CAMPAIGNS AND SUCCESSES
As the local election campaign rushes by, we wanted to highlight the work we have done since being elected in 2018 on behalf of those we represent:
- CS9/C9/C9T: Beginning in 2017 with our Stop CS9 campaign, the lobbying continues as C9T was installed as a Streetspace scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing huge congestion on Chiswick High Road, delaying bus journeys and shifting congestion and pollution to other roads which are now often gridlocked - with no sign of modal shift.
- Turnham Green Terrace (TGT): We didn't stop campaigning to re-open TGT after its disastrous Streetspace closure that did so much damage to retailers along this road, known for its independent shops; it was re-opened in 2021 including parking and the popular free 30-minute stop-and-shop parking; the threat of unwelcome change still exists and the fight against unwanted changes will continue.
- Devonshire Road: Another disastrous Streetspace closure scheme, amended incomprehensibly and against the outcome of the Chiswick Shops Task Force consultation, the only Chiswick consultation that adhered to Market Research Society (MRS) guidelines. Through the Chiswick Shops Task Force, Jo continues to campaign for retailers who want the road open for longer hours and more parking reinstated particularly as it is not used in winter months or bad weather; for owners of cafes/restaurants who want outdoor dining space in good weather months; for changes in the layout of the parking which blocks ordinary parking outside a whole stretch of shops; and for Glebe Estate residents to be able to drive to their homes.
- Fishers Lane: Yet another unworkable Streetspace closure scheme, nominally operated by Ealing council on behalf of Hounslow council, this has affected many elderly residents of nearby sheltered accommodation and their carers, GPs, nurses, visitors, family and friends; people working at Chiswick Health Centre; residents of the many roads off Fishers Lane, increasing their journeys, increasing the consequent pollution and shifting congestion and pollution to other roads notably Acton Lane and South Parade; we support residents in Ealing's Southfield ward who have been so adversely affected by this road closure - as for C9, with no evidence of modal shift.
- The borough's second worst fly tip: Residents of the Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate (GPGE) had put up with a slew of filthy waste stretching down the top of Princes Avenue; the fight for better waste management was long before one large bin was installed, then a second bin arrived and the problem lessened but needs constant attention.
- Gunnersbury Park management: Arguing for community involvement in decision-making by urging the park management team to create a local management consultative committee; protecting residents from the effects of huge festivals, such as Lovebox/Citadel, and other events by seeking changes to noise direction/volume, better management of crowds, litter, lavatories. We achieved some improvement - reducing the impact of residents on the east of Lionel Road North of HGVs and other vehicles setting up, running and de-rigging events; re-siting public loos away from homes; Jo continues to call for The Loop to attend large events to reduce the risks of illegal drug trading as revealed in a BBC documentary about corrupt security guards at Lovebox at Gunnersbury. We campaigned to save the Gunnersbury Bowls Club which had been looked after so well by dedicated volunteers but is being turned into a crazy golf experience. New problems have arisen from the impact of the sports hub (specifically lighting at night) and, because the park is no longer locked at night, it is becoming a magnet for drug dealing.
- Fishers Lane zebra crossings: This had been on Chiswick councillors' agenda for years, with no promise of funding from the council, so when Jo met the developers of the Chiswick Health Centre she asked if they could include these three essential zebra crossings in their plans; they agreed and they will be installed when the health centre is built.
- Princes Avenue and Gunnersbury Lane junction: Despite years of campaigning for safety improvements, achieving only minor changes, this junction remains a safety concern. We will continue to ask for changes that make it less worrying when trying to drive out of Princes Avenue onto Gunnersbury Lane.
- Our retail economy and the Chiswick Shops Task Force: Chiswick's independent retailers were struggling before COVID-19 made it even worse; Jo set up the Chiswick Shops Task Force specifically to give local independents a voice. The task force includes one councillor from each ward (Cllr Patrick Barr, Chiswick Homefields; Cllr Gabriella Giles, Chiswick Riverside ward; Cllr Joanna Biddolph of Turnham Green ward); our five point plan was suspended when, less than a year after publishing our major retail report, COVID-19 shifted our work to helping owners of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and service businesses navigate the complexities of grants, lockdowns, closures and other restrictions (we sent over 40 emails supporting business owners through the changes).
- Substandard conditions in badly-run social housing: These issues can dominate a councillor's casework and can be particularly harrowing and moving. After numerous complaints about one national social landlord with housing across the borough, and inadequate responses from that landlord to complaints in housing in Turnham Green ward, Jo escalated the issue to the cabinet member and most senior officer. She met the social landlord for a straight-terms discussion. There were some improvements but problems persist. We are not taken in by responses that aren't then followed up by action; some cases take years to solve.
- Houses in multiple occupation (HMOS): Over half of the registered HMOs in Turnham Green ward are in the small Gunnersbury Park Garden Estate (GPGE) conservation area of around 480 homes. Residents believe there are many more unregistered HMOs in the GPGE. We initiated a campaign to persuade residents to tell us, confidentially, where they think houses are being used as HMOs without being registered. Our concerns are, of course, about standards, safety and risks to tenants - based on experiences we have had of dangerous electricity supplies, inadequate plumbing, appalling living conditions including intense overcrowding and, in one case, a fire in garages across two adjoining houses.
- Anti-social behaviour: There have been so many examples throughout the ward such as party houses and flats in the GPGE, one of which was only reformed after 15 years of disruption during which an elderly resident only ever slept during the day; appalling waste management at badly-run houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs); illegal car trading; and other community-disrupting activities.
- Big development: Jo spoke at the public enquiry into the Chiswick Curve on Chiswick roundabout and is keeping a very close eye on the current proposal, Holly House; we have lobbied against the TfL Bollo Lane development; the development of the B&Q site into the Fourth Mile complex; the enormous Shurgard storage unit at 266 Gunnersbury Avenue; various proposals for 250 Gunnersbury Avenue; more high rises along or near Bollo Lane. The Sainsbury's site; Chiswick police station, Chiswick post office and the car park at Gunnersbury tube station are all identified for development. We want and need more family-homes, not more shoe-box flats particularly after Covid-19 showed starkly how living in small spaces affects mental health.
- Empire House: As this huge site became an increasingly depressing eyesore, Jo met Lendlease to discuss what could be done while it was trapped in development limbo; Lendlease agreed to try to market the empty units and spruce up the way it looked by installing window decals and instigating regular window and shop unit cleaning. As soon as Jo learned it had been bought by Great Marlborough Estates, she asked its new owners for a meeting and learned, not just from their very swift reply, about their strong commitment to community and to Chiswick - we will hear more as the development progresses. The directors have responded fast and positively when issues have arisen as new work starts.
- Cross party working during the pandemic: Jo became leader of the Conservative Group in 2019 and, shortly after Covid-19 took hold, negotiated cross party working with Labour during the pandemic; this resulted in us having weekly briefing meetings with the council's Gold crisis team, holding Labour to account in private.
- Motion of no confidence in council leader Steve Curran: Jo suggested this motion, brought to a head by the damaging and divisive Streetspace road closure schemes, and seconded it. Given that Labour has a majority of 50 the motion was never going to succeed but we made important points and exposed the leader's very wobbly majority within his own party; shortly afterwards, he shored it up by introducing new cabinet assistant roles, with extra special responsibility allowances, buying support; we have pledged to abolish these new roles if we are in control of the council. Here is Jo's speech during the motion of no confidence; and here is the speech Ranjit would have made if the debate hadn't been curtailed by Labour.
- Fly tips, fly posting, graffiti, litter, road sweeping, potholes, trees, drug dealing, cuckooing, abandoned cars, housing repairs, re-housing, telecoms masts, noise plus, illegal traveller encampments, illegal car parking and, on the positive side, successfully asking for more EV charging points, bike storage and bike racks ... life as a councillor is extraordinarily varied and there is never nothing to do.