Friday 16 December 2011

£1 million boost for West Hampstead Overground

Just announced by Norman Baker, the Lib Dem Rail minister at the Department for Transport:
West Hampstead Overground station will have disabled lifts installed with a £1 million investment as part of the government's Access for All programme.
Here is the DfT's press release; and here is the list of the winners. Also on the same line Hampstead Heath and Kensal Rise are also set to get similar improvements.
The most important thing about this announcement is the impact the station improvements will have on Ballymore's West End Square proposals (see previous post).
If the developers and Overground don't get together and work out how to get the best of the currently cramped entrance to the Overground station it will be a massive missed opportunity.
With the new Thameslink station about to open (and its lifts already operational), our transport future is definitely looking brighter

Monday 5 December 2011

Against siphoning-off Fortune Green to Finchley and Golders Green

Below is the join submission by councillors in West Hampstead and Fortune Green against proposals to put Fortune Green in with the parliamentary constituency of Finchley and Golders Green.

You can put in your own views by going to

We, the councillors of the wards of Fortune Green and West Hampstead in the London Borough of Camden, are writing to express our concerns about the Boundary Commissions initial proposals. The suggestion that the wards of Fortune Green and West Hampstead are split between two different constituencies which cross two different local authorities is ill judged. Leaving this arbitrary line on a map unaddressed will lead to confusion and frustration for years ahead.

We understand that administrative boundaries will always have an element of arbitrariness about them. However, splitting Fortune Green and West Hampstead is so arbitrary to be perverse.

We therefore wish to add our voice to others who we believe have also contacted you about this issue - including local residents, local amenity groups, local clergy, Camden Council and the three main political parties. All these, and more have advanced arguments about keeping West Hampstead and Fortune Green together.

Throughout our close interest in this matter we have found no-one in the area who considers the current proposal to be a good solution.

West Hampstead is a much larger area than that covered by the Camden ward.  Most people living in Fortune Green ward consider themselves to live in West Hampstead. Indeed large parts of West Hampstead and Fortune Green used to be contained in a ward called West End ward.

The sense of belonging to a single community and the facilities jointly used is an important factor and should not be lightly dismissed.  Shared facilities in our area include libraries, shopping precincts, community festivals and schools. All these are considered by residents of West Hampstead and Fortune Green to be central to their community life. They are also often the focus of political controversies and most people wish their MP to have a common identification with the same area that they have concerns about.

However, in addition this sense of community – there are a number of organisations which have set up links across the ward boundaries that would be hindered by splitting the parliamentary boundary across West Hampstead and Fortune Green:

·        The Police Safer Neighbourhoods teams in the two wards work in tandem and share a common Sergeant.  As a united force they work well understanding the whole community on both sides of the arbitrary ward division.

·        The Area Action Group (a council based consultation forum) is set up on a ward by ward basis across most of the borough. However, West Hampstead and Fortune Green have so many issues in common it is always chosen to run their meetings jointly.

 ·        One of Fortune Green's primary schools, Emmanuel, is currently having a new building completed across the road in West Hampstead.  They will retain the existing building so will be split across the two constituencies. But would their MP be the one for Fortune Green or West Hampstead?

·        West Hampstead Business Forum is building useful links between traders in the area, drawing active members from both West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards.

·        The local transport and amenity group WHAT comes together and makes representations to political bodies about proposals affecting the area.  Their work will be much more complicated if they are looking to two MPs.

There are many more such initiatives which aim to overcome the lines drawn across this natural community by administrative necessity. We spend much of our time as councillors supporting such moves. Splitting these wards would do much to undermine this work and would be a massive retrograde step.

In addition to the concerns about natural communities, we are very concerned about the administrative complexity your current proposals will have. 

We have experience of parliamentary boundaries crossing borough boundaries from the 2010 General Election when Hampstead and Kilburn crossed the boroughs of Camden and Barnet. The problems this brought about for Camden’s administrative team were significant. The boundary commission’s current proposals would have Camden officers working across 5 borough boundaries (Camden, Barnet, Brent, Westminster and The City of London).

It is significant that a central plank of Camden Council’s own submission that the number of borough crossings should be reduced.

In order to overcome all these problems – we propose a simple solution.

The London borough of Barnet contains enough electors to have three constituencies within the +/-5% criteria set down by parliament.  However, your self-imposed rule - without any legislative justification – is that existing ward boundaries may not be split. Barnet’s wards are particularly large. If just 1 ward in Barnet was shared amongst two (or potentially three) of the Barnet constituencies there would be no need to make up the numbers by bringing in Fortune Green to Finchley and Golders Green.

It is our strong contention that this solution is much simpler administratively. The administrative problems that would result from splitting one ward between 2 (or three) constituencies within the same borough would be small compared to crudely appending one ward of a different borough would do – especially considering the community confusion caused to the greater West Hampstead area your proposals will cause.

We therefore urge you to reconsider your self-imposed rule where you will only draw parliamentary boundaries on top of existing ward boundaries and create three Barnet constituencies within the borough of Barnet.

For these cultural and administrative reasons we add our voices to the many who have urged you not to split the West Hampstead and Fortune Green communities, and instead keep Barnet self-contained and administratively simple.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Russell Eagling (Fortune Green) Cllr Nancy Jirira (Fortune Green) Cllr Flick Rea (Fortune Green) Cllr John Bryant (West Hampstead) Cllr Keith Moffitt (West Hampstead) Cllr Gillian Risso-Gill (West Hampstead)