I was happy to hear that four million people have now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, including half of our elderly care home residents and over half of those over 80. Nationally, case rates have fallen in response to the lockdown and the vaccination programme, although we may have to wait a few more days to see hospitalisations and mortality follow suit.
With so much focus on the vaccine right now, it's important not to forget that testing also remains vital to controlling the spread of the virus. In addition to the government's ongoing PCR testing for people who have symptoms of the virus, both Kingston borough and Richmond borough have now rolled out asymptomatic community testing, using the rapid turnaround Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing.
Testing people in the community who do not have symptoms but are working in public-facing jobs, such as teachers, childcare providers, transport workers and retail workers, will make a huge contribution to stopping the virus. I've put more information about the respective Kingston and Richmond programmes in the Kingston News and Richmond News sections below, including eligibility, and how to book tests. You can book two tests per week, to provide ongoing safety and peace of mind.
I want to remind everyone again that the most important thing you can do to help us get the NHS out of the danger zone is to stay home as much as you can and be scrupulous about hygiene and social distancing when you must go out. I have had a lot of correspondence this week about public playgrounds being crowded, with parents socialising while their children play. Please do not meet other families in the playground, and if the playground is too crowded to safely accommodate you and your child, please come back at a quieter time.
Having heard from many constituents that they are worried about a lack of social distancing in Richmond Park, I wrote to Royal Parks this week about enforcing the rules, particularly around their coffee kiosks and gates. I asked Royal Parks to do more on signage and on managing queues for hot drinks. The Royal Parks replied to confirm that their caterers are putting out signs encouraging people to wear face coverings while they queue, as well as having two meter markers on the ground. The Royal Parks have also pledged to deploy additional signs at pinch points, such as the park gates, by the end of next week.
I do not want my constituents to feel anxious about coming out and using Richmond Park. With 2,500 acres of open space, the park is a safe place to go, and is more important than ever during lockdown. But please take responsibility for protecting yourself and others while taking your exercise there.
Lastly, If you are walking your dog in Richmond Park, please ensure that your dog is firmly under control at all times, preferably on a lead. Many of you will have heard news this week about the prosecution of a dog owner whose dog fatally attacked a deer in the Park in October. I would like to emphasise that owners are responsible for keeping their dogs well away from the deer at all times.
Image by Maciej Cieslak from Pixabay
TRANSPORT FOR LONDON AGREES TO DROP PLANS TO MAKE STATIONS CASHLESS
I have spoken with a number of local residents and groups this year about access to services for people who don't have a bank account or whose local bank branch has closed. I am working hard to get these issues recognised and addressed in my constituency, and I wrote this letter to Transport for London (TfL) about cashless stations last week. Caroline Pidgeon, our Liberal Democrat Member of the London Assembly, and I have been fighting to get Transport for London to drop plans to make all of their Underground, Overground and DLR stations cashless. I was delighted to hear this week that they have agreed to do so.
This is a real victory for London’s 260,000 adults without a bank account, to say nothing of visitors, children and commuters whose usual station doesn't have a newsagent for topping up Oyster cards. It's vitally important that all service providers remember that not everyone has a credit card or a bank account, and continue to offer ways to access their services without them.
SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOUSING DECLINES TO HALT MANOR ROAD DEVELOPMENT PLANS
I was disappointed to hear this week that the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick MP, has decided not to ‘call in’ the Planning Application for the redevelopment of the Homebase site on Manor Road, Richmond.
Local residents will recall that Richmond Council’s Planning Committee refused the original application, a mixed-use development, which included 385 homes in a four to nine storey development, in July 2019.
On 29 July 2020 the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, used his powers under The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to become the local planning authority for the application, taking it over from the Council. The scheme was subsequently amended to a four to eleven storey development, with an uplift in the number of new residential units to 453.
When the Mayor resolved to grant planning permission for the even larger scheme, I wrote to Mr Jenrick requesting the Government take over the role of planning authority from the Mayor on the grounds that the proposal is of regional significance and the detrimental impact the scheme would have on the site and surrounding area. The Secretary of State subsequently issued a holding direction to allow him time to consider the request.
On 14 January 2021, the Secretary of State informed us that he would not be calling in this decision. In his letter he highlighted the Government’s commitment to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues. However, he has done the very opposite in making this decision, by refusing to support the local authority's decision to refuse this application.
I firmly believe that local communities should have a say over local developments. This decision is wrong for Richmond, and I support Richmond Council in continuing to fight overdevelopment on this site.
HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE TASKFORCE UPDATE
I wanted to share the minutes of the latest Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce meeting with interested Richmond residents. You can find them here. I am continuing to push the Department for Transport for a meeting with the Secretary, as I believe he is the only person who can break the funding deadlock. I am also pushing the Taskforce to be more thorough and transparent in their evaluations of the various proposed designs for a temporary solution.
If you are interested in the Hammersmith Bridge issue, please email my office on email@example.com and ask to be put on my Hammersmith Bridge mailing list. I am regularly sending more detailed information to residents on that list.
ACHIEVING FOR CHILDREN REQUESTS PARENTS' VIEWS ON SEN SUPPORT
Achieving for Children has written to say that they would like to hear the views of parents/carers in Richmond and Kingston boroughs who have a child or young person receiving support from a setting/school/college for a special educational need, and who does not have an Education Health and Care Plan. This survey will run until the end of spring term and will feed into continued improvements to support children and young people. Please provide your feedback via this feedback link.
In the meantime, parents are reminded that they can contact the SEND Advisory Support Line, or complete a SEND Advisory Request Form, if they have a query about the support their child is receiving.
ULTRA LOW EMISSION ZONE (ULEZ) INFORMATION MEETING FOR RICHMOND RESIDENTS
Richmond Council is hosting an event to give residents the chance to hear from Transport for London on the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion.
The expansion of the zone on 25 October 2021 will extend the zone up to (but not including) the South Circular Road and will mean numerous homes and businesses in Kew, Barnes and Mortlake will be within the zone, as well as anyone driving through it. Mortlake Crematorium and the borough’s Household Re-use and Recycling Centre, Townmead Road, will also be in the expanded zone.
Residents can join the online Community Conversation on Monday 1 February to hear from TfL and the Council. Residents will be able to ask questions about the implications of the scheme and how best to prepare. The Zoom meeting will take place from 6.30pm –8.00pm. Registration is essential. Register here.
The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a £12.50 daily charge for vehicles that do not meet the required emissions standards. View information about the standards (including a vehicle checker).
ASYMPTOMATIC COMMUNITY COVID-19 TESTING FOR RICHMOND RESIDENTS
Richmond Council's community testing programme is specifically for those people who are not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms. They are offering these tests to essential workers who live in the Borough, including those who work in supermarkets, taxi or mini cab drivers, transport staff, those who work in key public services, schools or in faith-based organisations. In addition, residents who are volunteering or providing care for a vulnerable person can also apply.
Community tests are done at York House in Twickenham with a Lateral Flow Device, and provide results within 30 minutes. Tests are self administered under guidance from testing centre staff.
Visit Book a lateral flow test to book your test or for further information.
If you do have symptoms, or someone in your household does, please book a test on the national booking site here.
ASYMPTOMATIC COMMUNITY COVID-19 TESTING FOR KINGSTON RESIDENTS
Kingston Council has opened Community Testing Hubs for rapid COVID-19 testing at:
The Kingston Academy - in the north of the borough
Richard Challoner School - in the east of the borough
Kingston University, Penrhyn Road Campus - in the centre of the borough (also open at weekends, 12.30-17.00)
Chessington Sports Centre at Chessington School - in the south of the borough - 07.15-19.15)
This testing is for people who don't have coronavirus symptoms and is being prioritised for those who cannot work from home and are providing roles in the front-line (paid or unpaid.) These are people doing a wide range of vital jobs: teachers, early years and nursery staff, those involved in waste collection, Royal Mail workers, transport workers, supermarket workers and volunteers supporting the community, for example. The test takes about 10 minutes in total and provides a result in 30 minutes. Test Assistants are on hand to offer advice and support and guide people through the test.
Ideally people in these front-line roles should have regular twice-weekly testing, 3-4 days apart, and no more than 7 days apart. They will be able to book a slot at a location, day and time of choice using this link: Rapid test booking and consent form
If you do have symptoms, or someone in your household does, please book a test on the national booking site here.
DYSART SCHOOL EXPANSION PROPOSAL
Dysart School is a provision for pupils who have a range of severe and complex learning disabilities, from within the Royal Borough of Kingston and beyond. The school is part of Orchard Hill College Academy Trust. The school is consulting on a proposal to expand its permanent capacity from 125 to 150 places across both its current sites and a new site, the former North Kingston Children's centre.