Cover up of H&F Council’s affordable housing failure

A year ago I obtained some startling figures on the extent of Labour’s failure on affordable housing in the borough.

In the financial year 2015/16 only new affordable homes were approved 165. This compares with 1,511 in 2013/14 – the most recent figures for when the Council was run by the Conservatives. Given that Labour was elected on a promise to increase the supply of affordable housing that is an astonishing betrayal.

A year later what about the figure for 2016/17? The Council refuses to tell me.  It says that it would be “prejudicial to the council” to provide it.

That doesn’t sound like a great improvement, does it?

At least a year ago council officials had the professionalism to admit failure. Why the change? With the council elections in May some may suspect political pressure to suppress inconvenient truths being allowed into the public domain….

Council has only evicted six “neighbours from Hell” in the last 18 months

I have written before about the Council’s feeble approach to tackling anti social behaviour on our council estates. I’m afraid this problem persists.

At a meeting I attended last night figures were released which showed 691 incidents recorded in the last 18 months – but only six culprits evicted.

Now it is true that evictions are not always needed. Sometimes an initial warning litter is reasonable and does the trick. There is also the complication that sometimes those causing the difficulty are alcoholics, drug addicts or mentally ill and should be placed in supported housing and provided with specialist treatment. This could be paid for from the Council’s £22.3 million Public Health budget – which is presently largely wasted. Often those is need of such help will agree to move voluntarily – whether they are involved in anti social behaviour or not.

But the reality is that there are “neighbours from Hell” causing misery who should be evicted who have not been. It will be entirely normal when I canvass a block of council flats to be told of one resident causing misery for everyone else in the block. Hammersmith and Fulham owns 12,500 homes. Only a very small minority of tenants cause persistent serious problems. Perhaps fewer than one per cent – but it’s certainly more than 0.05 per cent. Yet they are not being removed. That needs to change. We delay too long before going to court.

Of course gathering evidence is crucial. For instance previously the Council would release CCTV images of those urinating in lifts so that they could be identified. We should do this again.

Also we should tackle the environment that fosters anti social behaviour. The arrangements for removing graffiti are too bureaucratic. The Council spends time and money on admin assessing who owns the property and then write letters to them asking them to remove it. Different teams cover different areas. But one effective way of discouraging graffiti – which is often obscene or threatening – is for it to be removed quickly. As I have requested previously the Council should provide free, rapid, comprehensive graffiti removal service to cover all property in the borough.

Ugly office block plan for Wellesley Avenue rejected

I was pleased that last night Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Planning and Development Control Committee rejected a proposal for an ugly office block in Wellesley Avenue.

The overbearing development would also have been harmful to residents in Dorville Crescent and have had a negative impact on the character of the conservation area.

Planning officers had recommended rejection and my only criticism was that they should have been more emphatic in doing so.

For instance it said of 14 Wellesley Avenue that the “timber cladding on the front elevation is not in keeping with the character and appearance of the conservation area.”

We can all sneer at “mock Tudor”. The building is rather idiosyncratic in the context of the local area. But the point is that the proposed replacement would be awful. So that would be a bad swap. Give me mock Tudor!

With regard to traffic the planning officers said:

“Regarding visitors to the office use it is considered that due to the good public transport accessibility in this location, people would be likely to use transport methods other than a private car to visit the site and therefore the proposal is unlikely to generate any increase in parking pressure or cause conditions detrimental to traffic conditions. “

Come off it.

The office would have 200 people and so there would be a lot more traffic – with all the couriers, Uber taxis, Amazon deliveries, etc.

That would be bad for local schools – with air pollution and congestion during the school run for those children dropped off.

The traffic caused by the existing workshop is very modest – they take in perhaps three cars a week. Also cars are currently parked in the garage, but in future all cars would be on the street.

By all means let’s have a change of use for the workshop – but it should be for new (but traditional) housing. That is what is needed rather than more offices.

Brackenbury Residents Association said the proposed scheme was “alien” and added:

“We value the benefits of mixed use within residential areas, but we consider this application would introduce the wrong mix, creating an inappropriate design for the street, an inappropriate commercial presence, and an insensitive neighbour to the existing houses.”

New developments don’t have to be unattractive. But all too often they are. Local residents and I left the meeting last night to allow the Committee to proceed with its work – remorselessly approving schemes to make our borough less and less beautiful.

But at least we had our victory:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

 

 

Mayor dithering over Flyunder scheme

While the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is keen to spend £70 million of our money on a flawed Cycle Superhighway scheme there is a complete lack of progress on Flyunder proposal. Yet that would offer genuine improvements to cyclists – as well as the rest of us.

As the Hammersmith BID has said:

“The Hammersmith flyover bisects the town centre, cutting off access to the river and inhibiting pedestrian and cycle movement. A tunnel would provide an opportunity to reconnect the centre of Hammersmith with the riverside, creating an opportunity to invest in new public space and making the area more attractive for tourists, people who work in the area and local residents.”

Two months ago Caroline Pidgeon, a member of the London Assembly, put in a couple of pretty straightforward questions about it. She hasn’t even had an answer:

Hammersmith flyunder (1)

Caroline Pidgeon (14-Sept-2017)

Do you support the Hammersmith flyunder project?

Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

Hammersmith flyunder (2)

Caroline Pidgeon (14-Sept-2017)

What action have you taken to implement the proposed Hammersmith flyunder?

Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

Council slammed by residents for “misleading” claims over high speed broadband

Hammersmith and Fulham Council has been criticised by residents over a “misleading” statement about high speed broadband.

Cllr Mark Loveday backs their challenge and says:

“Tens of thousands of residents still won’t be getting access to Superfast Broadband – including people within a few yards of the Town Hall itself. The technical masterpiece known as BT’s ‘Cabinet 50’ (which seems to contain little more than the dashboard wiring from an Austin Allegro) is just one such example.

“Apart from Cabinet 50, BT Openreach refuse to say which residents and businesses will benefit from the new ‘deal’. Officers have guesstimated the numbers who will benefit in the press notice, but have not been given any hard details – so it’s impossible to check. I still cannot get an answer whether residents in Peterborough Road SW6, whose BT Cabinet appears to be 8 inches from the main Fulham telephone exchange, will get a fibre connection to the exchange itself. We also don’t know about residents and business with direct connections to the exchange and who are not served by BT Cabinets.

“It is not a question of technical problems, but financial viability. BT Openreach has offered to install fibre to the cabinets if residents and businesses will pay for the cost themselves.
As I understand it, the new ‘agreement’ mentioned in the press notice doesn’t actually involve the Council doing anything or putting any resource into the rollout.”

He has suggested that Section 106 funds could be used to pay the cost of the ‘left behind’ areas and achieve near 100 per cent access.

Public consultation opens on Thursday for the Town Hall redevelopment

After the fiasco of the demolition of the cinema a public consultation opens on Thursday (9 November 2017) on the Council’s new proposals to redevelop Hammersmith Town Hall and immediately-surrounding area of King Street.

Public consultation events will take place on:

Thursday 9 November from 4pm to 8pm
Saturday 11 November from 10am to 2pm

Both events will be held at Hammersmith Town Hall in King Street.

I have asked what alternative design (if any) will be offered to residents to the one to be produced by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners….

UPDATE

The panels with the awful new proposals are here.