Tuesday, 10 December 2013

One more click..

For Chris Underwood's blog please click here

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thankyou and goodnight

This blog, ere, is an ex-blog. It is a dead blog. It is a blog-no-more. Sadly all good things come to an end and here is no exception. I am about to embark on an exciting new chapter in my own life which will mean leaving the Bush and relocating to South Africa.

I started this blog back in 2008 after an encounter one freezing November morning by the library (now Bush Theatre) with a comatose tramp. He was out cold so I called an ambulance. It turned out he had been there all night and into the morning, while people had walked on by. When I got home I wondered what his story was, amid the many our neck of the woods has as one of the most diverse and vibrant in London.

Raiding a crystal meth factory on the White City Estate
That plus the dire provision of local news led me to set the site up and its been going strong ever since. Reporting the Bush has taken me on to the streets with our brave local police as they stormed a crack den on the White City Estate, down the sewers to investigate a lost river and the issues surrounding local flooding and even a meeting with the QPR manager who'd just brought the R's back to the top flight.

One of the best things about this community is precisely that – it’s a community. Despite the massive diversity of our streets you see how strongly people pull together. A quick look at the stubborn resistance of the people of the West Kensington Estate against the Council and their property developer colleagues, the breathtaking bravery of one of our streetcleaners determined to stand up against thieves and the coming together after the tragedy of Lakeside Road when people used the blog to talk to each other about why what was happening was happening. A difficult conversation but one that was clearly needed.
Checking out the local sewers
Warnock was a man watching his back
A thread running through the years has also been local politics. Cameron's favourite council has got good people serving in it who are trying to do their best for the local area. But it can also be, frankly, a bully. The ruling councillors almost all live in Fulham and the south of the borough and it shows. All of the major developments involving people losing their homes, businesses and communities have taken place in the North of the Borough. All of them.Sometimes they get their way by steamrollering things through. And sometimes they don't, with residents emerging victorious. By contrast, the one scheme that seems to threaten communities in Fulham in the form of the Thames Tideway Tunnel provokes our Council's utter outrage. Postcodes matter in H&F.

As I sign off this blog we approach a local election which might change all of that. But I should also say that many of the Councillors I have met on all sides of the party divide are genuinely good people - personal favourites include Top Tory Harry Phibbs, Tory Twitter Attack Dog Peter Graham and Sweary Greg Smith, while Labour's Steven Cowan and Andy Slaughter are not above a bit of skullduggery themselves. I hope their forthcoming contest for Council and Parliament is about ideas and not personal abuse .. but I doubt it.

Along the way I have encountered tragedy, death and sadness - but also inspiration and strength. And in revealing secret documents that somehow floated into my possession I hope I brought some much needed transparency to the way decisions affecting local people were being made.

And so I sign off with a deep sense of privilege for having learned so much more about the streets in which I lived. You are a special place, Shepherd's Bush. Thank-you. And goodnight.

Goodnight London

Monday, 25 November 2013

QPR player flogs games to kids

Shaun Wright-Philips, the QPR winger, seems to have a habit of using his association with QPR to advertise expensive computer games to young people using his Twitter feed. Regularly claiming that the latest product is the best thing since sliced bread he enthusiastically plugs the product, which he has presumably been paid to do.

The Office for Fair Trading ruled in 2011 that this sort of thing was "deceptive". Particularly when the company behind the promotion, or the celebrity doing it, do not declare what their arrangement is. I have asked Mr Wright-Phillips to do so, but he ignored my request. I also wrote to QPR's head of PR Ian Taylor to ask whether the club gave their players any guidance or policies on this, but he too chose to ignore the question.

The point about this is that these players, who earn astronomic sums of money every week, are directly contributing to pressure on parents and families in the run up to Christmas. They and the companies know this, which is why they do it. They also know it works, which is even more reason for them to do it.

All I am asking from QPR, since Shaun Wright-Phillips is clearly not going to answer, is whether they approve of it. QPR is one of the few remaining genuinely family and community clubs in this country and for that they can be rightly proud; I remember these scenes last year which proved that point well. But that community is overwhelmingly working class, based in and around White City, and for the most part quite unable to afford to fork out for numerous products of the type Mr Wright-Phillips is trying to deceptively sell using the club's brand. The recent growth of payday lending and pawn shops along the Uxbridge Road is no coincidence.

So hopefully we can have an answer if not from him, but from the club. I await Ian Taylor's reply with interest.

Friday, 22 November 2013

24 hour tube: pros & cons

Boris Johnson made a spectacular announcement yesterday that the tube was to run, on the main arterial lines, 24 hours a day on Friday and Saturday from 2015. Reaction from the travelling public has been almost universally positive, as you might expect, not least because we won't now be forced to pay extortionate black cab fares anymore.

As with everything from this Mayor, however, it is worth looking beyond the headlines to what he is really planning to do. Boris is an expert media manager, so lets ask ourselves why he has chosen to release two pieces of news together - 24 hour opening and a ticket office closure programme. 

The TSSA Union has not unreasonably pointed out that Boris' manifesto of 2008 declared that he would protect every ticket office from closure, underlining their link to passenger safety. Yesterday's announcement sees the closure of almost every single ticket office. 

TSSA campaign ad
Transport for London, of which the Mayor is Chairman, has said that ticket office staff will be moved out of the closing offices and onto the station concourses, aided by hand held devices to assist passengers with information about services. Sounds OK, but it is clearly not the full story since 750 posts will also be shed. There is not any more detail about what these staff will be doing and when, nor is there any confirmation that the job losses will be the result of natural wastage or lay offs.

Speaking in response to the announcement, London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi sounded concerns over the potential impact on passenger safety:
“These plans are deeply worrying and could lead to a significant reduction in the service Londoners receive in our great city. The mayor was elected on a clear promise to keep ticket offices open. The last thing we need is a reduction in frontline staff. No station should be unstaffed while trains are running. At a time when fares are going up above inflation this is the very least Londoners should expect. 
“We need to make sure there are enough staff on duty to keep our stations safe, help passengers and deal with emergencies. We must protect standards of service and passenger safety. We believe there should be a Passenger’s Charter clearly setting out what Londoners can expect from their transport system. Passengers must be able to get help with tickets, refunds, information and access must be ensured for disabled people.”
Overall the 24 hour tube has got to be a good thing, surely. I don't have any sympathy with the likes of the RMT who are already gearing up for strike action; they long ago lost credibility with passengers by continually striking for more money while many passengers were losing their jobs. 

But safety surely has got to be an area where much, much more detail is required and that goes way beyond the razamattaz over 24 hour opening. By linking the two the Mayor is employing a time honoured media management tactic of tying two pieces of news together in the knowledge that one of them will overshadow the other. A light needs to be shone on the detail of how the ticket office closure programme will be managed across the network and its implications for routine and emergency security.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

King Street: Scheme finally approved

A new £150million scheme has been approved to radically reshape the lower end of King Street, including a rebuild of the Council's own offices. The scheme will result in a transformation to that end of King Street that is much in keeping with the other end, around Beadon Road, where tall glass fronted buildings now stand in contrast to the low stone buildings that used to be there, with the H&C tube building now the only survivor. It has definitely been an improvement.

The rancour and rage that accompanied this Council's first attempt at rebuilding their offices at this end of the road, however, was one of the first residents v. Council battles I covered on this blog in 2010 and which set the scene for many other such battles to come. Some of them were won outright by the residents, such as Ashchurch Grove, and others were steamrollered through, such as the Goldhawk Road industrial estate. This one seems to have ended in an uneasy compromise.

Residents were particularly outraged at the Council's wish to construct a giant bridge from two very tall towers of, yes you guessed it, luxury flats connecting the new residents with what would be left of Furnival Gardens so that they didn't have to cross King Street to get there. The bridge was set to destroy one third of the park. The same park that our Council had accused evil Thames Water of wanting to destroy themselves.

It seems that both the buildings have been lowered and the bridge is gone, but the cinema still looks set for the chop.

Why did the Council compromise and back down? Votes.

These residents live in the band of Council seats that will be key marginals in the fight for the local authority in the local elections on May 22nd next year. Lose those and there is a real possibility of a Labour victory. So while the Council was quite prepared to do the dirty on the residents a couple of years ago, by pledging publicly to listen and then going ahead anyway, they are not so sure this close to polling day. Cynical, you might think. But here's Council Leader Nick Botterill to give us his official version of events:
“We listened to residents and ditched the less popular elements of the previous scheme and I now believe we have a scheme that Hammersmith can be proud of. It’s been hard work but we finally have a plan that will kick start the much needed regeneration of the west end of King Street. The developers can now get on with the important work of breathing new life into this rather rundown area.”
No doubt that regeneration is needed, and despite the low politics and skullduggery, you have to wish the scheme well. The question now, is whether it will be enough to win those vital votes. At this meeting back in the early days the residents were signing pledges never to vote Conservative again. There was a queue to sign up. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

West Ken: Planning permission granted

Planning permission has been granted for the contentious Earl's Court redevelopment scheme which has been fought tooth and nail by residents set to lose their homes on the West Kensington & Gibbs Green Estates.

A £452 million package has been agreed between developers CapCo and our Council, along with neighbouring K&C and Transport for London. The package includes 1,500 affordable homes, a primary school, leisure centre and park space and has been agreed under what is called a "section106 agreement".

The scheme remains subject to legal battles, however, and local MP Andy Slaughter greeted the news angrily:
‘Boris Johnson and the Conservative-controlled Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea Councils are destroying communities, skilled jobs and historic sites to please their developer friends and speed up the social cleansing of west London. An integrated community that includes people from every walk of life will be replaced with a soulless development’.

‘My constituents are appalled by this development. It demolishes 760 affordable, good-quality, newly modernised houses and flats, the workshops and sidings that keep the tube running and the iconic Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre. In their place will be 8,000 high-rise luxury flats, almost all of which will be bought off plan by international investors and remain empty for most of the year.

‘Its construction will cause chaos and disruption to West Kensington and Earl’s Court for the next 20 years.

‘And it is terrible value for the taxpayer. The land has been sold to the developer for a fraction of its value and the planning permission achieves only 10% extra ‘affordable’ housing against a target of 40%. The ‘affordable’ housing is too expensive for low income families or first-time buyers. Even the requirement to review the developer’s profit during the 20 year construction period has been waived by the councils. This developer must think they have won the lottery.

‘Far from taking the opportunity to build new homes that ordinary families could afford, the housing crisis in London has just been made worse.’
While Council Leader Nick Botterill took, unsurprisingly, the opposite view:
“The redevelopment of Earls Court and West Kensington will usher in a new era of prosperity and opportunity on a scale that has never been seen before in West London.

“We have said, from the very outset, that we would only include the estates if people living on them substantially benefit from redevelopment, followed by the wider area.

“This agreement can leave estate residents in no doubt that they will be the major beneficiaries of the scheme, not only gaining brand new homes, but also reaping the rewards of the huge raft of community improvements that will help them to make a success of their lives.”

Friday, 15 November 2013

London Undergound: 150 years film

A superb film from the Institute of Civil Engineering which charts the engineering story of the tube but does so telling the story of human progress that it was part of stemming back to the 1860s. I love London and its history and I know many of you do too, this film is definitely one to watch. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Washington Bound

 I will be in the US for the rest of this week so the blog will slow down ... keep the stories coming though, dear readers

Monday, 11 November 2013

Charing Cross "Saved" - an alternative view

Our Council is in the repeated habit of claiming to have saved Charing Cross Hospital when the reality is plainly the reverse. Inevitably in the age of social media and YouTube a spoof has emerged by what looks like an angry resident rather than the community Save our Hospitals campaign. But it does give a flavour of the anger that is out there at how our Council has behaved in contrast to, say, Lewisham.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Tales of the White City: Screening at the Bush!

Bush Blog Editor Nathalie Bristow reports on a superb new film about the Bush...

As part of their RADAR New Writing Festival 2013, the Bush Theatre is screening Tales of the White City, a moving and original film created for BBC Outreach by Benjamin Till with the people of the White City Estate and produced by LandSky. Come to the Bush Theatre on Monday 18th November with 2 screenings (1815 & 1930) - it's free but you have to reserve tickets here http://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/production/tales_of_the_white_city/

The film celebrates White City and our local community and there's a party in the bar and a post-show Q&A (7.30 performance only) with the director and producer of the film.

Over 500 local people were involved in the film, which was created to help celebrate the community spirit and diversity of the people who live on the White City estate - an area of London which the BBC and the Bush Theatre have been closely linked to for many years. Tales of the White City is a unique, uplifting film which contains moving performances and real life stories.

Featuring tales from the lives of individuals and with lead performances from eleven local characters who contributed their own lyrics, the musical includes stories such as the enduring love of an older couple and life at a local Egyptian restaurant. Performances include poetry, dancing and a song from 400 children from three different local primary schools, with words written by the children themselves.

People have been talking about it up and down the Uxbridge Road and this is your chance to see it and meet the people involved- who you probably know - like Bob the vicar who has a starring role!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Amazing: Fly through 17th Century London

Just breathtaking. A project by a bunch of students at De Montford University recreates the streets of our capital centred on the old city around Pudding Lane, prior to the Great Fire. The students have based many of the buildings on conjecture using what we know from drawings and paintings but have also used actual street plans and the names of pubs we know existed. That, and the evocative soundtrack, creates what for me is a very profound reminder of why London really is the best capital city on Earth. Enjoy.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Fulham Palace: The movie

I last blogged about having discovered Fulham Palace here. But now a new video has come about which captures the greatness of the place by focusing on how historic secrets continue to be unearthed about it. Well worth a watch - and a visit.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Living costs soar in H&F as Council ups wages

Living costs have soared in Hammersmith & Fulham in the years since the crash a new report from the trade union Unison has revealed. The research shows that a resident, living in a two bed home, earning the National Minimum Wage and commuting to work in central London from Hammersmith & Fulham has to spend an estimated 12.41 per cent of their pay on travel and 186.5 per cent on rent, compared with 4.96 per cent and 74.6 per cent in 2008 respectively.

That is a massive increase in anyone's books, and Labour Assembly Member Murad Qureshi (pictured left) has jumped on the findings to demand that all statutory authorities in London adopt the London Living Wage (as opposed to the Minimum Wage) to lead the way in closing the gap faced by the poorest paid between their wage packets and their bills.

Mr Qureshi said:
“The London Living Wage has been successful in ensuring thousands of workers in London receive a fair days pay for a fair days work. Today’s report shows that introducing a statutory living wage could lead to an increase in jobs rather than a reduction. I am delighted that there are now plans to introduce measures to encourage more employers to pay a Living Wage through tax incentives. 
“The Mayor must do more to encourage employers to pay the London Living Wage and he can start by making the institutions he is responsible for accredited London Living Wage employers. At the current rate of progress it will take 450 years for all workers to be paid a living wage in London. Londoners are struggling and the Mayor’s inflation-busting fare increases mean that residents earning the National Minimum Wage and travelling to work in zone one have to spend an estimated 12.41 per cent of their pay on travel, and 74.6 per cent on rent". 
It was announced that the LLW will rise next year to £8.80 from its current rate of £8.55 compared to £6.31 which is the National Minimum Wage.

But there is good news in our borough too - it turns out that our Council pays well in excess of the LLW, with a Council spokesman telling me this afternoon:
"The Council offers its employees a minimum wage of £9.21 per hour, hence going beyond the minimum set down as the London Living Wage."
Regular readers will know I have lots of disagreements with this Council - but they really do deserve serious credit for this. By setting this sort of example it becomes very difficult for others, particularly in the public sector, not to follow. I would be interested to know, for example, whether the workers sweeping our streets for Serco are paid this amount or others who work for outsourced firms. I plan on finding out. But in the meantime full marks to the Council.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

£177 million housing repair contract awarded

Our Council have awarded a huge contract to MITIE, who describe themselves as a "strategic outsourcing company", to perform repairs to properties in the borough over the next ten years. As ever our Council claims this is in support of its drive to cut bills but respond to residents concerns.

Here's Councillor Andrew Johnson, cabinet member for housing:
"The council carries out around 50,000 repairs a year and when we ask residents what matters most to them, repairs comes out on top time and again. We look forward to a long and successful partnership with MITIE that will further improve standards and achieve the best value for money deal for residents possible."
And MITIE are mighty pleased too. Here's their Head Honcho, the magnificently named Ruby McGregor-Smith:
“We are extremely pleased to be further developing our relationship with Hammersmith & Fulham Council. We are looking forward to delivering innovative and efficient services and supporting the vision of this forward thinking council.”
This is the second strategic partnership MITIE has with the Council having being awarded a three year £30m cyclical painting contract earlier this year.

Initiatives unique to the contract include a 24/7 contact centre, that provides a flexible appointment system enabling residents to select convenient times for repairs to take place. MITIE’s innovative approach to service delivery is expected to save the borough £20m on its repair bill over the next ten years.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Charing Cross: Details of cuts emerge

Andy Slaughter MP has managed to get some early details of what seems like a shriveled "A&E" service set to be left for Charing Cross Hospital as a result of the Government's partial u-turn last week. Here's what he said on Friday:
"Charing Cross will lose its world class stroke unit in about two years’ time.  There will be no emergency services left on the site: emergency surgery, the intensive treatment unit and acute beds will all be closed or merged into other London hospitals.

This means the A&E will be reduced to treating only minor injuries and infections – no different than the ‘urgent care centre’ proposed last year, which led to the Save Our Hospitals campaign being set up".
So hardly the A&E unit portrayed by the spin from both our Council, who support the cuts, and the Government who are implementing them. And in our own part of the borough Hammersmith Hospital is set to lose its A&E unit altogether, along with many other services. This in part of the borough where people already live on average 8 years less and where there are very severe health issues among both young and old.

I suspect this will be one of the defining issues at next May's local elections.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Missing woman appeal

Police are appealing for information on the whereabouts of a missing woman from Richmond. Elizabeth Seymour has been missing from Priory Road, Richmond, since 9.50am on Wednesday, October 30.

The 70-year-old suffers from dementia and may appear confused.

She is described as white, 5ft 8in, slim build with an Irish accent, short dark brown hair. She wears glasses and was last seen wearing long dark trousers and a purple jacket.

She is known to Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush and Hampton.

If anyone has information on her whereabouts they are asked to call 101 and ask for Richmond Grip and Pace.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Middle class Bush

"It is as middle class an event as I've ever attended, and I've been to a few: Sunday brunch in Shepherd's Bush, with champagne and salmon and polite grown children. I don't know many people in the room, but we do have one thing in common. We all have the same cleaner, and we're here to say goodbye to her. Robina is going home".
So says Tim Dowling of the Grauniad as he recounts a leaving do for Robina, his former housekeeper from Uganda. She tells her story, which includes poverty and dying children, while the middle class folk of W12 dab their eyes.

A window onto two very different worlds. And it's all part of the Bush. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Charing Cross A&E Saved, Hammersmith condemned

Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State who was found by the High Court to be acting illegally in his attempt to close Lewisham Hospital yesterday, has responded to the finding by amending the hospital closure programme. The A&E Department at Charing Cross is now apparently saved "for the time being" (along with Ealing) while the same department in White City at Hammersmith is set for closure.

Mr Hunt, who made a whole speech without once mentioning the words "Lewisham" or "Court", presented this new closure programme as being based on the advice of clinicians. Which is odd because the same "clinicians" aka NHS burocrats were the ones recommending Charing Cross lose its' A&E, supported by our Council.

Andy Slaughter rose to ask a question a few minutes ago and was interrupted by the Speaker when he apparently started to lose control in his anger. Demanding to know where the 500 beds set to be stripped from Charing Cross would go, why the Secretary of State saw fit to remove an A&E from White City, which has some of the poorest health statistics in London, and when he was going to come clean about the whole details of the plan. Answer there came none, simply a condescending reply from Mr Hunt that he was following advice.

The reprieve for the A&E at Charing Cross is welcome, however, and this is a very significant change from what was proposed. Our Council will now struggle to justify how they supported this, only for it to be reversed as a result of local pressure from the community - not from them. It will also be interesting to see where that campaign, the Save our Hospitals group, go from here.


Andy Slaughter has released a statement through the Save our Hospitals campaign:
"Pressure from the Save Our Hospitals campaign and the tens of thousands of local residents who protested at the closures has won a concession.  The local NHS and the Conservatives in Hammersmith & Fulham were happy with a GP-run ‘urgent care centre’ at Charing Cross, now we are told there will be an A&E there and in Ealing.
‘But I don’t trust the Tories to deliver on this.  The promised A&E may turn out to be just a minor injuries unit.  And the rest of the terrible cuts in our local hospitals are going ahead.

‘There will be no A&E at Hammersmith Hospital in one of the most deprived areas of London and there are no promises to keep the beds and services at Charing Cross open.  We will continue to fight these closures until we have a council and a government that will listen to local people and keep our excellent hospitals open."
Not to be out-done the Leader of H&F Council, who supported the original proposals, now claims it was all part of a cunning plan. Here's Cllr Nick Botterill:
"Plans to reform health services, announced by the Secretary of State today, are supported by clinicians and by local GPs. What we will now have is a 21st century hospital at Charing Cross continuing to treat the vast majority of our borough residents.
"H&F Council has worked hard and lobbied intensively over the past months to persuade the health authorities that these proposals, together with a retained A&E, would be in the best interests of the area. They are a vast improvement on the original proposals."

Bush emerges as tech hub

“The Shepherd’s Bush and White City area is  definitely one of the next generation of hot new London submarkets.." 
So says Nicolas Phillipe, joint owner of Flooved - a high tech business who have decided to locate themselves here in W12. This from an intriguing report in London Loves Business, which argues that the tech bubble associated with the Old Street roundabout area is rapidly deflating as the next generation of investors look for new locations.

But why W12? Here's Mr Phillipe again, on the Bush which has:
"...lots of exciting new developments, like a strong retail offering at Westfield, and plans for the redevelopment of the BBC’s television centre.  The BBC’s long history in the area means that media companies are well-represented in the area, and Imperial College’s new campus will bolster the area’s R&D credentials.”
This all ties in with the original visions of what the Bush could be after the departure of the BBC and so it seems to be proving. Good news all round!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Apocalypse Bush

Amidst the ridiculous hyperbole of the impending storm yesterday morning, which seemed to involve a bit of high wind for an hour before the sun came out, some people in W12 did end up having a pretty nasty morning. Among the worst I came across as I walked to work were some houses and flats at the top of Wormholt Road near the junction with Uxbridge Road who had been flooded as a result of the water main that essentially blew up nearby.

Uxbridge Road itself was cordoned off and heavily flooded while firefighters struggled in calf high water to open drains, that themselves were probably inundated and unable to take any more. I also saw a tree that had hit a house, thankfully not breaking through the upstairs window it hit, and numerous branches everywhere.

As ever in these situations there involved an element of comedy borne of farce. Top of my list was a woman shouting at a fireman for closing Uxbridge Road, meaning that she couldn't get the bus to go to work. The man just looked at her with his mouth open, as water cascaded down the road.

A close favourite was a 207 bus driver who wasn't going to let the biblical flood of Uxbridge Road stop him getting to his depot in Ealing for a cup of tea, and drove the bus right through the water.

All in all the main thing is that nobody was seriously hurt. But do bear in mind those who ended up getting flooded. That really is a horrible thing to happen. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

STORYSTOCK at the Bush

Bush Blog Editor Nathalie Bristow has news of an exciting new experience, perfect for Half Term, down at the Bush Theatre - and a discount for readers! Read on...

In amongst the posts about traffic, politics and crime I wanted to lighten the mood by telling you about a lovely storytelling festival coming to Bush Theatre this week.

Just as you run out of things to do on half-term STORYSTOCK comes to the rescue.

STORYSTOCK is packed with author talks (Judith Kerr, Josh Lacey, Laura Dockrill & lots more), parties, workshops and shows like the Wimpy Kid, Beast Quest, Revolting Rhymes and Burglar Bill Puppet show. It's all pretty great and I hope that you have already heard about it...

You can see the programme and book at www.bushtheatre.co.uk and we are the friend of the last minute booker so tickets are released even on the day for people passing by but if you book in advance I can give you a special discount code for 20% off STORIES13.

There's lots going on for free too so pop in to meet Peter Rabbit, invent new words, find Where's Wall or just soak up the literary atmosphere.

The local treat for you is that we have discovered Beatrix Potter's cousin living in Shepherds Bush in the form of former Crossroads star Nadine Hanwell and she will be telling tales of, and written by, her famous ancestor on Saturday 2nd Nov at 1100 as well at Bush Hall Dining Rooms on Thursday at 1530. You can buy tickets on the day £4 from our tent in the Bush Theatre's garden. You cannot miss it!

Follow us @StoryStockFest and join the mailing list www.storystock.co.uk

Have you guessed yet? Yes, I am organising this festival - please come and stay tuned, they'll be stories to tell next week...

A40: A bridge too far?

I was stopped by a reader who lives near the A40 crossing on Hilary Road last week, who argued that a number of locals wanted to see something done about the dangers associated with the road. They believe a footbridge should be built. Their critique was both the nature of the crossing design and the proximity of children, particularly those on their way to or from school, to six lanes of high speed traffic. Sadly it is not uncommon to see the left overs of accidents on the road, which claims lives most years.

The design, as many of you will know, forces you to complete the crossing in two parts, waiting for another set of lights from the traffic island in the middle. The resident, who is a teacher and thus uses it at the same time as a lot of kids, said that this encourages people - including children - to run across the first part in between traffic gaps in order to make the green man on the second part without having to wait.

The proximity to traffic is also dangerous due to small kids being right next to large lorries hurtling past, which in some cases create a vacuum and could conceivably pose a direct threat. It's also an area where kids are often to be seen kicking a ball around in the space between the flats because it is off the traffic of Hilary Road itself.

Western Avenue footbridge
Further up the A40 a footbridge was indeed built at Western Avenue for precisely these reasons, so it seems logical that such a well used crossing at Hilary Road might also be bridged. It is the main crossing point for many in the North of the Bush to get to East Acton tube and is therefore heavily used. The immediate implications for that is cost and the inevitable disruption to the road, which I well remember when the bridge was built further up.

But is it really worth the risk of waiting for someone to be hit? Open question, but its one increasingly being asked by the residents in that part of W12.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Highlights: QPR 2 Millwall 2

QPR are dominating the Championship. Much in the same way as they did under Neil Warnock who I interviewed for the blog following the club's promotion. Their eternal error in dismissing him ushered in the era of Mark Hughes, who was a disaster.

We find ourselves back in the Championship, then, but not where we started from. I am reminded of reporting the crazy days of managers headbutting players and guns being produced at board meetings. Oh, and owners who admired Adolf Hitler. Never again, Rs fans.

No, we have a Board and a manager in Harry Redknapp who are clearly focused on this season being another ending in a trophy and I wish them all the best. I now travel too much to get to many games but the atmospherics of this season compared to the gloom of last year are such a contrast.

Credit to QPR, then, for placing the highlights of every game on YouTube. Here are the 4 goals for the game against Millwall, which thankfully passed off peacefully. Getting out of this division is worth it if only to get away from that club - here's a reminder of when they last came to the Bush.

Hey Mr Boris

Superb video by some silver surfers - and with some very serious messages. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Assault pic appeal

This man wanders around tube stations belting women at random. Do you know him? On Friday 20th September he hit a woman at Hammersmith Station, after having done the same at Bond Street.

PC Gemma Ryan, the investigating officer, said: "The assaults were random and unprovoked, leaving both women understandably very upset.

We don't tolerate violence anywhere on the London Underground network and i'd urge anyone who recognises the man pictured, or has any information that could help our investigation, to please contact us".

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Westway smash

Nasty looking aftermath yesterday of a van which appears to have been involved in a collision with at least one other vehicle judging by the amount of car bits swept under it.

The van had apparently careered off the road before hitting the verge by the side of the flats. Hope nobody was seriously hurt.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Air Malta: Monty Python aviation

Dawn breaks over Malta Airport

"...we have a good deeeel for you Meester" said the check in counter man as I turned up for my 0720 flight back to London. Never a good sign, that. It turned out the 0720 had been routinely overbooked and I was being offered 200 Euro to wait another hour and get the 0845 to Gatwick instead of Heathrow. I agreed, and was duly dispatched to the VIP lounge, told to wait there until an Air Malta rep came to see me.

Nobody did, and when the 0720 was called I thought I'd better wander down to the gate to check. The staff there were mystified, there had been no overbooking they said, and put me on the plane. Had I done what I'd been told I would have missed the flight.

Phew. I thought, sat on the plane. Which sat. And sat. And sat. It then went on a slow meandering drive around the lanes on the outside of the runway before coming to a halt. The captain came on board to tell us that a "communications fault" needed to be looked at. We wouldn't be long. An hour of shuffling hi-vis vests later, we were disembarked back to the terminal, now almost 2 hours delayed.

There followed scenes of total chaos. An elderly man inquired about a connecting flight. After establishing that it was not an Air Malta flight he was told it was not their problem. Another man became irritated that he could not retrieve his luggage to choose another airline. They called the police. After a bored looking Maltese policeman had established there was really nothing to sort out he shrugged his shoulders. Much like Air Malta appeared to be doing to its passengers.

Then, several hours later, a frisson of electric excitement ran through the remaining passengers – we were re-boarding! Clinging to hope we dutifully reboarded the plane. On came the captain to say that all was fine. And then. Well. Nothing. Out of the side of the plane we could see our luggage being offloaded again, so the crew were asked what was going on. “we will tell you soon”. “could you tell us now, please?” “No.”

Passenger ground crew
Eventually, nearing our fifth hour of delay we were disembarked again to perform “security” checks, by identifying our bags. Air Malta took safety and security very seriously they said. So it was reassuring to see they had a foolproof method that went as follows:

That’s my bag.” “OK thanks”. “Do you want to see ID or my ticket to check against the tag?” “No.”

Back on the plane there was more laughter than anger at this point, but by the power of Twitter which I had been venting my spleen on I came into contact with the passengers at Heathrow waiting for our inbound flight. “Is that by any chance coming to Heathrow?” one of them asked me. When I said yes he explained that they had been told we were already in the air and well on the way to London. My photos proved otherwise. It seemed AirMalta’s truth issues were getting worse.

I arrived, eventually, over 6 hours late and thought myself hard done by. But I then started to follow the experiences of the people I’d spoken to who had been waiting for the flight out of London. They too were embarked, only to sit on the tarmac for an hour (clearly a tried and tested tactic to buy time by Air Malta) and then disembarked. After several more hours they were told the flight was cancelled and they’d be going to a hotel.

c/o @womboy - Air Malta passengers in underground car park
Only they weren’t, at least not for several more hours of waiting during which Air Malta staff abandoned their posts and the crowd found themselves waiting in an underground carpark. This included parents with babies and young children at the start of what they’d hoped would be a holiday to remember. They certainly got that.

Air Malta – best avoided, unless you want the Monty Python approach to aviation.

Private Eye on Shelter

click on image to read
Our Council's former Chief Executive, who was recently appointed Chair of the housing charity Shelter, has been making waves recently. The charity's own staff are deeply unhappy at his appointment on the grounds that he presided over policies in our borough that are directly at odds with Shelter's. The hamfisted attempt to fend off the criticisms, first with "no comment" and then with platitudes has done nothing to repair the damage.

Now Private Eye weighs in with its own analysis which asks, on the basis both of the appointment and of the subsequent floundering, whether the charity actually knew the background of the person it has just appointed as its own chair.

These sort of questions are now going to hang over any public campaigns run by the charity that go against the draconian housing policies pursued by H&F Council. And there will be few that don't.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Crack & heroin dealer nabbed in W6

Earlier this week a man was apprehended by a Safer Neighbourhood Team with a "stop and search". Their suspicions proved to be well founded as 51 wraps of crack cocaine and heroin were found, along with what the police describe as "a large amount of money". The arrest was carried out on the Queen Caroline estate in Hammersmith.

This is a really important result. While there will be another dealer along soon enough to replace them it does nevertheless disrupt the dealers networks and may lead to more arrests. Long term simply arresting people alone is clearly futile but its a vital part of protecting communities.

Here's an example of what can develop among our communities in Shepherd's Bush if the police are not on top of it. Scary stuff.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Taking off shortly

I'll be departing these fair shores again for a few days this week for work, which means the blog will take a back seat for a little while. Apologies in advance...but in the meantime keep the stories coming to shepherdsbushblog@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Crime in the Bush: Miranda Hart

Comedienne Miranda Hart, who lives in W6, was a victim of a house break in last Friday night as a result of which she lost her laptop. She has made a number of emotional appeals for its return, including the one on Twitter above, having clearly lost a lot of material which I imagine she had not backed up anywhere else.

A police spokesman said:
“Police were called to an address in Shepherd’s Bush to reports of a burglary on Friday 11 October at 11pm. A number of items were stolen.Officers from Hammersmith and Fulham are investigating. There have been no arrests.”
You have to assume there won't be any either, hence Ms hart's own offer of a reward for the return of the computer.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Shelter slammed over H&F record


Housing charity Shelter have been slammed by Andy Slaughter MP for appointing the former Chief Executive of our Council to chair its Board of Trustees. Derek Myers, who had a controversial record on housing issues, is alleged by our MP to have the 'worst housing record' in the UK. Mr Slaughter, in a letter to Shelter's Chief Executive Campbell Robb, says:
"During Derek Myers’ tenure as Chief Exec of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, the Council introduced some of the most punitive housing policies in England. Over 9,000 households were kicked off the Council’s housing waiting list, and the Council has placed many homeless families in unsanitary, poor-quality temporary accommodation, most of which is outside the Borough"
He goes on:
"For those in Hammersmith & Fulham who find themselves homeless, the situation is equally bleak. If you are one of the lucky few whom the Council agrees to help, you can expect to be placed in poor quality temporary accommodation many miles away from the Borough. Some of my constituents have been forced to take their children out of school, or have been forced to give up paid employment, after being placed in temporary accommodation on the other side of London.

Even those who are placed in temporary accommodation in the Borough may find themselves placed in uninhabitable flats, which are unsafe and infested with vermin. This was the fate of a blind constituent who has been forced to endure sleepless nights while being eaten alive by bedbugs. Despite her case being featured on the BBC news, the Council is yet to deal with the infestation and disrepair to her flat.

Finally, the Council, rather than commit itself to build more affordable and more social housing, has increased the rate at which it sells off its stock of housing, all the while giving priority to developers who plan to build luxury housing, which is totally out of reach to the vast majority of local residents. Whole estates are being demolished, blocks of council flats stand empty awaiting private development and developers are typically asked for 5% or 10% affordable homes against a target of 40%."
This goes to the heart of what Shelter claims it is all about. It is a charity who until recently forked out for giant advertising hoardings across Westminster tube with a mock up picture of children crawling across the green benches, to drive home its message to honourable members going home to their well sized (and frequently expenses-funded) houses that other people had rather less space.

So you might imagine that Shelter would respond with an impassioned defence of their new Chair. Er, no, not really. Here's what Jon Kenworthy, the Vice Char of Shelter told Mr Slaughter in his reply:
"I have spoken to Derek about the points that you have raised in your letter and I and the board remain convinced that Derek's experience, knowledge and commitment make him an ideal candidate for Chair of the Trustee Board".
Not the sound of an organisation entirely sure of its ground. Perhaps because their own staff also appear to be deeply concerned. Here's what the staff reps sent to the 'nominations and governance committee', responsible for the appointment of Mr Myers in the last few days:
"Our members are concerned that some of the recent appointments to the Board do not reflect this approach and that some Trustees have been appointed whose background does not appear to be consistent with Shelter’s core mission or values.

We do of course appreciate that the Board rightly seeks to appoint members who have previous experience in housing. We note that the new chair of the Board, Derek Myers, has previously worked as CEO of LB Hammersmith and Fulham. We appreciate that this is a non-political role. However, our concerns are that the policies pursued by this authority are in conflict with our aims and could be potentially damaging to our policy stance. In particular:

  • The borough takes a particularly hard line on tenure. In short, rather than lifetime tenancies, Hammersmith and Fulham advocates that the ‘vast majority’ of social tenants be granted fixed term agreements which can be terminated after five years, and that 18-25 year olds be granted two year fixed terms (p7 and p8, Tenancy Strategy). We note that Shelter has made recommendations to local authorities in terms of tenure and would be interested to hear the Board’s thoughts on these policies.
  • In terms of allocating social housing, LBHF states in its allocations scheme (p28) that only those with annual income of below £40,200 will ordinarily be considered for the waiting list. We note that Shelter’s research shows that LBHF is the fifth most unaffordable borough in the UK (Inside Housing, 9.1.13) and that the median income necessary to pay an affordable (i.e. 80% market rent) is £53,766 (Inside Housing, 9.8.13). We note that affordable rents are only available to those in social housing and that tenants on far less than the necessary income will be prevented from accessing social housing in this way. They will presumably also be unable to access private rented housing at 100% market rent. We are aware that part of Shelter’s current focus is on the affordability of accommodation and would be interested to hear the Board’s views. 
  • In terms of policies on homelessness, LBHF has argued for the legal requirement for housing authorities to have a homelessness strategy to be removed: this was something Shelter strongly campaigned for and regarded as a significant gain in the Homelessness Act 2002. The Borough has also indicated its intention to discharge its housing duty to homelessness applicants in the private sector wherever possible, including making out-of-Borough placements. 
  • In terms of the charity sector more generally, we note that Palingswick House, previously home to 20 voluntary sector organisations, was closed by the local authority and sold to the creators of a free school in order to reduce debt at a time when the council was cutting council tax each year."
They seem to know our neck of the woods quite well! 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Apple Day at Fulham Palace

Fulham Palace is right at the other end of our long and narrow borough. To get there from our northern tip of H&F you have to navigate the Hammersmith roundabout, with all of it's roadbound crazies, and then the crawlathon down Fulham Palace Road. And all the while trying to evade our Council from entrapping you into a traffic fine. But it's well worth it, as I found out earlier today.

A bit damp
Having lived in the borough for getting close to ten years I had always relegated Fulham Palace to one of those places I knew I should really go and see but never found the time to. This morning, thankfully, I finally made it.

The Palace proudly lists its creation date as the year 704, but most of the buildings you see are fascinating layers of history with each building on top of the other. You cross a medieval moat, enter what looks like a Tudor yard and visit the cafe in an 18th and 19th century house.

Links with local schools
Consulting the Palace website all of this is confirmed and set in context - and the main point is that it has been the home of Bishops for well over a thousand years. These guys were only one rung down from Kings and continued to play a leading role in running the country via the Church of England until well into the 19th century. They still, of course, occupy seats in the House of Lords.

So back to the Palace - first off, its free to enter. That is amazing. These grounds, and the buildings within them, are a living museum. Every room has a plaque explaining its origins and there are guided tours too. Secondly, it's kid-proof. Always a plus. In fact the gardens are perfect for running in although they'd draw the line at ball games with those french windows. Thirdly, it's a living breathing garden complete with pumpkins, other vegetables and apple trees. Oh, and there is plenty of parking if you're so inclined (pay meters mon-sat on the road outside) or the 220 from the Bush will take you right outside and back.

Real life pumpkins
Which brings me to the slightly bizarre apple festival they had there today. Having been there I am still slightly unsure as to why the humble apple was chosen to be celebrated but joining us in the rain were a very good band, and a few apple themed stalls that included everything from the use of apples in getting drunk on gin or cider, and some serious eating going on with a pig being roasted on a spit.  It wasn't one for vegetarian animal rights people.

In fact it was one of those scenes you only ever see in the British Isles - people in rainjackets chewing on apples, drinking gin and dancing in the pouring rain to a band playing medieval music. Which is great in its own unique way, but sadly I also didn't get the impression there were too many people there from outside a fairly high income bracket and a local postcode. That's either because they don't know about it, or the prices of things in the cafe put them off (£2.50 for a kids box drink, really!?)

So the purpose of this is to get some of you fellow hoy polloi-ers from oop North of the borough down there. It really is well worth a visit, and there is a nice looking kids park just next door too. Fulham Palace - another corner of our borough I am very glad to have discovered. I'll be back.