Planning, lots of it, and Gauhar at Watermans
Planning was relatively uncontroversial. I would have liked to make mischief for the Conservative Club application, just because, but in truth I couldn’t really think of a reason. The Head of planning did point out that the Con club grounds are designated as ‘Local Open Space’ and I asked her what that meant, pointing out that at the entrance to the Con club there’s a sign which says ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here’ (I paraphrase). I suppose it might say ‘Here be Dragons’ but that would be an oxymoron. Anyway, in the way of these things, Local Open Space apparently has nothing to do with the space being open to locals. Perhaps I can get my balcony so designated.
There were two other applications, one to do with rebuilding Hounslow Town Primary School: this is a Local Authority school so it costs us to rebuild it and we’re getting the costs back, together with a goodly chunk of ‘affordable’ and of truly affordable housing by what is known as an enabling development – flats and houses in some of the existing school grounds. The big debate here was about lack of parking. Increasingly the policy is for new developments in town centres to be largely car free, with provision only for disabled and car club spaces. A lot of people are sceptical about whether this is viable but developers don’t seem to have a problem selling the units and it may actually signal that it will become much more of the norm as the world changes its relationship with cars. Time will tell. The other was about railings around the site of the Nishkam School. We had a slightly potty session where somebody said this had already been approved and therefore voted against the new application. Having cycled past the site earlier in the day I was really shocked by the amount of fly tipping on the site and concluded that a fence could not come soon enough.
A quiet weekend with a lot of cycling – getting to know my new new bike – interspersed with the usual following up on various emails etc and a few discussions with colleagues about different matters and a bit of flitting around the ward to get a sense of issues raised by residents.
Monday evening was the Brentford Community Council at the Griffin. I do try and get along to this when I can but too often it clashes with other duties. Anyway, it was very well attended (even interloper Genghis ‘Diamond Geezer’ Todd lurking in the shadows - and we had a presentation from Essential Living, who are planning to develop the Morrisons site. Not surprisingly, there were a number of concerns raised including the height of the development (now slightly reduced but still up to 10 storeys in places, the fact that the car park will be on the second floor (accessed by a ramp) and the existence of a Roman Road beneath the site. It was suggested that some kind of excavation could take place and perhaps the developers could allow people to look down through glass at the excavated remains – sounds a great idea to me, though the developers looked highly dubious! Perhaps the most pressing issue is the retention of a supermarket in Brentford: Morrisons, love it or loathe it, is a precious resource, particularly for those who shop on foot. The good news remains that Essential Living are determined to have a supermarket on site and are talking to Morrisons and other enthusiastic major operators about it. The more challenging news is that the existing Morrisons is likely to go before any new supermarket opens in the Ballymore scheme. The developers are looking at: a temporary supermarket on the Morrisons site (seen as unlikely to be practical); a temp supermarket elsewhere (a little more promising but far from certain); and a special bus service during the construction period (not satisfactory but a backstop).
There was a discussion about the Capital Interchange Way development and the proposed development of a replacement for the Fountains leisure centre. The BCC are concerned about the density of all these developments near Chiswick roundabout and are seeking to meet with the Planning Committee for an off-line discussion, which I am supporting.
We also heard that there is every likelihood that at least one of the people subject to the Compulsory Purchase Order for the Ballymore site is likely to seek a Judicial Review. If this goes ahead it will lead to yet more delays and anguish for the people of Brentford with their High Street condemned to another year or two of semi-dereliction.
Tuesday I had intended to go to the Brentford Water Heritage event, hosted by Brentford Chamber of Commerce, at the Steam Museum but I had completely messed up the time: I had it as the afternoon but it was in fact in the evening when I had accepted an invitation from the Watermans Arts Centre to the opening night of Gauhar – a play about an Indian singer called Gauhar Jaan. I am not much of a theatre goer but decided this sounded interesting and my daughter was keen to see it so we went together. I thought the play was fantastic and I stayed alert and interested throughout, which is unusual for me – I have a penchant for falling asleep in the theatre. Mel, being far more adept than me at juggling diaries, managed to fit in the first bit of the water heritage event (which he said was fantastic) and the second bit of Gauhar.
Wednesday was the usual estate meeting and a visit to the Labour office in the afternoon. I am trying to get a handle on various bits of technology and naturally, having worked in the tech industry for 30+ years, I am completely and utterly clueless about this so a frustrating time is had by all.
In the evening, the massed ranks of the Brentford and Isleworth Labour Party congregate on Isleworth Public Hall for our AGM, where various members are elected to various party roles and bodies. We had to hire the biggest room in IPH this year because we have so many new members and it was pretty well packed.
We were delighted to congratulate our MP, Ruth Cadbury, on her appointment to the front bench as shadow Housing Minister. Having got to know Ruth well over the last couple of years, I never cease to be impressed by her tireless energy as well as her intellect and compassionate view of the world. She will make a huge contribution to this area, which is the one that comes up time and again in surgeries and affects everyone but the well-off, and even the well-off if they have inconveniently contrived to have children.
Further fact finding in the pub afterwards, then a wobble home through the darkness of Syon Park.
October 13, 2016