New Year Message, 2017

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Our councillors form an important part of how we live in Camden. The council makes decisions on our behalf guided, we hope, by what we tell the council we want. Clearly not all of us will agree with everything that is decided - and, in fact, some decisions may be particularly annoying.  However, our ward councillors Sue, Awale and Julian, have always remained open to discussion and debate, and actively engage with us, sometimes publically on big subject items, but more often than not on personal and difficult matters. Our Area Action Group meetings are amongst the highest attended in the entire borough. For all of this and for their continuing commtment and engagement HV thanks them.

Holborn Voice will continue to provide information, to lobby and work to making our area of Camden an even better place to live and work.

HV invited Cllr Julian Fulbrook to send a new year's message to our visitors, readers and subscribers.

As we 'ring out the old' it is certain that 2016 saw some seismic upheavals, with few people predicting a Trump 'triumph', lagging 2.8 million votes behind his Democratic rival in the popular vote for the American presidency, nor the narrow 'victory' for a wholly uncertain exit from the European Union.

At the local level in Camden the austerity programme of the current government has once again tightened the screws on Camden finances, although at last we have some recognition that with increasing pressures on social care expenditure there may be a chance of raising income locally to pay for a massively increasing expenditure on this issue; the good news for Camden is that the population is living on to a good age, but the downside is that there are increased pressures on health and social care budgets, partly because in Central London such services are increasingly expensive.

Housing and planning concerns inevitably dominate the political landscape in Holborn and Covent Garden. The Council's very successful '50/50' approach to new build on Council owned land has led to the opening of the Mount Pleasant Studios, replacing an old hostel, and shortly we will be in possession of some fine new Council blocks at the Bourne Estate. The scheme at Tybald's Close, building on unused former car parking space, lags behind but is making steady progress, despite an uncertain housing market as the Brexit decision destabilises the price of new homes. Lengthy battles continue on every proposal for private developments in the ward, with councillors and local community groups fighting hard for additional social housing which developers are inevitably bound to see as a secondary priority to maximising their profits.

All is not yet lost at the huge Mount Pleasant site, the largest brownfield space for future development in Central London. Holborn Voice members will recall that, despite a unanimous vote by both Camden and Islington against the plans on this Royal Mail site, the former London Mayor peremptorily overturned that result. Now that Mr Johnson is flying around the world endeavouring to explain the current British government's viewpoints, we are hoping that both the local community group's excellent scheme for an important quadrant at Mount Pleasant and the priorities of Sadiq Khan, the new London Mayor, may yet win through.

As wryly noted by Abraham Lincoln it is not possible to please all the people all the time. And some people are never going to be pleased with a new cycling route. The Tavistock-Torrington cycle way and the reprovisioning of road space there certainly brought me my largest postbag of the year. There are always going to be some teething problems, particularly on signage, with such a proposal. But it was gratifying to note at the end of a year's trial period that there was a solid majority in favour of the scheme, and particularly that this was the view too of local residents. My own mind drifted back to when councillors proposed that Lamb's Conduit Street should no longer be a through road for two way vehicular traffic - some of the violent correspondence of that era, about the 'right' to drive a motor car through in each direction, and indeed the alleged 'total collapse' of the street's shopping economy if the scheme went ahead, was of a similar vintage. The essential point is that we need to do much more about both commuter traffic gridlock and the poisoned toxicity it causes, which so catastrophically undermines the health of our local community.

2017 will no doubt bring plenty of other challenges. Having fought for years to keep our excellent local Library in Theobald's Road we now have to grapple with the details of the new buildings there. Speaking personally I am very anxious to do all that is possible to safeguard Great James Street, and at a recent meeting with local residents affected by the proposed building works we were at least able to agree on the need for a new purpose-built Library and for new housing, but the 'devil is certainly in the detail'.

Another lengthy saga will no doubt continue about securing local residents' parking for local residents. We have tried several times to have 24/7 control of these spaces, and will be trying again to stop our area being used as a parking lot, particularly at the weekends out of the control hours. The precedent set in Covent Garden and Lincoln's Inn Fields can hopefully be spread further across the ward as a whole. Allied to this is the infuriating problem caused by 'filming', when local residents' bays are suddenly taken out of commission, and extensive disruption occurs. This matter ought to be within the Council's direct control, but as we have discovered, this process seems to have been 'outsourced' and with seemingly little financial return to local ratepayers.

As ever, ward councillors will continue their regular local surgeries at Bedford House and Dragon Hall, where issues can be raised with us. In addition, we have our termly Area Action meetings, bringing the Town Hall to you, and you can of course email us at any time to take up a concern.

All the best to you and yours for a Happy New Year,

Julian

Councillor Julian Fulbrook

 

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