Healthy School streets – first thoughts

As I write this, it’s nearly 1pm on the 11th November, the day of the launch of our first Healthy school streets timed road closure. I have just been happily bombarding facebook and twitter with masses of comments and photos, so I won’t do that here right now, but I did want to quickly hop on the blog to make a few points.

The first and the biggest point is an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who made this happen in Forest Gate. The head teachers of Woodgrange and Godwin schools have been tremendously supportive. Rokhsana our Mayor, and cabinet members including James Asser, Julianne Marriott, Jane Lofthouse, and others, have all not only been advocates of healthy school streets, but had the leadership and political courage to see it through. Officers have worked really hard to get everything in place, the Woodgrange PTA supported our launch today by selling croissants, juice and breakfast, Newham Cyclists have been cheerleaders since the idea was first suggested. Massive thanks also to the band of local, and not-so-local residents, cyclists, campaigners, Labour party members and friends who turned out this morning in high vis jackets to help physically keep the roads clear. A special mention to Frances Clarke, a Forest Gate resident who used to be an East Ham councillor, who first tapped me on the shoulder I think around 2 years ago, and suggested that Godwin would be a great school for a road closure, and what did I think?

So I am suffused with a warm glow of success and righteousness: children walked down the centre of the road this morning, drivers were broadly well-behaved (with two notable exceptions. But we have your numberplates, guys….) and everyone was happy and celebratory.

I don’t want to sound negative but I think I do need to strike a slight note of caution as we go forward into the next few weeks. There are a few things that we could have done better, and we will learn from these. The leaflets and banners should have got to the schools earlier. The signs should have gone up a long time before they actually did. We are legally compliant in terms of our communication but we (and perhaps this is always the case, honestly) could have done more.

Currently there is no physical barrier to the road closures, which is partly why I recruited volunteers this morning for the launch. Cameras to start enforcing are going in this week, so my measured prediction is that for the next few weeks, the roads may be a bit quieter, but that a lot of vehicles will ignore the signs, and continue to use the roads, until they start to get ticketed. So I think all of us will have to take care, firstly not to be too triumphant, but also physically to take care on those roads where children and parents may be expecting it to be entirely safe, but we’re not quite there yet.

But in summary, I think it’s fair to say that our first Newham (ok, jointly first with Chobham) school street was a success, greeted with pleasure and enjoyment by pedestrians and cyclists (and one brave soul on roller blades who zoomed up the road at top speed). I sincerely hope that there will be many more, and if anyone from other schools / other areas is keen to have one near them, then I would recommend you drop your local councillors a line and speak to the head teacher.

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Maryland works update

Just a super quick post on this wet Monday morning to share the update newsletter that Conway have sent about the works happening at Maryland at the moment. Helen who sends out the newsletter is in charge of liaison at Conway, and I’m sure could add you onto the distribution list if you are interested and don’t get it already. Her contact details are also on the newsletter if anyone has any questions.

Final draft of Maryland Newsletter Autumn 2019_.

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Become a Climate Now Air Quality Champion

I just this moment received an email about this initiative, and wanted to share it on the blog because I know a lot of Forest Gate North residents will be really interested and keen to take part.

‘As part of the Climate Now Action Plan, we are recruiting for Climate Now Air Quality Health champions (CNAQHCs) to help deliver key messages across to the wider community to raise awareness – initially on anti-idling and encouraging walking to school.

We are planning to support and deploy our champions every step of the way – including a short induction session for each volunteer, followed by a one day course provided by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), and then by an introduction to the key tasks we want CNAQHCs to get involved in.

At the moment we have got a long list of about 80 residents that we have been speaking to about health champions in general and we are hoping that some will want to get involved and become a CNAQHC.

However we need more of our residents to engage in a huge effort to tackle air pollution and this is where we need your help!

Our first Climate Now Air Quality Champion’s induction session will take place on the 22nd October 2019 at East ham library from 6-8pm.

If you know of anyone who may want to become a Newham Health Champion, and in particular a Climate Now Air Quality Health Champion, please have them contact Newham.HealthChampions@activenewham.org.uk
They will be asked to register effortlessly onto our system and they will be sent more details and an invitation to attend upcoming induction sessions.’

https://vimeo.com/dfptv/review/359236078/6fde422261

I am particularly pleased to see that walking to school and anti-idling will be the first things that we tackle. My one-woman campaign to stop idling is going pretty well, but is highly dependent on the guts and energy that I have at any time! And walking to school is such an important way of getting children active, building community, increasing road safety, as well as improving air quality (you can read my post about Healthy School Streets here).

Please do volunteer. I know that Forest Gate contains many people with the beliefs and skills to really make this happen. I recently shared a plea for volunteers to participate in a Food Waste trial on Facebook and Forest Gaters signed up with such alacrity that my colleagues had to start recruiting residents from elsewhere in the borough to ensure that the whole thing wasn’t weighted towards E7! Needless to say, I was very proud.

We look forward to working with you.

 

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Healthy School Streets

With today being the first day back at school for many Newham children, it seemed like a good time to write a blog post about our proposals for ‘Healthy School Streets’. I have mentioned this proposal before in my update report, but am so passionate about this that I thought it deserved its own blog post.

I remember first hearing about school streets a couple of years ago, and watching a news piece which showed a teacher and school children going out into the road and unlocking and raising a small metal bollard to shut the street outside the school to traffic.  This made the news because the idea of shutting a road during drop-off and pick-up time was new and unusual. Since then, school streets closures, or school streets, as some local authorities call them, have become more common, in London boroughs like Hackney, Islington and Redbridge, and further afield too. And now we are proposing our first in Newham, which includes Woodgrange Infants school and Godwin Junior school, both close to my heart and my home as they are in my ward and also the schools where my girls go.

We are proposing timed street closures which would mean that the bit of Sebert between Woodgrange Road and Cranmer Road was closed, plus that southern bit of Cranmer Road, plus the bit of Godwin to the north that borders Godwin school. The closures would be enforced by camera during that time, and residents who live on the closed roads would be exempt and still able to move their vehicles during the closures.

There are loads of benefits to school streets. One of them is cleaner air for our children and their growing lungs, a health risk that is growing in importance as we learn more about the impact that pollution has on development and life expectancy. Closing the road improves road safety outside schools, an improvement that anyone will welcome who has been on Sebert Road at 9am, and seen the backed up cars, surrounded by small children and frazzled parents, and heard the angry tooting of blocked in drivers, and of drivers stopping illegally on the zigzag lines ‘just for a moment’ to drop off their children. It creates a more peaceful, and less stressful start to the school day, and children who are happier and more ready to learn. But perhaps most importantly, and the bit I am most pleased about, is how there is some evidence to show that closing the street outside the school can help with behavior change, and result in more children walking and cycling to school, and fewer driving.

Of course there will remain some parents for whom driving to school is a significantly better option. If you or your child is disabled, for example. Anyone with a blue badge is exempt from the scheme, and people who really absolutely cannot avoid driving can still drive to school, avoiding the closures, and park outside the zone, and walk the final few minutes. But for the majority of parents, who live within a very small area which is very walkable, and who already walk or cycle, this will make a safer, cleaner, better drop-off and pick-up.

Needless to say, this should form just part of Newham’s overall approach to encouraging walking and cycling, and also to our overall approach to air quality. If you’re interested in improving air quality, I would strongly encourage you to take part in our air quality consultation which is online here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/ServiceChild/Air-pollution-consultation.aspx

The formal consultation on the proposed school streets in Forest Gate North has now finished, and the responses are being looked at. I am hopeful that, depending on what people have said, we will be able to start the road closures in the Autumn. If you are keen on this idea, and would like to help, then please do contact me. I am hoping to organize a bit of a launch event, and local volunteers to stand at the various closure points and help inform traffic and parents would be really helpful.

In the meantime, I have done lots of tweeting about the proposal, including some video vox pops, and you can find these on twitter here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23healthyschoolstreets%20%40rectripp&src=typd

Find out more:

Want to find out more? There are lots of great individuals and organisations campaigning for Healthy Streets generally, and for school street closures specifically.

For more detailed information about what is happening locally, you can read about Newham’s proposed Healthy School Streets on the Newham website here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Healthy-School-Streets.aspx

There is also a great video about school streets that Hackney produced, which is online here. 

Mums for Lungs are a small but brilliant voluntary organization campaigning for clean air, and providing some very useful pressure on all London boroughs to start closing school streets. Their website about school streets is here: https://www.mumsforlungs.org/about-school-streets

 

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A few updates about the marketplace

I have been asked a few questions about different things relating to our marketplace, so I thought I’d do a general round-up blog post and put as many as I could remember here.

The 308 bus stop

I knew that there was a good reason for moving the 308 bus stop, and I seem to recall it was explained to me about two years ago, but had to be reminded just today by an officer exactly what it was, after receiving more than one query about whether it would be coming back.

In a nutshell, the 308 bus turns right along Forest lane, and with the bus stop in its former position, the bus used to leave the stop and slew across to the right to get into the right turn lane – which blocked the straight ahead traffic at the junction causing queues and frustration back up Woodgrange Road.  Drivers only rarely let the bus turn across before the signals changed, so southbound queues used to get quite long quite quickly and frequently blocked Sebert Road.

The 308 bus now stops at the stop about 120m up the road (which it never used to stop at) where the other buses serving Woodgrange Road also stop (they never stopped before at the removed stop, which was only for the 308).

So the lack of stop so close to the junction helps the traffic to flow better at the junction, and has been replaced by an extra stop further up the road by Wanstead Park station.

The ‘Market place’ stone

stone with 'market place' engraved into itI tweeted a while back that the patch of tarmac blighting what would otherwise be a lovely circle of granite had been annoying me, but that I’d found out that it would be replaced by a stone with lettering saying ‘marketplace’ and I was delighted only a few days ago to notice that this stone had indeed been put in. I confess a personal weakness for lettering, especially a nice font with a serif, so am perhaps a little biased. But on a more professional note it’s also nice to have something to add to ‘placemaking’. Did you know that the Woodgrange dentist has plaster detailing at the top of the building saying ‘Market place’? Neither did I until I went on a walk about with Regeneration and we all spotted it. It’s all painted white and not very visible, so something down at ground level is to my mind most welcome.

Pavement parking

Talking of the dentist, this brings me onto pavement parking. I have had several complaints about this, both in front of the dentist surgery and also people pulling up onto the marketplace itself and parking on our new pavement. Pavement parking is bad for all kinds of reasons: it physically blocks the pavement meaning that it’s harder to get by, especially if you have a buggy or use a wheelchair, or are visually impaired. It’s just plain dangerous to have cars driving on a space that should be for pedestrians to use safely. It also adds to a general and pervasive idea about our streets: that they are there for cars, which can go anywhere, and everyone else should take care to get out of their way. But on a practical level, it also damages the paving, which after our new stone has gone in at great expense (thanks to funding from TfL) and massive delays, is particularly frustrating.

So to look at the area outside the dentist first, part of this is a ‘forecourt’ which is actually owned by the surgery. We resurfaced this area as part of the works, which is slightly unusual but not outlandish in this kind of project. Effectively, leaving it as a piece of tatty concrete would have had a negative impact on the appearance of the whole marketplace. They have bollards in place, with space I think (checking out of the window of Familia as I write) for three vehicles. I have had regular reports from residents walking their children to school that the cars can be parked in a way that blocks the pavement. To help stop this happening, the parking ‘spaces’ in front of the dentist are going to be marked out with white paint, which should make it clearer both to officers and to drivers when they are parked correctly. I use that dentist, and need to take my girls in for a check up, so am going to discuss not blocking the pavement with them when we go in. I have also highlighted the spot to parking enforcement and asked them to keep an eye on it, and am waiting to hear back. The lamp post which currently sits in the middle of the pavement will also be replaced and moved, which will help to make space on the pavement, too.

Concerning parking on the main marketplace itself, readers of this blog won’t have failed to notice that the works are not yet complete, and we are expecting the installation of various bits of street furniture including the much-needed cycle parking. I am assured this will be positioned such that it physically blocks as much pavement parking as we can. (Further up the road, I got the planters installed outside Arabica / Bereket as a way of improving the area but also stopping the lorries that seemed to be permanently stopping there, and am even more proud of them now that a band of residents have planted them up so beautifully). I have also spoken to parking enforcement about visiting the marketplace, especially in the evening when cars seem to park up with impunity. I will keep asking and keep trying to protect this space.

Fly tipping and rubbish

Whilst I don’t have a specific update, this might be a good time to remind readers about some work Seyi (one of our previous councillors – as if you could forget her!) and I did on the marketplace to try to tackle the constant stream of rubbish left there. You can read my original blog post on that work here, and the update here.

Over running of works and impact on businesses

I did try but I can’t write this post without mentioning the huge local outpouring of support for Number 8, which launched some crowd funding along with an expression of distress at the impact that the local works have had on them. I unfortunately couldn’t attend the local meeting that our Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz set up, but an update from that meeting has been published and sent to those who attended and those who were interested but couldn’t make it, and you can read it here if you haven’t see it already:
Shape Forest Gate Newsletter_Final July 2019.

Apologies that this is a bit of a mishmash of information, but it’s all frequently asked enough that I thought it was worth including. As ever, any questions do ask me. I do my best to keep up with social media queries, but if you absolutely need a response please do send me an email: Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk  It might take a while, but I will get back to you!

 

 

 

 

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Rachel’s ward report July 2019

This is a report on my Forest Gate North councillor work. I’ve recently taken the difficult decision to step away from my Newham cabinet position, but am still here and once again focussing on the ward and local issues. This report is a shorter one than usual as I have recently been unwell with bronchitis. I don’t know what I previously thought bronchitis was (a bit of a cough, maybe?) but can exclusively reveal that it’s hugely unpleasant and laid me low for the best part of two months. Am as ever so grateful to the local NHS. It feels more important now than ever to speak up for the importance of an NHS that is freely available at the point of need.

Kuhn Way
Members who live around Forest Street will have noticed that Kuhn Way has been blocked up in order for works to take place. If you read this blog regularly you might remember my earlier post about Kuhn Way:
https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/06/20/kuhn-way/

In a nutshell, there were originally two parallel planning applications made by the school as part of their expansion, one which involved permanently closing Kuhn Way (which would have been of significant benefit to a really excellent local school. However I opposed this, after some thought, as I thought maintaining pedestrian access was vital) and one which did not close Kuhn Way. The first of these applications was withdrawn, and the second got permission.

The school then subsequently looked again at this second application.  I suspect but cannot confirm, that they previously had not worked too hard on this, hoping that the first would be successful! This is entirely my conjecture though. And they then submitted an updated application. If you are interested, you can look at the planning application, including the designs and drawings, online here:
https://pa.newham.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?keyVal=PM9JLSJYK7R00&activeTab=summary

I am really sorry that I wasn’t able to attend Strategic Development Committee when this most recent application was considered (I was, in slightly dramatic fashion, in A and E with difficulty breathing so my conscience is pretty clear!). I know that there were residents who opposed it, who attended the meeting, and opposed the temporary closure of Kuhn Way. I was however reassured to see the following in the minutes of the meeting:

The Chair invited Neil Deely, Chair of the Design Review panel to comment on the application.  Mr Deely, commenting on the concerns raised regarding the underpass, said that the design team had given that much thought. They considered that better lighting would create a brighter environment than present; with the CCTV, new paving and wall, it should feel safer.’

The Design Review Panel are an expert panel who advise the committee on design. As a Strategic Development Committee member, I value their advice and expertise very highly, and know that they would not have made the comments above unless they’d scrutinised the designs very carefully, and that their design opinion will be genuine and not influenced by other factors.

It’s therefore, on balance my opinion that whilst closure of Kuhn Way for 9 months while the work takes place is not at all ideal, and whilst I understand the concern about wider footbridges over it, I think on balance this does represent an acceptable compromise. I think it recognises the need for a brilliant local school to use the constrained space available to it most effectively, but also balances this with the needs of the local community too. An unpopular compromise might not be the most exciting solution (and indeed there is an argument that now no one is happy!) but I do think we’ve reached the best, or even the ‘least worst’ outcome and a positive way forward.

School Streets
Talking of schools, we have just launched a consultation to pilot the first ‘school street closures’ in Newham, and I am enormously pleased and excited about this. Two of the schools that are part of this pilot are our very own Woodgrange and Godwin schools.

I will write a separate blog post just about this, but in essence you may have seen school streets on the news, in Camden, Hackney, Redbridge or even further afield. The basic idea is that the street or streets outside a school are closed to traffic at dropping off and picking up time. This improves the air quality for our schoolchildren, also reduces the number of car accidents. There are a number of other, less immediately tangible benefits too. Children report that their trip to school feels more peaceful and happy, and they begin school in a less stressful way. Also, parents and carers begin to change their behaviour and to walk or cycle to school instead of driving.

There are exceptions to the closure: residents of the closed roads can still move their cars if they need to, also cars with disabled blue badges are exempt. But all other traffic is forbidden from passing through, meaning that the street is quiet, and everyone can peacefully and safely walk into school, congregate outside, and indeed play in the street if they wish.

As a parent at the above schools, I obviously have a personal as well as policy interest in this. I can confirm that the pavements outside the schools are crammed in the mornings and afternoons with buggies, scooters, small children on bikes, and the roads are often also rammed both with drivers who are ‘rat running’ through these small streets, but also I am sorry to say with parents who every single day ignore the teachers and the zigzag markings, and pull up outside the schools ‘just for a minute’ to drop their children off, or park a few metres up the road with their engines running, pumping out exhaust fumes at toddler head height. It is not fair to ask our teachers to intervene in traffic altercations (though they do!) and this proposed closure would make a difference to their working day as well as to our children’s health.

Consultation letters have gone out to homes around the schools, and I am working with a small group of parents who are very committed and want to help make this happen. Any kind of road closure is always controversial. But I hope that we can make this work in Forest Gate, and that if we can make a success of it, we can provide a kind of ‘blue print’ that will encourage other schools across the borough to follow suit. I am organising some specific door knocking and flyering about this scheme, and any local Labour members (or indeed parents, or residents) who are interested in joining us are more than welcome. Just drop me a line.

The Healthy School Streets consultation, and more information about the pilots, is available online here:
https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Healthy-School-Streets.aspx

Greening
Long-time blog readers might remember a post I wrote about guerrilla gardening some time ago:
https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/09/21/guerilla-gardening/

Since then I have seen various other small bits of gardening springing up: a roundabout in the conservation area, a tree pit here and there. And then, suddenly, an explosion of life and a riot of flowers, seemingly everywhere.

The reason for this is no more or less than brilliant and dedicated residents who wanted to make it happen. ‘Greening’ was one of the pieces of work that came out of our local Citizens Assembly, and one particular resident has been unstoppable in marshalling troops of volunteers, applying for small grants from the Council, and planting up any spaces she can find, supported by other residents and the Community Garden.
Map of planting across Forest Gate The map that local resident Lia Rees produced shows where you can see the work done… so far! Pleasingly, it is already out of date.  Even just now I was admiring the lemon balm in the new planter outside Fred’s on the market place, and there are vegetables and other edibles free for taking in the planters outside the Wild Goose Bakery on Field Road. If you want to see more of this kind of thing, then please do get involved. The easiest way to do this is to water and look after the planting we have. But if you have more time and energy and would like to be involved making planters/ sourcing plants / digging etc then drop me a line and I can put you in touch with ‘the flower starter’.

Forest Gate meeting
Recently our beloved Number8 Forest Gate organised some crowd funding, to help them through some difficult times. The crowdfunder is now closed (though you can go online and feel good about what a great and supportive community we have, by looking at how we exceeded the fundraising target:  https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-2?fbclid=IwAR1ZrLV-sj25i9e0c1L1b4EMC2ZuATPYp3drncqvXwwZcOG0AWNlqFN97Qo )
I know that there are a lot of strong feelings about the various things happening to our high street, some of which are local and down to the Council, some of which, to be frank, are not.

I am very sorry that I wasn’t able to come to a public meeting that the Mayor organised for local people to have their say, ask questions, and be involved in putting together some ideas for improvement. I will certainly be involved in the follow-up. I know there is particular concern about the empty shops on Woodgrange Road, and also about the impact of the over-running public realm works around the station.

But I also need to help amplify the fact that we all, and I include myself in this, need to use our local shops and market. If you love having a market, if you love having local independent shops, then please do support them in any way you can. Even making a small purchase regularly can help. The more people buy from our market, the easier it is for them to attract more stall holders. The more people purchase from number 8, the more likely they are to be able to stay. In the days of Amazon, of out of town retail, of rising business rates (set nationally, I should add) and economic uncertainty, things are hard for our treasured small businesses. There are things that the Council can and must do, but a responsibility for all of us to make sure our spending, or at least part of our spending, supports the kind of place where we want to live.

MSG sphere
I have blogged about the MSG sphere and local opinion about the application separately here:
https://forestgatenorth.com/2019/06/03/the-msg-sphere-planning-application/

The London Legacy Development Corporation planning meeting that will determine the application is due to meet in the next couple of months I believe. I am still ensuring that I keep an open mind about the application because I am a ‘reserve’ member of the planning committee, so if either Daniel Blaney or James Beckles cannot attend that night, I will need to attend, hear the evidence, and ensure that Newham has its say. If I were to take a position, either for or against, then I would not be eligible to vote.

Forest Gayte Pride
I can’t write this report on this sunny Monday without referring to the explosion of love, diversity, acceptance and rainbows that was Saturday’s third Forest Gayte Pride. If there is a better representation of the spirit of Forest Gate: joyful, celebratory, proudly diverse, politically progressive, faintly anarchic, friendly, community driven, excellently decorated and abundantly catered, then I don’t know what it is.

This year was bigger and better than ever, with the addition of a play street road closure on Earlham Grove, a bigger parade, and even more events happening over the course of the weekend. I was so proud to be part of the play street, and it was lovely to meet so many parents, children and other residents who joined me in my ‘Pride rocks’ set up, where we decorated stones to spread the love and the Pride message. (If you like the idea of decorated stones, hidden around Forest Gate for children and the young at heart to find, and hide again, then please do join my Facebook group, ‘Forest Gate Rocks’!)
I am so very, very grateful to the Forest Gayte Pride committee for all their work in making this happen. Friends from all over Newham came to Forest Gayte today to enjoy the very best of our hard working community, and our local businesses, and I could not be more proud to live here.

I was particularly reflective this year, thinking about LGBTQ rights, and how recent political events show us how hard won equality can be so quickly taken away. I am especially pleased to be bringing up my family in a place where all kinds of families, and all kinds of love are not just tolerated, but actively represented, championed and celebrated. I was angry and confused as a teenager when I realised that my sex and relationships education had lingered for hours on AIDS but had never mentioned homosexuality. It would be years before I realised that this was not an accidental omission, but a decided political stance that was only fairly recently changed.

Now it is legally required to have inclusive SRE, and what a joy it is as a parent to know that my girls will know not only that different types of families exist, but that they can love who they love, and their local community will embrace them, and whoever they bring home. I know that this topic is one that raises strong feelings, but nevertheless I will, along with Sasha and Anam, unapologetically stand up for this, and represent the right of all our residents to know that their lives and their families are part of our education system.

Casework
As ever, I always keep the details of my individual bits of casework confidential, but can report back on some general themes. Lots of people contacting me, Sasha and Anam about housing, which is always difficult to deal with. We are of course committed to building housing at social rent levels, which will help in the medium term to ameliorate the problem, but is no good right now to people in turmoil who are looking for somewhere to live and cannot afford to stay near their family, friends and community. I try to be as helpful as I can be, and signpost people to other services (the Shelter housing advice line, the Magpie Project, etc.) but am often dispirited about their overall chances of finding somewhere affordable where they can live with dignity.

I have had a gradually increasing number of complaints from residents about repairs and maintenance on their properties, both from Newham residents but also increasingly from the residents of housing associations.  That’s partly why I was delighted to hear from John Gray that we now have local housing resident engagement officers, whose job is to deal with exactly the kind of issues that are raised with me in my surgery and via email.
I hope that was a useful insight into some of the work involved in representing you locally. I would like to apologise to anyone who has been waiting for a response from me; my emails got entirely out of control whilst I had bronchitis, and I am only slowly catching up.

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All about ward boundaries

The Local Government Boundary Commission is currently consulting on a new set of ward boundaries for Newham, and I wanted to blog about it to let Forest Gate North residents know and to encourage you to contribute.

So, firstly, a quick primer on wards, with apologies to those of you who know this already and to whom this will seem hilariously basic. Currently, Newham is divided up into 20 wards. (If you’re curious, you can find a simple map of them here.)

Wards are basically administrative areas. Each ward has three councillors, and in Newham our wards are then grouped together into ‘Community Neighbourhood areas’ of two or three wards.

I have often said that ward boundaries will always, by their nature, be slightly arbitrary. Particularly in London where one named areas blends into the next, and the names of different ‘areas’ of London overlap and grow and change even depending who you are talking to and their relationship to their local area. But that said, the idea behind this consultation is that ward boundaries should broadly reflect the communities they represent. The people living in a ward should, generally, feel as though they live in the same place, be using generally the same services and recognize the same landmarks.

So this is a chance to make your case, if you feel strongly about it, for how the wards should look in Newham, and particularly in Forest Gate. Currently we are split into two wards, and Forest Gate North is, as I describe it, ‘long and thin’, stretching east / west. Does this work for us? I am a bit aware, for example, of constantly juggling casework from Woodgrange Road between us in Forest Gate North and my colleagues in Forest Gate South. I am also often emailed by people in Forest Gate South who think I’m one of their councilors and whom I then direct to Forest Gate South councillors. This obviously isn’t the end of the world for us to have to email each other!  But it must be frustrating for residents if they feel passed from pillar to post and if they experience delays as a result.

I’m particularly aware of the frustration that residents in Maryland can feel because their local area is split between not two but three wards. Whilst I obviously hope that we manage to link up at the Council (though residents can draw their own conclusion about how far this is true!), I do particularly notice the difficulties caused by ward boundaries when discussing concerns with the Maryland group about crime, where we are dealing with three different police local wards teams.

So should the boundaries change? Should they stay the same? If our wards were drawn differently, how should they look?

You can go onto the Local Government Boundary Commission website and have your say here. All the information about how to do that, about the process and timings, and everything else are all online here. The whole process is being run independently by the Boundary Commission, and the London Borough of Newham is responding to the consultation just as residents can.

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