25 September 2011

Andy Slaughter's news: sewer politics and riverfront shenanigans

  • Sewer Politics
  • Riverfront ReRun
  • Palestine
  • Access to Justice
  • Phoenix Opens Sixth Form
  • Weekly Roundup

Sewer politics
I spent last Friday afternoon in a sewer under Chancellor’s Road.  Well, why not?  Thames Water wanted London politicians and journalists to see for themselves what happens when it rains heavily in Hammersmith, as it does about 50 times a year.  The answer is the pumps at Hammersmith Pumping Station turn themselves on and pump 24 tonnes of sewage per second into the Thames.  If they didn’t it would all end up in our homes and streets (some already does in Shepherds Bush after particularly heavy storms).
Altogether 39 million tonnes of the brown stuff ends up in the river every year.  Hammersmith & Fulham Council think this is OK. Thames Water want to build the Thames Tunnel to capture it so it can be treated before entering the river.

You can read Standard journalist Andrew Neather’s account of our descent.  You can also read one resident’s experience of living with the stink and what she thinks of the Council leader’s do nothing policy.  Last week I took part in a debate on the issue in the Commons
The Council meanwhile has set up a patsy commission to rubbish the scheme and is promoting an alternative view by a retired Thames water official.  Bizarrely, this would still see the Tunnel built through Hammersmith but would rely on existing sewers to take the effluent through central London.  So we would still have the building works but once complete – because the existing system is at capacity – when the Tunnel filled up the sewage would have nowhere to go.  According to Thames it would sit there for days or weeks with the smell wafting across the borough as the faecal matter decomposed.   A fitting leitmotif for our burghers you may think.

Riverfront re-run tonight

Soon after this eNews hits your inbox, another attempt will be made, tonight, to approve the appalling St George scheme for Hammersmith Embankment when the Planning Committee meets unprecedentedly on a Friday evening.  Last week 150 residents who had come to object to the scheme, that would see 750 luxury high-rise flats built between Distillery Road and the river, waited an hour and a half before the meeting was abandoned for lack of a PA system.  A curious omission in a hall that the Council regularly uses for its own propaganda rallies.

Save Our Riverfront  would be pleased to see you at the Town Hall from 6.30pm to oppose the first of several disastrous schemes the Council has promised developers to pass before the London Mayor elections next May.

Other carbuncle news
Save Our Skyline are gearing up for another major public meeting next Tuesday 27 September at Rivercourt Methodist Church to oppose the ruination of Furnivall Gardens, King Street and surrounding conservation areas.

Consultation closes on Friday 30th September on CapCo’s plans for 7,500 slums-of-the-future in West Ken.

Residents of Sinclair and Hofland Road have put together a good case to oppose the Nomis studio scheme that will put five storeys of flats in a conservation area of two-storey early Victorian cottages.

Wormholt residents met me earlier this week to express opposition to the Free School that will be built on green space overlooking their homes.  Hemlock Road will be permanently closed to provide a play area directly onto the Westway, one of Britain’s most polluted roads.  Phoenix High School kindly gave us somewhere to meet as the residents, mainly pensioners, have already been booted out of their community hall which has been given to the school.

It is now so well known in developer circles that anything goes in Hammersmith & Fulham that both the number and scale of applications grows exponentially.  Planning officers, under instructions from their political masters, are prepared to ignore their own policies drawn up in consultation with residents over many years. 38 Degrees, who organised the Save the Forests campaign have just launched a Save our Countryside campaign .  We need to persuade them to save our cities too.


This week pressure for Palestine to be recognised as a state by the UN, 65 years after they – and Israel – promised just that, gained momentum.  Anyone not persuaded that this is both fair and the best way to get peace talks started again should read Jonathan Freedland’s Guardian article . A hundred MPs of all Parties signed a motion of support last week and I raised the issue with the Foreign Office Minister  This week Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, made Labour’s support clear.  On Wednesday, I went to Downing Street with representative of many organisations to hand in a letter to Cameron asking the British Government to give its support  No reply as yet.

Access to justice

The media finally seem to have discovered there is some merit in the warnings my colleagues and I have been giving for the past year about the Government’s plans to axe Legal Aid and ‘no win-no fee’ litigation.

The Independent warned of the risk of miscarriages of justice if free legal advice on arrest is taken away, and reported how a charity for victims of medical negligence was suing the Government because severely injured children and adults would no longer be able to claim the support they need. The Guardian reported that the Minister in charge of the legislation, which will benefit insurance companies by restricting claims, has himself substantial investments in the insurance industry.

Then today they published a letter from the Dowler family to David Cameron explaining that they only got justice after The News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s  ‘phone  by being able to bring a case without risking bankruptcy, which might have meant the whole hacking scandal staying buried.

I spoke to a packed fringe meeting at TUC conference with Mark Lewis, the Dowlers’ solicitor last week.  Amnesty International, trades unions, accident victims, even HMRC (who need the current rules to sue dodgy directors of insolvent companies) are united against this Bill.  Only the Tories and Lib Dems and their friends in big corporations and insurance companies are supporting it.

Who funds Phoenix?

I was asked to speak at the opening of Phoenix High School's amazing new Sixth form building.  I think this was to mark my mad dash round Labour Party conference two years ago to help secure the £10 million needed for the project.   The Labour Government did come up with the money – one of the last six schemes approved.  At that stage Phoenix was also to benefit from £20 million from the national Building Schools for the Future project to rebuild the main school.  When the Tories came in they cancelled this and every other BSF project in the borough, but the sixth form was already underway.

What did our Council think of all this? In 2009 they said ‘the council is looking to spend £9m on developing a brand-new four-storey sixth form centre’ at Phoenix.  This was untrue.  They also claimed credit for the BSF programme and £70 million of spending on primary schools.

But when their Government cut all uncommitted capital funds to schools they quoted Michael Gove approvingly  saying ‘the BSF plans did not represent value for money’.  Phoenix head Sir William Atkinson had a different take on it: It is devastating news’ he told the Standard , adding his pupils would now have to learn in ‘antiquated, inadequate buildings...with concrete that is beginning to crumble, iron pipe-work which has been fractured, with lots of leaks and flat roofs which are constantly leaking’.

Have the Tories learned their lessons?  Of course not.  Three schools have opened in Hammersmith in the past two weeks.  The Hammersmith Academy, a newly built £25 million secondary school funded by the Labour Government and the two Free Schools.  What they all have in common is ‘freedom’ from council control, something the Tories keenly support.  Only one of the schools has had an official opening: ARK Conway’s is next month and the Academy’s next year.  So the council staged openings at these schools in a further pathetic attempt to get publicity for its needy leader.

And in other news

The Government is planning a u-turn on its promise not to raise Air Passenger Duty, which could mean a 25% increase in this tax which particularly hits those travelling to the Caribbean.  British Airways are already considering ending flights to some islands as a result.

I hosted a reception in Parliament for Broadway, the single homeless charity whose board I sat on for 20 years.  They were launching ‘voices of experience’ about how 61 street drinkers have changed their lives mainly through their own efforts.  All Broadway’s Shepherds Bush hostels and flats are being demolished as part of the Council’s Shepherds Bush Market scheme (200 luxury flats up to eight storeys, since you ask), but I’m pleased to say they have found alternative accommodation in the borough.      

The Mayor has raised tube and bus fares above inflation once again LINK

I dropped in for an interview at Hammersmith’s local radio station OnFM, based in Lyric Square.  You can find it at 101.4 or online onfmradio.com.

To contact Andy, e-mail him at andy@andyslaughter.com or call his office on 020 7610 1950

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