All's well in the councillor's world for eight minutes
As anticipated, standing room only for the Church Street decision at the IBAF. The meeting commenced with a minute’s silence in relation to PC Keith Palmer and the other victims of the attack on Parliament, with Mel also walking the length of the church with a candle – an unfamiliar act for those of us who don’t do church, but clearly sincerely felt.
To nobody’s great surprise, there were impassioned speeches on both sides of the Church Street debate and a split decision with 7 for closing, 4 for opening and one abstention. It’s one of those occasions where councillors have to stand up and be counted: it would have been much easier to go with what is undoubtedly the current balance of opinion and vote for opening, but speaking strictly for myself I was voting for the way I want the world to unfold in future, with people taking more precedence over cars. I hope and expect people will look back in a few years and say it was the right decision, as has been the case with several other ‘anti-car’ changes in London. On the whole, the meeting was restrained with not too much heckling, and I was very thankful for that.
On Friday morning I ventured to the Brentford café near Brent Lea to take breakfast with my leader, Steve Curran, and have a long chat about issues of interest to Brentford (and Syon), which inevitably were mainly about development. A useful catch up about such matters as Ballymore, Morrisons, the proposed bridge, the waterside in its many aspects, the leisure centre and the proposed Allsop development in Capital Interchange Way. Nothing particularly new to report, and more about some of these later.
After that I went up to the Novotel to see the exhibition about the proposed office block on the corner of Ealing Road and the GWR. They have outline planning permission but now want to add some height to part of the building. I’m not personally too worried about that in principle: it’s all about design and I think they are trying hard to make something distinctive and in keeping with Golden Mile heritage – and with a proper green wall to boot. The visuals need to be further developed before we can say they have succeeded (or not) and we also need to consider overlooking.
On Saturday night I attended a supper club in the ultra-luxury environment of the Corner Café in Layton Road. This was the first of a planned series organised by a BRS resident – the same lady who provides a hot dog stall in her front garden on match days (mental note, still not sampled). This was a fish supper and although I explained I don’t really eat fish I was persuaded anyway and I must say it was a fantastic event. Superbly organised, lovely food and lovely (mainly) Brentford people.
On Sunday I went to Brentford market and was roundly castigated for failing to mention Brentford Rolls. I was hoping to give you a picture but Google can only supply pictures of posh cars so you’ll have to make do with a recipe:
People are threatening to make them – I don’t know if any of our local bakers attempt this professionally – and I’d do it myself but the recipe is from The Lady’s Own Cookery Book and I’m not even a Gentleman. And anyway I don’t know where to get yest.
Monday morning I hie down to the Civic for a seminar on financial abuse of the elderly. This was very well attended by (I presume) mainly council officers – at least 100 – plus a few councillors, and very interesting too. It seems that abuse is widespread and varied in nature, and you really need to watch out for your family who seem to be the worst offenders. Anyway, fascinating input from Action on Elder Abuse, from the police and from a particularly committed and passionate Trading Standards officer. It’s easy to forget how many people there are working for the council who really, really want to do the best for us despite the straitened times we live in.
I then met with the officer who leads parking enforcement to discuss concerns residents have about lack of enforcement in some roads and the impact of the imminent extension of CPZs in Brentford to cover the Haverfield and Green Dragon estates, and much of the Clayponds area. I’m hoping people will see some improvement and no doubt I’ll hear about it, especially if they don’t!
In the evening, Labour group meeting to prepare for Borough Council on Tuesday, and we have elections for Mayor and Deputy (not sure if the results are public so I’ll keep quiet).
Tuesday is a lovely spring day so I cycle to Teddington for a credit union related meeting and then carry on afterwards down the river and back again, with some refreshment at the White Swan down by the river in Twickenham? Teddington? I get lost in those places!
Borough Council in the evening and a few weighty reports – really strong improvements to what was already a pretty good performance by Hounslow schools, an update on Equalities policy, pay policy for officers (a rather miserly 1% in line with government rules) and for members (no change to mention). It was very helpful of Cllr Lynch, who is obviously a bit short of the odd bob, to give us a seminar on tax avoidance when we claim expenses. He had probably failed to spot that last year – with one very small exception – he was the only one of the 60 councillors who claimed expenses at all, never mind avoiding tax on the shortfall!
Wednesday I spent most of the day in the Holiday Inn at the regeneration summit organised jointly by the Hounslow and Brentford Chambers of Commerce. It turned out that the day was a series of presentations, mainly from developers with an interlude from Alan Hesketh from the council (about his trip to MIPIM) and another from a set of American students (about a research project they are doing related to Lot’s Ait). It was mainly an update on existing and potential developments including Ballymore (they don’t expect to start until late 2018, sadly), Brentford FC (starting any minute now at Lionel Road) Allsop Associates at Capital Interchange Way (coming to planning shortly) Hounslow town centre (starting this year) Morrisons (coming to planning committee next week). One good thing was that one of my long-term correspondents about the waterside strategy sought me out to say he was very pleased with what is emerging from discussions with Ballymore. Very heartening, as I was really worried the waterside would be neglected, and we’d missed the latest meeting because of a clashing commitment.
Oh, and the Brentford to Kew footbridge. The team have got the bones of a plan and have talked to a number of stakeholders who are all supportive: the issue is finding some money to pay for it, given that it is likely to cost £10M, though they reckon it will pay for itself in 3.6 years via increased activity both sides of the river. £10M sounds a lot of money, but if you say you could build it for the cost of a couple of 5 bed houses in the better part of Chiswick it puts things in a slightly different perspective! The mood of the day was pretty gung-ho for development which would not quite fit the public (or local councillors’) mood but I believe we have a Housing white paper which essentially says ‘pack ‘em in’ so I have no idea how it will play out.
Thursday, interspersed with an overheated trip to the Civic centre to discuss the Housing DLO and (inevitably) Morrisons, a bike ride around the ward including a celebratory trip down Ealing Road and across the roundabout, where I saw a 235 safely nestled in its terminus at Great West Quarter looking very sweet indeed. So all’s well with the world for at least the next 8 minutes.
March 31, 2017