Posts filed under ‘Miscellaneous’
Author: Cyril Richert
We have 5 town centres in Wandsworth (Balham, Clapham Junction, Putney, Tooting, Wandsworth town), each with different characteristics, with their merits and short comings.
The Wandsworth Society is organizing a discussion of what can be done. The meeting will take the form of asking the members what they think of the five main town centres as defined in the Borough plan, why they are used, how they could be improved, means of access etc. (more…)
Author: Cyril Richert
A planning application for a huge extension of a cottage house located in the heart of a conservation area has been approved in St John’s Hill Grove, near Clapham Junction, despite the protest of many groups and residents of the area, including the Battersea Society, the Wandsworth Society, the Clapham Junction Action Group (see full objection HERE and THERE), and Wandsworth Conservation Area Advisory Committee (WCAAC). While 10 notices have been distributed into the close neighbourhood (ref 2012/3013), 7 people objected (while 3 support were received, but one was also with some objections!). (more…)
Author: Cyril Richert
A local architect has presented a project of a new footbridge linking Battersea square and Imperial Wharf and the final design has been submitted for planning permission before the Councils of Wandsworth (ref 2012/5261) and Hammersmith and Fulham (ref 2012/03582/FUL) in November 2012.
Author: Cyril Richert
I am convinced that the Internet is a great tool to spread local democracy and free views. By publishing and commenting all local information we may find related to Clapham Junction, that’s what we are trying to encourage here.
I am used to follow a few sites to be informed on activities of Wandsworth Council, and Wandsworth borough and a few weeks ago I discovered that a few more Councillors have decided to publish their views on blogs (and it makes a very interesting reading). Below is a list of what I gathered (feel free to add other interesting sites in comments).
- Cllr James Cousins – Shaftesbury Ward (oldest blog I know, since Nov 2008!)
- Cllr Tony Belton – Latchmere Ward (since Oct 2011 – Welcome!)
- Cllr Simon Hogg- Latchmere Ward (since Sept 2011 – Welcome!)
Amenities Societies and groups:
I’ve just found it today, but I am very pleased to discover that debates in the Wandsworth Council are published in videos:
Author: Cyril Richert
I have attended the last meeting organized by Wandsworth Living Streets (I must disclose that I am also one of their members). Patrick Langley (Arboricultural Manager, Wandsworth Council) gave a talk about trees in Wandsworth. Here are some facts:
- 15,000 trees in Wandsworth streets (28,000 in Croydon and 33,000 in Lambeth)
+ 20,000 Housing
+ 15,000 Parks (exclude Clapham Common, managed by Lambeth)
- 2 year programme inspection
- 4 inspectors
- Cost is £400,000 for 1 year for 50% of the borough trees (therefore a full inspection is £800k over 2 years).
Interesting comment made during the meeting, as the discussion went on the Peabody project: contrary to our feedback from the public exhibition, it seems clear that “the trees are not a priority for the developers“, which put in perspective the elements presented by Peabody to explain their concern on landscape and environment!
Author: Cyril Richert
However, the simple close of all services provided in the deprived area faced a strong outcry from local residents and deep concerns in other part of the borough. We were not the biggest voice against the targeting of this public service, but we published our opinion with an explicit title: Hall of shame.
Thus Wandsworth Borough Council was probably facing two sides:
- On the one hand it couldn’t withdraw a policy that it defended, without being seen as agreeing with the Labour opposition;
- on the second hand they heard the arguments and the opposition to what many considered as a completely unfair and unbalanced decision. 
During the meeting organised last December, Jane Ellison, Battersea MP, paved the way to the “exit-solution”, using the PR friendly idea set up by Conservatives spin-doctors: the “Big-Society” stuff (even on Conservatives websites they put quotes as nobody knows what it means exactly…).
It was confirmed on her website later as she wrote:
“Battersea’s MP has warmly welcomed the new proposals for continuing services at York Gardens Library which involve council staff, community groups, local schools and volunteers. “
A proposal was indeed presented before the Environment, Culture and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday, 28th February, 2011 and approved (by 6 votes to 0 with 2 abstentions from Labour Councillors).
The report from the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services on the Library Review, following public and stakeholder consultation, proposes:
- The introduction of reduced opening hours at all libraries (except Tooting).
- The development (on a trial basis) of a ‘Big Society’ pilot project at York Gardens Library using reduced staffing supported by volunteers (the aim is to still offer a children’s library service,with some adults’ provision, a homework club, public-access I.T. facilities and community space provision); the UK On-line IT training centre and its Tutor would transfer to Battersea Library [Option 4.]
- A report should be brought back to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Executive after six months’ operation (October 2011 to March 2012) in order to assess performance and any further development potential.
- The investigation of potential savings arranged with the involvement of private sector management of library services.
- Negative budget variations of £359,460 in 2011/12 and £718,920 in a full year
In a previous report, it was said that the Council would save £219,000 per year by closing the York gardens library only, but the cost to retain some service was estimated to be £92,000 (that would reduce the saving to £127,000 per year) ; on the other hand, the council could save £53,000 per year just by reducing the opening hours. It means the difference between closing the library and reducing the opening hours is just £74,000 per year (less than 59 pence extra per year in Council tax).
The result of the consultation on the future of the library service in Wandsworth showed that 1,201 Survey Forms had been submitted. 205 short surveys had also been created by the Save York Gardens Library Campaign. Stakeholders have also submitted Library Review Survey Forms on behalf of their organisations or communicated their views at meetings or via letter and email. A total of 184 letters and emails, including 12 from community or stakeholder organisations were also received by the Council.
Regarding specifically the York Garden library questionnaire, the analysis indicated that (from page 10):
- 71% strongly or tended to disagree with the closure of York Gardens Library
- 58% strongly or tended to disagree with closure plus an outreach service for children and moving the IT Learning Centre to Battersea Library.
- 40% strongly or tended to agree with reduced opening hours from 44 to 30 hours per week whilst 34% strongly or tended to disagree with this proposal.
In its report the Director agreed with most of the point raised by opponents of the closure. He wrote, for example, that “retaining some form of children’s library provision could be considered since, although alternative provision at Battersea Library is little more than half a mile away, it is recognised that access for families and children would be more challenging.“
The Big Society idea
The report also highlighted that Thomas’s Schools Foundation has expressed concerns on deprived elements of the community in the Battersea area. During a discussion with the Council representatives the Foundation expressed interest in offering support to, for example, maintaining a children’s library and homework club presence on the site of the York library (thus the “Big Society” aspiration).
Another opportunity could be to claim government’s support (meaning also funding!) to develop the idea of “Big Society” within public services’ staff who want to take over and run their services as mutual organisations (don’t ask me what it means exactly – not a clue ; public sector workers to volunteer to do the same work but unpaid?).
But, although trying to please Conservative aspiration, the Director is not naive and wrote (as a warning?) in its report:
“During 2009/10, the Service had 90 volunteers working in libraries, 50 were new and 40 continued from the previous year, representing a turnover of 55%. Experience suggests that, after initial enthusiasm, volunteer fatigue will develop and increased efforts will be required on a continual basis to maintain the pool of volunteers across the Borough. Some volunteers are out of work who then give up volunteering when they find employment. If Option 4 is approved, officers will look to establish the feasibility of recruiting suitable volunteers, in appropriate numbers, to develop a strategy for using paid staff and volunteers to maintain extended opening times.“
His report is however supportive of the option above, giving 2 reasons:
- The weight of interest from the public and organisations (ready to contribute to the running costs of a continuing library presence).
- The involvement of private sector schools, another and volunteers providing an opportunity to demonstrate the Tory idea of a “Big Society” project.
Cost and Savings
The savings target to be achieved could be the £127,000 saving of retaining some services vs closing fully, plus the saving of a full-time Senior Library Assistant of £28,915 per annum that were part of the Children’s Outreach service. This gives a total saving of £155,915 per annum.
However we can read further on that the pilot will only achieve the £155,900 saving if community lettings income and the partnerships with Thames Christian College and Thomas’s Schools Foundation are maintained. Should this not be the case then some of the operating costs may revert to the Council. The costs for converting the Library for use under the pilot are presently estimated to be £50,000 and will be contained within approved revenue budgets.
The consequences for the York Gardens library users
The decision is on a trial 12 months’ basis, consisting of use of the York Gardens building for:
- additional first-floor use for classrooms (while retaining bookable community space at non-classroom use times) by Thames Christian College, with associated additional income;
- accommodating the Learning Resources Service of the Children’s Services Department with an associated contribution to the building’s running costs;
- operation of a Homework Club on two or three evenings a week, supported by staff and volunteers;
- operation of a Children’s Library for 30 hours by staff including some limited adult stock (see paragraph 69 below for proposals regarding staffing structure) with support from volunteers;
- a range of public-access I.T. facilities;
- agreement of a partnership with the Thomas’s Schools Foundations for volunteers and any other resources available to support the Homework Club and Children’s Library as set out in iii) and iv) above; and
- maintenance of a lettable community space
 There is a statutory duty to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient public library service for all persons to make use thereof’: Section 7, Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964.
Author: Cyril Richert
About 15 people (me included) gathered to the last meeting of Wandsworth Living Streets on Tuesday 19 April 2011 at the Alma Pub (beside Wandsworth Town station).
The meeting started with a brief explanation on the latest news:
- Website: the website for Wandsworth Living Streets will be officially launched in a few days.
- 20′s plenty: A lot of work is currently carried out on the Living Streets forum. We were reminded that Richard Tracey, our GLA representative, will be seeking re-election next year; this is an opportunity to bring the subject up.
- TfL’s signal policy: 4000 traffic signals should still be changed (reason = smoothing the traffic). Therefore removals are still happening and need to be carefully watched. (see our report of November’s meeting for more explanation).
Ian Ralph (*) gave a presentation exploring how the design of our streets, neighbourhoods and cities is affecting the health and well-being of us all: what type of places tend to support the best levels of social, mental and physical health and the evidence behind making an incontrovertible case for better, safer and more enjoyable streets and spaces.
His presentation made the following points:
- 72% of people fail to achieve 30 minutes physical activity five times a week.
- Streets surrounded by walls are unwelcoming.
- A small percentage of streets take the majority of traffic but the government has allocated minimum resources in term of walking. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has cancelled the Year of Walking and the new super-highways dedicated to bikes see a lot of vehicles using the facility for short parking.
- Streets were actually originally designed for walking.
- The Council is doing positive things in Wandsworth Borough (in Clapham Junction the Exemplar Scheme is being implemented with bigger space allocated for pedestrians and safety crossing).
- Trees along the streets is more effective than camera to slow down vehicles as shown in a TfL study.
- Target = greater sense of safety, better legibility (suggestion was made to work with local partnerships).
- Aim: make sure that families and children feel secure in our streets.
(*) Ian Ralph is an urban designer who has worked for Transport for London, and subsequently joined a private sector design consultancy. Ian is a member of Wandsworth Living Streets.
Author: Cyril Richert
We received this email from Winnie Smith:
Thanks for the support against the closure of York Gardens Library.
I’m part of a team organising a read-in in the library on Saturday February 5th between 1-3.
Ideally, we would like to create a community event for everyone on the estates before our only community resource is taken away. This would also be linked nationally to read-ins happening all over the country (organised by ‘Campaign for the Book’).
So far the plan is to support the library’s regular rhymetime 12.30-1.00 making it the largest attendance they’ve had, and then have our event in the hall from 1.
We’re in the process of inviting lots of different people- if you can think of anyone who can help out that would be great. We’ve had confirmations so far from 3 teenage/ childrens authors, 1 adult and 2 musicians and we’re slowly grinding down various other personalities!
We would like to intersperse these talks with members of the public talking about what the library means to them. The only rule is that speakers can only talk about the library- for one day only there’ll be no mention of other cuts/ choices made by the council.
Any publicity you can help with would be amazing.
York Gardens Library (Battersea, Wandsworth) is going to be the location for a read-in on ‘Save our Libraries Day’ 5th February 1300-1500. This is in response to the planned closure by Wandsworth Council despite the fact that the library serves the most deprived area in the Borough. This will be a community event for everyone in the area- before the only community resource for the attached estates is taken away.
The afternoon will start with children joining in the library’s regular rhymetime [half an hour of action rhymes and dancing for the under fives] 12.30-13.00 before our event starts. In between the entertainers members of the public will talk about what the library means to them.
Contributors to the event are still being added to the bill but those confirmed so far include
- Sophia Bennett (author of the popular teen series Threads which won The Times/ Chicken House Children’s Fiction competition.)
- Rebecca Elliot (author and illustrator whose book ‘Just Because’ is currently nominated for the People’s Book Prize and the NASEN children’s book award)
- Emmy The Great (great singer-songwriter)
- Caroline Lawrence (bestselling children’s author who will be giving a sneak peek at her new series ‘Western Mysteries’ and giving away copies of her old Roman Mysteries)
- Nadifa Mohamed (author of Black Mamba Boy – winner of the Betty Trask award and shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Guardian First Book Award)
- Swiss (formerly of So Solid Crew)
- Actor and Director Sam West
The closure of York Gardens Library will have a devastating impact on the community that it serves. It is the only communal space in the local vicinity and is a vital resource for those living in the area. In order to close York Gardens Library, Wandsworth Borough Council needs to provide reasons for choosing this branch. We do not believe they have done so…..
York Gardens Library is the most expensive library per issue/ in relation to its visitors (source)
Wandsworth Libraries’ report into the closing of the libraries admits that actually Battersea Library is the most expensive (source – page 5) Also, this report doesn’t take into consideration that York Gardens Library costs so much because it needs to pay to heat halls which are then rented out, earning the council approximately £1000 per month.
Wandsworth libraries would not be so closely placed if the borough was founding them now. Users of York Gardens Library should just walk the extra distance to a neighbouring borough. (Councillor Sarah Mcdermott- Council meeting. December8th 2010)
York Gardens Library was only opened in 2001! It is the only communal resource and community space for the attached estates and serves a higher density of people in its catchment area than any other Wandsworth Library (source – page 5) There is another library nearer Battersea which is not facing closure.
The number of children who took part in the CIPFA survey (which asks them their opinions about the library) was too small to successfully show what the library means to the community. (CIPFA survey results- as broken down on http://saveyorkgardenslibrary.com)
208 children participated in York Gardens Library’s survey over 1 week in September- this was more than two other libraries in the borough and the same number as those answering the the larger Battersea Library . The results of the CIPFA survey showed that:
When children were asked to answer the sentence: ‘I come to the library to’:
- Highest in the borough for ‘Use the computers’
- Highest in the borough for ‘Meet friends’
- Highest in the borough for ‘Read’
- Highest in the borough (twice as much as any other library) for ‘Do my homework’.
Why do you borrow books?
- Highest in the borough for ‘I want to get better at reading’
- Highest in the borough for ‘Library staff say they are good’
Why do you go to the library?
- Highest in the borough for ‘There are computers to help me’
- Highest in the borough for ‘There is a homework club’
- Highest in the borough for ‘It is somewhere to sit and work’
A stunning 59% of children say using YGL has ‘helped me to do better at school’, this is a much higher figure than any other library in the list.
Also, by some distance it was the library that was top for serving children in the categories: ‘female‘ ‘black‘ ‘African‘ and ‘Caribbean‘. (CIPFA survey results- as broken down on http://saveyorkgardenslibrary.com)
Read more here:
Author: Robert Molteno (Secretary, Wandsworth Living Streets)
Dear Friends in Wandsworth Living Streets
We had a most interesting open meeting last Wednesday, 19 January. Attached are 2 documents for you.
- Notes of the Meeting (in particular, an Update since the previous meeting; and Business matters);
- and secondly, a summary of Jeremy Leach’s presentation to us on Slower Speeds and More Liveable Town Centres in London.
The big next steps are to get our Website up and running, and even more importantly, to get those of you interested in particular issues to meet together in order to plan the next steps in these campaigns.
Please note in your diaries that our next Full Meeting will be on:
Tuesday, 19 April, at the Alma Pub (the upstairs function room),
7.15 for a 7.30pm start.
Author: Cyril Richert
A library used by children and a recognised service in a deprived area
The Council knows that the library service is already not magnificent in the borough albeit being a community focal point and a very important service, especially for people with limited transport or mobility.
The report presented before the Culture Committee acknowledged that
- York Garden has the highest (amongst all libraries in the borough) number of people living within the one mile catchment area of the library (81,466).
- Wandsworth is already 4th highest population per library in London (thus few libraries).
- York Gardens has a higher percentage of Children’s book loan (50%).
- York Gardens has a hall for hire to the local community: that functionality would disappear if the library closes as there is no plan to replace it.
- Latchmere Ward is ranked as the most deprived ward in the Borough (and the removal of the library will accentuate the situation).
- Local people would consequently be harder hit by any reduction in access to IT facilities, as currently offered by the library (a survey showed only 30% of homes in the ward having a computer).
In addition, a recent survey confirmed that the library comes at the highest from all other part of the borough for children thinking it helps them to be better at school.
The case to close the library
The current argument laid down by the Council, to justify the closure of the library, is that York Gardens is the borough’s least used small library for book lending and the most expensive to run in terms of net cost per visit. However it does not consider the other services such as: community focal point, IT facility, children usage…etc.
The second argument that is it within close distance from Northcote road library made me laugh. I was wondering who in the Council invented that idea? For a matter of interest I walked from the Northcote road library to the York Gardens’ one. It took me more than 30 minutes, crossing 2 extremely busy road: Falcon Road and Lavender Hill (same argument for the Battersea library actually, albeit closer). I wonder who, knowing the road-free location of the York library, will dare using this argument to explain that children would easily go to another library! 
About £74k saving
According to the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services, the Council would save £219,000 per year by closing the library.
But in view of the recent outcry to scrap all community services from the ward, they suggest:
- some alternative services being provided at the neighbouring York Gardens one o’clock club and children’s centre;
- provide young people with IT facilities for homework and other school tasks, along with library outreach services for younger children;
- the home delivery service will also operate a lending service for people unable to get to another nearby library because of mobility difficulties.
Those service (cost to retain some service estimated by the report to £92,000) would reduce the saving to £127,000 per year. 
On the other hand, the council could save £53,000 per year just by reducing the opening hours 
Therefore the difference between closing the library and reducing the opening hours is just £74,000 per year.
This amount is equal to an increase Council Tax of less than 59 pence extra per year for a Band D property (and that’s before any Housing Benefit is taken into account).  Just remember that the inflation (RPI) was 8% over the last 3 years, while the increase of Council Tax was 0%, which means a decrease in real cost since 2008 (~£30).
It represents also only a share of the money brought by the CCTV camera No 225 in Grant Road (just a few yards away from the library!) which was “honoured” last month in the Sunday Times (magazine) as issuing more than 6000 tickets in a year and earning £300,000 for Wandsworth Council!
Wandsworth-based historian Sean Creighton has written a detailed analysis of the York Gardens Library situation (full document here) where he concludes that: “The possible closure of York Gardens Library is a targeted and disproportionate assault on an area of high social deprivation” and the real reason is “the fact that the building can help the Council resolve other service issues“.
Public meetings and consultation
A public meeting was organised at the York Park library by the Latchmere councillors (Labour) in the 2 December 2010.
Wandsworth council has acknowledged the receipt of more than 1,000 signatures on petitions that oppose the closure of York Garden Library.
The campaign against the closure has set up a website where you can find other information and actions: http://saveyorkgardens.com
It includes a documentary from Channel 4 News showing that the number of people living in poverty in Britain is set to rise by almost a million by 2014 and displaying Latchmere ward as a deprived area, threaten to be hit even harder by the closure of the York Gardens Library (view HERE).
The first meeting officially organised by the Council was at York Gardens library Thursday 9 December between 2.30pm and 4.30pm (yes, good idea in the middle of the working day!).
A second meeting will take place at York Gardens on January 10 between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Details of the times and venues of all the other meetings are available at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/libraries.
Additional information in the press review HERE.
What Can YOU Do?
- Download and fill in the Public Consultation SurveyThis is the most important thing you can do. The Survey is your opportunity to say what you feel about the various options. The more of these that the Council receives, the more likely that they will take notice. The Survey is anonymous, but must be emailed or posted to the Council. You can also drop the form into the library itself.
- Come along to the Public Consultation Meeting on 10th January from 6.30pm until 8.30pm. Again, the more people that turn up to this meeting, the more chance that the council will take notice.
- Write to the leader of the Council, Edward Lister (firstname.lastname@example.org), to tell him what you think.
- Download and sign the Petition form. Petitions are not nearly as effective as filling in the Survey form, but they may help the cause.
The consultation will run until Sunday, February 6. Comments and suggestions will need to be submitted by this date. To find out more visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/libraries. Comments and suggestions can be submitted online or by completing the special consultation document available at all the borough’s libraries.
Even if you do not live in the ward, and do not use the library service, you should feel concerned by this idea and shout to the Council: shame on you for considering such plan!
 Closing only York Gardens library would generate an annual saving of £219,000 or £127,000 if the children’s library and I.T. tutor elements were retained. – page 2 of the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services on a review of library provision in the Borough and resultant options for savings.
 Library Reduced Opening Hours; proposals for reducing opening hours across the Library service as outlined in paragraph 37 would save £462,000 in 2011/12 and £616,000 in a full year (reduced to £422,000 in 2011/12 and £563,000 in a full year if York Gardens library closed rather than be subject to reduced hours – page 2 of the report by the Director of Leisure and Amenity Services on a review of library provision in the Borough and resultant options for savings.
 The report says (page 2): £73,000 in 2011/12 is equivalent to £0.58 at Band D Council Tax
 And I am not even quoting Jane Ellison, Conservative MP for Battersea, who explained that the best way to cope with the situation was for everyone (every volunteer?) to work together to replace the service (free of charge – that’s the Conservatives Big Society!). In other words, please understand that if you could lend you books to others for free, there is no need of a “costly” library service! (I give another idea: if everyone could do a rota to clean/repair the streets themselves, the Council could save also a lot of money…etc – yes it is called community service)