- Lobby Against Closure of Sure Start Centres and Youth Clubs
- White City Whitewash
- Surely Not Shirley?
- Free Schools - At What Cost?
- Wormwood Scrubs Fun Day
Lobby Against Closure of Sure Start Centres and Youth Clubs
6pm Tonight, Monday 18 April, in front of Hammersmith Town Hall
On Monday night I will be joining local Labour councillors and groups from Hammersmith & Fulham Parents Unite and the Fulham Cross Youth Project in asking the council’s Cabinet not to make more cuts to services for children in the borough.
The Council are proposing the closure of nine of the 15 Sure Start Centres, used by thousands of families with pre-school age children. While the grant from government is falling by 12.9%, the Sure Start budget is being cut locally by almost 50%. When some councils are protecting children’s services from cuts, ours is targeting them.
Similarly, with youth clubs, only three of the seven local clubs are still open, and - to prevent them being re-opened in the future - the Tories are now selling the sites. Many young people, parents and community groups will be there to lobby for a change of heart - please join us for the rally at 6pm or the Cabinet meeting at 7pm.
White City Whitewash
What is the future for White City? The way to find out last week was not reading about the Mayor of London’s ‘vision’ but attending the planning inquiry in the Town Hall.
Although the planning framework for the area won’t be agreed until next year, Westfield and Imperial College are putting in planning applications for 3,000 homes this autumn. These will include blocks of 20 and even 30 stories and will set a precedent for the rest of the site. Consequently, the developers are already saying at least 6,000 new flats can be justified east of Wood Lane, not the 4,500 in the plans.
The council wants over a thousand of the new homes to be council homes at low rents. No, this is not some dramatic u-turn by the most anti-affordable home council in the country. The condition is that they are all taken by residents of White City, Wood Lane and Batman Close Estates to the west of Wood Lane. Not one new affordable home must be built.
You don’t have to be Richard Rogers to work out that this leaves over a thousand empty flats in White City Estate – half the current neighbourhood. And yet the plan states ‘there are no plans for the White City housing estates’. What they mean is they won’t tell us.
It was clear as soon as the Opportunity Area was extended to include the estates that, just as in West Ken, the long-term plan is demolition and re-development to a much higher density with luxury rather than affordable homes.
At the same time Shepherds Bush Green and Town Centre were included in the development area, even though they are south of Westfield. So far here we have seen an attempt to get rid of Ginglik, the Village Hall put up for sale, plans to cut down mature trees and erect a cafe on the Green (now subject to a planning inquiry) and seven stories of flats crowding out the Market.
There is space for development in White City, in the interests of new and existing residents. This isn’t it.
Surely Not Shirley?
So far the council have sold off 64 of the most valuable council homes on the open market, leaving more local families to wait in inadequate of overcrowded accommodation. Now they are set to approve a more general sale of 300 properties of different sizes and values.
This is the comment of the council’s own lawyer on the plans: ‘sales...must be motivated purely by bona fide housing objectives. In particular, they must not be tainted by any considerations of potential electoral advantage (any member or officer pursuing, or wilfully blind to, such motives would act unlawfully and not be protected by any legal advice).’ What can he mean?
Free School - At What Cost?
Wormholt residents were both angry and bewildered when asked to view the revised plans for the ARK Free School last week. Lack of demand (there were only 25 applications for places at the school originally intended for 410 pupils) led the council to cut pupil numbers by half, and many local people thought this meant it would be a lot smaller. But it will still take up the same footprint, closing local roads, building on open space right up to the edge of homes and forcing local community groups out of their premises.
A bad neighbour but not very good for local children either. The small play area is right on the A40. Existing schools have been encouraged or forced to become two-form entry to be more economic, but this will be a very small school costing several million pounds to set up while Bentworth, Canberra and Wormholt Park are starved of funds.
Wormwood Scrubs Fun Day
Last weekend I visited the annual Fun Day at Wormwood Scrubs organised by Groundwork London. Over 400 local residents came along to enjoy the beautiful weather and the wide range of activities run by the Groundwork team. The children who attended were able to meet the animals at the mobile zoo, take a ride in a traditional horse drawn cart, or make their own puppets to take home with them. They also made a model of what the Scrubs would look like in the Twenty First Century.
Groundwork London has been working in West London since 2002, bringing local communities together and helping them engage with the natural spaces in the city. The charity was instrumental in having a Local Nature Reserve designated within Wormwood Scrubs Park.
As Parliament isn’t sitting until after Easter I have had time to:
- Meet leaders of the Syrian opposition to President Assad’s oppressive regime. On their behalf I wrote to William Hague to ask whether CS Gas used against protesters had come from Britain and why the Syrian Ambassador has not yet been censured
- Give evidence to several sessions of the examination in Public of the council’s Core Strategy, the 20-year plan for the borough
- Visit Newport to speak at the annual conference of personal injury lawyers and meet with mediation specialists Resolution to talk about the government’s plans for compulsory mediation