Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Recession Bush: Coningham Arms for Sale

That purveyor of raucous Irish music on a sunday night, the Coningham Arms, is up for sale. You can see the advert here.

I've had the odd drink in there in the past, albeit not for a long while. Usually before a QPR match - and also being a Celtic supporter I appreciated the fact its as much a green hoops pub as a blue one. But it never seemed particularly busy, even on match day.

So its hard sometimes to put everything down to the recession, but so many businesses seem to be folding completely or selling on it's got to have some connection.

Either way, good luck Coningham and all those who sail in her.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Chronicle campaign: H&F hit back

Our Council have responded to me regarding this campaign by the Fulham Chronicle, which calls the Council freesheet H&F News “propaganda” and calls for it to be scrapped.

A Council spokesman said: "H&F News is a very popular newspaper with residents and advertisers because it supports their community. Our residents want to know what their council is doing. They expect us to promote community groups, theatres, businesses and schools. H&F News was launched to fill a communications void because, for more than ten years, Trinity Mirror had no interest in our borough and produced newspapers that very few residents wanted to read. While we welcome The Chronicle going free, it is still very much early days and their readership and circulation has yet to be proven. H&F is a vibrant borough that deserves a strong, vibrant media."

They also pointed out that H&F News is published under very tight legal restrictions, which prevents any local authority from publishing anything that is deemed to support any one political party. He argued that overall H&F Council continues to bring down the cost of communicating to residents and spends less on communicating than the vast majority of other London councils.

I think regular readers will gather what I think of most of that statement but in the interests of balance I thought it important to present the other side of the argument. Their point on circulation figures might be the Chronicle’s Achilles heel in all of this, given the issues they seem to be experiencing with delivering the paper. Although I did in fact get a copy last week!

Just as I rail against, say, H&F News for being one-sided I wanted to make sure I didn’t fall into that trap myself. So here you are!

Wonder what the Chronicle makes of what the Council have to say?

1400 UPDATE: The Chronicle have been quick to respond to the Council's comments. Speaking to this blog a Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “This council is quite clearly deluded. They are not media and what they publish is not journalism. They can not hold themselves to account, only independent reporting can do that.

“It is time for them to stop sidestepping the real issue. h&f news is not a  newspaper and they should stop pretending to be so. Hammersmith and Fulham Council's propaganda sheet goes far beyond their statutory duty and threatens the survival of local newspapers, local democracy and freedom of speech." 

So we have the Council accusing the Chronicle of being previously uninterested in the Borough and with questionable circulation figures, while the Chronicle responds that the Council is 'deluded' and denying freedom of speech. Expect this one to rumble on..

April 22nd: Candidates debate

What looks like being the only other chance now to see the parliamentary candidates debate in the Battle of the Bush is on April 22nd at 1930 at St Paul's Church in Hammersmith. It should be a date for anyone who cares about the future shape and character of the Bush. Entry is free and at this point you do not need to pre-register. If that changes I'll update you.

Some big issues are going to be discussed, among them housing and planning, but also a range of others - I plan on asking about the action that they plan on taking if elected to stick up for local businesses in recession-hit W12. You'll have your own questions of course. But do make an effort to go.

On a lighter note, what on earth is this rubbish poster all about advertising the event?!? They could have done better with an kids after-school club doing it for them!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Fulham Chronicle campaign hits billboards and Westminster

H&F Council are being targetted in major new advertising campaign by the Fulham Chronicle in their effort to have the tax-payer funded Council "newspaper" closed down.

This morning the paper launched a two week outdoor advertising campaign on key sites around the borough, including eight 48 sheet posters.  

As part of the launch an ad van will travel around the Houses of Parliament this morning before moving onto the Hammersmith & Fulham area.
The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the council’s publishing activity and the cost and threat to democracy this poses to the borough’s residents, local businesses and politicians.

“Proper Papers Not Propaganda” is a demonstration against the council’s propaganda paper the h&f news.  

Additionally the campaign aims to attract the attention of central government, national commentators and key decision makers.      

The campaign’s key objectives are to:

  • mobilise residents’ support and raise awareness that h&f news is run by the council and is therefore not an impartial news source, even though it masquerades as a genuine newspaper      

  • inform residents that £174,292* of their money per annum is being used to foot the bill for h&f news

  • make it clear that if h&f news continues unchallenged then local democracy and freedom of speech are severely compromised  

  • stop h&f news in its current format.

The campaign was launched in the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle on Friday 26th March with a front page splash of the campaign along with an open letter from the Chronicle’s editor Adrian Seal on page seven in which he explains to readers the implications of the council’s publishing strategy.  

I have to say, this is going to cause acute embrassment for the Council and it will be interesting to see for how long they can hold out. They haven't offered any public comment on this campaign as yet but they will have to now, as their reputation is going to be tarnished by the sheer scale of this campaign. I've written to them for comment and will share that as soon as I get it.

In the meantime Simon Edgley, Managing Director of Trinity Mirror Southern (owners of the Chronicle), said: “We have always maintained that while we support the council’s statutory obligation to communicate its activities to residents we don’t believe it should present its views in a way that suggests h&f news is an impartial news observer.

The format, content and frequency of the h&f news is quite clearly intended to look and feel like a genuine newspaper, which of course it is not. It is outrageous that the council is using taxpayers’ money to produce a publication that masquerades as a newspaper but which instead produces biased council spin.    

The council’s publishing strategy is fundamentally wrong and our “Proper Papers Not Propaganda” campaign will continue until the h&f news, in its current format, is stopped.”

Thinking of Russia

Anyone who was caught up in the July 7th bombings can't have helped being transported back there very vividly this morning, as the reports continue to come in of the suicide bombings on the Moscow Metro.

Images of the foil wrap on the injured, medical staff tripping over security forces and that dazed expression on the faces of those that were just trying to get to work, but were confronted with terror instead. I remember it well, and now I've just seen it all again on TV.

It came to Shepherd's Bush once. Let's hope it never does again.

Victoria stabbing: teenager from west London

We've had our fair share of gang related killings in the Bush in the last year or so, and we continue to have a problem with young lads wandering around looking for opportunities to prove their manliness by carrying blades. On my way home from a run a few weeks ago I saw someone who happened to be standing in the way of two wasters running to get on a bus threatened. The lads, no older than 18 or 19, stopped the closing doors of a 207 to yell "if you f. with us, we'll open yer throat up". This was on the north side of the Green at no later than about 7pm. They didn't seem remotely bothered that they were shouting this stuff in front of hundreds of people on and off the bus.

We don't actually have such a major problem in the Bush. I work in Stockwell in south London, which is an area that has a much worse problem. It's quite normal to see the police suddenly pull up in force to search groups of youths hanging around the shops. So we should keep our issues in perspective. But we should also be concerned that of the two gangs who arranged to meet for a fight at Victoria station which left one schoolboy dead, one of them was reportedly from next door Acton, just up the Uxbridge Road. The victim was Sofyen Belamouadden, who lived in Acton and went to Henry Compton School in Fulham. He was 15.

Back at last year's otherwise excellent Acton Carnival we even had to push a buggy through a knife arch because of this threat, which the police to their credit take very seriously. They seem to have a handle on who is responsible for the Victoria incident, with 20 people having been hauled in for questioning already. Let's hope some good comes out of it and some very dangerous people are taken off our streets.

Twelve people have been charged with Sofyen's murder and will appear at West London Youth Court later today.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Prisoner votes may swing Battle of the Bush

Our hidden neighbours resident in Wormwood Scrubs may hold the balance of power in the Battle of the Bush, with the Fulham Chronicle reporting that they may be given the vote in time for the General Election. This is because of a ruling given by the Council of Europe which, if not complied with by the Government, could result in legal action.

Given that most prisoners come from poor backgrounds (and therefore likely to be Labour voters if they vote at all) it hasn't taken long for Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey to come out against the idea in very forceful terms. He said in an email to supporters:

"I'm opposed to prisoners having a right to vote. Civil rights go with responsibilities and I believe that those in prison should temporarily forfeited [sic] those rights. Part of prisoners paying their debt to society should include them temporarily forfeiting rights that the rest of us enjoy".

But he then went on to say:

“The very fact that Labour is considering putting a mechanism in place that would let prisoners vote is just another example of how out of touch with public opinion they are" - ignoring that it's not a Labour initiative but one coming from the European Council. Andy Slaughter isn't that keen either, saying:

"Part of their punishment is having some of your civil rights withdrawn ... but people who have short-sentences there may be room for them to have the vote as part of their rehabilitation back into society."

I've often wondered about those who live in HMP Wormwood Scrubs because I see the prison almost every day, either on the tube or running around the Scrubs training for the marathon. You see the prisoners looking out or moving the curtains from the ground and on the occasions when we used the maternity services at next door Queen Charlotte's Hopsital I used to look over the wall and into the prison to see daily life going on. Lets not forget this prison was found to be a very brutal place, with torture the norm just a few years ago, abuses which took place right amongst us without anyone knowing. Should they have the vote? On balance probably not in my view, but its a difficult one.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Heathrow third runway dead as dodo

Campaigners against the third runway for Heathrow airport have been celebrating a landmark legal judgement which appears to have eliminated any possibility of the airport getting the go-ahead to expand its levels of traffic, noise and pollution. Lord Justice Carnwath has ruled effectively that the Government's plans are at odds with the UK's climate change policy and has sent the whole lot back to the drawing board.

Those of us who live under the flight path at the moment I am sure will be breathing a sigh of relief.

Huge credit goes to the Council for having campaigned against this as part of the 2M group, and to our MP Andy Slaughter who actually resigned from the Government over the issue so he could campaign against it. They should all be really proud of overturning a decison that would have blighted the Bush.

Cllr Greg Smith, for our Council said:

"This is a spectacular victory for our residents. The Government had been trying to close down debate on the true economic impact of a third runway by presenting it as a done deal. Today’s ruling has blown that position apart. The Government just did not want to have to take on board the real consequences of new climate change laws. The judge made it clear the figures just did not add up.”

Andy Slaughter reacted to the announcement by saying:

"I asked the then Transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, to conduct a further review of aviation policy before making the decision on Heathrow but he refused.  The Aviation White Paper which purports to justify Heathrow expansion was published seven years ago.  That was before climate change became a central plank of Government policy and before the seriousness of global warming was widely accepted.

"The high Court has explicitly said that current aviation policy does not address the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008 and must do so.  I believe it will be impossible to square the two and still justify the Third Runway.  The Government should now tell BAA to put its plans on hold while a new White paper is commissioned"

Fulham Chronicle launches campaign against H&F News

Regular readers of this blog will know that there is one subject that excercises me more than most, and that is our money being spent by this Council on party political propaganda dressed up as impartial news. The practice is thankfully rare in the UK and reminds you more of eastern Europe in the 1980s yet here in Hammersmith & Fulham we taxpayers fork out hundreds of thousands every year for the Council's own propaganda paper, offically called H&F News but better known as Pravda.

According to the Fulham Chronicle this costs us £174,292 every year. How many police officers or nurses could that employ instead?

The Council has been condemned for doing this by their own Conservative colleagues in Parliament, and in local government yet still continue the practice. They have been condemned repeatedly by residents at public meetings and yet still they continue. And of course by their political opponents, which they dismiss as politically motivated.

The result is that the independent press is driven out of business because they hoover up the advertising revenue and residents are robbed of any independent coverage of what is actually going on in their borough. At one stage, when the Fulham Chronicle was sacking staff and selling off its offices this blog was pretty much the only source of non-political news in H&F. In recent weeks the Chronicle has made an attempt at a come-back with a free-delivery model, but they are clearly struggling with copies of the paper failing to be delivered in large parts of the borough judging by the comments I've received from readers.

So it's time to support their campaign against this status-quo and you can help do this by supporting the Chronicle's campaign and by signing their petition to have H&F News closed down. We deserve a free press in this borough, and all you have to do is sign a petition to help bring it a step closer. I strongly urge you to back this campaign.

H&F wins "Council of the Year" award

H&F has been awarded the Local Government Chronicle's "Council of the Year" gong, making it the 'best council in britain' according to the paper. As I said here in January this year when the Council was nominated for the award, this is now likely to feature as a main plank of the Conservative's campaign for re-election to run our authority for the next 4 years.

The judges panel said of our Coucnil:

"This council is doing something very special in challenging times. The whole of local government is expected to deliver more for less but this organisation is a leader. With a very strong leader and a clear vision it is reducing council tax while improving services and resident satisfaction.”

Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, the Leader of the Council said:

 “In these tough times we are committed to providing our residents with the very best services at the lowest possible cost. Everyone at H&F can be very proud of this achievement."

Whatever you think about the Council credit to them for winning the award. But what I still find odd about the whole thing is the contrast between the way Stephen Greenhalgh is delighted to welcome this external ranking of H&F’s services but chose to speak out against the independent Audit Commission for having the cheek to carry out it’s own ranking of H&F’s services – which is what it is there to do!

Speaking about the tiresome Audit Commission’s inquiries into the way H&F delivers services to residents the same Stephen Greenhalgh said:

“Who cares what some Audit Commission bureaucrat sat in their ivory tower thinks of services in Hammersmith & Fulham? In all my years as council Leader I can count on one hand the number of times I have been asked what rating the Audit Commission gives the council.”

Well yes, Cllr Greenhalgh, but how many fingers on that same hand would count the number of times you have been asked about the Local Government Chronicle’s assessment of local authorities and where Hammersmith & Fulham stands in that assessment? Not a burning issue on the doorstep I would have thought.

The difference is that the Local Government Chronicle is a geek’s magazine about local government read by geeks while the Audit Commission is a statutory body that safeguards taxpayers money and assesses real-life service delivery. I know which one as a tax payer I care more about!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Candidates debate about debates

Many of you commented that you would have attended this public debate between the four parliamentary candidates that took part in the discussion at Imperial College the other week. There really wasn't much publicity given to the debate beforehand.

Andy Slaughter MP, the Labour candidate, has just launched an attack on Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey for turning down, as he claims, the opportunity of having future such debates inside the constituency where local people can hear the candidates set out their plans for Hammersmith & Shepherd's Bush.

He charges Shaun with boycotting the opportunity to attend two similar debates inside the constituency which all other invited candidates had agreed to. Debates organised by the Hammersmith & Fulham Trades Council and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been turned down by the Conservatives. Andy says this:

"it is usual for a variety of organisations to host debates between the main candidates before the election.  It is the only opportunity voters have to see candidates as they really are rather than as they present themselves through publicity and the media. 

‘This is particularly important in the case of Bailey who is the most heavily promoted candidate ever in the UK, spending an estimated £200,000 last year, provided by investment bankers and other wealthy backers.  But the more he spends on PR the less we know about him and what he thinks.  People are asking who is the real Shaun Bailey and why is he not prepared to be questioned by the people he seeks to represents."

I checked with Shaun's office, and a spokesman appeared to confirm that they had indeed turned down these debates but he rubbished the idea that Shaun was unwilling to debate saying: "Shaun is happy to attend any hustings organised by impartial organisations who invite all of the Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush parliamentary candidates.".

He went on to point out that this evening "he will be with the other candidates for a roundtable discussion on a local radio station in Hammersmith.  Shaun is also looking forward to the hustings planned for April 22nd at St Paul's Church."

Of the organisations whose debates he turned down the spokesman said: "Shaun has no interest in attending 'debates' organised by biased organisations whose very existence is to promote one view".

So all eyes on April 22nd at St Paul's Church then!

this isn't just any library...'s an H&F library! Well here it is in all it's glory, the sexy new library on the Askew Road that now houses the delivery and sorting office that used to be the bane of my life on Silver Street round the back of Westfield. That truly awful place with truly awful staff who seemed to rejoice in telling you "nah, its not 'ere" has been replaced with a new office in the revamped Askew Road Library.

Time will tell if the service gets any better. But in the meantime what about this marketing strategy of "more than a library"?! I could almost hear the suggestive woman's voice from the M&S ad .. "this isn't just any library .. it's an H&F library". While presumably pouring some cream over a work of Dickens.

Can we expect to see this soon in Pravda?!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Labour launches local election campaign for Hammersmith

This thursday the Labour Party faithful from Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush will be gathering for an event that is being described as a "social event to celebrate the launch of [the] campaign". The activists will be joined by Andy Slaughter MP and Labour Leader on the Council Steven Cowan, who will be outlining the contents of the manifesto on which they'll be campaigning to wrest the Council back from the current Tory administration.

1800 UPDATE: Ben Bradshaw MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (and Shepherd's Bush resident) will also be there along with local Shepherd's Bush band Totem.

The event will be taking place at Ginglik, which was the music venue the current Council wanted to evict from Shepherd's Bush Green, but were forced to back down as a result of a strong local campaign, which this blog supported at the time.

The event is for Labour Party members only but look out for more from them soon .. I'll be posting all local manifestos on the blog as I get them. In many ways the make up of the next Council will directly change the Bush in far more ways than the result of the parliamentary election - so look out for more from me on that battle too.

In the meantime here's a blast from the past on video - the ultimately successful campaign that saved a unique local venue that adds a lot to the charecter of the Bush. Where else has a music and comedy venue based in an underground Edwardian toilet on a Green surrounded by roads?!

Shepherd's Bush tube: £39 million wasted

Shepherd's Bush tube station, completely inaccessible for the many disabled people who live in and around the area, will not for the foreseeable future have any ammendments made to it to allow all Londoners to use it. We know that because the Mayor, after stalling for weeks, told London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon so in response to her questions to him on the issue.

This is despite the fact that £39 million had already been spent looking at step-free access, including a tendering process. All of which was halted when TfL pretty much decided it wasn't worth bothering with after all, saying that they'd got their sums wrong and it would be too expensive. Their complete lack of any care for designing with the needs of disabled people in mind was revealed by another of Boris's answers this week, revealing that no step-free access was ever even part of the original plan for the new station. This was a £170 million plan in total, but still no money (or even thought) for a simple lift.

Disabled people will have to wait until 2020 when the Disability Discrimination Act will come fully into force for transport - thus forcing the likes of TfL to finally make their tube stations accesible to all. Until then - disabled Londoners are very much bottom of TfL's pile it would seem.

The questions and answers are below:

Question No: 1070 / 2010

Caroline Pidgeon

Further to your answer to question (182/2010), what was the original scope of the station works agreed with Westfield Ltd if the inclusion of lifts was originally included?

Answer from the Mayor:

The construction of lifts was never included in Westfield Ltd’s scope of works.

Westfield agreed, as part of its £170million package of transport improvements in the White City area to demolish the existing ticket hall and build a larger new ticket hall.  Over and above this, and in return for London Underground granting an eight month closure of the station, Westfield replaced the station escalators, some years ahead of the plan.  Replacing the escalators while the station was closed and being rebuilt offered considerable cost savings and much less disruption for passengers.

London Underground also used the station closure to accelerate work to refurbish the below ground areas of the station, so all work on the station – apart from the lift installation – was complete by the time the Westfield shopping centre opened.

Westfield also paid for the new station at Wood Lane on the Hammersmith & City line.


Shepherd’s Bush step free access (2)

Question No: 1071 / 2010

Caroline Pidgeon

Given the success of the new Westfield shopping centre, have any discussions taken place about them contributing any money to finish the step free access at this station?

Answer from the Mayor:

London Underground has not made any further approach to Westfield for funding to provide step-free access at Shepherd’s Bush station, and has no expectation that Westfield would be willing to make any such further contribution.

Westfield contributed £170 million, under the terms of its planning permission and development agreement, to providing transport improvements in the White City area, which included the rebuilding of Shepherd’s Bush ticket hall, the construction of the new Wood Lane Underground station on the Hammersmith & City line and the construction of new Central line sidings.


Shepherds Bush Step Free Access (3)

Question No: 1072 / 2010

Caroline Pidgeon

Can you let me know which companies TfL approached to tender, and what were their estimates of costs, for the (now cancelled) step free access at Shepherds Bush Station?

Answer from the Mayor:

Morgan Est, Birse Metro and Taylor Woodrow all tendered for the work.  Morgan Est was awarded the contract.

For reasons of commercial confidentiality London Underground is not able to make available the details of each of the tenders submitted.


Shepherds Bush Step Free Access (4)

Question No: 1073 / 2010

Caroline Pidgeon

Further to my question last month (182/2010), please can you give me a detailed breakdown on what the £39 million was spent on exactly?

Answer from the Mayor:

The breakdown of costs is as follows:

Description     Cost (£)       
Design and Pre-award    4,435,645      
Main Contractor         22,250,602     
External Contractor     3,652,815      
Metronet BCV    2,924,203      
PFI contractors 1,205,377      
Project Support 3,490,096      
Miscellaneous   1,253,000      
TOTAL   39,211,738     

The works carried out were as follows:
    -       East and West Shaft construction including future-proofing works
    -       Utility diversions works and Thames Water mains strengthening works
    -       Ground treatment works (grouting)
    -       Civil works within platform inverts to support overbridge construction
    -       Alternative design solutions explored by the main contractor
    -       Alternative step free access scheme feasibility studies by Balfour Beatty
    -       Advanced Mechanical & Electrical works and PPP works including works to the spiral staircase
    -       Contribution to the fire and communications system
    -       Contribution to the basement construction
    -       Infrastructure protection and essential services by Metronet
    -       Cable diversion/relocation works
    -       Contribution to high voltage transformer

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Goldhawk Road in the Standard

Yesterday's Standard carried some trenchant criticism of roadworks courtesy of Thames Water in and around Hammersmith & Fulham. Read it here.

Particularly irate was Top Gear presenter James May but I think we all know what it means to be stuck in a bus inching forward around roadworks that have noone apparently working on them. The intelligence of these people is perhaps illustrated by one of my favourite pictures of life in the Bush - this roadmarking was made by one of our do-nothing road diggers. It said it all for me on so many levels.

The Bush: A take of two cities?

That's the question Tim Shelton, a blogger who thinks about the impact of new technologies on people, poses on his blog.

He describes a walk around the 'old' Bush - "..with run-of-the-mill type [shops] you'll find in various modest neighborhoods. A quick walk around the park suggests that the area is primarily dominated by immigrants from the Middle East and you'll often see women in full burkas. A few homeless people and drunks are in the park which is otherwise clean and well used with many children on the play equipment", and then the new Bush of Westfield Shopping Centre: "The mall itself is a fascinating vision of what 21st century life in London (and around the world) may increasingly look like. Steel and sheer glass replace the humble beige brick".

Now read on

Monday, 22 March 2010

Slaughter & Bailey trade cash accusations

Oh dear. first off an admission from me. I actually left this debate about 10 minutes early - and it seems according to the Fulham Chronicle that the civility between the candidates did break down in the end after a questioner asked about some of the comment that surrounded my interview with Shaun Bailey - cue lots of mutual tongue lashings between Bailey and Slaughter.

 Even so, after what was still a relatively civil debate at Imperial College the Labour & Conservative candidates have been getting back to business by trading accusations of how they are funded by dodgy cash.

Andy Slaughter got the first blow in with the pictured article from the Fulham Chronicle the other week, pointing out that much of the tax-avoiding Lord Ashcroft's millions to the Tories has been processed through Conservative HQ, so it is impossible to deny (as Bailey does) that some of it has been funding Bailey's campaign. Bailey has just replied with a list of "ten questions" for Andy Slaughter to answer about his links to Labour funder and BA wrecker the Unite trade union. He's obviously had to work hard to make up ten since the first one is "are you a member of Unite" - I would have thought that would be easily found out by himself with a quick use of Google.

So while Andy Slaughter says of Bailey that he is "standing for a Tory party which is still the party of the super-rich and priviledged", Bailey demands to kow of Slaughter whether he is a member of Unite, how much money he's received from them and whether he supports "..Unite’s decision to strike against BA, which will damage British business and ruin thousands of people’s holiday plans"?

Given the difficulties of both parties on funding at the moment, might it be an idea to stop throwing so much at each other on this issue?

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Gareth Mead sacked

Gareth Mead, the Housing Chief exposed as a Nazi fetishist fond of sending anti semitic and racist text messages was fired yesterday for gross misconduct.

No major surprise there then. Story here from the Chronicle.

Recession Bush: Jennifer David Lighting closes

Another sad sight and evidence of the recession here, the lighting showroom and wholesaler Jennifer David has closed its doors for the last time. A long time feature of the Uxbridge Road, just up from Bush Hall, the shop closed in the last few days. Outside, almost as a last act of defiance there is still a light hanging over the door - ornate of course - which still turns on and off according to how dark it is.

We've seen some light at the end of the tunnel on the Askew Road recently so lets hope for more of the same here too. And I'm sure we all hope for the best for those people who lost their livelihoods when this specialist retailer, always at risk from downturns, eventually went down.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Boris climate change video

A good friday one this - Boris on the prospects for London of climate change. Done in the way only he could get away with but with a very serious and worthwhile message behind it.

My job takes me to places that are already experiencing severe shocks associated with climate change in Africa and Asia. They did nothing to cause climate change, we did that for them. But they are experiencing the chaos it causes.  Just wait till it really hits home here. Do take part in this initiative and give your ideas about what London can do to adapt. Trust me, you really don't want to wait till its too late.

H&F Cyclists hit back

H&F Cyclists have responded to this blog about the barrage of criticism cyclists have come in for fromresidents attending public meetings in the last months. At this Borough Summit last year the complaints from residents were so trenchant that the Deputy Commander of Police in the borough promised that his officers wouldn't hesitate to hand out tickets to people on bikes where they shouldn't be.

And at this month's Crime Summit the topic of rogue two-wheeled bandits was much in evidence again leading to more promises of action from local politicians and Police alike. So what is going on with all this anti-bike-ism!? As a part time cyclist myself, and having covered the issue of cycling in the Bush after several of you expressed your concern about the dangers posed to cyclists in and around Westfield after this tragedy, I asked John Griffiths from H&F Cyclists for his views, almost as a 'right to reply'. Here's what he had to say:

It is true that rogue or problem cyclists cause problems, and I am completely behind attempts to deter or curb them. Recently the police have changed there attitude to cycling on the pavement, and are only giving fines, FPNs, to cyclists cycling to the danger of others. They still stop cyclists for being on the pavement if they are careful and considerate, but no fine as before.


 However pedestrians and cyclists should really be acting together to try and thwart the problem


I have been trying to influence the Council and the police to see the dominance of motor traffic to be the cause of problems. Pedestrians and cyclists have a common cause in that they are squeezed together because of the complete bowing down to the ownership of cars and the flow of motor traffic. I would like to see roads designed, and traffic limited, so that cyclists can always get through on the road. 


I would like to see car parking spaces given up so that shared car companies can have places for there cars. However when the council suggests that residents oppose it and it does not happen. I would like to see car parking spaces given up so that cycle parking could be put on the street rathere than on the footway, little hope there.


I am also hoping that the police will treat the theft of cycling more seriously. Apparently there was an 18% increase in reported cycle theft last year.


The people who come to the summit are not a random cross section of the population, but self selected.


H&F Cyclists are a great local organisation and are responsible for the annual GREENFEST event which takes place this year in Furnivall Gardens on Sunday 20 June, 1-5pm. A completely free event Ladies & Gents. see More about that later.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Battle of the Bush: report on candidates debate

OK folks just back from the debate, possibly the only debate that might take place, between four of the parliamentary candidates vying for our votes. They were Andy Slaughter our current MP, Rollo Miles of the Green Party, Merlene Emerson of the Liberal Democrats and Shaun Bailey for the Conservatives.

Rollo Miles, he of this video, rather stole the night for me with some comic genius - although I'm not sure he meant it that way. Of the Green Party he said "..some people say the Green Party is a hippy vegetarian party...and to some extent it is."  Then, in the midst of the rest of the candidates debating hard about the future composition of the House of Lords Rollo appeared to be nodding off. When asked by the Chair for his views Rollo jerked up, stared at the chair and said "what are we talking about?" when informed he simply said "No" very purposefully. Superb stuff.

On more serious notes the debate was in front of what was quite a packed auditorium of Imperial College students, many of whom lived in the constituency. The main themes were:

  • Where the post general election cuts will fall;

  • The candidates views on education funding; and

  • How to deal with the recession and emerge from it

On the question of cuts Andy Slaughter set out some of the cuts that had already been laid out by the Chancellor Alistair Darling and emphasised that Labour were committed to reducing the pain of the recession but ensuring that the poorest and least able to afford it were protected as much as possible. Rollo Miles urged politicians to be honest about the fact that cuts would be needed across the board while Merlene Emerson, who referred optimistically to "our Chancellor Vince Cable", said that the timing of any cuts was crucial and that to act in haste would be to endanger the recovery. Shaun Bailey emphasised the difference between 'deficit' and 'debt' and argued that Gordon Brown was guilty of trying to disguise our national debt as a deficit. Basically he was saying that Labour have run up huge debt and can't be trusted to get it under control again.

On education the candidates were asked about the funding needs of science courses. Shaun Bailey, in a remarkable feat, managed to get in references to Labour being funded by the trades unions into this answer until the chair asked him to address the question. He then said that although funding for sciences was crucial to Britain's competitiveness in a world economy and that in an ideal world the sector would have everything it needed we needed to live within our means. Merlene Emerson, as was noted by someone in the audience, responded by saying how she "couldn't disagree more" with Shaun Bailey, that she was very passionate about science, before going on to say basically the same thing as Shaun Bailey. Rollo Miles said that the Greens viewed sciences as the key to addressing both Britain's competitiveness but also the problems that face the environment while Andy Slaughter noted that Digby Jones, the former Business Czar, would totally disagree with Shaun Bailey. In his view investment in sciences had to be a priority area in order for Britain to emerge stronger in the global economy. He noted that in Hammersmith there were on average 40% more students in higher education now than compared to when Labour took power in 1997 and said it was a real benefit having Imperial within the constituency.

On the recession and how to get out of it Shaun Bailey rather departed from the party line when he declared that "Trident may need to be looked at again" (not sure David Cameron would appreciate him saying that too much) but he then went on to describe the savings the Conservatives believe could be made by cutting out waste in public spending, such as the legions of consultants he said were employed at public expense. They were all for the chop. Rollo Miles disagreed completely with that and made quite a passionate case for retaining public sector employment at current levels, arguing that "it's about giving people jobs". He clarified this by saying many people employed in the public sector are disabled or have other special needs that would preclude them making much headway in the private sector. I thought this was quite a brave statement and he obviously meant it. Merlene then relieved, er, the pressure by urging the banks to do something about their "constipation", saying that banks were too "constipated to lend to small businesses". oo er. Andy Slaughter said that "Gordon Brown has a number of faults and isn't perfect but he did lead the world out of recession", which received a mixed reception. He stuck to his guns and made a case for the Government taking tough decisions that had saved us from more harm.

These of course are all just highlights but I think they're the main points. Overall it was quite a pleasant debate with little of the nastiness that has been seen in this campaign to date. You got the impression that it could all boil over at the first provocation but it never did and was notable for the humour that all the candidates used. They all ended up looking quite good actually.

So now, dear readers, to bed!


Council statement on Gareth Mead Nazi affair

I've just been sent a statement from the Council in relation to this sordid business. They say: "Gareth Mead has been suspended pending a full disciplinary investigation."

So there you have it!

Candidates debate tonight

The main parliamentary candidates involved in the Battle of the Bush will be debating in person this evening at Imperial College debating society. The debate is being held on the South Kensington Campus in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building at 8pm in room G34.

All are apparently welcome to attend although please bear in mind this is a student society event, so ring ahead if you do plan on coming.

And yes, this is very last minute notice, the event line up having only been confirmed very recently!

Cyclists: Boat race picnic/barbecue

H&F Cyclists are organising a picnic/bbq for the Borough's cycling fraternity just on the other side of the river by the Thames Path, to coincide with the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge on Easter Saturday 3rd April at 3:15pm

The venue is around the mile post for the race. This looks a bit like a small Cleopatra’s needle about 10 feet high. It is surrounded by railings. It is a memorial to Steve Fairbairn. There are a couple of wooden benches, and a TV camera stand, at the same location. You can find this monument along the towpath on the South side of the River Thames between Hammersmith Bridge and Putney Bridge. It is one third of the way from Hammersmith Bridge to Putney Bridge.  You can find a map here

John Griffiths of H&F Cyclists says:

Boats will come by, the seconds boats at about 4pm and then the main race at 4.30pm. Coming late is inadvisable. It may hamper your arrival. Hammersmith Bridge will be closed to would be pedestrians trying to cross at around 3.50pm. [you can still get a bus across, or it will reopen for a while after the reserve boats have had their race]

Please bring some of the following:- something to DRINK [essential], picnic things or things for barbecue [please be prepared to cook it yourself on the barbecue], cup, plate, knife, fork, spoon, something to sit on and suitable weather protection, as there may be some dampness occasionally. Sensible shoes might be sensible.

Wise words from John, who can be contacted at

Uxbridge Road dug up again

Those Skanska boys are at it again with their own brand of work ethic.

Restrictions are in place causing a nightmare for buses who can't turn the tight corners very easily.

Who knows how long the'll be around but on past form it might be an idea to get thoroughly used to it.

Andy Slaughter goes to Gaza

I reported here that Andy Slaughter MP had been on a recent trip to Gaza to see the plight of those living in extremely difficult conditions, he's now returned from this three day visit where he and other British MPs from all parties met with local political leaders.  Andy was part of the first delegation to enter Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal last year and returned to see how the situation for the people of Gaza had changed in the past year.  The other members of the delegation were Rt Hon Lord Steel, Karen Buck MP and Stephen Williams MP.

In discussions with Ministers and MPs from the ruling Hamas government, the delegation called for the release of Paul Martin, a British journalist held in custody for the past three weeks after entering Gaza to give evidence in a criminal trial.  They also raised the issues of prisoner exchanges, the Hamas constitution and continuing hostilities. Interestingly Paul Martin has just been released by Hamas - if that has anything to do with their visit it's quite an achievement.

The delegation set out to see the effects on Gaza of the blockade Israel has maintained since the Hamas election victory in 2006 and the invasion in December 2008 which caused 1400 deaths and the destruction of most of the civil infrastructure.   

Andy Slaughter said: ‘The attacks by planes and tanks on 1.6 million people living in an area 25 miles by six and the total blockade that has lasted almost four years have reduced Gaza from first to third world status.  With literacy rates of 95%, a developed economy and strong intellectual life, Palestine should be the showcase of the Arab world.  Instead we found a population totally isolated from outside contact, with no reliable water or electricity supply and dependent for all but basic foodstuffs on what can be smuggled through the 1,200 tunnels dug under the Egyptian border.’

Half the population of Gaza is under 17 and two thirds are refugees driven out of Israel from 1948 onwards. There is 85% unemployment, 95% of the private sector has collapsed and the only work is with the local government or the UN on its food and education programmes, which supports 700,000 people.  There are successes – educational results have soared since the UN introduced a much more rigorous testing and focused on core literacy and numeracy.  This and the human rights programme in schools designed to teach tolerance and democratic values have been borrowed from the UK.

‘But generally this is a people without hope and a generation growing up whose only experience of others is violence and cruelty.  Israel is creating future problems for itself and the world.  If it continues to deny this, effective international pressure has to be brought to bear.  It is time for Britain and the UN to take punitive sanctions against Israel, starting with the ending of the trade agreement.’   

In the interests of balance I should point out that Andy is a leading member of a group called Labour Friends of Palestine. Absolutely no problem with that but I'm not sure his analysis would be shared by those of a more pro-Israeli outlook. Such as Labour Friends of Israel. I always find myself playing devil's advocate with anyone that is arguing strongly for one side or another because it's never that straightforward. But well done for making the effort to go out there.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Hammersmith prosecutions office in meltdown

Today's Standard also reports that Hammersmith & Fulham is one of the best boroughs to be a criminal facing prosecution. The incompetence at the heart of the system has resulted in a much lower conviction rate for people being prosecuted in London than the rest of the UK with H&F being rated as "poor". We have managed in this borough to get through SEVEN chief prosecutors in one year.

When we do bad in this part of London we do it really well don't we?!

Charing Cross Hospital: Tories accused of 'lies'

The Conservatives in H&F have been accused of downright lies by Labour for warning us repeatedly that Charing Cross Hospital is threatened with closure. On 9th March the Government insisted in Parliament again that there were no such plans and asked the Conservative MP Greg Hands to stop scaremongering among local residents. Although Mr Hands is not the MP for our part of Hammersmith & Fulham the warnings have obviously caused some concern here given its our largest and nearest hospital. He says he is campaigning against the hospitals' closure on his website here. But if there are no plans, what is he campaigning against?

Having just last week had cause to use the hospital (can you believe I managed to dislocate my finger in the gym?!) and found the staff and equipment more like a private hospital than a bog standard hospital of old, I was pleased to read the exchange in Parliament below, which appears to undermine the Tories' warnings:

Andy Slaughter, Ealing, Acton & Shepherds Bush:After five years, my constituents are fed up with Tory smears that my local hospital will be closed or downgraded or that it will lose vital services. In fact, it is expanding and improving under Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. At the risk of trying my hon. Friend's patience, I ask her to confirm again that there are no plans to close the A and E at Charing Cross, Hammersmith or St. Mary's hospitals.’

Ann Keen, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health:I can give that assurance to my hon. Friend. There is no case for that at all.’

Barry Gardiner, Brent North: ‘...While discussing major acute trusts, I must comment on the intervention by the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), who is no longer in his place. He suggested that five accident and emergency departments would close at the eight north-west London hospitals. The "Healthcare for London" report actually talked of creating three major acute trusts. He has interpreted that to mean that three hospitals would stay the same and five would lose their accident and emergency departments, whereas in fact the strategic health authority has confirmed that all five will keep their existing accident and emergency departments, but three are due to be upgraded into what will, in effect, be super-providers. I trust that Opposition Members will now stop portraying as a cut what is in fact a proposed upgrade.’

Andy Slaughter accuses the Conservatives of having an "unhealthy relationship with the truth" here - and on the face of it he seems to have a point, unless we are to believe that Government Ministers are themselves telling lies to Parliament.

Circle Line woe: end of the lasso?

Today's Standard is carrying a report of TfL figures, released today, which confirm what many people have been saying for a long time - that the revised 'lasso' structure of the Circle Line is not working. The figures reveal that the change has led to longer waits, infrequent trains and much longer journey times.

Even Richard Parry, interim Managing Director of London Underground, isn't trying to put a gloss on things, acknowledging that people are waiting longer. It seems that the Tube is about to admit it's mistake and revert back to the old system, although no-one is saying that publicly at the moment.

Which might make sense for the rest of London but for us it will mean the return of the Hammersmith & Shitty Line - oh lucky us.

£25million to combat West London flooding

News from the excellent MayorWatch blog which can only be a good thing for the Bush.

Homes in West London could soon be spared the problem of basements flooding with sewage after Thames Water committed itself to spending up to £25million over the next five years on measures to alleviate the issue.

The company says homes served by the Counter’s Creek sewer, which include properties in fashionable Chelsea, are suffering “a truly horrible experience” caused by the inability of Counter’s Creek, one of London’s historic “Lost Rivers” and the area’s main sewer, to cope with the demands of present-day London.

I'll always remember this meeting which the Council tried to present as a "let's get Thames Water" opportunity for residents. In the end they emerged smelling of roses while the Council had a rather different aroma in many resident's eyes.

Now read on

Monday, 15 March 2010

Shaun Bailey: There's an App for that

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate in the Batttle of the Bush, does a lot of work with young people. He is after all co-founder of MyGeneration, a charity that works with young people in North Kensington. So it should come as no surprise that he is au fait with technology, in fact very au fait.

He's just become the first parliamentary candidate to launch an i-Phone app about himself and his campaign! 

Available from the iTunes application store, the app features news updates from the Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush campaign along with videos, social media links to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and other contact and supporter information.

Commenting on the app, Shaun said, “Whether it’s knocking on doors, delivering literature, making campaign videos or developing iPhone apps, politics should be about connecting with people. Here in Hammersmith, broadband penetration is higher than the national average – we are truly a digitally connected community. A short walk down Hammersmith Broadway or around Shepherds Bush Green will show you that lots of people here are using iPhones. This app allows iPhone users to connect with our campaign in a way that is familiar to them.”

Alexander Trewby, a self-employed software engineer from Hammersmith, developed the application for campaign after hearing Shaun speak at a local event. “I remember being impressed with Shaun and the ideas he had. I approached him with the thought of developing an iPhone app for his campaign. He loved the idea and we started working on it almost right away. A few months later here we are. It’s great seeing it finally available for download.”

Commenting on how it would work for his campaign Shaun said: “As a candidate in Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush, I want to win people over with our ideas for change, not just how we communicate them. This application represents another way for us to get our message out. We need a change in the leadership of our country. I want to be part of that change.”

Whether you agree with that last sentiment or not he does deserve some credit for being the first to develop this. Although I would say this wouldn't I we're already seeing blogs and other forms of new media, particularly social media, taking on an increasingly important role in this campaign. Extending it to smart phones is another step forward. You don't have to wait a day or even a week to see the story and you can be part of it by engaging with it. So politicians who 'get it' are likely to reap the rewards.

Not being an i-Phone user myself I can't use it but interested to hear any can download the app here:

17th March UPDATE: The Sun featured this story here

Tories: Council Propaganda Newspapers "morally wrong"

I received my copy of H&F News, which never fails to arrive unlike the Fulham Chronicle, a couple of days ago. There were so many one sided articles in there it's hard to know where to start.

Like this article which includes our old friend Raj Bhattia blasting away at the Tideway Tunnel again - but he's at least not been allowed to repeat his & the Council's warning it will make residents homeless after Boris said it was rubbish.

And we pay for this propaganda with our taxes, while independent media is almost driven out of the Borough because it hoovers up all the advertising revenue. I hope the difficulties the Chronicle appears to be experiencing at the moment isn't a sign of that.

Perhaps all this is why Conservatives in Parliament called Hammersmith Council's newspaper "propaganda" that shouldn't be allowed. And now Conservatives in Greenwich are calling for the Labour propaganda newspaper to be banned because it is "morally wrong". When I look at my Council Tax bill I feel its pretty morally wrong too - for any party - to do this with our money.

Will Council Leader Cllr Greenhalgh listen to his fellow Conservatives? And if he insists on carrying on can't he apply to Lord Ashcroft to cover the costs instead?!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

H&F Housing Chief suspended in Nazi fetish row

That's not a headline I ever thought I'd come close to writing but today's Sunday Mirror appears to have solid evidence that Gareth Mead, who is in charge of social housing and homelessness at Hammersmith & Fulham Council, has extreme racist views which he pursues in some kind of bizarre fetish.

I've absolutely no doubt this will come as just as much a shock to Council officers and political leaders as it does to us, and he's been suspended already, but unsurprisingly the Mirror and others have also noted that this was the man in charge of the service that dealt out this appalling dereliction of duty towards a pregnant woman. She happenned to be black.

I remember when the BNP membership list found its way on to the internet I managed to find a scarily high number of people who appeared to live in Shepherd's Bush or the surrounding area. Even if this guy is not one of them, he's a reminder that people like that do sadly still exist. I don't think anything less than a summary sacking would do.

UPDATE: 1300:  The neighbournet website is incorrectly reporting, cutting and pasting the Sunday Mirror's copy for most of the article, that Mr Mead is a "housing officer". He is in fact in charge of the housing and homelessness service and earns 90,000 per annum. A statement is expected from the Council by the end of today.

UPDATE 17th March: The Council have just released this statement to me: "Gareth Mead has been suspended pending a full disciplinary investigation."

Lord Digby Jones joins Battle of the Bush

The latest well known face to join the Battle for the Bush will be here this coming Tuesday.

Andy Slaughter will be joined by Lord Digby Jones. Lord Jones was CBI Director General and Gordon Brown’s choice as Minister for UK Trade. 

He will be talking about what role the government can play in the development of business and offering his advice on how businesses can develop as we move out of the recession.

The event will be in the Westfield Shopping Centre's Management suite.

It will be held from 5:30-6:30 and refreshments will be provided. Andy's office have asked anyone wishing to come to confirm their attendance to

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Seven Stars: Council slams Thames Water

Some of you will have read a report in the advertiser-led online press that informs us of the continued road chaos around the seven stars area thanks to the Thames Water work on pipes. Having once again endured this on the 266 down towards Hammersmith this morning I can personally attest to the continued woe they are causing. Especially when cars block the bus routes which seems to happen all the time.

But what the advertiser-led press didn't take the time to do was to report what the Council were saying about what was going on, which was in my humble opinion another example of pretty poor journalism.

So I wrote to my favourite councillor Nick Botterill, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Environment, and asked him. I have a high esteem for Cllr Botterill as he actually gets things done - he was after all the saviour of Shepherd's Bush Green from the cowboys that dug it up and left it in a right old state.

Here's the update he gave me, which on the face of it pins the blame squarely where it should be - on a public utility that doesn't seem to care much about digging up roads because there is no sanction against them for doing so. There should be.

The Council says:

The water giant began replacing Victorian pipes at the Sevens Stars corner on Goldhawk Road, Askew Road and Paddenswick Road in January.

This has led to serious traffic chaos, with a diversion in place via Uxbridge Road and Askew Road.

And now, to the dismay of residents, motorists and council officials, Thames Water bureaucrats say the work will go on until Sunday March 28 - two weeks longer than expected.

Thames Water say that the newly laid main failed a pressure test, effectively admitting that it has been laid incorrectly. They also state that they have uncovered a structure underneath the road, possibly a sewer, that there are inadequate records for.

Cllr Nick Botterill, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, said: "I am appalled that Thames Water's ineptitude has meant that completing this work has been delayed. You would have thought that they are experts at replacing pipes - apparently not. Once again, it is residents and motorists who will be forced to bear the brunt of these Thames Water mistakes. I urge Thames Water to do everything they can to finish this work off as a matter of urgency."

Unfortunately, due to these unforeseen difficulties, by law the council has no choice but to grant an extension to Thames Water.

Goldhawk Road will remain closed to westbound traffic at Goldhawk Road junction Brading Terrace, and remain open as usual for eastbound traffic, with only the junction with Greenside Road closed. All other side streets between Shepherd's Bush Green and Brading Terrace will be open to traffic. Temporary traffic lights at the roundabouts will keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible. Coningham Road will remain open one-way northbound, and the 94 and 237 buses will use this route, so that services carry on running during the works.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Jesse Jackson meets Bush's turnaround school headmaster

One of the abiding images I'll remember from Obama's election night was a weeping Rev. Jesse Jackson, the long time political activist and equal rights campaigner in America.

On the 25th February he met Shepherd's Bush Phoenix High School Headmaster Sir William Atkinson at the Political and Public Life Awards at the House of Commons. Sir William, accompanied by our MP Andy Slaughter, received an award from Rev. Jackson for his services to education.

In 2009, Phoenix students achieved a record breaking 96% 5 A*-C grades in their GCSEs.  In 1995 this figure was just 4%, and in January 2010, Phoenix was confirmed as the highest performing school in England in the Government’s Achievement and Attainment Tables measuring progress from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4.

As most of you will be aware this school has a difficult history, but under Sir Williams' stewardship has gone from a failing institution to one of the most improved in England. The Government is keen to point out that this is due not only to Sir William's influence but also the investment into Phoenix which continues under the Building schools for the Future programme which will see £30 million spent over the next three years including a new sixth form.

Andy Slaughter said: ‘Jesse Jackson is an iconic figure in the history of the civil rights movement, but one of his passions is education for kids from underprivileged backgrounds.  I know that after meeting Sir William he was singing his praises for the rest of his visit to the UK.  We should all be proud of the achievements of William Atkinson and Phoenix High School that have merited this recognition’.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Scientology protest in Shepherd's Bush

Some of you will have noticed that the strange cult called scientology has been establishing a presence in Shepherd's Bush in recent weeks. This week-end they were outside the central line tube offering lucky Bushers and Westfield shoppers "stress tests", no doubt as a means of getting their unsuspecting prey interested in joining the organisation.

A group which regularly protests against Scientology's activities in the UK recently held a counter protest in the Bush and posted footage up on YouTube - so here it is. At one point they are accosted by plain clothes police officers, who ask them whether they are causing a breach of the peace. Actually the police officers seem to be quite good and the exchange between the police and protestors reveals much about the Scientology cult they are protesting against. Credit to the police for being so good natured about it all.

They kind of spoil it all by filming themselves fooling around in the tube afterwards though. An every day occurence in the Bush. Watch and be intrigued..

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Inquiry date announced: Residents v. Developers & Council

Tuesday 25th May has been announced as the date for the inquiry into this planning decision on the Goldhawk Block that residents successfully applied to have 'called in' by the Secretary of State for a formal inquiry. This was with the assistance of Andy Slaughter MP and much to the anger of the Council who at the time caustically asked what 'national importance' the development had in order to warrant the government stepping in.

Led by the indomitable Rosemary Petit, Secretary of the Brackenbury Residents Association, the locals who don't want London & Newcastle the developers to move in and transform their area with more high density housing, locals have been fundraising to pay their barrister at the Inquiry almost non stop since the planning decision was passed at this hot and stormy meeting - which is one I will never forget. It resembled something from Monty Python's "silly" sketches, where a planning officer would say something completely wrong, councillors who obviously wanted the development passed anyway would sagely nod their heads, and scribble something in their notebooks and the locals at the back would be shouting 'rubbish'! Democracy in action.

The most obvious thing about this date is that it falls well after the General Election - so this won't be resolved until after then, which makes it an election issue when we go to vote for our next MP and Council on May 6th. In her latest update Rosemary has asked her members to support another Residents Association which has also been up in arms about another high density housing development being imposed on them by the Council. So both of them will be running the 'No Votes for Candidates who Don't Listen' campaign which will feature these posters in people's windows. This is aimed squarely at Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey who, in fairness, in his interview with me acknowledged that mistakes have been made and committed himself to do just that - listen. His problem is that the other two candidates Andy Slaughter and Merlene Emerson have been actively working with the residents associations to support their campaigns.

Rosemary is calling on local residents to attend the hearings, which will finish by Wednesday 2nd June, in order to " take notes or keep an eye on documents." She goes on to say: "The inquiry is open to the public. It will be attended by busy lawyers and heavyweight developers, so we need your support." Interesting that this really seems to be residents who in their own time and at their own considerable expense are taking on the might of full time Council officers, lawyers and developers with little or no support. Their own Council will be working to ensure they do not succeed by presumably providing the Inquiry with the reasons why they want the developers to move in.

So what about the Council itself in all this? At the 2006 election Labour, who used to run the authority, was routed with the loss of 16 seats. The Tories enjoy a majority at the moment of 20 councillors which on paper makes it a pretty safe borough for them, and may explain why they are sometimes so disinclined to listen to residents in places like Brackenbury and Aschurch. But if they've been doing this sort of thing all over the borough and people are similarly angry, might it be so safe for them? Probably, but..

H&F Crime Summit: You're safer but more to do

That was the message at last saturday's Crime Summit held at Hammersmith Town Hall. I had meant to go but needed to put the marathon training first since there's only 5 weeks to go! Several of you did go and have told me it was well attended with the exception of one or two of the workshops.

The Council's own account of the Summit is here and where they deserve real credit is for a) having put the event on and b) not trying to take the credit for what the Police have achieved. Cllr Greg Smith, the Cabinet Member for Crime & "Street Scene" (what on earth is "street scene") is quoted at length but he resists the politicians' temptation to try to steal the glory. He does however point out that the Council has put a lot of funding the Police's way, particularly to support the development of safer neighbourhood teams.

What I find most astonishing about the whole thing though, and it came up at the Borough Summit last year, is how cyclists seem to have earned the irritation of lots of local people in the Bush. And I say this as a part time fair weather cyclist! I'm also a runner at the moment and on at least one occasion myself I've almost been run down from behind by some prat going too fast on a bike - and it seems they cause no end of problems on the residential streets as well. What do H&F Cyclists have to say about that? I have asked them and actually they do have quite a lot to say about that, so look out for a right to reply posting in the next couple of days...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Recession Bush: Arise Askew Wine!

Some excellent news which won't come as any surprise for those readers resident on Askew Road, this shop that went into administration, is now on the verge of opening its doors again. The man in charge of the shop who faced redundancy and getting rid of all his staff has bought the shop from the administrators and is opening a new independent retailer called Askew Wine. And here it is in all its glory.

Let's hope for more of the same soon.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Andy Slaughter in Gaza

Our MP is currently on a fact-finding trip to Gaza, with other parliamentarians from all parties in the UK. I blogged on his last trip here. Here's what he's been up to:

Several parliamentary representatives and I travelled to Egypt on Thursday morning as part of a cross parliamentary delegation visit to Gaza. The group includes members of different political parties such as David Steel and Karen Buck, who were also present a year ago when we were part of the first delegation to visit Gaza after the Israeli occupation. Part of our aim is to see how things have changed over the year and what necessary steps the British government must take to end the humanitarian crisis in the region.

We left Cairo at 4:30 this morning for the long drive to the border. As we neared the border, checkpoints became increasingly frequent but the Egyptian authorities were by and large very helpful and friendly. We found as time went on that if we admitted Peter Crouch’s second goal had been offside, we made significantly quicker progress! Our final checkpoint was at the Rafeh terminal, which to our surprise took only 2 hours to get through; nowhere near the 8 hours it had taken last year entering from the Israeli side.

Read it all here

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Hand grenade found in Fulham

I told you here about the forthcoming Thames clear up in H&F, and some of the strange artefacts that are sometimes yielded by Old Father Thames.

Well this week didn't disappoint, imagine the delight of the sixth former that realised he or she had struck lucky and was now the proud owner of a hand grenade! The banks of our river are more interesting than you might think..

Thames21 is an excellent organisation, I think I'll join them on their next scrub up of our river. I'm hoping to find less demanding treasures though.