Bloomin’ Forest Gate

The next few weeks sees ‘Bloomin’ Forest Gate’ sweep across the ward to celebrate all that is green and lovely about where we live. Keep an eye out and you will see daffodils, planted by residents last year, growing and blooming in beds, tree pits, and any spare bit of earth we could find.

Please do take pictures of greenery and flowers and share using the hashtag you #bloominforestgate

We have a range of different activities and events going on, and you can see a full schedule online here: www.newham.gov.uk/bloominForestGate

Or download the brochure directly here: Bloomin’ Forest Gate

This work has come directly out of the Citizens’ Assembly where residents told us that they wanted more green, and more planting – which absolutely reflects my experience of speaking to residents who love where they live and know that more planting not only adds colour and beauty, but also encourages pollinators and biodiversity, helps cool streets, and improves drainage.

If you’d like to do more community planting then do drop me a line and I’d be happy to put you in touch with the group who are already planting as many spaces as they can find and doing a fabulous job making Forest Gate (even more) green and lovely.

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Have your say about Health and Wellbeing in Newham

This info is from our public health team, who are consulting about our strategy for health and wellbeing. I know many Forest Gaters are very knowledgeable and interested in health, and wanted to flag these events so that you can get involved if you want to. There are three different consultation days, with ‘drop in’s during the day, and a Q and A in the evening. If you want to attend the Q and A, please book! Details are all below:

50 Steps to a healthier borough – we want to hear your voice!
The Borough’s Public Health Team has been working with partners and residents to develop a Health and Wellbeing Strategy.
We want to call it 50 Steps to a Healthier Borough and we want it to be owned by everyone – residents, employers, health organisations and voluntary organisations etc.

There are 3 events available for residents to give us your views as we want to ensure the 50 Steps work well for everyone.
It’s definitely not too late for us to make changes and amendments.

Each event will last a day – starting at 11.00am with an exhibition board and staff on hand to talk informally with residents visiting the library throughout the day followed by a questions and answer session from 6.00pm to 7.45pm in the evening with key player’s including Jason Strelitz the Director of Public Health and a prominent local GP.

Monday 2 March  Beckton Library
Tuesday 3 March Manor Park Library
Wednesday 11 March  Plaistow Library

You can visit https://www.newham.gov.uk/libraryevents to book a place for the evening session of your choice.
Any queries – please contact Phil.veasey@newham.gov.uk

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Rachel’s February 2020 ward report

Hello and welcome to my ward report. I write these specifically in order to report back to the Labour members of Forest Gate North, who selected me to be one of their councillor candidates. But in the interests of transparency I also publish them on my councillor blog, where anyone from the ward or even beyond can have a read. I hope it’s a useful and informative insight into some of the work involved in being a ward councillor, and as ever if you read this and have any questions please do contact me.

Healthy school street

Before

This is the biggest piece of work I’ve been involved in recently: the timed closures of streets around Woodgrange Infants and Godwin Junior schools in order to encourage active travel, improve road safety, improve air quality, and make the journey to school more pleasant. I have been really moved by the huge support that this scheme has attracted, with good responses from local residents, parents, teachers, groups like Newham Cyclists, and more.
The implementation of this scheme I would say has been broadly ok but not perfect, and you can read my thoughts after the first day here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2019/11/11/healthy-school-streets-first-thoughts/

My main source of frustration, in common with the schools and with other supporters, is that installing the cameras has taken much longer than any of us wanted. However, as I write this on the 6th February, the cameras have been installed and are working, and warning letters are being prepared and will be sent out this week. After an initial warning period, fines will be issued, and I am hopeful that fines will be very successful in changing behaviour as we have seen thus far that road signs, bollards, and even people physically speaking to motorists is no guarantee that they won’t ignore it and just drive through anyway!

I am aware that there may be some feedback about the scheme once fines start to be issued, and wanted to be clear that I plan to stand firm if this happens because of the importance of the scheme, and the results we are already achieving.

After

There are a few niggling issues to iron out: I have a detailed question about residents of one of the roads and visitors’ permits, and we also have some persistently fast driving from vehicles including Newham rubbish lorries, and various cars with disabled badges. But overall, the situation outside the schools, especially outside Woodgrange in the mornings, has already changed enormously for the better.

What I really hoped by working so hard on this scheme, was not just to get a better school run for me and my daughters (though I’ll be honest, that’s a lovely side benefit!) but was to make a big impact that would help more of these types of schemes happen across the borough. So I’m particularly delighted to have been contacted by a few people who are interested in how something similar can happen in their local schools. Newham already has a programme planned of other school streets going forwards, and I’m hoping to complement this by being a kind of unofficial advocate for the schemes. If you’re reading this and are interested, this article is a great place to start:
http://schoolstreets.org.uk/how/

Liveable Neighbourhood bid and Odessa Rd traffic calming

I’ve blogged recently about a traffic calming scheme that we are working on for Odessa Road in conjunction with Waltham Forest: https://forestgatenorth.com/2020/01/14/working-with-waltham-forest-on-odessa-road/
I know that some respondents to the consultation, like Newham Cyclists, would like us to be more ambitious and to ‘filter’ the road (which means having no through traffic except bicycles and pedestrians – the simplest way of doing this is to have a bollard, say, half-way down so that people can access Odessa Road homes and shops by car if they absolutely need to, but they can’t use it as a cut-through).  I am very much in favour of modal filters, and would like eventually to see many many more of them across Forest Gate to stop through traffic on our residential streets.

Regarding this scheme specifically, I’ve had a chat with Highways, and the intention is to use the responses to the various consultations we’ve already done as part of our funding bid, to get some work done on this important road within the bid area, and also to show TfL that we can work with Waltham Forest, and I think it’s also about ‘showing willing’ too. I have my fingers very tightly crossed that if we resubmit our bid for this Liveable Neighbourhood, we might be successful, and if so that would be a really very exciting project that could make a huge difference to the ward, and you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about it from me.

Canteen opening

The story of how exactly I became tangentially involved in ‘food’ at Newham is a long one, but had a delightful outcome this week as I was invited to the launch of the new canteen at Newham’s Dockside office. For years the food there has been outsourced and provided by a large company whose offer was broadly fine, but uninspiring and quite depressing if you were eating there most days as I was for a while. On Monday the place was taken over by Juniper Ventures, the Council’s catering and cleaning service. Bringing this in-house means the staff are now all on the London Living Wage, and our commitment to community wealth building and the environment has led to a whole host of really lovely improvements: a great range of vegan and vegetarian food, sugar smart snacks, the provision of tap water to drink, and much more. I felt for the first time that this canteen, which serves hundreds of Newham employees every day, was telling a very coherent story about the kind of organisation we want to be, and the kind of borough we want to create, and seeing that come to fruition was great, not to mention delicious.

Railway arches

I’ve had some ongoing casework for the past few months about railway arches on Bignold and Strode Roads. These arches have been occupied by squatters, which as one resident pointed out, is not necessarily problematic in itself. What is a problem is that the arches seem to be used at the weekend for informal ‘club nights’ with music and even security, which is causing a significant disturbance to local residents. These are local people who have previously been disturbed by tenants of the arches who ran various car businesses that were best described as ‘somewhat unneighbourly’, so I am especially struck by their having to endure even more disruption.

The arches are owned by Network Rail, so I have been co-ordinating and sharing information between the various people involved to see whether we can support each other to take any necessary action. Our Council enforcement officers have paid a visit, and Licensing are planning to attend. I have been in touch with our great Safer Neighbourhoods Police team, as residents are concerned that some recent crimes may be linked to night time activity there, and I’ve also been in touch with our noise nuisance service. As with many of these kinds of issues, the way to approach them is to think about what the possible legal ways ‘in’ are by which we might be able to, want to, or indeed just be able to justify the use of public money in taking action. In this case I’ve also been in regular touch with the Arches Company who are collating evidence in order to take some legal action to evict the people there. I’ll also liaise with our homelessness officers if and when eviction does happen, to see that we are offering support if the people there need it.

Maryland community group

Last week saw the most recent meeting of the Maryland Community Group, which has now been going strong for several years. We had a very well-attended and helpful meeting, with a wide-ranging agenda including Maryland shop fronts maintenance, fly tipping in Council car parks, and more.

As a result of this, together with Nareser Osei who is one of the councillors from Stratford and Newtown, we are looking into several issues including the car parks, pedestrians at Water Lane, parking and the pavements outside St. Francis School, and more.

The Maryland group are currently fund raising and will split the money raised between Lola’s Homeless, and use the rest for a community planter that will form part of the new public realm outside the station. If you would like to get involved in this, do join the Facebook group ‘Maryland Community Group’ or you can donate to the fundraiser here: www.paypal.me/pools/c/8m5bkqtLom

I particularly wanted to highlight a recent success of the group, who got organised to oppose the ‘downgrading’ of a local development. In a nutshell, a small development got planning permission, but was not built to the same standards as were agreed. They then applied for retrospective planning permit, seeking to get the cheaper changes they’d made signed off. The Maryland group are particularly interested in planning, and high quality building on the main road, and drafted a template response objecting to this application. We just heard that this application has been rejected, so the developer will have to do what they should have done to begin with: to build the development to the specifications agreed when they applied. (I’ll write a bit more about residents’ participation in planning decisions and how I’m hoping to encourage more of it below but this kind of thing is so important, where residents can make a real difference.)

Boundary review

Speaking of Maryland, the Boundary Review Commission consultation on their proposed new wards, including a new ‘Maryland’ ward is closing later this month. Anyone who wants to respond to the proposed new ward boundaries can do so here: https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/

The consultation closes on the 17th February.

Bloomin’ Forest Gate

I’ve always been really passionate about greening and planting as a way to improve our local area, promote wildlife including bees, and to bring people together, so I’m really pleased to be helping with a project called ‘Bloomin’ Forest Gate’ which has grown out of the Forest Gate Citizens’ Assemblies. It will take place in March and will be a celebration of the planting and green we already have, a chance to learn more about what we can all do to increase the flowers and trees here, and should create more planting for us all to enjoy in the future. Daffodil bulbs were available from the library last year, and have been planted all over Forest Gate (I have spotted some of them starting to come up) so keep an eye out for those, and for the programme of events which will be published soon.

Forest Gate Community School

Our local outstanding secondary school is nearing the end of the works to expand it, which should mean that Kuhn Way is re-opened soon (I need to check exactly when!). As local councillors, Sasha Anam and I were contacted about some potential improvements to the road and pavement outside the school. I have had contact with several residents about this area, and how it could be improved, and have suggested to highways that it would be great to have: a ‘heritage’ style sign showing ‘Kuhn Way, previously known as Parliament Place’, bollards and planters to physically prevent pavement parking, some enforcement work to check that the commercial bins are properly maintained and locked, dropped kerbs for bicycle and cargo bike access, as well as good lighting and CCTV in Kuhn Way now that it will be partially ‘under cover’ (you can read about the final planning decision at the top of a previous ward report here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2019/07/01/rachels-ward-report-july-2019/)

I don’t know how much of the above we’ll be able to get, but am quite optimistic about the bollards and planters, as I know that pavement parking is a real problem here. I’d love to see us install some visitor cycle parking for the school too. So watch this space!

Little Shops

I enjoyed going to the Gate for the launch of a project called ‘Little Shops’ which local artist Rayna Nadeem created, supported by funds through Newham and Crossrail. This is a look at some of the small businesses that make up our high street, including audio files and 360 degree photos. I was particularly pleased to go as Rayna had experienced a problem with getting the project online, and I was able to unblock this for her so that it could eventually be published. To see the project, take a look here: www.dekkoproductions.co.uk and click on ‘Little Shops’.

Casework success

I don’t report here on detailed casework for reasons of confidentiality, but I have been really pleased recently to have some success in some casework. Sometimes success feels few and far between, not just because of the impact of austerity which severely limits what we’re able to do as an authority, but also because sometimes when things get better the people who have complained to me (understandably) go away and carry on with their lives. So I’m always particularly appreciative when people get back to me and let me know that a solution has been found after I’ve intervened.

I had a very troubling housing case resolved (as I said on twitter, if not ‘ideally’ then certainly ‘satisfactorily’). I’m also told that an ongoing problem of ASB, crime and litter is due to be solved after some joint work which I helped with the housing association, residents and the local police. Some work on the wall, gates and a change to the layout are anticipated to be really helpful here, which is also great to hear. Also you might have noticed the ongoing issue of water pouring out of a flat on Sebert Road, across the pavement and into the road where the market storage is. After some really prompt and helpful work by the private sector licensing team, this leak has stopped (a small pause in typing here to hope that it doesn’t now start again!!), and action has been taken to make sure that the landlord is not renting out accommodation that is substandard. Elsewhere, I contacted the same team about safety concerns in a flat that have now been rectified.
There is always more to do! And I’m constantly plagued by guilt about the amount of ongoing casework I have, which often feels and perhaps is unmanageable. But I always do my best to do whatever I can, fairly, so that residents are treated properly, and it’s very rewarding on the occasions when I know I’ve made a difference.

Forest Gate high street

Although the main part of Woodgrange Road is in Forest Gate South, I do take an active interest in the whole high street, as these are our shops too, and I know the whole of the high street is important to residents.

I am assured that work on the empty run of shops from 39 – 49 Woodgrange Road should begin soon. I have been so disappointed to see these shops empty for so long, and I know residents have too. The developer who originally got planning permission for this site spoke about their commitment to the local area and wanting to contribute to Forest Gate, but since these fine words have sold it on, one presumes at a profit with the planning permission existing. I remain hopeful that when this work is done, the flats are occupied and the shops have tenants, that it will be a positive contribution to our high street. But I have also emailed planning letting them know that in light of other developments in the pipeline (like the Methodist church, and perhaps in future Durning Hall) this one will ‘set a standard’ and that I hope we can keep a close eye on the construction, build quality, and materials to make sure that the conditions we placed on the original permission aren’t deviated from.

I have been temporarily thwarted in my desire to hold a residents’ planning meeting, first by the pre-election period and then by some initial preparation within planning for a larger piece of work on resident engagement. I can only say that I am still hoping to hold a meeting, open to any interested residents, at the library, where you can come along, meet some planners, hear a presentation about the process and the legislation, and ask questions. I will keep trying to make this happen!

Democracy Commission

As a quick sign-off I wanted to particularly flag the work of the Democracy Commission, which is looking at democracy in Newham and will be making recommendations about how we should work to involve and represent residents. Labour members will know that our directly elected Executive Mayoral model has been the subject of some debate, and Rokhsana Fiaz was elected on a promise of holding a referendum to determine whether this model should continue. The Democracy Commission is working as a preparation to this, looking at different models both of governance and participation, and will be making recommendations that should lead to the referendum. There have been a series of public meetings, and you can still contribute your thoughts and ideas to their work online. Their website is here: https://www.newhamdemocracycommission.org/

I won’t make the obvious parallel, but will say that recent years have shown us that any question asked in a referendum should be very carefully considered and researched before rather than after the vote! I would be disappointed to see us leaping straight to a question like ‘should we have an Executive Mayor? Yes/ no’ and am glad to see an independent commission looking at evidence to consider what might be useful ways forward, and doing proper research so that whatever the answer from the referendum is, we all know we’ve been kept fully informed, and that there is proper planning, consideration and resourcing for the option we choose.


I traditionally end my reports by apologising for the length of them, so perhaps I should stop doing that and just ‘fess up that I do write long councillor reports, that’s just what I do! But I hope that despite being long, they are at least a good way of remaining accountable, and that some parts of them are even quite interesting to people who wonder what on earth councillors get up to.

I am contactable via email : Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk and although I’m not nearly as fast at getting back to people as I’d like, I will respond to you if you email me. I’m here for any complaints and difficulties, of course, but also always particularly happy to hear from people who have ideas, who want to help do something, and to make a difference.

Rachel

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Working with Waltham Forest on Odessa Road

Some readers will already know that at Newham we have submitted a ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ bid to the Greater London Authority to create a cross-borough Liveable Neighbourhood which covers part of Forest Gate North ward, part of Cann Hall ward in Waltham Forest, and part of Stratford and Newtown ward. You can read about our initial bid on this Newham webpage here. 

In brief though, a ‘liveable neighbourhood’ is the new name for a project that was initially termed ‘Mini Holland’. Not, as the first name suggests, only about cycling, the idea is that funding is available to work with local people to create a big impact over a defined area to make it a better, cleaner, and more pleasant place to walk and cycle, thereby encouraging more active travel and use of public transport, and reducing the number of car journeys. Waltham Forest has led the way in this work, using GLA funds and their own cash for far-reaching public realm projects which have delivered frankly astonishing results in terms of improvements in air quality, and even seen them, I believe, be the only London borough to see its residents walking more than before.

If we are going to address our poor air quality and do our bit to help slow down climate change, we are going to have to make some changes. Thankfully some of these changes, like this project, will also have other benefits, including increasing activity levels, improving mental health, making an area more attractive, and even potentially improving community cohesion and local relationships.

So it might sound negative to report that our joint bid to the GLA wasn’t in fact successful. But we did win funding elsewhere, for a Liveable Neighbourhood in Custom House, and our joint bid with our WF friends and colleagues received very positive feedback, and we were urged to resubmit. As part of that, we ran the consultation process again, and got even more ideas from residents about how we can improve the area that forms the bid. We are very lucky to have Walthamd Forest as our neighbours, so we can see at first hand how they have made their improvements, benefit from their experience and expertise (and some of the things they’ve learnt, which they are very open about) , and also take advantage of our shared boundary bring some of their healthy streets approach gradually down south into Newham, to a group of residents who will already be using the public spaces in Waltham Forest, and will have seen the changes and benefits first hand.

Now, regardless of the funding that may or may not come centrally, we are working with Waltham Forest on Odessa Road, a road that crosses the borough boundary, also crosses the Quietway that runs through the ward, and has two schools on or near it.

If you live within the consultation area, you will receive a leaflet and information about the proposals, all of which I’ve linked below. There is also a drop in session on the 23rd January, from 1 – 4pm, in what is rather intriguingly termed ‘our mobile engagement unit’ which will be on Odessa Road near the junction with Dean Street. (I will be there, and will report back on what this actually is!) Apologies if this daytime session isn’t convenient – I did ask but it’s not possible due to officer commitments to hold an evening session this time. You can however give your comments, thoughts and ideas, and indeed ask any questions you have by emailing liveableneighbourhoods@newham.gov.uk (or enjoy@walthamforest.gov.uk).

The proposals are detailed on the leaflets but include a 20mph speed limit, new speed bumps (and replacing those that are there), planting, and other traffic calming. I am really pleased and excited to see this work happening in my ward, and am very much in favour of all of this work.

If you’d like to respond to this stage of the consultation (which is itself building on the previous two consultations as part of our Liveable Neighbourhood bid) then I would encourage you to do so.

Letter about scheme

Leaflet 1

Leaflet 2

 

 

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20mph consultation on Capel Road

I write this post on December the 16th, which is obviously a pretty grim time, politically, for many of us. I’m not going to attempt to pontificate on national politics, but instead am going to focus on the local, not to say hyper-local, and specifically about a highways consultation that is currently taking place.

Our ward, Forest Gate North, extends to the east to around half way along Capel Road, where it borders Manor Park ward. For some time I have been contacted periodically by people asking why the speed limit isn’t consistently 20mph all the way along Capel Road, and I’ve always had to say that to be absolutely honest, I’m just not sure.

Well, now we are hoping to resolve this, and make that portion of Capel Road that is currently, and strangely, 30mph, into a 20mph area in common with the rest of the road. We’re also going to do the same on some of the surrounding roads.

There is a consultation area that extends into Forest Gate North, and if you live within it you should receive information through the post soon. But I’d urge anyone who is keen on safer, healthier streets to respond to this if you have a moment. This is just a small step, but a vital one in the long journey to make our borough a safer place to walk and cycle

This is the letter being sent to houses within the consultation zone:
Capel Road 20mph_GC_v2

This is the questionnaire that residents who wish to express their views can fill in:
Capel Road questionnaire_GC_V25503 LBN CapelRd20mphZoneExtension consultation sheet 191204b  

This document is a map showing the proposed location of signs, humps, and the new reduced speed limit zone:
5503 LBN CapelRd20mphZoneExtension consultation sheet 191204b

I am unlikely to blog again before Christmas, so would like to wish readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Especially good wishes and comfort to those who, like me, are feeling beaten down by the election result. We can regroup and rebuild in the new year!

 

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Healthy School streets – first thoughts

As I write this, it’s nearly 1pm on the 11th November, the day of the launch of our first Healthy school streets timed road closure. I have just been happily bombarding facebook and twitter with masses of comments and photos, so I won’t do that here right now, but I did want to quickly hop on the blog to make a few points.

The first and the biggest point is an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who made this happen in Forest Gate. The head teachers of Woodgrange and Godwin schools have been tremendously supportive. Rokhsana our Mayor, and cabinet members including James Asser, Julianne Marriott, Jane Lofthouse, and others, have all not only been advocates of healthy school streets, but had the leadership and political courage to see it through. Officers have worked really hard to get everything in place, the Woodgrange PTA supported our launch today by selling croissants, juice and breakfast, Newham Cyclists have been cheerleaders since the idea was first suggested. Massive thanks also to the band of local, and not-so-local residents, cyclists, campaigners, Labour party members and friends who turned out this morning in high vis jackets to help physically keep the roads clear. A special mention to Frances Clarke, a Forest Gate resident who used to be an East Ham councillor, who first tapped me on the shoulder I think around 2 years ago, and suggested that Godwin would be a great school for a road closure, and what did I think?

So I am suffused with a warm glow of success and righteousness: children walked down the centre of the road this morning, drivers were broadly well-behaved (with two notable exceptions. But we have your numberplates, guys….) and everyone was happy and celebratory.

I don’t want to sound negative but I think I do need to strike a slight note of caution as we go forward into the next few weeks. There are a few things that we could have done better, and we will learn from these. The leaflets and banners should have got to the schools earlier. The signs should have gone up a long time before they actually did. We are legally compliant in terms of our communication but we (and perhaps this is always the case, honestly) could have done more.

Currently there is no physical barrier to the road closures, which is partly why I recruited volunteers this morning for the launch. Cameras to start enforcing are going in this week, so my measured prediction is that for the next few weeks, the roads may be a bit quieter, but that a lot of vehicles will ignore the signs, and continue to use the roads, until they start to get ticketed. So I think all of us will have to take care, firstly not to be too triumphant, but also physically to take care on those roads where children and parents may be expecting it to be entirely safe, but we’re not quite there yet.

But in summary, I think it’s fair to say that our first Newham (ok, jointly first with Chobham) school street was a success, greeted with pleasure and enjoyment by pedestrians and cyclists (and one brave soul on roller blades who zoomed up the road at top speed). I sincerely hope that there will be many more, and if anyone from other schools / other areas is keen to have one near them, then I would recommend you drop your local councillors a line and speak to the head teacher.

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Maryland works update

Just a super quick post on this wet Monday morning to share the update newsletter that Conway have sent about the works happening at Maryland at the moment. Helen who sends out the newsletter is in charge of liaison at Conway, and I’m sure could add you onto the distribution list if you are interested and don’t get it already. Her contact details are also on the newsletter if anyone has any questions.

Final draft of Maryland Newsletter Autumn 2019_.

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Become a Climate Now Air Quality Champion

I just this moment received an email about this initiative, and wanted to share it on the blog because I know a lot of Forest Gate North residents will be really interested and keen to take part.

‘As part of the Climate Now Action Plan, we are recruiting for Climate Now Air Quality Health champions (CNAQHCs) to help deliver key messages across to the wider community to raise awareness – initially on anti-idling and encouraging walking to school.

We are planning to support and deploy our champions every step of the way – including a short induction session for each volunteer, followed by a one day course provided by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH), and then by an introduction to the key tasks we want CNAQHCs to get involved in.

At the moment we have got a long list of about 80 residents that we have been speaking to about health champions in general and we are hoping that some will want to get involved and become a CNAQHC.

However we need more of our residents to engage in a huge effort to tackle air pollution and this is where we need your help!

Our first Climate Now Air Quality Champion’s induction session will take place on the 22nd October 2019 at East ham library from 6-8pm.

If you know of anyone who may want to become a Newham Health Champion, and in particular a Climate Now Air Quality Health Champion, please have them contact Newham.HealthChampions@activenewham.org.uk
They will be asked to register effortlessly onto our system and they will be sent more details and an invitation to attend upcoming induction sessions.’

https://vimeo.com/dfptv/review/359236078/6fde422261

I am particularly pleased to see that walking to school and anti-idling will be the first things that we tackle. My one-woman campaign to stop idling is going pretty well, but is highly dependent on the guts and energy that I have at any time! And walking to school is such an important way of getting children active, building community, increasing road safety, as well as improving air quality (you can read my post about Healthy School Streets here).

Please do volunteer. I know that Forest Gate contains many people with the beliefs and skills to really make this happen. I recently shared a plea for volunteers to participate in a Food Waste trial on Facebook and Forest Gaters signed up with such alacrity that my colleagues had to start recruiting residents from elsewhere in the borough to ensure that the whole thing wasn’t weighted towards E7! Needless to say, I was very proud.

We look forward to working with you.

 

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Healthy School Streets

With today being the first day back at school for many Newham children, it seemed like a good time to write a blog post about our proposals for ‘Healthy School Streets’. I have mentioned this proposal before in my update report, but am so passionate about this that I thought it deserved its own blog post.

I remember first hearing about school streets a couple of years ago, and watching a news piece which showed a teacher and school children going out into the road and unlocking and raising a small metal bollard to shut the street outside the school to traffic.  This made the news because the idea of shutting a road during drop-off and pick-up time was new and unusual. Since then, school streets closures, or school streets, as some local authorities call them, have become more common, in London boroughs like Hackney, Islington and Redbridge, and further afield too. And now we are proposing our first in Newham, which includes Woodgrange Infants school and Godwin Junior school, both close to my heart and my home as they are in my ward and also the schools where my girls go.

We are proposing timed street closures which would mean that the bit of Sebert between Woodgrange Road and Cranmer Road was closed, plus that southern bit of Cranmer Road, plus the bit of Godwin to the north that borders Godwin school. The closures would be enforced by camera during that time, and residents who live on the closed roads would be exempt and still able to move their vehicles during the closures.

There are loads of benefits to school streets. One of them is cleaner air for our children and their growing lungs, a health risk that is growing in importance as we learn more about the impact that pollution has on development and life expectancy. Closing the road improves road safety outside schools, an improvement that anyone will welcome who has been on Sebert Road at 9am, and seen the backed up cars, surrounded by small children and frazzled parents, and heard the angry tooting of blocked in drivers, and of drivers stopping illegally on the zigzag lines ‘just for a moment’ to drop off their children. It creates a more peaceful, and less stressful start to the school day, and children who are happier and more ready to learn. But perhaps most importantly, and the bit I am most pleased about, is how there is some evidence to show that closing the street outside the school can help with behavior change, and result in more children walking and cycling to school, and fewer driving.

Of course there will remain some parents for whom driving to school is a significantly better option. If you or your child is disabled, for example. Anyone with a blue badge is exempt from the scheme, and people who really absolutely cannot avoid driving can still drive to school, avoiding the closures, and park outside the zone, and walk the final few minutes. But for the majority of parents, who live within a very small area which is very walkable, and who already walk or cycle, this will make a safer, cleaner, better drop-off and pick-up.

Needless to say, this should form just part of Newham’s overall approach to encouraging walking and cycling, and also to our overall approach to air quality. If you’re interested in improving air quality, I would strongly encourage you to take part in our air quality consultation which is online here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/ServiceChild/Air-pollution-consultation.aspx

The formal consultation on the proposed school streets in Forest Gate North has now finished, and the responses are being looked at. I am hopeful that, depending on what people have said, we will be able to start the road closures in the Autumn. If you are keen on this idea, and would like to help, then please do contact me. I am hoping to organize a bit of a launch event, and local volunteers to stand at the various closure points and help inform traffic and parents would be really helpful.

In the meantime, I have done lots of tweeting about the proposal, including some video vox pops, and you can find these on twitter here: https://twitter.com/search?q=%23healthyschoolstreets%20%40rectripp&src=typd

Find out more:

Want to find out more? There are lots of great individuals and organisations campaigning for Healthy Streets generally, and for school street closures specifically.

For more detailed information about what is happening locally, you can read about Newham’s proposed Healthy School Streets on the Newham website here: https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/Services/Healthy-School-Streets.aspx

There is also a great video about school streets that Hackney produced, which is online here. 

Mums for Lungs are a small but brilliant voluntary organization campaigning for clean air, and providing some very useful pressure on all London boroughs to start closing school streets. Their website about school streets is here: https://www.mumsforlungs.org/about-school-streets

 

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A few updates about the marketplace

I have been asked a few questions about different things relating to our marketplace, so I thought I’d do a general round-up blog post and put as many as I could remember here.

The 308 bus stop

I knew that there was a good reason for moving the 308 bus stop, and I seem to recall it was explained to me about two years ago, but had to be reminded just today by an officer exactly what it was, after receiving more than one query about whether it would be coming back.

In a nutshell, the 308 bus turns right along Forest lane, and with the bus stop in its former position, the bus used to leave the stop and slew across to the right to get into the right turn lane – which blocked the straight ahead traffic at the junction causing queues and frustration back up Woodgrange Road.  Drivers only rarely let the bus turn across before the signals changed, so southbound queues used to get quite long quite quickly and frequently blocked Sebert Road.

The 308 bus now stops at the stop about 120m up the road (which it never used to stop at) where the other buses serving Woodgrange Road also stop (they never stopped before at the removed stop, which was only for the 308).

So the lack of stop so close to the junction helps the traffic to flow better at the junction, and has been replaced by an extra stop further up the road by Wanstead Park station.

The ‘Market place’ stone

stone with 'market place' engraved into itI tweeted a while back that the patch of tarmac blighting what would otherwise be a lovely circle of granite had been annoying me, but that I’d found out that it would be replaced by a stone with lettering saying ‘marketplace’ and I was delighted only a few days ago to notice that this stone had indeed been put in. I confess a personal weakness for lettering, especially a nice font with a serif, so am perhaps a little biased. But on a more professional note it’s also nice to have something to add to ‘placemaking’. Did you know that the Woodgrange dentist has plaster detailing at the top of the building saying ‘Market place’? Neither did I until I went on a walk about with Regeneration and we all spotted it. It’s all painted white and not very visible, so something down at ground level is to my mind most welcome.

Pavement parking

Talking of the dentist, this brings me onto pavement parking. I have had several complaints about this, both in front of the dentist surgery and also people pulling up onto the marketplace itself and parking on our new pavement. Pavement parking is bad for all kinds of reasons: it physically blocks the pavement meaning that it’s harder to get by, especially if you have a buggy or use a wheelchair, or are visually impaired. It’s just plain dangerous to have cars driving on a space that should be for pedestrians to use safely. It also adds to a general and pervasive idea about our streets: that they are there for cars, which can go anywhere, and everyone else should take care to get out of their way. But on a practical level, it also damages the paving, which after our new stone has gone in at great expense (thanks to funding from TfL) and massive delays, is particularly frustrating.

So to look at the area outside the dentist first, part of this is a ‘forecourt’ which is actually owned by the surgery. We resurfaced this area as part of the works, which is slightly unusual but not outlandish in this kind of project. Effectively, leaving it as a piece of tatty concrete would have had a negative impact on the appearance of the whole marketplace. They have bollards in place, with space I think (checking out of the window of Familia as I write) for three vehicles. I have had regular reports from residents walking their children to school that the cars can be parked in a way that blocks the pavement. To help stop this happening, the parking ‘spaces’ in front of the dentist are going to be marked out with white paint, which should make it clearer both to officers and to drivers when they are parked correctly. I use that dentist, and need to take my girls in for a check up, so am going to discuss not blocking the pavement with them when we go in. I have also highlighted the spot to parking enforcement and asked them to keep an eye on it, and am waiting to hear back. The lamp post which currently sits in the middle of the pavement will also be replaced and moved, which will help to make space on the pavement, too.

Concerning parking on the main marketplace itself, readers of this blog won’t have failed to notice that the works are not yet complete, and we are expecting the installation of various bits of street furniture including the much-needed cycle parking. I am assured this will be positioned such that it physically blocks as much pavement parking as we can. (Further up the road, I got the planters installed outside Arabica / Bereket as a way of improving the area but also stopping the lorries that seemed to be permanently stopping there, and am even more proud of them now that a band of residents have planted them up so beautifully). I have also spoken to parking enforcement about visiting the marketplace, especially in the evening when cars seem to park up with impunity. I will keep asking and keep trying to protect this space.

Fly tipping and rubbish

Whilst I don’t have a specific update, this might be a good time to remind readers about some work Seyi (one of our previous councillors – as if you could forget her!) and I did on the marketplace to try to tackle the constant stream of rubbish left there. You can read my original blog post on that work here, and the update here.

Over running of works and impact on businesses

I did try but I can’t write this post without mentioning the huge local outpouring of support for Number 8, which launched some crowd funding along with an expression of distress at the impact that the local works have had on them. I unfortunately couldn’t attend the local meeting that our Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz set up, but an update from that meeting has been published and sent to those who attended and those who were interested but couldn’t make it, and you can read it here if you haven’t see it already:
Shape Forest Gate Newsletter_Final July 2019.

Apologies that this is a bit of a mishmash of information, but it’s all frequently asked enough that I thought it was worth including. As ever, any questions do ask me. I do my best to keep up with social media queries, but if you absolutely need a response please do send me an email: Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk  It might take a while, but I will get back to you!

 

 

 

 

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