Welcome to my ward report for September 2018! I write this primarily for Forest Gate North Labour members, as a means of accountability for the work I do. But I also publish these reports here on my blog so that any resident can read more about what I am up to. If any of it isn’t clear or if you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.
You can read more information about the planning applications that were submitted in my blog posts here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/06/20/kuhn-way/and here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/07/12/kuhn-way-proposed-closure-an-update/
I attended the planning committee in order to object to the application, but in fact the application was first deferred and then ultimately withdrawn, which I do thin in the end was the right decision. I’m still in touch with various residents who opposed closing Kuhn Way, and we are looking into whether we could do anything else to make the area more pleasant. I have asked for additional parking enforcement, have requested some bollards or similar to stop cars parking on the pavement more permanently, and a resident has requested signs showing the name of the road and also indicating its historical name which was Parliament Place.
Emily Duncan Place
Emily Duncan Place is the residential development near Wanstead Park station, and when it was built it was designated ‘car free’ meaning that residents there are not able to apply for residents’ parking permits. Some time ago I was contacted by a group of residents who wanted to express their distress at this, particularly as many of them owned cars, and prior to the RPZ coming into force they had (as directed by their housing association, or by the developer who sold them their flat) simply parked in the surrounding streets. They feel very misled as they maintain they were not told the development was car-free.
Most recently I organised a joint meeting between One Housing, Apna Ghar Housing Association, and the residents, to talk about this, and to explore anything we could do that might help. One Housing went away and are looking at the allocation of the parking spaces inside the development, but ultimately this is a very tricky area of casework which I am not very optimistic about resolving to the residents’ satisfaction: the development is car-free as part of the condition of it being built, and this should have been made clear to them before they moved in, but it seems clear that it wasn’t.
Many members will have seen already on social media that this week we received the news that the Crossrail works are over-running and will not be complete for a further 9 months. This is particularly galling as our branch of Crossrail won’t open until ‘as soon as possible’ after that. The message received from TfL is that this is concerning safety and testing works, but what it frustrating is to have heard so late on in the process. Which brings me on nicely to…
Forest Gate station
Throughout the past two years I have periodically been in touch with both Network Rail, and with Transport for London, regarding the work happening inside Forest Gate Station, including the now infamous temporary staircase. At one stage this relationship seemed very positive, and indeed you might remember I wrote up some notes of a very helpful meeting on my blog (https://forestgatenorth.com/2017/03/07/forest-gate-station/ ) however, since a change in personnel it’s been harder to get information. Most recently I have joined up with councillors from Forest Gate South to demand more information from Network Rail as we feel it’s entirely unacceptable that the works have been allowed to go on for so long without consistent information to residents about progress and the reasons for delays. We have asked for a meeting, and I am still asking for Network Rail to hold a Q and A session so residents can find out more themselves. I will let you know how I get on.
Forest Gate public realm works
These are progressing but have been taking longer than anyone wanted. This is largely because we had to suspend work after some organisational problems and appoint an external contractor. At the moment the market, Fred’s and Number8 are all extremely disappointed that the market moved to make way for marketplace works, which haven’t yet started. I am chasing this up with officers and will make sure that we do better at communicating with them. Eventually the completed works will have all kinds of benefits including the cycle hangar storage for the market gazebos, and power sockets for market stalls, but we have to make this interim period work, too, and we haven’t done as well there as we might have done.
Another live issue in the marketplace concerns whether to fit some kind of bin, and also the slightly vexed question of a bench. Regarding the former, I had a long discussion with officers from Highways and also from Waste, and also with a particularly engaged and frustrated resident about the perpetual domestic waste from the flats on the marketplace, and whether this might be rather better dealt with by some kind of structure to house a large bin. The difficulty to try to resolve here is that we know from experience elsewhere that bins are not necessarily a panacea but do attract waste. In the end, the strong advice from waste management colleagues was that any kind of bin or housing or similar would itself attract more and more fly tipping, and that once a problem like that had been created it was very hard to then solve. There is an ongoing issue about the domestic waste from flats around the marketplace (which some of you may remember me blogging about some time ago here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/09/19/site-visit-to-tackle-fly-tipping/ and here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/10/17/fly-tipping-update/ ) Our local enforcement officer Rikki has done various visits and letter drops there but this hasn’t as yet had a long-term effect. Now, colleagues in waste are going to include the homes at the beginning of Sebert Road in the timed waste collections from the main road – which I admit I always thought they were part of but apparently not – and we’re going to monitor that and see if we can make an improvement.
The other issue is whether to include a bench as part of the improvements going on; the plan currently includes a tree in the middle of the marketplace with a circular bench around it. I have received a letter from the local ward panel (on which more later) asking me to intervene to stop this because of fears about street drinking and anti-social behaviour. I have to admit I’m entirely torn on this issue. The idea of a bench so that people can linger at the market, eating lunch there, is obviously attractive. But equally the prospect of ‘building in’ anti-social behaviour is not an appealing prospect either. I’m going back to officers to ask for their advice, but would welcome any thoughts or input at this stage about whether we might be able to square this circle.
The commencement of the public realm work at Maryland station has also been delayed. Frustratingly this is entirely because of delays by the company who are refurbishing the station, who despite regular meetings and updates failed to let us know at LBN that they were delayed. However, officers have compressed the time so the finish date remains unchanged. Once finished, this will mean replaced paving around Maryland, more planting, increased pavement size (with the potential for a community market to take place there if residents wished to create one), and bicycle parking.
Forest Gayte Pride
This fabulous celebration of love in all its forms took place in July and I was so pleased to help support it, not just through the usual support and advice and information and publicity but also this year by arranging for our first ever rainbow pedestrian crossing in Forest Gate. The crossing was hugely successful , and was heavily used not only by a steady stream of people photographing it for social media but also by the first parade, which started with a family picnic in the Community Garden, and then processed to and from the marketplace.
Maryland residents’ association
I attended a Maryland residents’ association meeting along with colleagues from Stratford and Forest Gate South, and we had a packed agenda covering a wide range of issues. Particular things that I took away were strong concern from some of those present about the impact of the proposed MSG Sphere (currently plans for this are being developed and will be submitted to the LLDC for planning permission, which I sit on), issues that fall on ward and borough boundaries which we need to get better at picking up, a whole series of seemingly unloved and disregarded Newham car parks (these are primarily housing areas of land, so John Gray and I are looking at them in our cabinet roles), and also concerns about existing trees and requests for additional planting.
I was contacted some time ago by Hedwig who wanted to set up a Scandinavian café in one of the railway arches of Cranmer Road. One of the hurdles she had to navigate was applying for a change of use application from the Council, from a record shop to a café. I wanted to help make this as straightforward as I could, so spoke to the planning team to understand the planning policy in the railway arches, spoke with her about the aspects of the application that might be important, made my own comment in support, and also encouraged local residents to log on and comment on the application online. As I write, the application hasn’t yet been determined but there are 12 comments from residents in support which is a relatively high number compared to other similar applications.
Safer Neighbourhood Team meetings
I have been attending Safer Neighbourhood Team ward panel meetings. These are meetings of local residents that are held by our local officers, in which they discuss and agree local priorities for the police. Attending these has been a really helpful way of maintaining good relationships and communication with our (excellent) local police team, hearing directly from residents about their concerns on crime, and linking people up with the Council where necessary, particularly around where crime and ASB are interlinked.
Crime and ASB
After a series of comments and concerns from Maryland residents via their facebook page, I am arranging for Unmesh Desai, one of our GLA members, to attend a meeting of theirs. Residents reported that there crime including drug taking and prostitution taking place on their roads, and that reports to the police had not helped. Unmesh has offered to pull together data on crime so that the residents can campaign for more resources.
Cycle hangar requests
I don’t know whether it has been prompted by the warm weather, or chitchat, or a shift in transport behaviour… but I have definitely seen a noticeable increase in the numbers of residents requesting cycle hangars, especially in Forest Gate North. Currently you can request a hangar, and then you go onto a waiting list until there is a consultation where Newham writes to you and your neighbours to see if there are objections to installing one. (We do listen to residents’ concerns, but are also mindful that each hangar takes up only one car parking space, but allows room for six bicycles, which not only encourage more activity but also don’t contribute to pollution.)
What I think we’re missing at the moment is clearer information for residents after they have requested a hangar, and before they are installed. I have requested one myself, so speak with experience when I say that after you submit your request it all goes a bit quiet and it’s very unclear whether you might get one or not. I’m talking to officers so that we can be up front about the number of hangars we have the funds for, the number requested, and the likely waiting times, to help manage expectations. If you want to read more about cycle hangars, or to request one yourself, please see more information here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/06/27/cycle-parking/
This report represents most of what I’ve been doing. I don’t go into individual pieces of casework (as these are confidential) but I continue to pursue these. At the moment Members’ Enquiries (the officers who deal with casework and route it correctly around the Council) is suffering from a lack of resources. This does mean sometimes that casework from residents is taking longer than I would like, but they are recruiting additional officers and should be able to get back to better levels of service.
I’m always very happy to answer questions about what I do – although I should caveat that by saying it’s taking me a while to reply to emails now that I am on the cabinet. But I do reply! I am contactable via various channels on social media, but if you want to flag something to me officially and want to be sure I will see it, and refer it on to the right people, then please use my email address: Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org