New Year message

2005 was a bit of a year – and then some.

As I look back over the year – I am thrilled with what we have been able to achieve. No – not just the General Election (clearly a stunning victory turning a Labour majority of 10,514 into a LibDem one of 2,395) but the causes and campaigns I and my LibDem colleagues have championed together with local residents. That’s what has made the difference in Hornsey & Wood Green.

Current battles ongoing perhaps sum up some of what I am trying to do in the constituency – which all boil down to making it a better place for local people to work, rest and play – to quote a famous old advertising tag line. I don’t think aiming for a clean, pleasant and safe environment is asking too much!

I’ll start with the Hornsey concrete factory planning application. London Concrete want to plonk a concrete batching plant on Cranford Way – right bang in the middle of a residential area – with schools and children and narrow streets – just the sort of place for over 300 HGVs per week to wreck the local ambience! I and my LibDem colleagues have been campaigning against this application since the moment it was lodged – together with great local group Green N8.

We passed the first hurdle with Haringey Planning Committee refusing the application – but in the way of the world – the developer has appealed and as I write we are in the middle of the hearings by Her Majesty’s Inspector to whom I gave ‘evidence’ the week before Christmas. You can read the evidence on my earlier blog posting about the concrete factory plans.

I invited both John Prescott and Ken Livingstone to see the evil that would be done. Neither accepted my invitation. Holding baited breath now and crossed fingers – this David and Goliath battle will be settled by the end of January.

Another battle that engages me is the fight against sitting mobile telephone masts near vulnerable people – like young children. The idea is to bring forward legislation that would enable local councils to refuse planning permission on the grounds of the precautionary principle – until such time as we have proof positive of what these masts do or do not do to our health. This doesn’t just happen in Hornsey & Wood Green but up and down the land. And of course, we all do use mobile phones, so we can’t be overly pure. The Government is still proclaiming that there is no evidence of damage to health. I have challenged the Government through Parliamentary channels to do the scientific studies necessary to look at the incidence of cancer around mobile phone masts in situ for 10 years – without which we are all in anecdotal territory. They haven’t responded as yet.

Locally, of course, we occasionally succeed and see off a phone mast application – but they relentlessly return nearby or at the same site but from a different company. Good news though – recently in a statement by the local Head of Planning in regard to refusing a particular mast in Fortis Green, he went as far as to say ALL future applications for mobile masts in the Haringey conservation area will be an outright NO from now on! Watch this space.

I am also still keeping up the pressure on Haringey Primary Care Trust (PCT) over the future of the Hornsey Central Hospital site. Following a long campaign against closure of the old hospital and then a long process of working with local residents and other interested parties – proposals for a new health facility finally came forth from the PCT for a mix of local health services and elderly care. However, dogged by funding problems caused by the withdrawal from renting some of the space by the Health Trust etc delays and fears about its future have crept in. So I recently met yet again with the Chair of the PCT and received personal assurances from him of his commitment to ensuring that the project goes ahead. But there must remain, until the public meeting in the New Year that he has promised me, concerns over what of the original promised facilities will actually proceed and get built.

As for policing – Safer Neighbourhood Teams are what we all want. They are what we have always wanted. But whilst London is promised complete roll-out in the next year – some ‘neighbourhoods’ are being left out. I have long campaigned to get a team into Highgate – and at last am encouraged that we are on our way to success. Highgate is split between three different boroughs. Now no police commander I know – despite their protestations about cross-border working – is willing to commit him or herself to an actual cross-border Safer Neighbourhood Team. So I have brought this to the Metropolitan Police Authority on several occasions. And am helped in my quest by Crystal Palace – ironically. Crystal Palace is split between five areas – and so the MPA are running a pilot there which if successful will be applied to neighbourhoods like Highgate which suffer from divided ownership. The sooner the better!

So – with obviously lots more going on than I can possibly begin to convey in this message – not to mention the fight of our lives against Labour’s attack on the fundamental principles of liberty and justice in our land – I look forward to a challenging and pretty energetic year ahead.

A very Happy New Year to you all!