A new college and ~500 new homes for West Kensington

West London College in West Kensington has been planning a complete rebuild of their facilities for some time now.  They regard the current college buildings as not fit for purpose and want to build a new college on part of the site. This would be funded by new housing on the rest of the site.

At last the consultation is beginning and I strongly urge local residents to attend.  This development will have a major impact on the wider neighbourhood.

The consultation dates are: Wednesday 13 June 2.30 – 8pm and Saturday 16 June 10am – 3pm.  The college is on Gliddon Road, postcode W14 9BL, just north of the Barons Court tube station.

As you can see from the picture the plan is for a very significant “densification” of the site. The proposal includes approximately 470 new homes as well as public space that will be accessible by all residents.  What this will consist of I presume will be made clear at the exhibition – or options will be given.  For me a concern is that the residential blocks will be 10 – 12 storeys high at their highest.  In my view this is too high and represents very significant height creep.

The College plans to go for detailed planning permission in two parts: the college plans first, and then the detailed plans for the housing at a later date.  Our target as local residents should be that this becomes a development that we are all proud of, and are pleased to have seen happen.  I am a great fan of Fitzgeorge and Fitzjames Avenue – as well as the stunning and unusual St Pauls Court.  Our goal should be to make this new development “as good”.  How can we achieve that?  By working together.

I understand that the College’s target is to get the first detailed planning application in over July / August.  Of course many people will be away over part of this time so I suggest that residents – almost from tomorrow – ask the College and the Council to guarantee an extension on the 3 weeks, and to ensure that the response period goes through into September when more people will be around and “refocusing”.

If you are unable to attend the exhibitions “Your Shout” has provided this contact number – 0207 587 3049 – and have said that they will “send you further details on the proposals, including the exhibition banners”.

Honeypot gives young carers a break

Laura Gleeson writes:

Since 1996 Honeypot has been working to enhance the lives of young carers and vulnerable children aged 5 – 12 years old. Honeypot is the only charity in the UK to provide respite breaks and on-going outreach support throughout a child’s formative years. The charity gives young carers a break from demanding and stressful responsibilities at home and provides a safe, nurturing environment where children at risk can develop their full potential.

Every Honeypot child receives a birthday card, and a Christmas present. Our Christmas Road Show begins every year in October, travelling the country to hand deliver as many Christmas presents as possible. For many of the children, it will be the only present they receive.

Although our service is completely free to the children and families we support, it comes at a price. We need to raise £1.5 million pounds a year to offer our help, and we receive no government funding.

This year Honeypot is running an inclusive challenge event – 1,2, Bee 

The event is inclusive and aimed at participants aged 5 – 95 years to encourage fundraising, awareness, to keep adults and children active and for those looking for a challenge.

Sign up, choose a distance and then have the whole month of June to complete the challenge however and wherever you like; parkrun, in your swimming lessons, or cycle around the park! Send in your evidence and each participant will receive a medal and hopefully have lots of fun.

To register to take part, go to – bit.ly/12beeactive.

For more information about Honeypot or the event, visit our website www.honeypot.org.uk or contact Laura on 020 7602 2631/ laurag@honeypot.org.uk

 

Have the opponents of CS9 won a quiet victory?

The Hammersmith & Fulham Labour Party election manifesto says: “We are lobbying the Mayor to run the CS9 cycle route down the A4, not King Street or Hammersmith Road.”

Labour election leaflets contained the same statement. The only confusing thing is the phrase “we are lobbying“. This implies that the Mayor of London has the final say over where the cycle superhighway runs and therefore requires lobbying. But he does not. Hammersmith & Fulham transport officers have made clear that the final say over the use of these streets rests with Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

Labour councillors have also made this clear to residents. One anti-CS9 group copied me to this from a Labour Councillor “The council’s stated preference is for a cycle superhighway to run along the A4 not Hammersmith Rd. As the ultimate decision lies with LBHF, we can probably assume that CS9 will not go ahead in the form in which it was presented”. Fairly straight-forward, repeating the manifesto commitment, but again clarifying where the decision lies.

Of course the use of the phrase “we are lobbying” is designed to “please all of the people”.  Group A should love us because we tried to stop it and Group B should also love us because we let it go ahead.

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So residents should now be looking for some answers and for some commitments. Residents are entitled to know how the Council Administration reached its decision.  They also need to know what “lobbying the Mayor” actually means in this context.

Since late last year the Council has been receiving submissions from residents on CS9. At a Council Committee meeting earlier this year which discussed CS9, it would have been entirely possible for a summary of the consultation’s results to be presented. But no information was provided. Hammersmith & Fulham residents remain in the dark about the results of the local consultation, and how the responses break down by how close people live to the proposed route or by their preferred transport methods.  They are also in the dark as to why H&F Council has decided to “lobby the Mayor” to change the CS9 route. Those in favour of CS9 will be particularly keen to understand and debate the change of heart and to understand the policy rationale behind it.

Labour’s Manifesto says this: “… we are changing the way the council relates to and works with our residents. From the start, we said we would seek to do things with our residents, not to them, and gave residents greater powers to engage with the council.” The manifesto also says “We decided to make policy in public, too …”

As far as CS9 goes, these commitments are empty words.  The Council has long been able to share the consultation results with residents.  It has declined to do so.  As for making policy in public, I am sure all those in favour of CS9 and all those against CS9, are more than keen to participate in this process.  We need venues, dates, and information.

Avonmore & Brook Green needs a Neighbourhood Forum

Caroline ffiske writes:

When you are a councillor in Avonmore & Brook Green, you spend a lot of time talking about buildings: their architecture and appearance; and their use. So do local residents. One way to better harness residents’ energy and enthusiasm, and to ensure that local developments are a win-win would be to form a Neighbourhood Forum.

Four years ago, when I became a councillor, York House, a lovely Victorian building on Avonmore Road had just been torn down.  Local people were shocked at its sudden disappearance.

Soon after that the future of Leigh Court was being decided.  The now-empty, once-lovely mansion-block overlooking Avonmore School had been bought by a developer.  Residents fought for a refurbishment that respected the beauty of the building and the residential nature of the area.

The battle of FitzGeorge and Fitzjames Avenue loomed.  Unquestionably, the loveliest street in London, with highly decorative mansion blocks designed by Delissa Joseph.  A developer planned to pull out the gorgeous greenery and grounding base of the building to put basement flats along the entire frontage.  The beauty of this gorgeous street would have been destroyed. The passion and commitment of local residents came to the fore again as we battled this one through the planning system.

Across 2017, the pace quickened:

  • Olympia was sold to Yoo Group who promise a transformative makeover with the design element led by Thomas Heatherwick of Routemaster bus and Olympic cauldron fame.
  • New owners of 66 Hammersmith Road developed plans to pull down the not-much-loved glass-panelled building and replace it with a more attractive design but with greater bulk and loss of greenery.
  • West London College announced that its buildings are not fit for purpose.  They would like to build a new college funded by housing on part of the site.
  • The government announced that it would sell Blythe House – a stunning building with enormous potential.
  • To the west of the ward, the Hammersmith Society and others began alluding to outline plans for tower blocks within the gyratory.

So within this small area there is enormous potential for new housing, better education opportunities, new jobs, and new arts and leisure facilities. And yet, in the middle: local residents, neighbourly streets, gorgeous architecture, quiet heritage, precious green spaces.  How can local residents preserve the best of the past at the same time as making sure that new development is so good that it also becomes part of what future generations want to protect and preserve?

At least part of the answer comes in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan and Neighbourhood Forum. Neighbourhood Plans give communities significant rights around developments in their areas.  They enable local communities to say where homes, offices, and shops are built.  Residents can have a say in the design of new buildings and they can influence the height and massing that is allowable. Residents can also have a say in the use of buildings – for example empty shops. Neighbourhood Plans become legal documents that need to be approved via a local referendum.  Once in existence they must be used by local Councils to make decisions on local planning applications.

Nick Boys-Smith from the charity CreateStreets says:  “We encourage Neighbourhood Forums to be as ambitious as possible. If you don’t allocate sites and say what they should look like, you’re not really going to achieve much…  Neighbourhood Plans need to confirm with the Council ‘Local Plan’ but that still gives plenty of scope.”

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it?  Creating a Neighbourhood Plan is clearly a huge amount of work.  But sometimes it’s the start of a process that makes 90% of the difference.  The creation of a Neighbourhood Plan starts with the formation of a Neighbourhood Forum.  A coming together of local people who care and who have a bit of time to be involved.  ABG has a wealth of people who are passionate about their area and well-experienced in participating in Tenants Associations, Residents Associations, Friends Groups, and Leaseholder Associations.  If they came together to start pooling ideas and establishing a collective voice, that in itself would be very powerful.  The Council, as well current and future developers should want to listen and to collaborate from the start.  The goal should always be win-win.

It can only be in everyone’s interests to design additions to our built environment and community assets well.  We all want to make the world a better place.  Putting beauty and community at the heart of local development is a great place to start.  Who’s in?

H&F Council’s Spending on Councillor Allowances set to hit £847,000

Caroline ffiske writes

The H&F Council budget for councillor allowances in 2018/19 is £785,600. Proposals contained in papers for the Council Meeting this week will result in an additional annual cost of £62,137.80.   If the proposals are passed, and all the allowances taken up, the new annual expenditure on Councillor allowances starting next year will be a whopping £847,000.  All data is contained here starting on page 100.

The cost increases arise from the Administration expanding its Cabinet to ten people , and creating additional paid roles for administration councillors including roles for “Assistants to the Cabinet”.

The basic rate allowance for all LBHF Councillors is £8,940.  All 46 Councillors receive this amount.  That is just under £180 a week.  There should be a large dose of public service in being a local councillor.  But to make some sense of the annual payment, if we assume that councillors are being paid somewhere between £10 and £20 an hour, residents could expect their local councillors to be doing 10 to 20 hours of community and ward-based work per week.  As part of the role, councillors are also expected to focus on borough wide issues – policy, or sector, or event, or issue focused.    So the  creation of additional allowances for assumingly additional work should be treated with great care.

Nevertheless here are the additional annual amounts payable to Councillors above and beyond the basic pay of £8940 received by all Councillors, as proposed in this week’s Council papers:

The Leader £32,186.70
Deputy Leader £26,816.40
Other Cabinet members (8) £21,454.20
Chief Whip (where not a member of Cabinet) £21,454.20
Deputy Chief Whip (2) £5,564.70
Chair of Policy & Accountability Committees (6) £5,564.70
Leader of the Opposition £16,086.60
Deputy Leader of the Opposition £5,564.70
Opposition Whip £5,564.70
Chair of Planning and Development Control Committees, Audit, Pensions and Standards Committee, Licensing Committee, and Councillor Member on Adoption and Fostering Panel (3) £5,564.70
The Mayor £10,729.80
Deputy Mayor £5,564.70
Assistant to the Cabinet (5) £2,700.00

If all these allowances are allocated, a whopping 29 out of the 35 administration councillors will receive additional cash under the new proposals.  Interestingly this is in direct contravention of the views of the Independent Panel that looks at Councillor Allowances.  This stated “We reiterate our view that no more than 50% of councillors should receive a special responsibility allowance”.

Mark Higton: Labour’s threat to youth provision in H&F

A guest post from Mark Higton, a Conservative candidate for Ravenscourt Park Ward.

I am deeply concerned about how the Labour Council are privatising Youth and Family Services. These changes will happen if they are left unchecked, and the reason voters are unaware is because the Labour councillors involved have failed to publish definitive policy documents, which makes scrutinising and discussing these plans extremely difficult.

The first we learned of this was 18 months ago, when Community Centres and Youth Charities were informed that two of the five Youth Hubs could be cut, whilst the remaining three would be ‘re-imagined’ to become Super-Hubs. The decision was only to be made after May 2018. Hubs were told only to apply if they were located next to a School and Health Centre. They were also informed that they could lose their facility funding should a change in their designation occur, whilst Children’s Centres could be cut as part of the wider rationalisation.

Naturally the Children’s Centres, and the many Youth Charities that support them, were alarmed by this information. To this end a group of Charities established the Young Hammersmith & Fulham Foundation to exchange information, and provide an independent voice. I have been speaking with their members, and aligned voluntary groups, and they are clear that the privatisation of Family and Youth Services has already commenced in Hammersmith and Fulham, resulting in cuts to budgets, annual funding reviews, and delays in funding decisions.

The EdCity project in White City is a clear example of the Council’s vision for a Super-Hub, and it is already impacting how Charities will be commissioned in Ravenscourt Park and other Wards. The Council decided to dispense with the existing Community Centres and Charities which have decades of youth provision experience in Hammersmith, and gave the mandate to a private-public partnership called OnSide. As part of this deal the Council have pledged to provide 50 per cent of the funding required to build a Youth Zone costing £6 million. This will be owned by Onside, and local charities and community groups will have to pay commercial rates if they want to use the building.

Furthermore the Council has pledged 40 per cent of Onside’s annual £1,000,000.00 operating budget, the remaining 60 per cent will be generated via Sponsorship and User Charges. Onside estimate the cost of delivery per child to be approximately £17.90 per head, which is almost £4.00 more than what our existing youth charities charge, whilst user charges will mean that a Child who currently attends the Youth Club for free will have to pay between £7.00 and 50p per session.

So why are Labour Councillors backing a partnership which is noncompetitive to our local Charities, and will cost the poorest in society up to £547.50 a year to access? The answer is simple, the Council want to make long-term savings of £9.00 per child, cutting their costs from £14.00 to £5.00 per head. That, of course, is the theory…

What if OnSide fail to meet their share of the operational costs? Presumably the Council will be forced to underwrite the scheme, and a building nobody else can use, whilst the community will still have to pay for services at point of provision. More to the point, least well-off parents that can’t afford the user charges could find that their taxes are being used to subsidise better-off parents, who might otherwise have paid more.

If that isn’t enough to worry about, the Council plan to move Youth and Family Services into a Purpose Led Vehicle, where 75 per cent of costs will be met by the private sector in five years. This shift, and a reduction in staff, will coincide with Super-Hubs being given greater responsibility to directly commission Children’s Centres, Community Organisations, and Youth Charities. The loss of accountability to the Council should this vision be fully implemented could be disastrous.

Conservatives believe this money could be better spent. £3 million would fund our existing Hubs for two and a quarter years, or provide much needed investment into their facilities and the Children’s Centres they support. Whilst the £400,000 annual operating capital is equivalent to the entire H&F Youth Services budget!

A budget the Council has claimed time, and time again, it has to cut.

Surely it would be simpler to increase the youth budget, and directly support experienced providers like the Sulgrave Club and Harrow Club?

Members of the the Young Hammersmith & Fulham Foundation say we are talking sense, they believe the corporate model which the Labour Council backs is anti-competitive, not fit for purpose, and doesn’t provide taxpayers with value for money.

Victory! King Street residents to get the chance to recycle

Recently I wrote about how hundreds of residents in King Street were being prevented from recycling.

I took the matter up with the Council and I have been sent the following undertaking from the Council’s Waste Action Development Manager:

“Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I was awaiting a response from Serco which never came. I have now had a conversation with them and have an understanding of the problem and of a way forward. I’ve been advised that they do not deliver to flats above shops on King Street, as the rolls of bags do not fit through the letter box. Leaving rolls of bags out on the High Street would be both unsightly but also, means they are at high risk of being stolen and /or misused.

“I believe all properties with a kerbside collection should be delivered sufficient recycling bags, and so this current situation needs to change. That’s why I’m seeking quotes for flat packs of bags, which will fit through letterboxes. Hopefully, this will provide a solution going forward.”