Right of Reply

A Hampstead village resident replies to David Aaronovitch's attack on the area and its residents

IT'S A surprise to see a columnist supposedly concerned with world events preoccupied with a little affair like Hampstead's new traffic system. Let's hope his view of world affairs isn't as hysterical as his view of Hampstead.

According to Aaronovitch, Hampstead residents opposed to the scheme are "frightened conservative people who have wielded power in the old world and don't want it changed". On what does he base this sociological damnation?

Starting this spring, at a cost of around pounds 160,000, the so-called "experimental" scheme will impose an ill-thought-out system of one-way streets, ugly signs and road closures on a beautiful and historic area. Hampstead streets are narrow, and at rush-hour there can be jams and even odd bouts of road rage. But for the remaining hours, and at weekends, the streets are virtually car-free. Camden Council proposes a sledge-hammer solution for a small problem that could be solved for a fraction of the cost by a few speed- humps and traffic-tables.

The local ambulance service and fire brigade have condemned the scheme as positively dangerous. And villagers already feel victimised by the inverted snobbery that Aaronovitch displays. Historic Hampstead is fast becoming just another urban theme park of cappuccino shops and mobile- phone showrooms.

The East Heath Association, whose "salmon-coloured" leaflet offended Aaronovitch's sensibilities, is all for traffic-calming measures. What it objects to is a heavy-handed one-way system that is both potentially dangerous and expensive. Is it just class solidarity with the People's Republic of Camden that makes Aaronovitch so in favour of this scheme? Or maybe his street is one of the lucky few that will not be blighted by it?

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