We are in Brilliant Brentford, not Kruddy Kew!
It seems to be a fact that everything gets quieter in the summer, especially with Mel Collins away on holiday and not rampaging around Brentford causing mayhem in his usual fashion. I feel only half back into the swing of councilloring and every time I try to contact someone in the council I get one of those irritating messages. Life does, however go on, albeit at reduced pace.
On Thursday evening we had the first meeting of a new working group on Web and Digital. The key ambition here is a replacement of the council’s website with one which is designed to allow people to do a lot more online (and is MUCH easier to use and find stuff!). This is in line with most people’s preferences – more than 90% of Londoners use the internet – and will help to free up telephones and face to face time for those who can’t or won’t use it, which is overwhelmingly the elderly. This matter is close to my heart as I spent quite a lot of my career in the IT industry helping councils and other enterprises to use digital channels. The officers and lead member Ed Mayne have selected a technology to work with and this was a discussion about look and feel and other aspects of design. The examples we were shown looked great and the technology is used by a lot of councils around the country so we can learn from their experiences. We are expecting the initial change to happen early next year – though more work will be needed to update all the content - and I think people will be really pleased with the new site, and that it will help the council greatly improve service and reduce the cost of doing it.
Friday included a visit to the council with a resident who wanted some support in a discussion with Social Services. This seemed to go well, and I think everybody was satisfied with the outcome. Then back to the new restaurant that has just opened in the ward, The Stable. (Proprietors please note, this is in Brentford, not Kew. Kew is a faraway place of which we know little. Kew Bridge, Kew Bridge station and the Kew Bridge development are in Brentford as is the Kew Premier Inn. Just watch, in a few years some of these will discover where they are and will realise how proud they are to be in Brilliant Brentford rather than Kruddy Kew). Anyway it was a lovely sunny evening and a pleasure to put away a very nice pizza and a beer or two with a couple of delightful residents. During our meal who should hove into view but our esteemed and revered council leader, out for a beer and a pizza in the sun with his other half.
The weekend included a day down in Hampshire engaging in my preferred fetish (watching old cars drive around in circles) and it occurred to me why I like it so much: a very large proportion of the audience are even older and nearly as fat as me, and the drivers not a lot younger (or slimmer).
Monday evening was the monthly Credit Union board – all a bit steady as she goes but we’re hoping for a substantial financial improvement as it seems we may have been paying unnecessary VAT for several years. On Tuesday I visited a house in Strand-on-the-Green which has applied for listed building consent for some modifications. Well, actually, the house is a bit illiterate so it was the people who live there who applied. Always good to get an understanding of what’s proposed, which is sometime hard to winkle out of planning applications and I’m looking forward to hearing the different sides of the story when it comes to planning in September. The Licensing Panel scheduled that evening was cancelled at the last minute so that as a chance to catch up with my recording of Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4 (ha ha ha ha).
Wednesday was a meeting with lawyers and accountants about the Ferry Quays estate and the very complicated way we have to calculate service charges. I have no doubt that very highly paid lawyers drew up the arrangements when the estate was constructed; I will be suggesting to any developers I come across that they use Sooty and Sweep for such matters as they are a lot cheaper and could not possibly contrive a worse answer.
Thursday evening to the civic centre for the second in the series of presentations from developers about projects which will be coming to the planning committee in the next few months. The first was about Capital Interchange Way (it shortens to CIW but the developers had finally grasped that this is pronounced Brentford). This is to provide the new bus depot to replace the one in Commerce Road where one day we hope there will be a school. I have been to a couple of exhibitions about this and it was good to see that the developers had taken on board some of the concerns people raised there. I like the design, which is very innovative and quite exciting but I have a big worry about density of development in this area and whether the infrastructure, especially transport, can handle it. The other item was a farm out in Cranford, one which many of us have passed a hundred times heading to Heathrow or Junction 3 of the M4. It seems that underneath this green belt farmland (currently disused) there is a massive gravel bed. The very cunning plan is to extract the gravel, build underground warehouses where the gravel was, and create a public park on the top of it, maintained and developed out of the revenue from the warehousing and gravel. This would be the biggest new public park created in London for 10 million years (or something like that) and would be of a comparable size to Regent’s Park. Of course, many a slip but a really interesting and exciting idea if they can overcome concerns.
August 19, 2016