Earlsfield News – March 2021

Our councillors Jo Rigby and Graeme Henderson have been working hard for you in Earlsfield.

Need help? Fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page or email:

  • Councillor Graeme Henderson: cllr.g.henderson@wandsworth.gov.uk
  • Councillor Jo Rigby: cllr.j.rigby@wandsworth.gov.uk

Standing Together During Covid

Covid has been a challenge for all of us. What has been remarkable is the amazing community spirit that it has engendered. Earlsfield has always had a vibrant community, but the response of local residents in volunteering to help vulnerable people has been staggering.

From the early establishment of Earlsfield Together, the very necessary and greatly expanded work of the Earlsfield Foodbank (now based at St Andrew’s Church),  Garratt Lane and the Community Café, through to the work of the Don’s Local Action Group (a community-based organisation linked to AFC Wimbledon) and the work of the Aboyne Resident’s Association, to name but a few, the response of volunteers has enabled many to survive a torrid year.

We’ve also been pleased to assist local community organisations in securing grants from the Council, particularly the Community Café and the Hygiene Bank (providing essential personal hygiene products and equipment to those that can’t afford them), Dons Local Action Group and the Nicholas Stewart Project.

Jo Ribgy helping at the Earlsfield Foodbank

Graeme delivering food parcels

Sadly many residents have also lost their lives. As Labour’s Health Spokesperson on Wandsworth Council, Graeme has been ensuring the Council’s response towards our most vulnerable residents doesn’t fall short. In particular, he pressed for a locally enhanced Test and Trace system to contact residents that the failing national system misses. This has  substantially increased the number of contacts.

Graeme and Jo proposed the Aboyne Community Centre as a location for the PCR Testing Centre which has now been operating successfully since January. This means local residents can get a Covid test without having to travel to the Civic Centre. The vaccine and Covid test facilities should be as close as possible to the communities that need them.

Wandsworth Council has a particularly poor record in approving Isolation Payments to people who require them in order to survive. Only 20% of the people who applied got any money. This places people in an situation where, in order to earn money and survive, they may risk breaching the self-isolation rules. As Graeme said in an article for MyLondon, many low-paid workers can’t self-isolate if they don’t get the support they need.

Housing Crisis Continues

Housing remains one of the most serious issues for Earlsfield residents, whether they live in social (Council and Housing Association properties), leasehold, private rented accommodation or privately owned property;  particularly for residents in high-rise blocks affected by the implications of the tragic Grenfell fire.

We have been working for you to ensure everyone has safe housing during the pandemic. We’ve seen:

  • Poor maintenance of properties across Earlsfield, creating damp and dangerous living conditions in both the social and privately rented sector.
  • Overcrowded properties and high rents.
  • An ever-growing waiting list for social housing due to 40 years of selling off Council properties and not replacing them. It’s even been difficult for tenants to downsize to smaller properties because of the lack of 2 and 3 bedroom properties.
  • High maintenance charges for leaseholders who have bought their Council properties.
  • Many leaseholders can’t sell their properties because, after Grenfell, they face huge bills to have their properties surveyed.  The government has refused to step in to help these people.

However, the Conservative Council’s response has been to approve new housing schemes that will benefit few local residents and are generally aimed at the luxury market.

Appalling damp in an Earlsfield property where Jo and Graeme have been helping the residents.

Earlsfield to Become a High-Rise Neighbourhood?

The Wandsworth Local Plan, which determines the Borough’s planning priorities for 2023-2038, has identified Earlsfield as an area with the potential for high–rise developments.

Sadly the precedent has been created by the approval of high-rise blocks of apartments on the Workspace development that will replace the trampolining centre and the industrial buildings at the end of Haldane Place. We opposed this aspect of the plan and submitted detailed evidence about this and many other issues affecting Earlsfield during the consultation.

We’ve seen many contentious planning applications in the last 3 years – the Atheldene development, where an extra storey was added contrary to the Local Plan, the Workspace development on the opposite side of the road, and the Collective at the end of Trewint Street. On all 3, we spoke up for residents to get their concerns addressed, but the new Wandworth Plan will make this more difficult.

Digital Advertising Display Horror

Earlier this year a highly luminescent digital advertising display appeared on the corner of Garratt Lane and Aslett Street (a quiet, residential road).

The application was approved by Council Officers under delegated authority from the Council. A cursory and somewhat misleading consultation took place in November 2019 involving 26 properties.

We are doing what we can to minimise the impact of this, including presenting a petition signed by 537 residents opposed to the display to the Council, but the lesson of this story is that if you receive a letter from the Council concerning any planning application close to where you live, whether for a building or advertising display, then read it carefully and contact Graeme or Jo immediately if you have any concerns.

The digital advertising display at night, Aslett Street

Graeme and Jo handing in the petition at the Town Hall

Graeme helping out at the Tranmere School Street

Creating Cleaner, Calmer Public Spaces

We are delighted that our petition to reduce the speed limit on Garratt Lane, signed by over 700 residents, was successful. A 20mph speed limit will make Garratt Lane a safe, calmer place for people to walk and cycle, as well as making it quieter for those who live along the road.

We also supported and handed in a petition to the Council for a pedestrian crossing outside or near to Floreat School and have lobbied to get air quality monitoring installed by Penwith Road. We have been told that first readings will be out any week now.

A temporary cycle lane is being installed along Garratt Lane to provide safe links to the cycle lane in Tooting and make cycling safer for more children and adults. We support the roll out of cycle lanes across the borough to make sure everyone can get cheap access to transport and exercise. We’ll continue to push for more bike hangars, as lack of storage is a huge barrier to cycling. Please get in touch with us if you need support getting a bike hangar installed on your street.

And more good news – the ANPR cameras are finally in place and operational on Tranmere Road as part of the School Street programme. Parents and residents have worked tirelessly to volunteer on the street while the cameras were on order.

Fly-Tipping Fines

We’ve all seen fly-tipping on our estates and streets, but the Council has recently taken to imposing £400 fixed penalty notices (which cannot be appealed) to local residents who have made the honest mistake of putting their rubbish or recycling out a bit earlier than allowed. This is a particular problem for many residents in the flats above the shops in Garratt Lane and other properties that don’t have front gardens.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Tooting’s MP, has written to the Wandsworth Chief Executive asking why this policy has been adopted, which has nothing to do with prosecuting genuine fly-tippers. Jo and Graeme have been active in taking up individual resident cases where they have drawn them to our attention. Please continue to do so!

We are also aware that there have been a few scams trying to extort money out of people, issuing bogus letters demanding payment of a ‘fine’. The first thing to do is to check with the Council that the communication has come from them.

Earlsfield Businesses Under Threat

Earlsfield’s vibrancy is down to the many businesses; not just the shops along Garratt Lane, but also the businesses on Earlsfield’s industrial estates. Their continued thriving is essential for both local employment and prosperity.

But despite the government’s announcement of grants and business rates relief, many have been deemed ineligible, particularly those on industrial estates that do not have retail outlets. For example, businesses supplying equipment and services to hospitality have been particularly hurt.

We’ve taken up the cases of several businesses that have been poorly treated by Wandsworth Council in their assessment. We would like to hear from any businesses who feels that their applications for grants have not been handled correctly.

Magdalen Park Estate Conservation Area

Graeme and Jo were very pleased to help local residents on the Estate avoid being egregiously penalised for alleged, historical infringements of the Conservation Area Rules which could have required extremely expensive changes to their properties.

As a result of our pressure, Council has promised a consultation on the Conservation Area Rules.

Upgrading Our Parks

During Covid it has been more important than ever that families and young people can get out of their homes and exercise.

We’re pleased that, following representations from local residents and ourselves, children’s play facilities in Swaby Road and Garratt Green have been upgraded, the facilities in Garratt Park are in line for an upgrade and that the facilities in King George’s Park are currently being consulted on (see the consultation info here). We have also pressed for the provision of exercise equipment on the Henry Prince Estate.

Wandsworth Council is running a consultation on the use of parks and open spaces on their website until 16 April 2021. We would welcome comments on what you think is necessary to ensure our open spaces best meet the needs of local residents.

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