We pride ourselves as a party that pioneers the green agenda. We have been given a 99% rating for our voting record on environmental issues by Friends of the Earth.
We invested in renewable energy (Liberal Democrats held the energy portfolio throughout the Coalition) which encompassed both encouragement of wind farms, and the Green Investment Bank.
Locally, Liberal Democrat Councillors have introduced cycle friendly measures, such as implementation of cycle hangers, large cycle racks and supported mini-Holland schemes and home zones to encourage more people to cycle and walk.
Therefore, on behalf of the Ealing Liberal Democrat group, to explain why we voted against the borough’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes in the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) recently.
Liberalism cannot survive without the very principle of democracy, let alone thrive (after all, we are called Liberal Democrats!). We are deeply concerned about the lack of ANY consultation for schemes that affects such a wide range of people.
We were also astonished by the revelation that London Ambulance Service was not consulted in the LTN design process. There are currently at least four ongoing judicial reviews concerning Ealing LTNs. In all accounts this has been a total failure on the part of the Ealing transport portfolio holder and Ealing leader.
A petition that opposes this contentious scheme has attracted over 10,000 signatories which is a very large petition compared to many others seen in our area. It is wrong for the council to implement something so unpopular, something that causes such widespread disruption?
Some might argue that we must lead public opinion, not follow it.
Yet decision makers - chiefly Ealing Labour - must bring people together for a scheme that has such a wide impact in order for it to succeed. In this case, by listening to the alternatives residents have to offer with a genuine consultation that listens to a diverse range of stakeholders: including disabled residents, businesses, commuters, families, etc. In the similar Fishers Lane cycling scheme, in which the Liberal Democrats put in an amendment, many residents who know their local area much better than the decision makers have offered alternatives.
By putting pressure on the administration we managed to help ensure that they would admit they needed to engage with residents and so this has opened up a route where some of the bad schemes can be stopped and others that need amending can have changes made so that more people gain benefits without any of the issues seen such as huge levels of congestion.
Ealing Council made the changes to close one important road without any consultation. Three quarters of the Southfield residents surveyed were against the Fishers Lane traffic scheme implemented by Labour-run Ealing Council.
Residents raised concerns such as the lack of consideration of disabled people or residents with struggling mobility, the fact many are still afraid of taking public transport in the midst of Coronavirus pandemic, and increasing pollution on major roads such as South Parade due to congestion.
We all want to see more people walking and cycling but like many well intended programmes the rights of many are often ignored in the design process.
Councillor Gary Malcolm and other Londonwide Liberal Democrats are writing to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to request an extension to the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme until the end of October, so that it falls in line with the Furlough scheme extension.
The negative impact of the pandemic on individuals and businesses has been far greater than anticipated earlier this year, so the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme has been tremendously beneficial.
Burzin Mistry, owner of local independent Chiswick based café, The Post Room, pictured above added, “Eat Out To Help Out is fantastic. The scheme has boosted trade by 20 and 25% and is a lifeline for small, independent businesses like mine.”
The pressure that has been placed on councils to build additional housing in response to the London housing crisis has led to an attitude of extreme permissiveness towards developers by Ealing Council. Many of the planning proposals that have been brought forward recently suggest that developers have little consideration for Ealing’s local plans that are normally supposed to be the basis of Ealing Council’s long term planning strategy. This is clearly an untenable situation which will increasingly lead to short term thinking and generally poor decision making in planning. However, homes are needed, and we should remain absolutely committed to the provision of genuinely affordable housing, and ideally also social housing. Without genuinely affordable housing, anyone without a very highly paid job who isn’t already on the housing ladder will have to move out. But it is absolutely not true that giving free reign to developers to build whatever, wherever is the best way to accomplish this.
It is also clear that the main problem does not lie with an overly NIMBY council or a refusal to give necessary planning permissions as appropriate. If we take the Manor Road site in West Ealing as an example, the 2013 Development Plan called for a development “sympathetic to the adjacent residential area” on this site. The 2018 Neighbourhood plan, passed by a referendum, again called for a development here, but said that it was “not suited to any increase in building heights”. Given that the tallest nearby building is 11 stories, it seems clear that a reasonable residential development of a similar height proposed at any point in that time would have been granted planning permission quickly and easily. Unfortunately, the developer has spent the last several years pushing for 25 stories, and have revised that down to a “modest” 19. Assuming a generous 2 years to build a building of this size, the developer could have built 3 ten story buildings in this time frame, and be working on its 4th, hence providing Ealing with a significant increase in housing stock. But instead, they have spent all these years and spent millions on consultants to try and push the bounds of what is reasonable, evidently confident in the belief that the council will eventually crack.
This is however not a problem only related to massive housing projects. Smaller developments, particularly where Victorian houses are converted into small blocks of flats, are often pushed through by planning officers despite significant damage to the quality of life of their neighbours. This is also often done at the expense of the green space that their gardens provide. Private landowners should not be able to abuse our desperation for house building and spoil the local area and their neighbour's properties to make a quick profit. This is also an obviously inefficient way to increase housing stock. Large amounts of money is spent converting family homes into small, poorly designed one bedroom flats for the private rental market. The focus should instead be on providing a mix of well designed genuinely affordable homes of various sizes. Mansion blocks, for example, have been touted by many people as an excellent choice for medium density residential areas. In any case, we should not be satisfied with the living quality of housing and of residential areas being significantly lowered in exchange for small increases in the number of houses available, particularly without any increase in actual living space.
In any case, we Liberal Democrats absolutely believe that planning decisions should remain with local communities. What London Labour have implemented amounts to a system of house building quotas, with decision making powers being effectively stripped away from councils who fail to meet them. Meanwhile, the Tory national government is planning on taking decision making power away from councils altogether. We Liberal Democrats would keep the decision making power as local as possible, and encourage councils to provide additional housing through an increased program of financial incentives; a carrot rather than Labour's stick.
Ealing council should not simply ignore the local plans that they have passed, just because they are no longer convenient. Local plans are a necessary part of the planning process, and a key vehicle both for scrutiny and long-term strategy. Various Ealing councilors have indicated that they consider the local plans effectively obsolete, because they are not in line with the current London Plan. If that is the case, then the council must bring forward its new plans with the utmost urgency. In the meantime, the old plans must absolutely not be abandoned before the new ones have been properly scrutinised and approved by the residents of Ealing.
As a starting point, a consultation campaign should be run asking residents where and how around 500 new homes could be provided in their local community. This would allow us to create a community built map of where and what kind of developments would already have local support. From this, we would design local plans that proactively inform developers where and what kind of developments we as a community are looking for, rather than waiting for them to foist unpopular developments upon us. These plans would also create an easier planning culture for community-conscious developers, as they would have some indication in advance of what developments will be supported by the residents, rather than having to go through an iterative process of consulting on unpopular proposals.
Planning has increasingly become a core issue for many residents in Ealing, and needs to be resolved quickly. And it needs to be dealt with in a systemic fashion. While the work of organisations like Stop The Towers to oppose the worst excesses of developers is admirable, political parties and their councilors cannot keep up with the constant game of whack-a-mole that this has turned in to. We must instead come up with a plan for how to fundamentally change the culture around planning in Ealing, and start putting pressure on the local Labour Party to adopt a real long-term solution.
Liberal Democrat Candidate for Ealing Broadway
Following news that free travel for under 18s will stop after a deal done by Transport for London and the Government, Ealing Liberal Democrats put forward a motion last night to gain support for keeping free travel for the under 18s.
By supporting the Liberal Democrat motion, local Labour and Conservative parties have both disagreed with their national parties – about taking away free travel away from under 18s, which has been shown to be cost effective, promotes social inclusion and reduces road collisions.
Bollo Lane scheme may be unstoppable but residents' views must be heard
Local residents in Southfield ward will be well aware of the new proposals for new housing on Bollo Lane. The site is actually in South Acton ward, to the north, but the size of the development will mean its impact is felt far wider - 800 new units will increase pressures on local amenities and the skyline will alter for residents in Brentford, Chiswick, Gunnersbury and Ealing.
However, our part of the world is not alone in having to face the prospect of 18, 22 or 25 storey skyscrapers. I am on a mailing list called The London Week which is a weekly round-up of planning news from the GLA and London boroughs. It is clear that across the capital developments of equivalent size and bigger are planned. An article in last weeks’ Observer by Rowan Moore reported that there are 525 buildings of 20 storeys or more in the pipeline across the city.
It begs the question do we really need these skyscrapers? Liberal Democrats agree that there is a housing crisis, but are these developments the answer? Almost certainly no: new developments may tick a planning application box marked affordable housing provision, but most properties are still well beyond the means of those most in need. Consider also, the regeneration of the South Acton Estate, which has proved very successful, this has resulted in a significant increase in the number of residents but with no new building more than ten storeys high.
You do not need 25 storey skyscrapers to solve a housing crisis.
As local councillors we can oppose the development and point out some of the more absurd claims of the prospectus. The local planning authority is Ealing, this particular application (ref: 201379) should go to the Planning Committee. It may well be refused, but the developer can appeal.
Liberal Democrats say there are various ways developers can get round planning guidelines. These large developments can be referred up to the Mayor of London, and ultimately the Secretary of State can adjudicate contentious applications. Both the Mayor and the Secretary of State tend to push through these big applications despite local opposition from residents and the local planning authorities.
Sadly, it is likely that in some shape or form the proposals are likely to be granted permission. The views of local residents and the locally elected representatives will ultimately be ignored.
For local government to work Liberal Democrats believe that planning decisions must be taken locally but the process must be fair, transparent and involve all the residents and groups who might be affected by a development. This just doesn’t happen and so many decisions leave residents feeling that their views have been ignored.
Councillor Andrew Steed
Southfield ward councillor for the Liberal Democrats
For over twenty years, Liberal Democrats have campaigned with local residents in Chiswick for the Piccadilly line to stop at Turnham Green station during the day.
In the past couple of years Liberal Democrats have achieved two key developments by Transport for London (TfL):
- With immense Liberal Democrat pressure, TfL conducted an official consultation which showed that people strongly wanted Piccadilly line tubes to stop at Turnham Green during the day.
- This resulted in TfL agreeing that it is a priority to upgrade the signalling at Turnham Green to make this possible.
In the past month, a deal done between Labour’s Mayor of London and the Conservative Government has meant the much needed signalling upgrade is delayed indefinitely. This means they made a political choice to sacrifice the needs of Chiswick’s residents.
Southfield Councillor Andrew Steed said: "Only the Liberal Democrats have been on the side of residents in Chiswick on this important local issue for over twenty years – it is not the time to give up now."
Most media reports now drip feed us information of an impending deep recession, after 10 years of austerity that has had an adverse effect on society, this will be further major blow to peoples livelihoods, that will likely affect all of us.
A few years ago I went around the borough of Ealing with volunteers from St. Mungo’s, a homeless charity, and was shocked at how many people were sleeping rough on our streets, all with different reasons for being there, some were hungry and embarrassed to receive our help. The scale of this problem also prompted the three Southfield Liberal Democrat Councillors to donate £2500 of Ward Forum funds to Acton Homeless Concern to help fund good causes. To see people sleeping out on the streets is soul destroying, but to see people go hungry is unacceptable.
On Wednesday 22nd April 2020 a virtual Southfield Ward Forum took place, with 21 residents attending, which was held using the free meeting app Zoom. This is the first virtual ward forum in Ealing. Issues raised by residents included Coronavirus, food parcels for the vulnerable, recycling, rubbish collection, planning, air quality, trees and electric vehicle charging points.
Southfield Ward Forum Chair, Councillor Gary Busuttil said: "There were so many questions that residents asked in advance and the feedback from residents who attended was very positive. Liberal Democrats commit to running some virtual meetings even after the Coronavirus lockdown is reversed as some people said they would not be able to attend face to face ward meetings because of child or family responsibilities."
Last week the Liberal Democrats in Ealing put a budget amendment to ensure that the Ward Forum meetings which Labour planned to scrap, would not be axed. In the build up to the meeting Ealing Labour party reversed its total cut of the ward forums by delaying the moment they will be cut by one year. This gives a chance for residents and Liberal Democrat councillors to continue our campaign to save ward forum meetings.
Liberal Democrats would:
1 - Guarantee that ward forums would continue with budgets forever.
2 - Enable online local referenda like many other countries do to help Ealing Council spend money on projects that people want and need.
3 - Engage more formally with Residents Associations who often are ignored by the Council.
4 - Allow councillors to have the power to decide how a much greater share of the Council’s environmental budgets would be spent on their area with greater involvement from residents and businesses.