Housing repairs

I receive a large amount of casework relating to repairs to Newham-owned and managed Council homes, as well as repairs and maintenance by Newham-owned but Housing Association managed properties. When I got the following update from the Cabinet lead for Housing, Shaban Mohammed, I thought it was worth posting here to share the details for reporting.

I know that repairs is something that we need to do better at, and also that this is something Shabs and his team are working hard at improving. This ongoing work wasn’t helped by the need to stop non-essential work at various points because of Covid restrictions.

Reintroducing online reporting seems like a good step in the right direction. If you are a Council tenant, and you have reported your repairs online but things get stuck, or you need some help, don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Shaban said, ‘I’m pleased to inform you that the Council has resumed our full housing repairs and maintenance service. This means we are now carrying out general repairs, as well as continuing with emergency and essential repairs.

We’re also reintroducing an online reporting form, which will make it a lot easier for people to report routine repairs at a time that’s more convenient to them. The form, which is available on the Council’s website means that tenants can report repairs at any time of the day 365 days of the year. The housing team will be promoting it widely over the coming weeks and months.  

Emergency repairs should continue to be reported to the Repairs Call Centre on 0800 952 5555, which will be operating extended hours until Saturday 22 May 2022.

We have also set up a dedicated specialist team to arrange and complete all non-emergency covid-19 legacy repairs reported to us between July 2020 and March 2021 that were placed on hold due to the pandemic restrictions.  

Starting this week, the Covid-19 Legacy Repairs Team, began contacting tenants with outstanding repairs from that time. We expect to be able to complete all outstanding jobs over the coming months, and tenants will be offered an appointment date at first contact.  The legacy work will be managed separately to the general and emergency repairs programme.’

I hope that this information is helpful – do pass on to friends or neighbours whether they are in Forest Gate North or elsewhere in Newham.

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Street trees and greening

Pavement with newly planted tree.

I have had an increasing number of queries recently about trees, and specifically about street trees. I think there are probably a few reasons for this. The first being that in general Forest Gate residents do love greening, and trees (although see my caveat at the end of this post!). Another being an overall increased concern about the environment, and about air quality, and an interest in creating pleasant streets that are nice places to be in. I was particularly interested to read online last year some information about how important street trees are for their cooling effect on our increasingly hot city streets, and how much more tree-lined – and thereby cooler – your street is likely to be if you live in a more affluent part of London.

I think another reason for the sudden burgeoning interest is that to be honest, our street trees in Newham have been neglected for some considerable time. Now we have brought our Greenspace function back in house, we have employed specific people to look after the trees, and work on pollarding, pruning, and removing dead trees is being done. This is work that was not done at all for a long time. The visual effect of this necessary work can be a bit brutal and even a bit shocking, hence some of the enquiries I’ve had.

I didn’t want to be just reactive, sending off details one by one, so I tried to step back a bit and think about what more I could do across the ward to help. So I contacted the relevant officers, and James Asser who is the cabinet lead for this area, to flag up how keen Forest Gate North residents are for more street trees. I also, in pre-Covid times, had a coffee with the Tree Officer to understand more about his role, and how I could support it.

I then had an exploratory bike ride across the ward, specifically looking out for roads that had no street trees where there might be space for some. I should emphasise that this was rather speculative! I wasn’t placing orders for trees, more thinking that if I could identify potential places now, then it would be useful for us to have this information to hand, in case funding or the possibility of funding was identified later on.

I also did a quick call-out on twitter asking residents to send me details of empty tree pits. That is, not spaces on the pavement where a tree theoretically might go, but an empty hole or square in the pavement where a tree clearly WAS, but is no longer. I had a useful tip from officers, which is obvious when you think about it, that it’s much easier to fill empty tree pits as there will be no utilities / pipework / electrics in that space to worry about, which is a significant barrier to planting new trees.

The reason for all this rambling was to share that after collecting together a list of empty tree pits, I then got an update back from officers and James, letting me know what was happening at each of them, and I thought I’d share that here. I think some of these have actually been planted in the time between my getting this update and publishing the post. Do let me know if so, and if you’re on twitter please take a picture and tag me in it, as I’d love to have updates.

Empty tree pits

Between 86/88 Maryland Square – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks

94/92 Maryland Square – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks

Cnr Maryland Sq and Maryland Pk nr At Francis School – Already on this year’s list as well as 4 others in Mary. Sq.

Corner of Maryland Sq and Maryland Pk – Already on this year’s list

10 Albert Square – Already on this year’s list

40 Forest Lane – Already on this year’s list

100 Hatfield Road – Added to list for planting

102 Gurney Road – Added to list for planting.

Dimond Close, E7 (stow.dared.slurs)   This is housing land and no budget allocated yet for planting

93 Buxton Road  – Already on this year’s list

40 St James Road  – Already on this year’s list                       

Side of 75 Godwin – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks

6 Barwick Road   – Added to list for planting in next 2-3 weeks

Just a couple of things to add to this. First is that not everyone likes trees. I have in the past had some casework from residents annoyed about sap or leaves falling on their cars or gardens. I’ve had much more from people wanting more trees, but this is just worth knowing. It’s not possible to please everyone.

Also that at the moment there isn’t really a good system to flag missing or damaged trees. I know that we want to create one. But in the meantime, if you see an empty tree pit that is not on this list, please email me on rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk and include the road, the house number nearest to it, and if possible the three words that describe the location exactly on the rather brilliant what 3 words app / site.

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What helps, what gets in the way of being able to self-isolate?

A few weeks ago now in one of our councillor briefings we heard from our Public Health team about a really fascinating piece of research they’d commissioned, looking at the issue of self-isolation. I was stunned to read in the news a while back about the relatively small proportion of people who actually self-isolate when told that they should, and was interested and concerned to learn more about the reasons behind this, particularly the ones specific to Newham.

I thought I’d share the presentation we were given here, as I thought some Forest Gate North residents might also be interested, both to know about the evidence-based and thoughtful way that the Council and Public Health are approaching this issue, and also to see some of the results.

You can read the entire presentation here.

The main thing that struck me after seeing it was how uncertainty about employment is such an issue. The quotation from the participant who was told they had to self-isolate but was told by their employer that they could not perhaps should not be surprising, but I found it very shocking.

‘I said, any chance I can get 14 days leave or like self-isolation. They said no, as long as you don’t have any symptoms and said, I can’t lie to them if I don’t develop any symptoms. I can’t lie that I developed symptoms since I didn’t have anything.’

I also feel, as I know others will, that the structural barriers that prevent people from isolating (caring responsibilities, not knowing how to get food, fearing for their employment, etc) are a stark contrast with the government messages (‘look into their eyes’ etc) which are focussed on individuals and blaming them. I can’t help feeling angry, actually, reading this information, about how the inequalities in our economy have always had a terrible impact on people on low incomes, but even now – even now as they are having an impact on our inability to control Coronavirus, the messages and the approach from the government are still about blaming people rather than making society more equal.

But, as I often say: here we are. Local Labour party members are working at the moment in preparation for the London Mayoral elections. Currently the only activity we can do is calling people, which I’m not going to pretend is anything other than quite hard work! But we want to do everything we can to win elections, and to get the Tories out of government which I think is the only way we are going to make real and lasting improvements and make the UK more fair and equal.

I didn’t start typing thinking that I would be writing a short political polemic! I hope that you find the research interesting. If you have more questions about it, I can’t necessarily answer them myself, but I may be able to find out for you.

Take care all, and stay well.

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More low traffic neighbourhoods

A quick update from me on some non-Forest Gate North news: more low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) being introduced in Newham. I sent this update out to a list that I keep of people who are particularly interested in active travel and healthy streets. If you’d like to be included in this list and get occasional updates from me, please do drop me a line on rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk. If you can include the road you live on, and anything you’re particularly interested in (eg: disabled people and accessibility, walking to school, cleaner air, greening, etc.) then so much the better, but that’s not essential.

New LTNs
Newham has begun consulting on three new areas of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. These are:

  • Area 3: Manbey
  • Area 4: Atherton and
  • Area 7: Stratford Park

The image below shows the existing and the new areas, and how they fit together. Taken together, these adjoining LTNs have the potential to make a really enormous and hugely beneficial effect on the whole of the north of the borough. Although my role is obviously a Forest Gate one, it’s my sincere hope that by demonstrating the impact of active travel and healthy streets here, we will be able to get the impetus to do some more ambitious schemes elsewhere in the borough too.

Map showing LTNs, existing and proposed, across Newham

More information
You can see the online consultation here: https://consultprojectcentre.co.uk/ournewhamstreets

And there is a press release from Newham which gives an overview here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/news/article/593/consultation-begins-on-traffic-schemes-to-create-people-friendly-newham-streets

Although all of these are outside my ward of Forest Gate North, I know that ward residents will use those areas, and I wanted to encourage you to go online and record any thoughts that you have, both before and after installation.

I am not certain of when the filters will go into these new locations but I’ll share information as and when I have it. As before, I suspect that there will be a period of some concern and questions around installation, and then as we’ve seen with other LTNs both inside and outside Newham, the initial worries subside somewhat, and we can then start seeing what the impact is. As with our first LTNs, I expect that changes will be made as comments are made, and the design may well be improved.

Like I say, I don’t have a formal role with these areas but as a kind of self-appointed active travel champion I’ll be doing my best to keep abreast of what’s happening, and will in turn keep you informed.

What about areas 5 & 6?
I am eagerly awaiting information on areas 5 and 6, and will share that as soon as I have it.

And finally
A quick note of apology also to anyone who is waiting for an email reply from me – I am finding time to work is a nightmare (as it is for many of us!) whilst the schools are closed. I’m doing my best, and am so sorry for any delays. Big thanks to all those in the Council who are working so hard to make our streets quieter, cleaner, and safer, including James Asser and Nilufa Jahan, and of course  the officers too.

Take care and stay well.

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Councillor report February 2021

Hello to all those reading this, and I hope you’re all keeping well and safe. This is my latest ward report, which as ever I’ll begin by explaining that I write as a means of accountability to those Labour members in Forest Gate North ward who chose me as one of their councillor candidates for the Labour party, to stand for election. I also publish this report on my councillor blog (which is where you are now – hello!), so all residents of Forest Gate North, or indeed anyone else interested in the minutiae of what I do, can read it.



I wanted to start with some Covid information. I’m signed up as a Health Champion, and would heartily recommend that anyone else interested in receiving and sharing up to date, evidence-based information in easy to digest and simple bite size pieces should also consider doing so.

The most recent information on the virus in Newham is encouraging: numbers are falling which shows that the efforts everyone is making are working. But sadly we can’t relax any of our precautions: numbers are going down, but started at an extremely high level. This means yet more staying at home, hand washing, keeping our distance, and all the other things we’re doing to help keep those around us safe.

Vaccination continues apace: all over 80s should now have been contacted and invited for a vaccine, and over 70s should have started to be invited last week, along with people who are extremely clinically vulnerable. If you are invited for a vaccination, please do take this up. There is lots of information about the vaccine available (as well as lots of misinformation, sadly). Newham is also recruiting vaccine peer supporters who can help talk to people about getting vaccinated and allay any concerns they have.

Low traffic neighbourhood

I am pleased to say that the feedback about this is increasingly good although it’s still a topic that raises strong feelings. I even got an email from someone who said they had been concerned initially, but were now feeling more positive having seen the impact at first hand.

The enforcement cameras have now been installed, which is great news – not because of issuing tickets, but because the past few months have shown that although clear signage showing a road is closed to cars does reduce the flow of vehicles substantially, actually only a physical barrier or a fine will stop cars from ignoring the restriction and ‘just nipping through’. I was particularly pleased to see the cameras installed at the Odessa Road filter, where one resident was concerned that a reduced number of vehicles was resulting in more speeding and making the road less safe, and also at Wooder Gardens, where the number of cars going through this tiny road actually went up after the restrictions went in (albeit from a very low base).

Having seen the results of the closure of Browning Road Bridge (also very controversial and passionately argued when it was first installed), which have been so beneficial that the closure has been made permanent, it is now going to be interesting to see accumulated data from the impact of the LTN when it is available. There are several sources of information from which we can assess impact: the comments left on the commonplace online platform, vehicle counts from the roads inside and bordering the LTN, air quality data from the monitors, as well as feedback from emergency services and others. I’ll be sharing and publicising any information we have – no matter what it shows! – so please do keep an eye on my social media and my blog.

LTN Extension into ‘Sidney triangle’
I was also pleased that the area bounded by Dames Road, Sidney Road and Centre Road, which had originally been left out of the LTN because of a bus stand which we needed to liaise with TFL about, was added to the Low Traffic Neighbourhood recently. I was contacted by various residents of these roads who were all keen that their roads, too, should have through traffic removed from them. There is a downside to this part of the LTN, though, which is that there is still no right hand turn if you are travelling by car south down Centre Road and want to get to Dames Road. Effectively, if you want to travel west from here you need to either go down to Forest Lane, or go up via Lakehouse Road.

The LTN team did have a look at this before the closures were put in. Although not ideal, the detour via Lakehouse Road is actually only a few minutes extra on a car journey. This junction is TFL controlled, and Highways at Newham have already been in touch with TFL to start the process of assessing whether the right hand turn can go back into this junction. I’ve also dropped a line to various contacts I have, including Unmesh Desai who is our GLA member for East London, to see if there is anything that can be done to help this process to run smoothly.

Enforcement day of action
The Enforcement team, as part of restructuring how they work, have started to do focussed ‘days of action’ in particular wards, and they were in Forest Gate North and South last week. I had hoped to accompany them for at least part of it, but sadly the demands of home schooling got on top of me, so I settled instead for emailing them a list of some of the problematic sites across the ward that might benefit from some attention, and seeing the results afterwards.

The results I’ve had back are a summary of the work done, which included visiting businesses where people weren’t wearing masks, giving Fixed Penalty Notices for fly tipping, checking licences for things like skips, carrying waste, and scaffolding, patrolling tower blocks, and much more. I’ve asked both the officer in charge and also James Beckles who is the cabinet lead for Enforcement how we can find out more about the site-specific problem-solving that the officers have done, as I know from experience that this is the longer-term action that will help to stop the problems resident report at the source.

The details of the casework I get are, as ever, for the most part confidential. But there has been a variety of different topics that I’ve been helping residents out with, including disputes with a housing association, planning queries, housing concerns, a concern about how special educational needs could be met at school, and much more.

I am often tagged on social media, or receive DMs when people are having difficulty with something and need help, and I try as much as I can to reply and to follow these up. But I always ask if people have something that they need a reply to, please email me on my Council email address to make sure I see it and can ask the right people. I don’t always see tags or DMs, and don’t have a robust system for following them up like I do with my emails. We have a new casework management system for councillors which so far seems very promising and should help me to keep more on top of what is coming in and out, and where I either need to chase or have fallen behind.

On this topic, without wanting to throw a pity party when so many people are enduring real hardship, things are very busy at home at the moment whilst my three girls are all home learning, and all the normal arrangements which allow me some time to focus on my councillor work aren’t in place. So if I take longer to reply to you than I normally would, or if I’m not able to take the time to call, then please bear with me and accept my apologies.

Parking permits
This subject has been extremely controversial, and I’m sure anyone who is active on social media or reads local news will have seen that Newham has introduced a charge for the first residential parking permit for the first time, and these charges are emissions based.
I strongly feel that charging for parking permits may be difficult, but it’s the right thing to do, and I’ve outlined my thoughts on this at length in a blog post which is here.

I personally think that the new charges may not go far enough: I think that there should be at least an administration charge for electric vehicles, and I also wonder if there should be a limit on the total number of vehicles allowed per household. But I can see that, as ever, any change or proposal around cars and parking is particularly emotive, and raises especially strong reactions.

I have in common with all councillors received a large number of emails from people protesting about the new system of charging, and have tried to respond to those that were from people in Forest Gate North, but haven’t attempted to reply to all those that were sent to every councillor. We have now agreed a 40% reduction in the charges for the first year (those who have paid already will have a proportion refunded) which will help a little with the financial pressure for those people who are on a low income, but – importantly – will still introduce the charge which cements into our processes the idea that people who don’t have a car should not subsidise those who do, that space on the public highway used to store personal property should incur a fee, and that those with the most polluting vehicles should pay more.

Grants for local small businesses
I would like to encourage anyone who owns a business in Forest Gate, or knows someone who does, to make sure that they are in touch with the recently renamed ‘Our Newham Business and Enterprise’. They send out regular updates to all the businesses they have contact details for, which include useful information about business rates, seminars and information, as well as the all-important details about the government grants for businesses affected by lockdown. Their contact details are: 020 3373 7373 or ournewhambusinessandenterprise@newham.gov.uk Various rounds of the grants available have gone out but the next phase is due to open next week.

In general from talking to local businesses, the system for assessing grant applications and distributing funds has gone extremely smoothly. I have advocated on behalf of a couple of businesses where an admin error has held things up, but these have been resolved really quickly which is good to see.

Needless to say that it’s always a good time to support local businesses which contribute so much to our area, but perhaps never a better time than now when so many of them are struggling. If you can’t make purchases, as many of us can’t right now, then it’s also helpful to like, share and comment on the social media posts of local businesses, as this helps to get them more attention, and more customers.

Eat for Free
After realising that the budget called into question the viability of Newham’s pioneering Eat For Free work, it was with mixed feelings that I greeted a request to join a working group to look at this topic. Obviously I was pleased to be asked to contribute, but also worried as I didn’t want to end up being part of dismantling something that I’ve always been so proud that Newham does. (For anyone new to Eat For Free, basically Newham Council pays for free school lunches for all primary school aged children. This means no means testing and no stigma, and an extremely high uptake of hot school lunches in all our primary schools. The benefits of this are manifold, but of course at a most basic level this ensures that every child at primary school in Newham gets at least one hot meal a day. In a borough with such high levels of poverty, this is really important.)

So I joined the group with a little trepidation. I was worried that despite the identified saving in the budget, we weren’t ready to consult on charging for school meals because we didn’t really have detailed information to hand about what the impact might be. To a certain extent this is normal – measuring impact is notoriously complicated. But we discussed some of the key groups who would be affected by some of the proposals for charging, including children who go to school in Newham but live outside Newham, and particularly families with primary school children at key stage 2 who do not qualify for government funded free school meals. I was also concerned about how the logistics would work of asking schools to charge families – the infrastructure that would be required to accept payments, and the difficulties and the ethics of pursuing bad debts all struck me as very difficult and a hard ask for schools that are already under so much pressure with online learning.

I was therefore really pleased that after some discussion in the working group about the importance of free school meals, the Mayor and cabinet made the decision to keep this scheme. I have written above about charging for residential parking permits, and of course charging for anything – particularly at a time like this – is really difficult, but I do feel more comfortable with a universal subsidy of food for school children than I would with retaining a subsidy for residents who have cars. We have held a consultation about Eat for Free and also commissioned some focus groups which have provided some really valuable insight about teachers, parents and others’ views on Eat for Free, and their experiences of it.

The working group that was examining Eat for Free is now going to look at Food Poverty more broadly across Newham, and I’m going to continue sitting on it and will report back further.

Parklets campaign
I have joined a London-wide group interested in creating more ‘parklets’. A parklet is a mini-park or space for people that uses a parking space to create some public space. We don’t currently have any in Newham but there is one outside the Wanstead Tap, which is just inside the Waltham Forest border, on Winchelsea Road. In happier times, this parklet means that people can sit outside and enjoy a drink from the Tap, using the seating and enjoying the planting there.

As with play streets, quite apart from the pleasure they can bring, the main reason that this appeals to me is because it encourages us to look critically at the amount of public space dedicated to cars, and to really think about how space is used. As with so many things, the time I can dedicate to this is rather limited, but I will do my best. Although creating parklets might not be top of anyone’s list right now, have always passionately believed that we may be a deprived borough, but we should still always be ambitious in terms of our spaces, and that the people of Newham deserve safe streets, high quality green spaces, and other improvements just as much if not more than other areas of London with a different demographic.

Anti-Semitism and anti-racism working group
I was also pleased to be asked to be part of the Labour Group Anti-Semitism and Anti-Racism working group, though saddened that such a group is necessary. I think that in many aspects of working against discrimination we have been really strong in Newham, but there is an obvious need for improvement here, and I am looking forward to being part of this.

Although I couldn’t attend what I understand was a particularly moving virtual Holocaust Memorial day service last week, I did light a candle and share it as part of the ‘lighting the darkness’ campaign, to remember those who were killed and resolve that it should never happen again.

End of recycling trial

Sign on street informing residents about the recycling trial

The recycling trial that I have written about before has now come to an end. Proposals about borough-wide changes to improve our recycling service are expected in May. This is a topic that many residents feel really passionately about, and many people contact me to ask why we can’t recycle a wider range of materials, and why our collections are only two-weekly. Despite all the additional financial pressures that have come from the pandemic, I am hopeful that we can make some changes and improvements here, and also hopeful that in a world where interaction is possible again, we might be able to harness the knowledge and enthusiasm of residents to help promote any changes, and to reduce our recycling contamination rate as well.

Meeting with We Are Possible
Before lockdown 3.0 I had an online meeting and then a socially distanced walk around the ward with Carolyn from an organisation called We Are Possible. She was keen to reach out and make contact with councillors as part of her organisation’s work to promote a medium-term vision of London free from car dependency. She wanted to understand a bit more about the ward, and the borough, and to find where there might be space to work with residents and other groups on projects that could improve public spaces. As with so much else, Covid has rather paused this, but we had a very positive discussion about some of the unused spaces in the ward, and how they could be made greener, more pleasant and better used.

After meeting with the Tree Officer at Newham (a role that was vacant for a long time) I am particularly interested in how unused green bits of housing land might be planted with trees. There is some community gardening across Forest Gate which is planted and maintained by residents, and I am always conscious that local people have finite time and resources to take on more, so the idea of planting trees which are very low maintenance is appealing!

Newham Lockdown Window Art

Finally, a mention of something that I’m essentially doing in my personal capacity, but which ward members might enjoy. Michael Nash, a Newham artist, has organised the Newham Lockdown Window Art: a socially distanced display of some of the artistic talent in our borough. From February the 4th – March 3rd we can all enjoy art up in the windows of the houses of participating artists.
You can follow Newham Lockdown Window Art on Instagram @newhamlockdownwindowart or twitter @lbnlockdownart . There are over 30 participants, with a good number of artists from Forest Gate taking part.

Ok that’s more than enough from me. Take care all, stay at home if you can, and keep well. And if you need me, please drop me an email on Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk



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Become a vaccine peer supporter

Yesterday I tweeted the welcome news that Covid infections in Newham, although still eye-wateringly high, are finally starting to come down. After a pretty tough few weeks of staying at home, it is so heartening to see that all the things residents are doing are starting to have an effect. (Though, of course, it’s still vital that we all carry on staying at home, not seeing people, so this trend can keep going).

Now that vaccines are being rolled out, the other important part of beating the virus will be ensuring that as many people as possible are vaccinated. If you’d like to help support getting good, reliable information out to your friends, colleagues and contacts, and to people in Newham, then please sign up to be a vaccine peer supporter.

There is no minimum time requirement, and you’ll get training and regular support. I am a Covid Health Champion, and have found the information supplied about the virus to be invaluable, both for me personally and my family but also for sharing. The Public Health team at Newham are particularly good at providing information in bite size pieces, conveyed on infographics that are clear and easy to understand, and super easy to share.

Here’s how it works:

  • Someone in the community asks to speak to a vaccine peer supporter
  • We connect you to that person – give you their phone number and email.
  • You contact them and have that discussion.
  • We ask that you use your own phone and we can reimburse you for minutes / data. You can hide your number of course.
  • Tricky questions you can refer back to public health
  • Whatsapp group with public health
  • Weekly drop in session with public health

There is much misinformation out there, and in the age of fake news it can feel hard to distinguish between information that is fact-checked and information that is needlessly scare-mongering. You can do your bit to help share robust, scientific information by signing up.

Training is by Zoom, but can be done by phone as well. And we are especially keen to hear from people who speak languages other than English, to help get the message out.

To sign up, email covidhealthchampions@newham.gov.uk or call or message 07929 792873 or call 02033732777.

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Recycling trial

Sign on street informing residents about the recycling trial

You might remember that I mentioned in my last ward report that Newham was running a recycling trial, which included many streets in Forest Gate North. This included offering residents on certain roads the chance to recycle a wider range of materials, and also feeding back to households when their recycling was ‘contaminated’ (normally dirty with something like left over food).

You can read all about the trial here on the Newham website: https://www.newham.gov.uk/rubbish-recycling-waste/waste-service-trial/1

That trial has now finished, but I wanted to use this quick blog post to highlight a couple of things.

Firstly that if your household took part, we are very keen to hear from you about your experience and your impressions of the trial. This information will help to shape the changes we plan to make to the whole service in spring next year. We also want to know more about how good and effective the communications sent to you were and what is important to our residents. There is a survey online which is on the Newham website and you’ll find it if you click the link above.

Secondly, we have some initial information from the trial, which I wanted to share as I am sure residents will be interested (as I was) to know some of the results:

‘Some of the key results from the trial this far are:

  • Recycling contamination dropped by around 5%. “Contamination” of recycling occurs when items are placed in the recycling that can’t be recycled – such as food, nappies or electrical items.
  • The number of households participating in the bin service remained the same but on the sack rounds this dropped by 12% indicating that the bin service is preferred by residents.
  • Zero corporate complaints received about the recycling contamination policy which saw bins left behind if they contained the wrong items.
  • During the trial c. 1.7% of bins or sacks were not collected per round due to contamination – around 20 bins out of 1100 per round.
  • During the 3 month trial 39 properties have had their recycling rejected three times & have been contacted to offer support.’

A recycling bin with a sticker advising that the bin contains non-recyclable material

I am a bit disappointed that the contamination rate only dropped 5%, but actually behaviour change is hard, and takes a long time – and of course our contamination is generally so bad that any change is a very good thing. I’m also very interested that there were no complaints from anyone when bins were left behind if they had the wrong items in. This is exactly why we ran a small trial as I would have guessed that doing this would be incredibly difficult and unpopular – which just goes to show that maybe I shouldn’t be so pessimistic!

The next step will be for officers, and the cabinet leads James Asser and Nilufa Jahan to look at all the results including the survey data in more detail, and to put together a proposal based on what we’ve learnt about how we can change and improve recycling across the borough.

Newham recycling rates have been absolutely abysmal for years, and I am so pleased that under Rokhsana’s administration we are trying to do something about it. There are several factors here in Newham which make improving rates substantially very difficult, including a transient population, many flats, lots of HMOs. But there is also, clearly, a big potential for improvement and also plenty of resident support to do more, particularly here in Forest Gate.

I’ll post again when I have any more information.

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So you want a healthy school street

One of my most popular tweets ever is the one which includes four pictures of Sebert Road in my ward. Two of these photos are from before our school street timed closure, and two from after it was installed. You can read my blog post about the idea here.

This road is the one on which my local Infants school is situated, and is the main route to walk into Forest Gate, and to the station, for large numbers of people who live not only on Sebert Road itself, but on the various residential roads which come off it. I have spent many hours of my life on Sebert Road:  dragging / chasing children along, pushing pushchairs, chastising toddlers, carrying shopping, coaxing, cajoling, shouting, singing, skipping, running home as a baby wailed, or pushing the buggy grimly on through rain or hail or gail.

Quite apart from the various challenges life throws at you when your children are small, the traffic on Sebert Road has always made this journey much more stressful than it had to be, and particularly at school drop-off and pick-up when the traffic was briefly terrible. From speeding cars, to cars stuck bumper to bumper, to cars getting stuck between parked cars, and drivers getting out to shout at each other, to watching the head teacher fighting a daily battle to remind parents not to pull up on the zigzags outside the school, “No, not even just for a moment.”

So I suppose it’s not surprising that a tweet showing, in a series of pictures, the difference that a timed closure can make, has been a (for me) relatively successful one.


But I realised recently that I’m often asked by people how they can have a similar closure around their school. The short answer might be that it all depends on the willingness of your Council to make the necessary traffic orders, but I also realised that even if no school street is planned, or if one is coming but not immediately, or if your local council is doing other school streets and may come to yours soon… there is still quite a lot that local people can do, be they councillors, parents, teachers, residents, to help garner support, and to nudge things along. And actually those things apply not only in Forest Gate North, but in Newham, and indeed anywhere there is a school, a road, and a desire for the school run to be safer and better.

Sadly, the whole list currently comes with an enormous Covid-19 caveat. Some of the things I’m suggesting will be possible at the moment if you live in a part of the country not currently on Tier 2 restrictions. Some of these things I share in a spirit of optimism, thinking that they might be possible in the future. Some of them are still possible regardless. So please take this list as a set of suggestions to spark your own ideas, and of course make your own assessments about what is safe or not, and make keeping yourself and others as safe as possible your priority.

But with that lengthy preamble, here is my blog post:

10 things you can do to get your very own Healthy School Street timed road closure

  1. Write to your local councillors
    This is probably the first and easiest thing you should do. Just in case you’re not already a regular correspondent with your local councillors, you can look them up here: https://www.writetothem.com/Local councillor support isn’t a magic bullet, but it really can help. You can send an email to all of your local councillors, highlighting the school where you think there should be a school street closure. You could include pictures of what traffic is like, and even offer to meet them there at drop-off time to witness it themselves. It is really helpful for councillors to know that they have residents who want things to change, and actually in general I always find it really bolstering and encouraging when I hear from residents with ideas.
  2. Write to your Mayor and Cabinet lead
    Depending on where you live, this might be the leader of your Council, a Mayor, or whoever is the political lead. Here in Newham, that means writing to Rokhsana Fiaz (directly elected Mayor of Newham) and James Asser (Cabinet lead for Sustainable Transport and Environment).If your local authority already has school streets in place, then name these, explain why you support them, and then explain why you think the school you’re concerned about would be a good place to expand the scheme.If your local authority doesn’t yet, then talk about how many school streets are already in place across London and indeed across the UK. Make the case for why your school should be the first one in your authority.
  3. Understand how school streets work
    This might sound dull, but if you are really interested in making this happen, it’s worth taking a bit of time to really get your head around how the detail of a closure works. How they are done varies from authority to authority. Here in Newham, they are enforced by camera, but elsewhere people physically go out and unlock and raise bollards, or pull temporary barriers across the road. Understand who is exempt, and how exemptions work in your authority. What is the impact on local residents, within the closure, and just outside it? I was advising a resident last year who lives on Sebert Road, but just outside the zone, that if her car is parked inside the zone she can drive it out, but she shouldn’t drive into the zone and park during the hours of closure.Taking the time to get your head around these kind of details will mean that if you want to have more detailed conversations with local people, you can do so from a place of knowledge, and not make promises or assurances that turn out not to be true.
  4. Speak to your head teacher
    It’s a sad fact that most of the head teachers I have come across spend time most days negotiating with parents to try to encourage better driver behaviour outside their school. That’s mental energy that could be very usefully expended doing literally almost anything else.Have a chat with your head teacher and ask if they are aware of the programme of school streets closures. Are they in touch with the Council already? Have they requested one?They might be concerned about the impact on staff who drive to work (this isn’t an insurmountable problem, but could be an issue, and is better talked about openly at the start). When planning our school street we discussed how most staff who drive arrive before the closure, but in the event of someone being late, they would need to park outside the closure area, and we weighed the impact of this against the benefits to the whole school of a quiet road.Chat about the impacts: not just cleaner air and safer streets but also how a school street can encourage behaviour change, how a quiet road can be a pleasant and peaceful start to the day, how now in times of Covid a closed road provides safer spaces for social distancing.
  5. Get parents to sign a petition
    I have to admit I’m not an instinctive supporter of petitions as a tool for campaigning: I think they can sometimes be a bit simplistic, even antagonistic! But in some cases they can be useful, and I think here there is a case for creating a petition for parents to sign showing that they would like to have a school street road closure. The main reason this could be useful is because gaining signatures for it enables conversations about a school street, and about the potential benefits. It not only helps you to raise awareness, but also helps to identify who your champions might be. A petition could be the beginnings of a campaign group.Equally, you can have very productive and useful conversations with people who don’t wish to sign: understanding any people who are opposed to the idea, talking through their concerns, and thinking about any negative impacts, is a very helpful thing to do, and the earlier you have these conversations, the better.If you are a parent at a school then you probably have a reasonable idea about who the opinion formers are! Does your school have a PTA? A set of unofficial whatsapp groups? Identify the people who run those and speak to them early on.
  6. Speak to the governors
    It is also helpful to know who your school governors are, and to speak to them about a school street. Governors are yet another set of unsung heroes of our education system: giving up their time and expertise on a voluntary basis to work with the head and the leadership team, supporting and helping to improve, and being a critical friend.Your school will have parent governors, who might be a good starting point. Depending on how the conversation with your head teacher goes, you could ask the Chair of Governors if you could come to a governors’ meeting and talk about school streets. If the governors were really keen they could put together a joint letter to the leads at the Council for Education, and Highways, asking for a closure.
  7. Speak to local residents
    Ok, so you have contacted your councillors, your Mayor, your head, all the parents, the governors, and they are all on board and passionate, but you have excess energy and want to do MORE.Before our school street came into operation, some local Labour party members made our own leaflet about the closure, and we door knocked down Sebert Road to talk to the local residents who would be most affected by the closure. Door knocking is time consuming, but it was so worthwhile doing it.Obviously this is all pre-Covid, and there is certainly no party political door knocking going on at the moment. But if you are reading this in the post-Covid utopia that we are all hoping for, then get out there and door knock.  And if you are reading this during Covid times, and you can find a safe and responsible way to speak directly to local residents living right by the school, I would definitely recommend doing it. We found the most local residents were the people who were most familiar with the localised traffic problems at the beginning and end of the school day, and were some of our most passionate supporters.
  8. Encourage cycling at your school
    There is lots that you can do to encourage people to cycle to your school. Whilst plenty of Londoners in particular don’t have space to keep a bike, there are many more that do have a bike but don’t use it often, or who would like to cycle more, but are feeling uncertain.Some small steps you can take might be to ask your neighbours or friends if they want to cycle to school with you. You could talk to the school about what they are doing to encourage cycling. How much storage do they have for bicycles? Might they open the playground after school one day to allow children to cycle on the tarmac? Do they have any learn to ride, or bikeability sessions planned? Would they consider allowing adult learners to use the playground? Could you hold a cycle maintenance workshop before or after school one day?If you are in Newham, talk to Newham Cyclists about your ideas, and see if they have any suggestions. They are a small but very dedicated group, and have plenty of contacts. If you’re not in Newham, you may well have a local equivalent, and you might find that its members are potential advocates for a school street.
  9. Encourage walking
    Not everyone wants to cycle, and the great thing about London schools is that the population is so dense, most families live close to school, so walking is not just possible but probably faster than getting to school by car.If you want to help encourage more children to walk, you could chat to the school about their plans, and ask if you could work together. You could organise a walk to school challenge, and ask the school to do a daily show of hands and a tally to show how many people walked in that day. Have a chat to fellow parents and find out what stops them walking to school. Is it concerns about road safety? Get them to sign your petition! Is it distance? Would they try walking for a day or two and see how it goes? Are they worried about the weather? Chat with the school about whether they have space for children to store wellington boots during the day.Understanding some of the reasons why some people don’t currently walk, and thinking through whether any of those are things you could do something about, is great preparation for a school street closure.
  10. Hold a play street
    I am a big fan of play streets generally, for lots of reasons. But I think there can be something particularly powerful about a play street right by a school, as it helps everyone involved to visualise what it might look like if that road was closed, and could help to build momentum and support for a timed closure.If you held a one-off play street, you could arrange for lots of the things above to happen at the same time: invite local councillors, and the lead for transport, to come along. See if you could get someone doing some basic bike maintenance for you. Have a small stall with your petition, and some volunteers to get more signatures. Would your PTA like to be there, to encourage parents to get involved and to sign up to volunteer?

And that’s all ten. I may write some more in future about how to help make a school street work (clue: there is a lot of crossover with the ideas above!) but I think that’s more than enough for the moment. I hope this is inspiring and helpful. If you are in Forest Gate North and want further school streets closures, please do contact me as I would be happy to advocate for you, and to help you with the above! If you’re outside Forest Gate but want someone to chat to and bounce ideas off, ditto, drop me a line.

I need to add that when it comes to school streets, I am not a pioneer, but an enthusiastic follower in the footsteps of other organisations who led the way. School streets had been implemented in Hackney, Islington, Waltham Forest and many other places before we got on board here in Newham.

Organisations like Mums for Lungs, also Living Streets, have been campaigning for them for years and I would highly recommend looking at their websites and the information they publish, particularly the Mums for Lungs campaigning guide, and Living Streets’ toolkit, as well as this brilliant website: http://schoolstreets.org.uk/ which has lots of helpful information about the ‘why’, ‘how’ and existing schemes.

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Maryland works update

Just a quick post to publicise the very detailed and informative update from Conways about the works taking place around Maryland station. To be added onto the list to receive this directly, email Helen on helen.mcconnell@fmconway.co.uk

View newsletter here

Some highlights include: the refurbished mechanism for the ‘twisty clock’ will be fitted in the next few weeks, updates on the various planters, and all work should be completed by the end of 2020.

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Newham High Streets

A call out to Forest Gate residents to get involved in a great new project to improve our high streets. Starting with Forest Gate, Green Street, Manor Park and Little Ilford, this is a collaborative project to identify what residents want to prioritise, and to make our high streets better. During lockdown and beyond we have all come to rely even more on our local small businesses, particularly when we could see the strains they were under, and the efforts they make to keep us safe. This project, which works alongside other complementary projects like Shape Newham, is a way of getting more involved with your local area, by just giving your views about what is important to you.

The text below is from the first Newham High Streets newsletter:

Blurred image of high street with text 'NEWHAM high streets' superimposed


We are getting in touch with you in relation to the newly launched Newham High Streets initiative. The aim of this programme is to work in phases to support high streets, focusing on the happiness and wellbeing of residents and businesses and ensure they have what they need to deal with the challenges of recession and recovery. The first phase of the programme includes the areas of Green Street, Forest Gate, Manor Park, and Little Ilford.
To join the discussion, sign up on the Newham Co-Create platform and share your experiences and aspirations for your high street.

On the platform, you will be able to follow the progress of the programme, receive key updates, and most importantly contribute to its development. At this stage, you can contribute to a survey until October 25th.

Updates will be also communicated through Newham Council’s social media (Facebook / Twitter / Instagram).

If you would like to ask any questions or be added to our mailing list, please contact us via email at newhamhighstreets@newham.gov.uk or via phone at 08008611424, from Monday to Thursday, between 11.00 – 16.00.

Sign up & Join the Discussion    Read more about Newham High Streets

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