Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert
Drinking mulled gin and a too short spell of temporary blindness
Off I went to Hounslow House par le bus. Bussing to arrive at 4pm has the added superspreader ingredient of the schools letting out, so I could barely get on it at Morrisons for Brentford School girls and this was augmented by Green scholars at Busch corner (they were normal human colour, in the main) and various others along the way. Central Hounslow was gridlocked – probably a lot of those pesky cyclists clogging the arteries – so I got out and walked the last bit, relishing the fresh air rather than the Omicrons.
Of course, naturally it turned out I had the day wrong – meeting had been moved but I’d omitted to remove the provisional date – so I had a couple of hours enjoying working in an office for a change whilst I waited for Planning Committee. There is a fast food shop called Vegology next to the office , and I enjoyed a gourmet dinner from there – meat free sausage and egg roll, and very nice too.
Planning committee was very long indeed. First we had the Hudson Square development planned for the B&Q site, a place where I have browsed the aisles for many diverse items over the last 30-odd years (and enjoyed the odd not meat free sausage and egg roll in the car park). I listened intently to impassioned objections from Marie Rabouhans of the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and Tony Firkins of the Green Party. Also to the evidence from the developers. There was a large amount of detailed questioning. I remarked at the end that I was rather torn: I was attracted by the technology hub idea, which I think might be an important reseeding of employment along the Golden Mile. But I wasn’t convinced by the architecture, nor by the proposed huge advertising display. But mostly I don’t like the residential. I think it’s far too dense and lacks amenity. Plus I thought it was such a complicated development we deserved to have had a proper prior introduction – the only one I remember was from 2017 and was a different scheme involving some kind of futuristic shuttle from Acton Town station, though it turns out there was another exhibition for this scheme in 2019.
For those reasons I wanted to defer a decision but that motion was defeated and we went to a vote on the scheme. 5 of us voted against and 4 in favour, then Corinna, the Chair used her vote to make it a score-draw and her casting vote to approve the scheme. We were a bit shocked. It remains to be seen if the Mayor of London on the Secretary of State will call it in, but it seems likely this will go ahead, presumably from 2023 when the B&Q lease ends.
The other application was for a garage site in Chiswick. There were objections from residents but we were agreed that the 4 new social homes were a benefit which outweighed their concerns, which have mostly been addressed by changes in the design.
It was now about 11pm and my lift, Tony Louki, didn’t have to work too hard to convince me that my future held a late curry at Chatpatta in Kingsley Road to augment the meagre if tasty snack I had had earlier.
After all that excitement, the next was the formal quarterly meeting of West London Waste at Harrow Civic Centre. It’s quite an annoying place to get to by public transport (to be fair, it’s no No 10 Christmas party on a bike either) and I decided to treat myself to a cab.
I blame the camera, but this I hope gives a sense of what it’s like in the Harrow Council chamber with a ‘hybrid’ meeting. Makes me nostalgic (not really) for our own dear Civic Centre from another era.
This was quite a long meeting because we were discussing the first of a number of special topics that we are working up across the members and officers to produce outputs before the elections in May, when the current team of councillors is likely to change. It’s important to take advantage of the understanding and experience we’ve built up during this administration. We had two deep-dive discussions after the formal meeting, one about data – at the moment the way we collect data is slow, inconsistent between authorities and not detailed enough – and one about developing the use of our Household waste and recycling centres so that we can encourage more reuse and refurbishment. Lots of ideas to develop.
That complicated public transport conveyed me home in time for an update on Cycleway 9. The work currently being done in Chiswick east of Chiswick Lane is to improve traffic (especially bus) throughput by taking some of the very wide pavement for the cycle lane and restoring the bus lane. This is a temporary scheme under an experimental traffic order but is very similar to the extensively-consulted and fully approved permanent scheme that TfL would have been building had the pandemic not intervened. It should be welcomed by everybody, as it is specifically designed to deal with the key problem that emerged from the original experimental scheme, but inevitably One Chiswick, the Chiswick Councillors and the Flat Earth Society are against it.
Saturday started off with a sombre affair. One of my fellow councillors, Javed Akhunzada who represented Bedfont, passed away very suddenly last week following a cardiac arrest. He was a lovely, kind, smiley man and was only 47, with two young daughters, so his passing was a massive shock. There was a huge turnout for his funeral/memorial – I believe he will actually be buried in Pakistan – and some lovely tributes from his business partners, from Seema Malhotra MP, from two Imams who knew him well. It is clear that he went well beyond the call of duty in his work for residents – I was particularly touched to hear that he had given a suitcase of cooking utensils from his own kitchen to a woman who had been placed in an unfurnished flat and had no funds to buy her own. This was the first time I have attended a funeral in a mosque and I was struck by the kindness, hospitality and dignity of the proceedings.
After this, which was quite lengthy, I made it late to see the celebrations around the Chiswick Christmas Tree near the Hogarth statue and Devonshire Road. I missed Sophie Ellis-Bextor but saw a few chums and enjoyed something like a mulled gin, mulled wine having run out. This was a new one on me.
Chiswick beautiful and buzzing as usual, due in no small part to the people behind the Flower Market who were also behind this launch.
Sunday Morning and another fortnightly Good Consumer catch up and another fortnight goes by without it being processed by the Charity Commission. We have more or less given up pushing now and will be trying to pursue funding without confirmed Charity status. Meanwhile, more spreadsheets to fill when I have a moment.
On Monday morning an update from officers about Gunnersbury Park governance – some moves planned to improve it will need to go through various processes both in Hounslow and Ealing but sound very positive.
Then a meeting with senior people from Coalo and from the commissioning side in Hounslow Housing. There are some issues here that we are working through to improve timeliness, quality and economic performance. Everybody is committed to fixing these issues which date back a long time and we are likely to meet regularly whilst things are progressed.
I had woken up with more than the usual number of ‘floaters’ in my eye plus I had seen some ‘flashing lights’. I was told before that floaters are normal – they just mean you’re getting on a bit – but flashing lights might mean a detached retina, which needs attaching pronto. So I wandered off to the Eye Boutique in the High Street where I was examined by several scary machines – well, by an optometrist driving scary machines. He had a good look then said he would have to dilate my pupils to get a better look and that I would not be able to see properly for 6-8 hours after. Happily after all this my retina seems to be attached so I’m just on the hook for a new pair of specs – Kerching. Highly recommend this local business – very professional and responsive.
I thought my new-found blindness might spare me having to trek off to the cabinet meeting but disappointingly I found I could see very well after an hour or so and was obliged to turn up. I had a couple of Lampton-related reports to present, which I was able to do without incident.
On Tuesday I had the real meeting about the A312 which I had mistakenly thought was Thursday. My first time trying to chair a ‘hybrid’ meeting with about 6 on site and 3 remotely. Couldn’t get the tech to work properly though we eventually got an arrangement that worked OK. This was one of those rare meetings where we had made a lot more progress than I think anybody anticipated. It’s a complex thing, involving the council, Hounslow Highways, TfL, LB of Hillingdon, Cranford Action Group, Friends of the River Crane and our local GLA member for SW London and also, peripherally, the police and even Scottish and Southern Electricity and ST Mungo’s charity. Everybody seems to be doing their bit and some progress already visible, though lots more in progress.
In the evening, the council meeting. This had been rescheduled following Javed’s untimely passing and unfortunately meant I missed a recycling seminar from ReLondon – the London wide lead organisation for waste and recycling management.
This was a long meeting with the main substantive business being a review of the medium term financial strategy prior to budget setting early next year. Recently these have been a political set piece where the High Horror of Homefields (nickname upgraded now he’s Leader of the Opposition) does what I always think is his tribute act to (allegedly) Brentford resident Buster Bloodvessel where he waxes apoplectic about what he sees as the incompetence of the council. He is then supported by his backing band, Genghis Todd doing his grumpy uncle, Rambling Ron Mushiso and all the gang.
Later there were several questions (two for me) and three motions so the show went on right through to 11 pm (and would likely have contributed to the dawn chorus had the monitoring officer not remarked we were obliged to finish at 11). Very strong contributions from the Labour side of the hall and general carping from the other side, a lot of it really to do with the useless government, but obviously they can’t say that. It’s possible I’m biased, but the passion and eloquence of Katherine Dunne, Candice Atterton and Unsa Chaudri have no counterpart amongst our Tory brethren and sistren.
Wednesday morning I go up to the library for what I thought was a meeting about landscaping. Wrong date again, se being nearly there I make a virtue of necessity by proceeding to the Boston Café for my treat breakfast of an excellent bacon and a superb dog roll. I suppose that’s making a vice out of necessity but I don’t care. Meanwhile I start another skirmish in the war against mess by reporting about 5 cases of graffiti, flytipping etc on FixMySTreet.
In the afternoon a meeting about plans for next year’s Summer of Culture. Sadly. For the first time since the pandemic began, I had an outage on my Virgin Media Broadband which meant I had the first 3 minutes of the meeting online and the next 57 minutes trying to report the problem, by which point it was fixed. I watched the recording and got a few points across by email.
This morning an important Zooting© between the leader, Lily Bath the housing lead and the leading lights of Lampton Development and Investment. This is a real success story but has been dogged at times by misunderstandings and it was very positive to have this meeting which clarified what’s going on, listed all the benefits we are creating and identified a couple of interface issues which can improve further. We will share more about this in the New Year.
This evening we were supposed to be having a recognition event for people who work for Hounslow who have done an exceptional job over the pandemic, but you’ll not be surprised to hear this has had to be postponed following yesterday’s announcement. My suggestion that we should call it a cheese and wine event was not accepted for some reason.
Sunny day, time I went out for a stroll now that’s the best I’m capable of. Apparently I should try to see a physiotherapist. After being knocked down by a psychiatrist I’m getting all the ists, almost as good as ologies.
Ooh, almost forgot. Brentford’s Bumper Christmas Weekend is almost upon us. Attendance here is mandatory for all residents so any malingerers will be noted .
And next Wednesday 15 th, 6-7pm in Hamilton Road, not mandatory but greatly encouraged, and you may become an international star as it’s being filmed by the BBC and by TF1 for France: www.doorstepcarols.co.uk
Cllr Guy Lambert
December 10, 2021