A Grand Day Out learning about composting
Well, yes, it was a lively evening at Brentford School for Girls, with some very angry residents, disturbed by the proposal itself but also by what they felt as a lack of engagement by both school and council. The Melvinator and I were trying to broker a compromise – it remains to be seen whether we were successful. Somebody called me a liar and somebody else apologised for this. I observed that in terms of 4 letter words aimed at councillors liar almost qualifies as a compliment.
On Friday I had my monthly catch-up with the head man at Hounslow Highways. Much-improved web functionality is coming but they are reluctant to commit to a date: everybody is wary of over-promising when it comes to IT developments, however they really need to get the 2019 programme published. I reported back on issues I found when I inspected after the last cleansing day in Brentford – generally OK but with some glaring problems – and we discussed delays to the major work that they are leading in Feltham town centre. This is causing plenty of upset, with Highways partly to blame, together with the ever-tardy utilities.
In the evening, a touch of politics. We hear that Conservative Central Office is in headless chicken mode, telling constituencies which lack one to select a candidate, though how anybody can vote for them in the current shambles is beyond me and it seems possible that they’ll ditch anyone who seems half-sensible. We could have a general election, another referendum, who knows, anytime soon. Brenda from Bristol will not be impressed. In any case, we’ve been resting too long after the recent run of elections and had already committed to restart door knocking this month, so we were just collectively putting some lead in our pencils.
Saturday an idyllic trip to rural Hertfordshire was a great tonic, so Sunday I visited Brentford Market which I’m pleased to see seems to be growing again after its near-death experience. Then up to Whitestile Road to dole out some doorstep annoyance to residents, accompanied by our super MP and our lovely local activist, Sharidin. Poor Corinna couldn’t join us due to a recurrence of the Winter Lurgy.
Monday evening I have a meeting of the Watermans trustees. Some new trustees on board and discussions about finances, the programme, and possible relocation. The latter is still unclear but the charity continues to flourish, being really the ‘go-to’ arts organisation for community arts involvement in West London.
Tuesday morning, bleary-eyed, I’m out to Channel Close in Heston. This is a place where there is notorious fly tipping on private land, really tricky for the council. The land in question is shared by the owners of 20 or so garages so it’s really impossible to enforce against anybody or to get a consensus to secure the area. And because it’s not on the public highway it’s not covered by our contract with Hounslow Highways. There are a few like this around the borough and we’re trying to resolve each one individually. The recycling team were out in force, door knocking and leafletting every house locally and we’ve agreed to put some planters in the offending area and locals have agreed to tend them. Anyway, there were no less than 5 truckloads of muck, everything from old TVs to corrugated asbestos roofing. The Hounslow Highways guys doing the clearing are unfailingly hard-working and cheerful, whatever is thrown at them. They deserve plenty of thanks from the community. Anyway, fingers crossed this leads to a permanent improvement.
Later I go to the Civic centre for a meeting about a local planning matter, followed by a meeting with the leader, planners and Ballymore about the development south of the High Street. Things are looking positive but there are a few tricky issues emerging as plans and work progress: I imagine this is par for the course in such a major development.
In the evening we have the formal cabinet meeting. As usual, this is very brief with us formally approving plans previously thrashed out.
Wednesday is a very different day for me. I have been invited to go and see the place where our green waste is composted, and other than knowing it is in rural Hampshire, I have little idea what to expect. The first surprise is that our host is one Jody Scheckter, who won the 1979 World Motor Racing championship in a Ferrari.
He is now a biodynamic (I had to look that up – fancy version of organic) farmer with 2500 acres of Hampshire – buffaloes (and buffalo mozzarella), sparkling wine (last summer’s weather produced 3 times as many grapes from the same vines as the year before) beer and ice cream (he says the best in the world but he could be biased). He drives us around the estate including the enormous composting area in his almost equally enormous Mercedes 4x4, including a quick whizz round his short motor racing track (!) created for Carfest (had to look that up, as well).
I learn of some of the complexities of composting, and how vital is purity, especially for an organic farmer like Jody. It costs him £40000 per annum to remove pollutants – mainly plastic, wire and textiles using infernal sorting machines even though they inspect every consignment and reject the dodgy ones.
We see buffaloes, sheep, hops, vines before arriving at his stately home for lunch – mozzarella, buffalo steak, wonderful organic veg and my first-ever ice-cream tasting. One of the ice creams is vegan (terminological inexactitude alert) but none of us spotted it which made Jody look a bit smug. The stately home was built by Henri Portal who printed banknotes for the Bank of England locally – in the mill that now makes Bombay Sapphire gin. Quite a day.
Back to reality with a bump in the evening: it’s cabinet question time at Cranford Community School so we’re on street trees and potholes and fly tipping. A decent turnout on a cold night.
The planning presentation has been cancelled this evening so I have a free day. Daughter wants me to go and flat sit whilst someone comes to fix her boiler. These people who work. Hopeless. Oh, just had a phone call to go see some problems up near Lionel School – my day is filling up!
Cllr Guy Lambert
January 24, 2019