Cllr Joanna Biddolph asks Hounslow’s leader Cllr Steve Curran to do the decent thing …

Cllr Joanna Biddolph today asked Cllr Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow Council, to do the decent thing and admit his group has made a mistake; remove the temporary schemes; hold a proper unbiased independently-run and independently-evaluated consultation to draw up suggestions; then consult on those suggestions. Her email followed an exchange about the number of supporters on each side of this debate. Read her request in full – and Cllr Curran’s reply.

From: Councillor Joanna Biddolph
Sent: 06 October 2020 14:32

Dear Steve,

The petition numbers are climbing so please check again. However, we know what the attitude was to the 5,542 who signed the petition against CS9: Residents’ and shop owners’ views don’t count. We want it. We’ll approve it anyway.

You have no understanding of the level of anger there is in Chiswick. Desperate Tweets from Guy about no gridlock at noon and some (to be paid for) parking in roads too far from the shops to be helpful don’t cut it with Chiswick residents. Or our traders. Unannounced visits to brag about self-watering planters or dropping in to talk to Devonshire Road traders on a Sunday when most shops are closed simply prove how out of touch your group is. Or how unwilling it is to face facts.

Our shops – by far the greatest number, independents and chains, are in Turnham Green ward – have so little trade even they, polite till the end, are livid. But we know the retail economy is of little interest to you or your group. You haven’t had the good manners to respond properly to the Chiswick Shops Task Force report “Ensuring a thriving retail economy in Chiswick” with its 32 ideas and overall plan to boost the whole of our retail economy. Or to respond to a request for support for the Independent Chiswick project which supports all Chiswick independents and which could be copied in our borough’s other retail economies. Instead of supporting locally-driven ideas generated by years of listening to residents and traders, you rush to grab other people’s money to fulful the ideological dreams of a few, most of whom do not live in, work in or even visit Chiswick except for photo opportunities.

You have, to use one of your favourite phrases, misread the room.

You can save face by reversing these schemes immediately, asking residents and traders what would work best in Chiswick not because we all want to use our cars to the max but because we already choose walking or cycling first, public transport second, and driving as a last resort when it’s essential. Why? Because we know and understand the arguments about pollution, health and the climate emergency and because … Chiswick is already a 15-minute city. Look at where our homes are! The vast majority of us live within easy walking distance of the centre. Many of us get on our bikes, too. Our network of buses and tubes means all but a few live on roads that enable them to hop-on and hop-off to enjoy our much-valued and much-loved neighbourhood. Not any more.

Not only have you driven those of us who need to drive onto previously less-used roads, pushing congestion and pollution away from roads where the air quality is monitored and onto those where it is not. And driven away people for whom Chiswick is a destination. But you have also driven us to shop elsewhere where we can park and, as everyone knows, when in a supermarket the temptation is to load up with other goods we would normally have bought locally in independent shops. That’s not a double-whammy. It’s not even a triple-whammy. It’s a quadruple-whammy. Shifted, not reduced, congestion and pollution. Shifted, not supported, local shopping especially in independents. Shifted, not encouraged, the visitors’ pound. And the result will be ruined livelihoods, empty shops, and a town everyone is forced to drive out of.

Residents and traders value the fact that what Chiswick offers has widespread appeal, that it brings shoppers, diners, heritage visitors, river lovers to our town to spend their leisure time and their money here. Your group does not. Why spoil it? As one resident said last night, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Your group has broken Chiswick.

Driven by envy? Lack of ambition and aspiration? Your group could raise standards across the borough. Instead it chooses to lower them in Chiswick, turning the character and attractiveness of our town, and neighbourhoods within it, into what one resident described as “Belfast during The Troubles” and another “the barricades of Berlin”.

Your draconian ill-thought out schemes are putting our traders on Chiswick High Road, Devonshire Road, Fishers Lane, Turnham Green Terrace out of business. Your draconian ill-thought out schemes have divided our town geographically north-south and east-west and within wards. Our email inboxes are overwhelmed with complaints.

Do the decent thing. Admit your group has made a mistake, remove these temporary schemes, hold a proper unbiased independently-run and independently-evaluated consultation to draw up suggestions then consult on those suggestions.

This is change management. It should not be driven by money-grabbing. Money that you have to pay back to the government must, surely, now be in the council’s coffers from all the PCNs issued when residents and visitors made mistakes turning into badly signed roads which they have driven down for years.

This is a reputation crisis of your own making. All you need to do is to acknowledge you have made a mistake, apologise, say you want to put it right – and put it right.

I urge you to do that right now.

Jo

Councillor Joanna Biddolph | Turnham Green

Reply from Councillor Steve Curran, leader of Hounslow council

From: Councillor Steve Curran
Sent: 06 October 2020 15:15

Thank you for your email I note your comments and concerns.