HAMMERSMITH BRIDGE AND HS2
This week, the Prime Minister took the decision to axe the northern leg of the multibillion pound HS2 project. While I do not believe he made the right decision, I was interested to note that the announcement came with a commitment to invest in the country's strategic road network. Unfortunately, despite constant promises to get Hammersmith Bridge reopened, I could not find reference to any commitment to the Bridge repairs in the Government's announcements.
Repairing the Bridge would cost a fraction of a percent of the cost of HS2, and be life changing for hundreds of thousands of people living in southwest and west London. Furthermore, it's continued closure has made the UK the subject of mockery from across the globe, shaping allies, rivals, and investors perception of our country's infrastructure. Due to this, I wrote to Richard Holden MP, Minister for Roads and Local Transport, urging him to lobby and argue for a portion of the investment to go towards repairing Hammersmith Bridge.
ROYAL MAIL AND POST DELAYS
I know that in recent months, many of my constituents have seen a notable decline in the quality of their postal service, with some areas receiving only a single delivery a week. In September, after repeated requests to Royal Mail, I reported the company to Ofcom for breaching it's Universal Service Obligation, asking that the regulator look into the matter and press Royal Mail to take any and all actions necessary to get its service back up to standard.
Following my letter to Ofcom, I met with Royal Mail at their New Malden Sorting Office to investigate the issues they have been facing further. During the visit, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the team there have been making dramatic changes to try and improve the service over the coming months. Staff who were absent for long periods have returned to work, new hiring practices are being put in place, and additional resources have been committed by the company to ensuring the wellbeing, and thus retention, of their staff.
The situation in North Kingston should be improving soon, and I have asked that the company make a similar effort to improve service in Ham, which I know has been equally affected. If you have been impacted by delays to Royal Mail's service, I would urge residents to report the issue and seek compensation if you are entitled to it.
HAM YOUTH CENTRE
On Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to visit Ham Youth Centre and meet some of my younger constituents to learn about the issues that matter most to them. The Youth Centre is a wonderful part of the community in Ham and offers everything from a chance to just spend time with other young people to training in music production, art, and football.
During our discussions, fears of climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, and growing issues with poor mental health were all high on the agenda. Against the backdrop of a Conservative Party conference which has scaled back commitments to Net Zero and continued attempts to stoke tensions in our communities, these concerns felt more than justified. The issue of safety and security was also mentioned, with the need for better policing highlighted to me repeatedly by some of the staff and older attendees. Regular readers will know this is an issue that is very close to my heart and an area I will keep pressing the Mayor to improve.
If a young person you know has a concern about politics or the local area, please don't hesitate to tell them to get in touch. It is always a pleasure to hear from my youngest constituents.
NATIONAL TRUST - THAMES WATER DIRECT RIVER ABSTRACTION
This week, I met with the National Trust's team at Ham House to discuss Thames Water's extremely concerning plans to dig up large parts of the Ham Lands nature reserve to build water abstraction and effluent discharge points above Teddington Lock.
Information gleaned from Thames Water's documents suggests that one of their major construction points will fall within the boundaries of Ham House's Park and Garden. This could have an enormous impact on the property and I wanted to ensure the organisation was fully aware of the possible consequences the projects construction could have on it.
I am pleased to say that this issue is very much on the Trust's mind, however, the dearth of hard details that Thames Water have released is making it extremely challenging for them to assess the impact the project will have on the property.
Thames Water will be reopening a consultation on the project later this month, specifically focusing on the construction impacts, and I have requested that they make as much information as possible available to residents and interested stakeholders as they can. If you would like to learn more about the project, you can read Thames Water's description here and analysis conducted by the campaign group Save Ham Lands and River here.
TRAFFIC IN RICHMOND - MANOR CIRCUS
The ongoing renovations to the Manor Circus Roundabout are still unfortunately causing chaos and gridlock in Richmond. While I am aware the situation is still dire, I am pleased to say that Thames Water have finally completed their roadworks on Clifford Avenue, which should relieve the pressure on the network to a degree.
Additional signage put up by TfL has also helped divert some drivers away from the area, however, I was frustrated to learn that this signage is not being posted until drivers reach trunk roads near Twickenham, which for many is already too late to plan a different route. I wrote to TfL this week asking that they expand their communications about the delays to try and move as many drivers away from the area as possible. Finally, I will also be redoubling my calls for 24 hour working on the site to begin as soon as possible.
For the more information on the roadworks, check TfL's website here.
FISH 60TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
On Sunday, I was delighted to join FiSH Neighbourhood Care for their 60th Anniversary Celebrations at St Mary's, Barnes. The event was a wonderful way to recognise all the volunteers and community members who keep FiSH running and it was a genuine pleasure to be invited to take part in the event.
FiSH help combat loneliness and social isolation across Richmond Park, providing essential services such as door to door shopping, wheelchair hire, befriending and support for people with Parkinson's or Dementia. If you or someone you know needs to contact FiSH, you can do so here.
VISIT TO ALEXANDRA SCHOOL
Last Friday, I visited Alexandra Primary School in North Kingston to congratulate the students and staff for winning the UNICEF Rights Respecting School's Award. This award is a recognition of an approach to teaching and learning that is based on the rights and power of students to shape their education.
The teachers at Alexandra Primary School have done an amazing job guiding students to become good citizens and advocates for justice and fairness throughout their lives. I was also very pleased to learn that the school has just been awarded an "Outstanding" grade by Ofsted, recognising the incredible work they do educating young people in our community. It was also great to meet the "Right Knights" a group of Student Ambassadors who are working to represent their peers and improve the student experience at the school.
KINGSTON TRAVEL AND ROADWORKS
Roadworks to Horsefair (The John Lewis Tunnel), will continue over the coming month with the tunnel closed on one lane overnight until the 27th of October. This closure is part of a major upgrade to the tunnel which will improve the lighting and update the system to modern, energy saving LED lights.
Signs will be in place informing drivers of the closure, but if you are able to avoid the tunnel, I would recommend planning an alternative route between 8 pm and 6 am. You can find more information on Kingston Council's Website.
KINGSTON COMMUNITY BIKE SCHEME - FULL CYCLE BIKE PROJECT
Kingston's community bike scheme, Full Cycle Bike Project, has found a new home in New Malden, having relocated from its original location in the south of the Borough. The group who run the non-profit are on a mission to make sure everyone has access to an affordable bike and has the option to cycle if they want to.
While the new site is just on the border of the constituency, it serves everyone living in the area. Along with providing affordable second hand bikes, the group holds "Fix Your Own Bike" sessions where you can learn to maintain your bicycle and get to know other keen cyclists in the area. You can find out more at Full Cycle Project's website here.
HOMEBASE MANOR ROAD CONSULTATION
The proposed development for the old Homebase Manor Road site has been put to consultation for the third time after it was called in by the Mayor of London for review. Avanton has amended the application presented at the Mayor of London’s Hearing in October 2020. This new version of the application includes all the changes consulted on in November 2021 and a further set of amendments that focus on specific aspects of the scheme, namely flood risk and fire safety, but also changes to regulations in several areas, such as daylight measurements.
The developer still intends to build 453 flats on the Homebase site, with the tallest building ten storeys high and I am frustrated that they have continued to ignore residents concerns that this will block out light and infringe on their privacy.
To learn about the new proposals and have your say, visit the Greater London Authority's website or email email@example.com.
FULL OF LIFE FAIR
The annual Full of Life Fair provides residents in later life, as well as their carers, with the local information and resources they need to live physically active, healthy, happy and independent lives. It is an amazing event that I would highlight recommend visiting to learn more about the services and support on offer to help older people live life to the full.
This year's fair will be held at Twickenham Stadium on Friday 13 October 2023 from 10am to 4pm, you can sign up for the fair here.