’s transport strategy is nested within a wider TfL strategy and will be used to prioritise a pot of money that Camden controls for local transport issues (about £2m per annum called the Local Investment Fund).
The Council is consulting on the headline objectives, which are: 1) increasing cycling and walking; 2) reducing car ownership; 3) accessibility for all; 4) increasing safety; 5) reducing emissions and noise; 6) maintaining the highways network and kerb-side spaces for the movement of goods and people; 7) economic growth and regeneration.
At the meeting, there was a Q&A followed by topic-focused breakout sessions. Belsize issues 
were raised (ensuring adequate time at crossings, developments and construction traffic, tackling pollution, encouraging cycling and walking, tackling the school run).
BRA in the main supports Camden’s ideas but members may have mixed views about Camden’s approach to cars. There was discussion about the relative importance of different drivers to reduce congestion. A lot of ideas centred on reducing residents’ car ownership levels, but the data seemed to indicate that increased congestion was as much due to the rise in delivery vehicles and the use of private hire cabs.
The consultation will continue and BRA will no doubt formally take part when a draft Strategy is produced.

Camden Local Transport Meeting
TfL and Camden’s transport officials answered questions from residents around Camden. BRA asked three pre-prepared questions that were submitted in advance of the meeting:
Q: Given the changes/construction in Swiss Cottage, we would welcome greater comfort that buses are going to run in a timely way and that there is planning for both the construction-related disruption and any separate one-off disruptions occurring at the same time.
A: In broad terms, TfL have developed plans at different levels and have put in place systems for both construction-related disruptions and one-off events. Maintaining traffic flows will be a high priority. As and when necessary, traffic lights will be changed to ease congestion.
Q: We have read that the Mayor has cut the 268 bus frequency. There has been no user consultation; and possibly no consultation with local authorities either. Why has there not been proper consultation and what is the evidence that the reduced bus frequencies will be adequate?
A: This is one of those areas where TfL do not consult, because they change buses quite a lot. The change to the 268 services is based on analysis of passenger levels. TfL are trying to be more transparent about the changes. They now publish a monthly report of changes to bus timetables and are planning to provide more data about rider levels so that the routes where changes are likely can be made known. If they become aware of changes to a certain aspect of a route, such as some temporary change causing ridership to drop, then they can review changes to the timetable. However, changes to one route usually come about because frequency levels have been adjusted upwards in some other areas with high rider levels. So TfL would argue that this is adjusting resources for the best overall.
Q: The pedestrian crossing phasing outside Waitrose in the Finchley Road is very short. The Swiss Cottage underpasses and crossings for pedestrians are in need of improvement as quite aged, and there are accessibility issues.
A: TfL are willing to review these issues and propose to let BRA know when a review may happen. They regularly look at crossings and can check on ones where we experience problems. Residents will be able to take part in any review and BRA will be sent contact details.

BRA and the Planning System

BRA Committee member and planning expert Sanya Polescuk writes:
One of the many good ways of looking after your neighbourhood is balancing the need for its modernisation and the desire to safeguard its special character. In a nutshell, that is the aim of Belsize Residents Association’s Committee when assessing Planning Applications received by the Council. Generally this means two things: ensuring that the Council takes into account the all-important aspect of the physical context, such as immediately-adjacent buildings and, looking at the wider neighbourhood, its existing infrastructure and ability to cope not only with the future needs of the development but also its needs during the process of construction. BRA assesses and participates in both. The second aspect is particularly important for large-scale, major developments such as, for instance, 100 Avenue Road or The Hall School.
It is of course notoriously difficult to stop major developments – their applicants invest heavily in the preparation of the applications and ultimately they should be able to address the particular needs and aspirations of the local area. The current planning system stipulates community consultation in the process of a major application’s preparation (Camden’s Statement of Community Involvement, adopted July 2016). The applicant is obliged to conduct a number of consultations and feed its results into the proposal. This should minimise local objections and avoid the refusal of planning permission. Instead, permissions are granted with a string of conditions which the applicant must discharge before construction can start on site, ranging from the Council’s approval of further studies such as a Construction Management Plan (CMP) to samples of materials proposed for the development. Some of these conditions are subject to further community involvement, such as preparation of a CMP, whilst other get logged in the Council’s system and are less transparent.
One of the overriding frustrations with the current system is the inability of a community to have a fundamental impact on major proposals, regardless of the time or financial investment. Until such time as the system changes, we are doing our utmost to help shape major developments so that their impact on our neighbourhood and our lives is as contained as practically possible.

Help Needed

Local resident Elaine Chambers is working with Camden Council to support their campaign of “Please turn off your engine” walkabouts. This is part of the “Stop Cars Idling” campaign and volunteers are needed to help. This would involve a one hour briefing session by Camden Officers and a couple of hours walking around a particular area to approach cars with idling engines. Camden will provide leaflets and hi-viz jackets.
The idea is for a team to take action on one specific day with a number of different dates being available. If you would like to take part, please contact elainchmb@aol.com with your name and email address or phone number so Elaine will have a good list of volunteers.

Clean Camden

Clean Camden is a campaign by Camden Council to crack down on littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping.  Please let Camden know if you spot a place that needs attention.  You do not need to give your name.   Anyone can report fly-tipping or other street mess on the Clean Camden app which can be downloaded free of charge from the usual app stores.   You can also make a report online at https://environmentservices.camden.gov.uk/street.  Alternatively, you can email: uk.occamden@veolia.com; or phone: 020 7974 2202