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 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

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

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. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Propaganda Special: West Ken Estate

Our Council has launched a very well financed propaganda offensive on the West Ken Estate they wish to demolish, in order that property developers can move in. The plan, which was condemned this week by the London Assembly, is subject to numerous legal challenges mounted by the vast majority of residents represented by the Residents Association of the two estates - West Kensington and Gibbs Green.

Part of the new propaganda offensive is the apparent re-establishment of the so-called "Steering Group" - the group set up by the Council three years ago to bypass the elected residents associations. The Council has been spending £38,000 of your cash supporting this small mouthpiece group and has even bussed them in to Town Hall meetings to put on counter demonstrations against the elected majority outside. That was, of course, until their own "Steering Group" Chairman resigned in disgust and joined those opposing the scheme.

North Korea Style is back
But the latest wheeze, which you the taxpayer are funding, is an extraordinary contribution to the literature of the English language. Named "Resident Update" it is nine pages of pro-demolition propaganda, which would have made even the editors of the propaganda rag "H&F News" blush, before the Conservative government forced our Council to close it down. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State forced our Council to close "H&F News" as it was, in his words, "propaganda on the rates" which "weakened democracy". It is difficult to see the difference with this latest attempt. It has a double page dedicated to "mythbusting", for example, while the lucky residents can also join them for a "coffee, fact-chat". 

In fact this effort is backed by the recruitment of a seven-strong "regeneration team", housed in a nearby office, who are introduced to residents in the pages of the glossy colour magazine. And to prove that our local Authority has lost none of its North Korean style brainwashing skills there is even a "word finder" game at the back for kids, with lots of buzz words relating to how wonderful the idea of demolishing the estate is.

So who are these people and what do they want? Here's how they describe themselves:
"The West Kensington and Gibbs Green Steering Group have been set up to provide all our fellow neighbours with information that we have gathered about what is and what will be happening to our estates with regards to the new development"
"We are currently made up of 6 people and always welcome anyone who wishes to help with open arms"
Note that they qualify 'open arms' with "wishes to help" - anyone who doesn't take their view (the majority) can presumably expect to met with the same heavy handedness meted out to this nine year old little girl.

Was that enough? Did they sit back and think, no we'll think of the taxpayers now. No, they did not. For there is a website too - which is the most amateur effort I have seen for a long time. All those people they claim to have in support? Here's a photo gallery of them - see if you can spot the differences in the photos:

To save a long article I will leave it there - download it at your leisure and judge for yourselves. But as you do you may wish to reflect on how hard you have had to work to pay the taxes which our Council is using to produce propaganda on the rates, employ seven people and distribute their magazines - all to promote a scheme which the vast majority of residents have consistently said they do not want and have fought all the way. The local elections are on May 22nd 2014.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

West Ken: Council claim victory, residents fight on

West Ken Residents: "going nowhere"
Our Council is on a roll this week, claiming "victory" in press releases that fail to mention that it is anything but. This time its over the West Ken Estate, the majority of whose residents are fighting to protect their community from our Council's plans to demolish it in favour of luxury flats. Sound familiar?

This latest challenge, which failed at the High Court yesterday, was made by the Residents Association on four grounds:
  • They claimed that the SPD was an Area Action Plan and as such a Development Plan Document (DPD). They argued that the council had therefore erred in law by failing to follow the statutory consultation and adoption process for a DPD.
  • They also said that the council acted unlawfully and irrationally in adopting a supplementary planning policy which was in conflict with adopted planning policy.
  • They also said that the council had unlawfully failed to consider the need to replace the social housing lost to the estates’ demolition in breach of the council’s core strategy.
  • They also claimed that there had been multiple breaches of the SEA directive and Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (the SEA regulations).
All four grounds were dismissed by Mr Justice Lindblom save to the extent that the Councils were ordered to prepare a statement, complying with the SEA regulations, setting out how environmental considerations were taken into account in the preparation of the SPD.

But there are different views over what this means. For our Council it means all systems go and full steam ahead, but our MP Andy Slaughter who has been supporting the residents it means the precise opposite. First up, here's Council Leader Nick Botterill:

“This is the third legal challenge that has been dismissed since the turn of the year. We now want to put all our efforts into progressing this once-in-a-lifetime scheme so we can reap the huge rewards and bring major, life-changing improvements to Earls Court and the wider area.

“All qualifying tenants will be offered a brand new home, white goods, moving costs and support as well as a compensation package of £4,700. The legally binding contracts state that no tenant will move until their new home is ready to be occupied. All new homes will be provided in the area. All eligible home owners will receive 10% compensation on the independently-verified value of their home and the chance to buy back into the redevelopment with a 10% discount.”
The community organiser supporting the residents, Jonathan Rosenberg gives this short shrift:
"The Council says that: "Residents of both estates have been offered some of the best terms ever negotiated in any regeneration scheme in the country, including brand new homes and a generous compensation package".

This is a grand claim that needs to be evidenced. Can the Council name the regeneration schemes which have worse terms?"
I suspect he may have to wait for a while for an answer. Meanwhile here's Andy Slaughter:
"Contrary to the council/developer’s bluster the challenges to this monstrous scheme are just starting not finishing. The Tory council has committed three cardinal errors. Firstly, selling 23 acres of prime land to developer Capco for an undervalue: the district auditor has agreed to look into this at my request. Potentially hundreds of millions of pounds have been gifted from taxpayers to one of the biggest international developers in the council’s hurry to get on with its biggest social engineering project.

Secondly, they are about to grant planning consent to the largest current development scheme in London which will disrupt the lives of thousands of my constituents who will have their homes demolished and replace affordable homes with ten times the number of luxury high-rise buy-to-leave-empty flats. They have ignored their own and the Mayor’s rules of providing affordable housing. There will be no new affordable rented homes on the site. They have failed to require the developer to share any future profits over the 20 years of the development against independent advice. And they are allowing the destruction of the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres and vital railway workshops which employ 550 highly skilled personnel.

Thirdly, they intend to proceed with the compulsory purchase of hundreds of homes, many occupied by the same families for 50 years. Elderly and vulnerable residents will be forced out to make way for private profit. This scheme will continue to be fought through the courts and at the local elections next May.

We need a council that takes the side of residents, small business and local communities, not developers and City investors".
Looks like the battle rumbles on, and is likely to be decided not in the Courts but at the ballot box at next May's local elections.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Market: Council claim victory, shopkeepers fight on

The High Court today backed our Council over their plan to demolish the Market in order that nine floors of luxury flats can be constructed on top of a new one. The Court had heard from the Goldhawk Road shopkeepers who, having been promised by the Leader of H&F that they would not force their eviction, were served with compulsory purchase orders anyway after the Council swiftly backtracked after private pressure from their colleagues Orion the property developers.

Orion's mock up of the boutique market underneath luxury flats
In Court the Council's lawyers had had the dignity to respect the fact that these people were defending not only a part of our community that many hundreds have come out to support, but also their livelihoods which they had built from nothing over decades, including in one case as refugees from the racist expulsions of Idi Amin.

MODs ride in support of Cooke's Pie & Mash: Bush History
Not our Council themselves though, they are cockahoop. Here's Nick Botterill, Leader of H&F:
“This is a victory for common sense and we can now get on with the important work of breathing new life into Shepherds Bush Market so that future generations can enjoy a vibrant and thriving shopping destination to rival the best in London. 
“The council hopes that all local businesses will work with the developers to take full advantage of the opportunities that the scheme provides to attract new customers to this area of Shepherds Bush.  The offer of new premises remains firmly on the table for businesses wishing to s stay in this location and I hope they will now look carefully at the benefits  of participating in this scheme.”
Mr Botterill fails to mention they would cease to be freeholders and instead become leaseholders of his colleagues Orion, the property developers. One of those is Audrey Broughton, owner of Cooke's Pie & Mash. Here's what she makes of Mr Botterill's victory cry:
Green light?? A bit presumptuous I would suggest. Closing arguments are yet to be heard at the Public Inquiry which has certainly hi-lighted the debacle that this really is and that Andrex is of more use than most of the evidence produced by the Council including the planning officer who is not a planning expert and a lot of evidence where the answer was someone else will answer that. On the day I gave evidence the receptionist handed to me the documents that had been left by the Council in the men’s loos! We will be Appealing and if it means going to the House of Lords and beyond that is where we are heading. The Market Traders are still submitting extra evidence to the Inquiry as it does not close until the 25th of November. As per usual this Council has chosen to use certain aspects of the media to spread misinformation. We are not going anywhere for a very very very long time.
I will leave local readers to judge which newspaper she has in mind for spreading misinformation.

So is the fight over? Other shopkeepers also think not. Aniza Meghani (who you can see above not being pushed about by a clearly irritated Boris) told me last night that an appeal is already being prepared, saying:
"The Public Inquiry was a complete shambles. Its an embrassment that the scheme has so many flows right down to the figures. Nothing is assigned clearly to s106. We will be appealing all the way!"
We learned in April that even this Council has conceded that the real outcome of this scheme lies with the local elections in May next year. The protracted fight they have faced from people who refused to back down have left them out of time. And Andy Slaughter MP is equally clear that the fight is not over either. Speaking to me tonight he declared:
"The overwhelming opposition of residents, traders and the Goldhawk Road shopkeepers who will see their businesses demolished was clear during the two weeks of the recent compulsory purchase order enquiry. Over 200 people made formal objection to the scheme which is about building nine stories of luxury flats at the expense of the existing occupiers of the site. Not one person other than the developer and the council supported the scheme.

So the resistance to the destruction of this historic, vibrant and important part of Shepherds Bush will continue. It is increasingly obvious that the antipathy to the landscape and communities of the borough will continue as long as the current extremist Conservative council holds power. Their wrecking schemes and social engineering will be a major issue at next May’s local elections". 
Indeed it will. 

Duvet Day confirmed

The Barricades
The threatened strike by H&F teachers I reported here has, entirely predictably, been confirmed.

October 17th is likely to be the first of several stoppages as our teachers decide that their demands are worth the cost, disruption and time it will inflict on thousands of families.

Onwards, comrades.

Employment Skills Fair targets young

An employment skills fair for 18-24 year olds in Hammersmith & Shepherd's Bush is taking place on October 11th. Hosted by Andy Slaughter MP and featuring support from The Plus Team, a consultancy which develops people's employment search skills, the event will take place at the QPR stadium on Loftus Road between 11 and 1400.

Andy Slaughter said:
"I am trying to help young people in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush compete in the job market and as part of this I am inviting you to an event to help give you the confidence and skills to use in your job search.

This event is free and refreshments will be served.  If you would like to attend, or know of someone who would benefit from this event, please e-mail Andy at to reserve a place". 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Walkabout no more

The Walkabout, ironically named since most of its patrons were in no condition to do any such thing, has finally closed. The bar that brought us so much violence and vomit and even wanted a 2am license closed in a ceremony the Australian Times described including ", snakebites, sweat patches, and that distinct Aussie spirit".


I suspect the residents around the Green may sleep a little better these days, and not have to clean so much sick up in the mornings. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Teachers strike again

NUT committee meeting
Local teachers are booking another duvet day locally, with letters having been sent today to parents warning of "possible" strike action on October 17th.

Given the militancy of the unions involved there seems little doubt that parents should now start thinking about where they are going to find the extra cash for child care, or losing an extra day's leave.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Oxjam launch Bush online auction

Oxjam, the fundraising music festival set to take over the Bush in October, has launched an ebay auction of clothing as another means of raising cash for Oxfam.

Given the headlines in Syria and elsewhere at the moment it's not as if the money isn't desperately needed so do take a look here.

Given previous experiences, in 2011 and 2012, Bushers can expect a series of top music acts all within easy reach. Get yer tickets here

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Bush Market: emotional scenes in court

The public inquiry being held into the compulsory purchase orders issued by our Council to force the owners of the Goldhawk Road shop traders to leave revealed the human cost of fighting the scheme last week.

Aniza Meghani recalled how she had arrived in the UK as a child refugee from Uganda. The family had been stripped of everything they had owned in Uganda by Idi Amin's racist purges; arriving as refugees her father had worked from nothing to build a successful and thriving business, Classic Textiles, which she had now inherited and built on.  The cost of fighting to protect that inheritance, so hard won, had torn her family apart, she said. This is the same woman Richard Olsen, of Orion the property developers, had seen fit to sneer and carp at during a public meeting - greed turns people very ugly sometimes.

Audrey Boughton of Cooke's Pie & Mash said she was simply fighting to keep the freehold of a business that she would be able to hand to her children. In all cases the Council wants to force the shopkeepers to lose their freeholds and become leaseholders of Orion the property developers.

This is of course the same Council who publicly promised that they would not force the shopkeepers out in this way in a public meeting they themselves had organised. It was clear throughout the hearings that there was now zero trust between the traders and they very people they should have been able to rely on to protect their interests. They have, of course, already been found to have acted illegally in the High Court, in their desperation to assist Orion .

This is last chance saloon for them and for the traders of the Market themselves who also oppose the Council's plans in the main. I have rarely met people with more determination and grit than the likes of Aniza and Audrey; I suppose when you have faced the likes of Idi Amin as a child, then you know how to recognise a bully when you see one. In the video above you can see her standing up to chief Bully Boris Johnson. For their sakes, the market traders and the people who live around this area who have their own objections I can only hope that the Court sees sense and rejects this scheme.