Category Archives: Homepage (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.


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.

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.

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). 


Members may be interested to know that, following the death of our Treasurer Neil Harris, the BelSoc Committee donated the collection of his books to the Oxfam Bookshop in Hampstead.  Oxfam has expressed its deep gratitude at receiving books of such quality.  New readers will benefit from Neil’s outstanding collection.

We are looking forward to Martin Sheppard’s talk at Belsize Community Library on the subject of Belsize Park, England’s Lane and Primrose Hill in the Second World War.  When and where did the bombs, and the V1s and V2s, fall in Belsize Park, England’s Lane and Primrose Hill? Who was killed and what was destroyed or damaged? Where were the bomb shelters and what happened to local men, women and children? What guns were on Primrose Hill? What happened to the Zoo? Martin is a leading historian of the area.  He will describe the experience of living in the area between 1939 and 1945.

Martin’s talk is on Thursday, 7.30pm 18 January 2024 at Belsize Community Library, Antrim Grove NW3 4XN. This is a joint event brought to you by Belsize Society and the Friends of the Library.

Also, the Library is the venue for the book launch of Pat Holden’s debut novel, Paradise and Pink Plastic Shoes (Set in Uganda in 1972). The launch will be on Wednesday, December 6th at 5.30 to 7. All welcome.

What’s coming up at Hampstead Theatre?

On the main stage – Rock ’N’Roll   6 December – 27 January

1968: Russian tanks have rolled into Czechoslovakia, and Syd Barrett has been dumped by Pink Floyd. Jan, a visiting postgrad at Cambridge, breaks with his old professor Max, a Marxist philosopher, and heads home to Prague with his suitcase full of “socially negative music”. Rock ’n’ Roll covers the ensuing 21 years in the lives of three generations of Max’s family while Jan is caught in the spiral of dissidence in a Communist police state. But it’s a love story too – and then there’s the music…

Tom Stoppard returns to Hampstead after the triumphant revival of Hapgood (2015). Director Nina Raine also returns to Hampstead where her directing credits include her own play Tiger Country (2011 & 2014) and William Boyd’s Longing (2013).

Downstairs – Nineteen Gardens    until 9 December 

Nearly two years after the end of their affair, John and Aga meet once more.  Each has filled the void left by the other: he has withdrawn into his world of wealth and privilege; she has found herself working as a chambermaid to support her family.  Both recognise that the spark between them is still there.  Will they rekindle what they had, or is an altogether darker game about to be played out…?

Downstairs – This Much I Know   13 December – 27 January. 

A tenured professor of psychology, Lukesh enjoys a life as organised and logical as his mind.  But then his wife vanishes, sending only a text message by way of explanation and leaving him to re-evaluate their relationship. He discovers she has embarked on an epic odyssey, crossing and recrossing Russia and delving deep into Soviet history on a quest to unravel a family mystery of which he was unaware – one in which Josef Stalin himself may be involved.

Jonathan Spector’s play is at once a love story and a kaleidoscopic primer in psychology, history, and the use and abuse of power. 

To find out more and buy tickets, visit or phone 020 7722 9301. 

Belsize Tennis Champion: An Outstanding Achievement

We are proud to announce that Globe Lawn Tennis Club member Naqi Rizvi, 32, has become the world’s top-ranked tennis player in international competition for the visually impaired.

His story is an inspiring example of perseverance. Diagnosed with congenital glaucoma as a child, he lost all sight by age seven. He came to the UK in 2015 to pursue a postgraduate degree from UCL, was introduced to tennis for the visually impaired in 2016, and began competing internationally two years later.

Naqi, a product manager in financial services, achieved the top ranking this year in the B1 visually impaired category after victories at the International Blind Sports Association World Games in Birmingham; the International Blind Tennis Association World Championships in Krakow, Poland; and United Kingdom national competitions at Wimbledon. He is next scheduled to compete at the UK nationals in November, where he will be defending the title he has twice won previously.

The past seven years have been some of the happiest years of my life,” he said. “If you’d asked me in 2016 when I started blind tennis if I’d ever be world No. 1, I would have laughed at you.”

Maggie’s Royal Free

Opening soon within the grounds of the Royal Free Hospital is a new Maggie’s walk-in centre offering free advice and help for cancer sufferers, their families and friends.

The centre’s aim is to provide a very personal service, said a spokeswoman, where a person living with cancer can meet expert staff who understand what they’re going through. The charity will offer free psychological and emotional support and be open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. No referrals will be required.

Practical support has also been a feature of the Maggie’s charity since it was founded by the late writer and artist Maggie Keswick Jencks in 1996 with assistance ranging from possible claims for extra benefit payments to parking permits.

Access to the eye-catching new centre, designed by renowned international architect Daniel Libeskind (see photo above), will be via Rowland Hill Street off Haverstock Hill. The team hope to be supporting cancer sufferers by the end of November.

A Community Open Day is planned for early 2024. More information can be found online at

Howitt Close application refused

Developer Freshwater’s second planning application for permission for seven flats under a new mansard roof on the block in Howitt Close was refused by the Council on 10 October. The refusal notes that “the proposed roof extension, by reason of its height, massing, design and undue prominence, would visually overwhelm features that are an integral part of the host building’s design and significance, namely the flat roof with its deep eaves”. 

This follows an earlier similar application being refused and that refusal being unsuccessfully challenged by the developer. The inspector used words such as “bulky”, describing as “overly large” the proposed dormer windows which would make the proposed mansard “dominant and ‘top heavy’”. This chimed with BelSoc’s own submissions, with Tom Symes appearing at the hearing.

The 1930s block, off Howitt Road, was designed by architects Henry F Webb and Ash, and past Newsletters have featured some of the history and architectural features of the building. 

Belsize Society Newsletter November 2023

Welcome to the November BelSoc Newsletter.

It was nice to see many of you at the Society’s historic walk in October, with Averil Nottage leading the walk. We had a fascinating stroll into Chalk Farm, finding out more about the Eton College Estate.

The Society’s members have been busy book writing. We cover Ranee Barr’s novel set in Belsize and Sri Lanka, and are also pleased to report former BelSoc committee member Pat Holden’s new book.

The Newsletter also includes news from the Globe Tennis Club, which has been the home of a rising tennis star. The Newsletter has a piece about the new walk-in centre for cancer advice at Maggie’s at the Royal Free. 

There is a lot going on in the area over the coming months. We describe what’s on at the Hampstead Theatre. We cover seasonal events, such as one by Belsize Community Choir and the annual concert for the homeless. The latter is organised by Matthew Watts, who will be leading our carol singing in a few weeks time.

This Newsletter covers a number of planning matters. We hear about the listing of a local building designed in the modernist style by architect Georgina Cheeseman. There is also news of the outcome of the latest planning application for Howitt Close. The rejection of the proposal was welcomed.

During the recent Open House, 8/8a Belsize Court Garages received numerous visitors, keen to see the award-winning retrofit. The Newsletter covers this, as well as recent incentives to retrofit.

We hope you enjoy this Newsletter.