Become a community health champion

As part of our commitment with the new administration in Newham to involve and work with residents, I was delighted to see that we are recruiting Covid-19 Community health champions: local people who can help share accurate, up to date information about how people can stay well and stay safe.

Lockdown restrictions may be easing, but our lives have changed, and the advice on what is permitted, and what is safe and recommended, can seem to be changing frequently. The public health team are therefore recruiting community health champions who can help to share simple information about staying well, and also in turn keep the Newham team informed about what is happening ‘on the ground’.

Colleagues in public health are producing simple, easy to understand bite-size images with plain text combined with simple graphics to help get information out to as wide an audience as possible. 

This graphic below gives information about test and trace:

And finally – fittingly –  this image gives information about how to become a champion.

Health champions infographic

To become a health champion, email covidhealthchampions@newham.gov.uk or call 020 3373 2777. We would like to recruit people from right across the community, who can share information with their friends, their family, their workplace, their local whatsapp group, their neighbours, their reading group, their quiz buddies, their knitting circle… anyone at all. You will be invited to regular briefings, get the most up to date information about the virus, and be given simple information to share. And you can feed back about what you’re hearing ‘on the ground’.

The time it will take you is minimal, but the impact on helping to share reliable information (especially in this age of misinformation and ‘fake news’) could be significant. Please do join in and help spread the word.

www.newham.gov.uk/covidhealthchampions

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All about low traffic neighbourhoods

‘Low traffic neighbourhoods’ or LTNs for short, are sometimes also called Liveable Neighbourhoods. They have been popular in transport planning terms for some time, particularly as part of the Mayor of London’s transport strategy to improve our air quality, get us all moving more, and moving more short car journeys onto other ways or ‘modes’ of travel, particularly walking and cycling.

In these strange, tentatively post-lockdown days, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are more important than ever as a way of helping us to move around safely, as we emerge into the light, blinking a little and keeping our distance from each other. And they are coming to Newham, more specifically to Forest Gate, so now seemed like a great time to write a bit about what a LTN is, how it works, what the benefits are, and anything else that I can think of to help us all get more familiar with the idea, and with what is coming.

In essence

A Low Traffic Neighbourhood is basically a way of managing a group of roads to reduce traffic, and encourage people to walk and cycle. You take a discrete geographical area or ‘neighbourhood’ of roads, and design a series of  ‘filters’ so that vehicles can access for visitors, residents, and deliveries, but not to pass through on their way somewhere else. In its simplest form, a filter can be a bollard placed in the middle of a side road junction. This filter allows pedestrians, people on bicycles, scooters, wheelchairs,  pushchairs, and cargo bikes through, but does not allow ‘rat running’ cars. Effectively, vehicles driving through the area are moved onto main roads and off residential streets.

This video from Oxfordshire Liveable Streets explains it rather brilliantly (they use the term ‘connectors’ rather than ‘filters’, but I can live with that, frankly):

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are quieter and safer, cleaner and more pleasant, and I could not be more pleased and excited at the prospect of bringing this kind of transport planning to Newham. There are significant benefits to doing this, and although I’m far from an expert, I would like to spend a bit of time running briefly through the main ones.

If you are looking at this post and thinking, ‘Blimey, Rachel, ANOTHER long and wordy post’ then you might want to save time by just having a look at this, from Lambeth Living Streets:

In fact, I would recommend having a look at Lambeth Living Streets on twitter regardless, as their social media content on this topic is absolutely on point.

Air quality

I have spoken on this blog before about the absolute necessity of taking action on air quality. Air quality in Newham is notoriously poor, it affects people on lowest incomes worst of all. We have various contributors to bad air quality here, including London City Airport and the proposed Silvertown tunnel, and this makes it even more important that we take whatever action we can locally to improve things. Doing nothing is not an option.

Waltham Forest have been doing fabulous work for years now to encourage walking and cycling, and the difference they have made in terms of air quality is frankly staggering.

There is plenty of information online with evidence (and believe me, I’ll be linking to plenty of it in future posts), but I tweeted these memorable results from some training I attended, which shows the results achieved very clearly.

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Benefits – increased activity levels

Another very stark impact across Waltham Forest is that where Low Traffic Neighbourhoods have been introduced, levels of activity have increased for residents who live there. People are walking more and cycling more. This not only has an impact on pollution and reduces congestion, but it’s particularly important here in Newham where so many residents have or are at risk of health conditions like type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. It is imperative that as a public body, we do everything we can to encourage people to become more active, and it is a sad fact of public policy that it is really incredibly difficult to do anything that creates behaviour change. The results our neighbours have achieved, with on average 30 minutes more walking per week, are really significant.

Benefits – road safety

Of course it’s pretty obvious that with fewer cars on the roads, there are then fewer accidents, and the streets become safer for all of us, but particularly for vulnerable road users such as children, and people with reduced mobility.

Benefits – quality of life and community

What is less initially obvious, however, is the benefits that more walking and cycling bring in terms of community and quality of life. When I visited the work done in Waltham Forest (kindly shown around by Clyde Loakes, who has been an absolute powerhouse in terms of getting this work done there) he said that something people often commented on was that with quieter streets they could hear bird song again. I know I’m not the only person to have noticed more bird song, and in fact more birds full stop, when traffic reduced so starkly when lockdown was introduced.

But also a quiet road is not just a means of getting efficiently from one place to another. It’s a place where children can play, where you can learn to ride a bike, where you can linger, and chat, and also a place where you can get to know your neighbours, and increase your sense of community. There is even evidence showing that the less traffic there is on a road, the more of your neighbours you are likely to know, and the more of a sense of ownership you have over your area. This brilliant blog post goes into that in more detail:
https://mattturner.blog/revisiting-donald-appleyards-the-environmental-quality-of-city-streets-a-residents-viewpoint-in-21st-century-britain/

Benefits – for businesses

One concern that people have is the impact on local businesses. This is particularly important at the moment, as our high streets are slowly reopening, and many of our small businesses have been significantly effected and continue to be close to the edge. Concerns and even staunch opposition to any through traffic restrictions are often expressed by small business owners themselves, and also local people who use and value them.

There is much to say about this – rather more than will fit into a summary blog post! But in essence, the correlation that some people feel to exist between parking and money spent locally is not as straightforward as it might appear. For instance, providing free parking is detrimental to businesses, as people will park up and use bays for long periods. It’s also very interesting that businesses tend to over-estimate the number of their customers who arrive by car, and also that people travelling on foot, by bike or by public transport, actually spend more money. If you are not travelling in a car, you can wave to friends, stop for a catch up, read a poster, notice a new shop opening, make an extra stop for some groceries on your way home, and you can do all these things easily and quickly.

You can read a full and detailed report on ‘the Pedestrian Pound’ here:https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/3890/pedestrian-pound-2018.pdf

or if you’d prefer some graphics and a summary, once again Lambeth Living Streets have saved us all some time with this excellent thread:

 

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Especially now, post-lockdown but in a world where we still have to social distance, we have some stark realities to face in London about transport. All over the world cities are turning over their road space to support small businesses, especially those in food and drink, turning spaces that would have been taken up by cars into places where socially distanced tables and chairs mean that restaurants and cafes with tiny profit margins can open up again. Creating quiet streets where people want to visit: not just drive in and clear out again as soon as possible, but places to linger, to eat, and socialise.

Traffic evaporation

One of the most fascinating things about traffic (and yes, I am being serious. This is what 6 years as a councillor will do to you) is that we tend to think of it as being ‘like water’, flowing mindlessly through the path of least resistance if displaced. Actually, traffic does not behave like this, and one of the ways that this difference is demonstrated is through ‘traffic evaporation’. This quite literally means that when you displace through traffic, some of it moves onto main roads. But some of it also literally evaporates. People radically change their route, or change how they travel, and some of the cars that were there just, well, ‘evaporate’.

So a common concern about a low traffic neighbourhood is ‘what about the impact on the main roads’ and this is of course natural. But some of that impact is mitigated by reduced numbers of vehicles. Main roads are also built to carry more cars, and the percentage increase in numbers of vehicles is relatively small, compared to the residential streets where the same number of vehicles as a reduction in overall traffic has a proportionally huge impact.

But we know from the evidence of transport planning around the world that ‘if you build it, they will come’ has rarely been more true than when applied to how we move around cities. If you open up roads, increase the space for vehicles, build additional lanes, and make parking cheaper, many more people will use a car. And what you might have hoped would ‘free up traffic’ or ‘allow traffic to flow’ actually has the opposite effect.

Resistance

I have written before about resistance to changes to our roads, particularly when it comes to cars. Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with my tales of the quite extraordinary strength of feeling that comes up on the subject of parking, for instance. I don’t underestimate this: much of it comes from uncertainty and concern. People are always worried about unintended consequences, and concerned about their quality of life. But there is often strong resistance to making changes to roads that make more space for people, rather than cars, and it’s just worth flagging up that I know some of these changes will be controversial, and won’t be shocked when people feel that way. I think there is a lot of work to do so that we can all discuss the potential downsides, the compromises to be made, and the benefits that are possible. Social distancing makes these conversations much more difficult, but still important.

Very normal

Exactly as with my post on parking charges, I did just want to flag the fact that there is nothing particularly unusual happening here. Low traffic neighbourhoods are happening right across London: funding is being announced regularly for fast interventions and it seems new schemes are announced daily. I’ve been admiring the comms work for the ‘Oval Triangle’ low traffic neighbourhood (and not just because I used to work around there) which includes a rather beautiful little hand drawn map by artist Charlotte Mugarra

https://ovalltnproposals.commonplace.is/about

Islington have announced ambitious plans for a third of the borough to be part of a low traffic neighbourhood by the end of the year.  Waltham Forest are continuing to do work all over their borough, despite the impression that some of us have that there was only ever one ‘mini Holland’ that was hotly contested, they have moved on and created many more neighbourhoods, with much less controversy than surrounded their first. Hackney are moving so fast that I joked on twitter (often a mistake, to be honest) that they are making the rest of us look bad: more school street closures, and more and more filters to cut out rat runs.

What’s happening here

So, I hear you ask, what is happening HERE in Newham? Well, we applied some time ago for funding from TfL for a joint Liveable Neighbourhood Scheme with Waltham Forest, which I talked about in this post here. That pot of funding is now not available, after the disasterous impact that Covid-19 has had on TfL’s finances. But we are pressing ahead anyway, in partnership with Waltham Forest, to implement a lower-budget version of what we had originally planned over an area that covers the Western, Maryland side of Forest Gate north ward, also the Olympic Village, and goes into Waltham Forest to Cann Hall.

More information on this scheme should be coming out any moment now, and of course I will be publicising this when it does. After that, I’ve been talking to officers who are looking at other places in the borough that would lend themselves to this approach, and am delighted to say that one of those areas is what some people term the ‘village’ area: bounded by Sebert Road, Woodgrange Road, Capel Road and extending past Tylney Road into Manor Park. (On a side note, I will offer a small prize to anyone who can come up with a better term than ‘the village’, which I find desperately twee and try-hard, but keep coming back to as it’s so much faster than a geographical description of the roads).

I think it’s obvious from the above that I am a passionate supporter of this approach. I am so excited at the opportunity to really have an impact on the environment we live in, and am thrilled at the prospect of the benefits extending to many of our residents. From a selfish point of view, I am also really excited to think of the impact of reducing through traffic on my road, which will form part of what I hope will be the second Forest Gate LTN. The idea of my girls cycling safely on the roads around us, going out to visit their friends on quieter roads, is lovely. At night I can often hear cars speeding down Capel Road, screeching to a slower speed before each speed bump, and hitting the top of each bump with the chassis of the vehicle. Obviously it’s possible that all these drivers are locals who are forgetful about the humps. But it seems to me that if the scheme is designed well, these cars may well not form part of our evenings any more.

Quieter, cleaner, healthier, better for children, better for businesses, better for all of us. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, coming soon to a road near you. What’s not to love?

 

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Shop local

Hello Forest Gate Northers,

It seems a long time since I saw many of you, and I hope that you are all keeping well, and safe, and adapting to this lockdown life. I know some of you have been unwell, and some of you will have lost loved ones, or be worrying about loved ones, and worrying about the future, and I wanted to send you all my best wishes and prayers, for what it’s worth, and say how much I hope things improve for you and all of us.

I have been meaning for a while to write a blog post to pull together in one place the different ways we can help to support our local businesses through the lockdown. Our local small businesses are the energy that enlivens our high street, and contribute so much more than a retail offer to our community. This list will almost certainly be out of date as soon as I write it, so if there is a business or a facility that I have missed, please do let me know and I will try to keep it updated.

This also obviously comes with a huge caveat which is that things are really, really tough financially for many people. If you are fortunate enough to still have your regular income, then please do what you can to keep money going into our local businesses, who are really grateful for your support. If you don’t, then please don’t feel guilty. Do what you need to, take care of yourself, and if you’re able to share information about some of the businesses and websites to see whether your friends and family can help then that’s great and is another really valuable way of helping.

My criteria for inclusion in this list are, I’ll admit, a little vague. Businesses in, or in close proximity to Forest Gate North. Independents, or small. Operating in a slightly different way during lockdown. For example, some businesses have adapted or are adapting very quickly to online orders, and the way that you order might currently be a bit ‘clunky’: you need to phone up, or look online, and where I can I have explained this below.

A chain shop on the high street, that is still open, is not exactly breaking news as you will see it when you walk past, so I’ve generally not included those with open shop fronts. But I’m applying these rules rather flexibly. And further submissions are very welcome!

Take good care of yourselves.

————————-

Arch Rivals
361 Winchelsea Road
www.archrivalslondon.com

Arch Rivals describes itself as ‘former bar that everyone called a restaurant. Now a bodega and takeaway spot’ which captures them pretty well, really. Amazingly delicious food and drinks (including cocktails. Get a Marmalade Old-fashioned, and thank me later) to take away and now some groceries too. Order via their website.

Aroma’s
172 Forest Ln, Forest Gate, London E7 9BB
020 3674 6043
https://aromasrestaurant.co.uk/

This Forest Gate favourite needs no introduction to readers of this blog. If you haven’t already tried their fantastic curries then you are really missing out. The good news is you can address this right away as you can still order a takeaway from them, with really good and clear hygiene and social distancing standards. Aroma’s are also continuing their good work of being right at the heart of our community by regularly making up batches of food that volunteers distribute to people who need it, so by buying food from here, you are supporting their charitable efforts as well.

Burgess and Hall
353 Winchelsea Rd, London E7 0AQ
http://burgessandhall.com/

Normally a tucked away and lovely wine bar. Now offering contactless home delivery from their selection of expertly chosen wine. From their website:

TO ORDER:
Send us an email to info@burgessandhall.com with the heading “Wine delivery <your name> <your postcode>”

Tell us what you’d like to order: TYPE (red, white, rose, orange, fizz) STYLE (classic/traditional? wild/funky? light? heavy?) PRICE (estimated average per bottle or a total price). Our minimum order is 6 bottles, but that automatically qualifies you for 10% off, and if you order 12 bottles or more you get 15% off. And don’t forget to give us your full address & telephone number.

CHDuk or Contemporary Home Design Ltd
120 Woodgrange Road

This shop is right next to Wanstead Park station. As well as German and Italian kitchens, they supply and fit wardrobes and flooring.

They are currently offering a 30% discount to Forest Gate residents only for a limited period, and are only open by appointment.

ash@chduk.com to book

Cups and Jars
108 Woodgrange Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 0EW
020 8519 9325

Still open to physical shoppers, and with impeccable social distancing arrangements in place, Cups and Jars are keeping going through lockdown, offering a range of grocery products. They have been consistently well-stocked with such lockdown rarities as eggs and bread flour, and are even doing takeaway coffees as well for that welcome taste of normality. They allow only one customer into their shop at a time, so watch out for the queue and join the back if there is one.

If you are isolating, you can email them or call them to order food from them and they will deliver locally. They are also working on a website for online orders, and offer boxes of ‘essentials’ as well as fruit and veg boxes.

Gaslight Gin
https://gaslightdistillery.com/shop

These guys are new to me, but someone recommended them via twitter and they also got in touch themselves so I am including them as a nod to their entrepreneurship as well as their fan base! Based in East Ham, they offer free delivery to East London.

Kotch Pizza
55 Leytonstone Road, E15 1JA
020 3409 7722
hello@kotchpizza.co.uk

Maryland’s newest eatery is Kotch pizza, whom I can personally vouch for having selflessly tried their pizzas a couple of weeks ago. They are open for collection and delivery only and do really good, home made, pizza-oven-blackened pizza. They’ll deliver to E15, E7, E20, and E13, with a minimum order of £20.

Newham Bookshop
745, 747 Barking Rd, East Ham, London E13 9ER
020 8552 9993

Not physically in Forest Gate North, but emotionally a part of every ward in Newham! Besides which the inestimable Vivian, the proprietor, is a Forest Gate resident. Support a local bookshop in this challenging time by ringing up or emailing to order a book. Pay by phone and your book will be delivered to your house. Not sure what book to buy? Anything Vivian doesn’t know about books and publishing is not worth knowing – ring up with some titles you have enjoyed, or an idea of what you would like, and ask for some recommendations.

Number 8 Forest Gate
8 Sebert Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 0NQ
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Number8ForestGate

There are 2 ways you can support number 8, our local emporium offering everything from jewellery repairs, antiques, homewares, local craft goods and more. You can shop at their Etsy shop (recently featured in Vogue!) and peruse their range of beautiful hand-made silver jewellery, including their Magpie Collection which supports beloved local charity the Magpie Project. Or you can support them here by signing up to make a monthly donation whilst they are closed in return for a range of different rewards:

www.patreon.com/number8fg

Every single pledge helps.

Pretty Decent Beer Company
338 Sheridan Rd, London E7 9EF
https://www.prettydecentbeer.co/

This local gem will do free delivery to North and East London of a range of beers including their famous Milk Stout. Shop using their website above; deliveries are Tuesdays and Fridays, and your order will arrive in the next available delivery slot.

The Rotisserie Company
https://www.therotisserieco.com/

This one is new to me but was recommended on twitter. I was about to sadly remark that since I’m pescatarian they are likely to remain not familiar, until I checked their website and saw that they not only sell rotisserie chicken, but also stuffing, sauces, roast potatoes, salad and even an Aubergine Parmigiana. Order online and they will deliver.

The old Slate Yard
https://www.theoldslateyard.co.uk/
0208 2211667

Tucked away at the end of Sebert Road, under the railway, is this amazing local business which in less troubled times is a combined builders yard, and small garden centre / florist. Now they are doing home deliveries locally, and have been much relied upon by people tending their gardens, or growing vegetables, and wanting plants and compost delivered to their door. They are also still selling flowers, either for spirit lifting purposes, or memorial flowers if you need them. Call them up to discuss your order and pay by phone.

The Space East
Arch 439 Cranmer Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 0LB
http://www.thespaceeast.com

The Space East is a yoga and pilates studio in one of the Cranmer Road railway arches. They are closed currently, but offering some virtual classes that can help soothe your troubled mind and stretch out and balance your locked-down body. Contact them for info.

Tasty African Restaurant
51a Leytonstone Rd, London E15 1JA
020 8522 4705
tastyafricanfood.com

Order African food, including jollof rice and doughnuts from this lovely, tiny eatery in Maryland, open for takeaway and delivery. They pride themselves on high quality, affordable and authentic African cuisine.

Tracks E7
Railway Arches, 437 Cranmer Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 0JN

Tracks is an almost unfeasibly trendy bar in a railway arch, full of the beautiful people of Forest Gate and beyond, and in healthier times, serving up a range of drinks, brunch, and vinyl. They are closed now, but also have a way to support them via Patreon, which you can find here:
www.patreon.com/trackse7

Tromso
Arch 432 Avenue Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 0LB
https://tromsocafe.square.site/

Tromso is currently open Wednesday to Friday for picking-up online orders only. You need to add a (free) collection time into your basket when you order as they are very responsibly limiting the number of people who physically come to the arch to maintain social distancing. You can order sandwiches – but only if you’re quick enough –  and cake as well as some groceries, bread, and their famous cinnamon buns online, and collect them from the arch.

The Wanstead Tap
 352 Winchelsea Rd, London E7 0AQ
07976 787419

Another business that is socially and emotionally part of Forest Gate, if technically physically located just inside Waltham Forest. The Wanstead Tap is a fabulous bar and event space which hosts a range of frankly astonishingly high profile speakers and performers. During lockdown they are offering craft beer, organic wine, gin and snacks on their dedicated website: www.taptakeaway.co.uk

Webster’s
6-8 Woodford Rd, Forest Gate, London E7 0HA
020 8519 0323

Open 9am – 4pm but only one customer at a time, and access via their Horace Road entrance. Webster’s is a local DIY and building supplies shop, which basically sells everything practical you could ever need.

The Wild Goose Bakery
370-371 Station Rd, London E7 0AB
020 8616 4700
https://wildgoosebakery.square.site/

As I write this, the Wild Goose Bakery in Forest Gate is closed to home orders, but you can buy a care package online from them, to support work they are doing with a local food bank. It is so moving to see hard pressed local businesses still giving up their time, and money to support people who are struggling. Bravo Wild Goose.

Alternatively…

Another way of helping local businesses, and local charities too – especially if money is short at the moment which it is for many people – is by donating your skills.

#HelpNewham (the arrangements set up by the Council to support vulnerable people by providing food, collecting prescriptions, or even providing a befriending service) is now looking for people with skills & experience in IT, accountancy, bookkeeping, bid writing & fundraising & communications. We would like you to volunteer your services to charities & small businesses in Newham & help them recover from #COVID19

To volunteer, email volunteers@activenewham.org.uk or call 020 3770 4444


Coming soon – a post about different sources of support for residents.

 

 

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Support for small businesses

Locked down, socially-distanced greetings to all Forest Gaters, and other readers. I won’t attempt to give any thoughts on this strange, concerning, and unprecedented time, other than to hope that you are all keeping well, and safe, and the same for your family and loved ones.

I wanted to post to flag some work that we are doing at Newham to try to support our small businesses. You might remember that part of our election pledge was to work on Community Wealth Building, and you can read more about what that means online here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Community-Wealth-Building.aspx

The Council’s business support team are working to support Newham businesses as best they can, and have sent out a newsletter to all those businesses that they have the contact details of. We haven’t done much concerted work with businesses in the past, on a corporate level, so I’m blogging today specifically about this newsletter as I’m sure that there will be some businesses who haven’t received it.

If you are a small business in Forest Gate North (or indeed beyond) you can download the newsletter below, and please email newhambusinessdesk@newham.gov.uk to be added to the distribution list.

As residents there are other things we can do which can help our businesses too. Those businesses that remain open selling food and necessities need our support more than ever.

We can also help to support those who are closed. Tracks have set up a Patreon for customers who want to pledge to support them whilst they are closed, and Number 8 have similar  (full disclosure – I set up Number 8’s patreon for them, but did this in my personal capacity as enthusiastic customer and recent supplier to the shop. All proceeds go to Andie and Jeff, not to me.)

If you know of any other businesses that have facilities for us to support them, then please let me know and I’m very happy to help publicise them.

Obviously times are hard, many people have lost their jobs, lost incomes, or lost security about future income, and we’re all very aware that not everyone can pledge money right now. If you’re not able to help financially, you can help by sharing the links to local shops on social media, and by encouraging your friends and family to help too.

I am still doing my Council work remotely, but it may be slightly harder to get hold of me than usual, as I’m fitting in my work in between helping to ‘home educate’ three girls! If you need me, please email me and I will get back to you as soon as I’m able.

Download the first businesses newsletter

Stay safe and keep well.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Why I’m glad to pay money for my parking permit

If you read this blog then you’re probably reasonably active online, and so you’ve probably already seen some discussion about the proposal that Newham should charge for residential parking permits. Apologies for the click-baity title, but I wanted to use this post to have my say: no one wants to pay more for anything, and I’m certainly not delighted by the difficult conversations and decisions that we will need to have and take over the next few months. But overall I do firmly believe that charging for parking permits is the responsible, moral, environmental, socially conscious and just thing to do, and I wanted to take a moment to ‘set out my stall’ as it were, and to go through some of the issues in a little more detail than, say, twitter, will sometimes allow.

Fairness

Administering parking permits costs money. We are moving to paperless permits (finally!) as part of the proposed changes, and this will help and will make the whole process faster and easier for residents. But maintaining the IT system, updating it, dealing with queries, updating the database, designing legally compliant bays, painting lines on the road, reviewing the restrictions, consulting on changes, this all takes officer time and money. And the bottom line is that without parking restrictions, the whole borough basically becomes a commuter car park for Essex and beyond.

I remember just before our RPZ came into force in Forest Gate North, my then colleague Ellie Robinson followed some intelligence about some cars for sale on roads including Capel Rd, Lorne Rd and Latimer Rd. Some investigation revealed an extraordinary number of cars, all parked up for days and weeks at at time, from a dealership outside London that was changing location. It had a gap between sites, had looked at whereabouts was well-located and with unrestricted parking, and moved all of their stock, entirely legally, onto our streets. I remember a resident reporting watching someone parking up outside her house, getting out their Brompton bike, and cycling off on it to the station. I remember someone telling me we were the only station between Southend and Liverpool Street with free parking on the roads. I remember watching when the RPZ came into force in Forest Gate South, in the conservation area, and seeing all the trades vehicles, lorries, vans, and second cars that people didn’t want to get permits for (or which they had sneakily insured in places with cheaper postcodes, and so COULDN’T get permits for!) moving from those roads up onto my road. Without borough-wide restrictions we were really just shifting vehicles from place to place, which wasn’t fair or sustainable.

So if we accept, as I do evidently, that we need to restrict parking in order that we as residents can use our road-space, then it is obvious that doing so costs money, and the question then is who pays for this.

Currently around half of Newham households do not have access to a car, so as things stand those people who do not have cars are subsidising those who do. As a council we apply all kinds of subsidies in various ways and places. We, the residents, collectively subsidise the council tax of people on the lowest incomes via Council Tax benefit. We subsidise the cost of feeding families through our free school meals programme, for example. A subsidy from people with no cars, applied to those who have vehicles, is not one that I feel comfortable with or think is right, whereas applying the costs of parking to those who have cars, and applying a greater cost to more polluting vehicles seems much more sensible to me.

Social justice

It’s common and usual to worry about the impact of new charges on people with low incomes. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs properly if we weren’t concerned about this. Any new charges will be imperfect (the structure of Council tax is infamously imperfect and rests proportionately much more heavily on the poor than others) and I do see the argument that some people on lower incomes will have older more polluting vehicles.

But overall, running a car costs a lot of money. As above, around half of all households in Newham don’t have a car. Some of those residents will live in the increasing number of ‘car free’ developments where they cannot get a parking permit as the result of a condition of their planning permission. Some of those residents will be people who have chosen not to have a car, as I hope more people will decide in future. But overall, the statistics on car ownership show that it declines rapidly with income level. Our very poorest residents do not own cars. In fact, our poorest residents are much more likely to live in places with the very worst air quality which is partly attributable to car journeys, and to suffer from the ill effects and ill health that goes with that.

Of course there will be individual people with individual cars and stories and situations. But as they say, the plural of anecdote is not data. For a quick introduction to some of the evidence on this, read this twitter thread: https://twitter.com/peterwalker99/status/1235533045832118272?s=20

If you’re really interested in finding out more about active travel and social justice, have a look at the brilliant work Dr Rachel Aldred is doing on active travel, or look up some of the articles our wonderful local resident Laura Laker is writing.

It’s very normal to charge

One of the very first lessons I learnt as a councillor was how emotional people feel about parking. This continues to be true, and continues to be very striking! The ‘first residential permit free‘ was a big pledge from the old administration, and one that lots of people feel strongly about, and I can understand why.

But actually, it is very very normal to charge for residential parking permits. If we look across London, Newham and Hillingdon are the only boroughs who do not charge for the first permit. We are outliers in this respect. The free permit is an anomaly. Cyclists who use a space in a bike hangar, where six bicycles can fit instead of one car, must not only wait for the results of a consultation to see whether there is opposition from their neighbours, but must then pay £36 for the privilege of using a mode of transport that improves their health and causes zero emissions. This isn’t right.

(Incidentally, I have been lobbying for more cycle storage, as I know myself how much demand there is, especially in Forest Gate. I will keep on with this, and will keep arguing for the bicycle hangars that I know many of you are requesting and waiting for.)

Some of you may have found, like me, that when you speak to colleagues and friends from other London boroughs, their reaction ranges from surprise to disbelief when you tell them that the first residential parking permit in Newham is free. Some people I speak to literally cannot believe it. “What, nothing?! Free? For everyone? Why? How come?”

Public space

It is only through becoming involved with groups like Living Streets, who campaign for pedestrians, and also through an increasing interest in better public spaces in my councillor work and my role on the Strategic Development, that I have started to think in a more and more political way about our roads and pavements. Roads, especially in dense urban areas, are our largest public spaces. The area of London given over to parking vehicles is the equivalent size of the borough of Southwark.

Roads belong to all of us, are maintained by all of us, but have historically been designed around the needs of cars, with all other users squeezed in where space and traffic will permit. Modern transport planning recognises that you have to do things differently, and does attempt to address that. The London Mayor’s Transport strategy sets really ambitious targets for encouraging people to walk, to use public transport, and to cycle whenever they can. But the changes we’ve made and are making are incredibly modest and marginal, and in the face of enormous opposition.

There is no other public space that any of us expect to be able to store our property on. I would never think that I could store any item from my house on the road, except our family car. Of course I am not saying that roadside parking should stop. In Newham most houses don’t have space for off-street parking (and even if they do, we almost never grant additional dropped kerbs for access, as doing so damages the pavement, increases the amount of paving in front gardens which contributes to flooding, and also removes parking spaces from the street). But parking outside one’s house is, I would say, a privilege and not a right. Whenever I park my car in a bay on the road, I am using space that is ours, not mine.

Air quality

London’s air quality is an increasingly high political priority, and increasingly a cause for concern. I like to think I’ve always been worried about it, but have to admit my concern has got a little more personal focus since having a little girl who has suffered from breathing problems, since she was tiny. Last year I was very unwell with bronchitis, and developed a wheeze myself, and found myself dependent on an inhaler for the first time – an unpleasant reminder of how breathing difficulties can affect us all, and how much of an impact it can make on every day life.

I won’t go into the air quality arguments here as I know that the facts about Newham’s horrendous asthma rate in children, our rates of pollution, the early deaths that occur every year, the impact on the developing lungs of children… I feel like all these things are pretty well known. I see and of course agree with the arguments that some of the really significant contributors to poor air quality like the airport and Silvertown tunnel, won’t be affected by charges on residents’ cars. But these factors also do not mean that we should do nothing. Having other contributors to pollution in the borough is a reason for more local action, not less.

I also certainly don’t claim that emissions-based charges for parking permits will on their own tackle and improve our air quality. But this is a really vital piece of the puzzle. Alongside stricter planning requirements, alongside healthy school streets closures, alongside reducing short car journeys, alongside opposing the Silvertown tunnel, alongside increasing provision for cycling, and making streets safer for pedestrians, alongside tree planting and greening, green walls and screens, we also need to apply charges that are higher to the most polluting vehicles. Doing this is difficult, but it’s also right and fair.

Environment

I mentioned unnecessary car journeys above. No one can have failed to notice the extreme weather we’ve had recently: the weirdly mild winter, the increasingly scorching summers, the storms. It’s hard not to conclude that these are all evidence of climate change having an impact faster and more strongly than we anticipated before. We have declared a climate emergency in Newham, as have many other boroughs. I’ve said to my colleagues in meetings now twice, and I will say it again (lucky them): declaring the emergency is the easy bit. Declaring it is straightforward and feels good. Now we have to take action, which is harder. We have to begin making the really difficult decisions that will, together, help to shape a more environmentally conscious borough, and to make the kinds of behaviour change that will make a difference.

Ultimately we do need to reduce the number of car journeys. That doesn’t mean not using cars at all. Of course there are some people who will need to use cars more than others – in fact, promoting walking, cycling and public transport will actually make it easier, for example, for disabled people who depend on their vehicles to use the road, and to find places to park. There are many people who currently depend on the use of their car for work. But there are also huge numbers of unnecessary journeys. Just for example, there are a large number of very short car journeys made in our borough, and we need to reduce this number and to change how we move around. That’s not always going to be easy but it is going to be necessary.

Not about electric vehicles

This also absolutely is not about saying that everyone therefore needs to get an expensive electric car. Electric cars will continue to be free under these proposals, which I actually happen to think is not the right thing to do. There is still a cost to issuing permits to electric vehicles, which I think the owners of these vehicles should pay. And electric vehicles are not an environmental panacea: they still produce particulate pollution from their brakes and tyres, the production of these vehicles still has a huge carbon footprint, and the electricity they use has to be produced somewhere. Also, to really tackle climate change we will need to, as I was saying above, engage in some behaviour change, not just jump in an electric vehicle rather than a diesel one.  Electric vehicles represent part of the solution, but by no means a magical answer.

Going further

I know this won’t be popular, but I do also want to say that we could have gone further with out parking proposals. We could have, for example, limited the total number of vehicles allowed per household. We could have limited the total number of permits available.  We could have made the proposed charges higher! I know that the idea of charging at all seems shocking, but to my mind these aren’t, as the Newham Recorder and others have described them, ‘radical‘. Actually our proposals are pretty middle of the road (no pun intended) and normal.

In conclusion

I will press ‘publish’ on this post with a bit of trepidation. I already mentioned how strongly people feel about parking. When we introduced the residential parking zone across the ward I insisted on holding a residents’ drop-in meeting, and pushed this through despite resistance from various quarters and colleagues. I don’t think I’ve ever faced as much aggression and hostility as I did at that meeting (though interestingly, when I spoke to everyone there individually, it became obvious that the mood was being dominated by one or two very vocal people and overall views were much more mixed and nuanced). I don’t underestimate how strongly people will feel about this issue. But, at the risk of sounding grandiose, I became a councillor to make the world – ok, specifically Forest Gate – a better place. I didn’t become a councillor for personal glory. I want to do the right thing. I do honestly think that this is the right thing. I hope that you do too, but if you disagree with me, I hope you do at least understand my view.

The consultation on our proposed parking charges can be found online here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/ServiceChild/Parking-Consultation.aspx

Please do have your say.

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Kuhn Way update

I’m not going to beat about the bush. The news is frustrating. Kuhn Way has to stay closed for (even) longer because the work on the school has over-run.

That’s the summary. Read on for more…

For some background, you might remember that there was a debate a while back about whether Kuhn Way (an alleyway that runs north-south basically from the station up towards Forest Street, Dimond Close, Essex Street, Norfolk Street, Suffolk Street, and the other streets that I have heard optimistic estate agents refer to as ‘the Lanes’.) Forest Gate Community School (FGCS) is a really fantastic, nationally acclaimed successful school, and is constrained as many urban schools are by small grounds that are effectively cut in two by Kuhn Way. With a bit of a heavy heart, I argued that although closing the access through Kuhn Way would enable the school to use their site better, actually this was an important route through for a large number of residents to get to the station, and it was really vital to keep it open. You can read about that in my blog post here  and again in this post here. 

So FGCS went back to the drawing board with their architects, and came up with a new plan, which I felt (and the planning committee felt) represented a real compromise which kept this alley open in the long term, but did involve closing it for a time whilst building works were done on the school’s walkways that run over the top. You can read my brief thoughts on the revised application at the top of my ward report here. (Stories that this blog is going to be renamed ‘Rachel’s ongoing ponderings on Kuhn Way’ have been greatly overstated…).

So it was with a bit of a heavy heart that I was informed, very politely by an officer keen to keep me in the loop, that in fact the works had over-run, and Kuhn Way would have to be kept closed for longer than we anticipated. I am really disappointed about this and I know local residents will be too. Actually the officer who told me wasn’t exactly delighted about it, and told me how she’d gone back to the contractors to ask whether it could be temporarily re-opened for a while, whether any work could be brought forward, and when I pressed about the delay and the duration I was assured she’d basically pursued all the avenues she could think of but that they just couldn’t find a way to make the delay any shorter.

The following newsletter has been sent out to local households. I did some redrafting of it as the first draft focussed more on the work and less on the outcome (longer closure) so I am happy that it’s as clear as it could be, which is at least something in terms of transparency. I also asked that the newsletter could be sent out to a larger area this time, so although it certainly won’t go to all of the roads that use Kuhn Way, it has gone through more residents’ doors this time which is again an improvement.

For what it’s worth, I am sorry about this. I use Kuhn Way myself, and so know that the diverted route is a bit of a pain, and obviously more so if you are disabled or elderly. I am glad that once the work on the school is finished we will be doing some improvements around it. I have seen an early draft of these and was keen that they should include planters, bollards to help stop pavement parking, a new sign marking Kuhn Way so that people know where it is, and more to help that area feel and be safer and better lit.

Which is all to say: Kuhn Way will reopen in September 2020. It will be improved and nicer and well-lit and safer. The closure is not brilliant, but I do believe that we all benefit as a community from having such a great school part of where we live, and so overall I do still think it’s worth it.

Edited 9/3/2020 to add an electronic version of the newsletter referred to above.

Newsletter

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Bloomin’ Forest Gate

The next few weeks sees ‘Bloomin’ Forest Gate’ sweep across the ward to celebrate all that is green and lovely about where we live. Keep an eye out and you will see daffodils, planted by residents last year, growing and blooming in beds, tree pits, and any spare bit of earth we could find.

Please do take pictures of greenery and flowers and share using the hashtag you #bloominforestgate

We have a range of different activities and events going on, and you can see a full schedule online here: www.newham.gov.uk/bloominForestGate

Or download the brochure directly here: Bloomin’ Forest Gate

This work has come directly out of the Citizens’ Assembly where residents told us that they wanted more green, and more planting – which absolutely reflects my experience of speaking to residents who love where they live and know that more planting not only adds colour and beauty, but also encourages pollinators and biodiversity, helps cool streets, and improves drainage.

If you’d like to do more community planting then do drop me a line and I’d be happy to put you in touch with the group who are already planting as many spaces as they can find and doing a fabulous job making Forest Gate (even more) green and lovely.

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Have your say about Health and Wellbeing in Newham

This info is from our public health team, who are consulting about our strategy for health and wellbeing. I know many Forest Gaters are very knowledgeable and interested in health, and wanted to flag these events so that you can get involved if you want to. There are three different consultation days, with ‘drop in’s during the day, and a Q and A in the evening. If you want to attend the Q and A, please book! Details are all below:

50 Steps to a healthier borough – we want to hear your voice!
The Borough’s Public Health Team has been working with partners and residents to develop a Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
We want to call it 50 Steps to a Healthier Borough and we want it to be owned by everyone – residents, employers, health organisations and voluntary organisations etc.

There are 3 events available for residents to give us your views as we want to ensure the 50 Steps work well for everyone.
It’s definitely not too late for us to make changes and amendments.

Each event will last a day – starting at 11.00am with an exhibition board and staff on hand to talk informally with residents visiting the library throughout the day followed by a questions and answer session from 6.00pm to 7.45pm in the evening with key player’s including Jason Strelitz the Director of Public Health and a prominent local GP.

Monday 2 March  Beckton Library
Tuesday 3 March Manor Park Library
Wednesday 11 March  Plaistow Library

You can visit https://www.newham.gov.uk/libraryevents to book a place for the evening session of your choice.
Any queries – please contact Phil.veasey@newham.gov.uk

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Rachel’s February 2020 ward report

Hello and welcome to my ward report. I write these specifically in order to report back to the Labour members of Forest Gate North, who selected me to be one of their councillor candidates. But in the interests of transparency I also publish them on my councillor blog, where anyone from the ward or even beyond can have a read. I hope it’s a useful and informative insight into some of the work involved in being a ward councillor, and as ever if you read this and have any questions please do contact me.

Healthy school street

Before

This is the biggest piece of work I’ve been involved in recently: the timed closures of streets around Woodgrange Infants and Godwin Junior schools in order to encourage active travel, improve road safety, improve air quality, and make the journey to school more pleasant. I have been really moved by the huge support that this scheme has attracted, with good responses from local residents, parents, teachers, groups like Newham Cyclists, and more.
The implementation of this scheme I would say has been broadly ok but not perfect, and you can read my thoughts after the first day here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2019/11/11/healthy-school-streets-first-thoughts/

My main source of frustration, in common with the schools and with other supporters, is that installing the cameras has taken much longer than any of us wanted. However, as I write this on the 6th February, the cameras have been installed and are working, and warning letters are being prepared and will be sent out this week. After an initial warning period, fines will be issued, and I am hopeful that fines will be very successful in changing behaviour as we have seen thus far that road signs, bollards, and even people physically speaking to motorists is no guarantee that they won’t ignore it and just drive through anyway!

I am aware that there may be some feedback about the scheme once fines start to be issued, and wanted to be clear that I plan to stand firm if this happens because of the importance of the scheme, and the results we are already achieving.

After

There are a few niggling issues to iron out: I have a detailed question about residents of one of the roads and visitors’ permits, and we also have some persistently fast driving from vehicles including Newham rubbish lorries, and various cars with disabled badges. But overall, the situation outside the schools, especially outside Woodgrange in the mornings, has already changed enormously for the better.

What I really hoped by working so hard on this scheme, was not just to get a better school run for me and my daughters (though I’ll be honest, that’s a lovely side benefit!) but was to make a big impact that would help more of these types of schemes happen across the borough. So I’m particularly delighted to have been contacted by a few people who are interested in how something similar can happen in their local schools. Newham already has a programme planned of other school streets going forwards, and I’m hoping to complement this by being a kind of unofficial advocate for the schemes. If you’re reading this and are interested, this article is a great place to start:
http://schoolstreets.org.uk/how/

Liveable Neighbourhood bid and Odessa Rd traffic calming

I’ve blogged recently about a traffic calming scheme that we are working on for Odessa Road in conjunction with Waltham Forest: https://forestgatenorth.com/2020/01/14/working-with-waltham-forest-on-odessa-road/
I know that some respondents to the consultation, like Newham Cyclists, would like us to be more ambitious and to ‘filter’ the road (which means having no through traffic except bicycles and pedestrians – the simplest way of doing this is to have a bollard, say, half-way down so that people can access Odessa Road homes and shops by car if they absolutely need to, but they can’t use it as a cut-through).  I am very much in favour of modal filters, and would like eventually to see many many more of them across Forest Gate to stop through traffic on our residential streets.

Regarding this scheme specifically, I’ve had a chat with Highways, and the intention is to use the responses to the various consultations we’ve already done as part of our funding bid, to get some work done on this important road within the bid area, and also to show TfL that we can work with Waltham Forest, and I think it’s also about ‘showing willing’ too. I have my fingers very tightly crossed that if we resubmit our bid for this Liveable Neighbourhood, we might be successful, and if so that would be a really very exciting project that could make a huge difference to the ward, and you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about it from me.

Canteen opening

The story of how exactly I became tangentially involved in ‘food’ at Newham is a long one, but had a delightful outcome this week as I was invited to the launch of the new canteen at Newham’s Dockside office. For years the food there has been outsourced and provided by a large company whose offer was broadly fine, but uninspiring and quite depressing if you were eating there most days as I was for a while. On Monday the place was taken over by Juniper Ventures, the Council’s catering and cleaning service. Bringing this in-house means the staff are now all on the London Living Wage, and our commitment to community wealth building and the environment has led to a whole host of really lovely improvements: a great range of vegan and vegetarian food, sugar smart snacks, the provision of tap water to drink, and much more. I felt for the first time that this canteen, which serves hundreds of Newham employees every day, was telling a very coherent story about the kind of organisation we want to be, and the kind of borough we want to create, and seeing that come to fruition was great, not to mention delicious.

Railway arches

I’ve had some ongoing casework for the past few months about railway arches on Bignold and Strode Roads. These arches have been occupied by squatters, which as one resident pointed out, is not necessarily problematic in itself. What is a problem is that the arches seem to be used at the weekend for informal ‘club nights’ with music and even security, which is causing a significant disturbance to local residents. These are local people who have previously been disturbed by tenants of the arches who ran various car businesses that were best described as ‘somewhat unneighbourly’, so I am especially struck by their having to endure even more disruption.

The arches are owned by Network Rail, so I have been co-ordinating and sharing information between the various people involved to see whether we can support each other to take any necessary action. Our Council enforcement officers have paid a visit, and Licensing are planning to attend. I have been in touch with our great Safer Neighbourhoods Police team, as residents are concerned that some recent crimes may be linked to night time activity there, and I’ve also been in touch with our noise nuisance service. As with many of these kinds of issues, the way to approach them is to think about what the possible legal ways ‘in’ are by which we might be able to, want to, or indeed just be able to justify the use of public money in taking action. In this case I’ve also been in regular touch with the Arches Company who are collating evidence in order to take some legal action to evict the people there. I’ll also liaise with our homelessness officers if and when eviction does happen, to see that we are offering support if the people there need it.

Maryland community group

Last week saw the most recent meeting of the Maryland Community Group, which has now been going strong for several years. We had a very well-attended and helpful meeting, with a wide-ranging agenda including Maryland shop fronts maintenance, fly tipping in Council car parks, and more.

As a result of this, together with Nareser Osei who is one of the councillors from Stratford and Newtown, we are looking into several issues including the car parks, pedestrians at Water Lane, parking and the pavements outside St. Francis School, and more.

The Maryland group are currently fund raising and will split the money raised between Lola’s Homeless, and use the rest for a community planter that will form part of the new public realm outside the station. If you would like to get involved in this, do join the Facebook group ‘Maryland Community Group’ or you can donate to the fundraiser here: www.paypal.me/pools/c/8m5bkqtLom

I particularly wanted to highlight a recent success of the group, who got organised to oppose the ‘downgrading’ of a local development. In a nutshell, a small development got planning permission, but was not built to the same standards as were agreed. They then applied for retrospective planning permit, seeking to get the cheaper changes they’d made signed off. The Maryland group are particularly interested in planning, and high quality building on the main road, and drafted a template response objecting to this application. We just heard that this application has been rejected, so the developer will have to do what they should have done to begin with: to build the development to the specifications agreed when they applied. (I’ll write a bit more about residents’ participation in planning decisions and how I’m hoping to encourage more of it below but this kind of thing is so important, where residents can make a real difference.)

Boundary review

Speaking of Maryland, the Boundary Review Commission consultation on their proposed new wards, including a new ‘Maryland’ ward is closing later this month. Anyone who wants to respond to the proposed new ward boundaries can do so here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/

The consultation closes on the 17th February.

Bloomin’ Forest Gate

I’ve always been really passionate about greening and planting as a way to improve our local area, promote wildlife including bees, and to bring people together, so I’m really pleased to be helping with a project called ‘Bloomin’ Forest Gate’ which has grown out of the Forest Gate Citizens’ Assemblies. It will take place in March and will be a celebration of the planting and green we already have, a chance to learn more about what we can all do to increase the flowers and trees here, and should create more planting for us all to enjoy in the future. Daffodil bulbs were available from the library last year, and have been planted all over Forest Gate (I have spotted some of them starting to come up) so keep an eye out for those, and for the programme of events which will be published soon.

Forest Gate Community School

Our local outstanding secondary school is nearing the end of the works to expand it, which should mean that Kuhn Way is re-opened soon (I need to check exactly when!). As local councillors, Sasha Anam and I were contacted about some potential improvements to the road and pavement outside the school. I have had contact with several residents about this area, and how it could be improved, and have suggested to highways that it would be great to have: a ‘heritage’ style sign showing ‘Kuhn Way, previously known as Parliament Place’, bollards and planters to physically prevent pavement parking, some enforcement work to check that the commercial bins are properly maintained and locked, dropped kerbs for bicycle and cargo bike access, as well as good lighting and CCTV in Kuhn Way now that it will be partially ‘under cover’ (you can read about the final planning decision at the top of a previous ward report here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2019/07/01/rachels-ward-report-july-2019/)

I don’t know how much of the above we’ll be able to get, but am quite optimistic about the bollards and planters, as I know that pavement parking is a real problem here. I’d love to see us install some visitor cycle parking for the school too. So watch this space!

Little Shops

I enjoyed going to the Gate for the launch of a project called ‘Little Shops’ which local artist Rayna Nadeem created, supported by funds through Newham and Crossrail. This is a look at some of the small businesses that make up our high street, including audio files and 360 degree photos. I was particularly pleased to go as Rayna had experienced a problem with getting the project online, and I was able to unblock this for her so that it could eventually be published. To see the project, take a look here: www.dekkoproductions.co.uk and click on ‘Little Shops’.

Casework success

I don’t report here on detailed casework for reasons of confidentiality, but I have been really pleased recently to have some success in some casework. Sometimes success feels few and far between, not just because of the impact of austerity which severely limits what we’re able to do as an authority, but also because sometimes when things get better the people who have complained to me (understandably) go away and carry on with their lives. So I’m always particularly appreciative when people get back to me and let me know that a solution has been found after I’ve intervened.

I had a very troubling housing case resolved (as I said on twitter, if not ‘ideally’ then certainly ‘satisfactorily’). I’m also told that an ongoing problem of ASB, crime and litter is due to be solved after some joint work which I helped with the housing association, residents and the local police. Some work on the wall, gates and a change to the layout are anticipated to be really helpful here, which is also great to hear. Also you might have noticed the ongoing issue of water pouring out of a flat on Sebert Road, across the pavement and into the road where the market storage is. After some really prompt and helpful work by the private sector licensing team, this leak has stopped (a small pause in typing here to hope that it doesn’t now start again!!), and action has been taken to make sure that the landlord is not renting out accommodation that is substandard. Elsewhere, I contacted the same team about safety concerns in a flat that have now been rectified.
There is always more to do! And I’m constantly plagued by guilt about the amount of ongoing casework I have, which often feels and perhaps is unmanageable. But I always do my best to do whatever I can, fairly, so that residents are treated properly, and it’s very rewarding on the occasions when I know I’ve made a difference.

Forest Gate high street

Although the main part of Woodgrange Road is in Forest Gate South, I do take an active interest in the whole high street, as these are our shops too, and I know the whole of the high street is important to residents.

I am assured that work on the empty run of shops from 39 – 49 Woodgrange Road should begin soon. I have been so disappointed to see these shops empty for so long, and I know residents have too. The developer who originally got planning permission for this site spoke about their commitment to the local area and wanting to contribute to Forest Gate, but since these fine words have sold it on, one presumes at a profit with the planning permission existing. I remain hopeful that when this work is done, the flats are occupied and the shops have tenants, that it will be a positive contribution to our high street. But I have also emailed planning letting them know that in light of other developments in the pipeline (like the Methodist church, and perhaps in future Durning Hall) this one will ‘set a standard’ and that I hope we can keep a close eye on the construction, build quality, and materials to make sure that the conditions we placed on the original permission aren’t deviated from.

I have been temporarily thwarted in my desire to hold a residents’ planning meeting, first by the pre-election period and then by some initial preparation within planning for a larger piece of work on resident engagement. I can only say that I am still hoping to hold a meeting, open to any interested residents, at the library, where you can come along, meet some planners, hear a presentation about the process and the legislation, and ask questions. I will keep trying to make this happen!

Democracy Commission

As a quick sign-off I wanted to particularly flag the work of the Democracy Commission, which is looking at democracy in Newham and will be making recommendations about how we should work to involve and represent residents. Labour members will know that our directly elected Executive Mayoral model has been the subject of some debate, and Rokhsana Fiaz was elected on a promise of holding a referendum to determine whether this model should continue. The Democracy Commission is working as a preparation to this, looking at different models both of governance and participation, and will be making recommendations that should lead to the referendum. There have been a series of public meetings, and you can still contribute your thoughts and ideas to their work online. Their website is here: https://www.newhamdemocracycommission.org/

I won’t make the obvious parallel, but will say that recent years have shown us that any question asked in a referendum should be very carefully considered and researched before rather than after the vote! I would be disappointed to see us leaping straight to a question like ‘should we have an Executive Mayor? Yes/ no’ and am glad to see an independent commission looking at evidence to consider what might be useful ways forward, and doing proper research so that whatever the answer from the referendum is, we all know we’ve been kept fully informed, and that there is proper planning, consideration and resourcing for the option we choose.


I traditionally end my reports by apologising for the length of them, so perhaps I should stop doing that and just ‘fess up that I do write long councillor reports, that’s just what I do! But I hope that despite being long, they are at least a good way of remaining accountable, and that some parts of them are even quite interesting to people who wonder what on earth councillors get up to.

I am contactable via email : Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk and although I’m not nearly as fast at getting back to people as I’d like, I will respond to you if you email me. I’m here for any complaints and difficulties, of course, but also always particularly happy to hear from people who have ideas, who want to help do something, and to make a difference.

Rachel

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Working with Waltham Forest on Odessa Road

Some readers will already know that at Newham we have submitted a ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ bid to the Greater London Authority to create a cross-borough Liveable Neighbourhood which covers part of Forest Gate North ward, part of Cann Hall ward in Waltham Forest, and part of Stratford and Newtown ward. You can read about our initial bid on this Newham webpage here. 

In brief though, a ‘liveable neighbourhood’ is the new name for a project that was initially termed ‘Mini Holland’. Not, as the first name suggests, only about cycling, the idea is that funding is available to work with local people to create a big impact over a defined area to make it a better, cleaner, and more pleasant place to walk and cycle, thereby encouraging more active travel and use of public transport, and reducing the number of car journeys. Waltham Forest has led the way in this work, using GLA funds and their own cash for far-reaching public realm projects which have delivered frankly astonishing results in terms of improvements in air quality, and even seen them, I believe, be the only London borough to see its residents walking more than before.

If we are going to address our poor air quality and do our bit to help slow down climate change, we are going to have to make some changes. Thankfully some of these changes, like this project, will also have other benefits, including increasing activity levels, improving mental health, making an area more attractive, and even potentially improving community cohesion and local relationships.

So it might sound negative to report that our joint bid to the GLA wasn’t in fact successful. But we did win funding elsewhere, for a Liveable Neighbourhood in Custom House, and our joint bid with our WF friends and colleagues received very positive feedback, and we were urged to resubmit. As part of that, we ran the consultation process again, and got even more ideas from residents about how we can improve the area that forms the bid. We are very lucky to have Walthamd Forest as our neighbours, so we can see at first hand how they have made their improvements, benefit from their experience and expertise (and some of the things they’ve learnt, which they are very open about) , and also take advantage of our shared boundary bring some of their healthy streets approach gradually down south into Newham, to a group of residents who will already be using the public spaces in Waltham Forest, and will have seen the changes and benefits first hand.

Now, regardless of the funding that may or may not come centrally, we are working with Waltham Forest on Odessa Road, a road that crosses the borough boundary, also crosses the Quietway that runs through the ward, and has two schools on or near it.

If you live within the consultation area, you will receive a leaflet and information about the proposals, all of which I’ve linked below. There is also a drop in session on the 23rd January, from 1 – 4pm, in what is rather intriguingly termed ‘our mobile engagement unit’ which will be on Odessa Road near the junction with Dean Street. (I will be there, and will report back on what this actually is!) Apologies if this daytime session isn’t convenient – I did ask but it’s not possible due to officer commitments to hold an evening session this time. You can however give your comments, thoughts and ideas, and indeed ask any questions you have by emailing liveableneighbourhoods@newham.gov.uk (or enjoy@walthamforest.gov.uk).

The proposals are detailed on the leaflets but include a 20mph speed limit, new speed bumps (and replacing those that are there), planting, and other traffic calming. I am really pleased and excited to see this work happening in my ward, and am very much in favour of all of this work.

If you’d like to respond to this stage of the consultation (which is itself building on the previous two consultations as part of our Liveable Neighbourhood bid) then I would encourage you to do so.

Letter about scheme

Leaflet 1

Leaflet 2

 

 

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