Trees, Dark Streets and Soggy Leaves Plus Control-freakery
Chiswick Gunnersbury councillor Joanna Biddolph reports back
November 18, 2023
Trees and the four Ds
I have several times suggested to Chiswick councillors that we should ask for an audit of our trees. I worry that the magnificent London Plane trees along Chiswick High Road will come to the end of their lives simultaneously and that the heart of our town will go from leafy to leaf-free leaving us waiting for decades for new trees to add significance to the landscape and significantly to climate change. The question “shouldn’t we plant more trees now?” keeps me awake at night. And this winter, as a result of Chiswick Gunnersbury ward’s triennial tree survey, some trees are being felled. Causing a lot of consternation.
Hounslow’s policy is to retain healthy trees. They are surveyed by an independent professional tree inspector who assesses the condition of each tree and makes management recommendations which might include removal, pruning or no action needed. Not all the inspector’s recommendations are accepted and I know that one tree marked for removal was re-inspected by a council arborist and will instead be heavily pruned .
Generally, trees should not be felled unless they are dead, dying, diseased or dangerous (the four Ds) and every tree must be replaced with another, as close as possible to the one that has been removed. This doesn’t compensate for the deep attachment some residents have to a tree that has grown up with them, bringing delight from blossom or its natural seasonal rhythm. There are a few residents who would like large trees to be removed in favour of smaller trees because of light loss, leaf fall, branches that overhang gardens. With some, such as if their roots make pavements difficult to navigate, there might be remedies that avoid removal. Whichever side you are on, feelings run high.
After the first message of distress from residents upset at the brutality of the process and the loss of trees in their roads, I asked if councillors could be warned, with a list of trees to be felled, the reasons, and the locations of the replacements with perhaps a choice of tree; maybe letters could be put through doors along the roads where trees were to be cut down. There aren’t the resources for letter drops but Hounslow Highways, which manages the borough’s street trees, is producing a poster that will be put on trees that are to be removed. I would still like a list to be produced and publicised and perhaps that will one day be the outcome. Residents need time to prepare.
All the borough’s 123,000 public trees are included on a map that also lists species, roughly when they were planted and their value. The trees along the top of Devonshire Road, to offer an example chosen as it was where my Chiswick life began, are chanticleer pears and a couple of them have a value to us of £4,300. Intrigued?
Dark streets and soggy leaves
I remember very clearly, after the council dimmed and trimmed its street lighting in 2018, the statement made by the then leader of the council, Steve Curran, that individual street lights or roads could be adjusted to increase lighting on dark stretches or corners where residents feel unsafe at night. As a group, we have often repeated the need to increase street lighting arguing that the savings (originally £60,000 a year across the whole borough) do not outweigh the risks. So when Ring doorbells in one part of the ward recorded some odd behaviour late at night, followed a few weeks later by a video of near total darkness along one resident’s walk home from the tube station, I tried again with the current council leader, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat. I hope he will reply soon and positively; it’s winter and safety on our streets should be a priority. It’s much worse when pavements are dodgy and covered in soggy leaves.
That’s another subject that has filled councillors’ inboxes. The leaf clearing schedule begins on 1st December – and continues until 15th March so please don’t expect all roads to be done immediately.
What happened to free 30-minute stop-and-shop parking?
Pressing the green button on the payment stations on Devonshire Road and Turnham Green Terrace became a valued routine for many shoppers wanting to support our independent shops. It was a fun challenge getting the most out of the time. When a resident emailed in August to say this was no longer possible, he’d been charged, Cllr John Todd (representing the eastern side of Devonshire Road which is in Chiswick Homefields ward) and I (the western side of Turnham Green Terrace is in Chiswick Gunnersbury ward) leapt into outraged action. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing of emails.
Then, this week, up popped signs, with no warning to residents but in look-at-me red, near the payment points, introducing a new pay by phone system. You need to register even if you want free parking so please read the new signs and let us know what you think of them and the process. I don’t think they offer visitors enough information – and our home town relies on visitors from well beyond the borough to keep it going as my snapshot parking survey showed.
Hands-off or control-freakery?
There is a confusing mix of management styles in Hounslow council. It’s either hands-off or rigidly controlling. Take the October closure of Acton Lane which caused gridlock across Chiswick. Media coverage revealed that the contractor was fined for the inadequate signage that led to drivers bypassing the Road Closed signs and driving the wrong way along the closed lane, taking and creating unacceptable risks. Why oh why weren’t temporary traffic lights installed to manage traffic flow? It seems extraordinarily hands-off to me, especially for such a crucial road leading to several routes east, west, north, south and circular.
Photo of red barriers on Acton Lane
Then there was the response: to close the road completely, without warning, red barriers firmly up reminding us of blocked parking along Turnham Green Terrace during the pandemic. There seemed to be no shortage of people willing to instal them to keep us all under control. What about re-opening Fishers Lane, as so many residents asked, to alleviate the gridlock experienced along Chiswick Lane, Chiswick High Road, South Parade, Turnham Green Terrace and elsewhere? No chance, inflexible as ever, matching the consequential inflexibility in our road network since it was reduced in favour of thousands of invisible cyclists.
Next came roadworks along Ealing’s South Parade. There was no give there, either, with Ealing in control-freak denial about when people do their Christmas shopping.
And finally, though it won’t be, there was more hands-offery near the Chiswick health centre building site, with direction and site access signs and sandbags to squeeze past or trip over, or send you into the road if you are in a wheelchair. Hounslow Highways team sorted it out but developers should be required by the council to do better.
Acting on shoplifting
Having set up the Chiswick Shops Task Force to support our local economy, you would surely expect me to repeat myself … please show your love for Chiswick and shop local this Christmas!
A lighter side of councillor life
There are some lighter moments in the life of a councillor and one of them is being asked for a view by the council (I can hardly believe I wrote those last eight words) on the name of a new block of flats. Saying it’s the lighter side of life doesn’t mean it isn’t serious business; it is. The chosen name lasts for life (in some cases while we suffer the awful buildings they are attached to). It’s a charming throwback to the future – a bit of local history that looks ahead. It starts with an email from a senior gazetteer (a word I didn’t expect to type) attaching very thorough research by one of the council’s archives and local studies team who proposes five or so suggestions. The historical notes are often fascinating. Our comments go to the developer who can disregard what we say (I can believe I wrote those last four words). We find out when the name goes up on the building.
More light flooded my life this week with an invitation to the launch of Christmas at Kew. The lightshow is more sophisticated this year, perhaps a little less wow factor but just as pleasurable, with some beautiful subtle touches. I don’t like to recommend leaving Chiswick Gunnersbury ward with all it has to offer but there are a few tickets left.
Shop local this Christmas
Speaking of Christmas, Chiswick has been unseasonably quiet with many shops and cafes reporting low levels of trade just when they need to do well. I blame the effect of C9, the closure of Acton Lane, stubborn road closures and, now, non-urgent works along South Parade which have combined, as intended, to fulfil the council’s dream of reducing traffic by half (with no start or end dates known and no care for the consequences on economic activity). The last quarter of the year is when retailers need to do 70 per cent of their annual business, so they can ride the tide of the extremely quiet first quarter and the summer months when many people go away. Please shop local this Christmas. Our shops are full of temptation for all the senses.
Councillor Joanna Biddolph
Tuesday 21 November at 6:30 pm – Housing and environment Scrutiny Panel
Tuesday 28 November at 7:30pm – Borough Council
Tuesday 5 December from 6:30pm – Chiswick Area Forum
Wednesday 6 December at 6:30pm – Cabinet Question Time
Thursday 7 December at 7:00 – Planning committee
Tuesday, 12 December at 7:00 – Cabinet
CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLOR SURGERIES
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).
CONSERVATIVE COUNCILLORS and CONTACTS
Chiswick Gunnersbury (was Turnham Green) ward
Cllr Joanna Biddolph firstname.lastname@example.org 07976 703446
Cllr Ranjit Gill email@example.com 07976 702956
Cllr Ron Mushiso firstname.lastname@example.org 07976 702887
Chiswick Homefields ward
Cllr Jack Emsley email@example.com 07977 396017
Cllr Gerald McGregor firstname.lastname@example.org 07866 784821
Cllr John Todd email@example.com 07866 784651
Chiswick Riverside ward
Cllr Gabriella Giles firstname.lastname@example.org 07966 270823
Cllr Peter Thompson email@example.com 07977 395810