Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Furnivall Gardens: Labour accuse Council of scaremongering

The view from Furnival GardensI recently encouraged you to both visit Furnivall Gardens and to support H&F Council in their campaign to save it from Thames Water, who wish to site a huge bore hole in it in order to construct a large sewer. The thing that really irritated me and judging by your comments many of you was the fact that Thames Water actually owned a site just down the road which they could have used - but chose to sell it to property developers instead.

Now however Councillor Stephen Cowan, leader of the Labour opposition on H&F Council has effectively accused the Council of scaremongering in an attempt to win votes. He says that Thames have no such plans and produces a letter to back up his claims.

So do we stand to lose Furnivall or not? Personally I still note that even in the letter Cllr Cowan produces Thames Water dont deny they want to take over the park, but I have also reported here about how the council is sometimes prepared to be as truthful as an MPs expenses form.

So who to believe?!


  1. Just to clarify. Furnival Gardens is in my ward. I took the Council’s claims that there were plans to dig it all up and have it turned into a giant building site for 8 years extremely seriously. However, the more I looked into it the more I smelt a rat. Here’s what happened:

    1. The first I and other Opposition Councillors learn of H&F Council’s claims concerning Thames Water was in the Council’s propaganda paper. This is highly irregular. Council officers are obliged to brief ward councillors on matters concerning their wards but failed to do so.
    2. When I asked for a briefing and asked to see all correspondence and all minutes of meetings between the Council and Thames Water there was only one letter which had been sent to all London’s riverside councils and this did nothing other than set out a request to begin meetings and to seek the Councils’ advice on possible sites.
    3. The piece in H&F Council’s propaganda paper had been written to wind residents up. It made some hysterical claims such as saying that both Ravenscourt Park and Furnival Gardens would be chewed up by a giant boring machine for 8 years. I was inundated with emails, phone calls and petitions from worried constituents wanting to know what was happening.
    4. The Council’s subsequent explanation for the “facts” they published in their paper was that they had been based on “speculation”.
    5. Thames Water then wrote to me to say that H&F Council officers and Conservative councillors had instructed them to cancel their briefing meeting with me and my fellow ward councillors. They initially followed this instruction and it was only reversed when I contacted the CEO of Thames Water and threatened to take the matter to the Government.
    6. When I met with Thames Water they confirmed that both Furnival Gardens and Ravenscourt Park did not fit the criteria for the Thames Tunnel bore hole. They said that the open Stamford Brook open sewer - that goes underneath Furnival Gardens and visibly pumps tonnes of untreated sewage directly into the spot featured in your photo – would need to be sunk into the Thames Tunnel and this would involve a two year piece of work that would take up about a quarter of the Furnival Gardens site. They said that there would be no works in Ravenscourt Park and that the H&F Council’s claims about this site were “nonsense”.
    7. Thames Water confirmed all of this again at a public meeting in Hammersmith Town Hall. The public then angrily questioned the Conservative councillors and asked why they had indulged in “scaremongering”. The Tories didn’t answer any of their questions.

    You can read all I have written on the subject and see emails and letters from Thames Water by following this link below:


    Just for the record. Up until 2006 I led the cross-party negotiating team against Thames Water for all 33 of the London Boroughs concerning flooding and water pressure. Thames Water loathed me and I won millions of pounds in compensation from them for London’s residents having run an aggressive campaign. I am not here to defend them. I am here to defend my constituents and do so with vigour.

    I however believe that we should deal in facts when seeking to address any issue. H&F Council now admits that it has been promoting it’s “speculations” and has no facts.

    Having looked into this I firmly believe that H&F Council has purposely misled residents. This fits with a key aspect of the Conservative’s election strategy and so residents can make up their own minds if they think this is an appropriate way for a tax-payer funded authority like H&F Council to behave. I think it’s sleazy and verging on corrupt.

  2. Thanks Stephen, thats a very helpful and thorough breakdown.

    And very concerning indeed. I would have thought if this was true could it not be referred to a standards & ethics board of some kind?

  3. Sadly not. We have reported instanced like this to the District Auditor but his view was that he doesn't have the power to intervene. Oddly, the District Auditor in Notthingham takes a more interventionalist line. I think the Audit Commission needs an overhaul to address these inconsistancies.

    There are Standards Committee issues and we are addressing some of these points through that route but that body only deals with councillors. Many of the officials involved also need to be dealth with. This couild only happen in local government. National government is different.


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