September Newsletter

Local news below is on your new local Labour team,  Chestnut Avenue, Ravenstone School planning application, Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees new local event, changes to local policing and Northcote Library.

The start of September was all about new terms for me – my youngest son is now at secondary school and goes off on the train on all his own (yikes), my oldest is back at Bristol University and the middle two are going to open days and planning where to go for sixth form and college.

Hector, Fleur and Clare

Hector, Fleur and Clare

New local Labour team

Local elections are next May and the Labour candidates for Bedford ward have recently been selected by local Labour party members – your team is Cllr Fleur Anderson, Hector Wakefield and Clare Fraser we all live locally in Bedford ward and want to listen to local people and keeping working to make our area an even better place to live for everyone. We’re all on twitter: @CllrFleur @clare_f and @hectorwakefield

Chestnut Avenue trees

Last Draw Chestnut Avenue

Save Chestnut Avenue campaign: The Last Draw

Plans to cut down 51 trees on Chestnut Avenue are going ahead, despite appeals for a rethink from Rosena Allin-Khan MP and London Mayor (and local resident) Sadiq Khan and my letter to the council (see previous blog). There is a notice on the common which means that the Avenue can be closed for the works to be carried out at any time in the next six months. I have been told that this will take about 2 weeks. Local people, community and councillors were told that this is necessary due to concerns about the trees’s disease and age and risk of falling down. I agreed that this had to be taken seriously. However since then other tree experts have said that the trees could be saved for the next 10 years at least, some need to be felled but not all. No work has been done on all the other Chestnut trees on the common – suggesting that health and safety wasn’t such an issue as had been portrayed.

For latest information contact me: fanderson@wandsworth.gov.uk, and see the local campaign on Twitter: @SaveChestnutAvenue

Ravenstone School

Ravenstone school playground and the garages where the new houses will be built

Ravenstone school playground and the garages where the new houses will be built

Parents and staff at Ravenstone School are objecting to a planning application for houses to be built very close to the playground – overlooking the playground with large glass windows, and overshadowing the playground.

If you would like to add any comments to the planning application (it doesn’t need to be a long comment), click on here. Scroll down to the bottom to see the planning documents, and click on ‘comment on application’ to register your objection.

 

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees event during the Wandsworth fringe earlier this year - come to the next event on Monday Oct 9th

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees event during the Wandsworth fringe earlier this year – come to the next event on Monday Oct 9th

The annual public meeting is on October 9th at 7pm at Tooting United Reformed church, Rookstone Rd (near Tooting Broadway tube). There will be inspiring speakers and making plans for the year ahead. Wandsworth Council has still only welcomed one Syrian family to the borough. For more information and to book your free ticket click here.

 

 

 

Policing changes underway

There is a consultation on changes to local policing open until October 6th: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/mopac-consultations/share-your-views-accessing-met

These changes are the result of the £600 million cuts already made and now further Tory cuts of £400 million by 2021. To do this, but maintain response service for the public, they will be keeping local police officer numbers and cutting amounts spent on senior officers and buildings. Lavender Hill police station will be closed but not until a new 24 hr ‘customer service’ building will be opened nearby – Lavender Hill won’t be closed until the new building is opened. Wandsworth police station will be closed. Faced with this situation, the Metropolitan Police and Mayor are choosing the right priorities – making sure our 999 calls are answered and keeping local neighbourhood policing to keep us safe.

I attended the recent consultation on these changes with Borough Police. the Borough Commander Peter Laverick said that in all his 29 years in the police service, he has never seen such extensive changes as there are now. The Met has already been required to make savings of £600 million, and now must make £400 million further savings by 2021, whilst maintaining the same level of service.

At the consultation I welcomed the new resourcing for local policing and keeping police numbers rather than buildings. I also raised the concerns of local members of the Safer Neighbourhood ward group and Neighbourhood Watch representatives, that the 101 system isn’t working. currently people are finding that their calls aren’t answered, that they are left hanging on for too long, or that calls aren’t followed up. This undermines the good work of our local police officers and stops crimes being reported and stopped. I was informed that there was a move of staff from the 101 calls to 999 as a result in an increased in calls and that new staff for the 101 service will be starting very soon. I will continue to monitor this – do let me know if your calls aren’t being answered.

The Borough Commander told the public meeting that in Wandsworth 25,000 crimes per year are recorded, with 43,000 ‘calls to service’ and 14,000 of these are immediate response calls. They aim to maintain the level of local police officers (just over 500 in Wandsworth) as well as the response to the public.

A proposed way to do this is to save costs on buildings rather than police officers, and to reduce the numbers of senior officers and share resources across the boroughs through joining up boroughs into districts.

Footfall surveys for the two police stations which are open to the public showed low useage for crime reporting – people report crimes by phone rather than in person. 0.2 crimes per day in Wandsworth and 5 crimes per day in Lavender Hill.

Lavender Hill police station is on a long lease from the courts service which ends in 2029 and has running costs of £120,000 per year. An early end to the lease will be negotiated and they won’t close this building until a new (cheaper) police station in the same area, probably further up Lavender Hill, is opened. They are scoping out buildings but don’t know where it will be exactly. It will be still be the only police station open to the public 24 hrs a day.

Wandsworth police station is currently open on week days and will close. Tooting police station has already been closed to the public for some time, and will be sold. Earlsfield station will be kept as a police operations base, and the building where the cells are will be kept people will still be detained in Wandsworth when arrested.

Instead, local hubs will be opened – a safe room for police officers to start and finish their shifts from, speak to people confidentially if needed and keep equipment. The Mayor’s office said that these will all be a 20 minute walk from the ward, but ward teams will share them. They don’t have a plan for where they will be, so it was hard to tell if these really will be a 20 min walk and is something I would like to know more about.

Dedicated ward officers (DWOs): at a ward level the change is to move to having 2 dedicated ward officers, who can’t be ‘abstracted’ for Met-wide operations (eg football matches) but will be more embedded in the community. In Bedford we already have this as these plans have been rolling out for several months. The Tooting sergeant said that he will be writing in a commitment to be in the ward for a longer time into the new contracts for DWOs of 12 months.

In Wandsworth this means two DWOs and a PCSO in each ward, with an extra officer in some wards (like Queenstown) as well. Before the cuts there were three officers in each ward, but this is a commitment to keeping current levels in the long-term. I asked about overall police numbers as well – ie those in the special units, response teams etc, and the Borough Commander said that all of these numbers would be maintained.

Improved technology will enable these officers to be on the streets more and back at base less. They will have iPhone and iPads and be able to do all their recording of crimes when out and about. This is already in progress and starting to be rolled out, with an aim to have this fully operational by next Spring.

Northcote Library

Northcote library

Northcote library

Plans for Wandsworth Council to replace the current Northcote Library with a new, modern library on the site of a nearby community hall sounds great until you find out more about the actual plans. The new library and community space will be very welcome, but not at any cost. The current plan was made without consultation with the community groups and nursery that use Chatham Hall which will be demolished for this scheme.

 

Provision of a new library should have resulted in a clear majority of people in favour. But it didn’t – and this shows the considerable local objections to the plan. THIS plan for a new library is not welcome. Cllr Cook should listen to these local objections and look at the plan again.

The plan should have included them so that there will be somewhere for the nursery to go during the 18 months of building work, and so that the community space will be as good as (if not better) than the current space. Alphabet nursery is a fabulous nursery, loved by local parents and a local business paying rent to the council for 27 years and yet has not been valued by the council.

Chatham Hall community centre - due to be demolished to make way for the new library

Chatham Hall community centre – due to be demolished to make way for the new library

Years after first thinking of the plan, there still is no new space for Alphabet nursery agreed during the building works. Conversations with a local church have started but should have been done at the beginning and not the end of this process as it has left the staff and parents very uncertain and didn’t need to be like this if the council had worked with community groups instead of leaving them out.

Chatham Hall is a wonderful, light and airy, fantastic big space. The new community space does not have the kitchen, safe outside space and integrated toilets that current users need. Community groups would not agree that the council has done ‘all it can’ to find alternative accommodation. Instead, it has felt as though this has been railroaded through without care for the community’s needs.

The papers for this plan were submitted to the councillors on the committee (which I am on) without any plans for the building and no costings at all. This is a council development which will provide 16 much needed new flats in the areas, and that there are over 1000 families living in temporary accommodation. So this would be a rare opportunity for the council to build social housing, but this proposal by the Labour councillors was rejected by the Conservative councillors.

It is a great shame that instead of being a new building to celebrate by local people in and around Northcote, the plans for the new library are being seen so negatively. The council can fix this with proper support for community groups, support for relocation for Alphabet nursery, a rethink on the new community space and inclusion of social housing in the scheme.

Council plans to close Chestnut Avenue for six months

Last week I received an email from Wandsworth Council, out of the blue, announcing that Chestnut Avenue on Tooting Common would be closed for six months, or until the chestnut trees have been felled and replaced – whichever is sooner. This was quite a shock and I am sure will be for everyone who enjoys using our beautiful common.

Publicising the consultation in summer 2016I agreed with the majority of consultation respondents in the summer of last year that if the trees are diseased and dangerous, and they need to be cut down, then a replacement by a new avenue of yellow flowering lime trees would be better than losing the avenue. However, there is evidence that the trees could be saved, and that other ways to deal make the trees safe without cutting them down are possible. It will be awful to cut down our beautiful Chestnut trees in their prime if this doesn’t need to happen.

A reader of this blog said that I should have reported on the Avenue in my last blog. I was hopeful for change but had nothing new to report. At that stage I had been asking for the council’s plan for the felling and replanting of the avenue and how it would save the ‘good’ trees that the Community Services Committee agreed to save in response to my proposal in our meeting. I hadn’t heard a response on this – and still haven’t. The local campaign invited me to attend a meeting with councillors and officers but I was asked to leave the meeting right at the start. I hoped that both of these meant that the plan was being looked at again and a decision to reconsider the decision was being made and thats why it couldn’t be shared and meetings were top secret. But no, it appears that the council is just carrying on regardless.

This is my response to the council, and below the letter is further information about this issue:

To: Director of Community Services and Environment, Wandsworth Council

Dear Mr Chadwick

Thank you for your email regarding the closure of Chestnut Avenue. This was a big surprise to me, and will be both a surprise and a shock to users of Tooting Common.

During the committee meeting where we reluctantly made this decision, there was unanimous agreement that we should save healthy trees, and both during the committee meetings and since then I have asked for an updated assessment of which trees can now be considered ‘good’ and a plan for which these trees are. The decision in committee was not unanimous as there was a vote against the proposal so this email should be amended. 

The response of the trees to the canker is dynamic and so an up to date assessment of the trees is needed – and hopefully some more trees are able to be saved, and we need to know this. Also some trees on the Tooting Bec Road end of the Avenue have been heavily pollarded to ensure their safety. I hope that these now do not need to be cut down. Despite asking for them, I haven’t heard results from any more recent survey which can tell us how many trees can now be saved, and whether the progress of the disease is as anticipated or not.

The whole project seems to be going ahead regardless of the high degree of local concerns and the desire of the committee to save trees which can be saved. If the action to save the trees by pollarding them is proving successful, the committee should be appraised of this and able to look again at the plan.

I strongly object to the very extended closure of the Avenue, and so will local residents. This long closure is very heavy handed, and contradicts the answer I was given in committee when I asked how long the works would take and was told it would be six weeks. Your letter hasn’t explained what will happen to the on-going users of the Avenue. Have arrangements been made with the café and the organisers of Park Run and the Pumpkin Parade, and for all users to cross over the common at the café, the lake and the changing rooms? I can understand that the playground can be accessed from the other side, but what arrangements are there for users of the tennis courts? What is the alternative route for cyclists?

The signatures of over 5,000 people opposing the cutting down of the trees show how unpopular this plan is, and the long closure of the Avenue will compound the unpopularity and increase opposition.

Please respect the Committee’s desire to save the trees if possible, reconsider this project in the light of new knowledge about the progress of the canker and measures taken which can save the trees, and if you do ahead in the face of public opposition, please reconsider the plan to close the Avenue for so long.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Fleur Anderson

Public anger over plans to close busy Avenue through Tooting Common for up to 6 months

Residents living close to Tooting Common have responded angrily to Wandsworth Council’s proposal to close Chestnut Avenue, which runs across Tooting Common, to all users for up to six months.

While the avenue is closed, the Council intends to fell an avenue of Chestnut trees which line it and replace them with saplings. The project is to be paid for using a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Chestnut Avenue is a well-loved landmark used by commuting cyclists, families, visitors to the tennis courts, the playground, the local cafe and participants in the weekly Park Run event and an annual pumpkin parade. 

Speaking about the Council’s decision to close Chestnut Avenue, Fleur Anderson, a local councillor and Labour’s Speaker on Community Services, said; “I strongly object to the very extended closure of the Avenue, and so will local residents. This long closure is very heavy handed. The Council, which originally said the work would take no more than 6 weeks, has not explained what will happen to the on-going users of the Avenue, including commuting cyclists and families who use it daily”. 

Opposition to the felling of the trees has been vocal with over 5,000 people signing a petition to oppose the council’s plans. 

The Council has cited health and safety reasons for removing the trees. However, opponents of the plan point to a lack of evidence for the need to remove the avenue on health and safety grounds. 

According to Fleur Anderson, “the committee which voted on the plans to fell the Avenue agreed to save as many trees as possible and there was unanimous agreement that we should save healthy trees. I have repeatedly asked for an updated report into the health of the trees but have yet to receive a reply”. 

According to Jeremy Barrell, tree consultant and specialist in heritage tree assessments; “My assessment of the trees is that none are dangerous, none are dead, and most have the potential to be retained with limited intervention for decades. Wandsworth Council are justifying the removals on the basis of responses from a public consultation and the advice of experts. From what I can see the public consultation approach is obviously flawed and none of the expert reports advocate felling and replacement as the best or only option”. 

Opponents of the plan to fell the Avenue claim that the Council’s decision to cut down the trees is motivated by the offer of a grant. They have arranged a final community event to mark the avenue’s final days, called The Final Draw when residents will be encouraged to record the trees by painting, drawing and photographing them.