Selling council assets can also mean dealing with eyesores

IMG_6617The financial case for disposing of council assets is easy to understand. According to the Council’s Statement of Accounts we spent £15.92 million on interest payments on debt in 2014/15 with debt of £232 million. Most of that is for the Housing Revenue Account – meaning that millions a year in rent and leaseholder charges is swallowed up in interest payments.

There is also £66 million of General Fund debt with a £2.2 million bill for interest. To put this in context the total revenue from Council Tax is £52.5 million.

But there is also economic and environmental case not to have unused – or underused – council buildings and land sitting idle as eyesores.

For example there is an extraordinarily large single space, with a high roof, and according to LBHF assets list, about 910 square metres behind 50 Ravenscourt Gardens.

Tim Harvey, the chairman of Ravenscourt Gardens Residents asks:

“Are there, or could there be, any plans to restore 50 Ravenscourt Gardens to its former glory as part of any redevelopment of the store? As a result of this historic vandalism the house is in a very sorry state and is a blight on the Grade II-listed street scape as a whole.”

Nigel Brown, Head of Asset Strategy and Portfolio Management, responds:

“There are no current plans to dispose of Ravenscourt Stores. Building Property Management has been tasked by Councillor Schmid to undertake asset reviews of all its assets by late summer. Asset reviews are part of LBHF Asset Management Plan.”

I will let you know when I have more news.

Labour MP’s shock attack on “Toxic Tessa”

Tessa_JowellAndrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, has made an astonishing attack on Dame Tessa Jowell, the front runner to be the Labour candidate for Mayor of London. He says she is unelectable given her support for a third runway at Heathrow.

Mr Slaughter says:

“Heathrow expansion is a politically toxic issue. Any Labour candidate for Mayor standing for office on the ticket of an extra runway at Heathrow would lose the support of swathes of voters in West London. I can’t see how they could beat a Tory candidate opposed to Heathrow expansion.”

There are a couple of problems. First of all Mr Slaughter’s preference is for his fellow lawyer Sadiq Khan. But Mr Khan has been completely duplicitous on the issue.

Another difficulty is that Mr Slaughter has failed to convince most of the local Labour councillors in the borough. Of the 26 Labour councillors so far 16 have signed up for Toxic Tessa.

They are:

  1. Lisa Homan
  2. Sue Macmillan
  3. Max Schmid
  4. Andrew Jones
  5. Larry Culhane 
  6. Daryl Brown
  7. P.J. Murphy
  8. Vivienne Lukey 
  9. Sharon Holder 
  10. Alan De’Ath 
  11. Ben Coleman
  12. Elaine Chumnery
  13. Caroline Needham
  14. Adam Connell 
  15. Sue Fennimore
  16. Stephen Cowan

Just how serious is Labour in Hammersmith and Fulham to opposing a third runway? They seem to be at each other’s throats.



Proposal to reopen Ravenscourt Park Hospital

ravenscourtparkhospTim Harvey the Chairman of the Ravenscourt Gardens Residents has made the following query with me about Ravenscourt Park Hospital:

“As you know this has now been empty for some years. Is the planning consent for conversion to a specialist cancer centre still valid – by now it may well have expired? As the years tick by it would seem that the possibility of converting this beautiful Grade II* building to a modern facility gets more and more remote. On costs, the last I heard it was £100m, with no takers. What powers do the council have to force the issue here, or even to reconsider its use, with reference to its sister building Ashlar Court, for instance?

Under a general heading of ‘regeneration’ isn’t it time that something creative was done to this huge building and very large area of the RP ward?

The buildings behind the hospital in the roadway between Ravenscourt Gardens and Ravenscourt Square continue to be a particularly squalid part of our conservation area. The Chiswick Nursing Centre have now been forced to lay huge concrete blocks on the pavement alongside the very dilapidated boiler house to prevent illegal parking and flytipping. It is a really horrible area, and we tend to avoid it at all times, especially at night.”

The Council has responded as follows:

“With regards to Ravenscourt Park Hospital, we have been advised that negotiations with a new investor and operator that runs a number of hospitals are at an advanced stage, in fact heads of terms have been exchanged. The agents are of the opinion that works were carried out on site to implement the earlier planning permission and they hope to be on site in the near future to complete the development. They have advised us that some minor alterations (mainly internal) may be required to the planning permission, and these would be part of a further planning application in due course.”

So good news.

Although I will still pursue Tim’s point about the dilapidated old boiler house and surrounding area.

20 mph zones slow down buses by 10%

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is proposing putting all roads under a 20 mph speed limit.

What would be the impact on bus journey times?

Transport for London tells me:

The potential impacts on bus passenger journey times of wide-scale introduction of 20 mph zones will be lowest during the daytime (where average speeds are slowest, at around 9mph). 80% of daily weekday journeys occur between 0700-1900, where the additional journey time on the average journey (with a length of 3.5km) will be of the order of magnitude of 5-10 seconds. Evening and night times have higher average speeds (around 12-14mph), with additional journey time on the average journey of the order of magnitude of up to 45-60 seconds.

So if you were going by bus in the evening the average journey is a couple of miles and takes 10 minutes. The 20mph zone would mean it would take 10% longer.

That might not sound much but given the busy leads we leave would be a source of frustration. There is also the damaging impact on air quality of having the buses crawling along more slowly.

It could also have a perverse impact of making bus travel less attractive compared to driving. This is because TfL claim that they would ensure bus drivers would follow the new requirement:

“Bus operators must ensure their drivers adhere to speed limits and schedule services accordingly.”

By contrast the police have made very clear that they would not enforce the new 20 mph limit. So in practice the new limit would be ignored by private motorists but, according to TfL, followed by bus drivers.

Therefore someone wishing to get from A to B as quickly as possible would be less likely to take the bus and more likely to drive.

Sadiq Khan challenged over duplicity on Heathrow third runway

There was a hustings this week. David Lammy made clear he was not convinced by his fellow Labour MP Sadiq Khan sudden claim to be opposed to the third runway at Heathrow. (About 1 hr 23 mins in.)

“We should not play politics with this issue. Sadiq was for Heathrow expansion in 2008. He was for it when he was Transport Secretary in 2009. He was for it on the Sunday Politics just a few months ago. Zac Goldsmith announces he running and suddenly Sadiq is against it.

“I think it’s important to be straight with people. To be honest with people. And not be playing the same Ed Miliband politics that got us nowhere.”