Rachel’s mini ward report

Rachel writes…

For various reasons our usual ‘every-three-months’ ward report cycle to our Labour members has been delayed, so I thought I’d write a quick mini report and post it online before so much time elapses that everything I say is out of date. So this blog post is just to capture a short update on some of the main pieces of local work I’ve been doing lately.

Thorogood Gardens

I’ve blogged about this before, and I’m delighted to report that the work Seyi and I have been doing here has been yielding some great results. The road has now been resurfaced, and the lighting replaced, and old bollards removed. A previously scruffy green space has been transformed into a communal garden, and Seyi and I have worked with Hochtief, the contractors who are working on Maryland station, to get support from them for replacing fence panels in gardens that face onto the cul-de-sac, and money for planting flowers in the communal garden. I’m really delighted that Forest Gate Community Garden are doing this with us, bringing their expertise and enthusiasm to a space that has been a bit unloved. There will also be a  Council ‘Street Connections’ project held in Thorogood Gardens soon, bringing neighbours together to get to know each other through planting, and we’re even hoping to paint some play markings on the tarmac to encourage children to play on what is currently a large unused space. I wrote a community update leaflet for the residents, outlining what feedback they’d given us, what’s been done, and what’s been planned, and Seyi and I hand delivered these and spoke to residents about their feedback, and any further ideas. It feels like a lot has been achieved, which is really rewarding.

Forest Lane Park fun day

I attended this in August with my family, and was so thrilled to see such a great day put on by the staff who work at the Gate library. One of the reasons for holding this event was to, in Council parlance, ‘activate the park’, which is to say bring people to the park, encourage them to explore it, and hopefully thereafter to use it regularly. Forest Lane Park is an incredible gem, with a large green space, a pond, woodland trail, and an outdoor gym as well as the playground (which faces the road so is a little more well known). It does have some problems with some anti-social behaviour, but the more that people use it the less this will occur. Next steps here are to work with the Community Neighbourhood staff and Communications to get some better signage for the park – many people walk past it regularly and do not know it’s there! – and in the longer term to look at establishing a residents’ group or ‘Friends of Forest Lane Park’, starting with the people who live in Magpie Close.

Street cleansing

I’ve had some casework recently about inadequate street sweeping, and am following this up as fast and as firmly as I can. Which isn’t to say I’m slow or shy about casework generally, but that I know street cleansing is really important not just in terms of how our streets look, but how litter encourages more litter, how it affects how we all feel about the area, and how it contributes to everyone’s satisfaction with the Council as a whole. There have been some changes to how street sweeping is delivered – part of my Cabinet role is overseeing the ‘Small Business Programme’ where council services are spun out into smaller, co-operative style businesses in order to do things better, and to protect what we do from privatisation. It is pretty obvious, however, that our starting point has to be that services do in fact become better and not worse, so I’m questioning officers and will visit streets with them to ensure that what I’m told are teething problems are just that, and that we can all see improvements.

Gun crime

I am so saddened to write this part of my report, as I know many residents are too, as we read today that one of the teenage victims of the recent shooting in our ward has died in hospital. My heart goes out to his family at this terrible time. I know that the police have appealed for any information to help them make an arrest, and are working hard both for justice but also to reassure residents and to keep everyone safe. They have met with Council officers to discuss what happens next, which will I hope include some community reassurance work as well as some more combined work on preventing this kind of terrible occurrence. We’ll share more information as we have it.

Forest Gate Community School

I would love to claim credit for this, but I am just sharing it in the spirit of spreading good news – Forest Gate Community School had their best ever GCSE results in English and Maths. This is part of a huge success story in Newham with educational results at all levels rising year on year and in many cases exceeding significantly the national average despite the challenges our schools face. It’s so great to see FGCS thriving, building on their amazing Ofsted result, and going from strength to strength. Great schools for our young people is such an important part of our community, and I’m so grateful for all the work that the team at FGCS have done.

Cemetery Road

I received some feedback about footway parking, which in Forest Gate North is those parking bays on some narrow roads that are partly on the pavement and partly on the road. The resident complained that footway parking can block the pavement, can damage it, should be avoided wherever we can, and particularly objected where it had been introduced in Cemetery Road where he didn’t feel it was necessary… and I have to say I felt he had a point. So between us, Anam, Seyi and I (accompanied by some local Labour members) did some specific door knocking down Cemetery Road to ask residents whether we might remove one or more of the parking bays on the northern side of the road, which appeared to us on all our sessions to be largely empty. I wrote a leaflet for those residents who weren’t in, explaining that we were exploring removing some parking and asking for their views. Feedback from residents was cautiously positive, so the next step is to contact the Cemetery itself to discuss their parking needs, and then depending on how that goes, to contact parking design to ask them to remove a bay or two. Watch this space.

Forest Gate Pride

I was thrilled to help support Forest Gate Pride in July, a fabulous day filled with rainbows, diversity, celebration and love of all kinds. I provided some support to the organisers whilst they were preparing, including putting them in touch with Licensing, reassuring Licensing about the kind of family-friendly event they were planning, supporting their application for funding, and generally encouraging them whenever I could. I was especially pleased when I spoke at an LGBT breakfast to be able to tell Ruth Hunt from Stonewall, who was previously a Forest Gate resident, that we were holding our first pride and that all were welcome.

It was an honour, therefore, to be asked to open proceedings on the day, and I’m happy to report that I diligently followed through my commitment to the event by going out to the evening section of the event and sampling the entertainment (stunning) and the beverages (as ever, very nice) at the Forest Tavern that night.

Woodgrange Road Crossrail works

The Crossrail works have begun around the station, and I’ve been peering in a very geeky way past the pink barriers at the lovely new pavements we are getting. The quality of the materials, I am assured by officers, is really high quality, and the whole project, which you might remember includes planting and bike racks, and more, will make a huge difference to our town centre. There will be some disruption to put up with as it’s done, but if we can grit our teeth and get through that, it will definitely be worth it.

Keep Newham Moving

The Newham-wide Keep Newham Moving programme continues, with work completed on Leonard Road, on Essex Road and Suffolk Road, and now also on Odessa Road. Having received consistent feedback on the poor condition of Sebert Road, I’m delighted to say that this is also now underway, as is Chestnut Avenue, and I mentioned before the resurfacing of Thorogood Gardens. I am however sorry to add that the point I made in my last blog post about this still stands – I still do think there is more that we can do to maximise the impact of the money we are spending here, in terms of making other improvements too like pedestrianising, cycle infrastructure, traffic calming, planting and more. But this is a view that others share, so I am optimistic that with the help of colleagues we can make this happen as well.

Car-free around Godwin School

Along with Frances Clarke (a Forest Gate North resident who is also a councillor in East Ham, and whose remit includes health) I have been in touch with colleagues in highways and with Godwin school to look at making Cranmer Road car-free at school drop-off and pick-ups. Some of you might have read about similar schemes in other boroughs, aimed at encouraging families to walk to school, and to improve the air quality around schools. If we do this, it would be a pilot, to see how it could work, to look at the results, and to get feedback. Discussions are at an early stage, but I am very hopeful that this could be the beginning of more work that encourages other forms of transport as well as contributing to the Mayor of London’s healthy streets policy.

Greening

Always on the look-out for ways to make the ward greener, I recently agreed with officers a plan to introduce some additional planters in front of Emily Duncan House on Woodgrange Road. A resident had complained to me about cars parking on the pavement there which is particularly wide, and it seemed a good chance to create something positive to prevent this from happening. I am even more pleased that Forest Gate Community Garden have agreed to plant and maintain one of the planters there, and am really hoping that this could be the beginning of a number of planters that are adopted by local people and organisations.

I was also reminded via twitter about the ‘energy garden’ scheme that London Overground are doing on some of their stations. We had a meeting to look into doing this at Wanstead Park station, but this was delayed because of the work going on for the electrification of the line. Now that the work is (ok, largely) finished I’ll come back to this and see if it’s still possible, especially as both Forest Gate Arts and the community garden have said they are interested.

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As ever, it seems I have run away with myself, and what I intended to be a super short update has turned into something a bit longer. I will however, end by apologising that the various demands of the summer and my family life at the moment have prohibited me from sharing more fully. This isn’t everything I’ve been doing… but equally, almost none of this is work I’ve done on my own, it’s all in collaboration with my colleagues and officers.

I’m always happy to discuss the work we’re all doing to make the ward a better place. You can always contact me if you have any questions about work already being undertaken, or even better if you have an idea that you’d like to make happen.

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