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Last night Cllr Bokth and I attended Haverstock’s Safer Neighbourhood Team meeting. This is the forum by which local people can influence and have a say over the prioirties of our local policing team. It’s also an opportunity for the police to feed back to us on current crime and safety issues in the area.
One noticeable increase has been burglary. In particular, properties with scaffolding outside have attracted crime and theft from opportune criminals making use of easy access to upstairs windows. This has particularly centred on the Prince of Wales Road area.
While the police are aware of the problem and doing what they can to help keep us all safe, the strong advice if there is scaffolding near your house is to check it is alarmed, check the alarm is working, and remember to keep upstairs windows locked.
The next public policing meeting will be the Safer Neighbourhood Team AGM, at Chalk Farm Salvation Army Centre, at 7pm on Tuesday 11th September. Do come along if you want to have your say on local policing.
Controversial plans for a four storey retail development in the middle of Camden Town were dramatically thrown out by councillors last night.
Local residents were out in force to protest against the proposals, which were also opposed by many local businesses and respected groups including English Heritage and the Design Council. Speaking on behalf of residents at the planning hearing, I highlighted the four storey mall masquerading as a market, the negative impact on the conservation area along the canal, and the concentration of retail spaces which would have created a tourist trap by day and an empty ghetto at night.
There has also been widespread criticism for the failure to provide affordable housing for local people.
It didn’t have to be this way. Local people, through the Hawley Wharf Working Group, have spent years working with the developer trying to shape and improve the proposals. The developer has paid the price for ignoring the wishes of our community.
Now we need to move forward together. We want to see a development that respects the unique heritage of Camden Town; improves the market so it is sustainable in the long term, and offers more affordable housing for local families. A new school would be welcomed, too – but not as a sweetner to an otherwise disastrous development.
Camden Town is an incredible place – which is why we will continue fighting to secure a decent scheme on this huge and critical site.
For the full story, have a look at this week’s coverage in the Camden New Journal.
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.
Camden Council has today controversially been ordered to disclose it’s list of empty properties under the Freedom of Information Act.
Of course it’s true that squatters can sometimes (though not always) cause real havoc in a community. However, you don’t get squatters without empty homes. The real scandal here is the number of properties the council have allowed to simply sit empty, sometimes for years, while thousands of local families languish on housing waiting lists.
The answer is not to invite squatters to move in, but to push harder for the owners of derelict homes to bring them back into use. The legal tools are there, the council just need to be willing to use them.
In Haverstock we have at least two long term empty properties in prominent locations that really bring down the area: at 2 Malden Road and 201 Prince of Wales Road. I have spent years trying to get action on these properties; haranguing the council’s legal and planning departments; involving the local Safer Neighbourhood team and Camden’s community safety staff and challenging the Cabinet Member for Housing at council meetings. I’ve even taken matters into my own hands, tracking down owners and urging them to complete renovation work.
Every step of the way, the list of excuses for doing nothing is endless.
The fact is, sometimes an owner lives a long way away, has no experience of planning or renovation, and finds it less hassle just to let a property rot. Instead of just accepting this situation, the council needs to apply both carrot and stick: coaxing and guiding absent owners through the planning system while making life difficult if they won’t play ball. We could even champion innovative schemes such as property guardianship (which isn’t really suitable for families, but can help a young person while providing some security for the property owner and the local community).
As it is, Camden’s utter complacency on this issue is letting down both local residents and those families in need of a home.
If you’re interested, you can read more from the excellent Empty Homes charity.
Having spent the last few days talking to people in Camden and Chalk Farm, I wanted to record some of the uplifting stories I’ve heard. You can read my account of a difficult few days for our community at the Spectator website, here:
The latest news is hopeful. There was a very minor and isolated incident on Haverstock Hill last night which, while scary for those involved, was quickly dealt with by the authorities. The council has engaged in a huge clean up operation, services are running again as normal and the police are starting to investigate and charge those who were involved.
I’d urge any local businesses that have suffered damage or disruption to contact the council’s business rates department on 020 7974 6460. We have been assured that Camden will be symathetic to your position, but please do get in touch if you experience problems.
We are now entering a period of reflection, and there will be many questions asked over the coming weeks and months. I intend to focus my efforts on the areas that the council actually has some control over. Everyone has said what a huge difference it made to have an extra 200 officers out in Camden. Meanwhile, community police officers are a crucial link betweeen real people and the Met. They are known and trusted by residents, and therefore play a crucial role in collecting the intelligence that keeps people safe. Against this backdrop, the council must think again on their plans to axe community policing in Camden Town.
More on this soon, but do have a look at some of the stories from Monday night if you get a chance.
Camden Police have asked the council to review the license to serve alcohol at Shaka Zulu in Camden Market because, they state, “the premises are associated with serious crime and disorder or both.” This follows an alleged serious incident at the bar last weekend.
You can read the full story, as covered by today’s Camden Gazette, here.
In fairness to Shaka Zulu, they have made a real effort to engage with local residents and councillors and have met with us regularly over the last few years. They will, rightly, have an opportunity to put their case to the council. However, it is extremely unusual for the police to ask for a review of a bar’s license, which shows how seriously they are taking the incident last week.
Every bar and club in Camden has a responsibility to keep it’s customers and the local community safe and, if they fail in that responsibility, residents expect the council to get tough.
If you want to make a representation to the review you can email the council here.