My Grandmother's Wartime Tins Of Spam
Cllr Michael Denniss blogs about living in 'this strange and dangerous time'
Since my previous blog there has been an enormous national and local response to Covid-19. With this in mind I want to use this opportunity to share information that you will find useful. I have also continued to attend surgeries, support the local charity The Shelter Project Hounslow (TSPH) and heard applications at Hounslow (LBH)’s planning committee.
It is a strange and dangerous time. Only those with a memory of the war would be able to remember such government intervention and controls on our daily lives, although I was a little shocked when I found out that my granny, who was a ‘WREN’ during that conflict, had bought an enormous amount of Spam! For more recent generations these changes have been new and surprising. A small number have taken a while to get used to the new rules: as late as 24th March, 20 people attended a barbecue in Coventry and refused to disburse, and police resorted to pushing over the cooker! However, the vast majority have responded bravely and we see this in our doctors, nurses, essential businesses like butchers and residents, particularly those with young children, running households in difficult circumstances.
It is difficult to know what it would be like to have to stay in a property for a period of what could be several weeks or more. Luckily I have a great housemate and an assortment of boardgames to keep us busy. It is encouraging to see community support flourishing; a note quickly went up in my block offering a team of volunteers to help anyone who was struggling and my parents, who live in Chiswick, received a letter from a neighbour establishing a community WhatsApp group for their street.
Shops and pharmacies
Supermarkets and essential businesses like butchers’, corner shops and pharmacies continue to operate, albeit with varying degrees of stock. Trying to go out and do everything in one go – posting letters, buying essentials from more than one business and picking up that exciting but non-essential parcel that has been at concierge for over three days – is a challenge.
Several businesses have taken precautions: the security guard at Sainsbury’s wore a mask, only two people were allowed in at a time at the local butcher’s, although I did struggle to keep my distance from fellow shoppers without appearing to be passive-aggressive. Sainsbury’s (yes that is where I do most of my shopping!) as of 26th March had introduced a policy of selling just one type of item at a time. That did make me put back the pack of six ‘Pork’ sausages on the shelf as I didn’t fancy my chances arguing that it was different from the pack of six ‘Cumberland’ ones I had picked earlier (I was buying for my housemate), but I hope that this allows more people to get what they need.
Those who rely on food deliveries can use a few local cafes and restaurants who are continuing to provide a takeaway/delivery service, others may find themselves choosing online businesses with close links to farms such as Milk & More and Field and Flower as the supermarkets’ delivery dates are too far in advance. Many such businesses continue to service their customers but are unable to take on new ones. However, I did find some where you could order as a first time buyer and which delivered to London, although they were based further afield and could incur greater delivery charges.
The Government sent a text to all mobile phones with a link to the latest guidance and instructions on when it is safe to go out. I won’t repeat it here as it is widely available but please use the link here to see the latest advice, particularly if you do not have a mobile phone. Essentially, wash your hands regularly, wash them well and only go outside under certain conditions.
Transport for London is offering refunds for anyone who has a travelcard on their oyster card. Please see their website for information on how to apply. Several residents have told me that this was straightforward. However the line is under pressure from calls. I have tried for three days, sometimes being put on hold for over 30 minutes and at other times the phone call ended! But do persist. If you have continuing problems please get in touch.
My council activities
A recent meeting of Hounslow councillors -file picture
Hounslow Planning Committee
Until the shutdown I continued to attend the planning committee meetings where I have a vote on planning applications that get called in. The most recent meeting took place on 5th March where we considered designs for residential and commercial properties in Hounslow, Feltham, Bedfont and Brentford. In each case we took into account the officers’ recommendations and factors such as local objections, the implications for local infrastructure and the effects on residents. The environment is a factor that the council has finally strengthened its stance on, and it was encouraging to see that the plans for one application to erect a further storey to two tower blocks, whose developer we had asked to revise, had been returned to us with a much ‘greener’ solution including solar panels on the roofs. I hope that this marks the start of a trend and that developers will go further in the future than they have before.
I continued to volunteer with The Shelter Project Hounslow (TSPH), which ended its season earlier this month, a week early due to Covid-19. I was working alongside volunteers, many of whom live in Chiswick, cooking breakfasts and stewarding overnight. Several of the charity’s homeless guests have jobs, sometimes waking up early to get there on time, but are as yet unable to raise enough for a deposit; the charity’s caseworker helps them with this.
Homeless people are at risk from Covid-19, but the government has recently issued plans for them to be housed in temporary accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs. The first priority must surely be to save them from the virus, but I hope that steps are taken to ensure their safety and privacy too. I will monitor the situation and report back in my next blog with any developments.
I will continue to work from home, so please do get in touch. Recent casework includes advice on the planning applications, contesting expensive developments at council-run properties where leaseholders are asked to contribute and the inevitable problems with waste disposal.
Please email me if you feel that you do not have enough support under the government’s response to Covid-19.
DATES FOR DIARIES
Unfortunately council meetings and surgeries have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. When they are back up and running, there will be a Conservative councillor in Chiswick Library at the Chiswick Library from 9.30am or at The Triangle Club, The Ridgeway from 10am.
27th March 2020
Councillor Michael Denniss
Chiswick Riverside ward
All face-to-face councillor surgeries have been cancelled until further notice but you can still contact your councillors at:
Chiswick Homefields ward
Cllr Patrick Barr
Cllr Gerald McGregor
Cllr John Todd
Chiswick Riverside ward
Cllr Michael Denniss
Cllr Gabriella Giles
Cllr Sam Hearn
Turnham Green ward
Cllr Joanna Biddolph
Cllr Ranjit Gill
Cllr Ron Mushiso
March 28, 2020