Frustration Over CPZs, the Cycleway and Casework
Chiswick Riverside ward councillor Sam Hearn reports back on his week
Thursday 15th July: Received confirmation today from the council that although the consultation on the extension of the operational hours of the Strand-on-the-Green CPZ began on the 7th July no actual changes can be progressed until the outcome of the consultation is known. This means that it unlikely that any measures will be in place before the first full capacity match is held at the new Brentford Stadium. I have also been advised by officers that it would be inappropriate for the short term measures to be brought in using a temporary traffic order.
Many residents still need convincing that living next door to a large football stadium will not negatively impinge on their normal lives. As someone who wishes Brentford Football Club every success I am baffled as to why after years of preparation the council have managed to let down both the club and local residents quite so badly. I do not think that residents will be amused If ‘match day’ means convoys of away supporters cruising around the area and filling every available resident’s parking spot. Then of course there are the many residents of Chiswick Riverside living in other CPZs that Hounslow Council has refused to consult about the possibility of extending the operating times of their CPZs.
Friday 16th July: Following a tip-off by a resident I have investigated and then alerted officers to gaps appearing between the river-path and the river-wall on Strand on the Green. I have been assured by the council that the problem will be investigated and any necessary remedial action taken. Those with long memories will recall that the rive path and wall were excluded from the PFI contract signed with Hounslow Highways. Residents have long been asking for the pathway to be re-surfaced with a non-slip material that throws the water off into the river. Those who do not live in the area may not appreciate that at this point the river is tidal and that the pathway is regularly completely inundated.
Saturday 17th July: The local authority elections are less than ten months away and we are preparing for the ward members’ vote on the final slate of candidates. Each ward needs three candidates. I caste my eye down a surprisingly long list of those who have passed the initial selection processes and would like to represent the residents Chiswick Riverside. My mind drifts back to canvassing on the cold wet and dark November evenings in the by-election at which I was first elected. There is a great deal to be done before May 2022, not least adjusting to the new ward boundaries and inducting the new candidates into the intricate workings of Hounslow Council.
Sunday 18th July: I dig out my papers on the Area Forum. The next Chiswick Area Forum is not until October (our last one was in January). Despite the lip-service paid to community engagement and listening to residents nothing illustrates more starkly this council’s lack of commitment to bringing local decision making closer to residents than this extraordinary nine-month gap between meetings of the borough’s Area Forums. I was recently elected by my group to be Deputy Chair of the Chiswick Area Forum. This has reinforced my commitment to championing local issues and making the Chiswick Area Forum as effective as possible. Please contact either the Chair (Cllr Jo Biddolph) or me if you have concerns that you wish to be raised at the next meeting.
Monday 19th July: There are times when casework can leave any councillor feeling helpless and frustrated. A young woman who has been living with her small child in a local hostel for two years is stuck in limbo. The lockdown has taken its toll on her as it has on so many other vulnerable people. She is grateful for the help that she has received when she most needed it. However, she has been assessed as being ready to move on into independent accommodation but has now been told that she is on a waiting list for longer term housing and that the council “cannot give specific time frames about when you will be made an offer of alternative accommodation”. The theoretical possibility of moving out of London exists but the bureaucracy involved and the uncertainty are obstacles that are hard to climb over. I discuss the generic problem with other councillors to see what advice they can give.
Tuesday 20th July: This evening’s Cabinet Meeting is broadcast on YouTube – The consideration of the proposal to impose a new experimental traffic order (ETO) begins nineteen minutes into the video. Following the robust discussion of this issue at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) I had naively expected some consideration of the objections raised at that meeting and the minority report published after the OSC meeting. Remarkably the cabinet felt able to reach a decision to proceed with the new ETO with almost no mention of either the opposition to the cycleway expressed at the OSC meeting or the minority group’s report.
Since the existing experimental traffic order is the subject of ongoing legal disputes I am limited in the comments that I can make. However, it is worth saying that the existing cycleway has not generated the modal-shift from vehicle transport to bicycles that might justify such an expensive experiment nor is there any solid evidence of an overall improvement in air quality along the route. The proposed modifications at the heart of the new ETO are aimed at reducing journey times for motorised transport on Chiswick High Road and NOT at promoting either modal-shift or improving air quality. In addition, the existing scheme has some basic technical flaws that are not addressed by the modifications in the new ETO.
Wednesday 21st July: Cllr Biddolph has finally received a response to her detailed questions to officers about the decision to partially reopen Devonshire Road. The Lead Member’s original statement on this was devoid of many important “details”. It now emerges that the reinstatement of parking bays is largely nugatory and no thought has been given as to how long the open-air restaurants can operate in the evening. Several other operational questions remained unanswered. Let us hope that when the present scheme is reviewed that there will be a full consultation on all the options. Perhaps this a suitable matter to be discussed at the Area Forum?
Thursday 22nd July: Following intensive discussions amongst members of the Conservative Councillor Group it has been agreed that the decision by the Hounslow cabinet to proceed with a new ETO for cycleway 9 must be called in to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC). The cycleway 9 scheme is complex and extensive and there was little evidence that cabinet members had any detailed knowledge of what was proposed.
No detailed large-scale maps were made available to the cabinet that could have assisted them in the decision-making. Nor was there any indication that a site visit had been considered or that any local councillors or residents’ groups had been consulted. Not what residents might have reasonably expected.
The existing ETO was authorised as a senior officer’s decision without reference to the cabinet. At the very least you might think that cabinet members would have queried why they were required to approve the new experimental traffic order when that had been deemed unnecessary for the original ETO.
The Lead Member responsible for the cycleway made passing reference to the original cycleway 9 scheme that received cabinet approval in 2019 as if this somehow justified the proposal for a new ETO. Again, there was no apology for having tried to implement a far more expensive version of the cycleway that would have involved ripping up pavements and destroying mature trees. He of course ignored the fact that over 5,000 residents had signed a petition against the original version of the cycleway. And so life goes on.
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
Meetings are now taking place virtually and residents can attend online. Joining instructions will be on the council website, in the agenda reports pack for each committee
23rd March: Cabinet
30th March: Borough Council
5th August: Planning Committee
2nd September: Planning Committee
7th September: Cabinet
16th September: Overview and Scrutiny Panel
21st September: Borough Council Meeting
12th October: Chiswick Area Forum
Following the end of the lockdown serious consideration is being given to restarting the face to face surgeries. Why not let us know what you think? When they are reinstated you will be able to meet a Conservative councillor in Chiswick Library on Saturdays at 9.30am and at the Gunnersbury Triangle Club at 10.00am on the first Saturday of every month. Until then, please contact your ward councillors by email or phone, as listed below.
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
July 25, 2021