Brent and Harrow
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Navin Shah GLA Brent & Harrow
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Navin's News for September 2010

FBU Vote for Industrial Action

I am sad to say that the threat of industrial action looms over the London Fire Brigade this Autumn, over negotiations for new shifts and contracts. The Fire Brigade is overseen by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Association (LFEPA) and in September the Fire Brigades Union voted for industrial action short of a strike in protest at the new shift patterns, which they believe could endanger Londoner’s safety.

As the Labour Leader on LFEPA, I am anxious to see a resolution to this issue which satisfies and reassures these concerns. I have written to the Mayor of London urging him to take over negotiations with the FBU, either directly or through ACAS, but there is no doubt this will prove his first major test in industrial relations. You can find out more about LFEPA at www.london-fire.gov.uk.  

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23rd September 2010

London’s Temples and the Plight of Pujaris

 

For the last eight years or so, as both Councillor and London Assembly Member I get regularly contacted by temples in Harrow about immigration problems with Visas for Pujaris from India who perform non-pastoral functions.  Harrow’s temples are not alone facing such problems.  The situation arises largely due to immigration bureaucracy and a lack of sensitivity and understanding of the role of Pujaris. Having taken up a wider role as an Assembly Member I have now taken the opportunity to address this issue together with other headaches Temples and Community Centres regularly face such as planning, parking, funding, council tax rebates and so on.

 

As a first step to start examining the issues facing Temples I organised a conference of London’s Temples in May 2009, the objective being to bring together all temples to tackle problems with a collective approach and speak with ‘one voice’. This is the only way there is an opportunity and hope to be heard.  There was consensus amongst the representatives that still the Home Office / civil Service has not quite understood the real roles performed by Pujaris and that there was no justification and a good deal of difficulty in the current 2 year entry clearance granted to Pujaris, with the requirement to reapply on the expiry of the first year.

 

The conference has since formed a working group for an effective and speedy solution to this difficult area of immigration policy. The group agreed to prepare its own response to the recent Home Office Questionnaire. We’d contacting all temples in London to ensure that they send their responses to enable the Home Office to evaluate the impact of the current protocols. The ultimate intention is to work with UK wide organisations for a nationwide response to the Home Office. For further information please email me on navin.shah@london.gov.uk.

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22nd September 2010

Planning Inspectorate Uphold Dandara Rejection

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I was delighted to hear in August that the Planning Inspectorate had decided to uphold the Council’s rejection of Dandara’s plans for the old Post Office site in College Road. While I spoke at the Inspectorate’s hearing to oppose the height of the buildings, up to 19 storeys high, the Inspectorate has concluded the project was not good enough on design grounds. Dandara has affirmed its commitment to developing the site and no doubt soon enough, the old Post Office site will be one of the first projects in front of the new Town Centre Panel!

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20th September 2010

Brent Youth Visit Olympic Site

I feel very lucky to be a member of the London Assembly in 2010, charged with the special privelege of overseeing the preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. I was delighted to be able to escort some members of the Brent Youth to visit the site in East London in September. The Olympic Park is now coming together at a very rapid pace, as all the buildings are started and nearing their final shape. You can view some more photos of the site on my website or www.london2012.com. If you are interested in visiting City Hall or the Olympic site, please get in touch. 

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20th September 2010

London Cycle Hire Scheme Launches

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The London Cycle Hire Scheme, sponsored by Barclays launched in August, allowing members to use bicycles between docking points across Zone 1. Over half a million journeys have already been made on the bikes and I would urge my constituents to consider registering for the scheme for an alternative to the Tube in central London. Registration costs £48 for the key and one year, You can find out more at the TfL website.

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20th September 2010

Navin Shah AM welcomes new planning Panel for Harrow Town Centre

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In July, the new administration of Harrow Council approved a new Major Developments Panel for Harrow Town Centre. The Panel, which will be made up of councillors from both sides of the political divide, is being created to oversee the development of  a new masterplan and co-ordinate and comment on applications so that developments complement each other, rather than being considered in isolation from each other. I’ve been lobbying for such a Masterplan for a number of years and I welcome the panel as the first step in this direction. Following a question from me in September, the Mayor of London has signalled his approval of the panel.

Question number 2728/2010
Meeting date 15/09/2010

 Does the Mayor welcome the decision to produce a Masterplan for Harrow town centre, through the introduction of an  independent cross-party panel able to commission its own expertise?

 Answer by Boris Johnson

 Yes.

 

 

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20th September 2010

Asian Voice Column - 17 September 2010

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By Navin Shah AM

The Right 'Choice' of meals for pupils

The issue itself about halal meat served in schools and the lack of choice (in some schools) of other non vegetarian meals is an important one and deserves consideration by schools and local authorities. I entirely agree that there is full choice of meals available so that NO community feels discriminated.  But, I strongly condemn unhelpful, strong, insensitive and even disgusting headlines and propaganda seen in the media. Request for information (under ‘Freedom of Information Act 2000) has been received by Brent and Harrow Councils seeking information about ‘how many schools ……. . serve Halal prepared meat. This would be the cases of institutions where all meat is Halal (meaning children eating meat do not have a choice)”. 

I’ve been actively lobbied on this issue by a range of people / organisations including leaders of the Sikh and Hindu religions with their complaints. Consideration of the issue deserves objective and honest approach – firstly to assess the facts and then see how the situation could be remedied provided that the choice of meals offered to pupils is inappropriate. I’m happy to share my initial findings based on my meetings with the senior politicians and officers in the two Local Authority areas, namely Brent and Harrow, I represent on the London Assembly.

As a starting point the fact I’d like everyone to recognise is that the schools, regardless of which borough they are in, are autonomous institutions and it is the governing bodies of schools who decide catering policies and award contracts for school meals. The Council’s role at the best is to advice and guide schools but the Councils cannot impose or dictate school meal policies on Schools. Schools have their own budgets and final decision on this issue rests with schools.

Brent:  I can confirm that Brent Council itself has not been involved in catering contracts for school meals in Brent Schools. The current situation being that it is up to the individual school to determine the range of meals it serves to its pupils. However, Brent Council is totally committed to promoting a full choice of meals in schools to its diverse school community and to this end the I would ask Brent Council to consider issuing a clear and firm advice to all its schools that meals served in schools are healthy, nutritional and give a full choice to cater for religious needs and practices.

Harrow: The funding for school meals in Harrow is delegated to schools and they are free to set their policies for school meals and choose their own provider for meals. This is neither a new policy nor one that Harrow Council can make let alone impose. The contract in Harrow’s high schools, in place for two years, and the decision to provide halal meat was based on a wide range of advice and in the interests of serving the diversity of dietary requirements within the Borough. Harrow Council’s only direct involvement in school meals has been linked to the development of the hub kitchens and the development of the serveries in primary schools. Recently issues have been raised in relation to the provision of hot meals to primary schools and Council has been consulting with primary schools to ascertain if they wish to provide hot schools meals and if so, whether they want these provided from one of Council’s hub kitchens. This consultation has raised a number of issues and further discussions are planned in the Autumn to see how Council should proceed. I urge Harrow Council to take into account the current concerns and put in place choice of meals available to the pupils from Sikh and all other communities of diverse religious beliefs.    

I will be undertaking further examination of school meal provision in both Brent and Harrow Councils. In the meantime I urge all sections of our diverse communities to ensure that any criticism they have on this issue is balanced and take into account very clear roles and responsibilities the Councils and Schools have with regard to school meals.

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17th September 2010

Asian Voice Column - 3 September 2010

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By Navin Shah AM

9/11 MEMORIAL

REDEVELOPMENT OF GROUND ZERO SITE

There seems to be no end to the debate about the proposals for an Islamic Centre about two blocks away from the Ground Zero Site. With President Obama somewhat back-tracking on his original support for the proposals and the Senate elections in November the controversy will become ugly and politically motivated than a rational and logical considerations about “American Values” as President Obama puts it and the core issues of religious equality and fairness.  

Since my last contribution on this hot topic I’ve visited the Ground Zero site and a nearby ‘Preview Site’ which houses an exhibition of the proposals called the ‘National September 11 Memorial and Museum’ for the Ground Zero Site itself. The following two paragraphs are quoted from display panels of the exhibition which sum up the concept of the project.

Panel 1: ‘The Memorial will remember and honour the people killed in the attacks of September 11 2001, in New York at the Pentagon in Arlington Virginia and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania and February 26 1993, WTC bombing. The Memorial design was selected through an international design competition that included more than 5200 entries from 63 Countries’.

Panel 2: Together with Memorial the Museum will complete the twin missions of commemoration and education, and will be an authorative source of both the history of 9/11 and understanding its meaning and implications in the context of world history. The Museum’s core exhibition will be located at the base of WTC site, incorporating the archaeological remnants of the original WTC and the Twins Towers.’  

As the photograph below shows the former World Trade Centre site still remains heavily guarded and fenced up but the construction work is rapidly progressing for the project which will in the main comprise a Memorial Space and a Memorial Museum. 

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The Memorial space will be dominated by massive pools, featuring 30 foot waterfalls cascading down their sides, situated within the footprints of the original Twin Towers. Around the edges of the waterfalls the names of the nearly 3000 innocent victims of September 11 attack on this site and also February 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. The area will be landscaped with groves of trees creating a special place of remembrance.  A new World Trade Centre planned to be the tallest building in the United States is also proposed on this site.

The Museum will offer visitors the opportunity to deepen their experience at the site. It will house monumental artefacts from September 11 events and tell the story of loss, compassion reckoning and recovery. And, as the literature for the proposal states the Museum will demonstrate  “the consequences of terrorism….. and affirm a commitment to the fundamental values of human life.  

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3rd September 2010

Brent Cross Cricklewood : A New Green Light to 29,000 extra car journeys

 

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 One of the first consequences of the new coalition government was the news the new Communities and Local Government Secretary, the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP has decided not to ‘call-in’ the £4.5 billion redevelopment of Brent Cross Cricklewood development over the border in neighbouring Barnet.

 

The previous Secretary of State for communities and Local Government, the Rt Hon John Denham MP, had issued an Article 14 Stop Notice in March of this year, directing the London Borough of Barnet not to proceed with the planning application without permission from central government. However, Pickles has overturned this and in loate July Barnet issued the final permission.

 

I am not against the redevelopment of Brent Cross per se, but I’ve long opposed the application in its current form. I believe it is flawed and unambitious by merely aiming to ameliorate the car-orientated plans of the original 1960s development, rather than  pioneering a new form of sustainable suburban development.

 

I’ve been proud to be a member of and support the Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross in its opposition to the development and I am sad Eric Pickles has ignored the vociferous campaigners’ concerns about the development. I’ve no doubt the fight will go on to ensure that at every step of this major development, the concerns of eastern Brent residents will be heard and accounted for. I am certainly dedicated to furthering the cause at the level of regional government.

 

You can find out more about the Brent Cross development on my campaign pages. I’d also urge you to visit the Campaign’s blog

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1st September 2010

Pedestrian Crossing Removal: Have Your Say!

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The Mayor has instructed Transport for London to identify pedestrian crossings “that may no longer be useful” with the aim of the removing them on the basis these “can impede the smooth flow of vehicles and pedestrians”.

145 sets of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings on London’s streets have been identified and Transport for London are now consulting with local councils but I think it is important that ordinary Londoners should be aware of the Mayor's plans and be able to raise their concerns.

While many crossings in London are over twenty years old, it’s important to remember that crossings are always put in for a reason - to make a road safer to cross, particularly for older people, those with disabilities, teenagers and parents pushing buggies or prams. My view is that this kind of measure should not be undertaken without serious consultation first, and with top priority given to the potential impact on safety for all road users, including of course pedestrians and cyclists.

Below is a list of the endangered crossings in Brent and Harrow. I’m particularly concerned by the large number of crossings in the Brondesbury Park area that have been identified, despite the high concentration of schools in this area.

If you have any comments or concerns about any of the proposals, please contact me. I will be passing all comments to both Transport for London and the local authority to ensure those who use the crossings get their say.

 

Brent

 

 

 

Type of Crossing

Location

Junction

Willesden Lane - The Avenue - Cavendish Road

Junction

Brondesbury Park / Sidmouth Road

Junction

Brondesbury Park / The Avenue

Junction

Fleet Water Business Centre (formerly Brent water estate) Northbound

Pelican

Brondesbury Park by Christchurch Avenue

Junction

Coles Green Road / Crest Road / Oxgate Lane

Junction

Neasden Lane / Quainton Street / Braemar Avenue

 

 

 

 

Harrow 

 

 

 

Type of Crossing

Location

Puffin

Kenton Lane by Belmont Circle North

Junction

College Road / Kimberly Road

Puffin

Kenton Lane by Belmont Circle South

 

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1st September 2010

Navin Shah AM slams worst Dial-A-Ride statistics in London

It’s been revealed Brent and Harrow had the worst refusal rates for Dial-A-Ride journeys in London in early 2010.

 

The statistics, released at the July Mayor’s Question Time, show the refusal rate – the percentage of journey requests turned down due to lack of capacity – in both boroughs are considerably above average. While the Londonwide average refusal rate is 7.5%, 13.8% of requests in Harrow, and 12.9% of requests in Brent were turned down.

 

These statistics confirm the anecdotal evidence I hear regularly. While TfL tell us Dial-A-Ride is getting better, constituents continue experiencing problems booking a ride. I’ve written to TfL to ask for urgent targeted improvements in North West London and I’ll certainly be following this up when the Assembly next questions the Mayor. Dial A Ride in North West London needs to be improved urgently. I would urge any dissatisfied customers to contact me  at City Hall with their experiences and I will raise them with Transport for London.

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1st September 2010

The Metropolitan: Lovely new trains, but as usual broken promises

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Over the summer, I hope you’ve had the chance to catch one of the new Metropolitan line trains being gradually rolled out over 2010. The Metropolitan is the first line to benefit from new ‘sub-surface’ rolling stock, which will also be used on the Circle, District and Hammersmith & City Lines. The new trains are lovely: they’re the first air-conditioned trains on the London Underground and have walk through carriages. The trains can also carry more people as standing room has been increased, but at the cost of a 29% reduction in seating. I can see the value of a ‘hop-on hop-off’ spacious train for short distances in Zone 1, but while I think these trains are perfect for the Circle line, I’ve had some concerns about the suitability of reducing seats on commuter journeys over long distances, as the Metropolitan line covers.

However, the signal upgrade is now dependent on the new coalition government's Comprehensive Spending Review and review of the Underground upgrade. Until the announcement in October, we can only hope the Mayor is effectively lobbying the Chancellor effectively on this crucial decision for the Underground, London and Brent and Harrow.

Unfortunately, The Mayor’s responses to my questions on this have not been straightforward. In October 2008 he told me

Question: The new sub-surface rolling stock will introduce a new standard in comfort with the introduction of air conditioning on London Underground trains for the first time. However, a decreased seating capacity of 29% will have major implications for the comfort of Metropolitan Line users north of Baker Street. What measures will TfL make to ameliorate the journeys of the commuting Londoners who pay the highest fares to travel the greatest distances on the network, and who are simply not serviced by a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ design?

 

Answer by Boris Johnson

Although there is a reduction in the number of seats per train, the line upgrade means a more frequent train service and thereby a greater number of seats available to passengers on the line.

This will allow passengers travelling from further out a greater chance of getting a seat and those getting on nearer central London a greater opportunity to get on the first train that arrives.

In December of that year I revisited the issue, after the collapse of Metronet meant a three year period during which the new trains would run but without the higher frequencies promised.

 

Question: In response to my question 2254/2008 regarding the new Metropolitan Line rolling stock, you responded “Although there is a reduction in the number of seats per train, the line upgrade means a more frequent train service and thereby a greater number of seats available to passengers on the line”. Is the Mayor aware the line upgrade, including the signalling upgrade necessary to run more trains on the line, was delayed by the collapse of Metronet. What does the Mayor intend to do for the three year period where the new trains are in operation without the signalling upgrade, with a resultant overall capacity drop of 29%? What measures will you take to alleviate this congestion?

 

Answer by Boris Johnson

It is important to note that there is no reduction in overall Metropolitan line capacity at any time. Overall capacity will increase with the introduction of new trains and timetable improvements which will be brought in both before and after the signalling upgrade.

It is also important to reiterate the fact that the current seating capacity is overstated. As I mentioned in my answer to question 2254/2008, the three seat transverse seat is often too cramped for three passengers. So while it is said that there are 448 seats on each train currently, in practice the number of seats that are available for use is 368.

On the latter basis, seating capacity in the peak hour will be virtually unchanged and London Underground (LU) is confident that most people at Harrow-on-the-Hill and stations north will still get a seat once the new trains are fully in use.

Following the completion of the signal upgrade peak hour seating capacity will actually increase. The additional capacity on these new trains will also provide much needed relief on the most crowded sections of the line between Baker Street and Aldgate.

Finally, it is important to note that LU is managing the signalling procurement so that there will be no delay from the original plan.

 

So, the Mayor now maintains that seating capacity will not drop because “the three seat transverse seat is often too cramped for three passengers”. I think this just shows the Mayor has never travelled on the Metropolitan Line during the rush hour! I’m sad to report he never responded to my invitation to ride the line during those hours to witness the seating arrangements himself.

 

Nonetheless, there is certainly a reduction in seating capacity, and the Metropolitan Line signal upgrade has now been pushed back to 2016, doubling the time with reduced seating to six years. While that’s a problem, we all understand TfL are operating in a tigh financial climate, as are all public bodies and local authorities, but I think this altercation shows we have a Mayor who is not straightforward with Londoners and whose justification changes when challenged.  

 

What do you think of the new trains? Please let me know

 

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1st September 2010

The Jubilee Line Upgrade: No Light At the End of the Tunnel

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spaceball.gifLondon Underground have this week announced that the closure programme to complete the Jubilee Line upgrade is likely to continue into 2011.

 

The Jubilee Line, as all of my constituents know, has being subject to the upgrade works since early 2007. Over the last three years North West London has been subject to regular weekend closures, rail replacements services and a great deal of inconvenience.

 

London Underground, which is part of Transport for London, concluded the takeover of Tube Lines, the private consortium charged with upgrading the Northern, Piccadilly and Jubilee Lines in June. At this point, while work already lagged behind schedule at over £100m over the original budget, it became clear there were a number of problems with the new signalling system required to boost capacity on the line.  TfL immediately announced closures up to December, but this week, following testing of the signals on Saturday August 21st,  it is rumoured to be unlikely the work will be completed before the end of March 2011.

 

When the Jubilee Line is finished, North West London residents will benefit from more frequent trains and shorter travelling time, but this is a distant reward after years of considerable inconvenience and cost to businesses and residents.

 

The closures up until December, which unfortunately particularly affect the North-Western end of the line as much of the work is in the Neasden area. These still may change at short notice so I would advise you to check your journey on www.tfl.gov.uk before you travel. I will of course post news as soon as I receive it. 

 

 

 

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1st September 2010

Visit to the Shri Swaminarayan Nutan Mandir, Bhuj, Gujurat, India

Inauguration of the Shri Swaminarayan Nutan Mandir, Bhuj, Gujurat

 

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I was delighted to take a couple of short breaks in February and May 2010 to see the redevelopment of the temple complex. The visit in May 2010 was to participate in the Nutan Mandir Mahotsav, a ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new temple in Bhuj, Gujurat State, India. This was one of my many visits to Bhuj since the old, historic temple was flattened by the 2001 earthquake and I have followed the nine years of planning, design and construction with a keen interest. The finished result is a beautiful white marble temple with superb, intricate carvings by incredibly impressive workmen and the grandeur of the Mandir provides this important, ancient city with a beautiful yet modern place of worship.

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1st September 2010