Matt's January Bulletin on Snow and Stuff

Our new Children’s Centre, cycling news, some good news on the High Street and, of course, the weather

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A Safer A4 for Cyclists and Pedestrians

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* Cold comfort? *

I hope that you are surviving the cold weather without too many difficulties. It’s strange how some services seem to have got better since the bad weather started, whilst others have worsened. Brentford area schools seem to be getting back to normal, and the delays in rubbish/recycling collection are understandable, I suppose. As I write this on Saturday morning my recycling is being collected. SW Trains did well at first, with a special timetable, but seem to have got worse. The 65 bus seems to have done ok.

I’d be interested in hearing your stories about how services could be improved at times like this, and I’d also like to know where congratulations are due. My post seems to have turned up regularly, and it can’t be easy manoeuvring heavy postbags around in this weather.

* Good jobs well done *

The request for congratulations as well as condemnations was triggered by a mail I received last week. It followed from a very unfortunate event, a burglary, but take a look at the email (reproduced with permission):

+++ Half and hour before we got in from holiday our place was burgled at 9:30 last night.  The burglar got into our back garden and broke thro the kitchen window.  He set off the alarm but still managed to get upstairs to take two cameras.

Anyway the good news is at least 4 neighbours turned out into the street and one called us to let us know about the alarm and let herself in to switch it off.  I think this contributed to him leaving the house quickly.  On top of that the police were brilliant.  The 0300 number worked very well and within half an hour two female PCs arrived from Hounslow - they were professional and helpful and were followed a few minutes later by a crime scenes investigator from Chiswick  who collected evidence from which they think they can get a lot of information. Today a crime prevention officer called.  They were all exceptionally professional, understanding and speedy and made our experience much less frightening, lonely and intimidating that it might otherwise have been.

Anyway - thought you might like to hear this rather than the usual moans.+++

I’ve sent this onto local police. As councillors we hear a lot of examples of when things aren’t done properly – quite rightly as that’s what we are here for – but good news stories are always welcome.

* New Children’s Centre *

Parents and carers of pre-school children should take a look at the activities on offer at Brentford’s Children’s Centre. It’s offering a variety of activities including playgroups, messy play sessions, indoor sports (including football for two year old boys and girls) as well as advice sessions for new parents with information on nursery education grants, health etc. Sessions cost from just 50p per child. Take a look at for information, or email

The Children’s Centre will be alongside Green Dragon School when construction is complete but in the meantime is working out of Mission Hall on the Haverfield Estate. Mission Hall is just off Netley Road, for a map go to

* Two wheels good *

I know that the thought uppermost in all readers’ minds at present is how you’re looking forward to jumping on your bikes for a nice ride somewhere. Or possibly not. Either way, I’d be interested to hear on how we can all get on our bikes a little more.

Earlier this week local councillors were invited to a meeting that will discuss how Hounslow can become something called a ‘Biking Borough’. Apparently it’s been decided that the Brentford and Isleworth areas are the best disposed to cycling and we may become some kind of guinea pig on how to increase cycling rates amongst people who live and work here.

Any comments on this welcome. I’m an occasional cyclist, Ealing Road to the station five days a week (though not this week for obvious reasons) and occasional trips to the Civic Centre in Hounslow. (You think the A4 is flat? Think again!). Now, cycling groups have been brilliantly helpful on improvements to the cycle path on the A4 and their views are always valuable. But as an overweight middle aged bloke who works behind a desk, I’d say I was a good example of a person who could benefit from a bit more cycling. What could help bring this about, I wonder?

Well, not feeling in danger of being run over would be a start. I try to stick close to the gutter but there are some big old holes there sometimes, forcing a trip out towards the middle of the road. At present, we spend some road mending money by picking a specific road and resurfacing it all. Maybe we should prioritise the parts of all roads were cyclists need to go. Giving priority to cyclists on cycle paths has to be examined, especially given the terrible accident on the A4 in 2008.

Having somewhere to lock the bike to somewhere it’s less likely to be stolen is always good. A couple of years ago I had one removed from the rack at Kew Bridge station, and looking around for a spare bit of railing when there are no racks is never much fun. And having somewhere to keep it at home is useful. Mine lives indoors when I’m at home but that’s not easy for people in flats. My colleague Ruth Cadbury has tried to increase cycle spaces in new developments (it’s usually one space per dwelling, often not enough when children are concerned).

Anyway, your suggestions are very welcome – contact me with them and I’ll let you know what we discussed next month.

* A4 again *

If you’re crossing the A4 next week, don’t be too alarmed if someone watches you. I’m told that the surveys that will inform any safety work on the A4 and the road that crosses it. I don’t know what day(s) the work will take place but if you are driving your children to school in the morning and you see the survey people at work, perhaps you could walk them home in the afternoon? Or at least park on the other side of the A4 and cross on foot…

For those who need to travel along the A4, some good news from next week. The H91 bus service that traverses the A4 goes double-decker from Monday. Apart from the obvious benefit of increasing capacity, it means that they’ll be easier to spot. Good for when you’re waiting for one and good to show that the bus exists – in my experience, it’s a bit of an unknown service.

It’s very unfortunate that the Mayor has seen fit to increase the fare on the H91 – and every other bus in London – by 20%, but the better service is welcome. In case you’re wondering how the new buses are being financed, it’s our old friend Section 106 – money stemming from new developments in the area.

Anyone crossing the A4 or on a bus near the Texaco garage will see that the site for the replacement Lucozade sign is presently being built. It’s going to be a replica of the old sign with all new components. I’m not sure of the switch-on date, keep an eye on for news on this (and much else besides, of course).

* High Street latest *

Talking of planning gain money, it looks as though it will also pay for what is presently being called a ‘Town Centre Coordinator’. Fans of council budgets will recall that myself and other Labour colleagues tried to bring in funding for this in April last year. Anyway, it looks as though this might eventually happen. The wording is a little vague, it has to be said, talking as it does about funding Brentford and Hounslow West town centre but not being specific on hours, duties etc. Anyway, we will be keeping a close eye on this. The funding is from a mixture of developments including the Tesco store in Osterley and is intended to increase employment in the area, on the basis that it’s beneficial to find local employment opportunities (even when the trains aren’t iced up).

While we’re on the subject, you may, like me, have used the Somerfield/Morrison’s car park when doing business elsewhere on the High Street. Fair play to the two organisations who have never made a fuss about the car park being for shoppers only. Be warned, however. I’m told that there’s an automatic number plate recogniser in operation which will log your details and send you a ticket if you’re there for over two hours. Hasn’t happened to me but has, I’m told, to others. Best to stick to two hours.

* Shovelling for victory *

Griffin Park neighbours should avoid returning with heavy shopping next Tuesday evening, 12th January, as that night may see the rearranged FA Cup game with Doncaster Rovers, depending on the results of a pitch inspection. The Club are looking for volunteers to help clear the pitch in advance of the inspection on Monday. If that sounds fun, get to the club at 9am on Monday and there’s a hot cup of tea in it for you. Bring shovels if you have any. More details at The winners of the tie (whenever it’s played) travel to Derby or Millwall.

*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

Congratulations to Matt for a year of these very informative bulletins (Ed)

January 10, 2010