A compassionate solution to last week's financial struggles
I left you all teetering on the brink of the planning committee and the momentous Morrisons judgment. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have seen that the planning application was approved even though the four most local councillors voted against and one other abstained. I’m not going to labour the point here: the judgment of the professionals was that the scheme had to be approved – that the elements that conflicted with the local plan (proportion of retail:residential; proportion of affordable housing; arguably – because this is subjective – failing to add to the overall quality of the area) – were not strong enough to warrant refusal against the National Planning Policy Framework’s ‘presumption in favour of development’, particularly on a brownfield site. The local councillors (more precisely, this one) thought that it had to be resisted, given the local strength of feeling and a sense that it is just too dense. I thought these considerations outweighed the risk that the developers might appeal and win (though to lose an appeal would cost the council frightening amounts of money and would risk us losing what control we have over the development). Other councillors thought it a risk not worth taking.
The decision will automatically go to the mayor/GLA as it involves more than 150 dwellings and it’s possible that local groups will lobby for a refusal there. This would have my backing, whereas the expensive and drawn-out option of seeking a Judicial Review would not. It would be good to get the GLA/mayor position clarified quickly: if they stop the scheme, that’s one thing. If they approve it, we need to get on with working on the developers to get the best solution we can whilst the new store is being built. I have to remind myself that Morrisons is actually in Syon ward rather than Brentford, though obviously of prime interest to Brentford people.
There was not much else to get excited about in planning but something had got to me because I woke up on Friday with a shocking sore throat which developed into a full-blown cold on Saturday. I had committed to walk the flight path with the people from http://bashr3.betternotbigger.org.uk so I cycled up to the Fountains Centre, coughing and spluttering, did the photo-op (I am a politician after all) then went straight home to bed. A combination of this man flu and a bad back from jarring myself getting off my bike left me feeling miserable on Sunday. Still, my preferred combination of Morrisons very wonderful own-brand imitation Lemsip with a strictly medicinal and generous helping of whisky eased my soul as well as my body.
By Monday evening I made it to the Griffin to attend the Brentford Community Council. There was a presentation on the proposal to build an office building on the corner of Ealing Road and the A4, followed mainly by further discussions about Morrisons. The BCC then held their AGM so us councillors – 3 of us from Brentford plus our old friend Genghis Todd from far Chiswick – were ushered out so they could get on with something useful. I lingered in the bar hoping to talk about some other matters but they were obviously waiting for me to go before venturing out of the restaurant room – very wise, probably.
On Tuesday, it being half term, I went with my daughter to have a look (and lunch) at old haunts up the River Thames. When she was little we had an old boat (I described it as the marine equivalent of a Ford Capri) on the Thames for a few years and spent many an idyllic weekend puttering up and down. Not a lot had changed but the traffic in Henley makes that on Kew Bridge Road look like the Australian outback.
Back for a licensing panel in the evening. This one was an application by enforcement to get an Indian restaurant in Hounslow to clean up its act, or more specifically that of its customers who park inconsiderately and make a lot of racket, upsetting the neighbours. There seemed to be a meeting of minds and we’re hopeful that the extra conditions we have imposed will resolve matters.
Wednesday a session with our organiser in the Labour office followed by a meeting of the three Brentford Bruisers with London and Quadrant, a housing association looking to develop around the Fountains centre. They were going to redevelop the centre as well but it looks like we’ll have to find another answer to that. I’m increasingly concerned that we need to do something big about the transport infrastructure before more major developments are approved, particularly at that end of the ward where Gunnersbury station is stretched beyond breaking point, so at least the putative developers know that now. Poor lambs were getting it from all sides with Myra on the left ear, Mel on the right, and me getting up their nose.
Labour party branch meeting in the evening followed by a really good conversation in the Town Wharf. We avoided the Swan and its racket and it was a great joy to be in a semi-deserted pub where even deaf old toads like me could hear what was going on.
Thursday, of course is drivel day so I’ve spent a chunk of the morning doing this. Off to do a house visit for a resident in a minute, then another licensing panel. This one is an unusual daytime meeting and concerns a tattoo and piercing studio in Hounslow. I’m wondering if I should get with the programme: I think a few nose rings would suit, and perhaps a Brentford is Brilliant tatt on one arm and a Brentford is Well Buggy one on the other. But we’ll have to wait and see if we think this parlour is up to the mark.
This evening the Mayor of Hounslow is hosting a reception for community groups, which will include a few from Brentford and Syon. I’ll report back on that next week, meanwhile better go and get my party frock on.
Oh, and I nearly forgot: last week I told the story of the woman who could not see how she was going to be able to scrape together £80 to pay for her CPZ permit. I had a message from someone who had agitated for the CPZ and was dismayed by the story. She could easily afford it and wanted anonymously to hand me a brown envelope to for me to hand on to the woman in question. All this was accomplished on Wednesday. Did someone suggest that looking out for your neighbours was out of fashion? Not in lovely, compassionate and brilliant Brentford it ain’t!
April 14, 2017