Matt Harmer's May Newsletter

Round Up before the Election

Sign up for our free newsletter

Comment on this story on the

* Historic viewing *

It looks like Brentford is going to lose one of its most important historical collections, an archive of worldwide importance, and one which very people know is here.

For one ward, Brentford has a surprisingly large number of important heritage sites. There’s Gunnersbury and Boston Manor Parks and the important buildings within, the Musical Museum and the steam museum. All well-known and rightly so. Yet travellers on the E2 bus to Ealing are mostly unaware that, just before the bus turns the corner on Windmill Road into darkest Ealing, they are travelling past the BBC’s archive centre.

It’s home to thousands and thousands of hours of broadcast history on television and radio dating back to 1922 and the project now underway to digitise the archive and make it available online. It’s well known that lots has been lost, sometimes because of carelessness but also because of cost (and when one considers that a roll of videotape used to cost a small fortune it’s a bit more understandable) but we have had a collection of international importance under our noses for a log time without it being very well-known. This includes now-ancient videotape machines originally commissioned by the US military (and partially funded by Bing Crosby, who was fed up with doing his weekly radio show twice because of multiple time zones in the US).

Although there are no studios, it apparently it is possible to put archive items on the air direct from Windmill Rd. I was told by one former employee that this facility was upgraded in the 1980s because it was felt that, in those Protect and Survive days, Television Centre might not survive a nuclear attack but Windmill Rd might.

And it looks like it is off to a new building in Perivale. I don’t know if there would be any appetite for tours of the facility (and it’s hard to know how exciting it would be to look at boxes of old videotape and old cans of 16mm film) but we have many people in our community with a great depth of knowledge of historical resources and it would be a shame to let the passing of the archive in Brentford go un-noticed.

Oh, and there’s one piece of 1970s television I was told about recently that I’d like to see. It seems that Hounslow featured in 1976 in the domestic heats of It’s a Knockout (readers under thirty please ask an adult) competing against the boroughs of Lambeth and Kingston. I’m told by a participant that during the rehearsals Hounslow comfortably defeated the opposition during rehearsals but failed to make the grade once the cameras started rolling. It’s alleged that a celebratory visit to a pub near to the Feltham Arenas location may have been this fall in rankings but I couldn’t really comment.

* More history *

As this might be the last of these emails I send (see below) I thought an update on some of the things covered in the past might be appropriate.

St Paul’s Recreation Ground

This has been frustrating to say the least. For as long as I can remember the sign at the entrance has been a disgrace – covered in graffiti and having no relevant information. Some time ago I identified some planning gain money and, happily, all other local councillors agreed that this was a suitable project. And still no new sign. On enquiring recently I was told that the funds to replace the signs were in this year’s parks budget and always had been, making the whole process of getting the planning gain money a waste of everybody’s time. At least that mony can be spent elsewhere, perhaps on replacement rides for the ones taken away last year.

Dog mess

Perhaps my biggest ever postbag following one of these emails concerned my describing how an enquiry from a neighbourhood PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) as to how he could get books of tickets to fine repeat offenders revealed that the council had taken the decision not to use recent legislation to fine offenders as it was seen to be too ‘heavy-handed’. Happily, in my view, that looks like changing. One of the first jobs of the new council will be to sign off a trial of fines for repeat offenders. Brentford ward is being used to test how well it works, if it’s a success it will be rolled out across the rest of the borough.

Watermans Park

Frustrated by years of inactivity and concerned by reports of less than perfect behaviour from some (not all, but some) of the occupiers of the unlicensed boats alongside Watermans Park I brought about something called a Councillor Call for Action. Designed for backbench councillors unhappy at how issues of local importance are being treated by the council leadership, it has resulted in, yes, another report, but one which could with good will and effort resolve the situation to the benefit of all concerned. Whether that means regularising the status of the boats there or putting in pontoons to support more boats remains to be seen but finally things are moving in the right direction.

Controlled Parking Zones

After dog mess, it’s parking that gets a response. The roads near to Griffin Park that were consulted earlier this year will have to wait until our votes are counted before the votes of that consultation are revealed. For the roads north of the A4 (and Layton Road) who decided to have controlled parking last year, the sixth month review asked for by Cllr Cadbury is due. From various conversations I would say that the principle of the CPZ is agreed but that the hours of control need revising downwards, from all day to one or two during the daytime – thus preventing all day parking whilst making it easier and cheaper for visitors to park.

A4 safety

The results of the survey into potential changes to crossing times on the A4 junctions should be known soon. For me, this started with emails from concerned parents at Our Lady Primary School and went on from there. I secured support from the Council to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers and have been the local representative on meetings with Transport for London designed to see how the approx £700,000 funding from local developments (some of which we prevented from expiring) can best be spent. I get the impression that there may be some differences of opinion between the people in charge of the crossings and the people in charge of vehicle flow, but that is all for the future.

Housing increases

Since I became a councillor, around 800 homes (mostly flats) have been given planning permission. That doesn’t include the development on the old Beecham’s site, which is now filling up, but was given permission before I was voted in. My only role in that development was to help secure some of the new affordable properties for families with a Brentford connection – that is, living or working in the area. I worried that a ‘them and us’ situation might develop between the new development and the affordable housing literally in this case on the other side of the tracks. Those properties are now being filled and the families moving in seem pleased, though we did have some problems when properties were handed over with bare concrete floors -  happily all sorted now.


The problems with secondary school allocations filled the intray in March. It was April 2009 that I told the councillor with responsibility for education that parents in TW8 were calling for a new mixed school to be provided in the area and asked for this to be examined. I was only given a loose assurance and ass we all know, little seems to have happened since. Since the last bulletin I’ve heard from three families who are moving away because of this very issue – the lack of activity is very concerning.

However, let’s not forget that we live in a great town. I was at Nick Lowe on Friday and he said that he loved living here and got a huge cheer – it’s hard to imagine that happening in many other places in the capital.

I’d like to put on record my thanks to all the council officers that have helped me over the past four years. It’s been my fortune to be helped by people with years of expertise and I’m truly grateful for their help. And huge thanks also to Ruth Cadbury for her help and counsel these past four years and to Mel Collins for his advice on tricky housing issues.

I’d like to go on sending these emails but the decision is yours if you live in Brentford ward. I’m down the bottom of the ballot paper at number 9, with Ruth and Mel at 3 and 4 respectively. The election date is….well, you know the rest. Perhaps most importantly of all, please do go and vote. It does make a difference.

* Get in touch *

Whatever else is going on, I'm still a councillor and still here to help. Email me at or phone 020 8560 7033. And apologies if I disturb you from doing something important over the next few weeks…...

Councillor Matt Harmer
Brentford ward Labour councillor
London Borough of Hounslow

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

May 4, 2010

Bookmark and Share