Ward report September 2018

Welcome to my ward report for September 2018! I write this primarily for Forest Gate North Labour members, as a means of accountability for the work I do. But I also publish these reports here on my blog so that any resident can read more about what I am up to. If any of it isn’t clear or if you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Kuhn Way
You can read more information about the planning applications that were submitted in my blog posts here:  https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/06/20/kuhn-way/and here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/07/12/kuhn-way-proposed-closure-an-update/
I attended the planning committee in order to object to the application, but in fact the application was first deferred and then ultimately withdrawn, which I do thin in the end was the right decision. I’m still in touch with various residents who opposed closing Kuhn Way, and we are looking into whether we could do anything else to make the area more pleasant. I have asked for additional parking enforcement, have requested some bollards or similar to stop cars parking on the pavement more permanently, and a resident has requested signs showing the name of the road and also indicating its historical name which was Parliament Place.

Emily Duncan Place
Emily Duncan Place is the residential development near Wanstead Park station, and when it was built it was designated ‘car free’ meaning that residents there are not able to apply for residents’ parking permits. Some time ago I was contacted by a group of residents who wanted to express their distress at this, particularly as many of them owned cars, and prior to the RPZ coming into force they had (as directed by their housing association, or by the developer who sold them their flat) simply parked in the surrounding streets. They feel very misled as they maintain they were not told the development was car-free.
Most recently I organised a joint meeting between One Housing, Apna Ghar Housing Association, and the residents, to talk about this, and to explore anything we could do that might help. One Housing went away and are looking at the allocation of the parking spaces inside the development, but ultimately this is a very tricky area of casework which I am not very optimistic about resolving to the residents’ satisfaction: the development is car-free as part of the condition of it being built, and this should have been made clear to them before they moved in, but it seems clear that it wasn’t.

Crossrail delays
Many members will have seen already on social media that this week we received the news that the Crossrail works are over-running and will not be complete for a further 9 months. This  is particularly galling as our branch of Crossrail won’t open until ‘as soon as possible’ after that. The message received from TfL is that this is concerning safety and testing works, but what it frustrating is to have heard so late on in the process.  Which brings me on nicely to…

Forest Gate station
Throughout the past two years I have periodically been in touch with both Network Rail, and with Transport for London, regarding the work happening inside Forest Gate Station, including the now infamous temporary staircase. At one stage this relationship seemed very positive, and indeed you might remember I wrote up some notes of a very helpful meeting on my blog (https://forestgatenorth.com/2017/03/07/forest-gate-station/ ) however, since a change in personnel it’s been harder to get information. Most recently I have joined up with councillors from Forest Gate South to demand more information from Network Rail as we feel it’s entirely unacceptable that the works have been allowed to go on for so long without consistent information to residents about progress and the reasons for delays. We have asked for a meeting, and I am still asking for Network Rail to hold a Q and A session so residents can find out more themselves. I will let you know how I get on.

Forest Gate public realm works
These are progressing but have been taking longer than anyone wanted. This is largely because we had to suspend work after some organisational problems and appoint an external contractor. At the moment the market, Fred’s and Number8 are all extremely disappointed that the market moved to make way for marketplace works, which haven’t yet started. I am chasing this up with officers and will make sure that we do better at communicating with them. Eventually the completed works will have all kinds of benefits including the cycle hangar storage for the market gazebos, and power sockets for market stalls, but we have to make this interim period work, too, and we haven’t done as well there as we might have done.

Another live issue in the marketplace concerns whether to fit some kind of bin, and also the slightly vexed question of a bench. Regarding the former, I had a long discussion with officers from Highways and also from Waste, and also with a particularly engaged and frustrated resident about the perpetual domestic waste from the flats on the marketplace, and whether this might be rather better dealt with by some kind of structure to house a large bin. The difficulty to try to resolve here is that we know from experience elsewhere that bins are not necessarily a panacea but do attract waste. In the end, the strong advice from waste management colleagues was that any kind of bin or housing or similar would itself attract more and more fly tipping, and that once a problem like that had been created it was very hard to then solve. There is an ongoing issue about the domestic waste from flats around the marketplace (which some of you may remember me blogging about some time ago here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/09/19/site-visit-to-tackle-fly-tipping/  and here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/10/17/fly-tipping-update/  ) Our local enforcement officer Rikki has done various visits and letter drops there but this hasn’t as yet had a long-term effect. Now, colleagues in waste are going to include the homes at the beginning of Sebert Road in the timed waste collections from the main road – which I admit I always thought they were part of but apparently not – and we’re going to monitor that and see if we can make an improvement.

The other issue is whether to include a bench as part of the improvements going on; the plan currently includes a tree in the middle of the marketplace with a circular bench around it.  I have received a letter from the local ward panel (on which more later) asking me to intervene to stop this because of fears about street drinking and anti-social behaviour. I have to admit I’m entirely torn on this issue. The idea of a bench so that people can linger at the market, eating lunch there, is obviously attractive. But equally the prospect of ‘building in’ anti-social behaviour is not an appealing prospect either. I’m going back to officers to ask for their advice,  but would welcome any thoughts or input at this stage about whether we might be able to square this circle.

Maryland station
The commencement of the public realm work at Maryland station has also been delayed. Frustratingly this is entirely because of delays by the company who are refurbishing the station, who despite regular meetings and updates failed to let us know at LBN that they were delayed. However, officers have compressed the time so the finish date remains unchanged. Once finished, this will mean replaced paving around Maryland, more planting, increased pavement size (with the potential for a community market to take place there if residents wished to create one), and bicycle parking.

Forest Gayte Pride
This fabulous celebration of love in all its forms took place in July and I was so pleased to help support it, not just through the usual support and advice and information and publicity but also this year by arranging for our first ever rainbow pedestrian crossing in Forest Gate. The crossing was hugely successful , and was heavily used not only by a steady stream of people photographing it for social media but also by the first parade, which started with a family picnic in the Community Garden, and then processed to and from the marketplace.

Maryland residents’ association
I attended a Maryland residents’ association meeting along with colleagues from Stratford and Forest Gate South, and we had a packed agenda covering a wide range of issues. Particular things that I took away were strong concern from some of those present about the impact of the proposed MSG Sphere (currently plans for this are being developed and will be submitted to the LLDC for planning permission, which I sit on), issues that fall on ward and borough boundaries which we need to get better at picking up, a whole series of seemingly unloved and disregarded Newham car parks (these are primarily housing areas of land, so John Gray and I are looking at them in our cabinet roles), and also concerns about existing trees and requests for additional planting.

Tromso
I was contacted some time ago by Hedwig who wanted to set up a Scandinavian café in one of the railway arches of Cranmer Road. One of the hurdles she had to navigate was applying for a change of use application from the Council, from a record shop to a café. I wanted to help make this as straightforward as I could, so spoke to the planning team to understand the planning policy in the railway arches, spoke with her about the aspects of the application that might be important, made my own comment in support, and also encouraged local residents to log on and comment on the application online. As I write, the application hasn’t yet been determined but there are 12 comments from residents in support which is a relatively high number compared to other similar applications.

Safer Neighbourhood Team meetings
I have been attending Safer Neighbourhood Team ward panel meetings. These are meetings of local residents that are held by our local officers, in which they discuss and agree local priorities for the police. Attending these has been a really helpful way of maintaining good relationships and communication with our (excellent) local police team, hearing directly from residents about their concerns on crime, and linking people up with the Council where necessary, particularly around where crime and ASB are interlinked.

Crime and ASB
After a series of comments and concerns from Maryland residents via their facebook page, I am arranging for Unmesh Desai, one of our GLA members, to attend a meeting of theirs. Residents reported that there crime including drug taking and prostitution taking place on their roads, and that reports to the police had not helped. Unmesh has offered to pull together data on crime so that the residents can campaign for more resources.

Cycle hangar requests
I don’t know whether it has been prompted by the warm weather, or chitchat, or a shift in transport behaviour… but I have definitely seen a noticeable increase in the numbers of residents requesting cycle hangars, especially in Forest Gate North. Currently you can request a hangar, and then you go onto a waiting list until there is a consultation where Newham writes to you and your neighbours to see if there are objections to installing one. (We do listen to residents’ concerns, but are also mindful that each hangar takes up only one car parking space, but allows room for six bicycles, which not only encourage more activity but also don’t contribute to pollution.)

What I think we’re missing at the moment is clearer information for residents after they have requested a hangar, and before they are installed. I have requested one myself, so speak with experience when I say that after you submit your request it all goes a bit quiet and it’s very unclear whether you might get one or not. I’m talking to officers so that we can be up front about the number of hangars we have the funds for, the number requested, and the likely waiting times, to help manage expectations. If you want to read more about cycle hangars, or to request one yourself, please see more information here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/06/27/cycle-parking/

This report represents most of what I’ve been doing. I don’t go into individual pieces of casework (as these are confidential) but I continue to pursue these. At the moment Members’ Enquiries (the officers who deal with casework and route it correctly around the Council) is suffering from a lack of resources. This does mean sometimes that casework from residents is taking longer than I would like, but they are recruiting additional officers and should be able to get back to better levels of service.

I’m always very happy to answer questions about what I do – although I should caveat that by saying it’s taking me a while to reply to emails now that I am on the cabinet. But I do reply!  I am contactable via various channels on social media, but if you want to flag something to me officially and want to be sure I will see it, and refer it on to the right people, then please use my email address: Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk

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Café Tromso – support a local business

Some of you might know that Tromso has just opened up in one of the railway arches that runs between Chestnut Avenue and Cranmer Road, joining such Forest Gate favourites as the Space East, MBox and Tracks.

They are applying for a change of use, from a record shop to a bakery and café. They’ve put in an application for this change of use to the planning department at Newham, and this is a process that anyone can comment on. If you’d like to support a new local business, and would also like to comment to support them, please do so. The application reference number is 18/01905/FUL and the planning portal is here: https://pa.newham.gov.uk/online-applications/

You can obviously write anything you’d like in support (I hear that cinnamon rolls are in and of themselves not material to planning, otherwise my entire comment in support would have been a paean to these small twists of deliciousness) but I have included my comment below, in case it’s useful or provides any ideas.

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As one of the councillors for Forest Gate North ward, I am pleased to  support this application for change of use for Tromso.

This railway arch forms part of a row of arches that run between Cranmer Road and Chestnut Avenue. Until relatively recently they were something of an eyesore, either empty and hence littered and fly tipped, or occupied by businesses that clogged up the space with vehicles, and were sometimes noisy and caused disturbance.

Since these arches have begun to be occupied by small local businesses, using the small spaces imaginatively to test out business concepts, the look and feel of the arches has changed beyond recognition, and I am sure that Tromso will add to that. What was effectively a yard with an industrial feel is now a pleasant place to walk alongside businesses that include a boxing studio, a yoga studio, and now proposes to include a bakery and café.

They have already engaged positively with local people via social media, and have gained significant good feeling from local residents who are keen to see another high quality small local business. The owners have been in touch with me to emphasise their commitment to the local community, to local people, and to being good neighbours and good employers, and I am very happy to support this.

I am pleased to see good employment opportunities at London Living Wage exist so locally, particularly with the opportunity for employees to develop skills in breadmaking and baking, and feel sure that although small scale (as befits a small space) this will add to the area as well. I was also reassured to see the commitment in their application to responsible disposal of waste.

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Corporation of London update on Wanstead flats fire

Councillors received the following update about the fire on Wanstead Flats. I’ve posted it on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well so that as many people can see it as possible. I am sure lots of you share my feelings of sadness at the extent of the fire, and gratefulness for all the work of the fire service, the police and others, and a renewed sense of appreciation and affection for this enormous green space we are lucky enough to have access to.

‘I am pleased to report that the status of the Fire Incident at Wanstead Flats has been downgraded from a Major Protracted Incident to an Incident under Control.

The fire has burned at three locations:
• the triangle of land between Lakehouse and Centre Roads on the west of the Flats down as far as the events area and Jubilee Pond (designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest)
• land east of Centre Road as far as ‘The Dell’ adjacent to Aldersbrook Road
• the centre of the Flats behind the Aldersbrook Road sports pavilion

The first 2 burn sites comprise 40 acres, rather than the 90-100 acres mentioned in the press.  The third site has not been mapped due to a fire exclusion zone.

The London Fire Brigade; Metropolitan Police Service; Transport for London and the City of London Corporation has been working closely from Command Unit 3 at Blake Hall Road since the outbreak of the fire on Sunday afternoon.

From the height of the fire which was attended by 50 tenders and 225 firefighters LFB attendance at the Flats has been progressively scaled back.

Today work across day 3 has centred on cooling down remaining ‘hotspots’ and extinguishing small fires that are still burning in SSSI.

Last night’s ‘fire watch’ of 8 tenders was upgraded to 12 tenders during day 3.

Further helicopter overflights this morning with thermal imagery cameras has confirmed that hotspots continue to ‘burn’ beneath soil on the SSSI site and immediately north of the Model Flying Club site.

The City Corporation contract partner G Matthews & Son has provided a subsoiler and power harrow to break the baked surface of the soil pan that has prevented effective dampening down by LFB hoses.  The machinery has broken the soil pan down to 10 inches, with the power harrow providing restoring levels with a fine tilth.   The cultivated surface has dramatically improved infiltration by water from hoses and bowsers.  The key fire sites have been effectively ‘moated’ to prevent the further spread of fire.

The LFB has declared at 14.00 hours today that the fire sites east of Centre Road are now free from fire and provided certification to allow the City to take back control of the land.

With emergency consent provided by Natural England for Operations Likely to Damage Site (OLDS) an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which form much of the west flank of the Flats, two limited interventions where undertaken to cool down two hotspots on the SSSI site between Lakehouse and Centre Roads.  Birdwatching volunteers have reported that skylarks and meadow pipits continue to sing in territories close to the burn sites.

The Environment Agency have also been on site to confirm that no potentially polluted run-off from the fire-fighting had found its way into Alexandra Lake & Jubilee Pond.

A further afternoon helicopter overflight has confirmed marked reduction in hotspot temperatures.

Alexandra Lake has been filled from hydrants to act as a reservoir to feed the temporary surface water ring main surrounding the Flats which has supplied the fire tenders.  The ring main is now being dismantled and the Lake is being filled overnight courtesy of Thames Water above previously low levels.

Aldersbrook and Lake House Roads are being reopened to traffic this evening.

This has been a fantastic and highly professional response by LFB and METPol to a major incident.  The cause of the fire is unknown and is being investigated by the LFB investigation unit supported by METPol.

The next  Tactical Coordinating Group meeting is tomorrow morning and we hope that the remaining fire site can be handed back at 12 noon.

Epping Forest’s Twitter feed has regular updates.
https://twitter.com/CoLEppingForest?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
Paul Thomson
Superintendent of Epping Forest
City of London Corporation, Open Spaces – Epping Forest’

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Kuhn Way proposed closure – an update

Just a quick update to report a little more on the issue of the proposed closure of Kuhn Way, which I talked about in more detail in this post here.

The papers for Strategic Development Committee have just been published. The meeting takes place next Tuesday the 17th July. At this meeting, two planning applications are being considered regarding Forest Gate Community School. The first proposes expanding the school and closing Kuhn Way, absorbing it into the school grounds. The second proposes expanding the school but without closing Kuhn Way.

When planning applications come to Strategic Development Committee, they are the subject of an often lengthy report, which looks at the relevant planning considerations. This is accompanied by an officer recommendation which essentially signals to the councillors who vote on the committee, whether in the officers’ considered opinion, when looking at the application and at the relevant planning policies, the application should be approved or refused.

Next week, the application that includes closing Kuhn Way is recommended for refusal, and the application that keeps Kuhn Way open is recommended for approval. You can read all the committee reports and papers online here.

This is tentatively extremely good news for those residents who want to keep the alley open. Nothing is confirmed, however, until the committee has met and made its decision. I will be at the committee anyway, since I’m a member, but won’t take part in the decision on either application, and have asked to speak against the closure of Kuhn Way. I know that other residents are planning to attend as well.

I’ll keep you all posted via twitter and this blog with any further information.

(Also please note that separately Forest Gate Community School is having some remedial building work done. This isn’t part of either planning application, but is needed regardless. So if you see building work starting, that doesn’t mean anyone is ignoring the planning process, just that this work is needed anyway.)

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Supporting the Forest Gate Festival

If you, like me, are still on a high from the joyful, rainbow loveliness that was Forest Gayte Pride on Saturday, then now might be a perfect time to think about supporting another local event, the Forest Gate Festival.

Every year, local residents take over Osborne Road for a whole day of community celebration. There are stalls selling food, drinks, handmade goods, bric a brac, local crafts, plants, and much more. There are stalls with information about local groups and causes. Kay Rowe opens up as a playspace for the many families and children who come along to enjoy the atmosphere. There are street entertainers, a stage with performers and much more.

For the last two years, the Festival has relied upon crowdfunding to find the money to make the day happen. This year there are only 12 days to go until the Festival happens, and they have so far reached just over 50% of their target.

We can make this happen!

If you are able to make a donation, big or small, to keep our festival going, then please go to the Just Giving page, which you can find here. Every single contribution goes towards making the day the happy celebration of our community that we all love.

Another way to support the Festival is to go to the Power Pilates class that our friends at the Space East are putting on this Sunday. It’s a donation only class, all proceeds to the festival.

powerpilates

 

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Kuhn Way

This blog post is all about the proposed expansion of Forest Gate Community School, and the idea of closing Kuhn Way. The reason I’ve been reasonably quiet on this so far is because I’m a member of the planning committee that will make a decision about the planning applications that have been submitted, and as such I am generally required to keep an open mind before the committee meets.

After some considerable thought, however, I have decided to oppose the closure of Kuhn Way and to speak up on behalf of the large number of residents who have contacted me with their concerns. This means I won’t be able to vote as part of the planning committee, but I intend to ask if I can speak with other objectors, and put across the views I have heard and the reasons why I oppose the closure.

In summary, though, I am very conscious of the vital role that the school plays in our community. Forest Gate Community School has had such dramatic improvements over the past few years that it is now one of the best schools in the country, and I aim to always be an advocate for the school, staff, children, and their astonishing achievements.

Planning policy requires us to give ‘great weight’ to the need for additional school places when we weigh up planning applications. I have been to visit Simon Elliot the headteacher and walked around the school and seen the proposed plans, and understand that the option to close Kuhn Way is in many ways a more attractive option for the school which leads to a better design and easier access to outside space.

However, I’m also very aware that the school can be expanded without losing Kuhn Way, so the arguments of additional school places in an outstanding school which would normally be exceptionally strong, for me do not apply here. There are two planning applications submitted, which we are expecting to come to the committee in July, one design which closes Kuhn Way, and one which does not.

I’m very aware of how well used this relatively small alley is, and the way it links up a whole area of Forest Gate with the station and the town centre, both physically but also psychologically. I’ve spoken to residents for whom an additional few minutes would make the difference between going to the shops or not going at all, and have also spoken to a business owner who is very concerned about the impact closure would have on his business.

Most of all though, and especially now that I have the cabinet role with responsibility for Environment and Highways, I am worried that closing Kuhn Way would not achieve what we want for Newham or Forest Gate. If we want to encourage people to walk and cycle, and to create a place that is easy to navigate, a place that is easy to access and to see your way through, a borough that encourages people to walk by making it easy and attractive, then closing up a right of way seems to me to go entirely against this.

I do think there are some issues to tackle in that area, some of which might be easier to find a solution to than others. I must admit I haven’t ever heard complaints of crime or ASB there, as reported during this process, though I am always willing to listen if that is what residents and children at the school have experienced. I know there is frequent fly tipping, and badly managed commercial waste, and pavement parking, and I think as a council we can do better, especially on the latter where ideally I’d like to investigate putting in some bollards or similar to stop cars driving onto our pavements.

But overall I think Kuhn Way is heavily used, highly valued, and an important link, and given this and the overwhelming views of residents, it feels only right and fair that I should absent myself from the committee decision on this occasion, and represent the local residents and encourage the committee to vote against the application which proposes closing Kuhn Way, and for the application which keeps it open.

I’m always happy to answer questions, on this or anything else – although I am so busy with my new cabinet role right now that I’m much further behind with things than I should be! Please feel free to comment on here, or to reach out to me on twitter or Facebook. If you want to make a substantive comment to me or need to be assured of a response, please use my email rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk

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Thank you!

After the result. Me, Sasha das Gupta, and Anam Islam (left to right)

A very quick blog post to say a heartfelt thank you. Last Thursday was the local election, and the residents of Forest Gate North voted overwhelmingly for me and my Labour colleagues. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for  me, I appreciate every single vote, and will work as hard as I can to deserve them.

I’d also like to thank everyone who voted for Rokhsana Fiaz to be our new Mayor of Newham. Her share of the vote was around 73%: an overwhelming mandate for her policies and her vision for Newham.

At the velodrome after the count and results. A very pleased me, and a very relieved husband.

I am also touched and pleased by all of you who contacted me to congratulate me – whether by text, on social media, or in person as you passed me on the street. Local politics can difficult but I have felt genuinely uplifted by so much positivity from local residents, and am really optimistic about the new administration under Rokhsana’s as Mayor.

Out in West Ham ward with Sadiq Khan, Rokhsana, and Rohit das Gupta (newly elected councillor in Canning Town).

We know that the hard work (re) starts here: we’ve been out and spoken to many residents as we were campaigning, but we’ll keep on door knocking and speak to as many people as we can, finding out what you like about living here, what you would change, and how you think we can work together to make things better. Rokhsana is really passionate about involving residents, in working together to find solutions, and making us into an organisation that really reflects the people we are set up to serve, and I know that Forest Gate residents are up for that challenge!

I’m also aware that although our majorities were overwhelming, there are still many residents who voted for someone else, or who did not vote at all, and I’m here for you too, whether to pursue your casework, or to take forward your views, or in any way you need me.

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