Friday, October 31, 2014

Redbridge Local Forums
– The Verdict

One swallow doesn’t make a summer, or so the saying goes. But we can make some preliminary observations and constructive criticism on the new long awaited (delayed by a rather silly requisition) Local Forums that kicked off in the Gloucester room at Ilford Central Library last Tuesday evening.

Let’s start with the Market Place. I wasn’t sure about this bit beforehand but having experienced it I’d say it was a jolly good idea, and it takes a lot for the council to impress me, I can tell you. I got to meet people in person who I had only previously known via social media which is all to the good. It was packed out as you would expect a Market Place to be and the participants, the third sector stalls, seemed to be relishing this new platform to promote their activities. I would hope, that as we move around the borough, we have new stalls from other local groups and associations, indeed ourselves, to keep this part a vibrant and welcoming exercise.

On to the Question and Answer section. Again this was, on the whole, very good. It was two hours of interesting questions from members of the public and our councillors responding. Perhaps a little too long for the attention span of some, like me, but the definite end time is good. Some of us have pubs to go to. There were one or two logistical issues though. Because there were so many people there, milling about, the changeover from open market to seated audience format seemed chaotic and took longer than anticipated. The number of people also made the room rather stuffy and quite warm. Ventilation should be considered for future venues. The acoustics could be improved. While the top table are used to speaking with a microphone, the public may not be and sometimes it is difficult to hear what they are saying (I also found this a problem with Area Committees). Perhaps the Chair should be mindful of this and summarize or repeat the question when it is appropriate?

Ah, I almost forgot. The Tuesday forum clashed with External Scrutiny which was dealing with Public Transport issues. However, I’m quite sure that Cllr Mrs Ryan did a splendid job in our absence on step free access at Newbury Park station and a bus route along Forest Road.

So let’s now look at some of the criticism in the local press:

“Area Committees were scrapped and Local Forums foisted upon us without any consultation”. This was a clear pre-election commitment on the part of the new administration. What did you expect them to do? We voted for it on May 22nd, they did it, end of. STFU.

“It’s just a talking shop”. What on earth is wrong with that? If you want to engage with the community it would be wise to er, how can I put this … talk to them, preferably in person? You might as well say that the meetings organised by local community and campaign groups are just talking shops. The plain fact is that Area Committees had their teeth gradually drawn over successive administrations to the point where for some you had to wait three months before you could get a say and only then if the Chair would let you while the other councillors were on social media tweeting flippant comments about each other. While these forums have no allocated budget or decision-making powers, the point is that the councillors and officers in attendance do. It just needs to be monitored and reported back properly. An easy enough task, surely.

“Boo hoo, our meeting is in the afternoon”. No! The meeting in Wanstead is in the afternoon. You don’t have to wait until there is one on your doorstep. If you have a problem or issue you can go to any or all of them. Someone in the Town Hall, and I suspect not a councillor, has put some serious thought into this. The sort of feedback we, Barkingside 21, get is “I can’t make Tuesdays”, or “I can’t do Thursdays” or “why can’t you have coffee mornings in the evening?" [sic!]. Area 3 meetings were always held on a Wednesday which for someone with a regular Wednesday commitment elsewhere was not very convenient. These Forums are on different days of the week in the evening and there is one in the afternoon. They rotate around the borough at venues that are accessible via public transport and they are monthly. This is good practice and offers the widest possible choice to the widest section of the community.

Oh, and apparently we are to get a new swimming pool but we don’t know where or if it will hold water yet.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Garden Grab in Old Barkingside
– Episode II

Readers may recall Episode I back in July last year. That application was rejected but, as with so many planning applications, the applicant has gone away and tried to address the reasons why it was rejected and come up with a new proposal that they hope will be approved. The new application is 3388/14 and you can find the relevant papers here. There are already quite a few objections.

click on image to enlarge
The key differences are that the development has been rotated through 90° so that the houses now face Sandringham Gardens and the listed Pert Cottages opposite, the number of houses has been reduced from seven to five, instead of 3 storey town houses with a pitched roof on top they are now 2 storey plus living space in the loft area and each dwelling now has its own refuse storage area.

However, because the new dwellings front the road they all have dropped kerbs with off-road parking, but only one space each and one spare. This means that on road parking for others is effectively being reduced in an area where parking is already at a premium. It is close to the High Street and Barkingside tube station which attracts “free” commuter parking.

The planning guidance, as we understand it, is to encourage development in precisely such locations in order to reduce car use. There are also two major supermarkets within walking distance and plenty of buses that will get you into Ilford Town centre in 20 minutes. The problem is that these are three bedroom houses and while car use may reduced it does not necessarily reduce car ownership and if the car is not in use and the owner does not have sufficient off-road parking then it is going to be parked on the public highway, or worse on the footway. Added to this, there is the Barnardos development across the road where parking provision could also be described as meagre.

If you look at those places where there has already been substantial infill development you will find Residents Parking permit schemes and if you go further afield to places like Islington you will actually find car ownership on the decline simply because there is nowhere left to park unless you rent a garage for £2,000 per month.

When communities are designed and planned properly, like when Barkingside was expanded and Clayhall developed in the 1930s, they included space for schools, doctors surgeries, small residential shopping parades, places of worship, pubs, parks, playing fields etc. It is when these communities suffer from extra piece meal and infill development that amenities are placed under pressure. It is not any one development, but the cumulative impact that is the problem. That said, Redbridge council has an obligation to build something like 10,000 new homes in the next few years and as far as I can see there is no plan for infrastructure or amenities. This is where we are. These things are now left to the market because the market knows best and always delivers at the cheapest possible price, doesn’t it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stepping Up at Newbury Park

From the Seven Kings & Newbury Park Residents Association

Over one year ago, Saturday 13th July 2013, we started our campaign to persuade Boris Johnson, Mayor of London and Mike Brown, Managing Director of TfL of the merits of finishing the job that TfL started in 2008 and abandoned in 2009 due to the recession, for step free access lifts to be installed at Newbury Park station.

As a residents association, we are a non-political, non-religious group that exists to maintain and improve the areas of Seven Kings and Newbury Park. We believe that this issue should be non-political and everyone should come together whatever party they are associated with to show the strength and depth of feeling from residents, commuters and visitors to the station that not having step free access at such a busy station with high usage and footfall is unacceptable.

For a 21st century public transport system to have no step free access at a such a heavily used commuter station as Newbury Park is unfair, particular for people who are disabled, in wheelchairs, have trouble walking, the elderly, mums, dads and carers with prams/buggies/pushchairs and those who have heavy luggage.

We are now stepping up our campaign by officially launching our petition at a photo shoot outside Newbury Park station on Saturday 1st November 2014 at 9:15am. The last photo shoot was a resounding success, with cross party support from Redbridge councillors, MPs - Mike Gapes (Ilford South) and Lee Scott (Ilford North), plus Roger Evans, the GLA member for Redbridge and Havering. We are inviting the same list again as well as other interested parties and local groups.

Your support on the day would be most welcome!

Mark Kennedy
Membership Secretary & Press & Publicity Officer