02 August 2011

Tories fall out over Olympia and suck up to developers: Andy Slaughter's latest e-news

  • Save Olympia's tube - what we've achieved so far 
  • Object now or lose our Riverfront
  • Qui bono?
  • Sure start - false start
  • Ken Cycles
  • Blue Cross Hospital
  • Banooda Aid Foundation anniversary celebrations 
  • Ramadan
  • Football Latest

Save Olympia's tube - what we've achieved so far

Four months ago Transport for London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council announced the closure of the weekday tube service to Olympia not just as a done deal but as a benefit to travellers!  Now, after Tuesday night’s highly-charged public meeting, attended by over 300 residents and backed by almost 2,000, all bets are off and London Underground are looking at alternatives.

From previous dealings with TfL I can say this is already a substantial achievement, as they are not known for putting their customers before their own convenience.  Of course, the argument is not won, and I encourage anyone who has not already done so to send their objections in to enquire@tfl.gov.uk.  Richard Parry of TfL agreed to consider further representations sent in following the meeting – see mine here- as well as answering questions for 90 minutes and agreeing to send further information on alternatives and current service usage.

Mr Parry was generally praised for the courteous way he dealt with questions, though his insistence that there were convenient alternatives for Olympia even for elderly and disabled people were greeted with incredulity.    

He was particularly pressed on the business case for closure – why losing the all-day service at Olympia could be justified by just five extra trains to Wimbledon and why exhibition goers were being excluded when calculating passenger numbers.  Several questioners thought TfL was looking to save money by the closure.  Others worried that the area would be less safe once the tube station closed, particularly now the local police teams are being cut back.  Sinclair Road residents thought more people would drive to the area causing even greater parking stress.

Brendan McGrath, founder of www.myolympia.org.uk put the case for the residents, with Earl’s Court & Olympia, Barclay Homes (who are building 1,200 new flats in the area) and RBK&C giving strong support. Perhaps the most significant development was the declaration by LBH&F that they now also opposed the closure.  The meeting ended with a united front against TfL’s plans.

This is the Olympia story so far.

On 29 March TfL announced the closure in the third paragraph of a press release that started As part of work to improve the reliability of the District Line, LU today announced its intention to introduce a new timetable in December 2011

On 5 April H&F weighed in with the ‘under-utilised weekday tube service to Kensington Olympia needs to be phased out  adding there are other - sometimes quicker - ways to get from Olympia to Earl’s Court

On 19 April I met Earl’s Court and Olympia management to discuss the effect on their business of closure and on 27th Richard Parry to hear TfL’s case

In May, thanks to the MyOlympia campaign, awareness of the closure began to grow and I started receiving letters and emails and writing about the issue in my eNews and on the web

On 6 June I met Brendan McGrath to review tactics and plan the public meeting

On 15 June RBK&C criticised the plans as short termist and unwise.  Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP for Kensington has since written to TfL to express his opposition.

But on 28 June Chelsea and South Fulham MP Greg Hands – who until last year represented Olympia – and H&F Cabinet Member (for Residents’ Services!) Greg Smith launched a petition demanding LU honour its commitment to discontinue weekday services to Olympia.  This is the first time I have ever come across one MP trying to make life more difficult for another MP’s constituents – especially when he used to represent them himself.  

Hands has been complaining, by his own admission, about the Wimbledon service for almost ten years without getting anything done.  Freed from the responsibility of representing Olympia he clearly saw this as an attractive option.

That doesn’t explain the Council’s contempt for its Hammersmith residents.  Even this month Smith was tweeting about the Olympia ghost train and Hands was criticising the public meeting for being too late (it was the first date TfL offered).

Following the announcement by another member of H&F’s Cabinet at the public meeting that their official position is now to oppose closure, I have written to Hands and Smith to ask them to confirm they support this – and will not be asking for other changes to the District Line service if this means the Olympia closure will go ahead.

My constituents use the Wimbledon branch, and I can say from personal experience that it has been a poor service for many, many years.  But rather than divide and rule we should all be demanding a decent service on all branches of the Line.

STOP PRESS.  I have a response from Greg Hands.  He refuses to decouple his Wimbledon campaign from the ending of the Olympia service and adds:   As for any online petition, this has not been organised by me. Residents who saw this tweet may find this surprising.

Object now or lose our Riverfront

14 September is the new date for the council’s planning committee to consider St George’s application for 750 hideous high-rise flats just down from Hammersmith Bridge, a site they call Fulham Reach, but is in fact Hammersmith Embankment.  You can read my objections to it here.  Not least is the precedent it will set for creeping development of the riverside with the Town Hall and Riverside studios already in other developers’ sights.  The blocks will tower over neighbouring Victorian streets at two or three times the density, and ruin the views from the Mall or the other side of the river.

A smaller proposal by a housing association for the Queen’s Wharf building opposite the Bridge will be determined on 3 August.  Here, council officers are recommending refusal.  But the rumour is the council wants to force a sale to a private developer – as they did with part of the Shepherds Bush Market site – who can also knock down Riverside Studios to produce a much larger scheme, also up to nine stories high.

Qui bono?

Almost every decision taken locally now benefits developers and disbenefits residents.  The town hall slogan really should be Developers’ First.  This week the council announced it was thinking of selling off privately a block of 70 council flats, Edith Summerskill House, in Fulham.  This includes many three-bed flats, exactly the type most needed by the thousands of local families in overcrowded or poor standard accommodation.  I attended the AGM of Edward Woods tenants and residents’ association this week.  Eddie Woods is one of the largest estates in Shepherds Bush and has a strong community spirit.  But most of the council officers who are paid to look after repairs, caretaking or housing management didn’t bother to turn up.  Those that did said the concierge service would no longer operate, even though it is paid for through rents and service charge.  Contrast this with the fawning way St George, Helical Bar and Westfield are treated by councillors and officers.

Also this week came the Government’s decision to make anything goes planning rules the norm.  As with the destruction of affordable housing they have looked at H&F and liked what they see.  From now on there will be a presumption in favour of development and planning applications being approved.  So much for Localism.

Sure Start – false start

Last week I reported that the council had backed down and was allowing Sure Start centres to deregister.  This would allow current users – often schools - to make the best use of the buildings now funding has been withdrawn.  But fearing more bad publicity, the council wrote to some centres on the last day of term saying they would take possession of the buildings and put in their own operators.  This is probably unlawful given the way the centres are set up.   Looks like the under 5s will be back in court again.

Ken Cycles

Using the original name for Boris Bikes tells you how long they have been around.  So why is H&F not getting them until 2013?  The answer is that Barclays, who sponsor them, insisted they went to Canary Wharf and East London first.  As a sop there will be a token installation at Westfield next spring .  Just in time for the Mayoral election, but then as H&F have rolled over on everything Westfield wanted – from losing crèches and leisure centres to ignoring residents’ wishes for a quiet life and some job opportunities  - they deserve a reward.

Blue Cross Hospital

Last week I visited the Blue Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, one of four surgical centres for animals in the U.K. run by the charity. Accompanied by vet Wendy Adams and nurse Sandra Bain, I was given a tour of the premises off King Street. What looks like an unassuming office building from the outside contains a complete operating theatre, examination and treatment rooms and a laboratory.
No sick animals are turned away, though Blue Cross mainly caters for those who cannot afford vet’s bills, offering a free or cost price service to those on means-tested benefits. They also neuter and vaccinate pets, provide classes in how to look after animals and lobby on animal welfare issues from hunting to control of dangerous dogs.
You can find out more about the invaluable work that the charity does here in Hammersmith and around the country by visiting their website.

Banooda Aid Foundation anniversary celebrations

Abdi Haidarow and an enthusiastic group of helpers and teachers set up Banooda Aid Foundation five years ago to help Somali children improve their language and literacy skills. I was invited to speak at their 5th anniversary celebrations and hand out the awards to the best pupils.  Supplementary schools are thriving around the borough despite the lack of funding as parents, teachers and community leaders  – and of course the young people themselves – strive to achieve better and better results.  Of course, having English as a second language at home and often living in overcrowded conditions, having fled persecution or hardship make learning difficult but the children at Banooda more than make up for this by studying every Sunday with an enthusiasm for learning that is truly inspiring.


Today marks the start of Ramadan.  May I wish my thousands of Muslim constituents well for this Holy Month.  The long days make the challenge of fasting from dawn to dusk even more arduous this year.  There are many reasons for fasting, but one which we can all share at present is the empathy it gives with those who do not have enough to eat.

In particular, that means those affected by the famine and drought in East Africa.  Events at home have kept their suffering off the front pages, so I am pleased the Independent is running its ‘give a day’s pay for Africa’ campaign.  Details of how to donate are here.

Two Teams in Europe!

Congratulations to QPR, who won the Trofeo Bartolotti in Italy on Saturday night. Before anyone thinks I've changed allegiance, let me assure my regular readers that much as I respect the premiership newcomers' achievement, my loudest cheers will be reserved for Fulham on Thursday evening when we host the 2010 Serbian Champions for second leg of our tie in the, er, arguably better-known Europa League.
The new football season promises to be fascinating for West London fans: Fulham are embarking on their second decade in the premiership, QPR are back in the top flight where I hope they will stay, and of course, Chelsea continue to show us what money can - and can't - buy. I know the thought of six premiership matches within walking distance of home won't excite all of my constituents equally, but thought of so much top-flight football in the area, as well as all the other marvellous cultural and sporting attractions on offer, remind us how lucky we are to be living in such a lively, thriving part of the world. So here's hoping - with apologies to headline writers everywhere - that on Thursday evening, Fulham can cause a Split in the RNKs.


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