Saturday, 30 October 2010

QPR toppled from Championship throne

Cardiff City today completed what they've looked like doing for a long while now, with a win over Norwich compared to yet another draw for Rangers to take top spot. You can't complain too much about being unbeaten for the entire season but I'm afraid if you're after automatic promotion to the best football league in the world then you'll need to start winning games as well as drawing them, Neil.

I think we're all still pinching ourselves that this isnt another season looking like a brush with League One, although the Weird One has been making his usual unhelpful interventions about how he'd like to sack Neil Warnock to replace him with an Italian. Remember how well that went last time? Thankfully Mr Strange received a fairly public and blunt northern rebuff from Mr Warnock in response.

As I had my traditional post-deployment haircut down at the excellent John's Hair Fashions barbers on Uxbridge Rd this week the barber in chief had this to say: "They've got to start winning again. simples." The same barber used to actually play for Rangers in the 60s - and he talks a lot of sense to this day.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Housing cap: how many to move out of H&F?

Boris Johnson's claim that the Government are risking "Kosovo style cleansing" of the poor from inner city areas has gone down like a cup of cold sick with Tory High Command in Downing Street, and doubtless with their chief local government radicals at Hammersmith Town Hall.

This is just an observation of fireworks to come, but you have here in Hammersmith & Fulham an inner city borough with poorer people living cheek by jowl with some very rich people indeed. Witness the difference between the good burghers of Hammersmith, led by a Barrister and enraged by the propsect of King Street being redeveloped, alongside the much more working class traders of Shepherd's Bush Market also ranged against our Council.

It's a little known fact that this argument first erupted when the little known shadow Minister Chris Bryant used the term "cleanisng" in parliament. But he wasn't the first to use it. No, that honour falls to our own Andy Slaughter MP who has been using it to describe our Council's determination to 'redevelop' large housing estates across the borough - from Queen Caroline to West Kensington - much to their chagrin.

SO expect the sort of arguments you've been seeing at a national level in the last 24 hours to persist at local level for years to come.It will decide the future look and feel of our borough - and how many and what sort of us still live here in a few years time. In the meantime here's the BBC's report of yesterday's events:

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Council defends seating at last night's public meeting

Well last night's full council meeting seems to have lived up to expectations as being a lively affair, with plenty of protesters finding themselves in full voice about the proposed changes to Shepherd's Bush Market, Labour councillors largely backing them and Conservative councillors pledging to listen to residents - while accusing Labour of orchestrating some of the protests.

When I previewed the problems that some of the protestors were anticipating with such a small venue I said I would ask for comment from the Council and they have responded to me below. I think its fair enough, especially if they did actually seek to make more seats available.

A council spokesman said: "Full Council meetings are arranged months in advance and difficult to change at short notice to accommodate high public demand. Once we became aware that so many members of the public were likely to attend we placed extra chairs in the gallery to seat 80 people and set up an additional room for 60 people with an audio link so that they could hear the debate.
The Council is 100 per cent committed to listening to the concerns of local people on plans to regenerate the market. We have spoken to numerous market traders, visitors and residents. We have held 15 hours of drop-in sessions and senior council officers have sat down with residents in their living rooms and across Shepherds Bush.
"We are now arranging a wider public meeting in the next few weeks so that we can continue to listen and respond to what people are saying.
"The Council has agreed an overarching vision. However, no detailed plans for Shepherds Bush Market have been submitted and will not be submitted from development partners without exhaustive discussion with local people. "

Back to Shepherd's Bush: Uxbridge Road dug up again

From being awarded the dubious status of having some of the most dug up roads in London, I see our claim for next year's title is in full swing with new roadworks having sprung up right in the middle of Uxbridge Road. Jolly good show!

I saw this as I walked down the road feeling like a zombie after a near-24 hour journey back to the Bush from south east Asia yesterday. So much so I actually missed the full council meeting last night so don't have a report after all - bugger that jetlag! Please don't forget I do this blog in my spare time and sometimes I just run out of it.

I will however link to all articles that do come out of that meeting who I know will be written by the full time hacks who will have gone. It was shaping up to be a big one but I already kow all of the decisions will have gone the Council's way because they have such a large majority on the council. Rest assured I will be following in particular the Market story, including some interviews with the key people involved.

Good to be back in the (cold) Bush.

Estate garden contract awarded

Shepherds Bush Housing Group has awarded its contract for cleaning and gardening on its estates to a company called Pinnacle PSG for five years. A panel of residents were among those who interviewed shortlisted companies. The contract was awarded based on the quality of its work, value for money and evidence of working with residents.

So we can all expect to see shiny new gardens on council estates in the months to come. Jolly good show.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

£5,000 reward: Police hunt Bush man for serious assault

Police are appealing to the public for help and information to locate a man wanted in connection with an assault.

Kyle Fredericks, aged 23 (date of birth 3.3.87) from Shepherds Bush is wanted for assaulting his former partner at her home in NW10 on Wednesday 13 October.

It is alleged he attended the house and assaulted her leaving her with a serious neck injury.
DI Glyn Jones, Metropolitan Police Service, Hammersmith and Fulham CID said: "We urgently need to locate and speak to Kyle Fredericks.

"We know he has links to the Acton and Shepherds Bush areas but despite extensive police enquiries we have not yet located him.

"We are now appealing to the public for their assistance in locating Fredericks and because of the seriousness of the incident we are offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information leading to the location, arrest and prosecution of Kyle Fredericks."

Fredericks is described as black about 5'11" tall with short black hair. He has brown eyes, a moustache and a little beard and pierced ears. A scar from a dog bite can be seen on his arm and he is generally said to be very muscular with big arms. He weighs about 15 stone. When last seen it is thought he was wearing a blue tracksuit with the trousers tucked into his socks.

Anyone with any information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the incident room on 020 8246 2828 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Shepherd’s Bush Market: Council ban public from public meeting

Our Council appear to be up to their old tricks again. A full council meeting is to be held this coming Wednesday and the major item on the agenda are these plans to redevelop the market, including proposals to knock down a row of Victorian shops. The market traders are, like so many other residents groups across the borough, up in arms both at the proposals themselves but also what they see as the way in which they are being ignored by the council in its mission to change the face of H&F.

Now, in a move reminiscent of this amazing meeting that was modelled on Stalin’s show trials, our Council have decided to hold this full council meeting – of which there are only a few during the year and are the major democratic set-pieces where the big decisions are made publicly – in a very small room. And not even in Hammersmith Town Hall, but this time the smaller venue of Fulham Town Hall.

And the council officers are already warning that a maximum of 60 people, on a first come first served basis will be let in. The rest will be barred from entry.

Given that the Market traders feel that the “consultation” the council cites in support of its plans was flawed and quite likely to be the subject of legal action, petty moves like this can surely only serve to underline the impression of a Council willing to do anything to get its way. And there was me thinking Cllr Greenhalgh was determined to turn over a new leaf after his professed "hurt" at another irate group of residents.

Opposition Leader Steven Cowan has lodged an official protest and requested that the room be changed to one which would accommodate the “public” for this “public meeting”. No reply there has come. As one of those connected to the campaign just commented to me “I’m getting the feeling we’re not wanted.” You can hardly blame her instincts.

I'm still inclined, despite how all this looks, to say that this is all probably cock up rather than conspiracy and that saner heads will prevail and a larger room will be found. But the Council's probalem is that its form in this area means that people draw their own conclusions when they see a pattern of behaviour. They also have a problem in the sense that all of these residents groups are inclreasingly collaborating with each other against what they see as their common enemy - the Council - which should really be the body that does what residents actually want! I know that at least some of the Conservative group are unhappy with this state of affairs, in fairness to them.

If I am allowed in to this “public meeting” I’ll report back. If not, just put it down to the way in which our Council seems intent on doing business these days. Meanwhile, in the interests of balance and in the hope that this really is “all some silly mistake” I’ve asked the press office for comment.

Lawyers set to gain from Council merger

Lawyers are set to profit from the merger of our own council with those of neighbouring K&C and Westminster, says The Lawyer Magazine. At least those that are members of a consortium supplying legal services to a number of local authorities are concerned. The London Boroughs Legal Alliance, LBLA, is a collection of legal firms who supply exclusive services to councils at special rates.

So far from this being a story about evil lawyers coining it in at public expense this is actually quite a good thing for the taxpayer it would seem, as the inevitable legal expenses that get incurred by local authorities are pooled and therefore reduced.

And the antics of our own Council at the moment as they seek to overrule another local community with a developer in tow, this time of Shepherd's Bush Market, seems set to ensure a steady supply of legal cases for a long time to come, so just as well.

The Economist: Hammersmith Hospital "best in country"

From this week's Economist, confirmation that we have a jewel of a local hospital right here in Shepherd's Bush:

MEASURING good health, in patients and hospitals alike, is one thing. Finding the causes is harder. Medical professionals in Britain know that Hammersmith Hospital in west London, for example, is one of the best in the country—Tony Blair received treatment there for his irregular heartbeat and it is one of only a handful of places to which London ambulance crews take people with suspected heart attacks. From America to Sweden, the best hospitals in a rich country outperform the rest. But how?

Read on to find out...

Monday, 25 October 2010

shootings n' earthquakes

Blimey - not often you get these in the same day. Today saw a day of elections here in the Philippines, which sadly resulted in the all too predictable deaths of at least 6 people, 3 of whom were shot. When we next feel like moaning about our local councillor it might be worth bearing in mind how lucky we are by comparison to others.

And just now, lying in bed, the earth moved. Sadly for me this was tectonic activity rather than anything else - a 7.5 scale earthquake just hit Western Sumatra which, though a very long way from the Philippines is still in the region.

Back in the Bush on weds morning!

£100 million White City campus appproved

Imperial College's new campus, set to be built on the site of old BBC buildings, has been given the formal go ahead by the Council. Most of the old BBC Worldwide buildings will be knocked down to be replaced with flats for students, more details from the Sage Construction website here.

Friday, 22 October 2010

H&F merged with Westminster and K&C

A super council is to be formed, sharing backroom operations for most of our key public services between H&F and our neighbours to the east K&C and Westminster. 700 jobs are set to be lost as part of the cost cutting and efficiency measures which mark the first of its kind in the UK - which for our council has become the norm, as Secretary of State Eric Pickles recently said on one of his many visits to Hammersmith just days ago.

H&F Council leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh promised to ‘squeeze every penny and every pound’ by looking at further savings in H&F and beyond in a bid to avoid reducing frontline services.

We will do everything humanly possible to maintain the services we have,” he said. “However nobody should be under any illusions about the difficulty of the challenge ahead."

In a joint statement, Cllr Greenhalgh, along with Westminster Leader Cllr Colin Barrow and K&C Leader Cllr Merrick Cockell said: “We want to stress though that local priorities will still be driven by local people, and the democratic mandate rested in elected councillors such as ourselves, will be retained.

"Our plans may be the first of their kind, but sharing of services in this way can no longer be viewed as a radical concept. It will soon become the norm for local authorities looking for innovative ways to keep costs down while delivering high quality front line services."

H&F has already saved £55 million in the last four years. Based on current estimates, following last Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review, H&F will need to save a further £65 million, although precise details will not be know until December or January. That will result in around 700 jobs going, although H&F says it will do everything possible to do this through natural wastage.

In the next financial year H&F is looking to save around £28 million.
More on this soon - but for the time being - wow.

Bus Bomb kills 9 people near me

I'm writing this blog from a conflict zone in South East Asia this week. Thats the power of the internet, it makes location irrelevant. All of which is fine but then something like this happens to remind you that you really are in a very different place.

I tend not to talk about this side of what I do on this Blog, it is after all not relevant to the Bush, but every time I have a run in with something like this I always think its worth sharing if only to remind people that all problems are relative.

I've been spending a week here working with people who in some cases put their lives regularly on the line just to build peace. One woman, similarly aged to me in her early thirties calmly explained to me how her parents were assassinated when she was 8 years old as part of this, one of the longest running conflicts in Asia. She's dedicated the rest of her life to understanding what made the killers of her mum and dad do what they did and how she can stop it happening again at considerable risk to herself. Humbling.

Back in the Bush on Weds next week - can't wait. Till then I have some conflict resolution to do. Adieu.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Leaders Column: Greenhalgh on Western C-Charge

The second of this Blog's exclusive Leaders Columns has Cllr Greenhalgh giving his reaction to the Mayor's scrapping of the western extension of the C-Charge:

We are delighted that the Mayor of London has announced that the cameras monitoring the western extension of the congestion zone (WEZ) will be switched off from Christmas Eve.

In case you missed it , December 24 will be the last day that the controversial WEZ will operate after Boris Johnson listened to the results of three public consultations – which all favoured scrapping the scheme.

65 per cent of the 13,000 people who responded to the latest consultation wanted the zone scrapped and the £8 daily toll, which is set to rise to £10, will now only affect central London as the zone is stripped back to its original size.

Here at Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council, where we have consistently campaigned against the extension ever since it was created in February 2007, we completely welcome the move.
There is a collective sigh of relief in west London now that this invisible Berlin Wall has finally been torn down. The extension did not reduce congestion and only served to cut residents and businesses off from their services and customers.

During these tough economic times it was vital that this onerous stealth tax was consigned to the dustbin of history and we are pleased that the Mayor has listened to our concerns.”

After it was created the WEZ quickly became known as West London’s Berlin Wall – due to the invisible barrier it created between neighbourhoods.

Transport for London (TfL) has predicted it will lose around £55 million but critics point-out that the extension failed in its central aim of reducing congestion in west London.

Before the extension was added– a TfL study showed H&F had the most congested roads in London. The figures revealed a mind numbing 7.6 million hours lost in traffic, compared to 6.9 million in neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea. More than three years later, there is no evidence that the roads in the borough have become less congested.

The Mayor originally announced his intention to ditch the WEZ last November after 67 per cent of residents and 86 per cent of businesses said they wanted it removed.

Shepherd's Bush: Body found in flat fire

Police are investigating the "suspicious" death of a man who was found after a fire in a flat yesterday morning near to the QPR ground. The man, believed to be in his fifties or sixties, has not as yet been identified but I'll report more as and when.

One man has been arrested in connection with the incident and remains in police custody.
The death is being treated as suspicious and detectives from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command are investigating.A police spokesperson said a post-mortem examination will be carried out in due course.

Anyone with any information should call the incident room on 0208 358 0300 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Feel free to use comments to update your fellow Bushers with whatever you might know.

Shepherd's Bush: Legal threats over market

Shepherd’s Bush Market is at war with the Council. The traders, almost to a person, have formed a group so tight and dead set against the Council’s plans to essentially knock it down and start again that there seems no prospect for anything other than an all out fight between the locals and the Town Hall. The traders are still calling on the Council, to use their phrase, to "step back from the brink" but there seems little prospect of this happenning.

I have seen documents and correspondence that make absolutely clear, in tone and content, that relations between the traders and council officials have completely broken down with the traders themselves seeming to have absolutely no confidence whatsoever that they will ever be treated fairly. Dark warnings of legal action cloud the air and it seems that this has forced Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh to retreat from his original refusal of an invitation to hold a public meeting with the traders, into holding one.

Ever the wily fox, he’s agreed to the meeting so long as it happens after the closing date for the consultation which traders have branded a sham and regard as illegal. The traders have formally requested that the consultation be re-run. To date that request has been ignored.

This is of course the same Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh that professed his “hurt” at some of the comments made by the folk of Hammersmith, who themselves are up in arms at the prospect of King Street being turned into something looking like Las Vegas with soaring blocks of luxury flats and major construction work taking over large parts of Furnival Gardens. (The same park they claimed they were defending against Thames Water)

So what’s going on? Stephen Greenhalgh as we know has form on all things planning and seemed to indicate a face-saving means of retreat in the face of the irate citizens of Hammersmith. He’d even claimed that there were “lessons to be learned” over the way in which his authority had railroaded the people of Goldhawk Road into another planning project against their express will. This, in my view and in the private view of those connected with his campaign, contributed to the conservative candidate at the last General Election failing to unseat Labour MP Andy Slaughter. They even formed mini residents election campaigns to ensure that the Conservatives paid for their behaviour at the polls, and so it proved. The Council then performed a U-Turn on the Ashchurch Grove decision, so it proves that in a battle residents can win.

I have a theory about the difference between the two – you could reasonably say that both the proposed Hammersmith and actual Goldhawk Estate decisions enraged what would otherwise be presumably Conservative inclined populations. That is not true with either the traders or their patrons in Shepherd’s Bush Market – in other words they’re fairly working class. In fact one of the pieces of history set to be swept away by Cllr Greenhalgh is a real life pie & mash shop that has stood there since Victoria sat on the throne, Gawd bless er.

Surely the Council has a point that the Market is a bit tatty and could do with doing up. Transport for London have been the world’s worst landlords by failing to pay for the markets’ upkeep and using cowboy builders when they had to. But if you’re about to change the face of Shepherd’s Bush so fundamentally, and once again you find that the actual people that live and work there are so fundamentally opposed to your plans – shouldn’t you just stop to think about whether you really want to alienate so many more people, even if they are probably not Tory voters?

Given that this is the Shepherd’s Bush Blog, keep checking back for more on this – its likely to be a dominant theme in the weeks and months to come. I would much rather be chronicling a debate rather than a battle but it seems a struggle is what we have. And it all seems very familiar.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Boris to scrap C-charge Western Extension

According to Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph blog:

Boris Johnson will later today confirm the complete scrapping of the western extension zone (WEZ) of the congestion charge from Christmas Eve. It’ll be part of a “mini Comprehensive Spending Review” announcement by Boris in which the implications of the cuts to London’s budget announced by the Government will be spelt out.
The congestion charge for the remaining central zone is expected to rise to £10 a day (or £9 if paid through a new automated payment channel.) There will also be above-inflation fare rises on public transport and some cuts in services.

This is likely to be widely welcomed in Shepherd's Bush after the Green turned into a car park the day after it was introduced as vehicles skirted the zone. But what really riled many Bushers was the fact that previous Mayor Ken Livingstone completely ignored the express wish of west Londoners, revealed in a consultation vote, and pressed ahead with the scheme anyway.

We'll wait and see how that plays politically, but along with the scrapping of the M4 bus lane this is likely to do Boris no harm at all. Which might explain why he waited so damned long to get round to doing it - even attacks from our own Council didn't succeed in getting him to pull his finger out - but forthcoming elections tend to have that effect on politicians.

Eric Pickles speech: H&F is "future of local government"

Secretary of State for local government Eric Pickles MP lauded our Council for "absolutely leading the way" and that what they were doing was "absolutely the fiuture of what local government is going to be" in a speech made just days ago at Hammersmith Town Hall.

Watch it in full here - I warn you there are some truly awful jokes:

and if you still have a pulse part two is here

Shepherd's Bush: Council to strip out traffic lights

Shepherd's Bush Road will lose traffic lights as our Council is the first in London to seize the opportunity - ahead of everyother of the 31 councils across London - of a consultation put in train by Transport for London to allow authorities to remove unwanted lights.

As the Mayor of London's answer to Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon makes clear, it seems our Council's keeness to do away with the lights, surpassing perhaps the notorious stripping away of speed humps by their Tory counterparts in Barnet, has caught even TfL on the hop, read both the question and answer below.

Proposed removal of traffic signals

Question No: 3222 / 2010

Caroline Pidgeon

Please list all boroughs in London which have agreed to the removal at traffic lights at all sites proposed by TfL.

Answer from the Mayor

TfL has not yet met all of the London boroughs to discuss the individual traffic signal sites proposed as potential candidates for removal but many have been receptive to the general principle. These discussions are therefore on-going.

To date, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has undertaken a public consultation on a site on Shepherd’s Bush Road and it has agreed that the site should be removed. Other boroughs, including Brent, Ealing and Westminster, have been receptive to the concept and are looking at alternative/additional locations where signals could potentially be removed.

Signals will only be replaced with other measures on borough roads if the borough decides that is what it wants to do. Local consultation will be undertaken in all cases before a final decision is taken.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Shepherd's Bush: Gay Liberation Front launch pad

Peter Tatchell, leader of one of the most successful civil liberties campaigns in our history, talks here in quite a moving account of his early days. It comes amid the debate going on inside the Anglican church about the direction of their institutions. Mr Tatchell is usually associated with Southwark, in fact a blue plaque was unveiled in his honour just the other week marking his time there. But did you know his early days were spent in the Bush ..

On 13 October 1970, the Gay Liberation Front was founded in Britain. It was a modest beginning, with 19 people meeting in a basement in the London School of Economics. But it grew rapidly and proved to be a defining, watershed moment in British queer history. From 1970 onwards, thanks to GLF, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) mindset changed for ever, from victims to victors.

I was an activist in the GLF, aged 19 with long curly hair and living in Shepherd's Bush with my 16-year-old boyfriend, Peter Smith. I was a student. He was a budding jazz guitarist.

GLF was a glorious, enthusiastic and often chaotic mix of anarchists, hippies, leftwingers, feminists, liberals and counter-culturalists. Despite our differences, we shared a radical idealism – a dream of what the world could and should be – free from not just homophobia but the whole sex-shame culture, which oppressed straights as much as LGBTs. We were sexual liberationists and social revolutionaries, out to turn the world upside down.

Now read on

Monday, 18 October 2010

War on derelict properties!

There is a house in Devonport Road Shepherds Bush that has been derelict for some time but has just been done up. Good stuff but the reason to bring this to your attention is that for any of you that live close to one of these shells of houses, of which there seem to be a lot in the Bush, you will know that among other things they attract rats - and that is a favourite subject of mine for good reason. Looking at these before and after pics the difference is clear - and very welcome indeed.

Derelict houses don't just look terrible they bring the area down for everyone else, so Councillor Harry Phibbs - Cabinet Member for Community Engagement - is, er, engaging. He wants to know about any other such properties in the Bush that need looking at and I'm happy to help pass this on. You can contact him on his council details here directly.

When I spoke to him last week about this I raised the issue of a house in Wormholt Road W12 that is quite literally falling down, and he replied by giving me both an update and asking his officers to update him further - all of which is top notch community engagement so full marks to him for that and for sorting out the house in Devonport Road.

He might even replace Cllr Nick Botterill as my favourite local Top Tory if he carries on like this.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Outward bound

If you're reading this on Saturday morning I'll be in Hong Kong on my way to the southern Philippines for another assignment in a conflict affected country for the peacebuilding NGO I work for International Alert.

At moments like this, though I'm priviliged to do the work I do and go the places I go, I realise just how lucky we are to live in the Bush. Don't forget that next time you gripe!

As ever I'll be blogging from afar ... so if you have any stories don't forget to send them to

Friday, 15 October 2010

Shepherd's Bush prison

A prisoner has been spotted on the Green! Look closely at the window on this hut, to see two ghostly hands clasping the bars. Credit to the Red Squirrel blog for spotting this, I have to say I've never noticed. Shows what a special place we live in .. imagine what you'd see looking through the bars over that Green every night. Happy friday!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Hundreds of residents in protest meeting

Around 400 people crammed Rivercourt Methodist Church this evening to protest against the Council's plans to fundamentally alter the skyline and environment of Hammersmith. Packing the church to the rafters, they even had to open the upstairs balcony, some pretty angry residents proved they were not to messed with lightly by the Council.

Compered ably by one of the leaders of the Save our Skyline campaign, himself a criminal barrister who observed that aspects of the scheme would provide a haven for muggers “of whom I have rather a lot of contact”, one speaker after another was called to decry the loss of what they regarded as the best elements of Hammersmith. Essentially the story is thus: the Council wants a new Town Hall, saying the current one is falling down. To get it they're offering the developers a chance to build two huge new tower blocks of luxury flats which they can then sell off, complete with a bridge so the new luxury flat dwellers can walk to the river directly without the inconvenience of crossing the road.

Highlights from the evening for me were:
  • Furnival Gardens being revealed as the landing point for an enormous bridge that would link the two tower blocks of luxury flats the developers would build as part of the deal. The bridge would eat up roughly a third of the entire park. (This is the same park they said they were defending against evil Thames Water)
  • 54 homes for blind people would be demolished and the residents themselves have already been told they are going to be made homeless by the scheme – complete with a Braille map to rub in where their houses will no longer be!
  • Of these luxury flats – 320 of them in two fourteen storey blocks – only 100 parking spaces will be provided. So Hammersmith residents can look forward to some fun and games parking.
  • A large new supermarket its likely to be part of the scheme, in fact I learned that Tescos already own the freehold of the Hammersmith cinema which is due to be knocked down as part of the redevelopment, so guess which chain it would be
  • The differing perceptions of both Andy Slaughter MP, who perhaps predictably received a thunderous applause in his criticism of the project and exhortation to residents to fight on – and Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh who I think despite not being flavour of the month did deserve a lot of credit for turning up to listen and addressing the residents. He got polite applause, but credit to him for arguing his case.
We were treated throughout the evening to various visuals of the projected change to the skyline if the project goes ahead. Speakers caustically noted that the developers themselves had refused to provide visuals from street level – only from above – because that way the buildings didnt look too high or imposing. They certainly look imposing from the visuals the residents own architects have drawn up – to the point where that part of Hammersmith would essentially be unrecognisable and dominated by two blocks of luxury flats soaring into the sky. The highest buildings in Hammersmith at the moment noted one speaker are four storeys high, with the Town Hall being a lofty nine storeys.

We heard from a blind man Kevin O'Flattery who lost his sight overnight as a result of a brain tumour. He is one of the many blind residents set to lose their homes to make way for the scheme and the personal account of how that would affect him was heart rending. He feared not so much losing bricks and mortar but his independent life – and vowed to nail his door shut and be removed by force when the knock came.

One speaker, previewing the arrival of a large Tescos as part of the deal since they own the freehold to the cinema site set to be redeveloped, estimated that over 40 deliveries would be made by lorry to the store per day and that far from creating jobs it would destroy them. She gave the example of a small grocer on King Street that closed within a year of a Tescos Express having opened nearby.

She was followed by three speakers, two of whom were young girls, who emphasised the community role of the local cinema and said that to lose such a loved local institution (“I've gone to it all my life, so did my mum”) would mean they would have to trek all the way to Shepherd's Bush to see films.

Angela Dixon, a historic buildings campaigner, urged the Council to take a “Heritage led development” approach which had the starting point of “what's already good about the area” rather than what new things can we create. This had been largely absent from the Council's plans, she said.

Andy Slaughter MP followed the Brackenbury Residents Association representative who, fresh from having lost against the Council on the Goldhawk Industrial Estate planning development, offered some ideas for residents to target the “soft underbelly” of an otherwise armour plated Developer-Council axis. The MP said he'd been puzzling for a long time about what the Prime Minister meant by “Big Society” but that if anything was it it was in this room. The gallery loved it. Interspersed with applause he described the planning in this borough as a “charade” (more clapping) and said that the Council had got themselves into a predicament that they really needn't have. He said he was dealing with over 20 similar applications throughout the Borough of which this wasn't even the biggest – he urged them to fight on and they responded with more applause.

Eventually, and called from the back of the room by the chair of the evening, Council Leader Cllr Greenhalgh made his way to the front. Heckled by one particularly angry lady, he reached the front and cut a suitably chastened sight. Essentially he said he was there to listen and listen he would. He said that the comments had in some cases “hurt” - in particular the refrain that had been repeated all night that basically the developers were now running the show. He pledged an independent study into the scheme to judge whether that was fair, acknowledging that the scheme itself had grown from its original guise. He re-committed the council to “listen” and said that even if his career ended at the hands of local people he wouldn't ever want them to think he hadn't listened. Difficult gig - but he got the tone right and people respected him I think for coming along at all.

And there was the odd voice of discord even among this rally of the disgruntled - one member of the audience pointed out that the blind peoples homes were in a state of disrepair, and another more thrusting man jumped to his feet and said that the voice of business hadn't been heard. "Get on with it" he said for the sake of businesses in Hammersmith who in his view stood to gain from the plans - cue lots of shouting from the audience and defensive hand gestures from said businessman.

Coming out of the hall I was accosted by one elderly gentleman who'd also spoken at the meeting. He owns the Dove pier on Furnival Gardens which was built along with the rest of the gardens in the Great Exhibition year of 1951. He had started a petition, he said, of opeople determined never to vote Tory locally if this decision went ahead. The thing that got me about tonight was how angry people seemed to be, but how damned polite they all were! Apologising for bothering me he asked whether I wouldn't mind awfully signing his petition?

And do you know, I have a hunch about this. Just a gut feeling and I have no proof to back it up - but reading body language, tone and what's not being said as much as what is - I think Cllr Greenhalgh is wishing he'd never let this one get this far. Let's be frank, this part of our borough is traditional Tory territory - and yet here was a church full of people cheering a Labour MP to the rafters and getting up one after the other to slam the council. It's this that in my view cost Shaun Bailey his seat in Parliament, and Cllr Greenhalgh is astute enough to realise that. He won the planning battle on the Goldhawk Road against the Brackenbury Residents, but lost the political battle. I suspect the "study" he announced this evening may be a face-saving way out of his present predicament on this one at least.

Greenhalgh on H&F Cuts

Following the Dallas-style BBC piece on our very own Council yesterday there was an interview with Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and Will Hutton, the Vice Chair of the Work Foundation.

In it Cllr Greenhalgh says that no-one's salary is safe at the Council and that there are no ring-fenced budgets.In defence of the charges rising on meals on wheels he points out that it was a tax payer subsidy still and that there were only 280 people who used the service, of whom all - he seemd to say - could afford to pay the higher charges.

He gives the sell off of Council buildings as an example of where savings can be made - and that over the next couple of years our Council will be looking for £55 millions worth.

Parking permits up 20%

Parking fees will rise from £99 to £119 after a meeting of the Cabinet this thursday, as this agenda paper due to be rubber stamped makes clear.

You didn't hear about that in H&F News - whyever could that be?!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

BBC Recession special on Hammersmith & Fulham!

From today's Daily Politics show - I told you we were at the cutting Tory edge! According to the BBC we're "David Cameron's favourite Council" and that would be why he's visited us before.

It's notable that the Government is now looking at what's being done here as a precursor for policies to be rolled out nationwide. Expect much much more of the same.

Did we really used to have a municipal launderette?!

Wendell Park drugs bust!

I am taking the day off today because I'm off to another far flung conflict zone for work again at the end of the week - so where do I go but the fabulous Wendell Park play area for kids with one of my offspring. And what do I see, amidst the kids playing on the swings ... a drugs bust!
It seemed to be a bunch of teenagers smoking dope, which is hardly the stuff of The Wire but what I was struck by was just how many police seemed to be involved for a group of no more than four young lads with two pushbikes. The Police came with a sniffer dog, a meat wagon, two panda cars and about six officers!

It was all very civilised - even the teenagers just stayed sitting down and made no attempt to escape. Another day in the Bush...

M4 bus lane saves marriages

Hammersmith resident Jonathan Prynn writes in the Standard about how the soon to be culled M4 bus lane did at least do one good thing, it saved his marriage.

When I pitched up with my newly wed at Heathrow airport one sweet morning in May 2002 for our honeymoon in Marrakech, I really felt I was able to start relaxing after months of stressful build up to our wedding.

But when I flourished my passport at Terminal Two check-in everything started to go wrong. "Is that your only passport, sir?" was the unexpected response. The BA functionary was looking down bemusedly at the sweet but useless passport picture of my 18 month old toddler son. 

I was given an hour to get home to Hammersmith, grab the right passport, get back to Heathrow and get on that plane to Morocco. I hoped for sympathy and understanding but none was forthcoming. Sonia made it chillingly clear that if I missed the deadline she would be starting her honeymoon, quite happily, on her own at the gorgeous Riad we were booked into.

The cabbie I grabbed seemed delighted to be involved in such a comically cliched adventure. Why, then, I thought to myself, did his cab appear to be speed limited at 30mph. But at least we were moving. Thanks to "Prescott's folly" we were able to progress into London reasonably quickly, unlike the lines of stationary traffic on our left.

Now read on

Monday, 11 October 2010

Save historic Goldhawk Road

Our Council wants to knock down a Victorian row of shops that have stood there since the 1890s.

The line of buildings, 30-52 Goldhawk Road, which were erected when Gladstone was Prime Minister and lend the Bush the sort of character that many of its residents love, are destined to be demolished by the Council's developers as they take forward the modernisation of Shepherd's Bush Market.

Although I've supported the need to modernise the market I have to say knocking down these buildings which have been there since the 19th century in the pursuit of more cash for the developers is unforgiveable. What on earth could replace them that would be better than a real life pie & mash shop which has stood there for over 100 years?

I assume the developer wants to replace them with luxury flats of some kind, as is the usual plan with this Council, but this in my view would fundamentally be ripping a piece of the Bush out in the pursuit of profit over the protection of a precious piece of our heritage.

I've reported here, here, here and here on the historic nature of Shepherd's Bush. St Stephen's villas, the row of houses creeping up the Uxbridge Road from the Green were built in 1874. Shepherd's Bush library was built by Victorian benefactor J Passmore Edwards in the 1890s with the founding stone being laid in 1895. And even the shop fronts themselves speak of times past - speaking of which how about this shop front, which a horse and cart crashed through in 1912?!

The Council in their planning brief says that their size “ no longer appropriate for this part of the Goldhawk Road townscape”. Well they're entitled to their view but personally I think that is a load of old, well, mash. They're exactly the right size and character for this part of our road and are all the more welcome for being there as a result.

Are we really saying that future generations don't really deserve to see these windows onto our past as well, that they'd be much better served by some modern new complex instead? The developers, Orion Land & Leisure Ltd are at least more upfront about the motives behind the development, describing the land as "an area of underperformance with the potential for substantial value growth" in their submission to the Council.

The proprietors of the shops themselves have started a facebook campaign to save themselves, and I strongly urge you to join it. The Council are also running a consultation here for local residents – please for goodness sakes use it. The deadline has been extended to Monday 18th October - Please register your objections by email at: or call Jackie Simkins in the Council’s Planning department on: 0208 753 3460.

The Council will also be discussing this at a Cabinet meeting this thursday, and there are rumours of some kind of protest outside the Town Hall. I'll be there and reporting back.

Listen here (scroll to 1hour 44 mins in) to a radio piece from BBC London Drivetime about the campaign. Council Leader Greenhalgh says "we really are listening" to the concerns of local stallholders and shop owners, which in fairness is encouraging. The problem though, as Andy Slaughter MP on the same radio programme points out, is the "utterly high handed way" in which the Council has gone about it which he says will be approved at the Cabinet meeting next thursday. The problem for this Council is that even if they're being genuine about consulting this time around, their track record points completely the other way - so people just don't believe them anymore.

That this Council tends to prioritise developers desires over residents opinions residents of another part of Goldhawk Road know to their cost. However it was recently forced to back down in response to a campaign by residents of Ashchurch Grove - so this might be the start of a long fought thing to save this unique part of Shepherd's Bush.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Andy Slaughter returns to frontbenches

Our MP Andy Slaughter has just been promoted to the front benches by new Labour leader Ed Miliband to take on the role of Shadow Justice Minister.

I report this only because it marks a full circle for Andy who resigned back in January 2009 to go into the wilderness of the backbenches over his own Government's position in favour of an extra runway for Heathrow Airport. That sort of decision is never easy for an MP.

I praised him at the time because the effect of another runway would have been to radically increase the level of noise pollution in the Bush.

He campaigned against the runway from the backbenches against many in his own party, including his own predecessor as our MP Clive Soley, now a member of the House of Lords.

So well done Andy.

6,994 readers making 10,997 visits

actually it was just over 7,000 readers - I forgot my stats package works on US time! Thanks for reading

Friday, 8 October 2010

Men in leotards prance round Shepherd's Bush

I assume - nay, hope - that this is something to do with advertising at Westfield..happy friday!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Goldhawk Road Inquiry: Council supported

The Goldhawk Road development that was opposed so vociferously by residents and halted by the Government in order to be reviewed has been allowed to go ahead.

Regular readers will recall that this development, which will reshape the face of this part of the Goldhawk Road with new flats, has already resulted in the loss of around 200 local jobs with the departure of Innocent Drinks and involved a high profile local campaign headed by John Humphrys among others. The decision was pushed through at this bizarre meeting, which was like something out of Stalin's Russia.

Visited by Labour figures during the general election campaign the residents themselves used the election as a campaigning tool, and I would venture to say that the way in which they were simply dismissed by the Council was a big factor in Top Tory candidate Shaun Bailey failing to win his seat in Parliament.

His own criticism of his fellow Tories over their handling of the scheme cut no ice with the locals who otherwise may well have done so. Their campaign was entirely funded by some neat local fundraising, including local benefit concerts to pay for their barrister.

Speaking at this summit Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh commented that there were "lessons to be learned" from the debacle - as well he might given the summit was chaired by local BBC presenter John Humphrys who'se own submission against the development had been publicly dismissd as "misinformed" at the Stalin-style meeting.

Even Pravda seems to have been chastened by the affair, reporting here that the Council has been successful but without any triumphalism. I hope this is the last example of residents being steamrollered by this Council, but given their wide ranging plans to redevelop large parts of the Bush I suspect it won't be.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Super Sewer - national project, local bill

Londoners must have a say in decisions made about a new ‘super sewer’ that will impact on their local areas, especially when they are expected to pay for it, says London Councils, a rarely heard of body that represents all local authorities in the Capital.

Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, has announced that the Thames Tunnel is a project of national significance and that as such, any decisions about it are likely to be made by a national planning body instead of at a local level. So it's a project of national significance. OK, does the nation pay for it? Er, no. Just Londoners.

The new sewer will reduce the level of untreated waste overflowing from London’s sewers into the Thames. Everyone from the Mayor, the previous and current Government and every Council along the river is in favour of it ... except our own Council who ran a frankly silly campaign against it to protect Furnival Gardens. Thames Water say Furnival Gardens was never on the cards. And now the Council themselves wish to build a bridge entrance in, er, yes Furnival Gardens.

London Councils says that local authorities are much better placed than a national body to understand the impacts the tunnel will have on local communities, and should have the powers to ensure that the best interests of local areas are represented.

The Thames Tunnel will be paid for by Thames Water customers through their water bills and it is now estimated that the project will cost £3.6 billion. This is more than twice the original estimate of £1.5 billion and will have an even greater impact on water bills in London than initially anticipated.

London Councils believes that if the government wants a national body to make decisions about the tunnel because it regards it as a national project, it should fund it through general taxation instead.

Chair of London Councils Transport and Environment Committee, Councillor Catherine West said:
"In these tough financial times, it is wrong for the government to expect Londoners to foot the bill for this very expensive project and then refer the planning decision to a national commission.
"Boroughs should be left to make decisions about this huge project. They have the local knowledge and experience to make sure that people living in the capital get the maximum benefit from the tunnel, with the minimum amount of disruption."


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Gunfire at Shepherd's Bush station

Uxbridge Road is closed to trafffic and SB Market station has been closed after what police are describing as a "serious incident" without releasing any further details other than to say the gunfire took place at around 1600. No victims have been identified as yet and there really isn't a great deal else to report just now.

It's a mess traffic wise almost anywhere in the Bush at the moment.

I've put in a call to the central Met press office and will report more as and when. The only observation for the time being is that this is becoming more, and more and more common round these parts.

As ever in these circumstances, if you know anything else share it with your fellow Bushers via the comments

Roadwork fines money spinner for Council

Pravda reports this week that the Council has "slapped" £500 per day fines on utility companies constantly digging up our roads, who have "coughed up" nearly £700,000 already. Aside from the amusing use of language this has got to be good news.

Richmond Way in Shepherd's Bush is now one of the most dug-up roads in London, with Thames Water being the chief culprit. And those of us who keep losing our water supplies courtesy of the same company are not inclined to be too upset at the prospect of them being fined like this.

But I do have a question which Pravda is curiously silent about - where does this money go and what is it used for? Surely this 11 year old boy migfht have his own views about what nearly three quarters of a million pounds might buy.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Beating the RMT strike - Mark II

Our favourite football hooligan Bob Crow, member of the Communist Party and spread-leg tube seat specialist, has launched another strike by his union. Thankfully it doesn't affect me this time, here as I am in Birmingham at the Tory conference, but here are some tips for getting around from the Bush.

Hoping to carry on a long tradition of the RMT holding everyone to ransom Mr Crow is adamant that the problems arising out of private firms being taken over by TfL will not impact on his members' pay rises. He recently called for a "decent pay increase" this year. As well he might, having trousered a 12% rise himself. Now he says that any staff reductions - yes any - will be resisted to the death. Guess who pays the price? Yes, us.

His basic pay rose from £84,923 in 2008 to £94,747 at the end of last year, according to figures published by the RMT. And his overall pay package rose from £122,167 to £133,183 last year. On top of this he claimed £9,989 in expenses and £2,376 in travel costs, taking his total income to £145,548.

So what do we do to get around? The following arise from years of experience on days like these .. feel free to add or correct in the comments section for the benefit of fellow W12 strugglers!

Don't bank on getting any bus at all from the Green area, even if that's what TfL people are telling you to do. The crowds will be immense, and expect plenty of pushing and shoving.

Bushers should remember that the Overground does not get affected by Tube strikes, and is a very useful way of getting to the right part of London from where you can get a bus into whichever part of central London you need to get to, north or south.

You can also use the Thames Path - it is a beautiful if little used towpath that runs beside the river from Hammersmith Bridge (opposite side to Furnival Gdns) right into central London, via Putney and Wandsworth. It takes you past all of the bridges into the West End on the north side of the river.
During the last strike I remember reading an emotional comment from an RMT member on the excellent Going Underground blog, which said that she had not voted for strike action and had been personally very affected by the sight of people who had lost their jobs in the economic crisis carrying boxes of contents from their desks through the barriers at the tube. She apologised for the actions of Bob Crow and the other dinosaurs who led her union. Beat the strike via the Overground and help put a nail in the obnoxious clown's leadership of an otherwise fantastic workforce.

H&F in bid to be "most transparent council"

As you leave our borough, for example to drive over the Putney Bridge, you see next to the sign thanking you for visiting Hammersmith & Fulham another sign which proclaims it's award from the soon to be defunct Audit Commission as "Council of the Year".

Now H&F, continuing its tradition of being the most radical of radical Tory councils in the UK, is bidding to become offically recognised as the "most transparent" by releasing data that goes well beyond the requirements for any local authority to do. I reported here how this sometimes leads to some very dirty eashing being made public, such as significant amounts of public money being spent on private schools, but you can only give them credit for doing this. Whatever your political views surely nobody can argue with making spending decisions completely public.

So although we might disagree with a whole raft of things that they do, gold star to the Council for at least doing the right thing on this one.

Coming as the Conservative Party conference, which I'll be attending, opens you can only imagine that H&F is going to play quite a prominent role in the various debates, meetings and speeches this week - and in the months and years to come. Surely that seat in the Lords for Cllr Greenhalgh might be a fixture of the Queen's Honours List on the way..

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Flooding in Hammersmith

Well, it had to happen I guess. One of the constant themes of this blog and the local political debate has been homes getting flooded. Through the course of that often acrimonious debate over how much should be spent, where things should be built and so on I've learnt things about the local area - such as the fact that Hammersmith has more basement flats than almost anywhere else in London - and that a lot of them are directly connected to the trunk sewer that carries sewage and rainwater from almost all of NW London down to the Thames underneath us.

And one of the problems with that arrangement is that the sewer cannot cope when it rains hard. And rain it did last night. The BBC is reporting here major flooding in W6 which I imagine has spread all the way up the Askew Road because thats where the sewer pipe goes.

There will be the usual recriminations after all of this, but for the time being my heart goes out to those who in the middle of last night found their houses and flats inundated with raw sewage and rainwater in equal measure. I've met some of them at public meetings like this - and they were at the end of their collective tethers then, so I can't beging to imagine how they're feeling now.

Friday, 1 October 2010

M4 Bus Lane to be scrapped!

Dancing in the streets is expected in West London next week as Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announces the scrapping of the bus lane on the M4 into our part of the capital at the Conservative party conference next week. Well not quite, but this can't be anything other than popular for those of us who have sat on that damned road in traffic going nowhere fast as the odd coach and taxi whistle past on the right hand side.

More details to follow next week - but it will be interesting to see how Ken Livingstone, now Labour's candidate for Mayor and someone who actually claims to have brought the bus lane about (he didn't John Prescott did) reacts to this. For me it looks like a touch-paper issue for voters in 2012 when they elect their next Mayor and I think its fair to say Boris will be making the most of this in the search for west London votes.

Conservative Party Conference

Last in the series ... I'll be spending some of next week in Birmingham with the Tories at their party conference. I'm absolutely sure of getting at least a glimpse of Cllr Greenhalgh, star as he is of the radical wing of the party, and perhaps others too.

Interestingly at both the LibDem and Labour conferences I have seen former Cllr Paul Bristow, who gave up his seat in Hammersmith to pursue a seat in the North East .. but ended up with nothing.

Will report back...