Rachel’s ward report July 2019

This is a report on my Forest Gate North councillor work. I’ve recently taken the difficult decision to step away from my Newham cabinet position, but am still here and once again focussing on the ward and local issues. This report is a shorter one than usual as I have recently been unwell with bronchitis. I don’t know what I previously thought bronchitis was (a bit of a cough, maybe?) but can exclusively reveal that it’s hugely unpleasant and laid me low for the best part of two months. Am as ever so grateful to the local NHS. It feels more important now than ever to speak up for the importance of an NHS that is freely available at the point of need.

Kuhn Way
Members who live around Forest Street will have noticed that Kuhn Way has been blocked up in order for works to take place. If you read this blog regularly you might remember my earlier post about Kuhn Way:

In a nutshell, there were originally two parallel planning applications made by the school as part of their expansion, one which involved permanently closing Kuhn Way (which would have been of significant benefit to a really excellent local school. However I opposed this, after some thought, as I thought maintaining pedestrian access was vital) and one which did not close Kuhn Way. The first of these applications was withdrawn, and the second got permission.

The school then subsequently looked again at this second application.  I suspect but cannot confirm, that they previously had not worked too hard on this, hoping that the first would be successful! This is entirely my conjecture though. And they then submitted an updated application. If you are interested, you can look at the planning application, including the designs and drawings, online here:

I am really sorry that I wasn’t able to attend Strategic Development Committee when this most recent application was considered (I was, in slightly dramatic fashion, in A and E with difficulty breathing so my conscience is pretty clear!). I know that there were residents who opposed it, who attended the meeting, and opposed the temporary closure of Kuhn Way. I was however reassured to see the following in the minutes of the meeting:

The Chair invited Neil Deely, Chair of the Design Review panel to comment on the application.  Mr Deely, commenting on the concerns raised regarding the underpass, said that the design team had given that much thought. They considered that better lighting would create a brighter environment than present; with the CCTV, new paving and wall, it should feel safer.’

The Design Review Panel are an expert panel who advise the committee on design. As a Strategic Development Committee member, I value their advice and expertise very highly, and know that they would not have made the comments above unless they’d scrutinised the designs very carefully, and that their design opinion will be genuine and not influenced by other factors.

It’s therefore, on balance my opinion that whilst closure of Kuhn Way for 9 months while the work takes place is not at all ideal, and whilst I understand the concern about wider footbridges over it, I think on balance this does represent an acceptable compromise. I think it recognises the need for a brilliant local school to use the constrained space available to it most effectively, but also balances this with the needs of the local community too. An unpopular compromise might not be the most exciting solution (and indeed there is an argument that now no one is happy!) but I do think we’ve reached the best, or even the ‘least worst’ outcome and a positive way forward.

School Streets
Talking of schools, we have just launched a consultation to pilot the first ‘school street closures’ in Newham, and I am enormously pleased and excited about this. Two of the schools that are part of this pilot are our very own Woodgrange and Godwin schools.

I will write a separate blog post just about this, but in essence you may have seen school streets on the news, in Camden, Hackney, Redbridge or even further afield. The basic idea is that the street or streets outside a school are closed to traffic at dropping off and picking up time. This improves the air quality for our schoolchildren, also reduces the number of car accidents. There are a number of other, less immediately tangible benefits too. Children report that their trip to school feels more peaceful and happy, and they begin school in a less stressful way. Also, parents and carers begin to change their behaviour and to walk or cycle to school instead of driving.

There are exceptions to the closure: residents of the closed roads can still move their cars if they need to, also cars with disabled blue badges are exempt. But all other traffic is forbidden from passing through, meaning that the street is quiet, and everyone can peacefully and safely walk into school, congregate outside, and indeed play in the street if they wish.

As a parent at the above schools, I obviously have a personal as well as policy interest in this. I can confirm that the pavements outside the schools are crammed in the mornings and afternoons with buggies, scooters, small children on bikes, and the roads are often also rammed both with drivers who are ‘rat running’ through these small streets, but also I am sorry to say with parents who every single day ignore the teachers and the zigzag markings, and pull up outside the schools ‘just for a minute’ to drop their children off, or park a few metres up the road with their engines running, pumping out exhaust fumes at toddler head height. It is not fair to ask our teachers to intervene in traffic altercations (though they do!) and this proposed closure would make a difference to their working day as well as to our children’s health.

Consultation letters have gone out to homes around the schools, and I am working with a small group of parents who are very committed and want to help make this happen. Any kind of road closure is always controversial. But I hope that we can make this work in Forest Gate, and that if we can make a success of it, we can provide a kind of ‘blue print’ that will encourage other schools across the borough to follow suit. I am organising some specific door knocking and flyering about this scheme, and any local Labour members (or indeed parents, or residents) who are interested in joining us are more than welcome. Just drop me a line.

The Healthy School Streets consultation, and more information about the pilots, is available online here:

Long-time blog readers might remember a post I wrote about guerrilla gardening some time ago:

Since then I have seen various other small bits of gardening springing up: a roundabout in the conservation area, a tree pit here and there. And then, suddenly, an explosion of life and a riot of flowers, seemingly everywhere.

The reason for this is no more or less than brilliant and dedicated residents who wanted to make it happen. ‘Greening’ was one of the pieces of work that came out of our local Citizens Assembly, and one particular resident has been unstoppable in marshalling troops of volunteers, applying for small grants from the Council, and planting up any spaces she can find, supported by other residents and the Community Garden.
Map of planting across Forest Gate The map that local resident Lia Rees produced shows where you can see the work done… so far! Pleasingly, it is already out of date.  Even just now I was admiring the lemon balm in the new planter outside Fred’s on the market place, and there are vegetables and other edibles free for taking in the planters outside the Wild Goose Bakery on Field Road. If you want to see more of this kind of thing, then please do get involved. The easiest way to do this is to water and look after the planting we have. But if you have more time and energy and would like to be involved making planters/ sourcing plants / digging etc then drop me a line and I can put you in touch with ‘the flower starter’.

Forest Gate meeting
Recently our beloved Number8 Forest Gate organised some crowd funding, to help them through some difficult times. The crowdfunder is now closed (though you can go online and feel good about what a great and supportive community we have, by looking at how we exceeded the fundraising target:  https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-2?fbclid=IwAR1ZrLV-sj25i9e0c1L1b4EMC2ZuATPYp3drncqvXwwZcOG0AWNlqFN97Qo )
I know that there are a lot of strong feelings about the various things happening to our high street, some of which are local and down to the Council, some of which, to be frank, are not.

I am very sorry that I wasn’t able to come to a public meeting that the Mayor organised for local people to have their say, ask questions, and be involved in putting together some ideas for improvement. I will certainly be involved in the follow-up. I know there is particular concern about the empty shops on Woodgrange Road, and also about the impact of the over-running public realm works around the station.

But I also need to help amplify the fact that we all, and I include myself in this, need to use our local shops and market. If you love having a market, if you love having local independent shops, then please do support them in any way you can. Even making a small purchase regularly can help. The more people buy from our market, the easier it is for them to attract more stall holders. The more people purchase from number 8, the more likely they are to be able to stay. In the days of Amazon, of out of town retail, of rising business rates (set nationally, I should add) and economic uncertainty, things are hard for our treasured small businesses. There are things that the Council can and must do, but a responsibility for all of us to make sure our spending, or at least part of our spending, supports the kind of place where we want to live.

MSG sphere
I have blogged about the MSG sphere and local opinion about the application separately here:

The London Legacy Development Corporation planning meeting that will determine the application is due to meet in the next couple of months I believe. I am still ensuring that I keep an open mind about the application because I am a ‘reserve’ member of the planning committee, so if either Daniel Blaney or James Beckles cannot attend that night, I will need to attend, hear the evidence, and ensure that Newham has its say. If I were to take a position, either for or against, then I would not be eligible to vote.

Forest Gayte Pride
I can’t write this report on this sunny Monday without referring to the explosion of love, diversity, acceptance and rainbows that was Saturday’s third Forest Gayte Pride. If there is a better representation of the spirit of Forest Gate: joyful, celebratory, proudly diverse, politically progressive, faintly anarchic, friendly, community driven, excellently decorated and abundantly catered, then I don’t know what it is.

This year was bigger and better than ever, with the addition of a play street road closure on Earlham Grove, a bigger parade, and even more events happening over the course of the weekend. I was so proud to be part of the play street, and it was lovely to meet so many parents, children and other residents who joined me in my ‘Pride rocks’ set up, where we decorated stones to spread the love and the Pride message. (If you like the idea of decorated stones, hidden around Forest Gate for children and the young at heart to find, and hide again, then please do join my Facebook group, ‘Forest Gate Rocks’!)
I am so very, very grateful to the Forest Gayte Pride committee for all their work in making this happen. Friends from all over Newham came to Forest Gayte today to enjoy the very best of our hard working community, and our local businesses, and I could not be more proud to live here.

I was particularly reflective this year, thinking about LGBTQ rights, and how recent political events show us how hard won equality can be so quickly taken away. I am especially pleased to be bringing up my family in a place where all kinds of families, and all kinds of love are not just tolerated, but actively represented, championed and celebrated. I was angry and confused as a teenager when I realised that my sex and relationships education had lingered for hours on AIDS but had never mentioned homosexuality. It would be years before I realised that this was not an accidental omission, but a decided political stance that was only fairly recently changed.

Now it is legally required to have inclusive SRE, and what a joy it is as a parent to know that my girls will know not only that different types of families exist, but that they can love who they love, and their local community will embrace them, and whoever they bring home. I know that this topic is one that raises strong feelings, but nevertheless I will, along with Sasha and Anam, unapologetically stand up for this, and represent the right of all our residents to know that their lives and their families are part of our education system.

As ever, I always keep the details of my individual bits of casework confidential, but can report back on some general themes. Lots of people contacting me, Sasha and Anam about housing, which is always difficult to deal with. We are of course committed to building housing at social rent levels, which will help in the medium term to ameliorate the problem, but is no good right now to people in turmoil who are looking for somewhere to live and cannot afford to stay near their family, friends and community. I try to be as helpful as I can be, and signpost people to other services (the Shelter housing advice line, the Magpie Project, etc.) but am often dispirited about their overall chances of finding somewhere affordable where they can live with dignity.

I have had a gradually increasing number of complaints from residents about repairs and maintenance on their properties, both from Newham residents but also increasingly from the residents of housing associations.  That’s partly why I was delighted to hear from John Gray that we now have local housing resident engagement officers, whose job is to deal with exactly the kind of issues that are raised with me in my surgery and via email.
I hope that was a useful insight into some of the work involved in representing you locally. I would like to apologise to anyone who has been waiting for a response from me; my emails got entirely out of control whilst I had bronchitis, and I am only slowly catching up.

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All about ward boundaries

The Local Government Boundary Commission is currently consulting on a new set of ward boundaries for Newham, and I wanted to blog about it to let Forest Gate North residents know and to encourage you to contribute.

So, firstly, a quick primer on wards, with apologies to those of you who know this already and to whom this will seem hilariously basic. Currently, Newham is divided up into 20 wards. (If you’re curious, you can find a simple map of them here.)

Wards are basically administrative areas. Each ward has three councillors, and in Newham our wards are then grouped together into ‘Community Neighbourhood areas’ of two or three wards.

I have often said that ward boundaries will always, by their nature, be slightly arbitrary. Particularly in London where one named areas blends into the next, and the names of different ‘areas’ of London overlap and grow and change even depending who you are talking to and their relationship to their local area. But that said, the idea behind this consultation is that ward boundaries should broadly reflect the communities they represent. The people living in a ward should, generally, feel as though they live in the same place, be using generally the same services and recognize the same landmarks.

So this is a chance to make your case, if you feel strongly about it, for how the wards should look in Newham, and particularly in Forest Gate. Currently we are split into two wards, and Forest Gate North is, as I describe it, ‘long and thin’, stretching east / west. Does this work for us? I am a bit aware, for example, of constantly juggling casework from Woodgrange Road between us in Forest Gate North and my colleagues in Forest Gate South. I am also often emailed by people in Forest Gate South who think I’m one of their councilors and whom I then direct to Forest Gate South councillors. This obviously isn’t the end of the world for us to have to email each other!  But it must be frustrating for residents if they feel passed from pillar to post and if they experience delays as a result.

I’m particularly aware of the frustration that residents in Maryland can feel because their local area is split between not two but three wards. Whilst I obviously hope that we manage to link up at the Council (though residents can draw their own conclusion about how far this is true!), I do particularly notice the difficulties caused by ward boundaries when discussing concerns with the Maryland group about crime, where we are dealing with three different police local wards teams.

So should the boundaries change? Should they stay the same? If our wards were drawn differently, how should they look?

You can go onto the Local Government Boundary Commission website and have your say here. All the information about how to do that, about the process and timings, and everything else are all online here. The whole process is being run independently by the Boundary Commission, and the London Borough of Newham is responding to the consultation just as residents can.

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The MSG sphere planning application

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

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

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

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

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

But that said, in terms of having your views really heard, I personally think there is no substitute for emailing in your comments, in your own words, whether they are supportive or objecting. Information about how to respond to the LLDC is here: https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/planning-authority/view-and-comment-on-applications And the online information about the application itself is here: https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/planning-authority/madison-square-garden-planning-application

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

Dear Cllrs,

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

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

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

The events we have programmed are as follows:

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

If you need further information, please let me contact me or the planning team at: planningenquiries@londonlegacy.co.uk

Information about the events, including directions, format and more, is also available on this webpage: https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/planning-authority/madison-square-garden-planning-application

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Begone, footbridge!

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

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

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

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

Residents letter Forest Gate Temp Bridge Removal

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Public realm work in Maryland 2019

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


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Quietway work on Capel Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S35 Capel Road notification letter final

Quietway Capel Woodford Chestnut diagram

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Ward report September 2018

Welcome to my ward report for September 2018! I write this primarily for Forest Gate North Labour members, as a means of accountability for the work I do. But I also publish these reports here on my blog so that any resident can read more about what I am up to. If any of it isn’t clear or if you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Kuhn Way
You can read more information about the planning applications that were submitted in my blog posts here:  https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/06/20/kuhn-way/and here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2018/07/12/kuhn-way-proposed-closure-an-update/
I attended the planning committee in order to object to the application, but in fact the application was first deferred and then ultimately withdrawn, which I do thin in the end was the right decision. I’m still in touch with various residents who opposed closing Kuhn Way, and we are looking into whether we could do anything else to make the area more pleasant. I have asked for additional parking enforcement, have requested some bollards or similar to stop cars parking on the pavement more permanently, and a resident has requested signs showing the name of the road and also indicating its historical name which was Parliament Place.

Emily Duncan Place
Emily Duncan Place is the residential development near Wanstead Park station, and when it was built it was designated ‘car free’ meaning that residents there are not able to apply for residents’ parking permits. Some time ago I was contacted by a group of residents who wanted to express their distress at this, particularly as many of them owned cars, and prior to the RPZ coming into force they had (as directed by their housing association, or by the developer who sold them their flat) simply parked in the surrounding streets. They feel very misled as they maintain they were not told the development was car-free.
Most recently I organised a joint meeting between One Housing, Apna Ghar Housing Association, and the residents, to talk about this, and to explore anything we could do that might help. One Housing went away and are looking at the allocation of the parking spaces inside the development, but ultimately this is a very tricky area of casework which I am not very optimistic about resolving to the residents’ satisfaction: the development is car-free as part of the condition of it being built, and this should have been made clear to them before they moved in, but it seems clear that it wasn’t.

Crossrail delays
Many members will have seen already on social media that this week we received the news that the Crossrail works are over-running and will not be complete for a further 9 months. This  is particularly galling as our branch of Crossrail won’t open until ‘as soon as possible’ after that. The message received from TfL is that this is concerning safety and testing works, but what it frustrating is to have heard so late on in the process.  Which brings me on nicely to…

Forest Gate station
Throughout the past two years I have periodically been in touch with both Network Rail, and with Transport for London, regarding the work happening inside Forest Gate Station, including the now infamous temporary staircase. At one stage this relationship seemed very positive, and indeed you might remember I wrote up some notes of a very helpful meeting on my blog (https://forestgatenorth.com/2017/03/07/forest-gate-station/ ) however, since a change in personnel it’s been harder to get information. Most recently I have joined up with councillors from Forest Gate South to demand more information from Network Rail as we feel it’s entirely unacceptable that the works have been allowed to go on for so long without consistent information to residents about progress and the reasons for delays. We have asked for a meeting, and I am still asking for Network Rail to hold a Q and A session so residents can find out more themselves. I will let you know how I get on.

Forest Gate public realm works
These are progressing but have been taking longer than anyone wanted. This is largely because we had to suspend work after some organisational problems and appoint an external contractor. At the moment the market, Fred’s and Number8 are all extremely disappointed that the market moved to make way for marketplace works, which haven’t yet started. I am chasing this up with officers and will make sure that we do better at communicating with them. Eventually the completed works will have all kinds of benefits including the cycle hangar storage for the market gazebos, and power sockets for market stalls, but we have to make this interim period work, too, and we haven’t done as well there as we might have done.

Another live issue in the marketplace concerns whether to fit some kind of bin, and also the slightly vexed question of a bench. Regarding the former, I had a long discussion with officers from Highways and also from Waste, and also with a particularly engaged and frustrated resident about the perpetual domestic waste from the flats on the marketplace, and whether this might be rather better dealt with by some kind of structure to house a large bin. The difficulty to try to resolve here is that we know from experience elsewhere that bins are not necessarily a panacea but do attract waste. In the end, the strong advice from waste management colleagues was that any kind of bin or housing or similar would itself attract more and more fly tipping, and that once a problem like that had been created it was very hard to then solve. There is an ongoing issue about the domestic waste from flats around the marketplace (which some of you may remember me blogging about some time ago here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/09/19/site-visit-to-tackle-fly-tipping/  and here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/10/17/fly-tipping-update/  ) Our local enforcement officer Rikki has done various visits and letter drops there but this hasn’t as yet had a long-term effect. Now, colleagues in waste are going to include the homes at the beginning of Sebert Road in the timed waste collections from the main road – which I admit I always thought they were part of but apparently not – and we’re going to monitor that and see if we can make an improvement.

The other issue is whether to include a bench as part of the improvements going on; the plan currently includes a tree in the middle of the marketplace with a circular bench around it.  I have received a letter from the local ward panel (on which more later) asking me to intervene to stop this because of fears about street drinking and anti-social behaviour. I have to admit I’m entirely torn on this issue. The idea of a bench so that people can linger at the market, eating lunch there, is obviously attractive. But equally the prospect of ‘building in’ anti-social behaviour is not an appealing prospect either. I’m going back to officers to ask for their advice,  but would welcome any thoughts or input at this stage about whether we might be able to square this circle.

Maryland station
The commencement of the public realm work at Maryland station has also been delayed. Frustratingly this is entirely because of delays by the company who are refurbishing the station, who despite regular meetings and updates failed to let us know at LBN that they were delayed. However, officers have compressed the time so the finish date remains unchanged. Once finished, this will mean replaced paving around Maryland, more planting, increased pavement size (with the potential for a community market to take place there if residents wished to create one), and bicycle parking.

Forest Gayte Pride
This fabulous celebration of love in all its forms took place in July and I was so pleased to help support it, not just through the usual support and advice and information and publicity but also this year by arranging for our first ever rainbow pedestrian crossing in Forest Gate. The crossing was hugely successful , and was heavily used not only by a steady stream of people photographing it for social media but also by the first parade, which started with a family picnic in the Community Garden, and then processed to and from the marketplace.

Maryland residents’ association
I attended a Maryland residents’ association meeting along with colleagues from Stratford and Forest Gate South, and we had a packed agenda covering a wide range of issues. Particular things that I took away were strong concern from some of those present about the impact of the proposed MSG Sphere (currently plans for this are being developed and will be submitted to the LLDC for planning permission, which I sit on), issues that fall on ward and borough boundaries which we need to get better at picking up, a whole series of seemingly unloved and disregarded Newham car parks (these are primarily housing areas of land, so John Gray and I are looking at them in our cabinet roles), and also concerns about existing trees and requests for additional planting.

I was contacted some time ago by Hedwig who wanted to set up a Scandinavian café in one of the railway arches of Cranmer Road. One of the hurdles she had to navigate was applying for a change of use application from the Council, from a record shop to a café. I wanted to help make this as straightforward as I could, so spoke to the planning team to understand the planning policy in the railway arches, spoke with her about the aspects of the application that might be important, made my own comment in support, and also encouraged local residents to log on and comment on the application online. As I write, the application hasn’t yet been determined but there are 12 comments from residents in support which is a relatively high number compared to other similar applications.

Safer Neighbourhood Team meetings
I have been attending Safer Neighbourhood Team ward panel meetings. These are meetings of local residents that are held by our local officers, in which they discuss and agree local priorities for the police. Attending these has been a really helpful way of maintaining good relationships and communication with our (excellent) local police team, hearing directly from residents about their concerns on crime, and linking people up with the Council where necessary, particularly around where crime and ASB are interlinked.

Crime and ASB
After a series of comments and concerns from Maryland residents via their facebook page, I am arranging for Unmesh Desai, one of our GLA members, to attend a meeting of theirs. Residents reported that there crime including drug taking and prostitution taking place on their roads, and that reports to the police had not helped. Unmesh has offered to pull together data on crime so that the residents can campaign for more resources.

Cycle hangar requests
I don’t know whether it has been prompted by the warm weather, or chitchat, or a shift in transport behaviour… but I have definitely seen a noticeable increase in the numbers of residents requesting cycle hangars, especially in Forest Gate North. Currently you can request a hangar, and then you go onto a waiting list until there is a consultation where Newham writes to you and your neighbours to see if there are objections to installing one. (We do listen to residents’ concerns, but are also mindful that each hangar takes up only one car parking space, but allows room for six bicycles, which not only encourage more activity but also don’t contribute to pollution.)

What I think we’re missing at the moment is clearer information for residents after they have requested a hangar, and before they are installed. I have requested one myself, so speak with experience when I say that after you submit your request it all goes a bit quiet and it’s very unclear whether you might get one or not. I’m talking to officers so that we can be up front about the number of hangars we have the funds for, the number requested, and the likely waiting times, to help manage expectations. If you want to read more about cycle hangars, or to request one yourself, please see more information here: https://forestgatenorth.com/2016/06/27/cycle-parking/

This report represents most of what I’ve been doing. I don’t go into individual pieces of casework (as these are confidential) but I continue to pursue these. At the moment Members’ Enquiries (the officers who deal with casework and route it correctly around the Council) is suffering from a lack of resources. This does mean sometimes that casework from residents is taking longer than I would like, but they are recruiting additional officers and should be able to get back to better levels of service.

I’m always very happy to answer questions about what I do – although I should caveat that by saying it’s taking me a while to reply to emails now that I am on the cabinet. But I do reply!  I am contactable via various channels on social media, but if you want to flag something to me officially and want to be sure I will see it, and refer it on to the right people, then please use my email address: Rachel.tripp@newham.gov.uk

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