Monday 29 October 2007

First Chance To See The Children's Book Illustrations By Award-Winning Artist Sharon Yamamoto

The Hebsibah Gallery is putting on an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Sharon Yamamoto, the children's book illustrator. The exhibition starts on Thursday, November 1st with a reception between 6.00pm to 9.00pm. It will finish on November 7th. You can visit her website here.

Author, Chris Cobb is expected to attend and Sharon Yamamoto's distinctive art tiles will also be exhibited.

RSVP by clicking here or call Sharon Yamamoto on 07779 845 074.

The Hepsibah Gallery is at 112 Brackenbury Road, London W6 0BD.

Saturday 27 October 2007

H&F Council Recommends NCP Armadillo Is Given Go-Ahead – Committee Of Councillors To Make Crunch Decision This Tuesday

Residents are being urged to demonstrate their strength of feeling against plans to build an eleven story office building at the bottom of Hammersmith Grove by turning up to the Planning Applications Committee meeting this Tuesday, 30th October at Hammersmith Town Hall. The meeting will begin at 7.00pm. The plans for the scheme can be viewed here.

The Developer (Development Securities) was given a chance to outline their proposal for the site to over 170 residents who turned up to the public meeting last Thursday evening. My fellow ward councillors and I arranged the meeting after being contacted by record numbers of our constituents on the matter.

However, the mood of the audience grew increasingly despairing when the developer seemed to mislead them by initially assuring those assembled that:

  1. the 40 plus daily delivery lorries going to the new building would be spread out evenly throughout the day

  2. much of the extra parking would go to the NCP on Glenthorne Road.

He then retracted both statements on being questioned, saying he "couldn’t guarantee when the delivery lorries would turn up". And, went on to admit that he also knew that the Glenthorne Road NCP closed at 8.30pm and so also could not ensure that people visiting the 400 seater cinema or any of the three restaurants would park in it rather than local streets. Andy Slaughter MP (Lab) then asked the developer why they were “squeezing a quart into a pint pot”. The developer replied that they wanted “to make as much profit as possible”.

One member of the audience asked why a cinema was included in the design. The developer explained that they had done this on request from H&F Council last November. H&F Council's Director of the Environment was also at the meeting and confirmed that had been the case. This links the scheme into H&F Council’s plans to demolish the King Street cinema and replace it with new state-of-the-art offices for Town Hall officials.

The developer said that H&F Council had commissioned a traffic survey which was carried out by independent experts. I have not been given a copy of this despite asking for it on August 6th. The report will have hopefully considered the consequences of the road narrowing, the large number of extra delivery lorrries and the extra traffic. The audience expressed shock when H&F Council's Director of the Environment told them that he did not have "the details to hand" and was therefore "unable to answer any of any questions on the matter". He referred people to the planning report.

The Brackenbury Residents’ Association (BRA) and the Hammersmith Society attended the meeting and sat on the panel - with Richard Winterton and Angela Clarke speaking persuasively against the scheme while representing each residents' group respectively. Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F Council, declined an invitation to attend or to send any of his colleagues to take part on the panel. The Conservative MP for Hammersmith and Fulham also declined an invitation to attend.

BRA and the Hammersmith Society are opposing the scheme along with the H&F Community Trust, the H&F Historic Buildings Group and the Cambridge Grove Residents' Association. BRA have put posters up throughout the area (see pic) and are asking people to come to Tuesday night’s meeting in a last ditch effort to make all of the ten councillors sitting on the Planning Applications Committee see sense and turn the scheme down. The hope then is that local people, ward councillors, residents associations and amenity groups will be given a chance to open a dialogue with H&F Council and the developer about what may be a more suitable scheme for that site.

Please come along this Tuesday night if you can. You can email me here for more details.

Apollo Applies For Extended Licence

The Carling Apollo in Queen Caroline Street has applied for permission to vary its premises licence. If successful it will be allowed to run events for several thousand people up until 2.00am on up to twenty occasions per year. You can view the details of the application by clicking here.

The law requires that the licence will be granted if people do not send in any objections. People may want to express their opposition to this variation in light of the recent problems suffered by the Apollo’s residential neighbours. If you want to object then I advise that you specify your concerns about all the different types of nuisance this variation to the licence may cause. You should click here to do so. You must send your objection in by 6th November. Please email me here if you want me to speak against the application when it goes to the licensing committee.

The Licensing Committee is chaired by Cllr. Alex Karmel (Con), who is a decent man and I'm sure he will genuinely listen to all the comments on this matter.

Friday 12 October 2007

Public Meeting About NCP Car Park Plans

There is to be a public meeting to give residents a chance to discuss the plans to develop the NCP car park. My fellow ward councillors and I have arranged it after request from large numbers of local people who are keen to find out more about the proposals for that part of Hammersmith.

The meeting will take place at 7.00pm on Thursday 25th October at the Emerald Centre which is actually on the NCP car park site. The entrance is on Beadon Rd next to the Hammersmith City Line tube station.

All the key players have been invited and are expected to come. Please feel free to bring your friends and neighbours. All are welcome, no matter what your views are on the plans.

I will let you know more details when I have them. Please email here if you have any questions about the matter.

Livingstone Secures £16 Billion Crossrail Investment Crucial To London’s World City Future

So Crossrail is definitely going to happen. Last week the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister announced that the new east-west cross-London rail link had been given the go-ahead - expanding London’s rail capacity by ten per cent. Crossrail will have twice the capacity of the Jubilee line and follows on the back of news earlier this year that proposals for an Uxbridge Road tram had been axed.

The Crossrail scheme was also considered by the last Conservative government in the early 1990s but they shelved plans for it on cost grounds. Mayor Livingstone has now secured the necessary £16billion investment into the capital’s infrastructure which will see a staggering 200 million customers using the new rail link per year. It will be Europe's largest civil engineering project. I for one believe Crossrail to be vital to support London’s economic future. It will help to maintain the City as a world-leading finance centre and is expected to generate an additional 30,000 jobs. The first trains are expected to run on the new line by 2017.

Ken Livingstone should be rightly pleased. He said "In the seven years since I have been Mayor, delivering Crossrail has been by far the most important transport project I have sought to deliver, working together with London’s businesses and the government. This decision is a tremendous combined achievement for all those who worked for it and a vital one for Londoners and the long-term economic future of our city. This new east-west cross-London rail link will be the largest addition to the capital’s transport system for more than fifty years and will touch the lives of millions of Londoners making it easier for commuters, shoppers and those travelling to the City, Heathrow and East and West London".

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Will H&F Council Abolish The Public’s Rights To Be Consulted Over Entertainment Events in Ravenscourt & Bishops Parks?

Hundreds of local residents have written in over H&F Council’s licence applications to run a wide range of functions in Ravenscourt and Bishops Parks. The Licence Committee hearing has now been scheduled for 10.30am on Tuesday 30th October 2007 at Hammersmith Town Hall.

A furore erupted when H&F’s Conservative councillors decided to abolish the publics’ rights to be consulted for each event and proposed a blanket licence application, giving H&F Council the authority to run as many as they liked. A large majority of residents have argued that those rights are an important check on the type and number of functions that the Council agrees to run. However, panicked councillors have rowed back from their earlier demand that officials use the parks as “profit centres” and are now saying that they will only use the licenses to maintain the current events. If that’s the case then the Licensing Committee can agree ‘conditions’ to those licenses that will still allow the public a chance to feed into any further proposals. I would suggest those conditions are as follows:

  • Restrict the licence to only cover the current events. Those being the current fireworks party, the opera and the fair. This would legally require the Council to consult residents each and every time it wanted to run anything above that

  • Remove wrestling and boxing from the licence application

  • Limit the time for setting up and dismantling each event

  • Lower the terminal hour from the proposed midnight to 11.00pm

  • Lower the proposed decibel level

  • Give the licence for a provisional one year only and review it in 12 months time.

Such was the embarrassment of Administration councillors that they put out a range of misinformation which has all turned out to be untrue. The law doesn’t require these generic licenses. The fireworks party was not previously illegal. The Council did not have to apply to run boxing and wrestling events (and indeed, a council officer did not tick the boxes for boxing and wrestling by mistake). In fact, the licensing committee can agree to all of the above conditions.

I hope they do. Most residents have said that they would be happy for the parks to be used for well managed events that do not disturb people in the homes and sheltered housing that surrounds our parks. Many have said that they believe that each event should still be publicly applied for and that local residents’ legal and democratic rights to influence the decision should not be abolished. That seems reasonable to me and I will argue that case at committee. Please email me here if you want me to make any other points. I will report back on what the councillors, who make up the Licensing Committee, end up agreeing.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Thames Water To Explain Themselves At Hammersmith and Fulham Public Meeting

I have become all too familiar with Thames Water over the years. Hammersmith and Fulham's residents have faced a variety of water related problems and until the May 2006 local elections, I led the all-party negotiating group against Thames Water on behalf of the 33 London Boroughs.

Thames Water has at times tried to address residents' concerns but it is my experience that this only happens after intense pressure has been applied. Mostly, residents and I have felt let down by their efforts.

Our pan-London negotiations forced Thames Water to increase investment in their maintenance programme, we won a £10million reimbursement for local authorities, forced them to pay half the bill for fitting water pumps in large buildings and got them agree to give the other 50% as an interest free loan. I think we would have got more in commitments and compensation but the 2006 election results interceded, power changed hands and the negotiations have all but been brought to a stop.

This month I am due to meet Thames Water on two (possibly three) occasions. They are coming to a public meetings in Hammersmith and Fulham to explain why many people’s homes have been recently flooded with sewage and foul water. They will also hopefully be able to tell us:

  • why some people have been flooded out four times in three years and what they’re doing about it.
  • about the current state of their sewer maintenance programme
  • why low water pressure problems are still being experienced by homes and businesses in Hammersmith and Fulham
  • how they manage emergencies such as burst pipes
  • why they’ve dumped sewage into the River Thames
  • about their plans for the recently announced ‘super sewer’
  • what they’re doing about regular river front flooding
  • why their contractors have dug up our streets and then seemingly failed to carry out any works for weeks at a time
  • how they plan to end the terrible sewage smells in certain parts of our borough.

During my many meetings with Thames Water, there were often times when I wasn’t sure whether they were being incompetent or disingenuous. I haven't changed my conclusion given that the Chief Executive’s office recently told me that they’re still working on the questions I asked them last July about maintenance to local sewers. OFWAT, the regulator, has apparently become similarly frustrated. They fined Thames Water £12.5million, attributing the bulk of the penalty to Thames Water's failure to provide "robust information". You can read the BBC report here.

The first of the meetings will take place at H&F Council’s Cleaner and Greener Scrutiny Committee on 17th October. The open meeting will begin at 7.00pm in Hammersmith Town Hall. Members of the public are able to attend and - at the Chair’s discretion - ask questions as well. I’ll post a link to the agenda and papers when they’re published in a few days time.

If your area has had any of the above problems then please email me here. I will let Thames Water know and seek action on your behalf.

UPDATE: Thames Water have submitted a very brief report to the Cleaner and Greener Scrutiny Committee which is included in the agenda papers. You can view it by by clicking here. It's on pages 14 to 16.

Saturday 6 October 2007

No Replies To Pensioner's Canteen Quest

Dorothy Channon (88) contacted me to say that she has not had any response from David Cameron (Con) or Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), the Leader of H&F Council, after she wrote separately to both of them about the H&F Conservative Administration’s closure of the Pensioners' CafĂ© in the summer.

Dorothy (who also said she had been a life-long Conservative) told me “I am disgusted that they not only removed a much loved service but haven’t even got the decency to reply to me after I took the trouble to write.”

Hopefully, Mr. Cameron and Cllr. Greenhalgh will respond soon. I’ll let you know.

Friday 5 October 2007

Hammersmith & Fulham Rat Infestations On The Increase

I’ve been contacted by a large number of residents about rat infestations in our neighbourhood. It seems that there has been a growth in the rat population locally. I have arranged for H&F Council to take measures to address the situation in several public areas around Hammersmith. Please contact me by emailing here if you have a similar problem in your street and I’ll ensure the Council visits your area and undertakes the necessary measures.

I am concerned that this is related to the £1.5million cut in the refuse collection and street cleaning services that H&F Council implemented last April. I have, in fact, never experienced so many complaints about missed refuse collections or fly-tipping throughout my nine years as a councillor.

The Council has a duty to address rodent problems in public areas but will charge for acting in people’s private homes. If you want to contact H&F Council about an infestation problem in your home you should click here. There are also a wide variety of private companies who provide similar services.

Arnie Caught Speaking Off Camera About The Conservative Candidate for London Mayor

This video clip is mildly amusing as Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's Republican Governor, expresses his surprise at Boris Johnson's "fumbling" speech to the Conservative Party conference. Click here to view.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Public Misled Over H&F Council's Hammersmith Grove Armadillo Meetings

H&F Council officers have confirmed that the application to build a eleven storey office and entertainment complex on Hammersmith Grove could go to Planning Committee as early as 30th October. If not, they expect it to have almost certainly been considered for permission by the end of November. Officials also said that they will continue to accept comments or objections to the proposal, which you can still send by clicking here.

However, there now seems to be a rather concerning level of disparity about how much contact Hammersmith and Fulham Council have had with Development Securities (the property developer) about the scheme. Cllr. Mark Loveday (Con), H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Strategy, posted this item about the planning application on the Hammersmith Today Forum on 18th September 2007, "Like anyone else, they [Development Securities] don't have to consult with the Council or the public before submitting a planning application, and they didn't. The Council was presented with their proposals without any real advance notice. Perhaps had they spoken to us first, we would have told them what would and would not work.” You can read Cllr. Loveday's full comments here.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, I have now been sent a document listing the schedule of meetings between H&F Council officials, councillors and Development Securities. It contradicts Cllr. Loveday's comments as there have, in fact, been eleven meetings to date between our council and the property developer, with the first taking place on 15th November 2006.

Development Securities won the contract to build on the TfL site in the autumn of 2006. They submitted the application on the 25th May 2007 and it was validated on 10th August 2007. A Council official wrote to me to explain “There have been a number of meetings at which Development Securities' team have presented their scheme to officers for informal pre-application comment, prior to submitting a planning application. Various officers of the Environment department (Planning and Highways divisions) have been present.” Here’s the schedule:

Schedule of Meetings between Development Securities and H&F Council
  • 15th November 2006 2.00pm. Three H&F Council officers present
  • 11th December 2006 2.00pm. Four H&F Council officers present
  • 26th January 2007 2.00pm. Six H&F Council officers present
  • 20th March 2007 2.30pm. Six H&F Council officers present
  • 12th June 2007 2.00pm. Three H&F Council officers present
  • 15th June 2007 11.00am. Exhibition of scheme attended by Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), Cllr. Nicholas Botterill (Con). One H&F Council officers present
  • 27th June 2007 4.30, Cllr. Stephen Greenhalgh (Con), Cllr Nicholas Botterill (Con) and Cllr. Frances Stainton (Con) and four H&F Council officers present
  • 6th July 2007 2.30pm. Five H&F Council officers present
I am told by officials that have been six further meetings since.

I have also met with the developer to be briefed on their plan as previously reported. While it is understandable for Administration Councillors or officials to do likewise, I have written to the Director of the Environment to find out what was on the agenda for each and every meeting, what was discussed and what (if anything) was agreed.

Many residents have contacted me to express their concerns about the size of the building, the effect this development would have on the transition from town centre to the residential area, extra traffic, parking problems and extra noise. And, many have expressed fears that planning permission will be given for this scheme in much the same way as it was for the recent Larden and Percy Road luxury housing development.

I am in consultation with a numbers of residents’ groups about a public meeting and will let you know if we think it will be useful to hold one. Please email me here if you wish to attend any potential meetings about this. I'll keep you posted.