Including Hammersmith Bridge closure, Putney High Street, BREXIT and more
Although I hope we all had an Easter break during the month, I've spent a lot of time working on how we can combat the challenges that Putney High Street, Southfields and also Southside Shopping Centre face in staying as vibrant local shopping areas. Meanwhile inside Parliament, the focus on trying to find a route forward on Brexit continues and takes up a huge amount of time both inside and outside the chamber. Although Parliament had a shortened Easter recess, there is plenty going on locally in our community that I'm involved in. If you ever want to get involved with any of the projects I'm working on, do get in touch.
Working for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields
In April, I had a busy month getting out and about locally around Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, and working on the local and national issues raised with me by residents. I:
• Wrote nearly 1700 emails and letters to constituents.
• Spoke in debates and asked Parliamentary questions on:
• Climate Change
• Loan Charge
• EU Withdrawal
• You can see all my contributions here.
• Met with Nicola Grant of the Putney Business Improvement District to discuss next steps on how the BID can work jointly with me to support Putney High Street and the wider Putney town centre (more details below).
• Chaired a meeting with Ark Putney and the Roehampton Playing Fields Community Trust to discuss how the school might want to use the playing fields for student activities.
• Discussed options for keeping Post Office services on Inner Park Road with the Post Office to ensure they find a new site following the decision by Martin McColl newsagents to close their store. The Post Office is clear that it does not want to lose provision of the services locally as well which is good news. There are some options to potentially relocate the Post Office services and keep them in the immediate vicinity. It's a real walk down to the Southfields Post Office so we don't want to lose services around Inner Park Road, even temporarily.
• Organised a clean-up of Putney foreshore and embankment with Tideway and Keep Britain Tidy after Boat Race Sunday. I also hosted a Tideway drop-in in Parliament for other MPs to get better briefed on the overall project and why it matters for communities like ours who currently suffer from huge amounts of sewage directly going into the Thames right on our doorstep.
• Met with a number of businesses, including Hays Travel, Curtins, Severn Trent, and Schroders to encourage support for my Social Mobility Pledge Campaign which Wandsworth Council and local companies are also part of.
• Arranged for an on site meeting between myself, local residents and Wandsworth Assistant Director of Traffic Nick O'Donnell to discuss solutions to narrow pavements by the Gate House along Lower Richmond Road heading towards Barnes. There have been increasing concerns over road safety especially given how many children use the route to go to sports facilities at Barn Elms. We were able to come up with several improvements that are straightforward, but will hopefully improve safety and visibility for pedestrians and also motorists.
• Met with Southfields Grid residents to support their fantastic Greening the Grid project which sees them planting and taking care of little patches of gardens around the trees along the streets. The Putney Society are looking at a similar project in central Putney, so if you're interested in getting involved with that let me know and I can pass on your details.
• Went to support Rosslyn Park Rugby team in their closely fought, but ultimately winning match against Cambridge. Great job!
Sign my petition to re-open Hammersmith Bridge
As many residents may know, Hammersmith and Fulham Council have take the decision to close the Hammersmith Bridge, supposedly temporarily. The poor communication as to why the bridge is closed is unacceptable and has caused a lot of disruption for our local Roehampton community.
Hammersmith and Fulham have known about the problems with the bridge for years, and just let things get worse and worse. I’ve previously written to them raising my concerns as a local MP, not least because our local bus services, including the no 72 route, were already disrupted even with the bridge open. The closure of the bridge affects everyone, not just Roehampton commuters, but the wider local community and students at University of Roehampton too. It will also mean extra pressures on Putney Bridge traffic when we already have air pollution issues in our High Street from traffic pollution. I’m working hand in hand with our local Wandsworth Cllr leader Ravi Govindia, and also Zac Goldsmith MP and Greg Hands MP who also have their own local communities affected. We have urgently written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling to ask him to put pressure on Hammersmith and Fulham to now act and are in discussion with TfL who are increasingly now involved in working out the best action to take.
The best outcome is to get repairs done and reopen the bridge, but it is concerning that the repairs may be so significant and costly they raise broader questions about whether the bridge can be used by traffic again. That would be a major challenge, but if residents have views and other ideas about how we look at the bridge and north-south crossing of the Thames, it would be helpful to get a sense of different views and ideas.
In the meantime, it looks like the bridge may be closed for some time and we are petitioning Hammersmith and Fulham Council and TfL to be clear we need not only a short term solution but also a long term strategy for Hammersmith Bridge so please do sign it here to help me flag how important this is for us locally!
Palmhouse Planning Application on Putney Exchange
Along with local residents, I've been concerned about the Putney Palmhouse Putney Exchange rooftop development proposal, put forward by Incipio, to build a restaurant/drinking establishment. It's very disappointing that the permission for a restaurant was granted on Thursday 25th April at Wandsworth Council’s planning committee, voted through by other councillors in both Battersea and Roehampton, in spite of clear local opposition by people in Putney who's views were overridden.
In terms of next steps, Thamesfield councillors, who also opposed the development, and I will be meeting with Incipio to discuss the terms of their planning permission - especially in relation to opening and closing times, and the sale of alcohol. It's also important that we have a strict approach from the Licensing Committee at Wandsworth Council to ensure that the terms of the alcohol license for the Palmhouse is appropriate for the local area and its residents, reflecting local concerns.
In the longer term, I will be supporting residents' likely judicial review against the way in which the decision was made. If you would like to be kept up to date on this let me know by emailing me.
Wimbledon Park Road Parade of Shops
Many Southfields residents will be aware that the shops opposite Southfields station from 233-243 Wimbledon Park Road are under threat and that as a community we have been objecting to various planning applications for development for nearly three years now as we want to see them stay as local shops.
The developer has now submitted a new planning application to convert the back of some of these shops into flats, but redeveloping the buildings so that it appears that the French Deli will become an entryway for the new flats. You can see the plans here. A similar prior approval application was refused in 2016 as a result of our local residents campaign and we need to keep up the pressure to save our shops.
I am hugely concerned that this application, if approved, will make the entire parade of shops unviable. A massive back extension to the property takes up nearly the entire parking and delivery space for the existing shops. From a residential perspective I also have concern about the liveability of the homes proposed, given the lack of light into them, also a concern previously.
If you share my concerns, do make sure you respond and object to the application by 9 May to help save our local shops, and I will continue to keep residents updated as the process continues.
Putney High Street update and Future High Streets Fund
Meeting with Nicola Grant
Earlier this month I wrote to the Communities and Local Government Minister Jake Berry to support Wandsworth Borough Council's initial expression of interest about a future bid process for the Future High Streets Fund. It's a good chance for us to access potentially significant further funds that can go to improving transport connectivity and creating Putney High Street for pedestrians to hopefully improve the local shopping experience on the High Street overall.
Alongside that, I've meeting with Nicola Grant, the Executive Director of the Putney Business Improvement District (BID) which brings together local businesses and shops, to discuss what the BID's plan for the coming year is. The BID will continue to invest in extra cleaning of the streets and working with local businesses on reducing plastic. We also want to work more closely together to encourage other shops, both independents and chains into Putney. I'll be following up with some of the freeholders of empty shops on Putney High Street and the Putney Exchange to discuss rent levels, which I believe collectively are too high, and see if there could be any smarter approach to encourage growing businesses to come to our High Street.
Stop Press: Debenhams Southside has been announced as earmarked for closure. This is a massively disappointing announcement, especially given that a number of months ago, I had raised my concerns directly to the Chief Executive about this when the company first announced that it might close stores. I've already asked for a meeting with Debenhams to see if there is any possibility of reversing the decision to protect Southside shopping centre and also jobs. It comes just as the Wandsworth Ram Brewery site is nearing completion bring significant numbers of new residents in to the area, so seems a very short term decision. I want to see the store improved, not closed.
An update on Brexit
You will have seen that the Article 50 period has now been extended to 31st October to give the UK further time to finalise a route forward on Brexit. The Government continues in discussions with the Labour Party to see if common ground can be reached on Brexit, but at time of writing, it's unclear whether the discussions will bear fruit and when. I think it's vital to try to resolve the uncertainty for communities and businesses as soon as we can, so I hope these cross-party talks can reach a resolution rapidly.
I hope that this update gives you a brief snapshot of some of the things I am working on as our local Member of Parliament. As ever, if you would like to contact me or raise an issue, than please get in touch and I will do the best I can to help. You can email me on email@example.com, write to me at 3 Summerstown, SW17 0BQ or call my office on 0208 946 4557. You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to see all my latest updates.
May 2, 2019