Councillor Matt Harmer on Fire Hazards, Dog Mess Police And Parking

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* Towers fire concern *

Research by BBC London has revealed some very disturbing news about the fire and gas hazards in the six blocks that make up Brentford Towers.

In July, following the fire in Camberwell that killed six residents, I requested reassurance from Hounslow Council and Hounslow Homes, who manage the Towers, that the Towers had been recently inspected and everything was generally in order, that tenants would receive information on what to do in the event of a fire and that regular risk assessments were being carried out. (I've put the question I asked and the answer I received at the foot of this mail).

Those of you who watched the BBC London News on Monday evening or are able to go to the BBC London website at will read that this is not quite the case. (If you are reading this before 1300 on Tuesday 6th, go to and scroll down to 9.06 to see the BBC News TV bulletin). Award-wining journalist Kurt Barling took a surveyor around the Towers. The verdict? Not good. Some examples:

* Too many places where common areas and flats aren't separated properly (including many flats without proper fire doors, making it easy for a fire to spread from the lobby into a flat and from a flat into a lobby)
* Gaps between floors that can allow fire and smoke to spread from one flat to another - including where cables have been installed for digital TV.
* Poorly designed fire exits.
* No signage or emergency lighting on escape stairs
* Gas meters surrounded by timber framing, increasing the chance of fire reaching a gas meter or pipe, with obvious implications.
* A lack of information on what to do in the event of fire.
* Storage areas containing combustible materials.
* An absence of fire alarms.

Now, I don't want to start undue alarm. Fires are, thankfully, rare, and a lot of good work has been done to prevent fires happening in the first place. The use of gas is being phased out of the Towers. But our tenants and leaseholders deserve better. The Towers are high-risk buildings because of the manner of their construction and, it seems, they do not have up-to-date fire risk assessments.

I hope that Hounslow Homes will carry out a full programme of engagement with residents to demonstrate that
all procedures are being followed properly - something which doesn't appear to be the case at present.

* Parking survey underway *

Consultation is now under way on whether or not residents in the roads around Griffin Park are interested in having a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ). A response form should be with all residents by now (mine arrived last Monday). If you haven’t had one or it’s gone astray please let me know and I’ll arrange for you to be sent one.

At the same time, the CPZ north of the A4 is going live and I would be very interested to hear the reactions of residents of those roads. Is it any easier to park? Are the hours that the scheme operates right? Please let me know as the information may help any decision we have to make on whether or not to progress with a scheme around Griffin Park.

* Still a mess *

Many thanks to all of you who wrote to me regarding the problem of dog owners who let their dogs foul our pavements and parks. I always thought that parking issues were the most likely to get a response, but I was wrong – the electronic postbag has been full as never before with emails on this subject.

As you may have come to expect, the council have yet to come to a decision on whether or not they will let the local police issue fines to owners who don’t behave responsibly. I’ve passed on details of how other boroughs do it, and hope to hear back soon. (Whilst other councillors at our party conference in Brighton were debating items of national and international importance, I found myself asking colleagues about this very subject. And you know what, they pretty much all feel the same as you do).

One thing. I have secured S106 planning gain money for new signs for St Pauls Recreation Ground. There’s only one sign, on Albany Road, and it’s in a terrible state. (Take a look at if you want to see it). However it turns out that the time allowed to spend the money has elapsed. Happily our officials think that this won’t be a problem, but this issue of expired planning gain agreements is one that we are still struggling to overcome.

Also in St Pauls Rec Ground, there’s concern that some of the playground equipment has been removed. None of us want play equipment that is a potential danger but I’m concerned that queries over when the equipment will be replaced have gone unanswered. Watch this space.

* Thanks to local police *

I want to put a word of congratulation out to our local Safer Neighbourhood Team. As you may know, the SNT is a team of 6 officers who remain within our ward boundaries tackling things that residents have identified as problems.

One of those areas is drug use and sale on the Haverfield Estate. Now, the Haverfield is a good place to live but has had a problem with this for a number of years. Our SNT has spent time on and around the Estate to win the trust of residents and last week alone made three arrests for supplying controlled drugs on the Estate.

Of course, the individuals concerned have not been convicted. However their arrest will help send out a signal that the community will not accept this sort of activity. I say community because much useful information is received from residents. The intelligence remains anonymous and as a councillor I hope that more and more people are able to feel confident about passing on useful information to the local police team.

The SNT can be contacted on 07881723891 or In an emergency, always call 999.

* Look out Stephen Fry *

I’m very gratified by the number of replies I get to these emails – please feel free to let me have any information that might be useful or let me know if there’s anything I can try to help with. Equally, please feel free to forward it to friends or neighbours who may be interested.

I’m going to try another form of contact to see how it goes. As I’ve said in the past, I was a rubbish blogger ( now contains just an archive of these mails). For the next month, I’m going to try this Twitter thing. For those who understand any of that, you can, er, follow me on So now you know.

*Anything to report?*
As a councillor, my first task is to try and assist residents with problems. Please get in touch if you think I can help, either by emailing me at or calling 020 8560 7033. You can also take a look at

Councillor Matt Harmer
Brentford ward Labour councillor
London Borough of Hounslow

contact: 153 Ealing Rd
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0LF
telephone: 020 8560 7033

October 6, 2009