Thursday, 31 May 2012

Greenhalgh's grilling today

Stephen Greenhalgh is in the hot seat today as members of the London Assembly decide whether or not to approve his appointment to the post of Deputy Mayor for Policing. The post was offered to Mr Greenhalgh by Boris Johnson almost immediately following his election, but was then followed by farcical scenes as H&F's sitting Leader tried to cling on to his council seat in our borough. The law did not permit this and after days of confusion he eventually agreed to stand down from H&F politics altogether.

I would quite like Assembly Members to ask Mr Greenhalgh about his listening skills. Listening and responding to communities is a key element of any policing role, but our Council Leader has exhibited a consistent willingness to ignore communities every time they tell him something he doesn't want to hear. 

On Shepherd's Bush Market and the Goldhawk Road this landed our Council in court in a case which they then lost, costing tens of thousands of pounds. Yet on the same day they issued a breezy press release claiming that they would go ahead anyway.

And on the West Ken Estate this extraordinary letter from the community organiser describes in depth how residents who disagree with the Council's plans to demolish their estate are not only ignored but willfully obstructed under spurious "data protection" grounds. 

This is likely to be the last time Mr Greenhalgh ever has to publicly account for his actions on both of these situations, and I hope members of the Assembly take them up with him directly.

In the meantime, even the Evening Boris' City Hall correspondent is sounding the alarm bells..

1255 UPDATE: Well, the issues did crop up. Caroline Pidgeon, of the Lib Dems on the Assembly, quoted Greenhalgh’s behaviour over the Market & Goldhawk Road scheme and asked “how on earth” would he perform his listening role when he had manifestly divided communities? 

Greenhalgh said that the Council had to “learn from” their Court defeat and expected Nick Botterill, his successor, to do so. 

So I’ll be in touch with Mr Botterill to understand how he intends to learn from it…

FRIDAY UPDATE - I'm delighted to publish the CV that former H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh supplied to his hearing yesterday, at which he was confirmed as the Deputy Mayor for Policing. It makes interesting reading for H&F residents, so I am sure he and our Council will be pleased that it is now publicly available:

(click bottom right box - "view in full screen")

Greenhalgh CV

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Blog readers nab Wee Man of the Bush

Congratulations Bushers - we got the man I christened wee man of the Bush. H&F Council have credited readers of this blog with the nabbing of Abdul Sobuor Tanin who was caught on video peeing in the lift at Bush Court (above)

And Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council is again asking residents to help track down another man who appears to have a similar problem. Last month, H&F Council launched a publicity blitz to catch the Bush Court culprit after the incident was captured on the council’s CCTV system.

The disgusting episode was viewed more than 15,000 times on You Tube, and photographs were printed in local media and the council’s magazine for tenants and leaseholders.

In the weeks that followed, the council received numerous tip-offs from local residents, with Tanin’s name put forward by readers of the council’s magazine and this blog.

The council’s estate-based concierge staff have a close knowledge of the areas they work in and also received information that suggested Tanin was the culprit.

Council officers visited Shepherds Bush resident, Tanin, 18, and the lout admitted that it was him. He stated that he was very sorry for his actions and that he was very drunk at the time. He also said that he was hugely embarrassed by his actions and was upset that so many people had seen him on You Tube.

Council officers decided that his actions amounted to a breach of his family's tenancy and issued the family with a Notice of Seeking Possession to encourage good behaviour.

Cllr Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing, said:
“We received an overwhelming response to the publicity and that really does show just how appalled residents were. 
“I hope that Tanin feels absolute shame when he views the footage. The 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. The message to hooligans like this is clear, even when you think that there is no-one around, we are watching you, we will find you and we will take action against you”
The council is also urging residents to get in touch if they know the name of the lout who urinated in a lift at Poynter House on the Edward Woods Estate.

The time is 9.40pm on Friday, May 11 and this man, dressed in a black and red Adidas tracksuit top, can clearly be seen relieving himself in the lift.

Cllr Johnson added: 
“This is another truly disgusting incident, made even worse by the fact that it is the middle of the evening – a time when the lift is probably at its busiest. If you happen to know this person, please do not hesitate to contact the council and we’ll do all we can to publically name and shame him”
If you know this person is call the council’s Edward Woods Estate housing officer on 020 8753 6896. You can contact the council anonymously if you wish.

World class research centre opened at Hammersmith Hospital

The £73 million Imperial Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine (ICTEM) combines laboratory space for up to 450 scientists with a dedicated facility for evaluating and developing new medical treatments through clinical trials with patients. The Imperial College London facility was officially opened yesterday by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP.

ICTEM is a flagship facility for the Academic Health Science Centre, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s partnership with the College, established in 2007, which aims to ensure that new discoveries and technologies are translated into new therapies as quickly as possible. Clinicians and researchers in the new building will work closely with engineers and scientists to generate innovative solutions to health problems.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened a £73 million research centre at our local hospital yesterday, underlining its world class status in the research and treatment of diseases.

On the ground floor of the building, the Wellcome Trust-McMichael Clinical Research Facility incorporates two wards containing 13 beds, examination rooms and a gene therapy suite. This joint College and Trust facility is led by the Trust’s director of clinical and investigative sciences and head of experimental medicine at the College, Professor Martin Wilkins.

It allows a large number of patients and healthy volunteers to work with researchers in clinical trials to evaluate new treatments, with fifty studies taking place at any one time. Conditions to be investigated include diabetes, obesity, mental health and pulmonary hypertension.

The building’s first floor is home to the Imperial Cancer Research UK Centre, which brings together more than 100 chemists, biologists and engineers who are working on new ways of tackling cancer, such as molecular imaging techniques which help doctors match treatments to patients and methods to reduce the toxicity of radiotherapy.

These methods could enable patients to have personalised treatment based on the particular profile of their tumour, improving how they respond to treatment. Diseases to be studied include breast, prostate, lung, colorectal and ovarian cancers.

The second floor, occupied by teams from the Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, houses next-generation gene sequencing machines, which are helping researchers to develop improved methods for preventing, diagnosing and treating common health problems such as heart disease and raised cholesterol.

This machine can sequence four human genomes in just 10 days, with each sequencing costing under £4,000, compared with the £3billion it cost a decade ago. This can help find the causes of a patient’s disease when conventional methods of diagnosis have proved inconclusive.

The three upper floors of the six storey building constitute one of the largest cardiovascular research facilities in Europe, including the headquarters of the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence. One of the areas of focus in this unit is to develop stem cell treatments to help the heart repair itself after a heart attack.

Cutting edge research will give new hope to patients with cardiovascular disease as it remains the leading cause of death in the UK and is estimated to cost the economy around £30billion a year.

The opening of the Centre, built over four years with support from the British Heart Foundation, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, marks the fruition of the College's largest ever investment in research facilities.

Imperial College Healthcare’s chief executive Mark Davies said: 
“This facility aims to be a powerhouse to drive forward the translational research of the Academic Health Science Centre. 
“The research to be carried out at Imperial Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine is essential as it will focus on many of the most serious diseases and conditions which affect large numbers of people in the UK.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Chancellor George Osborne said: 
"It's an honour to open this new Imperial Centre for Translational and Experimental Medicine. It is what this country's vision for the future of life sciences is all about.
"This new Centre rises to the challenge of ensuring we remain a world leader in life sciences. The future is academic research, clinical practice and industrial application coming together. 
"Our future depends on the work going on at Imperial and in world class labs like this across the country. Not just the future of our scientific communities but also the important contribution that they are making to the future of this country's industry, growth and jobs."

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

West Ken: damning account of H&F blocking tactics

Our Council has been using "data protection" as an excuse to block access to what is supposedly a public consultation process on the West Ken & Gibbs Green Estate. Residents groups requests to see information have repeatedly been ignored, and then grudgingly responded to with bizarre "45 minute blocks" being allocated to read over 1,400 forms - 800 from the estate and 600 from the wider area.

As the residents community organiser Jonathan Rosenberg points out the excuse put forward for this behaviour of "data protection" is bogus - you are either allowed to see information or you are not, there is no middle ground. What seems to be more the case is every tactic in the book being deployed by a determined H&F Council to get their own way. Together with the Mayor they seem to adopt a pantomime strategy to planning issues.

Coming just days after a Judge sitting in the High Court declared our Council to be at fault and to have been acting unlawfully in the way in which it approached the Shepherd's Bush Market scheme this will come as further evidence of the way H&F is prepared to operate in the north of the Borough.

Here's the letter, which was sent today to the Executive Director for Regeneration and Housing in full. It makes extraordinary reading:

Melbourne Barrett
Executive Director of Housing and Regeneration

LB Hammersmith & Fulham Council 

3rd Floor
Hammersmith Town Hall Extension
King Street, Hammersmith 

London W6 9JU

29 May 2012: URGENT

Dear Mr Barrett

Proposed disposal of West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates: Consultation analysis and inspection arrangements – serious concerns

I am writing further to your letter dated 14 May 2012, in which you invited West Kensington & Gibbs Green residents to make comments by 30 May on the information contained in the 23 April Cabinet report, which outlined the initial findings of the consultation on the Council’s proposal to enter a Conditional Land Sale Agreement (CLSA) for the disposal of residents’ homes to a developer, albeit you concealed this proposed agreement from residents and the public.

You have previously received (though not responded to) our 60-page critique of the Council’s consultation process. Unfortunately, we are bound to report now that we shall not be able complete our comments on the Council’s analysis of the consultation by 30 May because the Council has obstructed us from inspecting the consultation feedback forms.

In any event, the two-week deadline you have set for comments is unreasonable, given the complexity of the information contained in the Cabinet report and the scale of its impact on residents. Government and London Councils policy is that consultation periods should last a minimum of 12 weeks.

On 18 April, the Chair of West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes (WKGGCH) wrote to the H&F Council’s Head of Governance and Scrutiny, (copied to two other Council Officers and to the Chairs of West Kensington & Gibbs Green TRAs):

We would like to formally request to inspect the consultation responses before the Cabinet meeting on Monday April 23. According to the Council's press release "Earl's Court progress report to go before Cabinet" published April 16 2012, "By the time Cabinet meets all the responses will be available for inspection upon request, including the responses that were not considered." 
There is, however, no specification regarding who to contact or how to get in touch.

Could you please forward this email to the relevant parties and let us know as soon as possible when we could view the responses for inspection?

Please acknowledge the receipt of this email.
Around 20 April the Council distributed a newsletter to residents promising:
From Monday 23 April, H&F Council will be making all consultation responses available for inspection by appointment. You will be able to see all the responses that were considered as well as the responses we were unable to consider.
The WKGGCH Chair received no response to her letter to LBHF’s Head of Governance and Scrutiny. Following your presentation to Cabinet on 23 April, she wrote to you on 24 April:
We were told at the Cabinet meeting last night that residents' responses to the Earl's Court consultation would be available for inspection as early as today. I emailed Mr Adewumi about this on 18th April last week. (see email)

Please let me know when and how we can make arrangements to view these.
Again, receiving no reply, the WKGGCH Chair wrote to you and the Head of Governance and Scrutiny on 2 May, copied to the two TRA Chairs:
I am still waiting for a response to my emails of 18th and 24th April.
It was not until 8 May, almost three weeks after our original request, when the Council finally responded to make arrangements for inspection.

On top of the unexplained delay, the Council then imposed unwarranted and unreasonable restrictions on inspection that plainly made it impossible for us “to see all the responses” as the Council had promised. On 8 May, Mr Patterson, from the Council’s Housing Services department emailed the WKGGCH Chair:

I can arrange an appointment for you to inspect the feedback forms from the recent consultation.

Appointments are for one person at a time. Inspections are for up to 45 mins and there can be no photography or copying of the forms.

Please contact me to arrange your appointment.
On 10 May, Celine Kuklowsky, Community Organiser for the West Kensington & Gibbs Green estates, attended the Council offices to begin our formal inspection. After 45 minutes, she was stopped, even though she had made only partial progress through more than 800 forms residents of the estates (we have not even begun our inspection of the 600 responses from the so-called ‘wider area’).
On 21 May, she requested another visit to continue our formal inspection, which was agreed and took place on 24 May. Since our work was far from complete, and we had found many discrepancies that suggested a pattern of distortion biased towards the Council’s demolition stance, the Community Organiser immediately requested a third visit. Mr Patterson responded on 25 May:
The 45 minute inpection [sic] was specified to protect the privacy of respondents. You have already exceeded the allotted inspection time of 45 minutes with the second inspection. I am therefore not going to arrange another appointment for you to inspect the forms.
When the Community Organiser asked Mr Patterson on 10 May to explain the purpose behind the Council’s inspection restrictions, he replied these were “for data protection reasons”. This is insupportable. Either the data can be viewed or it cannot. There is no in-between position.

The subsequent version of the argument, that the restrictions were “specified to protect the privacy of respondents”, is equally spurious, since the Council blacked out all names and addresses and heavily redacted many forms (including entire paragraphs) to remove all personal references. Clearly, the Council obscured this personal data to ensure it did not breach the Data Protection Act when it made the response forms available for inspection by the public. Therefore, neither “data protection” nor “privacy” can possibly be used to justify the restrictions and blockage placed by the Council on our formal inspection.

We understand that the Council intends to rely on its analysis of the consultation feedback forms when it makes its next decision on whether to sign the CLSA. Inevitably, also, it will have to report this information to the Government.

We have very serious concerns about the rectitude of the Council’s analysis, which, far from being allayed by our inspection that you unreasonably curtailed, have only deepened. Inter alia, we have identified:

  • Difficulties reconciling the numbers in the Council’s analysis with the numbers of forms it has placed in each category;
  • Miscategorisation of residents ‘against’ and residents ‘concerned’ into ‘no opinion’, leading to miscounting;
  • Absence of any procedure for dealing with ‘duplicates’, leading to miscounting, erroneous exclusion and miscategorisation;
  • Failure to date and have any procedure for dealing with forms from residents changing their minds, leading to miscategorisation and miscounting;
  • Forms discounted for no apparent reason, leading to miscounting;
  • Forms counted as ‘in favour’ that were so heavily qualified they should have been categorized as ‘concerned’ or even ‘against’, leading to miscounting;
  • 18 ‘in favour’ forms, which contained the same brief or similar content, which appeared to be written by a single hand, and which contained no signature or mark attesting authenticity.

We discovered well over a hundred miscategorised or suspect responses. Nearly all of these biased the results in one direction, and not only resulted in a systematic distortion of the analysis in favour of the Council’s position for demolition, but also hid the true scale of residents’ opposition to redevelopment and denied residents’ fixed determination to transfer the estates into community ownership.

From our inspection, which you arbitrarily limited to one and a half hours, it appears that the three and a half to one majority of residents against demolition is a significant undercount, amounting to gross misreporting.

Outwith any further investigation, which you blatantly obstruct now, we conclude that the Council has not only misrepresented its own analysis of the results but has also miscategorised the consultation response forms to such a extent as to render its analysis worthless for Cabinet Members to rely upon when making any decision about whether to sign the CLSA. Worse, the Council is in danger of staging a lie, presenting a poisoned chalice for the Government to sup when it forces it to consider whether to grant consent for disposal of the estates to the developer for demolition.

The evidence we have gathered does more than lend credence to the charge that the Council has perverted the results of its informal and statutory consultation by systematically distorting and misrepresenting its analysis; it explains why the Council has made up the rules as it went along for limiting and disallowing our formal inspection. 

The grounds we have itemized are sufficient for us, and for any sensible member of the public to fear that Council officers may be colluding to falsify the overall consultation results and to suspect that they may be conspiring to stop residents’ elected organisations from discovering the truth, thereby misleading also the Council’s Cabinet, the public and the Government.

The Council has broken its “you will be able to see all the responses” promise by delaying, restricting and finally blocking our formal inspection. The Council has no data protection or privacy defence against us continuing with our formal inspection. We have detected evidence of systematic bias: it is our duty to resume our formal inspection in the public interest, in the defence of our homes and community, and in the cause of national policy, which is Localism and the Big Society.

The Council will make itself incapable of sustaining any case that it has validated its analysis through independent inspection, unless, and immediately, it:

  • Restores and maintains continued access for us to scrutinize the categorization and genuineness of response forms, without time limit, so we may complete our formal inspection absent unreasonable restrictions;
  • Commissions an independent analysis of the response forms to be undertaken by a neutral assessor appointed with our agreement; and 
  • Institutes a formal Review under the Freedom of Information Act of the Council’s handling of the request we made on 18 April to take up its invitation for residents to see all the responses, since more than 20 working days have elapsed within the time it is statutory for you to provide a satisfactory response.

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Rosenberg

Community Organiser 

West Ken & Gibbs Green Community Homes Ltd 
West Kensington Estate Tenants & Residents Association 
Gibbs Green & Dieppe Close Tenants & Residents Association

Cc: Derek Myers, Chief Executive LBHF; Greg Clark, Minister for Decentralisation and Planning; Andy Slaughter MP; The Information Commissioner; WKGGCH Board Members.

No room for racism – or its apologists

No racism here, nothing to see
“no, no, that wasn’t the Nazi salute, they were just pointing at people” said the Ukrainian police chief. “with their right hands”.

Seconds earlier we had seen massed ranks of angry looking young men enthusiastically adopting the Nazi salute and yelling “sieg Heil” in unison, while waving neo Nazi flags and declaring their readiness to inflict various forms of death on Jews.

Thus we witnessed for 30 sickening minutes of the Panorama programme last night various scenes and interviews with football followers in Poland and Ukraine who openly described their hatred of Jewish people in particular and foreigners in general. In one case as they trained with wooden “knives” to practice the attacks they plan to inflict over the next two weeks. For these are the two countries that will be hosting the Euro 2012 football tournament, which is why Panorama was asking perfectly legitimate questions about whether people would be safe. Not so, said former England captain Sol Campbell as he watched scenes of Asian fans who had been singled out for a beating for the crime of having the wrong colour skin, as police stood by.

But is all of this acceptable to some? Apparently so. Yesterday I responded to a series of angry tweets from someone who lives in the Bush and was clearly incensed by the coverage. In his three missives he demanded that English fans stop “disrespecting” Ukraine and Poland and warned that the real culprits would probably be England fans who he described as “pissing in war memorials”.

Stick within in the law and show “respect”, he said, and everything would be fine.

I couldn’t help responding “unless you’re black” given what I’d been told by returning fans who’d been to that part of the world before. And based on Panorama a reasonable thing to say.

But not as far as this individual was concerned. I was being completely outrageous, there really wasn’t a problem. I told him that, with respect, he didn’t seem to know what he was talking about.

That was the cue for an explosion. Coming back to my phone an hour or so later I had another few messages. I had completely crossed the line, apparently, and was being disrespectful to the people of Poland and Ukraine. I was being disrespectful to him. And I had, allegedly, said that it was inevitable people would be attacked. (I hadn’t). He then informed me that I’d been “slapped down” for making sweeping assertions. At this point I decided to block the foaming tweeter.

Ukrainian football crowd "slaps down" opponents
So what’s the point of telling you all of this? Because I don’t just think this is an issue about two faraway countries and solely something related to football. I honestly don’t know if this individual has murky views and I’m not naming him as a result. But I do find such anger (he’s not to my knowledge either Polish or Ukrainian) a bit disturbing.

We don’t have the sort of scenes you saw portrayed last night in this country anymore. But we used to. And in elections during the last decade we saw the BNP elected to numerous council seats across the country. Looking across the channel we see the National Front as the third biggest party in France and the rise of extremist parties in Greece as they continue to suffer their turmoil.

If you’d featured the interview with that Ukrainian Police Chief in black and white film you would have thought you were watching a programme about the 1940s last night. The fascist regimes of the 1930s came to power by exploiting the economic fallout of 1929 and other perceived injustices. And if that’s still too far in the past to worry you only a few weeks ago marked the 20th anniversary of war breaking out in Bosnia, which led directly to events such as Srebrenica.

And if that’s also too far away geographically let me take you back to the scenes last night of people practicing with wooden knives and talking about using them. The police filmed the killers of Stephen Lawrence doing exactly that before they went out and took his life. A black lad waiting for a bus.

I quoted the philosopher Edmund Burke this morning who is credited with the line “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. I have seen that line inscribed in Berlin at the Holocaust memorial, and when I was in Rwanda at the memorial to the 1994 Genocide. Whether he said it or not is apparently open to dispute – but what is not, surely, is the need to challenge not only racism – but some people’s apparent acceptance of it as a fact of life.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Review: camping with a purpose

Tyre swings and a river on the left
A river, some goats and beautiful pastures are the three things that stick with me from the weekend I spent with the kids in tow at a campsite in rural Somerset. But what was also striking was the fact that the owners, a young couple who took on the site around 18 months ago, run this small site in a way that makes you think about the environment and experience a small slice of the farming life that dominates this agricultural part of the world.

Wookey Farm sits in the lee of the Mendip Hills, in central Somerset. It's about three hours by car from the Bush and is about as far from the big city as it's possible to get. The villages around are small and built of local stone, congregating around a single shop or pub. The local people work hard, but the pace of life has nothing to do with a rush hour tube. And therein lies the attraction. 

The camping area, with goat shed to the left
The site, which takes tents and caravans/motorhomes, is bounded on two sides by the river Axe which you get to by walking through a field. You can tell you've got there by the two hanging tyres on ropes by the side. And that's it – one babbling brook with clear (and icy) water and a riverside to sit on and relax. In our case this was in near 30 degree heat so the cooling river was just about perfect. And away from televisions, computers and little toys that make annoying battery powered noises you'd be amazed at how long a tyre on a rope and the opportunity to run as far and as fast as you like across a field of wildflowers before exploring a river can occupy young kids. It must be the sort of thing they did in the olden days.

Surrounding countryside
Ian and Sarah, the couple who run the farm, keep goats. And every evening these animals are hungry. There is an open invitation for those staying on the site to come along. In my London ways I'd thought this would be watching the animals expertly fed from a sanitised distance but it turns out that shifting clumps of damp hay by hand into troughs can actually be done by anyone, and that young children are not only quite good at it but they love it too. So they were put to work. Just like the olden days. 

The animals are clearly used to the not-always-gentle touches of small trainee farmers (and the flashing of lightbulbs as a cluster of city folk try and capture little Johnny's trip to the country) and it was the highlight of a perfect day for us. 

Apprenticed farmers
The site is basically a field with electric hook ups on each pitch and is sold as a unit - £10 per night for tents. Where else can you find somewhere as good as this for a tenner, I ask you? There is a single temporary toilet unit along with access to drinking and washing water, next to the recycling bins. There isn't anything as sophisticated as a shower block – but the green owners make a virtue of this by suggesting you use the river! 

The best thing for me on this site came at the end, and having spent a lot of time in this part of the world when I was younger I was looking forward to it. Sundown in this part of the West Country is something very special, and surrounded by the ancient Mendip hills you begin to realise why our ancestors in ancient times thought so too. Glastonbury Tor is very close by and you drive past StoneHenge to get here on the way from West London. 

As the sun slides down the side of a giant hill, turning the trees on top into mystical silhouettes, the field you're on turns as orange as the flames of the campfire you're sitting next to, and the shadows of the trees ark and glide across the ground. Later, the canopy of the sky is unveiled, revealing tens of thousands of stars, clearly visible sans the light pollution of London.

Chuck in a few beers and some good company and it's about as much fun as feeding a hungry goat! 

I would highly recommend this place, and wish Ian and Sarah all the best with it. I'll be coming back. 

Ian & Sarah

Friday, 25 May 2012

Goldhawk Road Traders defeat Council?!

Some breaking, and if true, sensational news from the Goldhawk Road Traders who looked set to be demolished by our Council and property developers Orion. As the 'last chances' were demolished one by one the judicial review into the way in which our Council has behaved over the issue looked set to be the last chance saloon.

Writing earlier this morning on the Facebook page leading campaigner Aniza Meghani, who I interviewed for the guardian here, has said this:

"Yipeeeeeeeeeeeee! yabadabadoooooo! WE HAVE WON! We would like to thank you all for yr wonderful support, prayers, motivation and enthusiasm, in keeping up with this case. We the Goldhawk Road Traders, would like to thank firstly, to the three Angels of Shepherd's Bush, who came into our shops almost 2yrs ago and informed us that we were to be demolished. They are, Coll, Kimi and Elaine. Their guidance and support has led us to where we are today. Also our special thanks to Sarah Gates, for putting up this Facebook page up. We would like to THANK OUR LAWYER AND HIS LEGAL TEAM, Michael Webster of WEBSTER DIXON LLP, OUR QC GREGORY JONES AND WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK LORD JUSTICE WILKIE FOR RESTORING FAITH IN OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM. ONEC AGAIN, THANK YOU ALL XXX"

Well, that's pretty clear. It looks like our Council's determination to ride roughshod over local people has been pole-axed once again by the little people who just wouldn't lie down and see their livelihoods and the character of the Bush bulldozed. You can see Aniza's determination in the video above when she first doesn't sit down and shut up as our Assembly Member Kit Malthouse was trying to get her to do, and then puts Boris on the spot. We later found out his expression of regret was less than sincere since he himself had signed the papers giving the scheme the go-ahead and must have known this as he was answering Aniza's questions.

I understand that the ruling means that the knocking down of their buildings cannot now go ahead. 

It also gives new Council Leader Nick Botterill, who inherits this mess from outgoing Leader Stephen Greenhalgh, the opportunity to take a fresh look at how these people have been treated thus far. I hope he takes it.

More details soon. You know where you read it first. And I plan on going along to the inevitable victory party in the sun - see you there!!!

1100 UPDATE: Details of the Court decision:

High Court ruling to overturn a decision of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham to adopt a Supplementary Development Plan (SDP) for the regeneration of the Shepherd’s Bush Market in West London.

The 13 successful claimants are freehold or leasehold owners of various trading premises between 30-52 Goldhawk Road which is a terrace of shops, cafes and restaurants fronting onto the Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush. Although the Goldhawk Road shops were not part of the market they were set to be demolished as part of the regeneration of the area which included the building of over 200 flats by the property developer, Orion. Mr Justice Wilkie quashed the decision of the Council to adopt the SDP on the grounds of:

(i)That its decision was procedurally flawed in that it failed to follow the proper procedure for adopting a Development Planning Document (DPD).

(ii)It is procedurally flawed in that adopting a document that was a DPD failed to conduct a sustainability assessment.

(iii)Whether or not the document was a DPD or an SPD the decision to adopt it on 27 October 2010 was procedurally flawed because it failed to apply its mind to whether an environmental assessment was required before adopting it, pursuant to the 2004 Environmental Assessment Regulations.

1215 UPDATE - Some emotional reactions from the traders:

Aniza Meghani, the owner of Classic Textiles Limited stated

“Our victory is a vindication of our objections to the Council’s plans to incorporate our shops into a redevelopment that is disproportionate, ill conceived and that has not been subject to proper public scrutiny. The High Court has ruled decisively in our favour that the Council has acted unlawfully in trying to push through their plans without the proper scrutiny required for a development that would undoubtedly be of significant change to the area and involve the demolition of our shops. Many of our businesses have been established for decades and it has never been our wish to be part of the regeneration scheme as we are not part on the market. It is our intention to continue with our fight to retain our shops and we will seek to challenge the existing planning permission and also to have that quashed or otherwise withdrawn. This Council has a reputation for not listening to the people that it serves and clearly had its own agenda in seeking avoid full public scrutiny of its redevelopment plans.” 

Michael Boughton, the owner of the famous of Cooke’s Pie and Mash shop, stated

“The court’s decision is a clear message to the council that small independent shopkeepers should not be ignored when they have genuine concerns about regeneration plans that directly impact their business. The irony is that our parade of shops does not form part of the market yet the council felt the need to demolish buildings without considering any viable alternatives. The pie and mash shop been located on the same site for 113 years and is part of the historical fabric of Goldhawk Road. We are not against regeneration where it is appropriate but the council’s plans were never about the redevelopment of the market, but the building of 200 flats with their preferred developer Orion. Let’s hope my shop will continue to exist for the next 100 years.” 

Michael Webster, a Partner in the firm of Webster Dixon representing the Claimants said

“the decision of Mr Justice Wilkie is a damning indictment of the Council’s planning practices and procedures; even one of the grounds would have been enough to quash the decision however the Judge found in our favour on three grounds. Despite several warnings the Council continued to plough on with their unlawful policy of the regeneration of the market. In our view the purpose of the regeneration was not the market itself but the development of 200 flats for which the developer Orion stands to make millions of pounds. The Council has in reality used the SPD procedure to prepare a policy which ought properly to have been subjected to a more detailed examination and public scrutiny, circumventing the more time consuming and expensive procedures attached to DPDs and its adoption is as a consequence, unlawful. The Council should now reconsider its position to ensure that it complies with its lawful obligations to allow proper public scrutiny and consultation of its regeneration policies.”

1730 UPDATE - Well our Council have gone into full spin mode putting out an article on their own website that appears to be written as if the court decision was just a silly old bit of jackanapes and we can all carry on as normal anyway, can't we? Here's what a spokesperson told me this afternoon:

"This judgement does not affect the regeneration plans or the legality of the recently issued planning consent. The Shepherds Bush Market regeneration scheme represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hugely improve the market and surrounding area. It will increase retail expenditure by more than £3million a year and will create numerous new jobs. The vast majority of Shepherds Bush residents support these plans along with many of the market traders. The Goldhawk Road businesses have been offered a fantastic deal by the developer, including the chance to return to new, larger shop units on the Goldhawk Road.”

Er, sorry matey, I'm afraid that's not true. The Council are now relying on the technicality that they also used another document which was not subject to the Courts' deliberations. So ner-ner Judge we'll knock 'em down anyway.

Their problem is that the traders have also got lawyers behind them (now being paid by our Council since they were forced to pay the traders legal fees for having lost) and their legal understanding is very different. Here's what one of them told me late this afternoon:

"they can't go ahead, because there are [now] no plans to guide them. although Orion has submitted planning application, we are going to court on that to be squashed too. In reality, the borough has no plans to guide them anymore so they have to start the whole process again".

The Council will counter that they've been advised by their lawyers that they can. The problem is that those are the same lawyers who just lost a case, so I know which ones I'd believe.

So ner-ner back H&F - now then, how about listening to people instead of property developers?

MONDAY UPDATE - Planning Magazine, which specialises in, well, guess what - has also agreed with the traders view of what the court ruling means, contrary to our Council's spin. Here's what they have to say:

On Friday, Mr Justice Wilkie ruled that in preparing the document the council failed to follow the proper procedure for adopting such an important policy document.

He said that the council failed to identify the document in advance as an "area action plan", and that as a result failed to consider whether it was in accordance with the existing development plan for the area.

And he found that it failed to apply its mind to whether an Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out prior to adopting the document on 27 October 2010.

As a result, the council will be forced to reconsider the matter, potentially placing a stumbling block in the way of the redevelopment, for which outline planning permission has since been granted to developer Orion Shepherd’s Bush Ltd.

The ruling could prove a setback if and when Orion seeks to secure full permission to proceed with its plans.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bushstock 2012 line-up revealed

After a successful debut year the Bushstock team are back again and will be taking over some of our best venues for a day on Saturday June 2nd.

Bands have all been revealed, as have the venues, including the Best Bush Pub of 2012 as voted by you - The Defector's Weld.

I have to say the organisers Communion are a strange lot - I offered to write about them for the 2011 festival but they replied saying they had some kind of commercial publicity deal, but this year they appear dead keen. Odd. But given that so many of you thought last time around was great, plus the fact that summer seems apparently to have arrived, it comes highly recommended!

Click here to see some fairly, er, interesting promotional vids!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

W12 hosts Football for Famine tournament

On Saturday 9th June, at Westway Sports Centre, Shepherd’s Bush, Somali Relief and Development are holding a fundraising 5 aside Football Tournament (Football4Famine) and are offering you an opportunity to get involved.
  • Entrance is £70
  • all day event, prizes, astro turf, terrace, drinks etc... 
  • every team guaranteed at least 4 matches
  • doesn’t clash with any of the Euro 2012 finals games.
For more info click on the flyer. If anyone wants to enter a company/work team with branded shirts and other marketing opportunities you can also do this but there is a separate tariff, so please contact the organisers separately.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Air Ambulance man broke ribs & shoulder

c/o @ellazwart
A man fell from scaffolding at the Abbey Hotel on Wood Lane on Saturday which resulted in the call out of the London Air Ambulance. Nobody had told the pilot that the ground he chose to land on had been declared contaminated with arsenic and lead, however. That was revealed after a local reader let me know over the weekend prompting a hurried announcement from the Council this morning.

The chances of the helicopter having churned anything up I would say are remote - but that's assuming he didn't land on a bit that had been exposed.

On the fallen man he was in a sorry state but thankfully apart from some broken bones - all of his ribs and the left shoulder - he was taken to hospital by road and is now recovering. The 50 year old is believed to have fallen from the first floor into the basement of the property sustaining injuries to his head, chest and arm.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Askew Road Police: False alarm

I drove past what looked like a police investigation at the top end of the Askew Road around lunchtime today and a number of you were also in touch concerned about what it meant. This was, after all, the same Askew Road that has experienced some very dark moments in recent years.

Thankfully it all seems to have been a bit of drama that revolved around fears for a missing person who was then found. Here's what a police spokesperson told me earlier this evening:
"This morning police attended an address in Askew Crescent after reports of a missing person.

As part of the enquiries the police searched the missing persons flat after forcing entry believing he may be inside and incapacitated. No strong evidence to support that allegation but police will do whatever they believe necessary to save life and limb as covered by law.

Inside the missing person was not present, but there was some blood.

As we could not account for the blood or the whereabouts of the person it was decided to initiate a crime scene and heighten the investigation.

Central investigative units and dog units were called upon to search and investigate.

During the afternoon whilst investigation still ongoing the missing person attended Fulham Police Station to report that he was fine.

Investigation concluded".

Thank goodness for that. And good on them for taking it so seriously.

Shepherd’s Bush Green works halted: Contamination found

Helicopter whipping up the ground (c/o @ellazwart)
The works on the Green have been halted amid fears of contamination, which has been discovered by those contractors on the site.

I understand the works are now 12 weeks behind schedule and will not be completed until September at the earliest.

The precise nature of the contamination is not clear but it appears to relate to the disposal of old waste in the aftermath of the second world war.

I first heard about this yesterday, as ever from a reader, and approached the council. With full credit to them they have passed me the following information from an internal briefing, so many thanks indeed for that:

"The contamination relates to what is known as 'made ground' which is fill brought in from somewhere else to build up the ground. This is likely to have occurred post war at Shepherds Bush, and the fill was probably from excavations from building sites in the area where the ground was contaminated, primarily with arsenic and lead. The good news is that this doesn't impact on the eventual public use of the site as it is well below the surface layer and will have a further cap of soil and turf on top of it to ensure it is completely safe.

Why its discovery caused a delay?


Once discovered further samples had to be taken and analysed to determine its extent and then a management strategy developed and agreed. Including how it should be handled by contractors digging into it, stockpiling and disposing of it, the objective being to ensure workers were safe, no cross contamination occurred and it was disposed of correctly in the event any needed to be disposed of".

To me this also has implications for the financing of the works themselves, with the Council likely to be looking at a much higher bill than was originally anticipated. The works were part financed by the Westfield shopping centre as part of the deal struck between the retail giant and our local authority – but I doubt that extra costs like this were part of the package.

The Olympic Torch is due to pass through Hammersmith & Fulham on 26th July, and this work will clearly not be done by then so I suspect the torch may not be wending its way through the Bush! I understand that the majority of the site will be reopened to the public at the end of July with the playgrounds due to be installed during August/September.

This is of course the latest unscheduled halt to this long runing project that was supposed to have been carried out years ago, but fell victim to yet another argument between our Council and local residents. 

So what do we need to know, as Bushers then?

I’d say the following would be good for starters:
  1. What exactly is the ground contaminated with and is it a hazard?
  2. What is the new date for completion of the works or has that even been agreed yet? 
  3. Who will pay for the extra costs to de-contaminate the site? Us the taxpayers?
Watch this space for the answers…and you know where you read it first! 

Monday UPDATE – Meanwhile I have been on to the police to understand why the helicopter pictured above landed in the patch of ground that we now know to be contaminated with arsenic and lead. Whipping up clouds of dust which many of you reported seeing around tea time on Saturday.

The police don’t seem to have any records of the incident at first glance but are looking into it.

Watch this space – the dead tree press have not reported either the contamination of the ground or anything about the helicopter incident.

Monday 1325 UPDATE - The Council have just responded to my story with this quote:

Cllr Greg Smith, cabinet member for residents’ services, said: “Despite this unfortunate news, the vast majority of Shepherds Bush Green will be open and accessible in time for the Olympic Games. There are always hold-ups with projects of this size and nature but we have now developed a strategy to deal with the problem.

“I would like to stress that the contamination is deep under the ground and there is no risk to the general public. However, with our contractors digging deep below the ground, the council has had no choice but to delay certain elements of the project.

The improvement scheme will undoubtedly benefit everyone who lives near, visits or works in and around Shepherds Bush and will certainly be well worth waiting for.”

Amusingly on their website the Council say that they are "today announcing" the delays - funny that - since the story appeared on Saturday. So what that means is that without readers of this blog getting it up on here by passing it on, we would all be none the wiser, and today's 'announcement' would presmably not have been made! 

1420 UPDATE - and lo, days later, the dead tree press have caught up with this story here. Without a mention of where it came from. Shocka.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Best Bush Pub: Defector's Weld

Defector's Weld: Best Bush Pub of 2012 as voted by Bushers
287 people have been voting in the last week on a vexed question - just which of the many pubs in the Bush is the best? We started with a detailed, and sometimes fiery, debate on which of the many should make it on to the ballot paper of the top 10.

Then, and for the past week, just under 300 people gave their verdict and it was fairly clear. The top three sharing the medals were:

Gold: The Defector's Weld on the Green with a commanding 110 votes
Silver: The Princess Victoria on Uxbridge Road with 63 votes
Bronze: The Eagle on Askew Road with 27

Of the remaining seven, the Queen Adelaide on Uxbridge Road was tied with the Anglesea Arms just over from Ravenscourt Park for fourth place, while the Crown & Sceptre off Cathnor Park Road took fifth. The Goldhawk came sixth while the Conningham Arms and The Green took joint seventh. The Grand Union brought up the rear.

This vote of course came just after the Bush was rent asunder by another keenly fought contest over the Best Bush Curryhouse, which was won by the Nepalese Tandoori. I thought what was better about this contest was the debate about why you preferred this one or that one, even if it did get a bit rough and tumble at times.

But for now many congratulations to the Defector's, who can bask in the glory of being the Best Bush Pub of 2012!

Frankly I quite fancy a pint this evening, so guess where I might end up...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bush tube ceiling falls in as Westfield calls shots

Remember when our central line tube shut for ages in 2008 and then didn't even  open with a lift so disabled people could use it? Back in 2011 I asked Boris Johnson why TfL, which he chairs, had spent £39 million of your money on consultants only to abandon plans for a simple lift. He told me it was too expensive.

Now, just 4 years on, the roof as many of you will have noticed, is falling in requiring repairs costing at least half-a-million pounds. Further evidence, according to critics such as our MP Andy Slaughter, that the real reason for the closure four years ago was simply Westfield’s demand that the station be ready for the opening of their shopping centre and nothing to do with engineering imperatives.

An FOI request by Mr Slaughter found this week that “a commercial settlement with Westfield” means that the works will be done at “no cost to London Underground”. But the nature of the commercial settlement is not revealed.

Andy Slaughter said:
“Thousands of my constituents suffered nearly a year of delays and disruption because London Underground danced to Westfield’s tune four years ago. They were outraged then to be given four week’s notice of an eight month closure, and they will be outraged now that the job they suffered so much for was incompetently done and needs repairing so soon. This makes it clearer than ever that nothing mattered four years ago except getting the job done in time to coincide with the opening of Westfield. 
“We said at the time that a properly planned solution should include lifts, and TfL’s own engineers said that the job could have been done without closing the station. While I have no objection in principle to Westfield contributing to the transport system that brings them much of their trade, a commercial arrangement such as this needs to be open and above board – a public transport system should not be run at the beck and call of a private firm. London Underground have many more questions to answer about this; and I shall be asking them.”
I have one thing to add to this which I remember from my days working for the disability sector - in 2025 the Disability Discrimination Act will apply to transport. Which means they will damn well have to install a lift by that time anyway. Which will incur even more cost. So why not just get on with it?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Hammersmith Flyover to fully reopen to traffic on 30 May

The Hammersmith Flyover is set to be re-opened completely on May 30, well in time ffor the Olympics. It will, however, be shut comepletely during the night for two weeks in what will bring to an end a period which has seen much of Hammersmith reduced to little more than a car park and spawned the term 'Jammersmith' among locals and led to fiery scenes in Parliament.

This is of course months later than our own Council told us.

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 within the structure.

Last month, around 22km of new cables were installed above and below the bridge deck as part of a bespoke design, which will supplement the load capacity of the existing cables. These new cables are surrounded by wax oil to prevent deterioration and allow inspection and replacement if required in the future.

In order to carry out the final elements of this work, including resurfacing and relining the carriageway across the flyover, TfL will be carrying out two weeks of overnight closures to the flyover from 15 May until 30 May between 22:00 and 06:00. By carrying out these works overnight, TfL can complete these vital phases of work more quickly and efficiently, minimising disruption to all road users in the area.

During the scheduled closures listed above, traffic will be diverted around the Hammersmith gyratory system. People are advised to consider alternative routes to complete their journey where possible. Once these works are completed, the flyover will be able to carry full traffic loading during the Games and for many decades to come.

Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport at TfL, said:
“The Hammersmith Flyover is a vital artery for London and our engineers have been working non stop since December to deliver a solution which allows us to fully reopen the flyover to all traffic as quickly as possible.
“The final phase of works to prepare the carriageway for full reopening is now well underway and are scheduled to be completed by 30 May; well ahead of the London 2012 Games.”
TfL will return to the structure during 2013 to strengthen the remaining spans. This work will be carried out, where possible, with no weight or lane restrictions and minimal closures to the flyover, which will be coordinated by TfL to minimise traffic disruption.

Monday, 14 May 2012

H&F cuts social housing in 'radical' move

Our Council has today acted to debar people who earn over £40,000 from being entitled to social housing. That’s couples too, so in theory two people working full time on anything over £20,000 each. That’s not too much more than the average wage.

Speaking to the Standard our Council says it will instead give priority to those making a “contribution” which it thinks is more valuable, such as foster carers or ex service men and women and those volunteering as Special Constables.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, who had hopes of leading the Council but who was defeated by Nick Botterill for the top job says this:
“These proposals are about rewarding hard working families who are local to the borough. At the same time we will continue to house elderly people and others who are vulnerable.

“We want to give people a hand up and not a hand out. We fundamentally believe that social housing should be platform of aspiration which enables progression into other forms of housing, such as low cost home ownership, rather than a destination in its own right.

“While the current system of deciding who lives in social housing has successfully provided for the most vulnerable, it has also created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment.”
So it appears despite the resignation of Stephen Greenhalgh our Council is determined not to lose the label of “most radical council” in the UK and we can expect more policies along these lines, together with the inevitable cries of opposition.

Personally I don’t doubt that there is a problem with people who get somehow trapped into lives of dependency but I’m not sure a family working full time on average incomes, who themselves are probably raising kids or who may do, should really be penalised like this. Nobody argues with the idea of rewarding foster carers, ex-military personnel or police volunteers – but if our Council weren’t refusing to build more than the bare minimum of social housing in our borough, in favour instead of inviting property developers to construct luxury flats, then perhaps we wouldn’t have such a shortage here in the first place.

TUESDAY UPDATE - Well if the Council's aim was to make a splash with the media (which it undoubtedly was) they have well and truly succeeded. Articles covering this move, complete with descriptions of H&F as being "flagship", "leading" and other epithets have included the Telegraph, the BBC and LBC while the Tories themselves have written about it on the Conservative Home blog.

Meanwhile Andy Slaughter is unimpressed. He had this to say to me yesterday:
"There is something very fishy about the way the Council is launching its housing strategy with references to a £40,000 cap on earnings for new council tenants. There is nothing in any of the council’s published policy documents about this proposal, and it is completely contrary to everything else in their housing strategy. It is not even mentioned in their press release.

Their policies state that they want to let new build and re-let properties at 80% market rents. This means a 300% increase in current social rents and is unlikely to be affordable to households with an income of less than £40k. If those with an income of more that £40k will not be allowed to, for whom are they intended. 
Where properties are described as “affordable” in new developments they are generally not affordable to people on less than £40k. The Imperial Wharf development approved by PAC in February is an illustration of this: of the 489 flats in that development, 147 are for Discount Market Sale (the only ‘affordable’ element), but only 20 of these are for people earning less that £50K 
I suspect the truth is that the 40k figure was dropped in at the last minute to spin the story away from what is really in the policy, which you and the Guardian were reporting from the leaked document last week, ie:
  • An end to secure homes – 2 to 5 year tenancies
  • Near market rents – a 300% increase
  • Reduction in social housing – by demolition, sales, planning policy
And the latest
  • Subjective judgments as to who are ‘wealth creators’ who can stay and be properly housed locally and those who are unworthy and will be sent to Nottingham"

QPR: A season to remember, and forget

Scenes after promotion last year
QPR are safe and live to fight another season in the top flight. For all of us that watched the extraordinary game yesterday afternoon, let alone those who were actually at the City ground, it was not an afternoon that any of us will ever forget.

And yet it wasn't supposed to be like this. I also remember those afternoons last season when we were clearly the best in the Championship, but had to hang on with the prospect of it all being taken away from us because of the Alejandro Faurlin affair, a problem that arose because of the suits at the club who thought they could short circuit transfer rules.

I spoke to Neil Warnock shortly after that season at Hammersmith Town Hall who was clearly both bursting with pride but also very wary of what the suits at the club might come up with next. That he was already thinking of that tells you much about the boardroom culture at the club.

And much of this season's woes were self inflicted too. Barton's constant undermining of Warnock in the early part of the season and his relish at his ultimate dismissal when it became clear that Tony Fernandes wanted to bring in a bigger fish was symptomatic of the problems created when a hugely enthusiastic owner who has, to his credit, supported the club with his wallet just got a bit too involved in the day to day.

Enter stage left Mark Hughes. Who inherited a mixed bag of players, some clearly still struggling to cope with the premier league but with others who were obviously flourishing, and a Boardroom who by now realised that if this gamble didn't pay off they would all pay the price. No pressure there, then.

That he managed to demonstrate, in his old Manchester City ground, why the owners of that club were so foolish to let him go and in so doing save our own bacon is testament to his abilities. He deserves huge credit.

But what is also important now, as he surveys the wreckage of this year's season and, frankly, one particular player's career at the club, is that he is empowered to take some serious decisions about the future mix at QPR.

First out of the door should be Barton, a thug who not only in his actions on the field yesterday but in his subsequent attempts to justify them on Twitter demonstrated once again why he is unfit to play and has the criminal record that he does. Is that really the sort of team captain that should be on display for younger fans to look up to? We can do better and his removal would be a positive sign of the club maturing into a long term premier league club.

But looking beyond that, Hughes himself has to be the man in charge. Not the beancounters, not the boardroom nor one or two players who believe their own hype - just him. There will, apparently, be a "very big announcement" about the club later today. The rumour is it relates to the ground and where QPR will be playing football in the years to come. I suspect it may mean a new stadium off Wood Lane, but we shall see.

The future for the club is more exciting than it has ever been. This season has been eventful but not in the way that those of us in the paddocks ever wanted. Over time we'll forget some of the bad stuff and hopefully replace it with the greater things to come. But we'll only do that if lessons from this season of all seasons are learned.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Botterill wins H&F Leadership

Nick Botterill: able to get on with people
Nick Botterill has won the leadership contest to take on the mantle of H&F Council's top man. He is currently the Deputy Leader and for a long time has been viewed as a leading contender although I understand a challenge was always in the offing from Cllr Andrew Johnson, the Cabinet Member for Housing.

Personally I am delighted by Nick's win. Of the borough's top Tories he is in my view the most obviously equipped to take on what is going to be a tough job. Unlike many of his colleagues, and certainly unlike the bulldozer that was Stephen Greenhalgh, Nick has a relaxed and respectful demeanour and doesn't feel the need to express his authority by bellowing and braying. And for that I think he gains a great deal more respect.

My own dealings with him have been limited but on the occasions when I have approached him he has always responded both quickly, fairly and usually with very swift action that has resolved the issue. Such as his kicking the bottoms of some contractors who left the Green in a mess with some botched works as soon as it was featured here, and his action over the blockages caused by Thames Water (the purveyors of eternal drought) when they were performing interminable road works on the seven stars corner at the bottom of the Askew Road.

He'll have a big in-tray, but he'll have known that because he's been integrally involved in every major strategic direction the council has taken in recent years. These include the future of the Goldhawk Terrace, the West Ken Estate and the White City regeneration, which I assume Mr Greenhalgh is not now going to take on. I don't envisage him performing any large scale u-turns on any of those (sadly) but I do think he will approach future large scale projects with a great deal more tact, common sense and a desire to take people with him.

Good luck Nick!

Support your police

Throughout today many of your local police men and women will be pounding the streets. Nothing out of the ordinary on that, except for the fact that they wont be on patrol, they'll be on a march. They're taking a stand against the cuts that have progressively degraded the service they are able to provide to the public to the extent that much of it, they point out, is provided due only to their ability to go the extra mile and fill the gaps with goodwill and their own wallets.

I witnessed this at first hand while out on patrol with police officers in Shepherds Bush one Saturday night when they needed to arrest three individuals who had just carried out an assault. I remember very well how essential bits of kit were used such as specialist keys to unlock doors - which they'd had to pay for with their own cash because they hadn't been provided. And the fact that they had to drive around in a van that was frankly falling apart - including a sliding door - which was fine apart from the fact it usually wanted to slide right off its hinges.

In fairness to our Council, who are absolutely committed to fighting crime after my report was published the van was renovated and they now have a new one. But should it have taken that? And what about the Special Constable I met - someone who volunteers for the Police for free and who had used up his entire annual leave allocation to do basic training. For the dubious privilege of facing danger on our behalf. Such as this episode when I accompanied a danger-fraught raid on a crystal meth factory on the White City Estate - inside the flat we found a samurai sword and a club with blades pressed through it that wouldn't have been out of place in a medieval battle field.

I watched people who were prepared to deal with dangers like these one minute and then dispense the most sensitive diplomacy I have ever seen the next, both to victims of crime and potential committers of crime who themselves were slowly dying from disease and drug addiction. Quite a job. I can tell you that the general feeling among them is of real anger bordering on betrayal at these cuts - but I can't quote anyone because that is a political statement. You'll have to take my word for it. Or perhaps not - have a read of this from a serving custody sergeant who blogs anonymously about what the mean for him. It may open your eyes.

The police get a lot of things wrong, and are rightly criticised for them. But let's not forget the fact that these people routinely put themselves on the line for our benefit and for far too long have done so with more goodwill than any of us would probably go to in our own lives. So to see them being asked to accept swingeing cuts that will further degrade the service is frankly beyond the pale.

Support them when they need you - they're there when you need them.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Greenhalgh appointed Deputy Mayor of London

Retiring H&F Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh has been appointed Deputy Mayor for Policing by the newly re-elected Boris Johnson in news coming out of the Evening Standard. This is another step up for Mr Greenhalgh who long ago outgrew the H&F pond and leaves a few struggling to fill his shoes in the ensuing leadership contest in which Cllr Nick Botterill is a leading contender.

The policing post is one of the most high profuile and important in the whole Mayoral system fro London, and not only because of the riots of last August. Knife crime and other elements of anti social behaviour continue to dominate the news as does the ongoing debate about numbers of police. They have either reduced or gone up depending on which starting point you use and unsurprisingly politicians use the one that suits their argument.

Boris famously declared that the News International phone hacking scandal was all a load of cobblers and shouldn't be bothered with. His then Deputy Mayor for Policing (and our own Assembly member) Kit Malthouse tried to tell the Police to stop investigating. While Mr Greenhalgh fills Mr Malthouse's shoes Boris' own spin doctor has moved on the roundabout to go and work for, er, News International. It's tight at the top.

What this may also mean locally is that Mr Greenhalgh's mooted taking on of the White City regeneration project is now off - I just cannot see how you could possibly do both jobs, as both seem to be very large in scale and profile. If he carries on he'll be accused of odd-jobbing on two critical projects and he is far too clever for that.

It may also mean that he stands down as a Councillor in H&F provoking a by-election. One  Tory that lost his previously rock-solid Barnet & Camden seat was Brian Coleman, who held at least three positions - Councillor, Cabinet Member in Barnet and Fire Authority Chairman. He patently couldn't do them all properly and yet took the paycheques - and paid the price.

The comparison stops there because Mr Coleman was also a very rude man with the social skills of a demented rhino whereas Mr Greenhalgh is quite affable - but he'll want to avoid the pitfall, surely.

So ... interesting times ahead both for him and for H&F as ever!

WEDNESDAY UPDATE - Well, there's more than a little confusion about this now. The Evening Standard, for a long time Boris' cheerleaders, were very quick to announce Greenhalgh's appointment but it seems City Hall wasn't quite so sure. I have been told that the BBC cannot get Boris' office to confirm the appointment and that they have been told that it is, as yet, unconfirmed.

This is perhaps why H&F Council's press office have decided to quietly ignore some questions I put to them about what all of this means for us here, in particular Mr Greenhalgh's role in the White City redevelopment scheme. Probably because they don't know and were caught on the hop themselves.

The BBC have reported it as "chaos" as it appears that to take on such a role Mr Greenhalgh would already have needed to relinquish his role as Leader of H&F. He doesn't do that until the end of this month. So the law says he can't.

So it seems that in their desire to reward the Standard for their loyalty during the election they briefed the paper perhaps a bit too early, which the paper in its desire for a scoop then turned into a fully fledged story before City Hall had gotten all its ducks in a row. Embarrassing for all concerned.

1300 WEDNESDAY UPDATE - The Standard are in full row-back mode, paddling furiously and declaring the whole charade to be a "complete shambles", conveniently ignoring their own role in making it so. I have been told by moles both within Hammersmith political circles and at City Hall that the basic argument is that Mr Greenhalgh doesn't want to stand down as a councillor and didn't realise that he would have to. He was also not expecting the announcement to be brought forward.  And these are the people being entrusted with our Police Service?

THURSDAY UPDATE - Greenhalgh has now announced he will be standing down as a councillor in H&F in order to take on the job offered to him by Boris. This will mean a by-election in Fulham which the Conservatives will win comfortably, but which which will provide the local political classes with much to talk about in the days and weeks ahead! 

Taxi wars: Addison Lee filmed breaking law in W12

 Addison Lee are illegally operating in Shepherd's Bush and one enterprising black cab driver has filmed them at it. Writing under the pseudonym Thomas the Taxi on Twitter this taxi driver is Bush based, and also writes a blog chronicling the life of London's cabbies and the issues they face on the Anderson Shelter blog.

You can see quite clearly that the Addison Lee driver is touting for a hail-based cab whereas the firm is only licensed to operate on a pre booked basis. This of course is the same firm who during the London elections thought they would get a buit of free publicity by threatening to drive in bus lanes, and who's odious owner described cyclists as 'amateurs' on the road who only had themselves to blame when they came a cropper.

Thankfully they were first successfully injuncted by a Court from using the bus lanes and then lost a large Government contract as a result. Tsk, amateurs.

When confronted the Addison Lee man, probably seeing that the cabbie was filming, decides to stay in his car and doesn't dispute that he is breaking the law. Sadly for him both his car and his car's registration will now be seen by thousands of people. I plan on asking TfL what action they have or will now take to stop illegal cabs operating in the Bush.