Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Water, water everywhere: basements and hydrology reports

Planning applications have been one of the most common things local residents have come to me about in my 12 years as a Fortis Green councillor.

Increasingly, one of the big concerns has been about the scale of excavations for basements and the effect that has on water flow for flooding or redirecting of underwater flows. There's at least one such application (actually a proposed amendment to an approved application) in my ward now, on Woodside Avenue at the rear of Lauradale Road.

One of the ways the Planning Committee, made up of councillors from across Haringey, tries to deal with concerns of residents on this front is to slap a condition on planning permission that a hydrology report must be produced before digging work begins. All sounds like a sensible check and maybe that's the end of the problem?

Well, the $64,000 question is - what exactly counts as a hydrology report? I asked the council exactly this a month or two ago and was told this is what is needed to satisfy a condition like that if attached to planning permission:

When a hydrology report is submitted to discharge a planning condition it is expected that it is produced by a professional with the requisite expertise and the report should set out the expertise the author has. The report would be expected to assess the impact of the development on the hydrology of the area. The exact contents would depend on the ground conditions and geology of the area.

After submission the report will be assessed by planning officers taking account of local knowledge of the hydrology of the area and where necessary the expertise of the Council’s Flood and Surface Water Manager and the Council’s Building Control Department will be sought.

That's fairly vague, I'd say, and certainly in the past there have been hydrology reports that have had little more than a cursory "yeah, everything probably ok" sort of approach. For me, the responsibility really has to rest with the developer to provide a proper and fair analysis of what the effects of their work will be.

I'd be interested to hear from people either from Haringey or other council areas who have had good or bad experiences when it comes to hydrology reports and planning permission - you can contact me using the box on the top right of this blog.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Fracking in Haringey?

Coming from the Fylde Coast in Lancashire, where my parents still live, I'm well aware that fracking has already made the news for all the wrong reasons.

But fracking in Haringey? Seems unlikely, yes?

Well, I had a number of local residents contact me to tell me they were opposed to fracking last year and in March this year we had a deputation to Full Council by a local Friends of the Earth group. And while there are no known plans for anyone to try fracking in Haringey - and it does seem like we would hardly be the first choice to try - as Friends of the Earth say:

It might seem unlikely that anyone would try to frack in Haringey, but in principle a playing field or derelict factory would be a big enough site.

And I understand there has been fracking in urban Los Angeles already, plus the UK government has included much of Haringey on a map of where it intends to offer licences for fracking. So while most of us in Fortis Green might not be worried about any imminent threat locally, it is worth being wary.

I was happy when I spoke at that Full Council meeting to state categorically that I would oppose any attempt by anyone to get a permit for fracking in Haringey. And I'm also opposed to fracking being carried out anywhere else, for that matter.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The marathon emotional rollercoaster

Good luck to everyone running the London Marathon today - and a reminder for family and friends that you can track where runners are through the official website.

Having done the marathon four times (and I say 'done' rather than 'ran' deliberately), I've got an idea of how these things go. Each time it has been an amazing experience, but also an emotional rollercoaster - with no rhyme or reason, one moment you see a runner with a shirt commemorating a loved relative and think "that's so sad" and feel a bit teary, the next moment you see the same and think "that's awesome, I'm glad we're all doing this".

The atmosphere is great all the time and that rollercoaster is just part of it, I guess. Hope everyone enjoys it today, both running and watching.

The only bad news for me is that having done it in 2003 (for Terrence Higgins Trust), in 2006 (for Amnesty International), in 2009 (for Refuge) and in 2012 (for Shelter), the sequence does suggest I might have to do it again next year. Ouch.

The Dementia Manifesto for London

A resident on Woodside Avenue in my ward told me about the latest campaign from the Alzheimer's Society this week.

There are approximately 70,000 people living with dementia in London, and the Alzheimer’s Society have a mission to help make London "the world’s first dementia-friendly capital city". This essentially means everyone with dementia getting the care and support they need and not being isolated or forgotten about. The three overall aims are that everyone living with dementia should:

  • Get a timely diagnosis and appropriate post-diagnosis support
  • Receive the best quality care and support
  • Feel part of a dementia-friendly community and have choice and control over their own lives

Of course I'm happy to support these aims and the Alzheimer's Society have launched The Dementia Manifesto for London ahead of May's local elections across the capital.

If you are a Haringey resident, you can find information on local services for people living with dementia here on the Alzheimer's Society website.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Veolia: rubbish at rubbish

In twelve years as a councillor, some things have improved with Haringey Council. As complaints come in, the council does get better at responding - for example, while there are still potholes that need filling, there definitely seem to be fewer than there were when I was first a councillor. That's not to say that problem is fixed for good - if you live in Haringey and have a pothole that needs sorting, use the form at the top right to tell me about it and I'll get the council on to it.

Anyway, one area where complaints seem to be increasing instead of disappearing is waste collection. Even in the last few months, I have had more and more residents tell me that Veolia have failed to collect rubbish or recycling and there are overflowing bins both looking bad and often smelling bad. Of course, the latter problem is only going to get worse as we (hopefully) start getting warmer weather.

A particularly problem area is Queens Avenue. One group of residents in particular have been telling the council for months that Veolia have been consistently failing to collect their waste, but the problem continues.

The photo below was taken on Queens Avenue yesterday - and that is actually nowhere near as bad as it has been on that property in recent weeks. But it also wasn't the only property on Queens Avenue yesterday that had the same problem.

Residents have raised this lots of times, including formal complaints to the council. I've raised it lots of times too and the Leader of the Council and the local MP have been involved as well - but Veolia have not yet dealt with it. They just seem to be, well, a bit rubbish at rubbish. Which is unfortunate, considering that's what Haringey's taxpayers are paying them to do.

If you're having similar problems, please get in touch with me - I have often been able to help residents deal with rubbish and recycling problems. Certainly if it's a one-off missed collection then Veolia can be helpful in coming back to clear up the problem. The trouble is that in some places this sort of thing is happening again and again and Veolia either don't have the will or the way to find a solution. 

Seems to me that unless Veolia get their act together soon the council needs to pay someone else to do what should be bread and butter work for any council.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Concerned about rough sleepers?

Sleeping rough is never good for anyone's health, but in the current cold weather it's all the more worrying. 

As a local resident, if you're concerned about the wellbeing of someone sleeping rough, you can make a referral to No Second Night Out - either by calling 0870 383 3333 or visiting their website nosecondnightout.org.uk

For help with other housing issues, excellent advice is available from housing charity Shelter.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

St.Luke's Hospital site housing development plans - have your say

Many local residents will already be aware that there are plans to redevelop the St.Luke's hospital site in Muswell Hill - on Woodside Avenue, near the junction with Muswell Hill Road. The prospective developer has a website showing the plans they have been consulting on (although I'm not sure how up to date that site now is).

The formal planning application has now been made, which you can view in detail by looking through the plans on the council's website. As part of the consultation process, there is going to be a Development Management Forum next week, which is a meeting to discuss the issues of the application and give residents the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. The meeting will take place at 7.00 pm on Tuesday 29 January at The Royal British Legion on Muswell Hill Road, just around the corner from the site.

Whether or not you go to the meeting on Tuesday, you can object to or support the application by making comments through the council website. You've got until 1 March 2013 to submit your comments.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Charity auction for a signed Tottenham Hotspur pennant!

As you can see from the Justgiving widget on the right, I am running the marathon for Shelter in April - please do click through and sponsor me. Shelter do vital work supporting people at risk of losing their home, dealing with rogue landlords or desperate for just a decent place to live.

Tottenham Hotspur Football Club have kindly given me a signed pennant to auction to help raise funds for Shelter too. It's been signed by 9 of the Spurs players and comes with a signed Certificate of Authenticity too. The player autographs include my favourite Spur, Michael Dawson, and everyone's favourite Welsh winger Gareth Bale.

You can put in a bid for it by clicking here to go to eBay - the starting bid is just £4.99 so ideal for treating yourself or for a present for a Spurs fan!
All views expressed in my blog are my own and do not represent any other person, party or organisation