Revealed: H&F Council’s financial motive for backing flawed “Cycle Superhighway” scheme

Last month I stated that I had asked Hammersmith and Fulham Council about its financial interest in supporting Transport for London’s “Cycle Superhighway” scheme – which most residents who have contacted me agree would not merely be poor value for money but actually detrimental to the borough.

The Council Cycling Officer has now responded to my query as follows:

“Hello Cllr Phibbs,

I hope you are well.

I’ve been asked to respond to your requests for more information regarding the use of the Council’s logo, and what funding the council has received from TfL, and any future funding.

The use of the Council’s logo on the consultation documents follows the same principle that we adopted for the Better Junctions consultation last year, and reflects the partnership that we have with TfL in developing the proposed CS9 Route. Like our colleagues in Hounslow, we have been working with TfL for over a year to bring this initial proposal to public consultation.

The partnership enables us, as officers representing the Council, to advise and develop the proposed route using our local knowledge and technical knowledge to inform the proposal.

Our aim is simple, we want the best for our residents and we also want to secure investment in the Borough. (The Mayor of London has committed £70m for the development and implementation of a CS9 route from Olympia to Hounslow. Based on this total figure delivery of the Hammersmith sections are estimated at approximately £15-£20m.)

TfL are an important source of investment for this type of infrastructure project for cycling, but cannot build anything on Borough roads without our permission. In the case of CS9, subject to the outcome of the consultation, and the decision of the cabinet, my team will carry out the detail design of the route and will use our own contractors to hopefully eventually build the scheme.

The Council is committed to working together with TfL to secure the implementation and operation of Route 9 to meet one of the aims of the 2015 Cycling Strategy to make cycling less intimidating in the borough, and ultimately to increase the share of all journeys in H&F which are made by bicycle from five per cent to eight per cent.

The Council is also committed to cooperating  with TfL with regards to agreeing the alignment and other details concerning Route 9 in the Borough Area including any special interventions or road treatments appropriate.

In return for this knowledge and work, TfL have agreed to reimburse the Council in respect of all costs and expenses reasonably incurred by the Council in connection with Route 9 Activities.

Currently TfL have funded officer time on the project from 2016 to date to a value of £119,577.

If the consultation is positive and a decision is made by our cabinet to proceed to the next stage, which is detailed design, officer time will be paid for by TfL to develop the detailed designs, work with local residents and businesses to ensure that the best scheme is implemented in Hammersmith, and then create a construction package that leads to implementation. No prediction of this value has taken place yet and will not take place until the consultation outcome is known and the cabinet decision made.

If the consultation is not favourable there is no future investment connected with cycling along this route.

If you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.”

So that’s £119,577 to be getting on with – and a big chunk out of the “approximately £15-£20m” if the scheme is allowed to proceed.

By the way when it comes to the aim “to make cycling less intimidating in the borough” I have been interested by the number of the more gentle cyclists who have declared themselves filled with dread at the prospect of the “Cycle Superhighway”.

Opening up the lake in Ravenscourt Park?

I have noted before that the lake in Ravenscourt Park used to used for boating.

A resident has been in touch to say that “cordoning this lake off so nobody can use it in any way is terrible – simply giving up on an area of our park which is so much loved and used.”

He doesn’t think a return to boating would be viable but says: “My idea entails a natural swimming facility for the public to use…there are some amazing self cleaning natural swimming lakes/ponds which look good with all the plants and associated landscaping  and enhance the natural environment. It also enables people to swim naturally and get some exercise. ”

The Parks Manager has responded:

“I do think there may be scope to make the lake more open and inclusive of the park.  I don’t know why it was originally fenced off, I am making an assumption that this was for H&S reasons.  My colleague Sarah is working on the park masterplan so we can certainly include some proposals for the lake within this to seek public opinion.  Delivery of anything following the consultation will be subject to us identifying funding.”

What do you think?

Council publishes fire risk assessments for its blocks of six storeys and over

I am very pleased that Hammersmith and Fulham Council has published the fire risk assessments for its housing blocks of six storeys or more. You can see them here.

This is something I was strongly pressing for. In July I requested the documents as a Freedom of Information request and I would have published them on this site if the Council had persisted in its refusal to do so.

While this is an important victory for transparency I am pressing for the Council to go further. The fire risk assessments for the other blocks should be published too.

As a councillor for Ravenscourt Park Ward I have been able to see the fire risk assessment for Standish House.  So can everyone else. That is because it has seven storeys. I have logged a query about the “actions” that were identified as required and whether or not they have been undertaken. Residents of the block will now have a chance to read the report and have a chance to spot any errors or omissions.

But what about Flora Gardens? What about Chisholm Court? Marryat Court? Derwent Court? Cardross House? Paddenswick Court? The small council blocks in Ashchurch Park Villas, Ashchurch Terrace, Mylne Close, Eyot Gardens and Black Lion Lane? I want those residents in my Ward also to know the level of fire risk in the homes they live in. I want them to know what is being done to reduce the risk.

It is disappointing that getting the Council to be open about this should be such a struggle.

 

Westminster Abbey marks Centenary of Lady Margaret School

Tuesday October 17th was a very special day for Lady Margaret School with a service to celebrate the Centenary of Lady Margaret School at Westminster Abbey attended by their Centenary Patron HRH Princess Alexandra.

The girls walked from Parsons Green to Putney Pier and traveled by boat to Westminster.  They were led off the boat by PC Proffitt and greeted by Headteacher Ms Elisabeth Stevenson.

The Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham also attended as did many members of local clergy, Greg Hands MP and alumnae.

Greg Smith: Uber? Let people decide

Cllr Greg Smith gave the following speech at the recent Council meeting.

Mr Mayor, I did not get into politics to ban things. To interfere with people’s lives or businesses or they way they go about putting a roof over their families head and food on the table.

I have always believed the free market not only ensures the widest choice for consumers and competition keeping prices fair; but is the incubator of innovation and progress in the face of the lazy, vested interests, who have no interest in consumers, individuals or families: only ever their self interest in the status quo.

Market disruptors, like Uber, keep the wheels of economic progress moving.

3.5 million registered users.  40,000 people who earn their living.

855,000 signatures on change.org petition.

What has Labour got against all of these consumers, workers and visitors in London?

Safety?

It is a nonsense to say this is about safety.  In the year to the end of March 2017, there were 1,996 recorded sexual offences across London’s public transport network – but no one is advocating banning the tube or bus network.

There are those – in all walks of life – for whom evil runs in their veins and they set out to commit horrendous and awful crimes.  In the taxi trade, that is predominantly by those who equally illegally operate completely without a license, but is also spread across all other types of taxi and cab.  Of course, across all business more cab be done to stamp out potential criminals before they commit their crimes, but let us not pretend this is an Uber problem, nor taint the vast majority of their 40,000 drivers with the sort of slurs their critics have thrown against them.

Indeed, as far as Uber is concerned, I put it to this Chamber that a can booked via an app using GPS, where the consumer gets the drivers name, vehicle registration and licence number in advance and then whose journey is tracked by GPS all the way to their destination is fundamentally SAFE.

Much better than the old days – before Uber – where it was not uncommon to stand for ages late at night on the off chance a Black Cab would come past with their light on, only to be told “nah, not goin’ West mate”.

And don’t take my word for it, quoted in the Guardian – of all places – Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said that it is “absolutely real” that many women will be concerned about the potential demise of Uber. “It makes sense that something as easy to use – and offering a door-to-door service – will give a lot of women a feeling that it improves their ability to get about.”

No – this is nothing to do with safety.  But yet another example of Labour and the left showing their contempt for consumers and warped ideological opposition to competition in the face of vested interests.

Competition works: indeed Uber and similar companies have even dragged the vested interests up with them – forcing more black cabs than ever to accept cards as payment to keep some trade.

If they are as moderate as they claim to be: stand up to your mayor and your leader. Be on the side of 3.5 million consumers and 40,000 workers. Embrace competition. Let people decide.

Update on King Street cinema site

The Council are remaining pretty secretive regarding fiasco of the Town Hall redevelopment scheme – which was abandoned after the cinema (a “building of merit”) had been demolished. The financial viability of the scheme had been brought into question after the Council demanded extra Section 106 money from their development partners on the scheme Helical Bar. Now with the project abandoned the Council won’t get any Section 106 money, will probably be obliged to spend millions buying the land where the cinema and face delays during which the huge maintenance bill for the Council’s awful town hall extension will continue.

What an almighty stuff up.

Anyway apparently new plans are under way. I’m told that the under the proposed new scheme will include a replacement cinema (provided by Curzon) also that the town hall extension will go. The architects involved are Richard Rogers so whatever is built will be pretty hideous – but could scarcely manage to be worse than what is there at present. There is a plan for 210 flats of which half will be “affordable” (whatever that turns out to mean). The housing association that it is proposed will be involved is A2Dominion. I have some concerns about them as a landlord. Only yesterday I was talking to residents in Invermead Close (which they own) and came away with a litany of complaints about delays with repairs, failure to deal with rats, poor parking arrangements and so on.

The grandly named “Town Hall Development Commission” is supposed to be “resident-led”. This is a bit of a joke. It has four people on it – the council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan, a couple of architects and Melanie Whitlock. I think Melanie is a capable, independent minded and public spirited figure. But she is just one resident – and she is the first to say that she does not pretend to represent anyone other than herself.

There is due to be an exhibition of the new plans in November.

Beware of the Ravenscourt Park terrapins

The Friends of Ravenscourt Park report that someone has unfortunately released terrapins into the lake at Ravenscourt Park. If they are allowed to grow they can bite off a child’s finger – as well as biting off the legs of ducks and harming other wildlife.

The Parks Manager tells me:

“Parks Police, as promised at the friends’ AGM made contact with the Barnes Wetland Centre who in turn advised that terrapins are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  This means if we do manage to catch it we cannot kill it but will need to arrange for it to be taken to a suitable centre.  A bigger job is going to be catching a small animal in a large pond.  Terrapins are not easy to catch so this will need to be an ongoing aim.”

I’m afraid that really isn’t good enough, is it?

There was the same problem in Hampstead Heath’s bird sanctuary pond and other ponds on the Heath a few years ago. They have managed to set traps and catch them. It seems it wasn’t always easy – “the Steve McQueen of terrapins” kept tearing away at the chicken wire. But the City of London Corporation (which owns and manages the Heath) persisted. Delay just makes the problem worse.