Bassett Street open space is a bleak tabula rasa now: all traces of its recent, positive past have been scraped away leaving something that resembles an A-road layby. The following open letter from Tom Young explains a wider malaise in Camden.
On Bassett Street, in the middle of our neighbourhood in West Kentish Town/Gospel Oak is a small open space. Until very recently, it was happily shared and cultivated as a community garden by the most diverse group of people imaginable.
This recent, positive past has now been erased by Camden, ostensibly to protect the interests of its tenants. Camden has chosen to exploit a highly artificial idea of conflicting interests between neighbours to wrench a well-established and much-loved garden out of the hands of the community (see this post). The result is the dead space shown in the photo.
We see more local divisions resulting from Camden’s Queen’s Crescent current pedestrianisation experiment. The overwhelming majority of local businesses and a great many residents who oppose the road closures now struggle against an alliance led by two proselytising Gospel Oak councillors who spread propaganda about how well-received the traffic scheme is, ignoring Queen’s Crescent opinion when reporting to the public, their own local Labour Party branch and other forums. Those councillors seem content to manage Queen’s Crescent regeneration as a silly propaganda war against ordinary people who have the temerity to point out the flaws in Camden’s slapdash “Experimental Traffic” scheme.
Exploitation of social division is key to Camden’s handling of the three big estate redevelopments in our neighbourhood. Camden hides behind the results of the estate ballots which offered estate residents a choice between years more neglect or complete demolition of their estates with new homes to follow at an unspecified date: an invidious choice if ever there was one.
The huge scale of the estate “regenerations” means all local people have an obvious right to debate what’s happening to their living space. There are well-justified concerns about the massive scale of planned development which entails tripling the density of homes. Densification has no popular support not least because it’s made up from small flats for sale which are unsuitable for families and which Camden intends to build in multi-storey configurations across the neighbourhood on housing department land.
Cllr Beales is foremost in using divide-and-rule tactics to make intelligent discussion about such important town planning issues virtually impossible. He makes irresponsible public statements like this one on Twitter: “Are the neighbours yet again suggesting estate tenants can’t make their own informed decisions?” It’s as if he wants to draw the lines of social division himself.
His favourite posture is as the defender of the marginalised. He purports to represent their interests against what he calls “a certain demographic”. When promoting a plan to build on a housing estate’s play area and open space in the December planning committee last year, he said with his usual sincerity: “it’s important we remember their voices who’ve not (been) necessarily heard tonight”.
In an email in 2018 to a Haverstock resident, he wrote on the important subject of Camden’s failure to coordinate its Community Investment Programme with a proper neighbourhood plan in Gospel Oak: “..this is the right thing to do, and in tune with our values – around giving a voice to the often ignored, and agency to the often most marginalised in society”.
Building about 1300 flats on housing dept land in Gospel Oak & WKT for sale to the well-off is where most of Camden’s actual effort is going. Helping the marginalised is a by-product which is uncoordinated with a proper evidence-based town-planning effort.
If you’ve had enough of this rubbish, you should recognise we’re all up against a local Labour Party regime which uses social division to promote poorly conceived plans for neighbourhoods across the borough.
A vote for Labour is a vote for social division. Cast your vote elsewhere.