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Richmond Park News: 24 March 2023

QUEEN'S GREEN CANOPY PLANTING IN RICHMOND PARK


It was a privilege to be asked to join the Friends of Richmond Park at a ceremony planting the last tree in the new woodland they have planted in honour of the Queen. The Queen's Green Canopy programme began as a celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee, and carries on an a memorial to Her Majesty and a tribute to her deep love of the natural world.


The final tree was planted by Sir David Attenborough, ably assisted by a group of young children and fellow Friends of Richmond Park patron Clare Balding, who hosted the event. It was wonderful to share this moment with two beloved public figures whose personal commitment to the Park matches my own. The new wood is at Ham Cross in the park, and I encourage all of my Park-loving constituents to come and take a look.



PRIVATE MEMBERS BILL TO IMPROVE HOME INSULATION

Earlier today, my Private Member's Bill - the Minimum Energy Performance of Building's Bill - was debated in Parliament. My Bill would set out a legally-binding roadmap to upgrade homes and buildings across the UK to at least EPC band C by 2033.


Every home is given an EPC rating when it is rented or sold. This indicates how energy efficient the building is. As well as being better for our environment, homes with a higher EPC are significantly less likely to have damp or mould and are much cheaper to run. Measures that can be installed to increase and EPC rating include external wall and loft insulation, energy efficient doors and windows, heat pumps and solar panels. The benefits of energy efficiency measures are clear. But the Government has routinely failed to introduce a far-reaching scheme to decarbonise and upgrade the UK’s housing stock, which is among the least energy efficient in Europe. This failure to invest in energy efficiency has left households more vulnerable to higher energy prices and has wasted precious time in the race against climate change.


This Bill is just one part of my campaign to get the Government to take meaningful action on energy efficiency. You can read a copy of my Bill here. Ahead of this private member's bill, I met with the team at East Sheen's Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to ask them about their experiences supporting people in substandard and poorly insulated accommodation. During my meeting, I heard how some resident's homes are filled with mould and damp due to ill-fitting windows and doors that cut off ventilation. Apparently many landlords consider this to be the tenant's responsibility to resolve. This leaves them caught between expensive repairs or huge heating bills as they turn up their heating and open the windows to try and clear the damp and mould. It was wonderful to meet the dedicated and committed team at East Sheen's CAB working hard to not only shine a light on the issues many residents are facing but also to solve these problems one case at a time. If you need to speak to someone about an issue with your housing, you can find your local Citizens' Advice Bureau with the link here.


TONY'S CHOCOLONELY

It was a pleasure to welcome three members of the Tony's Chocolonely team to Parliament on Tuesday. Tony's is a Dutch chocolate brand which has its UK headquarters based in Richmond. At the centre of the Tony’s Chocolonely brand is their advocacy on key issues such as child labour, illegal labour and deforestation. I am pleased to support Tony’s in their campaign to make all chocolate 100% slave free, and to call for tougher legislation to strengthen due diligence in supply chains to mitigate against human rights abuses or environmental harms.




COMMUNITY PHARMACY SUMMIT Several constituents have written to me to share their concern about the possible closure of community pharmacies. It is estimated that pharmacies have seen their funding reduced by 30% in real terms since 2015 and many are now operating at a loss. On Tuesday, I attended a ‘Community Pharmacy Summit’ in Parliament to discuss the funding pressures that our pharmacies are facing, and action that the Government needs to take to avoid further closures. We heard from a number of key stakeholders such as the Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy England (previously PSNC) and pharmacy owners. I support their calls for an immediate injection of funding to shore up the community pharmacy network and a fully-funded Pharmacy First service to be established to free up GP capacity.


The sector hopes this ‘Pharmacy First’ service will be included in the ‘Primary Care Recovery Plan’, expected imminently. This service would be designed to give the public direct access to advice and information, and treatment for minor ailments, including common conditions such as urinary tract Infections and minor skin infections. You can find more information about the ‘Save our Pharmacies’ campaign on their website here.


PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE HEARING


On Thursday morning, I was interviewed by LBC News and BBC Radio London regarding the appearance of Boris Johnson in front of the Privileges Committee of the House of Commons.

In my interviews, I explained that my view that Mr Johnson’s disregard for both the rules of the House and his own conduct seemed starkly apparent. What is not in doubt is that Mr Johnson clearly broke COVID-19 lockdown rules. It was disappointing to hear Mr Johnson argue that he did not realise at the time this event would breach the regulations which he himself had imposed.

You can see a clip of my interview with LBC News here, and BBC Radio London here.



SAVING THE 213 and 57 BUSES


In February, Sadiq Khan cut the 213 and 57 buses by 20%. Anyone who uses these buses regularly will know that they are often overwhelmed, filled to standing room only or so full that passengers have to wait for the next service. When he cut the route, I wrote to the Mayor arguing that the move was shortsighted and contradicted his stated aim to get more people onto sustainable transport.


Mayor Khan recently provided a response to my letter. Unfortunately, the Mayor's response misses the heart of the matter; he claims that because fewer people are using the service and TfL's budget is limited, the service must be cut. However, should the ULEZ zone be extended in August, we will need a huge uplift in public transport to support those people no longer using their cars.


I wrote back to the Mayor this week urging him to reverse these cuts. You can read my original letter here, the Mayor's response here, and my most recent letter here.



VISIT TO JUNIOR CITIZENS PROGRAMME


I was very pleased to be invited by London Fire Brigade's Richmond Commander, Robert Davies, to come along to the Holly Lodge Centre in Richmond Park to experience the Junior Citizen programme for year 6 pupils. I really enjoyed seeing what the children learn there about fire safety, travelling on public transport and illegal drugs from LFB, TfL transport staff and school nurses. I was then invited to observe sessions run by local Met Police officers on stranger danger and crime investigation.


Sheila, from the Junior Citizens programme, was keen to let me know how much they appreciate being able to host these sessions at Holly Lodge. Holly Lodge Centre is a charity offering a range of educational activities exploring science, nature and heritage for children, young people and adults with additional needs in the heart of Richmond Park. The Centre is entirely funded by donors and run by volunteers. If you would like to support their fantastic work with a monetary donation or a gift of your time, you can see their website here.



RICHMOND SOCIAL HOUSING IN CRISIS

This week, I joined Cllrs Gareth Roberts, Jim Millard, and Paulina Vassileva as well as Munira Wilson MP in calling for the Housing Associations in Richmond upon Thames to improve their services and commit to becoming better landlords for Richmond residents.

As representatives, we have seen a huge increase in complaints involving poor maintenance, and long delays on repairs. This standard is simply unacceptable and we have called on RHP, PA Housing, MTVH, and London and Quadrant, to make three simple changes. First, create a detailed plan for improvement, second, create new targets to respond to queries quickly and efficiently, and third, work to bring response times to pre-pandemic levels.


People should not be waiting months for their boilers to be fixed or windows to be repaired, and yet this is happening all too frequently. If you would like to read our letter, you can do so here.


THAMES WATER ROADWORKS IN RICHMOND TOWN CENTRE

I know that many residents have been extremely frustrated by Thames Water's extensive roadworks in Richmond town centre over the last few weeks. While I appreciate this work is essential to repair London's aging pipe network, Thames Water have left some roadworks unattended for days, abandoned portaloos after the works completion, and despite slowing traffic in the area to a standstill, failed to fix several readily apparent leaks.

I wrote to Thames Water's CEO Sarah Bentley to raise these matters and I am delighted to say that following my letter, the company has been taking action to rectify these problems. Abandoned equipment has been removed, roadworks have been removed promptly once completed, and teams are being sent out to review the unattended leaks.


While there will still be some disruption over the coming weeks, I am hopeful this marks a positive move towards getting traffic in Richmond flowing again. You can read the text of my letter to Sarah Bentley here.



LOOKING FOR FAMILY/FRIENDS OF VETERAN


Westminster City Council, the RAF and Black History enthusiasts have launched an appeal to find family and friends to attend the funeral of Peter Brown, a retired flight sergeant from the Windrush generation, for whom no relatives have yet been found. Sgt Brown, who died in Maida Vale aged 97, was one of the Second World War’s last black “Pilots of the Caribbean.”


Anyone who wishes to pay their respects is welcome to attend his funeral at Mortlake Crematorium on March 29 at 12pm.



CORONATION STREET PARTIES


If you would like to have a street party in your road to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III, you still have time to apply for a street closure - just! The extended bank holiday weekend, from 6 to 8 of May 2023, is an opportunity for neighbours and communities to come together and mark the historic event.


Richmond Council will waive all standard street closure fees for all closures in May to allow residents to close their streets to through-traffic and celebrate the Coronation with neighbours, friends and family.

Applications must be submitted by Sunday 2 April. More information on planning your street party can be found on their website.


For Kingston residents, there is also no charge for street parties to celebrate the King’s Coronation. The deadline for applications is 14 April. For more information visit their street party webpage.





















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