Yes, Hampstead turned out in force last night to hold the City of London to account over the cafés scandale by which the contracts for three of the best loved local heath cafés are to be taken away from the families who have run them for the last 30+ years and handed to the Benugo chain. Here is Alfonso d’Auria from the Parliament Hill café appealing for support for his much loved pasta dishes!
Batting for the City of London was Virginia Rounding, chair of the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee and Sue Ireland, Director of Green Spaces (brave women to have shown up at all!); attacking bowling came from the Save Parliament Hill Café Campaign; the umpire was Sally Gimson, a local councillor who had already warned the corporation that Hampstead would rise up in arms if they forced through their decision. And attempting to chart a way forward was local MP (ex Director of Public Prosecutions and so, usefully, a lawyer) Keir Starmer.
Very briefly – as the meeting went on for nearly two hours….
- The City of London (in the persons of Virginia Rounding and Sue Ireland) agreed that there had not been any appropriate consultation with the local residents and users of the cafés
- It was established that the processes used by the City throughout had been questionable to say the least. To quote just one, how come that both the City of London and Benugo used the same catering consultants to advise on the project?
- It was established that although the new leases ‘were with the solicitors’ they had not yet been signed.
- It was agreed that although neither Virginia Rounding nor Sue Ireland had the authority to do it themselves, they would both press those who did to put a temporary halt on the signature of the new leases to allow for the possibility of a review of the processes. Keir Starmer also offered to bring his weight to bear on the Corporation to achieve this delay.
Watch this space………