Oops, nearly forgot to mention the library
So update number 69 (no giggling) starts with the Planning Committee. The main items were Chiswick’s long-awaited Picturehouse cinema (on the Ballet Rambert site) which has been a long time in the gestation whilst the developers balanced viability concerns with various issues raised by local residents. Unusually (uniquely!) I had an email from one such resident before the meeting saying his concerns had been allayed by the diligence of the planning team. Would we please ensure that the conditions they had agreed with the developer are followed through, in which case he was content for the application to pass. It was a mild shock to the system when the developers’ planning consultant introduced himself and it turned out to be a gentleman well-known in this parish. The Melvinator decided to have a bit of fun by asking awkward questions about disability provision and Tony Louki gave them a bit of mustard about the London Living Wage. We approved it and I hope we will have an exciting new 5 screen cinema, with decently paid staff, in due course.
At the other end of the borough, well, the middle really, there was an application to redevelop an industrial site on the Staines Road for housing. Not contentious in itself, but I am getting frustrated by – it seems – nearly every development failing to approach our benchmark of 40% affordable housing (even though even ‘affordable’ isn’t necessarily all that affordable). The developers’ viability expert came up with 21% and this was endorsed by an independent consultant, but not by me as of course I know far more about development than developers. Actually what I know is that developers do very nicely indeed thank you (major ones are taking home a NET profit of 20-25% after paying their directors very handsomely) and I’ve decided it’s time for gestures, even if futile, against this so I dissented from the approval of this application.
Friday evening found me in the Watermans with Ruth and Mel, and a number of residents of Holland Gardens who have a series of long-running complaints against their landlords – Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group – and the developers - Barratts. Ruth and her team are taking the lead on this but it was very instructive to hear what’s going on in this estate and we encouraged residents to contact councillors when they have issues in future.
Saturday morning it was our monthly surgery. Mel and I were at the Mission Hall and were visited by the usual members of the Councillor Collins fan club. All housing and parking issues, as ever: we’re hoping the proposed CPZ on the Haverfield and Green Dragon estates will go ahead (it’s now out for formal consultation) and we think this will make a major improvement to this very fraught aspect of lives on the estates. Housing will, I’m afraid, remain an intractable problem until we have a radical change of government policy.
In the evening we had Borough Council. Oh, sorry, sorry, SORRY, I mean the pantomime put on by St Faith’s excellent players in their Church Hall. Of course it was nothing like Borough Council and I refute all suggestions that the wicked Prince John was based on John Todd. As to the Sheriff of Nottingham: I have my theories but the libel laws in this country…
Monday afternoon we had another progress meeting on the council’s new website, which we expect to go live early in the New Year. The structure is all agreed now and people are beavering away improving the content and how things work, doing lots of analysis on what people actually do within a website including freaky things like tracking volunteers’ eye movements to see where they are looking on a page.
Tuesday evening I started off at One Over The Ait, doing a bit of fact finding with the residents of Kew Bridge. They seem pleased that I have turned up but as I regularly remind people, give me a free beer and I’m anybody’s. More seriously, I always welcome invitations to events like this and I think they provide a real opportunity to understand what people are pleased about and more commonly, what bugs them, so if you’re having a residents’ event and you could bear to have a councillor do invite us – free beer is quite unnecessary. I then streaked back along the High Street to indulge in a bit more fact finding, this time at the ‘Green Drinks’ at the Magpie (mine was reassuringly amber). I was hoping to meet a Labour member about starting a local Heathrow campaign but we missed each other – must follow that up – but a very pleasant evening. I got to look at the 2017 Brentford Calendar (available at the Brewery Tap) with beautiful prints of paintings by local artist Wendy Mackenzie. Wendy also told me of an exhibition of her and other work on Eel Pie Island that took place this weekend: I’ve often cycled past Eel Pie but never ventured across the bridge. I shall make an exception this weekend. After all that, my return to Ferry Quays was definitely more a wobble than a streak.
Wednesday was a busy day, starting off with me presenting myself at Chiswick Police Station. No, it’s not what you’re thinking: I went there to have my bike marked and this was carried out very efficiently by PCSOs. It was good also because I got to meet both the dedicated PCSO for Syon and the very new one for Brentford.
Early afternoon I put on clean underwear and a solemn suit for a meeting of the board of the South West London Crematorium Board – well, you never know. It was freezing cold in their meeting room which I found a bit ironic given that warmth was in abundant supply next door. Anyway they had just finished refurbishing one of the three chapels with the other two due to be done over the course of next year. Apparently the charges are the third cheapest in England so buy now and get a bargain.
Then a whiz back to the Civic centre for an update on the Great West Corridor consultation. They have now appointed a consultant who has started work, and it was very pleasing indeed to see that the Great West Corridor is no longer defined as including Brentford town centre but stops (roughly) at the railway line. We also seem to have got beyond part of Brentford being described as ‘Kew Gate’ – the politically correct term for this area is East Brentford. The consultant presented a really fascinating and detailed presentation. We didn’t have time to study it in detail but I was greatly reassured and felt that the initiative is progressing in the right direction.
In the evening, a Labour Party meeting, where I chair the campaign committee. Lively as ever, with the debate largely being about whether to simply ask for people’s views, or to present ideas and ask for their reactions. Either way, we all agree that a big priority is listening, both about local and national issues. You’ll not be surprised to hear that the evening ended up in a pub – the Express Tavern in this case and I think I deserve some plaudits for all I do for the local economy, with the price of beer these days.
Oops, nearly forgot to mention the library [Ed: How could you!]. Frustratingly we are still waiting to get the full SP from surveyors/building control, though I did spot lights on inside on Thursday plus a couple of vans in the car park and leader Steve Curran was chasing progress with the property team same day. We are all pressing to get the library reopened soon (and to those who think it is all a sinister plot to close it permanently… they are wrong!)
December 12, 2016