James Clark: Join the Hammersmith Rotary Club

rotaryA guest post from James Clark, Preisdent of the Rotary Club of Hammersmith

The Hammersmith Club meets for a meal in the POSK building near Ravenscourt Park Tube station weekly for a meal to socialise, discuss and plan events.

Being part of Rotary is more than just giving back to the community. It is also about you bringing your skills, experience and enthusiasm to help it thrive, whilst making some great friends along the way.

Our clubs are friendly places which invite speakers from a wide range of backgrounds to share their knowledge, increasing your social and cultural understanding.

We are 1.2 million volunteers working together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world. Our differing occupations, cultures, and countries give us a unique perspective. Our shared passion for service helps us accomplish the remarkable.

We are always looking for new members and with more input we can accomplish even more.

Last year we had a small concert and raised funds for London air Ambulance.

Gurcharan Singh Vig, a Hammersmith Rotarian, was so moved by the devastation caused by the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami he decided to help. Vig went to Sri Lanka in 2005 and has been back every year since. In that time he has helped hundreds of people in the southwest of the island and The Rotary Club of Hammersmith has been pleased and privileged to be able to support his efforts.Vig ‘s work has been in at Beruwela in the southwest of Sri Lanka.

What had once been a beautiful beach resort and fishing harbour was now a disaster zone. He helped the people repair their boats, he boughtessential items like beds and mattresses. Next he workedwith local schools and orphanages and has even built a school for infants. And ten years after theTsunami the work is still going on.

Find out more about Rotary on http://www.rotary.org or phone me on 07807 193498

Lance Pierson: Five Myths about the Not So Super Sewer

lancepA guest post from Lance Pierson

Thames Water (TW) have a very effective propaganda machine. They want to build the so-called ‘Super-Sewer’, partly because they have put a lot of work into planning it, and partly because it will bring hefty financial profits to their owners and stake-holders.

So they have devised a set of myths which have persuaded the people who matter (i.e. the Government) to give them the go- ahead. But when you understand the truths behind the myths, you see that it is not so super at all.

Indeed it should not be allowed to proceed.

Myth 1: It’s called the Super-Sewer.

Its real name is The Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT). TW invented the nickname ‘Super-Sewer’ and it has served them well. It makes it sound a good thing: sewers are essential to healthy and civilised life, so a Super Sewer sounds just what we need. But it is only ‘super’ in the sense of grotesquely large; as we shall see, it is certainly not ‘super’ in the sense of good or desirable. And indeed it is not primarily a sewer either.

It is intended to take the overflows from the sewers under our homes and roads, and stop them spilling into the River. But these overflows only happen when there is heavy rain. The excess fluid the TTT will carry will be only 5% sewage, 95% rainwater. I never call it the ‘Super-sewer’; I call it the Rain Drain. My friends who rightly object to its astronomic cost call it ‘The Great Drain Robbery’.

Myth 2: We need it.

TW’s propaganda says we need the TTT because London’s population (and poo!) has outgrown the Victorian sewers, which need upgrading anyway. It sounds so plausible, doesn’t it? But it’s completely untrue. The Victorian sewers are still in excellent condition, and easily large enough to do their job – except on the days when there is heavy rain, which are on average about 60 a year or once a week. We’ll come back to those rainy days later; but the reason why the Victorian sewers have not been outgrown is that they cover only inner London – an area
with a radius as far out as Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F). Outer London was built later with more modern drains that separate sewage from rainwater at source, and so have no problem.

The population growth of the last 100 years has occurred in outer London, not inner. Inner London actually has fewer people living and working in it than when the sewers were built. If you live in a Victorian house, compare how many people lived in it originally with how many now, and you will see the point.

Myth 3: It’s the only way to deal with the excess rain.

The overflowing rain is of course a serious problem; but the TTT is an inflexible way to deal with it.

TW admit themselves that on average four times a year the rain will be SO heavy that even the TTT will overflow. And meanwhile it will sit idle for 305 days a year, six days every week. If only there were a more effective solution! And – despite TW’s dismissals – there is. It is called, for short, ‘Green Infrastructure’ (GI). It is a combination of measures designed to stop the rain getting into the sewers in the first place. It includes green roofs and walls (vegetation that soaks up the rain); rain harvesting to water the trees in parks, pavements and playgrounds; sustainable drainage (already being applied to most new developments) where waste-water is recycled and re-used; porous road surfaces that allow the rain to soak through to the earth and underground rivers.

Philadelphia has pioneered the approach; it has become standard best practice in USA, and is being adopted in New York. European cities are following.

Myth 4: GI wouldn’t work in London.

Complete nonsense. London has more favourable rainfall and landscape than Philadelphia. If GI works in NY, how could it not work here? It is cheaper than the unacceptable 2011 £4.2bn price- tag on the TTT. GI provides more local employment. It is far better for the environment: it reduces the carbon footprint and climate change, which the TTT will of course increase. And GI is quicker: it is already happening and having its benign effects. The TTT will not start working till 2023 at the earliest; if all the roads being resurfaced between now and then were
made porous, rain overflows would already be finished. Even without this one dramatically effective measure, GI will remove the overflows within 25 years (perhaps as little as 10) of the TTT opening. Why build a white elephant?

Myth 5: There’s nothing we can do about it.

Public inertia suits TW perfectly. The Government in their folly failed to review this policy inherited from Labour. They have simply accepted the myths and given it the green light. Most people think nothing now can stop it. Well, think again. Already the cycling fraternity have learnt that their Super Highway, new in 2015, will be closed again in 2016; there will be other groups opposing the disruption the TTT will bring in its wake. At least two Councils (one of them H&F) are considering referring the inadequacies in the whole process to Judicial Review. If you live in H&F, write to the Leader of the Council (Stephen.Cowan@lbhf.gov.uk) urging him to do it.

If the TTT goes ahead, you will be paying for it in increases to your water bill (rising to £80p.a.) for the rest of your life. It is certainly not too late to write to the Government Departments responsible (DEFRA and DCLG) to say their decision is unacceptable; there may well be a petition starting up to this effect. There is something called a General Election next year; there could well be a change of Government, ready to reconsider this decision of its predecessor.

Don’t take my word alone for all I have said. The evidence for it is detailed in the website http://www.cleanthames.org.



Andrew Slaughter comes out against English votes for English Laws

Earlier this year a YouGov poll for the University of Cardiff, with a large sample size asked for views on the following proposition:

“Scottish MPs should be prevented from voting on laws that apply only to England.”

 63 per cent agreed. 12 per cent disagreed. There were big majorities of Labour and Lib Dem voters who agreed.

But I’m afraid the Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter does not believe in allowing the English a fair democratic opportunity for deciding the laws we live under.

Mr Slaughter tweets:

A serious misjudgement.

Caroline Millington: Meet the artists at the ArtWest Open Studios Weekend

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESA guest post from Caroline Millington, Shepherd’s Bush resident and Chair of ArtWest open studios

October 4th and 5th 13.00 – 18.00

Hythe Road, Harrow Road and Scrubs Lane

Free entry

For the fourth successive year, the barren streets off Scrubs Lane, usually dominated by Car Giant, are coming alive with the banners and red and white balloons that signal the ArtWest Open Studios weekend. In between the second hand cars more than 50 artists in six buildings will be opening their doors to the public, offering a rare opportunity to visit and talk to artists and makers in their own domain.

Evite 2014I’m one of those artists and one of the organisers. (All the organisation is done by the artists, on a voluntary basis. We have been helped financially this year by two London Boroughs – Hammersmith and Fulham and Brent – as well as the art supply chain, Cass Art). Artists are usually quiet people, often working in isolation, and rarely discussing their work with members of the public. But for this annual event, the artists taking part are usually delighted to chat with visitors.

Their work includes painting and sculpture, glass making and ceramics, print making and photography – even artefacts made of cork. It’s a wide range of work, and a wide range of people. There are at least three Latin American artists (from Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela), four makers of beautiful glass, a Trinidadian whose objects evoke the sunshine of the Caribbean – and the art itself ranges from representational portraits and landscapes to vibrantly coloured abstracts and weird objects! (I make a lot of weird objects myself – often putting together pieces of wood and other material found on the beach or in the street).

There will be items for sale in most of the studios, and for the second year running, we’ve made it possible for prisoners in Wormwood Scrubs to contribute their own postcard-size pieces of art to the Postcards from ArtWest sale (in the Acme building). This little exhibition offers miniature gems produced especially for the weekend and on sale at £20 a piece – but you won’t know who the artist is until you are sent the work when the weekend is over. A chance not only to own your own work of art, but also to invest in the future!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’ve taken part in all four open studio weekends, and I love them. Visitors range from the art savvy to those who have never been in a gallery or museum or met an artists – and few of them hold back in offering their views or asking questions. For the artist, being in his or her own studio offers a safe environment to deal with feedback, which is not always flattering! Children seem to enjoy these weekends, and often come up with the most perceptive comments.

The buildings involved are:

Glassfusion – Unit 1 Gateway Industrial Estate Hythe Road

Acava Studios – 17-19 Hythe Road

NW10 Studios – Regent House, 18 Hythe Road

NW10 Studios – Apex House, 23-25 Hythe Road

The Light Factory – 6 Scrubs Lane

Acme Studios – 733 Harrow Road

Further information and a map can be found on www.artwestopenstudios.co.uk and you can follow ArtWest on twitter @ArtWestWeekend.

You’ll see from the map that it’s possible to combine the studio visiting with a walk along a stretch of the Grand Union Canal. But put your walking shoes on, it’s about two miles from one end of Hythe Road to the Acme Studios in Harrow Road.

Worth it, though!

Richard Owen: Let’s rid Goldhawk Road of the shutters and dishes

A guest post from Richard Owen

goldhawk dishesI just read the piece by Harry Phibbs about the streetscene improvement works in Goldhawk Road, which includes pavement widening. Clearly there there are a number of real benefits, both practical and aesthetic from these schemes, though you are right to draw attention to the potential costs from increased congestion, especially as London continues to struggle to achieve satisfactory clean air standards.

I am concerned that we are failing to take a holistic and fully imaginative approach to upgrading the ambiance of streets like Goldhawk Road. What I always notice when travelling from Holland Park into Shepherds Bush is the sudden proliferation of security shutters in front of shops, and satellite dishes covering frontages – classic indicators of blight and underperformance.

On a Sunday morning the eastern section of Goldhawk Road can feel like a conflict zone in post-curfew lockdown. Ugly metal shutters cover more than half of business premises, and satellite dishes bubble and pustulate from the front faces of what were once attractive historic buildings.

Relocating satellite dishes to more sensitive sites on a building is not that expensive. Neither is removing an external security shutter or replacing it with a much less obtrusive open-linked internal grill.

The challenge lies in the fact that these are usually on private property where the council lacks powers. But if we are spending nearly £4 million on new paving and street trees, surely it is worth spending a little more to achieve a genuinely good result. In fact I would argue that the first tranche of any street improvement budget should always be spent trying to remove satellite dishes and security shutters, via grants or access to pre-funded council contractors.


Nicole Jacobs: What is Standing Together?

nicoleA guest post from Nicole Jacobs, the Chief Executive of Standing Together

Standing Together is a charity based in West London that coordinates the local approach to domestic violence and also does work nationally and internationally. Launched more than 13 years ago, Standing Together works to promote a co-ordinated, multi-agency community response to domestic violence. This approach recognises that no one agency can tackle domestic violence effectively if acting alone. Without effective coordination of activities between agencies, responses are less effective and survivors of domestic violence are still at risk of falling through the gaps in the system.

The coordinated partnership model enables all the relevant agencies to identify and respond successfully to domestic violence. We work together with statutory and community organisations – from criminal justice agencies to children’s services and refuges – to ensure that victims and children are safer, and perpetrators are held to account.

We also influence national policy and practice by initiating and driving innovation in providing safer options for women and holding perpetrators accountable. We have influenced national and local government and ensured a better response to domestic violence. As a result, significant and positive changes have occurred in the provision of special courts and enhanced expert services and policies aimed at reducing the risk to women.

We act as the domestic violence coordinator for Hammersmith & Fulham. What is unique about us is that we have divided the role of the coordinator – so we have a dedicated Maternity Coordinator, Children and Health Coordinator, Specialist Domestic Violence Court Coordinator, MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference) coordinator, Housing coordinator. Our work is not only limited to H&F, but we also work within the tri-borough (K&C and Westminster) and have MARACs in the tri-borough as well as in Brent, Ealing and Haringey.

For more information, please visit our website www.standingtogether.org.uk.

Labour’s war on lanterns

lampposttoothThe life of a lamp post is around 30 years.  Nearly all the ones in our borough are of a modernist “tooth brush” design (pictured top right).

The bureaucrats like them as they are relatively cheap (a thousand pounds a lamp post) – there is also the administrative convenience of a drab uniformity being maintained.

However most residents regard the traditional lantern design or “heritage lighting” (pictured underneath) as more attractive. It does cost a bit more – around £1,300 each.

So who should be put first – the residents or the bureaucrats?

In an area of Ravenscourt Park Ward – St Peter’s Square and Black Lion Lane – residents offered to pay the extra cost (about £300 a lamp post) so that they could have lantern design rather than toothbrush replacements. The cost for 55 lamp posts was still considerable – but there was some sponsorship from local shops and the residents association used up some reserves.

Under the Conservative council this was allowed to go ahead – despite some delay and bureaucratic resistance.

As a result St Peter’s Square and Black Lion Lane are now (even) more attractive places to live and walk through than they were previously.

Other residents – for example in Westcroft Square, Hammersmith Terrace and Ravenscourt Gardens – have been keen to do the same. There was keen interest from amenity groups. Such a civic minded ambition should be encouraged rather than penalised.

lamppostheritageI proposed that whenever lamp posts were due for replacements residents should be written to and alerted to the offer of the attractive alternative of lantern replacements – if they are willing and able to raise the sponsorship.

Where possible, Section 106 funding should be made available to help with the cost – so that property development can enhance rather than always blight the appearance of our streets.

Also where residents felt that there was more lighting than they wanted I proposed that their wishes should be respected. Some would welcome  a reduced number of lamp posts – feeling they are subjected to “light pollution”. That would also provide a saving in reduced energy bills. It could also make switching to the traditional lamp posts more affordable.

More mundanely there should be some flexibility to allow installation of the heritage lighting before the lamp posts were due for replacements – if the residents were prepared to pay the proportionate cost.

These are all points of detail but the general approach would have been clear enough. If the Conservatives had won the council elections there would have been encouragement to residents.

I’m afraid that under Labour the policy is proving to be one of obstruction. It is not quite a complete prohibition but they are offering every possible discouragement.

For example there would be extortionate extra costs for “officer time”. If a lamp post was being replaced a couple of years early – after it had already been in place for 25 years – the full £1,300 cost would be charged for a heritage replacement. It would obviously be more reasonable to charge the £300 extra plus the proportionate cost based on the remaining life span of the toothbrush lamp post. So if it had a couple of years of life left the bill should be £300 plus £100 not £300 plus £1,000.

harcourtWhy has the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Residents Services, Cllr Wesley Harcourt, decided to be so unreasonable?

Does he have some curious antipathy to the inhabitants of Westcroft Square?

Does he have some idiosyncratic aesthetic preference for tooth brush lamp posts?

Cllr Harcourt is a genial fellow but I am afraid he is not really in charge. He is just letting the bureaucrats do what they like. Yet Cllr Harcourt is paid a “Special Responsibility Allowance” of £21,545.20p a year – on top of his basic allowance of £8,940 a year. How can this be justified when he is not really responsible but simply rubber stamps everything?

Under the Conservatives the council’s motto was: “Putting residents first.” Maybe we didn’t always succeed. But that was the clear aim.The interests of residents dominated the agenda – lower Council Tax, better schools, cleaner streets, lower crime, greener parks.

Labour have ditched the slogan. The aim has been abandoned. There is no replacement statement of belief. There is a vast void of empty nothingness.

The council is on autopilot – of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats.

So we will be stuck, among other things, with tooth brush lamp posts.

£3.8 million scheme to widen pavements on Goldhawk Road

Work is underway to widen the pavement along a stretch of the Goldhawk Road. It is being funded by Transport for London as a cost of £3.8 million. Of course just because a large amount of taxpayers money is spent on something does not mean it is an improvement.

I have my doubts about the changes. (This is not a party political point incidentally as he work was approved in 2013 when the Conservatives ran the Council.)

There will clearly be some benefits. There will be decluttering – removal of more of the barriers along the pavements following on from earlier work.

There will also be more street trees. This will assist with the Sustainable Drainage Systems scheme “to help better manage the rate of flow and the amount of rainwater that enters the sewers, helping to reduce the risk of flooding.”

George Warren, the Council’s Flood Risk Manager, tells me:

“I can advise that the SuDS features are designed to reduce the rate at which surface water runoff from these roads enters the sewer system. This will be achieved through the installation of specially designed new tree pits along the side of the road, stretches of permeable paving and an offline retention basin. Surface water flooding is known to occur within this area during heavy downpours so this will help reduce localised flooding issues. However, this project will also importantly reduce the potential flooding elsewhere by reducing the rate at which rainwater enters the sewer, freeing up capacity within the sewer for areas further downstream.”

The problem is that widening the pavement will mean narrowing the road. The bus lanes will go – slowing down bus journeys. But it will mean journey for motorists will take longer. The present traffic speed is 25/27 mph. The changes are expected to cause it to fall to 23mph.

What about the impact on pollution of having the traffic crawling along?

£3.8 million is a lot to spend to make traffic jams worse.