Wendell Park School opens Farmers Market to raise funds for a new playground

A great initiative from Wendell Park Primary School in Cobbold Road in Shepherd’s Bush. They have opened their school on Sundays to a new farmers market to raise funds for a new playground. It is run by City and Country Farmers.

Open from 10am to 3pm every Sunday, is a wide variety of great local produce on offer – plus hot food, refreshments, handmade crafts and community stalls. You can buy squirrel – working out how to cook it is another matter.

It’s already thriving.


The big Mayoral election issue being missed – Zac Goldsmith would create streets not tower blocks

zacgoldtwoVarious people have said they find it hard to distinguish between the policies of Said Khan and Zac Goldsmith and that therefor the Mayoral election is more about which individual has the best character and judgment. Well I was on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Friday and I was able to mention very briefly what is an important distinction that has been generally overlooked.

Zac Goldsmith would not only seek to get new homes built bit for them to be beautiful. This is actually crucial to getting the numbers we need built because this is the way to make it popular – whether in redeveloping estates or building on derelict (often state owned) land. We turn Nimbys into Bimbys – Beauty In My Back Yard.

streetIn recent decades new has meant ugly. For example more tower blocks and slab blocks have been inflicted on the capital. But this is not inevitable. Create Streets has argued higher density can be achieved with attractive traditional normal housing and restoring the old street patterns.

Zac’s Manifesto said:

“As the organisation Create Streets has argued, the complex planning system in London has created ugly blocks designed by committee rather than the human-scale streets for which there is greater popular demand. New Victorian terraced houses and red-brick Edwardian apartment blocks are difficult to build under modern planning law – even though these are not only popular but extremely high density, providing up to 75 per cent more homes than the poorly-spaced concrete tower blocks which dominate so much of London.

“For example, the London Plan requirement that every single home has 5m2 of private outdoor space has led to tiny flats having tiny balconies – when instead a developer could have made that flat bigger and put a garden square in the centre of the development instead. Rules regarding ‘over-looking’ – how close a window is to a street or another building – are broken by existing terraced homes to no complaint from city dwellers but are seen as cast iron requirements for new build boxes. The collective impact of many of these small and well-intentioned rules is that London is seeing less of the homes Londoners actually want to live in.

“So, as Mayor, I will challenge the raft of planning rules which prevent us building what we want and what we need. I will run a competition for a set of ‘New Homes for London’, consulting widely with Londoners to determine which housing styles are most popular. I will then work with Government and local councils to remove unnecessary restrictions on these types of homes. In particular, I will ask London’s top architects to help create a modern Edwardian red-brick block – an extremely popular type of mid-rise home which could be re-engineered for the modern age.”

Most Londoners may not realise it but how they vote on May 5th will make a big difference to what London will look like in the decades to come.

Homeowners in H&F renting out driveways as parking spaces for £12 a day

Justpark_LogoA guest post from Sam Mellor of JustPark

New stats show that Hammersmith & Fulham homeowners have now made over £575,000 by renting out their private driveways online.

A growing number of Hammersmith & Fulham residents are advertising their spare parking spaces on website JustPark, with over 40% more using the scheme to make extra income now as there were 12 months ago  taking the
total in the borough to over 200 rentable spaces.

Local homeowners are charging an average of £12 per day for drivers to park in their space, but those living closer to local amenities such as Stamford Bridge, Fulham Broadway and Imperial Wharf stations are making considerably more – charging up to £40 per day.

The number of driveway bookings in Hammersmith and Fulham has also grown considerably in the last 12 months – increasing by over 60%, as driveway rental becomes more and more popular as a cheaper alternative to overpriced public car parking.

From April 2017, homeowners will also pay no tax on earnings made through JustPark – up to £1,000 per year – thanks to the new ‘sharing economy’ tax breaks for property-related income announced in George Osborne’s most recent Budget in March.

JustPark founder Anthony Eskinazi said:

“It’s really encouraging to see the government supporting micro-entrepreneurs with this new legislation. These families and individuals are resourceful enough to be making a bit of extra money from their property, and are offering an important service at the same time – in this case, cheaper parking for drivers in Hammersmith and Fulham.”

“By unlocking these spaces that are otherwise underused – and allowing people to reserve them online, usually at a much reduced rate – JustPark is saving drivers money and putting it back into the pockets of local residents.”

It also eases congestion. According to IBM:

“In addition to the typical traffic congestion caused by daily commutes and gridlock from construction and accidents, reports have estimated that over 30 percent of traffic in a city is caused by drivers searching for a parking spot. Not only do inefficient parking systems result in congestion and increased carbon emissions, they also waste commuters’ time, lead to lost productivity and economic opportunities and can lead to inefficient city services.”

Homeowners and drivers in Hammersmith and Fulham can view the going rates for a local driveway space here:  And, to see how much your empty driveway could be worth, check out JustPark’s rental price guide here.

Sad farewell to King Street cinema

I sorry that the art deco cinema in King Street next to the town hall has closed. It dates back to the 1930s. Labour promised to “stop” the redevelopment scheme.

But as Cllr Greg Smith said to the Council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan:

“You used to claim that the new Town Hall offices were “unnecessary” and made the unequivocal manifesto commitment that, and I quote, “we will stop this”. Are the offices going ahead? They are. Let’s pause and reflect on that for a moment: the man who claims he was paid to train people in negotiating skills, and brags about his prowess with developers, has failed to negotiate with… himself.”

You can spot the cinema in this British Pathe newsreel about a minute in.


Smoke, mirrors and Hammersmith and Fulham Council Section 106 payments

Since Labour took control of Hammersmith and Fulham Council they have made repeated claims about the vast sums of free and easy money they had taken from property developers in Section 106 money. The figures they have quoted have varied widely – but the normal message is that they just had to ask firmly and it was all meekly handed over.

Yet when it comes to providing the details they go oddly coy.

As Cllr Greg Smith, the Leader of the Conservative Group, said in a Council speech published on this blog last month last month:

“We’ve all heard the Leader’s boasts about how much “extra” he has brought in – £170 million was the claim at the last Full Council meeting. Although, as the papers state, the Council “currently holds £39.3m of funds [and] further receipts are expected”, but only when “approved developments proceed”.

“Your manifesto named three schemes that you were going to renegotiate: West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates; Shepherds Bush Market; and Queens Wharf.Which of those has actually been renegotiated? None of them.

“You also used to claim that the new Town Hall offices were “unnecessary” and made the unequivocal manifesto commitment that, and I quote, “we will stop this”. Are the offices going ahead? They are. Let’s pause and reflect on that for a moment: the man who claims he was paid to train people in negotiating skills, and brags about his prowess with developers, has failed to negotiate with… himself.

“So when he brags about £170 million that he’s personally secured, perhaps we should turn instead to page 23 of the budget report: “Outside investment secured (i.e. Section 106)” – £1.79 million. What’s two decimal points between friends?

“Now, he may say the money’s coming, but until he finally publishes a breakdown of schemes, the amounts, and the concessions he’s given on things like overage, it’s just like the rest of his claims. Absolutely worthless.”

My own efforts to get at the truth have been met with obfuscation and delay.

For instance a recent request for the information was met with the following from John Finlayson, the Head of Planning Regeneration:

“The renegotiations were subject of a detailed report to the Finance and Delivery Policy and Accountability Committee on the 30 June 2015.”

Yes, yes. We’ve all seen that report. It said:

“Renegotiations have also taken place on a number of land contracts. The detail is still confidential and will be made public in due course, except where the information remains exempt from disclosure as is standard practice with land sale transactions.”

So we have a Kafkaessque response where an answer to a question is a reference to a previous non answer to the same question. 10 months on and we are still told details will be available in “due course” while dubious totals are trumpeted by the Council’s spin machine.

If the Council genuinely believe they have secured a good deal in their renegotiations then what do they have to hide?

Labour’s claim to believe in transparency has been proven to be fraudulent. They have rejected a Conservative proposal to publish property developer viability proposal. They have refused to make available an audio record of planning committee meetings. They refuse to come clean on their informal meetings with property developer lobbyist Charlie Napier. Even the supposed “minutes” of meetings they do publish, such as those with Capco, turn out to be nothing of the kind.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Labour should be open with residents about what they are up to.

Blooming Bulbs are making Talgarth Road beautiful

Cllr Caroline ffiske writes:

Residents who live near the Talgarth Road may have noticed the new bulbs that stretch along the northern side of the road all the way from Barons Court to West Kensington.  Talgarth Road

There are 36,000 bulbs in total, of different varieties, and flowering at different times.  The first little yellow crocuses showed last month.

The bulbs are a happy result of a project that began last autumn.  Sean Adamson of Friends of Marcus Garvey Park told me about the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association who provide free bulbs to community groups in London.  I applied for some of these bulbs for Gwendwr Park and Gwendwr Rec.  When 1000 bulbs arrived in two very large boxes at my house I panicked a bit.   So I made contact with TfL to see if some could go on the Talgarth Road side of  Gwendwr Rec.

A happy contact that turned out to be.  TfL were also looking for suitable places to plant end-of-season bulbs that are provided at low cost by generous suppliers.  They did a recce and decided that the wide grassy strip would be perfect for …  36,000 bulbs…. generously provided by Lubbe & Sons, a very experienced Dutch company.  They planted them by machine in December.

The bulbs are now looking gorgeous.  And the nice thing is they will be there every spring for years to come. (Now for some summer wildflowers..)

Further decline in Meals on Wheels service in Hammersmith and Fulham

Hammersmith and Council has given great prominence in its public relations to reducing the charge for meals on wheels to £2 a meal down from £4.50. (The cost to the Council is £7 a meal). In heralding this change the Council has implied that many elderly people will benefit.

As so often the facts are rather different to the spin. There are 180,000 residents in this borough. The last census suggested that includes 7,000 lone pensioner households. In May 2014 there were 120 people who had meals on wheels delivered every day. It is now 70. So that’s one per cent of the lone pensioner households. Or 0.036 per cent of all borough residents.

In terms of the money the change is also pretty modest. A subsidy of £2.50 a day for 120 people cost £109,500 a year. A subsidy of £5 a day to 70 people costs £127,750. So the extra funding is £18,250. Frankly I suspect the Council spent more with all the special videos and glossy brochures boasting about how generous and caring it was being.

Anyway let us accept that this is a very small amount of extra spending to help a very small number of people. Furthermore that some of those 70 people will be wealthy and the financial saving of little consequence – the service is not means tested.

The question is why is the service in such rapid decline despite the increased subsidy. The explanation is that it doesn’t suit many people. Either the elderly are able to cook for themselves – at least on the modest scale of being able to use a microwave. Clearly that is an advantage for them to be able to choose what to eat and when to eat it – rather than something congealing on the way from Bagley’s Lane though the traffic jams. In any event they would not be eligible to receive meals on wheels.

On the other hand for those unable to cook, Meals on Wheels is really not enough. Most of the 70 recipients suffer from dementia. But usually for those in that condition it is better to have a carer cook for them and stay with them while they eat and drink.

Some others are mentally alert but unable to cook for themselves due to being physically incapacitated. Loneliness is often a terrible problem for them. Often by paying for a neighbour or voluntary organisation to provide their meals they can get rather more company than from the Meals on Wheels service.

Mike Boyle, the Director of Strategic Commissioning and Enterprise and Adult Social Care and Health, for Hammersmith and Fulham Council tells me:

“People can be offered a direct payment as an alternative for meals provision. The Direct Payment given is at the same gross unit cost rate as the commissioned meals, and the charge made to customers is the same charge as that for the commissioned home meals service. There is also provision in the home care contract for carers to prepare and cook meals when required.”

The upshot is that it is no surprise that the number of meals on wheels users is falling. While the needs and circumstances of the elderly vary widely there are nearly always better arrangements they can make – or that their relatives can make on their behalf.

Don’t Be Left Behind the Curve – oppose a 32 story twin tower building at Chiswick Roundabout

curvefromgunnersburyI have been sent details of the following important event opposing a proposed 32 story twin tower building at Chiswick Roundabout – the Chiswick Curve:

Public Meeting on Wednesday, 27th April, 7.30 pm

St Michael and All Angels Church, Bedford Park,

Chiswick, W4 1TT (close to Turnham Green Tube Station)

Come to this meeting for an update and to hear from key speakers on important topics relating to this proposed development.

Chis-Curve-Tower-from-the-M4-smallThe meeting is being organised by a consortium of residents groups including the Brentford Community Council, the Kew Society and the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society. We are delighted that Andrea Lee a Healthy Air Campaigner with ClientEarth http://www.healthyair.org.uk/ will speak on Air Quality and that Barbara Weiss, the architect and co-founder of the Skyline Campaign http://www.skylinecampaign.org/ will speak on Tall Buildings. The meeting will be chaired by Rowan Moore, architecture critic of the Observer http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/10/boris-johnson-london-legacy-folly-vanity-rowan-moore.

Those behind the Chiswick Curve think that this small, constrained site at the Chiswick Roundabout – surrounded by major roads in a highly polluted locality – is the right place for 330 residential units in a 32-storey tower. Anyone who is ahead of the curve knows that poor air quality and the harm caused by inappropriate tall buildings are of great concern to many Londoners. They are both issues that we want the new Mayor to tackle.

Brentford Community Council,

The Kew Society,

The West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society

Although outside the borough it would clearly have a big impact on us, I am pleased to say that Hammersmith and Fulham Council have opposed the plans:

Dear Councillor Phibbs,

I write in reply to your email of yesterday, concerning a major planning proposal for development of up to 32 storeys for 320 residential units, offices and retail/restaurant uses on land at Chiswick Roundabout, Great West Road, W4 (our ref: 2016/00099/OBS).

Officers were consulted on the application by the London Borough of Hounslow. We wrote to raise objection to the scheme on 09.02.2016. Our view was that the

applicant had failed to demonstrate that the proposed development would preserve or enhance the settings of The Mall Conservation Area, the listed Hammersmith Bridge or the listed properties at 1a to 6, 7, and 8 to 16 Hammersmith Terrace. In the absence of required information we considered that the development would not meet the statutory duties set out in Section 66(1) and Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990; and that it would not comply with the requirements of the NPPF.

A decision has not yet been made on the application by LB Hounslow.

kind regards
Catherine Smyth
Team Leader Planning Applications