This week, on the 24th January, a planning decisions committee took place at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to consider two planning applications related to the MSG sphere. I wanted to write a short blog post about these, because some of the planning issues might be complex and / or misunderstood.
The second decision I’ll deal with first because it’s simpler: it was an application to change a number of the spaces in Stratford International Car Park from their current use into blue badge parking for disabled people travelling to the Sphere. This application was deferred after some discussion about whether the parking at this location meets accessibility standards (which of course it must in order to ensure that disabled people can access the venue).
The first application was to provide detail about the rather opaque ‘five year review’ that was agreed at the meeting in March 2022 when the sphere was given planning permission, and was granted 25 year advertising consent.
I voted against the application last year for the sphere, and voted against granting 25 years advertising consent. I was concerned about a number of different issues, including the visual impact of the sphere, how small the site is, the impact on Stratford station, the impact on nearby residents, impacts on drivers of cars and trains nearby and safety, and concerned about the nature of such an enormous advertising space and the impact on the whole city. Specifically about the advertising, based on the information we were given last year, I was deeply concerned and perturbed at the idea of granting 25 year consent rather than the usual 5 years.
The idea of adding in a 5 year review was not in the papers prepared for last year, but was suggested verbally during the meeting. I can’t speak for other committee members, but it seemed to me that the idea of a ‘5 year review’ might have been rather gladly seized upon by committee members who were minded to vote ‘yes’ but wanted a safeguard of some kind, a way to express some of the questions that were raised about the sphere’s impact. But it was clarified on the night that any 5 year review process could not contain within it the ability to curtail the permission. In effect, whatever the 5 year review looks like, it can’t remove the advertising permission and ‘turn the sphere off’, or remove the sphere, regardless of what happens in the interim.
What is also important to note is that the sphere gained planning consent and advertising consent last year, and these things have been determined by the LLDC and so however much I and others might have wanted to reopen debate about the principle of building it, this wasn’t part of the decision making process.
So the first application aimed to put some meat on the bones, as it were, of the 5 year review process. I don’t think it’s surprising that it has taken nearly a year for these details to come back, and I don’t envy at all the officers who were tasked with squaring that circle: trying to provide some safeguards within planning consent which goes on regardless. But they gave it their best shot, and came back to the committee with a set of proposals which in my opinion ineffectively attempt to mitigate the impacts of the sphere on local residents. ‘Ineffectively’, in the end, because the sphere is being built, the impacts are not known, and it’s not clear to me that it is possible to design 5 year review process that could give us any level of certainty that people’s health and wellbeing, for example, won’t be harmed by living next to a development that is unlike any other.
The question then before the committee was to make a decision on a set of systems that provide at least some, deeply imperfect, mitigation against the sphere’s impact, including reducing the brightness, reducing the hours, and changing the nature of what is displayed. It sets up a system, albeit flawed and bureaucratic, where there is at least some independent and expert input into a monitoring group which has at least some (limited) power. Do you, in effect, approve some small protection for residents?
As a committee member, this is not an easy decision (in fairness, planning decisions are often not easy). Approving the application and the small amount of protection suggested appears to be condoning the sphere and its impacts, which based on the planning papers and discussion from last year, is unconscionable. On the other hand, not approving the mitigations could be in effect voting for the sphere to operate unfettered with no protection for residents.
Another question, always top of mind in planning, is what happens if an application is rejected. If there is a chance for debate and a better application, then rejection can be positive and productive. If rejection might result in a legal appeal which in the end determines a much weaker, or indeed no, 5 year review, then that is clearly also a real risk to residents, residents who are already at risk from the development.
Weighing up all the options, as well as the papers, and contributions in the meeting itself, I decided to abstain from the vote. I’m not generally a fan of abstaining, but there was a use for it here: neither supporting the sphere, nor voting to stop the mitigations that had been detailed. I couldn’t put my name down ‘for’ the proposals any more than I could be in favour of no monitoring and no mitigations.
I explained this at the meeting as well, to ensure that anyone watching would be aware of why I was choosing to vote this way. But I wanted to set it down here as well for clarity, and for anyone who is interested in the process but wasn’t able to attend. I hope it’s helpful.
Hello and welcome to my latest ward report. There are lots of ways to keep up with the work that I’m doing as your elected councillor, but probably the easiest ones are online, by following me on twitter (um, whether twitter is still with us in the near future is another matter), or by reading my blog here on http://www.forestgatenorth.com Here I publish updates and posts about local things that are happening, as well as periodically rounding up all or most of my work in a report like this one.
Welcome back Sasha
Firstly, a big congratulations and welcome back to my ward colleague Sasha, who has taken some well-deserved time off after the happy arrival of her baby boy. She is now rejoining us for some councillor work, but will still (if I have anything to do with it) be taking it slowly and seeing how things go.
Here she is leafletting and chatting to parents and children about the proposed new LTNs (more info below) with me and a couple of officers outside Woodgrange Infants School.
Councillor surgeries have taken something of a back seat whilst everyone was limiting all physical contact because of Covid, but are now up and running again. Sasha and I are holding our surgeries on the second and third Saturdays of the month, at the Gate library on Woodgrange Road, from 10am – 11am. If you are a Forest Gate North resident and you would like to speak to us, if you have a question or a concern or a query, a complaint or a good idea for the area, then do come along at this time. There is no need for an appointment, and we’d be glad to chat with you. If you cannot make it at this time, do contact us by email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
The Elizabeth line
To be clear: I am absolutely not claiming any credit for this one! But it would seem remiss to write anything about Forest Gate without sharing the great news that starting on the 6th November, Elizabeth line trains now run straight through so that you can get on a train at Forest Gate station and travel all the way to Paddington without changing.
Of course this is all enormously delayed, and much much later than we were all promised. But after so very many years of disruption and promises, it was hugely exciting to see the new trains on Sunday and to try them out. Regular blog readers will remember the long period of time when the station had temporary stairs, not to mention the various closures, and the public realm works around the station too. Having this connection into the west end, and in the future beyond, not to mention having lifts at the platform too is hugely important for Forest Gate. There is lots more information about the new trains online here: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-elizabeth-line
Capel and Woodgrange Low Traffic Neighbourhoods
As per the photo above, we were outside Woodgrange Infants school having conversations with parents and carers about this work, and will be doing similar outside Godwin and also Chestnut nursery. I have already written a whole blog post about it, which you can read here. And I’ve also written something about what exactly a Low Traffic Neighbourhood is, which is here.
But in a nutshell, we’re at a really early stage. We have done some collecting of data, including vehicle counts, and an online survey. We’ve issued the first leaflet, summarising it all (you can read that here). The next stage will be in January, where we’ll be publishing a proposed design for the new LTNs, showing where filters could go. At this stage, with a draft design, it will be even more important to get lots of feedback about the design and how it could work.
In the meantime, council officers like Arun and David pictured above are working really hard with councillors and others to plan and carry out the communications we need in order to make this all work. I’ve been a part of meetings with the cemetery at the end of Sebert Road, and with Woodgrange and Godwin schools, and have linked up officers with other local groups including the market, and the Forest Gate Festival. Needless to say I’ll be talking about this a lot more in the future, as the potential to make a real difference to our roads, and to make them safer and quieter for walking and cycling is really huge and very exciting.
Whilst I was chatting to one of the parents at Woodgrange this week, she started to ask me why her area wasn’t included in the map of the Capel and Woodgrange LTNs. I was delighted to be able to tell her, “That’s because you’re in an LTN already!” The Odessa LTN stretches across the western side of Forest Gate North ward, and if and when we get the Capel one installed that means that the whole of the ward will be part of an LTN.
Meanwhile, the Odessa LTN has been made permanent (meaning that the temporary traffic orders that the modal filters were installed under are now permanent ones) and this provides the starting point for lots more potential improvement work in the future. The aim is for the filters which are currently wooden planters to become permanent fixtures like built-out pavements and pocket parks. The officers in highways are working to secure some funding to make some of this happen and I’ll share the information as soon as I can.
In other news, cameras have been installed at several filters that were routinely being damaged / vandalised, and seem to have made a huge difference.
I had a very useful catch up with colleagues from Enforcement and highlighted some areas where we would appreciate some more action. I highlighted the problems at Odessa road park (more on that later) and also talked to them about the persistent issues on the marketplace: illegal parking, rubbish dumping. I told them how this is a space that hundreds of local people walk past every day on their way to the station, to local schools, or to use local shops, and how much of an eyesore it is, and how emotionally important it is to us as a focal point.
One of the biggest problems at the marketplace is the collection of rubbish from the nearby flats above shops. These flats do not have space for wheelie bins, so are on what’s known as a Timed Waste Collection. There are two hour long slots each day when bags of rubbish can be left out by the road, and are picked up by refuse collectors. Now, in theory that means that rubbish is only left out during these two short periods, and because the collections are so frequent, the amounts left out are relatively small.
In actual fact, as we know, residents of those flats leave rubbish out at different times, and once a bag of rubbish is left out in a visible location, it quickly ‘attracts’ other rubbish, from fly tipped household furniture etc to the empty coffee cup that is carefully balanced on top of other rubbish. Then, if even one of the timed waste collections is missed, the rubbish builds up and quickly becomes really visible and obvious, both detracting from our beautiful marketplace, sometimes staining it, and also in turn attracting even more litter and fly tipping.
There are a few things we can do in order to help here. We can, and have done, letter drops to local flats to remind them about the times and the places where domestic waste can be put out. This helps a bit, although turnover in these kinds of flat is very high so the effects tends to be temporary.
Enforcement will also take action when rubbish is left out with identifying information on it. (If you saw a woman on Woodgrange Road last week photographing a piece of packaging with an address on it, well that would have been me.) We had long discussions between waste colleagues and highways and others when the marketplace was redesigned about whether we could include some form of larger bin here for rubbish to be placed into, but as above the decision in the end was that doing so would effectively ‘design in’ even more rubbish, and would consolidate rather than reduce the problem.
I think this was a hard call to make, but I do think it was the right decision. Only recently there was a trade waste bin, a large green one, left out unlocked on the marketplace which very quickly became a problem that was only really addressed when I emailed the company who provided it who quickly came and took it away. Where there are trade waste bins, in order that they don’t make things worse they need to be easily identifiable, with the name of the company using them preferably on the side, and also kept locked.
Although parking enforcement is a separate team from enforcement, I also spoke to them about the issue of cars and vans parking up on the marketplace, and the problems this creates: making the pavement unsafe, potentially cracking and breaking our granite setts, and generally adding to an air of lawlessness: the idea that drivers can drive and park wherever they want, and pedestrians should bear the responsibility for looking out for them, and keeping themselves safe.
Odessa Road green space
I have been in touch with several residents who live around this small park, who have been concerned about noise, music and unlicensed events, crime and drug use in this park. Things reached something of a crisis point with a gunshot wound one evening, and residents were understandably very upset not to mention frightened.
As well as meeting Enforcement officers and local police at the park, I met with Carleene Lee-Phakoe, cabinet member lead for Enforcement, as well as local police and some residents who were joined by the Mayor too. We discussed some possible solutions, recognising some of the restrictions in terms of resources available both to the police and the Council. There has been an increased police and Council enforcement officer presence there, particularly since the gunshot injury, and also it is always the case that as the weather gets wetter, darker and colder, some outside ASB will just disperse because being outside is less pleasant.
I’m discussing with officers whether it would be useful to install some CCTV (as ever, not a panacea, but sometimes can have a useful deterrent effect) and in particular whether there is any scope to install higher fencing and lock up the park at night. Currently this space has low, waist height railings around it, and is open 24 hours a day. Part of me is saddened at the idea of enclosing and securing spaces, but also I recognise from speaking to residents that they are significantly disturbed by out of hours, anti social use of the park.
I’d also like to add that I’m really conscious too of us all being really clear about what constitutes a disturbance here. Sometimes certain groups of people, particularly groups of BAME young men, are criminalised simply for being in an area and enjoying an outside space. I was reassured that where people are using the park as it was intended: a space to play sport, to socialise, to use the basketball court, to hang out with friends, this is of course entirely as things should be and not in any way a problem. The issues that we were concerned with were around, for example, intimidation, drug use, litter, amplified music played late into the night, etc.
The UP garden
Absolutely not my achievement, but rather that of a small band of people headed up by incredible local resident Suz, who have transformed an old, concreted, weed-filled laundry yard into a vibrant green community space. If you’ve not visited the UP garden yet then do go online to theupgarden.org , find out when their next event is, and consider donating your time, money, or materials to support this lovely local project.
I am in regular contact with colleagues in Greenspace about trees and planting as I know how important these issues are to residents of Forest Gate. In particular, I’m always very keen to hear from anyone who has spotted an empty tree pit: existing tree pits can be very easily and relatively cheaply replanted, and are a great way of increasing our tree cover in the ward, making the ward more beautiful, greener, cooler, among other benefits. If you see an empty tree pit, please do email me and let me know the address that it is closest to. If that’s tricky because, for example it’s at a junction, then please let me know the address as precisely as you can, and also add a ‘What 3 words‘ reference just to make sure officers can find it. Several tree pits that residents have sent me have already been replanted, and it gives me a lot of pleasure walking past them and seeing them grow.
As well as existing tree pits, there are also a few Council-owned areas of grass across the ward, which I’ve long hoped could be planted up in the future. Often these are bits of LBN housing land which form part of our old estates, commonly on the end of a building, and often with railings around a simple grassed area that is cut periodically. I have just heard back that one of those will be planted as part of next year’s planting schedule, and if this comes to fruition (pun not intended) then I hope to collect more green spaces across the ward where we could have more trees.
Planting more trees, and maintaining those that we already have, is a really important part of our work. (You can read a blog post I wrote about that last year, here.)
Forest Lane Park Green Flag
Talking of green space, I was really delighted to attend the ceremony to raise the Green Flag over Forest Lane Park recently. When I was doing the Environment cabinet role, we had just one Green Flag for Plashet Park , and were very proud of gaining it. So learning this year that we now have six, with plans for more, was great news.
This is the result of some really significant work and improvement at a borough level, including bringing our Greenspace services back in house. Forest Lane Park is a real asset to the ward, and although the playground which is next to Forest Lane is really well known and used, I do still meet people who aren’t aware of the green space behind it, or for example the woodland trail or the dipping pond. James raised the flag, and I also took some time to meet the officers who have done the hard work of improving and maintaining the park, letting them know how much we all appreciate them.
As I’m typing, we just had the latest Community Assembly last night, where residents came along to hear about the projects that we all voted to allocate funding towards. The leaders of those projects were there, and available to talk to us about the work they were doing. Even with yesterday’s train strike impeding attendance somewhat, it was a great event and as ever a lovely chance to see up close the energy and commitment of so many Forest Gate residents. I’m a member of the Working Group which has an advisory role in overseeing the projects’ implementation, and will be pairing up with a few of them, so I’ll be feeding back more on these.
If you couldn’t make the assembly itself, you can still read all about the successful projects and progress online here.
As part of the community assembly, we watched a video tribute to Sophie Rigg, who tragically died recently. It is very hard to know what to write here, and other people have spoken more eloquently and movingly about what her life and friendship and hard work meant to them. I knew Sophie through her contribution to Forest Gate Arts, and to the Community Garden. She was talented and brilliant but also quiet, never self-promoting, and a steadfast and enormously valued contributor to life in Newham. It was a privilege to have known her, and I know many other Forest Gate residents along with me will never forget her.
Collision at the station
There was a serious collision near Forest Gate station on the 26th October where tragically a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle and died. I met with officers from Highways the following week, and a blog post about that is available here which summarises the investigation that will now happen, and some additional work on safety that the Council will do, and which I’ll aim to be a part of. As I write this, there was another collision on Woodgrange Road this week, which fortunately did not result in a serious injury but as before, officers are aware and working with the police to establish what happened, and whether anything needs to change as a result.
Inspired by some recent training, I did some live tweeting from a Licensing hearing this week, which you can read here if you’re minded to:
It gives an account of my submission to Licensing, and the hearing itself. I share it not so much to share details about this individual case (although it is important as it’s at a currently problematic location where other businesses are the subject of various complaints), but more to show an aspect of the Councillor role that I do, and take very seriously as part of my responsibility to residents.
As I said in the thread above, I was very reassured in this case by meeting the applicants from the business, who were very friendly, knowledgeable and collaborative. This makes an enormous difference, and makes me feel much more hopeful that whatever the Licensing result, we can work together to make sure that the business and local residents can peacefully co-exist.
Parking on the marketplace
Anyone who follows me on social media will know that I am perpetually angry about the near-constant pavement parking on our lovely pavement at the marketplace at the junction of Woodgrange and Sebert Roads. My camera roll on my phone is full of pictures like the one above, and I have the number for Newham Parking Enforcement saved into my phone, regularly ringing them up to ask them to attend. If you pass by the marketplace too, then I’d urge you to do the same. As well as sending out officers, the data on where reports are made helps to show where problem areas are.
(Phone the Parking Enforcement Line on 020 3373 0660 or email Parking.EnforcementRequests@newham.gov.uk Parking Enforcement Service’s operational times are Monday to Saturday: 07:00 – 22.00 and Sunday and bank holidays: 08:00 – 21:00.)
I had a very helpful introductory meeting with the head of Parking Enforcement, who manages a very difficult and controversial role with considerable knowledge and tact. She is as accustomed to people saying that there is too much parking enforcement, as she is to people telling her that there is none / not enough. As ever, it’s probably helpful to write a reminder here that parking offences in all but a handful of quite specific cases are not allowed to be enforced by camera. In order to issue a PCN, an officer must physically visit, thanks to legislation that was introduced some time ago by Eric Pickles, specifically with the aim of limiting Council’s powers here as far as I can tell.
We have a few issues on the marketplace. There are vans that drive onto it every day in order to take deliveries, there are cars that park on the access way that leads down besides what used to be Fred’s / CoffeE7, and there are cars that drive onto it at night (or sometimes during the day) and use it as a free parking space. Of course one thing that can help is additional enforcement, which I’m constantly advocating for, and which calling the number above will help with.
One thing that sadly contributes towards parking here is the wide dropped-kerb at the corner, which some drivers claim they think is an access point. I’m in touch with Highways about installing some additional barriers here (perhaps a bollard, combined with a planter).The important thing is to still leave enough space for wheelchair users, people with buggies, etc, to use the dropped kerb, but to physically prevent cars from using it. I’m hopeful that this will cut down on some of the parking, but also feel quite strongly that I don’t think we should have to physically barricade in all of our public spaces in order to keep them free of vehicles! Needless to say, I’ll share more on this as soon as I have it.
Romford Road scheme
Although it’s outside the ward, there is a piece of working starting on Romford Road that I know many residents will be pleased to hear about, and may want to contribute their thoughts and ideas towards.
We all know that Romford Road is a key route across the borough, and is also quite notably unsafe not to say unpleasant to use as a pedestrian or cyclist. This piece of work aims to change that by improving the pavements, improving access for the many bus services that use the road, and adding a proper cycling route.
If you are interested in this project then do log onto Newham CoCreate and leave your comments. There is an interactive map where you can leave comments and ideas, and the more input we have there, the better.
I don’t share details about individual casework, for reasons of confidentiality, but suffice to say that things have been busy, particularly with being a lone councillor for the ward for a while. As always, if you need me to get back to you, please do email me. I do try to reply to DMs on social media, or to being tagged on Facebook or twitter, but these do go astray sometimes, whereas a request in my Inbox means that I will get back to you.
Looking at my casework recently, it has been, let’s say ‘rich and varied’. A steady stream of people who need homes, who are being evicted from their private rental accommodation, who have been bidding on the Council waiting list for some time and not been successful. I have enormous sympathy for these residents, often long term Forest Gaters who are being forced out of the area or who are remaining in overcrowded or inappropriate accommodation because they can’t afford anything else. I speak (again, without giving details) about these cases in almost every interaction I have with housing developers as part of my planning role, and tell them that what Newham needs is family sized accommodation, at social rent. I should add that of course going to a councillor does not give you any advantage in bidding for a Council home – the criteria for that are published and cannot be circumvented. But sometimes if something is going wrong or not working, or paperwork has been lost, or a resident is otherwise not able to get a response, I can intervene and try to get things moving again.
I’ve noticed a real increase in casework concerning repairs by Housing Associations. One particular Housing Association is taking up so much of my time in chasing up that I’ve started to become quite despairing. Of course I do also get casework from residents who are complaining, rightfully, that repairs that Newham should be carrying out are not being done. So I’m reluctant to immediately condemn anyone. But it’s also obvious to me that something is going really seriously wrong, and I’m advocating for residents as strongly as I can for repairs, timely updates on progress, realistic deadlines, and recompense where appropriate.
Thank you for reading all the way through this ridiculously long report. I am not sure whether I should apologise for the length… as an apology would suggest that I’ll do it differently next time. Perhaps I’m just inherently someone who writes long ward updates, and I should embrace that part of me and not deny it!
For shorter updates, you can follow me on twitter whilst it still exists. Also do subscribe to this blog or check back periodically to read my occasional shorter pieces as they come out. But in the meantime, full on ward reports are always there for those nights when insomnia threatens and you need something to help you drop off….
Many of you will be aware that last week there was a tragic collision near Forest Gate station, where very sadly a female pedestrian was struck by a vehicle and lost her life. Some of you contacted me to express your concern about this, and told me your worries that the temporary lights that were in place could have contributed to this terrible event.
I’ve been in touch with colleagues in Highways, and reiterated to them how worried Forest Gate residents are about road safety. I also pointed out how important this place where Forest Lane meets Woodgrange Road is, it’s one of our busiest pedestrian crossings, pedestrians have to wait some time for a green man, cars often jump the red lights, and of course it’s right by the station, as well as two pubs and Forest Gate community school.
When a death occurs on the road, it’s vital that the situation is investigated properly, and various processes immediately come into play. Last Thursday, officers from Highways met with the police at the junction, and checked what was happening there . This included looking at the Thames Water works, and the temporary lights that had been installed. They also checked this against the traffic management plan that any utility company needs to provide if they want to do work like this.
The Director in charge of Highways wanted to emphasise to me that road safety is an absolute priority, and although all the right processes have been followed, he plans that the team will now dedicate more time and resources to checking roadworks like this one, both before and after they are installed. In particular, they’ll be doing more work to check traffic management plans before works are given permission.
There will now be a Serious Collision Investigation, which is a police investigation run on a London wide level. This can take some considerable time, but we are hopeful that the progress of this investigation might be easier because apparently a local business has some very high quality CCTV, which will form part of the evidence that is examined. As with all these police matters, it’s important not to prejudge the outcome of that investigation, but once it’s taken place, a prosecution could potentially result from it.
Officers also want to arrange in the meantime, to sit down for a ‘lessons learnt’ meeting with the police and Thames Water.
I highlighted also a persistent issue where cars turning right from Forest Lane jump the lights, and end up trying to cross the pedestrian crossing right by the rotunda, as pedestrians are walking across. I said that although drivers do ignore instructions in various places, it does seem to be a particular problem here, and was exacerbated (in my laywoman’s opinion) by the fact that the phasing, or timing of the lights means that pedestrians wait a reasonably long time for a relatively small amount of crossing time. Longer term Forest Gaters may remember that this used to be even shorter: you used to basically have to jog across the road to make it in time. So this is better than it was, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be improved further.
Officers are liaising with the police, and with a particular named contact there on road safety, and will discuss with him whether the police could take some action against drivers jumping the red lights there. In addition, the Newham road safety team will take a look at the whole junction, assess how the design is all working, and make any recommendations they think are necessary. I’ve asked to come along and attend this site visit when it happens, so I can both see the discussions but also highlight the experiences of pedestrians here.
The post above is from my notes from a conversation, and any errors in it are mine and not the fault of officers, who are similarly distressed by this, and working hard to do whatever we can to make sure people are safe crossing the road here.
I would like to extend my most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the person who was killed there last week. If anyone has any queries about the above, I can’t guarantee that I’ll know the answers, but I can certainly try to find out.
Next week, residents who live in the Eastern side of Forest Gate North ward (the area bounded by Sebert Road, Woodgrange Road, Capel Road, and Ridley Road. As ever, no calling this ‘the village’!) will receive a leaflet giving an update about the next stage for the proposed Woodgrange and Capel Low Traffic Neighbourhoods or LTNs. If this term is entirely new to you, there is information in the leaflet, but also I wrote a blog post here that explains, albeit imperfectly, the concept of an LTN.
‘Capel and Woodgrange LTNs’ were previously sometimes called LTNs 5 & 6, and have been renamed for clarity but also I think, perhaps in a spirit of ambition: perhaps in future there will be so many Newham LTNs that a numbering system would become confusing? Certainly the older LTNs, which exist right across Newham, were not called LTNs or indeed numbered, they are so much a part of the furniture that we often don’t notice the series of bollards and road closures which prevent cars from cutting through in various key places.
Residents in this area might remember that there was a street survey asking for opinions about what the area is like at the moment. You might have also noticed (as I have) those cables that run across various roads being installed and uninstalled at various points. This was all part of capturing information, both data on traffic numbers but also qualitative information about how people feel about how our streets feel to walk and cycle along.
This leaflet is the next stage: it summarises what we have found out, suggests an LTN as a way of tackling some of the issues raised, and explains what happens next.
I am, as regular blog readers will know, a strong advocate of measures that improve our roads for people walking, scooting, wheeling and cycling, and hence am also a strong supporter of LTNs. I know that not everyone feels the same way, but quite apart from the pleasant aspects of quieter, more peaceful roads, there is also an important issue of environmental and social justice here too. I honestly believe that over the next few years we will need to make really significant changes to the way that we live in order to adapt our lives to try to limit climate change, and changing how we move around, and adjusting our assumptions about who drives, and when and why on residential roads in London and other cities will be a vital part of that.
That said, I know that any changes to road space will raise concerns and questions, many of those from people who share the aims above but want to make sure that any changes are practical, and work as well as they can. People are often worried about emergency services access, for example, or access for disabled people. These issues are really important, and liaising with emergency services and with disabled residents and organisations is a vital and ongoing part of the work that colleagues in highways are doing as they work on a design. Along with other councillor colleagues, and officers, I’ll try my very best to answer as many queries as I can, to listen to concerns and worries and complaints, to pass on ideas for improvements, to flag up issues that we can resolve, and to generally engage in collaboration so that we can make our roads work together, for everyone, in the best way that we can.
You can see the leaflet that is going out using this link:
There is, needless to say, more information coming out. The next stage will be to share the proposed LTN design: to show where the proposed filters are. As soon as I have information on this I will share it.
In the meantime, there is information about the impact of previous LTNs in the leaflet, or if you’re curious to see an LTN in action, it’s easy to do so: just cross Woodgrange Road into the roads that go west towards Stratford.
PS: I can’t write this post without acknowledging, again, the ongoing disruption caused by the negotiations about refuse collectors’ pay, and the strike. This is, as we expected, meaning that bin collections are of course disrupted as we catch up, but also resulting in less street cleaning, and the ongoing suspension of services like bulky waste collection and Love Clean Streets reporting. I’m really sorry about the inconvenience caused by this, and saddened to see our streets looking less cared for, but also I, and I know many residents too, entirely respect the rights of the refuse workers (and any workers) to strike, and to ask for better pay. I also think that whilst the negotiations go on, it’s important that work continues on all other other areas that the Council works on, and this is part of that.
You may well already be aware that Newham refuse collectors are on strike for a week, from the 27th August to the 3rd September.
This means that rubbish collection, recycling collections, as well as street cleaning, and other waste related services are all disrupted, both during the strike and also afterwards as the service catches up and gets back to normal.
The very best way to manage, if possible, is to reduce as much as possible the amount of waste that your household produces. Colleagues in the waste team have provided a range of information about how to do this, which you can find online here: www.newham.gov.uk/wasteadvice
But if you produce more household waste than you can safely store during the strike, there are a number of drop-off points across the borough that you can take bagged up household rubbish to. There are only a relatively small number of these because in order to create temporary sites, we need to make various arrangements including getting Environment Agency permission.
Temporary drop-off sites
Between Saturday 27 August and Sunday 11 September, residents can take their bagged household rubbish to one of the following Temporary Waste Drop-Off Sites at:
Little Ilford Park Service Area, Reynolds Avenue, E12 6JU
Shaftesbury Road Car Park, 85 Shaftesbury Road, E7 8PD
Church St Car Park in front of shops, 30-46 Church Street, E15 3HU
Freemasons Road / Coolfin Road Car Park in front of shops, 78 Coolfin Rd, E16 3BE
The Temporary Waste Drop-Off Sites are open daily, 7am to 8pm
Jenkins Lane Re-use and Recycling Centre is also open for residents to take their waste to.
Massive congratulations to Sasha, my Forest Gate North councillor colleague, on the arrival of her beautiful baby boy. Am so delighted for her and for all her family.
There is a reason why I am sharing this here, though, which is that with the new ward boundaries, Forest Gate North ward is now a smaller, two-councillor ward.
In practical terms, that means that for the next couple of months at least, whilst Sasha recovers, and takes some time to get to know her new arrival, it’s just me keeping things ticking over as the lone Forest Gate North councillor.
No need to feel sorry for me – I am very fortunate to be surrounded by good friends and colleagues, and various people including the Mayor have kindly offered to be on standby to help pick things up, so I am confident that things won’t be missed or dropped, and the ward and residents won’t suffer.
But in the meantime, please do bear with me as I try to balance a combination of being on my own, and the summer holidays. As always, the best and most reliable way to contact me is by email. It might take me a little longer than I’d like to get back to you, but I will get back to you and will help whenever I can. My email address is email@example.com
I hope that you’re all having a lovely summer, and appreciating today’s light rain as much as I did.
The new round of community assemblies has started, with our first Forest Gate and Maryland community assembly held last week.
If you aren’t familiar with this work in Newham, where local residents can vote to allocate money to projects created and run by their neighbours, and local voluntary organisations, you can find out more about it in this video here:
All the official information about the process, including forms and guidance about how to apply for funding, are on the Newham Co Create platform here:
If you’d like to apply to be a member of the Working Group that oversees the process, or if you’re thinking of applying with a project but have some questions, you can email the staff at the Gate library on CN.ForestGate@newham.gov.uk
This year, you can also attend a project clinic to learn more about applying for funding. There are two separate clinics being run, one for individuals, and one for voluntary organisations:
Last year, residents’ votes allocated money towards a range of different projects, from installing planters on Upton Lane, from a raft for nesting birds in Forest Lane Park, to brightly coloured pavement art to signpost families to local playgrounds. You can read about all of the successful projects here: https://newhamco-create.co.uk/en/projects/forest-gate-community-assemblies/8
If you are in Forest Gate North, and you have a project in mind, and would like to discuss it informally, please do drop me a line. The staff at the Gate are the experts in terms of the process, but if I can help then I will very happily do so. My email, as ever, is firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s now May the 17th and I feel like I am only now emerging properly from the post-election haze and back into something like normal life again. The last few weeks before an election are always busy with campaigning but this year’s campaign was particularly short for various reasons.
Campaigning for an election is surprisingly fun. But it’s also very physical work, with lots of walking around, carrying bags of leaflets, and a fair bit of tramping up and down stairs.
So Sasha das Gupta and I were tired but happy by the time it came to the count, the results were announced, and we were re-elected as Labour & Co operative councillors for Forest Gate North.
I’d like to thank everyone who voted for us. Being re-elected is a privilege, and not one that either of us takes for granted. We have knocked on almost every single door in the ward over the past few months and spoken to many people, and we’ll keep on doing so during our term of four years. Big thanks also to those local Labour members who helped with campaigning, to our opponents, to the Council officers who worked hard to make the election work, including counting all those votes, and especially to all the residents who offered support and encouragement.
In the meantime, there is plenty to do. The problems with recycling collections seem to have abated for the moment, but the situation with so many missed collections was really not up to scratch at all, and is being taken extremely serious by everyone. Turn out was low across Newham (and elsewhere) and we need to keep on working hard to show how important local government is, and to encourage people to have their voices heard.
It is a smaller ward this time, with part of the old Forest Gate North having been carved off to create the new ward of Maryland. So we are now a two councillor ward, shortly to briefly be a one councillor ward when Sasha takes some time away from the role to adjust to another new role, of being a mother! During this time I’ll post online about who is available and when, and will draw on support from colleagues as needed to make sure residents aren’t left without representation.
This map shows the new ward and its boundaries. Some of you reading this may see that you were previously part of Forest Gate North but now you are not. If that’s the case then it’s been a pleasure representing you (and you can naturally carry on reading the blog!).
For those still within the reduced ward, I’ll carry on working as hard as I can to promote everything about Forest Gate North that is so brilliant, to improve those things that aren’t, and to help those who need it.
I got this message from the organisers of the Forest Gate Festival. Read on to find out how to get involved, to secure the future of our much loved community festival.
Are you… an organisational talent, a social media whiz, a keen market-goer, a creative mind, entrepreneurial, good with words, or simply someone who loves Forest Gate’s diversity?
We are excited to announce that after a Covid hiatus, the FGF will be back this summer. We are a diverse group of Gaters looking for local volunteers to join in the preparations for Forest Gate’s iconic street festival on Osborne Road. The one thing we have in common: a passion to put on a truly special community day!
To find out more, please join us on the FGF OPEN DAY:
Date: Saturday 12 March Time: 11.00-12.00 Venue: The Gate (FG Library)
As with so many other issues, street cleaning can feel a bit incendiary, so part of me hesitates to post this. But here goes…
I had a couple of weeks where I had a small flurry of emails from residents concerned about the appearance of our streets. Not a huge quantity, admittedly. And emails about this, and all kinds of other issues aren’t exactly uncommon. But getting emails from different people (who I don’t think know each other) with a set of overlapping concerns but primarily about street sweeping, raised a bit of a red flag for me.
When I get an email request from a resident, the ‘standard’ way to deal with it is to send it in to a Council service called Members’ Enquiries. This lucky team acts as a central conduit for all the questions, queries, complaints and ideas that come via Councillors and via our MPs, they maintain a central system where they are logged, sent on to departments, and actioned or replied to as needed. The usual turnaround time is about 10 working days. I will then send a holding message to the resident, letting them know I’ve sent it, on, and encouraging them to get back to me if I’ve not replied after two weeks so that I can chase it up.
But I had myself also noted more litter on the streets, on the school run, and when out running errands. And this seemed to point to a wider problem, not just a one-off location where something had gone amiss. So rather than just send the queries off separately and wait for a replies, I decided to try to understand a bit more about what might be going wrong.
I got in touch with the Cabinet Member for Environment and Highways, and Director of Highways, as well as various other officers particularly those who work in street cleansing, or road sweeping / litter picking as we might call it.
I went for a ‘walk about’ the ward with an officer whose role is a kind of trouble shooting one, and we visited various roads including those that had been flagged up to me as particularly problematic (in this case, Cranmer Road, Station Road, Sebert Road, Kuhn Way and others), checking on the presence of litter, on fly tips, seeing where weeds had or had not been removed, and generally doing a kind of quality check.
I also found out that, as I had suspected, at the time staff sickness levels were very high, largely due to Covid and the Omicron variant, and the then requirements for isolation. There was some ad hoc agency cover being arranged (which in itself is not ideal, and can result in a lower standard of work as the agency cover employees do not know our streets and routes and systems as well), but also some shifts were left without cover temporarily, which resulted in the litter and inconsistency that we all noticed.
I also got in contact with the Officer who is leading on street cleaning (who I was actually on the interview panel for, who arrived from another borough very experienced and also ambitious to make some improvements) to find out more about some of the additional resource that I had been told was going into street cleaning.
He told me about the following:
The current ‘rounds’ (the routes taken by each member of staff) are not fit for purpose, and we do not have sickness or absence cover which leads to inconsistency. Having brought the three separate companies for street cleaning back in-house, we now have a new Head of Street Scene who is leading a borough wide project to transform the service. This includes using software for the first time to plan the best and most efficient routes. This is going to take around 6 months to implement, and in the meantime we have taken on nearly 50 agency staff on a permanent basis to give more consistency, and also created 3 ‘Newham Tidy Teams’ to do proactive cleansing and enforcement of fly-tips on major roads.
We are currently in the process of finding an external enforcement contractor. This process has been agreed, and the tender will be out in March, and I’m told that we should see a ‘hugely increased litter and fly tipping pro-active service’.
Previously, inspection of streets to see the effectiveness of our cleaning and litter picking was done by a small team of Newham employees. This is quite standard, but also could be described as ‘marking our own homework’. Now we have been using Keep Britain Tidy to inspect and rate our streets and give us a baseline for our current standards, and a robust way of measuring improvement.
I went out around the ward again last week with an officer, to the same locations, and although we did pick up some litter and reported various fly tips, there was a definite and marked improvement in the appearance of the roads.
The officer also told me that she had advised the street cleaners to be particularly assiduous around schools, knowing how high the pedestrian footfall is here, and that the condition of these streets has a particular impact on everyone. I know myself how much more aware I am of litter when I have a small person next to me, and my attention is right down at her level, or when I used to push a buggy, trying to avoid dog mess etc. We also specifically went to and walked along the border between Forest Gate North and Waltham Forest, to pick up some comments one resident made about a perceptible difference when you cross into Newham.
I then (although belatedly) got back to each of the people who’d messaged me, letting them know what I’d done and what is planned.And once I’d done that, I thought I’d write a blog post too, to share the information more generally. So here we are.
Now, I’m not claiming to have solved litter. Absolutely far from it. But I have seen some noticeable improvement. I’ve also become better attuned to whether litter is new or old. Brightly coloured litter, dry and holding its shape, has probably been dropped recently by someone who walked along after the road had been swept. Discoloured, squashed litter, that has been ground into the road, or leaves which are breaking down into mush, or plastic that is cloudy or faded, suggests that the litter has been there for longer, which can point to a road being missed out.
(A quick reminder, which I know is tedious, but it does help: please do report litter on the Love Clean Streets app. Under the ‘street cleansing’ option you can report a wide variety of unpleasant things, including fly posting, litter, blocked gullies, damaged litter bins and more. This all helps to give a picture of the ward, and where problems are occurring, so that officers can try to improve systems to prevent them, as well as physically sending out a team to clean up.
Take care all, especially those with friends and relatives in Ukraine x
This is the blog of Rachel Tripp, a Labour councillor for Forest Gate North in the London Borough of Newham.
First created as a joint blog with colleagues Ellie Robinson and Seyi Akiwowo, Rachel has now taken it over to post updates and information including ward reports, events, meetings, and anything else that might be interesting.
I hope that you find it useful; please get in touch and let me know what you think.