Category Archives: Issues

Belsize Society Newsletter May 2024

Welcome to the May Newsletter of the Belsize Society.

The Newsletter includes updates from the Retrofitting Group, who recently visited a Council-managed refurb project in Belsize and who report on the improvements being made at 5-7 Belsize Grove. These homes will have solar, insulation, double glazing and enhanced thermal performance.

We are also supporting the Council in a bid for a retrofit accelerator. Securing funding will mean a series of workshops that would bring together residents with planners, retrofitting experts and other organisations to understand how to reduce the hurdles for those seeking to make old buildings more sustainable. This all occurs as the local Pears Building of the Royal Free wins an award citing its contribution to sustainability.

It was a pleasure to present David Percy with an award on behalf of the Society for his contribution to local history. Over the last decades we have seen Belsize through his lens, and his writing. The Newsletter also covers his most recent, remarkable, contribution: a book covering 100 houses in Belsize and neighbouring areas.

We held our AGM in March, and a new committee was put in place. This issue covers the discussion at the meeting. We have begun to follow up a request from members that we allow them to choose not to receive a paper Newsletter. There was also a desire to change the name of our popular Traders You Can Trust. This is the new name of TYCT,  replacing Tradesmen, and you’ll have received the 2024 edition with this Newsletter.

There is a piece about what’s on at the Hampstead Theatre and the exhibition at the Isokon. We also provide an update on the Council’s removal of paper visitor permits for general use by residents.

Details of the venue of the summer party are in the Newsletter. We will confirm the date electronically. 

Enjoy this Newsletter.

The LARA Project 

Chris Langdon, Retrofit Group Member, writes:

Are you considering improving your home to cut fuel costs or reduce draughts, but not sure how to find the right suppliers? Are you are concerned about contradictory messages from Camden about what you are allowed to do in a Conservation Area like Belsize? 

If so, join the club! 

That’s why the Belsize Society has recently set up an informal group of members who plan to retrofit their homes.  The group met on 30 April in the Washington pub. We discussed Camden Council’s call for support for its bid to join a new project designed to overcome some of the blockages making domestic retrofit so hard.   Camden is applying to be one of three Councils to pilot the new Local Area Retrofit Accelerator. It’s called LARA for short. 

The LARA pilot project will also aim to set up local delivery groups, which will aim to turn the plan into substantive action, working with local supply chains, businesses, colleges and installers.

For the LARA pilot, the initial funding would go to Camden – if they are successful. Camden’s bid would, they say, “allow residents and local groups to work together to develop an action plan to accelerate domestic retrofit in Camden.”  A main plank of Camden’s bid are a series of workshops in the autumn.  They ask organisations like Belsize Society to commit to engage seriously with the co-designing and participating in the workshops. 

Having offered our support to Camden in principle, we will wait to see if Camden’s bid to join the LARA pilot is successful.


Camden Council’s decision to scrap visitor parking scratchcards for general use has not changed. However, there remain ways to obtain cards for residents that find using the online options impossible, by calling Camden Council on 020 7974 4646. Members have reported that once any difficulties accessing visitor parking permits have been explained, permits can be ordered.

In the next months, the Council is monitoring how the “digital first” policy on visitor parking permits is operating. We continue to collect observations from members on how they are finding the new systems. Comments on the convenience of the scratchcards, and their importance to local businesses, have been made to BelSoc. 

So far, comments have indicated frustrations with the Camden online system – “going to my Camden Council account…  Sadly, I got nowhere”. The difficulty with accessing services through the internet more generally has also arisen: “(we) are over 78, …(and) I use email but find it very difficult to use any online system to scan or log on”.

At the recent Camden Cabinet meeting on parking policy, the Council parking team undertook to work with resident organisations to make sure the new policy operates without imposing a digital divide on accessing visitor parking permits. We continue to seek your views on this matter.

BelSoc Annual General Meeting

This year’s AGM was held at Belsize Square Synagogue on Sunday 12 March, with about 50 members attending.

The Chair reported on the year, noting the sad loss of our Treasurer at the start of 2023, and the steps that had to be taken to fill the substantial gap for the Society. Eva Papadopoulou was welcomed as the new treasurer.

The year saw a successful historic walk and a well-attended carol singing event. The Society was also able to co-host a talk with the Friends of the Belsize Community Library, also contributing to the Library’s refurbishment. The Society had also continued its initiative supporting retrofits. 

The Society’s finances remain healthy, and there were donations to local charities. In the context of rising costs, discussion about raising the annual subscription fee to £20 led to a resolution enabling the committee to raise 2025 subs. There was also the suggestion that the committee consider how printing costs may be reduced through electronic publications. 

A new committee was agreed, and – soon after this year’s AGM – the committee has been joined by two further co-opted members, Heather Harte and Alan Selwyn.


Members who have provided email addresses to the Society are sent links to the content of the Newsletter. This means you could be reading this on your tablet, phone or computer. 

If you prefer reading the Newsletter online and you’d like to save the paper and printing of a paper newsletter, then let us know at Later this year, you will be removed from the paper circulation.

If you choose the online version, we will still send you the paper TYCTs, usually with the May Newsletter. You can also opt back into the paper version. At the same time, we will be seeking to make the online/email version of the Newsletter an easier online read.

We know many members prefer paper. So we will still need members that can help with deliveries. It involves a pleasant stroll four times a year. Do volunteer if you can help on this, emailing

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, or just email full details, including your own, to by 29 March 2024.

Volunteering for the Society

As the new year begins, perhaps your wearable is suggesting you walk more, or your gifts of recipe books are encouraging cake making. Whatever your new year resolution, perhaps it can translate into helping the Society. The range of Society activities means a selection of ways to help, such as helping at events, delivering newsletters, creating posters, baking cakes.

We have a few gaps on the Committee which urgently need filling. The Committee is a great place to help the Society, in that you both hear about what is happening in Belsize, and then lead some aspect of the Society’s involvement. The Committee meets each month, except August, at members’ homes and there is team of people looking at planning matters, the various publications, Society events and engaging with Camden Council about the policies that are being pursued in the Borough.

We are always looking for new Committee members, but we would particularly welcome help in two areas:

  • Events organisation. The Society holds about four main events a year, having a party in the summer, organising an annual walk, the AGM, and bringing the community together at Christmas for carol singing. Organising this involves a small number of set-up tasks, and then working with others to make an event a success. Also, there is scope to update the calendar with new activities.
  • Editing the Newsletter. A Committee member is needed to bring together the materials for the Newsletter each quarter, gathering an array of interesting writing drawn from the pen of our members or news articles about what is happening in BelSoc or the area. It would suit someone who enjoys commissioning and then compiling pieces, with IT used to produce the Newsletter being undertaken by others. Again, there is scope to update how the Newsletter is presented, such as adopting online tools. If joining the Committee is of interest or you would like to volunteer some time to help the Society, then please do contact  if you can help.

Do you have a garage to store BelSoc equipment?

 The photo indicates the scale of the storage needed: around five boxes of BelSoc’s plates and tea making equipment. It would be great if someone with space in a garage or ground level store could look after these. They are used each year for two or three events, for which access that allows transfer to a car would be ideal. 

Contact if you can help.

Scratchcard parking permits (UPDATED)

UPDATE 9 MARCH 2024: For those members who have an account with Camden Council, it is still possible to request Scratchcards for short-term parking permits. While Camden is working on alternative schemes – via online or an automated telephone system – the council has confirmed Scratchcards will still be available. Camden will consult community groups before any final change is made.

Scratchcards are safe, for the moment at least. The controversial subject came up before the latest Town Hall meeting of Camden Council.

Following a strong defence to councillors of the hourly paper parking permits from Camden’s community groups including the Belsize Society, the Council agreed to look again at the future of the cards.

Key to the final decision will be a review of the number of users with no online access to the permits. The Council may consider whether a special dispensation for the digitally excluded is feasible.

Community groups will be meeting to discuss the next steps.  Meanwhile, the campaign to save Scratchcards goes on.

Help Save Scratchcards

If you use a Scratchcard and are over 75, and/or have a disability not yet registered with Camden Council, could you please email the Belsize Society at or call Peter Wallace on 07551 686 668.

Thank you.

Society Carols and New Camden Local Plan

Have your say on Draft New Camden Local Plan

Camden is consulting on their draft new Local Plan from Wednesday 17 January to Wednesday 13 March 2024.

The draft new Camden Local Plan sets out the Council’s vision for future development in Camden for the next 15 years and includes the planning policies and site allocations to help achieve this. It identifies how many new homes and jobs are needed to support Camden’s population, and where and how they should be provided. The Local Plan also has an important role in shaping how Camden’s places look and feel, promoting inclusion, reducing inequality, enhancing the environment, tackling climate change, and securing sustainable neighbourhoods.

To read and comment on the draft new Local Plan please visit

Belsize Carol Singing

The Society’s Christmas Carol Singing was well-attended with over fifty singing along with Matthew Watts at Belsize Terrace. We were joined by the Primrose Hill Community Choir and rattled through some old favourites as well as many carols and songs with our youngest singers leading. Also, over £225 was raised for the Marie Curie hospice, a good local cause. Thanks to all who contributed.

Martin Sheppard speaks at Belsize Library

The Society supported a recent Friends of Belsize Library talk at Belsize Community Library. Martin Sheppard spoke on The War in Belsize Park. The event was very well attended, with the Library fully crammed as Martin presented a picture of a wartime London. He described where and when bombs landed on the Belsize area presenting material from the archive of bomb maps and showing us photos of the effects on local buildings. 

His talk also covered the suburban lives people led as they sheltered from the bombings, inhabiting both purpose-built shelters and the Underground stations. Martin explained how Swiss Cottage tube proved a vibrant location, with its own magazine associated with the shelter there.

Most delightful was that Martin was joined by another Martin (Nelson) who sang for us, starting with an 1860s music hall classic about perambulators on Primrose Hill, and ending with a song made famous by “Cheeky” Charlie Chester.

Next events at the library include an illustrated talk by Tudor Allen drawing from the collections of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre (15 February, 7.30pm).