Gazette letters: First frost, Britainnia Leisure Centre, Wireless and policing

Frost on nettles. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

Frost on nettles. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

I hesitate before proclaiming the first frost, knowing full well I am not often awake early enough of a weekend to be certain that Sunday gone was indeed the first frost, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

But still, it was my first of the year at the weekend and it was absolutely glorious. After a week of barely seeking daylight, to roll up my blind and see sun reflected off every surface made the world seem an easier place: white crystals on tarmac, clinging to the moss that creeps up the brick wall, spilling off the blades of grass and quickly melting with the rising sun.

Beautiful though it is, I think the crunch underfoot – both sound and sensation – provides the greater thrill on a winter morning. Why walk on the sunnier side of the street when in the shade the frost lingers and each footstep satisfies with a slow ice-breaking?

The nettles at the top of Springfield Park looked almost dainty, bent in towards each other overladen by the frozen dew. The most intriguing plant of my frost walk, however, was a shrub in Clissold Park – dandelion-like seed heads and a purple stem glistened in the morning light. Bundles of delicate stalks gathered at the end of each twig ready to fall into the breeze. The only pity? None of my plant identifications apps have revealed to me what it was.

Cllr Jon Burke refers to “yet another misleading letter” from me about the Britannia Leisure Centre development plan (Gazette letters, November 23), writes Pat Turnbull, Hackney, full address supplied.

Cllr Burke is a member of the Britannia Development Board, which has no representation from local residents or Britannia users, and no minutes.

Cllr Burke cites £17million as the cost of renovating the Britannia – the third figure we have been quoted, the others being £5m and £14m. He says the centre would be forced to close for up to two years – we have previously been told three. No proof has ever been offered for any of these figures; our Freedom of Information requests for evidence have been turned down.

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Meanwhile, the Britannia continues to be a fully functioning leisure centre, serving the needs of a wide range of users, having been partially refurbished only last year at the cost of £300,000. I’d like to just personally thank the staff for having enabled me to regain my confidence and start swimming again in its lovely leisure pool.

Hackney Council’s record on leisure facilities is very shaky. The council pulled down the previous Clissold leisure facility in the face of a campaign to save it, only for its expensive replacement to be closed almost at once for three years because of structural faults. Haggerston Baths was closed “temporarily” years ago, and allowed to decay despite a vigorous campaign to reopen it; now we are told it will never reopen as a swimming pool. The London Fields lido is currently closed for refurbishment, with its reopening date repeatedly postponed.

Hence the scepticism of the Save Britannia campaign over the “exciting plans for the new leisure centre” Cllr Burke refers to. We would rather keep what we have, thank you. Hoxton certainly does not need another 400 luxury flats.

Although it may bring problems, as with any large event, I look forward to the Wireless Festival (“Finsbury Park campaigners lose Wireless festival”), writes Terry Wood, Deepdene House, Manor Road:

It brings colour to what can be a drab part of north London with trade for local shops and cafes.

We also have the Friends of Clissold Park, mostly consisting of middle-class people who have gentrified Stokey. They have their opinion but should not override those of us who differ from them.

We don’t want a return to policing techniques of old

Your archive report of the police assaulting Gary Stretch at The Limes pub in 1987 reminds us that at that time the police in our part of London had a well deserved reputation for brutality, racism and corruption, write Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney.

Since then, campaigning by the families of Blair Peach, Colin Roach, Roger Sylvester and far too many others to mention has made a major impact on how policing has been done in our borough.

They have brought about some positive changes to the police culture.

So when Cllr Caroline Selman seeks the restoration of “George Dixon” policing in our neighbourhoods we have to say we will resist any restoration of the appalling practices of that hopefully bygone age. And there is still a long way to go. Spying on legitimate, democratic organisations is still suspected. Police are still granted anonymity at inquests, such as that into the death of Rashan Charles. A sense of impunity prevails.

Her fellow Labour politician, deputy London mayor for policing Sophie Linden, planned to cleanse London Fields of the lower orders at the behest of hipster Broadway Market but was thwarted by the citizenry and she supports Mayor Khan’s enthusiasm for spending the budget on guns.

They all need to recognise that our wish is to have a police presence that is responsive and accountable to the underprivileged communities they patrol.

That does not mean we want a return to the old days of thuggishness and blinkered deference to the rich and powerful.