What I've been doing this week…

Just to catch up with some of the events I have attended this week.

One was the consultation / exhibition of the proposals for the new Hornsey Depot. The land is owned by Network Rail and they can and will build this new depot where lots of the new longer trains will come for cleaning etc.

Prime concerns are obviously what this huge depot will look like and its impact on the new, still to be built, Haringey Heartlands housing development; noise, environmental impact; traffic etc.

So the task is to minimise the impact on the community – and ask for as much mitigation as we can get. That includes trying to get residents and businesses that might be affected coming to the exhibition and talking to the agencies involved. Mind you, someone told me that the Haringey failed to mention the proposed depot to the Heartlands developer – even though they have known about it for two years. Really awful behaviour!

It will on the plus side create about 250 jobs – and since the economic development side of Heartlands appears to be on the back burner – that might be welcome – so long as they are local jobs!

This week also saw the latest Stroud Green and Crouch End Area Assembly. Couldn’t stay for all of it but did catch a conservation officer from Haringey Council giving the low down on the change to conservation rules and areas. Strange that a conservation officer should be so cavalier and seem not to wish to protect our local backland sites from crass over-development.

So here we go again – Haringey fails to protect and allows developers to cram awful and non-social housing into the tiny spaces that exist behind rows of houses – often lock-up garages. Lord knows we have fought against this type of rubbish development for ever – but the buggers keep coming back – and of course Haringey just changes the rules to make it even easier for them.

Highgate Horticultural Society had its 150th anniversary – and as ever the blooms were lovely. I gave out the prizes and had a nice cup of tea and a chat. So much work goes into organising these events and they are delightful – but more exhibits are needed and more young new people to challenge the Gary Sycamores of this world who win all the prizes!

Milton Road had its first street party for 30 years. Gosia Shannon who has just moved there is the driving force behind the renewed event. It was really a pleasure to go there and chat to everyone.

Street parties are just the best local community event, getting neighbours together and making it possible for people who may never even have said hello to get to know each other. I met lots of lovely young couples moving into the area or just moved – and one couple who were thinking of moving and who Gosia had insisted come to the party. They thought it was brilliant! So well done Milton Road.

St Ann’s Police Station had its open day – to which I seem to come every year and it was as popular as ever. The young children just love to be able to sit on the police motorbikes and press the sirens – so do I! Most years my favourite thing there is to meet the police dogs – but this year they didn’t have the capacity to send any – so we had police horses instead – see photo. They are just huge!

The Big Lunch at Sue Hessel’s house in Crouch End was fun too. This was happening all over the show – people throwing over their houses and people bringing food round. It was Cllr Lyn Weber’s birthday (I don’t know which one) and Sue had actually baked her a birthday cake!

And last but not least – The Big Canvass! About 40 of us went out in Bounds Green to see what local people wanted to raise with us as issues. Found a lamppost blown over in the wind on Trinity Road! Lots of fun and very good feeling out on the streets there. Lots of issues raised. Lots of doors knocked on.

Crouch End CPZ and road safety measures

Thursday saw the AGM of the Haslemere, Waverley and Christchurch Road Residents Association, which was in Sue Hessel’s garden. And how lovely it was as she provides refreshments so it is social as well as business.

My Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Lyn Weber was there too – as was Sergeant McGrath from the local Neighbourhood Team. So – after drinks etc – the three of us sat to take questions.

The big issue was the CPZ. What shocked me was that many people there had not received either the consultation on the proposed CPZ nor the consultation on Coleridge School Safety Scheme. The latter is about the road traffic and safety schemes needed to deal with Coleridge School’s expansion from two to four form entry and which will mean that the school is divided by a very, very busy road.

The school will be up and running this autumn – but the CPZ and the safety scheme (or rather, whatever emerges after the consultations) won’t be there in time for its opening. That has to be a concern both in safety terms for the kids but also in terms of the residents who will have extra pressure on parking from the school in their roads (the triangle of roads around the new building) – where parking is already under stress.

There seemed to be also quite a lot of concern that Haringey Council would provide parking permits for teachers of infinite number. Whilst everyone was quite happy for a few permits to be issued on the basis of need – there was a view that simply being a teacher at the school should not be the qualifying criteria for any such permits. If that were the only criteria – then the number of permits would make parking impossible for the residents who are already going to experience the extra weight of traffic in their roads.

So – we will see what Haringey Council is going to do to both ensure safety and deal properly with the parking stress. It simply cannot be right for the school to open without any measures in place.

Muswell Hill Library and Hornsey Central Hospital

Muswell Hill and Highgate Neighbourhood Assembly – centred for its theme on older people in the area. Featuring were both the plans for Hornsey Hospital to become a polyclinic and the abandoning of the idea from Haringey for a restaurant in the centre of Muswell Hill Library – at which we cheered as the detailed case had never been made for it.

On the rest of the plans for the library (which is much in need of care) – there was still no timetable at all – and the Director of Libraries who was there didn’t know the timetable and didn’t have information about some of the basics of the plans. Not impressive. And the tragedy is that some of the ideas that have been talked about have been excellent – but it’s all being lost in a mess of vagueness and foot dragging.

And then the poor woman presenting the Hornsey Hospital update got it in the neck for the shameful consultation process taking place at present on the local Primary Care Strategy. Sue Hessel said that only seven people attended the first meeting and the second which is tomorrow night may attract just as few. They said they were happy to go to other meetings if invited but as I pointed out – having a meeting isn’t consultation – nothing like. So I’ve written my Highgate Handbook and Muswell Hill Flyer column on this issue (will post after it is published) as local people need to know what is going on.

Update: my article about polyclinics is now here.

Hornsey Central Hospital

Main event of the day was a public meeting organised by Save Hornsey Hospital Campaign titled ‘Save Local Health Services under Threat’ – which they most certainly are.

I was chairing the meeting and there were a number of speakers, including a really impressive doctor Jacky Davis who told it how it is. She laid out quite clearly the scenarios which are leading to the privatisation of the NHS and demonstrated the harmful effect that so called ‘patient choice’ has had in letting the private sector cherry pick – whilst the NHS (our NHS) is left with less funds and all the difficult cases.

We also had Maria Duggan – a local health expert and local resident – who spoke passionately about the death of services for older people in the west of Haringey. We have very high numbers of older people in the wards in the west of the borough – more than in the east – and yet no council facilities grace the west.

The long-promised all singing all dancing replacement facility for older people that was meant to be delivered in exchange for stopping the campaign to save Hornsey Central Hospital has never materialised.

In fact, the only bit of the proposals to supply beds for older people on the site has collapsed – a mix between Haringey Council withdrawing their sponsorship of that bit and the Primary Care Trust (PCT) taking so long and changing tack so many times that the Council gave up trying to work with them.

The Lib Dems have been campaigning for ‘Action Now’ on Hornsey Central Hospital after the six years of broken promises. Our fight is to make sure that health services are finally delivered – and that the development is about what is needed and wanted locally.

Shirley Murgraff – a long-standing community campaigner – tried to get across the urgency and extent of what was happening in the NHS and to get people signed up to the National Campaign to Keep the NHS. Richard Stein laid out the legal possibilities of challenging what is happening.

Sue Secher, Sue Hessel and Janet Shapiro all gave rousing speeches and more people are needed to sign up to the campaign. There are a number of fronts to be fought on – from pressurising Haringey Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to making sure everyone local to Fortis Green clinic is aware that they can now put in their two pennies worth on its proposed closure.

There was a representative from the PCT there who tried to say that they were consulting. But as the ‘discussion’ (she was careful to make this distinction) will only be advertised through the newspaper or on lampposts – so there will be another job to do to make sure that people really know what is going on.

The bid to the Government for £7million towards the cost of the new proposed health facility on the Hornsey Central Hospital site will soon be decided. Together with £3.5 million from a LIFT project and the sale of two clinics and some land – this delivers the £14 million funding for the new facility. Of course – the problems are around how much will be private and what will be additional rather than shuffling deckchairs.

The Liberal Democrats have a 5-point plan for Hornsey Central if the bid comes in – which is why I have supported the bid. My pragmatic stance is: let’s get the £7 million and then fight to get what local people want out of it. To get the money we have to jump through some of the Government’s hoops – however much we might disagree with them.

The five points are:

1. More GPs and clinic sessions provided – not just the existing GPs and clinics we already have reshuffled and centralised. There needs to be a real dialogue between the PCT and local GPs to ensure what is provided is wanted by the practices. It is essential that coverage of GPs and GP practices across the area remains and that there is a net gain.

2. Real engagement and consultation with patients, residents, voluntary organisations and health workers over the development and relocation of services. As the promise was originally to replace the services for older people – their needs must be addressed and therefore full engagement with older residents is a priority.

3. Improved public transport to Hornsey Hospital, to ensure it is accessible – particularly for older people and parents with young children. The PCT needs to work with Transport for London to get existing bus routes extended to reach the site and the W2 route reinstated as a minimum.

4. Protect our community pharmacies by working with existing pharmacists and carrying out an impact assessment before opening a new pharmacy at the Hospital.

5. Ensure that the proceeds of any land or property sale go back into site.

This is not an exhaustive list and there are lots of pitfalls and dangers – but at least if we can fight for net gain and proper, and I mean proper, engagement – then just perhaps we can squeeze something out of the current disaster.

Anyway – top marks to the Save Hornsey Central Hospital campaigners who had worked so hard to get this meeting together. It can be very hard work to get people informed and out of their houses – but the hall was packed and the passions ran really high.

Kennedy visits

Charles Kennedy comes to Hornsey & Wood Green! Visiting Weston Park Primary School on – incidentally – the 10th anniversary of the school council, who had democratically chosen questions to ask him.

Charles swept in – but on the way stopped to talk to Sue Hessel from the Save Red Gables campaign group, which we support. Hope that adds to pressure – then in to the school.

Whilst the original plan was for Charles to meet ten children, we decide with the head, that it wouldn’t be fair to have CK in school and for the other children not to have even seen him. So we go into every classroom to say hello. Good morning Charles Kennedy – they say. So sweet.

Then into the room with the School Council who ask a question from each class. ‘What will you do if you don’t get picked?’, ‘How will you save pandas?’ and ‘What is your favourite food?’

Charles handled it all really brilliantly – good balance between substantive answers but put in a friendly way without being condescending.

Then after about 20 minutes the children went back to their lessons and the media had their way with him. ‘Why had he come to Hornsey & Wood Green?’ Well – there’s an election … and we can win here! That’s what leaders do – turn up in top target seats! One journalist asked what I would do that the current Labour doesn’t? Charles immediately referred her to the Evening Standard poll of London MPs where LibDem MPs took first, second and third place for hard work etc. Then the leader’s tour sweeps on to the next seat and we get back to our normal campaigning.

Future of Red Gables

Off to meet parents and children at Red Gables – a special facility in Crouch End for children with particular needs.

Red Gables is a local success story helping children and parents and doing a great job. So of course, Labour want to close it. Lib Dem colleague Cllr Ron Aitken spotted this in the mountain of papers we get (for meetings we are not allowed to speak at). He contacted the parents and with local resident Sue Hessel brought it into the public forum. At council we have a deputation led by Sue and a motion moved by Ron.

It’s becoming quite a hot issue, with Labour not playing straight with residents about what their plans really are for Red Gables.