David Walden and I hog a piece of the new playground equipment
David Walden and I hog a piece of the new playground equipment

Yesterday I attended the official opening of the new ‘dual-use’ playground at John Burns School.

Pleasingly the playground looks interesting, with plenty of exciting features.  When I see the playground in which I spent many hours of my childhood it’s more like a graveyard of ‘dangerous’ playground equipment, tarmac scars marking each piece’s passing.

What makes the playground even better is the dual-use, not just for the school.  While the school will have exclusive use during the school day, in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays the playground will be available for the local community to use.  Access will be through a new gate on Wickersley Road, meaning the main school site remains secure.

The playground, funded by Wandsworth Council to the tune of £105,000, is aimed at 5 to 12 year olds features a gyro, climbing wall, turbo slide, climbing rope net, spinning dish, balancing unit and a shelter with seats.

One of the applicant's drawings of the proposed hotel on Falcon Road
One of the applicant's drawings of the proposed hotel on Falcon Road

Planning officers have recommended that the Planning Applications Committee reject the application for a 16 storey hotel at the site of the old Job Centre on Falcon Road.

Following the Clapham Junction ‘towers’ application this had been another controversial scheme, especially as it backed onto residential properties in Mossbury Road.

Local residents’ objections mainly concentrated on the height, but also included complaints ranging from the quality of the design to the perceived lack of quality of the proposed hotel!

The full report can be read on the council’s website (see pages 45-55).  The conclusion is to recommend rejection because:

  1. The proposed building by reason of its height would be an unduly prominent and incongruous development and together with its poor detailed design would fail to preserve or enhance the character of the Clapham Junction Conservation Area and the setting of nearby listed buildings…
  2. The proposal does not comply with sustainable design and climate change policies in terms of renewable energy and low carbon development…
  3. The proposal does not ensure an accessible environment for people with disabilities and fails to include any wheelchair accessible bedrooms contrary…

Lavender Hill Street Party 09Anyone who was on Lavender Hill last Sunday will know how fantastic the street party was.

I don’t know how many people attended, but it seemed much busier than last year’s event and there were certainly more businesses and stalls participating.

The event is very much driven by the local traders, and a great example of what can be achieved with a little vision – few would look at Lavender Hill and think that style of event would work given the amount of traffic the road carries and the stretches of residential separating business parades.  But if you were like me you had a great day wandering up and down Lavender Hill savouring the carnival atmosphere and a little too much of the food and drink on offer.

Congratulations to everyone who was involved in the organisation and management of the event on the day – but especially Anthony Laban, Emma Jane Clark and Lorinda Freint.

They’ve certainly set a high standard for next year!

Shaftesbury Ward News, Issue 1, June 2009 (cover image)The Shaftesbury Ward councillors are now producing a regular newsletter of news affecting the ward. You can download the latest copy. The first issue is available now and you can download it by simply clicking on the image to the left.

We intend to produce the newsletter on a semi-regular basis – every one or two months – depending on news.

Obviously you can download from here or from the Wandsworth Conservatives site if you wish, but if you’d prefer to have it sent directly to you the just drop me a line at cllr@jamescousins.com.  I will not spam you and will only use your address for sending out our newsletter or news updates, I would not anticipate more than 1 or 2 emails per month.

I’m posting weekly reports as an experiment to see how well received they are. You can read some of my thoughts about it in a blog-post I wrote before commencing the reports. My main concern is that these reports will, by necessity, have to omit so much routine council work they are not a good representation of my work.

Picking up from last week’s report, after posting I headed down to Tooting for the town centre police team launch publicity. While there I also took the opportunity to catch up with the Town Centre Manager and Town Centre Partnership Chairman.

Neighbourhood Watch
Saturday didn’t provide a break. The morning saw the Neighbourhood Watch Conference. Rather shamefully I have not posted about it. It was an incredibly successful event, organised by the council’s Community Safety team for Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators. The session saw presentations on subjects ranging from art and antiques to dog control and bio-diversity. The conference was attended by representatives from the National Neighbourhood Watch Trust, and it was pleasing that they commented it was one of the best events they’d attended.

Devas Club
On Tuesday I visited, along with Peter Dawson in his capacity as chairman of the Children and Young People’s Service OSC, the Devas Club in Stormont Road. The visit took us from their commercial standard (and hit making, some number ones have been recorded there) music studios in the basement to the sub-standard basket-ball court on the roof (which has a spectacular view that my camera phone just couldn’t do justice).

The club does some great work in engaging youngsters in a building designed for a 1960s, rather than 21st century, youth club. And that shows. First, not all the facilities are what they should be for the users. Second, it means it causes problems for neighbours and coincidentally I’m also dealing with noise complaints from the club.

Wandsworth Business Forum
Last night was the Wandsworth Business Forum in Balham. I posted about it earlier today, so rather than write about it again, will refer you to that post.

Shaftesbury Park School
Finally, this morning, I went into Shaftesbury Park, the school I serve as a governor. For the second time to meet Peter Dawson, who was making an official visit along with David Walden. We spent time looking around the school and chatting about some of the challenges it face and successes it has had.

The council’s consultation on dog control orders ends tomorrow, so the news that two other councils, Lambeth and Southwark, are seeking to emulate the Wandsworth approach to dog-chipping is timely.

The dog control order consultation was extended following some rather misleading coverage in the press –  I know of at least one campaign that was started under the misunderstanding dogs were going to be banned from Battersea Park (in fact they are just banned from children’s play areas and the sports facilities, places they wouldn’t be walked anyway).  I have stated before that while I instinctively dislike additional regulation, the actions of a minority of irresponsible dog owners have made it necessary.

A few months ago I wrote about dog fouling on the Shaftesbury Park Estate.  The council’s dog control unit patrolled the area – in and out of uniform – but unfortunately achieved little, certainly if judged by the pavements near my house this morning.  While they did speak with some dog owners, none were caught doing anything we can take action over because, bizarrely, allowing your dog to foul the gutter or around a tree base is absolutely fine.  There is no need to pick up afterwards.

Likewise (and many are surprised to hear this) they have no powers to instruct dog owners to put their dogs on a leash on the public highway.  I know many, especially those with young children, feel uneasy when they see dogs of all breeds, on the streets and not under the direct and immediate control of their owner.

The council’s proposals are, I think, a reasonable and proportionate response to the fears and issues around irresponsible dog-ownership.  If you agree, I’d encourage you to go to respond to the council’s consultation, you can find out more at the council’s dog control consultation page.

Resurfacing worksThe council is currently undertaking a thorough inspection of the borough’s roads. You may have noticed the condition of some roads has significantly deteriorated. This is largely down to the severe weather we suffered all the way back in February.

You might think this was a long time ago, but in some cases the effects are only just starting to be noticed.

Essentially, the weather weakened the road surface by weakening the bond between the road’s constituent parts. The extent of this damage varied from road to road – some roads were more sheltered so suffered less, others, where the surface was already coming towards the end of its natural life-span were damaged more.

The time is took for this damage to become apparent also varies, roads that only have light traffic may still appear to be in fine condition while those that get heavy traffic broke down much more quickly.

The council is systematically inspecting each road over a period of around three months. Where it is possible repairs are patched (and the council can do this fairly quickly). Where the damage is more severe the entire road has to be resurfaced. In Shaftesbury Ward Thirsk Road is currently being totally resurfaced.

If you know of any potholes you can report them to the council. Repairs can normally be carried out fairly promptly. Faults can be reported online at wandsworth.gov.uk/streets. Faults on Transport for London roads (usually identifed by the red lines on the sides) cannot be repaired by the council, but can be reported via the TfL roadworks and street faults page.

I would imagine few people would be surprised if I were to say that this week has been dominated by the European elections.

As a consequence, this report is going to be short. First, I’m fairly shattered by a last week of campaigning that culminated in a 17 hour election day (I started at 5am). Second, it means there is little else to report on.

My sole ‘meeting’ of the week was at Shaftesbury Park school, where I serve as one of the council-appointed governors. It was actually two meetings, the first looking at the school’s budget and other operational issues and the second looking at the academic side of the school. One of the topics discissed was how Shaftesbury Park has a high proportion of students with special educational needs (something I think we need to understand the reasons behind) and what the school is doing to meet those needs.

But without a doubt the elections dominated my week. We are now in a limbo between elections and results, so I’ve no idea how it went. Turnout was definitely low but, while I’ve not seen official figures, anecdotally it seems Shaftesbury’s turnout was higher than many other parts of Wandsworth.

I also think the Conservatives did well, we were well received on the doorstep and the streets while campaigning. Certainly the early local election results outside of London seem to reflect that it was a bad day for Labour and a good day for us.

Obviously how that will impact on the national scene, and then back onto us, remains to be seen.

One thing of which I am sure is that it’s back to business as usual next week.

A fairly brisk start to voting in my patch, certainly higher than past European elections, but it died off considerably during the day and I hear that other places didn’t even get the good start!
Of course, voting does tend to reflect travel patterns, so it picking up again with the school run and the start of the evening rush hour.
We’ve also seen the first sign of opposition activity as Labour start to deliver their eve of poll leaflets!
If you’ve not voted yet you have until 10pm when polls will close. If you are in Wandsworth and don’t know where your polling station is you can find it at http://tr.im/wwvote You don’t need your polling card to vote.

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