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There must be a way to share this space

08 April, 2021

The Belsize Village “Streatery” scheme in action

• ON Facebook (March 6) Cllr Steve Adams criticised a group of local people because of their objections to the rumoured expansion of the “streatery”, the failure of Camden to inform and consult residents, and the failure of Belsize Village Business Association to take account of the views of residents in their plans for the village.

It seems to me that Cllr Adams’s remarks show how little he knows about the area as well as his disdain for the concerns those living in his constituency.

I have lived in the area for over 50 years and know that the village was not a “ghost town” before the streatery but the focus of community activity and a much appreciated (and rare) outside space.

In the 1970s the village was the site of the annual Belsize festivals, organised by local people and financially supported by Camden Council.

The closure of Belsize Village to through-traffic in 1995 was the outcome of a sustained campaign by residents, despite opposition from some of the business community.

Earlier attempts by residents to have the space pedestrianised were unsuccessful because it was opposed by the shopkeepers who feared loss of trade.

Since closure local people have enjoyed this neighbourhood amenity where children play, residents meet, and people have access to outside space, sunshine and company.

On Fridays after school pupils gathered to spend their pocket money at the local newsagent and then spend time in the village with their friends; local holiday “camps” come to have picnic lunches in the village.

When Shiraz and his lovely wife retired after running the newsagent for more than 30 years, there was a retirement party for them in a marquee in the village.

The restaurants and coffee shops are part of what makes the village such an asset. We welcomed the “streatery” initially and were pleased the restaurants had the chance to survive during Covid-19 restrictions.

Unfortunately locals who wanted to continue using our local outdoor space without having to pay for the pleasure were often treated as unwelcome intruders.

There must be a way this amenity space could be amicably shared by residents and the business community. Camden should have proposals for the future of the village drawn up and put them out for full consultation.

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