How long will the King Street shops stay boarded up?

Local residents are growing understandably impatient that premises intended to be used for shops at 407 King Street are still boarded up.

The Council’s planning policies fail to account for the housing shortage – that inflexibility has caused the derelict Ravenscourt Hospital site to remain an eyesore for ten years when allowing change of use for housing would make more sense.

There also needs to be an acceptance that with more of our purchases being done online fewer shops are needed. With many existing shops struggling the viability of insisting on yet more shops being included in new developments is rather doubtful. Of course each case will have particular issues to consider but overall we already have more shops than we need.

The Council’s planning department tells me:

“Generally, we would not be in favour of residential development at ground floor level on a busy road, as the quality of the accommodation would not be great.”

I understand that point. Also I appreciate the symmetry of having a row of shops along a high street. But then the boarded up shops aren’t great either. Wouldn’t it at least make sense to allow flats on the corner?

Anyway the Council’s planning enforcement officer tells me:

“The planning enforcement team have recently written to the developers advising them that they are required to remove the hoardings and install the glazed shopfronts in accordance with their planning permission. If they fail to do so they will be liable to enforcement action.”

So I suppose that would be better than nothing.

 

No Man’s Land

This is the land that nobody seems to want.

Residents in Stamford Brook Road complained to me about it being poorly maintained. The bushes are not cut. The grass is cut but the cuttings not removed. Litter is seldom cleared.

So I raised the matter with Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The response came back that the land was in Ealing. Then this changed to say the land was in Hounslow. Then Hounslow Council came back to insist it was in Hammersmith and Fulham. Amidst the muddle and delay the email chain grew ever longer. Turf warfare with the difference that is was a fight not to accept ownership of the bit of turf in dispute.

I have now been sent what (I think) is the definitive response:

“Hounslow Council has maintenance responsibility for the Stamford Brook Green (the land was formerly under H&F Council’s responsibilities, but this changed some years ago following a boundary change).

Unfortunately a H&F rubbish bin and bench on this land were not removed following the boundary change, which has now been actioned. This clearly is confusing for residents and we have reminded Hounslow Council that they are responsible for grass cutting and maintenance and that rubbish collection is undertaken by Hounslow contractors. Hounslow Council will decide if a new rubbish bin is sited at Stamford Brook Green.

However, to respond to the concerns raised by local residents, last week H&F contractors removed the rubbish on the Green and we have let Hounslow officers know.

H&F Council is the current legal owner of the land as unfortunately the land ownership was not updated as it should have been to reflect the historic boundary change. The legal asset title is being corrected, so it is vested in Hounslow Council’s legal ownership. The operational responsibility will then tally with the legal title – both being with Hounslow Council.”

Council’s shocking failure to clear rubbish from local Church

There is an excellent Anglican church in Paddenswick Road called Holy Innocents. Many local residents have been to worship there and listen to the erudite and good humoured sermons of Father David Matthews, a tall Canadian. Even many atheists will have found themselves there at some stage or another – at a concert, a community event of seizing the chance to vote for me in council elections when the Church Hall is used as a polling station…

Recently the Council failed to collect the recycling from the Church. As a result of the overflowing rubbish the Church became victims of fly tipping they are actually unwilling to help at all.  The Council told the Church representatives that they would have to try and get into the bins themselves to empty them and then pay to have the rubbish taken away.  Quite unacceptable.

So as a result of the Council’s negligence the Church was penalised by having fly-tipping dumped on their premises then rather than apologise the Council wanted to charge them extra.

After I raised the case I am assured the rubbish has now been removed – but only grudgingly and after some delay. But I do think an apology would be in order.

There is also a more general point that those who are victims of fly-tipping should not be punished twice. The Council should clear it away.

Draped Woman in danger

Historic England has included the Draped Woman sculpture, North Verbena Gardens W6 in their Heritage at Risk Register.

The report says:

“Cast concrete sculpture, circa 1959 by Karel Vogel, situated in an open space off the Great West Road. It was an early commission of the London County Council’s Patronage of the Arts scheme, unusually commissioned to provide visual amenity in compensation for a major road scheme. The cast concrete is now cracking in many places, and past repairs are both unsightly and failing. The concrete is also being damaged by rusting structural iron elements.”

I have asked the Council’s Conservation Officer what we are going to do about it.

Clean the chewing gum stains off the borough’s pavements


Keeping the streets clean is a basic function of local government. Since Labour took charge in Hammersmith and Fulham this has been less of a priority and the streets have got dirtier – general litter, more fly-tipping and weeds left to grow out of control.

Another dreary aspect is how the paving stones have become more stained – especially with chewing gum. Other London boroughs have taken action to deal with this. Yet in this borough it has been neglected.

The machine featured in this video would cost around £40,000. It is possible to buy a machine for £30,000. That is a relatively modest sum in the context of the Council’s budget. If it was used a couple of days a week it would be able to keep our high streets clean.

Furthermore the cost could be offset in various ways. Section 106 contributions from property developers. Or business sponsorship. Or splitting the bill with a neighbouring borough.

The Council is perfectly happy to spend £1.48 million a year printing boastful propaganda. Yet when it comes to modest, practical ways to improve the environment it says no funds are available.

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.