Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bush drug house closed – result for local police

Raid on Woodger Rd W12
Following this raid which I attended alongside the Shepherd’s Bush police Safer Neighbourhood Team a drug house was yesterday shut by court order for three months.

I wasn’t able to give you the exact address at the time of my initial report for fear of prejudicing any court action but I can now reveal that number 32 Woodger Road W12, which was raided under a drugs warrant, has been closed for three months under an Anti Social Behaviour order.

What most struck me about being on that raid was the very obvious state of intimidation that other people living on that small cul de sac were quite clearly under, with one man hesitating and looking both ways before giving me the thumbs up sign at the sight of the police taking action against these people.

In that situation the police’s job, if they are to be successful, is to be sensitive and win over people’s confidence as much as play the tough guy and brutally charge down doors, before sitting on the bad guys while the cuffs go on. I saw both. And the court case this week duly heard from a number of anonymous witness statements from neighbours, which formed part of the Met’s case against this property.

The venue has now been completely sealed and is in the possession of the police. The Safer Neighbourhood Team are at present assisting the the housing provider to gain possession of the venue from the tenants at another court hearing which will happen in the near future. But all of that is process – the main thing which will have transformed the lives of the people living on that side street in the Bush is that these neighbours from hell are gone.

You have to hope, for good.

Very many congratulations to the team – you have to worry, though, at how we will cope when they are gone once Boris and his Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh have swung the axe. It is now no longer denied that these teams are at risk of disbandment with even the police stations themselves being sold off - despite the Deputy Mayor's farcical attempts to obfuscate. In our case that would mean five years of getting to know the local community and quietly changing people’s lives like this would be gone. Quite a price to pay.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Catch W12 "Prat in the Hat"

Watch the above - a man assaulting a bus driver on the number 72 in Shepherd's Bush. It was our very own spot in the limelight on the BBC Crimewatch programme last night. As the presenter says, please take a look at the thug and contact police if you have information about who he is - "make this the end of the line, for the prat in the hat"!

Sign up for Art on Askew!

A petition has been started by a local to Askew Road who wants to turn the stretch into a colourful canvass with art etched, sprayed and painted onto its walls. Sound odd? It's based on several other areas and would clearly need the permission of the businesses and residents inside those buildings first!

This is about legal graffitti/art (delete according to taste) and it would certainly be an interesting step in the evolution of this road from its dark days of decline to its award winning emergence as one of London's increasingly talked about corners.

See what you think - and sign on if you think it could work. Happy Friday! 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Uxbridge Road stabbing

Hopgood Street
A man was stabbed in Cafe E-roma on Hopgood Street/Uxbridge Road in the early hours of yesterday with the police throwing up a cordon to investigate and prompting many of you to ask what was going on. I've been asking for info ever since but the police seem unable to provide any, other than to confirm that it was a stabbing.

Clearly actually investigating a crime has to take precedence over dealing with the likes of me but equally when there is a lack of information the problem is that rumours start to swirl. People living nearby are particularly concerned about this latest incident, marking as it does yet another example of why they are worried about the creeping transformation of that part of W12 into a pretty dicey place after dark. It was one of the first stops I made when out with the Police in the Bush one Saturday night.

It's also the reason why Subway bar, just opposite the cafe where the incident took place, had a 24 hour license application turned down just last week. 

Here's what a resident who lives metres away and who wants to remain anonymous told me last night: 
"If you have the time it would be great if you did a small piece on your blog, on the Hopgood St stabbing, the second this year. It is a short street of only 20 houses, but full of families and elderly, but it has a load of problems due to late night “refreshment” outlets on Uxbridge Rd. It has become much worse lately". 
"We are writing to the council and police to reverse the licensing hours as this area has become a small hours destination. The area has become a concentrated spot for late night and early morning hangouts. Drugs, urinating, ASB and the rest. People are getting no sleep".
When I get more information on the stabbing I will add it here. In the meantime if you want to share info with each other do use the comments section as normal. In fairness to the Police they had to make their one press person redundant a few months ago so this sort of info-lag is going to get worse - see, those cuts are real!

I now have a statement from Police with the details:

At 0035 hours on 18th July 2012 a male in his thirties received a stab wound after being chased into Eroma Cafe, Uxbridge Road W12.

His condition is not serious.

There is no evidence to link the cafe with the incident apart from the victim ran into there as a place of safety.

The staff have been very co-operative.

At that time of night, sometimes people do seek sanctuary at late night, well lit establishments.

Car thieves on camera: Busted

Three thugs who broke into a car at Wormwood Scrubs have been jailed after being snared by Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s CCTV footage.

When the council’s CCTV operatives spotted known crook John Joe Smith and his friend acting suspiciously, on the evening on Tuesday, June 19, they were sure that they were about to commit a crime.

And low-and-behold, it was not long until Smith’s partner in crime was smashing his way into the parked car and helping himself to a bag from the back seat.

CCTV operatives are able to speak directly with the police so that officers can quickly swoop on alleged offenders and within moments, both men were arrested together with a third who got in on the act.

John Joe Smith, 22, of Brackenbury Gardens, Hammersmith, and Jamal Simpson, 23 of Richford Street, Hammersmith, both pleaded guilty to theft from a motor vehicle at Hammersmith Magistrates on June 21 and were sentenced to six weeks in prison on the same day.

Smith’s brother Danny Smith, 24, of Slough was spotted by two off-duty police officers at Hammersmith Tube Station on July 6. He also pleaded guilty to theft from a motor vehicle and was sentenced to six weeks in prison on Monday, July 9.

Councillor Greg Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for residents' services, said:
“These crooks thought that they had struck it lucky but thanks to the council’s CCTV team we were able to alert the police within moments of the offence. 
CCTV has proven to be a real asset in helping us to identify offenders and we will be continuing to use it to catch the crooks and take them off our streets. The message to criminals is even when you think that there is no-one around, we are watching you."
Detective Constable Robert Rodak, said: 
“The quick thinking of the CCTV operator was critical in this case which resulted in well-known local criminals being apprehended and convicted in court. 
“The camera footage allowed the police to bring a solid case to court, meaning that the defendants had little choice to admit guilt. This would not have been possible without the CCTV team’s vigilance and professionalism.”

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

White City Community Day this Sat

BBC TV Centre: and the "creative quarter" of W12
A community day is being held in White City this Saturday (July 21st) to encourage local residents to have their say on what they would like to see happen in the neighbourhood.

White City has been granted pilot ‘Neighbourhood Budget’ status by the Government to potentially look at ways of making better use of the public money that is available for the area and to ensure residents have far more say on how that money is spent.

The former Leader of H&F Stephen Greenhalgh was set to lead this initiative, in addition to being the Deputy Mayor for Policing in London, but given the start he has made to that job the residents of White City might count themselves lucky that the law required him to stop being a Councillor and therefore he was unable to lead this project. 

‘Team White City’ is the public face of the Neighbourhood Budget showing how residents, public services and councillors of all sides are working together to look at ways of improving the area.

Poor Mans Shard and its shadow
The area is set for major changes which themselves have proved controversial with residents up in arms about proposed buildings, including the "poor mans' shard" set to overshadow the region as luxury flats are piled high. There is also confusion as to how many of the new houses set to be built will be designated affordable housing, while the Council themselves withdrew their plans for the area from the infamous planning committee at the last minute last week. 

The scale and speed of the changes was underlined this week with the confirmation of the sale of BBC TV Centre for £200 million. Many people I know in this area who work in the industry are former inhabitants of that building and now work in the many independent production companies up and down the Goldhawk Road and elsewhere in W12 doing the same jobs they were before for the BBC but for a hugely higher fee. 

But at least their invoices are processed in Salford.

Way back in 2010 we were being told the Bush was set to become a "creative quarter" once the BBC had left but I'm not sure that was quite what they had in mind. 

The community day, called ‘Open House’, is being held in conjunction with the Big Local Lottery initiative which has allocated £1 million to spend on Wormholt and White City over the next ten years and is looking for residents views on how that money should be spent.

Harry Audley, chairman of the resident-led White City Neighbourhood Forum said:
“There is a huge amount happening in the area and there has never been a better time for local residents to get involved.
“Team White City is about local residents and local community groups first and foremost and how we can help set local priorities and help face local issues and challenges.”
White City is only one of ten areas in the country to be granted pilot Neighbourhood Budget status.

Over the next month local residents will be asked their views on what services they do and do not use, what they would like to see happen and how involved they would like to be in their neighbourhood.

The Team White City/Big Local Open House will held at White City Community Centre, corner of India Way and New Zealand Way, from 12noon – 4pm.

For more details log on to

Monday, 16 July 2012

H&F NHS: Council, MP & Community join forces

Peace has broken out in Hammersmith & Fulham! In scenes that made the Christmas armistice across the Western Front seem like a boring side show, long standing arch enemies came together this evening in a show of unity before a gathered crowd in Hammersmith Town Hall to launch a unified campaign to save the borough's two hospitals.

Now some of you may feel that the coming together of British and German soldiers in World War One a tad more impressive - and maybe you have a point. But the fact is I honestly never thought I would see the likes of Nick Botterill, newly elected Leader of our Council, sitting next to Stephen Cowan, the Leader of the Labour Opposition and paying compliments to each other throughout. Nor did I think that I'd see Andy Slaughter MP, former Leader of the Council, receive a polite hearing from the gathered Conservative throng. Well, I didn't actually, having arrived late - but it happened nonetheless, with Andy talking in conciliatory tones about the council's campaign, and praising them for what they have done so far by all accounts.

But they all - Council, Opposition and MP - deserve real credit for putting aside their often visceral differences to come together in defence of vital local health services which are now under very real threat. The campaign now stands a real chance of success as a result.

Tonight's meeting was called by Cllr Markus Ginn, newly elevated Cabinet Member for Community Care, and he impressed. At a well attended meeting, despite it not having been well advertised, Mr Ginn set out the unified campaign and heard back from other people about their ideas.

Illustrating that the campaign involves people from all sections of the community, we heard from an NHS consultant who pointed out, in detail, that the loss of an A&E service inevitably leads to the loss of a hospital as a whole. That is because of the way in which acute and non acute services are organised, commissioned and paid for. It was a stark assessment from someone who understood the NHS possibly more than those promoting the proposed changes in the first place.

We also heard from residents group chairs, PR consultants, charity workers, business people and very many others who all brought their own perspectives on what the proposed loss of critical health services would mean for some of the most vulnerable - and voiceless - among us. 

Uniting them all was a real sense of anger bordering on outrage at the duplicity of how the NHS seems to be going about forcing these changes through. Who, in the local community they asked, had either the time or the qualifications necessary to read and understand a 50 plus page "consultation" document that was full of leading questions, medical jargon and technical terminology? One man who had managed to plough his way through pointed out that there were contradictory numbers in there, such as the number of available beds at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, for the moment safe from the axe.

Another lady, who I strongly suspect was a Headmistress before she retired, recalled that one of the leading questions in the "consultation" document was along the lines of "do you want better hospitals". "They might as well ask us if we'd prefer awfully not to be shot", she said. I wouldn't have wanted to be in front of her if I'd been the author.

But the point is the "consultation" is a farce, apparently designed in order to make a sweeping change that may cost lives in a way that excludes the vast majority of people concerned. The group agreed to produce a two pager, translating into plain English what the changes would actually mean for people as a first step.

This was a group of people who'd never met each other in some cases, and may not have agreed with each other on many things, but the fact that all of our local politicians are now pursuing a single campaign, with a single agenda is not something the NHS managers wanting to make these cuts will be glad to learn of.

They've already indicated that they won't listen to what people tell them anyway with a leading figure in the changes dismissing the idea of petitions - now is the time to take that choice away from them.

But to do so there is going to need to be real co-ordination. There are two elements to the campaign - on  the one had doing the job that the NHS managers have intentionally failed to do which is explaining what they mean to the public. That is a public campaign to raise awareness and generate involvement, in the form of petitions, posters and the like. The second is a forensic and detailed analysis of the NHS's case for closing these hospitals by gutting them of their A&Es, with the inevitable consequences spelled out for us in tonight's meeting by the NHS Consultant. And the two parts of the campaign will need to be in tandem to have best impact  - so at some point I would think a core co-ordinating group needs to be formed. But that's for the weeks to come; the main point of this evening was to bring people together, hear their views and gauge their enthusiasm for the fight.

At the end of the meeting Cllr Ginn asked for volunteers - he wasn't short of them. And the fun starts with a street stall outside the Lyric on King Street this Saturday at 11am. Be there.

Save H&F Hospitals Committee
2330 UPDATE - Oh dear. If you needed evidence of how much this lot dislike each other here are three postings from Andy Slaughter in the House of Commons this evening, referring to a motion about the closures:

This really isn't helpful from Andy. At all. Did he really expect Conservative MPs to vote against their Government on the basis of a Labour Party motion that wouldn't actually change anything even if it was passed? Er, no. He didn't - this was about scoring points. And it's the sort of divisive politics that we could do without as we try to get the campaign going. 

Quadrophenia screening in aid of Cooke's Pie & Mash

Quadrophenia: Goldhawk Road
Franc Roddam, the Director of 1970s cult classing Quadrophenia, will introduce a special screening of the film next Saturday, the 28th, in aid of Cooke's Pie & Mash shop, still under threat from our Council who appear determined to allow a property developer to demolish the historic Goldhawk Road row of shops next to the Market - despite their actions having been ruled unlawful at the High Court.

It comes after numerous expressions of support from the community in W12 and from further afield for their fight for survival, with a horde of Mods descending on the Bush earlier this year.

Mod Bush: support for the Bush's heritage
The organiers of the event, Portobello pop-up cinema, invite you to:
"come and enjoy when Britain ran riot to the sound of the Kinks, the Mods are on the march, bring your scooters, a top night out".
The event takes place under the arches of the Westway, entrance from Portobello Road. The nearest Underground is Ladbroke Grove (3 mins). Buses: 7, 23, 52, 70, 452.

Tickets are £4, and obtainable at the door on the night. Film starts at 8pm. Full programme available here.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Greenhalgh unveils new policing model

Safer Neighbourhood Policing is set to change radically. Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh has taken his revolutionary approach from Hammersmith & Fulham and unveiled the new slimmed-down and partially automated police structure to open-mouthed Assembly Members this morning. You can watch his presentation below.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Tories romp home in by-election

Cllr Brown
Andrew Brown is the new councillor for Town Ward in Fulham following an electoral trouncing of Labour, albeit in a safe Conservative seat. Team Blue, or "Brown for Town" as they liked to call themselves took just under half of all ballots cast. The full count was as follows:
  • Conservative 768
  • Labour 416
  • LibDem 331
  • UKIP 39

That is overwhelming and Mr Brown carries a majority into the chamber that most of his Conservative colleagues will be envious of. He follows his predecessor Stephen Greenhalgh who resigned to become a gaffe-prone Deputy Mayor for Policing under Boris Johnson.

Labour's candidate Ben Coleman declared himself happy with an 11.5% swing from the Conservatives to Labour, based on the votes cast at the last election. Referring to the next local elections he said after the votes were declared this evening: "..if this is what we get in their safest seat then roll on 2014".

So congratulations to Cllr Brown, commiserations to the others and for all those who came out to vote on a rainy thursday night a very important thank-you - democracy is not something everyone everywhere has the chance to enjoy, using your vote is a duty as well as a right.

Oxjam Shepherd's Bush needs you!

Oxjam, the purveyors of a very successful festival in the Bush, needs volunteers. You know what to do, kids...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Imperial West application in disarray

Projected shadow cast by buildings over W12 & K&C
Hammersmith and Fulham Council has withdrawn a report recommending approval to the contentious development proposed by Imperial College, on Wood Lane in West London. 

The decision had already been deferred twice, in March and in June. This time it looked as though the council was ready to go ahead and approve the scheme – despite objections from 160 local residents, all the amenity societies in the area, and from neighbouring borough Kensington & Chelsea. 

A letter sent last week from solicitors Webster Dixon, and further letters from the St Helens Residents Association, appears to have led to the council getting cold feet. The 100 page report recommending approval to the Imperial West scheme was withdrawn 24 hours before the committee was due to meet last night.

Residents view from Oxford Gardens of proposed "poor man's shard"
The council is already facing two legal challenges to its planning decisions, on the Shepherds Bush Market development and on the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estate. Its planning processes are now in disarray. Use of Supplementary Planning Documents to pave the way for major change in an area has been ruled unlawful by the High Court. 
“Hammersmith and Fulham Council has had 6 months to come up with a robust justification for approving this planning application. The Imperial West scheme is an outrageous example of over-development for this part of London” says Henry Peterson, Chair of the St Helens Residents Association. “We have been making the same basic legal points to them for two years now, and last week engaged solicitors”.  
“The council thinks that it can interpret its written planning policies as it suits them and (like Humpty Dumpty) that words mean what they want them to mean. The courts operate on a different basis. Because the council sees Imperial College as a glamorous asset to the borough, they have been stretching their policies beyond the limit of the law.” 
The council say that a revised report will be presented to the next Planning Applications Committee on July 25th. Local residents will be interested to see what new arguments are dreamed up, to justify approval to the application.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Andy Slaughter urges unity over H&F Hospitals

Yesterday a small gathering took place outside Hammersmith Hospital on Du Cane Road in Shepherd's Bush. Organised by our council it was intended to demonstrate their committment to saving both of the hospitals slated for downsizing by the NHS. It came after some of us pointed out that the council only really seemed to be bothered about the threat facing Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham, with a senior councillor telling me that he wasn't convinced by the case for the hospital in Shepherd's Bush.

So welcome that they decided to do this. But less welcome was the fact that when our MP turned up to support the protest, our councillors - and their press officers - started behaving like schoolboys.

Held at 1.30pm on a Monday the protest was never going to attract a great deal of people, the purpose was mainly a photo-call, the images of which could then be used on the council website and elsewhere as part of the campaign. But our MP is Labour and our council Conservative, of course, and the council press officers were clearly under orders not to let a Labour MP in the photos.

So they stood in front of him every time the cameras came out. Genius!

There is a real danger that these two political groups end up dividing the opposition to the plans, thus weakening the campaign, and end up letting the hospitals be closed by default. There are already competing petitions - run by the council and the MP, and there are set to be competing websites and all the other paraphernalia associated with campaigns. It is nuts.

The council's campaign
The council's campaign seems to be one aimed at gaining media attention and run centrally by the press office from the town hall while Mr Slaughter's campaign appears to be residents-focused judging by the first meeting of the campaign committee I attended last week, which was well attended by residents, local business owners and so on.

Both of those strategies would actually work quite well together if they were combined - the council has a very well resourced press office, while for his part Mr Slaughter clearly has significant convening power in the local area. He also, of course, sits in Parliament and this wednesday will be leading a debate on the closures at which a Department of Health Minister will have to try and defend them.

Wouldn't it be a great idea if they worked together?

Yesterday evening Mr Slaughter sent the letter below to new council leader Nick Botterill, on that subject, asking for a meeting so that they can agree to work together, at least on this. I hope Mr Botterill can respond positively and that, on this issue at least, the ferrets-in-a-sack syndrome can be put to one side. The fate of our hospitals is way more important.

Here's Mr Slaughter's letter:

9th July 2012

Dear Nick,

I hope we can meet very soon to discuss ways of campaigning in tandem to oppose the closure of Hammersmith and Fulham’s A&Es and the downgrading of its hospitals.

The issues facing the borough and our constituents are literally life-changing and they are looking to their political representatives to give them a unified voice against changes nobody wants.

Several hundred of my constituents have formed themselves into the group “ Save Hammersmith and Fulham Hospitals”, which they asked me to chair last week, while making it clear that they wanted the campaign to reflect the whole spectrum of opinion across , and beyond, political parties.

In this spirit, we agreed the following principles are important:

  • We need a single, unified campaign. With two separately identified campaigns, the danger exists that one might become a poor relation. 
  • Each element in the fight needs to cooperate fully and openly with other campaigners. 
  • We want the council to join us in lobbying the government as well as the NHS locally.
I have to express my concerns about whether the council’s heart is in the right place over this, following this afternoon’s performance by council press officers, which you witnessed. But I am hoping that this does not represent the manner in which the council intends to approach its relationship with our campaign over the coming months. I remain eager to work with all other groups, including the council, to achieve our joint aim. I believe we are all seeking the best outcome for the people we represent and who look to us for help. I genuinely do hope we can work together to achieve the outcome that the people of Hammersmith and Fulham deserve.

Kind regards,


Monday, 9 July 2012

Why Boris Johnson’s mock outrage over ‘elf and safety’ is not funny

Every Monday a column from Boris Johnson appears in the Daily Telegraph.

So what you might think? Well, you might be surprised that a Mayor in charge of a city of 7.5 million people can find time every week to write such a lengthy column. Others might be surprised that in addition to his Mayoral salary of £143,911 he receives the huge sum of £250,000 for expressing his views on any issue that pops into his mind.

However, ultimately he has every right to write a column in his spare time and if the Daily Telegraph thinks each and every column is worth payment of more than £5000, well surely that is a matter solely for the Daily Telegraph and its readers? And whatever your views of Boris Johnson it has to be said his columns are well written and yes, often very humorous.

My main issue with it, however, is that sometimes the views he expresses simply don’t fit easily with his elected job to represent all Londoners. Last Monday’s column was a prime example. He stopped being Mayor of London and instead decided to merely pander to the biased views of Daily Telegraph readers, many of whom live many miles away from London.

His column was on the theme of swimming in the Thames. In his column he expressed his supposed outrage over a recent ‘ban’ to stop swimming in the Thames.

In practice it is not actually a total ban, but instead a by-law requiring written permission for anyone to swim anywhere in the Thames between Crossness in east London and Putney Bridge in south-west London.

But Boris Johnson is never one allow detail get to get in the way of any issue. This by-law is in his mind truly ‘elf and safety gone mad’. In his column he described the by-law as “the kind of gratuitous legislation that is sapping the moral fibre of the nation.” And he dismissed any safety concerns that motivated the by-law by stating “if people want to swim in the Thames, if they want to take their lives into their own hands, then they should be able to do so with all the freedom and exhilaration of our woad-painted ancestors".

Well is that really the case?

Woad painted ancestor: Braveheart loved a post-slaughter dip
Are people suddenly being denied a basic ‘human right’ to enjoy the Thames?, And is it truly outrageous that ordinary people are being denied the opportunity to enjoy an activity that people such as the comedian David Walliams or theTimes newspaper columnist Matthew Parris have so recently participated in?

Well the evidence clearly shows that the tidal part of the Thames is very dangerous. In fact the Thames is one of the world’s most dangerous city rivers. This is because of the high rise and fall of the tides, up to 17 metres, combined with some very strong currents. It is worth noting that 30 bodies a year are pulled out of the river - some still alive, some sadly not.

At an anecdotal level look at what happened to Matthew Parris.

A couple of years ago he attempted to swim from the Globe Wharf apartment complex, in Rotherhithe, across the river to Limehouse.

He thought he was being incredibly clever doing this at high tide to reduce the risk of being swept upstream. However, he had not realised that navigational tables were in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and it was British Summer Time (BST) when he made the swimming attempt, so high tide was an hour later than he had expected. Consequently he was swept three-quarters of a mile upriver from Limehouse. He could have easily killed himself.

Walliams: swam the Thames
Or look at David Walliams. If you watch the television documentary of his incredible swim it is worth noting that he suffered from ill health due to swimming in the Thames. Most critically, when his much planned swim entered the tidal stretch running through London he was constantly surrounded by a number of boats around him to support him. Immense precautions were taken to ensure he would have immediately been rescued if he found himself struggling with dangerous currents.

Any if anyone wants a further reminder of the dangers of swimming in the Thames just take a look at articles such as this and this.

Boris Johnson claims to be a learned person, but if he really wants to start talking about human liberty he should get hold of a copy of the book On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, a philosopher who championed individual liberty and to this day has immense influence on the debate over what actions the state should regulate.

John Stuart Mill argued that adults should only be controlled in the following circumstances:
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own well, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant . . . Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
Boris Johnson needs to understand that a by-law restricting swimming in a section of the tidal Thames easily meets the John Stuart Mill test.

John Stuart Mill: Knew a thing or two
This is not just because the idiots who go swimming in the tidal section of theThames frequently lead to members of the public taking risks to their own safety to help rescue them, although that certainly does happen.

No, the key reason for a by-law restricting swimming (without permission) in certain parts of the Thames is that the river is now a major form of traffic.

As the chief executive of the Port of London Authority stated recently:
"There's always a risk that if a boat comes across a swimmer, it has to take evasive action and that puts the people on the boat at risk, as well as other boats."
A spokesman for the Port of London Authority described things even more graphically:
“It’s not just the swimmer’s life at risk. If a boat spots a swimmer in the water and has to take evasive action, other lives could be at risk.

“The Thames is getting busier with commercial traffic and increasing numbers of leisure boats.”
Does Boris Johnson not understand this? Does he really think that the ‘freedom’ of a few maverick swimmers trumps the basic safety of the tens of thousands of people travelling in boats down the Thames every day?

Incredibly we have a Mayor of London who one day boasts about increased river services and then a few days later defends actions which would put at risk the safety of people using river services.

Restricting swimming in the tidal parts of the Thames is arguably no more a curb on the liberty of adults as banning people from driving on the right hand side of the road, or restricting pedestrians and cyclists from being able to use the hard shoulder of motorway. This is not nanny state regulation, but instead reasonable restrictions that prevent a minority harming (if not killing) others.

One other thing.

We also have a Mayor who seems to be not quite in touch with what is literally flowing down the Thames.

In his daytime job the Mayor of London has a legal duty to promote the health of Londoners.

Strangely the Mayor sees no contradiction in fulfilling that duty and encouraging people to swim in the Thames.

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group from the Environment Agency show that just in the single month of June an incredible 15,840,896 cubic metres of untreated sewage flowed into the Thames – that is the equivalent volume of 4224 Olympic sized swimming pools. Not only will this untreated sewage take many weeks to finally flow out in the sea, but it has already been added to by extensive further discharges of untreated sewage in the last few days, especially after the heavy rain last weekend.

Such discharges of untreated sewage have led to frequent warnings from Thames Water that it is even dangerous for rowers and canoeists to use the Thames, but strangely Boris Johnson seems happy to ignore all these issues when writing in the Daily Telegraph.

Personally I love swimming. I also recognise that swimming outdoors can be far more fun and exciting than a conventional swimming pool. This blog has highlighted the joys of Hampstead Heath lido through to brooks flowing through Somerset.

However, unlike Boris Johnson I believe in listening to the experts when it comes to the Thames.

An experienced ‘wild swimmer’, Daniel Stuart, who has written several books on the subject, should have the final word on this subject:
“In principle I don’t support banning wild swimming but with the Thames it is sensible, it is a tidal river that is dangerous.

“It is never a place I would recommend. There are hundreds of far more beautiful and safer rivers and lakes.”

Friday, 6 July 2012

Protest outside Hammersmith Hospital

Senior councillors and members of the community will be outside the gates of Hammersmith Hospital on Monday lunchtime, to protest at the proposal to reduce the hospital to the status of a minor specialist centre.

Shorn of its A&E Department and many of its other services the hospital which many of us in Shepherd's Bush have relied on for years looks set to be virtually closed off, along with Charing Cross hospital in Fulham. I have been quite critical of our council's initial response to this, which seemed only to really be bothered about Fulham - and with one senior councillor telling me that he thought the case for saving Hammersmith Hospital was "less clear".

Thankfully the council seems to have realised the error of its ways and means to show it by protesting in the Bush.  The gathered throng will be outside the main gates at 1.30pm and will be joined by councillor Marcus Ginn, newly promoted Cabinet Member for Community Care, who has this to say:

"Proposals published by NHS North West London last month include closing four of the nine A&E centres in the area and downgrading some hospitals, including Charing Cross, from ‘major’ centres with a wide range of clinical specialisms to ‘local’ hospitals. The NHS preferred option is to shut the A&E at both the borough’s hospitals and the hyper-acute stroke unit at Charing Cross".

"You can read the consultation here: "

"We would appreciate your support in the fight against the NHS proposals to close these units and are calling on you to help continue to drive the campaign, to bring residents together and unite against this threat to vital local services".

"We are looking for volunteers – in particular, campaign coordinators – to take the lead in the community and help us run the campaign by:

  • collecting more signatures for our petitions and help support the campaign – by going door-to-door, at community events, putting one up in your business. You can download one or get people to sign online: or
  • attending demonstrations, open days and our public meeting in September and getting as many other local residents to come along too. Sign up now for our e-alerts to keep informed: Our next event will be at Hammersmith Hospital in Du Cane Road on Monday, July 9, at 1.30pm – we hope you can come along. 
  • putting up posters in your window at work or at home – you can download one from or
  • forwarding on this email to as many people as possible to gather more supporters, and directing them to our website. 
  • telling us your stories, about how our local hospitals have helped you. We want to show how important our hospitals are. Email us your story (and a JPEG photo if you can) at or write to us (with a picture of you) to Save Our Hospitals, Room 39, Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street, London W6 9JU. 
  • Ask your GP to support us – if you live locally, you can download a postcard from or, and you can drop it in at your local surgery. share the message with friends, family and community groups that we stand united and say no to the NHS's proposals.
If you can help us in any way, we would love to hear from you. If you have any spare time, email us at and let us know what you want to help do to save the borough's hospitals.

The bigger and louder our voice, the more likely we are to be heard. The community has fought off similar proposals before and we will do so again".

Bush rap

Afro Kid - Cathnor Park - W12. Down with the kids, innit. Happy Friday!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Save your hospital!

Want to save your hospital? Sign the petition using the purple box on the right to express your opposition to both the Hammersmith hospital and that of Charing Cross in Fulham losing their A&E departments along with much of their other functions.

The petition has been organised by Andy Slaughter MP.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

THAT Greenhalgh appearance: the real story

Steve O' Connell, the working class GLA Member for Croydon South was responsible for our illustrious former Council Leader's mauling during his first appearance at City Hall. Assembly Members were outraged that Mr Greenhalgh turned up having told the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that he didn't need to turn up, and then proceded not to be able to answer any questions.

I have been told by a source that Mr Greenhalgh HAD actually told one of those Assembly Members that the Commissioner would not be turning up, fully in advance, and was shocked to find that Mr O'Connell had not passed the message on. In fact Mr O'Connell, seeing the predicament he had caused, saw fit to gently chide Mr Greenhalgh himself, thus proving that in politics even if you are the reason the man is on the floor, you still give him a good kick. Even if he is on your side.

I have been told that Mr Greenhalgh feels personally let down by Mr O'Connell's actions and that there is much venom and backbiting within the Tory Group as a result. And the fact that this has come to me would indicate that they wish people to know the level of Mr O'Connell's personal bravery and backbone.

What a pleasant game politics can be.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Phone snatchings in W12

Two violent phone snatchings have taken place in W12 in recent days, the details of which are below. Take care when using your phone and if you do know anything about either of the incidents please use the contact details I give to let the police know.


On the 29th June between 1645 and 1707 the victim was stood at Cobbold Road on her mobile phone. The suspect came cycling down Larden Road from The Vale and cycled right up to the victim and grabbed her by the throat and pulled her towards him then snatched the phone out of her hand, pushing her away and then riding off back in the direction he came from which was up Larden Road towards The Vale.

The suspect is described as a white man riding a dark coloured push bike.

If you have any information you can contact DC Rachel Bower in the Criminal Investigations Department at Hammersmith Police Station on 02082462505 or Crimestoppers in confidence.


The victim was pushing her four year old boy in a buggy and began her telephone call in either Iffley Road or Coulter Road. She remained on her phone the rest of the way until it was snatched from her hand at Ashchurch Grove. The suspect grabbed her mobile phone from her right hand and made off back the way he came.

Due to her shouting, the suspect turned around, looked at her, and then smiled. He then continued running and got onto a pushbike, which was leaning against the railings of Ashchurch court. The victim cannot recall which way the bike was facing. He cycled towards Goldhawk Road. The suspect was described as a black male in his late teens, approximately 6’02” tall, of skinny build wearing a baggy blue jumper with the hood up and baggy trousers.

If you have any information you can contact DC Patrick McHale in the Criminal Investigations Department at Hammersmith Police Station on 02082462505 or Crimestoppers in confidence.

Monday, 2 July 2012

A memory filled day

Following the death of Lord Jack Ashley, I'm off to a memorial of his life today in Westminster. A poignant occasion but we'll be marking the life and achievements of someone who, despite huge odds being placed in his way, simply didn't seem to understand the concept of giving up. There's a lesson in there for all of us.