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I can see where you’re coming from on this, Councillor Bowen- presumably in response to the surfeit of postings about 102, Hounslow Road. However, I’m not sure that your solution will solve the issue, anyway. If you are not moderating, people could just as easily post their comments on an earlier posting – such as this subject- under a later posting by you (though perhaps in such circumstances you might delete the post). Perhaps I should test the waters by adding my own thoughts on this and other recent matters you’ve raised here!
What I think the amount of comments in response to this subject- surely a record in response to your blog postings? indicated, is that people are looking for a real forum to express views about issues that really matter to them, concerning not just their home town but their immediate environment. While the local press in the form of the Middlesex Chronicle to some extent provides this, there is still something lacking. Maybe we need a Facebook, or similar micro-site, to discuss issues peculiar to this ward: “North Feltham Natters” might be a catchy name, perhaps? I’d certainly be prepared to start such a group myself.
Prior to the last election, your blog served as an excellent “parish pump”, just like I am suggesting above, on all manner of local issues, as well as your occasional views on national ones. Your photos of everything from potholes to graffiti showed that you really took an interest in your “patch” which goes above the call of duty. You were ready to take the flak as one of our elected representatives, as well as put things right asap when you could. In my view, this was far more helpful to your constituents, not all of whom are computer literate or want to use e-forms. However much we may wish it to be otherwise, I think this will always be the case.
I appreciate that since the change of administration, and hence in your own role, you have also returned to full-time work, alongside your responsibilties on the council. Not forgetting, of course, your time with a family you clearly love dearly.
Nevertheless, I think it’s sad to see that, in my opinion at least, the standard of this blog has somewhat diminished since May. Many posts seem to be about matters which are likely to mean a lot more to councillors than constituents. If the main purpose of your blog is to share opinions on political matters with council colleagues and fellow conservatives, all well and good. But I would suspect these matters are often a little impenetrable, and of little interest, to the man in the North Feltham street.
I made one early posting on the “mosque” issue, but have held my counsel on it since. Preserving the coherence of the community, where indeed Muslims contribute much, while recognising genuine concerns and perhaps justifiable worries about this new use for number 102, surely needs an ongoing dialogue between both ‘sides’, not necessarily limited to a fortnight by an arbitrary time limit on postings?
Perhaps what we need is something that neither the council nor yourself are currently able to provide- a discussion group, virtual or in person,when issues like this occur. – as I’ve suggested above. Something more than a traditional councillor’s surgery, something rather more resembling the old “Feltham Forum”. “West Area Meetings” [sic] I’m afraid can’t satisfy this, unless you can really engage with your constituents’ concerns and be prepared to raise controversial, even difficult, matters like this in public at those meetings from time to time.
As somebody who has a degree in Religious Studies including a year-long module on Islam, I have an informed interest in that faith (although a committed Christian myself) and know that, sadly, for all the extremes perpetrated in its name, the majority of Muslims are decent, law-abiding, peace-loving people as much as any other neighbour. On the evidence of my own eyes and ears so far, I have little initial reason to doubt that is the intention of the new occupants of 102 Hounslow Road. Incidentally, I gather it also operated, quietly and peacefully (thankfully) as a Women’s Refuge for some time after the day nursery closed, something which could no doubt have been equally controversial
The issue of “mosques” in Feltham has been long-running- and peppered like so much exotic Middle Eastern spice with misinformation and rumour, the sort of thing which can a lot of harm to any community if not nipped in the bud. A case in point was the long running rumour that The Assembly Hall was being ‘converted’ to a mosque. Needless to say, nothing of the sort was happening; it was merely being upgraded to allow facilties for Friday Prayers at the building, but it remains a building at least nominally owned by Hounslow Council, though now operated by fusion lifestyle It is still what it always was, an assembly hall open to all.
Likewise, 102 Hounslow Road is not, technically, going to be a mosque. It is a base for an “Islamic Welfare Association”. There is a very important difference. It’s rather like having a place as a church hall, or a Christian charity having a base in a building for such works as drug rehabilitation, debt counselling, homeless centres or whatever. These too often tend to attract unfair and unfounded NIMBY objections, but fulifl a very real need.
What’s needed most in this case I think, and what it would seem the new owners of 102 are perfectly willing to offer, is for people to let their prejudices be burned up like an autumn bonfire, and for as many as possible to actually take the time and trouble to visit, and learn.
On the other hand, It does not seem unreasonable that local residents should be concerned about – possible- noise disturbance during Ramadan and other festivals of the Islamic faith at these premises, if there is any substance to them. I am a member of a church in Feltham where we had to warn a tenant congregation about the level of their noise after 10 p.m at night, which was causing complaints from neighbours. As I recall, they respected the request and complied. Another congregation, however, were not so accommodating and so sadly, had to be asked to leave.
I live in a nearby road to 102 and, in all honesty, though I feared some of the issues that have been raised spilling over- parking and noise, I have seen no evidence of any “trouble” from 102 at any time, though I did of course notice the no parking cones. No more than residents on that same stretch of road will have seen from a hotel which has been operating for more than thirty years, or a doctor’s surgery on an adjoining service road, or a breakdown vehicle constantly parked on the road advertising his business- far more of an issue to me, in fact.
It is a cause of concern that in this case, planning legislation has not allowed a proper discussion and consideration of relevant concerns to be looked at by the community concerned- not just e-forms, Councillor Bowen, but proper discussion is what people are asking for. The new use for this building took me completely by surprise, but even more the letter of the planning law which led to it. Surely if there are real worries about how technicalites can cause potential difficulties, there is a case to answer for reviewing them not just at local level, but nationally- and with your party the major part of the coalition, might not this be a time to do so?
I do not personally object to an Islamic Welfare/Social centre on that site, provided it operates within the same reasonable good neighbour standards as any other building- or indeed household.
It probably is time to have a “cooling off” period about these premises, however. Let us see what happens when the new use of the former Eldridge House site is complete,and how that interacts with the property at the top of the road. Experience with The Centre in Feltham shows that inadequate ‘control’ of owners of property- e.g. the centre’s surface car park and also congestion issues- can and do create new problems.
It’s not unreasonable for people to have concerns about how their own “quiet enjoyment” of their homes around 102 might -and only might- be compromised by this new use. But meanwhile, let us keep the peace, please. There is more than enough trouble and confrontation in the world already, without Feltham residents adding to it!
“However, I’m not sure that your solution will solve the issue, anyway.”
That would depend what the issue would be?
“If you are not moderating, people could just as easily post their comments on an earlier posting – such as this subject- under a later posting by you (though perhaps in such circumstances you might delete the post).”
It was never my intention to play a moderator role. I never wanted to be accused of closing down debate or anyone who is critical of me. In addition by playing the part of a moderator, I could be in some way responsible for the comments people make. I trust it is clear why I do not wish to be in such a position.
As I have said, this will be kept under review. Another thing I have allowed in the past, but would not wish it to become a habit and potentially spoil the blog for others is posting off topic.
“people are looking for a real forum to express views about issues that really matter to them, concerning not just their home town but their immediate environment.”
I think that the ChiswickW4.com forum is excellent and think it would be great if there could be a FelthamTW14 or should that be FelthamTW13?
“Prior to the last election, your blog served as an excellent “parish pump”, just like I am suggesting above, on all manner of local issues, as well as your occasional views on national ones. Your photos of everything from potholes to graffiti showed that you really took an interest in your “patch” which goes above the call of duty. You were ready to take the flak as one of our elected representatives, as well as put things right asap when you could.”
It was always a promise to myself to show what a difference that individual reporting of environmental matters can make. I still report matters but not at the same pace as before. I was told by a number of people that this was an excessive feature of my blog and made it quite boring.
“In my view, this was far more helpful to your constituents, not all of whom are computer literate or want to use e-forms. However much we may wish it to be otherwise, I think this will always be the case.”
I am not sure what point is being made here?
“I think it’s sad to see that, in my opinion at least, the standard of this blog has somewhat diminished since May. Many posts seem to be about matters which are likely to mean a lot more to councillors than constituents.”
I think I have addressed this previously. I have posted a few times this month, having not posted in October. My view is that the issues such as Planning Enforcement in Heston and the parking issue in Gould Road are of as much interest to residents as to Councillors. I completely respect you taking a different view.
“It is a cause of concern that in this case, planning legislation has not allowed a proper discussion and consideration of relevant concerns to be looked at by the community concerned- not just e-forms, Councillor Bowen, but proper discussion is what people are asking for.”
I am not certain what the rationale is behind your references to e-Forms? I maybe missing something here?