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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.
Residents in the Queen’s Crescent area are probably a bit bleary eyed like me this morning, having been kept awake by numerous helicopters in the area until gone midnight.
Those in Bassett Street will also have noticed a large number of police vans on the street.
I’ve been in touch with the police this morning and am pleased to say that, contrary to rumours last night, the activity was not linked to rioting and was not another planned raid of the style we saw last month. Although the police haven’t released a huge amount of detail, it’s clear that this was an attempted arrest of someone who then decided to go on the roof. Officers and helicopters were then called in to surround the building.
So, pretty disruptive, but no cause for panic. Sometimes, that is the nature of life in Central London. Hopefully we can all catch up on sleep tonight…
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.
Today the police announced full details of Mayor Johnson’s cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
In the wake of a number of serious incidents, I have lobbied the police to maintain a full team of officers in Haverstock. Thankfully, the ward has emerged unscathed. Others, however, haven’t been so lucky. The areas in Camden that have been asked to share Sergeants are:
- Camden Town with Primrose Hill/Belsize
- Fortune Green/West Hampstead
- Kentish Town/Cantelowes
- Frognal and Fitzjohns/Hampstead
Some people dismiss Safer Neighbourhood Officers as not “real” policemen. I have always thought this misses the point. A physical, official, presence on the streets deters crime. In a borough which has well documented problems with serious youth crime, sensitive, local, community policing, led by officers who know their patch, is an important part of the solution. Make no mistake, this is a cut to front line policing.
However, it isn’t just the Mayor threatening community policing in Camden. The Labour council are still refusing to guarantee the future of the 18 Police Community Support Officers, installed by the previous Liberal Democrat led council four years ago. These officers are widely credited with transforming the High Street and taking back Chalk Farm Road from the drug pushers.
I tabled an amendment to the last Full Council meeting challenging Labour to protect community policing in Camden Town. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to debate this – but with local residents and businesses united on the dangers of turning back the clock, the fight is only just beginning.
Tonight I chaired another meeting of the Hawley Wharf Working Group, the panel of local residents, activists, organisations and businesses who have come together to work up a vision for the future of Camden Market.
We were joined tonight by the developer and his architects who, to their credit, have already taken on some of our concerns and again listened patiently to what people had to say.
The key point to come out of the meeting tonight was that the Market has to bring some diversity back to the heart of Camden Town: we don’t want more of the same tourist shops but a real place that local people can use and enjoy; where they can buy their groceries or meet a friend for a coffee; where artist studios and creative industries flourish again.
There are lots of issues we still have to resolve. People are naturally concerned about the height of the new buildings, and about the ability of the local infrastructure to cope with any additional bars or clubs. I know from my discussions with the police that they are concerned about this point as well.
Thankfully, with a planning application expected in early Summer this year, there’s still lots of time to change and influence the plans.