Right of Reply: Jules Stewart

A member of the Notting Hill Action Group responds to Ann Treneman's article on Saturday
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The Independent Culture
THE PEOPLE of Notting Hill have not issued a call to arms, as you were led to believe by Ann Treneman's Notebook. They might well issue a call to a planning lawyer to deal with a problem that brought more than 500 people to a public meeting last week.

The problem concerns greedy landlords and the degradation of one of the few neighbourhoods in London that has not been bulldozed to make way for the modern British High Street.

There is a reason why that film was called Notting Hill and not Chelsea or Islington. The people who made it saw something special here long since vanished from those other two neighbourhoods.

The landlords have taken it one step further by exploiting Notting Hill's commercial potential to impose extortionate rent increases. Furnishings shop Graham & Green, a 25-year resident, and Elgin Books next door have been served eviction notices. Stories have been emerging of two fold or more rent hikes up and down Portobello Road and adjacent streets. The idea of a bookshop being pushed out to make way for a chain store, caused enough revulsion to local residents to warrant a meeting. From that emerged the Notting Hill Action Group, with a remit to stop the rot.

The point Ann Treneman seems to find difficulty in grasping is why people should oppose the onslaught of these chains. If that is the case one must make a rather uncomplimentary assumption.

She claims there was "huge" applause almost every time a black person spoke at the meeting and wonders: "Was the applause dripping with white guilt or did I just imagine it?" If that was intended as a genuine question the reply is simple: she was imagining it.