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Our campaign to win protection for much loved local buildings has been won, as Camden Council launches a consultation on a “local list” for our area.
In recent years two important, historical buildings – the Old Chappell Factory and the former North London Polytechnic Buliding – have fallen under threat of demolition. The buildings were at risk because, although they are undisputably of local historical significance, to qualify for listing (and therefore protection under planning law) a building in Camden must currently have national significance.
After local people successfully fought to save both buildings, I proposed a “local list” for Camden so we could protect buildings deemed to have social, historical or community significance to people in the borough (if not across the country). The idea was quickly covered in the Camden New Journal and well received by local residents, campaigners and conservationists.
To their credit, the council will now introduce a local list, and are asking what criteria should be used to add buildings. Their sensible proposal would require buildings to meet two criteria from architectural interest, historical significance, town scape value or social value. However, the really important decision will be how buildings are proposed for and accepted onto the list. This process should be community led – with the criteria applied in a fair, balanced and transparent way.
You can have your say here.
A big thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the last year. I’ve been looking over our stats and am pleased to say we’ve had heaps more people reading this year than last – and using the blog to get in touch or comment on local issues.
We set this blog up to make it easy for residents to see what their local councillors are up to, and to be a community resource for local news and views. Hopefully you’ve found our posts useful – but we’re always keen to hear feedback so do get in touch if there’s anything you’d like to see more/less of, or that we can do better.
Meanwhile, (drum roll please), here’s our top 5 most read stories of 2011:
(2) Camden comes together after riots - there was huge distress and a hunger for updates and information after Chalk Farm Road found itself at the centre of riots in Camden.
(3) More than a Pizza Express – the campaign to save the old North London Polytechnic assembly hall brought together residents from across Kentish Town. We learnt we had been successful just before the Christmas break.
(4) Voting to save Camden’s libraries – Labour’s threats to the borough’s libraries has been a long running political battle this year, with lots of public support for the Liberal Democrat motion to reject closures. Queen’s Crescent Library may have been saved, but not all libraries are yet in the clear.
(5) How Chalk Farm survived the riots – after the immediate shock, lots of people tried to make sense and draw lessons from the riots. I penned a piece for the Spectator website reflecting the experience in Chalk Farm.
The fight to stop Labour closing and selling off Mornington Crescent Sports Centre has been lost – the site will be advertised as a “development opportunity” in Estates Gazette this week.
Many in Camden will still see this as a completely senseless decision. Mornington Sports Centre was refurbished and reopened just two years ago, at a not insignificant cost. Camden are therefore throwing a huge amount of taxpayer’s money down the drain, while taking away an important place for local residents to keep fit and healthy.
As Camden’s official opposition we used every means at our disposal to halt the sale – offering an alternative budget showing how the council could make savings elsewhere and forcing the Resources Scrutiny Committee to look at the decision again. Meanwhile, the Camden Sports Council came up with their own excellent plan to keep the centre open for the community. Labour Councillors have, however, refused to budge.
So, Mornington is now under the hammer and we all have to hope that those who use the sports centre will be able to find somewhere else affordable to go.
As anyone who’s ever tried to walk down Queen’s Crescent with Jill Fraser will tell you (it can be quite difficult getting past all the people who want to chat), she is probably one of the best known local councillors in Camden. Jill works hard, knows the patch inside out, and is a genuine local champion.
So it’s great to see Jill recognised by the Liberal Democrat blogger Mark Pack, who has written about her story in his “local liberal heroes” series focussing on excellent local councillors. In the piece, Jill says: “I won because people knew me and I had won lots of battles for them… I don’t believe in giving up.” As Jill’s colleague, I can say that is definitely still true today!
In a packed meeting room, the very first Friends of Queen’s Crescent Library was set up tonight. This is great news and means that Queen’s Crescent users will now have an even stronger voice in Camden.
A diverse crowd well and truly busted the patronising myth that only the middle class care about libraries. The great thing about libraries is they are one of the few council services equally loved by young, old, rich, poor and everyone in between. Spend half an hour sitting in Queen’s Crescent Library and you really see all of Camden.
The first job for the new users group is therefore, of course, to fight off the closure threats coming from the council. It is incredible that local libraries could be boarded up, especially in places like Queen’s Crescent where they sit at the heart of the community. More visits to the library means more visits to the Market, which can only be good for the local economy in an area that Camden desperately wants to regenerate.
We will be backing the new users group all the way. Lots of people were signing the petitions – one organised by Unison, and one by CPLUG (the Camden wide library users group) – and will be presenting it to Camden Council at the meeting on April 11th. Local people have successfully fought off Labour threats to Queen’s Crescent Library once; they can do it again!
For as long as I can remember, the commercial shop unit at number 2 Malden Road has sat empty and dilapidated.
Empty property like this really brings down an area, making the street look uncared for and attracting anti-social behaviour. It is a massive waste of a precious resource.
Following a number of residents raising this property with me, I have today tracked down the owner from the land registry and have written to him asking about any plans to bring the unit back into use. If there are no plans, I have asked if we can work together on a solution that would benefit the community.
Having battled against a number of empty properties over the last few years, it was great to see Nick Clegg making this problem a key part of the Liberal Democrat general election manifesto. As part of the Lib Dems’ economic recovery plan, a £1.4billion fund will bring a quarter of a million empty properties back into use, creating 50,000 construction jobs in the process. This would be of huge benefit to a
place like Haverstock.
In the meantime, I’ll look forward to hearing back from the owner of number 2 Malden Road.
Talacre Gardens took another step closer to becoming an official Town Green today.
Over the last few months, the council have been sorting out all the legal technicalities and working with the Friends of Talacre Gardens to agree the exact boundaries. I’ve had word that all the necessary paper work has been completed and sent off today, so the Town Green should be formally approved very very soon.
Watch this space!
One of the most frustrating things about this Labour government’s record on the environment is that often a policy that looks green is anything but once you’ve scratched the surface and looked at the detail.
That’s why I joined a protest outside the Treasury on Tuesday morning with Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather and broadcaster Floella Benjamin, calling for a rethink on Labour’s proposed Air Passenger Duty.
I fully support the idea that we should be taxing bad things, like pollution, rather than good things, like hard work. But the way the government plan to implement this tax is more about protecting American business interests than it is about protecting the environment. The Treasury have drawn up arbitrary zones based on the location of a country’s capital city: which means that you will pay more tax on a ticket to the Caribbean than you would on a ticket to the west coast of America, despite the Caribbean being closer to the UK.
This is clearly both insane and unfair, and I’m not surprised that both the Caribbean community and many environmental groups are upset. The government should tax flights based on the distance they travel and the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. Plus, if we taxed flights (rather than individual passengers), then airlines would have an incentive to run one full flight rather than allowing half empty planes to take off several times a day.
I hope the government will change their mind and introduce something that will actually help the environment. You can sign Sarah Teather’s petition here.
After a long campaign by residents it has been announced today that the Holmes Road police station has been spared the axe.
We collected hundreds of signatures against the closure, and local campaigner Jo Shaw even went to City Hall to speak up for residents. I walk past the station regularly: many of us use Holmes Road to get home from Kentish Town tube, and because the end of the street is mainly commercial buildings it can feel dark and intimidating.
Local policing should be just that. The police need to know their patch, which means they should be based here. While the Kentish Town station does need refurbishment, the plan to move policing down to a base in the centre of town was always deeply flawed.
This is great news for local people. But there’s still lots more we need to be doing to improve safety in Haverstock. Top of the list has to be more police on the streets; which could be paid for by scrapping Labour’s unpopular and ineffective ID card project.
Camden Council’s executive has tonight voted on the proposal to register Talacre Gardens as a Town Green, with three Conservatives voting against, one abstaining, and all six Liberal Democrats voting in favour.
So the Town Green is passed!
After a hard fought two year campaign it’s great to know that Talacre Gardens will now definitely be protected. Residents in our corner of Kentish Town are over the moon.
Those with long memories will know that this is just the latest chapter in Talacre’s messy history. The gardens were born with the clearance of slum housing in the 1970s, but residents had to fight the council every step of the way to create the precious park we see today. More recently, the ugly shadow of the Dalby Street development forced residents to recognise that, as the pressure on land in London grows, there will be more and more pressure to use every last scrap.
Talacre Gardens, at least, is now safe. It’s been quite a journey for all those of us who have done battle for Talacre, and I would like to warmly thank all those people – both in Camden and further afield – who got involved and supported our campaign. Similarly, the Liberal Democrat councillors who took this decision showed that they trust the local community and are not afraid to be bold and radical when it comes to protecting what is special about our borough. Whatever the future may bring, we have a guarentee that this green lung will remain.