Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We crushed them.

Councillors Report – November 07

London Overground

In the coming month, Transport for London will take over control of the East and North London Lines, which will be rebranded as London Overground. This is potentially the biggest single improvement in public transport in our part of London for decades.

Among the benefits promised on the North London Line are –
· Tube like train frequencies
· Staff on the platforms whenever they’re open
· New greener train fleet on order
· Oyster card accepted throughout
· Longer trains and more accessible platforms programmed

In the medium term, this will join up with the extended East London Line to form the full London Overground network. There will be local exchanges at Dalston, Canonbury and Highbury & Islington stations. The new East London Line will run south as far as Croydon, and in the longer term have a branch to Clapham Junction.

The investment needed has only been delivered by a Labour Mayor and strong Assembly Labour Group, working with our government.

Labour Group 16th October

The main discussions were about the benefits of Estates Plus scheme, and a senior officer restructuring.

Council 31st October.

Brian highlighted the improvements in our financial standing and systems, while Darren asked that the council is updated on Kings Crescent.

The opposition appeared in advance to have finally got their act together this time. But on the night, we crushed them as usual.

Parkwood School

Our local primary school continues to provide our kids with a great start. The SATs results for last year’s 11 year olds were again outstanding. It’s also important to understand that the intake to the school is significantly more deprived than the even the Hackney average.

Achieving Level 4 English Maths Science
Hackney average 73% 66% 77%
National average 80% 77% 87%
Parkwood School 87% 77% 84%

We are currently seeking a new LEA governor for the school.

Kings Crescent

Demolition is proceeding well with all of Codicote Terrace and most of Weston Court now gone. The contractors should hand over a clear site before the end of December.

The Regeneration Steering Group meets again on the 14th November. The main business will be updates on the proposed phasing, preparing the masterplan application, and future heating systems.

Woodberry Down

The masterplan application was approved on 10th September. The first of the detailed “Kickstart” (Phase 1) planning applications are due in the next couple of months.

The council is promoting objections to the listing of Needwood and Nichol houses. We will report the English Heritage decision once known.

Brain and Darren attended the latest Estate Development Committee on the 18th of October. Two housing associations have reached the final stage and are being considered for providing the social housing in the other phases. EDC representatives have been involved in both the shortlisting and final interviews and assessment. As previously explained, the appointed one will be required to establish a community based housing association for the estate as a dedicated subsidiary.

Portland Rise and Amwell Court

We are concerned that the first of the new style enhanced TRA meetings with officers and councillors either appears not to have happened or we weren't invited. Feryat will investigate.


Brian updated the board on our regeneration schemes at it’s meeting on the 17th October. Among the ideas they’re exploring to promote the area, is an ice rink in Finsbury Park over Xmas and New Year!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

18 months in!

Children and Young Persons Scrutiny

The C&YP scrutiny commission, which Brian and Feryat are members of, has launched an important enquiry into the causes of youth crime. A fascinating range of academics and psychologists gave evidence to the first hearing in September, with local practitioners to follow next Monday.

Labour Group 18th September

The main discussion was how we could achieve our commitments on housing modernisation, in the new circumstances.

Council 19th September.

Feryat highlighted the fact that GCSE results in Hackney have improved by a further 3% this year, and congratulated the teachers, families and young people responsible. Brian was acting Chief Whip for the meeting, which appeared to go well.

Audit and accounts

For the first time in living memory, the District Auditor expects to issue an unqualified opinion on the council’s accounts.

We have moved from a 2 star to a 3 star authority (out of 4) for the quality of our data.

The Audit Commission judges value for money against 12 criteria. This year, we met all 12.

Kings Crescent

The Regeneration Steering Group meets again on Wednesday 3rd October. The preliminary results of the door-to-door survey commissioned at the last meeting show almost 2/3rds in residents in those blocks due for demolition supporting that option, with only 9% in favour of refurbishment instead. The surprise result of the survey is that almost half of residents overall wish to remain council tenants or leaseholders.

Woodberry Down

The outline planning application was approved on 10th September. The detailed Phase 1 one is due in November.

The council is promoting objections to the listing of Needwood and Nichol houses. We will report the English Heritage decision once known.

Portland Rise and Amwell Court

Feryat will report.

Polling station review

Our comments and those of the branch, on the suitability of the Myddleton Grange Village Hall were noted. Improved signage and better quality poll card maps are promised. Accurate ones would be nice!


We continue to have at least one canvassing session per month. We need to continue this, and to begin to focus on GLA and Mayor of London issues as we move towards those elections next spring.

As well as the borough wide leaflets, we have also done three ward ones – one each focussed on Woodberry Down and Kings Crescent issues, and one general one. The three of us are indebted to Louisa and Robin for all their work on these.

We would also like to thank all the branch members who help with deliveries and canvassing.

Report for September and August

Woodberry Down

As detailed in previous reports, earlier this year English Heritage agreed to list the existing Woodberry Down primary school, meaning that at least it’s shell had to be preserved. The original plan had envisaged the current primary school site being used to build a new secondary, whilst a new primary was constructed to the west of that. Instead the secondary will now be built there but will also need some additional adjoining land.

This resulted in negotiations with Berkley Homes who are the Phase 1 developer, to swap land already granted for sites elsewhere on the estate. The good news is that the new sites to be transferred to Berkley’s include more prominent ones along Seven Sisters Road, including those immediately east of the tube station. This will give a gateway effect to the scheme, and mean these homes will be replaced 8 years earlier than originally scheduled.

We also took the opportunity of these negotiations to make that developer responsible for building the health centre, and business and training centre. In total we estimate this brings an additional £2m contribution from them.

The Cabinet meeting in July approved the land swap and other changes. It also approved the final secure tenant and leaseholder “offer documents”, which had been agreed with resident representatives.

We continue to negotiate with the existing shopkeepers about transferring to new units on the Old School Site.

Planning permission for the overall scheme is due to be considered on the 10th of September. Consultation has already started on the detailed planning application for the original Phase 1 sites.

A further issue has arisen with someone proposing the listing of Needwood and Nichol Houses, together with their twins on the other side of Woodberry Grove. If EH agree this, it would further complicate the scheme, and have particularly unfortunate consequences for the leaseholders in those blocks.

Kings Crescent

Deconstruction and clearance of the centre of the estate began in July. It’s important to understand that this is gradual deconstruction rather than a blowdown, with the aim that as much as possible can be recycled.

Negotiations continue between residents, the council and the development partners – Community Housing Association, Metropolitan Housing Trust, Durkan builders – through a Steering Group chaired by Brian. The meeting in August commissioned a door-to-door survey of the whole estate to establish housing needs in detail. A surprising number of tenants appear to want to stay with the council!

Hackney Homes audit inspection

Hackney Homes are the “arms length management organisation” set up last year to manage council housing. The recent inspection only classed them as a one star organisation, which was unacceptable. Its Chief Executive has departed, and the organisation has been told it must achieve a better result in the reinspection in 18 months.

Being rated a better performer would have given us access to additional credits which could have meant the Decent Homes programme being completed faster. However the council is committed to finding additional funding from within its capital programme.

Blackstock Road – Operation Rockrose

The six-month police operation against crime and ASB on Blackstock continues. The outline for the first two months was as follows –

week commencing 16th July - deploy mobile police station
w/c 23rd July - high visibility policing with at least 14 extra police officers
w/c 30th July - deploy automatic numberplate reader and traffic team
2nd August - London Fire Brigade visits and checks to begin
6th-19th August - anti-robbery initiative, deploying TSG
13th August - deploy mobile police station
28th August - LFB enforcement begins
w/c 1st September - deploy automatic numberplate reader and traffic team
w/c 10th September - deploy mobile police station, and high visibility policing with at least 14 extra police officers
w/c 10th September - environmental health, trading standards and licensing from both boroughs to begins visits, concentrating at first on education and later enforcement

Head of the operation is CI Jane Johnson, Islington Borough. In addition, there will be covert activities which obviously we can't publicise. Obviously also a major incident could lead to resources being temporarily diverted.

The three ward councillors and the Chair of our CAP, together with our equivalents in Islington, have been invited to sit on a community advisory group which will meet monthly throughout.

A meeting to alert traders on the road to the aims of the operation was held on the 16th of August. The traders present were keen to reassure us that those involved in crime were a small minority of themselves and their customers. They felt the Algerian community in particular was getting all the blame for what was a much wider problem. Reporting of criminal activity in the cafes tended to be low because of a lack of faith that the police would back them up effectively. They also wanted a lighter touch on immigration enforcement.

Arsenal matchday parking

A consultation on the possibility of introducing extra parking controls on matchdays has just concluded. We will report on the outcome once we know.


Finfest, an event aimed at promoting the area and encouraging our communities to mix, is in Finsbury Park from 1pm on Sunday 16th September. Please come along.

Street Trees

While some other boroughs are cutting back, Hackney is making a substantial to refill vacant pits and plant new ones. Trees make our borough a better place to live and help decrease our carbon footprint. This year alone more than 120 new street trees were planted in Hackney, some of which were in Brownswood. This was made possible with the funding provided in Labour’s 2006/7 budget and we plan to plant more

July report

Kings Crescent

The regeneration of the estate took a major step forward with the steering group holding two open days to consult residents on the initial proposals. All three councillors attended the opening with Deputy Mayor Jamie Carswell, and stayed for most of Saturday 30th June talking to tenants and leaseholders about their hopes and expectations. We intend to be represented again on Wednesday 4th July.

As previously reported, new development partners for the estate were finally appointed at the Cabinet meeting on 26th of March. The builders are to be Durkan and the RSL are Canalside Housing Association. Canalside is itself a partnership of two established housing associations - Metropolitan and Community – which was formed in the 1990s to take over some Hackney estates along the Regents Canal.

A significant and representative cross-section of both tenants and leaseholders attended. Among the key issues they wanted answers on or expressed opinions on, were-
o which blocks were staying and which going
o what terms would tenants transfer on, and would they retain a right-to-buy
o what about those tenants who wished to remain with the council
o how would leaseholders be treated, and how does “equity share” work
o how would estate management be improved throughout the regenerated estate

Hoardings have already been erected around Westmill, Codicote and the boiler room. Deconstruction is scheduled to begin next month. This was delayed for a further month due to planning permission for the demolition being deemed necessary. The area will be grassed and gravelled over until long-term plans are agreed. Some may be used to provide extra parking.

The regeneration steering group, which Brian chairs, and now involving the three sides – council, residents and development partners - met on the 13th, 18th and 26th of June in preparation for the open days.

The longer-term timetable foresees approximately six months spent in detailed discussions with residents, before a masterplan is completed and the planning application submitted. The planning process will probably take another six months, with major works commencing next summer.

Woodberry Down

Consultation on the Woodberry Down masterplan planning application continued through the first half of June. Darren attended several drop in sessions and wrote on behalf of all three councillors to support the application.

Brian attended the EDC meeting on May 21st, which was also their AGM. Most of the current officers, with whom we have good working relationships, were re-elected. They continued to be concerned about
· possible changes to the phasing, including as a consequence of the listings
· “lack of a people focus” in the planning process
· stability of the Manor House Development Trust, which is to operate the community centre
· crime and disorder, especially drug dealing and abuse

Darren attended a meeting between the council and the Manor House Development Trust on June 5th. The trust raised concerns about leasing arrangements for the new community centre and Darren communicated the local unease about the apparent lack of an economic or social regeneration strategy to complement the physical development. Deputy Mayor Jamie Carswell confirmed that from the council’s point of view, the trust was the best vehicle for locally-controlled regeneration in the area and the council would seek ways of supporting the development of the trust. Darren was elected to the board of the trust on June 19th, and will work with the chair and chief executive over the summer to build the board’s capacity.

Children and Young People

The council’s Children and Young People’s Commission, which Brian and Feryat are members of, intends to concentrate on youth crime reduction for some of the current year, including at its meeting on 2nd July.

Brownswood Road

There has been a further police operation resulting in the arrests of prostitutes and kerb crawlers, although the extent of the problem is less than before.

Policing on Woodberry Down

Feryat attended the meeting on Wednesday 16th May. Key issues were …………………….

Blackstock Road

The police are giving new priority to Blackstock.


Brian made a presentation to the Board on 20th June outlining the range of initiatives being undertaken by the council. They were particularly interested in the plans for Alexandra National House.

He also stressed that attempts to have Finsbury Park acknowledged as a town centre in planning policies, must include Hackney and not just focus on Islington.

Standards Sub-committee hearing

On 20th June, the Standards Sub-committee of the Council met to decide if Darren had a conflict of interest when chairing the Dalston Lane South planning application in July 2006. This was the culmination of a year long process following a complaint made by a member of the public to the Standards Board of England. The sub-committee is independent, and Darren’s case was heard by two local co-optees and one Conservative councillor.

Darren had admitted all along that he failed to declare a personal interest - in that he works for CABE, who were consulted on the design merits of the scheme. This in itself would not have meant that he had to withdraw from voting on the application. The committee rejected the more serious charge of failing to declare a prejudicial interest, which would have meant that Darren should not have voted on the application. As a result, Darren was partially-suspended (i.e. he can’t attend his scrutiny commission) until he undertakes training again on interests.

He is very relieved that this has finally come to an end. He has had to endure 11 months of misleading articles in the Hackney Gazette and a nasty, personal internet campaign against him instigated by those who were against the planning application he chaired. Despite what is contained on these websites, and contrary to what has been in the Hackney Gazette, the planning application did not decide on the fate of the Dalston Theatre. This was a separate application granted before Darren was elected and was subject to a judicial review.

Full Council – 27th June

We raised the thoroughness of the consultation process on the master planning application on Woodberry Down.

The Council also received a deputation of residents from Stamford Hill expressing their views on the proposals for planning “areas of exception”. They had tried to get local Tory councillors to arrange the deputation, but as usual found them disinterested in representing their constituents, and instead were introduced by Labour Clissold (and former Brownswood) councillor Linda Smith.

June 07 update

Woodberry Down

Darren attended the EDC meeting on May 17th where the planning department of LB Hackney presented the masterplan application for the redevelopment of the estate. Although broadly supportive, there is mixed reaction from residents regarding the narrowing of seven sisters road through the estate, and the amount and arrangement of green space. All local residents are able to view the application and submit comments by several means including via the Hackney website.

Darren also attended an open community meeting on May 30th where residents were able to question planning officers, the masterplanning team and representatives from Hackney Homes.

Brian has attended two further meetings with the retailers. Berkley Homes, who are the developers for the Kickstart Phase, appears to be taking on board their concerns. They are now intending to provide ten retail units of appropriate sizes on the Woodberry Grove side of the “old school site”. We meet with them again on the 5th of June.

There was a double shooting a Woodberry Down over the bank holiday weekend – one victim, who was injured in the leg, was a local resident and innocent bystander. Darren visited his family to offer our ‘get-well wishes’ and discuss issues of community safety on May 30th.

As the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) programme has come to an end, the programme team has vacated its offices in the Robin Redmond centre. Darren has been in discussion with stakeholders to see if the new library facility in the centre can now be expanded to provide a greater number of books, computer facilities and homework space.

Drugs Action Team

Brian and Darren met with officers from the DAT on 25th May. We got some useful information about the range of services they currently offer and those intended for development. We also raised particular concerns about dealing on certain parts of Woodberry Down.

Police Community Advisory Panel

Feryat and Darren attended the CAP meeting on Wednesday 16th May.

Blackstock Road

We have a meeting with Islington police and councillors on 19th June.

Kings Crescent

As previously reported, new development partners for the estate were finally appointed at the Cabinet meeting on 26th of March. The builders are to be Durkan and the RSL are Canalside Housing Association. Canalside is itself a partnership of two established HAs - Metropolitan and Community – which was formed in the 1990s to take over some Hackney estates along the Regents Canal.

Temporary hoardings have already been erected around Westmill, Codicote and the boiler room. Deconstruction is scheduled to begin next month. This area will be grassed and gravelled over until long-term plans are agreed. Some may be used to provide extra parking.

The regeneration steering group, which Brian chairs, now involves the three sides – council, residents and development partners. This met on the 16th May and 30th May, and will again on 13th and 18th June. This is intended to lead up to an open day for all residents on Saturday 30th June.

The long-term timetable foresees approximately six months spent in detailed discussions with residents, before a masterplan is completed and the planning application submitted. The planning process will probably take another six months, with major works commencing next summer or autumn.

Labour Group AGM

At the AGM, Brian was reappointed as Assistant Chief Whip, and Darren and Feryat were re-elected to the Labour Group Executive.

The Cabinet and their responsibilities remain as before, with the exception of the creation of a new post for environmental sustainability. Mayor Pipe appointed Dalston councillor Sophie Linden to this position.

Annual Council – 9th May

At the annual meeting, Councillors Faizullah Khan and Ian Rathbone were elected Speaker (the ceremonial Mayor) and Deputy Speaker for the coming year.

We were pleased to be able to invite a number of residents to join us for the meeting and the reception afterwards. Most behaved well.

Renewal in power

The contract for the council’s electricity supply has just been relet. For the first time, Scottish Hydro-Electric secured the tender meaning that (within the confines of the national grid system) it will all come from renewable sources. It’s important to recognise that this applies not just to office buildings but to all the other infrastructure for which we are responsible including housing estates and street lighting.

Review of polling stations

The council conducts a review of polling stations between each municipal election, and the current one invites comments by the 31st of July. We would suggest replying pointing out the unsatisfactory nature of the Myddleton Grange station for residents living on Queens Drive, etc, given the objections received on polling day. The other stations seemed to operate okay.


Apologies but we've not been able to access the blog for a while. The first few postings will be catch-ups of the past few months!