Gazette letters: Silent spring, BBQ ban, clearing art and buses

Will McCallum is worried birdsong may become silent. Picture: GREENPEACE

Will McCallum is worried birdsong may become silent. Picture: GREENPEACE - Credit: Daniel Beltr�/Greenpeace

Looking up at the bare branches lining the New River Path, tents of grey sky between the leafless twigs, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green

I panicked at the idea the leaves may not return; the Beast from the East’s wintery grip strangling spring’s colour.

On an early morning run down the path, the bark of the dawn redwoods felt cold to the touch. Willows stripped bare hung in the murky shallow water.

What if spring gave Hackney a miss this year?

Looping back past De Beauvoir Square I stopped to check on the roses – no splash of colour yet there, either. Taking my headphones out, though, I was treated to a couple of blackbirds singing at full pitch. A pair of jays arguing across the lawn gave a flash of blue, and suddenly amid the still Sunday morning at least another five kinds of bird could be heard: spring. The fear that the leaves may not return is irrational. It would take much more than a couple of cold weeks to have such lasting damage.

Yet year on year, the risk of a silent spring without birdsong grows greater. A report released last week about the steep decline of farm birds in France warned of a biodiversity apocalypse facing Europe unless we act now to protect habitats and food sources – something everyone from politicians to individuals with nestboxes in their gardens can help prevent.

Paused on the path ahead of me as I headed up through Hackney Downs were two large song thrushes. Watching them poke around the earth, buff speckled chests making them easy to identify, I couldn’t help fear a future without these beautiful creatures.

At first glance, banning disposable barbecues on London Fields (Gazette) seems a positive step, but it is too little, too late, writes Ivor Benjamin, on behalf of the London Fields User Group.

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Hackney Council suddenly cares about the cost of rubbish and the damage to the park that it has steadfastly ignored for five years – but does nothing to curb the £50,000-plus-a-year for its weekend “security”, since people still have to be stopped from using disposable barbecues. And unless security is employed full-time, who will stop them being used on sunny summer weekdays, given that the whole sorry mess started when park rangers found themselves confronting some illegal barbecues back in 2010?

But what this weak decision conspicuously ignores is the mess and danger of smoke pollution and the effect on residents living on Lansdowne Drive E8 – and on everyone using the park, with a children’s playground less than 100 metres from the barbecue area. Given how vocal cabinet member for parks Cllr Demirci is about traffic pollution, closing roads and protecting children in schools, this decision seems remiss, to say the least.

In fact, pollution measuring in London Fields has been almost non-existent. The council has admitted that detailed figures were lost and that monitors were defective. Moreover, what figures do exist are only for PH10 and PH2.5 (particulates) and do not include the far more toxic PAH particles caused by burning organic matter: PAH is known to be carcinogenic.

The other complaint that Hackney Council has been remarkably quiet about is the lack of safety provision in an area where 50 to 100 small fires might be burning. It would be so easy for clothing to catch fire in the crowds of people on a hot weekend and it is pure luck that there has not been a serious injury. Yet the nearest safety equipment is publicised as being at the park office – by the Lido.

Cllr Emma Plouviez (London Fields) has bravely raised the concept of a one-year total moratorium on barbecues supported by local residents associations, the Safer Neighbourhood Panel, the London Fields User Group and dozens of affected neighbours. It is a shame the council lacked the courage to simply say “no more” to barbecues. National Picnic Week is June 15 to 24 – please do bring a picnic to London Fields. But not a barbecue. Buy your hot food on Broadway Market. And please take your litter home.

I’m glad the artist Stik is to have his sculpture displayed in Hoxton Square and I note he will fund it himself (Gazette), writes Charles Webber, Hoxton, full address supplied.

It’s worth saying, though, with no reflection on him, that our area is now being littered with tired old “art” the funding of which didn’t seem to allow for eventual removal.

There are walls at Broadway Market and Kingsland Basin still adorned with two-year-old dog-eared posters that didn’t look terribly much on their best days; bus shelters topped with broken LED “installations” along Kingsland Road; and weird “buildings” cocking-a-hoop at planning regulations canalside at Hoxton Docks.

I’m all for art in the community but please, folks, instead of blowing all the budget on beer for the opening, hang on to some to remove your endeavours afterward.

Your article “Hackney buses: Council takes on TfL over cuts to frequency and routes” (Gazette), this allows me to point out that yet again one of the affected buses – the 106 – was turned at Stoke Newington on Saturday, depriving those at the Finsbury Park end of a bus route, writes Geoff Twist, Queen Elizabeth Walk, Stoke Newington.

This is a frequent occurrence.

I have already completed the council’s survey on the service reductions. I believe the bus service could be run faster should one-wheel pavement parking be introduced at the affected end of the route. There is plenty of room for double buggies, wheelchairs, etc, to get by on the pavement between the lampposts and walls.