Category Archives: Issues

BelSoc Deputation to Camden Planning Committee

BelSoc have attended meetings with Camden Council enforcement teams about the approach to be taken to large projects. Large projects could be basement developments or the 100 Avenue Road construction, where there is likely to be significant disruption during the build. We are keen to see the teams able to routinely check on how developers are meeting their Construction Management Plans, and other obligations.
BelSoc Chair Prabhat Vaze with Oliver Froment of CRAAC recently made a deputation to the Council’s Planning Committee about possible ways to improve the situation, especially lessons from other London Boroughs where systematic monitoring is taking place and the funding for this has been met by developers, an innovation which the Council explained they are exploring.

Successful conclusion of the community air quality monitoring study

Thank you to all the Belsize Society members and other volunteers who have helped to bring to a successful conclusion the community air quality monitoring study in Belsize Park / Swiss Cottage. We are now excitedly awaiting the results, hopefully due around the end of March 2020.
Since early January 2019, up to 30 volunteers have been tending the 10 monitoring locations, mostly situated in the area between Finchley Road and Haverstock Hill. Every month the teams organised themselves to take down the test-tubes from high on kerbside lampposts / signposts, post them back to Camden Council for analysis, and replace them with a new set of tubes. Inevitably some passers-by could not restrain themselves from taking a few tubes and there was one explicit act of vandalism to destroy one set of tubes but these instances were thankfully rare. Overall the study managed to collect enough data for all 10 monitoring locations.
The tubes (three at each location) have been measuring the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the main source of which is vehicle exhausts. The 10 locations were agreed during consultations with the volunteers to provide readings from a mix of busy and quieter roads. The study was funded by the Community Infrastructure Levy, initiated and supported by officers at Camden Council, whom we also thank for all their help in setting up and providing back-up administration for the study.
Camden Council is now processing the data and we will be able to see how NO2 levels at the 10 locations have varied over the 12 months. If any locations have levels above the recommended healthy levels then we can ask what actions might be taken to alleviate the NO2 pollution.
Towards the end of March 2020 Camden Council will host a meeting to report back on the results to the volunteers and all interested Belsize Society members and local residents. Details of this event will appear on the Belsize Society website and will be sent out by email to volunteers and members. 

Tradesmen You Can Trust

A New Decade and nearly time for a new TYCT

So please get busy with email or pen and form, to send us your new tradesmen ‘finds’, plus re-recommendations for existing entries. All this input is for members, by fellow members  – so mutually beneficial!
Our thanks to all who have already contributed. As a reminder to those who intend to do so, please use the form enclosed with this newsletter, or download the same form from www.belsize.org.uk/membership/-you-can-trust, or just email full details, including your own, to TYCT@belsize.org.uk by 3rd April 2020.

Belsize Carols

The cold weather was no bar to a well-attended and sonorous session of carols in Belsize Village on 23 December. Special thanks to leader, Choir Master Matthew Watts.  Thanks to all who made or brought mince pies.  Well done to all who contributed to Marie Curie Hospice: we raised £309 in 45 minutes, which is not bad going.

Hampstead Theatre at Sixty

This is a milestone year for Hampstead Theatre, which celebrated its 60th Birthday in September. As many readers will know, the theatre has recently welcomed a new Artistic Director, replacing Edward Hall who was at the helm from 2010. Roxana Silbert has joined from the Birmingham Rep and continues the theatre’s tradition of staging significant new plays and new writers.

The current season got off to a memorable start with The King of Hell’s Palace which ran in September and October.  The play, written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig and directed by Michael Boyd (former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company), was inspired by the real life of Dr Shuping Wang, who exposed the spread of hepatitis and HIV infection through contaminated blood and plasma in China two decades ago. The imaginative set, which jutted out into the audience, made the dialogue, singing, dancing and soundscape very engrossing.

At the curtain call on the opening night of Hell’s Palace, the actress playing the role inspired by Shuping’s whistleblowing, invited Shuping onto the stage to take a bow. She received a standing ovation, which was, in retrospect, particularly poignant as she was to pass away 10 days later.  

The Christmas production, Ravens: Spassky vs. Fischer, opening on 29 November, promises to be a gripping, psychological thriller.  Taking as its subject the famous chess match that became a signature event of the Cold War, this is a world premiere from Tom Morton-Smith, the writer of Oppenheimer. It is directed by Annabelle Comyn, who has worked in leading theatres in Ireland where she is based.

Roxana Silbert makes her own directing debut as Artistic Director in early 2020. The play is The Haystack, another world premiere, and is an intriguing story about GCHQ, data, electronic intrusion and the world of intelligence operations.

Many residents will remember the Hampstead Theatre Club, as it then was, in its much-loved re-purposed scout hut. Today the theatre’s welcoming space houses two auditoria: the recently refurbished Main House, with 370 seats and the exciting studio space, Hampstead Downstairs.   The downstairs studio (of which our Newsletter Editor is a particular devotee) has hosted many innovative and interesting productions, in an informal atmosphere.

Ward Boundary Changes: Latest News

Following extensive consultation, to which BelSoc has contributed, the Local Boundary Commission for England has published revised draft recommendations for ward boundaries in Camden. The new recommendations contain some significant changes to previous drafts, and so the Commission decided to run an additional consultation exercise on the changes. That exercise closed on 11th November.

In light of a great deal of community evidence, the latest draft recommends that the whole area covered by the Netherhall Neighbourhood Association (Netherhall Gardens, Maresfield Gardens and Nutley Terrace) should be in Belsize ward and not split between Belsize and Frognal wards.

The Commission now also proposes that the boundary between Belsize and Haverstock wards should run to the rear of the properties in Chalcot Gardens rather than down the centre of Englands Lane. The evidence which the Commission received suggested that Englands Lane was the main shopping street and community hub for that part of Belsize ward and the initial proposed ward of Belsize would have divided this community.

The Commission recommends that the boundary between Gospel Oak and Belsize wards will run directly along Rosslyn Hill and Haverstock Hill so that the Aspern Grove/Russell Nurseries estate will be in Gospel Oak ward. The Commission observed that “this estate is managed alongside other Gospel Oak estates via the Gospel Oak District Management Committee. Its inclusion in Gospel Oak ward will provide those electors with more effective and convenient local government representation.”

As for numbers of councillors, the proposal is that Belsize, Gospel Oak and Haverstock wards will each have three; Hampstead Town will have two.  Swiss Cottage ward will no longer exist and a new South Hampstead ward will be created in that area, with three councillors.

In reaching its final recommendations, the Commission aims to propose a pattern of wards for Camden which will provide electoral equality in the sense that each local councillor ought to represent a similar number of voters, to the extent that this is possible. It also considers community identity, aiming to reflect the interests of local communities and community links.  The boundaries need to be easily identifiable and should be designed to help Camden to deliver effective and convenient local government. BelSoc’s ideas have in the main been taken on board and so we are in broad agreement with these latest recommendations (there is no perfect solution).

The final recommendations will be published on 2 February 2020.  After that, new boundaries must be approved by Parliament and will come into effect in time for the local elections in 2022. Details can be found at: www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/greater-london/greater-london/camden. The map shows the names of the current proposed wards and their boundaries but these may change again in the final recommendations.

Belsize in Film and TV Advertisements

TV viewers with eagle eyes will have noticed that the current commercial for Direct Line Insurance is set in Belsize Village. BelSoc is often informed about film projects and can liaise with production companies on behalf of affected residents.

We have been in touch with Olympia Productions UK Limited who are proposing to film scenes for a new feature film entitled “Sack Lunch” in January 2020 in Belsize Lane.  Sack Lunch will be a family-friendly feature film scheduled for cinematic release in late 2020. The story follows a group of immortal beings as they strive to protect humanity.

Filming in Belsize Village is currently scheduled to take place on Saturday 18 January 2020.
The production company is applying to close a portion of the road in Belsize Village on the day of filming but pedestrian access will be maintained. The filming proposal is currently being considered by Camden Film Office (www.camdenfilmoffice.co.uk).

The Belsize Community Library is launching a series of Public Assemblies about the power of Communities such as ours

The aim is to generate new understanding of community formation and capacity through participation. The inaugural session is next week, on 4th December, and an impressive panel has been assembled:

Lucy Bland; British professor of social and cultural history at Anglia Ruskin University. Much of her work focuses on British sexological history and she will tell us about her latest book Britain’s ‘Brown Babies’, the stories of children born to black GIs and white women
Andrew O’Hagan, FRSL; Scottish Novelist and non-fiction author. He is also an editor-at-large of London Review of Books. O’Hagan is currently the Visiting Professor of Writing at King’s College London. As a working class kid growing up in a Glasgow estate, Andrew will tell us about the pivotal role that community and libraries have played in his professional life.
Sofia Akel; a race equality specialist in higher education, activist, and lecturer at Goldsmith University. Author of Insider-Outsider: the role of race in shaping the experiences of black and minority ethnic students.
Professor Tom Selwyn; Professorial Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Wednesday, 4th December. 18.30 for food, 19.00 for the Assembly. Tickets: Belsize Public Assembly: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/public-assembly-building-community-re-building-society-tickets-83202050573

100 Avenue Road Construction Management Plan

Comments on the new 100 Avenue Road Construction Management Plan were due on 15 November 2019. The CMP is the agreement between Camden Council and the developers about the approach to be taken for managing construction works. A version was agreed earlier in the year and the revisions in this round of consultations, focus on and follow from detailed work undertaken since then. 

Revisions are in response to concerns raised by Transport for London, especially the developer’s intention to lift large elements of the building into the site from the A41. The plan would have meant the material passing over the entrance to the Swiss Cottage tube station and TfL will not allow this.

The revised plan has rerouted 18 deliveries each day so that they enter the site, rather than being lifted in from a pit lane off the main road. The new movements will mean articulated lorries being far closer to the open space. The CMP envisages fewer lorry trips in total, but the concern is that reduced use of the pit lane and increased use of the site near the open space will reduce air quality.

The Belsize Society has responded to the consultation.

Belsize Community Library

2020 will be a very challenging year for the survival of our lovely Belsize Park library:the funding that has to date been received from Camden Council is coming to an end and the Winch, which has supported the library since it was shut down by the Council in 2012, is only a small charity which does not have the means to keep the library going without help from Belsize residents.

There are various ways in which you can support the library, the most immediate being to go onto its website (http://belsizecommunity library.org.uk/) and become a regular donor.

The library can be hired for events and meetings at weekends, so you can spread the word about that, and for information and more ways to give your support, do call 020 7586 6746 or drop the library an email to belsizelibrary@thewinch.org.

You can support the Library’s interesting events, listed in “Dates for your Diary”, to which all BelSoc members are welcome. Entry is a donation of £3 which includes refreshments.
Belsize Community Library, 14 Antrim Road, London NW3 4XR