Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Important planning decisions for Brentford


Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

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Well, this has been a momentous and challenging week in Brilliant Town. First of all we have some important planning decisions, then we hear of the imminent demise of a school, and the Morrisons story takes half a pace forward.

So let’s start with planning. Three important decisions affecting our town were taken, two of which will have a big impact on its development in the years to come.

First, the Acton Lodge site: this one confused me enormously when I first became a councillor because I didn’t understand why people were obsessing about a hunters’ refuge in Acton (anyway, what do they hunt in Acton?). All became clear when I found it was a former mental health facility in Syon ward opposite Brent Lea. A few weeks ago we had a presentation about its redevelopment at the Holiday Inn, and whilst I was quite happy with the development itself I was far from happy that all 19 houses were to be for private sale, with the social housing element to be provided on a twinned site in far Bedfont, of which we know little. ‘Social Cleansing!’, I cried. Anyway, when it came to planning  it turns out the council have decided to buy all 19 of these houses as council houses for social rent, to rehouse families currently in temporary accommodation. Delighted with that.

Then the big two: linked applications for the former police station site and the Watermans/former Max Factor offices next to Watermans Park. This is most controversial locally, with a vocal body of opinion that the Watermans should stay riverside. Personally, I have always wanted it in the town centre because I believe the proximity will be good for both Watermans and the town centre itself and it was heartening to learn recently that the Watermans trustees and management agree with that, unanimously. In any event, building a new Arts Centre (the old one is on its last legs) will cost anything from £12M upwards, depending upon how big it is and how you work the costings and the only way money can be found for that in this day and age is via profits on development, and riverside values are higher than in the town centre. Since our last preview there have been a number of improvements to the proposal – less overbearing on the park, less overlooking to neighbours and double the amount of affordable housing – 20% now over the two sites, though all in the police station site. A local doctor gave an eloquent and passionate speech against the development, whilst Her ex-Worshipfulness – who is a trustee – delivered a brief speech confirming the arts centre’s support. A number of questions followed (mine was mainly about Smith Hill and how we are going to integrate it into our new continuous waterside pathway – I hope – but this is clearly in the ‘too hard’ tray at present given that the Port of London Authority will have a say) and we went to a vote, which went overwhelmingly in favour, as had the Acton Lodge vote.

Friday morning bright and early (never a good idea IMO) up to Boston Manor Park to meet with the Friends CEO, various council officers, various people who will join the council from Carillion on 1 March, an Ealing councillor and the organisers of the Junction 2 festival which comes to the park in the summer. Oh, and a later sighting of a Melvinator. Whilst it’s fair to say that locals are far from enthusiastic about the festival, the organisers do appear to have taken on board the issues from last year and made a very serious attempt to address them and frankly it will be a lot easier without Carillion involved, with their own agenda. We still don’t have the gates (which belong to the park/LBH) in our possession but we know where they are and if necessary will go to court to get them back and reinstalled. We’re hoping persuasion will work more quickly, but patience is wearing thin.

During the day we hear the shock news that the Floreat school will be closing. We actually had an inkling of this a couple of days ago but it wasn’t confirmed until today. It’s a rotten situation for the parents and children at Floreat school – they had been offered the choice and as far as I know they were very happy with the school. As far as we were concerned, the planning application had been delayed in a puzzling way – we had seen an outline in the autumn, which looked OK – and we were aware that Floreat had sustainability problems and were looking for a ‘merger’ partner, but it hadn’t occurred to us that the school would be a casualty of the merger, which we can only assume is the case now. We’re pretty cross that the trust have been putting out stories blaming everyone but themselves for this mess, especially as we’ve worked hard to find them a site (on our own land) and to facilitate planning, which wasn’t necessarily popular with neighbours. But the main thing is to find a solution for the children, and I understand our schools team were at Floreat with the parents all day yesterday looking for the best answers, and that Steve Curran and the lead member for education, Tom Bruce, will be talking to parents this evening. We have some spaces in local schools – nearly enough for the Floreat cohort at first glance – and whilst all the local schools are good or outstanding, nobody can deny the disruption that will be caused. All very sad.

In the afternoon, a trip up Ealing and Braemar Roads, knocking on the doors and getting a friendly reception everywhere (even if some are so misguided they say they won’t vote for us). Nice day but toe-freezing.

Anyway, I’m getting a taste for this door knocking and so on Sat morning I go to Turnham Green to support our candidates there who are looking to Turnham Red. Actually, going up and down Dale Street is not all that different from Braemar Road – same sort of nice friendly people and similar houses, if a little on the richer side (both people and houses). I pick up some casework here, because things that would be fixed in Brentford following councillors raising casework don’t seem to be fixed here. I wonder why?

Sunday I’m supposed to be canvassing Brentford again but Corinna cries off with a migraine and Myra is busy leafletting so when I turn up I seem to be alone, it seems to be raining, and it seems a much better idea to go home and watch sport on the TV.

Monday I spend the day in the Labour office – I have agreed to a regular gig as ‘office manager’ (stop laughing) each Monday during the campaign. Not too much happening yet so I spend my time on casework etc. In the evening it’s the Civic for a meeting of the Labour group of councillors and our new candidates to discuss the pledges we will make in our forthcoming manifesto. An excellent discussion and a high level of consensus.

I hear from Steve Curran that he has finally managed to contact Essential Living – the landlords of the Morrisons site. Whilst it’s too early to say anything definitive, it seems they are unlikely to start work as soon as they originally intended – hardly surprising as the grant of planning permission has stalled over arguments about conditions – and there is every likelihood of Morrisons continuing in Brentford, for a while at least.

Tuesday I’m planning a pancake-fest with daughter, but she’s had a recurrence of the flu and is incapacitated so I have a bowl of gruel instead. Actually, it’s really hard to get gruel these days – what are Waitrose thinking of?

Wednesday is Valentine’s day and I’m excited when a little heart comes up on my phone. But when I look it’s nothing more than somebody liking a tweet I was mentioned in. Not even one of my own tweets. Ah well, there’s always next year…

In the evening, a Labour party meeting in Isleworth Public Hall. We are lucky enough to be addressed by John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network. He busts many of the myths put about by the right-wing press (controlled almost exclusively by tax dodgers) that it’s impossible to raise tax and points up some of the enormous tax giveaways that have been made in favour of the super-rich and large corporates  over recent years. Stimulating. Then a debate on Labour party democracy – always riveting for those who like rivets.

Cllr Mel Collins 
A final word: A certain Mr Melvinator is being honoured in the Brentford v Preston Programme because this is the 165th anniversary of his first Bees match. Well, maybe only the 65th.



Councillor Guy Lambert

February 15, 2018

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