Weekly Update From Councillor Guy Lambert

Deceptively simple solution to noisy manhole cover on Green Dragon Lane

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Offending manhole cover

So Pegasus had his little workout and then to the FoodBox meeting, which was a fairly lengthy one. We talked quite a bit about the website, which is in the throes of being redeveloped, about finances, which are well-controlled and quite healthy at present, and about developing the service as the world comes out of lockdown and new challenges will undoubtedly emerge, including an expected large spike in unemployment. We have a good team of trustees now and astonishing volunteers who do all the hard work, but there are plenty of challenges ahead. Food donations are still pretty good and we are keeping our nose above the waterline – keep ‘em coming!

I then had some meeting-free days which enabled me to get as caught up as I ever can be with emails, casework, social media etc and get in some decent bike rides – up the Thames to Sunbury and down it to Waterloo and round and about the ward and the borough. I try to avoid anything that looks too much like a hill so places like Richmond Park are strictly off-limits, whether bikes are allowed or not.

On Sunday I had a complaint about a clanking manhole in Green Dragon Lane. I went to investigate and sure enough it was pretty horrendous, even a bicycle causing a noise like the crack of doom. Turns out is was COLT telecoms, a company who were a client of mine quite a number of moons ago and one where there is not a lot of mutual affection. I got Hounslow Highways on the case and it was quickly fixed – turns out some bright spark had replaced the manhole cover the wrong way round.

In trying to find the manhole using eyes (ears turned out to be the favoured organ) I strayed into the Wicksteed House car park and was confronted by these barriers that some contractor had erected to protect public safety. As you can see, they are fulfilling a vital role, or were before (I assume) someone had an episode of flatulence within a few metres, causing them to go into a swoon like some Victorian Lady. It is one of life’s ineffable mysteries why contractors, including our own (sometimes) beloved Hounslow Highways use these barriers which must have been selected for their elegance as clearly it had nothing to do with function!

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Suitably fortified, I had a scarily pre-9am meeting on Monday, fortunately without moving pictures of this decidedly evening person, which would have made it very scary indeed for the other party – the Lampton360 chair. General satisfaction with progress – we both think Lampton is heading steadily in a good direction now.

Then it was straight into a pre-meeting for the Green Recovery Board which was meeting for the first time on Tuesday. This - the actual meeting, not the pre-meeting - involved a very impressive display of academics, private sector leaders and green and economic gurus from various backgrounds as well as the LBH Chief Exec and a posse of senior officers and 4 of us councillors. It brought home that we have both a huge challenge and a number of opportunities and we got a lot of encouragement from the outside members who seemed most impressed by Hounslow’s vision, ambition and pace. You will likely be hearing a lot more about this as the weeks go by. Apparently they are volunteering to get further engaged and bring their teams with them, something our officers can take pride in.

Later in the afternoon we had a meeting with the Brentford Towers Residents Association, together with various officers from housing. There was a tragedy on the estate a couple of weeks ago and a lot of residents were upset about what had happened. This also brought to the surface some issues about communication and a reminder that for those of us who live in houses with gardens, or in my case a flat with a pleasant balcony, the lockdown has been unwelcome but not an enormous stress. It's very different if you are locked down high in the sky, perhaps overcrowded, and with health or money worries. The 2 bed flats in the Towers don’t even have a balcony and whilst there’s greenery outside, there’s not much opportunity to sit outside within the estate. We agreed some immediate actions, improving communications and accelerating work to upgrade the landscaping around the towers which has been in the plan but delayed by COVID. It was pleasing that everybody was relieved that Green Dragon Lane is going to become an access-only road, which will bring an improvement to the Towers’ environment in more ways than one. It was also delightful to have a representative from the London Museum of Water and Steam there: they are determined to link more closely with the Towers, which are all named after people connected to the water works as this excellent article from the local history society explains .

On Wednesday we were supposed to have a meeting of the ‘Community Reference Group’ for Cleaner Hounslow, but unfortunately this consultative group, like so many other such bodies around Hounslow and beyond, is currently confined with a virus, and nobody is yet permitted to come out to play with the other boys and girls. Don’t think that work is not going on in the background – we have plenty to be getting on with – but it’s obviously disappointing that we’re hampered getting those enthusiastic and creative members of the public who have been helping drive this forward back fully involved.

But I did have a Zoom meeting with the MD of Lampton360 and the finance man. It is very early in the financial year but good to hear that the companies are mainly on target, despite the challenges caused by Coronavirus. We’ll be pressing them to improve further as the year goes on and the MD certainly has that ambition.

Perambulating around the town, as I do, astride my trusty (and in places rusty) steed I crossed the bridge into that closely-guarded fortress, Brentford Dock. I stopped to look at Bryllyante Auld Brayneford ruins revealed by Ballymore and their chums.

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I was intrigued by the old walls revealed, I suppose, by the archaeological digging, but also charmed by that saggy roof, which could come out of an 18 th century painting juxtaposed with the majesty (?!?) of my old workplace, Great West House.

Thursday morning I’m out in the ward meeting a resident who is having real difficulties with neighbours. I’ve seen a lot of neighbour troubles during the lockdown, but this one is nothing new, having been a problem for a year or more. These things I find quite upsetting, but they are far from easy to resolve. The only promise I can make (which I do) is to do my level best to help and use whatever contacts I can muster in the council and beyond.

Then it’s back home for the second meeting of the Economic Recovery and Regeneration Board. Hounslow has a very high number of residents currently ‘working’ on furlough schemes and there is real nervousness about some of these losing their jobs altogether when the furlough arrangements end. We have a number of other concerns and this is going to be a very difficult few months – and years, almost certainly. It is a little reassuring to see the work that’s already been done by the council and the impressive team of people we have working on our plan, but we are in no doubt it will be tough.

Later, I have my regular update with senior officers who work my portfolio. The bad news is that, like other areas of the council, we have serious cost pressures of which the largest is the resale prices of recyclable materials which are expected to go down considerably. This market is very volatile at the best of times and these are far from the best of times. We have also had a fair amount of extra cost, for example following the reopening of the Space Waye depot, and reduced income from the commercial use of Space Waye.

Finally, I have been asked, as have other councillors, to attend a Black Lives Matter rally in the
Market Place on Sunday at 1.30pm. In common with my colleagues I’ve decided I can’t go as we are still not supposed to be meeting in large groups, no matter how good the social distancing is. I have told Sharidin, the fantastic organiser, that I will send a non-human emissary to the event, in the shape of My Little Pony, to show support in spirit.

Cllr Guy Lambert

June 26, 2020

Related links

Guy Lambertguy.lambert@hounslow.gov.uk

tel 07804 284948