Normally, I would use this blog to update you all on what I’ve been up to since the last time I wrote. However, in a week where England beat Germany for the first time in a major tournament since some unforgettable event, I thought it best to keep it the past couple of weeks!
Following Tuesday’s eventful game that thankfully didn’t go to extra time, or penalties, I sat on the licensing panel for the controversial application of Chiswick Business Park to amend its current licence. I say controversial, because of the past 11 panels I have sat on (more than any other councillor in the past year save the chairman), this panel had four objectors and the largest number of representations to an application I have seen in my time as a member of the licensing committee.
Given the number of representations, and the Chairman’s unusual decision to give each of the objectors five minutes to state their case, instead of the usual practice of sharing the objectors’ time amongst the speakers, I knew that this was going to be a tricky panel hearing.
I worked for a company that is based in the business park between 2012 and 2020, and therefore was in a different position from the Labour councillors who sat alongside me. The Chairman, Cllr Richard Foote, admitted to not even knowing the site, and not having made the journey as it was over an hour’s drive for him. This is all available via the youtube recording.
Obviously, I have experienced first-hand what Enjoy Work does for its guests, and how it has tried to become part of the Chiswick community. However, it was apparent from reading the objections that the standards that they set initially had slipped.
Listening to the objectors on Tuesday night, I could understand their concerns and frustrations. The company hasn’t done all it could to be a good corporate neighbour to residents in both Hounslow and Ealing (it backs onto Bollo Lane which is in Ealing's South Acton ward).
The proposed conditions from Enjoy Work had gone some way to address this but they weren’t written in a way that would be enforceable. In our deliberations, I proposed to the panel that we reinforce the conditions to align with the borough’s model conditions and add an additional condition that Enjoy Work now engage in quarterly meetings with residents, specifically with the chairwomen of the West Chiswick and Gunnersbury Society and Edmunds House Residents Association (the block of flats on Bollo Lane that overlooks the Business Park).
The week before, I was at the Business Park to attend local resident Jeannie Shapiro’s Chiswick Lunch Break networking initiative, which is going to evolve into the Chiswick Business Network. After my role at the Business Park was made redundant due to the pandemic, I set up my own company, so it was great to go along to an in-person, socially distanced networking event and meet other local business owners.
Chiswickians are an entrepreneurial bunch and it was great to meet people who do so many different things from running the local rugby club (do you know they do laser tag and tag rugby there now?), digital marketing, film and cinema publishing, marketing, video production, sustainable gift giving and even a USP hunter and a divorce coach. When Hounslow Council talks about making Chiswick in a 15/20-minute city, I find it risible, because, in reality it already is.
ShopLocal Voucher Scheme
On 24th June all councillors received an email from Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, the cabinet member for finance, announcing that the council hoped to launch a voucher scheme for independent businesses in the borough. As a member of the Chiswick Shops Task Force, I immediately raised questions with my fellow councillors, and Cllr Joanna Biddolph has escalated several of these points, and others that have been raised by business owners, to the administration. We are still waiting for a response.
The Government has given Hounslow a conditional allocation of £2.3m. This is conditional on fully distributing, by 30th June 2021, the £7.8m Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) that was allocated to the council to support businesses whose trade was affected by the pandemic. If this additional £2.3m is not used for business support prior to 31 March 2022, the balance will need to be returned to the government.
So now, if enough businesses register for the scheme, each household will receive a £20 voucher to spend in a local independent business. Given that July is “Shop Independent Month” (an import from the USA), I would really like to see the take-up rates and see if this does change anybody’s normal shopping habits. I would hate to think that the council would be wasting such a substantial amount of money on a vanity project.
Part of the joy of living in Chiswick is that our forebears had some great visions when building our neighbourhoods and planted lots of trees. However, in Chiswick Riverside ward, your councillor team constantly encounters issues with the forest type trees that have been planted outside homes. Responding to a resident’s request, I met with them and a representative of Hounslow Highways to discuss one particular tree in Strand-on-the-Green. It was a productive meeting and, while there is a strict timetable for Hounslow Highways when it comes to tree management, it has raised a lot of further questions and opportunities for change and improvement to the current policy. As the environment spokesperson for the Conservative group, I have some ideas and will be sure to share them when they are more concrete.
One of my favourite parts of representing Chiswick Riverside ward is that it’s an extremely special part of Chiswick where many come to enjoy the river. Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my involvement with Seal Watch. This group has been set up to observe seals in our part of the Thames and we have been working on several projects to raise awareness of marine mammals in the Thames. We have seen over the last few months that our river is healthy and not biologically dead and, with the completion of the Thames Tideway Tunnel in 2025, we can expect it to become even cleaner.
We have been working with DEFRA to ensure that pinnipeds (seals like Freddie Mercury) are protected under law from harassment, much in the same way as are whales, dolphins, and deer. We have a petition that is growing in support, an Early Day Motion asking for an early review and amendment to the Conservation of Seals act 1970, and a few other projects in the works. Locally, we have secured confirmation from Hounslow Council to install some signs to raise awareness and have secured support from several local establishments along the river to support our activities.
Thank you to all who have already signed the petition, and to Active360, one of our local Arch businesses, and to regular seal spotters for being so instrumental in this group. Sunday 3rd July marks #archday, part of the #loveyourlocalarches campaign. Over the past few months, I’ve been popping in from time to time to see how the paddle boarders at Active360 are converting the spaces they use under Kew Bridge. When their project is complete, you will be able to paddle board all year round - with both on the river and indoor training. After a rather hilarious first outing on a paddle board last year, I think I’ll stick to the indoor training for a while, so it’s super to know that this business is just on our doorstep.
My role isn’t all about the river and , since March, I’ve been working with residents, the council and local police to see what we can do to improve the alleyways in the borough. The intention is to run a scheme where residents can “adopt an alleyway” as part of the Environmental Champions scheme. I should hopefully have some more information following a meeting next week. If you are looking for a way to get involved with your local community, please click through to the Environmental Champions link.
- Chiswick Pier Trust is delighted that the annual Party on the Pier will be going ahead on 25th July. A great day for all the family, find out more here.
- Hounslow council has finally announced its long-awaited consultation on match day parking for parts of Riverside. In 2019, the response rate was less than 25% so please keep an eye on the council’s consultation page for further news.
- If you live near a school, or have children who attend one of the schools impacted by a school street, be sure to complete the consultation that closes on 26th July
- The Thames Landscape Strategy will be hosting its annual fundraiser in September, and tickets will go on sale on 12th July. It’s a great event and, with David Attenborough as a patron, an event not to be missed.
- PCR Testing at Brentford Community Stadium a couple of weeks ago was poorly attended but I went along to look and get a test. As we come out of lockdown, we do still need to be vigilant in maintaining hands, face, space, and fresh air. If you haven’t had a vaccination, then there are regular walk-in events across the borough. You can find out more here.
- Online Watch Link (OWL) has now launched an app so you can instantly receive the latest alerts to your phone or tablet. Download this by searching for “OWL Crime Alerts” in your app store.
- On the Hartington Road and the South Chiswick Liveable Neighbourhood Scheme, work continues and your councillors in Riverside ward are working with several local residents to ensure that any permanent scheme is simple and fair to all residents of the ward.
Cllr Gabriella Giles