Archive for May, 2012

Hounslow Council AGM

May 16, 2012

A lot longer than it should have been.  It felt strange not having to do lots of preparation in advance e.g. what to say and respond to requests for nominations to various committees.  The new Mayor, Councillor Pritam Grewal, said some very nice words about me, which I had not expected.  I did not vote for him as Mayor last night but he is a very nice man and has always been very courteous with me.  If he does half as well as his predecessor, Councillor Amrit Mann, I think that the Borough will do well.

There are new faces on the Cabinet.  Councillor Sharma, unlike last year, tried to explain some of the changes, albeit without mentioning any names.  He also gave the impression that the decisions were his.  My understanding of Labour rules is that the entire Labour Group decide.  If I am right, this is at odds with the principle of the Strong Leader Model (introduced by the previous Labour Government).  I will not pretend to be particularly excited about the changes.  I only hope that they remember that answering questions in the Chamber is important.

The new Leader of the Conservative Group is Peter Thompson.  I had the privilege of being his Deputy for six years and wish him all the best over the next couple of years.

Planning Application in Hawkes Road

May 13, 2012

I was contacted yesterday about this application.  If you have any concerns or objections, you can make them on the link.  Looks like a large development.


10 years and going forward

May 12, 2012

I have been a Councillor for Feltham North since 2002.  My 10th anniversary has passed earlier this month.  I am incredibly privileged and proud – so much has happened to me both as a Councillor and personally in that time.  When I was first elected, I had not been married an entire year.  A 10th Wedding Anniversary and three children later, here I am.

Being Deputy Leader of the Council was also something I enjoyed.  It was very hard work and I was part of an administration that made a difference from massively improving the maintenance of parks, turning around the complaints procedure, raising the profile of planning enforcement and putting an end to the inevitability that Council Tax should increase every year in Hounslow.  As I have said many times, my biggest (and only major) regret is that I did not achieve a good outcome at the Feltham Arena site.

There are four main things in my life at the moment:

  1. My family
  2. Representing Feltham North on the Council
  3. My job/career
  4. Leading the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council

I have been considering my position on the last of the above over the past couple of months.  I am not prepared to compromise on the top three and the workplace is an ever more competitive place for us all.  I am pretty much on top of my casework and I am enjoying my children growing up.

The Conservative Group AGM is on Monday evening.  I decided for certain a number of weeks ago that I would not seek the nomination to continue in the post of Group Leader.  I announced this to the Group on 25 April.

Of course, there will be some who think that the role of Leader could have been done better.  I hope that this happens going forward.  None of us are indispensable and there is always room for improvement.

At the beginning of my tenure as Leader I said in the Chamber that when I agreed with the Labour administration, I would say so.  I have kept my word.  I have also stated that this Labour administration is not close to being as bad as the one I saw between 2002 & 2006 (it was the pits).  However, there are a number of areas where the Council is going backwards and their decision scrap a constitutional provision that Mayoralty should not only go to one Group was disgraceful (they supported the provision when in opposition).

I became Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group in 2004.  I became Leader of the Group in 2010.  I have certainly have had my turn.  It has been a great experience.  My replacement will have an important role over the next couple of years.  My political priority is always Feltham North.  I will also do what I can to advance the fortunes of the Conservative Party in this Borough.

Planning Enforcement in Hounslow

May 12, 2012

I received the following comment in the ‘About’ page on my blog on Friday:

“I would be grateful if you could investigate and explain why the planning enforcement service seems to be completely ineffective at present. I believe that you should be putting pressure on to improve the service and regain the reputation it once had. I rarely see any press articles about planning enforcement and the work they are doing so much so that many of the clients I advise feel like they can built what they like without obtaining permission. I note that you don’t appear to have mentioned enforcement on this blog for a considerable period of time.

I hope it doesn’t get to the stage where hounslow is mentioned in the national media in a similar negative way to our neighbours Slough and Ealing regarding these beds in sheds.”

I responded as follows:

“Thank you for your comments. Whilst the problem of resources continues in this area, I think that this area is far less controversial than it was a number of years ago e.g. the enforcement committee that deals with these matters instead of the previous Area Planning Committees has approved all recommendations sent to them.

If you have any examples, I would recommend you send them to one of your ward Councillors or me.”

I then received the following:

“One could argue that the enforcement service is less controversial because officers are choosing to make it that way by putting the more difficult cases to one side and not making the public aware off there success stories. Which is a shame because there are seeming no penalities for not obtaining planning permission in Hounslow. The Council’s failure to get there message out is allowing the dreaded word of mouth advice people recieve from relatives and friends to take hold. Unfortunately the advise people are recieving from relatives is do what you want the Council wont take any action.

If the enforcement committee approves all recommendations is it not time to just give officers delegated powers to issue enforcement notices but retain a members right to call in an item to committee. This works sucessfully in other areas of London where officers have been given full delegated authority and takes out the political element.

Why is there a resource issue in this area when we are in a recession with plenty of planners struggling for work or career opportunities in and around London. Its either a wage issue or they dont like the product being offered to them. Perhaps you could clarify when this resource issue is going to be overcome.

I found your blog after searching planning enforcement in Hounslow and noted that most of the activity seems to be from years ago. It is a shame that this activity has not been continued. Especially when people who put in applications are asked to amend plans to shave 50cm of reasonably sized extensions when their neighbours a few doors done have just gone ahead and built a 10m extension without any seeming punishment.

What is the point in a planning service if it is not enforced effectively?”

I have made this posting for a number of reasons:

  1. The ‘About’ section is not the correct place;
  2. The subject matter is very important and I have always felt very strongly about Planning Enforcement;
  3. No specific examples have been given that make an enquiry or complaint worthwhile;
  4. I have been critical of the Labour Group many times when it comes to Planning Enforcement but as is typical for me, I will not be critical when I have nothing to back it up.  Since the Sustainable Development Enforcement Sub-Committee was created to deal with determining enforcement, I do not think it has rejected Officers advice on one occasion.  As history shows, this was always the case when the decisions were with Area Planning Committees;
  5. To plug this eForm;

This has prompted me to take a look into how many Enforcement Reports have gone to committee regarding properties in Feltham, Bedfont & Hanworth over the past 12 months.  There are none on the next agenda.

If anyone ever has any examples of work taking place without planning permission, I urge them to report it.  As always, my constituents are welcome to contact me for anything of the sort in Feltham North.

There are related concerns about planning where some Resident Groups have expressed concern.  This is worth a position in its own right.

Feltham Park pond latest

May 12, 2012

Last month, I made a stage 1 complaint about the state of the pond in Feltham Park. I received the following response on 17 April:

“I am writing in response to your email that was received on 04 April 2012, regarding the above site. Our reference number is 006783. I can confirm that I have asked our contractors John Laing Integrated Services to physically remove the weed from the pond. I will be meeting with JLIS this afternoon to discuss options to resolve this ongoing issue. As soon as we have an action plan of operations to be carried out with a timescale I will let you know. Please be assured I will be pursing JLIS to get these works done as soon as possible.”

Here is what I saw this afternoon:

There does not appear to be any improvement to me.  I also saw a lot of bottles and cans etc.  It is possible that the crazy weather we have had over the past few weeks has not helped but I will be writing about this again on Monday.

Thank goodness for Boris (and Tony)

May 5, 2012

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Olympia where the counting took place for the London Southwest constituency.  Really pleased to see my good friend, Tony Arbour, returned to represent us at the London Assembly.  I have learnt a lot from him and hugely admire what he does so really pleased for him and his wife Caroline.

I do not think I am saying anything controversial when I say that we would have lost the Mayoralty had our candidate not been Boris.  Having been out and about with him in Feltham and Hounslow West in the past, there really are very few like him.  Politicians cross the road to meet the people whereas people cross the road to meet Boris!

Sorry to see Richard Barnes lose his seat in Ealing & Hillingdon.  A very nice man!

Elsewhere a friend of mine lost his seat by 7 votes.  I have not had the chance to chat with him yet but I can imagine that he will be shattered by the result and inevitably he will ask himself whether an extra 30 minutes canvassing or an extra something else would have made the difference.  A pretty unique experience!

Politics is a tough game.  Most go into it for the right reasons.  Having experienced winning and losing, I appreciate how so many candidates will be feeling.

I have already heard people calling for a change in direction from the Government.  I remain as supportive of the principle of deficit reduction as I always have done.  It is the right thing to do and there is no alternative.