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Street eats get the thumbs up but old 168 bus row rumbles on

Where should the bus stand go?

21 August, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

A new space for more al fresco dining in South End Green

A TRIAL run closure of street in South End Green looks likely to reignite a 15-year debate over where the 168 bus stand should go.

A slip road from Pond Street to South End Road had its bus bays suspended for the first time on Saturday to make way for the latest “streatery” – the buzzword for areas reserved for al fresco dining during the coronavirus crisis.

If the trial works, the road could be fully closed for a number of weeks – and perhaps permanently.

But the changes bring back echoes of the battles fought over the planned relocation of the 168 bus stand back in 2004. It has been moved to nearby Fleet Road.

And while current Conservative councillors for Hampstead posted photos of themselves dining in one of the restaurants benefiting from the extra space, one of their predecessors raised concerns.

Chris Knight, who represented Hampstead Town on the council until 2014, said: “They are running a trial during the quietest two weeks of the years. It doesn’t mean it might work permanently.”

He added: “Moving the 168 will add to traffic and pollution in South End Green. Residents of Constantine and Fleet Roads will have an empty 168 pounding past their homes every 10 minutes, with no service gain and or financial return. And we will lose 59 varying types of parking spaces.”

Former councillor Chris Knight

The new streatery plans follow a survey conducted by the Hampstead Neighbour­hood Forum last month, which asked residents and businesses whether they would support the temporary or permanent closure of the slip road. It found 78 per cent in favour of running a trial.

Cihan Kocak, the manager of Anatolian restaurant Zara, said the scheme would be a boost to the family run independent business after the difficulties caused by the Covid lockdown.

He said: “It is very busy and so far has been a success. If the weather is nice, it will go really well.”

Raj Mistry of family-run chemist Mr Mistry’s, said: “Anything that helps promote the area and support small businesses is a good thing. The parking has not been affected that badly – but of course it is early days. If you don’t try something like this, how will you know if it is a success or not? I am all for it, as long as there are no safety concerns. I hope it proves to be successful.”

Bus drivers told the New Journal they had mixed feelings about the change.

One, who did not want to be named, said: “It is much better for drivers, in terms of the space we now have to park. “At the previous stand there were only two places and it meant it could cause traffic backlogs on Pond Street. Here, there is a more suitable stretch. “However, we also have concerns about driving down Constantine Road. It is narrow, and it only takes one car to park badly and it can cause traffic to back up.”

Cihan Kocak, the manager of Anatolian restaurant Zara

Environment chief Labour councillor Adam Harrison said they would carefully monitor the impact.

He added: “The South End Green streatery got off to a great start – despite the weather – and we’re working hard to try to open up safely the extra space in the slip road. I was there on Saturday and our highways officers also attended to check how things were going.”

Camden’s first streatery was opened in Belsize village and permission to keep it running was granted last week.

A similar scheme will also be tried to help businesses in Drummond Street, Euston, famous for its Indian curry restaurants.

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