SEWAGE AND WATER QUALITY: CHANNEL 4
On Monday, I was joined by a team from Channel 4 to film a short piece on the Government's failure to tackle sewage dumping and water quality. Although this is a national issue, I chose to focus the piece on the damage the Teddington Direct River Abstraction scheme could do to the river and on the historic contamination of Beverly Brook, the stream which runs through Richmond Park, East Sheen, and Barnes.
I am extremely grateful to the Teddington Bluetits, who came out despite the cold to swim in the river near the lock and show the importance of keeping this stretch of the Thames free from pollution and contamination. I'd also like to extend my thanks to Tarun from Barnes Common Limited who provided a fascinating insight into the damage that has been done to the Beverly Brook by criminals and what can be done to improve our natural environment.
The piece will air later in February and will highlight how I believe we can tackle the sewage dumping scandal. Bans on water bosses bonuses, a tax on companies to make them pay to restore the rivers they've destroyed, and a new regulator to ensure this cannot happen again are all key priorities for the Liberal Democrats. The Government is starting to bow to the pressure we've been putting on them, but we will keep working until every river is free from sewage.
URGENT QUESTION ON ISRAEL-GAZA
On Monday, I questioned the Minister of State for Development, Andrew Mitchell, on whether the government was involved in the recent negotiations between US, Qatar, Israel and Egypt over the release of hostages in Gaza. These talks were called by Egypt and sought to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas. I was very disappointed not to get a straight answer out of the Minister, especially considering the urgency of this issue.
The taking of hostages, especially women, children, the disabled and the elderly, is utterly deplorable. The Liberal Democrats remain deeply concerned for the 123 people who remain unaccounted for, including 23 that Israel say have been killed. That is why Liberal Democrats continue to be the only major UK party calling for the UK government to back a political solution via an immediate bilateral ceasefire.
I am not naive about the difficulties involved in getting to this position - it may require a cessation in hostilities to create the basis for a ceasefire, and we welcome any progress however small towards this goal. Nor will it be easy to rid Gaza of Hamas.
However, I remain firm in my belief that only a sustained political and diplomatic solution will resolve this conflict and bring not just a cessation of violence that will stop the killing of thousands of innocent civilians, but also point the way to two states and a lasting end to this 75-year conflict.
You can see a clip of my question here.
CRIME IN LONDON
On Sunday evening, I spoke on Times Radio as part of a panel discussion on several topics, one of which was crime. I therefore took the opportunity to reiterate the need for a return to community policing, where officers are known, trusted and visible in their neighbourhoods and have the time and resources needed to tackle local crimes.
Shockingly, the number of Police Community Support Officers in the Met Police has dropped 32% since 2015, with the Mayor of London and Home Secretary seemingly locked in never-ending political bickering rather than genuine efforts to tackle crime.
The Liberal Democrats are therefore calling for an end to this political posturing and for new statutory guidance to be implemented which would introduce a Burglary Response Guarantee. This would guarantee that police attend and investigate every domestic burglary, in a renewed effort to keep our communities safe.
GETTING PEDICABS ON HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE
The Pedicabs (London) Bill is currently making it's way through parliament and will, for the first time, mean it is possible to properly licence and regulate rickshaws in the capital. Some residents will remember the community rickshaw service that was put in place across Hammersmith Bridge, and I believe this bill represents a perfect opportunity to bring the service back, this time, with government support.
On Wednesday, I met with Transport Minister Lord Davies of Gower to highlight the benefits a service like this would provide and request his support for Hammersmith Bridge to be used as the site for a pilot scheme to test these new regulated pedicabs. While he did not go so far as to throw his full support behind the project, he did agree to explore the idea further and assist in my communications with the other stakeholders.
This service should make the crossing more accessible once the carriageway reopens, however, this interim solution does not detract from the need to fully strengthen the bridge. We need the Government to release the funds for the full repairs, and I will continue to push for this in the coming weeks and months.
MEETING THE BARNES SAFER NEIGHBOURHOOD TEAM
Earlier today, I met with the Barnes Safer Neighbourhood Team to discuss their work, the issues in the ward, and the resources they need to tackle them. I know that the recent incidents near the bridge and in other areas of the community have been extremely worrying for residents. However, I was pleased to hear that officers are taking residents concerns extremely seriously. Work is being done to coordinate with the teams in Hammersmith, investigations are underway, and officers are doing their best to increase their visibility.
Unfortunately, we are facing a fundamental problem that, after years of government cuts, community police forces are severely undermanned. Resources are stretched thin, and while the Met is working to resolve these issues, they go much deeper than our local area. This is why I am urging residents to make sure that, whenever they see a crime, they report it immediately.
Crime data shows our constituency to be one of the safest in London, but I know that many residents feel these numbers are not an accurate depiction of the situation on the ground. I realise that reporting criminal activity can sometimes feel like it achieves very little, but without hard data, it is very difficult for local officers and representatives to make a compelling case for additional resources for our community.
You can report a crime through the Met's website here, or by calling 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.
TEDDINGTON DIRECT RIVER ABSTRACTION SCHEME
At the end of 2023, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs decided to consider the Teddington Direct River Abstraction scheme as a piece of Nationally Significant Infrastructure. This means it will not go through the normal planning process at the council level but will instead be considered by the Planning Inspectorate for a "direct consent order".
The process behind a direct consent order is somewhat opaque to those who have never encountered it before, however, there are still many opportunities for the public and local representatives to offer their views on the scheme. Thames Water have given my office assurances that we will be kept up to date on the process and I will continue to provide updates through my newsletter and social media when I have any information I can share.
You can read more about what a development consent order involves here, and see a snapshot of my work fighting the Teddington DRA here.
I have received several concerning reports recently of litter being blown across neighbours gardens by recent, strong overnight winds in parts of North Kingston. I would just like to take this opportunity to urge any residents who use tubs instead of closed bins to make sure they are properly sealed before they are put out. In addition, making sure bins are sealed before they are put out will help ensure that wildlife such as foxes or pigeons cannot get into the rubbish and scatter them across the street.
If you need to order a new bin or have a concern about waste collection in the borough, you can reach the council's waste team through the link here.
ROADWORKS ACROSS KINGSTON
I know that many residents in Kingston have been impacted by roadworks over the last few weeks with serious delays for short journeys common. These works are a combination of emergency roadworks by utility companies, planned maintenance by TfL, and upgrades and essential repairs by the Royal Borough of Kingston.
While I know many would agree with me that we need to make sure our roads do not become pitted with potholes and our gas and water mains remain in good condition, the sheer number of simultaneous works across the borough is concerning. We need more joined up planning between agencies and I will be contacting representatives from all responsible agencies over the coming days to drive this point home.
If you would like an update on the works taking place in the borough, Kingston Nub News has published a summary of the works earlier this week and you can get real time information through One Network with the link here.
MORTLAKE POLICE WHATSAPP CHANNEL
The Mortlake and Barnes Common Safer Neighbourhood team has become the latest of our local Met police services to create a new WhatsApp channel. This is a one way communication channel so that you can keep up to date with the team's work, and get updated on matters of interest in the local area.
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS TO HELP WITH A WILDLIFE SURVEY IN RICHMOND PARK
How does the wildlife in Richmond Park behave when there are no people around and how does the presence of people in the park affect the wildlife, both during the day and at night? Answers to these questions are essential if the park is to remain a sanctuary for wildlife and fulfil its designation as a National Nature Reserve.
The Friends of Richmond Park are funding and organising a wildlife ecology survey which has been designed by the Institute of Zoology and will be overseen by The Royal Parks. They are looking for 60-70 volunteers to help with the survey by setting out 150 camera traps across the Park and then recovering them at the end of the survey.
Training will be provided and there will be two days to help set up the traps in April. If you are interested in signing up, email the link here.