Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea May, 2017,Newsletter (#96)

  1. On the 5th April, I attended a Citizenship Ceremony with a difference. Since 2004 becoming a British citizen has involved a ceremony. This was the second I had been to and was a moving experience watching 30 or 40 new citizens from all over the world swearing allegiance to the crown and the UK. For those sceptics amongst us, who might have thought otherwise in a post-Brexit world, they included Irish, Italian and Portuguese – it was also a reminder of what a cosmopolitan city we live in.
  2. This ceremony was, however, different, because it was also the occasion when the Barbados (Bajan) High Commissioner came to present a certificate recording the contribution John Archer made to both Barbados and the UK. Archer, who lived in Brynmaer Road, Latchmere (see the blue plaque on no.55) was a Liverpudlian of Bajan origin, who in 1913 was elected Mayor of Battersea, the first black mayor of a major UK town and a reminder that London has a long tradition of being home to people from all over the world. He was a Latchmere councillor and I was invited as one of his successors. Here is a picture of the Commissioner with Wandsworth’s current Mayor.

  3. Three days later I went to the National Theatre to see Twelfth Night – what a disaster. You can read more about it at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/ where you will find a review that I wrote. Suffice to say that the evening started with problems on the railway and continued through what I thought was a self-indulgent and rather unpleasant production of what is meant to be, in modern terms, a Rom-Com; enough said.

  4. The next day I went to Battersea Arts Centre for the much more pleasant occasion. It was the “significant” birthday of my friend, Jenny Sheridan, long-term editor of Battersea Society’s quarterly magazine, Battersea Matters. This was a far more successful evening.

  5. After her Easter break, Mrs May decided to surprise us all with the announcement of a General Election. For those of you not involved in politics, which is no doubt most of you, you may not be aware of what chaos and panic, fun and frantic activity, this involves. In our case Battersea Labour Party did not, but does now, have a candidate (Marsha de Cordova, a Lambeth, Clapham, councillor), agent (me!) or funding. Don’t take this as criticism as I doubt that many other parties or constituencies were in a very different position UNLESS they had a sitting MP. This state of affairs does mean, however, that the last fortnight has been fairly lively.
  6. With fortuitous good timing, the next day Battersea, Putney and Tooting Labour Parties had a joint fund-raising party at the Civic Centre at the Town Hall. The speaker was Keir Starmer, who is Labour’s spokesperson on Brexit. His speech was good, but perhaps more significantly he was very impressive when it came to the questions and answers.

  7. As it happened, I already had a date earlier that Wednesday evening at a book launch in the Fulham Road. A Battersea resident read my April Newsletter and was interested enough to write to me saying that “My [i.e. her] writing, about history-enforced exile and uprooting, …., is particularly relevant in these days of increasing jingoism and xenophobia, which are even leading to crimes in our streets”. Her letter included an invite to her book launch – Miriam Frank’s An Unfinished Portrait.
  8. Miriam (pictured right) writes of her journey through war torn Spain (the Civil War, 1936-38) and Europe and then in Latin America, much of it with just her mother and a suitcase. The book is beautifully and lyrically written and is largely about coming to terms with her difficult relationship with her mother and how central that has been to her life. However, her words to me about xenophobia and the crime on our streets are particularly poignant given that since she wrote them we have had murders in Sullivan Close and Melody Road, both within a mile of Clapham Junction.

  9. There was a further incident in Tooting, which led to this response from the Borough’s Detective Chief Commander Peter Laverick. He said: “These events are unprecedented for Wandsworth and taken together over such a short period of time has increased the impact. We have had three tragic events over the last four weeks. I understand that people will be concerned but Wandsworth is safe [the statistics show Wandsworth to be the safest Borough in Inner London]. We are committed and are working very hard with the local authorities to tackle this sort of violence. On the whole, we are successful in doing so compared with the rest of London.”

  10. On the 7th April I went to the Quaker wedding of an old friend, Edmund Green to Eloise. It was a new experience for me, with the whole ceremony taking place in almost total silence, with their vows exchanged but directly between the two without any supervisory minister or vicar.

  11. My last newsletter must have had an appeal to authors! On the next day, I had coffee with another author, Camilla Ween, who is an urban planner and has written a book called Future Cities. Camilla is keen to help me (and the Council) improve the quality of the urban landscape and design in Wandsworth. As we talked of possibilities we came up with an interesting idea for environmental improvements in North Battersea, which we agreed to work on. We are both busy people but if, and I emphasise IF, we come forward with an interesting plan then you heard it first here!

  12. On 22nd the Council had a ceremony to commemorate the three Victoria Cross winners won in World War I, but I was not there because on the same day I attended the unveiling of a blue plaque on Northcote Lodge School, 26 Bolingbroke Grove. The plaque commemorated blind, great Battersea jazz pianist George Shearing’s time at school there. George was born in 1919 of working class parents. His father was a coalman, when coal was delivered by horse-drawn wagons, and his mother cleaned railway carriages, no doubt at Clapham Junction depot. He was brought up in Rawson Street, where there is now Rawson Court. He went to Sellincourt School for the blind and then on to Linden Lodge, now Northcote Lodge, where he learnt to play the piano. In 1947, he moved to the States, where he became the only British musician to hit the big time in jazz. You can hear his signature tune Lullaby of Birdland at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zJnoQiIqDU. You can also read his autobiography, co-scripted by Alyn Shipton, in Lullaby of Birdland (2004).
  13. The irony is that the two old London County Council schools, which once gave blind kids an education and in Shearing’s case an international jazz career, are now (respectively) a private block of flats and an expensive private prep school. Two of the Northcote Lodge pupils entertained us with some jazz but next term they are off to Harrow and Sherborne. Good luck to them but still ironic: we need more state schools but we have spent the last 30 years privatising them!
  14. One nice feature of the day was the dozen or so members of the Shearing family, who attended and some of whom are pictured here – looking remarkably like pictures I have seen of Shearing himself.

  15. On 24th April, I attended the Passenger Transport Liaison Group – often very interesting about rail and bus improvements but not particularly on this occasion.
  16. Two days later, I had the Planning Applications Committee.  Two applications were of importance for Battersea. The first was an application from the Flower Stall (pictured here), which stands outside the main entrance to CJ Station. The officers recommended that we refuse the application for, what we, the Councillors, considered to be, purely technical reasons. We thought that if we stuck with the technicalities we’d become a laughing stock with the public. So, we approved the proposal and good luck to the flower-stall romantics.

  17. The second was a major application for 343 residential units, a 15-storey block and three others at nine storeys on the Homebase site, Swandon Way. Again, we councillors ignored the officers’ recommendations and turned down the application, on the grounds that the large and dense development would overwhelm “the Tonsleys” and result in massive congestion at Wandsworth Town station.

  18. At the same meeting, I also submitted a paper about the use of zinc in back and roof extensions. You may remember, from last month’s newsletter, the picture of a roof extension seen from Frere Street – one or two of you commented that they were not surprised that it was unpopular with neighbours. Well here is the same extension seen from Atherton Road. There is nothing that the Council could do in retrospect about the extension as built. However, the Committee agreed that the zinc addition was incongruous in a street, of properties largely built with London stock brick. We resolved, in future, to take more note of materials, when considering such future applications.

  19. On 27th April I went to a charity lunch in support of the Ammadiyya Muslim Community organised March for Peace on 14th May in Newham. The Ammadiyya community consists of 200 million people world-wide, who have their world headquarters in Putney, largely because the Community are on the receiving end of much persecution in many Muslim countries. The prejudice towards them is a tragedy, given that the Ammadiyyas are noted for their attempts to be peace-makers between the current warring religious factions in the Muslim world. Without notice, I was asked to speak and found myself, as a member of the opposition, rather ironically, welcoming them on behalf of Wandsworth Council and councillors!

  20. Earlier in the month, I visited the developing St. Peter’s Church in Plough Road and the new flats, recently finished and now largely occupied. Some of you have asked if and when the church is going to be completed; I was assured that they expect completion in late autumn this year.
  21. It was a little difficult to tell what the church is going to be like but it is certainly very modern. As for the flats; they appear very smart with a fascinating view over York Gardens and the many, major developments taking place, as you can see, in North Battersea.

    My Programme for May

 

  1. I am sure the month will be dominated, for me, by the June General Election but I do have a Council surgery on 6th May at the main library on Lavender Hill.
  2. On 15th May I have a meeting of the Heliport Consultative Committee and the day after there is the Planning Applications Committee. After that, on Wednesday, 17th May, there is the Annual Council Mayor Making evening – a very simple, formal evening.
  3. On 28th May, as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Programme, I am leading a History Walk from the Latchmere pub to Battersea Arts Centre, via a few historical sites. If you are thinking of coming then please do contact me nearer the date, by email, for details.
Opinion Piece
In this newsletter, I have never hidden my politics but I have always tried to make the newsletter relatively non-partisan. That is, however, difficult in the build-up to any election, but especially this one – so here goes.
Most of you will know, or at least can guess, what my views are on the housing situation in London, or the NHS, or education spending, or taxation, but the major and unique new issue of the day is clearly Brexit. As far as I am concerned, it is becoming clearer day by day that our national vote in last year’s Referendum was the worst political decision we have made since …, well since as long as anyone can remember.

In my view, we in Battersea should, therefore, vote for the candidate most likely to argue (and vote) against Hard Brexit, whatever that is, and fight still for a Remain position. To be fair, the Lib/Dem candidate represents a party, which is committed to that position – strange given that it is so indecisive on almost every other issue! But the reality is that given the electoral situation in Battersea there are only two realistic winners: the Tory Party candidate, who is a member of the Government negotiating Brexit, and the Labour Party candidate, who is anti-Brexit and will take every opportunity to fight for our membership of a customs union and the open relationship we have had with the rest of Europe for 40 years. The choice seems simple enough!

Do you know?

Last month, I asked why are the York Road estate blocks, some soon to be demolished, named Inkster, Penge, Chesterton, Pennethorne, Holcroft and Scholey? I got no responses! Obviously too difficult or not very interesting to many of you but the answers are, I believe:-

  • Chesterton House: G. K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton, was a writer, poet and literary critic (1874-1936), who moved into Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive in the late 1890s.
  • Holcroft House: Might be named after Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809), who was a radical Englishman, who travelled to Paris, during the French Revolution and probably knew ant-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, but I have no definite evidence.
  • Inkster House: Major Inkster was a serving officer in World War II, who was a member of Battersea Borough Council’s Housing Committee, when the York Road Stage 2 estate was being planned in the 1960s.
  • Penge House: Simon Hogg tells me that In the nineteenth century Penge was, apparently, a detached hamlet of the parish of Battersea. He and I guess that the naming of Penge House comes from that connection – but I am not totally convinced!
  • Pennethorne House: William Pennethorne, was a principal architect and designer of amongst many other things Battersea and Victoria Parks, as originally conceived in the 1860s.
  • Scholey House: Might be named after the Lord Mayor of London (1812) who, I am told, was also the churchwarden in Battersea, but somehow I doubt it. Apart from anything else he was an East Londoner.
This month, I have a far easier question for those, who keep their eyes open, though I must admit I have lived here 50+ years and I had never noticed this house before. This is as it appears from the road, but its real front is on the right as seen in this picture. The building dates from the very early 1800s and it is in the heart of Battersea. Where is it?

PS I will not be able to produce my June Newsletter until after the General Election, thanks to laws about election expenditure, etc. So, my 97th edition will be out about mid-June.

Promoted by Tony Belton on behalf of Marsha de Cordova at 177 Lavender Hill, SW11 5TE. Produced by Tony Belton at 99 Salcott Road, SW11 5DF

Twelfth Night – a play by William Shakespeare

We went to see Twelfth Night at the National on Saturday. I think I saw the opening act in a drama competition once many years ago and Duke Orsino’s pathetic lament

If music be the food of love, play on,

give me excess of it; that surfeiting,

the appetite may sicken, and so die

at the start of the play had always appealed, for the poetry rather than the pathos. So, I was full of expectation.

The evening didn’t start too well. We got the train from Clapham Junction to Waterloo on a tight but sufficient timescale but then the train stopped 200 yards short of Queenstown Road. Someone was on the tracks – a terrible accident? a suicide? Everyone was patient, that is until we were told that it was a “fun” trespasser. We missed the first 15 minutes and Orsino’s lament. Who knows how many dates were missed; tickets wasted; lovers disappointed?

Two hours later, I rather wished I had missed more and not missed Dele Alli’s wonder goal (yet another) for Spurs against Watford on Match of the Day. What a terrible production!

The play is a complex one; toying with gender roles and cross casting; with love and infatuation; with reality and appearance. It has some very dated elements, not least the treatment of Malvolio/Malvolia. It has exquisite poetry. What it does not need is yet further sex changes to add to the disbelief (I still haven’t worked out whether one woman was playing what Shakespeare had intended to be a man or a woman, or indeed was a man doing the reverse). Nor does it need a fussy, fiddly stage setting, which was changing, admittedly cleverly but so what, every couple of minutes.

And why were Viola and her brother dressed as rather clean punks? Orsino and Olivia as business people? and many of the rest in assorted costumes through the ages? At least Viola and her brother were of the same ethnicity. I suppose the production would have been even more challenging if one had been black and the other white. The poetry, above all, needs clear, beautiful articulation not rather undistinguished method acting and overdone romping at every moment – not one sexual overtone, not one double entendre got away without the most unsubtle action replay.

Perhaps most of all, romantic comedies, no less than romantic tragedies, depend on the romance as much as the comedy. The tragedy of this production was that the comedy was flat and the romance simply incredible. There was no spark between Orsino and Viola/Sebastian nor between Olivia and Sebastian/Viola.

But maybe it was me, or rather us, as the performance got a standing ovation at the end, with plenty of hooting and hollering. But to my mind the director seemed either not to have confidence in Shakespeare’s play and its poetry or in a modern audience and its capacity to understand Shakespeare. Thank goodness for Iplayer and I did later get around to seeing Dele’s goal. Is that boy a genius?

Councillor Tony Belton’s Battersea April, 2017, Newsletter (# 95)

  1. On the 1st March, I visited Northcote Road Library and the associated Chatham Hall, both of which are threatened by demolition and replacement by a new library development including 17 flats and some retail. This promises to be a matter of some contention in the immediate neighbourhood, but many of the comments about over-development look distinctly exaggerated when comparisons are made with many recent developments along the river and north of the main line railway. Pictured here are the current library and the Alphabet Nursery, which operates in Chatham Hall.

  2. On the 8th March, we had the annual Council Tax setting meeting, confirming what I said last month, i.e. that we would be facing a 3.99% increase in 2017/18. But the Council Tax has in effect been nationalised and in 1971 Council committee meetings have been held in public, and both these changes have rather detracted from the dramatic value of this meeting. Imagine national budget day with absolutely everything known in advance – all that we would be left with would be synthetic anger and formulaic speeches about a decision already agreed and made public – well that’s this meeting!

  3. I had the Wandsworth Conservation Advisory Committee on 14th March and the Standards Committee on 16th March. Both were fairly uneventful except that I raised the issue of whether there should be more stringent rules than currently about the ease with which senior officers could move from important positions in the Council to major private sector roles – most obviously from senior roles in the Planning Department into private developers – and the links between councillors and private developers and businesses. My comments were noted but not considered very seriously – yet!

  4. I went to the Dorfman Theatre at the National on Friday, 17th March, and saw a fascinating play – My Country, by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The play is centred around Referendum Day, 2016, and the confused state of the UK today. I reviewed it on my BLOG at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/. Do please have a read.

  5. On the following day, Saturday 18th March, I went to the 50th wedding anniversary of my old friends, Jeanne and Dave Rathbone. Apart from food and drink, chat and laughter, the centre point was an afternoon of poetry readings, funny, romantic, traditional and modern – very moving.

  6. And then on the Sunday, I went on a pilgrimage for my last ever game at White Hart Lane, except that rumours have it that Spurs might not move out until the end of next season, in which case it might not be my last visit! My first trip there, when I lived just around the corner, was on 2nd August, 1948, when I saw Sweden beat Austria 3-0 in the London Olympics quarter-final. Sweden beat Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final at Wembley. I was, I think, in the Boys Enclosure paying 6d for my entry, which is 2.5P in today’s language!

  7. I don’t know how many of you have ever taken good action shots but last month’s game, which ended in a Spurs victory over Southampton 2-1, featured this Dele Alli penalty against Soton keeper Fraser Forster. It must be my best ever action shot – and done with a mobile phone! Can you see the ball, just by the goalie’s right hand?

  8. On Monday, 20th March, my partner, Penny Corfield gave a talk to the Putney Society on duelling. It featured the infamous duel of the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, against the radical MP, George Tierney, which took place on the border of Putney Heath and Wimbledon Common. Just think: this was at the height of the French Revolutionary Wars – what a scandal! It was a pleasant evening and her talk was much enjoyed.

  9. The next day I visited some constituents in Frere Street, who had a complaint about a neighbouring development that the Council had allowed. I mustn’t shirk from responsibility because, when I say that the Council allowed it, it was in fact the November Planning Applications Committee (PAC) of which I was and am a member. Their main complaints were that they were not consulted and that the zinc extension does not fit well with the largely London stock brick environment of north Battersea. The developer, however, remarked that ‘The materials chosen reflect those materials that have been used extensively within the area and will enable the proposed development to blend seamlessly into the character of the local architecture’ Above is a view from their sitting room. Do you think they have just cause to complain or that the development blends seamlessly?

  10. On the 23rd we had the March PAC meeting. Although there were no major applications in Latchmere, there were some in neighbouring wards, which could have a significant impact on Latchmere. First of all, by re-arranging their operations at Cringle Dock and Feathers’ Wharf, Western Riverside Waste Authority (WRWA) hope to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicle movements by 1,760 a year. That means that they hope to get rid of five daily refuse van movements down busy York and Battersea Park Roads – a welcome development. Just to clarify, the WRWA is the body tasked by Parliament to get rid of all of Wandsworth’s tons of rubbish, plus Ken & Chelsea’s, Lambeth’s and Hammersmith & Fulham’s.

  11. The second application was to provide 127 extra residential units at Plantation Wharf, partly by raising the height of Trade Tower by 6 storeys and partly by building several new blocks. Many of the current residents of Plantation Wharf are far from happy about the intensification of this development and it will certainly concern Latchmere residents that there seems to be no end to the building works taking place around York Road and Lombard Road.

  12. Talking of developments in the ward, can I ask what you think of the new St. Peter’s Church and the associated block of flats in Plough Road (left) and the very tight development in Cabul Road (right)? Let me have your views.

  13. On Friday, 24th March, my partner and I flew to Jersey for the week-end. Neither of us had ever been to the Channel Islands, although I have intended to go for some time. As you can see from this picture, the weather was great and the scenery often idyllic. That only leaves the Scilly Isles, Lundy, the Orkneys and the Isle of Man to go, before I have done a pretty thorough sweep of the British Isles, including the Republic.

  14. Finally, of course, on 29th March Mrs. May wrote to EU President Donald Tusk and told him of UK’s intention to leave the Union. Battersea residents voted by a large majority to “remain” in the union but now we face the “leave” option! Will it mark the end of the UK as a United Kingdom? Will it be a glorious Independence Day as Farage and others claim? One thing is for certain: all those people who say that politics does not matter, and that everything is run by big business, will need another argument in future!

  15. I express my view on Brexit at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/a-labour-party-remain-strategy-for-wandsworth-2018/. In particular, I think we should argue firmly for the freedoms of movement we now have between the peoples of the EU, whether Brits in Spain or Irish and French working here. Come on Jeremy – show a bit of leadership!

My Programme for April

  1. On 5th April, I will be at the Town Hall to meet the Barbados High Commissioner, who is going to present a gift, I know not what, to commemorate John Archer, pictured right and a Labour Councillor for Latchmere ward. Archer was of Bajan extraction, was a notable resident of 55 Brynmaer Road, where a plaque marks the spot, and in 1914 was elected as the first black man to be the Mayor of a major London authority – Battersea Borough Council.
  2. There is the Passenger Transport Liaison Group on 24th April and the Planning Applications Committee on 26th April, but apart from that April looks like being a quiet month.

Do you know?

Last month, I asked about this bridge crossing the Thames from Battersea Park to the Chelsea Embankment: Do you remember this bridge? Did you ever cross it? Do you know where in Uganda it ended up? Do you know anything about it? Were there other back-up bridges elsewhere in London?

I am sad to say that I got no responses on that one, not even any expressions of interest. You clearly did not find it as fascinating as I did. But just stop and think: during the greatest crisis in our modern history, I guess Harold would have said in 1066 that William’s invasion was a bigger crisis, with the country strapped for money and resources, how we managed amongst everything else to put together such a fine looking and presumably effective bridge.

Well this month I have another question and from the same source (thank you Simon Hogg). Why are the York Road estate blocks, some soon to be demolished, named Inkster, Penge, Chesterton, Pennethorne, Holcroft and Scholey? I know the answer for the first four but not Holcroft and Scholey. Does anyone know all six?

Here, by the way, are Penge and Pennethorne Houses under development in about 1962?

My Country: a work in progress

We went to see this “play” at the National Theaatre on, ironically, St. Patrick’s Day. I say ironically, because we saw a play about the lack of clarity about what it means to be British on a day associated with the very established and internationally recognized identity of one of our constituent “parts”, the Irish.

I am sure that I could find some definition of “a play”, which My Country did not fulfill. In some sense, there were no personal relationships portrayed; there was no action; there was no plot; there was no drama. Yet, in another way, what could be more dramatic than the possible internal collapse of a great country? How could that story not be a plot? Who could say that Brexit and the state of the UK does not constitute action? And whatever happens in these most unpredictable times, the aftermath of Referendum Day will continue to have a massive impact on the relationships of nearly 70 million people.

The play is an anthology of quotes from Britons about the build up to and the fall-out from Referendum Day, 23 June 2016. Quotes from the great and the good, bad and the ugly (Cameron, May, Corbyn, Johnson, Gove and many more starred) and quotes from the people, the people from London-Derry, Edinburgh and Glasgow, the North-East, Leicester, Gloucester, Salisbury and Merthyr are masterfully crafted by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy into a passionate cry for something, but what? Sanity, cohesion, belief, faith, rationality?

I have seen it said of this work that it demonstrates mean, unpleasant, nations(s) retreating into  a pessimistic dystopia. I don’t think that’s right. Its rather about a people flailing around blind and lost, without common purpose or direction. That at least was my impression. There was no commonality in almost anything debated, and a lot was at least mentioned. On the other hand there was plenty of wit, humour and nostalgia, but overall there was no sense of purpose or unity; in that sense the play was extremely depressing.

Is it possible that in a lifetime, as it happens almost exactly my lifetime, the UK could go from a nation that will forever be remembered for its finest hour to one totally lost in a world, rapidly gravitating towards continental entities built around smaller regional units? Or is it that Duffy had a peculiar ability to extract from the evidence a story that corroborated her feelings and attitudes, whilst another author could equally assemble a positive, clear picture of where we are going and how, say a picture of close relations with the EU, even the restoration of our role in the EU, and a renewal of a United Kingdom?

This was a confusing evening, stimulating a myriad of thoughts and emotions, not a restful, comforting one. I highly recommend it – if you wish to be provoked. The last show at the National Theatre is tomorrow, 22nd March, but then it goes on tour throughout the UK, returning to Stratford in the east end. For details see: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/my-country-uk-tour

A Labour Party “Remain” Strategy for Wandsworth, 2018

It is clear that on the major issue of the day, the Labour Party’s position is, at least for now, an irrelevance. The country is set on a very difficult Brexit journey, which Jeremy Corbyn is not going to challenge in any serious manner. Regardless of his qualities or otherwise, he appears to take the view that There Is No Alternative; we are back to our old friend from the 80s, TINA!

If Mrs. May were to make the mistake of calling a General Election there could be no real external opposition to her except from out and out remainers in her own party. UKIP would not be the threat to Labour but the LibDems would be – almost regardless of the qualities or otherwise of their leader.

The 48% of us, who voted Remain would not be represented by anyone else. Is there, therefore, any serious argument against the Labour Party taking a strong and passionate “Pro-EU” position?

In a sense, whether it delivers an overall Labour majority in a General Election or not, it is the only path away from annihilation back to electoral respectability. My old friend, Mayor Khan, is sharp enough to see that for him in London it is advantageous to be as pro-European as he can be.

Likewise every Labour campaign in the 2018 London Borough Elections should be fought on a Pro-EU platform. Not only is London a “Remain” city, but it is also home to enough voting EU nationals in most boroughs to justify local platforms with a large element of “foreign policy”.

This tactic might be very uncomfortable for some, few Labour Brexiteers, but no more difficult than the current position is for the much larger Pro-EU majority.

I call on Wandsworth Labour to make an essentially Pro-EU platform the corner-stone of our local campaign for 2018, and I hope many other London Labour Parties follow suit. It would also, of course and crucially, have the benefit of putting the Brexit supporting Conservative party in the position of fighting an election in a Borough, with a 70+% majority Remain population. Who knows? But it is easy to imagine that in 12 months time it could be the Tories rather than Labour facing a major political dilemma.

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere March, 2017, Newsletter (# 94)

  1. I open with an apology! I did not, last month, mention Battersea Labour Party’s great Jazz night on 22nd January at the Clapham pub, The Bread and Roses. We were entertained by Junction Jazz with our star guest vocalist Rosena Allin-Khan, who of course is also now Tooting’s M.P. as well as being my fellow Bedford ward councillor. Here is Rosena accompanied by Nikki Marsh on the clarinet.

  2. On the 1st February, there was a special Council Meeting with just one item on the agenda, and that was a technical, financial paper setting the background of next month’s Council budget, when a 3.99% increase in Council Tax will be announced. I took the opportunity to denounce the state of local government taxation and finances – whatever your attitude to taxation, too much, too little, to be avoided, as inevitable as death, as the old saying goes, the fact is that Council Tax is grossly unfair in that the poor, on average, pay considerably more in proportion to their income than do the rich. For that reason, Council Tax is known as a regressive tax.

  3. Whilst on the subject of tax, the new business rates table was produced in February. It is a massive table, which I couldn’t possibly reproduce here but it does illustrate the vagaries of the system, which have resulted in a lot of recent press coverage. For example, 123 businesses in Latchmere ward have had reductions in their business rates, in some cases of over £5,000 per year. On the other hand 87 businesses have had increases, with 9 having had increases of over £10,000 and in one case an increase of over £36,000! Frankly I see no rhyme nor reason for these variations! So if your local shopkeeper has a good old moan at you – listen sympathetically and tell him/her to write to the M.P. and complain!

  4. On the 2nd February, I stood in for Simon Hogg, Labour Leader, at the Fairfield Let’s Talk meeting in St. Anne’s church hall, pictured here. I’m not sure that I would have mentioned it except for the many public complaints about over-development on the Homebase site near Wandsworth Town station. I don’t know how many of you are aware of the scale of the high-rise developments approved in York Road in the last year, but I can guarantee that the area will see massive changes in the next few years – see, for example, paragraphs 11 & 12 below.

  5. On the 9th I attended a Kambala Estate “wine and cheese” party. The weather was atrocious, cold and wet, which may have cut turn-out, but for those few who did turn up it was a pleasant evening.

  6. The next morning was Maurice Johnson’s funeral at Christchurch, Battersea Park Road. I have already posted an obituary of Maurice, my fellow Latchmere councillor from 1990-2010 at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/obituary-maurice-johnson/ and so I won’t repeat that but suffice to say that there was a very large congregation to see Maurice off, both from his family and the community but also from councillors of both political hues. At the funeral, I joined members of his family in saying a few words about his time as a councillor and his civic commitment. Here is his cortege making his last journey through Latchmere.

  7. On the 15th I was invited to Caius House to attend a meeting of Penge House residents and the Wandsworth Council team responsible for its modernisation. Although I did not go, I understand that there was a similar meeting for Inkster House residents the following week. They both worked well and appeared to be much appreciated.

  8. On Thursday, 16th February, I had the Community Services Committee, which considered a host of papers, but the one that caught my eye was the decision to bring the re-surfacing of Petergate up the Council’s work programme and to ensure that it is in next year’s, i.e. April-March, programme. That is a cause to congratulate local campaigner, Jane, for her tireless lobbying for Petergate – proof that persistence occasionally has its victories!

  9. The 20th February Housing Committee was entirely devoted to the next stage of the York Road/Winstanley estate regeneration. Yet again this covered procedural matters, but the Council is now getting within a few weeks of signing a contract to proceed with this massive project. With luck and a following wind, work will start on Penge and Inkster Houses around the turn of the year, proceeding later in 2018 with Pennethorne House. The project was first announced in early 2012, after the August, 2011, Clapham Junction riots, and now five years later we are within a year of physical improvements beginning to happen – Phew! It’s a long process, but inevitable, I guess, when the total project is as large as this one is and when there has been a lot of consultation and discussion.

  10. The next day, 21st February, Battersea Labour Party had as its guest speaker Lord Alf Dubs. Alf, who was Battersea’s MP from 1979-87, was presented with our informal award as Parliamentarian of the Year, 2016, for his work for child refugees and his tireless campaigning for their cause. For those of you who might not know, Alf was himself a child refugee (part of the Kindertransport) from Hitler’s Germany in 1938. Here he is telling us about his struggle to persuade the Government to let in 3,000 child refugees – for interest the much poorer UK of 1938 took in 10,000 child refugees from Central and Eastern Europe.

  11. This month’s Planning Applications Committee meeting was on 23rd February. There were two applications that were of particular interest in North Battersea, though both were amendments of previously approved applications. The first was the plan for an 8-storey block of flats on the old Savoy Theatre, or Shell garage site on York Road. As I have said before, but it is worth repeating, this was where this magnificent cinema stood prior to being destroyed by a V2 in 1944. The change in this application is the omission of the garage.

  12. The second application was to increase the size of the very large 800-unit development on the gasholder site, next to the Dogs’ Home, to over 900 dwellings. Interestingly this increase of 116 units is largely achieved by more efficient use of space, in particular reducing the height of the individual storeys in the 26 storey blocks so as to squeeze in two extra floors – we were assured that the ceilings will still be high enough!

  13. Earlier in the month I went to see La La Land – what was all the fuss about? I thought the first half was a bit boring and the second OK, but certainly it doesn’t deserve an Oscar in my book; at least they got that right at the awards ceremony! Give me a Fred and Ginger musical any day, or Gene Kelly, or Chicago or one of my favourites amongst musicals, the little-known City of Angels.

  14. On 24th February I went to see a 1962 play, namely Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It was at the Harold Pinter Theatre and the leads were Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill. It was brilliant and they were brilliant. Get to it if you can but if that’s not possible get the 1966 film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. It’s a searing portrait of a dysfunctional but weirdly loving, loveless marriage. It’s a tough watch but it is a classic amongst films.

  15. On 26th February, I took myself off to the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A) to see an exhibition called Revolution. No, not the one 100 years ago, in St. Petersburg but the one 50 years back in Carnaby Street, London. Quite a thought for me that the Sixties Revolution of my university and immediately post-university days is exactly halfway back to the Russian Revolution! But, I didn’t find the rehash of great music, record covers, revolutionary chic (full of Mao, Fidel, Che images), etc., particularly inspiring – perhaps it’s all still too real to be in a museum – for me anyway.

  16. However, what I would say is, if you don’t know them, or seldom go there, “Do go to Exhibition Road and visit the V&A, or the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum.” There are amazing things there, and the 345 bus goes from the Junction almost to their front-doors. If you are not at home with museums, then just go in to the V&A (it’s free entry) and enter the first room on the right and spend 30 minutes, looking at the artefacts, sculptures and altar pieces from the ancient world. It’s got to be worth 30 minutes of anyone’s time.

  17. On the 28th February, I went to Honeywell School to attend a meeting of locals, from the Northcote Road area, protesting about the Council’s plans to redevelop the Northcote Road Library. The Council was consulting on a proposal to demolish and rebuild the library and Chatham Hall both to modernise them and to get rid of asbestos in the library building; with associated shops and 17 flats, which are designed to pay for the work. To say that the proposals were not popular with the 30 or so people, who turned up, would be an under-statement!
My Programme for March
  1. On 8th March, there is a full Council Meeting, when we will be debating Wandsworth’s budget. I have already said that the increase will be 3.99% – we already know that – but this is where we debate the rights and wrongs of that. Once upon a time the actual increase was kept secret until the last moment but those days are long gone.
  2. The day after, 9th March, I have a meeting of the Met Police Safer Neighbourhood Team at the George Shearing Centre, Este Road.
  3. On 14th March, I will be at Wandsworth’s Conservation Area Advisory Committee.
  4. And on the 19th March, I am going with a couple of friends to a last sentimental visit to the real White Hart Lane. For those, who don’t know it, I have been a Spurs supporter for years and years, despite representing a North Battersea ward, which is only a stone’s throw from Stamford Bridge. My excuse is that, when I was 6-8 years old, I lived quarter of a mile from the Lane. My first ever game, that I can recall, was in the 1948 Olympics (how many people have been to both the 1948 and the 2012 London Olympics?). The game, I must have seen according to Google, was the quarter-final, when Sweden the gold medallists that year beat Austria 3-0.
  5. I have the Planning Applications Committee on the 23rd.

Do you know?

Last month, one of my readers, Ian asked, “Our canine friend here, in his original form, caused a cataclysmic event in the past. Firstly, who is the fellow, where is he situated? Also, what was that cataclysmic event?”

The answer was, of course, the Little Brown Dog, whose death by vivisection caused the 1907 Brown Dog Riots with over 1,000 demonstrators in Trafalgar Square. This statue, which I am afraid, Ian, I don’t like stands in Battersea Park, whilst the much better original shown right was the centre-piece of Latchmere’s Recreation Ground until stolen and smelted down by the “Anti-Doggers” during the night of 10th December, 1907.

A number of people got that right but what about the next question, which is not exactly a puzzle but a genuine request for information. My fellow councillor, Simon Hogg, came across this fascinating picture of a bridge built during the war and linking Battersea Park to the end of Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea. It was apparently built as a back up to Chelsea and Albert Bridges in case either of them were put out of action by German bombing raids.

Simon says that in 1948 it was taken down and shipped to Uganda, then of course, part of the British Empire. The questions that arise include: Do you remember this bridge? Did you ever cross it? Do you know where in Uganda it ended up? Do you know anything about it? Were there other back-up bridges elsewhere in London?

Councillor Tony Belton’s Latchmere February, 2017, Newsletter (# 93)

 

  1. You will remember that in December, the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) decided to approveculvert-road-site the 14-storey development at 3 Culvert Road, pictured right. Many local residents objected and I expressed their views in a letter I wrote to London’s Mayor Khan on 11th January asking him to call in the application (a process where he takes the decision upon himself and can over-ride the PAC decision). So far, I have had no response to the letter, which I have included in full at the end of this email. If you have not yet done so, then writing to the Mayor at mayor@london.gov.uk stating how much you agree with local objectors and with me, might just be the straw on the camel’s back!
  1. On Monday, 16th January, I went to the Passenger Transport Liaison Committee, which can, I confess, be amazingly, detailed and boring but not this time! Take note anyone who uses the railway system! Masses of changes are planned for August, 2017, and so if you are a regular train commuter and you plan to go on holiday then I advise you to go in August, because August is going to be planned chaos – and everyone knows how chaotic that could be!
  2. The biggest disruptions will be from 5th-29th August with the closure of Earlsfield station at peak hours and the total closure of Queenstown Road Rail services through Clapham Junction will be reduced by 25% from 33 trains per peak hour to 25. The plan is to have
    British Rail Class 707

    British Rail Class 707

    the new, longer British Rail 707 rolling stock on all Windsor lines and to pretty well double capacity by 2018, with much of Waterloo also being modernised in 2018. Here is one of the British Rail Class 707 trains on trial at Clapham Junction.

  3. The overall Network Rail £800 million plan is to change the rail network so that 10-carriage trains can run on all lines in and out of Waterloo by January, 2018, hence resolving some of the massive capacity problems that we have on all commuter trains. However, to do this, platforms 1-9 at Waterloo have to be extended, something which cannot be done given the geography of the platforms without major engineering work, including opening platforms 20-24 for regular use. Using those high number platforms means that the main flow of trains will be concentrated on the high number tracks and will be too heavy to allow any to stop at Queenstown Road or at Earlsfield in peak hours.
  4. This is all explained in a clip that you can see at https://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/plan-your-journey/planned-improvements/wswupgrade/?dm_i=36D9,DUFD,4HO7T7,1EDMW,1
  1. Meanwhile we also learnt that tunnelling is to start in March, ending in September, on the Northern Line extension from Kennington to Battersea Park The estimated 680,000 tons of spoil will be transported by river barge to somewhere in the estuary. It would apparently take 40,000 lorries to transport the spoil.
  2. London Underground also announced that the night-time tube service first operated in August, 2016, has already been used by 2.6 million travellers. London Underground are confident that it has stimulated the “night-time” economy but it is not yet clear exactly what the impact has been as far as “other” users are concerned (such as cleaners, caretaking staff, etc.) but there will be passenger surveys in the near future.
  1. This month’s Planning Applications Committee meeting was on 17th There were a number of applications that were of particular interest in North Battersea. The first was the plan to restore Battersea Park to its condition prior to Formula E Racing; the second about a Care Home development at York Court, 313 Battersea Park Road, on the Doddington Estate; and the third a group of applications to build council housing on the Gideon Road estate.
  1. The application to restore all areas of the Park was very detailed, but local residents, who have followed this whole process very closely, assured me that the restoration, whilst not perhaps being perfect, is acceptable.
  2. The Care Home development is fairly large by the standards of these things, providing 78 care beds and 30 assisted living suites. It also would raise the height of the building by two storeys. I voted against this development as over-large and over-dense, but it was approved.
  3. There were also three applications for the development of council housing on the Gideon Road estate in Shaftesbury. The applications were for 18, 4 and 8 homes respectively and the intention is to use them for decanting from the York Gardens estate. I, and my fellow Labour councillors, supported the applications as welcome additions to the Council’s socially rented housing stock, although we certainly had some criticism from current residents. It is hard to please everyone.
  1. On 26th January, I looked in briefly at York Gardens Library, to see the presentation given to some 50-odd interested residents of Inkster and Penge Houses about their re-furbishment. The response was very positive and certainly the plans look pretty good to me. I am told that the intention is to take on board a couple of suggestions made by residents and then to get the work started in late 2017 or early 2018, finishing about 18 months after that.
  1. I went to the Battersea Fields Residents Association on 30th January, having been specifically invited to talk about the Culvert Road development. Although not as dramatically affected by the proposed development as residents of Culvert or Battersea Park Roads, the residents were as concerned as most locals about the traffic, parking and congestion problems that may follow, unless carefully monitored.
  1. It was interesting to see last week’s Wandsworth Guardian report about Harris Academy’s improved performance – but then worrying a few days later to hear a BBC TV news report that the “improvement” was mainly a statistical consequence of excluding the worst performing pupils from the school and from the exams. This has been a concern expressed to me by a number of people, including at least a couple of you, who are ex-teachers from the school.
  2. I was not very keen on the school’s change from being a local authority school to, in effect, a private school run by the Harris Academy chain on behalf of the local authority. If the good results are “genuine” and maintained for a few years, then I will have to accept that the Academy has done a good job for the school-children of Battersea, but if this is simply a result of “failing” the lowest achieving children, then this will stand as yet another indictment against this Government’s education policies.
  1. Many of you expressed concern about my knee replacement and I am pleased to say that it is improving, but is not yet perfect. I can get around without a stick or crutches easily enough but I must say a crutch is a great way to stop the traffic – and to get a seat on the bus!

My Programme for February

  1. On 1st February, there is a full Council Meeting, when we will be discussing elements of Wandsworth’s budget. Given the scale of Government’s cuts to our rate support grant, it will not be a very comfortable occasion, to say the least.maurice-johnson
  2. The day after, 2nd February, I will be standing in again for the Labour Leader at a Let’s Talk Meeting in St. Anne’s Church, on St. Anne’s Hill.
  3. On 9th February, I will be going to an informal party with the Kambala Estate residents.
  4. At 10.30 on 10th February, I will be at Maurice Johnson’s funeral at Christchurch on Battersea Park Road. I am sure that many of you will remember Maurice, here pictured with his daughter, Laura and being invested as an Honorary Alderman by Mayor Thom. Maurice was a Latchmere councillor from 1990-2010, and a well-known personality across the Borough. You can see an obituary I wrote about Maurice at https://tonybelton.wordpress.com/
  5. I have a Community Services Committee (Community Services is almost anything that is not housing or education, from parks to libraries, swimming baths to refuse collection, parks to sewers) on the 16th February and the Planning Applications Committee on the 23rd.
  6. On the 22nd, there will be a Finance and Corporate Resources Committee, when it is my guess that the Council will announce next year’s Council Tax, which I suspect will be an increase of just under 2%.

Do you know?brown-dog-1980s

Last month I asked you to pose a Battersea- related question that I cannot answer and which I will pose to everyone else, next month. To be honest that didn’t ring a bell with many of you and not one asked anything that I didn’t know. Ian, however, asked, “Our canine friend here, in his original form, caused a cataclysmic event in the past. Firstly, who is the fellow, where is he situated? Also, what was that cataclysmic event?”

I will answer that next month, but meanwhile how many of you know? Send me your answers.

Appendix 1 See the item on Culvert Road development. My letter to the Mayor read:-

“I am writing to you to ask that you call in, and reject, Wandsworth Planning Application, 2016/4188, relating to 3 Culvert Road, SW11 4ND.

“I am a councillor for the relevant Latchmere ward and also a member of the Borough’s Planning Applications Committee, which considered this proposal on 14th December. Unfortunately, I was not able to be there as I was in hospital recovering from an operation. However, I would ask you to take note of the points already made by my constituent Mr. Paul Forster, which I will not repeat but fully support, and the following comments of mine. This letter is, by the way, endorsed by my fellow ward councillors, Simon Hogg and Wendy Speck.

“First of all, I fully acknowledge the pressures on you, as Mayor, and each and every one of the London Boroughs to provide more and more housing units across the capital. I know from working with you, as fellow Wandsworth councillors, that this a very important objective of yours, indeed it is an almost over-whelming priority for both you and for London. However, this is such a small site (0.132 hectares or about 15% of a football pitch) that even at the height and density proposed the total number of units is only 39. Given that the Council’s target over the 2015-30 timescale is to add 25,860 units and that 33,538 new homes are already in the pipeline, it would seem a pity to break planning guidelines and offend local residents for such a minor addition.

“As recently as March 2016 Wandsworth produced its Site Specific Allocations Document listing many potential housing sites in the Borough. This site was not included and was not considered to be a contributor to the housing targets, because it was then part of the Battersea Technology College school site. The site is indeed so far from critical to reaching the Council’s housing targets that it has never even been included in the plans.

“The change factor has been the change in the school status from being a state school to being part of the Harris Academy chain, at which point motivations changed and squeezing as much capital value as possible out of the site became the prime motivator. Hence a site, which had perhaps only a limited value as a schoolkeeper’s house became worth a great deal more as the site for the development of high quality residential units.

“Immediate neighbours who had been living next to a small, under-used, over-grown site might have expected a future development on the scale of, say, Merryfield Court (as referenced in Mr. Forster’s letter). But instead they have found themselves faced with the prospect of a dominating 14 storey block. Unsurprisingly of 217 comments from neighbours and interested parties, 205 have objected and several petitions have been collected against the proposal. The Mayor will know, as indeed will planners, just how significant it is to get that many objections from an area dominated by social and private tenants as opposed to owner occupiers. The proposal is massively unpopular in the immediate neighbourhood.

“Secondly, the proportion of affordable housing is possibly even more important to you than the raw number of housing units. At barely 20%, with only 8 of 39 units, being affordable, this hardly scratches the surface of acceptability. Worse they are all intermediate units and not rental units, so that the expected income of aspirants to even a one-bed flat is £46,000 p.a. with the remaining units affordable to applicants with gross incomes up to the GLA limit of £90,000 p.a. This surely exposes the myth of these units being affordable for the average Londoner or Wandsworth resident.

“Thirdly, the “benefits justification” for granting this permission is totally inadequate. The largest element of the justification appears to be the provision of sports facilities to Harris Academy. This, of course, is good news for the pupils of the Academy (and goes someway to explaining the very small number of residents supporting the proposal) but in terms of capital value the development benefits a private school, even one which educates state funded pupils. The benefit does not accrue in any way to the public as a capital asset.

“So Wandsworth’s own Conservation Advisory Committee said on 14th November 2016, when considering the impact of the planned development on the Latchmere Estate and Battersea Park Conservation Areas, “there is insufficient justification for a building of this height, which will cause harm to the setting (of these two conservation areas)”. The Committee went on to say that “public benefit has been identified BUT if the building proposed is the wrong fit for the site then these public benefits should be seen as irrelevant in terms of justification”.

“Fourth, the 22 storey Castlemaine block appears to be adopted by Wandsworth planners as the benchmark for the area and hence justifying the 14 storeys proposed for 3 Culvert Road. As a local councillor, I know that the popular view in the area would very much be that Castlemaine was an aberration of the 1960’s tower block craze. It has blighted, rather than enhanced, the area and definitely should not be used as a benchmark of anything other than what modern developments should try and avoid.

“Finally, I would briefly re-iterate Mr. Forster’s primary points: –

  • Wandsworth Council policy setting the site in an area where tall buildings of five stories or higher are inappropriate
  • re the impact on the residents of 2-32 Culvert Road, of Merryfield Court and of Battersea Park Road
  • density levels between two and three times greater than the London plan, i.e. 765 hrph (habitable rooms per hectare) as opposed to 200-450.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Belton, Wandsworth Labour councillor and Planning speaker

I hope that you give my letter and Mr. Forster’s objections due consideration.

OBITUARY – MAURICE JOHNSON

WANDSWORTH COUNCILLOR AND HONORARY ALDERMAN

By Penny Corfield and Tony Belton

The death has just been announced of Councillor Maurice Johnson, aged 84. It comes as a surprise because he seemed to be one of those indestructible forces of life. During his twenty years as a Labour Councillor in Latchmere (1990-2010), he was assiduous in his attendance and passionate in his commitment to opposing injustice and discrimination. He talked with a famously rapid-fire delivery, so that sometimes it could be hard to follow all the details of his speeches. But no one could miss his serious intent.

After his retirement as a Councillor in 2010 and in tribute to his long service on Wandsworth Council, Maurice was elected an honorary Alderman. In that capacity, he continued to attend many Council ceremonial events; and to maintain contacts with his friends from across the political spectrum.

Maurice lived on Latchmere’s Kambala Estate, where he and his large family are well known. They remain a warm and close-knit group. They had experienced sadness from family bereavements, which Maurice bore with dignity. He was a very kind-hearted person, good at sympathising with others when they were facing problems. Penny Corfield remembers his words of consolation to her when she was deeply upset by her brother’s death. Maurice not only knew what to say at the time; but also, in the years that followed, always remembered to ask after her brother’s children. That detail showed his quiet caring side, which ran alongside his outer image of boisterous energy.

Tony Belton remembers canvassing with Maurice in Winstanley Road. “It was almost like a royal procession; we hardly walked a yard before another passer-by, young or old, man or woman, stopped to exchange pleasantries with Maurice. Almost anywhere I canvassed the punters knew who my fellow candidate was.

“Maurice also had a popular appeal that worked well with many an audience. I remember on one occasion in the 90’s when the Tories were making typically nasty cuts to services. I had opposed them with typical forensic brilliance, but the packed public gallery did not respond or applaud, but then Maurice pleaded desperately to the Tories better natures. He pleaded and begged; the public gallery cheered him to the rafters. It didn’t change their votes of course, but there was no doubt about who the moral victor was that day.maurice-johnson

Lastly, it should be noted that Maurice was very proud of his Guyanese background. He served in the tradition of John Archer, Battersea’s first black Mayor and pioneer of BAME participation in civic life. His dignity in public life makes him a memorable figure for his family, his constituents, all his fellow Councillors, and Battersea Labour Party. RIP.

Here Maurice, with his daughter Laura, is being invested as an Honorary Alderman, by Mayor Stuart Thom, 2015.

Councillor Tony Belton’s January, 2017, Newslettter (# 92)

  1. The most important December event culvert-road-sitefor many Latchmere and Queenstown residents was the Planning Applications Committee (PAC) decision on 14th December to approve the 14-storey development at 3 Culvert Road. I was very sorry not to be there (see my operation below) but my objections were voiced by my fellow Latchmere councillor, Simon Hogg, who went to the PAC specifically to argue the case against the development, although as a non-member of PAC he could not vote.
  2. I know that Simon, who is the Leader of the Labour councillors, wants to fight the Borough Election in May, 2018, on, amongst other things, the issue of over-development in north Battersea. It is a view that I have held for quite a few years now. Not of course that one can be against all developments everywhere and I am not. But I have seen little evidence that all the expensive, tower block developments along the Nine Elms and Battersea river-fronts have been built to the benefit of the average Londoner – rich foreigners and top-end businessmen perhaps but not too many for ordinary Joes and Joannas.
  3. If I had been there I’d like to think that the vote might have been 4:4 and in effect decided on the Tory Chair’s casting vote, but alas the application would still have been approved. Now let’s see what Mayor Sadiq Khan makes of the application. I know Sadiq well – he was on PAC with me when he was my deputy in Wandsworth in the early 2000s. Then he would have voted against the application. Now, however, I am concerned that his overall responsibility for ensuring the development of lots of homes in London means that he might not give local objections quite the weight that he would have done 12 years ago.
  4. One issue that many residents raised with me was the issue of whether the provision of new sports facilities for the Harris Academy (as offered by the developer) could seriously be considered to be a “community” benefit. Some argued that kind of provision should be made by the tax or ratepayer and not considered to be a bargaining chip in the process of planning approvals. I completely agree with the sentiments behind that view. Unfortunately, however, that is no longer the way local government works. We are discouraged more and more from paying for services (and the corollary of raising Council tax) and encouraged more and more to “trade” for them. In Orwellian speak, we bargain with developers over how much “public” benefit they are prepared to provide in return for the Council agreeing to larger and more profitable developments.
  5. In everyday language, this would be described as selling planning permissions but of course such language is not acceptable. Advocates of this approach claim instead that we are negotiating benefits, which the public might find some kind of compensation for adversely affecting their environment. The scandalous outcome, in this case, is that the actual physical benefit of a new sports hall and associated facilities will go down as an asset in Harris Academy’s books and not as a Council asset!
  6. Still it was an argument that seemed to convince one of my Labour colleagues, who to my complete surprise and astonishment voted for the application. I intend to discuss this with her further.
  7. On Monday, 5th December, I represented the Labour councillors at St. Mary Park’s Let’s Talk Meeting at St John Bosco school. I think I have said this before but the Council really needs to re-think these sessions. Designed to keep the public more involved and concerned about local developments, the reality is that they are attended by the “same” group of highly committed local residents, who are all invariably well known to the councillors. The meetings do not impact the lives of 99.9% of the population. It is an example of seeming well meant but pointless consultation.
  8. On the 7th I was due in Chelsea and Westminsterimg_2442 for a new knee, so to “celebrate” my partner took me away for the week-end (3rd-4th) to the Goodwood Hotel. Delightful it was too; the food was excellent; they have a great indoor pool (jacuzzi and sauna of course) and on the Saturday night we went to Chichester Festival Theatre to see E.M. Forster’s “A Room with a View”, starring Felicity Kendall – not brilliant I am afraid; and on the Sunday, we had a beautiful walk round Goodwood Park (see picture), brilliant.
  9. Then came the 7th. Well, I don’t want to go on about my knee replacement. It is after all an operation that plenty of other people have had. To be fair the surgeon did say
    12/12/16, Ow!

    12/12/16, Ow!

    beforehand that I would find it very painful for two weeks. He was right except that it was at least three weeks. Now four weeks later, it feels something like normal. What do you reckon on this picture of my left leg, a week into recovery? Oh, by the way, I have been told not to show this – self-indulgent one friend says – but here goes! At least it helps the memory!

  10. The trouble with pain is that it is almost indescribable, unless perhaps one uses poetry, but I am not sure that I am up to that. Indeed, pain is of such an immediate, transient nature, that it is almost impossible to remember. Do you have a clear image of your worst toothache? All I can say is that at its worst I decided to give my knee pain 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. I have never before, ever, gone above 6.

My Programme for January

  1. On 10th January, I have a meeting of Wandsworth’s Conservation Area Advisory Committee, followed on 17th by the Planning Applications Committee.
  2. On the 23rd January, I have a meeting of the Heliport Consultative Committee. Every “large” airport in the country has to have such a committee as a consultative body between the airport and the local authority and the local communities. Battersea Heliport is the only heliport in the country so large that it falls within this rule. It is though only a consultative committee and it does not have executive powers. So we can advise on the impact of chopper noise on local residents but we cant ban particularly noisy aircraft. One limited bit of good news is, however, that we have been assured that the next generation of helicopters will be 30% quieter than today’s craft.

Do you know?

Last month I asked you, who is standing on the traditional soap box addressing the crowd? And where and when?   Congratulations to those two or three people who guessed correctly that the man on the soap box was Harold Wilson, speaking at a public meeting on the way to the October, 1964, General Election. As for where, well; close observation shows the street name as Wakehurst Road, and the meeting to be on the corner of Wakehurst and Northcote Roads.   And so, for this month’s mystery question, I am going to turn to you. I have been so pre-occupied with my operation and recovering from a new knee that I haven’t got round to working out a question. So, let me turn the tables on you, my readers, and ask you to pose a Battersea related question that I cannot answer and which I will pose to everyone else, next month.

Councillor Tony Belton’s North Battersea December, 2016, Newsletter (#91)

1.      On 1st November, I went to the Battersea Society’s organised debate at York Gardens Library on Affordable Housing. The speakers were York Gardens re Affordable HousingLord Bob Kerslake of the Peabody Trust and Councillor Paul Ellis, Wandsworth’s Tory Cabinet Member. It was well attended, but frankly I was a little disappointed. Lord Kerslake told us just how awful the housing situation is for those without their own, secure roof over their heads (he added statistical detail but we all know the “truth”) and both he and Councillor Ellis talked about what Peabody and the Council were doing to resolve the “crisis”. However, as one of the audience said, their contributions are woeful, relative to the scale of the problem. Something much bigger than their worthy but small schemes is needed now!

2.      Then on 2nd November, I was off to Wembley to seeSpurs 0 Bayer Leverkusen 1 my team, Spurs, give an embarrassingly lame performance (0-1) against Germany’s Bayern Leverkusen. You may well ask – Spurs and you get elected in Battersea! My explanation is that I was a kid in Tottenham and that loyalty never dies! But I must say, I don’t really like Wembley, at least for watching soccer. It is so enormous that the players are specks of colour on a green handkerchief in the distance; it’s nothing like as atmospheric as White Hart Lane. I do so much hope that the new Lane is more like the old one than it is to Wembley.

3.      Last month, I said I was going to have tea with William Mitchell, the sculptor img_2246who did the concrete sculptures on the Winstanley estate and on Badric Court. I did so in his Marylebone flat on 4th November. He was eloquent about how he wanted to create artworks, which relate to the estate, and interestingly, where and how he did the work, which was mainly on site, using the materials thatimg_2241 the construction guys were using at the time. I think his murals do work and interestingly they are and always have been remarkably free of graffiti. The pictures show him, looking sprightly at the age of 90 and another of his sculptures, which adorns that I had forgotten also adorn Totteridge House, Yelverton Road. Oh, and his wife made a great cup of tea.

4.      On 8th November I was at the Share Community Annual Awards in the Town Hall. What an amazing organisation Share Community is! It works with and trains people with disabilities, some quite severe and others less so. But almost all their “clients” have serious problems coping with everyday activities.Share students I admire the staff’s dedication and perhaps most of all their loving patience. I know that I would probably lose my rag with some of the clients some or most of the time. I guess that it helps that the atmosphere in the “share community” is so warm and positive. Here are Wandsworth’s Mayor Richard Field, and Share Chief Executive, Annie McDowell, appreciating one of the musical numbers performed.

5.      And on 9th November, I was at the Council’s so-called Let’s Talk meeting at Bolingbroke School. These meetings were an interesting innovation in the 1990s and were designed to give Jo & Joanna Public a chance to meet and discuss with their local elected representatives. I was at the first one in 2001, in Roehampton. But now the meetings seem to have atrophied. At this one there were more councillors and officers than members of the public and all of the public who were there were “the usual suspects”, who the councillors all knew quite well. There needs to be a “re-think”!

6.      The Queenstown ward by-election did take img_2255place on 10th November and I spent much of my time driving, usually elderly or infirm people, to the polling stations. But the significant thing is that “our man”, Aydin Dikerdem, won by 574 votes, in what, for Queenstown, was a landslide. The last time a Labour candidate had a majority this big in that ward was 1974! Well done Aydin. Here is Aydin, with his agent Battersea resident Amy Merrigan.

7.      I was at the Remembrance Day Service inimg_2258 Battersea Park on Remembrance Day itself. As is usually the case, by some strange quirk of the weather gods, the day was beautiful and bright. It was a good experience and led me into a peaceful moment of contemplation, not least about the futility and waste of the once so-called Great War. Fellow Councillor Simon Hogg is to be seen in the middle left deep in conversation with the military.

8.      The fund-raising dinner in Providence House, on the Falcon Road, on 12th November was a fun event, which made over £4,000 for the club. “Providence” is by far Latchmere’s largest youth club and deserves to be suppozoo6rted. Here is a picture of the Providence House farm on Dartmoor, where many of the club members get an opportunity to stay and “muck in” around the farm.

9.      I took my grand-children to London Zoo on Sunday 13th. Here we are plus three giraffes, courtesy of a tourist, like us. I am on the left then there’s Pen, Scarlett, Melissa, Jaimie and Jez.

10.   I had an uneventful Conservation Area Advisory img_2434Committee on 14th November and 2 days later the Planning Applications Committee, which was dominated by discussion of the plan to install an artificial grass pitch in the southern part of Falcon Park. Wandsworth Council planners claimed that the new pitch would only take up 22% of the park, but that really is a case of proving anything with figures as at least another 18% of the park will become such fringe areas as to be almost unusable, resulting in about 40% of the whole, effectively being lost. I, of course, voted against this proposal but I am afraid that it went through by 5 Tory councillors’ votes to 3 Labour votes. In this illustration the pitch is olive green and the “usable” area of the park is in light green and it clearly shows the difficulty of fitting a rectangular quart into a banana shaped park.

11.   Did you notice that from November 18th the 319 Bus started a Night Service. On its route between Streatham Hill and Sloane Square station it runs right through the heart of North Battersea and also stops at Tooting Bec tube station. Running every 30 minutes it will be a boon to all night-owls.

12.   One worrying prediction about the future is the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (AST)’s assessment of what is going to happen to school staffing and budgets by 2020, which is after all only just over 3 years away. Across the country school budgets are going to be cut by an average of £401 per pupil per primary school budget and yet locally Falconbrook is taking a £752 hit, Christ Church £840, Highview £810 and Westbridge a jaw-dropping £960 cut. It really does look as though this Government is looking after schools in the leafy parts of the country and making us, in the inner cities, pay. The total cut for Battersea schools is just over a whopping £4 million a year.

My Programme for December

1.      On 1st December, I have a meeting of Wandsworth’s Labour councillors. We have them every couple of months, which I don’t think is often enough, but it is our chance to get together and discuss how we are going to tackle the long-term Tory dominance of the Borough. As someone, who has not been able to solve that one for 40 years, I am of course the expert. But with Brexit to the east and Trump to the west, I don’t think that Labour positioning itself as simply a more caring, moderate version of Toryism is going to appeal any more, even if it ever did.

2.      On Monday, 5th December, I am standing in for Simon as the Labour Rep on the St. Mary Park “Let’s Talk” session at St. John Bosco College in St. Mary Park ward. It will be interesting to see just what the new school is like.

3.      Then on Wednesday, 6th December, we will have a full Council Meeting. I would no doubt be in mental anguish if, I were there having to listen to the nonsense emanating from Tory mouths (we, Labour councillors, are of course all geniuses), but actually I’ll be in physical anguish getting used to my new metal left knee, fitted that morning. And to be truthful I rather suspect that is my December but if things go really well then…….?

4.      I will be back in the Town Hall for the culvert-road-sitePlanning Applications Committee on the 14th December. The application for the corner site of Culvert and Battersea Park Roads is likely to be the major item of discussion. If you haven’t yet recorded your views, for or against, then now is the time to do so at https://planning1.wandsworth.gov.uk/Northgate/PlanningExplorer/GeneralSearch.aspx and look for application 2016/4188.

Do you know?

Last month I asked you, “Who was Hilda Hewlett, commemorated by a plaque on a Battersea house and one time resident of Park Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive? Was she the first woman:

a)     Licensed pilot in the UK?

b)     To run 100 yards in 13 seconds?

c)     To star opposite Lambeth born star Charlie Chaplin?”

A couple of you got it right straight-away but not many knew. She was, of course, the first licensed female pilot in the UK. If I remember rightly it was in 1910 and she was actually only the 10th licensed UK pilot at all. She went on to start her own Battersea aircraft factory, with many of her planes playing an important part in the First World War. Later, she retired to a peaceful life in New Zealand.

And so for this month’s mystery question!

On 28th November, I received this remarkable picture from my friend Christine Eccles.harold-wilson-wakehurst-road-1964 It shows an historic event in Battersea, which certainly was unknown to me. There is a road sign to give a clue as to where it is and the clothing gives a pretty good indication of the period, but can anyone suggest anything more specific about the date and who is standing on the traditional soap box addressing the crowd?