Updated: Jul 27
This week, I was delighted to welcome both Coombe Girls’ School and Christ’s School to Westminster for a tour, followed by a question and answer session in Westminster Hall.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, for most of my time at MP these tours have not been permitted. So I was delighted to be able to welcome students from across Richmond Park to Parliament again and answer their questions.
I wanted to pay particular tribute to the fantastic level of detail in the questions they posed, which varied from solutions to rising inflation to the current challenges facing residents across the constituency, such as the closure of Hammersmith Bridge to road vehicles. The pupils from both of these excellent local secondary schools were impressively well informed and curious.
A great thank you to Mr Marrs and Ms Paudyal for organising the visits. I encourage all local schools to come and visit Westminster. School visits can be booked here.
SUICIDE PREVENTION CAMPAIGN
Last Friday, my constituent Philip Pirie met with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to discuss suicide risk assessment procedure.
I have been working with Philip on a campaign to change the way we assess suicide risk in this country. Shockingly, of the 17 individuals who take their own life each day in the UK, five are in touch with mental health professionals, and four of those five are considered to be at ‘low’ or ‘no-risk’ of suicide. Together, Philip and I composed an open letter, signed by charities such as Mind, Samaritans and Papyrus, which asked Mr Javid to sit down with Philip and discuss issuing guidance to ensure binary suicide risk assessment tools such as checklists were no longer used in practise. You can read this letter here.
The meeting went well, and Mr Javid received the recommendations of our letter extremely positively. We hope to see them incorporated into the upcoming review of the 2012 National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which is due to be published later this year.
SUMMER READING CHALLENGE
On Wednesday, I attended The Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge drop-in event in Parliament to show my continued support for children’s reading and our local libraries.
I was delighted to be given a copy of The Ship of Doom by M.A. Bennett, which I plan to donate to Ham Library to add to their wide collection. We know that many children have struggled with their reading while schools were closed over the pandemic. Encouraging everyone to keep up their reading over the summer is more important than ever. I look forward to supporting the Challenge going forward, and encouraging reading across Richmond Park.
VISIT TO WINDHAM NURSERY
Today, I was delighted to visit Windham Nursery in North Richmond and meet some of the dedicated team working hard to give local children the best start in life. After the trials of the pandemic, it was lovely to see children playing with one another, enjoying being among their friends, and learning in a fun, safe environment. You can learn more about Windham Nursery by clicking the link here.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE UPDATE
On Tuesday, I spoke in Parliament about the possibility of a toll on Hammersmith Bridge, and once again called for greater transparency from both LBHF and the Government. You can view my speech here.
In the chamber, I made the case that clear, open lines of communication are vital to limiting the negative impact of any decisions that are made. Paying to use the bridge is a serious proposal that needs detailed consideration from all parties, especially in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. Currently, 28 companies have registered their interest in the bridge. More information on the progress of the private financing of Hammersmith Bridge can be found here.
It is unfortunate that Baroness Vere has refused two direct letters from my office calling for an urgent meeting of the Hammersmith Bridge Task Force. During my speech, I took the opportunity to ask once again that our community is not cut out of the decision-making process. The bridge’s closure has affected tens of thousands of people and residents deserve a seat at the table. I will continue to keep residents apprised of any developments.
Barnes residents crossing over Hammersmith bridge on foot or two wheels may pleased to learn that this week TfL has completed works to make the roads around Hammersmith gyratory safer and more accessible for all road users. The works have also delivered a 5 km Cycleway from Kew Bridge to Hammersmith, and will further link areas north of the river to cyclists from Richmond. If you would like to learn more about this, click the link here.
CLOSURE OF VILLAGE SURGERY
I was informed by southwest London NHS leaders this week that the Village Surgery in New Malden is being permanently closed due to poor inspection reports. It was already under external management and the decision has now been taken to permanently remove its licence. Patients registered at the Village Surgery will be moved to other local surgeries. If you were a Village patient and you have any concerns about this change, please feel free to email me for advice or assistance.
HAM CLOSE DEVELOPMENT: APPLICATION SUBMITTED
The Hill Group, in partnership with Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) has submitted a planning application for the regeneration of Ham Close. The developers hope to replace the existing 192 flats with 452 new homes that will house all existing tenants and leaseholders as well as provide more affordable housing in the area.
While developments of this size are often beset with issues, I was very pleased to hear that RHP have listened to many residents’ comments and adapted their plans accordingly.
I do share the concerns raised by a number of constituents that this amount of new housing could put pressure on local infrastructure. However, on balance, I believe RHP and the Hill Group have worked hard to mitigate these impacts with secure cycle parking spaces and an emphasis on planning for electric vehicles. I am pleased to see high quality open space included as well as community facilities.
You can submit comments and observations about the project here.
POLICE ACTION AT TEDDINGTON LOCK
Following reports of recent dangerous and antisocial behaviour at Teddington Lock the local police took action, sending a significant presence there last weekend. They have written to tell me that various large groups of youths were moved on and dispersed during the course of the weekend. Twenty eight "Section 35" dispersal notices were issued and various items seized. No incidents of note occurred and there were no issues in any open space area within the dispersal zone due to the displacement.
Inspector McLoughlin has also told me that the schools team (with the help of the cadets) also undertook a test purchase operation at four off licences near the Lock. All four passed the test and Met Police are satisfied they are not providing the youths with alcohol.
I was very pleased to hear about this collaborative effort to reduce crime and ASB in the area.
QUESTIONS ABOUT MPs' EXPENSES?
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is the independent body that oversees MPs' pay and business costs. IPSA decides our salaries, allocates our budgets, and scrutinises every single expenditure to the penny to ensure that it is line with the scheme of MPs' business costs. MPs' business costs are visible to the public so that you can see exactly how your money is being spent.
IPSA has created a 90 second myth-buster video, aimed at tackling the top five misconceptions surrounding MPs' staffing and business costs. If you would like to know more about how MPs' costs are overseen you can click here.
Richmond Council has sent me an update on their parks improvement projects. Some highlights include:
Rocks Lane Recreation Ground: They will install a new mini basket swing and small climbing unit and refurbish existing play equipment.
Ham Lands: The Parks Team, with the Friends of Ham Lands, have worked on grassland restoration of some sections of Ham Lands. This is an ongoing project with more works to commence in autumn.
Ham Village Green: Contractors have replaced the outdoor gym equipment.
Riverside Drive: The Parks team is seeking quotes and funding to upgrade play provision at the play park. They propose a new basket swing, activity trail and interactive free-standing panels.
Sandy Lane Recreation Ground: The Parks Team plans to upgrade play provision at the recreation ground. They also plan to formalise the main entrance path.
ACTION ON FLY TIPPING
Richmond Council is launching a ‘Caught on Camera’ campaign at recycling sites across the borough to deter and identify fly-tippers. Fixed Penalty Notices will be issued where fly-tippers have been identified.
This approach has been trialled in other London boroughs and has had a deterrent effect in reducing incidents of fly-tipping. The ‘Caught-on Camera’ campaign will publish video and images of fly-tipping on the Council’s website and ask residents to help identify the perpetrators.
The locations of the cameras will be based on previous fly-tipping reports, resident complaints and intelligence from Council officers and contractors. Signs will be placed in these areas notifying residents that CCTV cameras are operating in the area and all footage will be collected lawfully.
The campaign will be monitored to understand reduction in fly-tipping at the sites with CCTV, but also to see if there are any adverse impacts such as fly-tipping increasing elsewhere. Targeted sites include:
Ham Parade (Ham and Petersham)
Queen Elizabeth Walk (Barnes)
Sainsbury, Lower Richmond Road (Richmond)
Cambrian Centre, Queens Road (Richmond)
SUMMER IN KINGSTON
Kingston First has written to me to share all the fun they are putting on this summer in Kingston. Tennis fans can catch all the Wimbledon action at the Ancient Market Place next weekend (9 & 10 July) - they will be showing the finals on a giant screen. Grab a deckchair and settle in for the afternoon! Families will enjoy the free pop-up sandpit will be installed at the end of this month in Memorial Gardens, complete with buckets and spades, garden games, and a face-in-hole ‘selfie’ board. And Thumbs Up It's Thursday is back for free drop-in activities every Thursday (28 July and 4, 11, 18 25 August), including free storytelling and circus workshops.
You can visit their website for more details and other upcoming events.
FUSE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL CELEBRATING YOUNG TALENT
Kington's much-loved youth arts festival FUSE International is finally here, bringing the best young and talented artists from all over the world to Kingston town centre. The festival offers an inspiring programme of over fifty events from various categories such as music, theatre, dance, visual arts, comedy, circus, and more.
The festival will run from 1 - 10 July 2022, and you can find the programme on their events page.