Author Archives: BelSoc

Community Unity Drinks

NOTE THE DATE: IT’S WEDNESDAY, 11th MAY. Kire Estate Agents, recent-comers to Belsize, believe there are many benefits from meeting neighbours to make friends for adults and children alike. This isn’t always easy so Kire have joined forces with Calici Restaurant in Belsize Village to have monthly get-togethers. This will be on the first Wednesday of each month from 19.30 in Calici’s bar area. Local residents can apply  here, to get 20% off drinks and any food ordered on the night.

HUSTINGS

for the forthcoming Local Council Elections.
Sunday 1st May 2022 at 15.00,
Belsize Synagogue, Belsize Square, NW3 4HX

Everybody Welcome.

BelSoc members may submit questions in advance to info@belsize.org.uk

Belsize Society Newsletter February 2022

The February BelSoc Newsletter is online here as a pdf

Welcome to the February Newsletter of the Belsize Society.
You’ll see, with this Newsletter, the papers for the Annual General Meeting (or you have had the papers emailed). We will be returning to meeting in person at Belsize Square Synagogue, able to talk about the Society and enjoy cakes and tea together. We do look forward to the event.

In this Newsletter, we’re covering the outcome of the 100 Avenue Road appeal, where the Society played an active part. We were very pleased with the outcome, as the inspector rejected the appeal. We also report on the Society work to plant trees in the area, an initiative to commemorate the Queen’s jubilee, and the successful carol concert we held in December. The issue also reviews a recent play at the Hampstead theatre with strong local links.

As we restart events and other Society activities, we are looking for volunteers. Across the Newsletter are some of the opportunities for members to help, whether with the Newsletter itself or on our Committee. You’ll see the annual request for recommendations for Tradesmen You Can Trust. Let us know about the tradesmen that you have used, as that helps us keep the list up-to-date. Also, ,Belsize Library Friends are on the look-out for volunteers.

We were sad to hear of the passing of former Treasurer Jill Tyrell. Current Treasurer Neil Harris remembers her.

The Newsletter describes changes the Council are making to improve cycle paths in Belsize and – as May sees Borough-wide local elections – we highlight the new boundaries that will be used for the elections.

Hope you enjoy the Newsletter.

Plant a Tree for the Queen’s Jubilee

Barbara Abraham, our Committee’s tree expert, writes:

We announced in last August’s Newsletter that the Belsize Society was hoping to participate in the tree planting initiative marking Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 and plant some extra trees in public areas in Belsize. We drew up a shortlist of four possible locations and put the proposals to Camden tree department and to our three Belsize Councillors. Our Councillors are enthusiastic and supportive of the project and have suggested that we apply for Local CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) funding for the tree planting, and we have begun the application process.

A spot at the junction of Eton Avenue, Lancaster Grove, Lambolle Place and Eton Garages

In discussion with Councillors Steve Adams and Tom Simon, we have narrowed down the shortlist to a single location: the triangular-shaped island at the junction of Eton Avenue, Lancaster Grove, Lambolle Place and Eton Garages. This island currently has one medium-sized mature tree and a bench but its main use is as a dumping ground for Christmas trees once a year. BelSoc is proposing planting a cluster of native fruit trees (cherries, apples or pears) with a view to transforming this under-utilised site into a small green park – a mini-orchard. The existing mature tree and the bench would be retained, and an additional bench or two added. As well as providing a more environmentally attractive space, the grouping of trees would improve air quality in the vicinity and create a wildlife habitat.

We are excited about the project but it is at an early stage. Crucially, a survey needs to be carried out using detecting equipment to identify the presence of any underground infrastructure, such as pipes and cables, and determine if space is free to plant a tree. The successful locations are then marked and the second phase of the survey, involving trial excavations, can take place to ensure that the proposed locations for tree pits are in fact free of services and other obstructions. Until we know the results of the surveys we cannot be sure that the tree planting project is feasible – but we are optimistic!

Focus on Hampstead Theatre

What’s coming up at Hampstead Theatre?

Next on the Main Stage – The Forest
At this turning-point of his life, Pierre finds himself tormented by the conflicting demands of family, career and sexual desire.

The World Premiere of Florian Zeller’s uncompromising and mysterious play is translated, as ever, by Christopher Hampton and directed by Jonathan Kent, who re-unites with Zeller after his production of The Height of the Storm, which was critically acclaimed in London and on Broadway.

Next on Downstairs – The Animal Kingdom
Sam is struggling. Being a human has never been simple for him. Sam’s family don’t understand. But then they barely understand themselves.
The world premiere of Ruby Thomas’ The Animal Kingdom, directed by Lucy Morrison, is an observation of family dynamics told with wit and compassion. Ruby Thomas returns to Hampstead Theatre, following the premiere of her first full-length play Either in 2019.

Coming soon
The Fever Syndrome, 19 March – 23 April

Alexis Zegerman’s vivid, new play directed by Hampstead Artistic Director Roxana Silbert is a thrilling portrait of a brilliantly dysfunctional family.

Some Old Street, 2 April – 7 May

Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence are an artistic partnership, known collectively as Bunny. Expect interviews with real people, homemade songs and double act comedy antics.

100 Avenue Road Appeal

Essential Living loses appeal to modify planning consent

Tom Symes, our Committee member with joint responsibility for planning, writes:

Members may be aware that the appeal by Essential Living (Swiss Cottage) Limited against Camden’s refusal of its application to modify the consent it obtained in 2016 to build a 24 storey block of 186 flats at 100 Avenue Road by the tube station at Swiss Cottage has been refused.

Essential Living started work in 2017, demolishing the existing building and completing the piling and basement box, but “paused” significant construction works on the site in the summer of 2020. The new application in 2021 had sought to remove the obligation agreed in 2016 to include at least 36 affordable units in the new block, leaving as the only “affordable housing” obligation that 18 of the 186 flats would be available on a “discounted market rent” basis. Essential Living said that due to Covid-19, the increased cost of the main contract plus other mounting costs, and significant delay to the original project timescales, meant that it could no longer afford to include the affordable housing.

Camden had refused the new application because of the loss of affordable housing. Its annual delivery of affordable homes has consistently fallen below the target of 353 homes per year since at least 2012/13. There are several thousand people waiting for affordable housing. Current waiting times for social rented housing range from 2 to 9 years depending on house size. There was little dispute between the main parties that Camden has a significant affordable housing need.

The public inquiry into the appeal was held between 9 and 12 November, and BelSoc was one of the speakers. Essential Living did not provide any evidence about its financial backers or any commitment to build the scheme even if it was successful in the appeal. Camden and Essential Living agreed that under the existing consent the scheme will lose c£70m and removing the affordable housing would reduce the deficit to about £56m. On that basis the Inspector decided that the scheme was still not going to be deliverable and refused the appeal.

Essential Living has spent more than £60m to date. It is not clear what will happen next: there could be court proceedings and further applications. For the moment it is unlikely that there will be further work on the site, which remains surrounded by hoardings. BelSoc will continue to monitor the position.

Jill Tyrrell

Neil Harris, Treasurer, writes:
We were saddened to learn that our sometime Treasurer and Independent Examiner of Accounts, Jill Tyrrell, passed away last November. As you may know, Jill was a long-standing BRA committee member, serving as Treasurer for some seven years until I took over in 2013. Thereafter she acted as Independent Examiner of Accounts, continuing in that role after we became a charity in 2018. A charity of our modest annual income (about £5K) is not required under charity law to have its accounts examined at all (£25K is the threshold for this), so I and my Committee colleagues were hugely grateful to Jill for agreeing to do this work each year and performing it with such diligence, and unrewarded to boot (apart from the price of a cup of coffee and a gossip after the examining was completed, which we felt didn’t compromise her independent status. The latter was something she was very properly anxious to preserve).

Jill requested that anyone wishing to make a tribute in her memory might like to make a donation to the Royal Free Charity. BelSoc has recently done this.

Jill’s passing means that the independent examining of accounts role is at present vacant. As explained above, it is not mandatory for BelSoc to have this work undertaken at all, but the Committee feels that having an examiner of this kind has always afforded members an extra assurance that our financial affairs are run as well as they can be. For that reason we are minded to look around to see if anyone might be interested in taking over the function, and our membership seems a good place to start. So please get in touch if you are interested yourself or know of anyone who might be. The Charity Commission website offers detailed advice about what the role entails (including what “independence” means in this context), and we are happy of course to answer questions ourselves.

Folk: Hampstead Theatre Production with Belsize Connections

I’ll tell you one more thing. I got more songs in my head than I ever told you. I got enough to sing for days…

Readers may well have seen Nell Leyshon’s play Folk at Hampstead Downstairs. Louie and Lucy are sisters whose mother has recently died. They live in South Somerset and make just enough to live on as glovemakers. The two sisters have been handed down an abundance of songs which they know by heart and which they sing in homage to the traditional rural life to which they feel bound. The songs are an inheritance from their mother and help them to temper their grief and reflect on their loss.

When Louie takes a job as a maid in a large house, she meets Cecil Sharp who has come to Somerset to record folk songs. Louie sings to him and he writes down the songs which are published. Louie regards the publication as a betrayal: the songs are not commodities but part of the very essence of the community which owns them and passes them down. The physical act of singing is an emotional reflection of the fields, gates and landscapes of the countryside. Better to lose the songs than to tie them into a world that excludes those who are their true guardians.

A Blue Plaque marks Cecil Sharp’s house in Maresfield Gardens

A play about Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) has a special resonance for Belsize residents. In 1896, he was appointed as the Principal of the Hampstead Conservatoire of Music at 64 Eton Avenue. The building was later the Embassy Theatre and is now part of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – right opposite the Hampstead Theatre. The Principal’s job came with a house: Sharp lived in Maresfield Gardens as marked today by an English Heritage Blue Plaque. Sharp stood down as the Principal in 1905 to concentrate on collecting folk songs. His life and work is now celebrated at Cecil Sharp House at 2 Regent’s Park Road in Primrose Hill. He died at his home in Hampstead and is buried in Golders Green Cemetery.

Louie and Lucy are based on real women: Louisa Hooper (1860-1946) and Lucy White (1849-1923). Sharp collected songs from them in 1903. The play includes ever-more evocative singing, dancing and piano playing from its small, multi-talented cast. Louie is played by Mariam Haque whose voice is a real treat.

For further information on Cecil Sharp, visit: https://www.efdss.org/cecil-sharp-house. For information about Louisa Hooper and Lucy White, visit https://cecilsharpspeople.org.uk/. For the BBC’s coverage on Front Row, visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00139cw. Folk is directed by Roxana Silbert; details at https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2021/folk/.
 

Local Matters

WANTED: NEW MEMBERS FOR THE FRIENDS OF BELSIZE COMMUNITY LIBRARY COMMITTEE
The Friends of Belsize Community Library was first set up as PLUG (Public Library Users Group) in 1988 to fight Library closures. Since then it has continued to actively fight against efforts to close the library, held regular monthly talks of local, literary and historical interest (more recently on zoom), as well as making a contribution to fund raising activities. In 2016 it campaigned successfully for the building to be listed.
The Friends are seeking new members for the committee who are willing to help organise monthly events and to participate in the other activities of the committee. If you are interested ​in finding out more, please contact ​belsizelibrary@thewinch.org, who will pass your details on to the Friends Committee.

Camden has new electoral wards in 2022
Following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission, the Council wards in Camden have changed. The number of electoral wards in the borough has increased from 18 to 20 while the number of Councillors will increase from 54 to 55. Fifteen wards will be represented by three Councillors and five wards will be represented by two. The changes are intended to make sure that all Councillors represent about the same number of residents.

The first election under the new wards will be the local Council elections on 5 May. In preparation for the changes, the Council has undertaken a review of its polling districts and polling stations within the new wards. The new Belsize ward covers (in broad terms) the area bounded by Finchley Road (west), Eton Avenue (south), Haverstock Hill (east) and the northern part of Netherhall Gardens (north).
For further information on the new ward boundaries, visit: https://news.camden.gov.uk/camden-set-for-new-electoral-wards-in-2022/

BelSoc plans to hold its customary hustings for candidates from major parties to answer questions from residents in the run-up to the May 5 poll.