CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Bona fide dissent is a political not a judicial matter

09 March, 2017

Slaney Devlin

CHARGING amenity campaigner Slaney Devlin £5,000 for legal costs arising out of her failed opposition to the controversial plan for a tower in Somers Town opens up questions about the ethical nature of Camden Council actions.

On the one hand, you could say the council had no alternative – that it had to bear costs after a resident had dragged it to the High Court, and was entitled to recover them on behalf of the taxpayer.

On the other hand, enforcement of such a payment presses down unfairly on a citizen who acted in good faith on behalf of thousands of protesting local residents.

Apart from the absence of any kind of apparatus at the Town Hall to deal with such cases, what the action by the council’s legal team reveals this week is a lack of understanding of their relationship to the citizens of the borough over whom they wield so much power.

Are they simply the borough’s tax collectors – and nothing else?

Again, openly exposed, is the apparent indifference of the relevant councillors responsible for infrastructural changes in Camden to the people who elect them to office.

They appear to have simply treated the opposition of residents as a judicial matter – not a political one, leaving decisions to officials.

Thus, we are entitled to ask: In that case, who rules Camden?

The officials?

Or the councillors elected to office?

How can our shops survive?

TIMES have been tough for small shops in Camden High Street for many years. But the latest rents and rates increases look set to push the remaining few over the edge.

How can a small shop raise the vast sums required to stay? The short answer is they cannot. It is likely that in 10 years’ time a once proudly independent and fashionable high street will appear to be little more than a downmarket Brent Cross.

Will future generations of tourists so readily insist their friends visit Camden Town, if it becomes dominated by global chains and ultimately soulless?

It is the characters like Miguel Martin who create the real value of the high streets. It is a value that is regularly seized upon by the landowners.

The future of independent business looks bleak. The government should consider subsidies on rent or, failing that, caps should be introduced.

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