A trip to Heathrow, Kew Bridge destruction, debt stress and Carville Hall Park South
Feels like it’s been a hectic week. When I was working full time I put in more hours but a lot of them were spent in a comfort zone whereas in this ‘job’ there are a lot of diverse things to do and many of them have steep learning curves.
Anyway, we start at Heathrow with a bunch of councillors. We go ‘airside’ via some extra-stringent security checks. Presentations from various people which focus (not surprisingly) on what Heathrow does to limit its impact and support the community. Plus some clear explanations of where a third runway would go if approved and the impact it would have on the locality, and of what is being done to modernise the airport irrespective of the third runway. All of the old Terminals 1,2 and 3 are in the process of being progressively rebuilt and all the aeroplane ‘parking’ arrangements being made more logical. There’s a lot of talk about access and how to reduce the reliance on roads for Heathrow trips, very relevant to Brentford. We go up the control tower which has views in all directions but because it’s a bit misty I can see no Brilliance, even the Brilliant Towers. I get a sense of what a huge enterprise it is and what a lot of investment goes on. It’s easy to be cynical but I come away thinking the important thing is to keep engaged and keep the pressure on. Whether the third runway happens is out of our control but the more we press them to take account of our concerns, the more they will do to alleviate them.
In the evening a brief visit to Labour’s Chiswick High Road office to meet MP Ruth Cadbury and our local organiser to talk about the London election and Labour in For Britain campaigns which are uncomfortably close to each other.
Friday morning finds me at Costa Coffee by Kew Bridge meeting a local resident who alerted me to the fact developers were knocking down the Victorian buildings which span between the Express Tavern and Kew Bridge Station. Three out of the terrace of 4 have gone because the structure was found to be unstable (could be connected to all the walls behind being demolished, but I’m no expert J) with the remaining one a sore thumb. At present, planning permission is to rebuild the façade exactly as it was and I agree to involve community groups such as Brentford Community Council and Strand-on-the-Green Association so that everybody keeps a weather eye on what happens next.
Later I meet a resident in one of the towers with a benefit overpayment (and repayment) problem which has caused him to spend stress-related time in W Middlesex hospital. One of my learnings from being a councillor is what a huge impact rather small debts can have on people’s lives, as much in stress and fear as in poverty. No matter how sympathetically-worded (and not all are) letters from authorities, whether local or national demanding repayment of a few hundred pounds from people who simply don’t have that kind of money, can be exceedingly scary.
A weekend of door knocking, Saturday way out West in Hounslow Heath, Sunday in up market Osterley.
Monday morning finds me inside the St George development at Kew Bridge talking to a resident couple about a wide ranging set of topics, local and otherwise and enjoying an exceptional – and free - coffee. I was expecting to go to see Brendon Walsh with a local resident but unfortunately the resident has had an accident and is currently immobile, so the meeting is postponed. Brendon reports that the trip to MIPIM was very good but cycling a challenge and we all agree with the resident’s perceptive comment that our bodies get older quicker than our minds accept!
In the evening it’s our Thamesbank Credit Union board meeting which goes well. We are increasing the membership gradually and it’s a privilege to work with the board, every one of whom has an idea for cost-free promotion of the Credit Union.
Wednesday it’s pooch and park day at Carville Hall Park South. Mel, Myra myself and the pooch meet with council and Carillion people in the park to decide how best to improve the park with the financial contribution made by the Floreat school. We’ve had some clear steers from residents and have some useful things to do. Many people don’t appreciate this park but despite a ‘challenging’ location close to the A4/M4 it’s actually quite a little gem and more people should go there. We’re also hoping somebody will start a ‘Friends of’ group and we’re contemplating setting up a meeting in the local café to see if there are any volunteers.
In the afternoon, I do a bit of lurking round school gates. I have a chaperone in one of our Credit Union volunteers (who happens to be a retired head teacher) to avoid any awkward questions as we hand out leaflets to parents outside Green Dragon Primary School (Good with Outstanding features J). We are encouraging them to save with and borrow from the Credit Union rather than dallying with doorstep or TV lenders with their expensive products. Time will tell if this new idea works: it’s very hard for us to get through to people without the zillions of pounds which some of our rivals spend on TV adverts, High Street shops etc.
Evening time it’s the Labour constituency General Committee. There used to be a quote on the wall of Labour Chiswick HQ to the effect ‘Why would I go to meetings, they are full of boring, smelly old men’. Guilty, your Honour.
Thursday morning into the Civic Centre for another session on how we manage housing development and major projects. A good one, where we made some progress. Then back to Brilliant for a meetup in the Magpie and Crown with Councillor Tony Louki and one of the trustees of Inspire Hounslow. We walk around The Ham and I introduce the other two to the delights of waterside Brentford (Tony remembers them, but visits very rarely). We meet a couple of the artists on Johnson’s Island and sculptor Diane Preston tells us of an open event that they plan in conjunction with the Town Wharf boat mooring and the Brewery Tap. I think she said 16th April but when I look in my calendar I find, not for the first time, that I’ve failed to save it L. Brentford TW8 to the rescue again.
A brief session up the tower again with my benefit overpayment resident then back to the civic for one of those long meetings about the pension fund from which I escape about 9.30 and decide the blog can wait till Friday!
Happy Easter everyone, and if anybody wants to meet a councillor or two, I’ll be door knocking in some of the Brentford Walks on Monday afternoon.
March 25, 2016