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Richmond Park News: 30 March 2021

As we take another step out of lockdown this week and start looking forward to the reopening of pubs and restaurants on April 12, I am calling on the Government to help the hospitality sector to rebuild. Failure to give restaurants, pubs and bars enough support has seen too many small businesses close for good, with thousands more on the brink. The Government must give them both financial support and clear guidance on issues such as social distancing requirements, legal issues around vaccinations, etc.

I am joining my Liberal Democrat colleagues this week in calling for a national pub bailout programme. The pub is a cornerstone of British culture, and pubs employ millions of people. We cannot leave them to sink under the financial losses of the past year.


Transport for London announced today that the contract for the Hammersmith Bridge replacement ferry has been awarded to Uber Boats by Thames Clippers. The service will take pedestrians and cyclists between piers located near Queen Caroline Street in Hammersmith and the Hammersmith Bridge approach in Barnes. The ferry will have a minimum capacity of 800 passengers an hour at peak times, with services running daily from 06:00 to 22:00.

Fares are expected to mirror buses at £1.55, subject to necessary approvals. This would include a Hopper option and the acceptance of TfL concessions, including Freedom Passes and free travel for children. The service is expected to be running by the end of the summer.

I welcome the news that a contractor has been appointed for the replacement ferry, and am very happy that some relief is in sight at last. However, I am keen to ensure that the Government does not use this to avoid making the necessary financial commitment to the full bridge repairs.

The passenger-carrying capacity of the ferry will be significantly lower than the Bridge and for thousands of my constituents the inconvenience will continue. We need access restored for pedestrians and cyclists at an absolute minimum, but for that to happen the Government must be prepared to underwrite the cost of the permanent repairs.

Over a month has passed since the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham submitted its funding proposal, yet we have heard nothing from the Government. I will continue to push the Secretary of State for Transport to stop dragging his feet and take the steps necessary for permanent repairs to commence.


As many of you will have heard, Royal Parks recently announced that it intends to proceed with proposals to introduce parking charges in Richmond and Bushy Parks. The fees for both parks will be will be £1.40 per hour Monday to Friday, and £2.00 per hour at the weekend, to a maximum of six hours on any day.

I fully recognise the concerns some local residents have about this announcement and will be speaking with Royal Parks to seek urgent clarification on what kind of impact it will have. Many people will be rightly anxious that there will be a significant increase in parking outside their homes, which is practically and environmentally troublesome.

While I welcome Royal Parks’ assertion that the revenue raised will go into improving infrastructure and projects that will help visitors access the park without a car, I note that the vast majority of survey respondents objected to the idea. It is imperative, therefore, that the impact this will have on my constituents is addressed and mitigated in a transparent and satisfactory way.


Users of Richmond Park will also know that I have been calling for the toilets at Ham Gate to be reopened, in conjunction with all three Ham and Petersham ward councillors. Having been unsuccessful both in persuading park management to change their plans, and in appealing directly to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, we have now written to the Royal Parks trustees, asking them to step in and reopen the toilets. The closure disproportionately affects women, families with young children, the elderly, the disabled and those with health conditions. Furthermore, people in need of the loo take to the bushes and woods opposite the toilets to relieve themselves, which is unsanitary and unpleasant for all.

At a time when we are rightly encouraging people to embrace the outdoors to exercise and preserve their mental health, we must not put in place measures that hinder their ability to do so. You can see our joint letter to the Trustees here.


Last Friday I had the pleasure of visiting two schools in the constituency: St Richard's Church of England Primary School in Ham and the German School in Petersham.

At the German School, I enjoyed seeing an exhibition by students celebrating and documenting 50 years of the German School in London. In addition to meeting with Head Christian Nitschke and history teacher Mrs Staschen-Dielman, I was very pleased to meet the Educational and Cultural Representative from the German Embassy, Mr Teepe. The school is feeling the effects of both Brexit and Covid-19, and teachers spoke to me about their concerns regarding the mental health of children and young people in these difficult times. This is a subject I am working hard on already, and I appreciated their insights.

At St Richard's C of E Primary School in Ham I met with headteacher Carmen Palmer, and had the great pleasure of being her surprise guest at their virtual Easter Bonnet Parade. Ms Palmer spoke to me about the funding problems facing all state schools at the moment: loss of income and increased expenses during the pandemic, plus the particular problems they are having getting SEND funding because referral processes have been slowed down by Covid-19. We have a great deal of catching up to do post-Covid, including on SEND provision.

My visits to both schools demonstrated the kindness, ingenuity and dedication of our teachers and other school staff. I would like to salute the efforts they have made throughout the pandemic as well as the resilience of their pupils and families.

From left: viewing the German School exhibit - Mr Nitschke, Mrs Staschen-Dielman, myself and Cllr Penny Frost, Chair of the Education and Children's Services Committee for Richmond Council; St Richard's C of E Primary School classroom; and the Easter celebration at St Richard's

JOIN ME FOR A PANEL DISCUSSION ON THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION ON APRIL 13 On April 13 at 7:00pm I will be joined by Daisy Cooper MP, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Education, and Ian Dodds, Director of Children's Services for Richmond and Kingston boroughs, for a panel discussion on the future of education after Covid-19.

I plan to talk to Daisy and Ian about the ways the landscape of education will be permanently changed by the pandemic. What positives will come out of this experience, and what lessons do we need to learn from it? How will schools cope with future challenges, and what can we do to support our children in their education going forward? The panel will also answer questions from attendees. You can sign up for this exciting event here.


This week, I would like to spotlight the OSO Arts centre in Barnes. The OSO hosts plays, fairs, exhibitions and classes that have been at the centre of Barnes’ cultural life for over two decades. Like so many arts centres, the OSO has struggled financially throughout the pandemic. An army of local volunteers have worked tirelessly to keep essential services up and running, despite the tremendous challenges faced by the arts this past year. I extend my gratitude to the staff at OSO Arts Centre for their work.

Atlas Butcher at 112 Kew Road has been recommended by my Kew constituents as a stand-out local business, providing excellent customer service and a quality array of organic meats with fresh fruit and vegetables. Atlas is one of the many wonderful locally owned businesses that has provided exceptional service throughout the pandemic.

If you know of any individuals, businesses, or organisations that you would like to spotlight, please email them to