Walking around Chiswick it's clear that residents are pre-occupied with two issues. The Streetspace road closures including C9 and the prospect of the whole of Chiswick being turned into a network of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) if the council receives funding for the next round (phase 3) of these schemes; and the need to support our local shops, cafes and restaurants now that Lockdown 2 has ended.
If you logged in on Monday to listen to the call-in of the cabinet decision for Streetspace phase 3 you'll have heard Councillor John Todd presenting a very strong case from the Chiswick perspective. He was very clear including about the impact of the road closures on our local health care professionals – GPs, nurses and others. Naturally, their experiences had a big impact on me – impeding the delivery of health care of whatever kind is not what a nurse wants to hear, whether it be by reading their comments in emails or hearing the sirens of a traffic-blocked ambulance trying to get through the Chiswick High Road gridlock.
I find it incomprehensible that our council thinks it is acceptable to affect our borough's residents' lives in this way. If something is so obviously wrong, the right thing to do is to reverse it; apologise, reverse it, learn lessons.
We've seen other boroughs doing just that including Wandsworth, Westminster and, last week, Kensington & Chelsea council which is to remove the cycle lane on Kensington High Street. We all want good cycling schemes – and, of course, to respond to the climate emergency – but as Labour Cllr Richard Eason (who also called-in the cabinet's decision and spoke forcefully at the overview and scrutiny meeting) said the two lead members, Cllr Hanif Khan and Cllr Katherine Dunne, "should resign from cabinet to create space for this programme to be reshaped and delivered with the support of residents". It's a particularly powerful call when you consider that Cllr Eason is Labour's deputy whip and a member of the overview and scrutiny committee on which that evening he didn't have a vote. It indicates just how much Labour councillors do not want to see similar levels of disruption and disquiet in their wards as we have in ours.
Meanwhile, away from the committees, our focus has been on the safety of C9. The junction of Chiswick High Road and Chiswick Lane has long been a tricky experience for cyclists. The design of C9 is supposed to improve that, with cycle priority lights so people on bikes can turn left or go straight ahead without clashing with cars, vans, lorries, etc. Those lights aren't operational yet. A video, made by a local resident, showing cyclists moving ahead in both directions as cars were turning left, brought it home very powerfully.
At several spots along the C9 route, the temporary lights have been failing routinely and the road surface isn't draining properly causing floods (this is the case in all three wards, including at the new C9 junction at Kew Bridge). Floods and puddles pose risks to cyclists who cannot tell what they hide. Similarly, collections of fallen leaves disguise what might be underneath and slippery wet leaves are an additional hazard. One flooded spot has been dug up to improve drainage. What about other flooded areas? And what is the cleaning/clearing regime for C9 generally? These hazards, and others, have been raised by Chiswick councillors and, despite a slow response, barriers were put up along the route to indicate it isn't yet ready for use.
As I hope you know, we remain opposed to these so-called temporary road closures, and this so-called temporary version of C9, and want them all to be reversed, parking to be reinstated on Turnham Green Terrace and Devonshire Road including the free 30 minutes that made such a difference to our shops, and for a full and proper consultation. This consultation point was highlighted by the overview and scrutiny committee. Its recommendations included that consultations must be done by a professional organisation that is a member of the Market Research Society (MRS). Residents have analysed surveys undertaken earlier this year using the Commonplace platform, and the council's Have Your Say method, and found them both inadequate. At the simplest level, they exclude those who aren't online. At the most complex, analysis of Commonplace has been significantly inaccurate.
Where to spend your Chiswick pounds this Christmas
I am delighted that shops required to close during Lockdown 2 are now open again. Cllrs Joanna Biddolph, Gabriella Giles and I formed the Chiswick Shops Task Force specifically to promote our local independents and that hasn't changed. Throughout COVID-19 we have supported them by keeping them briefed about grants and key council decisions or actions, and taking up issues that have stood in the way of them operating to the extent they could. In response to a request from a resident about where to do his Christmas shopping locally, on or near the High Road, we produced a snapshot list of shops. It's very simple but makes the point that even shops that appear not to sell presents do. If you are stuck for ideas, here's the list which by the time you click into it will include shops on other shopping roads, too.
Christmas at The Chiswick Playhouse
No-one loves a Christmas show more than I did (as a child and can still charmed by them) and this year The Chiswick Playhouse is putting on "Don't Tell Santa!", which it describes as a magical adventure filled with singing, dancing and Christmas fun. It's for four-year olds upwards and, as I write this, tickets are still available for all performances. There is sophistication, too, and a very full programme of concerts including a series of Sunday Soul performances. Check them all out here.
Being Covid-compliant is, of course, on everyone's mind and details all the measures it has put in place (including delivering interval drinks to you in your seats) and what we all need to do to comply.
What a wonderful addition to our local cultural life our local theatre is and I’m chuffed it’s in my ward.
Covid-19 and Tier 2 from the perspective of a nurse
Covid-19 is a very real risk every day at work (as it is for all of us). Every patient is swabbed prior to admission and told to self-isolate for three days prior to admission (for elective surgery). Everyone entering the hospital, (including staff) are temperature checked on arrival and patients and staff don a mask. Despite the heavy demands of the wards each day, the resilience of the staff is remarkable. We are doing our very best to bring Christmas onto the wards while still keeping the risk of cross contamination low…. I might even dress up as one of Santa’s elves or lo and behold, Father Christmas (I have definitely put on a few pounds during lockdown!).
For us all in the community, simply, Hands, Face and Space are the three words that we should have in the back of our minds. To date, there have been 5,736 cases and 268 deaths in the London Borough of Hounslow. Despite cases dropping and the news of a vaccine, Covid-19 is still very prevalent amongst us and now is not the time to slack.
Everyone has their own views on the most recent lockdown. For me, it wasn’t enough, the restrictions weren’t near to what they were in the first lockdown but the Government has a hard juggling act of keeping the economy going and people safe.
The London Borough of Hounslow (along with the rest of London) are currently in Tier 2. At home, no one is to mix with other people indoors apart from your household or a bubble. Up to six people can meet outside or in a public garden. Shops and hairdressers can open but must operate in a Covid secure manner. Nurseries and schools are open. You must have a substantial meal if you’re going for a drink and theatres and cinemas can open with social distancing.
At this time of year, my thoughts turn to the elderly and vulnerable living alone. For them this can be a lonely time of year, now possibly even more so with Covid-19 as more than likely, they will be shielding to protect themselves from Covid-19. Take time out to check on them (2 meters from their front door, wearing a mask) and spread some festive cheer.
Although councillors' lives have been dominated by Streetspace, C9 and the effects of road closures on our shops, taking up residents' concerns continues as normal. Recently, I have taken up cases about social housing placements, council tax arrears due to unemployment and leaves on our roads and pavements, to name a few.
Please do get in touch if you need help from a councillor. And, in the meantime, please always remember: Hands. Face. Space.
Cllr Patrick Barr
Chiswick Homefields ward