Gazette letters: US trade talks, care for NHS, Happy Man Tree and congestion charge

The BMA is concerned about the mental health of frontline health workers. Picture: PA Images

The BMA is concerned about the mental health of frontline health workers. Picture: PA Images - Credit: PA

I am shocked that in the middle of a global pandemic, secret trade talks between the UK and the US have resumed, writes Alexandra Davies, Islington.

Coronavirus has shown how vulnerable we are, and a trade deal with the US would be more dangerous now than ever. It will affect us here in Islington because:

1. It will weaken public services like the NHS, and drive up medicine prices

2. It will lower animal welfare and environmental standards, increasing the risk of future transmission of new viruses from animals to humans

3. It will tie the hands of the UK government when they need the freedom to deliver a green recovery and protect jobs.

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The pandemic has changed our lives and we can’t just keep going with business as usual. Instead we need trade that puts people and planet first.

Covid-19 has undoubtedly put a huge strain on the health and wellbeing of NHS staff, writes Dr Gary Marlowe, chairman, British Medical Association (BMA), London Regional.

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It has greatly exacerbated the challenges staff faced before the pandemic and now it is adding significant new ones.

Many doctors have experienced a significant rise in their workload and have had to deal with the added anxiety of concerns over PPE and their own safety while delivering care on the frontline during the pandemic. It is unacceptable that 48 per cent of frontline workers in London are carrying this burden.

The NHS must step up its mental health support offer to all staff in London during and after this pandemic.

Supporting the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the workforce must be a top priority for the NHS for the long term.

Count the thousands who have signed the petition to “Save the Happy Man Tree” from destruction by Berkeley Homes, writes Elaine Gosnell, Woodberry Down, full address supplied.

We sense that we are all the custodians of this beautiful tree which has been growing on the pavement for over 150 years.

In addition, my neighbours and I are distressed at the possibility of losing this tree because it means more than just one tree.

Four generations of my family have lived in Woodberry Down and contributed to community life in paid and voluntary work since 1954, at the Comprehensive School, St Olave’s church, the Jewish Youth Club, the Tenants’ Association, the Community Club and in the long campaign which saved the Stoke Newington Reservoirs and New River, now forming Woodberry Wetlands.

Before the post-war LCC housing estate and pioneering school were built, large houses stood here with extensive gardens, as recalled by council tenants in the book, Woodberry Down Memories. Now, I will share my memories with you.

When I was aged seven years, I was admitted to Hackney Children’s Hospital. I was either there or indoors for about a month. My only abiding memory of my recovery is after my first day back at school, walking towards the shops and being struck by the transformation of the magnificent horse chestnut tree that stood on the corner of the Woodberry Down Comprehensive School. Spring had arrived and it was crowned in brilliant green with white candles. It also formed the backdrop in a photo taken of a friend, when covered in celebratory powder paint, we left school.

I adored my grandparents who lived on the ground floor of Nicholl House near the church.

On the small lawn between their entrance and the road there was a mature London plane tree.

On occasions, my sister and I would ask to cross Spring Park Drive, step over the concrete wall and play on the lawn where at times we would find acorns and conkers from the four or more mature trees there. Further along where the lawn widened in front of Peak House, a lovely blossoming pear tree was prominent.

Outside of Martin’s newsagent’s and the Council Area Base in Woodberry Grove, there grew a row of Lime trees in raised beds built of grey stone bricks. My grandfather is photographed here in 1954 on his first day in Woodberry Down.

As well as attending the Comprehensive, I later worked there writing and producing learning resources. I often worked in the first floor Media Resources Office.

On numerous occasions staff would remark on, and ask about, the beautiful tree one could almost touch from this room. It was a mulberry tree. These trees associated with the silk industry are now recognised as being significant to the history of east London. Living in Bewdley House until the age of four, I discovered a crab apple from a tree on the lawn at nearby Ombersley House and learnt what this was. One day unusually, my grandmother met me from the infant school. On our way to Nicholl, I found what I learned was a caterpillar, on one of the lime trees that lined Seven Sisters Road until the mid 1960s.

I stress, I had no interest in nature conservation and knew nobody who did; it was dull. Even the significance of the children’s programme Magpie was lost on me - Well, I’d never seen a magpie.

I’m assured the buildings had to go in the “regeneration”, but the trees? Yes, all the above trees were destroyed by Berkeley Homes in the early part of the redevelopment, fracturing my “sense of place”. My neighbours and I mourn the loss of these trees. So, standing up for the Happy Man Tree, standing up to be counted, are its custodians.

Sadiq Khan has decided to increase the Congestion Charge to £15, and expand it to seven days a week (7am-10pm), writes Shaun Bailey, Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

New residents will also lose the resident discount.

I believe this is a disastrous decision. The whole country is looking to London, the nation’s economic engine room, to drive our economic recovery after lockdown. Now is the time to be supporting London’s businesses, not raising taxes on them.

In addition, the mayor has refused to make key workers such as police officers, teachers and firefighters exempt from the increased charge.

If you agree, please sign my petition to stop the charge hike here.

The more people that sign, the more likely it is that the mayor will abandon his plans.

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