My Latchmere March Newsletter (# 35)
- The biggest news of the month, the year, the decade, was the Council’s decision to “spend” £100 million on Latchmere and Roehampton wards. And at the same time the Big Lottery has also allocated a separate £1 million to Latchmere. Let me explain. At the 29th February Finance and Corporate Resources Committee the Council came forward with its response to the riots. It was not, of course, said to be a response to the riots, indeed it was claimed to be despite the riots but nevertheless it seems to me to be quite a coincidence that one of the largest ever investments in the Council’s housing stock should come just 6 months after the riots and the independent paper the Council commissioned to analyse them.
- You can read the paper in detail at http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s23036/12-218%20-%20Aspirations.pdf but in summary the Council has decided to arrange its finances so that it creates the opportunity to borrow up to £100million on the refurbishment and regeneration of the most difficult estates in Latchmere and Roehampton. After discussing the paper with the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive, it is clear that they expect about £60million to be spent in Latchmere and £40million in Roehampton. Whilst these are very large sums it should be remembered that the refurbishment of St. James Grove (Castlemaine) cost over £10million. Here it is before and after the refurbishment. There are as yet no specific plans, nor any commitment to timescales, but it is clear that the Council expects most of the investment to be centred on the York Road and Winstanley Estates. So using Castlemaine as a template, then if the same amount is spent on the large York Road blocks of Penge, Pennethorne, Chesterton, Inkster, Scholey and Holcroft and, say, Sporle Court, then there will not be much left for anything else. However, it is also clear that the Council want to do something substantial with the square at the foot of Pennethorne House and some of the open land around the other blocks.
- I did get a commitment from the Housing Director that the community, and your three councillors, will be very much involved in the process of developing plans and seeing through the process, which we all expect to take at least 10 years! So whilst I am sure things will start happening don’t let anyone imagine that it will all happen tomorrow because it won’t. By the way I was very involved in the consultation process at Castlemaine and it was pretty intensive and very successful.
- The same paper also expanded on the Big Lottery Trust’s decision to invest £1million over 10 years in community projects in the area covered by the York Road, Falcon Road, Kambala, Badric and Wayland Road estates. I have been in touch with the Big Lottery Trust and will meet with their contact in what they call confusingly the Clapham Junction/West Battersea area. The intention is that this fund should be used very much for community projects such as funding play schemes or youth clubs. I think that there will be a tremendous emphasis on well thought out, well led local projects and look forward to seeing what might come from, say, the Falconbrook parents or WOW (Women of Wandsworth) or the most active residents’ associations, such as Falcon Road. But it is also a great opportunity for York Road and Winstanley residents. We must all work to get the best outcome from this once in a lifetime opportunity!
- The Planning Applications Committee on 16th February had nothing of immediate significance to Latchmere ward but it did have a massive development in Nine Elms Lane, which had at least 1,500 flats let alone all the retail space, parking, and leisure space that goes along with that. You can read the details, if you really want to at http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s22864/Paper%20No.%2012-134A.pdf although there is not an easy summary of this massive (200 page) paper. But here is an artist’s (one might say developers’ propaganda representation) impression of the development. As it happens I voted against it not because I was against it in principle. Indeed on the whole I think that what is beginning to happen in Nine Elms is very exciting, but because there is almost no provision for housing at prices that ordinary people will be able to afford. In the jargon the element of affordable housing is only 15% and not as Wandsworth itself wants 33% – and that leaves aside whether what is called “affordable” is something that ordinary people can afford as it is often geared to people earning £50,000+.
- On a personal note, I went to the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy on 7th February. If you can afford it and have any interest in art then let me thoroughly recommend it – a real gob-smacker. And here is one of the works, simply a scene of trees in North Yorkshire.
- And then on the 20th, I went to Oxford to hear Mary Jay give a talk on the diaries of Douglas Jay – who he? I hear you say. Well Douglas was the MP for what was then Battersea North from 1946-1983. As I have been a councillor since 1971, I knew him and, of course, Mary quite well.
- She is just in the process of getting his diaries published on the web. They are not, she says, strictly diaries but rather reminiscences of his time in the Harold Wilson Cabinet from 1964-67. I could write tons about it and him but suffice to say that Douglas was most famous for three things. First, his undying but unsuccessful opposition to British membership of what was then the Common Market, second, his successful opposition to the Motorway Box, which if it had proceeded would have left most of Battersea covered in a spaghetti junction of motorways. And third for being misquoted as saying, in the 1930s, that “the man in Whitehall knows best” – he actually said something rather different.
- The dinner after the lecture was fascinating as it included many of the major political figures of his day including Douglas’s son Peter and the BBC election guru David Butler, who for those of us of a certain age will remember doing TV coverage of elections for every year from 1959-2001 – he was credited with the invention of the swingometer!
- I also went to the “Ken Livingstone Manifesto” discussion on 11th but because I was doing a surgery at Battersea Library that same morning I missed most of it. But not as it happened Ken himself. I have heard Ken many times and he can veer from being pretty pedestrian to simply magnificent – who can forget his great speech after the 7/7 London bombings? Well this one wasn’t on that scale but it was pretty inspiring stuff and perhaps reflects his growing confidence about his chances at the Mayoral election on May 3rd. I am not saying that he looks exactly like a winner just yet but his position is much stronger than it was 6 months ago.
My Programme for March
- The Council meets on 7th March, when the Council Tax for next year will be rubber-stamped. If you don’t know, and I am sure that you do, it is frozen for the seventh year running, which given the impact of inflation over the years is equivalent to a 20% cut in Council Tax since 2005.
- The Falcon Road Residents Association AGM is on the 15th but I can’t make that because of the Planning Committee but I believe my ward colleague Simon Hogg will be there and maybe Wendy Speck later in the evening.
- There are two Planning Applications Committees this month on 5th March and 15th of which more next month..
What do you think?
- At the beginning of this newsletter I said that the Big Lottery was going to spend £1million over 10 years on funding community facilities in the central part of Latchmere, that is the bit nearest Clapham Junction station. That works out at £100,000 each year. We need good ideas for what to do with it. We could for example argue that £10,000 should go on funding York Gardens Library or £5,000 on landscaping near Chesterton House. But what the Big Lottery Trust wants is our ideas. Do send me your thoughts and let’s make sure we make the best possible use of this £1million.