Over the last couple of weeks or so, it's been an interesting time in Parliament as we have seen more papers released to me on Heathrow. Locally I've done my best to help resolve things on the Half Moon pub situation and also to make sure that work on Southfields station is progressing. We've also seen some improvements to the District Line service that should help local commuters. Read on for more of an update.
Heathrow – “Collusion” worries at DfT After one and half years of avoiding responding, with a lot of help from the Information Commissioner's office, the Department for Transport, has finally given me another set of papers on their discussion and debate with BAA in the run up to the consultation taking place. The Sunday Times article sets out the main concerns the papers raise http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6936339.ece
Even officials thought they were open to being accused of collusion apparently. With the papers released, it was clear that not all the discussions and emails had been released. For example, in one email BAA lobbied the DfT to have a shorter consultation than the 16 weeks originally planned. Ultimately the consultation lasted 14 weeks, but nowhere does that decision to reduce the time seem to be documented. When I asked the Aviation Minister Paul Clark why they had released so many email discussions that had no final resolution, he said that it was possible some emails and correspondence had been “not retained” which I presume means deleted. Again the Information Commissioner's office is now following up. If all Ministers have to do to avoid transparency is delete emails then it really makes Freedom of Information laws almost pointless.
Changes to the planning laws mean that we will likely see a planning application on Heathrow rushed through after the general election if the current set of Ministers stay in power which is deeply concerning. Interestingly, last week the EU Environment Commissioner announced that the UK has failed to meet the minimum EU air quality requirements in Greater London and has also refused to give a time extension. Enforcement action will now be taken by the EU and it seems mad that against this backdrop the government still won't back down on expanding Heathrow, which will make air pollution even worse.
District Line and Southfields Station The new Circle Line finally kicked in last week and locally it means that we've also seen improvements – namely more District Line tubes that are city-bound. The extra Circle line capacity will mean the service to Edgeware Road also gets better but has meant that we can have more direct tubes into the City which better matches the mix of where our local commuters are travelling. Hopefully we should have shorter journey times through less standing around at Earls Court and also reduced congestion there as a result. Next year we start to see the larger, air conditioned tubes replacing those that currently run to Edgeware Road and that should also make journeys better.
Locally, Southfields Station modernisation is also well underway. Along with Richard Tracey AM, last Friday I had chance to look around the work that's already happened with London Underground. The ticket area will be opened up again around June next year and the lift will be completed a few months after that. The shaft hole has already been dug out so you can see where it will go onto the platform and it should make a big difference to the accessibility of the station. In the meantime, after I followed up concerns raised by a constituent who is visually impaired, London Underground has agreed to put down some guidelines on the hoardings that will help ensure that the station can still be navigated around by even those people with little or no sight.
Half Moon Pub As PutneySW15.com readers will know there's been a huge campaign to keep this historic Putney pub as a music venue. I've met up with the Half Moon pub landlord and also been in touch with the Youngs Chief Executive, Stephen Goodyear, to find out what I could do to help as MP. I understand that they have now met to discuss how to resolve the commercial issues. I'm very hopeful that the Half Moon pub as a music venue can be saved which would be great news. The publicity around the pub's future has hopefully reminded people that it's had some great bands play in the past and I am sure that many more will want to play at the Half Moon pub in the future.
Out and About I held my weekly MP surgery at the new Wandsworth Library for the first time on Saturday and hope that it will be an easy venue for people to be able to come and see me at. I'll still be holding surgeries at Roehampton's Danebury Avenue Library, Putney Library, Southfields Library and also the Open Door Community Centre, so if you do want to come along to one of my MP surgeries, there should be one very close to you at some point soon. If you would like to find out more details then give me a call on 020 8946 4557. Last week I also joined Southfields Grid Residents' Association who were carol singing outside Southfields Station which was cold but good fun. We were raising money for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability who I'd met up with earlier in the day.
Remember, if you need my help as MP do get in touch - you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org , write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA or come to my weekly MP surgery. I'll do my best to help. It's been an eventful year and 2010 looks even more eventful with a General Election looming. I feel very privileged to represent our community in Parliament and can I take this opportunity to wish all fellow residents across Putney, Roehampton and Southfields a very happy, peaceful and restful Christmas and New Year!
Justine Greening MP
December 21, 2009