SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES
Last week, I went to see a number of local businesses in Richmond to find out how they are getting on since lockdown. I visited the Curzon cinema, where Tom, the assistant manager, showed me the measures they have taken to keep customers safe, including spacing out seating and allowing more time between screenings to give the cinema necessary cleaning.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has helped us get back into the habit of eating in restaurants. However, other sectors, like the cinema, haven't had that support. If we want our local businesses to survive, we need to support them by visiting them.
Curzon has an eclectic mix of screenings every week, including independent films, classic films, documentaries and blockbusters.
Do check them out of you are considering getting out and about: https://www.curzoncinemas.com/richmond/this-week
Last Friday I finally received the attached response to my letters to Baroness Vere. The letter does not go into a great deal of detail, but it's good to know they are finally engaging with and talking to the relevant stakeholders.
I also heard on Friday that there had been some communications between Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Transport for London. As there are no formal commitments yet we still need to keep pushing on all fronts.
Conversations about the potential provision of a ferry service are ongoing, and I am in talks with TfL about improving their bus service to compensate for the emergency closure. I will keep you posted about both.
ROYAL PARKS CONSULTATION ON CAR PARK CHARGES IN RICHMOND PARK
Yesterday Royal Parks launched an eight week public consultation on proposals to introduce parking charges in the public car parks in Bushy and Richmond Parks. Parking charges already apply across all other Royal Parks. Blue Badge parking and parking for motorcycles would continue to be free, but subject to a maximum-stay limit of six hours.
I know this will impact residents around the boundaries of the park and I encourage you to participate in the consultation before it closes on 1 November 2020. Please go to https://www.royalparks.org.uk/managing-the-parks/consultations
I have been pleased to see that the reopening of schools is going relatively smoothly so far. I have, however, observed that there has been a huge increase in traffic on the roads this week. Please try to walk, cycle or scoot your child to school as much as you possibly can.
I am also concerned about infection risk from parents congregating outside school gates. I would like to ask parents to be sure to maintain social distancing when they are waiting to drop off or pick up children. The risk related to opening schools is not from children getting together but from adults congregating. I know we all want the schools to remain open.
JOIN ME FOR A VIRTUAL COFFEE MORNING
From next week onwards I will be hosting a fortnightly Zoom coffee morning for constituents. I am keen to hear your views and concerns about matters local and national, and I hope this format will enable me to meet more residents in an informal and friendly setting. Places will be limited in order to keep the conversation manageable, so booking is essential (but free, of course!) You can register at: www.saraholneymp.org.uk/events
BARCLAYS BRANCHES CLOSING IN KEW AND EAST SHEEN
I had a letter from Barclays last week with the unwelcome news that they are closing their branches in East Sheen and Kew. This will leave only the Richmond branch in the Richmond area. The reason for the closure is that footfall into these branches has been decreasing year on year as people do more of their banking online. That will be little comfort to the local residents and businesses that use these branches, though.
I replied to Barclays last week asking if they could keep their cash points open in Kew and Sheen, so people could access some of their day to day services there. I have just heard from them that this is under serious consideration and they are looking into the feasibility of doing so. I will report back to you when I have more information.
PROPOSED CASTLENAU CYCLE LANE
I spoke to Richmond Transport Councillor Alex Ehmann about the new cycle lane on behalf of affected constituents, as it does feel very poorly timed and not the best use of funds. He informed me that the decision to introduce a cycle lane was taken, and the funds allocated by Transport for London, weeks before the emergency Hammersmith Bridge closure. The funds are coming from a specific pot allocated by TfL for cycle lanes, so they cannot be moved into bridge repairs. Equally, the works cannot be postponed -- the money would be reallocated to a different London borough for a cycle lane there.
When the bridge does reopen a cycle lane on Castlenau will benefit those travelling by bicycle into Hammersmith. So the Council's view is that it is better to use the funds now rather than lose them to another part of London. Cllr Ehmann assured me that the implementation of similar lanes in Richmond indicates that should be minimal road disruption during the introduction.
LANE CLOSURES ON KINGSTON BRIDGE
There will be a Kingston Town Neighborhood Meeting tonight to discuss the lane closures on Kingston Bridge and decide whether to continue closing off one lane in each direction for cyclists. This was originally introduced so that pedestrians could use the segregated cycle lane for additional space, to support social distancing. Now that the lockdown is easing, the Council will be considering whether to ease vehicle traffic around the bridge by reverting to the previous layout. I will report back you to on what they decide.
KINGSTON COUNCIL'S MESSAGE ON SCHOOLS REOPENING
Kingston Council has sent a letter to all borough schools to reassure parents about reopening. Their message is:
"We understand these are unprecedented times and that you may have some worries or concerns about the new school term. But we want to reassure you that we are confident our schools are doing everything they can to keep your children safe. Our Public Health team is monitoring the local Covid-19 situation on a daily basis and has worked closely with schools and Achieving for Children to put in place robust plans to deal with any issues, should they arise.
In Kingston, the level of confirmed cases remains relatively low and our testing figures are higher than the national average, which means you are continuing to do your bit to protect our borough from Covid-19. The NHS Test and Trace service is reaching above average numbers of contacts for confirmed cases across Kingston."