We need electric buses in Hammersmith to improve air quality

I am pleased to see that more electric buses are being introduced given the serious issue of air pollution and the ill health that it causes. But so far none are planned for the bus routes for that run through Ravenscourt Park Ward – the 27, 220, 267 and 391.

Tony Devenish, the London Assembly member for London West Central, has raised this concern with Transport for London and got the following response:

“The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will benefit from this initiative, with electric buses entering service on routes 70 and C1 in the first half of next year. We are also pioneering the use of double-deck electric buses on route 98 to push the market forward.

“The pace at which we convert the fleet is currently restrained by the early commercial development of the electric bus industry. Electric buses cannot travel as far on a single charge as conventional diesel buses, requiring either widespread supporting charging infrastructure or a significantly greater number of buses to allow some to charge while others operate in service. This makes electric bus technology very costly.

“When the contracts for routes 27, 220, 267 and 391 come up for renewal we will investigate the options available for replacing the vehicles with electric or hybrid technology. In the meantime, we are retrofitting and replacing conventional vehicles across the entire fleet to make them much cleaner, with the aim of raising all buses to the cleanest Euro VI engine emission standard or better by 2020.”

So it comes down to funding. But why doesn’t the Council assist with offering some Section 106 funds from property developers? After all one of the objections to the building of new homes comes from concerns about air quality – both the dust during the building works and the extra traffic once it has been completed. We keep hearing claims from the Council about vast Section 106 sums being negotiated. But where is the money?

There is a precedent. When under Conservative control the Council used Section 106 funds to help pay to set up Boris Bikes. Again that was about mitigating congestion and pollution. Why not extend the cycle hire scheme using a (modest) sum to set up new docking stations? For instance at Starch Green or near the junction of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road. The Council refuses.

When it comes to clean air the Council is willing to issue press releases, pass motions and set up commissions. All we stress what a priority it is. On practical measures there is always rather more resistance….

The Lytton Estate has beautiful gardens – we should make them more so

Cllr Caroline ffiske writes:

Residents living on the Lytton Estate have complained to me about the quality of grounds maintenance.  In response, I recently went on a “walkabout” with senior housing and grounds maintenances officers.  It did not take officers long to agree that more care is needed.  A particular problem is the proliferation of self-sown saplings.  Some have grown so large that they will require considerable effort to remove; yet tended to in good time, their removal would be easy.  Pictured is a sycamore seedling which is well over six feet tall.

Another theme was dead shrubs which inexplicably have not been removed.  The glyphosate ban also means that weeds are flourishing.  I asked officers if there is any danger of large weeds, including buddleia, cracking concrete and walls.  I think the conclusion is that the jury is still out on this, but it is something that needs to be watched carefully.

Residents had previously shown me where rough sleepers have been using a stand of very dense holly trees in the grounds of Clifford and Falkland House.  I’m pleased to say that officers have moved very quickly to remove the lower branches.  The area looks far more light and attractive and will no longer be a target for rough sleepers.

The rose bed outside Burne Jones House has more weeds than roses.  Officers agreed that a dense layer of mulch will keep down the weeds and help the roses to flourish.  I look forward to seeing this in place.  

All in all a very useful exercise. The grounds of the Lytton Estate are potentially very beautiful and in many parts they are already so.  There are many residents on the estate who play an active role in community gardening.  I spoke to other residents who are hugely appreciative of the work of the community gardeners.

If all the interested parties can work effectively together, the Lytton Estate grounds could be the most beautiful in the borough.



A beautiful alternative for Empress Place

Congratulations to the social enterprise Create Streets for coming up with an excellent proposal for the Empress Place site.

This scheme has been planned in conjunction with the local community by Create Streets and Francis Terry Associates. It is high density with a comparable amount of housing to Capco’s proposed scheme or potentially rather more depending on unit mix and number of storeys. It involves no demolition of much-loved historic housing and pubs, links the historic street seamlessly into the wider Capital & Counties Properties PLC (Capco) masterplan and (unlike the current proposals) has been enthusiastically welcomed by members of the local community.

The Earl’s Court Masterplan covers 77 acres. Developer Capco proposes to transform the area into four new ‘urban villages’ along with a new High Street.

The area that is proposed to be redeveloped includes the sites of the former Earl’s Court Exhibition Halls (in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea), a Transport for London (TfL) Underground maintenance depot and the 22 acre West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates (within Hammersmith and Fulham).

The Exhibition Centres are now demolished and the concrete beams that supported them are currently being removed; plans have been drawn up, though not agreed, to relocate the rail maintenance depot; and there remains fierce debate about the prospects for the rest of the site with evidence showing that demolition of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates does not command majority support from the residents.

In November 2013, Capco received consent for their masterplan to develop around the existing Empress Place. It was an oddly-bad piece of urban design which blocked the existing Empress Place, created no new fully-formed urban blocks and led to a series of curious spaces which were neither fully private nor fully public.

In November 2016, Capco made public an alternative proposal for the site which would include Empress Place for the first time within their Earl’s Court Masterplan involving 100% demolition of the historic buildings in Empress Place and Lillie Road. This scheme increased homes on the site from about 200 under the consented scheme to over 400. However, it involved the complete demolition of the existing historic fabric, including Empress Place.

It was also a very confused piece of place making with no clear sense of the private and the public. Capco presented its new Empress Place proposals as a new public square. However, it sits incongruously in the middle of an urban block. New buildings are essentially blocks in space with no clear fronts or backs not dissimilar to the old 1960s tried and failed model. This proposal does not yet have planning consent so there is still time to envision and build something better for the current community and for the future.

Originally named Richmond Place, Empress Place (built 1864-1865) and its houses and adjacent shops were designed by architect and City of London surveyor, John Young (17971877). His influence on London’s architecture was notable. In 1823 he prepared the drawings for the London Colosseum in Regent’s Park and supervised the framing of the dome. He designed the original Cancer Hospital in Fulham Road in 1859 as well as country mansions, residential and commercial buildings. He is particularly noteworthy for his creative use of polychromatic Suffolk stone and terracotta patterned brickwork whether in industrial, civic or residential buildings. Examples of this brickwork can be seen in Empress Place and adjacent buildings.

Empress Place forms part of a proposed ‘Lillie Enclave Conservation Area’ – a proposal by local residents for a new conservation area encompassing part of Fulham’s forgotten history. It consists largely of two-storey Victorian cottages, though, as can be seen at the right of the above picture it also includes the purpose-built engineering headquarters (1907) of the Brompton & Piccadilly Railway Company. It was from this building, with its large windows designed to provide as much light as possible for the draughtsmen, that the Piccadilly line was designed.

In March 2016, Hammersmith & Fulham Council registered the Prince of Wales pub as an Asset of Community Value after a campaign by residents’ groups and local historical societies.

It is fair to say that the revised schemes with their proposed demolition of Empress Place, adjacent buildings on the Lillie Road, The Prince of Wales and The Imperial Arms pubs have not proved popular locally.

There is currently a petition raised by a Hammersmith resident on the 38 Degrees website to save it from demolition, which by 3 May had attracted 1,138 signatures.

Nicholas Boys Smith, Director of Create Streets, says:

“Both the consented scheme and the new proposals for Empress Place are poor placemaking. But these errors hide a more profound strategic mistake. The lovely terraced houses and shops of Empress Place and Lillie Road could be acting as a crucial physical and emotional link between the Earl’s Court redevelopment and the wider area. Instead, the consented scheme literally turns its back on the surrounding streets and the new proposal simply bulldozes them. It is normally wiser to integrate with the past (particularly when it is so beautiful) rather than to ignore it or to attempt to snuff it out.”

Working with the wider community, Create Streets and Francis Terry Associates have worked up a high level alternative masterplan which attempts to resolve the tension between the need for new housing, the cultural value of local heritage and the preferences of the local community. It also attempts better to integrate the approved masterplan with the surrounding streets so that the existing Empress Place literally continues on into the new ‘West Brompton Village’ portion of the Capco masterplan.

The key features of Greater Empress Place are:

  • It preserves the existing historic stock
  • It integrates Empress Place with the wider Capco masterplan for ‘West Brompton Village’ by extending it on an elegant curve, taking into account level changes, so that it connects up with Capco’s proposals immediately to the north
  • It has no impact on the proposed so-called Lost River Park immediately to the East
  • It is high density with a comparable amount of housing to Capco’s scheme or potentially rather more depending on unit mix and number of storeys
  • Rather than creating urban spaces which are neither public nor private (the consented scheme) or creating a series of isolated ‘blocks in space’, it creates two clear and conventionally-designed urban blocks with clear public space and clear private space. This is the traditional model for city-making which has endured for thousands of years and which is normally linked in the data with better-loved and safer places
  • It avoids the destruction of part of the proposed ‘Lillie Enclave Conservation Area’.
  • It would appear to be far more popular locally – an informal poll undertaken at the Spring Market on North End Road on 29th April 2017 showed an overwhelming preference for the new design, with 462 respondents (98 per cent) preferring the Create Streets scheme compared with just 10 who preferred Capco’s

Sally Taylor, Chair of West Kensington estate Tenants & Residents Association says:

“This is so much better than Capco’s proposal and a welcome departure from the usual concrete and glass blocks. How delightful it would be to have a development that preserves and extends the existing heritage rather than obliterates it.”  

Keith Drew, Chair of West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes  says:

“What a beautiful and refreshing change to the characterless concrete and glass blocks proposed by Capco! Why can’t we have this instead of yet more tedious residential warehousing? It would enhance the charm and attractiveness of our neighbourhood as well as provide much needed additional housing.” 

Anabela Hardwick, Save Empress Place campaigner says:

“I am delighted with the Create Streets approach compared to developers who demolish, appropriate place names and pay superficial homage to our architectural heritage. Empress Place must be saved and if the site is developed further, I would sincerely welcome their approach being considered.”

Scheme architect, Francis Terry says:

“Empress Place is a typically London street of modest Victorian workers’ cottages. It seems such a shame to destroy it – particularly when the architecture of somewhere is being replaced with the architecture of nowhere. Our alternative proposal for Empress Place creates a gentle curve to link in the old street with the existing masterplan. We ‘step up’ the density from two storeys to five without overwhelming the existing street. And we celebrate rather than ignore the pattern of streets, blocks and plots upon which London, and all great cities depend.”

Create Streets are making this alternative masterplan public in a constructive spirit to encourage better and more popular ways to build the homes that London needs.

They encourage:

  • Hammersmith & Fulham Council to insist on more popular design and better placemaking at Empress Place. They should not consent to the wholesale demolition of such a lovely street but should instead require that the existing street be better and more beautifully plugged in to the consented master plan. This is perfectly possible; and
  • They urge Capco to rethink not just their masterplan for this part of their development but actually the underlying philosophy it reveals. Rather than seeking to tear down the past, they should benefit from it and integrate with it.

Nicholas Boys Smith adds:

“We are making these proposals public in a constructive spirit and to promote meaningful debate. I would like to thank members of the local community for their support, for walking us around the site and for briefing us so comprehensively and clearly on what they like and don’t like about the neighbourhood and about the current proposals. “

“To Hammersmith and Fulham Council, we would say; “You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to bad design. Something far better and far more popular would be perfectly feasible on this site.”

“And to Capco, we would say; “Why not link the existing street into your wider masterplan? This would mean that rather than wiping out a lovely street and some of the surrounding history you could actually benefit from it in your wider strategy, producing much more attractive homes. Join the street, don’t destroy it.”

I have asked the Council for their response.

Let’s warn van drivers not to get stuck in Bradmore Park Road

Satnavs are wonderful inventions but they are not perfect. One problem is when they tell drivers of larger vehicles to turn into narrow streets when then get stuck.

Recently a resident in Bradmore Park Road  contacted me to point out that her section of the road is “extremely narrow – enough for cars to pass but not enough for furniture vans, dust carts and skips to come down the road which means that they frequently get stuck. During the week this is a frequent phenomenon and all the parked cars have their wing mirrors regularly struck or torn off.”

Once they reverse back down Glenthorne Road to turn into Lamington Street instead it is dangerous as Glenthorne Road is one way.

I have asked the Council to put up a  public notice on the junction of Bradmore Park Road and Glenthorne Road saying something like ‘Not suitable for wide vehicles’, for example.

The response is as follows:

“The Council share your concerns around the use of residential roads by larger vehicles and you may have noted recent changes to HGV signage on Hammersmith Grove, which is intended to reduce the volume of ‘rat-running’ HGV’s using this street.

Roll out of similar signage is planned for a number of residential side streets in the surrounding area over the coming months (subject to consultation) and this includes the junction of Bradmore Park Road and Glenthorne Road. The signage indicates a ban on all vehicles over 7.5T, unless access for deliveries or removals is required. We will certainly take into account your observations around positioning of the signs.

With regards to sat-navs it is quite difficult for us to feed information to be picked up by drivers due to the vast amount of databases which are used across various systems. Although we do feed changes such as the above to a central database and as part of this project we are in contact with the freight haulage association, who provide such information to lorry drivers.”

NHS rebut latest Labour scaremongering about Charing Cross Hospital

Hammersmith and Fulham Council persists in claiming that the NHS threatens to close Charing Cross Hospital including its A&E. The NHS persists in denying this (see the latest letter below from the last Imperial NHS Trust board papers.) Even if the NHS did have such a plan Labour’s “early pledge” in the last council elections to “block” such plans was dishonest as the Council has no such power.

If forced to choose whether to believe doctors or Labour councillors I would tend to go with the former. Having said that the NHS certainly haven’t done themselves any favours with their communications. Their messages have been pretty impenetrable and contradictory at times.

What I am absolutely clear about is that I do not support the closure of Charing Cross Hospital or its A&E – nor do any of my fellow Conservative councillors. Labour keep pushing this lie in the most offensive and emotive terms. Increasingly their message inspires intimidatory behaviour from the Corbynista fringe – which Labour councillors have not yet disowned despite instances being raised with them. It is the “politics of hate” and Labour should cease promoting it.

Instead they should focus on running the Council. On the many issues which they are responsible for. At present they seem to be trying to deflect attention from their failings.

18th July 2017 

Dear Councillor Cowan 

Thank you for your letter of 12 June 2017 responding to the complaint we raised with you in March. Your response, and subsequent mailings to local residents, continue to provide an extremely partial account of the facts about the future of Charing Cross Hospital. Our only motivation in challenging your approach is to end the unnecessary distress this is causing to our staff, patients and local communities, especially at a time when our health services are under particular pressure. 

Through our regular meetings with your councillors and officers and frequent attendance at the Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee, we believe we have set out the facts clearly: 

In 2012, we published plans for a reconfiguration of health services across North West London to respond to rapidly changing health and care needs.  We undertook a full public consultation which set out plans for a more integrated approach to care, with the consolidation of specialist services onto fewer sites, where this would improve quality and efficiency, and the expansion of care for routine and on-going conditions, especially in the community, to improve access.  Charing Cross was envisaged as a ‘local hospital’ within this network of services, building on its role as a growing hub for integrated care offered in partnership between hospital specialists, local GPs and community providers. 

After the consultation, the Joint Committee of Primary Care Trusts (JCPCT) met to make their decisions. One of those decisions related to an alternative proposal that we had developed for the Charing Cross Hospital site in response to feedback from the public consultation. This proposal, which saw a wider range of services on the Charing Cross site, was recommended by the JCPCT in early 2013. 

The decisions of the JCPCT were then referred to the Secretary of State who asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to look at the proposals. On the advice of the IRP, in October 2013, the Secretary of State supported the proposals in full, adding that Charing Cross Hospital should continue to offer an A&E service, even if it was a different shape or size to that currently offered.  He also made clear that there would need to be further engagement to develop detailed proposals for Charing Cross. 

Our subsequent work to engage patients and the public in the development of detailed plans for Charing Cross was paused as increasing demand for acute hospital services highlighted the need to focus first on the development of new models of care to help people stay healthy and avoid unnecessary and lengthy inpatient admissions. Our approach of actively not progressing plans to reduce acute capacity at Charing Cross unless and until we could achieve a reduction in acute demand was formalised in the North West London Sustainability and Transformation Plan published in 2016. The plan made a firm commitment that Charing Cross will continue to provide its current A&E and wider services for at least the lifetime of the plan, which runs until April 2021. We also made the commitment to work jointly with staff, communities and councils on the design and implementation of new models of care.

Our commitment to Charing Cross is demonstrated further in the £8m we invested last year – to refurbish urgent and emergency care wards, theatres, outpatient clinics and lifts and to create a patient service centre and the main new facility for North West London Pathology. And in the further, significant investments we are planning for this year. 

You have consistently failed to acknowledge any changes in our approach to Charing Cross since the original public consultation on proposed service changes for North West London. This is demonstrated most clearly by your latest mailing to local residents which included a copy of outline service proposals published five years ago.   
In response to your detailed questions about how and why we shared our complaint to you in March, we felt we had no choice but to make it public. This was entirely a decision of the Trust and CCG leadership. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to send materials directly to every house in the borough. We published our letter to you on our websites on 28th March 2017, the day after it had been sent to you and with full disclosure of our approach, to help allay unnecessary public concern. Unsurprisingly, there has been follow up media interest in our exchanges which our communications teams have responded to, as appropriate.

Concern about changes to local health services is entirely valid and understandable. Far from wishing to prevent debate, we encourage and welcome open discussion, especially with patients and the public.

We have to create a shared understanding of the huge challenges we are facing in the NHS – and social care –  if we are to address them effectively. We very much wish to work with all of our local authorities as key partners in this endeavour but it is only possible if the considered and honest opinions of our organisations, including  those of our senior clinicians, are not actively misrepresented.     
Yours sincerely, 
Dr Tracey Batten      

Chief Executive

CWHHE  Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trus

Clare Parker  

Chief Officer

SRO – Shaping a Healthier Future 

Where H&F Council refuses to install sprinklers will plastic window frames be removed?

Hannah Lucinda Smith spent six months investigating fire safety in tower blocks for a BBC documentary in 2010.

She says:

“Our findings were conclusive. Fire chiefs and safety experts all agreed that the vogue for cladding old concrete blocks with plastic fascia, removing asbestos and replacing steel window frames with ones made of UPvC cancelled out all the fire prevention measures that had been built into the blocks.”

This was all part of the “Decent Homes programme” launched in 2000. She adds:

“Billions of pounds of public funds were handed out to contractors to carry out the upgrades – £820 million in London alone.”

I have asked  which blocks in Hammersmith and Fulham have had steel window frames replaced with ones made of UPvC since 2000 under the Decent Homes programme and I have been sent the following list:

1-6 ADELA HOUSE, Queen Caroline Street
9-16 ALDINE COURT, Aldine Street
17-24 ALDINE COURT, Aldine Street
25-32 ALDINE COURT, Aldine Street
33-48 ALDINE COURT, Aldine Street
1-8 ALDINE COURT, Aldine Street
1-15 ALEX GOSSIP HOUSE, Basuro Road
1-16 ALEXANDRA HOUSE, Queen Caroline Str
1-16 ARLINGTON HOUSE, Tunis Road
17-22 ARLINGTON HOUSE, Tunis Road
1-8 ASKHAM COURT, Askham Road
9-16 ASKHAM COURT, Askham Road
17-24 ASKHAM COURT, Askham Road
25-32 ASKHAM COURT, Askham Road
1-76 BARTON HOUSE, Wandsworth Bridge Rd
1-8 BENBOW COURT, Benbow Road
9-20 BENBOW COURT, Benbow Road
1-16 BOSWELL COURT, Blythe Road
1-12 BRANGWYN COURT, Blythe Rd
1-11 BRONTE COURT, Girdlers Road
2-40 BURLINGTON PLACE, Burlington Road
1-102 BUSH COURT, Shepherds Bush Green
1-24 CALCOTT COURT, Blythe Road
1-11 CARDROSS HOUSE, Cardross Street
1-20 CAROLINE HOUSE, Queen Caroline Stre
1-16 CHARLOTTE HOUSE, Queen Caroline Str
1-30 CLIFFORD HOUSE, Edith Villas
1-12 CLIFTON HOUSE, 127 Uxbridge Road
1-30 COBBS HALL, Fulham Palace Rd
144-158 ev CONINGHAM ROAD W12
1-48 Cox House
1-38 DRAKE COURT, Scotts Road
1-12 EDITH HOUSE, Queen Caroline St
1-20 ELEANOR HOUSE Queen Caroline St
1-24 ELGAR COURT Blythe Road
1-25 ELIZABETH HOUSE Queen Caroline St
21-29 ETHEL RANKIN COURT, Landridge Rd
30-38 ETHEL RANKIN COURT, Landridge Rd
17-21 odd EYOT GARDENS
1-30 Falkland House
1-8 GIBBS GREEN, Beaumont Cresc
9-28 GIBBS GREEN, Beaumont Cresc
29-38 GIBBS GREEN, Beaumont Cresc
101-130 GIBBS GREEN, Beaumont Cresc
131-146 GIBBS GREEN, Beaumont Cresc
147-160 GIBBS GREEN, Beaumont Cresc
1-20 GLENALLAN HOUSE, North End Cresc
1-40 HENRIETTA HOUSE, Queen Caroline St
1-55 HORTON HOUSE, Field Road
1-20 ISABELLA HOUSE, Queen Caroline Stre
1-32 JOANNA HOUSE, Queen Caroline Street
106-130 LANCASTER COURT, Darlan Rd
131-166 LANCASTER COURT, Darlan Rd
21-40 LANCASTER COURT, Darlan Rd
41-65 LANCASTER COURT, Darlan Rd
66-90 LANCASTER COURT, Darlan Rd
91-105 LANCASTER COURT, Darlan Rd
6-10 LINTAINE CLOSE, Moylan Rd
1-18 MARRYAT COURT, Cromwell Ave
19-26 MARRYAT COURT, Cromwell Ave
1-6 MARY HOUSE, Queen Charlotte Street
1-24 MATON HOUSE, Estcourt Road
1-8 MORLAND COURT, Coningham Road
1-20 MORTIMER HOUSE, North End Road
2 MYLNE CLOSE, Upper Mall, W6
10-18 MYLNE CLOSE, Upper Mall, W6
1-9 PADDENSWICK COURT, Paddenswick Rd
1-40 PELHAM HOUSE, Mornington Ave
1/2 PHILLIPA HOUSE, Queen Caroline St
1-15 PHILPOT SQUARE, Peterborough Rd
16-25 & 42-61 PHILPOT SQUARE, Peterborough Rd
26-41 & 62-69 PHILPOT SQUARE, Peterborough Rd
1-20 ROBERT GENTRY HOUSE, Gledstanes Rd
1-24 ROCQUE HOUSE, Estcourt Road
1-114 ROSEFORD COURT, Shepherds Bush Grn
1-16 SCOTTS COURT, Scotts Rd
1-102 SHEPHERDS COURT Shepherds Bush gree
1-4 SOPHIA HOUSE Queen Caroline Street
153-172 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
213-227 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
248-262 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
298-315 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
1-12 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
263-282 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
283-297 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
444-484 SULIVAN COURT Broomhouse Lane
1-16 THE GRANGE, 218 Goldhawk Road
1-36 THE GRANGE, Lisgar Terrace
110-126 WALHAM GREEN COURT Cedarne Rd
50-108 WALHAM GREEN COURT Cedarne Rd
1-24 WALPOLE COURT Blythe Rd
1-25 WILLIAM MORRIS HOUSE, Margravine Rd
26-70 WILLIAM MORRIS HOUSE, Margravine Rd
1-114 WOODFORD COURT Shepherds Bush Green

The total cost of replacing the steel window frames with plastic ones was £7.54 million. The full breakdown of the cost is here. I have asked if there are any plans to remove the UPvC window frames. Given the Council’s refusal to install sprinklers in all blocks it seems to me that where there are plastic window frames there is a particular source of concern.

The total annual spending on having cladding applied to the council housing blocks under the Decent Homes programme since 2000 in Hammersmith and Fulham £2.13 million – on the Edward Woods Estate.  Other blocks – including Shepherds Court – had insulation panels. But the problem of plastic window frames is more widespread.

Ring-necked parakeets: Is it time to act?

A resident emailed me recently to say:

“Hi Harry,

I went for a walk in Ravenscourt Park the other day and there were literally hundreds of these green parakeets flying between the trees.

It was quite a sight.

But I wondered if the council has any plans to eradicate them?

They are really bad for indigenous flora and fauna and you can see all the bark they are stripping off the trees.

I would be grateful if you could have a look into it.”

The Council’s Parks Manager responds:

“Dear Councillor Phibbs,

Thank you for your email.

I’ve looked for the ring-tailed parakeet as referenced in the article but can only find information on the ring-necked parakeet in the UK; looking at the Latin name (Psittacula krameri) I think they are one of the same.  Ring-neck parakeets are an ever growing sight in our parks and open spaces and having done some research it appears they are recognised at the UK’s only naturalised parrot.  You can find more information here.

Despite being an introduced species they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 so if the council were to start controlling them (which it has no plans to do) a special licence would be required; these however do seem to be aimed at more where birds are damaging crops, etc.  Additionally, the council acting in isolation would have little effect as another flock of parakeets will simply move into the area so any control of this bird (and given its protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 this seems extremely unlikely) would need be done at a strategic/regional level.”

Of course they are beautiful. But then so are the native birds and the trees which are threatened. If nothing is done won’t the problem get out of hand?

H&F Council still backing more tower blocks in the borough

Last month I emailed the Council’s Head of Policy & Spatial Planning to say:

“I gather that the Mayor of London approved towers as high as 26 storeys for the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation.

May I suggest that the Council asks for the Mayor to review this decision unless it can be established that there is no greater fire risk than there would be in low/medium rise buildings.

Also with regard to our own planning policy could this be reviewed?

Currently we say: “A limited number of tall buildings could be considered as part of the approach to urban design.” May I suggest that we either make clear that the Council would oppose any new tall buildings or at least that we would oppose any new tall buildings unless it can be established that there is no greater fire risk than there would be in low/medium rise buildings.”

He has replied as follows:

“Dear Councillor Phibbs,
Thank you for your query sent on 19/06/17 concerning tall buildings and fire risk.  You have requested that we ask the Mayor to review any approvals of towers in the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) area and that we review our own planning policy so that we oppose any new tall buildings unless they can be shown to be of no greater fire risk than low-medium rise buildings.
May I first respond by saying that the council Planning department are very aware of the tragic fire that occurred on the 14th June at the Grenfell Tower residential block and the concerns of many about the safety of tall buildings.  I can advise that our planning policy on tall buildings sets out criteria proposals should meet and is largely focused on the visual impact, supporting transport, public realm, sustainability and the impact on local amenity which are amongst the matters that a local authority is required to take into consideration when determining a planning application.  Fire safety matters which we acknowledge are of paramount importance, are controlled through legislative powers within Building Regulations and the planning system should not duplicate or supplement these controls.  At any point in the future, if there are changes in law or guidance in the way planning policy can approach fire safety, we can respond and review our planning policy.  
It is important to note, however, that whilst the regulations on fire safety are contained in Building Regulations, our planning department work closely with our Building Control colleagues which allows for informed discussions regarding future projects within the Borough.  It is important that this continues to be closely monitored on all future high rise projects by our Building Control team in co-operation with the Planning department to ensure public fire safety.  We are also working closely with the OPDC on their emerging Local Plan policies with their second round of public consultation starting on 29th June and running until 11th September, which will include their approach to tall buildings.  Housing colleagues at the council are also currently engaging with the Greater London Authority and the Department for Communities and Local Government on any potential changes to policies that might arise as a result of the Grenfell fire.
I hope this information is helpful and please contact me if you have any further queries.”

So despite the Grenfell Tower tragedy the Council’s policy is still to support more tower blocks in the borough. A terrible mistake.

Apologists for Soviet terror still honoured figures in the Labour Party

The Clement Attlee Estate was built in 1955/6 off the Lillie Road in Fulham opposite Normand Park. All the blocks are named after socialist politicians.

Several of the names come up in a book published recently – Labour and the Gulag by Giles Udy. The Russian Revolution took place a century ago and the scale of the resulting genocide has been staggering. It is estimated that Communism has caused over 100 million deaths – including over 20 million in the Soviet Union.

The horrific accounts of mass murder are already – although Udy provides a compelling and detailed account of some of the horrors. But his focus is on the backing for the Soviet Union from senior figures in the British Labour Party while these crimes were taking place.

It was not just a fringe on Labour’s far left – mainstream Labour figures were complicit. The genocide did not start with Stalin but was already widespread under Lenin. Nor was it something that only came to light subsequently. There was an abundance of contemporary evidence – from the churches, from the media, from the Anti Slavery Society, from diplomatic sources. Official papers from the period quoted by Udy show that often these politicians privately admitted the truth of what was happening but still refused to speak out.

Stafford Cripps

Cripps “advocated the suspension of Parliament, a British dictatorship of the proletariat”. At the Labour Party conference in January 1932, he declared that Russia had taught British socialists  that “Socialism would replace capitalism.”

One chapter in the book concerns the arrest, in March 1933, of a number of British engineers working in Russia, for the firm of Metropolitan-Vickers, on charges of wrecking and espionage: “The charges were fabricated and had been prompted by the Russians’ acute shortage of foreign currency (the next instalments of payment from the Russian government to Metro-Vickers were about to be due) and their need to deflect attention from the famine in Ukraine, which was claiming millions of lives.”

Cripps would hear no ill of Moscow’s possible verdict and said in the House of Commons:

“If the Russian system is a system of justice, as I accept, and if they have a crime the penalty of which is death, then the person who is guilty of that crime must be put to death.”

Four years later, Stalin was to extend the death penalty to children as young as twelve years old.

In that same year, 1937, Cripps declared:

“Russia, alone among the countries of Europe, has shown herself a champion of working-class power, and has done what she can in a world over-ridden by capitalism and imperialism to stem the tide of fascist aggression.”

Two years later the Nazi Soviet Pact was agreed.

Nye Bevan

Bevan continued to be an emphatic apologist for Soviet tyranny even during the Stalin era. During the Metropolitan-Vickers debate he said:

“You are daring to suggest that as the present Russia has now been established for 12 or 15 years there is no reason at all for class legislation in Russia. Our newspapers speak with an abandon, with a virulence, about Russian affairs such as they would not dare to use about any other country, and day by day there is anti-Russian propaganda in this House. We do not use such language of any other country. [An HON. MEMBER: ‘They do not deserve it!’] Exactly, that is your class prejudice. Believe me, if I had the power you would not have a good many of the things you think you deserve now; and I am perfectly satisfied, as I said just now, that when you are sufficiently frightened of us there are many things that you will not accord to me. “

Hugh Dalton

For a Foreign Office Minister in the Labour Government from 1929-31, Dalton made an effort to prevent any diplomats who “seemed anti-Bolshevik” being appointed to the British Embassy in Moscow.

In March 1930 Dalton wrote:

“The stuff about religious persecution is all moonshine. The priests whom he sees all look fat. They have shut up a lot of churches of course. But no one ever went to them except a handful of old people.”

Yet as early as 1922 these instructions had been issued by Lenin:

“On the subject of the seizure of the Church’s valuables: the conference is to reach a secret decision to the effect that the removal of valuables, and especially those in the wealthiest abbeys, monasteries, and churches, must be carried out with merciless determination, stopping at nothing whatever, and in the shortest possible time. Therefore, the more representatives of the reactionary clergy we manage to shoot, the better. We must give these people, right now, such a lesson that for decades to come they will not dare even to think of resistance.”

By 1925 over 15,000 clergy, monks and nuns had perished.

Udy records that not all were shot or put in camps. Some were starved to death as an act of deliberate policy:

“In May 1925, article 69 of the constitution stipulated that ‘servants of religious cults for whom this service is a profession’ were to be disenfranchised. The measure did not distinguish between faiths and therefore equally applied to priests, pastors, rabbis, and mullahs. In itself, given their antipathy towards the Bolsheviks, those singled out by the measure might not have cared to vote in the first place but, once singled out, the disenfranchised (lishentzi) became an identifiable group against whom severer measures of repression were taken. One of the most drastic consequences of being classified as lishentzi was that this group was no longer entitled to ration cards. In a time of severe food shortages, that meant that clergy were forced to buy bread at vastly inflated black market prices.”

A change in 1926 banned an even wider group of individuals associated with any church, synagogue or mosque from being given ration cards:

“Monks, novices, priests, deacons, psalm readers, mullahs, muezzins, rabbis, cantors, RC priests, pastors, elders, and people under other names performing the same duties regardless of whether they receive pay for their services.”

A later declaration expanded the list still further, naming:

“Choir singers, choirmasters, organists, readers, shamans, rezhniks,* muezzins, teachers of church schools, heads and teachers of various circles run by religious societies, members of parish councils, different officials and personnel of parish councils and religious societies, [and even] artists who execute work by order of parish councils and religious societies.”

John  Strachey

Strachey was a friend of Dalton and a fellow Old Etonian. Udy recounts a dinner in 1929 they both attended, “Strachey had spent five weeks in Russia the previous year and had returned with glowing reports of its progress and of the character of its newly emerging leader, Stalin. ” Strachey “would go on to become one of the most prolific and widely read British Communist theorists of the 1930s.”

Udy adds:

“In February 1930, at the height of the religious persecution controversy, Strachey wrote in another paper that ‘the miracles predicted under Lenin and Trotsky are now being seen under Stalin’.”

The book gives a shocking account of slave labour in the Soviet Union including in the timber industry – including for export to Britain. The trade was arranged by a British businessman called Montague Meyer.

After the war the firm remained “a leading importer of timber, specialising in Russian softwood.”:

“Those who could obtain import licences (from the Board of Trade) had the opportunity to create considerable wealth. Montague L. Meyer Ltd. was one company which had prospered. Its friendly relations with the Labour Party, forged at the time of the 1930s Russian timber affair, probably also helped when it came to pitching for the contract to handle timber clearance in the unsuccessful groundnut-growing scheme in Africa, overseen by former close friend of the USSR, John Strachey, now Minister of Food. Montague L. Meyer Ltd was awarded the contract.”

Harold Wilson

Wilson was also associated with Montague Meyer. In 1947, Wilson was made president of the Board of Trade and remained in government until he suddenly resigned in May 1951:

Udy says:

“Only three weeks later, he joined Montague L. Meyer Ltd as a consultant. Meyer particularly valued the contacts Wilson had made with the Russians while at the Board of Trade, and on the firm’s behalf, Meyer commissioned Wilson to travel to the USSR to do business. He made his first trip to the Soviet Union in May 1953, and over the following twelve years, before he returned to politics, he made a further eleven trips to Russia for the firm.”


“Wilson’s time at the Board of Trade, the manner of his leaving, and his contacts with Montague Meyer generated a stream of rumour and innuendo. Hartley Shawcross, who succeeded Wilson in 1951 as president of the Board of Trade, wrote to The Times in 1974 about the corruption which he had discovered when he arrived at the Board of Trade, and said that it involved ‘one individual occupying an exalted position’. Wilson’s enemies, aided by Private Eye magazine, took this to be a reference to Wilson himself. Meanwhile, the Security Service had become alarmed at the frequency of Wilson’s trips to Russia. It was the height of the Cold War; the success of any British business venture in the USSR could not have been achieved without the tacit approval of senior members of the Soviet government.”

Ellen Wilkinson

In March 1930 she was among a group of Labour MPs who signed the following statement:

“We have witnessed during the last few weeks a fierce campaign on the part of the capitalist press, with one or two honourable exceptions, against Soviet Russia, with whom the Labour Government has just resumed normal diplomatic relations. We note with satisfaction that the Labour Government has not been deceived by the Tory allegations of religious persecution, and has refused to be intimidated.”

It added:

“We trust British public opinion to resist most emphatically any attempts to injure the development of friendly relations between these two great countries by means of false atrocity stories and malicious inventions.”