Homelessness, Cycleway 9 and the Need to Support the Police

Chiswick Gunnersbury councillor Joanna Biddolph reports back

Cllr Joanna Biddolph

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September 17, 2023

As I started to write this blog, BBCR4’s The News Quiz was on in the background with one of the team characterising homeless people as drunk and crazed. Not so with the three homelessness cases that featured in my week.

A family of two parents, a grandparent and three young children who I have written about before (living with damp and mould plus uncaring deterioration, without water over Christmas and the new year, in a privately rented flat) were evicted this week after being told the rent would be raised to a level they cannot afford even though both parents have jobs.

The lettings agent declared that the landlord will now upgrade the flat – for the next occupant. Turning up at Hounslow House on the day of eviction (which is how this terrible process works), and having had to dispose of their furniture, they were provided with temporary accommodation that splits up the family. The mother, grandmother and two of the children were lodged in two rooms in one building (with one loo in the one bathroom shared with two or three people similarly temporarily housed downstairs) while the father and one daughter were displaced a journey away. I asked about standards: the two bedrooms were clean, the kitchen and bathroom not so much.

Cleanliness, or lack of it, drove away the second person who appealed to me for help this week. She refused one room as it was so filthy, with slept-in sheets on the bed, and a landlord who said if she didn’t like it she could go. So she did. The third person who sought help was shocked to discover that single people with no vulnerabilities are the lowest priority and there was nothing the council could offer. Sofa-surfing with family or friends, if they can’t find affordable privately rented accommodation, is their option.

Filthy bedroom in temporary accommodation

This is the reality of housing, with residents assuming council homes are lying empty waiting for tenants and that everyone will qualify. In fact, in Hounslow there is an embarrassingly high number of voids (as homes awaiting allocation are described in local authority-speak) and Cllr Jack Emsley (Chiswick Homefields ward) has tabled a question at next week’s borough council meeting highlighting this scandal and asking when the cabinet member will publish the findings of the council’s review of empty council homes.

What really happens at a Chiswick Area Forum

If you are on Twitter you might have a very different impression from the reality of what happened at Tuesday’s Chiswick Area Forum, chaired this year by Cllr Gabriella Giles (Chiswick Riverside ward). The theme, environment, could not have been more topical and questions were rightly challenging and of course thoughtful.

We heard about the council’s flood risk management strategy and were reminded about who is responsible for what when surface water doesn’t flow away. An inspiring and passionate presentation from The Thames Landscape Strategy (TLS) reassured us that, as guardian of the arcadian Thames, TLS celebrates uniqueness, valuing character differences along the banks of the river and supporting a mosaic of inter-connected habitats from Surrey to the sea. Hounslow Highways reported on recycling and answered questions about blocked drains, weeds, waste.

My 10 questions came too late (and were far too many) for answers at the meeting but will be followed up. I’m often mocked for relating real life to problems but observing behaviour can be very valuable. I’ve had a series of lodgers in their early 20s and, with each one, saw my plastics recycling box piling up unimaginably high unimaginably quickly. This generation is supposedly the most vehement about the need to save the planet but makes the same disconnected decisions as anyone else. The aim is not only to create less waste but also to create less recycling (a climate-damaging process) by buying fewer things that need to be recycled. The packaging industry is making efforts but needs to step-up. Another new obsession for me is about products that are “harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects”, a point I worry about, given that I live in a riparian borough, and which I made to TLS. This important statement appears in tiny print on my formerly favoured washing powder and on the back of my non-usual brand of washing-up liquid, bought reluctantly when my usual climate-responsible brand was out of stock. The message to us? Check the box! Or the bottle.

Other questions raised by councillors included when the council would be introducing a litter pick after waste and recycling collections, promised by council leader Shantanu Rajawat in May 2022 (the answer remains – not yet but it will be), and what happened to the promised review of street furniture with many areas of our wards blighted by redundant posts and utility boxes not to mention a general unsightly mess based on plonking.

Area forums bring all Hounslow’s Chiswick councillors together in a buzzy hubbub with residents, all of us grabbed by people with pressing problems or points to make (with our detractors scowling or complaining just because they can). A massive downpour kept many regular attenders away this time; they missed an extremely stimulating and informative meeting. Area forum recordings are added to Hounslow’s YouTube channel but it takes a few days so the answer to is it there is also – not yet but it will be.

Planning failures and planning harm

When planning applications are called-in to be considered by the planning committee, it means that residents have serious concerns about them. And with each contentious planning application come home truths previously unknown. Developers know how to play the system; they’ve been doing it for decades. So, when an application states that the height of a new block will match the houses next door, don’t be fooled. The developer knows it can build to whatever height it wants with a very low risk of being asked to rectify because the decision will be based on “planning harm”. This is not defined in law and is open to different interpretation. Google reveals one council has a planning harm assessment prioritisation scheme which gives scores to specific breaches indicating whether a harm needs to be rectified. According to that list, the ordinary homeowner doesn’t have much hope that a breach next door will be deemed harmful in planning terms even if it is harmful to them.

The way in which this developer (absent and invisible) and its contractor (on site and implementing) have behaved with one development in Chiswick Gunnersbury ward makes me very worried about the other developments it has permission for in this ward and elsewhere in the borough.

In a meeting this week with the most senior officer responsible for regeneration and housing, and the director of planning, I highlighted the problem of not having enough enforcement officers to act with speed, enabling this developer to carry on building to consolidate its breach. There is a national shortage of planning officers and planning enforcement officers and I was told Hounslow is in a relatively good position compared with other councils. Being better than the worst isn’t good plus I have seen a shift since I was first elected in 2018 from keen to enforce to reluctant to enforce. I have advised the residents next to the other development by this developer to be extremely vigilant anticipating and pre-empting, watching for planning tricks and reporting them immediately.

Festivals in Gunnersbury Park

I received one noise complaint on Friday evening about Waterworks, the festival that caused huge uproar last year. The report sent to me after that festival by a resident who knows how noise works [ ] seems to have hit home with Hounslow’s enforcement team which has been on site at all this year’s festivals monitoring noise and responding to complaints. However, as one problem is sorted, another emerges. Providing loos along the route to the park has been an issue from the first festival, Lovebox/Citadel in 2018, when a row of portable loos was plonked (that well-known design strategy) in the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate conservation area with no warning. Never again, thanks. It’s been an issue every festival year and I wonder why Gunnersbury Park only provided a measly four loos inside its main gate this year. Without loos, people will pee anywhere and, as I typed this, two messages came through letting me know that the area around Gunnersbury tube station was being used as a latrine and was awash with piss.

Picture taken today behind cafes and shops near Gunnersbury station
Picture taken today behind cafes and shops near Gunnersbury station

C9 decision called-in

Conservative councillors have called in the cabinet’s decision to make C9 permanent saying that the cabinet paper contains worrying statements including an acknowledgement of a possible legal challenge on equalities and an extraordinary interpretation of the data. I am a member of the panel that will hear the call-in and the cabinet’s arguments on Thursday, 21 September. The call-in report is here and the full agenda with all background papers are here.

My main concern is the way in which the panel will be led given the way the call-in of the cabinet decision on Hartington Road and Staveley Road went earlier this year and how the overview and scrutiny committee works generally currently. After I raised these concerns at the last borough council meeting, leader of the council Shantanu Rajawat and his group whip Cllr John Stroud-Turp relied on their usual tactic of personal attack rather than arguing a point, knowing that they could find no reasons for excusing a denial of democracy.

Shoplifting, drug dealing, and our police

The week started with the very sad news of the death of Rachel, known to many residents, on the step of a shop on Devonshire Road on Monday morning. The debate that followed included calls for drugs to be legalised and for drug addiction to be seen as a health issue, not a crime. My views, exactly, not least as one of my early clients after going freelance was Transform. Rachel’s death, and the arrest of Chiswick’s most prolific shoplifter (also a drug addict in need of support, which will be offered while she is in custody), have focused our local police on tackling drug dealing. Our area sergeant was candid when speaking to shop owners at a private meeting earlier this month and every shop owner had a tale to tell. It was clear that people who work in our shops have an extraordinary window on our world, seeing what we don’t necessarily notice when looking into theirs. So do residents. Many people have pieces of a bigger jigsaw but assume that everyone including the police have the same pieces. It isn’t necessarily so. If you have observations, experiences, descriptions or know of an alley, area, corner, house, road where dealing or other criminal activities are taking place, please pass it on. Doorbell video and CCTV images have been very helpful so please provide them if you have them. Please tell the police or, if you prefer, your local councillors who will inform our area police team. Don’t expect instant action such as an immediate arrest of someone you believe is a drug dealer. The police need a rock-solid case and it takes time to build it.

Whether you report to the police online or via Crimestoppers, do emphasise that this is part of a current investigation and that residents have been asked to provide information to their local police:

Report on line or to Crimestoppers.

Cllr Joanna Biddolph


07976 703446




Chiswick: Every Saturday from 9.30am to 10.30am at Chiswick Library (the eight Conservative councillors take this surgery in turn).

Gunnersbury: First Saturday of the month from 10am to 11am at The Gunnersbury Triangle Club, Triangle Way, off The Ridgeway, W3 8LU (at least one of the Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillors takes this surgery). 


Chiswick Gunnersbury (was Turnham Green) ward

Cllr Joanna Biddolph joanna.biddolph@hounslow.gov.uk 07976 703446

Cllr Ranjit Gill ranjit.gill@hounslow.gov.uk 07976 702956

Cllr Ron Mushiso ron.mushiso@hounslow.gov.uk 07976 702887

Chiswick Homefields ward

Cllr Jack Emsley jack.emsley@hounslow.gov.uk 07977 396017

Cllr Gerald McGregor gerald.mcgregor@hounslow.gov.uk 07866 784821

Cllr John Todd john.todd@hounslow.gov.uk 07866 784651

Chiswick Riverside ward

Cllr Peter Thompson peter.thompson@hounslow.gov.uk 07977 395810  

Cllr Gabriella Giles gabriella.giles@hounslow.gov.uk 07966 270823 

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