Archive for September, 2010

Latest Column in the Chronicle

September 29, 2010

Here it is.  Whilst I of course meant what I said about Alistair Darling, I would not want people to think that I thought he was a great Chancellor!

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Banana Republic?

September 21, 2010

Expected the unexpected in Hounslow Politics.  We called this special meeting for good reasons.  There were major items that had not been debated and it important that this happens.

As soon as the meeting began, Hanworth Councillor, Alan Barber, moved that the meeting be adjourned indefinitely.  I knew that the Labour Group lacked calibre and a desire to answer questions but did not expect this.

Anyone who reads the agenda, especially item 4 may understand why Labour does not want this debated?

Feltham Arena meeting yesterday

September 10, 2010

I thought it went very well and was well received by those present.  I recall the following being present:

  • Five local [Feltham North] residents (including Councillor Hutchison and I);
  • Two residents from Bedfont;
  • Three representatives from Feltham Football Club, including one Feltham North resident and a representative from Sporting Creations;
  • A number of Officers from Planning, Corporate Property, Leisure, Land Quality etc

I was very impressed at the way that the meeting was run by the Officer.  All questions were taken and answered fully.  I believe that everyone left the meeting feeling satisfied, certainly more than what they entered the meeting.

Minutes of the meeting were taken and actions were raised.  I expect that these will be placed on this when ready.

John Toshack

September 9, 2010

My football hero!

He has been the manager of Wales since 2004.  I have previously mentioned him on the blog and drawn an analogy with his work in rebuilding the Welsh Football Team and the Government rebuilding this country in a number of ways.

There is a Press Conference at lunchtime today and it is expected that he will resign.  The performance against Montenegro last Friday was not good but the job he has done has been brilliant.  I have huge respect for people who take on the hardest of tasks and keep with it when the going gets tough and people get on their back.  Sometimes, there are no short-term fixes.  He polarised opinion, as this article points out, more than any other football manager I have known but he had my respect and admiration throughout.

My hope is that the lunchtime statement is not a resignation but this is unlikely.

Tony Blair’s book

September 8, 2010

Just noticed that the former Prime Minister has cancelled a book signing for the second time.  I do not doubt any honourable intentions he may have had but I consider it bad news.

I was a strong opponent of going to war in Iraq and think it was one of his biggest mistakes as Prime Minister.  Unlike many other opponents of the war, I do not believe he held the view he did for anything other than honourable reasons.  But for this book signing not to happen is a defeat for the tens of thousands who would love to have met the former Prime Minister.  Is it the end of such Book Signings.  Can any Prime Minister serve for a few years without making very difficult or controversial decisions?

Sounds like a fascinating read!  I understand that there are regrets and wonder whether not backing Frank Field on welfare reform is one of them?

Feltham Arena

September 8, 2010

On 11 April, I received the following from Munira Wilson, who was the Lib Dem Candidate at the General Election in this constituency.  She wrote the following (it was not confidential and was copied to the Press so I have no problem in re-producing it).  It was also Published and promoted by John Howliston on behalf of Hounslow Borough Liberal Democrats – someone I respect and like but he never tabled a single question about this issue when a Councillor.  Anyway, here is the content:

“The Feltham Arena site in your ward, which was dedicated to the people of Feltham, is in a shameful, neglected state. Once the pride of the local area, where a local Olympic medallist trained, all that can be found at Feltham Arena today, is dereliction.  Hundreds of lorry-loads of waste and rubble have been dumped, unchecked and unregulated by the Council. The former football pitch resembles a muddy lake. Flytipping on the site is rife. Unless you are fit and mobile, it is almost impossible to access the site, and totally impossible for anyone who is disabled.

As you are aware, two planning applications have been approved by the Council in the last few years to redevelop the site. These included an application in 2007 to create a new senior and four junior football pitches, as well as an application in 2009 for a new clubhouse. Whilst permission for some landfill was sought in the first application, what has actually been deposited on the site far outweighs that which was approved.

Local people want to know why, as a councillor for the ward where the site is located, and as Deputy Leader of the Council, you have taken no action to monitor and challenge activity on this precious site.
These are the questions that local residents are asking, to which I would be grateful if you could provide a response:

1. What action have you taken or asked officers to take in order to monitor the content of landfill being sent to the site?

2. Are you aware if any of the landfill includes contaminated waste?

3. How does the depth of the landfill actually deposited compare to the depth that was approved in the 2007 planning
application by the West Area Committee?

4. What have you done to ensure that the site is kept secure from illegal dumping and flytipping?

5. What steps is the Council taking to ensure the leaseholder maintains the site?

6. What steps is the Council taking to ensure the leaseholder undertakes the development for which it has secured
permission?

Local people deserve answers to these questions. Clearing and developing the Feltham Arena site for the benefit of the local
community should be one of your top priorities.

I look forward to hearing from you.”

Here is a majority of the response I sent out on 19 April.

“I wish to respond to the letter I received on 11 April.  As I have said to a number of my constituents, especially ones who live immediately around the Arena, no-one is more disappointed than me that things have not moved forward faster.  Notwithstanding that, such was the seriousness of your claims, coupled with the certainty, in parts of your letter, I needed to discuss this matter again with Officers at the Council.  Having done so, my answers to your questions are as follows:
 
1. The landfill materials and processes involved to enable the construction of the new football pitches have been regularly monitored by the Council and the Environment Agency, who have responsibility for the landfill process, and will continue to be monitored throughout the life of this project;
 
2. There is no evidence that the approved landfill material contains any “contaminated waste” as you put it and the Council and the Environment Agency would be interested to receive any evidence that such material exists, that is if you have any. It is irresponsible for anyone to speculate about such matters without evidence to support the allegations being made, especially as there is a risk of causing my constituents unnecessary anxiety;
 
3. The Council has taken the sensible precaution of having a land survey carried out in order to ensure the planning consent is complied with and is satisfied that there is no actionable breach of planning consent as a result of the landfill thus far undertaken. If you have any *evidence* to the contrary I would be very happy to receive it.  Alternatively, you could email the Planning Enforcement team direct;
 
4. The Council is aware that fly tipping takes place on the car park area and this has been a perennial problem. However, such fly tipped waste is removed whenever it becomes significant and on a regular basis. The car park was attended to last week.  As you will have seen it is impossible to secure the whole site given its configuration and public access requirements although improvements to security have been put in place;
 
5. The “tenant” is fully aware of its responsibilities in looking after and securing the site and the Council is in discussion with the developer on a number of matters affecting the site and in particular the slowed progress of the current planning application and the development of an appropriate club house to support the new sports facilities, as well as the condition and safety of the site;
 
6. The “tenant” is also aware that the Council expects the development of the new pitches to be complete within reasonable time.
 
I note the reference to the following:
http://democraticservices.hounslow.gov.uk/Published/C00000237/M00005370/AI00046307/$FelthamArenas.doc.pdf
 
Do you have any link that you could send that shows the date at which this application was approved?”

I never received a response.

Things have changed in the past few months in that works re-started (with the exception of the past few days).  There is a meeting with the tenant and local residents tomorrow.  It starts at 4pm so have not pledged to be there because it is not usually possible to get there at that time but hope that can.

I will try and make better use of this blog for updates on this matter.

Eldridge House

September 8, 2010

At the beginning of the previous month, I received a number of emails etc about Eldrige House, including about the fact that the building is currently occupied by squatters.  As most will know, this was previously a Council owned building that was sold at auction (same time as 102 Hounslow Road).

I received the following from Housing at the middle of last month:

“Eldridge House was previously owned by London Borough of Hounslow until March 2009, when the Council sold it to GCH Limited, Hatfield Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1 4TB

In April 2009, GCH Limited submitted a planning application for the demolition of the existing building and the erection of a new two-part, three-storey, 60 bed care home.  The Council approved the application in September 2009 and since that date the property has been boarded up.

I visited the site on 17 August 2010, and can confirm that squatters have gained entry into one of the buildings. I wrote to the owners on 18 August 2010 informing them of the situation and requesting a response, as it is their responsibility to maintain the safety and security of the site.

I also requested a brief schedule of works, including an approximate timeframe for commencement and completion of rebuilding works and when they expect the property to be occupied and brought back to use.

The Council does not have powers to evict squatters from premises.   Also, the planning approval is for a commercial property.”

I received the following from planning at the end of last month:

“This planning application has been granted planning permission subject to a legal agreement being signed.  Officers and the applicants have been in negotiations relating to the details of the legal agreement since the decision was made, but have now reached agreement.  The legal agreement is in the process of being drafted up by our legal team.
 
My discussions with the applicants suggest that they intend to start building work as soon as they have the full permission – we estimate that the legal agreement will be signed by the end of September.”

The above offers the best chance of removing some of the recent problems.

Serious accusations from Councillor Cadbury

September 7, 2010

I have asked some questions about this posting.  I am concentrating mainly on where allegations have been made.  I believe when allegations are made, evidence is necessary.

Strange thing this is when I posted a comment, I saw the following:

“Your comment will be visible after approval.”

Having posted before, I expected it would not need approval.  Wonder by when my comment will appear and, more importantly be addressed?

Update: As of morning of 8 September, comments have not appeared.  Would be pathetic for any blog to given the impression that comments are accepted only for none to be approved.  If comments are not desired, it is more honest for the comment facility to be shut off.

Special Borough Meeting Requested

September 7, 2010

I am pretty clear that one of the most serious things that has happened locally since the elections has been the attack on local democracy.  Here is my most recent column in the Chronicle.  Probably a good idea to let people know more about the nature of our request.  Here is what we sent to the Mayor:

In accordance with Council Procedure Rule 3.2, we the five undersigned Members formally request a Special Meeting of the Borough Council, to be held at least 7 working day’s after today’s date, with the following agenda:

1. Apologies for Absence, Other Announcements and Declarations of Interest from Members

2. In Year Savings 2010/11 (report that went to Executive on 27 July – we understand that the recommendation will be to note the report)

3. Question from Members
Question from Councillor Pam Fisher to Councillor Jagdish Sharma
On 16 July, Councillors were informed of the calendar of meetings for the forthcoming year.  I have noticed a major decrease in the amount of Borough Council Meetings and with that a major decrease in the amount of opportunities for non-executive Councillors to table questions to Lead Members.  Would the Leader make a statement outlining why this decision has been taken?

Question from Councillor Mark Bowen to Councillor Jagdish Sharma
On 24 November 2009, Members were asked at Borough Council to note a report and approve consultation with scrutiny and other key stakeholders on the service spending plans for 2010/11 designed to deliver zero % rise in council tax and continued efficiency gains.
By when will the current administration produce a similar report pertaining to 2011/12?

Question from Councillor Gillian Hutchison to Councillor Ruth Cadbury
The Hounslow Chronicle has referred to you having conceded that the administration may have to re-evaluate another of its five key election pledges, namely providing 2,500 new affordable homes by 2014.  How many, and of why type, are now deemed a realistic target?

4. Motions

Proposed by: Councillor Mark Bowen
Seconded by: Councillor Bradley Fisher

This Council notes:

Councillor Cadbury has publicly stated:

“We have instructed Council officers to fully market the Lampton Park Conference Centre (attached to the Civic Centre) for outside functions in order to maximise its full potential for generating income.”

In a report presented by Officers to the Executive on 27 July, amongst the comments made were:

“There is currently no budget provision to meet this [preparation of a business plan and the initial promotion of the Conference Centre as a venue] cost in 2010-11.”

“In order to put this proposal of a proper long term footing, it will be essential to prepare an up to date business case,”

“The report indicates that these costs may exceed the extra income generated. It will therefore be essential for the Council to identify savings in other 2010-12 budgets to offset this initial cost.”

“…members will need to consider very carefully the costs and benefits of alternative options before reaching a final conclusion on this issue. At this stage, the report does not provide detailed information about this.”

“The costs of the new post are unfunded.”

Despite the above, amongst the Executive decisions were:

“Immediately agree to promote the use of Lampton Park Conference Centre as a venue available for community and private lettings, for social events, conferences and exhibitions, at weekends and evenings, in addition to its present use for Council business.

“Agrees that a proper venue management regime will be put in place and agrees the appointment of a venue/events manager to promote/manage this business opportunity, reporting to the Assistant Director (Corporate Property & Project Coordination) in the Environment Department.”

This Council believes the Executive should review this decision and only proceed with it when:

I. An up to date Business Case is complete;
II. There is a clear forecast of when the break-even point will occur;
III. It is clear that this makes financial sense.

102 Hounslow Road, Feltham

September 6, 2010

I have received a number of emails and letters about the above property.
I know that this property was sold at an auction some time ago.  Since then there have been a number of planning applications.  Here is a list of everything in Hounslow Road:
http://planning.hounslow.gov.uk/planning_summary.aspx?strWeekListType=SRCH&strStreet=21500631&strStreetTxt=HOUNSLOW%20ROAD%20FELTHAM&strWard=ALL&strAppTyp=ALL&strWardTxt=All%20Wards&strAppTypTxt=All%20Application%20Types&strArea=ALL&strAreaTxt=All%20Areas&strLimit=250
 
And, here are links to recent applications at 102 Hounslow Road:
http://planning.hounslow.gov.uk/Planning_CaseNo.aspx?strCASENO=P/2009/1851
 
And more recently:
http://planning.hounslow.gov.uk/Planning_CaseNo.aspx?strCASENO=P/2010/0735

One of the queries I have received is whether the Local Planning Authority has allowed a Change of Use?  I was copied in on the following email on 2 September:

“Cllr Mark Bowen has asked that you be told about the lawful use situation with respect to 102 Hounslow Road, in particular relating to the three questions you put to him by your email of 24th August.
 
Planning permission is required for changes of use. However planning legislation (The Use Classes Order) groups a wide range of uses into ‘use classes’ and provides that changes of use within a use class does not need planning permission. For example, most retail uses come within Class A1 and planning permission is thereby not required to change, for instance from a shoe shop to a grocer. Use class D1 includes a wide range of ‘non-residential institutional uses such as a museum, a doctors surgery, a day nursery and places of worship. Planning permission was granted for a day nursery in 1967 and this remains the lawful planning use of the premises. The current use is also a class D1 use so does not need planning permission. There were no conditions restricting the 1967 use so the current use is similarly unrestricted. All this means that the existing use of the existing premises can not be controlled under planning law.

Pavement parking is possibly something that could be controlled under highways legislation and noise pollution could be an issue. Both, I understand, would be likely to be difficult but I have asked relevant officers to let you, and Cllr Bowen, know what might be possible.”

I thought it would be helpful to place this on the blog.  I will post any further updates I receive.