Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Weeds, the Labour manifesto and the ugliest building in the western hemisphere

Guy and Lara campaigning at night in Brentford West



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Observing mayhem at the Windmill Road/A4 traffic lights

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Idiocy not Kryptonite proves to be bike thief's undoing

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Going out knocking on doors is not something I particularly look forward to (even after all these years I’ve been doing it) but I nearly always enjoy it when I’m doing it. Most people seem happy to see you (though some appear quite puzzled!) and the overwhelming majority engage positively, even if they are upset or angry about something or simply don’t like my politics. You get the occasional frowning shake of a head through a bay window, but that’s absolutely fine. Not much to report from our Thursday evening foray, where people seemed pretty content with life.

I still do have most of my teeth but I am comprehensively out-toothed by Lara.

On Friday morning I got right down into the weeds! As I may have mentioned, we decided a couple of years ago to stop using glyphosate (also known as Roundup) as a weedkiller, except in most exceptional circumstances. We took this decision because it seems well-established that it blights biodiversity and there are real fears about its impact on the health of them thar human beings, like you and me. As ever, there is scientific debate about this and some people say that the research that says it’s not harmful comes from the same stable as the research in the 60s (etc) which said smoking is good for you. It still seems probable that its use will be banned in the near future, though I don’t claim to be a predictor of which way this government will jump!

Anyway, Sir Humphrey would have described our decision to make this change as ‘brave’ and I have had to don body armour at times when defending it, because it’s very difficult to control weeds on our highways and byways without poisons and it turns out not many councils have attempted this. So we held an event on Friday to compare notes with neighbouring councils and see if we could share any insights about how to do it better. As it turned out, only two other councils turned up Ealing and Kingston. Kingston have not changed their approach at all and still use glyphosate, whereas Ealing have done some experimenting. Not sure that we learned a great deal, though some of our impressions were confirmed but it was really good to start a collaboration which I am sure will bear more fruit (especially if we kill less bees) in future.

Arriving home, there was a short but intense panic whilst I tried to fill in some DWP forms to support a grant Hounslow’s Promise charity has been… granted. Having tried for about an hour to fill in the form online, I gave up, printed it out, wrote in the answers and scanned the result. The Discreet Joy of the Bureaucracie, as Bunuel may have said if he had filmed me.

Then we had the Hounslow’s Promise AGM Zooting © which was fairly brief. Our mentoring programme now has a very healthy cohort of young people looking for mentors and this has got out of balance with the number of mentors available. If you can spare a couple of hours a month to help a young person take a look here. The mentoring that has been done so far has been phenomenally well-received and I am sure there are plenty of Brilliant Brentonians (or Brentfordians, or Syonaras) who could step into the breach.

In the evening, a meeting with Labour members about our manifesto, which I have had quite a big hand in developing. It is based on a lot of different strands of evidence – the questionnaire we delivered in the summer/autumn of last year to most households in the borough, consultations we’ve had with Labour members earlier, what we know or suspect is coming down the track in terms of legislation, and things we know need more attention. I was nervous about how it would be received, but people were very enthusiastic and it will be out there to - I’m sure – enthuse the public very soon.

On Saturday morning, candidate training, face to face at Hounslow House. A few technical/legal things to do (like I have to find 10 unsuspecting souls from Brentford West ward to support my nomination) and not to do. You might think an old lag like me wouldn’t need training but always things to learn/relearn.

On Monday I’m up at the Novotel meeting Layton Road residents, police etc to talk about the variety of issues they have in their road. We are making progress – slow but sure – on many or most of the issues and I guess these meetings will need to go on for a while yet.

In the afternoon the first of the week’s Lampton360 board meetings. This one is Development and Investment and the good news is that they have finally got to a financially viable deal to develop the New Road Triangle site in central Feltham. This scheme, which I think we will be very proud of when it’s built, had been threatened by the recent inflation in building costs so it’s good that we now have a way forward. Still haven’t finalised the GLA grant to support buying back ex-council properties in the open market due to complexities in the relationship between Lampton, the council and GLA, but I’m sure we’ll get there in the end. In any case, Lampton are still buying properties and housing people from the list, typically those currently in temporary accommodation.

In the evening I was supposed to be at the Watermans AGM, but it clashed with Planning Committee, which I had to prioritise, mainly because the Charlton House replacement building was to be decided. This is not in my current ward but it is in the ward I’m contesting in May and in any case is right on the border and at the heart of Brentford. Well, a little bit east of the real heart of Brentford, but I do tend to harp on about things, so I’ll let that pass. This is not a straightforward application, because on the one hand it has overwhelming backing from residents in the blocks affected and will improve the local area no end when completed. Oh, and it will provide 209 new council homes (a handful may be shared ownership for existing leaseholders) against the 91 currently provided. Set against that, it will obviously mean the existing retailers there have to move, there will be some overshadowing on Market Terrace, and there are issues around parking, both for returning retail (though there is paid parking nearby) but especially for the vans which are too big for ordinary streets but in some cases really need somewhere to park in Brentford. I do think this is an excellent scheme, and whilst I sympathise with residents in Market Terrace who will lose some daylight, it is my belief that the general improvement will mean a net positive, even for them. So I vote in favour of that and it’s approved unanimously. This is how it will look as you stagger from Morrisons (or son of Morrisons) to the Black Dog

Charlton House CGI

I could not be persuaded to vote for either of the others though. The building at 1 Burlington Lane Chiswick is a contender for the title of ugliest building I have ever seen, perhaps ugliest in the western hemisphere, especially as it is now nicely patinated with that gorgeous A4 grime. Someone has had the wizard wheeze to convert it into flats (which we have no power to oppose) but this proposal is to plonk 9 extra ones (curious number until you observe that 10 is where the obligation to provide affordable housing begins) on the roof with an idyllic roof garden on the top for the kiddies to play. The awfulness of this idea is hard to overstate (in my very humble opinion) but my fellow planning committee members don’t agree.

The final one was more trivial. Somebody knocked down an old house in a conservation area in Osterley (I voted against that I think, too) and built a small block of flats in a kind of pastiche style instead. However they apparently forgot about the need for meter cupboards so plonked a mega meter cupboard at the front entrance without planning permission. Neighbours unimpressed so now it’s just a very big (ugly) brick meter cupboard, mega no more. They are going to dress it in a grass skirt (well, shrubs around it) so apparently that’s OK then. Not in my book, but outvoted again.

Tuesday afternoon a quick catch up with the Lampton Group MD and Finance Director prior to cabinet. Just wanted to update status on a couple of matters, mainly the GLA grant. Then a quick chat about the proposal to turn the Princess Royal pub into an Armenian Community Centre and some early thoughts about the implications prior to this coming to planning.

Then straight into the Lampton Community Services board – nothing much new to report – then into cabinet. I had a couple of Lampton papers to report upon, including the group’s annual revision of their Business Plan. The document gets more credible and confident year by year but there are huge challenges ahead. Hoping I’ll still be around to take part in the next stage.

At the end of cabinet we’re all kind of fighting with each other to pay tribute to Candice, who is standing down, and above all to Steve Curran. It’s no secret that Steve has his detractors, but he’s always done right by me, and far more importantly I know how hard he has worked for the borough, and how dedicated he has been to delivering what we promised in the last manifesto, which we have achieved in nearly every respect and exceeded in many. It is no accident that Hounslow was voted Council of The Year but the primary reason for that was something that was not in the manifesto – the way we have responded to the pandemic, which is regarded as exemplary. We are also in the forefront for the journey towards net zero. We have dramatically improved our parks, now with 21 Green Flag awards and rated the third best in London, whilst our roads remain the best in London. Oh, and despite what our detractors like to put about, our recycling rate has ‘stagnated’ from 29.8% to 37.8% in four years.

Steve’s priority though – some would say his obsession – is for something that most people don’t really see, the provision of decent housing for everyone. This is not always popular, as maybe 95% of us are quite adequately housed, but what causes me to lose sleep as a councillor is nearly always the minority who aren’t. This affects every area of their lives, and particularly disadvantages children, who will often carry the effects as a permanent scar. Steve will leave a high performing, multi award winning council with an excellent officer team, and we’ll miss him as much as he will undoubtedly miss leading us. Afterwards, we repair to Memories of India (of which I have none, having never visited) for an end-of-term meal, and wish Steve well for his treatment, which starts in earnest next week.

This is another week where I always seem to be behind, so I did a bit of catching up on Wednesday morning and didn’t get to Burlington Rd in Chiswick to inspect trees as I had hoped. In the afternoon, Lampton Leisure board. The finances are inching in the right direction as more people join and less leave, and the service should be on course for a break even next financial year. Customer satisfaction is also edging in the right direction, from a good base.

I cut out early to go door knocking with Lara. I have had a fair amount of mail about parking in Orchard Road and thereabouts, which has been negatively affected by the closure of the car park, where 5 council houses are to be built. People are pretty angry and feel they have been misled, so I thought it was important to go and listen and try and work out how to address the problems. That will be a focus over the next few days, and we’ll be back for a second helping of feedback later this afternoon.

Wednesday evening was a Zooting© with Labour members – ‘Meet the candidates”. I was pleased when the branch chair remarked that the candidates were an energetic new generation – always appreciate my youthful energy being acknowledged as I’m sure he was thinking specifically of me.

Thursday morning another couple of Zootings©, one to meet our new Lampton Chair of Audit and Risk. I’d actually met her at the interviews but good to get to know her better and (I hope) give her some helpful background.

Then it was a Watermans Park update. Main elements of the park are completed bar the shouting (well, we’re trying to prevent shouting and screaming by doing health and safety reviews on the equipment) but we face the usual interminable hold ups from SSE (power supplies) and Thames Water (yes, you guessed it) so opening the cycle lane is unlikely until about May, though the rest of the park will open next week I think. Still work to do restoring the boardwalk (underwater surveys in train) and of course the long-promised marina, but the marina operators now have their final licence agreed. Complicated working in the Thames – need approval from various bodies you’ve never heard of – well, I hadn’t – like the Marine Management Organisation.

This feels long – it’s certainly taken me long – so I hope not boring. This afternoon a chat with Fairview Homes about the Heidelberg site. I’ll be putting in my two penn’orth about affordable workplaces and sensitivity to the fact their next door neighbour is a shipyard!

Finally then, about boosters. My neighbour who is 75 has booked herself a booster at Clayponds Community Centre. Apparently you can do that on the NHS app, though not available to someone in the prime of his youth like me.

Cllr Guy Lambert

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March 25, 2022

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