Gazette letters: Britannia Leisure Centre, sunbathing accident, council baliffs, hate crime and heartwarming story

Britannia Leisure Centre: Saved from Crossrail, now threatened by flats

Britannia Leisure Centre: Saved from Crossrail, now threatened by flats - Credit: Archant

If I understand the most recent report in the Gazette correctly [July 28, p3], the council is still proposing to demolish Britannia Leisure Centre, writes Pat Turnbull, Handley Road, Hackney.

It plans to replace it with a high rise block of luxury flats, but now with a school at the bottom.

Thus, in one fell swoop, Hackney will be deprived of a leisure centre and presented with yet more housing that the great majority of us cannot afford, and a school in an extremely unsuitable setting. I would like to propose Hackney Council calls a meeting in a large venue, advertises it prominently in the press, presents these proposals and gives Hackney people a chance to state their views.

We were shocked to read a sunbather has been run over whilst in one of Hackney’s parks [Gazette, July 28, p2], writes Caroline Day, on behalf of Save Lea Marshes.

We are relieved to hear his injuries are not serious. We wish him well.

Save Lea Marshes has repeatedly expressed concerns about the use of vehicles on green spaces, which has increased in recent years. While the vast majority of Hackney Council motor vehicles are operated by responsible drivers, we think there are many occasions when vehicle use is unnecessary on green spaces, especially when drivers use them as shortcuts. We hope lessons are learned from this terrible incident: that vehicles are only used when essential, that they are operated with vigilance and that they go at an appropriate pace.

Moreover we hope something is done to rectify the dangerous situation at Cow Bridge, where vehicles are brought over a humped bridge with poor visibility and cross a pedestrian path on to Hackney Marshes using a badly enforced traffic light system.

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We fear further and potentially more serious accidents, especially there, unless action is taken.

Congratulations to Cllr Glanville on his selection as Labour’s candidate to be Mayor of Hackney and good luck to those hoping to be chosen to stand for the other parties, writes Joanna Kennedy, chief executive, Z2K.

There are many issues on which Hackney residents will base their decision in the election, but one of these surely has to be Hackney’s use of bailiffs to chase council tax arrears from those who do not have the financial means to pay their bill.

Ever since the coalition abolished council tax benefit back in 2013, Hackney has been charging those who are out of work 15 per cent of full council tax. This contrasts with neighbouring boroughs Tower Hamlets, which doesn’t charge, and Islington, which charges 8.5pc. Unsurprisingly, thousands faced with these new bills have fallen into arrears and many others will have only been able to keep up by borrowing money or cutting back on household essentials.

These charges are bad enough but the problem is compounded by Hackney’s approach to those in arrears. Last year alone, it sent court summonses to more than 6,000 households in receipt of council tax support who were in arrears, increasing their bill by 50pc in the process. Worse still, it instructed bailiffs against 1,210 of these households – potentially trebling their debt and subjecting them to the stress and anxiety of having bailiffs turn up on their doorstep.

Z2K appreciates this is driven by the government’s abolition of council tax benefit and the wider cuts to local government funding. However, Labour-run Camden has recognised the impact of its own charges on its poorest residents is so bad it is proposing to drop them from April. We hope whoever is elected in September will follow Camden’s lead and drop charges for council tax support claimants.

The spike of hate crimes, racism and xenophobia in recent weeks has left a stain on our country, writes Louise Orton, chairwoman, Islington and Hackney Amnesty group.

Hackney has always been a diverse, welcoming place and we are pleased the council has accepted unaccompanied children who have arrived seeking protection over the past few years. We were also pleased the Speaker spoke out against hate crimes following the Brexit vote. We hope this will lead to urgent action, showing perpetrators there is no place for hatred in this borough. We encourage the Gazette to continue to expose these acts of hatred.

The Islington and Hackney Amnesty group is organising an event in solidarity with refugees on September 10 in Islington prior to a march in central London on September 17 calling for the government to take a strong message to the UN Summit that refugees are welcome. We hope Gazette readers will join us.

“Firemen save man – man survives” [p17], writes Paul Bloomberg, Glendale, California.

The most human story an old man has read today after reading multiple newspapers.