Tuesday 30 November 2010

H&C & Central Line replacement buses cost £920,000

And rising. The Mayor of London revealed last week that those draughty old rickety buses that we all have to endure every time Transport for London decides to close our tube lines has cost nearly £1 million - and it's not even the end of the year yet.

Answering a question from Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, who was actually grilling the Mayor about the costs associated with the Jubilee Line, Boris revealed that replacement buses on the H&C line had cost £442,317 while those replacing the non-existent Central Line on all of those weekends had mounted up to £485,503

That makes a combined cost of £927,820 for the two lines we rely on to get to and from the Bush. The total thus far this year for the tubee as a whole is £8.2 million. Amid all the claim and counter claim about the winter of strikes we seem to have entered into has been an argument about how the tube is being upgraded, with engineering works dragging on until at least 2012 according to recent reports in the Standard.

Caroline Pidgeon thinks there has to be a better way and says this: “Such huge expenditure on replacement buses is just one further reason why a new approach to tube upgrades is necessary. Completing upgrade work in a much shorter space of time - with block closures if necessary - would be good for the Tube and passengers. TfL and the Mayor need to have an urgent rethink."

It should be remembered that this is the same Mayor who presided over £39million being wasted in work to install a lift in the new Shepherd's Bush station so that disabled people could use it. Transport for London had promised that this would be built when they closed the old central station and made us all walk to White City for months on end. They quietly dropped the pledge. £39 million in the pockets of consultants asked to look at the feasibility of building one later, they arrived at their conclusion, which was "nah." And credit to Caroline Pidgeon for forcing the Mayor to tell us about that as well - he originally tried to ignore her questioning on it.

So while we continue to shell out millions on decrepit old buses as TfL continue their unbridled incompetence at managing engineering works, disabled people continue to be denied access even to the new stations that were opened just a year or so ago. That's priorities for you.

Monday 29 November 2010

West London arrests over Brentford murder

A murder inquiry is underway following a stabbing in Brentford, with two suspects having been arrested yesterday morning.

I report this not because it happened in the Bush, because it didn't, but Brentford is not a million miles away and the suspects are in custody at police stations on our patch. It may well be that people who know something about this are very much local to us and could have information for police. Here are the facts as we know them:
  • Police were called at 00.53hrs on Sunday 28 November by the ambulance service to reports of two men stabbed at the junction of New Road and Hamilton Road, Brentford.
  • A 33 year old man had suffered multiple stab wounds to the abdomen, and a 31 year old man had suffered stab wounds to the back.
  • The 33 year old was pronounced dead at the scene. Next of kin have been informed, but we await formal identification.
  • A post-mortem will be held on Monday afternoon (29 November) at Fulham mortuary.
  • The 31 year old was taken to St George's Hospital in Tooting where he was treated and discharged.
  • An incident room has opened at Sutton under DI John McQuade (Homicide and Serious Crime Command). It is believed that the two friends were involved in an altercation with two other men during which they were stabbed. The other men made off - they are described as white and aged in their late 20s/early 30s.
DI McQuade said: "At this stage we must retain an open mind regarding the circumstances of the altercation and any motive.

"We need to speak to anyone who may have seen the incident or can shed any light on the circumstances."

At around 11.00hrs on Sunday 28 November two men [A - 32 ys; B - 27 ys] attended separate police stations in west London and were arrested on suspicion of murder. They remain in custody.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Incident Room on 020-8721 4005; if you wish to remain anonymous please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Mugging on Percy Road, W12 this morning

On a local discussion forum, a Busher writes thus:

My daughter was mugged at 5:30am this morning on Percy Road on her way to work.  The guy was on a bicycle, black, middle aged, thin and wore a hoody.  Anyone see anything or anyone fitting this description, go to the police as the next person he mugs (or worse)could be you or one of your children.

I hope she is OK. Someone I know who stores his kids bikes in a shed had that broken into last week and one of the bikes stolen. When he reported it to the local police they told him that many bikes are now taken in order to commit this sort of crime, on a bike.

Erconwald Road in East Acton actually has a sign warning of mobile thefts being carried out by thieves on bikes as well.

Keep your wits about you.

Tube Strike: Boris's pledge & your journey to work

Well, here we are again then. I'll be driving in to work today after doing the school run and therefore probably spending at least 1.5 hours each way sat in traffic. But at least I have that option and won't be struggling to squeeze on to buses or the remaining trains. Here's some tried and tested pointers for getting to and from the Bush this morning:
  • If you can, use the Overground - it doesnt get affected by the strike and will get you from the Bush either to Clapham Junction in the south or all the way over to Stratford in the east in an arc across North London. From stations like Highbury & Islington you can get trains in to the City (to Old Street)
  • If you have to use the bus try and use them from the start, near their bays in Westfield if they go from there. Trying to get them on the Green is pointless and people get aggressive in the queues.
  • The central line itself is usually running an OK service but only after about 10am based on the last 3 strike days. I've no idea why, but assume its something to do with what union the drivers are members of. Equally the Northern Line has also run but with some stations closed. So if you can leave later you might want to try that. But go to the Bush instead of the outlying stations like East Acton or White City - which may be shut altogether
  • Don't bother even trying the H&C line - both the station and the line will be shut, the drivers on this line are among the most militant of the lot
Hope that's helpful and leave more tips in the comments below if you have any. And just for old time's sake you might want to have a trip down memory lane with Boris Johnson's election leaflet (above) when he promised Londoners he'd put a stop to all this.

In it he attacks Ken Livingstone, of whom I am no fan, for having presided over two strikes per year. This year alone has seen double that and Boris has yet to meet the Unions at all. You may wish to bear that in mind as we near the Mayoral elections.

1330 UPDATE: BBC London News have just had Boris for an interview during which the above leaflet was produced and he was asked about how much progress he'd made. He avoided answering at least three times and in the end said that he wanted Stephen Hammond the Transport Secretary to intervene and ensure that ballots for strike action have a higher threshold before strikes can take place. He also confirmed that he hadn't met anyone from the Unions himself since taking power three years ago. So no progress at all then.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Shepherd's Bush on ice

An upturned bench in a puddle of ice on the Green, and a closed forlorn looking carousel on the edge of Westfield. Not much in the way of festive cheer round these ere parts these days .. but the thing we all must be dreading is surely that regular fixture ... the worst fair in London being camped out on the Green for weeks on end!

Bah, humbug.

Saturday 27 November 2010

QPR: Premiership beckons

A titanic struggle of epic proportions. The majority of this, the most fast paced and unforgiving game I have ever seen at Loftus Rd was spent in either one of the two halves and both goalkeepers will be feeling like they’ve been through the mill tomorrow morning.

I was seated in block CL, in the Paddocks of the South Africa Road, and almost right next to the QPR dug out. What that meant, among other things, was that you could hear every word from Warnock and his team, many of which could probably be heard in Ellerslie Road such was the pitch of his screaming. Much of this was tension, which afflicted the entire ground for the full 90 minutes as the game see-sawed dangerously from one end to the other, but much was reserved for the quite woeful performance of the linesman on our side. It’s fair to say he had a pretty poor game, but Warnock needs to watch his mouth. So much for family entertainment.

Special crowd attention was reserved for Craig Bellamy as you’d expect, and the diminutive Welshman was the terror of both flanks. His pace was really quite special and didn’t seem to tire at any point. Equally however Adel Tarabt was als unplayable and his second, sealing a turnaround from having gone one nil down to the Cardiff side after a calamitous slip from a QPR defender that was ruthlessly punished, led to an eruption of pent up tension from the QPR faithful.

From that point onwards, however, it was heart in mouth time. I saw pies uneaten, flasks of tea un-drunk and mouths open at the fluidity of play and sheer danger of both teams. The pace didn’t slack at any point and both sides showed their athleticism. Should both of these sides go up at the end of this season they will be better sides than several in the premiership at the moment.

Warnock was at pains in the programme and elsewhere to emphasise that this result was not the be all and end all of the season but he betrayed his emotions at the end by euphorically turning to the paddocks and punching the air repeatedly. The crowd responded in kind and you’ve got to imagine that, 5 points clear and having dealt the third successive defeat to their nearest challengers, if they don’t go up this season they never will.

The evening was soured at the end by some ridiculous policing. Having warned the Cardiff fans over the tannoy throughout the game that they would be kept in at the end for “your own safety”, the police then decided to let them out at the same time anyway. The fans have a well-deserved reputation for violence at the best of time and they had just witnessed a high tempo crucial match which they’d lost. You can imagine the entirely predictable results and I saw at least two punch ups as the moronic contingent of both sides traded versions of each other’s parentage.

Apart from that - a fantastic afternoon in W12. Here's some footage of the winning goal courtesy of QPR fan Neil

QPR v Cardiff a sell-out as day of destiny dawns

QPR face Cardiff this afternoon and at the end of it will either be a commanding 5 points ahead of their nearest challenger to the Championship crown, but also with possibly an even more important psychological advantage over their foes for the rest of the season - or they'll have been over taken and sit second one point behind a rejuvenated Welsh side. Or they could have a dull-as-ditchwater draw and no-one be any the wiser.

The stakes couldnt be higher at this stage of the season and the QPR website reports that today's game sold out long ago. Both sets of supporters know this could be a crucial moment and I thought as much weeks ago when I booked my ticket in the paddocks of South Africa Road.

I can't wait for this fixture to start and will post a report later today - but for now all Bushers should be crossing their fingers. Entrance to the premiership would change the Bush in more ways than one so this game actually has more ramifications than you might think.

Friday 26 November 2010

Shepherd's Bush Market: Council hail traders' support

Three traders have come out in support of the Council's plans to redevelop the market. Given the high level of opposition to the plans among other traders the Council is quite understandably keen to promote the voices of those in favour. Here's who they are and what they had to say:

Aslam Malik of Moon Foods Cash and Carry, which is situated close to the Goldhawk Road entrance to the market, said: "I have been in the market for 28 years and have owned my shop since 1997. It is impossible to compare the market today with how it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. I do not even get half as much business now as I used to because no one comes here any more.

"The market definitely needs a change because it is going downhill very fast. The way things are going, no one will ever come here in the future. Something needs to be done to save the market and I am very pleased that the council wants to help

"I am completely in favour of what the council is trying to do and I would like to see a full regeneration of the area. However, the one thing that we really need is improvements to the parking".

Waseem Zakaria runs a butchers and a fruit and veg stall in the market. He said: "The market is really struggling at the moment and I am in favour of the council's proposals to regenerate it. However, it is vital the market traders are at the heart of the regeneration and the parking situation is improved.

It is crucial that the traders are treated with respect and I was pleased to read that the council has said that the market will not be closed for one day. If the market was to be closed during the regeneration, I do not think that people will come back. All we ask for is that the traders are treated fairly and the parking problem is addressed

Wahid Abohiga sells CDs and DVDs and runs the first market stall from the Goldhawk Road entrance. He also agreed that something needs to be done to improve the market and surrounding area.

He said: "Since I came here in 1997, the market has taken a turn for the worse. No one comes here any more and there is a very bad atmosphere. These proposals from the council and Orion give me and a lot of traders hope that things will improve. Something needs to be done to bring new people here. The stalls need to be enlarged. If my wife wants to buy a pair of trousers the shop or the stall must have space for her to try it on, otherwise she will just go to Westfield."

The council knows, however, that the vast majority of traders have formed a group to fight the plans. The Cabinet came face-face with them at this bizarre meeting just a couple of weeks ago. They are politely described thus: "not all of the market traders appear to be in favour of the regeneration proposals at the moment"

Er, no. Not to mention the residents of Lime Grove and Pennard Road.

James Horada, Chair of the Shepherds Bush Market Traders Association, said: "OSBL [Orion Shepherds Bush Limited] did an initial presentation to traders last week and there were a couple of concerns that have left us worried. Orion spoke about creating a third entrance to the market from Goldhawk Road and we found this particularly upsetting as we have made it clear to them in the past that we think this would divert people away from businesses that are currently in the market.

"Orion also failed to give us any real information about exactly what kind of regeneration they have planned for the market. The current infrastructure of the market does need improving and they were very vague about this.

We have hoped that regenerating the market would lead to new parking and loading bays within the complex itself but Orion did not appear to be in favour of that

But Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh is having none of it. He says:

"The council wants to see a market that is flourishing, with more people visiting and market traders enjoying a more secure and prosperous future. Our proposals are all about increasing footfall to the market and making the traders and the businesses in the surrounding area more profitable. We also want to create new public spaces, build new homes and create a new cultural quarter, focussed around the Bush Theatre who have recently moved into the old library building.

"We do not want to change the identity or character of the market but there is no doubt that the market needs investment in infrastructure and facilities if it is to maximise its undoubted potential. We all look forward to securing the long-term future of the market and the surrounding area and are thrilled that traders are now coming on-board

Opposition Leader Stephen Cowan, however, has a rather different take on the Council's version of what three traders coming on board means:

"This is a ridiculous piece of propaganda. Contrast it with what happened four weeks ago when over two hundred traders and residents turned up to the Council Meeting to demonstrate against the Conservatives' plans for Shepherds Bush market. Indeed so many objectors turned out the Council had to put many of them into an overflow room and have the debates and votes despatched through to them via intercom.

That meeting was a disaster for the Conservative Administration as they were booed and jeered for being unconvincing in their arguments and vague in their assurances. The Shepherds Bush councillors tell me that these proposals were given a similarly difficult reception at a public meeting just yesterday. None of this was reported in a council press release or mentioned in H&F News - the Council's North Korean style propaganda paper.

But now, they've managed to find just three traders to express some positive noises and the Council writes it up as a major story. I'm genuinely not sure whether this Administration is deluding themselves or whether they think we're all stupid enough to be deluded by them. Whatever the situation, I call on the Conservatives to stop wasting their efforts and our money putting this nonsense out.

Instead, they must properly engage with residents and traders, hear their concerns and provide a way forward where everyone's rights are legally protected and whatever plans they end up going with has the support of the people and businesses in Shepherds Bush - particularly those most affected."

101 uses for H&F News: competition

How do you use your H&F News? This clever resident uses it to patch up his ageing van, which judging by the stickers in the windscreen is owned by some of our ever present heavy drinking antipodean neighbours to take them from party to party.

But it prompted me, especially since it's friday, to throw down the gauntlet to you, fellow Bushers, to come up with some ingenious ways to use the last remaining copies of the propaganda paper our Council has been forced to give up by the Government as part of their clamp-down on what they call "Town Hall Pravdas".

I remember one commenter on the blog saying she used it to block draughts from coming under the front door, and I know I've used it in setting light to a bonfire before, but what about you? In these final days of Pravda, which we've all paid so much money to receive, surely we can help our Council's finest go out with a bang? Give me your ideas below and I'll relay the best ones before Christmas! Happy friday!!

Thursday 25 November 2010

Shepherd's Bush: Gritters ready for the snow

Snow is expected in W12 this weekend as temperatures plummet courtesy of some Norwegian weather coming our way. Walking down the Uxbridge Road on my way to the gym every morning has become notably more of a challenge recently and the idea of running outside seems lunacy - which makes me all the more proud of having done so in my training for this year's Brighton marathon!

Our Council, who took a whole lotta flak for it's woeful performance in gritting the roads (or basically just not gritting them unless they were a main traffic route) has apparently learned its lessons and has just sent out a missive courtesy of its electronic successor to soon-to-be-defunct 'H&F News'. Our local gritters now have more grit than they know what to do with and are just revving their engines praying for the white stuff to show us all what they can really do..

Councillor Greg Smith, cabinet member for residents’ services, said: “We are fully prepared for snow and cold weather – we have a full stock of grit and excellent planning that will keep the roads clear, schools open and council services running. Now that residents can help clear pavements outside their doors without fear of reprisals, that will also help.
“Hammersmith & Fulham endured some terrible conditions last winter but, thanks to the efforts and resilience of our staff and residents, together we made sure the borough kept on working and running smoothly. This year will be no different and we will do all we can so that it remains business as usual in H&F when the snow starts to fall.”

I'm all for having a go at the authorities when they get things wrong but if our leaders really have learned from what went wrong last year then full credit to them. We all make mistakes and they obviously didn't anticipate last year's weather - which in fairness to them was some of the worst on record. I was still dodging pot-holes on our roads into the spring.

If they cope well this year they deserve a gold star - so good luck to them. And good luck to you - remember to check on neighbours, especially if they're elderly.

Shepherd's Bush Market: Developers change story on homes

Orion, the developers our Council have teamed up with to rebuild Shepherd's Bush Market, are there to make a profit. And there's nothing whatsoever wrong with that, the traders of the market themselves are doing exactly the same thing. What seems to have upset those very few residents who were allowed to go and talk to Orion last night is that they don't seem to want to be straight with people about how. 

At last week's meeting with traders I'm told a figure of 300 homes was used by Orion front-man Chris Horn. That is to say, they will be building enough flats on the site to sell off at a profit to offset what they'll be spending to knock down the Market and build it again. But last night, in a meeting with residents who understandably wanted to know how many new neighbours they'll be getting, the same Mr Horn denied using that figure, and then went on to say he'd never put a number on it. Orion had no clear idea for the number of flats they want to build, apparently. So the whole basis on which they make a profit is still 'to be confirmed' according to Orion. 

Would you believe that? Neither did the residents. The meeting, which kicked off with a powerpoint presentation from Mr Horn, didn't start well when a slide illustrated one of these mystery new homes backing onto existing homes on Pennard Road, with what one resident described as "a minuscule garden acting as a buffer".
It seems that the old laundry site on Pennard Road is where Orion are going to make their gold, by building the homes they claim to know so little about. Pravda reports that:
"The council has agreed to give developers OSBL an option to buy the council's land on Pennard Road, which is known as the former laundry site. If they can assemble the rest of the land needed to come up with a viable scheme that ultimately gets planning consent and is in accordance with the council's planning brief then it is likely that OSBL will exercise the option and progress with the development"
That's certainly in keeping with what residents were shown last night but the same Pravda article also claims that the Council will ensure that Orion will:
"protect the interests of residents of Lime Grove and Pennard Road."
But in order to do that they need to have the confidence of those residents, and last night probably did more harm than good on that score. As one resident who attended the meeting said to me:
"I think Orion and the Council have Bush residents down as a transient and not very well educated or smart bunch. We intend to prove them wrong."

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Police Helicopter over Askew Road searches for man in garden

You asked - I answered! Some of you asked about a police helicopter waking you up in the early hours over Askew Road so I put in a call to the local Police, who answered very promptly, so full marks to them. A spokeswoman told me:

"We did call the police helicopter out at 01:28hrs along Bassein Park Road, W12 as a local resident informed us that a male had been seen jumping into a garden. The area was searched with no trace of anyone".

So there you have it. Personally I think it's great that a worried resident making that call got such a swift response which on this occasion might not have found anyone but in future may well do. Well done rozzers.

West London Free School: Council launches campaign

The opening of Toby Young's West London Free School in Palingswick House has moved a step closer with our Council's launch of a 'consultation' with residents. Featured in one of the last remaining issues of propaganda paper 'H&F News' the Council makes it very clear that:

"The West London Free School has the backing of H&F Council who are actively helping in the search for a suitable site for the new school in the borough".

So the idea of 'consulting' with residents in the article entitled "views sought on 'free' school" seems to be a bit pointless. The real question is where the school is going to go. The original idea of the West London Free School was for it to be in Ealing, but the Labour council which took power there at the last election ruled that out. I'm also told by those in the know that they were turned down by Hounslow Council too.

Palingswick House, as you may recall, is currently inhabited by 23 voluntary sector organisations working in the borough, all of whom have been told they need to move out as part of the Council's plans to divest itself of buildings to become a slimmer more efficient local authority. But even Pravda in the same article felt it necesary to acknowledge the controversy over the idea of West London Free School (teaching unions are implacably opposed to the idea and only 16 schools have put themselves forward throughout the entire UK).

What will really add fuel to this fire is that West London Free School, when it throws the doors of Palingswick House open, will be recruiting many of its children from outside of H&F. So local organisations serving local people will make way for a school for non-local children.

But free schools seems to be the future of education in our borough and especially here in Shepherd's Bush - ARK Academies, which already runs Burlington Danes Academy in Du Cane Road, is working with the North Hammersmith Parent Group to set up the Ark Conway Primary Academy on the former Wormholt library site in White City while the proposed Rivendale Free School would be in Shepherd's Bush, but a suitable site has apparently yet to be found.

I've always seen why the idea of Free Schools is popular with parents - and my mocking the Council is simply about their way of presenting biased information as fact - there is clearly no intention to genuinely consult so why say there is? But whatever your view on the subject get used to hearing more about them - they're here in the Bush to stay.

Remember Maguindanao

It's a year to the day since 57 people were massacred and dumped in a pit in Maguindanao, Southern Philippines, where I go quite frequently because of my work for a peacebuilding NGO called International Alert. The BBC has produced quite a thoughtful piece on it which you can watch here.

And some of the colleagues of the murdered journalists have produced this quite moving collage here:

Absolutely nothing to do with Shepherd's Bush, but hey this is my blog and I thought I'd do my little bit to flag it up. The two armed conflicts that ravage the southern Philippines (communist and extreme Islamist inspired) have been going for decades and result in the sort of lawlessness that permits these sort of acts to happen. According to the International Federation of Journalists the country is now the most dangerous in the world to be a journalist in (30 of the 57 were reporters).

The group were accompanying an opposition candidate who was registering for elections which at that time were being held.

During my last visit there I was training some fellow peace advocates, one of whom told me how she'd witnessed her parents abduction and death, and that she'd spent her life since then trying to work for peace, but also trying to find where they'd been buried. Puts all of our challenges into perspective methinks.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Shepherd's Bush: Sainsburys on Askew Road hits small business

I've been speaking to small businesses on the Askew Road, three of them to be precise, none of which wanted to be identified. But each of them, representing different trades, have told me that since Sainsburys opening their store on the old derelict garage space they have noticed a drop in customers. In two cases they have actually had to put their prices up although they said this was a marginal increase.

Sainsburys don't generally have the reputation of Tescos for putting small traders out of business, and in any case that site opposite the doctors surgery looks a thousand times better than it did as a derelict car park with some kind of quasi legal car washing scheme being run on it. But since I was put on to this story by a reader last weekend it does seem that the existing businesses on the Askew Road have found their lives made harder by it being there.

It's tempting simply to have a go at Sainsburys but I think that's too simplistic and in fairness even one of the shopkeepers I spoke to also said the supermarket had smartened the road up. At the end of the day just because it's there doesn't mean we have to buy all of our groceries there and the Askew Road boasts some excellent small shops that offer a very tailored service - from booze to bread to, er, fried chicken! So maybe the lesson in this is one to ourselves - if we want to keep those sorts of shops going on one of the least well known but least Westfield-ised parts of the Bush - we'd better use them ourselves.

I'm sure this was a topic of conversation at the launch of the Askew Business Network at the Greyhound Pub just off Askew Rd last week. Sadly I was taken ill with the obligatory November cold just beforehand so wasn't able to make it but I heard around 70 people turned up and that the atmosphere was very positive indeed. There's a lot going for this part of the Bush, and these people are going to be the key to making it happen. So good luck to them.

Shepherd's Bush play "goes mental" on Broadway

A play from the Bush has made it in New York and then some, according to the Standard. Elling, which features two Norwegian psychiatric patients, has won rave reviews and a stellar line up to watch the first night. 

So well done to the Bush theatre where it was first performed (although confusingly in the Standard they talk about the Bush and also the Lyric!)

Monday 22 November 2010

Saudi School at centre of storm is in Acton

One of our local schools, the King Fahad Academy in Acton, is at the centre of a storm today over the teaching of some fairly brutal lessons about hacking off the limbs of criminals and generally being homphobic and anti semitic. It will be the subject of a panorama programme this evening and the Government is close to announcing smoe kind of official review. It's manna from heaven of course to the Daily Mail who splashed it on the front page as you might imagine. More to follow.

Cyclist death: Driver on mobile sentenced to 7 years

In June last year a woman cycling to work was crushed by a lorry whose driver was both recovering from a  night's heavy drinking and talking on his mobile phone. Dennis Putz was sentenced to 7 years (of which he'll serve only about 4) and Catriona Patel's family are left shattered.

On the morning of this tragedy, which took place in Oval in south London, I actually stopped to look at the legions of cyclists on the road when I came out of Stockwell tube on my route to work there. Stockwell is just a a stop or so south of Oval and the road follows the same line. South London then, as now, has many many more cyclists than we do in West London but I said at the time that the case raised questions about the safety of cyclists in our neck of the woods too, particularly those I see weaving in and out of the traffic on the way to Holland Park roundabout which never ceases to amaze me.

In response to that article several of you noted that the cycle lanes in and around Westfield were far from perfect and even someone from an HGV training school wrote in to say that cyclists always needed to be on their guard.

But what also gets me about this case, as it went on, was the fact that the driver was on his phone - which is something you very much do see all the time in W12. How can anyone think that driving while holding a phone to  your ear is anywhere approaching safe? If you're on the roads today in any capacity remember Catriona's fate if only to serve as a constant reminder that there are some extremely dumb & dangerous people behind the wheel around you - and watch out.

H&F Council in Rotten Boroughs: Private Eye

Referring to these development plans for Hammersmith our Council has caught the eye of the scribes at Private Eye, to earn them a place in the column every local authority dreads being featured in: Rotten Boroughs!

Read it and weep:

Saturday 20 November 2010

QPR turn corner on road to premiership?

Today may well mark a turning point on the road to premier league football next year for QPR. It's just one set of results but the very long duel that has been going on at the top of the Championship between Rangers and Cardiff has just resulted in QPR knocking Preston away with a commanding 3-1 performance at home, while Cardiff were thumped 2-0 by Nottingham Forest - in Cardiff.

The only thing you can say with any certainty at the moment is that QPR will be serious contenders at the end of this season, which in these dark and gloomy nights seems a million miles away but in the warm spring games that will decide the promotion prospects we know we'll be up there among them.

What today's set of results might tell you is that of the two top teams QPR seem to have more staying power than Cardiff. Both teams are draw specialists this season, and in Rangers case this means they've still yet to be beaten. But the murmurings about the lack of outright wins by Neil Warnock's side must surely be silenced now and all eyes looking at next weekend for a confirmation.

And why next weekend? Well, next saturday we play Cardiff at home. A massive, massive mid season fixture that takes on all sorts of psychological dimensions now. Lose and you have to think it would be hard for the losing side to pick themselves up again, win and the players would have to start getting a feeling of destiny.

I'll be there, in the South Africa Road paddocks this time, and so should you be if you can. This might just be our time.

What a change from the days of Mad Dog and the Strange Man.

Friday 19 November 2010

French embassy abuse

I was driving down roxwell road W12  today at 0850 when I was confronted by a car coming the other way - the driver stopped just to shout some abuse at me - how awful england and english people were. The man worked for the French embassy and was using a blue diplomatic car. What pleasant people the French embassy have representing France.

and just in case our friends on Cromwell Road pick this up on their Google Alerts:

Je roulais sur Roxwell Road a Shepherd's Bush aujourd'hui a 0850 quand j'ai été confronté par une voiture venant en sens inverse - le chauffeur s'est arrêté juste à crier des abus de moi - l'Angleterre quelle horreur et en anglais les gens étaient. L'homme a travaillé pour l'ambassade française et a été l'aide d'une voiture bleue diplomatique. Ce que les gens agréables de l'ambassade française ont représenter la France.

Hardly entente cordiale

Plug: New local chiropractors open on Uxbridge Rd

Ever happy to profile local businesses, if you need yer feet lookin at then pop in to Bush newbies Imperial Chiropractic, which is located at 41 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, just along from Shepherds Bush Market Tube Station.

Explaining their choice of the Bush a spokeswoman tells me "Having searched for the ideal location and premises in the West London area for many years, Shepherds Bush seemed the obvious choice. Vibrant, cosmopolitan and a youthful community".

Silver tongued cavaliers. Good luck to them. and Happy Friday!

Thursday 18 November 2010

David Cameron at Jack Tizard School, Shepherd's Bush

The Standard reports on a  very moving visit the Prime Minister paid to Jack Tizard school in Shepherd's Bush today. For those of you that dont know it it's opposite the White City Estate on South Africa Road next to QPR. And its a school for children with disabilities of various kinds. And its clearly a very, very special place.

David Cameron's son Ivan, who died last year, went to the school and today the Camerons returned to open a new pool for the children there. I have to say stories like this really do put things in perspective. And though this wasn't the purpose of the story it reminds me just what amazing services and people providing those services we have here in W12.

Shepherd's Bush: pornographic publicity stunt at Westfield

The Daily Mail is in full righteous throat over this latest display at the Westfield shopping centre, thus doing exactly what the retailer Suit Supply rather hoped they would.

I suspect the over-eager security guards didn't intervene during this photo shoot, but it does give me another chance to highlight the skills of Nathan, our ever friendly local heavy:

Shepherd's Bush Market: Developers exclude residents

Unless you live 100 metres from the Market you don't have a voice that's worth listening to as far as the future of our Market is concerned. Welcome to life in the world of property developers Orion who have posted the letter below through people's letter boxes about the future of the Market. If you live further than 100 metres all you get is the chance of a "drop-in" show.

You'll recall that the existing traders and those that inhabit the Victorian row of shops set to be demolished adjacent on Goldhawk Road are implacably opposed to the plans. You'll also recall that our Council has now agreed to a public meeting about them on December 1st - but this is after the decisions have been made

I've written to Orion asking them to justify the effective exclusion of Shepherd's Bush from debate on the centre piece of our area and will publish any response I get here. In fairness to the Council I do know that some discussions at least are set to be had with traders away from the spotlight but now that Orion seem to be in charge you've got to have your doubts about how far they can get.

Meanwhile the traders and their allies are preparing for possible legal action, so we seem to be headed for the Courts again, and not for the first time with this Council.

Or Ion 021

Orion held the first of two meetings with the traders and residents last night, and speaking on the traders facebook campaign page one of them, David Wilson, had this to say about the meeting:

"The first Orion meeting took place tonight - for the traders. They tried to present a friendly face to the traders, "we have no specific proposal, we want to talk to you to ensure we work together to improve the market". Very magnanimous. Didn't mention the 'hundreds of new homes' they will be building on the sight unt...il questioned directly. Told us that the development will be funded by the new homes , but didn't know how many they would build (seems unlikely that they wouldn't know roughly what the development will cost and thus how many homes above the market premises etc would cover the cost and no doubt deliver a profit). They plan to build a second 'lane' for market stalls to join the existing lane. This means creating a second entrance on the Goldhawk road, either through at least number 30 or at the other end through at least number 52 - oh and Pennard Mansions as well. Not very satisfactory."

And here's another leaflet from our Council about the scheme, with a Q&A section at the back advertising the next public meeting on December 1st. Interested that they say 30-52 Goldhawk Road shops could remain with "the same frontage" - which seems at odds with what Orion have told tenants privately - that they have to move to make way for an entrance. With thanks to Bee in the Bush for this leaflet.

Shepherd's Bush Market and Theatre Regeneration

Filthy blog launched by Thames Water

Thames Water “flusher” Danny Brackley has launched a blog documenting the thrills, spills - and celebrities - he encounters in the bowels of London.

While Londoners go about their business above ground, the 25-year-old trunk sewer inspector and author of The Sewerman’s Log roams the capital’s network of Victorian drains.

He and his 39-strong band of “flusher brothers” clear blockages to keep things running smoothly. The occasional rat has to be contended with, as do vast build-ups of putrid fat, or ‘fatbergs’ – the flushers’ arch-enemy in their ongoing ‘Bin it - don’t block it’ campaign.

Fat is wrongly washed down customers’ sinks and when it hits the sewers it cools, sets hard and forms nasty blockages which Danny and his mates have to remove, sometimes by hand.

But as well as poo, fat and other hideous unmentionables, there is a a strange creature that Danny keeps bumping into in the filth-filled drains of London – the celebrity.

In the last week alone Danny has been in the drains with One Show presenters Alex Jones, Chris Evans and Jason Manford, as well as Capital Radio host Johnny Vaughan and actor Neil Morrissey.

Danny said: “I’ve started this blog because I want people to know what goes on in the murky but fascinating world below London.

“The Sewerman’s Log will leave no stool unturned. I will reveal all about the grot and the grime as well as the big names who grace our historic sewers, designed in the 1800s by our ‘sewer god’ Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

“So if you’re keen to hear about what I and my flusher brothers get up to, pay a visit to
thesewermanslog.wordpress.com to read all about it.”

Thames Water treats 2.8bn litres of wastewater a day from its 13.8m customers. The company has 43,000 miles of sewers.

And as we know they have had a series of run ins with our own local authority over their alleged desire to take over and ruin Furnival Gardens. We now know that that was never the case, and that our Council themselves wish to take over one third of that park to allow developers to build a bridge on it to some luxury flats instead.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Hammersmith residents campaign hold public meeting

Save Our Skyline's next public meeting, following this one which saw around 400 people pack into Rivercourt Methodist Church on King Street will be held on Monday, 6 December, at 7.00pm.

Since that meeting, at which Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh proclaimed his "hurt" and determination to "listen" to the residents concerns, the same Cllr Greenhalgh submitted the plans against which the residents were protesting without change. Among signtaures given publicly against the development, is now to be counted Tory star Zac Goldsmith MP.

I spoke to Cllr Harry Phibbs before the start of the first Save our Skyline meeting, who said he recognised the residents concerns but felt they underestimated the dilapidated state of the current Town Hall building, the redevelopment of which forms the basis for the whole plan. Perhaps anticipating the doubts that were cast on the case for this redevelopment he told me he was going to organise tours of the building so people could see for themselves, which seems to be quite a good way of engaging people at least.

And true to his word the first tour will be taking place this afternoon at 4pm. So well done Cllr Phibbs, but expect an even more rancorous meeting in December. I have a sneaking feeling that Cllr Greenhalgh may not attend the next meeting after his decision to ignore the residents he claimed to want to "listen" to by submittting an unchanged plan to the developers.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Shepherd's Bush: The Big Society arrives

The Prime Minister's Big Society policy advisor, Lord Wei, will address the West London Citizens Assembly on how the Big Society idea will affect people in West London. Thursday, 18 November, 7-9.00pm in Hammersmith Town Hall; you can find more information here

It's an interesting concept in this part of the world, as residents groups themselves increasingly come together to raise funds and campaign against their own Council's planning decisions and in some cases force retreats. You could say that's the Big Society in action, but I doubt our local authority will see it quite that way!

Shepherd's Bush Somalis speak about Paul & Rachel Chandler

The BBC reported from Shepherd's Bush yesterday talking to the large Somali community that live in this part of the world about the kidnapping and recent release of British hostages Paul & Rachel Chandler. It brings home again to me how small the world is but also how interconnected we all are. I was once told by a senior journalist based in the region that some of the pirating that takes place off the coast of that country is coordinated by mobile phone from Kensington!

I often pass that mosque in the basement of the house  on Uxbridge Road in that at times like this during the year when the Mosques are full, its about the time of Hajj at the moment, and see the very many Somalis coming out at about 6am after morning prayers on my way to the gym. They always strike me as quite isolated in many ways and much has been written elsewhere about their struggle to integrate with communities here. But this report and the efforts that plainly many of them made in order to secure the release of these hostages, coupled with the embarrassment they obviously felt over the whole episode will have done a lot to open people's eyes to these still relatively new neighbours of ours. They're very welcome.

Monday 15 November 2010

Homeless charity closed

A pregnant woman forced to sleep on park benches was hardly the image our Council wished to project of a modern compassionate Conservative council, but when they were found guilty of "maladministration" by the local government ombudsman and forced to pay compensation they had little choice. The woman, who had turned up after a beating from her abusive partner and was visibly both pregnant and injured, was turned away. 

She spent four nights trying to maintain a modicum of dignity by washing in a McDonald's toilet nearby. 

Not one official was held accountable for their actions with no disciplinary action having been taken, the jobsworths were just following the rules apparently. Now the Council, which in fairness held its hands up and even allowed reporting of the case to feature in Pravda, has withdrawn funding and therefore led to the closure of the homeless service that supported this woman.

Supporters point out that Threshold Housing Advice referred the Council to the local government ombudsman, causing embarrassment to the administration. They link that action with the decision to close the service in this round of spending reductions. According to the Hammersmith & Kensington TimesCllr Stephen Cowan, leader of the Labour opposition, said: “It is hard not to reach the conclusion that the removal of all Council funding to that organisation is anything other than cold-hearted revenge.”

But Cllr Carlebach, Cabinet Member for Community Care, said: “The council received 89 applications from 68 organisations requesting £6.5million - around three times what we actually have to spend. We recognise that some unsuccessful groups will be disappointed that they were not funded on this occasion but 35 groups were successful, including 14 newly funded projects.”

I don't know whether malice played a role or not. I'd like to think not and on balance don't think it did, but you can understand why others might suspect otherwise.  

West London Free School to Hammersmith?

I've been hearing rumours that Toby Young's West London Free School is about to be unveiled as the new occupant of Palingswick House, the building currently inhabited by 23 voluntary sector organisations that have been told they are to be evicted in the name of cutting what Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh refers to as our Council's "debt mountain".

Toby Young, a media personality and regular on the small screen talking about his proposed new school, has been turned down by a number of other prospective landlords and siting his school right in our borough when it was originally slated as being a school for Acton would be controversial. Not least because the school is apparently set to recruit pupils from across London. In other words voluntary sector groups serving Hammersmith & Fulham will have been removed in favour of a 'local' school that serves children predominantly from outside the local area.

As I said when I first reported on this almost a year ago, I am in two minds about the idea of the school itself. I can perfectly see the desire of parents to take charge of their children's education and establish a school that better responds, as they see it, to the needs of their children. On the other hand local schools will be immediately impacted by parents wishing to get a slice of this action and withdraw their kids from those schools.

So we wait and see ... and I should say I have no firm evidence to back this up, but having been told it more than once and from people who do tend to have an insight into these things, I'm just bringing you the word on the street. The Council or West London Free School are free at any time to confirm or deny things...

1730 UPDATE: Labour attack blog "H&Fconwatch" has picked up the story and started the inevitable politicking about this issue. You can expect more of the same if/when the Council confirm or deny the story. More to follow, watch this space.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Fulham Chronicle: how the media works

If you were in any doubt about where the local press get a lot of their material from, compare this story I wrote about the Cabinet meeting relating to Shepherd's Bush Market earlier this week - which the Chronicle didn't attend - and this little article here in the Chronicle itself.

Just to make it easier I've reproduced the two sets of relevant text below, highlighting the bits they lifted. And did this blog get a mention for being their source? Guess.

Fulham Chronicle:

Meanwhile, under-fire council leader Stephen Greenhalgh says the new theatre will form the centrepiece of his vision for the new Shepherd's Bush Market – but threatened traders confronted him over his controversial plans for the area at a stormy meeting last week.
About thirty voiced their opposition over the plans, which involve demolishing the Victorian line of shops to create a new 'cultural quarter' encompassing a plaza, new shops and cafes and the new theatre.
The petitioners, many of whom have traded at the market for years, slammed Mr Greenhalgh for labelling their shops 'shabby' and mocked him for his insistence the council is consulting with them over its ambitions.
And they cried 'shame' and 'disgraceful' when the meeting was called to a halt.
Earlier they found support from opposition Labour leader Stephen Cowan, who lambasted Mr Greenhalgh and his cabinet for not posing any questions to the petitioners.

The day before you could have read on this blog, the following text:

Shut up" "Pin your ears back and listen" retorted Cllr Greenhalgh, Council Leader and in this setting formal receiver of the two petitions presented to the Cabinet this evening from residents concerned with theproposed redevelopment of Shepherd's Bush Market.

He was talking to Cllr Stephen Cowan, the Leader of the Labour Opposition, who had also turned up for this public meeting, at which there were also roughly 30 people from the Bush, supporting the two speakers.

One of whom, Aniza Meghani, outlined the fears and anger felt by those traders who occupy the Victorian line of shops which are slated to be demolished by the Council in its' "overarching vision" for the Market. She rebuked Cllr Greenhalgh in a passionate defence of the existing Market for having described their appearance as being "
poor" and "shabby". No customer in decades had ever made such a remark which had been taken as an insult, she added, before going on to outline the multicultural and niche nature of the current Market. She mocked the Council for saying that officially they had "no plans" but were "consulting" by asking with mock innocence why they had in the same breath already been talking about compulsory purchase orders in order for Orion the developers to move in.

Following this presentation Andrew Frederick gave an impassioned plea for the Council to think again over its plans, as part of the redevelopment, to close a functioning hostel for homeless people with drug and alcohol problems and move them into an old hostel which had been closed in May. The old hostel, Lime Grove, had failed and resulted in numerous run ins between residents and service users - with predictable consequences involving the police on many occasions. He said that to re-open Lime Grove would be to fail both the vulnerable people who need the service but also the residents. All, he said, "
so you can build flats all over the Market." He pledged that the residents would "fight the plans with every means at our disposal" but urged the Council to back away and think again. They did not want confrontation, he said.

They were heard in stony silence. Cllr Greenhalgh summarised the presentations briefly and asked his colleagues if they had any questions. His Cabinet colleagues at this point all seemed to develop an intense interest in the desks in front of them and studied them closely, eyes down. None had any questions.

Cllr Greenhalgh then thanked the residents for coming and clearly wanted to close the public meeting. The concerns had been noted he said and would be registered both with council officials and with the developers.

At this point the people in the room, who had travelled to the meeting realised that the Leader was trying to tell them that that was that. Finitto.

This prompted cries of "
shame", "disgraceful" and other epithets while the two speakers decided to take matters into their own hands, and start to ask the Council to at least respond to their points. Cllr Greenhalgh refused and reiterated that their concerns would be "noted". Job done. His colleagues were still studying their desks, to a man. And woman.

At this point Cllr Cowan intervened and attacked the process as a sham, urging them to "
at least have some questions" for the petitioners who, he said, had travelled through the rain. This sort of treatment was the reason why people didn't believe this Council, he charged.

1735 UPDATE - two angry tweets later it would seem I've upset the relevant journo at the Chronicle by insinuating they get "a lot of material" from this blog. His comment was "purlease". He didn't deny the plagiarism though. I actually don't mind them, or the BBC or anyone else using this as a source - but call me old fashioned, I just think they should say where they got their stuff from if it wasn't from them! I don't get paid to do this stuff full time - they do, and should know better. But maybe I'm just being cranky.

15th November UPDATE: The Chronicle has repented of its sinful ways and now acknowledged this blog as being the source of its material on that article. They've asked me to point this out which of course I'm happy to do. Don't let it happen again chaps.