Ken answers your questions on things Chiswick

Congestion charging, Turnham Green tube, Council Tax rises, graffiti and more issues covered by London's Mayor - Thank you very much indeed Mr. Mayor for agreeing to take part in this question and answer session on the subject of Chiswick. The response to your offer to deal with questions from local people has been extremely high and unfortunately there are many questions that we were unable to include.

Ken Livingstone Ė Iím very pleased to have the opportunity to answer the questions sent in by local people. Itís very useful to hear views from people in Chiswick and to hear about the issues important to them. - You have made it very clear that you are planning to extend the congestion charge if re-elected with Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. Roger Nightingale is one of several people who asked if Chiswick could be included in the extended zone. However John Honsinger who lives at the end of Chiswick closer to Hammersmith says, "Despite being a Conservative all my life I voted for you and think that in general you are doing a good job. But, if the congestion charge is extended out to Hammersmith it will affect us badly. There will be considerable protests." What Chiswick specific considerations are being made for the extension plans?

Ken Livingstone - Itís too early yet to talk about definite plans to extend the zone, even to areas adjoining the current zone. Certainly the scheme has proved successful so far in reducing the traffic coming into central London, and it may well be the case that in the future that we will consider with the boroughs immediately adjoining the current zone the potential merits of extending the zone. But before that happens we need to have a full picture of what the impact of the scheme has been so far and there are no plans in place to extend the zone at this early stage. - By far and away the biggest number of people wanted to ask you about the situation at Turnham Green tube where the Piccadilly line does not offer a service. Just to prove this isn't simply a case of Chiswick promoting its self-interest we thought rather than put a question from a local person to you we'd ask you to answer the following point from Graham Becker who visited us recently from New York.

"Recently, I had the pleasure of a stay in Chiswick. I used the Underground nearly everyday. I was struck by the long waits at Chiswick's Turnham Green station. Commuters waited for District Line trains while watching as many as a half-dozen Piccadilly trains carry through the station without stopping. Turnham Green Station is a major station if "major" is defined by the number of customers it serves. Given its importance, the reliable Piccadilly trains should stop at Turnham Green station. Sometimes a visitor can see the beauty or absurdity of a situation in a locality better than persons who have become habituated to it by living there for an extended period of time."

Ken Livingstone Ė As Iím sure youíre aware the Government has not yet handed over control of the tube to my transport body, Transport for London. This will happen soon and once we do have control of the tube we will be able to examine specific issues at stations across the network, but at the moment TfL has no plans to change the position at Turnham Green. - It might not surprise you to hear that the recent rise in Council Tax was a subject that generated some lively responses. Stefka Regelous asked the following, "I was astounded to see a nearly 30% increase of council tax for Greater London Authority. This is on top of being among the highest council tax payers not only in London, but in the country, already. How do you justify that? And what will you offer us for in exchange?"


Carlton GLA TV debate

If Ken hasn't addressed an issue of concern to you in this interview, there is another chance to pose him a question in a televised debate.

Carlton TV are looking for Londoners with strong opinions to participate.

Hosted by Alastair Stewart, the CARLTON / GLA TV DEBATE takes place at the London Television Studios on the South Bank on the evening of Monday 30 June. It will be screened on ITV1 London on 8 July.

For free tickets phone 020 7670 1244

Ken Livingstone - In fact, despite large overall increases in council tax in many boroughs, my portion of the bill is very small. The average household will only be paying 97p more as a result of my budget. Of this only 49p a year - less than 1p a week - will go to the Greater London Authority.

Of the rest, £28.54 a year (less than 55p a week) goes to the Police, £11.25 a year (less than 22p a week) goes to the Fire Authority and £10.24 a year (less than 20p a week) goes to transport.

Three quarters of this increase will go towards increasing police resources. Before my first budget as Mayor there were 389 police officers in Chiswick. At the end of this year there will be 470 and the target for the end of 2003/4 is 484. On top of this there will be 30 police community support officers allocated to the borough.

In addition to this I have launched a new transport policing unit which puts Metropolitan police officers on bus routes across London. This has been extremely successful, making more than 1,000 arrests since its introduction last June. I have invested in making transport safer in other ways too, rolling out CCTV across the bus network, making night bus services more frequent and reliable, and licensing mini-cab firms.

Transport is another major priority and I have allocated £3.78 million to Hounslow borough as a whole for 2003/4. One of the projects this money will be spent on is in Chiswick Town Centre.

The overall level of your council tax is a matter for your council. As far as my increase is concerned, for less than £1 extra a week this year Londoners are getting the fastest growing police force in Britain, the most rapidly improving bus service in the country, a fares cut for 16 and 17 year olds and a package of public transport improvements London has been waiting on for years. I would argue that this represents pretty good value for money. - Karen Jordan has asked you, "Are you a Zone 1 Mayor? - how many times have you visited Chiswick since being elected?"

Ken Livingstone - I live in Zone 3! My policies benefit the whole of London, inner and outer. As I have already set out, the number of police on the streets in boroughs across London Ė not just the central area Ė has increased since I became Mayor.

My huge programme of bus improvements has been a great boost for people who travel around outer London or commute from outer London to the central area. Congestion charging may only be enforced in the central zone, but the millions of pounds raised by the scheme will be spent on improving public transport right across the capital. I have frozen bus fares in outer London, effectively making it cheaper to travel by bus, and there are also more frequent and reliable bus services.

My support for major transport projects such as Crossrail is designed to bring new opportunities, investment and jobs to areas of outer London which have not previously benefited.

I have used my planning powers to ensure that local communities gain the maximum benefit from new developments in their area and to protect Londonís valuable green spaces and green belt land. I am Mayor for the whole of London and my policies reflect that.

In the first couple of years as Mayor I had the task of setting up an entire new organisation Ė a very time-consuming job which meant a lot of time stuck behind a desk. In the last year Iíve been able to get out and about much more Ė meeting people, hearing their views and seeing my policies in practice. Iíve visited West London, including the borough of Hounslow, several times since becoming Mayor and will be visiting again in the near future. - You are no doubt aware of the long-standing campaign to introduce noise reduction measures on local roads. Terry Coyne contacted us to say "I live in Wolseley Gardens, Chiswick, and our road backs onto the start of the A4/M4. Everyone in our street would like to see a barrier put up on the part of the elevated section of A4/M4 where it backs onto Wolseley Gardens"

Ken Livingstone - Busy roads are one of the main sources of environmental noise in London. The GLA London Household Survey 2002 showed that road traffic noise was a concern for more Londoners than any other source of noise. Excessive noise can have a serious impact on people's health and we have to take this form of pollution very seriously. That's why my London Ambient Noise Strategy sets out to tackle this problem in a number of ways. One of the proposals is to investigate the benefits of noise barriers. We are currently consulting on this and a range of other issues, such as noise-reducing road surfaces, building insulation and quieter driver methods. The Highways Agency has undertaken a noise survey in the Chiswick area. - Amit Patel is concerned about large-scale development in the area. "Mr Mayor, we know of your concerns to increase the level of social housing and for your admiration of tall buildings. Do people in the Chiswick area have to accept that more tower blocks are inevitable because it is the only way to ensure that enough affordable housing is built?"

Ken Livingstone - You are right to say that providing more affordable housing for London is a major concern for me. Many people in London canít afford to get on the housing ladder Ė even those with reasonably well-paid jobs can find that they canít afford to buy. Thatís why Iím setting a target of 50 per cent of affordable housing, including shared-ownership housing, which would benefit key workers like nurses and teachers.

Building at high density is vital if we are to provide enough homes for London and call a halt to the supply problem that has led to prices spiralling higher and higher. But that doesnít necessarily mean building tall. There are a whole range of low-rise, high density options. Georgian terraces in Islington and Kensington, for example, are some of the highest density housing in London.

We have certainly learnt the lessons of the 1960s when tower blocks were seen as the solution. High-rise flats may be desirable for single people and some couples, but are much less suitable for families who often prefer a home with a garden. There will be some taller buildings where appropriate, but I am only in favour of very tall buildings if the building is in an appropriate location and is itself acceptable in terms of local character. There is no blanket approach, each building is assessed on its own merits. - The West London Transit Scheme is something that is concerning many Chiswickians with the feeling growing that the "pinch point" on Acton High Street will lead to the diversion of traffic towards Chiswick. Keith Clarke has asked, "There is concern that the Ďconsultationí was a botch and anger at your representative's arrogant response to those who question the scheme. Could the funding not be put to so much better use by improving the bus services along the route?"

Ken Livingstone
- At this stage Transport for London is still consulting on the possibility of a tram for West London. Developing a tram scheme for West London is an ongoing process and we want to hear everyone's views. That's why there is ongoing consultation right along the proposed route.

We also shortly hope to have the results of a detailed and robust independent survey of what people think about the scheme. This will take into account views in Ealing and other areas affected.' - Kathy Palmer has a question on graffiti "It defaces much of the overground part of the underground system and the problem in Chiswick seems to be getting worse all the time. Do you as Mayor have a view on this problem and if so what can we the population of London (and Chiswick) do to get rid of it FOR GOOD?"

Ken Livingstone
- Graffiti, along with litter and fly-tipping, is a major problem in London and other major cities around the world. These are things that make our local neighbourhoods unpleasant places to be. Local councils and the police are responsible for enforcement, but I am working to tackle this through my Capital Standards Campaign, a partnership with boroughs to clamp down on graffiti and other activities that blight our streets. We are currently running a campaign in partnership with the Metropolitan Police that is working towards stopping the sale of spray paints to under-18s. Capital Standards is also coordinating a London-wide database of 'tags' so that when a vandal is caught, they can be held to account for all known instances of the same 'tag' instead of just the one. The end result will hopefully be to take the kudos away from being a vandal. - Kathleen Healy of the Friends of Dukes Meadows has asked, " Dukes Meadows is a very neglected, but important park on the Thames at Chiswick. The local community has worked over the last three years to produce a new landscape plan to restore the park and is looking for a partner organisation to help achieve the plan. How can the GLA support groups like this and what practical help can it offer?"

Ken Livingstone
- This sounds like a very interesting project. I believe that making the best of our public spaces is extremely important which is why I have set up a design team to promote excellence in public spaces. But once a project is beyond the design stage, like this one, it is beyond the remit of that team. The London Development Agency may fund projects like this if the local council can't help. - John Armstrong, a trustee of the Friends of Chiswick House, reflects widespread concern about this beautiful place when he asks, "How you see future development and protection of jewels such as Chiswick House in a climate of ever-reducing public funding and ever-increasing pressure to switch to commercial sources with all the dangers that implies for our public spaces and historic monuments."

Ken Livingstone
- We are very lucky in our city to have such a rich heritage and I fully support the preservation of our historical sites. My draft London Plan, which sets a framework for Londonís development over the next two decades specifies the importance of all Londonís politicians - the Mayor and boroughs - working to protect and enhance Londonís historic environment and archaeological inheritance. - Thank you Ken for taking the time to answer these questions. We appreciate the time you have taken. Unfortunately it has not been possible to include answers to every question that was sent to us but these have all been forwarded onto you.

Ken Livingstone - I've found the whole process very instructive about the concerns of your area and I will do my best to answer the questions that have not been answered in this interview. Can I suggest that for more general information about my work and the work of the GLA people should visit

June 12 , 2003

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