- First things first. I was delighted and honoured to be re-elected as one of your three Latchmere councillors at the Wandsworth Borough Election of May 3rd, along with my fellow Labour colleagues, Simon Hogg and Kate Stock – they are the kids in this picture of the three of us!
- The three of us got around and about 2,500 votes, compared to just under 1,000 for our main rivals, the Tory candidates. This represented a swing to Labour of just under 9%, which was very much in line with similar swings in Battersea. For those of you interested in elections, the impact of campaigning and other slightly nerdy electoral matters, look out for an entry I intend to make shortly on my blog at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/. If you wish to see the Latchmere results, or indeed any Wandsworth results, in detail then you can at http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200327/election_results/2327/2018_borough_council_election_results_-_3_may/9
- Immediately after the election councillors, are faced with seemingly endless inductions into being a councillor, the latest and most interesting one being the induction to our role as Corporate Parents, held on 30th You may well ask what that means and, as it is such a new role (under 10 years), I am not clear that there is an absolute definition. However, the Government decided that, in default of their own “positive” parents, children in Council care should be able to look to the Council, and councillors, as Corporate Parents.
- I have my doubts about this role. I have little doubt that in some ways, and in individual cases it works. Some councillors devote considerable time and effort to supporting so-called looked after children, many of whom appreciate it very gratefully. However, it is impossible to imagine MPs imposing a similar role on themselves for at least four reasons. First of all, they are not trained social workers and nor are we. Secondly, they would claim to be too busy – so what makes them different from councillors? After all many councillors already do a full-time job. Thirdly, it implies that we, councillors, are all part of one big happy family working as a team, when, clearly, we have very strong political differences about issues such as funding and housing, which have massive implications for so-called looked after children. Fourthly, it purports to give councillors a moral and legal responsibility, which they are in no way able to implement and which I doubt could ever be maintained in court. Actually, it is in danger of being a sham, another way of passing on the responsibilities of a state, not prepared to fund public services with decently higher levels of taxation. Of course, MPs would never think of imposing such an impossible burden on themselves: they are after all, a breed apart!
- On the 10th May, I spoke at David Lewis’s funeral in St. Mary’s, Battersea. David was the Battersea Society’s foremost planning expert and he and I, as Labour’s lead on planning in the Council, had many interests in common. I first met him at secondary school in the fifties and I have lived near him in Battersea since the sixties. David lived his civic values. He was the most assiduous and industrious local champion of the environment both here and in North Wales. One early campaign of his (and his wife’s, Christine), I recall was to “save” Albert Bridge from possible demolition and replacement with a larger and stronger new bridge, capable no doubt of taking a motorway load of traffic up Albert Bridge Road. It’s a pleasure to say he won that campaign and that I played a very small part in that winning campaign! David, RIP.
- Two days later, another old friend invited me and my partner for a day’s outing on the Bluebell Line from East Grinstead to Sheffield Park. I had never been there despite knowing Sussex pretty well. The steam train runs 12 miles through bluebell woods, which though perhaps a week past their best on 12th May were still spectacular. The line was constructed following the 1877 Act of Parliament and was “finally” closed after legal and parliamentary disputes in 1958. The Bluebell Railway Preservation Society was founded in 1959 and has been running the service ever since. Sheffield Park, at one end of the line is a country house and Arboretum – unfortunately it rained on 12th May but it was still an enjoyable trip.
- You may remember that last month I wrote about “the world premier of Winstanley Stories, a film made by Falconbrook Primary School’s pupils”. Well on 13th May I talked about the film and the making of it to a small group organised by “Sound Minds” at the Battersea Mission Sound Minds had an art photographer, who took this from outside the building and through the window! It was very enjoyable, with active participation form some of the younger members of the audience but I wish more people had been able to be there. Once again may I recommend that you have a look at this film about the Winstanley and York Road estates on YouTube http://www.winstanleystories.org.uk/film.html.
- On the 16th May we had the Annual Council Meeting, when the Mayor for the coming year is elected and also the Leader of the Council and membership of the Council’s various committees. The Mayor is Councillor Piers McCausland, not in my view a brilliant choice. That may not be a very politic thing to say but his, shall we say, eccentricity makes him an idiosyncratic selection by the majority Tory councillors. My friend and colleague, Simon Hogg, was re-elected Leader of the Labour councillors. Simon is NOT a pushy, boastful type of leader. He works hard encouraging all 26 of us councillors to take up very active roles. He operates in a quiet, restrained fashion, which gets some criticism but which, I think, gets increasingly appreciated over time.
- On 22nd May fellow councillor, Leonie Cooper, and also Greater London Council member held a reception at City Hall. It was good to have a chat with various new and old friends from all over London, and be reminded of the view from City Hall’s front door!
- The May meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 24th, but, once again, there was little of note, at least, for Battersea. BUT several of you have asked me what is happening as regards the tower block “threatened” for the pocket site at the corner of Battersea Park Road and Culvert Road. Like some of you, I had noticed that all construction activity had stopped there. And, like you, I had hoped that some wiser heads just might have prevailed. So I made enquiries. However, the planning officer tells me that there is a requirement to sign a deed of covenant, which must be done by 23rd July and one party to the deal has not yet signed up. The contractual haggling that may or may not be happening behind the scenes is not a planning matter, even though you might think it should be. Hence all I can say is that there are, presumably, some kind of contractual negotiations going on behind the scenes, which could go on for another 7 weeks before preventing the current approved application from proceeding. Let’s hope that this over-development gets stopped by current market conditions!
- When I got back from David Lewis’s funeral, see para 5 above, I received an email telling me that one of my biggest college buddies had died that day. I attended Tony Renton’s funeral on 31st Apart from spending 3 years at college with Tony, I also shared my first two flats in London with him and a couple of others. He was a brilliant polemicist and a fantasist, a gambler, not with money perhaps but with life, which he certainly lived extravagantly and to the full. Pity about the waist-line though (, but who am I to talk?) – he used to be so thin but the twinkle in the eye and the extrovert personality are still there. Tony, RIP.
- Meanwhile, I did have some housekeeping to do. For my pains, I have had to finalise and get signed off all the statutorily required election expenses for all 21 of the Battersea Labour candidates at the election. That amounted to over 1,000 sheets of 16 statutory forms, many of them identical for candidate 1 to 21, all of which will probably disappear into a town hall vault, never to be seen again!
- And finally, I tried to maintain my sanity by, with my partner, completely revamping our back-garden – and that has been good.
My Programme for June
- On Saturday, 2nd June, I hope first to go to the Share Community’s Garden Centre, in the grounds of Springfield Hospital, both to buy plants for my garden but also to support the Share Community’s work on behalf of disabled people. And later I plan to go to York Gardens for the summer event there.
- On Sunday morning, 3rd June, I will be off to the National Gallery to see the Monet exhibition, which I expect to be a beautiful display of French Impressionist art.
- On 4th June at 6.30 I will be in Christ Church, on the corner of Candahar, Cabul and Battersea Park Roads, to hear an oral history of War Comes Home. This will be presented by Carol Rahn of the Battersea Society and will include the reminiscences of Battersea residents, who lived here during the Blitz. All are welcome – do go.
- Did you know that we have a Deliveroo processing centre here in Battersea? I must say that I didn’t. But councillors have been invited to visit and I am going on Tuesday, 5th June. I certainly want to question them on their employment practises and their safety records.
- The National Opera School in Wandsworth High Street is giving a free lunch-time concert on 6th June and I certainly hope to be there.
- On 8th June I am going to Wilton’s music hall to see Sancho: An Act of Remembrance – a play about an eighteenth-century African, who campaigned against the slave trade. If you have never been to Wilton’s, which is close by Tower Bridge, then you ought. It is a recently restored nineteenth-century music hall – very atmospheric!
- On 9th and 23rd June I have councillor’s surgery at Battersea Central Library.
- The North East Surrey Crematorium Board meets on 12th June and after 40+ years as a councillor, I get to go to my first ever meeting of it – the Crem as it is called – the whole of human life, as they say!
- I have a Community Services Committee on the 21st June and the Planning Applications Committee on the 26th.
- Finally, on 30th June, we have the Falcon Road Festival, which I expect to be great fun.
Do you know?
Last month I asked, “Who was Chesterton? And what was he to Battersea or Battersea to him? And what else in Battersea is named after him?
I was surprised that not one of you responded. It was pretty easy so Why? Has the format got stale? Should I do something else instead? Who votes to retain Do you Know?
Meanwhile G. K. Chesterton or Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was a prolific author of novels and detective stories, whose fame has declined a lot since the early twentieth century. Possibly because he was really an essayist, a commentator, an eccentric wit. Chesterton lived in 60 Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive and in one amusing essay he compared a flooded North Battersea to “a vision of Venice”. If he had lived a century later he would probably have been a TV journalist, or a Newsnight presenter.
My partner has written a brief essay on him in the Battersea Society’s “Battersea Matters”. I would be happy to copy to anyone interested.
Of course, Chesterton Primary School is named after him as indeed is Chesterton Close, just behind Wandsworth Police Station, Chesterton House in the York Road estate and the Old Chesterton Building in Battersea Park Road.
- On 1st November, I went to the Commons for our (Battersea’s Labour councillors) monthly meeting with the MP, Marsha de Cordova. What a change has taken place in Westminster over the last 40 years, (no) thanks to terrorists! I can remember just walking in off the street to meet the MP and then going up to the public gallery to listen to the debate. But now, understandably, one has to go through body searches both mechanical and manual and then undress (well take off belts, shoes, etc. – it’s just like flying). And as for the public gallery, what was a fascinatingly real experience now has to be viewed through bullet-proof glass. All justifiable, I suppose, but to put it mildly a crying shame. Terrorism certainly has been effective at some things. The meeting – oh nothing special; just party business.
- The following day, we went to Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) to see Chekhov’s First Play by Ben Kidd and Bush Moukarzel. It was a play about perceptions of people and truths and as such very ambitious, but unfortunately it did not work for me; I simply left a little lost and not persuaded. I guess that it is what should be expected from experimental theatre and it did seem to work for many in the audience.
- It was also the first time that I had been to what was, before the disastrous 2016 blaze, the Grand Hall. Have you been? It’s well worth a visit, along with the other new features of the Arts Centre. Contentiously, the designers have left much of the building cleaned up but simply as the fire left it. I am not sure that works as it looks a bit dark and miserable for my taste. But there is nothing irreparable about that and it could be put right, in my view, by a good plasterer and a bit of paint, or pictures or murals or even tapestries! What used to be the Lower Town Hall has been converted into a work hub and I think it looks really good. The object is to supply nursery space for seed businesses. There is work-space and access to computing resources, meeting rooms and a community of small creative and/or start-up businesses.
- Throughout the Arts Centre you can find small spaces where the wall-paper is designed by Nicholas Hughes, especially for BAC. It is a brief pictorial representation of some of Battersea’s history. So apart from the Town Hall itself, you can find John Archer, the first black mayor of a major authority (Battersea, 1913-14); the statue of the Brown Dog, the cause of the Brown Dog Riots, 1903-10; John Burns, MP and the first working class member of the Cabinet, 1905-10; and Pluto, the BAC cat (now retired). A busy but stimulating wall-paper design.
- On Sunday, 4th November, I and maybe 100 other London councillors from all parties went to Camden Town to Jewish London: A Seminar for Councillors at the Ort House Conference Centre. It was organised by London’s Jewish Community, I imagine, in the light of the perceived rise in ethnic and religious tensions in Britain. It was informative about Jewish views on such things as Faith Schools and on Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism in the UK and, specifically, in London. As it happens, I am opposed to Faith Schools in principle, so there were limits to my support, but that didn’t stop the conference being an interesting and educative experience.
- On 6th November, I played for Battersea Chess Club against Hammersmith and Fulham Chess Club. For those interested in these things, I do not have a national grading as this was my first competitive game (except against my brother-in-law at Xmas) for many years, certainly this century! My opponent, Andy Routledge, was graded 128; we were playing on board 25! I think we are the largest two clubs in the country. He won but I was holding my own until about move 26 – so not too bad!
- I went to the club again, which meets every Tuesday at the Labour Club in Falcon Road, on 20th November. As you can see in the picture, it was set up for a massive event – there were well over 100 players – so I joined in. What a mistake! I found myself playing eight three-minute games in quick succession and being hammered in every one of them. The club write-up the next day said “It was as big a night as we’ve ever held with 12 International Masters, five Grandmasters and a host of well-known faces in the chess world at the club”. This experience should teach me to read meeting notices properly!
- I had a pleasant lunch with Wandsworth and Merton’s GLAM (Greater London Authority Member), Leonie Cooper, on 7th November and also had a brief chat with Labour’s Leader on the Greater London Authority, Len Duvall.
- On 9th November we went over to the Clapham Picture House to see Mike Leigh’s film, Peterloo. Leigh certainly picks some interesting subjects such as the great painter J M Turner and is clearly interested in the very early nineteenth century, when Turner was working. The Peterloo Massacre took place in 1819; fifteen demonstrators died in a clash with the military. It was a major moment in the development of British radicalism; it marked a stage in the advance of suffrage, with the Great Reform Act following 13 years later. It should make the subject of a great film, and it certainly is a good-looking one, but I am afraid that there is something wooden about Leigh’s film; it’s almost an oil painting. What did others think? Oh, on the same theme, the TV special of the month was, I suggest, They Shall Not Grow Old – were you a big fan or again like me, impressed but not wowed by the technological wizardry?
- Then on Saturday, 10th, I went to Providence House’s Annual Fund-Raising Dinner. Providence House, under the devoted leadership of Robert Musgrave, is one of the most successful and few remaining youth clubs in Battersea. With so many of us concerned about knife crime and the vulnerability of youth in today’s society, it is essential that clubs like Providence get everyone’s full support. It was a great evening, for the best of causes.
- The Remembrance Day Sunday Service on 11th November was something special because it was, of course, the centenary of the end of the World War, aka The War to End all Wars – if only. The Vicar of St. Mary’s Church, Canon Simon Butler, gave an admirably thoughtful and ecumenical sermon – it was brimming with understanding and compassion. If I were a practising Anglican, he would be just the kind of vicar I would like.
- The Civic Awards Ceremony took place on 13th November. This event gives an annual opportunity for the community to thank some individuals for the outstanding contributions they make to our society. One of the seven winners was, this year, a Latchmere resident, and, she told me, a regular reader of this newsletter. Ayan is, and for several years has been, a leading light in the Association of Somali Women and Children.
- The Planning Applications Committee, on the 21st November, was, if possible, even less substantial (about back extensions and the like, not over-sized developments) than last month. Is this a major indicator of the economy turning down even further than it has already? I suspect so.
- On 24th November, we went to see Peter Groom’s Dietrich at Walton’s Musical Hall, Wapping. I thought it was a brilliant performance and have said so in my review on my website at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/review-of-peter-grooms-dietrich/ The picture illustrates Groom’s very androgynous but sensual performance.
- On 25th November, the Latchmere Labour Party had a pub quiz night at the Anchor pub, Hope Street. Not of itself of particular note, but just to flag up that it looks unlikely that we shall keep this nice, little local unless it gets a bit more custom. It’s such a dilemma for the pub business as in their desperate bid to maintain custom, they sometimes provide loud, noisy entertainment. I have already had (reasonable) complaints from neighbours about the Anchor! Let’s hope any disputes are amicably resolved and the pub thrives.
- There are a few local developments of interest that I have noticed over the last few weeks, which are not particularly date related but are noteworthy. They are as follows:-
consultations have just begun about the details of the new Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) due to be installed from 21st January 2019 in the Rowditch Lane (off Culvert Road) area;
the start to the “improvement” works in Falcon Park, including in particular the installation of an all-weather soccer pitch. It is also intended to improve the northern (i.e. the one off the passage-way) entrance to the Park. I believe that there will be an improvement although the work will not be completed until late summer, 2019. But there is soon to be a consultation on the details, which I hope will get lots of responses;
the Council has consulted on the possibility of proceeding with the new pedestrian and cycle only Pimlico Bridge. I think that it is unlikely to be built, because Westminster Council is against it. Hence, I don’t think that it’s worth us Battersea Labour councillors opposing it and getting bracketed as “refuseniks” – but all my colleagues think I am wrong! I guess you win some and lose others!
perhaps most significantly, in London-wide terms, on 23rd November, Millicent, a tunnel-boring machine named after suffragist Millicent Fawcett (not sure that as a feminist I approve of a tunnel-boring machine being named after a leading suffragist!), started digging London’s super sewer under Battersea. This is the start of building the 25km, or 15 mile, Thames Tideway Tunnel, which is designed to cope with the increasing pressure on our sewage system;
the Council’s consultation on the future of the York Gardens Children’s Centre can be viewed at https://haveyoursay.citizenspace.com/wandsworthcsd/childrens-centres-18/consult_view/. In theory, consultation ended on 3rd December, but legal decisions have shown that any responses, made before the final decision, have to be taken into account, so don’t be put off! The Children’s Centre is under threat so respond now!
My Programme for December
- On 6th December, I have the final Council Meeting of the Year. I am due to speak on the Regeneration Programme for the Winstanley Estate. I am a little concerned that when we vote against the Council paper, there will be a possibility that our opposition will be mis-understood. I want to make it clear that we will NOT be voting against the re-development and the improvement of the estate, as such, but against the amount of private as opposed to public housing that will replace the current buildings.
- On Sunday, 9th December, I hope to go to a meeting of the newly formed Friends of Christ Church Gardens.
- On 12th December there will be a commemoration service for the 35 passengers, who died in the (so-called – actually Battersea) Clapham Train crash of 1988 and, totally separately, the funeral of long since retired Wandsworth Chief Executive, Albert Newman. I will go to Albert’s funeral.
- And as its December, I suspect that there will be the Battersea Society, the Battersea Park Rotary Club, etc., etc. Xmas socials!
- And, of course, there is the tragi-comedy of Brexit to be played out! At the time of writing, the Government had merely been defeated three times in the Commons. When will we all come to our senses?
Do you know?
Last month, I asked, “Just what are these posts? What do they de-note? And how many of them do you know?” These two, on Wix Lane, mark the Battersea and Clapham Parish boundaries. If you want to know more and there are many more, all documented by my old friend Philip Beddows and co-founder with me of the Love Battersea website. See https://sites.google.com/site/lovebatterseacampaign/batterseaboundarymarkers.
And my question this month is: So, Battersea Chess Club is one of the largest in London. It also claims to be the oldest, continuingly functional chess club in the country. Take a guess as to which date is the nearest date to its foundation
A One (Wo)Man Show
Went to Wilson’s Music Hall last Saturday to see this one man show, written and created by young actor Peter Groom – and it was a show and not quite a play, a 75 minute, no breaks, no interval show – what an evening, what a show.
Groom recounts a short version of the most traumatic years of Marlene Dietrich’s life and sings a dozen of her songs. He starts by mimicking Dietrich brilliantly and convincingly but over the course of the show he seems to think that evoking the sensuality and abstraction of “Marlene” is more important than slavish imitation. He is right. Groom’s androgynous manner and slim figure equip him to “be” Marlene with absolute conviction. He has mastered a feminine walk and Dietrich’s bold, almost aggressive stance.
Dietrich, a German woman, was plucked from the Berlin stage in 1939 by Hollywood director Josef von Sternberg and taken to the city of dreams, Hollywood. There she lived the nightmare of a patriotic German, who, loathing Nazism, took American citizenship, inevitably deserting her mother until after the war. Groom played Dietrich as a person displaced from her nation but also displaced from her personality, her loves and life. Her appeal to men emphasises this “quality” of abstraction, including abstraction about men, who she sees as subservient beings of a lower, more vulnerable order.
If you have never been to Wilton’s, it is a genuine, restored nineteenth century musical hall, which is well worth the visit, even if the Wapping location is not easy from Battersea. There is a bar and bar food, well at least pizza; the environment is very informal; the clientele was, at least on Saturday, 24th November 2018, fairly young and fairly gay.
And to make the perfect evening I got back to see Spurs thrash Chelsea 3:1 on Match of the Day and it should have been 6, 7 or 8:0. A very satisfactory end to the day.
Peter Groom was a five-star performer in Dietrich at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival and is apparently repeating the performance at the 2019 Brighton Festival. Go and see him/her.
- On 2nd October, I went to an Exhibition in the Brewer’s pub, opposite the Town Hall, of plans for the redevelopment of the Ferrier Street industrial site just by Wandsworth Town station. It interested me, because I played a large part in its development in the 1970s. Prior to then it had been a rundown area of terraced properties until the Labour Council of the time organised a vote of residents as to whether they wanted their housing “compulsorily purchased” by the Council or not. By a substantial majority, the residents, largely private sector tenants, voted for compulsory purchase. The end result was that they got re-housed by the Council and the Council became the owners of what became an industrial estate. Sold off in the early 2000s, the area looks likely to revert to mixed industrial and housing usage. For me, the startling thing is that I have lived through the complete life-cycle of a block of property from the first plans to demolition and redevelopment and now to the next set of plans, to be followed now by another demolition and re-development!
- As I said last month, on 5th October I went to Reykjavik, Iceland, to accompany my partner who was lecturing to an Icelandic historic society on “Meetings and Greetings in the Eighteenth Century”. We then spent a few days driving round the island. Many will know about the fish, the Northern Lights, hot geysers (the picture is of the active Strokkur Geyser), and volcanoes, and almost everyone will remember Iceland beating England in the 2016 European Championship. But, how many know that in the 2008 financial crash, the Icelandic stock market lost 95% of its value, the currency was devalued by 25%, and virtually every private business in Iceland went bankrupt. Ten years later, there is not much sign of any of that! So, how did such a small country manage to pull itself round?
- It isn’t physically very small but it has a population of only 320,000 – rather less than Wandsworth. After the crash, Icelanders had an important national debate and since then they seem to have pulled together in an impressive way – quite unlike Brexit-torn Britain. Having suffered from over-fishing and facing financial disaster, Icelanders seem to have decided as a national policy to concentrate on tourism! Of course, it’s not exactly Sun, Sea and Sand tourism, Costa Brava style, but rather rugged and wild, dramatic and exciting tourism with volcanoes, lava fields, dozens of waterfalls, geothermal pools, whale watching, bird and seal spotting, pony trekking, and mountaineering.
- When I got back, my first Council engagement was with a Wandsworth Youth Parliament seminar. During the course of the evening about 15 or 16 secondary school pupils from all of the Borough’s secondary schools both quizzed and challenged about 15 or 16 councillors from both the Tory and Labour Parties on such matters as policing, health and social services, education and housing. It was an entertaining and educative session.
- The next day, 17th October, I was off, rather unenthusiastically, to the Wandsworth Council Meeting. Council meetings have long ago had their whole heart and purpose ripped out of them. Nowadays they are so short – about one and a half hours after the obligatory prayers, questions and announcements – and so infrequent – about four or five a year – that they are no longer where council policy is decided. That is done on social media, or in secret, closed meetings. The Council meetings, themselves, are good for councillors to exercise their oratorical talents, but that’s about it. On this occasion, there were about ten maiden speeches, that is a councillor’s first speech in Council. Most of them were very good, BUT why would anyone go to the Council Chamber to listen to them unless they were relatives or part of the councillor club? These meetings really do need a re-think!
- The next night, 18th October, was the Planning Applications Committee, but there was not much of general interest to Battersea on the agenda, unless you live on Battersea Reach, where the development company,St. George’s, are in dispute with residents over car parking. I hope that things can be sorted amicably, but alas I have my doubts.
- On the morning of Saturday, 20th October 2018, I was wheeled out as the token man at the unveiling of a plaque to Caroline Ganley. I was delighted to be there, at 5 Thirsk Road, where Caroline lived for most of her life. See below (in Did you know?) for far more about Mrs. Ganley’s achievements. The picture shows some of Caroline’s grand-children and other relatives as well as the “unveiling party”.
- In the afternoon, my partner and I went on the European March. I have been on marches since the early Aldermaston days, marches to ban the bomb, to end the Vietnam war, to stop the abolition of the ILEA, against Apartheid, against Nursery Vouchers, even against the Pope’s visit to Britain (odd one that, but so be it) and most particularly against the Iraq War. Regardless of what the police and the BBC say, in my view, this was the biggest. The Iraq War protest was eventually upgraded, I seem to recall, to 1.3 million people – I think this one was even bigger. One interesting feature of the march was that there were virtually no organisational banners – no Trade Unions, no constituency Labour parties, no religious groups, just masses of people. (Despite that one crazy UKIP friend of mine actually believes that the European Parliament paid us all to turn up!)
- For me, the staggering feature of the political month, has been Labour’s almost total silence on Brexit. The Tories are, of course, in a complete funk, and yet somehow they retain their very small lead in the opinion polls. How can that be? All I can think, is that the lack of clarity on Labour’s part is making it very difficult for the public to decide, who to support. Do they support the Tories, who are making such a shambles of the whole thing? Impossible! Or do they support Labour, which has not yet summoned up the courage to give a lead – apparently not!
- It is still possible, I guess, to think that Corbyn and McDonnell are playing an absolute blinder, leaving the Tories out there to dry and not yet exposing the Labour Party’s own divisions. But, it is clear that whilst Party members are over-whelmingly “Remainers”, a sack full of MPs represent constituencies, that voted to leave – as some might say, horns of a dilemma! But how much longer can Corbyn sit on this particular fence? Surely, he has to plump before 29th March and if he doesn’t then, in my judgement, he will suffer for it.
- And talking of Brexit, on 26th October, my fellow councillor, Kate Stock and I, visited the Battersea Flower Centre to campaign for the London Living Wage (LLW). There we met John Schofield, who runs the Centre, and was proud to assure us that his dozen staff all earn, at least, the LLW. He was most interesting, however, when talking about how Brexit was already affecting him. He pointed out that the Netherlands was very important to his industry and that the devaluation of the pound relative to the Euro was already causing flower traders severe problems.
- On 28th October, we went to the Bread and Roses pub in Clapham Manor Street to hear Battersea Labour Party’s (BLP’s) own jazz band, Junction Jazz, not that they exactly brand themselves BLP’s band, but many of them live in Battersea and they do support BLP. They really are getting very good and have expanded their repertoire; I don’t know the correct jargon but, on this occasion, there was quite a lot of Miles Davis-style orchestration, which I did not recognise from previous performances. In the past they have had Rosena Allin-Khan, Tooting’s MP, as a guest singer. On this occasion, Martin Linton, Battersea MP 1997-2010, was a guest on the trumpet – and very good he was too.
- On 30th October, I joined the Housing Department staff, my Latchmere colleague, Councillor Kate Stock and Tory, Councillor Rodhri Morgan, Deputy-Chair of the Housing Committee, on a tour of the Latchmere and Wilditch Estates. It was pretty cold, and we made a few notes about litter, etc., but we saw no evidence of major problems.
- On the 31st I spent lunch-time at the National Opera Studio in Wandsworth, listening to songs performed by this year’s students – not quite as good as last year’s, I thought, but still an amazing free concert in the heart of the Borough.
My Programme for November
- On 1st November, I have my monthly meeting with MP, Marsha de Cordova, and the other six Battersea Labour councillors. I know that the agenda will include the future of the 19 bus and the drug rehabilitation centre on the Doddington Estate.
- The following day, we are going to Battersea Arts Centre to see a play about Chekhov’s First Play, a tragi-comedy (I am guessing) about the art of writing! It will be the first time that we have seen a performance at the Grand Hall, as it used to be called, since it burnt down – should be interesting.
- The Jewish Board of Deputies have invited councillors to a Jewish London: A Seminar for Councillors on 4th November. I assume that the Board of Deputies has become concerned about the growth of Anti-Semitism in Britain. In my experience, this is a first of its kind; several Wandsworth councillors will be in attendance.
- On the 5th November, no doubt with fireworks exploding all round us, I have a meeting of the Conservation Area Committee.
- A day later, I will play my first match as a member of the Battersea Chess Club (BCC) against Hammersmith Chess Club. What a club, BCC is! The oldest chess club in London, it numbers amongst its members a nine-year old rated as one of the top two players in his age group in the world. I used to play for my school team, many moons ago. This will be my first game since then!
- On the 7th I am having lunch with Leonie Cooper, Wandsworth and Merton’s Greater London Assembly Member or GLAM, as she jokingly likes to boast.
- On the evening of 10th November, I and other Labour councillors will be going to the Providence House annual fund-raising dinner.
- The day after, I will be at St. Mary’s to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, 1918.
- On the 13th November, Wandsworth’s Civic Awards will, as ever, be an occasion when the Borough notes and applauds the voluntary contributions made by many of our fellow residents.
- On 17th November, the London Summit takes place at the Guildhall. All London councillors are invited and the conference will be addressed by Ministers and the Mayor.
- November’s Planning Applications Committee will be on the 21st.
- On 22nd November, I am due to go to Waltham Forest to see that Council’s ideas on how to reduce car usage and to keep pedestrians away from the motor car.
Last month, I asked what any of you knew about Caroline Ganley, pictured here. I am afraid that the only responses I got were from those I might call the “usual suspects”, including my friend Jeanne Rathbone, whose research is the basis of the following.
A very brief summary of the long life of Caroline Ganley would note that she lived from 1871-1966 and continuously from 1910 until her death at 5 Thirsk Road, where a plaque was unveiled on 20th October..
Ganley was elected to Battersea Borough Council in 1919, one of the first female councillors in the country. She was a stalwart of the Labour Party and of the Co-operative Movement, becoming in 1942 the first woman President of the London Cooperative Society.
In 1920, she was also appointed as one of the first female Justices of the Peace.
In 1945, Mrs Ganley was elected to Parliament as the MP for Battersea South, where she stayed until 1951. Most unusually for former MPs she returned as a Councillor to Battersea Borough Council in 1953, where she served until the Council was abolished in 1965.
One tribute to her at her death was that “Her mind was very acute and her ability to draw together the threads of the most rambling discussion was legendary. She was a great pioneer – the most outstanding woman the co-op has produced at a time when few women took part in public life.”
And my question this month is: Just what are these posts? What do they de-note? And how many of them do you know?
- It’s now two months since I wrote about building control regulations and Mrs. Thatcher’s so-called reforms. Last month I said that I have had a heart-felt response on the subject. Two of you, however, thought I was criticising builders, which was certainly not my intention. But this last month I got yet another reply strongly supporting my criticism of the process and the rules. I quote it extensively, because I think it exposes the idiocy of having a regulatory regime, being subject to freelance inspectors, who are picked by builders. The quotation is as follows:-
- “I am an original owner of a flat in a block built in 2010, where we have had a major issue on fire safety. We flat owners have had to pay around £40,000 to make structural improvements to the block …, having been told by fire safety experts, and ultimately by London Fire Brigade under threat of enforcement order, that it did not meet fire safety regulations (I understand the words “we can’t believe a new block got through like this” were used)
- .……… it raised the question who signed off on the block, the answer being precisely your scenario of privately contracted building inspector engaged by the developer. I cannot express how inadequate their response was when we took the issue up with them. The particular fire safety point may have been signed off without the inspector ever actually having viewed the property.
- I suspect an endemic issue of private inspectors ‘waving through’ building sign offs, partly due to being paid flat fees which incentivise ‘light touch’ engagement, and partly being concerned not to raise issues which discourage repeat business from developers.
- Subsequently we have seen the appalling Grenfell tragedy. You refer to the “dreadful price” of the building control system, but building control concerns much more than cracked walls and damaged foundations. I wonder just how dreadful the price of this rancid system might yet be, scaled across the vast levels of development in London alone, blithely waved through by these shoddy operators.”
- Surely this quotation is proof enough that there is a problem, and Grenfell is a massive statement about how serious it is. We need fresh legislation to re-establish a simple regulatory regime, with an established, reliable and respected inspectorate – not a random set of freelance experts not subject to official validation.
- Ever been to Bordeaux? Not many of my friends have done anything more than pass through. It is actually worth a bit more than that. The fundamentally 18th century centre has been re-engineered around four or five brand new tram lines and is almost entirely pedestrianised. OK, it’s a relatively small city by London standards, but it was so pleasant walking around the town day and night, without having to dodge cars, or breathe their fumes, and to hear laughter and voices across the road. We went by train and then flew from Bordeaux to Croatia, where we stayed in the same fishing village that we have stayed in for five years – lots of swimming, reading Trollope’s The Way We Live Now and fish, fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
- Whilst I was away my fellow Labour councillors organised a public meeting about Wandsworth Council’s response to fire hazards in multi-storey tower blocks. It was held at the Alma pub and was a reaction to the apparent intention of the Council to install sprinkler systems in all 10+ storey blocks.
- It was an understandable reaction to Grenfell but it was essentially a knee-jerk one. For example, the Council did not suggest even the most cursory of inspections, when a moment’s thought might have suggested that Grenfell-style risks are much reduced where there are separate staircases at either end of blocks, such as on the Doddington estate, or where the construction method was traditional brick and mortar, such as Battersea Fields, or where cladding had or had not been used. Given also that it appears as though leaseholders could be charged up to £5,000 each for an installation they do not want and which may be of only dubious purpose, it is not surprising that there is a head of steam against the proposal.
- The meeting was held on Sunday, 2nd September, and was packed out with at least 100 tenants and leaseholders in attendance. It was chaired by the vastly experienced councillor and Wandsworth Greater London Assembly member Leonie Cooper, standing centre. The other four councillors on the platform as shown in this picture were Claire Gilbert (Roehampton), Maurice McLeod (Queenstown), Paul White (Tooting) and Angela Ireland (West Hill). Of these four, three were only elected in May, less than four months before this meeting. They organised and ran the whole meeting in what was quite an impressive baptism as it appeared to this “mature” councillor then sunning himself in Croatia. Well done to the team.
- On the 18th September I had the Strategic Planning and Transportation Committee, which had one of the lightest agendas I can ever recall. There was, however, an interesting paper on how to remould Battersea High Street, and especially the market, into a street just about worthy of the name. Unfortunately, I didn’t think the Council’s paper was up to the task (and it was amazingly expensive for what it proposed), but improvements to the High Street are now, as they say, on the agenda and I hope to see some exciting ideas coming forward.
- The next day, 19th September, I had the Planning Applications Committee. At first glance, there did not seem much of interest but further study proved otherwise. There was new detail on the mega-development of the old post office sorting office site in Nine Elms. The application from US company, Greystar, was for 894 BtR (Build to Rent) units. This was one of the first and definitely the largest appearance in the UK of the US housing product, BtR. Yes, I hate the phrasing too – “housing product” – Ugh!
- The Tory majority on the Committee were really proud that this new “product” should be coming to the Borough, making us a pioneer of a new, efficient, privately rented sector. For everyone’s peace of mind, I hope that they are right, but I suspect that corporate America invading our housing market is going to have similar impacts as Uber to taxi services, Amazon to high street shopping and PayPal to subscription services, etc. It will put pressure on our own landlords at the medium and top end of the market and in the end leave local authorities and housing associations to pick up all the pieces at the lower end of the market.
- The second interesting application was for a housing development on the site of the old Balham Bowls Club, Ramsden Road. I found this rather sad, because it meant the loss of a pub’s bowling green. I don’t know how many pubs in the country, let alone in Inner London, still have their own bowling greens (I know one in Suffolk), but I wouldn’t mind betting that this was the last in London – gone for ever.
- Meanwhile, in another interesting indication of how the market is moving, the Council has taken enforcement action against a property in Battersea being used as an Airbnb property. I haven’t come across this much but a fellow councillor in Tooting tells me that he is plagued with 100 or so Airbnb (or similar company) “hires” usually of private houses, which are being used as vice dens or party locations. I would be interested to know if any of you are experiencing similar problems associated with this trend, here in Battersea.
- I went back to my old college on 22nd September. About a dozen of us, from further back than I care to admit, met up for dinner and a drink or two. It was great fun, but it meant that I totally missed London’s Car Free Day and no one has mentioned it to me either – I guess that means it was a bit of a non-event, which is a shame. It becomes clearer by the day exactly what damage is being done to our environment (and our health) by the internal combustion motor car – a great pleasure but also a killer!
- I didn’t go to Liverpool for the Labour Party Conference but it appears to have gone rather better than many expected. Last month, I said that if Brexit is a disaster and if Labour hasn’t had the courage to take a stand on the issue, then the Labour Party will pay a heavy price. I suspect that Keir Starmer has created enough space, just about, for Labour to avoid that trap and come out of this sorry saga in not too bad a shape. How come he doesn’t get mentioned as being the next Leader? OK, not being a woman is a handicap, but not even getting a mention!
- I suspect that there are quite a few Tories, who rather desperately hope to leave their Conference in Birmingham in as good a shape!
- On the 27th September, I went to the pretentiously named Village Hall, Battersea Power Station, to hear Dorian Gerhold talking about the history of industrial Wandsworth. He gave a broad sweeping description of the many major industrial plants and processes that have developed in Battersea, from the first major railway in Britain (horse drawn trucks), Battersea enamels, early aircraft manufacturing and copper smelting techniques to the UK’s busiest railway junction and the Power Station.
- I say the “pretentiously named Village Hall”, because of course, whatever the Power Station development becomes, it can never really be a village. I have never made any pretence of liking much of what has gone up in the Nine Elms area, but many in the Council’s planning hierarchy, official and political, are very proud of most of the developments. Of course, getting the US Embassy and Apple to move in are major triumphs, which cannot be ignored. So, putting jaundice and prejudice to one side, I ask myself, and some of you, do you see any really valuable and innovative developments? And, even if you do, are those developments worth the unremittingly Alphaville kind of atmosphere of the place? I would be interested in your views – one thing one can say for the development, however, is that it has opened up the riverfront – here is Chelsea Bridge, more or less from the Village.
- On Saturday, 29th September, I went to a dinner in commemoration of the life of Sally-Ann Ephson, a Labour councillor in Queenstown, who died two years ago after suffering for many months from Sickle Cell Anaemia. The dinner was both a tribute to the brave Sally-Ann and a fund raiser for the Sickle Cell Society, a ferociously painful and merciless condition. The picture is of our guest speaker, Battersea MP, Marsha de Cordova.
My Programme for October
- The first week of October will be dominated by the Tory Party Conference – not something that I would normally highlight but something makes me think that this particular week could be of major significance for all our futures – ho, and just might provide a few laughs!
- If you follow my newsletters closely then you will know that I accompany my partner to many of her lectures, hence you will not be totally surprised that on 5th October, we are off to Reykjavik, Iceland. That will be a new experience – especially if we are lucky enough to see Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights!
- There will be a Council Meeting on the 17th October and the Planning Applications Committee on the 18th.
- On 20th October a plaque to Caroline Ganley will be unveiled at 5 Thirsk Road at 11 a.m. This is part of Battersea Society’s plan to install as many commemorative plaques to women as we already have to men. Why does Mrs Ganley deserve a plaque? See below.
Do you know?
Last month, I asked as an aside whether anyone knew the connection between Lavender Gardens, Henty Close on the Ethelburga Estate and the Cornet of Horse? Two of you did, the connection being one G A Henty, who wrote a phenomenal number of books, 100+, either for children or adventures about the British Empire. He lived in Lavender Gardens and drank at the Cornet of Horse (now named the Four Thieves). Surprisingly enough, Henty Close on the Ethelburga Estate was also named after him. I think that one can imagine the style and values of his books by saying that one of my readers thought her comments wouldn’t get through the censors and the other, remembering books she read at the age of eight, thought they were rattling good yarns!
But my main question was about the photograph on the right, which I took in Webbs Road. This got the most enthusiastic response that any of my questions have provoked. What is it about bodily functions that interests the human so much?
The answer is that it is a “stink pipe” or as one person said a “stench pole”, installed by the Victorians to take the stench out of the sewerage system and expel it high into the sky. There are hundreds of them on our streets and most of us never notice them. There are about four on Bolingbroke Grove alone. One respondent sent me the addresses of three websites devoted to mapping and photographing them and yet another tells me that they were exported to Sydney, Australia, where they can also still be found. Here is just one of the websites: http://stinkpipes.blogspot.com/
So, to this month’s question: Caroline Ganley is having a plaque unveiled to her next month. Ganley Court is a fairly unremarkable Council block on the Winstanley Estate, which was named after her. Here she is, on the left, but who was she and why is she worth commemorating?
- Last month I wrote about building control regulations and their implementation in England and Wales, since Mrs. Thatcher’s so-called reforms (I suspect the rules may be a bit different in Scotland). I don’t think that I have had such a heart-felt response on any other subject. Clearly, many residents find the whole process of neighbour-building works both stressful and sometimes expensive
- I had building works next-door to me last year and, although I have absolutely no complaints about the standard of works, my garden was unusable in 2017. Thank goodness that last summer was not a scorcher like 2018. Equally, I’ve had friends, who have complained particularly about the 24-hour 7-day a week pumping one often gets with basement extensions. It does seem to me that, as a country, we need to re-consider legislation about both the regulation of standards and nuisance control during construction.
- Unsurprisingly August has been very quiet in Council terms, so I thought I might indulge myself in a bit of politics – for a change. But first, I did have a couple of visits one from a British student and another from a foreign journalist. It’s a minor pleasure of the job of being a Councillor that people do ring me, from time to time, and ask for interviews about how local government works in this country. The trouble is that, like most people, the more I know the more I realise that I don’t know!
- To politics and the issue of the EU, about which a number of people have asked me to come clean on my views, and I must stress they are my personal views! Of course, one answer is to say that Brexit or the EU is not an issue for a local councillor and, of course, in one sense that is right. Yet I am not surprised that some of you want to know what the person you voted for only a few months ago, thinks on this massive issue. (If you are not interested on more about Brexit, then skip to paragraph 10).
- First, I voted in the Referendum to Remain and if we have the chance again, I will do so again. A couple of years ago, I certainly had some pleasure, in discussions with friends, being the Devil’s Advocate and one or two maybe thought I was going to vote Leave. I regret it, if I persuaded anyone to switch their vote, but I rather doubt that I did. However, despite voting “remain” I thought then and still do that the “Remainers” have to face some issues. For example, the EU does not appear to be very democratic – despite the Euro-elections. Perhaps it is impossible to make an organisation with 500+million people feel democratic but either more effort has to be made or the EU should operate through national governments. The present European Parliament does not have much credibility and, I suspect, is not sustainable in its present form.
- In addition, it does appear as though the Euro currency is and has been a terrible mistake, which somehow the Eurozone has to reform or end as soon as possible. In hindsight, it seems ludicrous to have tied Greece and Southern Italy to the same exchange rate as Bavaria and Brussels; Andalucia and Portugal to the same economic conditions as Berlin and Paris. Clearly, what has worked for Germany has been massively destructive for Greece. Some reforms to the EU are essential and its current settlement should be no more cast in stone than any constitutional arrangement anywhere.
- But it’s not the Remain argument that exercises me most but rather the Brexit case. I have many objections to the Brexiters’ arguments. For a start it means taking a terrible risk with all our lives and livelihoods on the basis of the assurances that we have had so far, which in essence amount to no more than a promise “That it will be alright on the night”. Especially given that almost every expert believes we will be worse off after Brexit than before. (I know that Michael Gove suggested that we should ignore experts, but in most fields, from brain surgery to plumbing, flying to engineering, I prefer to have experts on my side rather than against).
- There are, of course, the nostalgic Brexiters, the Imperial Brexiters, the Little England as well as Great Britain Brexiters, invariably from the right of the political spectrum. But what about the left-wing Brexiters, the inheriters of the Tony Benn legacy; those who see the EU as a capitalist plot? I would ask them to give us the answer to three particular questions:-
- How do you tackle the ecological issues facing the world without supra-national organisations?
- What possible democratic power do you see standing up to global capitalism and perhaps particularly Californian-based global capitalism? Surely not the UK on its own; just possibly the EU can.
- In a world dominated by international business, how can workers’ rights and pay levels be protected unless, ultimately, on at least a continental basis?
- Clearly, there are a thousand problems involved in stopping Brexit but if Brexit is a disaster and bad for Britain then the Labour Party will pay a heavy price, if it hasn’t had the courage to take a stand on the issue. Enough said, but I suspect we will be coming back to this issue before too long.
- On 3rd August, we went to see Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest”. You will have noticed that in the last few months, I have been to all the Oscar Wilde plays. In his brilliantly witty way Wilde certainly has a very particular take on gender politics at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But I am afraid that I was disappointed with this production of his most famous play. The text is witty enough without being coated in extra layers of somewhat dubious gender and race politics.
- I was also asked, along with fellow Councillor Kate Stock, to be part of a panel of judges in a competition being run by the Battersea Summer Project at Providence House Youth Club. The Project does a great job, which is much appreciated by many kids (and no doubt parents) providing sports, hobbies and occupations for the young people of Battersea, but I think this particular competition needs a bit of re-thinking if it is to become a regular event.
- On 18th-19th August we spent the week-end with Douglas Jay’s widow, Mary, in her beautiful cottage in Oxfordshire. Douglas was Battersea North’s MP from 1946-83. He married Mary, many years his junior, in 1972. We had a delightful dinner with family and old friends exchanging stories about “old Battersea characters”. Unfortunately, but inevitably, Mary is having to move into a more convenient, smaller, urban house. So, this was a kind of nostalgic goodbye to Causeway Cottage, seen here on the right.
- The next Planning Applications Committee takes place on 22nd August and this time there really is nothing of great significance in Battersea – though I am very conscious that even the most minor application is really, really important to someone or some family. One item worth a mention is an application for the modernisation and re-opening (hopefully) of the Queen’s Arms, seen here on the corner of Robertson and St. Philip’s Streets, just off the Queenstown Road.
- But I will miss the Committee as on 22nd August I will be carrying the bags for my partner at a Conference in Bordeaux, from where we are going directly to Croatia for a couple of weeks. I have briefed my colleagues on my views on the committee, but inevitably at this time of the year some of us will be missing the evening.
My Programme for September
- There will be the Community Services Committee on 18th September and the Planning Applications Committee on 19th.
- In recognition of the major traffic and pollution problems facing all the world’s major cities and London in particular, there is going to be a Car-free Day organised through-out the capital on Saturday, 22nd. I cannot imagine that it will result in a wide observance across the whole city but we shall see!
- The last week of September will be dominated by the Labour Party Conference (and Brexit). Somehow, I cannot imagine that we will reach the end of September without very fundamental shifts beginning to take place in the political landscape!
Do you know?
Last month I asked “How many of you know the modern names of these three Battersea pubs: “The Cornet of Horse“, “The Prodigal’s Return” (I said “Son” so thanks to eagle-eyed Chris for that correction) and “The Eagle“? The answer is The Four Thieves in Lavender Gardens, The Draft House on the corner of Battersea Bridge and Westbridge Roads and The Magic Garden, Battersea Park Road, respectively. As a brief aside can I ask whether anyone knows the connection between Lavender Gardens, Henty Close on the Ethelburga Estate and the Cornet of Horse?
And as for this month let me ask: I took a photograph of this structure in Webbs Road, at the junction with Honeywell Road. It, is the pole, standing on the pavement and which is slightly higher than the house. Do you know what it is? What it is called? And just how many poles like this can WE find in Battersea?
- To start with a serious point on building control. Once upon a time Building control regulations and their application were overseen by the state, or an arm of the state, in this case local authorities, with the result that most of us could live in peace and accept that any building works happening in our area were shall we say “kosher”. But in the last few months I have had a worrying increase of cases, where constituents have complained of damage consequential on neighbours’ building “improvements”. One constituent complained that not one room in his house was unaffected by the extensive works next door – walls were cracked, windows and doors open and close less easily than they did before, foundations damaged, etc. And in the last month another constituent has reported being seriously worried about the standard of workmanship in a neighbour’s back extension.
- It was Mrs Thatcher, in her dogmatic “escape” from the “Nanny State“, who removed the need for “independent”, state, building controls, when she allowed architects and contractors to employ their own building inspectors. It was in future to be self-regulation – the kind of system that we have seen fail in the City and everywhere else that the Tory party has rebelled against so-called “red tape”. Of course, the system did not collapse immediately after Thatcher introduced her so-called reform. But, with time, the temptation to cut costs has become too great for some.
- So, my current case, in a Victorian street, not a million miles from the Latchmere pub, concerns “Authorised inspectors” from a “building control” company, who have withdrawn from the job, mainly I think because they did not have the clout to impose decent standards on the builders. They were only “authorised inspectors” in the sense that they were being paid to do the job and the company is a somewhat grandiosely entitled small company founded in 2006. I am sure that it probably does a good job and has good professional standards. It does not, however, have the enforcement powers that the local authority has. Hopefully Wandsworth Council will now step in and enforce decent standards, but not until after my constituents and their families have gone through agonies and quite possibly considerable expenditure.
- We are, collectively, paying a dreadful price for the anti-red tape ideological revolution that the Tories are unleashing on us. Most people will know of the destruction of the Probation Service, the chaos of the Benefit System, the mayhem in the education service, not to mention of course the Health Service, but my point is that it is rampant in even the most unconsidered corners – building regulations!
- The Council’s Building Control unit does occasionally have great successes. Here, for example, is a pub, which used to be called the Artichoke, on St. John’s Hill. It was almost completely demolished, without planning permission, when the Town Hall got working with its enforcement powers. I don’t know when it is due to be re-opened but it doesn’t now look too long into the future. The moral is: if you see some cowboy developments, complain to your local councillors. S/he can’t solve everything but there are still some building standards to be enforced.
- Enough of sermonising! July was, of course, spectacular for the heatwave and fortunately we did not have a heavy load of Council business, other than the “usual” business meetings, of which the Council Meeting on 11th July was outstanding. It was a big occasion for quite a few members as they were making maiden speeches. All of them were very good but I think my favourite was from the new Queenstown councillor, Maurice McLeod. I had never heard him speak before but he brought a distinctive and powerful voice to the debate, making the important point about lack of diversity amongst councillors.
- Two days later we went off for 10 days in Devon and Cornwall, with the kids, and then off to Shallowford Farm. The farm, pictured here, provided the farm animals you may have seen in Falcon Road, this summer and works with Providence House Youth Club. By which I mean, that up to 18 youngsters at a time visit the farm on Dartmoor and have a great time learning about a rural life, a million miles from Battersea; about feeding the animals, mucking out their sheds, etc. Providence House and Shallowford Farm do a great job, expanding the horizons of many Battersea kids. If you want to know more then consult: www.shallowfordfarm.co.uk.
- From Dartmoor, we went on to visit one cousin in Newquay and another in Polzeath. The weather was sensational – so sensational that I actually swam in British waters four times in 8 days. Quite something.
- I did, however, come back for the day on 19th July to attend the Planning Applications Committee. There were a couple of interesting applications affecting Battersea. One was in Gowrie Road, off Lavender Hill, which was an application to demolish the whole house, except for the façade of the house and build inside it a completely new house twice the size of the current one. The street scene will be unchanged and so there are few grounds to refuse the application, but inherently with such major works, there must be potential for cracked walls and complex party wall agreements – see earlier paragraphs.
- The second was an application for further development at the Royal College of Art campus, at the corner of Parkgate and Battersea Bridge Roads. This was an improvement on an already agreed development. It is a major educational establishment of London-wide importance but might turn out to be hugely controversial for some residents!
- The largest application related, however, to Springfield Hospital. It was for 829 properties, a new park, and a school, but it included the closure of the nine-hole golf course. It turned out to be fairly uncontroversial but opening up the grounds of the old Springfield Hospital for new housing and a new park could/should transform this part of the Borough.
- Residents of Clark Lawrence, Shaw and particularly Sendall Courts will be pleased to know that the Council has, at last, come up with a solution to the perennial flooding problems that hit the lifts during and after storms. Indeed, my last note from the Housing Department said, “The drainage works at Sendall Court are nearing completion so we will shortly be testing them to reassure ourselves that they will be effective before undertaking the same works at Clarke Lawrence Court and Shaw Court.”
- First a couple of outstanding matters that I know will concern some of you. I have heard nothing further about the 14-storey development so many of us dread, at the corner of Culvert and Battersea Park Roads. As far as I know the building works still await the resolution of contractual matters.
- Secondly, I still haven’t heard of a definite resolution to the “flooding lift” problems that affect Clark Lawrence, Shaw and particularly Sendall Courts – hopefully they are all working satisfactorily now, but please let me know if they are not.
- The first June in the four-year cycle of any Council (this one being 2018-2022) is always an unusual time. We have had apparently endless induction meetings and annual meetings, and to cap it all we have new technology to cope with as the Council has supplied us all with new laptops. That may sound good to you all, but the main motivation is the Council’s desire to eliminate paper and get us all to work online, hence saving the Council money, particularly on postage. OK, even great, I can hear many of you say. However, in my case at least, this change does not complement my present way of working but merely duplicates and complicates it all. I can hear you say, even now, something about old dogs and new tricks!
- On Saturday, 2nd June, I visited the Share Centre’s Garden in the grounds of Springfield Hospital. The Centre, based in Altenburg Gardens Battersea, is devoted to providing, in the words of its website “training and employment support for disabled people”. Gardening is of acknowledged therapeutic benefit and the Centre put on a good show much enjoyed by, from the left, Councillor Fleur Anderson, me, my partner Penny and Share Centre Director, Annie McDowell, pictured here.
- On 3rd June, we went to the National Gallery to see the Monet & Architecture Exhibition. For art lovers I fully recommend a visit and for those, not so far interested, then this would be a great start. Monet’s painting of Waterloo Bridge and the South Bank as they appeared from the Savoy Hotel in 1900 gives just some idea of what industrial smog in London was like 120 years ago.
- The next day, 4th June, I was at Christ Church, at the junction of Cabul and Battersea Park Roads, to hear a presentation of the Battersea Society’s “War Comes Home” oral history by Carol Rahn. The Church Hall was packed with well over 100 people in the audience. The presentation was the culmination of work done by Carol, Jenny Sheridan and Sue Demont. Their research was based on interviews with residents, who had memories of life in Battersea during and immediately after war-time bombing. By definition most of those were over 80 years old and some of them were there on the 4th. It was a brilliant presentation and if anyone wants a copy of Demont’s associated booklet The Bombing of Battersea, then let me know. The picture shows Carol Rahn telling the story.
- On the 5th June, I visited Deliveroo’s Battersea kitchens. Hidden in industrial Battersea between all the rail-tracks, they were a fascinating example of new technology applied to an ancient trade – the restaurant business. The way it works is that there are half a dozen efficient, modern kitchens in one factory, serviced by one delivery network and one chain of suppliers but with, of course, different chefs and different cuisines. Like many people concerned about working conditions in the so-called “Gig Economy”, I asked questions about Deliveroo’s employment practises. Whilst I was not totally re-assured, it was good to hear that they now have a £10 million insurance scheme to provide some assistance in the event of their deliverers not being available for work or suffering industrial injuries – including from traffic accidents. Deliveroo demonstrated to me that it is beginning to respond to proper political pressures.
- One of the compensations for working at the Town Hall is that it is so very near the National Opera Studio, near the Southside shopping centre, Wandsworth. The Studio puts on lunch-time concerts at the conclusion of every academic year. This year’s concert was on 6th June. The stars are, of course, the students who come from all over the world to be trained in Wandsworth. Here are Bechara Moufarrej and Emyr Wyn Jones singing a duet from Bizet. They and all the others at the concert were fabulous and, as you can see, the concert is in a very “intimate” setting. It is well worth a visit to any music lover and especially for those who like to spot a future operatic star.
- On Friday 8th June, we went to Wilton’s Music Hall, Whitechapel. If you have not been and, like going to the theatre, this really is an unusual “must”. The only old fashioned nineteenth-century music hall left standing in London, it is an event in itself, but we went there to see Sancho, a monologue by Paterson Joseph. Paterson, a black British actor, wrote this work about Charles Ignatius Sancho. He was born in about 1729 in Columbia and died in 1780 in London. It was not known whether he was, at first, a slave but by the time of his death he had been painted by his friend, the famous artist Gainsborough and he counted famous actors and artists amongst his best friends. He was the first black man, that we know of, to vote in a British General Election. He voted for Charles James Fox, a famous abolitionist (of slavery) in a Westminster election. The play was witty, subtle and clever. It was acted in a one-man tour de force by Paterson, himself.
- And so, on 12th June to, of all things, the North East Surrey Crematorium Board. Way back before the merger of the old Battersea and Wandsworth Borough Councils into the modern Wandsworth Council, Battersea bought 120 odd acres of land in rural Morden. They recognised that there would be a shortage of land for burials and decided to buy some relatively cheap, out-of-town land. The Board, which has members from Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton Councils, meets at the Crematorium or, more usually, Sutton Council offices. It was a fascinating morning including a tour of the ovens and explanations of what happens to non-human body parts, such as artificial knees, heart pacemakers, etc., but perhaps not for the faintest of hearts!
- The following day, 13th June, I met people from Battersea Power Station. The main purpose was to get an update on current developments and to lobby for a re-instatement of the 250 affordable units that were cut from the development plans earlier this year – no movement yet. But as a by-product of the visit I happened to see one of the Peregrine Falcons that have nested in the Power Station for 18 years and have fledged 32 juveniles. In 2013 the Peregrines were encouraged from their nesting site on the Power Station to a tower crane in order that restoration works could commence. Their most successful breeding seasons have been on the purpose-built tower. This year they have again been successful, fledging one juvenile, known on site as ‘ Solo’. A male, he is currently learning his trade from the adults. Black Redstarts are also again on site so two rare species grace the Power Station, a unique occurrence in London for both species and even more so with regeneration taking place. The picture of Solo is taken by the site ornithologist David Morrison, an outside expert and occasional consultant.
- On the 15th June, we went to the Vaudeville Theatre to see Oscar Wilde’s play The Ideal Husband. Witty and acerbic as ever, I discover that Wilde was far more of a feminist than I had previously realised, although given his sad story as a much-abused homosexual perhaps I should use a different word than feminist. But, in any event, this was great fun beautifully acted by, amongst others, Edward Fox (the Jackal in the Day of the Jackal) and Susan Hampshire.
- On Sunday, 17th June, as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival, I led a small group on my history walk from the Latchmere pub to Battersea Arts Centre, via the Park, the Latchmere and the Shaftesbury Estates. We passed this foundation stone, deeply hidden and unannounced in Grayshott Road. Does anyone know it? If not then keep an eye open for it if you are ever walking along Grayshott.
- The Community Services Committee was held on 21st June. Two items were of particular interest to some parts of Battersea; one was the declaration of Public Space Protection Orders with regards to the Falcon Road area and the Patmore and Carey Gardens estates. These orders give more powers to the Council and the police to control the public drinking of alcohol. The second was an item proposing that there should be NO change to the controlled parking zone in Little India. I know that the second decision is unpopular with some residents but it was based on a public consultation carried out by the Council, and the majority answered with a “no change” verdict.
- June’s Planning Applications Committee was on 26th. The largest and most interesting application concerned a large site in Tooting High Street, but there was also one small application for two 3-bed houses on the highly contentious garden site of the old Prince of Wales pub, on the corner of Battersea Bridge Road and Surrey Lane. The Prince of Wales pub is, I am afraid, lost for good.
- On the 28th June there was a Finance and Corporate Resources Committee. I am not a member of this committee and don’t usually report on it. But this meeting forecast that next year the Council is going to have to find savings of £12 million and the year after of another £22 million. The Government’s suicidal attacks on local government seem endless and endlessly self-defeating. Amongst many other costs bed-blocking in our hospitals is bound to rise as social care in the community, especially for the elderly, gets hammered!
- On the 29th June I attended two events, the first at the Arts Centre and then at the Friends’ Meeting House in Wandsworth High Street. The first was to mark the retirement of Phil Jew, Director of the Wandsworth’s Citizens Advice Bureau. Phil has been the Director for the last very tough five years at the Bureau. In these years of so-called austerity (I think it has been of unnecessary dogma imposed by the Tory party – but that’s another story), the Bureau has been dealing with large cuts to their funding base and increasing demands as Tory cuts bite.
- The second was the Annual Meeting of the Wandsworth Historical Society, where we heard a fascinating presentation about Edward Foster, a Wandsworth resident, who won a VC (Victoria Cross) in April, 1917, for his bravery in capturing a German machine gun emplacement during the First World War. This incident took place near the small French village of Villers-Plouich, where it is commemorated in a town square, called Place de Wandsworth! Ted Foster himself became quite a famous veteran. Standing at well over 6 feet he was known as the “Gentle Giant”.
- In early June commuters and passers-by were surprised and delighted by the visit of Shallowford Farm to Falcon Road. Farm animals, sheep, chicken, ducks, and tractors appeared in the Providence House car park. The chicken and ducks revisited on 30th June at the Falcon Festival, which this year was bigger and better than ever. The farm is on the eastern edge of Dartmoor and is a joint venture with Providence House. It will be well known to many Battersea residents as Providence House youth club runs many regular residential outings to the farm. The picture is of our M.P., Marsha de Cordova, on board one of the tractors.
- On the evening of 30th June, we took our niece and her husband to the Royal Opera House to see Puccini’s La Bohème. It was meant to be grand opera and grand it certainly was but it was also highly political, positioning the harsh conditions faced by the poor bohemian students against the opulence of bourgeois Paris. It was a suitable end to a month which began with a visit to Wandsworth’s Opera Studio and finished at Covent Garden.
- Finally, this may all sound like fun social events but, like every other month, I also had half a dozen other meetings about ward and party business, which were all necessary but hardly of great public interest – so I don’t report on them!
My Programme for July
July looks like a quiet month with only the Council Meeting on 11th July and the Planning Applications Committee on the 19th. I will have to come back from Devon for that as I have a week booked up in Devon in mid-July. And at present that is that for July.
Do you know?
You may remember that I asked last month whether I should stop this feature as I thought it might be getting a bit stale! But, by popular request, here it is back again!
Park South is the name of this privately-owned tower block on Battersea Park Road. But before it was sold by the Council it was known as what exactly? And who or what was that in memory of and why?
I collect data from the public, Labour Party members and friends and family. This policy statement describes how I use that data first as regards the public. Note that anyone can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they wish to have their data removed.
I gather and use certain information about you in order to inform you of Wandsworth Council developments, my part or view of them especially as they refer to the ward I represent, Latchmere, and to a lesser extent other parts of Battersea and the wider Borough.
Using the details that you sent me and/or data from the Electoral Register, which I as an elected councillor (just as the MP or GLA member) have the legal right to obtain from the Electoral Registration Officer, I collect all or some of the following information:
- contact information such as email addresses; and
- your actual address including postcode.
My main purpose in collecting this data is to create a circulation list for my monthly Newsletter, which started nine years ago with the next edition due in June, 2018, being the 108th edition. Only once, in August 2011, did I produce 2 editions and that was the occasion of the Clapham Junction riots, which I judged deserved a second edition.
I occasionally use your details to conduct surveys, for example I once did a survey of your preferences for times of closure of the Grant Road station entrance. I NEVER pass your details on to the Labour Party, either nationally or here in Battersea, though occasionally pressed to do so.
I might in future use your details
- to improve the newsletter or service I hope I provide as a councillor;
- to contact you in response to a specific enquiry; and
- maybe to share with selected parties, but only with your prior consent.
Complaints or Queries
I do try and maintain high standards when collecting and using personal information. For this reason, I do take any complaints about this very seriously. BUT I am not a computer specialist and do not always have access to great expertise. Hence, I once had problems processing an individual’s data, but it was eventually resolved. I would encourage you to bring to my attention any use of information, which is unfair, misleading or inappropriate. I would also welcome any suggestions for improving the procedures.
Any query or complaint about this policy statement, or the way that I have used or processed your personal information, should be sent to the following email address: email@example.com.
Labour Party members
In general all the above applies, with the following exceptions:-
- your data came from party sources and as an elected representative of the party my current (24/5/18) interpretation of the GDPR legislation is that as you gave that data voluntarily to our party you accept my use of it;
- I will occasionally use your data for party matters as well as for the newsletter.
Friends and family
In general all the above applies, with the following exceptions:-
- you volunteered the data and accept my use of it but only for the newsletter.
- In the weeks before the May 3rd Borough Election, there was very little Council activity, except for preparing for and fighting the election itself, hence this is going to be a short newsletter! I could, of course, try to persuade you all to vote for me and my two Latchmere colleagues Simon Hogg and Kate Stock, but I won’t insult your intelligence by thinking I could change your vote in the last couple of days. Instead as usual I will continue with my normal monthly diary.
- On April 1st my partner and I went to Tate Modern to see the Modigliani Exhibition. The first thing that struck me was the speed and scale of change in Blackfriars. The Blavatnik extension to the Tate has been open nearly two years but this was the first time that I’ve had a close look at it! To say the least it’s striking – it also blends well with the old Bankside Power Station, which is now the Tate Modern.
- As for Modigliani, he was extremely popular fifty years ago but not so much today. Perhaps, at least to the casual observer, he appears a bit effete. Certainly, I am sorry to say, of his famous nudes that I thought “once, you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all”. They were elegant, sensual, ample and well-proportioned but curiously passionless, empty vessels. Didn’t work for me.
- On the 6th we decided to visit two of the buildings that won some of the Wandsworth design awards, which I mentioned last month. The first was for dinner at the Earlsfield pub, built effectively into the wall of the station – we liked it – and then over the road to the Tara Arts Centre for an evening of Indian music, the Easter Ragas. The Tara Arts Centre is a small performance space, converted from a Victorian terrace, right alongside the mainline railway. I definitely recommend a visit.
- The “Indian” music was simply stunning – apparently a fusion of “Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian musical traditions”. It was, in the words of the MC, the music for whirling Dervishes – the “Whirling Dervishes” were a Turkish Sufi cult, who achieved notoriety in Victorian England. At the concert, the outstanding performer was Abi Sampa, her singing and the intensity of her presence and of her band bowled over the whole audience.
- The April meeting of the Planning Applications Committee was on the 18th, but, to be honest, there was little of note, at least, for Battersea.
- Last month, I said I would represent the Labour Party, on the 24th, at the Battersea Society’s election hustings meeting in York Gardens Library Hall. In fact, Wandsworth Labour Leader, and fellow Latchmere councillor, Simon Hogg, second from right, took the role. Thanks to the Society for staging the hustings but, I thought that the meeting, with an audience of only 40, was a bit flat. The fact is that it was a very polite, very quiet audience; nor was it very representative of much of the local Latchmere population. The evening could have done with a little more “edge”.
- To City Hall on 27th April, to a meeting of ACAN, the African Caribbean Alumni Network. As I said, last month, you might well be surprised at that (as indeed, I was when I received the invitation). But it follows from my contribution to a Black Lives Matter debate held last summer at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich.
- It was a meeting for about 200 black graduates (I was the only white person in the hall) and as such it was absolutely fascinating. These young graduates were a very impressive group, very angry about the current outrageous “Windrush scandal”, very ambitious for the future of themselves and their peers, very positive about how they were going to play a major part in British society. Good luck to them all. We will all benefit from their energy and their positive attitude.
- The following day, the 25th, off to the Battersea Arts Centre to see the world premier of Winstanley Stories, a film made by Falconbrook Primary School’s pupils with, I suspect, quite a lot of assistance from producer Matthew Rosenberg. I thought that he/they did a brilliant history film of both the Winstanley and York Road estates. It can be seen at http://www.winstanleystories.org.uk/film.html, which I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who has the technology.
- And now on to May 3rd, election day. However, I can’t let this “old” Council pass without saying a very fond farewell to Councillor Wendy Speck. Wendy has been a Latchmere councillor since May, 2010. Many of you will know her well because Wendy was and still is active in many ways. She was Chair of Governors of Chesterton School and a Governor of Ernest Bevin School, Tooting and a regular at most Big Local events.
- Wendy is chair of St Walter St John Educational Trust and intends to continue in that role. Wendy is also a trustee of Wand Youth Club and of Wandsworth Community Safety Trust. Before being a councillor, she was for 9 years a head of primary schools in Newcastle and Islington. One little known fact is that she has an Anglo-Byelorussian background and is still a mean Cossack dancer. I’ll miss her as a Council colleague.
My Programme for May
Well, the future disposition of Wandsworth Council is very much in your hands, you – the electorate. If Labour wins then, I will be very busy and will be happy to report on what it is like being in a majority party! But if we do not win, then my newsletter will be more of the same.
Do you know?
Last month I asked: Where and when was this photo taken? And do you know the current use of the church on the left-side of the road?
Easy, but I think the most knowledgeable and accurate answer came from Sue, who I will quote in full.
“It’s St. Paul’s Church, St John’s Hill, looking east towards the Junction and likely to be 1920s because of (the woman’s) cloche hat…Church became Louvaine Area Residents’ Association HQ (LARA) when made redundant – and was used for Battersea LP meetings! – but is now apartments. St Paul’s started life as the daughter church to St John’s, Usk Rd but the latter struggled to sustain its congregation even before it was destroyed by a V2 in 1945 and, in any case, by the 1930s the parish had been reorganised and renamed St Paul’s. It was subsequently combined with St Peter’s, Plough Rd, which despite having had its building demolished twice, is now the only surviving Anglican congregation of the three – hopefully the new church in Plough Road will open soon for them.“
And this month, my questions are inspired by Wendy Speck’s retirement and her governorship of Chesterton Primary School. They are simply:
- Who was Chesterton?
- What was he to Battersea or Battersea to him?
- What else in Battersea is named after him?