Residents reject 20mph borough wide speed limit – but will the Council listen?

20mphA consultation on a proposal by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to introduce a borough-wide 20mph speed limit has been rejected by residents. 45 per cent backed it with 55 per cent opposed. There were 5,287 responses which is a relatively high turnout.

Cllr Steve Hamilton set out the reasons for the Conservative Group’s opposition here.

Local resident Brian Mooney campaigned against the plan. He gave his reasons here and here. The taxi drivers warned against it.

The police have made clear they would not enforce the limit so car drivers could ignore it although TfL claim bus drivers would follow it meaning further delays in public transport.

If the council was to enforce the speed limit by placing humps throughout the borough (at phenomenal expense) that would cost more lives than it would save due to the adverse impact on ambulance response times and air quality.

Also nearly twice as many residents responding to the consultation specified they were against humps – 922 – as those who supported them, just over 500.

These results need to be considered in the context of a huge propaganda drive by the Council seeking to persuade people to back their barmy plans.

So will Labour listen to residents? Or carry on regardless with their flawed scheme? Astonishingly they seem inclined to proceed. They could point out it was in their manifesto. That document did indeed call for a 20 mph speed limit throughout the borough except trunk roads (the A4 and the A40). However their claim that they have a mandate as a result would count for rather more if they had circulated their manifesto before the council elections, held on May 22nd last year, took place. Rather unusually it was a post-election manifesto.

 

Labour abandon their threat to weekly bin collections in H&F

Last week Cllr Greg Smith reported on a Hammersmith and Fulham consultation on scrapping weekly dustbin collections.

The consultation said of waste collections:

“It is evident that with the financial reductions that are due over the next few years, there will be a further challenge to maintain services.”

Now the council has retreated after an outcry from local residents. In a statement it has “reaffirmed” it will maintain weekly bin collections.

That is good news. But the Council’s claim that it never contemplated abandoning weekly bin collections is not plausible. Otherwise why on Earth would they have consulted on the proposal in the first place?

This duplicitous conduct is no way to treat residents – who have already suffered from a disgraceful deterioration in street cleaning. The Council should just admit that they made a mistake and accept that their proposal was unacceptable.

Congratulations are due to Cllr Charlie Dewhirst on his hard work alerting residents associations to the consultation – a document the Council had proved curiously reluctant to publicise.

 

Cllr Joe Carlebach: Why I wear my Poppy with pride

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach is a councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward

As we approach Remembrance Sunday and the 11th November I am increasingly saddened by the number of people I see around and about not wearing Poppies. This includes on television and in many public environments.

For me the wearing of a poppy is a sign of remembrance for the hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth service men and women who have laid down their lives for their country or who have been wounded and harmed fighting for us. I do not want to establish a ‘poppy police’ in any way but I do want to see poppies extensively warn as an act of free will, of respect, honor and of remembrance.

Wearing a poppy does not glorify war as some claim, it is in fact exactly the opposite. Remembering the fallen and the wounded is in many ways the best antidote to the glorification of war as it holds true the stark reality and the human cost of conflict.

What ever your perspective on war one thing we should never do is judge the people who fought and died for us. Members of our armed forces both current and past carry out the will of our elected representatives. They have little choice in what they do and certainly they do not get to choose which wars to fight and die in.

There is still a debate raging over the ‘just’ cause of the First World War and the ‘dangers’ of commemorating this conflict. To those who perpetuate this argument I say again that the act of Remembrance is all about honoring our fallen not the merits of any particular conflict.

Both the First and Second World Wars resulted in huge numbers of British and Commonwealth casualties, approximately 1,700,000 dead with many wounded and permanently scarred. These numbers are so vast it is hard to comprehend. There are also the numerous conflicts we have sent our service personnel to fight in since May 1945 with all the resultant casualties  including the recent and ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We must never forget that these ‘numbers’ represent ordinary men and women, brothers, fathers, sisters, daughters and sons. The loss for their families was and is heart breaking and devastating as it should be for all of us.I for one will be eternally grateful for their sacrifice and I would argue that we as a nation, united, should be too.

I have done my best to impart this to my three young children. My eldest daughter (now 10) wears my late father’s World War 2 campaign medals on Remembrance Sunday to the wreath laying at our local war memorial. She has done so since she was 5. I want all my children and the children of our nation irrespective of their background to grow up remembering, an ambition I am struggling to see fulfilled.

By all means question the rights and wrongs of armed conflict: this is a hard won privilege that we take all too easily for granted living in a thriving democracy. Feel free to criticise those politicians who through the ages have committed our soldiers, sailors and airmen into harm’s way. However please, please do not forget or question the fallen or their sacrifice and always wear your poppy with pride.

Endless delays to park improvements

ravenscourtparkcafThere has been lots of construction work under way recently around Ravenscourt Park – and in the borough generally. I have mixed feelings about it. It is good that new homes are being built but very unfortunate that they should be so needlessly ugly. Part of the deal with these property developments is supposed to be Section 106 money – the property companies hand over cash to the council for specific local improvements.

The trouble is the money is not always effectively spent. Also sometimes it takes ages for it to be spent at all.

Take the money from the 282-292 Goldhawk Road.

Last December the Friends of Ravenscourt Park wrote saying:

We met last week with Peter Kemp, Planning Change Manager for LBHF, and he told us the working party led by Cllrs Cowan, Schmidt and Young are about to make decisions on the use of Section 106 monies for the improvement of Ravenscourt Park and other local amenities. 

He also told us that First Base, the developers of 282292 Goldhawk Road site, have transferred the £75,000 designated for parks and open spaces, and another £3,600 allotted for trees.

There is general support  from both our groups as well as from other local amenity societies and from the Askew Business Network for an improved northern entrance (ie from Goldhawk Road) to Ravenscourt Park. Recent Green Flag judges have remarked on its uncared-for and unwelcoming appearance. As well as these considerations, the overhanging trees and shrubs form a dark corridor that can make park users feel unsafe.  

We would also welcome improvements to refresh the appearance of Starch Green, but we realise £75,000 will not stretch far unless funds from other local developments can be accessed as well (ie both the Linden Homes developments and the Royal College of Music development), so we list here what residents would like to see in order of priority.

Entrance to Ravenscourt Park 

  • Significant tree surgery to reduce both the height and crowns of the holly and other trees along the path;
  • Planting of shade and dry-tolerant plants under the holly trees, with proper preparation of the impacted and neglected soil. Edging should be added in order to create  a looked-after border that would discourage littering and fouling;
  • A new gate which celebrates the entrance to the Park, set back from Goldhawk Road in a shallow curve of railings;
  • New railings along the section of the path by the dog area – this now has chain-link fencing, to present a unified and dignified entry to Hammersmith’s flagship park.

Ashchurch Park Villas

  • Replace the hornbeam at the top of the street (near the junction with Goldhawk Rd) with a mature tree better suited to the space left after the development’s completion. 

Starch Green

  • Plant additional slender trees with high crowns at the east edge of Starch Green, as this area is very open to the noise and traffic pollution of Askew Road and the roundabout;
  • Remove the birch tree with a broken crown from the grassed area of the Green;
  • Replace the broken and defective railings surrounding the Green;
  • Make the wonderful Plane Tree a focal point by clearing away clutter around it, including the clothes and glass recycling bins to the Askew Road end; 
  • Replace the brick planters with low level planting in a shape that focuses attention on the Plane Tree;
  • Replace the circular seat which used to surround the Plane Tree.

These ideas have been extensively discussed with our members and with other amenity groups, and we would welcome your support for them.

Pretty serious detailed proposals. It seems to me they would deliver very effective value for money. Of course there will always be competing claims. I’m concerned about drainage. The Friends of Ravenscourt Park have also expressed dismay at the stench in the lavatories.

So Cllr Wesley Harcourt, the Council’s Cabinet Member responsible, would be entitled to implement the Friends proposals in full, or decide to vary them or to reject them entirely and spend the money differently on other things he regarded as greater priorities. What is unacceptable is the endless dithering.

The money’s been sitting in the Council’s bank account since May 20th. Long before that they knew it was coming. Yet they are just letting the whole thing drift.

Peter Kemp the Planning Change Manager says:

“Members of the administration are aware of the request from the resident group to spend money on this project. Members are currently working through the requests from resident groups for spend, from Section 106 agreements.  We will advise you of the outcome of this request in due course.”

Meanwhile the seasons change, the years go by and our children grow into adults. The council should get on with it. At present the its planning process lacks proper accountability to local residents.

An update on the King Street regeneration scheme

king_street_12I have been asked for an update on the “King Street Regeneration” scheme. It is an ugly scheme – although nothing could be more ugly than the existing town hall extension. The very popular local cinema will go. However unlike an earlier version is does not include two 14 storey blocks of flats – that would have been equivalent in scale to two more Premier Inns.

Anyway here is the response I have had.

 Dear Councillor Phibbs,

Thank you for your email of 29 October 2015 concerning the King Street redevelopment.

The application site includes the Town Hall and Town Hall extension; 18-187 King Street; the Cineworld Cinema building (corner of King Street and Nigel Playfair Avenue); the Council owned car park to the rear of the cinema building; and the Friend’s Meeting House and Council Registry Office buildings, at the southern (A4) end of the car park). Unlike the previous, larger scheme it does not the Cromwell Avenue flats owned by the Thomas Pocklington Trust.

The approved redevelopment does involve the demolition of the existing Cineworld building at 207-209 King Street, to be replaced by a new building comprising a retail unit at ground floor level (approximately 478 sqm), fronting onto King Street, together with the entrance/reception for the new civic offices proposed on the upper floors. The remaining land on the west side of Nigel Playfair Avenue (the car park, Registry Office and Friends Meeting House) would be redeveloped for residential purposes. There would be additional residential accommodation within the re-clad/re-modelled Town Hall Extension, and on the upper floors of the new building proposed at 181-187 King Street (a new retail/restaurant unit is proposed at ground floor level). The development would provide a total of 196 new residential units.

In addition to the residential and retail uses outlined above the proposed development also includes a new cinema at ground/first floor level in the re-modelled Town Hall Extension building (in what is currently the open, double-height under croft area below the existing offices). The cinema would comprise three auditoria with a total of 250 seats, together with ancillary space on part of the ground floor where people can gather to collect tickets, buy drinks etc prior to screenings. The amount of leisure space proposed is 1,052sqm.

The developers (KSD) have now bought the Cineworld building and are in the process acquiring the remaining third party land (Hammersmith Friends Meeting House) to  complete the site assembly and allow for the commencement of the development. The planning permission includes a number of conditions that require the submission and approval of additional details/information prior to the commencement of the development, and the applications to discharge these conditions are expected to be submitted by the end of this year. The developers are also in discussions with officers about some minor alterations that they are considering to the first phase of the development, namely the residential element on the west side of Nigel Playfair Avenue.

The latest information that I have from the developers is that they are unlikely to be starting on site until March 2016, at the earliest.

I hope that this information is helpful.

Kind regards,

Ieuan Bellis
Team Leader
Planning Regeneration
Planning & Growth
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham

Cllr Greg Smith: Labour council threatens to end weekly bin collections in H&F

gregsmithCllr Greg Smith, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council, writes

Weekly bin collections are under threat in Hammersmith and Fulham after the Labour-run council launched a consultation into reducing refuse collections and street cleaning.

The consultation has been quietly uploaded onto the council’s website but no additional effort has been made to increase awareness of the plans among local residents. The council’s own papers relating to the consultation state: “It is evident that with the financial reductions that are due over the next few years, there will be a further challenge to maintain services.”

The local Conservatives are extremely concerned that the council has already made up its mind and will push ahead with plans to reduce bin collections and street cleaning in an attempt to save money.

Residents are already angry about the decline in street cleanliness in H&F – fly-tipping is rife and many roads are extremely untidy. Now we find out that the council is consulting on removing weekly bins collections in one of the most densely populated parts of London. The consequences would be dire with piles of stinking rubbish attracting rats, foxes and disease.

It is a core function of a council to collect rubbish and clean the streets and they should be looking to improve the service, not reduce it. The Conservatives will stand up for local residents and fight these plans every step of the way. I urge everyone to sign our online petition so we can demonstrate the strength of feeling to the local Labour council.

Labour press on with plans to abolish council housing in Hammersmith and Fulham

rescommAfter some delay the Hammersmith and Fulham Residents Commission  launched their proposals last night – with much approving nodding from the Labour councillors present – to abolish council housing in the borough.

Their plan is for a stock transfer to a “community gateway” (a new housing association). It would be irreversible. Originally that was the whole point. Labour’s idea was to permanently block estate redevelopment – regardless of the outcome of future council elections. Not a very democratic approach, but they were quite brazen about that being their motive.

When Labour previously ran the Council they had an earlier wheeze of setting up an ALMO – an “arms length management organisation” to run council housing. It was a failure. While there were tenant and leasehold reps on the board, along with some councillor and council appointees, we were ignored. Few evenings in my life can have been spent less productively. Decisions would be made but nothing would change. Levers would be pulled but they turned out to be disconnected to the machinery. Accountability was removed from councillors – but not really given to anyone else. Regime change followed a failed Audit Commission inspection and eventually the council housing came back in house.

However at least with the ALMO it was possible for the process to be reversed. This was because the management was handed over but the ownership remained with the Council. A “community gateway” would not just be for Christmas but for life.

To use an analogy about our currency joining the ALMO was equivalent to joining the ERM, joining the Community Gateway would be like abolishing the pound and joining the Euro. As William Hague vividly put it – “a burning building with no exits.”

What if the Community Gateway failed to deliver on all the promises? What if, for instance, the Community Gateway merged with a bigger housing association after some years? All the talk about resident power would prove to be just froth.

There are concerns about the process for making the initial decision. There would be a ballot to ratify any transfer – but there is no guarantee that the leaseholders would get a vote.

A former Labour MP was paid to run the Commission. That was hardly reassuring as regards objectivity and impartiality.

Furthermore the scrutiny process at last night’s meeting was a farce. Officially the event was a meeting of the Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee. Yet the report had no been circulated before hand. It will go to the Council’s Cabinet without scrutiny.

Given the context that is unbelievable. It Commission’s report cost the Council a staggering £1.5 million.

Scrutiny is also a considerable Council expense. The “Governance and Scrutiny” department employs 10.6 full time equivalents. It has an annual budget of £486,100. That a hefty sum from the Council Taxpayer’s pockets each year and shows what nonsense it is when the Council whines about being strapped for cash.

On top of this Labour councillors who chair the committees are paid extra councillor allowances.

The Children and Education Policy and Accountability Committee is chaired by Cllr Caroline Needham.

The Community Safety, Environment and Residents Services Policy and Accountability Committee is chaired by Cllr Larry Culhane.

The Economic Regeneration, Housing and the Arts Policy and Accountability Committee (the one that nominally met last night) is chaired by Cllr Alan De’ath.

The Finance & Delivery Policy & Accountability Committee is chaired by Cllr PJ Murphy.

The Health, Adult Social Care and Social Inclusion Policy and Accountability Committee is chaired by Cllr Rory Vaughan.

Each committee meets half a dozen times a year for an hour or two. For agreeing to chair these meetings each of the councillors gets an extra £5,000 a year. So £833.33p a meeting. A staggering large sum for so little work.

To be fair I suspect at least some of them have the odd pang of conscience. They probably set out on the foray into local democracy with a different ideal of public service. I wonder if they sometimes have the decency to wince at their payslips?

Still that pushes the scrutiny bill to over half a million a year.

It’s actually worse than that as the money (our money) for those “special responsibilty” allowances is handed out by the council leader. So it is a system of patronage. Thus any of above named scrutiny supremos who actually asked any awkward questions and did any real scrutiny would face losing £5,000 a year – as one of their less troublesome colleagues was found to take on their onerous duties instead. Thus it is not just poor value for money. It is negative value. It is spending which diminishes the amount of scrutiny that would otherwise occur.

Whatever your view of stock transfer, the abolition of council housing in the borough would be the most momentous decision the Council has taken this century. The complete impossibility of giving it any serious examination last night was a most spectacular abdication of proper process – even in the context described above of the Council’s dysfunctional rotten scrutiny process.

Now the good news. Support for estate redevelopment, as a means to provide new homes and better homes on the estate concerned – and also revenue to improve social housing elsewhere in the borough – has become bipartisan.

The Commission’s proposal is that 500 new homes would be guaranteed by the Community Gateway. There would be existing homes demolished to allow the space for this net increase. It would be a legal requirement for the new entity and a financial necessity. It would be in terms agreed to secure a debt write off from central government. It would be controversial. There would be compulsory purchase. Whatever the deal on offer not everyone would want their existing homes bulldozed. Yet under the Labour plan, bulldozed they would be.

Now I think that if estate redevelopment involved an end to desolate concrete blocks and the replacement with beautiful housing where the traditional street patterns were restored then most residents could be persuaded it was worth the disruption and uncertainty. The swapping of new tower blocks or slab blocks for old is not good enough. New housing doesn’t need to be ugly. High density need not mean high rise.

But what a brazen Labour u-turn. For years their canvassers have been scaremongering about estate redevelopment – with false claims that tenants would be out on the street or rehoused in Barking and Dagenham. Now they say it is fine to knock down the homes provided it is not the wicked Tories doing it. The demolition would be carried with Community Gateway wrecking balls as the Labour councillors looked on with self righteousness undimmed.

There is no magic money tree – whether the housing stock remains council owned or is handed over to a housing association. Estates are going to be redeveloped. The Conservatives are open and consistent about it. Labour are muddled and duplicitous. But it now seems to be accepted that it will happen.

The issue is how it will happen. It is a matter of democratic accountability. My inbox provides reminders on a daily basis that Hammersmith and Fulham Council is a bad landlord. It also provides plenty of complaints about the similar deficiencies of housing associations. The difference is that as a councillor I can do so rather more about the former than the latter.

Stock transfer would not solve any of the problems that would have to be faced. But it would mean is that those dealing with the problems would have synthetic rather than genuine accountability to residents.

 

 

Cllr Caroline ffiske: Update on Olympia traffic problems

ffiskeCllr Caroline ffiske writes

Here is an update from Council Officers on the Council’s work to solve the traffic problems around Olympia.  This is taken directly from an email providing the update.  All comments please send to carolineffiske@gmail.com and I will forward to the relevant council officers.

Olympia

Following the meeting that was held on 15th October 2015 Olympia have indicated that they are making some immediate changes to their event procedures. Officers were of the view that these changes would produce some immediate improvements in particular to the traffic congestion in the surrounding area.

ACTIONS: Both Highways and Environmental Health will be regularly visiting the venue in the lead up to Christmas to monitor traffic management.

 

Olympia Way

Olympia Way is not public highway and residents may not be fully aware of this because there are no road barriers to suggest that it is private land. This does mean that the Council has no powers to enforce against parked or waiting vehicles on Olympia Way and the owners are required to take their own measures in relation to enforcement as the usual legislation that we rely on does not apply. Olympia are legally entitled to close Olympia Way although as far as we are aware this does not occur regularly. They have agreed to explore the redevelopment of Olympia Way to facilitate vehicle holds and ongoing discussions will be held on this.

ACTIONS: Officers and Olympia will resurrect efforts with TFL to increase the opening of the district line to Olympia for large events as that would ease traffic congestion.

 

Council records

Across all of the service areas there have been relatively few recorded complaints about issues at Olympia. However, we will continue to collate our records so that we have a clearer picture of any long term trends. We are also exchanging information between Council departments so that all officers concerned are aware of the wider issues. Over the next few weeks we are compiling data every Monday, Thursday and Friday around the area.

Environmental Health

ACTIONS: Officers are carrying out an in depth review of Olympia’s risk assessments to ensure they are fit for purpose and that they are being implemented correctly. In particular they will be examining the arrangements for stewarding and for the vehicle – pedestrian segregation on site for small, medium and large events.

 

Highways

Six additional events per year will require the one way system to be put in place in addition to the London International Horse Show. The one way system has historically worked well when used for this Horse Show event and it was on this basis that it was rolled out to accommodate the additional events.  The one way system is able to be introduced through the implementation of a Temporary Traffic Management Order (TMO) which allows sections of Blythe Road and Maclise Road to be made one way and for waiting restrictions in other nearby roads to be amended. The TMO provides flexibility in terms of how the one way system is managed. It does not require the one way system to be put in place for the full duration of the additional events. Officers have already discussed with Olympia the need to only implement the one way system on targeted dates rather than the entire license period of the events. Olympia has agreed to take the TMO down when not in use and only deploy it when necessary.

ACTIONS: Officers will review whether these arrangements are fit for purpose. It is important to monitor the arrangements so as to establish whether it is a deficiency in the TMO or  whether it is the implementation of the TMO by Olympia and their management arrangements in particular of the traffic intake. The TMO expires on 31 December 2015 and Officers will be reviewing whether additional elements need to be included before drafting a new TMO to cover the following calendar year’s list of events. They will also continue to work with Olympia to reduce the amount of time the one way system is in place for events.

ACTIONS: A review of the traffic calming arrangements in the Blythe Road area is included in the Council’s transport Local Implementation Plan for 2016/17.

Parking

The Highways Team will be conducting a parking consultation with the two CPZ immediately to the North and South of Olympia respectively. This consultation will be going live on the 2nd November 2015. The consultation covers the introduction of weekend controls in the two zones.

Olympia have indicated they are prepared to help with the cost of enforcement officers and this will be explored further.

Officers will also be reviewing the waiting and loading restrictions on Maclise Road and Blythe Road as part of a current programme this year to review amendments to signs and lines in the area.

ACTIONS: The parking consultation will provide important feedback on the wishes of the population of that area and officers will review the results and present recommendations to the Cabinet Member.

 

General

Extra CCTV cameras may be able to be added to the Hammersmith Road stretch where there are currently none as works on this road will take place early in 2016. This would enable the Council to monitor traffic levels and congestion along Hammersmith Road more closely and to engage with Olympia in real time to implement suitable mitigation measures.

The general traffic access and egress around Olympia is limited and changes to the restrictions on movements at certain junctions would compromise safety and adversely affect traffic flows along key strategic routes.  Transport for London are responsible for all traffic lights so any traffic layout options would be a decision for them to make.

 

Conclusion

Officers from all service areas were in agreement that there is room for improvement in respect of the way the event is being run by Olympia, and immediate improvements have been identified. Through officers monitoring visits over the next few months we will be able to assess whether Olympia are capable of achieving and maintaining something that is satisfactory. Active dialogue will continue with the venue management.