Matt Harmer's February Newsletter

An apology, trees and playgrounds, cycling, the return of another landmark and another apology

Related Links

Liberal Democrats' January Newsletter

Matt's January Bulletin on Snow and Stuff

Councillor Ruth Cadbury thinks Tory budget "a farce"

Matt's December Bulletin on Brentford Towers, Recycling, Adverts and more

Matt's November Bulletin on Brentford Towers, Recycling, Adverts and more

Matt's October Bulletin - Fire Hazards, Dog Mess, Police and Parking

Matt's September Bulletin

Matt's August Bulletin

Matt's July Bulletin

Matt's June Bulletin


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* Staying in touch *

The first apology is for my tardiness in getting this newsletter out to you. It’s mostly because I was away last week, and there were some time-consuming things to deal with before then. I remain grateful for the positive feedback that these emails have generated since the first in January 2009 (archived at and the number of replies that I get.

One reads a lot about how important new digital forms of communication are going to be in forthcoming elections. I’m doing the Twitter thing (though my live coverage of council meetings is failing to attract Lily Allen levels of followers) and the Facebook thing, and these emails. And they are all have their place, but old fashioned door knocking and generally being around is still out in front, though I’m unsure about the wisdom of door to door canvassing in this weather given how high fuel bills can be. In the last four years I think I’ve got to most roads in the borough at various intervals; if you think your road needs a visit then let me know. I’m hoping to go part time at work soon, which should give more time to get around as the evening light lengthens and the temperature rises.

* Planting trouble? *

I came back to quite a few emails about trees. Last week, residents of various roads in the borough found that they know had trees in their street and reactions were interesting. In Lateward Road there has been some unhappiness that the trees were being put in given the proximity to St Paul’s Recreation Ground and the narrowness of the pavement.

It demonstrated that we’ve still got some way to go on genuine and open consultation and the way that decisions of this kind are made. I’ve been speaking with colleagues elsewhere in London about how to improve this and have seen good examples of how communities can decide exactly how money gets spent. It doesn’t mean that people are bidding for money to do something but saying here’s the money, how should it be spent? So perhaps the choice could be between street trees, hanging flower baskets, extra leaf-sweeping patrols or any other ideas that you may come up with. Anyone who has ever thought ‘why are they spending money on that’ – in other words, all of us – could find this process useful.

In the meantime, let me know if you have been given trees that you don’t want or want trees but don’t have them.

And talking of St Paul’s Recreation Ground, I understand that another ride was removed from the playground last week. I still haven’t received a proper reply to my enquiry on when the items removed last year will be replaced or, indeed when the new signs will be put in. The money for the signs has been found so I don’t understand the delay, and the delay over the play equipment is, I’m afraid, something that I am encountering more and more. Just because I’m a councillor I don’t expect instant action on things I report but when weeks go by with no response, it’s frustrating.

More street trees or better play equipment? Wouldn’t you like to have a say in that decision?

* Gearing up for cycling *

Lots of interest in the cycling story in January’s email. Responses divided into ‘cyclists deserve priority wherever possible’ and ‘all they do is ride on the pavement and go through red lights’. Anyway, I spent a morning discussing how our area could become a Cycling Hub. As with most of these things there are lots of ambitious statements but fewer definite actions.

Personally speaking I’d like us to do more to encourage younger people to cycle to and from schools and make our roads easier to cycle on. The recent freezing weather has opened up potholes everywhere and these can be a real problem when cycling. To be fair, some of the worst of these have been fixed but of you have a bad one on your cycling route or outside your house, let me know. It also means that we put cycling higher up the list of considerations when deciding on things like CPZs.

* A new old sign *

It looks like the new Lucozade sign gets switched on formally on Monday. I know that there are strong feelings about the preponderance of large advertising hoardings along the A4 but personally I always liked the old one so am happy to have it back. It was usually a reminder for me of how late I was for work…

* New lines to take *

Just before Christmas I was at a council meeting that discussed potential changes and improvements to local public transport and I neglected to mention this in last month’s mail. Perhaps the most interesting was the discussion we had over the potential to join Brentford train station with what until recently was called the North London Line and is now branded London Overground. This would give a direct service to Willesden Junction, Highbury and Islington, Camden Rd, Stratford and all points in between.

Whilst the majority of commuters and travellers are heading to Clapham, Vauxhall and Waterloo it would be interesting to know how many then head out of town towards north and east London. A service around the edge of zone two could presumably reduce some of the pressure on services into London and provide a more pleasant journey than the very crowded rush hour tube services.

For a short while, there was a service on this route when Anglia Trains ran a service on the all-important Norwich to Basingstoke route. It sometimes stopped at Brentford and one or two other stations on the way around London, though not at any regular intervals. Apparently it was as much to do with the machinations of different rail franchises and disappeared fairly soon after it was introduced, but it shows it can be done.

It’s a long term ambition rather than something that will start any day now, but seemed to me to be a sensible addition to rail services. If you think you’d use a service like this, let me know.

* Stamping some authority *

One more apology before I go. In January I wrote to people who I’ve tried to help out or have been in contact with over the last couple of years. In total, I sent around 400 letters. Unfortunately, it seems I sent some out with no stamp, and so far four people have contacted me about this. I can only imagine the frustration, anger and, most of all, disappointment that the people must have felt having made it down to the Brentford sorting office and handed over £1.30 only to find out that the mysterious correspondent was me.

It’s entirely my fault. Having printed the letters and stuffed the envelopes I suppose I wasn’t fully engaged by the time it came to stick the stamps on. If you had a wasted trip to the post office to collect a letter from Yours Truly, please let me know so I can a) apologise profusely and b) refund any monies.

* Diary dates *

A couple of things to mention. There could be quite a bit of interest in the match taking place at Griffin Park at 7pm on Mon 15th when Chelsea Reserves host Arsenal Reserves. Parking around Griffin Park won’t be easy and it’s highly likely that parking wardens will be patrolling the area. Tickets are often issued for double parking and parking on dropped kerbs, so be careful. On the following day, Tues 16th, there are pancakes at St Paul’s Church between 11 and 2. See you there.

*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

And if you're reading this today, well Happy Birthday Matt (Ed)

February 15, 2010