What I've been doing this week…

Just to catch up with some of the events I have attended this week.

One was the consultation / exhibition of the proposals for the new Hornsey Depot. The land is owned by Network Rail and they can and will build this new depot where lots of the new longer trains will come for cleaning etc.

Prime concerns are obviously what this huge depot will look like and its impact on the new, still to be built, Haringey Heartlands housing development; noise, environmental impact; traffic etc.

So the task is to minimise the impact on the community – and ask for as much mitigation as we can get. That includes trying to get residents and businesses that might be affected coming to the exhibition and talking to the agencies involved. Mind you, someone told me that the Haringey failed to mention the proposed depot to the Heartlands developer – even though they have known about it for two years. Really awful behaviour!

It will on the plus side create about 250 jobs – and since the economic development side of Heartlands appears to be on the back burner – that might be welcome – so long as they are local jobs!

This week also saw the latest Stroud Green and Crouch End Area Assembly. Couldn’t stay for all of it but did catch a conservation officer from Haringey Council giving the low down on the change to conservation rules and areas. Strange that a conservation officer should be so cavalier and seem not to wish to protect our local backland sites from crass over-development.

So here we go again – Haringey fails to protect and allows developers to cram awful and non-social housing into the tiny spaces that exist behind rows of houses – often lock-up garages. Lord knows we have fought against this type of rubbish development for ever – but the buggers keep coming back – and of course Haringey just changes the rules to make it even easier for them.

Highgate Horticultural Society had its 150th anniversary – and as ever the blooms were lovely. I gave out the prizes and had a nice cup of tea and a chat. So much work goes into organising these events and they are delightful – but more exhibits are needed and more young new people to challenge the Gary Sycamores of this world who win all the prizes!

Milton Road had its first street party for 30 years. Gosia Shannon who has just moved there is the driving force behind the renewed event. It was really a pleasure to go there and chat to everyone.

Street parties are just the best local community event, getting neighbours together and making it possible for people who may never even have said hello to get to know each other. I met lots of lovely young couples moving into the area or just moved – and one couple who were thinking of moving and who Gosia had insisted come to the party. They thought it was brilliant! So well done Milton Road.

St Ann’s Police Station had its open day – to which I seem to come every year and it was as popular as ever. The young children just love to be able to sit on the police motorbikes and press the sirens – so do I! Most years my favourite thing there is to meet the police dogs – but this year they didn’t have the capacity to send any – so we had police horses instead – see photo. They are just huge!

The Big Lunch at Sue Hessel’s house in Crouch End was fun too. This was happening all over the show – people throwing over their houses and people bringing food round. It was Cllr Lyn Weber’s birthday (I don’t know which one) and Sue had actually baked her a birthday cake!

And last but not least – The Big Canvass! About 40 of us went out in Bounds Green to see what local people wanted to raise with us as issues. Found a lamppost blown over in the wind on Trinity Road! Lots of fun and very good feeling out on the streets there. Lots of issues raised. Lots of doors knocked on.

Open day at St Ann's Police Station

Lynne Featherstone at St Ann's Police StationSaturday highlights: open day at St Ann’s Police Station. This annual event seems to be getting more and more popular as the local community come in – mainly with their children – to unite police and the community it polices. Allowed to pet police dogs, sit on police motorbikes, sound the siren on the cars, have their fingerprints done and so on – the friendly and informative interaction is really an exemplar example of how it should be done. My personal highlight this year – having met the dogs and sat on the bikes in previous years – wearing a police hat and holding a speed trap laser!

Late afternoon popped to the Willingdon Road summer street party – the second year of this event. The street has tables in the middle and the international cuisine laid out as a feast symbolic of the happy and diverse community that live here. Full marks to Gosia Shannon who is the driving force behind this with a fifteen strong committee.

I went around and talked to as many people as I could – and everyone I spoke to was just delighted by the event and by getting to know their neighbours. The highlight for me was meeting an older lady who had been born in the street – and Gosia told me that the year before (i.e. the first Willingdon Road street party) this lady had watched out of her window at the events for four hours. This year – she was out like a shot – right from the start. That’s inclusion in action.

Parkland Walk, the local police and Bounds Green School

Lynne Featherstone trying out a bike at St Ann's police stationBucketing down, so I was not expecting a huge turn out for my litter pick along Parkland Walk. Not a complete washout however, as five very stalwart people turn up to do the honours. As it really is bucketing – we decide that today isn’t the day to do this as so much of the path is under water because of poor drainage. Now that is something that it would be worth spending Transport for London’s funding on improving the walk.

It is such a shame at this time of year when everyone has their fetes and summer fairs and street parties that the weather is so cruel.

But go ahead they do. So after Parkland Walk, I go on to the Open Day at St Ann’s Police Station where it is always fun as the station opens itself up to local people. A great example of the police trying to work productively with the local community – better police-resident relations means fewer crimes and more criminals caught.

Lynne Featherstone meeting one of the dogs at St Ann's police stationDespite the weather there is a good showing of people – and I get to be friends with one of the police dogs and ride (well sit on) a police bike.

All good fun!

And then on to the last wet outing of the day – to Bounds Green School (now with Junior and Infants with a single Head) for their summer fete.

The playground activities are somewhat hampered by the weather – but inside the stalls are doing a great trade. Last year I helped serve the hot food – this year I am on the lucky dip stall.

Lynne Featherstone with William Wawn at Bounds Green School's summer feteI don’t know whether that is demotion or promotion – but we did a roaring trade. 50p a go – and tickets ending with 0 or 5 – every one a winner!

I am pictured with William Wawn – the new Head of the two schools. It was very buzzy – and with a jazz band playing – the weather didn’t spoil the fun at all!

And then it was back home to stay out of the rain for a while!

Do music lyrics cause crime?

Police dog at Haringey Police Open DayBusy, busy day! First port of call – Haringey Police Open Day held at St Ann’s police station. Beautiful weather – so I wasn’t expecting many people to be there, but there were. How far we have come in terms of community relations and making the police part of the local vernacular! The police have worked bloody hard to achieve this. So in the courtyard there was face painting, police motorbikes, a police dog (gorgeous – a six month old pup called Oscar being trained); first aiders, a history of identity parades and much more. So it was fun!

Haringey is a hugely diverse area, and actually does very well in terms of integration. We have huge challenges – but as demonstrated after 7/7 the communications between our communities is there. There wasn’t a single incident or attack following the bombings in our area – and it is this work and all the work by the various faith, race and umbrella groups that achieved this. Full marks to Haringey Police for walking the talk!

Straight on to Campsbourne Community Residents’ Association where there is an open day for residents to look at the plans for the little square of grass on the estate. There are two alternatives – both very imaginatively designed – and people who come are asked to express their preference. There are also some alternatives for what should be painted onto the paving stones as play equipment is not to be installed. Amongst the choices are hopscotch, clocks and so on. I am reassured that the option of hopscotch is by far and away the most popular – thus proving that just sometimes the old ones are the best ones!

Straight on to Jacksons Lane Community Centre for a two-hour panel debate on Gun and Knife crime. It was a very interesting and lively debate. The officer in charge of Operation Blunt, two mothers from Mothers against Guns, a youth worker and myself, plus a chair.

The audience (which was small and only just outnumbered by the panel) was up for participation – so despite the small numbers I thought some valuable ideas were raised. The most interesting contribution was from a young guy at the back. We on the panel had been banging on about youth diversion etc – and he was saying that you needed to get in and show young people how to earn money (enterprise).

Coincidentally at the police station I talked for a long time to a guy who is running an enterprise effort called BusKids (excuse spelling, may not have got that quite right?). This is a programme to go into schools and teach teenagers money management and entrepreneurial skills to set up small businesses and so on.

The other ruck at the meeting was over reference (by me and others) to gangster rap and hip hop. There was a debate as to whether this was or was not in any way responsible for the rise in gun and knife crime. I think it has an influence but probably not a direct correlation. It sets an atmosphere rather than directly making someone go out and do something. In the end solutions have got to be about changing a whole culture and changing life chances.

Just time for a quick wash and change before it’s on to the 40th Anniversary Ball of the Highgate Society. I grab a dress I have never worn and shoes that are incredibly uncomfortable and off I go. The Highgate Society does and has done over many, many years, the most incredible job of working to improve and protect Highgate. It’s a grafting organisation. Day in day out, year in year out, good people work for the betterment of the local and local people – from planning issues to ensuring the future of Highgate Village.

It is much undervalued I believe, for the work it does. Highgate gets scant attention and support from either Haringey or Camden councils who both seem to write it off as being somehow not part of their borough. Reverse snobbishness – which abandons a large swathe of people who have a variety of incomes from indeed the very rich to quite frankly the very poor.

The Ball is held in Highgate School’s dining room on the side of one of the playing fields. It is so beautiful – the epitome of an English cricket green with the evening sun falling and sparkling. I dance once – with the new Chair of Highgate Society – and then just before midnight I decide enough is enough and walk home bear footed carrying my high heels in my hands and sink gratefully into bed.

The future of local police stations

Main event of the day for me is the long-awaited meeting with the police about our local police stations. There has been a lot of concern about the future of police stations in the borough (and indeed across London). And we know that our precious stations like Muswell Hill and St Ann’s are in the firing line. The police make no apology for wanting buildings that work and will deliver effective policing. Well – we all want that too – but if that means closing some stations – then there had better be something better on the table to persuade us that this really is an “improvement”.

So – the public need to be consulted properly on any proposals and fully informed about what alternatives there are. As I understand it at the moment – there will be a patrol centre and a custody centre at Wood Green, there will be an office and management block somewhere and – if we can find suitable premises to house up to three Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Muswell Hill – then those teams, along with a front counter open to the public, will be based in the centre of Muswell Hill. I gather it is difficult to find premises that are suitable – so a lot is still up in the air but it’s possible we’d end up with something better than the current situation.

My nervousness, or remaining nervousness, is not really about changing location (as in this case it’d mean moving the police building in Muswell Hill to a more central location). But firstly – it must be consulted on with local people. And secondly – if local people are amenable to a sensible program of estate renewal and agree that if suitable alternative is found in Muswell Hill – then they will need cast-iron guarantees about its future and longevity etc. Once bricks and mortar of our local police station are gone – it’s much, much harder to get them back. So – the sooner the consultation and debate with local people begins, the better.