A pot pourri of issues large and small
So we got an update on Lionel Road. The planning application expected soon is for ‘reserved matters’. What this means is that the overall scheme has already been approved including heights and general site layout and this is about design of the buildings and the outside areas. They’re doing the best they can and they say the finishes will be of good quality and will last, but you can’t get away from these being big buildings and slightly ironically the height restrictions in the initial planning mean they will have boring flat roofs to maximise how much living space they can fit in. Of course at present all progress depends on the outcome of the current Judicial Review on the compulsory purchase of the Capital Court site, which is needed to make the overall scheme work.
It was Theo Dennison rather than Steve who accompanied Mel and I down to the riverside. Very tranquil little marina with 8 residential boats, they are very keen to have their lease extended when Ballymore get going. It will be a challenge to find a solution to Brentford riverside which respects and, I hope at least substantially, preserves the existing diverse and quirky environment with residential moorings, artists at Johnson’s Island, important marine workshops and a variety of natural environments whilst opening up access and enlivening our relationship with the rivers and canal.
I skipped the Overview and Scrutiny panel in favour of an evening off and did little councillor work on Friday, though late on I met someone down by Kew Bridge to discuss the general mess on the pavement there resulting from developments. The good news was that his biggest beef had already been cleared up (without any intervention from me I might add!). He also spread a rumour which I sincerely hope is true that Lake Kew Bridge, the designer pond outside Costa which has been designed with great precision to soak pedestrians whenever there has been drizzle in the previous week, may be being addressed by TfL digging up and improving the drains. Time will tell. He very kindly stood me a pint of Lockkeepers in the Express Tavern (mental note: check with member services whether I need to declare this obvious bribery and corruption) which made it a top encounter in my book.
On Saturday I filled in for Katherine Dunne at her surgery in the St Johns Centre. One familiar and heart-rending housing issue which I’ve passed back to Kath and a very welcome surprise: someone taking the trouble to come to surgery to thank the ward councillors and the planning enforcement team. He was at pains to stress that they didn’t do anything to favour him – just did their jobs diligently. Good to hear and greatly appreciated, even though it had nothing whatever to do with me personally!
On Sunday I cycled down to Redlees Park to spend an hour or two at the Be Inspired festival. I really enjoyed it and I understand about 9500 people did the same (though I bet at least 7 teenagers had a REALLY BORING time)
Into the new week and it’s a bit gruelling. I’m lucky enough to live mainly off a (private sector) pension but many councillors work full time. This week I should have had 4 evening sessions – Labour group preparing for Borough Council on Monday, 7.30 to about 10; Borough Council on Tuesday, 7.30 until about 10; should be Labour party General Committee tonight (Wednesday, typically 8 till 10.30) but I skipped this because I have a friend visiting from overseas and it seems unfair to be out 4 nights in a row; Isleworth and Brentford Area Forum tomorrow, if past form is anything to go by that’ll be 7.30 to about 11pm.
My friend, a Brit who lives in Austria, decided to come and spectate at Borough Council. The first half had him nodding off as Labour and Tory members agreed on a number of issues (including the important local plan) but he woke up for the second half which was rather livelier.
It ended up with a motion about housing introduced by Councillor Katherine Dunne, Lead member for housing, and supported with great passion and eloquence by (amongst others) Councillors Theo Dennison and Elizabeth Hughes. The changes introduced by George Osborne seem to us Labourites to be positively malicious towards councils and council tenants in particular, leading for example to a hit of over £12M to our plans to move the council offices to a more modest place and build housing on the site of the current Civic Centre (this on top of the £60M of cuts in central funding we’ve already suffered and the £60M+ we still have to deal with). This is big money and for the avoidance of doubt any changes in CPZs and parking enforcement will have no measurable impact on the problem.
Because I was getting tired and ready to go home I did not speak against the Conservative amendment which seemed to suggest that since Boris had already committed to support this nonsense and was now more interested in furthering his interests as an MP than any passing interest he may once have had in London’s problems, there was little point in asking him to change his mind. Had I been more energetic, I might have pointed out that this was an ironic view in a party led by someone who U-turns at the slightest suggestion of unfavourable breezes, whether that be about privatising forests or accepting ‘swarms’ of ‘migrants’.
Anyway, away from this high politics, today was my first experience of life on the board of the West London Crematorium. Seems to be a joint enterprise between 5 councils (3 Tory, 2 Labour) with our very own Corinna Smart re-elected as chair. The crem runs with a decent surplus, wins Green Flag awards and is popular with its customers (no macabre jokes please).
It would be remiss to let this momentous week go by without mention of something that happened in the Labour Party on Friday and Saturday. I was happy to see Sadiq Khan as our London mayoral candidate. He was my choice in a very good field. In terms of the party leadership and deputy leadership, neither of my favourites, Andy Burnham and Stella Creasy, made it but I can live very happily with both Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn, who did. Of course, we can now look forward to elements of the press – well, nearly all of them – branding Jeremy as a cross between Attila the Hun and Jack the Ripper but it’s debateable how much impact this will have in this day and age (media strategy in the Scottish Referendum was triumphant in the same way that Ian Duncan Smith is a distinguished intellect). I have no idea how this will play out: Jeremy is a clever and committed man and all his instincts are supportive of ordinary people. Despite a long time in politics he does not come across as a politician in the conventional sense and people like that. Ask me again in 12 months.
September 18, 2015