What helps, what gets in the way of being able to self-isolate?

A few weeks ago now in one of our councillor briefings we heard from our Public Health team about a really fascinating piece of research they’d commissioned, looking at the issue of self-isolation. I was stunned to read in the news a while back about the relatively small proportion of people who actually self-isolate when told that they should, and was interested and concerned to learn more about the reasons behind this, particularly the ones specific to Newham.

I thought I’d share the presentation we were given here, as I thought some Forest Gate North residents might also be interested, both to know about the evidence-based and thoughtful way that the Council and Public Health are approaching this issue, and also to see some of the results.

You can read the entire presentation here.

The main thing that struck me after seeing it was how uncertainty about employment is such an issue. The quotation from the participant who was told they had to self-isolate but was told by their employer that they could not perhaps should not be surprising, but I found it very shocking.

‘I said, any chance I can get 14 days leave or like self-isolation. They said no, as long as you don’t have any symptoms and said, I can’t lie to them if I don’t develop any symptoms. I can’t lie that I developed symptoms since I didn’t have anything.’

I also feel, as I know others will, that the structural barriers that prevent people from isolating (caring responsibilities, not knowing how to get food, fearing for their employment, etc) are a stark contrast with the government messages (‘look into their eyes’ etc) which are focussed on individuals and blaming them. I can’t help feeling angry, actually, reading this information, about how the inequalities in our economy have always had a terrible impact on people on low incomes, but even now – even now as they are having an impact on our inability to control Coronavirus, the messages and the approach from the government are still about blaming people rather than making society more equal.

But, as I often say: here we are. Local Labour party members are working at the moment in preparation for the London Mayoral elections. Currently the only activity we can do is calling people, which I’m not going to pretend is anything other than quite hard work! But we want to do everything we can to win elections, and to get the Tories out of government which I think is the only way we are going to make real and lasting improvements and make the UK more fair and equal.

I didn’t start typing thinking that I would be writing a short political polemic! I hope that you find the research interesting. If you have more questions about it, I can’t necessarily answer them myself, but I may be able to find out for you.

Take care all, and stay well.

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More low traffic neighbourhoods

Intro
A quick update from me on some non-Forest Gate North news: more low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) being introduced in Newham. I sent this update out to a list that I keep of people who are particularly interested in active travel and healthy streets. If you’d like to be included in this list and get occasional updates from me, please do drop me a line on rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk. If you can include the road you live on, and anything you’re particularly interested in (eg: disabled people and accessibility, walking to school, cleaner air, greening, etc.) then so much the better, but that’s not essential.

New LTNs
Newham has begun consulting on three new areas of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. These are:

  • Area 3: Manbey
  • Area 4: Atherton and
  • Area 7: Stratford Park

The image below shows the existing and the new areas, and how they fit together. Taken together, these adjoining LTNs have the potential to make a really enormous and hugely beneficial effect on the whole of the north of the borough. Although my role is obviously a Forest Gate one, it’s my sincere hope that by demonstrating the impact of active travel and healthy streets here, we will be able to get the impetus to do some more ambitious schemes elsewhere in the borough too.

Map showing LTNs, existing and proposed, across Newham

More information
You can see the online consultation here: https://consultprojectcentre.co.uk/ournewhamstreets

And there is a press release from Newham which gives an overview here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/news/article/593/consultation-begins-on-traffic-schemes-to-create-people-friendly-newham-streets

Although all of these are outside my ward of Forest Gate North, I know that ward residents will use those areas, and I wanted to encourage you to go online and record any thoughts that you have, both before and after installation.

I am not certain of when the filters will go into these new locations but I’ll share information as and when I have it. As before, I suspect that there will be a period of some concern and questions around installation, and then as we’ve seen with other LTNs both inside and outside Newham, the initial worries subside somewhat, and we can then start seeing what the impact is. As with our first LTNs, I expect that changes will be made as comments are made, and the design may well be improved.

Like I say, I don’t have a formal role with these areas but as a kind of self-appointed active travel champion I’ll be doing my best to keep abreast of what’s happening, and will in turn keep you informed.

What about areas 5 & 6?
I am eagerly awaiting information on areas 5 and 6, and will share that as soon as I have it.

And finally
A quick note of apology also to anyone who is waiting for an email reply from me – I am finding time to work is a nightmare (as it is for many of us!) whilst the schools are closed. I’m doing my best, and am so sorry for any delays. Big thanks to all those in the Council who are working so hard to make our streets quieter, cleaner, and safer, including James Asser and Nilufa Jahan, and of course  the officers too.

Take care and stay well.

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Councillor report February 2021

Hello to all those reading this, and I hope you’re all keeping well and safe. This is my latest ward report, which as ever I’ll begin by explaining that I write as a means of accountability to those Labour members in Forest Gate North ward who chose me as one of their councillor candidates for the Labour party, to stand for election. I also publish this report on my councillor blog (which is where you are now – hello!), so all residents of Forest Gate North, or indeed anyone else interested in the minutiae of what I do, can read it.

Covid

 

I wanted to start with some Covid information. I’m signed up as a Health Champion, and would heartily recommend that anyone else interested in receiving and sharing up to date, evidence-based information in easy to digest and simple bite size pieces should also consider doing so.

The most recent information on the virus in Newham is encouraging: numbers are falling which shows that the efforts everyone is making are working. But sadly we can’t relax any of our precautions: numbers are going down, but started at an extremely high level. This means yet more staying at home, hand washing, keeping our distance, and all the other things we’re doing to help keep those around us safe.

Vaccination continues apace: all over 80s should now have been contacted and invited for a vaccine, and over 70s should have started to be invited last week, along with people who are extremely clinically vulnerable. If you are invited for a vaccination, please do take this up. There is lots of information about the vaccine available (as well as lots of misinformation, sadly). Newham is also recruiting vaccine peer supporters who can help talk to people about getting vaccinated and allay any concerns they have.

Low traffic neighbourhood

I am pleased to say that the feedback about this is increasingly good although it’s still a topic that raises strong feelings. I even got an email from someone who said they had been concerned initially, but were now feeling more positive having seen the impact at first hand.

The enforcement cameras have now been installed, which is great news – not because of issuing tickets, but because the past few months have shown that although clear signage showing a road is closed to cars does reduce the flow of vehicles substantially, actually only a physical barrier or a fine will stop cars from ignoring the restriction and ‘just nipping through’. I was particularly pleased to see the cameras installed at the Odessa Road filter, where one resident was concerned that a reduced number of vehicles was resulting in more speeding and making the road less safe, and also at Wooder Gardens, where the number of cars going through this tiny road actually went up after the restrictions went in (albeit from a very low base).

Having seen the results of the closure of Browning Road Bridge (also very controversial and passionately argued when it was first installed), which have been so beneficial that the closure has been made permanent, it is now going to be interesting to see accumulated data from the impact of the LTN when it is available. There are several sources of information from which we can assess impact: the comments left on the commonplace online platform, vehicle counts from the roads inside and bordering the LTN, air quality data from the monitors, as well as feedback from emergency services and others. I’ll be sharing and publicising any information we have – no matter what it shows! – so please do keep an eye on my social media and my blog.

LTN Extension into ‘Sidney triangle’
I was also pleased that the area bounded by Dames Road, Sidney Road and Centre Road, which had originally been left out of the LTN because of a bus stand which we needed to liaise with TFL about, was added to the Low Traffic Neighbourhood recently. I was contacted by various residents of these roads who were all keen that their roads, too, should have through traffic removed from them. There is a downside to this part of the LTN, though, which is that there is still no right hand turn if you are travelling by car south down Centre Road and want to get to Dames Road. Effectively, if you want to travel west from here you need to either go down to Forest Lane, or go up via Lakehouse Road.

The LTN team did have a look at this before the closures were put in. Although not ideal, the detour via Lakehouse Road is actually only a few minutes extra on a car journey. This junction is TFL controlled, and Highways at Newham have already been in touch with TFL to start the process of assessing whether the right hand turn can go back into this junction. I’ve also dropped a line to various contacts I have, including Unmesh Desai who is our GLA member for East London, to see if there is anything that can be done to help this process to run smoothly.

Enforcement day of action
The Enforcement team, as part of restructuring how they work, have started to do focussed ‘days of action’ in particular wards, and they were in Forest Gate North and South last week. I had hoped to accompany them for at least part of it, but sadly the demands of home schooling got on top of me, so I settled instead for emailing them a list of some of the problematic sites across the ward that might benefit from some attention, and seeing the results afterwards.

The results I’ve had back are a summary of the work done, which included visiting businesses where people weren’t wearing masks, giving Fixed Penalty Notices for fly tipping, checking licences for things like skips, carrying waste, and scaffolding, patrolling tower blocks, and much more. I’ve asked both the officer in charge and also James Beckles who is the cabinet lead for Enforcement how we can find out more about the site-specific problem-solving that the officers have done, as I know from experience that this is the longer-term action that will help to stop the problems resident report at the source.

Casework
The details of the casework I get are, as ever, for the most part confidential. But there has been a variety of different topics that I’ve been helping residents out with, including disputes with a housing association, planning queries, housing concerns, a concern about how special educational needs could be met at school, and much more.

I am often tagged on social media, or receive DMs when people are having difficulty with something and need help, and I try as much as I can to reply and to follow these up. But I always ask if people have something that they need a reply to, please email me on my Council email address to make sure I see it and can ask the right people. I don’t always see tags or DMs, and don’t have a robust system for following them up like I do with my emails. We have a new casework management system for councillors which so far seems very promising and should help me to keep more on top of what is coming in and out, and where I either need to chase or have fallen behind.

On this topic, without wanting to throw a pity party when so many people are enduring real hardship, things are very busy at home at the moment whilst my three girls are all home learning, and all the normal arrangements which allow me some time to focus on my councillor work aren’t in place. So if I take longer to reply to you than I normally would, or if I’m not able to take the time to call, then please bear with me and accept my apologies.

Parking permits
This subject has been extremely controversial, and I’m sure anyone who is active on social media or reads local news will have seen that Newham has introduced a charge for the first residential parking permit for the first time, and these charges are emissions based.
I strongly feel that charging for parking permits may be difficult, but it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve outlined my thoughts on this at length in a blog post which is here.

I personally think that the new charges may not go far enough: I think that there should be at least an administration charge for electric vehicles, and I also wonder if there should be a limit on the total number of vehicles allowed per household. But I can see that, as ever, any change or proposal around cars and parking is particularly emotive, and raises especially strong reactions.

I have in common with all councillors received a large number of emails from people protesting about the new system of charging, and have tried to respond to those that were from people in Forest Gate North, but haven’t attempted to reply to all those that were sent to every councillor. We have now agreed a 40% reduction in the charges for the first year (those who have paid already will have a proportion refunded) which will help a little with the financial pressure for those people who are on a low income, but – importantly – will still introduce the charge which cements into our processes the idea that people who don’t have a car should not subsidise those who do, that space on the public highway used to store personal property should incur a fee, and that those with the most polluting vehicles should pay more.

Grants for local small businesses
I would like to encourage anyone who owns a business in Forest Gate, or knows someone who does, to make sure that they are in touch with the recently renamed ‘Our Newham Business and Enterprise’. They send out regular updates to all the businesses they have contact details for, which include useful information about business rates, seminars and information, as well as the all-important details about the government grants for businesses affected by lockdown. Their contact details are: 020 3373 7373 or ournewhambusinessandenterprise@newham.gov.uk Various rounds of the grants available have gone out but the next phase is due to open next week.

In general from talking to local businesses, the system for assessing grant applications and distributing funds has gone extremely smoothly. I have advocated on behalf of a couple of businesses where an admin error has held things up, but these have been resolved really quickly which is good to see.

Needless to say that it’s always a good time to support local businesses which contribute so much to our area, but perhaps never a better time than now when so many of them are struggling. If you can’t make purchases, as many of us can’t right now, then it’s also helpful to like, share and comment on the social media posts of local businesses, as this helps to get them more attention, and more customers.

Eat for Free
After realising that the budget called into question the viability of Newham’s pioneering Eat For Free work, it was with mixed feelings that I greeted a request to join a working group to look at this topic. Obviously I was pleased to be asked to contribute, but also worried as I didn’t want to end up being part of dismantling something that I’ve always been so proud that Newham does. (For anyone new to Eat For Free, basically Newham Council pays for free school lunches for all primary school aged children. This means no means testing and no stigma, and an extremely high uptake of hot school lunches in all our primary schools. The benefits of this are manifold, but of course at a most basic level this ensures that every child at primary school in Newham gets at least one hot meal a day. In a borough with such high levels of poverty, this is really important.)

So I joined the group with a little trepidation. I was worried that despite the identified saving in the budget, we weren’t ready to consult on charging for school meals because we didn’t really have detailed information to hand about what the impact might be. To a certain extent this is normal – measuring impact is notoriously complicated. But we discussed some of the key groups who would be affected by some of the proposals for charging, including children who go to school in Newham but live outside Newham, and particularly families with primary school children at key stage 2 who do not qualify for government funded free school meals. I was also concerned about how the logistics would work of asking schools to charge families – the infrastructure that would be required to accept payments, and the difficulties and the ethics of pursuing bad debts all struck me as very difficult and a hard ask for schools that are already under so much pressure with online learning.

I was therefore really pleased that after some discussion in the working group about the importance of free school meals, the Mayor and cabinet made the decision to keep this scheme. I have written above about charging for residential parking permits, and of course charging for anything – particularly at a time like this – is really difficult, but I do feel more comfortable with a universal subsidy of food for school children than I would with retaining a subsidy for residents who have cars. We have held a consultation about Eat for Free and also commissioned some focus groups which have provided some really valuable insight about teachers, parents and others’ views on Eat for Free, and their experiences of it.

The working group that was examining Eat for Free is now going to look at Food Poverty more broadly across Newham, and I’m going to continue sitting on it and will report back further.

Parklets campaign
I have joined a London-wide group interested in creating more ‘parklets’. A parklet is a mini-park or space for people that uses a parking space to create some public space. We don’t currently have any in Newham but there is one outside the Wanstead Tap, which is just inside the Waltham Forest border, on Winchelsea Road. In happier times, this parklet means that people can sit outside and enjoy a drink from the Tap, using the seating and enjoying the planting there.

As with play streets, quite apart from the pleasure they can bring, the main reason that this appeals to me is because it encourages us to look critically at the amount of public space dedicated to cars, and to really think about how space is used. As with so many things, the time I can dedicate to this is rather limited, but I will do my best. Although creating parklets might not be top of anyone’s list right now, have always passionately believed that we may be a deprived borough, but we should still always be ambitious in terms of our spaces, and that the people of Newham deserve safe streets, high quality green spaces, and other improvements just as much if not more than other areas of London with a different demographic.

Anti-Semitism and anti-racism working group
I was also pleased to be asked to be part of the Labour Group Anti-Semitism and Anti-Racism working group, though saddened that such a group is necessary. I think that in many aspects of working against discrimination we have been really strong in Newham, but there is an obvious need for improvement here, and I am looking forward to being part of this.

Although I couldn’t attend what I understand was a particularly moving virtual Holocaust Memorial day service last week, I did light a candle and share it as part of the ‘lighting the darkness’ campaign, to remember those who were killed and resolve that it should never happen again.

End of recycling trial

Sign on street informing residents about the recycling trial

The recycling trial that I have written about before has now come to an end. Proposals about borough-wide changes to improve our recycling service are expected in May. This is a topic that many residents feel really passionately about, and many people contact me to ask why we can’t recycle a wider range of materials, and why our collections are only two-weekly. Despite all the additional financial pressures that have come from the pandemic, I am hopeful that we can make some changes and improvements here, and also hopeful that in a world where interaction is possible again, we might be able to harness the knowledge and enthusiasm of residents to help promote any changes, and to reduce our recycling contamination rate as well.

Meeting with We Are Possible
Before lockdown 3.0 I had an online meeting and then a socially distanced walk around the ward with Carolyn from an organisation called We Are Possible. She was keen to reach out and make contact with councillors as part of her organisation’s work to promote a medium-term vision of London free from car dependency. She wanted to understand a bit more about the ward, and the borough, and to find where there might be space to work with residents and other groups on projects that could improve public spaces. As with so much else, Covid has rather paused this, but we had a very positive discussion about some of the unused spaces in the ward, and how they could be made greener, more pleasant and better used.

After meeting with the Tree Officer at Newham (a role that was vacant for a long time) I am particularly interested in how unused green bits of housing land might be planted with trees. There is some community gardening across Forest Gate which is planted and maintained by residents, and I am always conscious that local people have finite time and resources to take on more, so the idea of planting trees which are very low maintenance is appealing!

Newham Lockdown Window Art

Finally, a mention of something that I’m essentially doing in my personal capacity, but which ward members might enjoy. Michael Nash, a Newham artist, has organised the Newham Lockdown Window Art: a socially distanced display of some of the artistic talent in our borough. From February the 4th – March 3rd we can all enjoy art up in the windows of the houses of participating artists.
You can follow Newham Lockdown Window Art on Instagram @newhamlockdownwindowart or twitter @lbnlockdownart . There are over 30 participants, with a good number of artists from Forest Gate taking part.

—————————–
Ok that’s more than enough from me. Take care all, stay at home if you can, and keep well. And if you need me, please drop me an email on Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk

 

 

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Become a vaccine peer supporter

Yesterday I tweeted the welcome news that Covid infections in Newham, although still eye-wateringly high, are finally starting to come down. After a pretty tough few weeks of staying at home, it is so heartening to see that all the things residents are doing are starting to have an effect. (Though, of course, it’s still vital that we all carry on staying at home, not seeing people, so this trend can keep going).

Now that vaccines are being rolled out, the other important part of beating the virus will be ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated. If you’d like to help support getting good, reliable information out to your friends, colleagues and contacts, and to people in Newham, then please sign up to be a vaccine peer supporter.

There is no minimum time requirement, and you’ll get training and regular support. I am a Covid Health Champion, and have found the information supplied about the virus to be invaluable, both for me personally and my family but also for sharing. The Public Health team at Newham are particularly good at providing information in bite size pieces, conveyed on infographics that are clear and easy to understand, and super easy to share.

Here’s how it works:

  • Someone in the community asks to speak to a vaccine peer supporter
  • We connect you to that person – give you their phone number and email.
  • You contact them and have that discussion.
  • We ask that you use your own phone and we can reimburse you for minutes / data. You can hide your number of course.
  • Tricky questions you can refer back to public health
  • Whatsapp group with public health
  • Weekly drop in session with public health

There is much misinformation out there, and in the age of fake news it can feel hard to distinguish between information that is fact-checked and information that is needlessly scare-mongering. You can do your bit to help share robust, scientific information by signing up.

Training is by Zoom, but can be done by phone as well. And we are especially keen to hear from people who speak languages other than English, to help get the message out.

To sign up, email covidhealthchampions@newham.gov.uk or call or message 07929 792873 or call 02033732777.

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Recycling trial

Sign on street informing residents about the recycling trial

You might remember that I mentioned in my last ward report that Newham was running a recycling trial, which included many streets in Forest Gate North. This included offering residents on certain roads the chance to recycle a wider range of materials, and also feeding back to households when their recycling was ‘contaminated’ (normally dirty with something like left over food).

You can read all about the trial here on the Newham website: https://www.newham.gov.uk/rubbish-recycling-waste/waste-service-trial/1

That trial has now finished, but I wanted to use this quick blog post to highlight a couple of things.

Firstly that if your household took part, we are very keen to hear from you about your experience and your impressions of the trial. This information will help to shape the changes we plan to make to the whole service in spring next year. We also want to know more about how good and effective the communications sent to you were and what is important to our residents. There is a survey online which is on the Newham website and you’ll find it if you click the link above.

Secondly, we have some initial information from the trial, which I wanted to share as I am sure residents will be interested (as I was) to know some of the results:

‘Some of the key results from the trial this far are:

  • Recycling contamination dropped by around 5%. “Contamination” of recycling occurs when items are placed in the recycling that can’t be recycled – such as food, nappies or electrical items.
  • The number of households participating in the bin service remained the same but on the sack rounds this dropped by 12% indicating that the bin service is preferred by residents.
  • Zero corporate complaints received about the recycling contamination policy which saw bins left behind if they contained the wrong items.
  • During the trial c. 1.7% of bins or sacks were not collected per round due to contamination – around 20 bins out of 1100 per round.
  • During the 3 month trial 39 properties have had their recycling rejected three times & have been contacted to offer support.’

A recycling bin with a sticker advising that the bin contains non-recyclable material

I am a bit disappointed that the contamination rate only dropped 5%, but actually behaviour change is hard, and takes a long time – and of course our contamination is generally so bad that any change is a very good thing. I’m also very interested that there were no complaints from anyone when bins were left behind if they had the wrong items in. This is exactly why we ran a small trial as I would have guessed that doing this would be incredibly difficult and unpopular – which just goes to show that maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic!

The next step will be for officers, and the cabinet leads James Asser and Nilufa Jahan to look at all the results including the survey data in more detail, and to put together a proposal based on what we’ve learnt about how we can change and improve recycling across the borough.

Newham recycling rates have been absolutely abysmal for years, and I am so pleased that under Rokhsana’s administration we are trying to do something about it. There are several factors here in Newham which make improving rates substantially very difficult, including a transient population, many flats, lots of HMOs. But there is also, clearly, a big potential for improvement and also plenty of resident support to do more, particularly here in Forest Gate.

I’ll post again when I have any more information.

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So you want a healthy school street

One of my most popular tweets ever is the one which includes four pictures of Sebert Road in my ward. Two of these photos are from before our school street timed closure, and two from after it was installed. You can read my blog post about the idea here.

This road is the one on which my local Infants school is situated, and is the main route to walk into Forest Gate, and to the station, for large numbers of people who live not only on Sebert Road itself, but on the various residential roads which come off it. I have spent many hours of my life on Sebert Road:  dragging / chasing children along, pushing pushchairs, chastising toddlers, carrying shopping, coaxing, cajoling, shouting, singing, skipping, running home as a baby wailed, or pushing the buggy grimly on through rain or hail or gail.

Quite apart from the various challenges life throws at you when your children are small, the traffic on Sebert Road has always made this journey much more stressful than it had to be, and particularly at school drop-off and pick-up when the traffic was briefly terrible. From speeding cars, to cars stuck bumper to bumper, to cars getting stuck between parked cars, and drivers getting out to shout at each other, to watching the head teacher fighting a daily battle to remind parents not to pull up on the zigzags outside the school, “No, not even just for a moment.”

So I suppose it’s not surprising that a tweet showing, in a series of pictures, the difference that a timed closure can make, has been a (for me) relatively successful one.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But I realised recently that I’m often asked by people how they can have a similar closure around their school. The short answer might be that it all depends on the willingness of your Council to make the necessary traffic orders, but I also realised that even if no school street is planned, or if one is coming but not immediately, or if your local council is doing other school streets and may come to yours soon… there is still quite a lot that local people can do, be they councillors, parents, teachers, residents, to help garner support, and to nudge things along. And actually those things apply not only in Forest Gate North, but in Newham, and indeed anywhere there is a school, a road, and a desire for the school run to be safer and better.

Sadly, the whole list currently comes with an enormous Covid-19 caveat. Some of the things I’m suggesting will be possible at the moment if you live in a part of the country not currently on Tier 2 restrictions. Some of these things I share in a spirit of optimism, thinking that they might be possible in the future. Some of them are still possible regardless. So please take this list as a set of suggestions to spark your own ideas, and of course make your own assessments about what is safe or not, and make keeping yourself and others as safe as possible your priority.

But with that lengthy preamble, here is my blog post:

10 things you can do to get your very own Healthy School Street timed road closure

  1. Write to your local councillors
    This is probably the first and easiest thing you should do. Just in case you’re not already a regular correspondent with your local councillors, you can look them up here: https://www.writetothem.com/Local councillor support isn’t a magic bullet, but it really can help. You can send an email to all of your local councillors, highlighting the school where you think there should be a school street closure. You could include pictures of what traffic is like, and even offer to meet them there at drop-off time to witness it themselves. It is really helpful for councillors to know that they have residents who want things to change, and actually in general I always find it really bolstering and encouraging when I hear from residents with ideas.
  2. Write to your Mayor and Cabinet lead
    Depending on where you live, this might be the leader of your Council, a Mayor, or whoever is the political lead. Here in Newham, that means writing to Rokhsana Fiaz (directly elected Mayor of Newham) and James Asser (Cabinet lead for Sustainable Transport and Environment).If your local authority already has school streets in place, then name these, explain why you support them, and then explain why you think the school you’re concerned about would be a good place to expand the scheme.If your local authority doesn’t yet, then talk about how many school streets are already in place across London and indeed across the UK. Make the case for why your school should be the first one in your authority.
  3. Understand how school streets work
    This might sound dull, but if you are really interested in making this happen, it’s worth taking a bit of time to really get your head around how the detail of a closure works. How they are done varies from authority to authority. Here in Newham, they are enforced by camera, but elsewhere people physically go out and unlock and raise bollards, or pull temporary barriers across the road. Understand who is exempt, and how exemptions work in your authority. What is the impact on local residents, within the closure, and just outside it? I was advising a resident last year who lives on Sebert Road, but just outside the zone, that if her car is parked inside the zone she can drive it out, but she shouldn’t drive into the zone and park during the hours of closure.Taking the time to get your head around these kind of details will mean that if you want to have more detailed conversations with local people, you can do so from a place of knowledge, and not make promises or assurances that turn out not to be true.
  4. Speak to your head teacher
    It’s a sad fact that most of the head teachers I have come across spend time most days negotiating with parents to try to encourage better driver behaviour outside their school. That’s mental energy that could be very usefully expended doing literally almost anything else.Have a chat with your head teacher and ask if they are aware of the programme of school streets closures. Are they in touch with the Council already? Have they requested one?They might be concerned about the impact on staff who drive to work (this isn’t an insurmountable problem, but could be an issue, and is better talked about openly at the start). When planning our school street we discussed how most staff who drive arrive before the closure, but in the event of someone being late, they would need to park outside the closure area, and we weighed the impact of this against the benefits to the whole school of a quiet road.Chat about the impacts: not just cleaner air and safer streets but also how a school street can encourage behaviour change, how a quiet road can be a pleasant and peaceful start to the day, how now in times of Covid a closed road provides safer spaces for social distancing.
  5. Get parents to sign a petition
    I have to admit I’m not an instinctive supporter of petitions as a tool for campaigning: I think they can sometimes be a bit simplistic, even antagonistic! But in some cases they can be useful, and I think here there is a case for creating a petition for parents to sign showing that they would like to have a school street road closure. The main reason this could be useful is because gaining signatures for it enables conversations about a school street, and about the potential benefits. It not only helps you to raise awareness, but also helps to identify who your champions might be. A petition could be the beginnings of a campaign group.Equally, you can have very productive and useful conversations with people who don’t wish to sign: understanding any people who are opposed to the idea, talking through their concerns, and thinking about any negative impacts, is a very helpful thing to do, and the earlier you have these conversations, the better.If you are a parent at a school then you probably have a reasonable idea about who the opinion formers are! Does your school have a PTA? A set of unofficial whatsapp groups? Identify the people who run those and speak to them early on.
  6. Speak to the governors
    It is also helpful to know who your school governors are, and to speak to them about a school street. Governors are yet another set of unsung heroes of our education system: giving up their time and expertise on a voluntary basis to work with the head and the leadership team, supporting and helping to improve, and being a critical friend.Your school will have parent governors, who might be a good starting point. Depending on how the conversation with your head teacher goes, you could ask the Chair of Governors if you could come to a governors’ meeting and talk about school streets. If the governors were really keen they could put together a joint letter to the leads at the Council for Education, and Highways, asking for a closure.
  7. Speak to local residents
    Ok, so you have contacted your councillors, your Mayor, your head, all the parents, the governors, and they are all on board and passionate, but you have excess energy and want to do MORE.Before our school street came into operation, some local Labour party members made our own leaflet about the closure, and we door knocked down Sebert Road to talk to the local residents who would be most affected by the closure. Door knocking is time consuming, but it was so worthwhile doing it.Obviously this is all pre-Covid, and there is certainly no party political door knocking going on at the moment. But if you are reading this in the post-Covid utopia that we are all hoping for, then get out there and door knock.  And if you are reading this during Covid times, and you can find a safe and responsible way to speak directly to local residents living right by the school, I would definitely recommend doing it. We found the most local residents were the people who were most familiar with the localised traffic problems at the beginning and end of the school day, and were some of our most passionate supporters.
  8. Encourage cycling at your school
    There is lots that you can do to encourage people to cycle to your school. Whilst plenty of Londoners in particular don’t have space to keep a bike, there are many more that do have a bike but don’t use it often, or who would like to cycle more, but are feeling uncertain.Some small steps you can take might be to ask your neighbours or friends if they want to cycle to school with you. You could talk to the school about what they are doing to encourage cycling. How much storage do they have for bicycles? Might they open the playground after school one day to allow children to cycle on the tarmac? Do they have any learn to ride, or bikeability sessions planned? Would they consider allowing adult learners to use the playground? Could you hold a cycle maintenance workshop before or after school one day?If you are in Newham, talk to Newham Cyclists about your ideas, and see if they have any suggestions. They are a small but very dedicated group, and have plenty of contacts. If you’re not in Newham, you may well have a local equivalent, and you might find that its members are potential advocates for a school street.
  9. Encourage walking
    Not everyone wants to cycle, and the great thing about London schools is that the population is so dense, most families live close to school, so walking is not just possible but probably faster than getting to school by car.If you want to help encourage more children to walk, you could chat to the school about their plans, and ask if you could work together. You could organise a walk to school challenge, and ask the school to do a daily show of hands and a tally to show how many people walked in that day. Have a chat to fellow parents and find out what stops them walking to school. Is it concerns about road safety? Get them to sign your petition! Is it distance? Would they try walking for a day or two and see how it goes? Are they worried about the weather? Chat with the school about whether they have space for children to store wellington boots during the day.Understanding some of the reasons why some people don’t currently walk, and thinking through whether any of those are things you could do something about, is great preparation for a school street closure.
  10. Hold a play street
    I am a big fan of play streets generally, for lots of reasons. But I think there can be something particularly powerful about a play street right by a school, as it helps everyone involved to visualise what it might look like if that road was closed, and could help to build momentum and support for a timed closure.If you held a one-off play street, you could arrange for lots of the things above to happen at the same time: invite local councillors, and the lead for transport, to come along. See if you could get someone doing some basic bike maintenance for you. Have a small stall with your petition, and some volunteers to get more signatures. Would your PTA like to be there, to encourage parents to get involved and to sign up to volunteer?

And that’s all ten. I may write some more in future about how to help make a school street work (clue: there is a lot of crossover with the ideas above!) but I think that’s more than enough for the moment. I hope this is inspiring and helpful. If you are in Forest Gate North and want further school streets closures, please do contact me as I would be happy to advocate for you, and to help you with the above! If you’re outside Forest Gate but want someone to chat to and bounce ideas off, ditto, drop me a line.

I need to add that when it comes to school streets, I am not a pioneer, but an enthusiastic follower in the footsteps of other organisations who led the way. School streets had been implemented in Hackney, Islington, Waltham Forest and many other places before we got on board here in Newham.

Organisations like Mums for Lungs, also Living Streets, have been campaigning for them for years and I would highly recommend looking at their websites and the information they publish, particularly the Mums for Lungs campaigning guide, and Living Streets’ toolkit, as well as this brilliant website: http://schoolstreets.org.uk/ which has lots of helpful information about the ‘why’, ‘how’ and existing schemes.

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Maryland works update

Just a quick post to publicise the very detailed and informative update from Conways about the works taking place around Maryland station. To be added onto the list to receive this directly, email Helen on helen.mcconnell@fmconway.co.uk

View newsletter here

Some highlights include: the refurbished mechanism for the ‘twisty clock’ will be fitted in the next few weeks, updates on the various planters, and all work should be completed by the end of 2020.

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Newham High Streets

A call out to Forest Gate residents to get involved in a great new project to improve our high streets. Starting with Forest Gate, Green Street, Manor Park and Little Ilford, this is a collaborative project to identify what residents want to prioritise, and to make our high streets better. During lockdown and beyond we have all come to rely even more on our local small businesses, particularly when we could see the strains they were under, and the efforts they make to keep us safe. This project, which works alongside other complementary projects like Shape Newham, is a way of getting more involved with your local area, by just giving your views about what is important to you.

The text below is from the first Newham High Streets newsletter:


Blurred image of high street with text 'NEWHAM high streets' superimposed

Hello,

We are getting in touch with you in relation to the newly launched Newham High Streets initiative. The aim of this programme is to work in phases to support high streets, focusing on the happiness and wellbeing of residents and businesses and ensure they have what they need to deal with the challenges of recession and recovery. The first phase of the programme includes the areas of Green Street, Forest Gate, Manor Park, and Little Ilford.
To join the discussion, sign up on the Newham Co-Create platform and share your experiences and aspirations for your high street.

On the platform, you will be able to follow the progress of the programme, receive key updates, and most importantly contribute to its development. At this stage, you can contribute to a survey until October 25th.

Updates will be also communicated through Newham Council’s social media (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram).

If you would like to ask any questions or be added to our mailing list, please contact us via email at newhamhighstreets@newham.gov.uk or via phone at 08008611424, from Monday to Thursday, between 11.00 – 16.00.

Sign up & Join the Discussion    Read more about Newham High Streets

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Ward report September 2020

Hello Forest Gate Northers! After a bit of a hiatus, I’m publishing another councillor report. These are reports which are officially made to the Forest Gate North ward of the local Labour party. Local Labour members are the people who selected me, Sasha and Anam to run for election, so I report back to them about what I’m doing.

I also publish these reports on my councillor blog (which may be where you’re reading it now) for any resident who wants to know more about what the person they voted for – or didn’t, of course – is doing for the local area.

Covid

Firstly I wanted to share the most recent Newham ‘Covid dashboard’. This really helpful overview of how things are in Newham is being produced once a week, and I am sharing it on social media. The ‘What does it mean?’ section from our Director of Public Health is particularly useful, pointing out that although there isn’t a large increase in cases, the numbers are almost certainly reduced by the fact that people cannot access tests.For more detailed information please do check the Council’s website, but in the meantime we all need to stay safe: keep our distance, work from home if we can, wear a mask, wash our hands, and protect each other.

We have been trialling the NHS Test and Trace app in Newham, providing feedback to the Department of Health about how it could be improved. You can read all about the app in this blog post here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2020/08/20/nhs-tracing-app-in-newham/


I also went out visiting shops and businesses on the Romford Road with Ian from the Gate library, encouraging them to download their own QR code so that customers can ‘check in’ with their app.


This wasn’t entirely successful – we didn’t find a single QR code displayed in any of the businesses! Feedback included people who planned to download and display their code but hadn’t, people who clearly had no plans to download it but were nodding in the hopes that I would go away, some people who were suspicious of the app and concerned about the safety of their information, and several businesses concerned about the impact of being asked to isolate for 14 days. All this has been passed back, through our public health team, to help with the further development and improvement of the app and the communications with it.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs)

This is probably the biggest piece of work I am currently involved in, and I should say up front that I realise this topic can be divisive, and it’s one that people have strong feelings on. It’s also the single biggest and most positive change that I think we can make quickly, for our local area, and I’m delighted to see the benefits of quieter roads becoming obvious already.

You can read my introduction to what an LTN is in my blog post here:
https://forestgatenorth.com/2020/06/25/all-about-low-traffic-neighbourhoods/
That post is all about the principle of reducing through-traffic, what that normally looks like in practice, and what the benefits are.
And you can read about the introduction of our LTN in another blog post here:
https://forestgatenorth.com/2020/08/19/our-first-low-traffic-neighbourhood/
That post is more specifically about the LTN that stretches from Woodgrange Road to Stratford, about where is covered, about implementation, and starts to cover some frequently asked questions about, for example, traffic displacement and emergency services access.

Where we are now is that the LTN has been entirely installed, and we are all adapting to it. Some changes are being made in response to comments: most recently some bollards are being added to the pavements around some of the filters to stop the small number of very determined cars who have ignored the signs and the planters and mounted the footway to continue their journey!

My initial reports from residents nearby are entirely split between a small number of people who want them removed immediately, and another group of people who are incredibly positive about the impact they are already having. Some people are genuinely concerned about emergency services access, which I do tackle in my blog posts, but to summarise: all emergency services are consulted at an early stage of the design. The main reason why some of the filters are physical (planters right across the road) and some are camera-enforced (planters but with a gap for a vehicle to pass through) is because of feedback from the police, fire service or ambulance service.

I’ll be writing more blog posts on this topic, especially as we move into the implementation of the next local schemes, around Manbey Grove, the Woodgrange Estate, and Forest Gate North East (anyone saying ‘the village’ will be subject to a penalty and forced to come up with a better name ).

I’ve been passionate about the idea of reducing traffic in Forest Gate and indeed in Newham for several years. Some use of vehicles is a vital party of our city life, especially for disabled people who may rely on adapted vehicles to get around, but there is an absolute environmental imperative that those of us who can, change our behaviour, and using private cars less is a vital part of that. LTNs form a vital part of the jigsaw. We need to put them in place, and in parallel to that continue with the work outlined in the Newham Air Quality Action Plan: https://www.newham.gov.uk/downloads/file/166/air-quality-action-plan and the Newham Climate Now work: https://www.newham.gov.uk/NewhamClimateNow

Noise nuisance
I have had several ongoing complaints about noise nuisance, which became considerably more tricky to manage during lockdown when not only was everyone at home more, and often trying to work from home, but also the noise nuisance service was unable to visit residents’ homes so was effectively suspended for a period.

One of the main offenders was some railway arches that were squatted, and which before lockdown had become the site for regular ‘parties’, and in fact appeared to be operating as a de facto nightclub at the weekends. When I first heard about this, I quickly contacted various people and departments hoping that I could get some information sharing and a quick resolution. I dropped a line to my contacts in the local police Safer Neighbourhood Team, Noise Nuisance, Licensing, and also the Arches Company who manage the arches and their leases. Once lockdown began I tried to put the Arches Company in touch with the team at Newham helping homeless people, too. I have to say that this quickly became rather thorny, exacerbated by a number of issues which included the legal complexities of evicting the people from the arch, the difficulty of getting the Arches Company to get back to me consistently (at one point in despair, after getting no answers for weeks I resorted to twitter), and then of course lockdown.

The local residents have really suffered with significant noise, ASB, some reported threatening behaviour, and of course worrying about the wellbeing of people living in arches with no facilities.

After all of this, it was good news to finally hear back from the Arches Company that they had got the legal order required, had evicted the people squatting there, had secured the arches, and were inspecting them regularly. They are also marketing them to let, and I’ve asked them to ensure that they engage with responsible tenants who can run businesses in a residential area.

A slightly more surreal, but no less disturbing for the residents, piece of casework has been one of the cockerels which are living on the western side of the ward. Having been backwards and forwards about the complaints from neighbours who are woken and disturbed every day by what appears to be a large number of cockerels kept in a private garden, I’ve spoken to a senior officer about this case as we need to be sure of animal welfare, quite apart from anything else.

Boundary review
The Local Government Boundary Commission has reported back, and in a surprise move, rather than giving its final recommendations has begun a further round of consultation, looking at the configuration of wards in the borough. The affected proposed wards are Forest Gate North, Forest Gate South, Maryland (a proposed new ward), Forest Gate Green Street (a proposed new ward replacing Green Street West), Green Street East, Little Ilford, Manor Park, and Plashet (a proposed new ward).

You can read a summary of this on Newham’s website here:
https://www.newham.gov.uk/news/article/504/further-consultation-announced-by-the-boundary-commission-over-newham-council-ward-boundaries

Another controversial topic! I know there has been some debate about ward names, ward boundaries, about the existence of some proposed wards at all. Personally, I don’t feel as strongly about this as some people do. Boundaries have to go somewhere, and some of those boundaries will be natural ones that feel ‘right’ to some people, but in a place like London you’ll never really be able to draw electoral lines that exactly reflect the places where people feel that they live and belong. That said, I did feel that the previous iteration of this map had the Forest Gate North boundary too far east, so seeing it proposed to move further west strikes me as a good thing.

I am not at all sure about 2 councillor wards, knowing as I do from first-hand how a team of three can spread out the workload, and can flex and take account of periods of leave, of ill health, of family responsibilities and more.

Anyone who has a view on the latest stage of this consultation should make sure that they send their views in to the Boundary Commission, an independent organisation who make the final decision. The website to do that is here: https://www.lgbce.org.uk/all-reviews/greater-london/greater-london/newham

Healthy school streets

I was so pleased to see that the Healthy School Streets closures are back up and running with the new term, supporting parents and children to walk, cycle, or scoot to school safely, and even more important now that we need to use the space to social distance.
Having appointed myself as unofficial cheerleader for timed school street closures in Newham, I was also really delighted to hear that we have more school streets rolling out across the borough: more information to come. It has been very interesting to see that what started as a slightly unusual and even controversial idea is now much more widespread. We have led the way for Newham here in Forest Gate and I’m hugely grateful for the schools, parents and local community who have been so very supportive in making this happen.

Our neighbours Hackney announced 40 school streets, Waltham Forest are announcing more just this week as I write, and it seems clear to me that in the future closed roads around schools will become the expectation, with any roads near schools that have to remain open an exception.

Planning

When almost everything seemed to suddenly stop in March, planning was one of the first functions to pick back up, and start operating remotely. So I’ve been continuing to sit on planning committee meetings, albeit from my bedroom rather than from the Town Hall. This means of course that if you are really keen you can watch along, as the planning meetings are now broadcast live on Facebook… though I understand this is a level of commitment and interest not everyone has!

I have now been sitting on planning for six years, and am more and more interested in how this legal process shapes the place we live, and how we can use it better. As an elected councillor I’m very aware that there are officers in this field who have literally spent years studying different aspects of it, and the challenge as a lay person is to make the democratically accountable bit of that process work, holding people to account whilst not charging in like a rhinoceros all over months of work and shouting ignorant things (though I’m sure I have unwittingly done that too).

I very often ask questions about active travel: about how developments can design in walking and cycling, also about green spaces, and how we can make developments greener both in terms of spaces for residents to enjoy but also for biodiversity and to reduce flood risk. I was very interested to attend some training last year about new standards for biodiversity and greening in planning, and I know this is something Forest Gate residents are also very keen on, and which I feel it’s my role to represent and promote. I am no expert but I always want to know more about design, and about good not just ‘acceptable’ design, and how the layout and design of buildings, particularly at ground floor level, can make liveable and attractive spaces for people. Of course we are all also jointly, as committee members, constantly questioning developers on the homes they are building: in terms of the number of social rented units, where those units are placed within larger developments, how many family units, whether those are suitable for larger families, and more.

There are currently changes planned by the Tory government to the legislation that governs planning. Officers are going through this in detail, and putting together points for us to discuss, but it’s hard to view what is being proposed with anything other than a deep sense of misgiving. I’ll come back to this topic.

Finally, I thought it was worth reiterating that one of the downsides of sitting on Strategic Development is the legal necessity to approach meetings with ‘an open mind’. Meaning that in order to do this role properly, I need to make sure I haven’t taken a position about something before the meeting begins and all the evidence is assembled. This is actually quite sensible, and should lead to good decision making. In practice it means I do have to be a bit mealy-mouthed about some developments, including those which might be controversial. You can read about, for example, where this leaves me on the MSG sphere in my old blog post here:
https://forestgatenorth.com/2019/06/03/the-msg-sphere-planning-application/
From a practical perspective, if you have an opinion on a large planning development and are looking for local councillor support, please do contact Sasha and Anam who can help you with this as they are not constrained in this way. On smaller applications, which don’t go to Strategic Development but to a different committee, I can and do help any way I can.

Thorogood Gardens
I popped into Thorogood Gardens very briefly recently, where local residents were holding a planting and weeding session. Thorogood Gardens will always have a special place in my heart after the work that Seyi and I did to create a garden space out of a disused green area, create a play space, and more to help spruce up an area that had felt rather abandoned. To read about that project, take a look here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2017/11/21/thorogood-gardens-update/

The green space that Seyi and I created is now thriving, carefully tended by local resident Derek, and now freshly planted with tonnes of bulbs for the spring by the Maryland Community Group. There have been problems here with ASB and littering, and Derek could certainly use some more regular help with the gardening, but overall a real change has been made here, and I’m really proud to have been part of it.

Greening
Talking of greening, I have been a bit involved with the latter part of the work of the ‘greening’ group that came out of the Forest Gate Citizens’ Assembly. This group, made up of local residents, was behind the ‘Bloomin’ Forest Gate’ festival that should have taken place in March. But they have also done other bits of work, and most recently we were looking at the planters outside Bereket, near Wanstead Park station.

These planters were put there at my suggestion, to help with a perennial problem of cars parking on the pavement there. They were temporarily removed as part of the ‘Streetspace’ works, to make room for social distancing, but were put back after I suggested that without the planters, we get cars parked there, leaving less room for pedestrians not more!

They had been planted up by volunteers, but apparently the planters were partly full of sand which was contributing to the plants not doing very well. So a group of residents made a plan: they collected the plants, the council emptied the planters and filled them with soil, then the greening group came back and planted them up.

We discussed having some signs in them to let people know that they are community planters and need caring for, and I volunteered my painting skills and painted some signs. There is an ongoing problem here with people using the planters as unofficial benches, congregating there to drink and make noise, and leaving litter behind. You will see if you go past that there have been some experimental efforts at deterring sitting on them: little wooden ‘triangles’ attached and some railings too. We’ll keep on trying – sadly a ‘fairy garden’ in one of the planters was quickly stolen, and some of the plants went missing this week too. Greening and improvements in busy, densely populated areas will always be a case of trial and error, so we will keep going, and keep trying, undaunted.

Recycling trial
I was genuinely thrilled to find that several Forest Gate North streets are included in a recycling trial that Newham is running. I am regularly contacted by residents who are dismayed, as I am, by the small range of materials that we are able to recycle in our orange bins. The topic of recycling probably deserves a whole separate post, but to summarise the main factors restricting, say, recycling glass, include a long and very unhelpful contract for the disposal of waste, money (of course) and also our very high level of recycling contamination.

During this trial, certain streets will be able to recycle a larger range of materials, including glass bottles and jars (hallelujah!), plastic tubs, pots, trays, aerosols and foil paper. We’re also trialling a new approach with these streets where people who put the wrong materials in their bins will receive a postcard through the door reminding them what can be recycled. If the materials are contaminated again then the recycling may not be collected.

This kind of approach, though common elsewhere, is completely new for us in Newham, and I’m really pleased that we’re trying it out in a planned way so that we can see what the impact is. Trying to improve how we all dispose of rubbish is a thorny problem that I’ve spent more time puzzling over than I care to think of, and this trial seems a very helpful way of trying to identify some ways forward, as well as looking at any unintended consequences.

For more information about the trial, see this page of the Newham website:
https://www.newham.gov.uk/rubbish-recycling-waste/waste-service-trial/1

Fly tipping


Talking of disposing of rubbish, the fly tipping trial continues, and you can watch a video about this work here:
https://youtu.be/eUeVUk0Q19E
When I was cabinet lead for Environment and Highways, I helped to start off this piece of work, where we brought together residents, facilitated by Keep Britain Tidy, to think about the issue of fly tipping and what might help to reduce it. The initial experiments residents suggested have been trialled across the borough, and we’re now rolling out the most successful ones more widely.

Just to prove what I said above about this being a thorny issue, there is a stencil saying ‘no dumping’ on the marketplace … very near a seemingly permanent pile of bags and rubbish. The struggle continues!

Shape Newham and the High Streets project
A couple of very positive projects are going on that I hope will also have a real impact on our streets and our physical environment. Shape Newham is a project to improve public spaces through projects chosen deliberatively by groups of residents: combining resident involvement and physical improvements to our environment, it really represents Rokhsana’s manifesto from the last election. You can read about the project on its website here: https://shapenewham.co.uk/

The project that will be happening, I believe quite soon, in the ward is a mural on the Youth Zone, designed in partnership with young people. I will publicise this when it starts to be installed.

I also recently attended a briefing on a new piece of work being started by the Regeneration team looking at high streets. I know that a large number of residents are really passionate about our high streets, and also are brimming with ideas for how they could be improved, so am really looking forward to sharing more information about this. In the past, our physical regeneration work in Newham has been very focussed on areas of intensive new development (the docks, the Olympic village, Canning Town) so it’s great to see attention being paid to what can be done to improve our existing high streets, and the businesses there.

Virtual surgeries

I have run a couple of ‘virtual surgeries’, at the normal surgery time of 10.30am on a Saturday. I’ve offered that if someone contacts me with their preferred virtual method of communication (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, whatsapp video or even just the phone) I can make them an appointment. No one has taken me up on this thus far, and in fairness I think for most people needing some help, it’s easier to write an email than it is to arrange a virtual face to face. I’ll keep offering though, partly just to remind residents that councillors are there and also as a way of keeping up my surgery commitment.

This also feels like a good time, after a period with lots of local discussion on social media, to say again that I always aim to reply to social media tags on Facebook and on twitter, but this isn’t the most reliable way of contacting me. Sometimes my mentions are fast-moving and things get lost. Sometimes I’m doing family stuff, or even have decided to take a short digital break! I do my very best to reply to everyone but a backbench councillor role is a part-time one, which I know not everyone is aware of.

If you need to make sure that I see something and want a considered reply, please email me!

I hope this has been a useful insight into some of the work going on locally in these strange times.

Do take care, all, and stay safe.

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How to request on-street bicycle parking

I have already written a (surprisingly evergreen) post some time ago about how to request a bike hangar to store your bicycle in. You can find that here with all the information you need.

(I should add here that demand for these has been so enormous that we currently have a huge waiting list for them. I mean, this is encouraging in lots of ways. But also depressing, of course. And I am as tired of talking about lack of money to do things as you are tired of hearing about it.  I have asked whether we could prioritise applications within the Low Traffic Neighbourhood as a way of encouraging and promoting behaviour change, but allocating resources to one area away from another is a difficult issue of fairness.)

I wanted to write another post though, about on-street bicycle parking. Not the hangars for residents, but the bicycle stands that you find, or want to find, at the places you visit. Outside the shops. By the station. By the leisure centre. At the park.

I am periodically contacted by people who request additional spaces to park their bikes, and of course I pass these on diligently. But I knew there must be a more efficient way. And lo and behold, there IS.

The excellent London Cycling Campaign, supported by Transport for London, runs a map where you can suggest places where parking might be useful. It passes all of this information to highways authorities (here, that’s Newham) and to TfL regularly. I was pointed to this map by officers, who also check it regularly to see where there is demand.

The map is online here: https://www.urbancycleparking.org.uk/

It’s a great place to leave those niggling thoughts you might have when you are looking for a place to safely lock your bike, and can’t find one, or the ones there are full, or at a place that you think you might visit if only there were a place to put your bike.

The LCC also points out that there is no complete map of bicycle parking provision across London, so is effectively crowd-sourcing one by allowing people to add the parking that they find to a second map, also available on the above link. I have to admit that I do love this kind of collective wisdom, and the way that the internet allows us to capture it to be shared. It feels both democratic and also faintly, pleasantly anarchic to populate a map together with anyone who has information and an internet connection. You may or may not feel the same, but even without participating you can still use the map, for example, if you are visiting somewhere and want to see if there is a good place to lock up your bike.

And of course, if you can’t or don’t want to use these maps for any reason, you can still email cycle.training@newham.gov.uk to request bicycle parking.

Enjoy!

 

 

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