CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

The streatery is actually a simple street trader licence

08 April, 2021

• WRITING in The Times David Aaronovitch recently warned against the “piersmorganification of public culture,” in which “the important thing is not whether you’ve got it right, but how much noise you make.”

“Intention matters, context matters, facts matter,” he wrote.

Sounds to me remarkably like the nature of the discussions taking place about the Belsize streatery since it came into our lives last July.

Economic boom, revitalisation of the “once down-and-out” neighbourhood, jobs created, Singaporean cleanliness, beautification of Belsize Terrace, extinction of the rabid (sic) litter problem… these are just some of the claims made for the achievements of the streatery, widely and relentlessly reiterated across a variety of websites and social media platforms.

Could we see some figures, some numbers, some evidence? Silence.

I have lived in Belsize Village for 40 years. It has got richer and richer every year.

It has changed. Sure. Shops that served a community, like ironmongers, cobblers, delicatessens, newsagents, post offices, off-licence, garages, a bookshop, and pub have been replaced by café chains, expensive knick-knacks for pets, “art” objects, estate agents, solicitors, psychotherapists… and yet more restaurants. The value of cars on the streets runs into millions.

Opposition is routinely dismissed. Tiny group opposed to revitalisation. Revitalisation good, tiny group therefore bad. Or, more seriously, by deliberate intimidation and vilification.

Numbers on your side do not make you right any more than noise does. The idea that the thoughtful tend always to be a minority does not seem to occur.

Christ was crucified by the acclaim of the mob and Hitler elected by its votes. Remember Brexit?

The streatery is actually a simple street trader licence, granting the licensee authority to deploy tables outdoors so the restaurants can accommodate more customers. Nothing else.

It is clear however from the licensee’s various internet activities that he has a wider agenda (see https://penrosecare.co.uk/OurBlog).

Here he elaborates on his values: a mawkish amalgam of American Republican patriotism (John McCain, his hero, risks his life fighting “for strangers in a far-off land against autocracy”: what the rest of us call the Vietnam War) and evangelical religiosity: much talk about sacrifice, humility and “selfless love,” invoking St Paul’s much-quoted verses about faith, hope and what – in my generation – was called charity, unaware apparently that some might find a singular disparity between the profession and the practice.

All very Trumpian.

TIM SALMON, NW3 

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