Friday, 31 December 2010

2010: A look back on a year in Shepherd's Bush

It's been a year that decided the next four here in Shepherd's Bush, with the early months dominated by what I christened the Battle of the Bush, as Andy Slaughter and Shaun Bailey, his Conservative challenger, fought out what was at times a tough campaign but one that did in the end give credit to both of them as they resisted the temptation to get into the nastiness that I thought was on the cards. The Council chamber stayed dominated by Tories in the local elections on the same day and we have already seen some of the sweeping changes to the face of the Bush that they intend to bring about - not all of them bad, but some of them certainly contentious.

However January started with the repercussions of battle of a different nature with a series of stabbings on Uxbridge Road, thought to have been a result of gangs in the Somali community, and made worse by the dire and sensationalist reporting of the local media that made the Bush seem more like a war zone than anything else.

And as a harbinger of the cuts to come this case of a pregnant woman who'd been beaten by her partner was forced to sleep on a park bench after officials at our Council told her to go away. The Council was found guilty of maladministration by the Local Government Ombudsman.

And the Pavilion on Shepherd's Bush Green was given planning permission to become a new hotel, thus promising to scrub up one of the most dilapidated corners of W12.

February started out badly for locals with Thames Water buggering up the seven stars junction at the bottom of Askew Road with waterworks prompting huge traffic jams

And on the theme of Thames Water, and our Council's expensive propaganda canmpaign against the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or "super sewer stink crater" as they used our money to call it in editions of "H&F News" the Council as forced to withdraw its bizarre claim that residents were going to be made homeless by the building of the new sewer.

Residents of Ashchurch Grove started a campaign against our Council's plan to hand over their area to developers to build what they called a "Mediterranean village" - or high density housing scheme as most of us would call it. Their campaign targeted the General Election and promised to make the Conservativezs pay for "not listening". Shaun Bailey, the Tory candidate, would pay the price in May. 

In March the Fulham Chronicle launched a high visibility campaign against "H&F News" as a propaganda paper that was undermining the local media. Despite much activity the campaign failed. But H&F News was consigned to the bin later in the year by the new Tory Government anyway. 

In April we were shocked by the murder of 15-year-old Sofyen Belamouadden from Shepherd's Bush who was stabbed to death in Victoria Tube station. 

Each of the candidates vying for our votes to be the Bushs' next MP held their final debate in Hammersmith which I filmed, you can watch it here.

And in May Andy Slaughter won our vote to be our Member of Parliament defeating Tory Shaun Bailey, who in large part paid the price for our Council having alienated much of their core vote on planning issues. The Conservatives were returned to power in Hammersmith Town Hall.

And developers launched plans to turn Shepherd's Bush into the "creative quarter of the UK" with exciting new plans for Wood Lane.

June saw yet another shooting on the Goldhawk Road following the murder of Jaabe Roberts on Askew Road. A horrid month for the area and one which sticks in the mind, for me at least. 

July saw more sad news with the death of local musician Chris Dagley who was killed on his scooter coming home from a gig on the Westway. 

The Hammersmith and Shitty line lived up to its local name by being shut for three weeks, much to the delight of local commuters. 

August saw a frankly embarrassing visit by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to Shepherd's Bush Village Hall to trumpet the new Government's plans. Nobody had told him our own Council had just announced they wanted to evict the local groups that are based there and sell it off. Mr Clegg, filmed by the BBC and pursued by one of their journalists, beat a rather undignified retreat. You can watch it here

The month also saw local Police crack down on bike thieves by planting some as bait and then snaring the would be thieves - bike crime plummeted as a result. 

September saw our Council desperately try to save "H&F News" with a cunning ruse but was then slapped down by the Government. The last edition will be sometime early in 2011. And then, no more. 

And it also saw your very own blogger being kettled by the Police when I went to see QPR play Millwall - while the thugs from Bermondsey were allowed free run of Uxbridge Road those of us who live here were kept in Police encircled makeshift prisons. 

October saw Shepherd's Bush's status as the area with the most dug up roads in London confirmed again by having Uxbridge Road assume the status of a building site while our own Council announced a merger with neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster authorities. 

November saw the Bush plunged into the deep freeze with ice becoming a local hazard while the fight to save Shepherd's Bush Market and a historic row of Victorian shops heated up

And December saw this blog blow the lid of secrecy off the Council's plans to house the controversial West London Free School in Shepherd's Bush while the onset of ice turned into an outright blizzard. 

But the real highlight of that month of course was meeting some of you at the Tweet Up at the Goldhawk. Thanks to those who were able to come, and thanks to all of you for reading. 

They were just some highlights of what was quite a year in the Bush - 2011 shows every sign of being another up and down ride. 

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Shepherd's Bush 2010 Predictions: 50% success rate!

This blog predicts the future. Well half of the time anyway. Check what I thought was coming up this year here. Some of the good, the bad and the very bad took place, but interestingly some of the things that seemed certain didn't pan out.

I thought, in this blogpost from December 29 2009:

1 - Shepherd's Bush Green is redeveloped, prompting a storm of protest over the trees that the Council has earmarked to be chopped down, in opposition to the Mayor's strategy for protecting London's wooded friends

Wrong - it was slated to happen this year but our Council never got round to it. Can't imagine what they had on their mind instead, surely not an election?

2 - Andy Slaughter narrowly hangs on to the Hammersmith seat at the General Election, but with a wafer thin majority. In the end I think his local popularity, plus the damage the Council has inflicted on Shaun Bailey's chances, will narrowly - very narrowly - count for just a bit more than the current deep unpopularity of the Government

Right - Andy Slaughter narrowly hung on, due in no small part to his personal vote and strong performances at hustings like this one:

3 - Conservatives win the local elections and hang on to the Council, reaping the benefits of a very unpopular central Government and voter's responses to promises of tax cuts constantly carried in propaganda-dressed-as-news. Stephen Greenhalgh, currently the Leader, leaves H&F to become a member of the House of Lords advising Prime Minister David Cameron on housing & local government strategy - and our Council loses a lot of it's current high national profile as a result. A more moderate leader promises to listen to local residents a lot more before making major planning decisions.

Right - well at least as far as the Council elections which were never really in doubt with the large majority enjoyed by the Tories. Cllr Greenhalgh has yet tobe invited to the Lords, perhaps as a result of insulting some of his colleagues by alleging they couldn't "organise a piss up in a brewery". Most un parliamentary.

4 - Unseasonal storms lead to Hammersmith and Bush houses being flooded with sewage again, presenting H&F Council with a face-saving way of conceding defeat in it's campaign against the Thames Tunnel, or what it calls the "Super Sewer Crater

Right - we had the storms, the flooding and then defeat for our Council on the Thames Tunnel

5 - A young kid is killed on our streets, and several other young kids - most likely members of the local 'Murder Dem Pussies' gang - are found guilty later in the year and sentenced to 20+ years, thus ruining their lives as well as the victim's family. Cue much hang wringing and soul searching, but not much else.
Right - the murder of Jaabe Roberts was a defining moment of 2010 for Shepherd's Bush. I was confronted with the scene en route to taking children to school; the thought of people getting stabbed in crack houses just yards from where children play brought home the very real problems we have with crime in this neighbourhood. Karl Lashley was named by many of you on this blog which I could not allow to be published at the time for fear of prejudicing the trial which has just ended with a life sentence....for Karl Lashley.

6 - Wormwood Scrubs is designated a London 2012 Olympic Site, with preparations underway to build an archery and shooting facility

Wrong - and I don't know what I was thinking of when I wrote that

7 - Major security incident at Westfield shopping centre takes place prompting a crackdown including bags being searched on entry. This follows an attempted attack in central London which is foiled by the bravery of police and passers-by.
Wrong - thank goodness

8 - Acton Carnival takes place and is a roaring success, although several people are taken to hospital as a precaution following exposure to the record-breakingly hot sun that has baked W12 for much of the summer.
Right - the carnival was excellent, and packed with people in the sun

9 - QPR are beaten in the play off quarter finals for promotion to the Premiership prompting Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone to leave the club in the hands of multi billionaire Lakshmi Mittal. Fans celebrate with an impromptu carnival in Ellerslie Road.

10 - BBC revokes an invitation to Nick Griffin to appear on Question Time after being asked to cover the cost of the security operation

I'm going to make another 10 predictions for 2011, what do you think should be included?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Shepherd’s Bush in gridlock: Westfield, the cause, indifferent

Uxbridge Road, Wood Lane and just about anywhere in a triangle between White City, the Askew Corner and Shepherd’s Bush Green have been in gridlock from round 1pm right through the afternoon and into the mid-evening courtesy of overwhelming traffic coming to the Westfield shopping centre since Christmas day.

Many of you have complained either to me directly or on Twitter generally about the gridlock that seized our neighbourhood and meant an average journey time down just the Uxbridge Road was about 45 minutes judging by my own and others’ experiences. As I write the roads according to the BBC are seizing up yet again.

And despite many of you copying the Westfield PR team, who seem to pump out self-congratulatory tweets every five minutes, with your questions and gripes they have seen fit to completely ignore all of them.

So it seems despite the very welcome demise of the Western Extension Zone, we now have another source of traffic chaos in W12. And just like Mayor Ken and TfL before them who rode roughshod over local people, Westfield seem not to care one little bit about the impact they are having on those of us who live in this neck of the woods. This was of course predicted back in 2008 but it seems to have taken till now to really bite. Having said that residents of Macfarlane Road and others right opposite the centre have been putting up with this ever since the centre started to be built.

So what to do? First stop is the Council, but there are also other public bodies that are impacted by the traffic crisis – I saw several police cars and ambulances with sirens blazing but completely unable to make any progress on Uxbridge Road in the two days I got caught in the grind up and I suspect that had a direct impact on whoever it was they were trying to reach or transport. I know the local police read this blog so I would urge them to make their views known.

I’m also going to be in touch with Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham to see what the Council might be able to do. Cllr Botterill is one of the more effective members of the administration and has in the past responded very quickly to issues in Shepherd’s Bush and sorted them out – especially when some cowboy builders left the Green in a state.

Watch this space – and leave any comments you want put to the Council in the comments below.

30 December UPDATE: The Chronicle has caught up with this story here - note some of the similarities even in the description. "Gridlock" anyone?

Shepherd's Bush Acid Rapist sells drugs & phones in prison

Daniel Lynch, the thug who decided to pay another coward to throw a cup of acid in a girl's face for dumping him, has been found to be trading drugs and mobile phones from HMP Pentonville according to the Sun today who report that a large amount of cannabis and several mobile phones have been found in his prison cell.

Lynch, from Becklow Gardens between Uxbridge and Askew Roads, was given a 16 year tariff for his part in the crime but the guy he paid to actually carry out the act received what I thought then and still do to be an absolutely pathetic sentence of 6 years. The effects of Stefan Sylvestre's actions in throwing that cup of acid as Katie Piper walked home to her home in Golders Green scarred the former model for life and she spent much of the next year having to live inside a plastic bag. 

That she then emerged as such an amazing human being by campaigning for the rights of other women who have been victims of the same appalling crime and then delivered the Channel 4 alternative Christmas message last year put her bravery in stark contrast with the derisory actions of the moronic Judge that day, Nicholas Browne QC.

Since Lynch was put away he has confirmed what many of us thought when he was sentenced, namely that 16 years would be extended because he'd be unable to keep himself out of trouble when inside, by firstly convincing a female prison officer to have a sexual affair with him (how desperate must she have been?!) and now by striking up a nice little side earner in drugs and mobile telephony from his supposedly secure prison cell.

So it seems one of Shepherd's Bush's lowest of the low won't be seeing W12 for something approaching 20 years now, as a prison source told the Sun "It's possible Lynch could have been trading the phones or renting them out. It could hit his chances of parole in the future."

I'm sure we'll all be devastated to hear that. 

In the meantime here is Katie talking about her experiences and future campaigns. She waived her right to anonymity as a rape victim in order to fight for the rights of others who have been victims of this devastating crime. How many people do you think would be as strong as this?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

QPR seize control of Championship, batter Swansea

A player punch up led to two red cards apiece and though you can't condone the behaviour it marked the importance that everyone knew rode on this game. After a tense thriller against fellow South Wales rivals Cardiff this game was set to either tilt QPR back into a donominating 6 point position at the top of the league -or it was going to be the third defeat in a row for the Warnock Wobble that started against Watford and continued in the frozen northern fixture against Leeds.

QPR scored early, which had the crowd on their feet bellowing but within seconds we were back in our seats contemplating a long game ahead as Swansea immediately fought back and were clearly capable of rescuing the situation. Incisive runs combined with their forwards instinctively knowing where their teammates would be gave heart to the Swansea crowd, who in some cases had come dressed as bananas in pyjamas - it must be something in the water over there.

And following the red cards shown to a QPR and Swansea player alike there followed a weird old 20 minutes where both teams seemed to be adjusting to 10 man squads with the inevitable substitution engineered reshuffles.   

QPR finished the first half with a flurry of chances and Taraabt was by now combining with Heidrarson to squeeze through the black & white defensive line but it was still wide open, and Paddy Kenny produced two olympic standard saves to keep QPR on top.

The half time mascot needs to look at what he drinks in his tea because he seemed to fondle the female Deputy Chief Steward who was walking past and perform what was I am sure a joking French kiss on a female supporter in front of her boyfriend. In a giant cat costume. Emotions were running high you see.

Then came the second half and a blistering set of moves from QPR that seemed to provide a goal every 10 minutes, while the Swansea players grew visibly frustrated with each other. Their supporters started to take out their frustrations by ripping advertising hoardings off the front of the stands, which prompted the inevitable line of stewards standing in front of them towards the end. And the QPR penalty conversion from Heidrarson after a silly foul in the box. After the third QPR goal went in even the banana suit wearers decided to head for Paddington.

And so concluded an emphatic end to the Warnock Wobble and the Rs now sit pretty at the top with a busy string of fixtures on the cards over the next fortnight. For me the spirit among the players that conjured up this kind of demolition job, marked by the pure class of Taraabt's second which saw him substituted with a standing ovation, was the sight of Paddy Kenny yelling a stream of invective towards his own side who were trying to play for time and keep possession in the opposition corner to wind down the 4 minutes of extra time. "get out of that corner and attack!" was his cry. And how right he was. 

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday to me

And Happy Christmas to you. In November 2008 I started this blog on a whim (so its actually a month past the second birthday but I forgot, OK?) after coming across what looked like an unconscious man lying next to the library just before the Green on Uxbridge Road.

He was in and out of consciousness and looked to be homeless, so I called an ambulance and tried to bring him round by talking loudly and prodding the poor bloke. Then he rolled to one side and mumbled something, I smelled the alcohol on him but also saw that his trousers were down past his backside. And that's how he'd lain there for what must according to the paramedic who turned up for at least a couple of hours because he was close to being hypothermic.

What got me about that was how I had nearly walked past him, and normally would have done, so this certainly isnt a moralising tale, but the fact was that everyone had done just that. And he could have died. And no-one would have much noticed.

So I started writing about that, and the other experiences I knew I'd come across living here, and indeed have done since. From residents fighting to save their areas from developers, to tragic incidents of senseless crime and of course this year's Battle of the Bush - the general election. And since starting the blog I've also learned a great deal about our communities here in W12 and confirmed my sense that it was one of the best corners in the capital. I've met some fantastic people doing extraordinary things for others.

And from starting out with a couple of hundred readers I now get thousands of people on here every month, most just looking for news about stuff. And most of what does appear on here gets sent by many of you too. Which brings me to my three points at the end of this Christmas ramble ...

1 - Thank-you for reading, particularly those of you who've been here from the start
2 - Thanks to all of you for sending the stories in - please keep it up, it would be a boring site if you didn't
3 - Think of others, like that guy by the library, as we enjoy this season. And if you see someone like him in this weather, do at least make that phone call. You can carry on walking if you like, but you might just save someone's life.

Happy Christmas Shepherd's Bush


Van kills woman, 90, in Shepherd's Bush

An elderly woman was killed in Oaklands Grove yesteday morning by a van driver. Some of you got in touch yesterday to report the taping off of the road and I did put  a call in to the local police but they failed to respond so apologies for the delay till now.
The van has been reported as a Marks & Spencers delivery vehicle and at this stage it's believed that the driver did not stop. No arrests have been made. The woman, who was aged 90, died at around 1030 in the morning after paramedics were unable to revive her. 
Anyone with information about the accident should call the Road Death Investigation Unit at Hampton Traffic Garage on 020 8941 9011.

Andy Slaughter MP found guilty of £15.95 misuse

But Tory Greg Hands MP has cost us thousands. The Standard reported yesterday that an inquiry launched after a complaint made by neighbouring Conservative MP for Chelsea & Fulham Greg Hands had resulted in a ruling by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that our own representative Andy Slaughter had misused his expenses to send party political material to his constituents.

Apparently Mr Slaughter used House of Commons headed notepaper and stationery to organise a rally at the House of Commons about something and should have used different paper to print his letters on. Naughty. But second mortgage or duck-house it wasn't. 

I can't think of a more ridiculous use of our tax pounds than the thousands of them it took to reach this verdict. And all this after a complaint which any objective observer can see from miles off was motivated by the sort of petty political point scoring that has resulted in politicians being regarded as worse than estate agents and journalists by the general public. So any of you wishing to share your feelings about Greg Hands' use of your hard-earned cash for this activity can do so using the following means:

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Singing from the sewers

Pedestrians may have been alarmed by the sound of baritones booming from under their feet recently as the men who spend a lot of their lives in subterrenean London belted out a yuletide favourite with slightly altered lyrics aimed at changing our behaviour at Christmas. Specifically these guys, who recently showed me around the River Fleet which flows in a strong torrent under the streets of central London, don't really want to have to deal with any more "fatbergs" which are caused by people washing fat down the drains. Which, considering the other stuff they have to keep moving under our feet, doesnt seem too much to ask.

Here's their pitch for X-Factor

Boris in Westfield Shepherd's Bush to celebrate death of C Charge

Mayor Johnson today celebrated getting round to something he promised he'd do during his election campaign. The election approaching he's decided to actually do it and kill off the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge that overnight turned Shepherds Bush Green into an overflow car park as cars attempted to skirt the zone. The western extension of the zone will finish on Christmas eve.

Ken Livingstone ignored the wishes of those of us who live in West London, who clearly told him through a consultation that we didn't want the zone, and imposed it anyway. He was given the elbow shortly afterwards. Now Boris, perhaps looking to the politically imploding government we have at the moment, is getting a tad worried about Labour's challenge at the next election - so he appeared at Westfield today to give what he called a "present" to Londoners in the form of no more C-Charge on our doorsteps.

Having scrapped the M4 bus lane, another bete noire, it's safe to say Boris is paying quite a bit of attention to the West London vote at the moment. With Ken's deputy Val Shawcross responding to the end of the western C-Charge zone by pledging to re-impose it, I think it's also fair to say Labour will need to be looking somewhere other than Westwards for their campaign come election time.

According to the BBC, who were at today's, stunt, Mayor Johnson said:

"The effect on both pollution and congestion, we think, will be vanishingly small and it is worth doing just because it was a democratically right thing to do.
"Don't forget I campaigned to consult people properly. The issue was that this thing was put in without a proper democratic consultation."

And according to the Standard he went further and said

The long desired eradication of the western extension is my Christmas present to the people who live, work and shop in west London.”

But Labour's Val Shawcross said:

"We are all going to end up paying for this in massively increased public transport fares."

Incisive commentary there from Ms Shawcross. Mentioning nothing of how much money this zone has already taken out of the West London economy.

It's also worth paying tribute to our own Council who have consistently lobbied the Mayor, to the point of actually embarasssing him politically for being so lazy about getting round to doing this, to follow through and rid us of this zone. So well done H&F Council on this one.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

London Assembly demand assurances on Thames Tideway Tunnel

Remember our Council's dire warnings about "super sewer stink holes" opening up with "craters" littering our precious Furnival Gardens courtesy of evil Thames Water, whose nasty scheme for a "super sewer" was even going to make people homeless?

Apart from it being a very expensive propaganda campaign full of falsehoods which was dismisssed as such by fellow Conservative councils, the Mayor of London and the current Government it was also an excercise that meant our Council lost all credibility on the issue.

Which was a shame because there are actually genuine questions to be asked of Thames Water who quite rightly say that the discharging of 39 million tons of untreated sewage into the Thames every year is unacceptable, not to mention the flooding problems that we experience in W12 and W6 as a result of old Victorian sewers just not being able to cope with rainwater and poo at the same time, in ever growing amounts.

Such as how much it actually needs to cost and how will it actually be built - questions that are now being taken up by the Greater London Authority in their report following these hearings at which both Richard Aylard of Thames Water and our own Council Leader Clllr Greenhalgh appeared a few months ago. I was there for the blog.

The Committee's report, or "response" as it's called below, asks for assurances on the following:

Costs to customers

The Committee is concerned that the full costs of the Tunnel to Londoners are not yet known. Thames Water has estimated that customers will face an additional charge of £60-£65 per year, but no-one knows how long these charges will last. It is also not clear how the most vulnerable customers will be protected if they cannot afford to pay their water bills.

The response says it is disappointing that customers are being asked to comment on the proposal without clearer information on how much it will eventually cost them. It calls for Thames Water and Ofwat to publish these details as soon as possible.

The Committee believes there is a role for London’s political leaders in the planning decision but it may be problematic for multiple boroughs to undertake separate planning processes. Therefore the Government should consider how the Mayor could co-ordinate the planning process for the tunnel proposal.

Committee Members also say the continuing uncertainty over the planning process should be ended as soon as possible after the consultation period.

Employment benefits
The response says there should be a clear strategy for maximising the employment of Londoners in the construction of the Tunnel. Ambitious targets should be set, which Thames Water’s contractors should have to fulfil.

These are questions that our own Council could and should be asking on our behalf - but after coming out with so much baloney at public expense about this scheme they are just not listened to on this anymore. And the real losers of that situation are you and I.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Askew Road man found guilty of summer murder of Jaabe Roberts

A man has been found guilty of murder at the Old Bailey following the death of Jaabe Roberts in Shepherds Bush in June 2010.

Karl Lashley (12.04.66 - 44 ys) of Askew Road, W12 appeared for trial on Thursday, 9 December charged with the murder of Jaabe Roberts, aged 28, in Askew Road, W12 on Wednesday, 9 June. He was found guilty of the murder today (21 December) and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 18 years.

And thus brings to a close one of the most shattering incidents I have ever reported on, not least because it shook the community to its roots. On this blog a mother of another murder victim added to the comments with a poem, which I reproduce at the bottom of this article.

I can also now say that for the first and only time I had to put comment moderation on this blog because so many of you were naming Karl Lashley as a suspect, and I couldn't allow them at the time for fear of prejudicing the legal process that has now ended.

There was much speculation at the time but during the trial it seems that Jaabe had been involved in a disagreement with the defendant at the defendant's flat in Askew Road. This resulted in Lashley stabbing Jaabe with a small kitchen knife.

Jaabe made his way into street where he collapsed and was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The murder was investigated by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), Homicide and Serious Crime Command (HSCC).

On 17 June Karl Lashley was arrested and later charged as above.

DI Tony Bishop, of the HSCC, said:

"We are committed to making London a safer city for everyone. The investigating team worked tirelessly to ensure that all available evidence was put before the court. I would like to thank the many witnesses and the community in Shepherds Bush who came forward to give evidence. Our thoughts remain with the family of Jaabe Roberts who have lost a brother and son."

I still think of that day every time I go down the Askew Road, and I suspect I'm not the only one.

Here's what a mother of another murder victim wrote on the blog in the days following the death of Jaabe:

The love a Mother has,

Runs so very deep.
That love is so special
It's in her heart to keep.

A Mother's heart is broken,
She is ripped apart inside,
There is a part of her missing
It left her when her child died.

So, please don't tell me to get over it,
For this I cannot do.
Unless you understand my feelings,
And this has happened to you.

Only another Mother, who has lost a child,
Can understand my pain,
Because they also suffer daily,
As the memories of their child remain.

We are a band of Mothers'
Whose hearts can never heal,
For the loss of our children,
Is for us, so very real.

Irish centre in fight for survival with online petition

The Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith, which serves as a focal point for the Irish community in Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush, was promised a lease extension by the Council to 2017 in January last year. Since then, however, it has become a target for our Council's bonanza buildings sell off programme and is now threatened with imminent closure.

The Centre, which is staffed primarily by unpaid volunteers, serves elderly people with a mix of cultural events and other suppoirt services whila also serving the rest of the anglo Irish community with a range of activities for children and everyone in-between. As you can gather by the way I'm presenting this case I am a little bit biased being in part of Irish descent myself. So allow me to introduce Pádraig Belton, spokesperson for the Centre, to tell you why he thinks you should sign their online petition to save the Centre instead:

The Irish Cultural Centre plays exceptionally important roles towards the elderly, some of whom emigrated with the scars of institutional abuse, and many others finding themselves alone in their late years. It also has offered a home for ethnic and cultural programming for a host of London immigrant communities without their own spaces. With Irish immigration to London on the increase, it plays an important role in the settlement of persons newly arriving from Ireland. To sell it would be short-sighted - staffed largely by volunteers, it is precisely an example of any sort of Big Society, and is exceptionally good value to the local authority.

Through the hard work and dedication of its staff, the Centre has become world-renowned for its essential place in London Irish culture. It would be a black day for the cultural diversity that makes London so great a place to belong to.”

When I first reported this story in July this year the Irish Embassy responded to the Council's announcement of its decision to close the Centre by saying this:

The Embassy is very disappointed to have been informed that Hammersmith Council does not intend to extend the current lease. The Government strongly hopes that a solution can be found which will allow the Centre to continue its valuable work,” adding that the Irish State has given significant sums to fund the centre’s “excellent” work in recent years.

Jim O’Hara, the chairman of the board of trustees of the centre – the only one of its type in the United Kingdom, said: “This fait accompli is completely unexpected and has come as a major shock.”

You can sign the Irish Centre's online petition here - please do so.

Fulham Palace Road to get £540,000 for new crossings

London Mayor Boris Johnson has announced a package of over half a million pounds to upgrade Fulham Palace Road, which for the unitiated with the south of the borough goes from just south of Hammersmith roundabaout down through Fulham and leads basically down to the river crossing to Putney. Many local drivers, including me occasionally, use it - and when we do we notice two things, chiefly -
  • huge amounts of congestion leading to traffic that crawls either north or south, and;
  • crossings that hold traffic up and don't seem to be in the right places anyway
The crossing outside Charing Cross Hospital is fair enough but what is that crossing down near the roundabout just before Putney bridge all about? Putting a crossing for pedestrians right next to a busy roundabout is surely a pretty thick thing to do anyway, but in addition to being dangerous it also snarls up the crossing.

In addition the money will fund measures to smooth traffic and level road surfaces to make it easier for people using wheelchairs or buggies.

Boris said: "This funding will allow the boroughs to make real improvements to town centres, provide better cycling facilities and makes roads safer across the capital.

"I am especially pleased we have been able to cut the red tape that used to surround these schemes and give the boroughs more freedom to choose how they want to spend money and improve local communities."

Peter Hendy, London Transport Commissioner, said: "Delivering the Mayor's vision for transport in London is an ambitious task and it is essential we work in partnership with the London boroughs to make it happen.

"This investment will play a significant role in continuing to improve transport access across the capital."

So welcome new changes - but a little bit pricey isn't it?!

Monday, 20 December 2010

High speed rail offers boost to Old Oak

Britain's first high-speed rail line, between the capital and Birmingham, could regenerate one of London's most deprived areas, according to our council.

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council is encouraging the Transport Secretary to name Old Oak Common, in north west London, as the nation's first high-speed rail-hub as part of the plans for a high speed rail line known as High Speed 2 (HS2).

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond visited Old Oak this morning to view the site - which mainly consists of light industrial land and railway sidings - for himself. Mr Hammond is expected to make a formal announcement on HS2 in the House of Commons this afternoon. He's pictured here on the right alongside our very own Cllr Loveday and Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh who seem to have done a really good job in lobbying for this site.

HS2 will cut train journey times between the UK's first and second cities to just 49 minutes and boost London's economy in the process. A new station at Old Oak Common would deliver more than 10,000 new homes and create 5,000 new jobs, according to the council.

Unemployment in the area is well above the national average and poor access to housing and other services are also a challenge for local people. Heathrow Airport would be properly linked to the rest of the transport network through the Old Oak hub for the first time.

H&F Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, says: "HS2 could provide the foundation for economic growth, helping to create thousands of skilled jobs in deprived neighbourhoods like Old Oak Common.

"Old Oak Common is perfectly placed to connect the rest of the country with Heathrow. The site has unrivalled transport connections and an interchange station here will allow passengers to disperse - taking pressure off the main London terminal at Euston."

The site intersects the Great Western mainline and the West and North London Lines and provides links to a future Crossrail station. The site also creates an ideal interchange linking Heathrow Express services to Birmingham, the north and Gatwick Airport. Journey times from the Old Oak hub to Heathrow would be just 11 minutes.

HS2 trains will run between the capital and the north at speeds of up to 225 mph. Each train can carry up to 1,100 people every five minutes - meaning 13,000 commuters an hour, in each direction, would be added to the already overcrowded tube at Euston if the Old Oak interchange doesn't go ahead.

Former Transport Secretary Lord Brian Mawhinney has also backed the Old Oak hub as have prominent business leaders.

1630 UPDATE - The Transport Secretary has just confirmed that the Old Oak site will definately go ahead - so it's regenerative impact looks set to be harnessed for the local area - excellent news.

More trees for everywhere APART from W12

H&F Council and Boris Johnson have announced loads more trees are to be planted around our borough, but there are to be NONE in Shepherd's Bush. On H&F Conservative website Councillor Harrry Phibbs trumpets the spreading of seedlings but a cursory look at the list reveals that our own postcode is nowhere to be seen.

In fact the forthcoming redevelopment of Shepherd's Bush Green is actually going to result in many of the trees currently there being chopped down to make way for boutique cafes and landscaping. When I first reported on this back in May 2009 I pointed out that this seemed to put our Council at odds with Mayor Johnson, but it seems that it's a numbers game - trees elsewhere means our own can be chopped down at will.

As the banner of this blog suggests I think walking across the Green with trees is one of the few brushes with nature people living in this corner of what is an inner London borough get - and I really don't see how their imminent demise is in any way a good thing. So great that trees are being planted elsewhere - I mean genuinely that's a good thing - but sadly it seems when it comes to the Bush our Council's committment to trees runs out.

1430 UPDATE: Councillor Greg Smith, Cabinet Member for Residents Services, and I have been debating this over on the Conservative's website and it seems they may have made more progress on trees on the Green than I was giving them credit for - he tells me they've actually changed their original plan which would have chopped down most of them to only chopping down some - but planting more, leaving us with actually more trees. Which seems fair enough. Here's his comment to me this afternoon:

"There are currently 102 trees on the Common. We will be planting 34 additional large specimen trees, including 4 Oak, 19 London Plane, 6 Silver birches and 5 flowering cherry. We are planning for the future by introducing boulevard tree planting that will establish itself to take the place of trees that eventually will die. (Our tree survey indicated that the perimeter trees have a life expectancy of just another 40 years). However, the number of trees to be felled has been reduced from the originally planned 20 to 12. In all, this will mean a net gain of 22 trees for the Common"

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Shepherd's Bush bathed in snow

Some gratuitous pics of the Bush in snow this morning

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Shepherd's Bush bathed in golden dawn


The Bush bathed in dawn gold is an amazing sight. Ahead of a fitness test in January my 6am trips to Fitness First Shepherd's Bush these days are assuming epic proportions, braving the elements. But it's made a lot more bearable by seeing these sights every morning. And the best thing is they're a well kept secret from most people who live here, who never get the chance to see them!




Friday, 17 December 2010

Fulham Chronicle: do you get it?

Shepherd's Bush isn't the only Chronicle-free-zone it would seem - the Brackenbury Residents Association led by the indomitable local campaigner Rosemary Petit have noticed that it has ceased to be delivered to their neck of the woods south of Goldhawk Road too, and are organising what their newsletter calls a "non-deliveries list" to send to the paper.

Do you get it?

Bush tweet-up: report

The Goldhawk Pub witnessed a momentus occasion last night as the hard core of Shepherd’s Bush social media types met up for the first time. What several of us were honest enough to own up to having feared might be a nerd fest turned into actually what was a fantastic evening with decent and interesting people.

Twitterman @stewbirch, who got the ball rolling and led to the evening actually happening, was at the bar when I arrived and thankfully our two people grew to double figures before too long. Contrary to the doom mongers, who warned darkly of thumping music and standing-room-only when I presumptuously decided on a venue and date in a dictatorial sort of way, we had the run of comfy sofas and no queues at the bar.

In fact there are clearly some people in our midst who would do well as stand up comedians if they took the plunge because I found myself laughing most of the time as we regaled the ridiculous and often bizarre aspects of everyday life in the Bush. Special rage was reserved for the numptys who run Morrisons in the W12 Centre while the perils of dodging the special people who stop passers by at random with a variety of requests when you’re trying to get to work in the morning also featured large.

In fact Bushers it was so good we’re going to do it again – I know many of you couldn’t make it and wanted to know if there was going to be another one and on the strength of last night it was a no-brainer – so put Thursday the 27th January 8pm in your diary – same venue.

I leave you with pics of two things that for me summed up both the night and the quirks of life in Shepherd’s Bush that brought us together for the evening. Generous @stewbirch provided a couple of platters for the evening – they were huge, as the image above proves. Generous people at the Goldhawk it seems.

And then, on my way home jogging through the frozen streets to keep warm, what do you think I come across? Well obviously a cooker on the pavement of course, complete with a paper note informing passers-by about its condition.

Just another night in W12.

Middle East peace author talks to kids at Shepherd's Bush Theatre

Following the new release of Michael Morpurgo’s recent book, ‘The Kites are Flying’ about children’s lives in Israel and Gaza, Michael gave a talk about his book, and told stories from his recent trip to the Middle East with Save the Children last week at the newly openned Bush Theatre in the old library building.
A recently appointed Literary Ambassador for Save the Children, Michael Morpurgo, will be going to fly kites with children in Israel and in Gaza, taking the time to meet those children’s family, friends, visit their schools and hear about their daily lives. Michael Morpurgo’s new book explains that the calamity of the ongoing unrest and the permanent border sitting between Israel and Gaza is a longstanding issue that doesn’t always make sense to children. Children’s hopes and dreams for peace can fly higher than any wall dividing communities and religions.
For a one-evening special at the Bush, Michael spoke to children and their families about his first ever visit to Gaza, talking about the tragedy of the lives of some children and families in the area, but also of the hope ringed with joy that children’s tales can bring.

Working in peacebuilding myself this is a subject very close to my heart, and it's a very nice change to see the Middle East conflict reflected in a balanced way from both perspectives rather than a biased view from either side. It's only through that approach that there can be any hope for a long lasting solution. And much credit to the Bush Theatre for hosting this innovative event.
Julie Etchingham, ITV News reader, chaired Michael’s talk.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

"Tweet a leak" to Thames Water

Thames Water wants you to ‘tweet a leak’ to its Twitter profile @thameswater – giving location details and if  possible a picture - in a bid to help it tackle leakage this winter. 

The company is dealing with more than double the amount of bursts on its ageing 20,000-mile network of pipes due to the current freezing weather. At this time of year the company expects to receive 75 new reports of burst of leaking pipes a day but it is currently getting 185. 

Jerry White, Thames Water’s Head of Operational Control, said: “Our customers are our eyes and ears and we really need their help in the fight  against leakage this winter. 

“We have been communicating with customers via Twitter for some time now and recognise that it’s becoming a preferred route to contact us. 

“So when you tweeters are out and about and spot a leak or burst, please tweet it - pull out your smart phone and tell us what’s happening and where  so we can get on and fix it. 

"Meanwhile we urge our non-tweeting customers to continue calling our free 24-hour leakline on 0800 714614 to report leaks and bursts." 

More than double the number of leaks and bursts have more than doubled Thames Water engineers' workload. 

Jerry added: “We were prepared for this, having significantly increased the number of leakage crews working across our London and Thames Valley supply  region at the end of October - before it got cold rather than when. 

“Although this forward-planning has helped, we still really need our customers' help in the fight against leakage this winter - so please help  us by calling our leakline or tweeting a leak." 

Water pipes, especially the old cast iron ones, burst more when water in our reservoirs cools below 5 degrees C. When the cold water is pumped through our pipes, it makes them contract and where there are hairline weakness, they can break. 

Thames Water report that they cut leakage by 27 per cent between 2005 and 2010, but as we know Hammersmith and the parts of the Bush closes to the river have the highest concentration of basement flats in the capital and are also susceptible to flooding when it rains hard. So make a note of the new way of reporting and do use it if you can.

The company's witter profile address is thameswater.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Shepherd’s Bush: police action on bus NOT stabbing

Yesterdays incident on a bus on Old Oak Road, witnessed it would seem by several readers, was not as some were reporting a stabbing or knife related. I have been on to the local police and in fact it was what sounds like a fairly mundane issue of a drunk and rowdy male passenger who was escorted off the bus by police after the driver called for help.

The incident was recorded at just after 5pm yesterday which accords with the time some of you say you saw the bus surrounded by police vehicles. So I hope, on this occasion at least, this puts minds at rest. We haven’t had another serious incident - but after the murder of Jaabe Roberts on Askew Road this summer it's perfectly understandable that this was what minds started to think about.

£220 million contract for revamping H&C & Central Line awarded

London Underground has awarded a £220 million five year contract, to carry out track renewal work, to Balfour Beatty.

The works will include the replacement of ballasted track, points and crossings including all ancillary signalling and drainage works on two thirds of the Tube network – Bakerloo, Circle, Central, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

David Waboso, Capitals Programme Director, said: “It is vital that these works are carried out not only to maintain the continued safe operation of the Tube but also to modernise it. With the introduction of a new fleet of 191 air-conditioned trains and a new signalling system on the Metropolitan, District and H&C lines the track has to be ready for an increase in usage of up to 40 per cent.
Combining both track renewal and drainage works will mean that the work will be carried out more efficiently. Balfour Beatty tendered detailed proposals for reducing costs and we will work closely with them to achieve efficiencies and drive down costs.”
Works are expected to start in spring 2011. So stand by for more line closures as they frantically try and complete before the Olympics.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Shepherd's Bush Police: drugs busts,"sting" bikes & dispersal zones

Reporting to residents the Safer Neighbourhoods Team for Shepherd's Bush Green reported last week on a series of high tempo initiatives that have put our local criminals firmly on the back foot, but acknowledged that the underlying causes for the increased levels of crime now affecting the Bush are not going to go away any time soon. So it was a mix of justified credit for a job well done tempered by caution about the likely levels of crime we're going to continue seeing in our neighbourhood.

On the drugs problem the police have been very busy executing a high number of drugs warrants and making what they regard as "quality arrests" in the street for supply of crack cocaine. This problem is not likely to be solved in the near future, however, for obvious reasons.

Robbery has risen slightly from a low base. High visibitility patrolling by mounted officers has helped keep it in check but it remains a concern. The police didn't say this but I have to wonder how long they'll be able to keep up mounted police patrols as the budget cuts start to bite, we now know H&F is set to take the biggest austerity cuts from the Government in our part of London.

On the bicycle crime wave we have experienced recently Officers locked a ‘sting’ bike near to Westfield and within 2 hours caught a prolific bike thief in the act of stealing it. Since then cycle crime has dipped significantly near Westfield. More such operations are planned in run up to Xmas with cycle crime becoming a priority on several wards and across the borough.

Two plainclothes operations were conducted inside Westfield to catch professional bag thieves but had no result.

The controversial Dispersal Zone has been very successful and ends 22nd Dec. A much reduced zone is already planned around the William Church Estate.

And so the battle against our evil-doers continues. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record on this I think I can speak for the vast majority of people when I say we're very grateful indeed for the efforts of the police in our neck of the woods. They come across the worst of the worst on a daily basis and do it with a great deal of professionalism. And credit also to our Council who on this issue at least are really very good. Councillor Greg Smith has been keen as Cabinet Member for Residents Services to back the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams with rhetoric but also resources - and some of the above is the result. Here's a Council vid from 2009 on crime in Shepherd's Bush:

H&F handed largest 6.56% austerity cuts among local councils

The Government has cut the budget of our Council by 6.56%. This might not seem much but for a multi million pound local authority that represents a huge wadge of spending, and would seem to go further and faster than some of the cuts our Council has already made to services. It is also significantly more than any of the 4 local authorities that surround us.

Speaking to the BBC however Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh said "We have to recognise and make the case that we can get by on less money. I think with less money you become more creative about how you tackle things."

Some authorities across the UK are having their core funding reduced to make even bigger savings of up to 9.9% and this has predictably led to howls of pain. In our own local neighbourhood the cuts seem to be a mixture of closing services for vulnerable people and selling off buildings.
In our neighbourhood Kensington & Chelsea have had their budget cut by 5.26%, Ealing by 4.87%, Brent by 5.85% and Hounslow by 4.69%. So in fact Hammersmith & Fulham has had the largest cuts imposed on any local authority in our part of the Capital, and this on top of the axe already having fallen on numerous local services.
The cuts were revelaed yesterday in a parliamentary statement by Secretary of State Eric Pickles as he unveiled the Government's new Localism Bill which, also awkwardly for our Council revelaed new powers "for local people to overrule planning decisions, decide where new homes should go and protect green spaces" Expect therefore the King Street decision to be fast-tracked as it shows every sign of being before those Big Society powers are handed to local people.

There's a chill wind blowing through the borough. But perhaps not for everyone.

1430 UPDATE: The Fulham Chronicle has caught up with this story here, focussing on councillors reactions in Westminster, as opposed to H&F!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Revealed: West London Free School comes to the Bush

I have seen confidential Council information that confirms the Askham Family Centre will house the West London Free School (led by Toby Young, pictured) for a peppercorn rent until the Palingswick Centre in Hammersmith is ready to house the school on a permanent basis.

Regular readers know I've reported rumours in the last few weeks, as the Council has remained tight lipped about the whole affair. I did send a note last week to the press office who are usually quick to respond asking for the facts but reply came there none. They really should have because it left me with no other option but to talk to other sources and without revealing them I can say that the information I have seen leaves no doubt about the Council's plans.

The Askham Centre is, according to the Council's thinking, under-utilised and the services for families who need very sensitive support, such as supervised contact for children in care, will be re-provided elsewhere in the borough. Both Askham and Palingswick are currently being valued to confirm what sort of rent the Council can levy on the West London Free School but I understand it's likely that, not wishing this process to hold the School back, they are likely to occupy the Askham site for a peppercorn rent.

So there you are. I really don't understand why the Council has been trying to keep this one under wraps but now that it isn't anymore they really should consider making their intentions public, especially the likely impact on existing schools in Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith and also the fate of the voluntary sector services currently based in Palingswick House.

I've no doubt I won't feature on any christmas card lists from the Town Hall as a result of revealing this - but the continued secrecy was leading to rumours and uncertainty among teachers and parents alike. I hope that bringing this out into the open goes some way to ending that.

1030 UPDATE: From not returning messages the Council's press office seems to have swung into action like a gazelle this morning, issuing the following statement to me:

"We are having ongoing discussions with the West London Free School about potential sites and we are keen to support them in developing their application for government approval. We haven't yet agreed any specific site but we will happily share any news as soon as we have it."

You will note that this does not address either the relocation of the Family Centre nor the fact that both sites are being actively valued and prepared for the School to move in, both of which I know are happening from the Council's own internal information. So credit to them that they've responded at least to this article but now that both of those facts are in the public domain they may wish to issue a slightly fuller statement to residents quite soon...

1300 UPDATE: understand this story is being written up in other local newsrooms ... wonder if they'll credit the blog this time ...

15th DECEMBER UPDATE: And lo, here is the story in the Fulham Chronicle. And no, they didn't.