Camden were taking years to act on environmental health, listed building breaches, and street cleanliness problems on Calthorpe Street in Bloomsbury. So we went out and fixed it in a day.
Getting extremely simple things done in Camden can take years. Waiting for responses to emails alone takes weeks or months. For those who want to make any kind of difference, however small, this can be a source of frustration, and very often drives those motivated residents to give up entirely.
Residents of Calthorpe Street had been complaining for years about a corner of a listed building, where railings had been illegally removed and a grating installed over the lightwell. Residents of 24 Calthorpe Street had begun using it to chuck their waste there. Following their lead, people all over the street began to do the same.
The result was a permanent eyesore in one of the country’s most important conservation areas.
We had spent months corresponding with Environmental Health officers about the impact upon the residents of the block, and the problems in attracting mould and vermin. We had complained to planning enforcement about the illegal removal of the Victorian railings, who agreed to investigate and order the owner to replace them. We had complained to Camden’s street cleanliness team about the impact upon the street environment, and they had asked Veolia to write to the residents.
But all of this achieved absolutely nothing.
Today a resident of Calthorpe Street and I met to blaze through the bullshit and actually effect some sort of genuine change.
We removed all the waste and chucked it onto the doorsteps of those who were putting it there.
We made a ‘fake Camden’ sign and posted it around to the different people causing the mess.
We used some tools to break up the wire grating and removed it from the area.
We swept away all the rubbish and disgusting mess.
I got into the hole and gave it a good clean.
And now the problem has gone!
Residents of the building and surrounding area came out to watch and congratulated us on our ‘fantastic work’.
Take things into your own hands
Almost all of this was technically illegal. But when you’re up against people who cause these problems by breaking the law, and a local authority which itself ignores High Court judgments, you have to take things into your own hands.
The councillors who are responsible for this being such a problem – particularly Adam Grayling-Harrison – are so pathetic in their response to this sort of thing that the only way we can make any difference is to do it ourselves.
Far from being put off by this, Camden’s officers are usually very supportive of such work. ‘Fake notices’ I have made before have been commended by Camden’s officers, with some asking for copies so they can use them as well.
Now we just have to wait about twenty years for Camden to enforce against the illegal removal of those railings. But even the improvement made today is vast.
If there are any longstanding problems that Camden has been ignoring near you, take up the torch of community activism yourself and just get it done.