Sunday, 22 November 2015

Public Police Meeting

A few Fridays ago, readers may remember an extraordinary meeting taking place in Maple Lodge to discuss the outcomes of possible cuts to the police budget and the effects to policing in Worcester Park.

Given that I am chair of the Worcester Park Residents' Association and as part of that role, also chair the local Police Safer Neighbourhood Team Ward Panel, I should really report on this here from that position rather than from the point of view of someone watching proceedings from an outside perspective. I would therefore invite comments from those who were present to augment what I have written here.

Anyway, to give a little more background, back in early October, Michael Freter, chair of the Hamptons Estate Company (previously the Hamptons Residents' Association) asked me to call an extraordinary police ward panel meeting to discuss possible threats to local policing due to the difficult budgeting decisions being made at the moment. Given the concern over the issue I agreed this was appropriate and set about doing so. I wanted to invite our local MP Paul Scully and our London Assembly Member, Steve O'Connell (who might be termed as Boris's representative in Sutton and Croydon) to inform the meeting about what is happening at higher levels and so we could ask them to take our concerns to higher levels.

The only evening that both of them could attend the meeting was unfortunately a Friday evening (the 30th) which meant that two of our local councillors and both representatives from the Hamptons were unable to attend due to previous engagements. However Cllr Wingfield was able to be there to represent the councillors and Michael Freter had given me some points which I agreed to raise at the meeting on his behalf. Being that the meeting was to discuss the budgeting and running of the metropolitan police, the local police felt it would not be right for them to be present, but they expressed their appreciation that we were trying to secure a better outcome for them. The picture above shows (from left to right) Steve O'Connell AM, myself, Paul Scully MP and Councillor Paul Wingfield.

Around 20 - 25 local residents were present at the meeting to hear the information from both Paul and Steve and to discuss and debate the issue. For a single topic the meeting went on for almost two hours but being an extremely urgent issue, I felt it was important to let everyone speak who had something to say.

One of the main outcomes of the meeting was a resolution that I should write to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to express our views and position and to ask that the existing local police situation in Worcester Park remain unchanged. I have put a copy of most of that letter below, as it sets outs clearly much of what was discussed at the meeting without me needing to repeat myself.

I have since heard back from Paul that he had a meal with the Chancellor George Osborne recently and used the opportunity to press him about this mater. On Thursday he publicly stated:
"Hopefully last Monday evening will have born fruit. I spent it asking the Chancellor to have another look at the police budget before considering anything that will have an effect on neighbourhood policing across London."
Steve also promised to bring up the issue with Boris Johnson but added that Boris would not put up with the loss of local Safer Neighbourhood Policing in London.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on the 17th November:

Dear Sir Bernard,
As chair of the Police Safer Neighbourhood Team Ward Panel in Worcester Park, London Borough of Sutton, I recently called an extraordinary ward panel public meeting (Friday 30th October) to discuss concerns about possible changes to local policing in the face of reportedly expected budget cuts. This was attended by Paul Scully MP and Steve O'Connell AM.
There are two things that came out of this meeting which I would like to make you aware of, plus the outcomes we would like to see locally.
First, the general conclusions drawn about what is going on was seen clearly as a negotiation in public with the opening position being every possibility on the table including the unpalatable ones.
We can see that the recent ominous headlines are a result of political game-playing by the Met and the politicians. Essentially the pitch to the politicians is ‘make any more cuts and we’ll destroy your showcase policing policy and blame you’. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation, the main losers will be us, the public. We note also that the HMIC has criticised the police in general for expensive budget failures. Poor planning on future staffing, wasteful computer systems and a paranoid fear of the private sector. We accept that money needs to be saved and these failures should be addressed before taking the axe to PCSO’s and the success of Neighbourhood Policing. At the same time we asked our MP Paul Scully to raise our concerns with the Chancellor George Osborne to ensure that the police budget allows our Neighbourhood Policing system to continue in as unchanged a state as possible.
Second and more importantly, our existing Neighbourhood Policing setup in Worcester Park is an example of why it is so important not to lose our Neighbourhood Policing system. Gary Weaving is our own dedicated PCSO in Worcester Park ward. Gary is well known in the local area and provides a valuable bridge between the police and the community. He knows the area well, he knows who the local trouble makers are, and he knows who the local vulnerable people are. He is always friendly and approachable and has a rapport with the local traders in the high street as well as local residents. We believe his understanding of the local community is a source of invaluable intelligence which has been instrumental in helping bring and keep crime down in Worcester Park. Additionally in 2013 Gary received a Met Police ‘environmental efficiency’ commendation award for his leading role in creating the ‘fishery’ in the wetland area of 'The Hamptons' part of the ward, something he did in his own time for the local community he wishes to serve.
It would not only be a terrible loss to our local community to lose PCSO Gary Weaving, that loss would be hugely disproportionate to any financial gain from such a change.
I have no doubt that the majority of London Borough wards have similar stories to tell and that our dedicated ward officers and PCSOs have proven themselves to be both an effective and efficient tool in reducing crime locally. In light of recent events in France, I would also argue that such officers are our intelligence foot soldiers and that without them, a vital source of information for our security services would be cut off.
As the Worcester Park ward panel we are resolved to ask as the highest priority, the retention of Gary Weaving as our dedicated ward PCSO. We would also ask that our current system of Neighbourhood Policing remain unchanged and lastly the retention of our Police Office at 154 Central Road, Worcester Park, KT4 8HH.
I look forward to a positive resolution to this current set of negotiations, which will see both sides take a sensible position bringing both the necessary financial benefits while retaining the effective and efficient aspects of Neighbourhood Policing.
Yours sincerely

Simon Densley
(Chair, Worcester Park Police Safer Neighbourhood Team Ward Panel)

We all hope that with our efforts and the undoubted pressure being put on from many local communities, we will retain our valued Safer Neighbourhood Police in Worcester Park.

Update (26th November)

What a relief! I'm sure we are all very pleased with the outcome of yesterdays budget spending review with the Chancellor protecting the police budget.

Autumn Winners

Regular blog readers will remember a recent spate of Autumn events for children, run and organised by local event organiser, Richard Johnson. These included a drawing competition and a treasure hunt. Both events were sponsored by the Sainsbury's Local at the top of Central Road with Haart (the estate agent) providing additional prizes for the treasure hunt.

Well the winners of the Autumn design challenge have now been announced and as two of the three winners were members of 1st Worcester Park Girls Brigade, (who meet every Thursday, at nearby Christ Church with St Philip), it was organised to meet up there to give out the prizes.

Congratulations go to Kalida Alnajjar (left), Ruth Ritchie (centre) and Lexi Hamilton-Warford (right), seen holding their winning designs on the left here. A big thank you also goes to shift manager Dan (seen at the rear), from Sainsbury's Local, who kindly came along to present the three prizes of a £10 book token. Alongside Dan is 1st WP Girls Brigade Captain, Angela.

Extra prizes at Haart
The organisers would like to thank everyone who took part and entered the competition.

Richard Johnson who organised it told the blog: 
"The Sainsbury's team also showed me some of the entries and I saw there were a lot of thoughtful and creative ideas... Worcester Park has talent!

For those that didn't win a prize this time, one or two local traders have expressed an interest in sponsoring future art competitions, so there undoubtedly will be more opportunities for local children to win a prize next year."
Treasure Hunt prize
winners outside Sainsbury's
Then came the Autumn Treasure Hunt, where Worcester Park's children were invited to take part in a high street treasure hunt, where they were challenged to find 25 posters in the local shop windows on Hallowe'en evening.

Completing the challenge wasn't too difficult, (and even possible without crossing the notoriously busy Central Road), as over 100 local shops joined in to support the activity, by placing a poster in their window. Mr Johnson wanted to express his thanks to all 102 shops who took part this time and supported the event and said,
"I was amazed just how many shopkeepers were up for this, having grown from the initial 20 traders, who took part in the first treasure hunt, back in Easter 2014."
The list of all 102 traders who took part is: (clockwise from the top of the hill)...

On the left/to the west: The Tops, Fulham Timber Merchants, Sainsbury's Local, Broadway Bargains, Happy Garden, Meghna, Costcutter, Wise Beds, Lemon & Lime Kitchen Designer, Bronco's, Royal British Legion, Camera Continental, Smile Dental Implants, Megabytes, Toy Shed Toy Shop, The Classic, Worcester Park Library, Nat West, QEF, Santander, Pets Place, Superdrug, Sunshine Café, Food and Wine, Princess Alice, Burkitt Stationery & Cards, Cut & Blend, Redgwell's Sewing Machines, Greggs, Quality Dry Cleaners, Nationwide, Woodward Brothers, Sole II Sole, Marie Curie, W H Smith, UK Household, R Woodfall, Caché, Moon Light Unisex Hair Salon, Barclays, Gascoigne Pees, Surrey King Café, Nefis, and The Brook…

On the right/to the east: Worcester Park Station, Worcester Park Station Newspaper Kiosk (Paul Daws), Fiko, Kingfish, Mr. Ink, Abi Express, Ryan Gate, PC Centre, Boots, La Mamma, H&T Pawnbrokers, Clark's, Trutex, Halifax, Glitz and Glam Beauty, Chinese Medicine Plus, Ross's Fruiterers, Checkers, Conservatory Florist, Sean Hanna, Tarrant's Hardware, Sularis, Golden Images, Hendy's Jewellers, Read & Rite, Kimberley Nail Designs, St. Raphael's, Garner's Funeral Service, Hunters, Coversure, Amy Nails, Shesh Mangal, Graham Lee Carpets, Preview Menswear, Bellini, Connor Prince, Central Plumbing, Central Locksmiths, AMS Opticians, Dawson Aerials, Chubbys, Haart, Knightwood Furniture, The Perfect Property Maintenance Company, Launderette, Computer Surgery, More Than Lofts, Frederick W Payne, Star Barbers, Classic Wok, Dual Tools, Amor Beauty, CSC Cars, Ocean, Stitch Right, Jolley's Newsagents, B R Fencing & Christchurch with St. Philip's…

A big thank you to all of them for getting involved in local events like this and helping to keep the community spirit alive in Worcester Park.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

First Fair Of The Season

And so it begins. The Christmas fairs have started. Well at least it's the second half of November I suppose. Hopefully we won't be all Christmased out by the time the actual, day arrives...

First out the blocks is Doris Venner Pre School (The Manor Drive, KT4 7LG) holding their event this coming Saturday 21st November from 11am 'til 2pm.

Louise from DVP would like to pass on the following:
"Get in the festive spirit at the Doris Venner Pre-School Christmas Fair, a fun-filled event for all the family, with a host of activities going on from 11am – 2pm. Browse the festive stalls, try your luck on the tombola, enter the raffle and be in with a chance of winning some great prizes. Children will be able to meet Father Christmas and have their photo taken with him in his grotto."
Entry will cost only 50p per adult and as DVP is a registered charity, funds raised will go directly to funding equipment for the pre-school.

So it's all for a good cause. The kids will love it. I suppose I should get into the Christmas spirit a bit more - even though it is still November and clearly not even winter yet. Ho ho blooming ho then...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Inking Out

Nine years ago Mr Ink (AKA Patrick - although not Patrick Ink) opened up his retail shop at the bottom of the high street. Since that time many people have wondered how the shop has managed to stay open. Reports of people actually going into the shop were after all, few and far between.

But, on the eve (or thereabouts) of the closing of what has become a strangely comforting feature of our high street, the Worcester Park Blog can reveal all...

When Patrick took over the premises near the bottom of Central Road, the place was in a mess. Consequently he got a very good deal on the rental of the shop and set about fitting out the shop, doing all the work himself - as many independent retailers do, resulting in the ink boutique we have become familiar with over the last near decade. That lease ran for 9 years, and runs out in a couple of weeks time.

What most of us didn't know was that the vast majority of Mr Ink's business came not from people walking in off the street but through business to business work that remained largely unseen to the rest of us. Having the shop front may have raised his profile but having to always be ready to serve at the counter hasn't always meant he's been able to serve his other clients as well as he would like.

And so Mr Ink is not, I repeat - not - going out of business. He is closing the shop front retail business in order to focus on his business to business work, which is where his real business has been the whole time. He will be able to do this, as so many businesses are these days, from an office at home not only lowing his overheads but also allowing him to serve his business clients even better, for instance by delivering directly to them.

I think Worcester Park will miss Mr Ink once he has gone and the ever present ink emporium is no longer. I must admit that I had become a semi-regular customer in recent times - I do go through rather a lot of ink. We will certainly not welcome yet another empty shop in the high street. I hope the landlord will price the rent of the unit with a view to getting someone in quickly - but that's another story.

The blog would like to wish Patrick well in his transition to a new business model and hopes it is successful. In the meanwhile readers have only a couple more days to pop in and Make Patrick an offer for the last few bits 'n' pieces he has left in the store. Go to it...

Update 4:20pm Saturday 14th November

Mr Ink will be closing his retail shop door for the last time at 5pm this afternoon. That gives you just over half an hour to pop in a grab a quick bargain - mind you there's not much left...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

A Day To Remember

It's that time of year when we come together as a nation (or actually across the Commonwealth) to pay our respects and remember those who gave up everything so we could live in freedom and prosperity today.

The Royal British Legion was pulling out all the stops today to encourage people to wear a poppy and remember our armed forces upon whose backs our way of life rests. These gentlemen were happy to pose for a few shots including one allowing WP Junior to pose with one of their guns (perhaps not one for this particular medium).

Of course tomorrow is the big day (being the second Sunday in November) as Remembrance Sunday. The ceremonial events are as follows:

  • 10:00am - Church Service at Christchurch With St Philip.
  • 10:45am - Walk up to St. Philip's churchyard for the laying of wreaths and two minutes silence.
  • 11:15am (approx) Parade down Central Road to the Royal British legion where everyone is welcome - and that includes non-members also.
It is always great to see such a large turnout every year. The weather forecast is for cloud but no rain so there's no excuse! See you there...

Friday, 6 November 2015

Firework School

For those who crave a double helping of fireworks this weekend, you'd better get yourself down to Green Lane Primary School this evening (Friday 6th November).

The entertainment starts at 6pm with the grand firework display at 7pm. There will be food and drink available as well.

The cost to attend this event is (as shown in the poster here) £7 for adults and £5 for children (£22 for a family of four).

Readers can of course complete their firework weekend experience at the Hamptons on Sunday for Free. But don't let that put you off this one. The money raised will be going to help augment the education of our young people so it is a very worthy cause.

For those who are unsure, Green Lane Primary School is at the far end of Green Lane, there is very limited parking outside the school (please proceed with caution) so walking is recommended if you can.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Tentative Crossrail Sucess

It appears our campaign may have succeeded in bringing Crossrail 2 to Worcester Park!

Crossrail 2 have begun another consultation but unlike previous consultations, where Worcester Park was missing as a station stop on the maps, this time there is a fact sheet showing Worcester Park, Stoneleigh and Ewell West as proposed stations along the route (thanks blog reader Doug for an early pointer on this).

On the consultation page there is a list of fact sheets, one of which is about the Epsom to Worcester Park regional branch. The main subheading of this states that:
"New Crossrail 2 services are proposed to serve all stations between Worcester Park and Epsom, with at least 4 trains per hour in each direction operating directly to, and across, central London."
There is also a table which shows that Worcester Park will end up with 8 trains per hour to Central London during peak times (an increase of 2) and it shows that all trains coming from Epsom will stop here.

I want to thank everyone who supported our campaign by signing our petition, or keeping one in their shop or just responding to the consultation.

Steve O'Connell AMThanks must also go to local London Assembly member Steve O'Connell who has supported the campaign both on the ground and by keeping the pressure up on Boris.

Claire Perry MP and Paul Scully MP at Worcester Park stationAnd also to Paul Scully MP who has supported the campaign from the beginning, and bringing transport minister at the time, Claire Perry MP down to see the situation for herself.

Simon Densley with Mayor Boris JohnsonAnd perhaps also to Boris himself whom I accosted on the issue every time I saw him.

It is not time to rest on our laurels just yet though. This is still only a proposal and not yet set in stone. I would urge everyone to respond to the consultation, filling in both the South West Branches section and also the compulsory About You section.

I responded earlier today and made the comment:
"It is with great relief, happiness and satisfaction that I see the Crossrail 2 is now proposed to serve Worcester Park station. Please do not let this be a temporary proposal. It is very important that Worcester Park be part of the Crossrail 2 network and I urge you to set this proposal in stone."
It has also bee noted that Worcester Park has not been included on a series of 66 ‘roadshow’ events at which Crossrail 2 staff will be available to answer questions. I have asked Paul Scully to ask why this is, at meeting he is having with Crossrail 2 representatives next week. I'm hoping part of the answer will be because Worcester Park now has what it wants, and hopefully we will be included on such events in the future. That said there are such events in Epsom and Raynes Park which I'm sure we will be welcome to visit with the same questions.

Update (12 minutes past 6 pm)

I have just received an email from Cllr Kevin Davis (Leader of Kingston Council and councillor for Old Malden ward - part of Worcester Park, in fact the ward containing Worcester Park station), stating:
"I can confirm we have managed to get Worcester Park included in the Crossrail 2 project."
Hip hip...

Autumn Treasure Hunt

The half term Autumn entertainment continues this Saturday with a kids treasure hunt along Central Road.

Serial organiser of these things, Richard Johnson told the blog:
"Even if your child didn't win one of the three prizes of the Autumn Art Competition (which closed yesterday), they can still win prizes in this Saturday's FREE Central Road Treasure Hunt…
Thanks to the support of Paul (new Manager of Worcester Park’s Sainsbury’s Local) and Daniel (Manager of Worcester Park’s Haart estate agents), Worcester Park’s children have the opportunity to complete an autumn themed treasure hunt this Saturday (Halloween).
You’ve probably already seen posters like the one featured here dotted around the shop windows in and around Central Road. On Saturday, from 10am,  children will be able to pick up a form at Sainsbury's Local in Worcester Park [or download it from here] and write the names of some of the shops where they discover the same poster in the shop window.
On filling the form with the names of 25 participating shops, children can present the completed form at Sainsbury’s and Haart, where they’ll receive some treats from both shops. Sainsbury’s will have 100 forms available and both shops will have 100 lots of treats, which they’ll give out from 10am until 2pm, or until they run out. Best aim to start at 10am to avoid disappointment.
All you’ll need to bring with you is a pen to write the names of the shops on your entry form.
You’ll note that the form in the shop windows focuses on local autumn views, rather than explicitly ‘Halloween’. In an effort to make this activity as inclusive as possible I’ve avoided any controversial imagery. And to make this a truly local treasure hunt, I thought it was an opportunity to show the beauty of autumn colours that you can see in KT4 at this time of year. Besides, it’s clear not everyone is keen on ‘trick or treating’,  which is seen by some as hostile begging. So rather than have your children knock on your (possibly elderly) neighbours’ doors and with a confrontational, 'Trick or treat!',  here’s an alternative challenge for younger residents to have test their observational powers in the high street, with some treats at the end of it."
Download the entry form here - and go and find those Autumn pictures!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Extraordinary Police Ward Panel Public Meeting

As many blog readers may already know, I was elected chair of the Worcester Park Residents Association (WPRA) in July. A recent tradition means that I also chair the Worcester Park Police Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panel. It is with this hat on that I have called a public meeting this Friday which I would like to invite the residents of Worcester Park to.

The following is the message which I have sent out to members of the WPRA:
There has been concern recently about possible changes to the local neighbourhood policing due to possible savings needing to be found from the police budget. 
As chair of the Worcester Park Police Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panel (as well as the WPRA), I have called an extraordinary Ward Panel meeting and it has been recently decided to open this up to the wider public so this important issue can be discussed in public so we as a community can make known our views on the future of local policing in Worcester Park. 
Both our London Assembly Member, Steve O'Connell and our new MP Paul Scully have agreed to be present and speak at the meeting to give us an inside view of the situation, and also listen to our concerns and take our views back to the next level on our behalf. 
The meeting has been organised for this coming Friday 30th October at Maple Lodge in the Hamptons at 7:30pm.
This will be a chance to find out with greater clarity what is happening with local police, raise our concerns about this with Steve O'Connell AM and Paul Scully MP, and most importantly stand up for our local community and the police who keep us safe.

Remember - this Friday 30th October, 7:30pm at Maple Lodge (the large building with the clock on top) in The Hamptons,

Hope to see you there...

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Free Fireworks

If you are like my family, you're probably looking for somewhere to go around the 5th November to enjoy some fireworks without paying too much. Now that WP Junior is old enough to appreciate it, I had volunteered to actually buy some fireworks last year but Mrs WP suggested that it would be cheaper (probably thinking 'safer') to go along to one of the many pre-organised events instead. Given our wizened budget the reality was that neither was really feasible.

However this year is a whole different story. The budget is still gaunt - in fact even more so after the materialisation of WP Junior #2, but the Hamptons has come to the rescue!

On Sunday the 8th November, hot on the heels of their successful Midsummer Fiesta, the Hamptons are putting on a huge fireworks display for everyone and anyone who wants to come along.

The fireworks is actually just one part of an overall entertainment evening beginning at 3:30pm with a popup market, the second 'Made In The Hamptons' event (where Hamptons residents showcase their good and services - there's much enterprise in the Hamptons), Mulled Wine, and fair ground style entertainment for kids and us older folks...

WP Junior has just seen the poster and repeated "I want to go. I want to go. I want to go. I want to go." So it looks as if this event is likely to be a big hit - certainly for us!