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Camden News - By DAN CARRIER
Published: 3 September 2009

Jonathan Bergman
Conflict over new ‘Peace Garden’ near train station

A NEW public garden in Hampstead with the aim of promoting world peace is causing conflict between neighbours over its design.

The Peace Garden, earmarked for a patch of land flanking Hampstead Heath train station by South Hill Park, South End Green, was the brainchild of estate agent Jonathan Bergman.
He aims to turn the overgrown area that attracts fly-tippers into a tranquil space for the public to enjoy.
But neighbours say the designs for the sloping land are ugly and will encourage drug addicts and street drinkers to gather and make the area unsafe.
Mr Bergman, who runs Amberden Estates, has an office opposite the site. He set up a charity to buy the land for £25,000 and has been planning to open it up for nearly five years. To help pay for the project, he is selling ceramic tiles which will line the site, on which people can craft their own messages on the topic of promoting world peace.
The scheme received a grant of £3,000 from Camden Council and last year architects plans for the area received planning permission. The designs include a screen running along the front of the garden, which will be decked with the tiles, and a raised walkway.
Peter Dockley, who lives near-by, is helping organise a public meeting in the Magdala Pub opposite the site to rally opposition to the plans. He says there was little consultation with people who live near by and the size of the plans has left them “shocked”.
He said: “I am surprised such a big project has gone through without local people being asked for their views. Most people here I have spoken to simply did not know anything about it.”
He added: “It is wretched. It looks totally crass and utterly out of character with the local environment. It is neither peaceful, nor a garden. The consensus around here is it should be as simple and natural as possible – not like this. This is all about kudos for the organisers – it is like a giant advertising hoarding.”
He added that the screens that the tiles will be placed on could encourage crime. He said: “The screens will provide a haven for drug and alcohol use.”
But Mr Bergman defended the scheme. “It was a rubbish tip and had been that way for a long time,” he said. “We wanted to clean it up and turn it into a peace garden to help raise consciousness of peace around the world. We want to make a space for the community to use and also beautify it.”
He added that when volunteers cleared the site, they found all manner of drug debris – including needles – but the plans would stop anti-social behaviour. He said: “It is a vast improvement of what was there before.”

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