Monday, 30 April 2012

Boris: "Stuff BBC's f**king b***ocks"

Well, the wheels are coming off Boris' campaign in this the last week of the election. I reported this morning on a particularly unpleasant and aggressive interview given by our own Assembly Member Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor for Policing who apparently thinks the BBC is needlessly "obsessed" with crime. Now the Mayor himself has let rip again with a foul mouthed tirade against a journalist for daring to ask about Boris' links with News International (he pursued several business projects with them while they were being investigated for phone hacking).

Watch for yourself and make up your own mind. I voted last week - and it wasn't for either of these yobs.

London Election: Look at your Assembly Member

Kit Malthouse: Aggressive and arrogant
Have a look at your own Assembly Member. Marvel at his arrogance and aggression. Watch it here and bear it in mind before you cast your vote. Kit Malthouse, your Assembly Member for West Central, appeared instead of Boris Johnson on yesterday's BBC Politics Show. Boris thought it was more important to go canvassing in SW London instead - which was proved by Londoners on Twitter giving the lie to his claims to have had a 'private engagement'.

In an aggressive and, some might say, downright rude interview he told BBC London correspondent Tim Donovan yesterday that: 
  • Boris has delayed by three years the benefits cap from the last budget that will force thousands of Londoners to leave their homes. He didn't deny that thousands of Londoners would have to leave their homes.
  • That it's not such a bad thing that the Cycle Hire scheme which is coming to the Bush is losing money and needing to be funded by the taxpayer - revealed by bloggers not journalists who bought the Boris line - the Council later admitted to me it would cost £2 million in our borough alone
  • That false statistics about a project on youth crime at Feltham Youth Offenders Institutute that Boris had been told by those working on the project were “unproven” and “unreliable” - but which he used anyway – was not such a big deal and that the BBC was “obsessed” about crime. And that's the Deputy Mayor for Policing talking. 
Breathtaking stuff.

After that Mr Donovan asked Mr Mathouse why Boris had not asked more questions about the phone hacking scandal when he was briefed by the Met. At which point Mr Malthouse lost it completely. Jabbing his finger and demanding that Mr Donovan “stop” his “smears” which were “disgraceful”. Perhaps this was because Mr Malthouse himself asked the Met to stop spending resources on the investigation. 

Lastly here's Mr Malthouse in action at the last People's Question Time in Hammersmith trying desperately to talk down the traders of Goldhawk Road who wanted to ask Boris why he's signed their death warrants so that our Council and a property developer could knock them down. Thankfully they proved that Mr Malthouse can be beaten if you persist and Boris had to respond. And you can beat Mr Malthouse too when you vote on Thursday this week.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Wormholt Park event this Sat: Walkies?!

The Friends of Wormholt Park
The Friends of Wormholt Park, who we last saw dressed in Edwardian attire and displaying photos of the Bush from times gone by in their very successful attempt to turn what was a dilapidated patch of ground into a central part of the community again, will be hosting an event called Walkies in the Park this Saturday.

As the name suggests this is about dogs. Often the scourge of parks thanks to their owners letting them crap all over them, this time the Friends are trying to combine the good side of dogs with their love of our local park. Here's what they have to say:

Come along with your dog and join in the fun that will be had at our Walkies in the Park event on Saturday 28 April. Starting at 11am, The Dogs Trust will be there with a range of exciting agility exercises for your dog, plus the police will be on hand offering FREE micro-chipping. Topping the day will be the dog competition starting at 1pm, overseen by international judge and breeder David Spencer. Registration is FREE on the day and there will be prizes for winners in the following categories:
  • Most handsome dog
  • Prettiest bitch
  • Dog most like its owner
  • Cleverest dog
  • Best in Show
Its not only for dog owners and there dogs, the day will have plenty for plant lovers too. Come and talk flowers/fruit&veg, perhaps donate some seedlings; stock up from the plant stall with some new herbs or get some advice from Hammersmith Community Gardens’ experts. 

The Friends of Wormholt Park will have its red gazebo up with refreshments available. We will also be holding our AGM starting at 11.30am. So, come and hear the review of our first year and be part of the community deciding future plans for our park. 

They have every reason to be very proud of their first year - go along and say hello.

Salon launch/Marie Curie fundraising event this Saturday

A local hairdressing salon will be launching with a difference this Saturday in the Bush, because 15% of their takings as a business will be donated to the cancer charity Marie Curie for their work caring for the terminally ill.

Marie Curie provide nurses who look after people either in hospices or their own homes and sadly I have had cause to see their work at first hand in recent years - they do a fantastic job.

The salon, which is called Young Honeys, is based on the Goldhawk Road near the Green and is all about looking after families. They believe that they have created a new concept in hairdressing that takes the strain away from children’s hairdressing and created an environment that is entertaining convenient and fun for both children and adults. So this is a tie up between a really good cause and an innovative new business idea which having personal experience of trying to take kids to the hairdresssers I can confirm is absolutely needed! It's exactly the sort of investment this area needs and looks like a really special addition to the local community.

A family hair salon specialising in children’s haircare and cuts, a one stop shop for the entire family where everyone will be excited to visit. The Young Honeys founders themselves came up with the idea based on personal experience - having children they say they know how hard it is to find somebody who is patient with children and able to put them at ease because not all children enjoy getting their hair done. Young Honeys offer full adult hairdressing services in the salon, whilst children get their hair done parents can also get their hair done, sit back or relax and have a treatment done in our beauty room carried out by an in house beauty therapist. More details here.

To launch the new salon on Saturday 28th April 2012 they are hosting a charity event in the salon and would like you to come. Skin care regimes, hair styles, beauty treatment demonstrations, nail art, threading and products will be hugely discounted on the day.

Clients on the day will be asked to make a contribution for the mini treatments.

Cupcakes, natural juices, nibbles and face painting will be sold as well on the day together with complimentary wine and a grand raffle at the end hosted by a local well known recording artist Princess Nyah who shot to fame, I am told, with her funky house track "Frontline".

Princess Nyah is also a local business woman with her main office in Shepherds Bush so she is supporting a fellow business.

The salon have been given vouchers from Nandos in shepherds bush to be raffled in aid of the charity and vouchers and samples from other local businesses in the area.This event is this Saturday 28th April 2012 between 1pm and 7pm For more information please contact them on or call Kay on 07535705095

The very best of luck to them. Get yerself down to have a look this Saturday.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

W12 Manhunt: Catch this animal

A headline worthy of a tabloid at full throttle perhaps, but actually in this case entirely appropriate. Watch the video above. You will see a man enter the lift in Bush Court, the block of flats that dominate the south side of the Green next to the W12 shopping centre, and urinate all over it. The time is shortly after 1.15am on Wednesday February 22.

He's talking to his mate, and takes care to make sure he sprays most of the part of the lift you have to walk into. Later a woman goes to use the lift, takes one look and walks off again. If it was later that morning and she'd had kids, a buggy, or had been elderly and unable to use the stairs she'd have had no choice. And that's exactly what did confront people later on. 

This falls into the category of petty crime - but to the people who have to put up with it it's anything but. It's behaviour that falls below even most animals, who don't tend to piss in areas they then have to live in. And the chances are this guy probably does live in Bush Court himself, or at least visits it regularly. 

He's been busted by our Council's ever increasing determination to use publicity as a means of both catching and deterring scumbags like this man. The Council themselves have now installed a state-of-the-art CCTV surveillance system which is linked in to numerous estates across the borough.

All images are relayed back to the council's main CCTV control room at Hammersmith Town Hall where trained operatives scour the footage looking for incidents of crime and antisocial behaviour.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing said:
“I find this act truly appalling. The sooner this despicable individual is caught the better. This lift is used every day by decent, law abiding people, including women and children and we will not tolerate louts like this who refuse to live by the rules of a civilised society. 
“This council spends more than £200,000 a year on clearing up after wanton acts of mindless vandalism and unfortunately, at the end of the day we have no choice but to pass some of that cost onto tenants and leaseholders in the form of rent of service charges. 
“The message to hooligans like this is even when you think that there is no-one around, we are watching you. Nothing would make me happier than if a reader of this article is able to shop this nasty piece of work.”
I am more than happy to help and think the Council deserve real credit for using technology like this - I know that many of you live in Bush Court because I've had contact with some of you about upkeep issues there in the last couple of years. Send this to your neighbours. And if you, they, or anyone else has any information about this individual please call the council’s Bush Court housing officer on 020 8753 6886. You can contact the council anonymously if you wish or feel free to anonymously leave a comment.

West Ken: Fire safety risk exposed

Fairburn House, West Kensington
The West Kensington Estate is a fire risk. That's according to the Fire Brigade, who served this notice on H&F Council last year demanding five separate improvements, and now according to residents themselves. They were unaware of the Enforcement Notice which had been served on the Council, which they want to evict as a "rogue landlord" under new Big Society legislation, so went to check the buildings out themselves.

And found a further 62 failings. They have now written to the Borough Commander of Hammersmith & Fulham Fire Brigade, Steve Lumb, asking him to "..use your influence to persuade Hammersmith & Fulham Council to remedy these defects as quickly as possible."

The residents found 11 broken or missing door closers, 27 missing stair floor signs and 24 missing lift floor signs. The Fire Brigade themselves found that our Council had failed on multiple levels, including "Failure in the effective management of the preventive and protective measures", "Failure to provide and/or maintain adequate and clearly indicated emergency routes and exits that lead to a place of safety" and "Failure to ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices are maintained in an efficient state, in effective working order and in good repair". Serious stuff.

The residents have also asked Mr Lumb to advise on whether prosecutions may be appropriate in this case given the record of fire safety when it comes to tower block housing in London. That is a reference to fires like this one which claimed the lives of six people in Lambeth in 2009. 

Charlie Treloggan, former Mayor of H&F, a resident of Fairburn House and Board Member of West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes, told me yesterday: 
"Residents feel the Council has been running down the West Ken blocks to demoralise us as part of its plan to sell off the estates to a developer for demolition. The Council should stop dragging its feet and complete all the fire safety works much more quickly. People's safety is at stake." 
Clearly this latest development, worrying as it is, can't be seen outside the context of the ongoing battle between the Council and its residents over the future of the estate. The fate of the estate in reality is likely to be decided on May 3rd - a Ken win will likely result in the estate being saved, but a Boris re-election will most certainly result in the redevelopment going ahead. We've seen how this Mayor works with our Council

But in the meantime fire safety is far, far too serious an issue for there to be any doubt whatsoever about the standards of the properties. I humbly suggest our Council pulls its finger out, pronto.

FRIDAY UPDATE - The council have been in touch about this with a strong response. Here's what a spokesperson told me this morning:
“The safety of our residents is this council’s primary concern and we work hand-in-hand with the Fire Brigade to ensure that all our blocks comply with the very strictest of safety standards.

"The council has now carried out a whole raft of fire safety improvements from the first floor to the tenth floor at Fairburn House and Churchward House on the West Kensington estate. Further improvements to the ground floors of both blocks are planned, and will be completed as a matter of urgency.

“During the last year, we have become one of the only local authorities in London to have carried out fire risk assessments to all of our blocks. A programme to address items identified has been produced and £1.7million set aside in this year's budget to finance the work.”

3rd MAY UPDATE -  The local press have only just caught up with this story here - you know where you read it first folks

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Busted: Secret document on King Street redevelopment

click on the image for full size
Secret documents leaked to Andy Slaughter MP reveal that our Council will re-submit plans to re-develop King Street to a re-elected Boris Johnson with a version of the plans that pitted residents of W6 against the council and led to the formation of the Save our Skyline campaign. The Mayor shelved the scheme ahead of the People's Question Time event at which I asked him about the scheme, to which he re-iterated that he'd sent the council packing.

Well, in politics as we saw dramatically yesterday at the Leveson Inquiry, all is not as it seems on the surface. The document which was prepared for the Cabinet - the most powerful group of councillors running the authority - is stamped "not for publication" in bold letters. They do not want you to know about this. In fact if you look at the first page, which is the second image below, you will see that they are even "exempted" from Freedom of Information requests. That is the level of secrecy this Council prefers to do business with, which is presumably why they have neutered the Council's planning committee - banning opposition councillors from being able to see documents.

In it the document, from a meeting which took place on March 28th,  makes clear that the plans will be re-submitted after the Mayoral election either with slight ammendments to the height of the buildings or simply as they were before. Boris won't be seeking re-election next time and will therefore have no qualms, presumably, about riding roughshod over the people of Hammersmith just as this Council appears more than happy to do in every part of the borough apart from Fulham. It is marked as a "Leader of the Council" item - revealing that Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh remains in charge of pushing this scheme through, and is very much up to his old tricks in doing so. This is the same Council Leader who stood before hundreds of people at this meeting about the scheme and pledged to "listen" to them.

And this is of course the same Mayor of London who feigned ignorance about the plight of the traders of the Goldhawk Road when we now know he'd signed the papers authorising their demolition only weeks before.

And the same Mayor of London who pledged at the People's Question Time to stand up for the people of Carnwath Road when he'd actually acted to approve the scheme which would authorise Thames Water to build a sewer entrance there.

Andy Slaughter has this to say:

"This disastrous scheme was stitched up between the developer, the Council and Boris Johnson four years ago. Only the fantastic campaign fought by Save our Skyline has delayed it and led to it being postponed until after the election. Clearly, if Ken Livingstone wins the scheme is doomed as it contains no affordable homes. But it is shocking to see the Council preparing to rubber stamp the hated development if Boris Johnson gets back".

"This explains why the scheme was merely withdrawn by the Council pending the election. Realising how many votes it could cost Boris they are holding it back. We smelt a rat at the time – if Boris really opposed it why did he not turn it down as he has power to do. This looks like a squalid deal to try and win popularity and then approve the scheme once the election is over."

So there we have it - Vote Boris - Get King Street redevelopment back again. And all the secrecy and behind-the-scenes shenanigans that seems to go hand in hand with this Mayor and our Council.

Residents very much not first.

1030 UPDATE - the local press have caught up with this story here. Do keep up...

1130 UPDATE - The Council have been in touch to respond to the story and have explained that from their point of view legally the council can only submit the planning application as approved by planning Application committee, or not (as was decided in Dec 11). The other options are the council asking the development partners to consider alternative options.

A spokesman told me:
"The council is aware of the Mayor of London's concerns regarding the height of the proposed buildings, concerns which are shared by some local residents and amenity groups, and the planning application was withdrawn from the Mayor's consideration in December 2011 as a result. Since then King Street Developments (Grainger/Helical Bar) has been reviewing all of their options whilst still waiting for news of the Mayor’s independent review into the current viability of the scheme. No decision has been taken on the way forward while that piece of work remains outstanding and the GLA have recently been requested to speed up their review."
Meanwhile the Leader of the Opposition on the Council, Cllr Stephen Cowan, has also weighed in. He says this:
"I think residents will be thoroughly disheartened to see this. Most people believed that a secret deal of some type had been hatched between Boris Johnson and his friends in H&F's Conservative Administration but it's still shocking to seeing it there in black and white. This is a serious blow to Boris Johnson's integrity and I think this type of shenanigans bring politics and the Mayor's office into disrepute. The evidence is now clear, re-elect Boris Johnson and get the Town Hall scheme back. 

"Boris Johnson and H&F Conservatives should now release all the minutes and records of the secret conversations they had about the Hammersmith Town Hall office scheme and how that influenced his decision to allow this controversial application to remain "live" rather to stopping it or backing it - as is the norm."

H&F Council revealed as "fat cats" by TPA

The Tax Payers Alliance, a Conservative supporting campaign group, has pointed the finger squarely at our own Council for being among the worst offenders in the UK for paying vast public sector salaries to their officials at the Town Hall.

The revelations will be highly embarassing for H&F, which likes to position itself as among the vanguard of Cameron's new vision for streamlined and responsive local government. Not what the tax payers alliance seems to have found. Key findings of the report are that:

  • Geoff Alltimes, the Chief Executive who retired last year, topped the National table with a salary of £281,666. This was in addition to the retirement payment of around a third of a million pounds he received.
  • Derek Myers, Hammersmith and Fulham’s new Chief Executive, was third (out of 326 nationwide) in the table with £268,475. 
  • 5 Senior Executives received salaries of around £200,000: 
  • Jane West, Director of Finance - £206,133 
  • Nigel Pallace, Director of Environment – £195,865 
  • James Reilly, Director of Community Services - £180,777
  • Andrew Christie, Director of Children’s Services - £198,367 
  • Frank Hansen, Assistant Director - £182,400 
  • 22 Officers received salaries of more than £100,000, but the council keeps most of their names and what they do secret – they are simply listed as “unknown title”. This from a council that describes itself as among “Britain’s most transparent councils”. 

Andy Slaughter MP has unsurprisingly been quick to respond to the report, he said this:
"This report is welcome and most revealing. When taken in tandem with revelations about the Council’s use of consultants – notably Nick Johnson, to whom it paid £170,000, free of tax and VAT, in this period, without being able to show me a proper job description or contract – it is a shocking expose of this council is prepared to throw money at directors and senior executives, while cutting services for the most vulnerable people in the borough".
Those cuts look like this - real people living real lives. Thankfully as we saw yesterday there are some projects which are now springing up which try to deal with the impact of the recession and reduced services in the local area, but residents have every right to ask questions about the size of some of these salaries.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
"Taxpayers will be astonished that so many council employees are still getting such a generous deal while everyone else in the public sector is facing a pay freeze. As millions of voters across the country prepare for local council elections, it is vital that they can make an informed choice about which local authorities are delivering value for money. The Town Hall Rich List shows that while councils insist cuts can only mean pressure on frontline services, some clearly have cash in the bank when it comes to paying their own senior staff. These council executives must ensure they have the moral authority to lead necessary spending cuts, in many cases that will mean taking a pay cut themselves. Households have seen their Council Tax bills double over the last decade and deserve better value.” 
H&F will argue that their merger of many services with Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Councils have both saved salaries of officials running the same services and therefore resulted in bigger jobs for those who have stayed - and there is a logic to that. It should also be said that they have reduced the council tax level for residents in consecutive years - and are understandably keen to highlight that. But they will not appreciate the scale of their largesse with our cash being on full public display.

1200 UPDATE - The Council has been in touch about this and they are not happy bunnies. An official described the figures as 'very very old', pointing out that Geoff Alltimes no longer works at H&F and that they are saving approximately £200k by sharing a Chief Exec with two other councils, among other things. 

A spokesperson told me:
"This council's pursuit of value for money is relentless which is one of the reasons we decided to share a chief executive with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea - saving taxpayers £200,000 a year. In addition to this saving Tri-borough working means we have been able to slash the number of senior and middle management posts by 50% - dramatically reducing the overheads incurred in delivering front line services. This has help us cut council tax by 3.75% this year - the biggest amount in the country - and the 5th cut in 6 years. This is what residents care about."

Recycling fire on Scrubs Lane

east acton yesterday
A huge column of black smoke was belching upwards for much of yesterday afternoon, with many of us seeing it on the way back from the tube. It dominated the skyline over Wormwood Scrubs and was in fact a metal recycling yard on Scrubs Lane just to the back of the scrubs. 

The London Fire Brigade confirmed that eight engines and 40 firefighters from across London were attending the scene, such was the scale of the blaze which involved much of the 3,000 tons of scrap metal there. 

Station Manager Pushminder Vagarwal who was at the scene said: 

“Our fire crews are working really hard to get this fire under control but it’s likely that we’ll be here for some time. There is a lot of smoke from the fire and we would advise any residents living nearby to keep their doors and windows closed.”

H&F Council put out an emergency email to residents confirming the blaze but said that there was no cause for concern from the smoke. In other words it was no more toxic than smoke in general.

The Brigade was called at 1448 and firefighters were at the scene throughout the evening. Fire crews from New Malden, Willesden, Park Royal, Chelsea, Hammersmith, Paddington and Bethnal Green fire stations are tackling the blaze. The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Feature: W12 pop up shop for vulnerable

We are, most of us, only one pay cheque away from a crisis. How would you pay the rent, or the mortgage, if you lost your job tomorrow? Recessions create personal tragedies every day, most of whom we never hear about. House repossessions, homelessness and the mental health issues that come with all of that will rise over the coming years. Behind each closed shop front is a personal story that affects many. Those are the very sad facts that none of us can now do much about.

Which is why a pop up shop opening its doors in the W12 Centre, which offers a hope of self-betterment and a route back into mainstream life is such good news.

Petit Miracle Interiors is a registered charity that was founded in 2008. They are providers of accredited interior design training, DIY workshops and upcycling courses to people who have experienced homelessness, the long term unemployed and vulnerable women. One of their students is interviewed in the video above.

They describe their aim as encouraging participants to explore and understand the process of interior design, develop their own DIY skills and use upcycling as a vehicle to improve their living environment, to build confidence, to reduce social exclusion and provide opportunities for further training and employment.

Long term they try to reduce homelessness by providing Interior Design consultation to newly housed people; successful students who have completed their training with PMI will offer Interior Design consultation to people who have recently moved off of the street and into a new home. This approach provides a work experience opportunity for students and a stronghold to improve the likelihood of a sustained tenancy for newly housed people.

So when you're next down that way, pop in and say hi.Their website is here and a facebook page can be found here. Their founder, Elisicia Moore, explains a bit more about the service in the short film below. Best of luck to them, they're a very welcome addition to the Bush.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Hammersmith blinding: man arrested

A man has been arrested and is in questioning over the mugging attack that left British diplomat George Fergusson blind in one eye, according to the BBC. Mr Fergusson was walking through Margravine Cemetery in Hammersmith when he was attacked at 1930 on Friday evening.

The speed of this arrest seems to indicate to me that the police had a reasonable idea of who might be behind the attack, or at least who the likely candidates were, based on their intelligence of the area. Let's hope this guy turns out to be the guilty party.

TUESDAY UPDATE - The man has been bailed, with the Police releasing the below statement to the press this morning:

"The 29-year-old was arrested on suspicion of robbery and was taken to a west London police station. He has now been bailed to return on 7 June pending further inquiries.

"Police stress that they continue to appeal for witnesses and information on the incident."

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Lord Jack Ashley: Memories

Jack Ashley has died at the age of 89. Not the most well known of parliamentarians these days but in his own day he was a real inspiration and, frankly, a reminder of the lack of quality we seem to have in too many of today’s politicians.

I worked with him when I was Head of Campaigns for the deafness charity RNID until 2006. He himself had gone profoundly deaf shortly after being elected as MP for Stoke in the mid 1960s, the result of an ear operation that went wrong. Being disabled nowadays is difficult enough but attitudes back then were truly stone aged, and the widespread assumption was that Jack would have to stand down, presumably to retire somewhere not to be seen much again.

But nobody told Jack about that script and he certainly wasn’t going to accept it if they did. He carried on in Parliament and became a strong campaigner on disabled people’s issues but also on a wide range of others too, such as bullying in the armed forces. He once told me that part of the problem of being deaf and making a speech in parliament was that you not only couldn’t hear other people, but you also couldn’t hear yourself – and that meant you might actually be shouting when you thought you weren’t. So Tory MPs on the other side, while presumably disagreeing with what he might be saying, used to help by giving hand signals to tell him when to raise or when to lower his voice – a bit like a plane coming in to land!

During his time he helped deafness charities and campaigners achieve very significant victories that have literally transformed lives, usually with what seem to be quite minor changes. He forced the last Government to do more on subtitling provision and worked with me when I later moved to the National Deaf Children’s Society to reverse a change that the Government wanted to bring in which would have disadvantaged deaf children taking crucial GCSE exams. His style used to be to sit back, nod politely and offer the offending Minister or senior civil servant a nice cup of tea – before adjusting his cardigan and telling them in a quiet but firm voice, a bit like a teacher patiently explaining to a not-very-clever pupil struggling to understand something, why they were completely and utterly wrong, and really ought to be quite ashamed of themselves, you know. There was no real answer to that, and I saw powerful people responding almost apologetically. And on some occasions changing course. 

I last met him in a corridor in the House of Lords in 2008. He was at that time 85 years of age, and frail. He was carrying a thick sheaf of papers about some piece of legislation that he wanted to change, but wanted to have a chat – commanding the security guards to fetch us some chairs. The police who guard parliament are usually ex armed forces and are quite strict. But for Jack they did as they were told. He didn’t just want to change the legislation but he was angry about it – and intended to tell the Minister so later that afternoon.

That was the sort of energy he brought to everything, and through it he made the world a better place for many people who will never know his name. That wouldn’t have mattered to Jack. But it matters to me.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Sex assault suspect arrested at Bush Overground

A man was arrested this morning on suspicion of sexual assault at Shepherd's Bush Overground Station, which would explain the heavy presence many of us saw there today on the way to work. No further details at the moment but I am in touch with British Transport Police.

The man remains in custody.

Sadly this is just the latest serious incident to hit the station.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

West Ken Estate consultation: majority reject demolition

Earl's Court Statutory and Wider Consultation

68% of people on the West Ken & Gibbs Green Estate responding to a Council consultation have rejected the Council's plans for redevelopment of the estate in the Council's own consultation. The damning figure was revealed in the above Council paper due to be considered by the Cabinet on April 23rd and reflects what they have been saying for years now - it's just that the Council doesn't want to listen.

The Council sent out 30,000 consultation packs to residents living in a wide area around the estate as well as to those on the estate set to lose their homes - 760 families. Presumably in the hope that the wider number would reduce the rejection they were expecting from the 760 directly affected - but embarrassingly only 2% of the 29,240 households in the surrounding area have indicated that they are in favour of redevelopment. This is despite the fact that they all also received a glossy promotional pack from the Council with their forms extolling the benefits of the scheme.

Some other details that arise out of this document are also worth mentioning. They are
  • it will be at least 10 years before properties are re-provided for all existing residents 
  • residents may lose gardens, parking spaces and bedrooms 
  • freeholders will have to pay service charges for the first time. Leaseholders will pay unrestricted service charges after five years 
  • the Council will use compulsory purchase orders if necessary to give vacant possession of the land to CapCo and pay damages of up to £10million if it fails so to do 
  • the Council is committed to spending an additional 120k on persuading residents to move, including 60k on a ‘communications’ officer, and over £1m on professional advice 
  • the total benefit to the Council will be nearer £300m than £100m, when cost of re-housing residents is included 
  • In order to fund buying out freeholders and leaseholders, the Council could borrow from Capco but this is expensive. Therefore it will use money otherwise available for housing elsewhere in the borough. This includes both borrowing and the receipts from the sale of 300 council properties across the borough
The Council’s Cabinet is being asked to recommend that officers continue to analyse the consultation results and to conclude final discussions on the document so that Cabinet is able to make a final decision in the coming months. The spin the Council are putting on these figures is that opinion is "divided".

Outgoing Council leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh said on Monday: 
"We are making good progress in considering future options. We want to be as open and transparent as possible on where we are in our thinking which is why we are taking the step of making all consultation responses available for inspection. 
“We recognise that while some people on the estates are clearly in favour, many more have concerns. Yet it is clear that the majority of people living on the estates have yet to tell us either way or simply do not know. We will continue to talk to all residents in explaining how the CLSA will affect them should be it be agreed."
1400 UPDATE - Andy Slaughter MP has responded to this article with some strong words. Here's what he has to say:
"For over four years the Council has refused residents’ calls for a ballot to decide whether their homes should be demolished. But 80% signed the original petition opposing demolition and two thirds joined West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes, the body that wishes to take ownership of the estates from the Council. Now almost 70% of residents have responded to the Council’s own consultation and ‘voted’ by a majority of four to one to save their communities from the Tories and their developer pals. 

For the Council leader – who will be out of a job in two weeks – to say that the majority of estate residents have not expressed a view is just untrue. The Council has spent millions in tax and rentpayers’ money promoting their gerrymandering scheme but has failed to persuade, cajole or mislead more than a small minority into supporting the destruction of some of the best affordable homes in London.

This must stop now. The voice of the community in West Ken must be heard. The interests of property developers and other Tory Party donors cannot take precedence over those of Hammersmith & Fulham residents"

    Tuesday, 17 April 2012

    H&F Right to Buy roadshow: noone left behind?

    Council housing tenants have been invited to a housing roadshow taking place this weekend to look at the possibility of their receiving extended help to buy their own homes. Residents may be eligible for a £75,000 discount on the price of their homes with the aim of bringing home ownership within reach of those for whom it would otherwise be unavailable.

    This is a flagship policy for our Council, and of course marked a central theme of the Thatcher Government back in the 80s, and it poses problems for the Labour Party in opposition here. If they oppose it they will be accused, with some justification, of being against helping people to realise their ambitions of getting on to the property ladder. If they don't oppose it they will be attacked from their own ranks by people who regard this policy as a means of further diminishing the supply of rented social housing for those on low incomes. 

    But those people might like to consider what happens to people who are trapped in a situation where they can't afford either to move out of their parents homes, or ever realise their own ambitions to get on. This was a very thoughtful analysis of a scheme in Shepherd's Bush last year that highlights the problem but also some of the solutions. 

    It comes against the backdrop of several large scale housing developments approved by our Council which are characterised by luxury flats and definitely not social rented housing for those on low incomes. Back in July 2010 Inside Housing magazine portrayed what this meant for local people in Hammersmith

    The first roadshow is this Saturday April 21, from 10am to 3pm, at H&F Advice, 145 King Street, W6 9XY.
    Here, the Council's dedicated Home Buy team will calculate the discount that residents may be eligible for and answer questions about the process of buying their own home.

    The roadshow will then visit the following locations:
    • Hammersmith Town Hall, Saturday May 5, 10am - 2pm, Small Hall, King Street, W6 9JU
    • White City Community Centre, Saturday May 19, 10am - 2pm, India Way, W12 7QT
    Cllr Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing, said:

    “The extended Right to Buy discount is truly fantastic news for anyone who has ever dreamt of purchasing their own home but never thought that it would be financially possible.

    “There is absolutely no doubt that owning your own home gives you asense of pride and a sense of empowerment. However, for too long homeownership has been nothing but a pipedream for most of our tenants.

    “Hammersmith & Fulham is a borough of housing opportunity with homeownership as its core. I would like to urge council tenants to visit the Right to Buy roadshow so that they can find out all the details and make an educated decision about whether the Right to Buy is the best thing for them."

    Philip Gould, one of Tony Blair's closest political advisers, once wrote a book called the Unfinished Revolution, which became something of a bible for New Labourites in the late 1990s. In it he described how the Labour Party in the 80s had lost sight of the fact that most working class people actually aspired to be socially mobile and achieve more for themselves and their kids. Getting on the housing ladder is part of that, which is why it has always proved to be a very popular policy. Blair understood that, Brown didn't. 

    So good luck to H&F residents who take advantage of this scheme - it's a good thing, and well done to the Council for pioneering it. But there will still be large numbers of people that this scheme does not reach, or who it is not right for - for example one of the conditions is that you must have lived at the same address for five years. So let's see a bit more detail about how the Council now plans to catch up on an area it has fallen behind on - the creation of more rented social housing for those that are increasingly priced out of our borough. The row over the numbers of social housing being created in the White City redevelopment sums this up. The Council tell me 40% of the homes will be social - but Labour point out that these will be existing units with people relocated, not new homes. 

    And if you need help understanding why that's important - try talking to the next nurse who treats you in hospital, the young police constable answering your call or the new teacher who's just started at your kids school. They'll gladly explain.  

    Monday, 16 April 2012

    Hammersmith flyover closed nights & weekends

    Hammersmith is set to be jammed again due to new works being completed to strengthen cables on the flyover, it has been announced. Transport for London (TfL) will begin installing the new tensioning cables inside the Hammersmith Flyover this week, as part of its ongoing work to fully reopen the structure to all traffic.

    The works, which began in January, have seen around 200m of the central reservation along the flyover removed, a new structural slab and concrete barriers installed, as well as tailored anchorages for the new cables installed within the structure. 

    In order to install the new cables, the flyover will need to be fully closed overnight to ensure that there are no adverse forces applied to the structure while the cables are being tensioned.

    These closures will be carried out overnight (22:00 - 06:00) for six weekday nights from Wednesday 18 April, when traffic levels are significantly lower and should not therefore result in additional traffic congestion.

    There will also be two full weekend closures of the flyover to allow TfL to complete the installation of the tensioning cables, as well as begin work to waterproof and resurface the carriageway.

    These will take place at the following times:
    • Friday 20 April (22:00) to Monday 23 April (06:00)
    • Friday 27 April (22:00) to Monday 30 April (06:00)
    During this time, traffic will be diverted around the Hammersmith gyratory system with predictable results. TfL are advising people to consider alternative routes or using London Underground and National Rail services to complete their journey if possible. Given the likely impact of all of this on our air pollution they might also advise people to stay indoors. 

    Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport at TfL said: "We are now approaching a critical phase in our race to reopen the Hammersmith Flyover as quickly as possible. This will require a number of overnight and weekend closures to ensure that the works are carried out safely and correctly.
    "I would once again like to apologise for any inconvenience that this work is causing and reassure Londoners that we are continuing to work around the clock to complete these vital works as quickly as possible."

    Tuesday, 10 April 2012

    Boris busted: Documents prove deception on Thames Tunnel

    Mayor Support

    Caught out again. As the Mayoral election looms closer new documents have emerged which demonstrate the Mayor gave his full backing to Thames Water’s plans to build the entrance to the so-called “Super Sewer” in Carnwath Road, Fulham as opposed to Barn Elms over the water in Wandsworth.

    This was just weeks before the Mayor’s appearance in Hammersmith at a “People’s Question Time” event that was marked by loud jeering and heckling which a GLA official who has attended every one of those events over the last four years told me was the most volatile and noisy he’d ever seen.

    I revealed here how Boris misled the public at that event by feigning ignorance over the Shepherd’s Bush Market scheme when in fact he’d personally signed papers approving that scheme in its entirety. Now it seems that the Mayor, who faced loud and heartfelt pleas from residents in Fulham set to be affected by the sewer scheme, was in fact lying when he told those residents that he would not allow their communities to be destroyed. He said, at the event on March 7th:

    "I am against any disruption for Londoners, particularly on Carnwath Road…on Carnwath Road, I will not tolerate anything that disrupts and destroys the lives of London communities…I will defend your interests and the rights of your community to be protected from disruption, with all the vehemence that I used to defend Barn Elms". 

    Yet Andy Slaughter MP has gained access to the Mayor’s official response to Thames Water’s consultation, which was due to be kept confidential until after the Mayoral elections in May. This tells a very different story. Here the Mayor says this: (my emphasis)

    "The switch to Carnwath Road from Barn Elms for main tunnelling purposes is supported as this relocates major tunnelling activities from a Greenfield to a partially derelict Brownfield site which benefits from good navigational characteristics and better access to the Strategic Road Network".

    You can look at the document for yourself at the top of this article.

    Thus, the Mayor backed his Wandsworth Conservative allies over those in Hammersmith & Fulham, as well he might. There are more potential voters in that area than there are on our side of the river. But what’s this? After the People’s Question Time event the Mayor quickly despatched another letter to Thames Water, which says this:

    "Carnwath Road. This site is also close to people’s homes and again you have proposed to cover the main construction works with a warehouse building. I do not think you have proposed enough use of water transport given the busy urban nature of this area and this is another case where you must look harder for alternatives". 

    But this letter, dated 27th March, was a) drafted after Andy Slaughter’s Freedom of Information request to get access to the documents and b) falls six weeks outside the official consultation period. I don't think you need me to explain what might be going on there. You can read that letter below.

    So it seems that for Hammersmith & Fulham at least, on Shepherd’s Bush Market and now on Carnworth Road Fulham, this Mayor is prepared to back property developers and the ‘super sewer’ over the wishes of local residents while publically trying to pose as being on their side.

    Sadly for him these documents show in brutal black and white what some have suspected for a long time. It’s all just been for show.

    Mayor Support 2

    Friday, 6 April 2012

    Smoking Gun: Boris letter on Bush Market

    Boris Johnson has told lies about the Shepherd's Bush Market scheme. A strong statement but the below document proves it in black and white. The Mayor of London said, in this letter on February 29th 2012, that he was "..content to allow Hammersmith & Fulham Council to determine the case itself". He did not want anything to more to do with it.

    Yet just a week later on 8th March 2012 the Mayor feigned ignorance at his People's Question Time in Hammersmith (watch above) when confronted by the shop keepers who are set to lose their properties under the scheme. The Council points out that they will be re-homed. But conveniently doesn't add that this means the loss not only of the Victorian buildings but also of their status as freeholders - they will forcibly become rent-paying tenants of Orion the property developers.

    Speaking to local media just one day later the Mayor said that he would act to "protect" the shop-owners of the Goldhawk Road and would look into the matter. As he said those words we now know that he himself knew he had already signed the papers allowing the scheme to go ahead in its entirety.

    And only yesterday, after Labour candidate Ken Livingstone suggested to me there may be criminal investigations into the relationship between our Council and property developers, which prompted an equally robust response on this blog by Cllr Harry Phibbs, the centrality of the fate of our Market to votes in the Bush was underlined once again. 

    Here's the damning evidence, which the Council will of course thank me for publishing in the interests of transparency: (press first button on left 'view in fullscreen' to see it properly)

    12 APRIL UPDATE - Well, after tweeting constantly for the past few days since this post appeared the Chronicle finally got what it said was going to be a definitive statement from Boris on this story. Anticlimax is the best way of describing it - he said nothing new:
    "Boris has worked hard to protect the traders at Shepherd’s Bush Market, ensuring the market will stay open during all phases of construction.
    "He successfully negotiated with the developer and the council, securing a three year rent freeze for traders, as well as the creation of a £500,000 disturbance fund for the traders to cover loss of trade and relocation expenses during construction.
    "And he will continue monitoring the situation to make sure the traders at Shepard’s (sic) Bush Market are protected."
    The Chronicle present this as being an answer from Boris - but the eagle eyed among you will notice he is talking about the "traders" - and specifically not the shop owners of the Goldhawk Road that this article is actually about. So here we have a local newspaper whose journalists seem to admire Boris Johnson, only ditching pics of themselves with him on their official twitter feeds after being criticised here, presenting an "answer" from the great man that, well, isn't.

    For an actual local perspective let's turn to the owners of Cooke's Pie & Mash who had this to report this evening:

    But you probably won't read about that in the local press.

    Boris Letter

    Thursday, 5 April 2012

    Right of reply: Harry Phibbs on Ken's attack

    Ken's visit earlier today saw a series of very serious charges leveled at our Council, principally about their relationships with property developers. I reported what had been said but contacted our Council to offer them a right of reply, which has come in the form of a comment piece from Cllr Harry Phibbs, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement. 

    Here's what Harry had to say about Ken's comments

    Cllr Harry Phibbs
    Naturally as one of the local councillors I am touched that Ken Livingstone has come to visit Ravenscourt Park Ward. But I wish he had got out and about a bit rather than just going to a closed meeting with a dozen people several of whom seemed to be his fellow Labour politicians. 

    He could have talked to local parents who are delighted to have the chance to send their children to the West London Free School which was opened by Boris Johnson last year. 

    He could have talked to motorists who are relieved that the West London Extension of the Congestion Charge has been scrapped by Boris. 

    Or he could have visited Standish House where on Monday morning Tarek Tuzani and his partner Laura Stevens became the first council tenants in the country to apply for the right to buy under the new £75,000 discount. He could have explained to them his strange ideological hostility to home ownership ( except for himself.) 

    Then perhaps he could have seen some of the new street trees that have been planted with funding from Boris. Then going along King Street he could have made his way to the Irish Centre which in a celebration of the Big Society is now community rather than council owned. 

    Or then gone on to the Shepherds Bush Village Hall in Bulwer Street now owned by a charitable foundation. 

    In both cases the noisy scaremongering from the Labour Party as to the consequences of these building being sold by the council has been proved entirely false. After he had finished denouncing cosy links with property developers he could explain why when residents objected to a ten storey tower block on the Allied Carpets site just north of Ravenscourt Park, he tried, unsuccessfully, to push it through. 

    Perhaps he could have gone on to knock on some doors in the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates where he would find considerable support for redevelopment and the opportunity for better housing that it could bring. If that is to much trouble he could have read about it in this morning's Guardian.  

    So far as air quality is concerned this is a problem for London as a whole and not just Shepherds Bush. We do monitor air quality at Shepherds Bush Green and we want to reduce pollution. That is why we are determined to reduce traffic congestion and are bringing Boris Bikes to the borough. We also encourage residents to use car clubs. There are electric charging points for cars around the borough - eg 30 at Westfield. City Hall produced 1,813 tons of carbon a year. Under Boris it is down to 1,606. If the Shepherds Bush Market redevelopment takes place I'm assured that that all businesses based at 30 to 52 Goldhawk Road have been offered the opportunity to return to the new Goldhawk Road shop units by Orion.

    Cllr Harry Phibbs

    Livingstone: Stench of corruption over planning in H&F

    Ken met residents at the Grove Park Neighbourhood Centre, Hammersmith
    Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, in a meeting with traders from the Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush Market and residents of West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates accused our Council of corruption in their approach to planning decisions affecting all three this afternoon. He pledged that as Mayor he would immediately open up the records to examine any areas of inappropriate collusion between property developers and our Council, or the Boris Johnson Mayoralty and campaign. Why was it, he asked, that in such a small borough as H&F there was such an intensity of property developers riding roughshod over residents when there were vast tracts of develop-able land across the city?

    Ken did not rule out involving the Police although he also said other independent third parties could be appointed to lead such an investigation, as he responded to a heartfelt plea from Shirley Wiggins, Chair of the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Residents Associaton. Residents in H&F felt, she said, helpless. Referring to the property developers set to demolish the estate she said “we seem to be at their mercy”. And they weren’t showing any.

    Shirley Wiggins, West Ken Residents Association
    When I pressed him on exactly what he was alleging about the relationship between developers and H&F Council Ken referred to political donations having been made to the Conservative Party. Such donations, he said, brought into question whether the current Mayor could really be acting impartially.

    On Shepherd’s Bush Market Ken answered questions from shopkeepers set to be made way for our Council’s tie up with property developers Orion, and said that while he had to be careful not to pre-judge any planning isssues before the election he very much hoped that the shop-owners judicial review, set for mid-May, would be successful “…and put back in the new Mayor’s lap”. Clank went the hint as it hit the ground loudly.

    Both sets of residents were clearly angry more than upset, and their moods were not improved by revelations that Boris Johnson appears to have been being less than honest in his communications on the issues. Andy Slaughter MP told the meeting that he has a letter in Boris’ name dated February 29th which makes clear that he has no objections to the demolition of the Goldhawk Road row of shops as part of the Market redevelopment. Yet a week later in answer to my own and shop owner Aniza Meghani’s public questioning at the People’s Question Time event, which I recorded and you can watch for yourself below, he feigns ignorance and says he is “sorry to hear that is happening”. Worse still he later stated that he would ‘protect’ them in answers to journalists – all the while knowing he’d signed a letter giving the go-ahead to the scheme. The smoking gun letter will appear here shortly.

    As you might imagine this provoked a great deal of Boris bashing, the room being full both of angry residents and Labour politicians including Val Shawcross AM, Ken’s Deputy, and Todd Foreman who is standing for Labour in our ridiculously large West Central constituency. Ken said Boris was dishonest and that he was even worse than Norman Tebbit or John Redwood in his ability to tell lies to people’s eyes. Given lift-gate this was small fry by all accounts.

    Finally I raised the air pollution story I broke last week, during which Shepherd’s Bush scored the highest possible marks for dirty air according to indices published by King’s College London. Ken was visibly angry about this, arguing that the problem was replicated across the city and was responsible for the early deaths of between 4 and 6,000 people per year in the city. It was, he said, akin to a 9/11 every year in terms of fatalities but "because people die in their beds" politicians get away with it. He blasted Boris’ plans to spray glue near the monitoring stations to mask the extent of the problem and said there was a good reason why the European Commission was threatening to fine the city for subjecting its citizens to such dangerous levels of pollution. He would work with them, he said, to put plans in place to address the problem not its symptoms through a blend of clear air vehicles and planning policies. When I first reported this story I speculated that the local press may pick up on it, which they haven't as yet - given these strong words I don't think they can ignore it any more.

    Residents, assorted politicians and Ken
    As we were moving to leave Shirley Wiggins interjected again to thank Ken for coming to the West Ken estate, as Brian Paddick had also done, she said. It was a good estate “that works” she said and the community wanted to stay as they were. She said the first time that residents had seen the local Conservatives was last week when they were canvassing and asking people how they might vote in the elections. They received the answer you might expect.

    1900 UPDATE - H&F Council have responded to Ken's comments to me here, and it's clear they don't intend to take any lectures from the Labour candidate.

    Wednesday, 4 April 2012

    Hammersmith Irish Cultural Centre saved

    The future of the Irish Centre has been secured after Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council struck a deal to sell it to the centre’s board of directors. The news comes after the Irish Government, after expressing it's "disappointment" with H&F Council stepped in and provided Irish tax payers cash to enable the centre to be purchased.

    The Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith (ICCH) has now formally agreed to buy the building, after they were able to raise funds and secure this grant from the Irish government.

    The centre will now be redeveloped to provide a new Community Centre on the lower floors with residential accommodation on the upper floors. There will also be a café, bar, concert hall, offices, classrooms and rooms for hire, subject to planning permission.

    Cllr Joe Carlebach, H&F Council cabinet member for community care, said: 
    “This is a fantastic deal for both the Irish community and local taxpayers as we have managed to secure the future of the popular community centre and improve the council’s finances at the same time 
    “The harsh reality of the economic situation has dictated that in order to concentrate our funding on services such as voluntary sector grants, child protection, services for the vulnerable and elderly we have had to sell this and other buildings. 
    “However, we have always said that this process would not be a fire sale and I am delighted that we have been able to work closely with the Irish community and government to secure the future of the centre. 
    “The council is immensely proud of the borough's rich Irish heritage so it is particularly pleasing that we have found a positive solution that benefits our Irish community while at the same time reducing the burden for H&F taxpayers. I would like to pay tribute to Jim O'Hara and his team at the Irish Cultural Centre for the constructive and very professional way they have handled the negotiations.”
    Jim O’Hara, Chairman of the Irish Cultural Centre, said: 
    "We are delighted that the Irish Cultural Centre and the council have reached agreement on the sale and purchase of the building. Since the decision to sell the building was made in 2011, the centre's directors along with the council and its officers have worked constructively together to reach a settlement that was satisfactory to all parties. Now that this has been achieved, I wish to thank the council, on behalf of the centre's directors, management and its many users, for the cooperative spirit in which the negotiations have been conducted and which have now culminated in securing the long term future of the Irish Cultural Centre. I also wish to thank the Irish government for its vital support in enabling us to arrive at this successful conclusion."
    The ICCH will be submitting a planning application for the works to the council later in the year.

    Election Interview: Caroline Pidgeon AM (LibDem)

    LibDem Mayoral and Deputy Mayoral candidates

    Caroline Pidgeon is the Deputy Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor in this year’s keenly fought Mayoral contest, and she took five minutes out with me ahead of the People’s Question Time event which took place at Hammersmith Town Hall recently to give her take on some of the issues facing our borough and Shepherd’s Bush.

    First was the subject of Shepherd’s Bush Market and our Council’s controversial plans to demolish a row of historic shops which are not actually part of the market – but were offered to developers Orion to boost their profit margins on the project anyway, despite public promises from the Council Leader not to

    Of the plans to demolish the shops Ms Pidgeon said: “this is taking away the heart of a community in order to build some flats” and that the scheme was “not about people, it’s about making money”. Ms Pidgeon, who was a councillor in Southwark for 12 years, argued that during her time in office in that borough it had been possible for the Council to work with communities, through Section106 schemes by which public works are included in planning permission schemes, to improve local High Streets which she said were the lifeblood of local areas. This “is not happening” in Hammersmith & Fulham, she argued.

    On crime and policing she said the LibDems had some very firm pledges, as you might expect from a team with a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as their candidate. She deplored the decline in police numbers under Boris Johnson and noted that the number of warranted officers was down across London.

    I mentioned that our own Safer Neighbourhood Team in Shepherd’s Bush was now an award winning group, and she responded that the Lib Dem pledge on crime was for a minimum of one Sergeant per ward. Having discussed this point with a number of local police people I can tell you that this is very much what the average police officer would like to see as well.

    On cycling – or the big BorisBike scandal first unearthed by MayorWatch on a London level and then the answer this blogger received from H&F Council that they were funding the scheme with £2 million of your money. Ms Pidgeon argued that there was a real need for “transparency” over the funding arrangements of the whole scheme. She also criticised Boris for not having consulted with, well, anyone really about when and where the scheme was to be extended to – noting that they were still nowhere near SE London where she lived.

    Finally, I broached a sensitive subject – it was quite clear, I suggested, that the LibDems were not going to do very well in Hammersmith & Fulham. They lack even a single councillor at the Town Hall. So how should people vote, given that it doesn’t look like Mr Paddick is heading to City Hall as Mayor either? I was expecting a standard politicians’ answer along the lines of “no no we’re steaming to victory, it’s what I hear on the doorsteps…etc..etc” but what I got was the closest I was probably going to get to a suggestion that LibDem inclined people should choose Ken Livingstone for their second preference vote. And coming from a coalition partner at national level I thought this was all the more remarkable.

    Ms Pidgeon told me that people should “vote with their heart, number one, and their brains number two”. It was clear which of the other two main candidates, she said, we could “get more Lib Dem things in London done” with. And I don’t think she was talking about Boris – although a LibDem spokesperson has assured me that she was simply spelling out that people had two votes. You be the judge.

    Guest Blog: Footie comes to A40 underpass

    From time to time I host guest blogs on here - Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh and MP Andy Slaughter have both taken part. But there's a lot more to life than  politics and it also once included a music night as well as a rather more serious one from the Police Borough Commander for H&F - so I'm really grateful to Viv James, of the Macfarlane Road Residents Association, who has submitted what looks like a good news story about footie coming to one of the more neglected corners of the Bush.

    Here's what she has to say below - and if you fancy using the blog as your own soapbox too do just drop me a line at

    Bringing Footie and Fizz to White City

    An application has gone in to the planning department of the LBHF which looks to bring life to a part of the borough that most of us ignore and pass swiftly by. It is a dirty and graffiti covered wasteland as it currently stands but it seems that there are plans to invigorate this corner under the A40 Westway.

    Wood Lane junction with A40 Westway W12
    Lucozade Power League, who call themselves the champions of 5-a-side football, propose a new facility at the A40 junction with Wood Lane as part of what they state is their ongoing commitment to amateur football. Powerleague have centres all over the UK already and in London they have sites in Docklands, Wembley and Old Street. Powerleague, the five-a-side football centre operator, struck a four-year sponsorship deal with energy drinks firm Lucozade last year as it kicked off a major expansion drive. The company already has tie-ups with kit and shoe maker Nike and brewer Carlsberg.

    New All-weather sporting facilities, comprising 3 pitches are proposed for this dreary and stale site under the A40 to the north of the borough with heated facilities including female and male changing rooms and showers. Access is to be from the north of the site near Bentworth Park. This seems to be a welcome development and an ingenious use of a wasted and currently inhospitable space.

    Strangely they seem to have applied to RBKC although this area is most definitely White City, Shepherds Bush LBHF and the application is on the LBHF website! “The applicant proposes to construct a 5-a-side football facility with 3 pitches underneath the A40 WestWay Flyover, North Kensington”.

    The proponents of the scheme claim that this will meet latent demand in the surrounding area for small-sided football facilities, which cannot be met due to the density of surrounding development.

    However given that there is to be another football centre with 11 Astroturf pitches at Hammersmith park as reported here the question must be will there be enough footie enthusiasts and teams to make the most of all these additional pitches? Perhaps the Hammersmith Park project should rethink the loss of the tennis courts which would please many residents and workers in the area.

    The developers of the Dairy Crest site also wish to improve the area under the Westway where their site will link with the Imperial College new campus to the east of Wood Lane. They are currently proposing a not for profit building that could accommodate a range of activities such as music studios for local bands, computer training, artists’ studios and galleries/exhibition space or accommodation for small local businesses.

    So it would appear that these two development ideas for the moribund areas under the Westway could compliment each other and bring great improvement to this difficult environment. Presumably any structures will need to allow TFL access for any inspection, works and maintenance to the elevated A40!

    Monday, 2 April 2012

    Bush Village Hall saved?

    Following lengthy negotiations, Shepherds Bush Village Hall in Bulwer Street has been sold to the Wigoder Family Foundation, allowing the council, it says, to spend the proceeds of the sale on front-line services.

    In February 2011, the council chose to sell the hall and seven other buildings in order to reduce its historic debt, which at the time stood at £133 million.

    The building is occupied by several popular community groups, including the Shepherds Bush Families Project, West and North West London Vietnamese Association and the West London School of Dance.

    During the last year, the council has worked closely with these groups to find a solution that would keep the centre open and has even offered them first right of refusal. When a deal proved out of their reach, the groups made contact with the Wigoder Family Foundation, who has now signed on the dotted line after agreeing a price with the council.

    The Wigoder Family Foundation was established with an endowment from Charles Wigoder, one of the UK's leading entrepreneurs, with the aim of supporting a wide range of charitable causes.

    Cllr Joe Carlebach, cabinet member for community care said:

    “In the true spirit of localism, the council pledged from the very outset to work with the current occupiers of the building to find an amicable solution. We said all along that we would not just take the money and run, so I am delighted that we have found a way to keep the hall open while reducing the burden on taxpayers.

    “The unprecedented nature of the current economic climate means that if we are serious about protecting libraries, voluntary sector grants and services for the vulnerable we need to look elsewhere to make savings. Taxpayers have told us that they would prefer us to sell some buildings and I am sure they will be pleased that we have been able to keep the centre open at no cost to them.

    “We are hugely proud of the contribution that the groups based at Bulwer Street make to the borough and we are delighted that they shall be remaining.”

    A Widgoer Family Foundation spokesman said:  

    “The foundation was deeply concerned when it heard about the intended closure of this much loved community resource, which had been providing space to a number of extremely worthwhile causes for over 20 years. Working closely with Hammersmith & Fulham Council, we are delighted to have been able to secure the purchase of the Village Hall, and thus provide the occupying charities with long-term accommodation on an affordable basis.”

    The West London School of Dance currently hire out the ground floor hall of the building and will continue to do so to the existing hirers under the new arrangements.

    The school’s director, Anna du Boisson, said:  

    “It is absolutely wonderful that the council has recognised the importance of ballet and dance in the community. We are now in the process of creating a world class studio in an extraordinary space. It is great that Shepherds Bush will now be put on the map as a centre for classical ballet.”