Local MP asks residents for their stories on post office closures

Following the closure of local post offices two years ago, Lynne Featherstone MP has this week written to local residents asking them for their experiences of the effects of the closures.

The Liberal Democrat MP will put the stories to Post Office bosses at a special meeting of Haringey Council’s watchdog body on 5th July, and pass the evidence to the responsible Government Minister.

Any resident who would like to contribute with their story should either send an email to lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or write to Lynne Featherstone MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“The closure of almost half of our post offices two years ago was devastating. I really believe it’s essential that local residents get to have a say on how this has affected their lives.

“Post Office bosses need to listen hard and make sure that they deal with any issues that local residents raise.”

Cllr David Winskill, Liberal Democrat Lead on Overview and Scrutiny adds:

“It is unlikely that in the present financial climate these Sub Post Offices will re-open.

“However the lessons of the effects that these closures have had on the community and business should not be forgotten and hopefully will be used to halt any further reduction in the network.”

Local MP demands urgent meeting with hospital boss after worrying news of merger

Following the recent news of a potential merger between the Whittington and the Royal Free Hospital Trusts, Lynne Featherstone MP has today demanded an urgent meeting with the Whittington Chief Executive to ensure local residents’ concerns are taken on board.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“I have today demanded an urgent meeting with the Whittington Chief Executive, to make sure local residents’ needs and concerns are at the heart of any debate about merging these two hospitals.

“Many local residents already have to travel long distances to get to their nearest hospital and I want to make it clear to the hospital bosses, that a further deterioration in service is unacceptable.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor David Winskill, Member of the Haringey’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, adds:

“For some time now, there has been a lot of concern about what the Darzi plans for London’s health services will actually mean.”

“Although there are some very good aspects, it seems that the full implications for our network of general hospitals have just not been thought through. This is a matter I will be pursuing through Scrutiny.”

Haringey Council to investigate digital aerial 'opt out' after action by Liberal Democrats

Haringey Council will now investigate the feasibility of an ‘opt out’ from the installation of new digital aerials scheme for local leaseholders. The success for the campaign led by leaseholder groups and Liberal Democrats came after a special meeting of Haringey Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee last week (1st October 2009) to hear concerns raised by Liberal Democrats.

The committee agreed that Homes for Haringey should report back on the possibility of an opt-out for leaseholders who do not want the new aerial system installed. Since Haringey Council started the scheme, many leaseholders have paid more than £1,000 for installation.

Liberal Democrats have welcomed the feasibility report but have said that they will not stop the campaign to get a better deal for local leaseholders and will continue to closely scrutinise the financial management of the Decent Homes project, which has come under increasing criticism.

Cllr Richard Wilson, who presented the Liberal Democrat ‘call-in’ last week, comments:

“Whilst we welcome this small step in the right direction it was disappointing that the Labour councillors, once again, rubberstamped this dubious cabinet decision.

“The Decent Homes programme and budget continues to be out of control. Agreed standards of work have been exceeded without finance in place, leaseholders have been ignored, and consultation has been non-existent.”

David Winskill, Liberal Democrat lead on the Overview and Scrutiny committee, adds:

“I was shocked at the lack of understanding of how this £198 million scheme has changed so much. Nobody seemed to know how Homes for Haringey had veered away from the specifications agreed by Haringey Council in 2005 and, more worryingly, nobody seemed to grasp that this may have an effect on the standard or amount of homes that will be renovated under Decent Homes.”

Lynne Featherstone MP, adds:

“The way in which leaseholders have been treated is a symptom of the failure by Haringey Council to get value for money from this project. I’m glad efforts from local leaseholders and my Liberal Democrat colleagues are making progress, but we will not stop there.”

Note: Local Liberal Democrats have set up a petition at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/aerialscampaign

Crouch End lap-dancing application rejected

Thank goodness! Councillors turned down the lap-dancing club application in Crouch End. It’s been a very long and hard fought campaign – so congratulations to Alison Lillystone and all of the local people who worked so hard to present such a brilliant case. My LibDem colleague Cllr Dave Winskill has been working with the campaign group every step of the way – and I have done whatever whenever I could to help.

The report says the applicants may go to the courts and appeal the decision – but I hope they don’t. The new laws coming into effect soon change the status of the license that lap-dancing clubs need. Currently they only need the same license as a club or pub – but under the new laws they are classified as ‘sex-encounter establishments’ and will need a different license – one in which the location plays an even stronger determinant than currently.

So – as they have lost at this point, the chances of them getting a license under the new laws are even less. And they may be considering trying to get in before the law change – but in the Commons I pushed the Minister to state quite clearly that even if they were to succeed and get a license now – they would still have to apply for a new license as soon as the laws come in.

In the end – this is about location. That has always been the point and the reason for upset for local people. This was just the wrong place.

Lap Off!

So – finally – the licensing meeting to decide the fate of the lap-dancing club application at the Music Palace in Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, happened last Thursday evening.

The gallery was packed, literally packed, with those who had come to support those objectors who were presenting their case to the licensing committee to try and get this application refused.

The Chair started by asking the applicant’s representative to distinguish between lap and table dancing – which in the end it transpired was not hugely different – other than lap dancing was direct to the client’s lap (sort of obvious) and table dancing was at a table.

And then to the presentations by objectors. First up Cllr Dave Winskill (LibDem) who gave the background to the campaign, described the location (and in the end it is the location that makes this application ungrantable – if that’s a word) and put the application in context of the high level strategies that are meant to guide councillors and officers in how to achieve the sort of borough we want for ourselves and our children.

Local parent Lindsay Wright, who lives a stones throw from the proposed site (and who is two weeks short of giving birth to a baby) gave the most brilliant rational for refusal around Haringey’s own licensing policy – and showed that the application would run a coach and horses through it. When the Council’s own licensing policy says that there is a duty to promote safety and wellbeing etc……… She also, despite the difficulty, described explicitly what lap-dancing was (unlike the applicant’s answer above) with precise detail about proximity and touching – too explicit for me to put on blog.

Four further objectors the addressed the key licensing objectives: avoidance of public nuisance, protection of children, prevention of crime and disorder – and told us about the effects that the granting of this license would have on their neighbourhood, their schools, their town centre and their children.

Then the Head of Hornsey Girls School gave a fluent and effective argument against granting the application for the well being and safety of the 1400 girls at Hornsey High – just around the corner.

This was not a moral crusade – but an outpouring of the real worries about the damage that the local community would suffer if this lap dancing club were to open its doors at that location. And that was the real point – the scale of opposition was all to do with the location – near six schools, two churches, Action for Kids (vulnerable people with learning difficulties), the YMCA and right, slap, bang in the middle of a normal shopping high street in a highly residential area.

The law itself is changing. Currently, a lap-dancing club only needs the same license as a pub or ordinary club. The new law, which has gone through parliament, and which will soon be enacted – changes that. Lap dancing clubs will be counted as ‘sex encounter establishments’ which is exactly what they are. And that new law has come about because of the particular trouble and disorder etc that occurs around such places.

However, even under the old law, together with Haringey’s strategies and licensing objectives – this application can easily be thrown out. Only four months earlier the same licensing committee refused an application from Bar 22 – a similar establishment – on the grounds of proximity to residential areas.

If the committee refused that application – then how much more reason they have to throw this one out too.

However, after two hours – the hearing was adjourned because there would not have been time for the applicant to present their case properly and take questions etc. So now we have to wait for the whole thing to be reconvened.

It was very disappointing because the presentations were so overwhelmingly forceful – I have no doubt that the committee would have rejected the application – and am not totally happy that the applicant (having heard all the residents’ arguments) will now have a few weeks to prepare before the next session. However – quite frankly – the arguments against were so strong it is hard to envisage what on earth the applicants would be able to say or do to make their case.

Well done to Alison Lillystone, whose Fairfield Road home backs onto the site, and to Lindsay and Carol and Stuart – and all who made such a brilliant case.

To be continued…

2,000 sign petition against lap dancing club location

Handed in the LapOff petition this morning with local campaigners and Dave Winskill (Lib Dem Crouch End councillor). Over 2,000 signatures against the siting of this lap dancing club plonk in the middle of local shopping high street.

Considering these were only collected in a two week period – amazing groundswell of local people. No – not nimbies – just a reasonable view that sex-encounter establishments need to be sited more sensitively than an ordinary pub or club. The law is changing to recognise this as we speak. The problem is the current application is under the old law where location was not a primary reason to object. However, there are so many good reasons for refusing both planning and licensing applications – I am hopeful that the submission we handed in today together with such a powerful petition will hold sway at the hearing on the 10th of September.

Crouch End lap dancing application returns

I had hoped that the applicants for a lap dancing club in the middle of Crouch End would take the hint – that local people didn’t want them there and that they would disappear forever with their tail between their legs.

The message from the campaign was quite clear: lap off! But they haven’t. They’re back!

So – the Lib Dems are pushing for there to be wide, wide consultation on this new application and for the views of residents to be heard loud and clear.

Indeed, the original application was withdrawn in the spring after really fierce local opposition from residents with their ‘Lapoff!’ campaign, helped by local Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Dave Winskill (Crouch End) has requested that Haringey Council organise a public planning forum to give local residents a real chance to raise their concerns about this fresh application.

We don’t know if Haringey will agree to that – but in the meantime we have until the end of June to object. The final planning decision is likely to be taken by 30th July. The Music Palace (which is the location) has to get both planning and licensing to be allowed to run their lap dance club.

Residents can comment on the application by going to the Haringey website and entering reference: HGY/2009/0953, or by contacting me on lynne@lynnefeatherstone.org or 020 8340 5459.

For more about the issues around the site of the application – and why it isn’t suitable – see my earlier YouTube clip: