New London Architecture

Camden collaborates to cope with Covid

Wednesday 21 October 2020

David Taylor

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ

Camden has mounted a multi-level approach to battling challenges thrown up by Covid-19 across the borough, including forming a ‘renewal commission’ to support economic recovery and forging a new ability to collaborate, push ahead swiftly and be more ‘risk-taking’.

Cllr Danny Beales, the council’s cabinet member for investing in communities, culture and an inclusive economy, said in an NLA borough briefing webinar this week that the council was facing harsh effects on issues like poverty, inequality and food insecurity that its renewal commission hopes to challenge, along with settling concerns over its high streets and meeting the climate challenge. But it was clear that the pandemic had also meant that the council has approached things like pop-up spaces with a new drive and speed to being more ‘risk-taking’ and testing and learning, acting quickly and sometimes ‘pushing ahead’ despite opposition from groups. ‘I think that’s been a positive and that we need to keep working like that to address some of the big challenges that we face’.

Cllr Adam Harrison, cabinet member for a sustainable Camden said the borough’s response had been to do with the ‘emergency’ of travel amid longer term goals of decarbonizing transport, producing new segregated cycle lanes and safer streets within a new carbon action plan. ‘Quite surprisingly I found the government from the start of the crisis was very clear that we need to be trying to avert a car-based recovery’, he said. It would be better, however, if the balance was tipped the other way concerning the £2 billion allocated to walking and cycling measures compared to £27 billion overall. But there were many millions more cars on the road than there were 20 years ago, and the rise of Sat Nav had presented problems for local residential streets, Harrison added. The council is also aiming to create designated parking areas for dockless bikes to keep its pavements and public spaces free of clutter.
Cllr Angela Mason, cabinet member for best start for children and families, said Covid had brought forth a greater digital divide in schools, something that will be an issue for ‘a very long time’ and which needs a ‘comprehensive answer’. Children are experiencing poverty and overcrowding and the environment outside some of these homes are not conducive to wellbeing, many of the estates in the borough being ‘hostile places’, said Mason, where there is much more emphasis on what you cannot do than what you can. Even the parks are similarly not child-friendly places, and had not been thought of adequately in terms of children’s development. But beyond this gloom, there was also the strength of people in Camden’s communities, she went on, exhibited in voluntary action and mutual aid groups in, particularly, providing food. 

Collaboration and compassion were key across the public services to bring the strength of the system to bear to protect children in the borough, Mason added, and to address issues of unemployment likely to be around the corner. ’We have to reshape our public services in a far more compassionate form’, she said. 



David Taylor

David Taylor

Editor, NLQ


London Boroughs

#NLALondonBoroughs


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