Hounslow council promises environmental action plan by December

Hounslow council has promised to publish an action plan for tackling climate change by December. At a ‘Meet the Cabinet’ session at St Michael’s Church in Elmwood Rd, Grove Park last Wednesday night (16 October), with council leader Steve Curran and six other members of Hounslow’s Cabinet, the member responsible for environment, Cllr Katherine Dunne said:

“We are looking at all areas of the council’s work. We expect it to impact all areas – lots and lots of things”. The action plan council officers have been working on will come to Cabinet in December. “There are lots of good suggestions already” she said. One of the initiatives which looks certain to be introduced is the introduction of a parking levy on large employers, such as Sky and the businesses at Chiswick Park, with the aim of discouraging personal car use. Hounslow may be the first London local authority to -introduce the Workplace Parking Levy.

Council leader Steve Curran said Chiswick High Rd already has hybrid buses and LB Hounslow has the second highest number of electric car charging points of any London borough.

Housing

One of the main areas the council must address is the carbon efficiency of its housing stock. Residential properties account for 15% greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. Katherine said: “Our housing stock must be energy efficient”, which will mean retrofitting a lot of existing council owned properties and making sure new ones are zero carbon.

Transport

Transport remains the biggest source of emissions, at 27%. Much of the meeting was taken up with discussion of transport issues, with comments about the new CPZ areas around Grove Park, congestion on Sutton Court Rd and the impact of the closure of Hammersmith Bridge on Chiswick.

Residents’ parking

Grove Park has suffered from commuters coming into the area to take advantage of free parking in order to use Chiswick rail station, Gunnersbury Park tube station, or to get to Chiswick Business Park by foot. The introduction of a new Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) has eased the parking situation for residents greatly, but Debbie Kellow brought up an unintentional consequence – the excess cars not owned by local residents have now shifted to the Chiswick School end of Staveley Rd and Burlington Lane, making crossing those roads potentially more dangerous for Chiswick School pupils.

Cllr Sam Hearn had pointed out a couple of weeks ago that it was also making life harder for teachers. I asked the question her raised previously of of whether teachers might be exempted from CPZ restrictions, as they mostly can’t afford to live in the area and have a huge amount of stuff to carry with them to work. Cllr Tom Bruce, lead Member for education, was quite firm and unequivocal in saying ‘No’. There could be no exceptions, he said, even though he himself is a teacher and he well understands the problems teachers face.

Cllr Khan pointed out that when Hounslow had built its new headquarters, Hounslow House, they had designed it without car parking spaces, forcing council workers to use public transport.

‘Liveable neighbourhoods’

Cllr Hanif Khan, Cabinet member responsible for Transport, said his team would be looking at the issue of parking in Staveley Rd / Burlington lane as part of the ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ consultation. The council has money from the Mayor’s office to spend on making south Chiswick (ie south of the A4) more ‘liveable’ – ‘unlocking potential for more trips to be made by foot, bike and public transport, while improving public space’. The council is seeking our comments on how they should spend the money to improve the area now, until 15 November. You are invited to make your comments here.

Congestion on Sutton Court Rd

One of the perennial problems is commuter cars rat-running through residential streets, feeding in to already very congested main roads such as Sutton Court Rd, which crosses the A4. Carol Peterson suggested making the exit onto Sutton Court Rd from Wavendon Rd left turn only and the exit from Barrowgate Rd right turn only. Cllr Joanna Biddolph made the point that quite a lot of the issues concerning traffic congestion in Chiswick, and especially at Sutton Court Rd, are to do with the closure of Hammersmith Bridge.

Cllr Khan promised that traffic light phasing and any suggestions to do with easing traffic flow would be discussed with traffic officers as part of the Liveable Neighbourhoods plan.

Plans for a new train line

He also mentioned plans to “reinvigorate” a train line running “from Southall to the back of Sky” which would enable more Sky workers to get to work more easily by public transport. This is a plan to convert an existing but little used freight railway for passengers. The council has been working for some years to resurrect the line. LB Hounslow has now commissioned Network Rail to begin a detailed study on building the new train link from Brentford to Southall. Cllr Khan has said before that the earliest this scheme could be in operation in the western area would be 2021.

Heathrow third runway

In view of the council’s enthusiasm for tackling climate change, John Hickman said he’d like to understand its stance on Heathrow. Steve Curran said Hounslow was against the expansion of Heathrow, but that whether the third runway was built or not, the airport would still continue to be there, and many of Hounslow’s businesses and residents depend on it for their livelihood. He said he didn’t agree that taking an adversarial approach, joining the High Court action against Heathrow was good use of money. It was a waste of money, he said, and they were better “building a relationship which is not just adversarial”.

Ultra Low Emission Zone

Cllr Joanna Biddolph raised the subject of ULEZ – the Ultra Low Emission Zone – pointing out that it only goes as far as the North Circular road. “We (the Conservatives) have been lobbying for it ti include the North Cireular”she said. “Will you join us?” Cllr Katherine Dunne answered that Labou too wanted ULEZ “to cover the whole of greater London. We are pushing for that – Yes, way beyond the North Circular”.

New Chiswick Health Centre

Also discussed were plans for a new Chiswick Health Centre where the existing one is in Fishers Lane. “We’re in the pre-application process” said Steve Curran. “There’s a long way to go but the council is fully supportive, but we have to tread carefully and make sure it’s policy compliant. I haven’t seen any affordable housing (in the plans so far) and they (Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare) haven’t got any capital”. With all the money promised for new hospitals by the government, “They should be able to find new NHS money. It has to policy compliant. I’m not satisfied that a building of that size and number of units is acceptable without affordable housing”.

I pointed out that the huge development at Brentford stadium doesn’t have any affordable housing either, though the possibility is left open for negotiation in the next phase of building there. Chiswick would be pretty pissed off if planning permission for its shiny new healthcare centre was turned down because there was no affordable housing in the plan (there must be room for all of about six flats) if the stadium complex developers are allowed not to have any. “We’re pushing for it hard in the next tranche of development” at the stadium, he said.

The plans for the new health centre will be unveiled tomorow (Wednesday 23 October) at the centre between 1.00 and 7.00pm.

Bid to be London’s Borough of Culture in 2021

The Cabinet members also talked about LB Hounslow’s bid to become London Borough of Culture in 2021, a programme run by the Mayor of London to promote culture across the capital. If Hounslow won that status, it would mean extra money coming into the borough from the Mayor’s purse – £1.35m to support the development of a year-long cultural programme.

What would it mean for the borough if we won? ‘Winning London Borough of Culture will be massive for us. It’s a prestigious award that will put Hounslow on the map. It will create momentum and focus for our future culture plans and it will bring in significant investment from the Mayor’s Office’.

What should we do to help them win it? Support the bid by clicking here and make some suggestions about promoting the culture of the borough. “One of the problems is that people don’t know what Hounslow is” says Steve Curran. “It’s a series of separate hamlets which people drive through or fly over.”

Photograph by Ian Wylie

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