Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Why I decided to vote against Park Road allotments plan
Last Thursday – it feels like a different age – continued with the Lampton Development and Investment Zooting ©. The Investment programme goes on apace, and D&I are hopeful of a substantial injection of funds shortly as their partnership with Hounslow and the GLA develops and blossoms. There are some challenges in development, specifically the crazy recent inflation in some building materials as a result of the global supply chain disruptions made more acute by Brexit. Nobody quite knows if this is temporary or permanent, nor whether it will get better or worse, but contractors are not taking too many risks about costs a year or two out so this is having quite an impact on viability of developments.
These concerns appear not to worry the Duke of Northumberland, whose application to decimate the Park Road Allotments in Isleworth came before planning that evening. I have followed this story as it has developed over several years. We rejected an application a couple of years ago, the Duke appealed and lost, so he was having another go. There had been a lot of correspondence about this and I visited the allotments the previous Sunday to better understand. I was genuinely unsure which way I would go when the meeting began, partly because there was some meagre allocation of space for allotments still allowed in the proposal whereas the threat otherwise is that they will all be closed. But when I thought about it I became quite convinced that this should not be allowed. We need to preserve and enhance these important open spaces in an increasingly urban suburbia rather than lose them forever, so when it came to it I moved refusal, which was carried with nobody against and just two abstentions.
There were two other applications, one which astonishingly had zero objections (is this a record?) and was approved. The other, which I had thought uncontentious, turned out to be hotly contested, and in the absence of objectors or advocates to put their respective cases we voted to defer consideration.
Friday was meeting free and I spent quite a chunk of the day cycling around North and NW London, discovering new routes, some with good cycle facilities and others which remain terrifying (Swiss Cottage sounds so sweet and cuddly, but not when you’re the meat in a 9-lane sandwich of HGVs (some even with drivers) taxis and SUVs. A bit of tooling round the ward followed, reporting little problems on Fix My Street.
Of course something horrible happened on Friday, to Sir David Amess, who had not really entered my thoughts since he won Basildon in 1983. It turns out he was highly respected as a parliamentarian and has drawn tributes from Ruth Cadbury, Seema Malhotra and many others who didn’t share his politics. Whatever, it is really shocking for someone to be murdered in this way, and it gave me a little pause for thought as my first face to face surgery since the start of the pandemic was the following day, in Brentford library. There is a new pod on the first floor where we can hold surgeries. For a lot of the time I was sitting staring at the glass wall but eventually a young couple who live in Great West Quarter arrived. They had told me they would come, their main issue being the state of graffiti etc on the A4, a matter that is dear to my heart. As it happens, I had got so fed up by our inability to deal with this (we are not allowed to touch any part of the M4 or its supports, on pain of being locked up in the Tower, without the approval of National Highways as Highways England has recently been misleadingly rebranded) that a few days ago I wrote to the Secretary of State (Grant Shapps), his permanent secretary and the CEO of National Highways. Needless to say, none of them responded but no doubt coincidentally one of the council officers received something from their contractors yesterday to say the graffiti had been covered. Haven’t checked yet. More of this anon.
Later on Saturday I subjected myself to the torture of seeing Liverpool beat Watford 5-0 away. Later in the week there was actual torture when we gave a way a 2-0 lead before beating Atletico Madrid 3-2 away. But actually the genuine footballing torture this week was the Bees going down 1-0 to Chelski despite having about 900 shots to Chelski’s one and peppering the goal frame.
Sunday I woke up feeling extremely meh (can you be extremely meh) and with a sniffle so I missed out on my star comedic role in the Zumba class.
Inevitably in the scheme of things, Monday came around as it surprisingly seems to manage every week, though to be fair occasionally it’s a bank holiday which doesn’t really count. Anyway this Monday was Road day, starting out with a Zooting © with TfL, Hounslow Highways, LBH Officers a Brentford FC to discuss, yes, the A4 – specifically the bit between Chiswick Roundabout and Clayponds. I’d spent some time on Sunday doing some photo-opps there of which I will share just one (I took about 30), being a bit of offensive graffiti on the M4 structure. I hope it’s now disappeared but must confirm.
Anyway it was a very constructive meeting with good cooperation from Hounslow Highways, TfL and even the Bees so I’m hoping we’ll have a cleaner, lighter, generally nicer A4 very soon, though I doubt it will ever inspire romantic poetry to rival Jayne Mansfield’s description of it as a Sweet Little Flyover. Here’s Jayne at Griffin Park (or somewhere like that) – wonder why the chaps aren’t concentrating on the footer?
Road day continued with a serendipitous cycle out to Tesco at Bull’s Bridge, in the harsh border country between Hounslow, Hillingdon and Ealing, where the M4 meets the A312 and I met a delegation from Tfl, London Boroughs of Hounslow and Hillingdon, Hounslow Highways, our Assembly Member for SW London (Tory (hiss) Nick Rogers), local Councillor Khulique Malik, representatives of the Crane Valley Partnership, and the redoubtable leading light of the Cranford Action Group who is passionate about cleaning up her area, Umme Khanzada.
The borders of the A312 are incredibly complicated with some unregistered land, some owned by TfL, some by SSE, Hillingdon on the other side of the river Crane and Waye Avenue Park which is LBH. Stuff has been dumped behind the fence in the woods for years, probably decades, and there are lorry laybys which cause problems. There is also, I was astonished to hear, a small town hidden in the bushes, with ‘house’ structures, at least one caravan and (no doubt unauthorised) running water from something that looks a bit like a beehive. They have sawn a large gap in the wooden fence and vehicular access is provided by driving the wrong way down the footpath and cycle lane. Blimey. This turns out to be TfL land, and they are dealing with the problem. The electric cable that pinched power from a lamppost and allegedly nearly decapitated someone like horrid Germans used to do in war films has been removed. This motley crew spent an hour or more walking up and down the road whereupon I needed to cycle home to go to a Watermans Trustee meeting. When I got to my bike a) it was dark b) somebody had nicked my rear light (or I’d lost it) c) it was raining. So I went to a bike shop in Hayes to try and get a new light e) the shop was closed f) I got thoroughly lost and g) I arrived home bedraggled and cold about an hour into the Watermans Board so h) I made my excuses.
That was fun. Of a sort. The next day I had a meeting entitled ‘Back streets of Hounslow’. This was to try and address the problem of privately-owned (or in some cases nobody knows the owner) back alleys behind shops or rows of houses. These attract flytipping and other unspeakables which obviously blight our area, but it’s an issue using public money to clear private mess and some of these places are very intractable. Officers are tasked with finding a strategy to address these.
In the evening it’s Cabinet. I suppose the main thing to mention is the call in of our Streetspace measures for further consideration by cabinet. We know these are controversial and in the places where the experimental changes have had big problems we have changed them. The main recent change has been to relieve the pressure on a couple of roads in Chiswick which had taken extra traffic when Hartington Road was restricted, though very much less traffic than used to go down Hartington and on through a number of other roads in Grove Park. Despite the concerns, we decided to keep the modified measures: these changes are always controversial (I remember spitting blood when they blocked U turns at Lionel Road on the A4 two or three decades ago) but we need to protect residential streets and encourage those who can to use active travel modes to protect the environment, health, and to avoid London becoming impossibly congested.
On Wednesday I went up to the West Cross Centre on the old Firestone site. We had been invited by the landlords, Legal and General, to look over some plans they are about to start consulting to build a new warehouse building there to replace the current one, which is a bit tired and under occupied. There is a major car manufacturer (it may be a secret so I’m not saying) moving into the next door building and of course we have the established Currys/PC world on t’other side. I spied a couple of dodgy characters lurking outside the entrance and identified them as leaders of Brentford Voice, shortly joined by the even dodgier Tony Louki, in whose ward this is. I think we generally thought the proposals looked OK (though will need to scrutinise more closely as they develop). Afterwards repaired with the Voicemen to the Verdict to discuss our town, it’s former patriarch Tommy Layton and other matters of mutual interest.
Then it was the board of Lampton Leisure. They are gradually growing membership but it’s not easy, and people are still dubious about going to environments like gyms and swimming pools. I must say I think as a punter they are doing an excellent job and it’s good to see their customer ratings going sharply up.
In the evening, a face to face Labour party meeting in Isleworth Public Hall. It was actually quite a joy to be back meeting comrades in glorious technicolor person, warts and all, especially the after-party in the Swan, though you wouldn’t believe how wet you can get cycling a mile or so back across Syon Park!
Today, a morning Zooting © with West London Waste, then a brief (and very freezing) wander round the outside of Heidelberg (the printing place, not the German town) with Brentford Voicers and Fairview Homes. Gives me a chance to put in my two pennorth about providing some facilities for artists and craftspeople who are at the heart of Brentford’s identity and who by their presence (if they are present) will help Fairview to flog flats, which is the only language developers understand 😊 . Whether they take any notice, only time will tell.
Later another Zooting © about behavioural interventions to discourage flytipping. A good selection of people including our enforcement team, Hounslow Highways etc and some ideas to take forward.
This evening it’s up to the Free Church for the first Area Forum since The Melvinator was in short trousers. Better read the preparatory papers…
Oh, and may I leave you with a pictorial guide to levelling up, courtesy of the New Statesman.
Cllr Guy Lambert
October 22, 2021