Councillor Matt Harmer on A4, Gunnersbury, dog mess, parking and Ruth Cadbury's new blog

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*A4 update *

Some progress on the A4. On a particularly unpleasant Monday morning a couple of weeks ago I took another walk along the A4 with traffic officials from Hounslow Council and Transport for London.

Despite the bad weather we had a slight spring in our step because we knew that we had in the region of £600,000 available to try and spend on things that would make the A4 and the roads off it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

(It sounds like a lot of money – indeed, it is. But one thing that I’ve learnt in the last three and a half years is that funds never go as far as you think they are going to go. A sign costs £6,500. How much for a zebra crossing? You’ll get a bit of change from £40,000, possibly, but not much.).

Anyway, it was a productive walk. The first stage is to do a survey on how many people, of all ages, cross the A4 and the roads that meet it. This will be done in the next couple of weeks – I was very clear that it had to be done in term time, as it’s the parents of children at local schools that first raised this issue with me. I’m hoping to be told when this will be as it would be and I will happily let people know – I’ll certainly let local schools know.

After this survey, the numbers get fed into a computer model that will help work out what can be done. The man from TfL in charge of signals is keen to get a system where crossing times can be extended so that it’s possible to get across the A4 in one go, without having to wait on the central reservation. There’s also a move to change how the crossing signals work, giving more ‘green man’ time.

There’s also a plan to better use the SCOOT system. This refers to hidden traffic sensors in the road that can extend the times available for road crossing depending on traffic levels.

AS for the roads that meet the A4, we’ll be told if it will be possible to get proper crossings on them. At the moment one takes a chance, which is obviously not right when the roads are used by children from our local primary schools.

I’d also like to do something about the state of the central reservations. What little lighting there is is there for drivers, not the people crossing the road. Because it would involve hanging things off the elevated section of the M4 it means dealing with the Dept of Transport and that won’t speed anything up, but we’ll keep on it.

I’m told that a report on what can be done will be available by early February. Please get in touch with any comments or suggestions, especially if you think there’s something I’ve forgotten.

* Gunnersbury indecision *

I’m not long back from the Gunnersbury Park Advisory Board meeting. A strange situation.

A you probably know, Hounslow and Ealing councils share ownership of and responsibility for the park. In August/September a consultation process sought public views on whether or not it was acceptable to look into selling around five acres of the park to a housing developer in return for funds sufficient to improve some of the 22 listed buildings in the park, provide a Sports Hub and generally improve the landscape.

After the process was complete, and before the results were made public, Ealing council’s leadership suddenly announced that they were opposed to building on the park. All very commendable, but couldn’t they have said this before passing £25,000 to pay for external consultants’ work on this project? The two councils will have to seek funding from external agencies like the National Lottery and English heritage and I can’t imagine that they will see the two councils as a particularly professional body given the changes in position.

As we’re called an Advisory Board, I offered some advice – that the leaders of the two councils locked themselves in a room and only emerged when they had a realistic plan that they could both agree on. However, I’m not holding my breath.

* Dog mess mess *

Less progress on dogs, I’m afraid. Or, rather, the owners who think it’s ok to let the dogs foul wherever they want and not clear it up.

To backtrack. In September, local police asked me if I could help them get the necessary paperwork from the council to enable them to fine dog owners who don’t do the right thing. It turned out that the council had to give the police power to do this, and that meant a report. A report which may or may not be finished and may or may not have been approved – no-one’s told me. I think I made it as easy as possible for this to happen – I even sent to our council the text used by another council to give police these powers. So the next time your five year old steps in the stuff, I’m sorry, I tried…

* Patience patience *

The amount of time it can take to get answers remains a frustration. The problem isn’t usually with staff members answering individual questions but with senior people taking vaguely strategic decisions. One example – I’ve been trying to help with sorting out the problem of the car park in Boston Manor Park since before becoming a councillor and have got nowhere. Just as something looks like it might be about to happen, a contractor changes or staff member leaves and we begin all over again. Plus, the reduction in staff members has had an obvious effect.

Anyone who has tried to call the council recently will understand how I feel, I think. Whilst it sometimes took a while for the call to be answered, at least there was a human on the other end of the line. Now, it’s two rounds of “press 3 for…” before maybe speaking to someone with a pulse.

* Parking consultation revisited *

Parking is back on the agenda (actually, it never really goes away).

In September, residents in roads around Griffin Park were asked if they were interested in the principle of having controlled parking. Three roads said yes – Clifden, Hamilton and Lateward Roads. The opinion of the paid officials at the council was that the first two should be consulted in greater detail whilst Lateward shouldn’t get a second, detailed round because they would be an ‘island’ in a sea of non-CPZ roads.

I’m not sure that is the right answer. Frustratingly, because I live in the area that was consulted, I can’t take part in the meeting that will decide this matter, but I’ve put my reservations to others. The meeting is on Thursday at Brentford Free Church and starts at 7.30.

If you want info on the decisions made, please reply to this mail and I’ll let you know what happened.

* Twitter failure *

Well, the Twitter thing hasn’t really worked out for me at the moment, but I’m going to give it another try. CllrHarmerTW8 is the name to follow for those who understand these things. My esteemed Brentford labour colleague Ruth Cadbury has started a blog which I’m sure she will do a better job of updating than I did at – pop over there and take a look.

* Planning latest *

The council's planning committee gave the go ahead for the Alfa Lavel site last week. It sees the old Brentford Nylons building retained as a hotel with another new hotel at the Ealing Road end of the site and office space in between. Behind this, flats, houses and open spaces. Personally I think the decision was the right one. As people drive down the A4 through Brentford I want people to think that something is happening, and development here will help.

* Happy holidays *

All that remains is to wish all readers a peaceful holiday season. For many people these are worrying times and I hope that Christmas is a time of peace and freedom from fear.

Finally, please do not hesitate to get in touch if I may be able to help with anything. I look forward to hearing from you.

*Anything to report?*
As a councillor, my first task is to try and assist residents with problems. Please get in touch if you think I can help, either by emailing me at or calling 020 8560 7033. You can also take a look at

Councillor Matt Harmer
Brentford ward Labour councillor
London Borough of Hounslow

contact: 153 Ealing Rd
Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0LF
telephone: 020 8560 7033

December 1, 2009