Working on Making the Underside of the M4 More Beautiful
Brentford West councillor Guy Lambert reports back on his week
So, I’ll try to get back in the groove of doing a weekly blog. My life is not in its normal groove so it will likely be a bit different. I don’t go out as much as I used to to look around the ward and the borough because the body is still improving, plus it’s too cold and windy!
Anyway, back on Thursday we had a Teams call with the officer’s job is to improve the A4. There are lots of issues in ‘our’ bit of the A4 – for me, from Chiswick Roundabout until the M4 winds away just before Boston Manor Road. I’ve been trying to get the lights underneath the M4 – about 1 in 10 random ones seem to work though TfL and the real owners National Highways blame the electricity company. I think we should be very impressed that the elec company put in a separate cable to support 10 lamps in about a mile and manage to avoid the other 90 lamps served by a cable that works, to favour the one that doesn’t work. Sometimes I think I’m turning into a cynic.
The other obvious issues are it looks so horrible. We are not allowed to touch the yokes that support the road (we’ll probably make it all fall down) and it seems that Hounslow Highways can’t really clean the reservation in the middle because of Health and Safety not gone mad (apparently). It occurred to us though (mainly because an artist-type resident made the suggestion) we might be able to put some interesting/pretty things in the space between the yokes.
Greenery is impossible due to the lack of sun and some of those things would be impractical for reasons of safety/pollution/cost but some of it would be cheap and would take away some of the dirty grey effect! Officers are working on ideas.
After that I went to meet some old comrade friends at the world oddest Indian Restaurant in the Strand. It fails to mention that the entrance suggests you’re entering a hotel. Cuisine average (IMO) experience excellent!
Later in the afternoon, we had a cabinet meeting where we look at emerging ideas – some our own, and some more pan-London. Important as the cabinet we consider things from less close to daily concerns and a very good evening.
On Friday, Lara and I and someone from Housing had a meeting about the parking concerns in Orchard Road etc. Unfortunately, I got a call at the allocated time from Lara saying “where are you?”. Natch she said “Why aren’t you on Teams like the rest of us”. I responded “in Orchard Road”. Too eager. Anyway, by the time I got home they were on the last leg and I think we have a decent answer, subject to some consultation.
On Saturday afternoon I was on holiday in Armenia, at least that piece of Armenia that is in what used to be the Princess Royal. I suggested as the head of the Armenian Church would live there some of the time I suggested it should be renamed Brentford Palace along the same lines as Lambeth Palace but I don’t think it won’t catch on. It is less than a palace inside – more like a partly-refurbished pub (in the bit where there is more rubble than refurb) but they think they’ll have it done by the spring. The reason for going there (several councillors, several Brentford Voicers) is to explore how we might use it for the local community. They are fantastically nice people and I am very pleased they have come to Brentford.
This week has been Lampton board Week – Development and Investment on Monday, Community Services on Tuesday and Leisure on Wednesday. Development, which has a new MD, is going well: it’s more difficult to make numbers work for individual homes given the extra cost of interest but we are still adding more slowly to the nearly 400 homes we have bought and let to local people off the housing list for a secure home and truly affordable rent. It’s more realistic to buy some blocks in the current environment and there are at least two of those coming. Financially the business is going very well, and residents have high satisfaction (and 98.5% are paying their rent – very important for a viable business!)
Community Services includes mainly recycling, Greenspace and Coalo. The first two are going well, though there is a huge challenge with inflation, especially with energy (there are a lot of trucks etc involved, the vast majority being Diesel, though of course we are looking at alternatives). Coalo (which mainly fixes council homes) has some problems both financially and by reputation and we need to fix that. Enormous efforts are being made to do so both in Coalo and in its main customer – Hounslow Housing, and we will get to a good place early next year, I’m sure.
Leisure has even more challenging issues, because the enormous inflation (heating leisure centres and swimming pools is scary) combined with some customers beginning to cut on leisure because they prefer to have something to eat makes the leisure business exceptionally difficult. Some councils (and commercial companies) are closing leisure centres, swimming pools and whole businesses: one council I heard of had 1 leisure centre yesterday but is likely to have 0 soon. Lampton are doing well so far in growing its members but it’s not going to get any easier.
I had my (renewed!) regular update with the Lampton chair this morning. He is up in the North West advising a small council up there how they might get through all this. We are relatively stable here in Hounslow because we’ve always refused to spend our modest reserves to subsidise Council Tax as the Tories suggest we do every year, but we will have some very tough questions.
This evening, it’s down to Lionel Road Community Stadium (I’m supposed to call it after a vacuum cleaner) for the Area Forum. It’s a fascinating agenda and I’m looking forward to it. I shall be going on my favourite bike that I finally recovered from Hounslow House yesterday. Gorgeous, and a friend for the Elephant bike I’ve been using for several weeks.
Councillor Guy Lambert
September 9, 2022