Action promised to clean up the Maystar Estate

maystarbinMore evidence of the filthy state the council estates have fallen into since Labour took control of our borough last year.

Here is a picture, taken by a resident, of the disgusting state of the bin chute in the Maystar Estate. She wrote to the Council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan about it but had no reply from him and then raised it with me.

I have pursued the matter with Sharon Schaaf, the Head of Estate Services, who says:

“Client team officers have checked the bin rooms on Gibbs Green (as detailed on the photo), Maystar estate and then identified what we believe is the bin room in the photo as being at Alice Gilliatt Court.  The detritus has been cleared, and the caretakers and refuse contractor reminded that they need to clear spillage promptly.”

Clearing the arches in Ravenscourt Park – anyone for ping pong?

archesrpIt’s extraordinary how bureaucratic obstacles can make even the most simple challenges take a long time. But at last some of the arches of Ravenscourt Park have had the old junk cleared out and been opened up.

Parks Manager Ian Ross reports:

“The primary aim of this project was to improve connectivity between the southern end and main body of the park and to restore the visual quality of the Victorian railway structure.  The majority of work has been completed with the exception of some surfacing work under the arches and some landscaping to the south of the arches, all of which will be undertaken this coming autumn once the summer rush in the park has finished and the paddling pool has closed.  There were never any specific plans for using the space, as stated earlier this was a project predominantly to deliver aesthetic improvements.

“The feedback from the Friends of Ravenscourt Park and general park users has been very positive.”

I would like to see a ping pong table (or a whiff whaff table as Boris Johnson would call it) in one of the arches. They have them in Normand Park stuck to the ground. You have to bring your own ball and bats but it works rather well when it isn’t too windy.

Labour push through approval for 28 storey eyesore in Wood Lane

whitecityblockstwoLast October I reported on the intention by the Labour council to allow the developers St James to undertake a hideous development in Wood Lane including a 28 storey tower block.

Last night the Planning Applications Committee considered the matter. The report included objections from the Labour MP Andrew Slaughter summarised as follows:

“Raises objection to the planning application. Excessively scaled 10-28 storey buildings are inappropriate for the area and will block out natural light to neighbouring properties. Will cause loss of privacy to existing residents who will be overlooked by thousands of residential properties. Concern raised about density of the proposals and the affordability of the homes if they are unaffordable for local people. Proposal should address local housing needs.”

The Hammersmith Society added:

“Raise objection to the proposed development which is too tall and dense, and has an inhospitable pedestrian environment. No justification for tall buildings given which exceed the indicative heights in the WCOAPF. Object to 28 storey tower at north end of site. Development blocks are too close together and the detailed component potentially comprises the development of adjoining sites. HS advises that affordable housing should be closer to 40% target. Highlight importance of connections to ensure the success of the open space on the site.”

Indeed only 19 per cent of the properties on the site will be designated “affordable” housing. Under the Conservatives property developers faced tougher negotiations – and needed to provide 30 per cent or 40 per cent.

Even that 19 per cent but not necessarily be genuinely “affordable” – it will be “an appropriate mix of intermediate, affordable rented and social rented housing.”

In terms of height it exceeds even the planning officer’s own guidance – with their prejudice in favour of tower blocks. Yet they said let’s build it anyway:

“The proposed number of tall buildings (in both the detailed and outline elements) exceeds the limited number envisaged in Core Strategy Policy WCOA for the Opportunity Area, and the general height and mass of the scheme is greater than what is set out in the indicative WCOAPF masterplan. Notwithstanding this, it is considered that the proposed development provides a satisfactory design response, in terms of having no adverse impacts on the surrounding built environment which includes the Wood Lane Conservation Area and Grade II listed Television Centre building and adjoining sites which are subject to redevelopment and regeneration.”

While two Conservative councillors – Lucy Ivimy and Alex Karmel – spent a hour asking challenging questions of  the proposal Cllr Michael Cartwright for Labour said we “shouldn’t worry about the details” because St James are “a subsidiary of the UK’s biggest homebuilders” and that we can “trust them to get it right”.

All the Labour councillors ignored Mr Slaughter’s objections and voted to inflict this eyesore scheme on the borough. Among those brushing aside his objections? Cllr Iain Cassidy of Fulham Reach Ward – who as Mr Slaughter’s office manager was doubtless responsible for ensuring for objection was sent in.


Labour boost fat cat pay and councillor cronyism in Hammersmith and Fulham

chiefexecpayThis week sees the annual Council meeting in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Among the items on the agenda will be Labour seeking approval for £185,000 annual salary to the chief executive Nigel Pallace.

In their election manifesto last year Labour denounced the pay of senior bureaucrats as “exorbitant”. They have pushed it up. The previous arrangement meant the cost of the chief executive was split with Kensington and Chelsea as it was a shared post.

cabinetpayThere has also been an increase in spending on “Special Responsibility Allowances” to Labour councillors. Under the Conservatives there were eight Cabinet Members (including the Chief Whip). Labour complained this was too many and promised that they would reduce it to seven. Instead they increased it to nine.

bencolemanNow they are increasing it to ten. This is an important opportunity for the Council leader to dispense patronage at the Council Taxpayer’s expense. The money paid out to each Cabinet Member and their Chief Whip is £21, 454.20 a time. That is on top of the “basic allowance” of £8,940.

This year’s lucky winner is Cllr Ben Coleman. He is being rewarded for setting up endless “task forces” – a displacement activity from taking action to improve our borough.


A promise to clean up Gibbs Green estate – but let’s see some action

gibbs2Recently I wrote about the shocking state of the Gibbs Green estate. I have raised the matter with housing officers.

Here is the response I’ve had:
Dear Councillor Phibbs,

Thank you for your enquiry received on 30th April 2015 regarding fly tipping on Gibbs Green estate.

On Gibbs Green there is an established free bulk drop off point for the residents of the estate, where they are encouraged to leave their items for disposal to be collected by Serco on a once weekly collection. Any items left dumped across the wider estate will also be moved to this point by the caretaking team for Serco to collect as arranged.

Officers recognised that this area has become an eyesore, and working with the resident representatives have put forward an improvement funding bid for consideration by the new resident led ‘Investment Panel’ which is due to meet in June. The panel will be presented with plans for improvement to this area along with other estates’ improvement bids. We anticipate the panel will approve this bid, and that a small enclosure will be constructed there later this year to contain the items.

In the interim, the caretaking team is aware of the need to keep the bulk within the area organised and tidy to improve the look of the area, and discourage flytipping.

We will update the resident group on the outcome of their bid once the panel has completed the award process.

We will carry out a borough wide programme of re-signing open space with legally enforceable warning signs once the way forward has been agreed on housing’s enforcement strategy which is currently under review.

We hope this answers your enquiry. Should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely,

Sharon Schaaf

Head of Estate Services

Housing Services

Housing Department

That’s all well and good. But now let’s see some action.

Cllr Joe Carlebach: VE Day – our “forgotten” allies

A guest post from Cllr Joe Carlebach

I have been watching the various VE day celebrations around the UK with mixed emotions: pride at a hard fought victory over a great evil overlaid with the burden of sorrow, remembering all the lost lives and the sacrifices of our armed forces and civilian population.

Tomb of the unknown soldier in Moscow which contains the remains of the unknown soldiers, killed in the Battle of Moscow in 1941.

Tomb of the unknown soldier in Moscow which contains the remains of the unknown
soldiers, killed in the Battle of Moscow in 1941.

My father fought in the Second World War and this experience had a huge impact on him throughout his life. I am sure this is true for all those who fought for our country and for our freedom. As the war impacted my father, so it has impacted me. It has taught me the importance of the sacrifices made and the hardships endured by all peoples subjected to the horrors and oppression of the Axis powers. The cost of WW2 on ordinary people is so immense it is almost impossible to comprehend. It is thought that approximately 60 million people died in the conflict, many of them innocent civilians. That is about 3% of the world’s population in 1939.

It is with regret that I note the almost total absence of any mention of the Russian people from the commemorative events held here over the last few days. They paid a huge price in helping to defeat Nazi Germany and safeguarding our freedom and liberty.

It is estimated that the Russian people suffered between 23 million to 27 million military and civilian casualties. Whatever the actual number was is almost irrelevant as the vastness of the loss dwarfs any sense of real understanding.

We should never forget the many hardships endured and the sacrifices made by ordinary Russian soldiers and civilians fighting the Nazi’s. It is accepted that the war would have taken an eternity to end without the efforts of the Red Army and the Russian people.

As Churchill said in the Commons on 2nd August 1944 “I have left the obvious, essential fact to this point, namely, that it is the Russian Armies who have done the main work in tearing the guts out of the German army. In the air and on the oceans we could maintain our place, but there was no force in the world which could have been called into being, except after several more years, that would have been able to maul and break the German army unless it had been subjected to the terrible slaughter and manhandling that has fallen to it through the strength of the Russian Soviet Armies.”

Of course one should absolutely question many of the actions and motives of Stalin and the Soviet leadership and indeed the brutal way Eastern Europe was subjugated by the Soviet regime from 1945 to the fall of the Berlin Wall. However this should not colour our view of the painful losses suffered by ordinary Russians.

There is also the matter of the many brave British servicemen many of whom lost their lives on the Arctic convoys supplying our Russian allies. They fought in the most difficult of circumstances enduring numerous fierce German attacks and extreme weather. As the Telegraph reported in September 2011 on the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the Arctic convoys “In all, 101 ships were sunk, and some 3,000 Merchant Navy and Royal Navy seamen were killed by explosions, fires and freezing water.”

In West London, we have a thriving Russian community consisting of many hard working men and women (very few of whom are billionaires, contrary to popular belief). I can not help wondering what they are making of this. Our differences with modern Russia may be many and substantive but we should not let these cloud our memory or distort history.

We should salute the fallen Russians of WW2, be eternally grateful for their sacrifice and always honor their memory.

Richard Owen: Let’s not have tarmac bases to our street trees

Goldhawk Road new treesA guest post by Richard Owen

Some birch saplings have just been planted on Goldhawk Road as part of the ongoing and sorely needed improvement works – see above right.

Unfortunately H&F are still determined to use enormous patches of black tarmac to cap off the tree bases, instead of a traditional hoggin.

camden high streetEven bonded resin would be wrong – it soon gets dirty and looks cheap and synthetic. All other other serious inner London boroughs, including the Democratic Republic of Camden, use traditional hoggin around street trees, even in busy areas.

Camden High Street’s recent re-model for example, in a busy and quite boisterous part of town. See below right – there is the inevitable chewing gum and spilled drink, but the hoggin can be brushed up very easily and really adds to the pallette.

How do we get council officers to raise the standard to a level appropriate for this great city?