My Planned Nice Weekend was Anything But

Brentford West councillor Guy Lambert reports back

Cllr Guy Lambert
Cllr Guy Lambert

June 16, 2023


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There I was, up dead early on Friday morning and a bit excited about being off to Nice on Saturday morning. Booked onto my flight in the only remaining seat 23 hours and 59 minutes before departure time (call me suspicious). I’d packed my case, found my beret and striped jersey, decided against a string of onions.

But Friday was still in front of me and I had booked into the London Walking and Cycling Conference at the Guild Hall. One of my customers was once appointed from his previous job as the CEO of a council as the Town Clerk to the Corporation of London (more or less the same CEO job but with its own uniform).

This seems to be a rather down-home version of Doublet and Hose and I doubt whether it would pass muster in the Guild Hall though the cod piece looks perky enough. He told me he had to do his interview in such an outfit and was asked to explain to the collected provosts about what was his management style. He found this a touch disconcerting but he got the job anyway.

I doubt he did much cycling or walking dressed like that and it is of course spectacularly irrelevant to the event I attended on Friday. It was a lively event and I met a couple of people from the Hounslow traffic team who were improbably young and enthusiastic and the conference itself was very creative.

Better class of TV in the Guildhall.

Unfortunately by mid morning I found myself making a noise like a sick dog and feeling like one. I had caught some nasty lurgy and had to go home, fortunately sufficiently fit to cycle home from Gunnersbury then spending the rest of the day coughing and sleeping. Rang my friend in France and cancelled then I went to BA to cancel my flight and found they had already cancelled it. Good job I was cancelling for my own reasons, otherwise I would have been very peeved turning up at Heathrow at 5am on Saturday. I then spent about 2 hours on the phone being told my call was important before being told I would be reimbursed, though it turns out it was to a bank card that has now ceased to be valid. Looking forward to my next 2 hour joust in the warm feeling that I’m important.

Anyway, I was toast for the weekend and missed the surgery at the Digital Dock (though of course there were plenty of emails to keep me occupied) and I stayed put in my flat until Monday, when I ventured out into the big bad world out there.

Went up to Boston Manor Park to see if there was anything visible on the new bridge which is supposed to be coming at the end of June. There wasn’t, but the park was quite busy with people sitting on benches or on the grass with picnics, and the place looking lovely. Our local answer to Banksy had ‘improved! The information notice. An affable man looked puzzled and asked me where to cross. I had various suggestions including swimming (though someone braver than me later suggested crossing the lock gates).

Well, he had a longer walk than he anticipated but I pointed out how his soul had been soothed by walking through the park, and he acknowledged I had a good point.

Talking of bridges, later in the day my spy near the Brentford Bridge sent me a picture. He told me that “Huge police, fire and ambulance presence with two frogman in case he jumped presumably.  Did not see the actual moment when the guy gave up. Started raining so maybe that's why he gave up...from Chief Reporter, Brentford...hope he didn't disturb Steve Curran's kingfishers.” I tried the press to get an update on the story – nothing on BrentfordTW8, or BBC or Washington Post. I suppose it had a happy ending as the emergency services disappeared quite soon, but these things are disturbing and we never really get the story.

Brentford canal bridge incident

No meets on Monday evening so I hung around taking my cough mix and dozing with the TV, having taken a close look at the bridge – all looking tranquil and rather lovely

Tuesday was quiet as well, until we had a meeting of the cabinet in the evening. My thing was to present the Reduction and Recycling Plan for 2023 to 2025.

There’s a lot going on in the Recycling world and I’m delighted to see we are coming through it very well. Our recycling rate has gone from under 30% to about 37% but our target is 45% by 2026 and 50% by 2030, which are challenging! The way we do waste collection, unique in London, will become the standard way of doing it. Our recycling stuff is very good quality – either the best or second best in London – with only 0.33% of our recycling not accepted by recycling companies. Anyway, I’m getting a bit geeky there but the bottom line is the GLA are impressed by our approach. The way the system works we have to formally accept the plan at cabinet before sending it off to the GLA to also approve it. Big tasks for our officers and I’m proud they have brought us here.

In my diary it said Hold – Tour of Socks Site. I like a silly typo and it meant stocks – land we are thinking of building on via Lampton. Anyway I faithfully held my socks until lunchtime and then went to the Digital Dock for a meeting about something completely different. People who have lived here for a while will know there is a site known as the Paragon which is related to the University building next to Boston Manor Road and the A4. Maybe 5 years ago, we tried to help people who lived there with problems – mainly because their flats were covered with opaque plastic, whilst they messed with the cladding. It got delayed and people were getting very upset because they had no daylight. Then the building changed hands and the new owner, Notting Hill Genesis, which was built in an unconventional way, decided it might not be safe (this was soon after Grenfell Tower) and the best thing was to rehouse everybody and insist they couldn’t stay there and had to be out in about 5 days. This was very dramatic, and not surprising people – many of them buying on shared purchase terms – were upset, and our work was heavy for a while. Over a year or two this largely died down, but large buildings empty is not a permanent arrangement so we wanted to find out what’s going on.

Well as it happened they had finished all the legal bits the very previous day and will start refurbish this month or next. I was amazed about the size of it – 179 flats, mainly 1 bedroom, and student accommodation for 781, ie 960 units in total. Wow. So it seems the population of Brentford reduced by about 1000 maybe 3 years ago, and they’ll be back by April 2026 but maybe some of them ready for September 2025 if all goes swimmingly. Wow.

After that I was off to Hounslow for a couple of meetings with the Leader and various directors. The first one was about my new “speciality” integrating Health and social care. I still feel like the blind being guided by a partially-sighted Labrador, but I’ll get there.

Then it’s yet another discussion about governance of Lampton. Well, bigger brains than mind know what they are trying to achieve.

Next morning I’m up a Brook Lane North. A Housing Association is building a small block on the site of old garages and this has caused a fair bit of upset, particularly during the construction. Last week people were mainly concerned about parking but today it was a resident whose enjoyment of her home is affected by containers outside her window. This is to provide some space for the people who will be working there, and storage of materials. With the contractor and the housing association we looked for options to make things better, but not clear how much we can achieve.

Then I’m off to Boston Manor House for an official opening (like buses, opening at BMH seem to come along in bunches). No queens today, but a parade of who have been involved in the restoration, and in paying for it! A few speeches, a few photos and a few very up market nibbles.

OK – go there – I think it properly opens in July and there’s amazing things to see.

1964 was a good year to avoid being on the Planning Committee

Now I know why the road opposite is called The Ride. Surprised they didn’t turn it all into a golf Course, Trump would.

Now some film stars – me (I had mislaid my doublet and hose) the revived Melvinator (so happy to see him up and at it) Ruth looking very parliamentary and Linda Massey, the volunteer for the Friends who have kept this place going for years, probably decades.

Enough excitement for a day.

Councillor Guy Lambert

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