Old Lyonian Sports and Social Club Consultation - a Harrow Lib Dems view

The Harrow Lib Dems recently attended the pre-consultation for the development of the Old Lyonian Ground (St. George's field).

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We recognise and appreciate that the developers have voluntarily decided to invest resources to engage with local residents in Harrow and ask for their opinion and their suggestions in advance of submitting a formal planning application, which is aligned best practice in the industry.

However it is the very nature of this development which raises concerns. New developments should generate green areas by rehabilitating brownfield sites, of which Harrow has plenty, instead of dismantling existing ones. To replace a historic and rare green field area with new homes, parking and new roads, is completely contrary to our pledge for Harrow that we published before the recent local elections.

This principle is also embedded in the Mayor’s London Plan, which requires new developments to make urban greening a fundamental element of their site and building design, and to deliver net gains for biodiversity, which we all benefit from. We have significant doubts that this could be achieved through this development.

According to the Harrow Council website, the area is part of the Harrow Green Grid, a network of interlinked, multi-purpose open green space with good connections to the places where people live and work. The Harrow Green Grid is part of the wider London Green Grid. The intent is to develop and improve this network which provides a richly varied landscape that will benefit both people and wildlife, providing diverse uses to appeal to, and be accessible by all. The proposed development does not seem to follow in full, this spirit.

Although the proponent has ensured limited felling of trees, that they will retain a portion of the area green for public access (at least as this is what we understood) and that no high-rise buildings are part of the plan, squeezing 60-70 dwellings (as described and shown during the presentation) drastically reduces a green area that has existed for more than a century, and in the Lib Dems view, is not a positive development for Harrow.

The area has been historically used for recreational activities for students. It would be far better if it could continue to offer its vocational function as a stepping stone for the peri-urban ecosystem of Harrow.

Several attempts have been attempted in the past to develop the area including residential developments (less dense than what seems to be being proposed now) and a school. As far as we know, none of them were successful.

We are concerned that the current Tory administration could have a more lenient approach to applications of this kind, and perhaps this is also the reason for this prompt initiative, arriving just weeks after the new Council administration has been appointed.

The Harrow Lib Dems will continue to study the planning applications previously submitted for this area, and will monitor and review any planning application related to the development presented during the consultation.

Do you have a view on this development? Is it going to affect you, your community or your business in some way, please let us know in the comments below.

 


5th May - Decision Day for the Tories

With the Evening Standard opinion poll confirming the Conservatives’ worst fears for the results in London Borough elections, the press is predicting widespread Tory losses.

But it’s not just Labour who will benefit. With the Tories’ struggling on 29% in Outer London Boroughs, the Liberal Democrats are on 13% and the Greens on 8%, together only 8% behind the Tories in outer London.

Green voters switching to the Liberal Democrats, or voting for a joint slate, could cause serious headaches for the Conservatives in a number of Tory-held wards previously considered safe.

Our local Tory MP’s enthusiastic support for Owen Patterson and Boris after Partygate has upset a great many lifelong Conservatives who have told us they will “lend” us their vote on Thursday. Many of them are hoping that Bob Blackman will be able to spend more time with his family after the next election. Perhaps, on 6 May the Conservatives will wake up to the fact that they need a new candidate, with a little more principle, if they are to avoid a similar drubbing in the proposed Stanmore and Edgware constituency. It won’t just be Boris who will feel unwanted.


Climate Safe Streets in Harrow

The Harrow Lib Dems have received a number of approaches from members of the ‘Harrow Cyclists: Climate Safe Streets Campaign’ setting out ‘Five Asks’ for Harrow. For ease of reference these Asks are set at the end of this note.

The Harrow Lib Dems share the two basic interlinked concerns of this campaign: reducing pollution and encouraging and facilitating cycling. Our policy document available on this website says:

‘We also want to encourage the use of electric vehicles and reduce internal combustion engine use, in line with wider national policies. Pollution causes many thousands of premature deaths across the country, and we will aim to reduce pollution in Harrow, particularly where pollution exposes people directly to risk.’

Cycles

We will aim to create usable cycleways which prioritise connections with stations, secondary schools, leisure centres, and parks to encourage cycling and protect cyclists. As well as upgrading existing cycle paths we will give them much greater publicity and encouragement.

We will provide more cycle stands in shopping areas.

We will ensure that all proposals are technically sound, improve the quality of life in Harrow and minimise the disturbance to road traffic. We will consult widely and encourage full involvement of the public in decision-making.’

In addition, Harrow Lib Dems have pointed out that the Lib Dem Conference recently passed a resolution on air quality:

https://www.harrowlibdems.org/lib_dems_lead_the_way_on_air_quality

Harrow Liberal Democrats are fully committed to that resolution.

In principle we would aim to implement all the actions for local authorities decided by conference in Harrow. These are:

a) Install more pollution sensors near major roads and at every urban school.

b) Publicise local air quality issues including publishing live pollution levels from their pollution sensors stating specific levels of pollutants using globally recognised units of measurement.

c) Work to improve air quality in their area.

d) Take into account likely differential air pollution changes in different roads when designing traffic schemes.

e) Consider implanting or extending Clean Air Zones, in consultation with residents and local businesses to ensure that such zones reduce net pollution and don’t merely displace activity.

f) Promote schemes to allow the rapid and affordable replacement of petrol and diesel vehicles by lower polluting vehicles by local businesses in conjunction with the introduction of Clean Air zones.

g) Establish No-Idling Zones outside schools.

 

There is therefore a good deal of commonality between the Harrow Lib Dem programme and the five Asks of the campaign. Furthermore, it is very much part of our programme to listen to views, particularly when they are representative of a particular group of Harrow residents, and we are mindful that our programme will need to be fleshed out. On that basis we have carefully considered the five Asks and these are our conclusions:

The campaign’s first ask is in line with our programme; the third ask is in line with our policy aim and we undertake to set up an initiative on the lines proposed by the campaign; we accept the fourth ask, although we will need to look carefully at how to deliver it; and we will look to extend cycle storage facilities on the lines of ask 5.

We very much see the health and environmental benefits of walking and cycling, and of public transport, but we wish to make these a positive choice. New cycling provision is essential, although it must not be done in a way that simply makes life worse for motorists. Indeed, it would be counterproductive to do otherwise, as recent events have shown. We will encourage and facilitate electric cars and aim to reduce pollution, in line with national Lib Dem policy.

We support the development and adoption of a comprehensive action plan aimed to ensure traffic levels in the borough are compatible with the capacity of the road network. This would be in the interests of everyone, not least motorists. We will not commit to reducing traffic to any particular level in advance but rather will judge what is feasible and desirable for all road users. We are mindful that three quarters of Harrow households have a car, and that for many it is essential. Any plan must take account of this.  But we will aim to persuade motorists to get out of their cars when they don’t need to be in them, not simply to penalise motorists.

Whilst in principle we favour 20mph limits where they very clearly help safety and reduce pollution such as for residential-only roads, we cannot support a blanket approach across Harrow.  Some roads in Harrow are dual-carriageways or are busy connecting roads and are clearly not suitable for 20mph at this time.  Having said that, we would review speed limits across the borough to see what is suitable for residents and communities.

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Local Council corruption or National Government corruption - which would you choose

A dull thud on the carpet of one of our Liberal Democrat candidates for the Borough election announced the arrival of yet another Conservative Party election leaflet. The candidate noted that it had almost certainly been delivered by a paid deliverer, an expensive option which the Lib Dems can only afford occasionally. Undoubtedly the Conservatives must have access to greater funds than us!

The breathless breaking news on the leaflet says: ‘Police investigate Labour-run Harrow Council’, repeating a story which the Sun broke as long ago as 15 April. Harrow Council staff are alleged to have taken bribes to turn a blind eye to contractors who allegedly only half fulfilled a contract by replacing a pavement on only one side of a street. This would indeed raise serious questions for the Council. What anti-fraud measures were in place? Did anyone check the work? And were any reports from the public ignored? These are matters for which the Labour majority should rightly be held responsible if the facts are as reported.

Further things struck me about the article. Council can mean the councillors who are responsible for the running of the Council, as well as the totality of the Council’s operations. The Conservatives seem to be hinting that the police are investigating the (Labour) councillors, of which there has been no suggestion. An underhand tactic during an election.

Then a tidal wave of amusement and indignation struck me. How can our Conservative candidates, and my MP Mr Bob Blackman, who all support the present Government, be so vociferous about this alleged corruption and so quiet about the far greater corruption at national level. The £billions of unused and unusable PPE slowly rotting in Suffolk fields, at great expense to the taxpayer, often bought by Tory supporters who used the ‘fast track’. The £5bn fraud written off by the Chancellor. A finding just now made by a court that the Government acted unlawfully in its policy of discharging patients into care homes without Covid testing. And the joint funeral in 2020 of my elderly aunt and uncle with few mourners (their coffins draped with the union flag for their war service) while, it seems, 10 Downing Street partied on.

I joined the Liberal Democrats in part to get back to the country we used to have, where corruption was rare.

I hope you will vote for us on 5th May to help achieve that.

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It shouldn't be so difficult to contact Harrow Council

Harrow Council claim to have a digital and technology approach that is customer-centric and continually improving services to residents (customer-centric and continually improving services to residents) but everything we hear from local people we speak to, and read on platforms online clearly shows that this is not happening.

I have seen claims in the recent past such as Harrow Council has saved £1.2m by moving contact online and celebrating bland statistics such as:

  • Over 135,000 registered users
  • Contact in some areas down by 82%
  • 51% reduction in council tax contact
  • 45,000 log-ins each month
  • 40,000 web forms are completed each month

Lots of buzzwords like 'channel shift' and 'channel migration' continue to be used even today.

Whilst we are of course doing more and more transactional work online - from buying goods and services to logging missed bin reports, the need for a human contact on the phone hasn't entirely disappeared.

But the council have made it incredibly difficult to even find a phone number for the council. Phoning the 020 8901 2610 number displayed when you search for "contact harrow council" on Google gives you automated prompts, with no 'other' option. So if you're call doesn't fit into their narrow categories, then you're out of luck.

You just have to read almost weekly messages on popular Harrow Facebook groups, or on Nextdoor (the local neighbourhood website) and you'll see lots of local Harrow residents complaining about how it is impossible to contact the council or if you're lucky enough to find an email address, then get a reply from it.

There seems to be no way of raising this issue, unless you contact your local councillor. Surely, Harrow Council doesn't want its elected councillors to be the first port of call for all issues! Not to be cheeky, but using this approach might make this current administration sit up and listen - to find your local councillor, click here.

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Standing up against Tory Extremism

The Liberal Democrats are standing in this election for a Greener, Fairer and more caring Britain.

I joined the Liberal Democrats in July 2016 because I had a great sense of foreboding of where the country was heading. The Brexit vote had stirred up some deep emotions and had divided the country in a way not seen for generations.

While I disagreed with many of the reasons for Brexit, wanting to leave a political union, a longing for economic ‘independence’ (that we had always had in reality), I at least understood some of the more logical political arguments despite vehemently disagreeing with them.

The aspect that I never understood or was willing to accept was the attacks on Freedom of Movement and the xenophobia inflicted upon many people who had chosen to make the UK their home. The UK has always been a country of immigrants, from the Roman, Viking or Norman influences of the first and early second Millenia, to the Jewish and Irish people who settled here in the early 1900s, to the pioneering spirit of the Windrush generation in the 1950s/60s who came to help rebuild Britain after WW2, and indeed those of Indian descent who escaped the persecution of the Idi Amin regime in Uganda.

The UK has always been a home for people fleeing persecution and for people from multiple cultures who want to make themselves a better life.  I always wondered what the Conservatives would turn to next when their Brexit project was shown up as a failure, and now we have the answer, outright racism, xenophobia and a new Conservative Party Policy of forcibly relocating poor and desperate refugees to Rwanda, a country that is itself poor and still recovering from the scars of civil war and genocide.

The Conservatives new policy would have had pride of place on any British National Party leaflet of old and is abhorrently similar to Hitler’s infamous suggestion to forcibly relocate Jews to Madagascar. This is People Trafficking by any other name.

The Conservative Party has abandoned all pretence of being a party of the centre ground, and rather than coming up with actual solutions to this country’s problems they try and find easy scapegoats.

This is personal for me. My family is a story of successful and integrated immigration spanning multiple generations. Being the son of a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, my ancestors came to this country at the turn of the last century fleeing persecution against Jews in the savage Pogroms of the late 1800s. And my Muslim grandfather seeing the opportunity to study medicine and become a Doctor made London his home in the 1930s. Both sides of my family chose London as their home, as it represented the ‘British Dream’ and is beacon of freedom, tolerance and prosperity.

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