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.

Residents complain of helicopter noise

The Brackenbury Residents Association – as well as a number of individual residents – have complained about helicopter noise getting much worse recently.

I have raised this with the Council who have responded as follows:

As a local authority we do not have any powers over helicopter flight routes although there are certain rules and regulations (“Rules of the Air”) that helicopter pilots must adhere to when they are flying over London.

Single-engine helicopters are required to fly along designated routes, which includes along the River Thames for helicopters flying over H&F. These routes avoid flying over built up areas as much as possible. However, helicopters with more than one engine, typically twin-engines, are allowed to deviate from the designated routes if they have Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance to do so. Most helicopters in London airspace these days are multi-engine, so they have greater freedom (subject to ATC permission) to fly where, in the past, most helicopters would not have been allowed to go.

In general, unless helicopters are landing or taking off, they should be 1000 feet (c.300m) above buildings etc. The Police Air Support Unit and Emergency Services Air Ambulance are subject to special requirements and may need to operate at lower altitudes or hover over specific locations.

If a resident thinks they have seen helicopter activity that breaches the Regulations, the CAA will investigate, although they need adequate information to do this. Reports can be submitted online here: https://apply.caa.co.uk/CAAPortal/terms-and-conditions.htm?formCode=ABL.  The council also has representatives on the London Heliport Consultative Committee who can raise local helicopter related issues for discussion and investigation, although the focus is mostly on heliport activities.  Further details can be found here: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200439/get_involved/443/battersea_heliport_and_helicopter_noise/3

We do indeed have a local councillor London Heliport Consultative Committee – but he hasn’t turned up for over a year. So a fat lot of use that is. Yes I am looking at you Cllr Larry Culhane.

Anyway I have logged a further query with the Council. It may not have any legal powers itself but I don’t think it is reasonable for it to provide some leadership and assistance to local residents. My new query is as follows:

I note the minutes of the London Helicopter Consultative group says:

“Stephen Dance and Luis Gomez-Agustina from London South Bank University gave a presentation on the first stage of the noise monitoring study that had commenced at the beginning of May. Members were told of the results of measurements taken from balconies at Prices Court (150m from heliport on Wandsworth riverside) and also at Blantyre Tower (approx. 1250m from heliport on the flight path on Kensington and Chelsea riverside). It was noted that measuring equipment is powered by a car battery, meaning no requirement for residents to plug cables into their supply, and that the intention was to monitor for no longer than a month at each location. Stephen Dance said that measurements over the 19/5 to 23/5 period showed many incidences of high noise levels attributable to helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, sirens and also drilling in the River Thames, with particular ‘spikes’ during times of high heliport use. These findings required further analysis and collaboration. Residents had also been asked to keep a log of helicopter movements and Stephen Dance also confirmed that ‘spot measurements’ would be taken on expected high volume of movement days around Ascot, Formula 1 Grand Prix, etc. “

Please could the Council encourage (finance?) such monitoring in our borough with a view to reporting the findings to the CAA if the rules have been broken.

Best wishes,
Harry

I will let you know of any further news. There is also a survey that you can fill in – which I suppose can’t do any harm in ensuring that the extent of concern is recorded.

Return of the Triffids

In streets across the borough weeds continue to grow out of control.

The Council are only attempting to get rid of them using a “hot water spray applicator”.

It is pretty ineffective – perhaps taking four or five times longer than the previous arrangements.  A large van is required so parking to get the hoses out was a problem. It is supposed to be eco-friendly as it does not use chemicals. But is even that true? A noisy diesel generator to be running the whole time to run the water heater and the pumps – so much for the greenest Borough. They do this twice a year – and it still doesn’t work. Previously spraying weed killer happened once a year and did the trick.

Clear up this Askew Road eyesore

A local resident recently got in touch about the junction of Starfield Road and Askew Road which, as he says, “looks like a bombsite”. This is not just an eyesore but a waste of land – which is so precious given the housing shortage.

The Council planning enforcement team recently got an advertising hoarding removed from the site. But clearly that is  not enough. Often resolving these problems is more complicated than might be thought. But as President Kennedy said:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Victory! New trees to be planted in Beavor Lane

I have written before about the poor record of the Labour Council with regard to planting new street trees. Often money is not an excuse as the funding is allocated under Section 106 agreements from property developments. But due to poor management and low political priority the new trees just don’t get planted.

An example was the 271-281 King Street development which included an agreement of £14,ooo for new trees in the local area.

After some persistent lobbying I have not got some news from the Council’s Arboricultural Officer for some new trees. He says:

“I have issued jobs for trial tree pits to be dug at the following sites which if successful will be planted up this spring:

Beavor Lane side of 271-281 King St (S of substation in footway)

Beavor Lane opp side of 271-281 King St (in existing build out opp 5)

Beavor Lane opp side of 271-281 King St (in existing build out opp 1/3)

Beavor Lane Eastern side os Independent Muslim School (northern end in footway)

Beavor Lane junct Theresa Rd northern side in new build out (probably have to wait till 2017/18)

Standish Road junct Aitkin Place N (in existing build out)

Theresa Road os 23-34 Chambon Place (north side near Beavor Lane in footway)

I had identified several other sites but unfortunately after consulting utility companies and carrying out more detailed service checks these had services in the ground so can’t be planted.

I have also asked an engineer to come up with designs and costs for constructing other new build outs containing tree pits, but this will take some time and involve further consultation with Highways Parking and Traffic Management teams before we can start work. This latter element of planting in new build outs will probably now have to wait till the summer so any successful trial pits will be ready for next winter’s planting season.”

That is a start. Although by no means yet our £14,000 worth…