Earlier in the week, all Councillors received a letter inviting them to a discussion, entitled “Save our Homes”.
The content was as follows:
“We are the residents of the London Borough of Hounslow. As you are aware, enforcement actions have been carried out by the London Borough of Hounslow’s Planning Department, against law abiding citizens of our borough. This has been a very disturbing development within our council. We are extremely concerned about this and would like to inform you, that we are holding a meeting to discuss these issues on Saturday the l0th of May at the Osterley Park Hotel at Great West Road from 11am to 1pm.
We would be extremely grateful if you would grace us with your presence, so that you may heart he views of the local people that you represent within our council.”
A number of Councillors attended, such as Councillors Sheila O’Reilly, Mohinder Gill, Pritam Grewal, Jagdish Sharma, Gopal Dhillon, Rajinder Bath, Ajmer Grewal and I. Alan Keen MP was also present.
During my time there, I met some very nice people who made constructive suggestions. Unfortunately, I was extremely shocked, saddened and concerned at what was said by some members from the Labour Party – more on this later.
Got a welcome from one gentleman in the audience that I had never had before – and one I will not forget. It was on the lines of:
Me [addressing audience]: Thank you for the invite and it is very nice to see you all despite some of the things that were just said about me. I would like to give you….
The Gentleman in the audience [hostile and aggressive]: Who are you? C’Mon tell us who you are?
Me: I do apologise. I have made the mistaken assumption that the audience knew whom I was.
The Gentleman in the audience [still hostile and aggressive]: Are you BNP?
Me: I find that very offensive!
etc etc. I got back on track and others persuaded him not to pursue his line of attack. I am keen to stress that aside from comments from certain members of the Labour Party and one or two others, the vast majority at the event were very civil and polite.
I made a number of comments to the audience and some of these were:
- I wanted to be honest as opposed to popular;
- My argument would be consistent whether I was addressing an audience in Hanworth, Feltham, Cranford, Heston, Hounslow or Chiswick;
- We are equal under the law and planning policies should not be adapted to meet cultural needs in the way that was advocated by the local MP;
- The argument that we should be treated differently by planning departments because of our cultural background is very dangerous;
- I am proud of the huge improvements that have been delivered in the planning enforcement area;
- Before making alterations, such as extensions, outbuildings, porches, pillars, canopys etc residents should touch base with the planning department in advance of making an application and certainly in advance of carrying out works.
- Whatever residents are being told by certain Councillors, Councillors from all parties are approving the vast majority of enforcement notices going out.
Sheila O’Reilly dealt with some of the technical aspects of planning and the decision making process. As is typical for her, she was excellent.
I had no problem in facing the music, just as I will not have a problem with exposing the comments from others. Watch this space!