One of the joys (there are some) of political campaigning is that so much of it is done in foot, meaning you get to see the varied and ever- changing architecture of a City.
I have always liked the fact that the modern and old nestle next to each other and that little symbols – like the picture – of the architectural, social and political history of an area are there to be found.

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Polls have been open since 7am and trade has been brisk (though getting quieter now commuters have commuted). What’s more the trade has been friendly, the Conservative vote is clearly motivated.
Labour don’t seem to be running a full polling day operation and haven’t put people outside polling stations. This is actually a real disappointment.
First, in one of those oddities of politics tellers from the parties (the people hanging around outside polling stations) work together on election day. We aren’t there to try and persuade you to vote for us. Instead we try and gather electoral roll numbers so, if you are a supporter, we know we don’t need to remind you to vote later. Obviously it makes sense for the tellers to help each other doing this.
Second, it’s actually really nice to have someone to chat with during the quiet periods!

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This is my first weekly report-back on the blog.  It is currently a trial, and you can read some of my thoughts about it in a blog-post I wrote before commencing the reports.  It is not intended to be, nor can it be, an exhaustive report of what I have been doing during the week as a councillor, above all, the nature of a councillor’s work means a lot of the work done for ward residents remains confidential. It is very much a selected highlights of the week.

Neighbourhood Watch Strategy
Much of the start of the week was taken up with final preparations for the Neighbourhood Watch strategy – which combined with an unsettled baby – managed to dominate much of the bank-holiday weekend.  I’m rather proud of Neighbourhood Watch in Wandsworth, which has been a key partner in making Wandsworth inner London’s safest borough.  The new strategy will be launched next week, and enhances the role of Neighbourhood Watch as well as, for the first time, setting out what Watches, the council, police and other partners can expect from each other to help make Wandsworth even safer.

Meeting with Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce
Along with the Leader of the Council I regularly meet with the Wandsworth Chamber of Commerce to chat about issues in the borough. Perhaps unsurprisingly the biggest topic of discussion was the recession. I have tended towards the bearish when discussing the recession – thinking it will be long and hard. However, a lot of the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard suggests the recession is focussed on the retail sector and while property and construction are showing signs of recovery the retail sector is going to be struggling for some time to come. What was pleasing, however, is that Wandsworth’s businesses still seem fairly optimistic about the future.

CompeteFor London 2012 event
On Thursday I attended and said a few words at a CompeteFor event in Wandsworth. Almost as evidence of business confidence in Wandsworth around 150 businesses attended the event in Wandsworth Town Hall to hear how they could bid for work associated with the 2012 Olympics. When you often assume businesses are struggling to think what they will be doing for the next three months, it was great to see businesses keen to bid for work for the next three years and beyond. If you are a business interested in bidding for Olympic related work then you should visit the official Olympic site at and which is handling the online bidding process.

One of the drawbacks of starting these reports now is that the council tends slow during summer, while we don’t have a ‘recess’ as such there a few formal meetings over summer. In addition, the council enters a purdah during election campaigns which means many meetings and events have to be cancelled. And, of course, that gap gets filled by campaigning by those of us unfortunate enough to be political animals. When I’ve not been at the town hall this week I’ve been on the doorstep (maybe even your’s). It has been an interesting campaign, perhaps for the wrong reasons with the expenses scandal. I hope to find time to post some reflections on it next week.

One of the suggestions when I asked for ideas for the blog last week (and I’m still looking for ideas or suggestions, feel free to add a comment or email was a regular ‘report’.  Of course, reports can take many formats, but I thought I’d give it a go.

I’m going to trial this for a few weeks to see how it works.  I will state from the outset that I’m a little sceptical about the value and have some caveats.

The main reason I’m sceptical is because it just cannot be exhaustive.  Using the example of meetings, while I can list the meetings I’ve attending, some are confidential or will have confidential parts.  Indeed, even where those meetings aren’t explicitly confidential I feel that, unless they are public, it would benefit no-one if they felt anything they said would end up on a blog.

Moving on to work in the ward, again, the confidentiality issue rears its head.  Casework often involves highly personal matters that I simply cannot disclose.  Even when dealing with broader issues residents expect a degree of discretion because of concerns about relationships with neighbours, for example.  Earlier this year I privately started mapping my work in the ward but decided it was not suitable for publication because there were so many privacy issues involved.

More fundamentally, there’s the question of what merits inclusion.  To give an example I started the week spending a lot of time working on the launch of our Neighbourhood Watch strategy for next week.  I’ve also spent time trying to organise a meeting for residents of Eccles Road.  While the launch and meeting would probably be reported when they happen, is the preparation of one more worthy of inclusion than the other?  My instinct is to include Neighbourhood Watch because it affects the whole borough, but an Eccles Road resident might well think I’ve made the wrong call!

Above all, I wonder how useful it will be to a Shaftesbury or Wandsworth resident.  I already use the blog to mention particular meetings and events and where casework has wider implications or raised by a few people independently I tend to write something about it here like I recently did in dealing with foxes.  It might be the ‘report’ is little more than a summary of the past week on the blog, with details of a few meetings here and there.

But I am also a public servant and you could argue any report, however imperfect, has to be better than no report.  So on that basis I’m going to provide them for a few weeks to see how they develop, how well they are received and then assess whether or not they are worthwhile.

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

Residents living near Falcon Road might be interested in the current consultation the council has received for the Woburn House site on Falcon Road.  The site was the old job centre and is currently a solicitors.  The application is for a 16 storey, 132 bedroom, hotel.

I know many who objected to the Clapham Junction application will have similar reservations about this scheme, but also know many who feel that the area desperately needs some hotel provision.

If you wish to see more details, you find them on the council website’s planning section.  The application reference is 2009/1291.  If you wish to make a representation, in support or opposing the application, you can do so by emailing or on the council’s website.

It is worth noting that your comment will be publicly available – so you might want to send your comment as an attachment if you do not want your email address publicised.

As with the Clapham Junction application I do not wish this to be seen as pre-determining my views in any way, this post is merely to provide information.

Although the public notice has been in the window for some time, I have been formally notified of a licensing application for the premises at 133 Lavender Hill (currently called Kathmandu – though new applications often signify a change in management and name – opposite the Chuch of the Ascension).

The application is quite restricted, seeking to sell alcohol for two periods a day 12.00 – 14.00 and 17.00 – 23.00 seven days a week and to provide recorded music during 12.00 – 15.00 and 17.00 – 23.00 seven days a week.

If you have any representation to make the last date is 13 June 2009, it’s worth remembering that legally representations can only be considered by the licensing committee if they relate to the four licensing objectives:

  • The prevention of crime and disorder
  • The prevention of public nuisance
  • Public safety
  • The protection of children from harm

The council’s licensing pages provide more information on licensing in Wandsworth.

Personally I think the application is straightforward and reasons and do not think it will be any problem.  I’m publishing this purely for information, as I do with any licensing applications received in the ward.

After I asked for suggestions on where I might take the blog yesterday one of the comments expressed disappointment that it wasn’t asking what issues I might take up!

So now I’m asking, are there any issues, concerns or problems with which I can help?

I make the offer from time to time and usually get a few responses as a result, but it’s a standing invitation.  You can get in touch at any time.  Full contact details are on my contact page, but, to save you going there you can email me at, find me on twitter as @jamescousins or, if you want, leave a comment below.

But please remember, you don’t need to wait for an invitation!

The Wandsworth Guardian have a little, but not much, more on the reasons behind the withdrawal of the planning application by Metro Shopping Fund – it seems by the simple expedient of phoning them and asking!

It seems to boil down to the officer recommendation to refuse permission with Metro Shopping Fund saying they “have invested significant resources to date, however in the absence of the council’s support at the last moment we have been forced to withdraw our application.”

I’ve just heard that the Clapham Junction planning application has been withdrawn by the developer.

The application had provoked an organised opposition and last week was recommended for refusal by the council’s planning officers although there were a few stirrings of support in recent weeks.  Obviously the Planning Applications Committee are not bound by the planning officers decision and were to meet on Wednesday when, I suspect, that Clapham Junction application would have been the dominant item on the meeting’s agenda.  Obviously with the developer’s withdrawal the application will not be considered by the committee.

At the moment, I do not know and will not speculate on why the developers have withdrawn, nor do I know their future intentions.

The agenda for next week’s planning applications committee has just been published.

You can read the full report on the council’s website.

Many, however, will be interested in the planning departments recommendations which are that the main application be refused.

The recommendation is for two reasons:

  1. Officers believe the application does not provide sufficient benefit to the transport infrastructure.
  2. Given the late change to the financial package the authority is not satisfied affordable housing should be omitted from the scheme.

Also recommended for refusal are the plans for a temporary station and the application for conservation area consent.  The reason for recommendation in both cases being the absence of an approved scheme to replace.

As I have pointed out before, I have reserved my position so, in the event of the application going to full council, I can retain my vote and am presenting this purely for information.  The actual decision will be taken by the planning committee at their meeting next week.