Mark's campaign notepad and other stuff

Notes from the writer/LibDem parliamentary candidate for Somerton & Frome

St John’s Wood Ward Forum Nov 18

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Well, I said I’d be back, in five years or five months.  And here I am and coincidentally it has been five months – reason being www.twitter.com/stjohnswood1 suggested I report on the St John’s Wood Forum I attended last night.

Cllr Lindsey Hall chaired the evening and there are not many Tories I like (yeah, I know we’re in Coalition but this is WESTMINSTER) but Lindsey does an excellent job as a Councillor and these ward forums have improved exponentially since she took it by the scruff of the neck. She bravely offered to take questions from the floor straight after her intro – a moment’s silence so I launched in. She promised me that local residents would have a genuine influence on how the ward budgets (now reduced to £50k from £100k) would be spent – which she later followed through on – see below.

The formal business of the evening came next – three workshops; one on crime, one on parking and one on planning. Having spoken to Rob Saunders from Parking earlier in the evening (parking policy more user focused, revenue generation no longer prime consideration, NSL = experienced contractor) I thought the planning session most relevant.  Amanda Coulson from Westminster Planning is excellent – listens to feedback, acts on it, behaves dispassionately and professionally – which is more than can be said for her boss who occasionally seemed to be losing himself in his bureaucratic jargon, let alone the rest of us. Amanda was in the spotlight as she’s handling two major planning applications in the area – the redevelopment of the St John’s Wood Barracks by its owners the Eyre Estate and the redevelopment of Quintin Kynaston School.  She expects the Barracks to be given the go-ahead by year-end once legal and technical queries have been dealt with, and QK is coming before committee on Dec 2nd, when an outline application for the main QK facility will be heard alongside a detailed application for George Eliot. The outline application hearing is more of a progress report as there are still issues to be resolved, eg completion of Environmental Impact Survey.

Residents are deeply concerned about both of these – the Barracks will take four years to complete from 2012 to 2016, with a whole year spent excavating and building at basement level. My understanding is that the Sustainability rating of the new scheme is level 4, which the team leader referred to as “incredibly high”. Either it’s changed or it’s disturbing that he believes this – a flagship development not starting for two years with extremely deep-pocketed developers should surely be the optimum level 6? Main concerns for QK seem to be more pupil presence over a longer period of time and loss of trees, as well as the usual noise and disruption caused by a major development.

Other planning issues concerned proposals for a 12 storey block of flats in Lodge Road (on a plot the size of a postage stamp – local resident) which is yet to come to committee and the number of basement developments happening in the area – again the team leader did his best to confuse us, but he seemed to be saying that there wasn’t a lot the council could do as you didn’t necessarily need planning permission for them.

After that, we moved onto a discussion about ward budgets and Cllr Hall read a list of activites which were taking place for the benefit of local residents, mostly the young and the elderly. To popular approval, she promised that CCTV would be relocated from a parking/traffic oriented location to Marloborough Hill, where there have been several violent incidents of late.

We finished on a lighter note with the announcement of the Christmas Fair in SJW High Street on Sun Nov 28th – from a couple of clues, I guessed the fair is to be opened by Gary Lineker – seems I’m right! Next forum is March 14th 2011.

NOTE: THIS IS MY PERSONAL VIEW OF LAST NIGHT’S EVENTS – IT IS NOT INTENDED AS A FACTUAL RECORD OR FORMAL REPORT.

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Written by markblackburn

November 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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