Please come and help remove plastic bottles from the bank of the Thames

A report from Thames 21

The Big Bottle Count will be taking place September 2 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Join Thames21 and the #OneLess bottle campaign for our biggest ever counting project on the Thames. On the 2nd September, we will be sending volunteers to around 20 collection hotspots, including by Hammersmith Bridge,  on the Thames to count (and remove) that rising scourge of the world’s rivers and oceans – plastic bottles. Over our 20 years of cleaning the Thames we have noticed how the rapid rise in the use of drink bottles has been reflected in the river. Teaming up with #OneLess, we going to attempt to count and remove all the bottles on Thames foreshore. Last year, we visited 11 sites and retrieved 2,500 bottles. This year we are going a step further and visit every site where we know bottles accumulate.

If you are interested in getting involved, please register here.

In August, we will get in touch again to arrange a suitable time and place for you to participate.

If you have any questions you can email us on bigbottlecount@thames21.org.uk.

How much is the Council’s flawed weed removal policy change costing us?

It is obvious to residents across Hammersmith and Fulham that the Council’s policy of using a “hot water spray applicator” to remove weeds from the borough’s pavements is ineffective.

Their claim that the change is “green” is also dubious – as noisy diesel generators need to be running the whole time to run the water heater and the pumps.

But what about the cost?

I have asked the Council:

“Please advise the annual spending on removing weeds from pavements in the borough for 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17 and the budget for the this service for the current financial year.”

The reply from the Waste Contract Manager

“I’m afraid the information regarding the annual spend on removing weeds from pavements cannot be provided due to commercial sensitivity by virtue of paragraph(s) 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972.”

I have responded:

“I wish to formally request this information under the Environmental Information Regulations. The exemption you cite under Schedule 12A is not an exception under the EIR provisions. Any potential exception under EIR is also subject to a public interest test. Disclosure will be in the public interest since (a) it relates to the spending of
council taxpayers’ money, and (b) it will help inform public debate and democratic scrutiny of the council’s functions on protecting local amenity and the local environment.

“There is no legitimate economic interest in refusing to disclose this information and there is no tangible harm that would be realistically caused to the council by revealing its annual spending on controlling weeds. I note that the total spending on individual contractors is already public by virtue of the spending data which must be published by the council under the statutory (DCLG) Transparency Code and therefore does not have any quality of confidence.

“Indeed, the Transparency Code states: “The Government has not seen any evidence that publishing details about
contracts entered into by local authorities would prejudice procurement exercises or the interests of commercial organisations” – this is clearly guiding when assessing the public interest under the EIR provisions.”

Maybe they will eventually give me the figures. Maybe they won’t. But it’s pretty likely that the costs have gone up by rather a lot, isn’t up? Common sense would suggest that and their obstruction in disclosing the cost to the Council Taxpayer would seem to confirm it.

So Labour rule means more weeds, at a higher cost and with more pollution.

Council to hold helicopter meeting

Following the concerns about increased helicopter noise I have requested that the Council takes some responsibility for discovering the causes and considering how to protect residents. Specifically I asked that a report on helicopter noise be brought before the Community Safety, Environment and Residents Services Policy and Accountability Committee –  and that it includes what action (if any) the Council is proposing to take.

I am pleased that this request has been agreed. The Committee Co-ordinator says:

“Further to your request below, please note that the issue of Helicopter Noise will be discussed at the Community Safety, Environment and Residents Services PAC on 20th November 2017.

“The meeting will start at 7pm and be held in the Courtyard Room at Hammersmith Town Hall.”

Residents are welcome to come along and have their say.

That’s annoying that it won’t be until November and I will obviously press the Council to take action before then.

Labour MP for Hammersmith backed Venezuelan regime

Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith, was among those who backed the regime in Venezuela.

The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign patrons include the Labour MP Diane Abbott. It boasts it has 18 national trade unions affiliated to it (as well, naturally, as those champions of free elections the Communist Party of Britain.)

Their magazine in 2012 included a statement from Andrew Slaughter, then Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister, that a Chavez victory was:

“A great result for the people of Venezuela, progressive politics and the democratic process.”

The independence of the judiciary under the “progressive” arrangement commended by Mr Slaughter is indicated by this report from Amnesty International:

“Judge María Lourdes Afiuni remained under house arrest throughout 2012. In September, unidentified gunmen drove past the building where she lives and opened fire, aiming towards her apartment. In November, she disclosed publicly that she had been raped while in jail. Judge Afiuni was detained in December 2009 and remained imprisoned for over a year. She was charged with offences including corruption, abuse of authority and association to commit a crime. She had ordered the conditional release of a banker who had been held in custody awaiting trial for more than two years, a decision within her remit and in line with Venezuelan law.”

Will Slaughter now renounce his backing for this regime?

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.