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.

 

Planning News – London House, King Street and Fitzjames Avenue

London House

There was huge disappointment to local residents when the Planning Inspector allowed the appeal by Linden Homes against the Council’s refusal of planning permission for the London House site on King Street. This was despite the proposals being higher than the recommended density, providing no affordable housing and in breach of the Borough’s guidelines on amenity or garden space for the flats.

The Hammersmith Society represented local amenity groups and gave evidence at the enquiry to support the Council.

Cllr Lucy Ivimy also supported local residents and gave evidence on their behalf against Linden Homes.

Unfortunately, Linden Homes were represented by a top barrister in the field of planning and his arguments won over the Inspector.

Residents will now be confronted with a large block directly opposite the formal entrance to Ravenscourt Park of dense flats. We are pushing the Council to see if it is possible to challenge the Inspector’s decision. However, it is very rare that this is possible, and we are not very hopeful.

Fitzjames Avenue

On a happier note, there was rare political unity in the Planning Committee when the plans to shoehorn flats into the basement and roof space of the fabulous Fitzjames Avenue mansion blocks were firmly rejected. Cllr Caroline ffiske, representing residents, had made sure that this application was heard by the Committee rather than being decided by the Council officers.

All three local councillors spoke eloquently on behalf of residents in defence of the integrity and preservation of these very handsome buildings.

 

Moya O’Hara: In search of local lizards – helping children discover Hammersmith and Fulham’s environment

A guest post from Moya O’Hara, Director of the Hammersmith and Fulham Urban Studies Centre

Hammersmith and Fulham Urban Studies Centre is now in its 31st year of working with young people and adults in the borough. Our organisation was originally formed from the council’s planning department way back in 1983, with the aim of engaging young people with planning process in our ever changing borough. Since that time, our borough has changed a huge amount and we have developed and grown also.

We are now an independent charity with the aim of offering learning opportunities outside the classroom, to help young people learn more about the urban environment in the West London area. Much of our work is with schools, offering hands-on, enquiry based, learning outdoors, like discovering wildlife on the foreshore of the River Thames, uncovering the secrets of our borough in World War One and mapping the geographical changes since Hammersmith was a small riverside settlement.

hfu3Our work includes enabling young people to have their voice heard. We run an annual Children’s Parliament on the Environment, where Year 6 students investigate an environmental topic of interest and then come together
in the council chamber of Hammersmith Town Hall to present their project to their peers and to adult guests. We also run an annual Bi-borough Children’s Choice conference, in partnership with Epic Youth, bringing together children from both boroughs to Kensington Town Hall, for a day of discussion and activities.

Young people have the opportunity to voice their opinions and discuss with adult decision makers the things that matter to them most as well (as having a lot of fun!)

This year also we ran Young Friends of Parks groups throughout the borough, connecting children who do not have their own gardens with their local park and its plants and wildlife. Children have strong views about what they like to see in their local parks and they relished having the chance to meet with the parks police and other informed adults to offer them their suggestions for improvements.

We enjoy working with adults too, and regularly lead informal, sociable walks, encouraging people to learn about and enjoy their local green spaces, along our wonderful riverside with its rich heritage, over the wilds of Wormwood Scrubs and its seven areas of nature reserve (with its elusive resident population of lizards!) and through the peaceful, leafy Margravine and Brompton cemeteries.

hfu1The Urban Studies Centre is happy to work in partnership with other organisations. This year we held an event in Normand Park called Read in the Park where 500 people, mostly young children, came to enjoy reading books
and listening to stories, as well as gardening, taking part in a literacy trail, learning crafts and enjoying family games. This was a successful collaboration, supported by Dr.Edward and Bishop King Charity, between ourselves, Hammersmith Community Gardens, The Doorstep Library Network and Thank U.

It is amazing what the voluntary sector can do when we work together!

What’s new with the Urban Studies Centre at the moment? Well we are just beginning a new tri-borough project, working more with young people in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea and getting them out and about learning in their local area.

Our AGM is on Tuesday 23rd September 4.30 at the Lilla Huset in Talgarth Road. W6 8BJ. All are very welcome, so do come along and meet us!

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Abby Crawford: Our work to stop domestic violence in Hammersmith and Fulham

Abby CrawfordA guest post from Abby Crawford of Advance

Every year hundreds of thousands of women and children in London alone experience some form of violence. It is linked to higher levels of child poverty, increased levels of substance abuse and costs the capital around £5.6bn a year. There are over 53,000 domestic violence crimes reported to the Metropolitan Police in London each year, and the number of reports in West London specifically is increasing.

advancehammADVANCE works with women and children in four boroughs across West London, and has been established in Hammersmith and Fulham for over 15 years.

We support women and children directly and work to prevent violence and abuse, delivering specialist support and advocacy services 24 hours a day.

In Hammersmith and Fulham, ADVANCE works with hundreds of women and children each year who have experienced domestic violence, and we provide specialist support services for women in a range of areas.

We currently have domestic violence advisers in Queen Charlotte’s and St Mary’s hospitals, based in the A&E and maternity departments, as well as in the Hammersmith and Fulham Council housing department and Hammersmith Police Station, to support women who need advice and help with housing, and/or who have reported domestic violence to the police and would like to receive support through the criminal justice system, including at court.

ADVANCE also supports women offenders and women at risk of breaking the law in Hammersmith and Fulham, through the ADVANCE Minerva Service. The Minerva service supports women who are engaged with the criminal justice system, who are on probation or serving short sentences in prison, and provides keyworkers, group programmes and specialist support for women at risk of offending.

In addition, this ADVANCE Minerva began to deliver specific support for young women who are involved with the justice system or are at risk of breaking the law.

This year ADVANCE supported over 700 women in Hammersmith and Fulham, to enable them to lead safe, equal, violence-free lives and so that they can flourish and actively contribute to society. Nine out or ten women this year reported improved health and well-being as a
result of using our services, and eight  in ten women told us they feel safer. Sadly, women continue to be killed as a result of male violence or die of the consequences of abuse they have suffered.

ADVANCE will continue to work towards the eradication of violence against women, and won’t stop until its vision of women achieving equality in Hammersmith and Fulham, in London, and in the UK and rest of the world has been realised.

If you need help because of domestic or sexual violence you can contact the 24-hour national domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247 (women) or the men’s advice line on 0808 8010 327 (men).

For ADVANCE services and general enquiries please email admin@advanceadvocacyproject.org.uk

Dominic Pinkney: Probably the Best Volunteer Centre London?

pinkneyA guest post from Dominic Pinkney, Chief Executive of the Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre

Although one of the smallest London boroughs, in terms of population, Hammersmith & Fulham has one of the highest levels of volunteering and community participation in London. This is due to both the many great residents of Hammersmith & Fulham as well as a hard-working and dedicated Volunteer Centre committed to promoting and facilitating volunteering in all its forms. In the last 12 months alone we conservatively estimate we generated 34,925 hours of volunteering through our work with an equivalent value of £264,804.

Every year we host the Hammersmith & Fulham Volunteer Awards to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing volunteers who give up their time to support local people and community organisations. It is always both humbling and inspiring to hear about the great work that these volunteers do. Many local community groups and charities simply would not be able to provide their services without the help of volunteers.

“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”

HFVC Awards Ceremony June2014Volunteering really does change lives, not just the lives of the people being supported or benefiting from the work of the volunteer, but also for the volunteer themselves.

At the Hammersmith & Fulham Volunteer Centre we take a broad approach to volunteering and see it as a gateway to opportunities to many people, such employment, training or education. We have proven and demonstrated for many years that volunteering helps the socially isolated and disadvantaged in our community to build confidence, skills and experience that will help them achieve their goals.

As well as being a volunteer recruitment service for the voluntary and community sector in Hammersmith & Fulham, we also deliver specialist volunteering projects that help those in target areas of need. For example, our All in Motion project, delivered in partnership with Action on Disability, helps young disabled people aged 16-25 to carry out volunteering and to support local organisations to lower the barriers for disabled volunteers.

lyricvolOther projects include:

  • Creative Minds – a peer mentoring project for young people with mental health issues
  • Connecting Communities – a volunteering and training project for local unemployed residents with barriers such as low income, low skills, lone parents and ex-offenders.
  • Events 4 Youth – a youth led volunteering project that trains and supports young people to identify, plan and run community
    events for other young people in Hammersmith & Fulham.
  • International Volunteering Projects – we are leading Volunteer Centre in involving local people in life-changing volunteering trips to countries such as Romania, Lithuania, Russia, Italy, France and Germany.

There are so many ways you can volunteer and support local people and organisations and many volunteers often find to their surprise they
get a lot more out of it than they expect. Don’t just take my word from it, read about the benefits of volunteering by our new marketing
volunteer Korel Oliver-Christie.

If you are interested in volunteering, please do get in touch with us via our website (you can search for opportunities online), call us on 020 8741 9876 or come to see us at our office: 148 King Street (Galena Road), Hammersmith W6 0JU (Map: https://goo.gl/maps/7ugY1). We will be very happy to help you volunteer or help your organisation to find a volunteer.

vol2vol3HFVC Awards Ceremony June2014

 

Andrew Brown: We can’t trust Labour to tell the truth about the NHS

andrewbrownGuest post from Cllr Andrew Brown

This morning I spoke on BBC Radio London commenting on the Mail on Sunday article about Charing Cross Hospital’s A&E.

The headline dramatically states that “A&E unit in London faces axe… after PM promised personally it would stay open” although later the article admits that “A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The Health Secretary has already been clear that Charing Cross Hospital should continue to offer an A&E service which provides high quality urgent and emergency care services 24/7.’”

So why is the Mail suggesting that “NHS papers show” Charing Cross Hospital will only have an “urgent care centre”? This is entirely false. The papers in question are from July’s Imperial board meeting and make it clear that the A&E will stay.  At the bottom of the article, Imperial is again quoted saying that “There is no proposal to close the A&E at Charing Cross Hospital”.

The answer is that they foolishly believed their source.  Andrew Slaughter recently endorsed a claim that the Mail was “at the very least negligent and very possibly dangerous” about checking its facts.

He obviously spotted an opportunity.  Rather than sitting down to read the 284-page Imperial board papers, the journalist appears to have swallowed Slaughter’s spin and then regurgitated his press release.

The reality is that Charing Cross will keep an A&E. We have also been promised by the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister that it will be an A&E. It won’t be in the same shape or form as it currently is, but it will be a lot more than an Urgent Care Centre.

The detailed model is awaiting the second phase of Prof Sir Bruce Keogh’s Urgent and Emergency Care Review. This is a national review about improving care that was set up long before the Charing Cross decision. Although Imperial’s board papers contain a lot of information, they confirm that the “Keogh review will help determine how the Emergency Care services for a local hospital will be configured”.

Unfortunately, Labour don’t care about the specialisation of emergency care or the evidence that it will save lives. They ran their council campaign on lies about the NHS because they had no coherent policies for the borough. Andrew Slaughter wants to make the general election
about the same lies on the NHS because Labour has no coherent policies for the country.

Labour’s NHS scaremongering has even been picked up by the SNP during the independence campaign and is putting the Union at risk.

It’s clear that we can’t trust Labour to tell the truth about the NHS.

The people we should trust are the expert clinicians. It is doctors who are leading these decisions about NHS reform, not politicians. We should scrutinise and hold them to account, but when all the evidence and clinical experts are saying reforms will improve care and save lives, we should also listen to them.