THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 

Green by name, Grim by nature …

Here’s a personal missive to the Wandsworth Borough Council Leadership from the editors of The Wandsworth Voice – this will also be a subsequent letter, in truncated form, to the local South West London press …. it’s all about the role and the responsibility of Wandsworth for looking after the health and well-being of those people who choose to live here …

It’s fairly long – please bear with it …

Dear Sir

As concerned local residents we feel that we need some form of reassurance from the senior officials of Wandsworth Borough Council as to the current status of their Environmental Health Services. 

Its terms of reference are relatively clearly stated on the Wandsworth Borough Council website – but we sense that there are some rather hollow and jargon-based phrases being used – so we need to know in very practical terms the following:

– what do Wandsworth Borough Council want their Environmental Health Services department to stand for?

– has its mandate changed over time?
   (If indeed it ever had one)

– have its terms of reference been modified?

– are its quality performance and levels of service monitored on both a regular and frequent basis by senior executives and officials?

– what are its reporting lines within Wandsworth Borough Council?

– is Wandsworth Borough Council Environmental Health Service bench-marked against any other London boroughs

That’s not bad for a start ..

And of course we have a couple of even more fundamental and existential questions:

Are staffing and competence levels within Wandsworth Borough Council Environmental Health Services being reduced or down-graded as part of the well-charted budgetary pressures and restrictions that are being applied to all councils in England and Wales?

Is the role of EnvIronmental Health Services any greater than merely being a ‘watchdog’ on urban health issues – do they have any forms of jurisdiction or are they merely advisory?

Guidelines

We assume that carefully and precisely-worded guidelines exist – but can we equally assume that these guidelines are being policed, administered and adhered to in an appropriately competent manner?  As we believe that they were in the past.
However – it’s not just about the past – it’s about today, tomorrow and the day after. 

Would the high-profile (increasingly high-rise!) developments in the Embassy Zone, Battersea Power Station, Lombard Road, Battersea Reach, the Ram Quarter and along the Upper Richmond Road have been quite so readily and enthusiastically snapped up if potential residents were aware that the appalling levels of road-noise and particulate pollution are approaching those of the Isle of Dogs here in London in the 1960s and those of Shanghai today – and are, as far as we observe, left unmonitored.  And unreported. 

To this sadly ever more polluted ‘zone’ we can now add the re-development of the York Road Homebase site – we surely want the budding ballerinas of the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance), who will be moving in soonfrom their charming site in Battersea Village, to be able to breathe more than a little cleanly as they practise their pirouettes and croisées. 

(Separately we shall be asking if Battersea really does need another 21-storey building as part of this site.)

Conclusion

In an initial conclusion – what is the point of encouraging businesses and private individuals to move into Wandsworth Borough – into any one of its many soi-disant  ‘grands projets‘ – when the quality of their lives (and their investments) may well be compromised by poorly monitored and poorly maintained environmental standards?
Finally – back to today’s reality – our recent experiences suggest that many of the front-line staff in Wandsworth Borough Council Environmental Health Services and their office-based support teams appear under-qualified and under-trained in terms both of their ‘technical knowledge’ and ‘customer service’.

So we really do need to know what to expect these days.

How can we help? 

How can we local residents bring examples both of good and bad practice to the attention of senior council members and officials? 

Is there any form of ‘borough-wide residents’ consultative committee’ that we could contribute to?

We have no intrinsic wish to be confrontational – we merely want the services of our Brighter Borough to be operated and delivered by Brighter People.  

As two long-term local residents (our combined years of residence is a mere 119 years) we observe how much our Borough has changed and is changing – indeed many of the changes are for the better – but we see no reason why there should be any deterioration in or diminution of Environmental Health Services. 

In our increasingly ‘on-demand’ lives we cannot see why the services offered by Wandsworth Borough Council should be getting worse and slower – rather than better and faster. 

The current levels of service appear totally reactive – no preparedness for likely short-term or longer-term issues. Could not some of your more willing citizens help on the ‘proactivity front’ – identifying and reporting on potential and actual problems and issues?  Many of us would be pleased to play such a helpful role. Including of course the writers of this letter.

The Ultimate Irony

Finally – for now – in terms of the current levels of ‘service’  …. there is a supreme irony in that our esteemed Local Environmental Health Services are apparently compromised by unfortunately high levels of ‘sickness’. So ‘Physicians Heal Thyself’ – or better still – why not consider applying forms of ‘preventative medicine’? 

With that in mind, Sir, both your current and future residents and employees might enjoy better health and a better quality of daily life. 

THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 

The Wandsworth Voice has been a little silent of late. 

But now we’re back in action and here are some of the issues and causes that we shall be espousing and exploring over the summer …. and of course beyond.

1.  SPORT

The profound irony of Wandsworth Borough vaunting the sporting success of local children – they actually won The London Youth Games Jubilee Trophy in competition with people from the other 32 London Boroughs.

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/12917/wandsworth_scores_youth_games_hat-trick

Yet at the same time this sometimes rotten borough remains committed to shutting down the Battersea Sports Centre.  This is to our minds an inconsistent policy – so much more on this in the next weeks and months.

2.  ROADS

Lots of activity on the revised traffic routing through and around the town centre – the results of last Autumn’s Consultation have been published. With quite a lot of detail.

https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/wandsworth-town-centre?cid=wandsworth-town-centre
We clearly applaud the fact that such a consultation is taking place – but now comes the time for more detail to be shared with all concerned residents and businesses.  Beyond the broad sweep of information on new traffic management schemes we do now need a precise indication of what is going to happen in and to every single local road and street in order be able to comment properly.  

So that’s what we’ll be campaigning for – bringing this to the attention of the very many interested parties.

3.  The Ram Quarter Development 

The Editors of THE WANDSWORTH VOICE were 2 of the 3 local people (yes – only one other person!) who attended a helpful presentation on Wednesday July 8 on the site itself. Involving the developers, the builders and a representative of Wandsworth Borough Council.

http://www.ram-brewery.co.uk/TRQNL.pdf

Very clear and very helpful – but one big issue hit us ….. In the next weeks and months as the site is excavated some 70+ trucks per day will leaving Wandsworth by road to go to a landfill/processing site in Stratford, East London.  Already busy and polluted roads will become even busier and even more polluted.

This does appear to be at odds with the overall positive attempts of the developer to be environmentally-sensitive.

We wonder whether the river waste barges – which dock on the Thames but 300 yards from the Ram Quarter – might not be an option well worth examining.  And this before the multitude of traffic movements that will happen once the construction phase itself starts.

THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 

Brightest and best? …. It ain’t necessarily so round here …

Now that electioneering and political posturing/promising are over for a few short months let’s return to the realities of daily living ….

Surely our Brighter Borough deserves Brighter Bikes and Brighter Bicyclists … indeed the two go together …

Brighter Bikes in terms of their being properly lit once dusk has fallen upon southwest London.

Brighter Bicyclists who realise that it’s not very bright to ride their bike without lights after dark, especially when they are riding the wrong way along a one-way street; that a Bicycle made for one is not a Bicycle made for two; that there really is nothing wrong with having a bell or horn on their bike, even though it may add a few ounces to its weight; and possibly, worst of all – riding their bike on pavements, seemingly oblivious to and certainly sneering of the distress and danger to the very young and the not so very young.

So this will become a major campaigning project for THE WANDSWORTH VOICE.

You know it makes sense. 

THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 


Little Things mean a Lot …

We are not here to castigate the worthy elected representatives of our dear Wandsworth Borough. 

But perhaps to chide them a little.

We fear that once again they are so embroiled in their borough-wide ‘grands projets’ (see below) that they are in danger of losing touch with the day-to-day realities of those whom they were voted in to represent.  And whose voices will be heard on May 7th, albeit in a broader national context.

So it is perhaps timely to raise a couple of issues.

Firstly, the protests against the closure of the much-loved, much-used Battersea Sports Centre.

At a recent ‘Meet the People’ session in Latchmere Ward (York Gardens, March 16th) members of the audience at this sparsely-attended gathering reminded the assembled councillors and officials that the decision to close the Centre had not gone through a sufficiently wide consultation process and that to build 80 temporary residences on the site of Sports Centre for those people who have to leave their homes on the nearby Winstanley Estate as part of the regeneration and decanting process was surely not the only option.   

For residents, citizens and voters this is not the end of the matter.  It is not a fait accompli – even though the council may hope that it is.  On-going petition signing continues. 

Secondly, let’s look at road and pavement repairs – particularly in the York Road/Battersea Reach area where damage is caused by the sheer volume (in both senses) of construction traffic and by their inappropriate manoeuvring in Petergate and Elteringham Street in order to save the 350 yards to enter the site without having to go all round our world-famous roundabout. (Thanks very much, Stanley Kubrick.)

Despite frequent and heartfelt requests over the years, the situation is not satisfactory resolved – either by timely repairs or by slight modifications to the road layout or by better, enforceable signage.   It was raised at the above-mentioned meeting – there was some blustering, sniggering and buck-passing among the scores of executives.

Therefore we may conclude that as nothing has happened, that as nothing appears to be about to happen, that as minds are clearly occupied elsewhere …. it is not at all surprising that empty chairs out-numbered occupied chairs …. because local people have neither faith nor trust in the attitudes or actions of the local council on their behalf.  There is a growing sense of disenfranchisement.

Let them re-build London’s biggest food market, let them establish an Embassy Zone, let them promote a new pedestrian river crossing, let them sanction the renovation of London’s most iconic and significant industrial building, let them bring Formula E motor racing to Battersea Park, let them regenerate The Ram Quarter, let them re-route the South Circular Road, let them give the go-ahead to inappropriately tall buildings near the heliport, let them re-configure the delightful one-way-system, let them turn the Upper Richmond Road in East Putney into a Basingstoke look-alike, let them re-develop the old Putney Hospital, let them grant construction sites for the Thames Tideway Tunnel in our parks and wetlands ….

But please, please …. let them also mend our roads and pavements and look after our existing amenities … because little things do indeed mean a lot … and that includes listening to people and hearing what they have to say ….  Arrogance and self-serving complacency coupled with inaction are not worthy of this noble borough.

THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 

At Ease with their consciences?

Below is a note that was sent this very evening to all signatories of our previously mentioned ‘change.org’ petition which fights against the closure of the well-loved Battersea Sports Centre.

17 Mar 2015 

Again, thanks very much to all who have signed this petition. It is indeed one of several electronic petitions that have been instigated. But ours has attracted attention both near and far. And already has been brought to the attention of Wandsworth Borough Council.  

This week we learn that the many disabled and elderly users have only just been advised of the imminent demise of their Battersea Sports Centre. For these already physically, socially and psychologically vulnerable individuals the ‘Terminators’ of Wandsworth Borough Council have now gone one step too far.

They must be brought to book.  

Indifferent to the past, uncaring about the present, eyeing only the future.

Are they at ease with themselves and their consciences?

They are certainly at ease with ‘E’s’ when it comes to Embassies, Formula E and Eviction.

Please encourage others to sign this petition so that Wandsworth Borough Council will become ‘Ex-Terminators’.

Thanks, again.

John Fowler

THE WANDSWORTH VOICE 

Changing Rivers or Tales of the Riverbanks ….

This week one of the editors of THE WANDSWORTH VOICE will be publishing from the banks of the Danube in Belgrade as opposed to from the banks of the Thames in Battersea.


Over the next three days observations and comparisons will be made between the ways that two bustling capital cities make use of and allow access to the wider community amenity that are their river banks. 



Belgrade proudly boasts of the confluence of the Danube and the Sava – Wandsworth and the Thames compete a little less grandly with the supermarket-trolley and car tyre-laden inflow of the Wandle and the sensitively culverted Falcon brook.

Both however are embracing change – is Belgrade as indifferent to its fluvial and riparian past as London sometimes appears to be ….?

Our words will flow with the rivers as our investigations continue ….

We let the people speak