December 2009

What can you get for £300million, and another £8.2million?

No, this isn't another blog about Zac Goldsmith's personal fortune, but a really excited response to the big news this week in Kingston.

£300million is the amount Kingston will be getting from the Building Schools for the Future programme. The first tranche of £100million will become available in 2012 when work can begin on a new secondary school in North Kingston. The rest of the funding will be used to rebuild or improve all the borough's secondary and special schools.

Given the imaginative design of the new building for Chessington Community College we can expect some terrific projects over the next few years.

Beside that figure, the sum of £8.2million does not sound much, but it represents a huge victory for Kingston. I've written before about the unprecedented demand for primary school places, a problem shared with most other London boroughs. It has taken a great deal of lobbying, by Edward Davey among others, to get the Government to accept that this is a problem that must be solved.

So the announcement of funding of £8.2million to provide permanent classrooms for all those extra primary school pupils is very welcome indeed.

Empowering Voices Online

For some months I have been involved in a blogging project, that is being run by the CivicSurf team. (You can just see a blue version of me there in the banner).

I've run a number of blogging workshops in the past, mainly for councillors, but this one is a bit different. It is aimed at people who want to provide a counter-balance to some of the more aggressive extremist and terrorist-supporting views that can be found online.

So, somewhat to my surprise, I found myself, with a colleague, promoting Empowering Voices Online at the annual conference on Preventing Violent Extremism in Birmingham this week. Met some very interesting people .....

On the way back to New St Station I walked through Birmingham's Christmas Fair, which claims to be the biggest German Christmas Fair outside Germany. It's main base is outside City Hall, centred around a traditional carousel, but the wooden stalls spread into many of the surrounding streets. There must have been a couple of hundred of them in all, rather dwarfing our delightful mini German Fair in Kingston's Ancient Market.

The refuse collectors get Christmas and New Year off

Although recycling and landfill waste collections now happen on Bank Holidays, the one exception is, understandably, over the Christmas and New Year period. So your bins may well be emptied on a different day from usual, and that information was given in a leaflet that was delivered some weeks ago.

If you've mislaid the leaflet here is a quick summary:

Usual day Revised day
Fri 25 Dec Mon 28 Dec
Mon 28 Dec Tues 29 Dec
Tues 29 Dec Wed 30 Dec
Wed 30 Dec Thurs 31 Dec
Thurs 31 Dec Sat 2 Jan
Fri 1 Jan Mon 4 Jan
Mon 4 Jan Tues 5 Jan
Tues 5 Jan Wed 6 Jan
Wed 6 Jan Thurs 7 Jan
Thurs 7 Jan Fri 8 Jan
Fri 8 Jan Sat 9 Jan

Local Development Framework - boring? vital?

In South of the Borough we have had to deal with some pretty controversial planning applications, and on many occasions the councillors have wished that they had stronger policies to support their decisions. So we are very interested in getting the Local Development Framework right.

The Local Development Framework is the complete collection of planning policies that underpin, and are used to justify, decisions about planning applications. The opportunity to review these comes only once every ten years or so. The review goes through a lengthy process of drafting, re-drafting and consultation.

Tomorrow we are using the Neighbourhood Committee slot to run a workshop on the latest draft, and everyone who is interested in planning issues is very welcome to attend and contribute to the discussions.

An earlier version of the Local Development Framework listed a number of options for each policy area, such as the Green Belt and housing. The current version has, after some consultation earlier in the year, whittled them down to single preferred options. Are they the right ones?

We will also be getting a first sight of the Character Area Studies which will be used to support decisions. Often when we councillors decide on a planning application we have to refer to the 'character of the area'. But sadly the characters of areas have been left undefined except in conservation areas (and we haven't got any of those in South of the Borough).

That was a real problem for us when we opposed the Somerset Ave proposals. We believed that a small cul-de-sac off the road would spoil the coherent 1930's street scene, but we did not have any formal evidence we could use to support this point.

The Character Area Studies break the Borough down into natural areas and give detailed analyses of the building styles in each. They also identify areas for improvement. I'm sure we'll find them really useful, but they must be correct, of course.

So if you are interested in any of this do join the workshop. It will be at 7.30pm, tomorrow Wednesday, at Tolworth Girls School.

Oh, and we've been promised that the heating will work this time!

Where to put your Christmas tree

Put it out for composting, but only if it is a real one.

After Christmas, of course.

The Council will be collecting trees on the same day as your normal wheelie bin collection during the two weeks from 11th Jan to 22nd Jan.

Hinchley Wood bus campaign victory!

I've been rather caught up with shopping and avoiding the ice, so haven't written much lately.

But we've just had some really good news about a long-running campaign.

Back in May, on my old blog I wrote about the need for a bus to take Chessington pupils to Hinchley Wood School. About 140 children from Chessington and Hook travel out of the borough (as they have every right to do) to attend this school.

They used to be served by a special school-time bus that also ran through Claygate, but Surrey decided to withdraw it because it was underused by Surrey pupils - ignoring totally the needs of RBK pupils. Since then it has been a battle with Transport for London to get them to acknowledge the problem and find a solution.

In fact, we had to get Edward Davey MP, and Carolin Pigeon (who chairs the London Assembly's Transport Committee) on the case.

And now, at last, we hear that Transport for London is going to extend the 467 route via Hinchley Wood School at school times.

A result! At last!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Congratulations! Councillor Yogan Yoganathan, MBE

Just heard the great news today that my fellow Lib Dem councillor, Yogan Yoganathan, has been awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours.

Many people probably don't realise just how much Yogan does for the community. He has been co-Chair of Surbiton Neighbourhood for some years, but he was active long before being elected as a Councillor for St Marks ward in 2002.

Yogan first became involved in community things when he founded the Kingston Tamil School. That led to several other responsibilities including acting as Chair of the very effective Kingston Racial Equality Council.

He currently chairs the Special Olympics Surrey (which I have blogged about several times), and is a trustee of Victim Support Kingston.

All this and Mayor too! In fact, I took over as Mayor from him in 2006, hence the photo.

Peter Moore

No, not the British hostage in Iraq who was mercifully released today, but a colourful character by the same name, who sadly died just before Christmas.

Peter was best known as a Town Crier; he served the Mayor of London, the City of Westminster and many London boroughs in that role. I took this photo at the annual Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival. He led the parade from Guildhall to St Mary-le-Bow.

Tomorrow, according to the BBC, he was to have been awarded a lifetime award at the New Year's Day Parade.

Also on the BBC site is a video newsclip about his disgust at being pictured, without his permission, on a BNP leaflet. In his characteristic robust style he says he despises the BNP.

In Kingston he was appointed as the Honorary Tipstaff, whose main job seemed to be to organise formal civic processions. The second photo below was taken on St George's Day. (My goodness, that's two photos of me in my mayoral rig in the same day!)

I met Peter many times, and I know he read my blog. In fact, we had a number of discussions about what he could include on his own website.

He was a larger-than-life character, with, not surprisingly, a booming voice, who became an icon of England in many feature films and documentaries. I remember him telling me enthusiastically about how he had appeared in a Bollywood movie set in London. We will miss him.

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