The MSG sphere planning application

Edited 4/6/19 at 10am to add times and link for the events.

I have had some individual emails from residents about the MSG sphere planning application, and receiving the email below about public consultation made me think that a blog post on it might be useful.

So firstly, some basics. MSG (Madison Square Garden Company) have been preparing and have now submitted a planning application to build an enormous spherical venue on a piece of land close to Westfield shopping centre. You can easily find articles about it and some images if you google ‘MSG sphere london’. The land it is on falls under the London Legacy Development Committee for planning purposes – a planning body responsible for development of buildings and outdoor spaces in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic park. The LLDC area covers several boroughs, including Newham, and the planning committee that determines the applications is made up of members from each borough, plus some independent members with relevant expertise.

The first thing to say is that there has been opposition to this application, and the emails I have received from residents have all been from people expressing this, in different ways. I have replied to them to, and thought I’d say here, that I am purposefully not taking a personal ‘position’ on this application, because I’m an alternate member of the LLDC committee. In effect, I’m a substitute, so if either of our Newham members can’t attend any meeting, then I can attend and ensure Newham has both its vote. From a planning perspective, it is very important that planning committee members arrive with an open mind, and haven’t in effect made up their mind beforehand. It’s vital to consider the evidence presented on the night, and to balance how far the application complies with the policies, and whether the benefits a development offers outweigh the disbenefits. Apologies if this sounds mealy-mouthed, but it is really important and the legal necessity of keeping an open mind has been drummed into us all very consistently by planning officers!

If you want to know more about the MSG sphere application, the LLDC is holding some public engagement events, details of which are below. It’s important to note that these are not being run by MSG who are applying for planning permission, but by the LLDC who will determine the application. MSG have already run some consultation events. So my personal view is that if you are really interested in or affected by this application and have already been to an MSG event, it would still be worth your while attending.

But that said, in terms of having your views really heard, I personally think there is no substitute for emailing in your comments, in your own words, whether they are supportive or objecting. Information about how to respond to the LLDC is here: And the online information about the application itself is here:

This is the email I and other Newham councillors ‘local’ to the planning application received:

Dear Cllrs,

As some of you will know, the LLDC Planning Policy and Decisions Team has received a planning application for a large-scale live music and entertainment venue. The proposed venue, the ‘MSG sphere’, would include a music club, nightclub, members lounge, restaurants, bars and create new bridges and pedestrian connections across the site.

It is a complex scheme with the potential for significant effects and so as part of the planning process we have written to local residents and invited them to engage in public consultation events. The idea behind the events to provide information on the proposal, an opportunity comment and to help them have their say.

As a local ward councillor, I wanted to extend the invitation, should you be available to attend. Please feel free to share the details below with your constituents or anyone you know that might be interested.

The events we have programmed are as follows:

• 4 June 2019 at University East London 4 – 5.30pm
• 5 June 2019 at St Paul and St James Church, 65 Maryland Road, E15 1JL 4 – 8.30pm
• 10 June 2019 at St John’s Church, Broadway, London, E15 1NG 5 – 8.30pm

If you need further information, please let me contact me or the planning team at:

Information about the events, including directions, format and more, is also available on this webpage:

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Begone, footbridge!

I just heard from Network Rail that the ‘temporary scaffolding bridge’ (note my heavy inverted commas here. Temporary in what sense, you might wonder, after around 2 years?) will finally be removed from our station.

This does mean some disruption, including some noise and some road closures, but I hope it will be worth it to take away something that has been such an eyesore, as well as such a pain to everyone using the station.

A letter has been distributed to local residents, and I’m posting a copy of it here in case anyone else would like to see it. This is Network Rail’s works, so if you have any questions about it, it’s probably best to ask them. Click the link below to see a pdf of the letter.

Big thanks to my colleagues Mas Patel and Lyn Brown who led the charge to grill Network Rail in very strong terms about the delays and disruption we have all suffered, especially those who are mobility impaired. The lifts are now working, and the main entrance is open too. So we are getting there….

Residents letter Forest Gate Temp Bridge Removal

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Public realm work in Maryland 2019

Just a quick post to share a very useful leaflet that I was sent, re: the Crossrail public realm works that are shortly beginning in Maryland. Click on the picture, or on the link below, to read the full leaflet which includes an overview of the work, and (importantly, in case of disruption, or questions) contact details for the contractor.


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Quietway work on Capel Road

Just a quick heads-up post to let you know that some work on the junctions of Capel Road, Woodford Road and Chestnut Avenue that was put on the back burner for a while is now due to be completed.

You might remember about 3 or 4 years ago we had the first round of consultations on the ‘Quietway’ route that runs through Forest Gate North ward. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until I ventured off on a Santander Bike one afternoon to take a Quietway tour from Bloomsbury to the Olympic Park that I really finally got my head around what they offer. I had previously envisaged lots of separate cycle lanes (and indeed there is an argument that segregated cycling routes are the best option for encouraging cycling, and some quite lively debate about the value of Quietways) but as we cycled along roads and across junctions, some of them really quite central, but all of them peaceful or clearly signed, I realised that the key is in the name: The Quietways are intended to be a quiet network of routes to get across London from different places, where the roads taken are peaceful ones that avoid the busy routes; whenever there is a crossing with a main road, this is clearly signed and guided. The guide who took us on the tour said, “In effect, whenever you hear traffic, start looking for the signs to tell you how to get across the junction.” In many cases there are marked out cycleways on the pavement for a short way, a cycle crossing, then the route takes you back onto another quiet road.

Which brings me to Quietway 6, which I had not realised has been unfinished, and therefore un-signposted, because of a crucial missing bit of the route, at the junction of Capel Road and Woodford Road, up to the junction with Chestnut Avenue. In fact, slightly embarrassingly, when I met with Will Norman who is in charge of cycling and walking for Transport for London, in my cabinet role for transport across Newham, he told me that Quietway 6 was unfinished, and asked me, “Do you know Capel Road?” and I was forced to say, “Um… yes I do actually. A bit.” And he basically pointed out, very pleasantly, that this Quietway runs from Victoria Park to Barkingside, apart from a bit that we didn’t complete, which I realised is not only in my borough but in my ward.

We consulted on the changes to this part of the Quietway some time ago, and have adapted the scheme to take on board comments. In particular, the scheme now includes a pedestrian crossing that will help the children from Chestnut Nursery (among others) cross the road safely onto Wanstead Flats. It also includes a cycle way on the road on the western part of Capel Road, after we found quite definitely from the Corporation of London that routing cyclists onto the southern side of the Flats really wasn’t something that was going to happen. This does involve sacrificing some parking spaces. I believe that the ones being lost are those that haven’t been in use recently because they’ve been storing materials for the Forest Gate public realm works, which does perhaps make it a little better, although I know that some residents have been waiting impatiently for the return of those spaces, and for this I am sorry.

What I particularly wanted to flag up was that we’ve also managed to include some elements that we hope will help to ‘design out’ some of the issues of ASB and dangerous driving that happen periodically on the junction of ‘big Chestnut’ and Capel Roads. Even if residents didn’t keep me informed, you can see all too clearly scrawled upon the tarmac the evidence of drivers doing ‘doughnuts’ in the road, which is hugely dangerous and causes disturbance to neighbours. The widening of the pavements will not only slow down traffic to make it safer for people on bikes, but will also narrow what is currently a large wide section of road making doughnutting, at least, impossible.

The last thing to flag up is the road humps on Capel Road need replacing. I have to admit I am a little sad about this, as listening to speeding cars hitting the bottom of their vehicles on these humps is one of my guilty pleasures. However, I am told that these humps do not meet current standards for speed bumps, and that renders the Council liable for damages to cars, so out they all go.

I have linked below the letter that is going out to the immediate residents in the next few days, along with the plan of the work that will be undertaken. As always, if you have any questions, please do drop me a line. I’m on twitter and facebook but the most reliable way to get hold of me is to email me on

S35 Capel Road notification letter final

Quietway Capel Woodford Chestnut diagram

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Ward report September 2018

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.

Kuhn Way
You can read more information about the planning applications that were submitted in my blog posts here: here:
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.

Crossrail delays
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 ( ) 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:  and here:  ) 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.

Maryland station
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:

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:

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Café Tromso – support a local business

Some of you might know that Tromso has just opened up in one of the railway arches that runs between Chestnut Avenue and Cranmer Road, joining such Forest Gate favourites as the Space East, MBox and Tracks.

They are applying for a change of use, from a record shop to a bakery and café. They’ve put in an application for this change of use to the planning department at Newham, and this is a process that anyone can comment on. If you’d like to support a new local business, and would also like to comment to support them, please do so. The application reference number is 18/01905/FUL and the planning portal is here:

You can obviously write anything you’d like in support (I hear that cinnamon rolls are in and of themselves not material to planning, otherwise my entire comment in support would have been a paean to these small twists of deliciousness) but I have included my comment below, in case it’s useful or provides any ideas.


As one of the councillors for Forest Gate North ward, I am pleased to  support this application for change of use for Tromso.

This railway arch forms part of a row of arches that run between Cranmer Road and Chestnut Avenue. Until relatively recently they were something of an eyesore, either empty and hence littered and fly tipped, or occupied by businesses that clogged up the space with vehicles, and were sometimes noisy and caused disturbance.

Since these arches have begun to be occupied by small local businesses, using the small spaces imaginatively to test out business concepts, the look and feel of the arches has changed beyond recognition, and I am sure that Tromso will add to that. What was effectively a yard with an industrial feel is now a pleasant place to walk alongside businesses that include a boxing studio, a yoga studio, and now proposes to include a bakery and café.

They have already engaged positively with local people via social media, and have gained significant good feeling from local residents who are keen to see another high quality small local business. The owners have been in touch with me to emphasise their commitment to the local community, to local people, and to being good neighbours and good employers, and I am very happy to support this.

I am pleased to see good employment opportunities at London Living Wage exist so locally, particularly with the opportunity for employees to develop skills in breadmaking and baking, and feel sure that although small scale (as befits a small space) this will add to the area as well. I was also reassured to see the commitment in their application to responsible disposal of waste.

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Corporation of London update on Wanstead flats fire

Councillors received the following update about the fire on Wanstead Flats. I’ve posted it on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well so that as many people can see it as possible. I am sure lots of you share my feelings of sadness at the extent of the fire, and gratefulness for all the work of the fire service, the police and others, and a renewed sense of appreciation and affection for this enormous green space we are lucky enough to have access to.

‘I am pleased to report that the status of the Fire Incident at Wanstead Flats has been downgraded from a Major Protracted Incident to an Incident under Control.

The fire has burned at three locations:
• the triangle of land between Lakehouse and Centre Roads on the west of the Flats down as far as the events area and Jubilee Pond (designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest)
• land east of Centre Road as far as ‘The Dell’ adjacent to Aldersbrook Road
• the centre of the Flats behind the Aldersbrook Road sports pavilion

The first 2 burn sites comprise 40 acres, rather than the 90-100 acres mentioned in the press.  The third site has not been mapped due to a fire exclusion zone.

The London Fire Brigade; Metropolitan Police Service; Transport for London and the City of London Corporation has been working closely from Command Unit 3 at Blake Hall Road since the outbreak of the fire on Sunday afternoon.

From the height of the fire which was attended by 50 tenders and 225 firefighters LFB attendance at the Flats has been progressively scaled back.

Today work across day 3 has centred on cooling down remaining ‘hotspots’ and extinguishing small fires that are still burning in SSSI.

Last night’s ‘fire watch’ of 8 tenders was upgraded to 12 tenders during day 3.

Further helicopter overflights this morning with thermal imagery cameras has confirmed that hotspots continue to ‘burn’ beneath soil on the SSSI site and immediately north of the Model Flying Club site.

The City Corporation contract partner G Matthews & Son has provided a subsoiler and power harrow to break the baked surface of the soil pan that has prevented effective dampening down by LFB hoses.  The machinery has broken the soil pan down to 10 inches, with the power harrow providing restoring levels with a fine tilth.   The cultivated surface has dramatically improved infiltration by water from hoses and bowsers.  The key fire sites have been effectively ‘moated’ to prevent the further spread of fire.

The LFB has declared at 14.00 hours today that the fire sites east of Centre Road are now free from fire and provided certification to allow the City to take back control of the land.

With emergency consent provided by Natural England for Operations Likely to Damage Site (OLDS) an Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which form much of the west flank of the Flats, two limited interventions where undertaken to cool down two hotspots on the SSSI site between Lakehouse and Centre Roads.  Birdwatching volunteers have reported that skylarks and meadow pipits continue to sing in territories close to the burn sites.

The Environment Agency have also been on site to confirm that no potentially polluted run-off from the fire-fighting had found its way into Alexandra Lake & Jubilee Pond.

A further afternoon helicopter overflight has confirmed marked reduction in hotspot temperatures.

Alexandra Lake has been filled from hydrants to act as a reservoir to feed the temporary surface water ring main surrounding the Flats which has supplied the fire tenders.  The ring main is now being dismantled and the Lake is being filled overnight courtesy of Thames Water above previously low levels.

Aldersbrook and Lake House Roads are being reopened to traffic this evening.

This has been a fantastic and highly professional response by LFB and METPol to a major incident.  The cause of the fire is unknown and is being investigated by the LFB investigation unit supported by METPol.

The next  Tactical Coordinating Group meeting is tomorrow morning and we hope that the remaining fire site can be handed back at 12 noon.

Epping Forest’s Twitter feed has regular updates.
Paul Thomson
Superintendent of Epping Forest
City of London Corporation, Open Spaces – Epping Forest’

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