Thursday, 31 October 2013

Imminent Loss Of Power

If you live near the corner of Brinkley Road and Browning Avenue there is a good chance you will lose power for a few hours later on tonight.

I have just spotted a van, bright lights, a small mechanical digger and three gentlemen wearing 'electricity' visibility jackets digging a very deep hole there. Apparently there is currently (no pun intended) no power to one house in Brinkley due to a cable shorting out. They will need to switch off the supply to several homes, probably at around 11pm in order to isolate, test and fix the problem. They said it will probably take at least a couple of hours to do.

Unfortunately they were adamant that they didn't want me to take any pictures of the work going on. Not being one to intentionally upset anyone I chose to respect their wishes so sorry, no picture of a muddy hole this time.


Quick Reminder


This is just to remind those of you inclined to be up for an evening out on a Thursday, that next week (Thursday 7th November) is the much vaunted Blog Readers Booze up (or perhaps just the Bloggers Booze up) in celebration of our 2,000,000th page view, which I now confidently predict will occur this coming Saturday.

Jack, the manager at the HG Wells has promised to lay a spread of free food for blog readers enjoying a beer (or whatever) and on the screen will be video revealing the blogger's very identity. How could you want to miss that!

All kicks off at around 7:30. See you there!


A Pair Of Fairs

Saturday the 9th of November (that's the one after this coming one), Worcester Park plays host to two fair type events which will hopefully entice the good people of the area to go along an enjoy the many wares and activities on offer.

The 5th Worcester Park Guides, Brownies and Rainbows (have they always had Rainbows?) are putting on a Christmas Fair at St.Matthias Parish Centre from midday. This can be found at 201 Cheam Common Rd. They will have lots of fair style attractions there including Tombola, Cakes, Stuff for sale and Father Christmas! Admission is only 50p.

And over in the library, starting earlier at 9:30, the Friends of Worcester Park Library will be holding another Craft day. The girls will be offering a huge range of craft items so pop in and take a look in between reading the paper and choosing some books to borrow. This will run through until 3pm.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Leaning Lamp Post Of North Cheam


I first saw (and took this picture of) this slanting street furniture on London Road, just down from the Cheam Common Road/Malden Road lights, last week – Wednesday I think it was. Today it was still there in the same sorry state except for having lost it’s nice red and white plastic tape designed to keep us all away from it. I’m wondering if there are any plans to fix it, or whether is it to become a local tourist attraction...


Getting Cross (Rail) Too

Councillor Stuart Gordon Bullock, Steve O'Connell AM, Gloriana Andrew and Simon Densley holding up signs spelling out 'CR2 Stop Here' and a 'Conservatives' poster
Cllr Stuart Gordon Bullock, Steve O'Connell AM, Gloriana Andrew and Simon Densley (aka Me)
A campaign started by this blog and local Conservatives to get proposed Cross Rail 2 trains to stop at Worcester Park at has been taken up in earnest by local traders and residents.

Under current plans, the proposed Cross Rail 2 trains (not to be confused with High Speed 2 or HS2 heading from London to ‘The North’) would make a stop at Motspur Park and then come straight through Worcester Park without so much as a cursory glance while thundering over the bridge and down the line to Epsom, the next and final stop.

‘Why would anyone stop at Motspur Park in preference to Worcester Park?’ seems to be the cry going up. Sure Motspur Park has a few nice shops and I’m sure the people living there are lovely, however – they don’t have 4 major bus routes stopping at their station including the X26 to Heathrow. They don’t have the thriving hub of business and industry that is Central Road; and they don’t have the sheer volume of people that would use the train every day to commute to and from Central and North London via Victoria, Tottenham Court Road, Kings Cross and the other useful stops along the proposed route. It's not that I think anyone has any objection to the train calling in at Motspur Park, it’s just why is there no planned stop at the vastly more sensible Worcester Park?

Gloriana with a local resident signing
The campaign to get this changed has been in full swing for a short while now. Local Conservative campaigners have been talking to various politicians and have started a petition which London Assembly member Steve O’Connell (pictured left) will present to the London Mayor Boris Johnson. Many local traders already have a copy of the petition in their shops for people to sign (please see the current list of traders below). There is also an electronic version which you can sign here.

I have brought up the issue the couple of times I have met the mayor (pictured right) and recently wrote to London Travelwatch (who will be making a recommendation to the Mayor) about Cross Rail 2 serving Worcester Park, saying that it will:
“Reinvigorate the entire local economy without adding significantly to the number of cars driving into the area. In fact it may even decrease their number as the additional rail options will mean fewer local residents needing to drive to work.”
Steve O’Connell, who is also currently pressing for the tram from Wimbledon to Croydon to extend down to Sutton, sees Worcester Park as a key part of overall improvements to local transport . He told the blog that:
“I am pushing to get Cross Rail 2 calling at Worcester Park and also the tram down to Sutton so we can then run an express bus between Sutton and Worcester Park, creating a very attractive overall transport solution for the local area and Sutton borough generally.”
On the 11th of September Steve officially asked The London Mayor, Boris Johnson:
“Will you confirm that if the regional option of Crossrail 2 goes ahead that trains will stop at Worcester Park?”
The Mayor responded (in writing) with:
“TfL and Network Rail have just completed a joint consultation on Crossrail 2 which included two options: a metro scheme and a regional scheme. The metro scheme would not serve Worcester Park. A regional scheme would have the potential to serve Worcester Park through its connections with the South West Trains network. 
At this stage, TfL is analysing the responses to the consultation and a decision on which scheme to progress will be made at the end of the year. We welcome the views of local residents. If the regional scheme is taken forward, decisions on service patterns, routes and stopping arrangements will be subject to more detailed analysis with Network Rail over the course of the next year and there will be further opportunity to comment thereafter.”
Paul Scully, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park has also taken the opportunity to raise this issue with Government transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin (both pictured right).

As promised, below is the list of local shops which have a copy of the petition which you can sign. Please contact the blog if you know of (or are) any other shops who would like to keep a copy for local people to sign. And remember you can sign the electronic version too. Hopefully between all these and other efforts we might end up with some much needed improvement to local public transport in Worcester Park.

Shops where you can sign the petition:
  • UK Household
  • Woodfall Optitions
  • Kingston South (Property construction & Development)
  • Moonlight Hair Salon
  • Centrals Bar
  • WH Smith
  • Gascoigne Pees
  • Worcester Park Wine
  • Surrey King Cafe
  • Poundland
  • Kingfish
  • Mr Ink
  • Prospects Recruitment
  • Worcester park Mini Market
  • Worcester park Post Office
  • Ryan Gate
  • PC Fix Centre
  • Acacia Hair & Beauty
  • Kim's (Barber shop)
  • Clarks
  • Boots Pharmacy
  • Trutex
  • Glitz M Glam
  • Ross Fruiterers
  • Checkers Cafe
  • The Conservatory Florist
  • Hair Design by Shef (Cut and Blend Barbers)
  • Pets Place
  • Woodward Bros (Fresh Quality Meats)


Manor Park Further Update


About two weeks ago, a blog reader kindly informed me that work seems to have started on the controversial piece of land beside the railway embankment in Manor Park on Malden Road near the Plough. Diggers were there apparently clearing the site. As you can see above it has now been
cleared.

Blog reader Bev has been solidly on the case and together with Conservative Councillor David Fraser (Kingston Council - Old Malden ward; pictured right) they have managed to get 313 signatures on their petition which Cllr Fraser submitted to the council on the 16th July. After receiving no response from them Bev e-mailed Kingston Council’s Chief Executive, Bruce McDonald and received a reply which included the update shown here:


As Bev put it:
"Although in the update it states that no planning applications have been made to date (25th September), in the letter dated 18 October that the owners ".............have pledged to submit a planning application for public consideration this month".  They do not give any info as to what they will be applying for and the cynic in me fears the worst, we will just have to wait and see.  The area has been cleared but the temporary fences are still in place and of course the weeds will just grow back again but I am appalled that the owners can pretty much do what they want and destroy the trees."  
No doubt Bev and Cllr Fraser will keep up the pressure and try to ensure the best outcome for this patch of Manor Park.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Short Train Journey


What’s worse than a cancelled train? One that’s cancelled after you’ve just got on board. Blog reader Richard very kindly sent me these photos of Worcester Park station this morning after the 7:11 suffered this very fate, leaving everyone on the platform. He said:
"It pulled in … already standing room only – but hey, no worse than usual. The doors opened, everyone got on …the doors shut … the train moved… about a foot (that’s 30cm to younger folk) … and then it happened! The train was officially cancelled, whilst it was still in the station … everyone who’d just got on had to get off again and everyone who had already been on the train before it had arrived! … The platform was heaving!
On the plus side, the train was swiftly taken out of service and the next one came a few minutes later – it could have been much worse. Apparently the cause of the problem was the doors failing. It wasn’t a great way to start the day after yesterday, but at least it wasn’t raining!"

Further Thefts

I have received news of even more local thieving over the weekend. The police have received two reports of ‘distraction’ burglaries in the borough on Saturday (26th October). One of these was in Donnington Road, Worcester Park.

It was about lunchtime when a 92-year-old woman had her necklace stolen after she allowed a doorstep caller inside. He had told her he needed to take a closer look at a tile on her roof which was at a ‘dangerous angle’. He said he needed to go upstairs to check it out. After the man had left saying he would return, the woman found her rope style, gold coloured necklace missing.

Police advise residents not to allow inside any unknown and unexpected callers. The message is: ‘If in doubt, keep them out’. If you are suspicious of any callers, call police immediately on 999. We would rather check that everything is OK, than to find that someone has become a victim of crime.

Blog reader Shahid also contacted me to let me know that his friend's parents’ house opposite Cuddington Park was broken into. Gold and money were stolen and the house was left in a bad state.

Shahid would like to urge people that:
"If you have any Money or Gold please take it to the bank if they accept it! And if you don’t have an Alarm get one!"
Shahid also went to the trouble of locating what I assume is a reletively cheap wireless home alarm kit:

This is not an endorsement, I have never seen this product before and don't know how good or bad it is (and I preferred wired systems myself) however it might be one place to start if you are looking for such a device.

I also had a local security installer message me but I have been unsuccessful when trying to contacting him back for further details.

If you have any information about any incidents of crime, either these or any other ones, please call Sutton Police station on 101. Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Digital Art


Local artist Nick Benjamin has an exhibition starting today at Bourne Hall in Ewell. As well as displaying an assortment of his work, Nick will be demonstrating his unique ‘finger style’ painting technique, turning out new works in the process. This is only on until Saturday so if you are looking for something a bit different to show the young-uns during half term, this might be it.

See the Epson Guardian story here for more information.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Another Theft

Blog reader Lisa has informed me that one of their neighbours in Sandringham Road was burgled only this afternoon - in the only half hour that they were all out.

It was in broad daylight and they apparently accessed the mid-terrace from an overlooked alleyway. She said:
"We were at the back of our house and didn't hear or see anything, unfortunately. Hope the little sh*ts are caught before they cause any more devastation to people."
I wholly concur.


Warning - bicycle thief about


I've just had a message from blog reader Bernadett in Pembury Avenue. She says:
"There is a pedal cycle thief around the Pembury Avenue area. I just had my bicycle stolen from my secluded garden."
Readers may know by now that I have a fairly low tolerance for thieves. So if anyone can help catch this particular one and help reunite Bernadett with her property, it would be appreciated. Especially if it leads to one less thief around and a whole lot fewer crimes.

This is the bike above. They took it minus the front wheel as it was locked up. Unfortunately it wasn't marked. Please remember to get your bikes marked at the free police bicycle marking events held regularly. Hopefully there will be another one soon - I will endeavour to keep you posted about this.


Storm Damage



As predicted, lots of damage has been done by last night's storm and high wind. Many trees have come down or lost branches. Fences and other things have been damaged and to top it all off, the traffic lights at Worcester Park station on Malden Road have switched themselves off. Luckily traffic is fairly subdued and people are being generally polite and courteous with other vehicles.

A very large poplar tree came down in The Avenue (pictured above and left) and has been blocking the road. According to a local resident, who was having his breakfast at the time, this came down at about 6:30am after a very strong gust of wind that sustained for about 20 seconds. The tree has a hollow core and local residents had been asking the council (Epsom and Ewell) to take a further 10 meters or so off the top as they didn't think it was safe, but the council refused, apparently as it was a protected species.
Luckily no one was hurt and no cars were damages by this particular tree but apparently there were several cars parked in its path last night whose owners were at a party nearby. Good thing they didn't stay the night! Several others trees have apparently come down in The Avenue as well (such as the one on the left just above here).

In Stone place the big tree behind Iceland was snapped off at its base. This came down on top of some storage facilities but there doesn't look to be too much damage. It does look to have blocked the entrance at the back somewhat though. Contrary to a Sutton Council tweet, the tree is not actually blocking the entrance to the Iceland car park though.

A fallen tree has also partially blocked London Road, just south of the Malden Road/Cheam Common Road lights in North Cheam.

And in Manor Park, a large section of the fence surrounding the controversial cleared area has blown over.

Let me know if you see anything else!

Update

There is a tree down which is partially blocking Lynwood Drive near the junction with Sandringham Road. Passable with care. Thanks to blog reader Lisa for that update.

Update

Thanks to blog reader Richard for this picture (right) of another tree blown down in Hampton Road.

Update


Thanks to Mick for the photo of this fallen tree in Shadbolt Park.

Cancelled Trains


There have been no trains though Worcester Park station since the storms hit the area last night (More to follow). All morning trains were cancelled and the first scheduled train is currently the 12:30 to London Waterloo. You can keep an eye on this here.

Update (13:20)

There are two trains running to Dorking (13:18 - 3 mins late) and the 13:48. Everything else is cancelled up to and including the 15:18 to Dorking.

Update (13:46)

It looks like trains through to Dorking are now running. Trains to London Waterloo all still appear to be cancelled though (up until and including the 15:30) So what happens when they suddenly find all their trains are stuck in Dorking?


Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Old Bank Chambers Hotel


I was nearly going to post some pictures taken through someone’s bedroom window. I wouldn't ordinarily ever consider doing such a thing however this 'bedroom' happens to be the front room of the Old Bank Chambers at 2-4 Green Lane – you know that building that has twice been the subject of a planning application to turn it into a Mosque. Surely you must remember…

There have been plenty of reports that people have been illegally living in the building. Many people have reportedly seen people coming and going, lights on upstairs with shadows of people moving about inside and other tell tale signs that the building is effectively being used as a residential premises.

This is all very well apart from, as far as I am aware, it is still classed as office space and does not have the necessary planning permission to be used as residential premises.

With the bedroom scene in the right hand front room of the building, visible through the top quarter of the window, here is clear evidence that at least one person is using it for exactly that purpose. The picture I have decided not to post was taken at about 9pm and shows a man lying very relaxed on a bed (dark blue sheets), head propped up on his pillow (white with yellow circles) using a laptop which is on his stomach. Other personal items are also on the bed. In the next room a pile of assumed possessions (also just as visible and pictured above) includes what looks like cooking pots, tupperware and crockery. It looks to me like this guy is there to stay.

Is this another case of blatant disregard for planning law by the owners of the Bank Chambers? They have shown complete disregard for planning decisions before so it it would be no surprise if they’re continuing to do so.

Now I may be mistaken. They may somehow have permission for people to live there in the building. This is one of the main reasons I chose not to show this person lying on his bed. I am not going to risk embarrassing someone who may be perfectly within his rights to be there. However if you are tall enough and happen to look through the front window of the Old Bank Chambers as you walk past you can see it all for yourself. (No doubt the curtain will be back up again tomorrow.)

Still I would like to know if this is actually the case. And if it turns out that actually no, people should not be living there, I would like to know if the council plans to do anything about it.

Update (5th November)

Last week a blog reader informed me that he had written to the council about people apparently living in the building. The reply from the principal enforcement officer is set out below:
"I visited the property on 12 June 2013. At the time of my visit there was no evidence that the building had been converted to a residential use. The building has been used by squatters in the past; however was not being used by squatters at the time of my visit. Were the owners of the building to decide to have a person/ persons on site over night as security I would not object to this and, providing the nature of the use of the building does not change, would not consider this to be a breach of planning control for a temporary period."
I find myself wondering how long a 'temporary period' actually is where the line is between having 'a person/ persons on site over night as security' and people living there. Hmmm


Slow Progress


Last weekend I walked past this pavement works in Langley Avenue and thought they were probably fixing a section of pavement that the tree roots have made a trip hazard. This is what councils are supposed to do so fair enough, and I made a mental note to keep an eye on it. This weekend I had another look to find the scene looking exactly the same. Even a couple of the warning traffic cones were still on their sides. Have the council or their contractor forgotten they are supposed to be working here? Or is it normal to leave work half done for a week?

I’m pretty sure this is unrelated to the gas pipe replacement works which have had a genuine excuse for leaving work undone and have started again in earnest. I wonder when this one will warrant somebody’s attention again.

Update (5th November)

It have been over a week since I posted this and yesterday blog reader Melina sent me an update on the state of this hole in the pavement. She writes:
"I walked past this morning around 7.05am and can report that nothing has yet been done and in fact the orange barriers on the tree side had come off their blue feet and one of the barriers had in fact been blown into Langley Avenue meaning that cars would need to swerve to avoid it and likely making the S3 bus route even more hazardous with all the parked cars. 
There is nothing to indicate who is carrying out these works to report this too but assume LB Sutton?"
I believe the council does have to approve all roadworks that go on in the borough and certainly needs to be made aware of them. The orange barriers are marked as belonging to RJ Dance which I believe is one of Sutton Council's contractors. So I would think it reasonable to assume that Sutton Council bears a certain amount of responsibility.

Update (12th November)

This site has now been a derelict for over three weeks. Blog reader Catherine has kindly sent me these photos of the unloved barriers and autumn leaves now covering the site. She says:
"Just writing to share my wistful memories of bygone times when we had a continuous open path on Langley Avenue! This footpath has been closed and left unattended for weeks with half the barriers blown down."
Let's see if the next set of photos includes snow...


We Apologise For The Inconvenience


Five days ago I was alerted by a blog reader and resident of Oaks Avenue, that he’d noticed a rapid drop off in progress of the gas pipe replacement work along the road. He said:
“It looked like contractors were simply half-heartedly digging holes, with dubious intentions of refilling them. However, one of my neighbours (who is currently unable to utilise their drive and having to park in the street) finally lost patience after seeing zero progress outside their home for days and demanded to know why a hole has simply been dug and left at the base of their driveway. Eventually, he was informed that the contractor has in fact lost their contract and has ceased to engage. As a result, the top-half of Oaks Avenue appears to be a series of abandoned craters and the bottom half is, as yet, untouched."
A couple of days later he had heard that the contractor hasn’t lost their contract, but was owed a lot of money by the gas company and as a result, the contractor had refused to continue until the back payments that were owed  had been made.

With such rumours flying about I felt I had better ask the people concerned. Central to all this are of course the people living on the roads where this was going on (or failing to do so.)

The email I have had back from Tony Hollis who runs things from the SGN side that unfortunately the company that was contracted to do the work, Utility Services West Midlands (USWM) had decided to pull out of the contract at extremely short notice, adding that:
"The reasons for this pull out I'm not fully sure of, that is above my station.
This has put SGN in a difficult situation and we have spent the last week sourcing a new company to carry on with the work in the Worcester Park area.
That has been a difficult task for many reasons but we think a solution has been arrived at and the residents of Oaks Ave will be lettered a soon as possible to advise them of the situation and a re-planned date for the continuation of the work. All the other roads on the Tudor Ave project will also receive similar letters."
Sean Jordan who has been running things on site told me a couple of days ago that Surrey Utilities Ltd was taking over and that he and most of his men (25-30 of them) would be employed by them to finish the job. He said that USWM, being a company based in the Midlands had wanted to focus on work closer to home and that there hadn’t been any financial issues. He was keen to praise USWM and also keen to praise the new company, Surrey Utilities saying that he (Sean) would have direct control not only over the pipe replacement work but also the backfilling and reinstatement of each hole as well. He believes that they would be able to coordinate work more effectively and get things done at least 20% faster now.


He said they had lost about a week and half trying to sort out the admin of the new company taking over but that he believed they would be able to make up the time as the work continued. They have since been working in London Road with three way traffic lights (I had wondered where Worcester Park's dedicated set had got to) and the fact they have been out working in Oaks Avenue today (Sunday), even in the dark suggests that they are indeed dedicated to getting the job finished and minimizing any further disruption to residents.

Sean asked me to convey his personal apologies to all local residents for the disruption and lack of progress over the past week or so.

Lincoln Road

Readers may have noticed that Lincoln Road is scheduled to be dug up again. Having asked Tony Hollis about this as well he replied that:
"Unfortunately the re-instatement that USWM carried out was sub standard by both SGN's standards and those of Sutton Borough Council. We therefore have to remove the poor work and re-do the concreting hence the reason for the advance warning signs."
However Sean added that the reason for the problem was that unexpected rain had damaged the newly laid concrete so that it needed to be done again.



Friday, 25 October 2013

Meat The Runner Up



Independent Central Road Butchers’ Shop Woodward Bros narrowly missed the title of Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park’s Independent Shop of the year. The winner was Precision Chiropractic in Cheam while Woodward Bros managed a close second. John Fraser Jenkins Hair Salon in Cheam and Alan Greenwood & Sons Funeral Directors in North Cheam completed the top four.

Winning shop: Kate Irwin of Precision Chiropractic
(and baby George Irwin-Smith) with Paul Scully
Over 1,300 people voted for their favorite shop with 107 shops receiving votes. Paul Scully, the local Conservative parliamentary candidate who organised the competition said:
"The top four shows the diverse range of businesses that local people value. 
It's through this variety that our local villages can continue to offer something to people who might otherwise be attracted to bigger neighbouring shopping centres and demonstrates how different businesses can bring people in to spend money in neighbouring shops. 
Well done to every business that took to this competition in such a positive manner and thank you to everyone who took the time to vote in recognition of their favourite local shop and the work that they do to build and maintain vibrant local communities."
One person was drawn at random from everyone who voted to receive the £100 voucher to spend in the winning shop. So be on the lookout for someone walking a bit taller and straighter over the coming weeks…


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Local Young Shooting Champion

A local scout has won four medals in the 37th National Scout Rifle Competition held last weekend at Bisley. Thirteen year old Jamie Farquharson, with the 1st Old Malden Scouts won two gold medals for 6 yard rifle (under 14s) and overall under 14s, and two bronzes for 6 yard junior pistol and small bore rifle. He was given the Ken White Memorial shield, and a certificate for his gold medal in the 2013 Junior International Open where he won three-position Sporter shooting.

The National Scout Rifle Competition is held each year on the weekend of the 3rd Saturday in October and this year was at The National Shooting Centre in Bisley with over 800 shooters taking part in the event.

Jamie with other members of the team
Jamie is a member of the Scout National Rifle Squad and also shoots with the Royal Kingston Scouts Air Rifle Club. Jamie’s Mum told the blog:
"All the competitors shot well and did the club, Scouts and their families proud! It would be great if more scout troops would join the club. They should talk to their Group leaders for more information about beginner’s courses."
The blog congratulates Jamie on an excellent performance. It’s great to see what our young people can achieve and also to see how local groups like the scouts help to bring out the best in our young people. Please support them.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Making Your Own Jam


Blog reader Jo has emailed me about the new traffic ensemble that is now using Hampton Road (parallel to the high street) in the morning. She says:
"In the summer it was used as a new main road for drivers attempting to avoid the Central Road roadworks. This not only meant our quiet street became as noisy as a road, but the speed some motorists chose to drive down was just plain dangerous. This is our road this morning [pictured above]. Since the roadworks have finished the same drivers decided it worked well for them to cut down Kingsmead Avenue, Hampton road, and then through Waitrose car park [Stone Place]. However, they don't seem to have realised you can't do this anymore and are now all just piling up and stuck in one big jam. Ironically, when we walked past it, the high street was running smoothly and this lot who had to push out one car at a time were all trapped!"
Thanks Jo for the picture as well!


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Definitely Not Robbing The Bank


Some slightly suspicious digging has been going on outside the HSBC bank branch in Central Road today. The gentlemen doing the work are adamant they are there to fix the electricity supply to the lift in next door’s (and above’s) Tudor Bec College. To be fair the lift has been out of order for over a week now.

They told the blog that their first priority is to get the electricity back on for the lift. So the hole (which came into being at around 10:30am) will remain for a few days while other teams come to nut out where the actual failure was and to fix in a more permanent manner.

However if anyone sees someone working there in the middle of the night wearing a top with horizontal black and white stripes or an eyemask or carrying a package marked ‘swag’, consider alerting the police…


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Unintended Offence

I have received two complaints in the last two days regarding Friday’s post about the Fireworks at Green Lane School. These were in regards to the opening sentence which mentioned the link between the Guy Fawkes Night celebration and the burning of Catholics.

Now I of course wrote this with my tongue firmly in my check and was having a dig at the underlying anti-Catholic reasons we have this particular festival, however, given that some people have been offended and considered it anti-Catholic, I would like to apologise for any and all such offence caused. I have now edited out the offending phrase from the original post. I should also make clear that the original post did not reflect the opinions of Green Lane Primary School (or anyone involved with the school). It was my write up of the fireworks night they are putting on for the community. (So please don't blame them!)

While the gunpowder plot was a terrible crime, it was carried out against a background of Catholics being persecuted by the protestant establishment. After the Catholic Guy Fawkes was tortured for information and then executed for the crime, what better way to ensure he did not become seen as a martyr, than with an annual celebration of the foiling of the plot and having children make effigies of him to be burned on bonfires? The cynic in me sees it as a carefully planned PR exercise to ensure the public remembers who were the goodies and who were the badies.

As I indicated in the original post, Mrs WP happens to be Catholic and I regularly attend a Catholic church with my family. So I am certainly not anti-Catholic in any way (just in case you were wondering).

Writing this blog without the benefits of an editor means that occasionally I might overstep a mark here or there. I had hoped that everyone would realise this was a self depreciating attempt to also consider the darker side of the bonfire night festival. However as this seems not to have been the case, I hold up my hands and say sorry. No offence intended.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Controlling The Cold Callers

Alan Plant (Chapra & Neighbourhood Watch), Chief Inspector Nick Collins, Brian Cox (Trading Standards) and Ken Hillman (Chapra)
The North Cheam ‘Cold Call Control Zone’ has been officially launched by Chief Inspector Nick Collins on Wednesday (16th October). Blog readers will remember that Alan Plant, Chair of the local Chapra residents’ Association spent a good deal of Monday 7th October with Cllr Eric Allen and Sutton Council Trading Standards officer, Brian Cox putting up the signage around the edge of the zone, having consulted local residents and finding 99% of respondents wanted the area to become a no cold calling zone.

The 434 residents within the scheme have received information packs to advise them how to deal with unknown and unexpected callers who offer home improvement goods and services for payment - and from others who try to talk their way into their homes on some ruse when their real purpose is to steal cash and possessions.

The information packs include a warning sticker for use on the resident’s front door or window and additional advice on how to reduce unwanted telephone calls and mail.

Chief Insp Nick Collins, who runs Sutton’s Safer Neighbourhoods policing, said it was important that residents say ‘no’ to such callers and do not allow them into their homes. He added:
“Reports of doorstep tricksters operating in Sutton are fairly unusual but when they do occur, they leave residents feeling upset and distressed - and vulnerable.”
Alan Plant who also chairs the local Neighbourhood Watch and has led the initiative said:
“This initiative is all about residents looking out for their elderly and vulnerable neighbours and making people feel safe.”
The scheme which will be formally recognised from the 1st of November, is not intended to stop ‘regular rounds people’ or catalogue companies. People should also be aware that there is no criminal offence for calling, but should callers persist and put pressure on residents then callers may breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. However if you are suspicious of any doorstep callers, feel in danger, or see a crime being committed, you should call police immediately on 999.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Fireworks At Green Lane School

It's coming up to that time of year again when we celebrate the foiling of the gunpowder plot by burning effigies on bonfires and with brightly coloured fireworks. Green Lane Primary School has been the first off the mark with what they have termed a ‘Fireworks Spectacular’ on Friday the 8th November.

Organised by Surrey Events, the event which is open to the entire community, starts at 6pm with hot dogs, burgers, sweet, treats and more and finished at 8pm. The actual fireworks begin at 7pm.

You can buy tickets at the gate :

  • £7 adults
  • £5 children 3-16
  • Under 3s free
  • £22 family of 4

However tickets bought in advance are cheaper:

  • £5 adults
  • £3 children (3-12)
  • Under 3s free
  • £14 family of 4

Email office@glp.rbksch.org to book tickets in advance at the cheaper rate.

Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult!


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Curie-ously Missing Donations


Blog reader Helen (who runs the Marie Curie charity shop) has written in today wanting to ask people for help. They are having a lot of trouble with thefts of donations which have been left outside the shop and because of this they are running very low on donations at the moment.

She says:
“We have people who walk past and drive past and take any donations that have been left outside the shop when it closed. These are then sold on ebay and in car boots sales ect. So please do not leave anything outside any charity shop as it will not be there when the shop is opened. The shop opening times are Mon - Sat 9 - 4.30 and Sunday 10 - 4.00.
If you need more help and info please come in and see me. We have to stop these shop lifters!”

The blog is reminded of the women recently caught stealing from outside a charity shop. Marie Curie is raising money to help people who are terminally ill. They need their donations to be able to do this so please: A. Don’t steal the donations, and B. Don’t leave them outside the shop in the dead of the night. Please help ensure your generosity ends up helping the people you want it to.


Cheam Vs Worcester Park


The Independent Shop of the Year competition is finishing tomorrow and apparently Worcester Park and Cheam are the two main areas that have really got behind their local independent shops.

The competition, which was launched at the beginning of September by local Conservative parliamentary candidate, Paul Scully (pictured here with Gaynor from the Conservatory Florist - thanks to the Sutton Guardian for the photo) has attracted wide support but the most feedback has been coming from these two areas, which apparently both have shops in the running for the major prize.

There is still time to get your vote in for a chance to win £100 to spend in the winning shop. To vote, just go to the website www.suttonlocal.org.uk.

Come on Worcester Park, lets show those Cheamsters that our independent shops can kick their independent shops any day of the week...


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ewell Need To Avoid Kingston Road

If you plan to travel along Kingston Road (A240) over the next week or so, please be aware that there are major night-time roadwork going on between Worcester Park Road and Jubilee Way from tonight until the 24th October.

The blog understands that the Southbound carriageway (toward Ewell) will be closed for three nights and then the northbound one (towards Tollworth... or away from Ewell if you like) will be closed for three nights from 9pm until 5am.

Apparently this is to eliminate pits, grooves and gaps (or potholes, rutting and cracks) and reduce the need for major future maintenance.

Thanks to the blog reader who first alerted me to this.


Thoughts On The Tavern Consultation

Like many Worcester Parkers, I went over to the Old Worcester Park Tavern on Saturday to see the Ismaili presentation for their proposed community centre.

I should say now that this wasn’t my first contact with this Ismaili community. The previous week I, and several other local supposedly ‘influential’ people received invitations to meet with their representatives at the home of one of their local members. I managed to visit them last Friday for a cup of tea and a chat. They were extremely charming and hospitable and wanted to explain in greater detail than was possible at this weekend’s event what the Ismaili community was all about, talk about their current centres in London and the good works they did around the world.

They had done their homework; they knew all about the Green Lane application, and had been at the latest hearing, although they did explain that the Green Lane application was a completely different group and nothing to do with them. I admit I did come away feeling more reassured about their proposal, which was to be expected.

On Saturday, even though I had an idea of what to expect, I was still struck, like I think many people were, by the friendly hospitality shown by the Ismaili volunteers to everyone who turned up. They were keen to demonstrate what the Ismaili community is all about and what makes them a unique group and I think they made a positive impact here.

Many readers will be aware that a number of people had planned to turn up at 2pm for a major protest. Some police arrived just before 2pm and were keeping an eye out while wandering around the presentation space. The room was indeed at its most packed at 2pm (pictured above) but there was no sign of any organised protest though. Perhaps the police presence put them off or perhaps, as one volunteer suggested, they were taken aback by being offered a hot drink and some biscuits by the people they had come to protest against.


The Proposal

First I should point out that the number of visitors I originally published has been revised upwards. I was originally given these numbers by The JTS Partnership LLP, the company employed to run their campaign. However at the consultation event there were information boards around including one which showed projected visitor numbers as being around 70-80 on most evenings with up to 135 on Friday evenings. There could be a number of reasons why the numbers I was given the first time were not the same as the ones being publicised now. I am not going to assume it is a particularly sinister reason, nor will I assume it is completely benign. I am keeping an open mind.

I have been told more than once that this will not be a Mosque. It is to be known only as an Ismaili Community Centre. However I was told that there will be a large room set aside for regular religious services. These would include communal prayer, readings, lessons et cetera – very similar I expect to what many of us sometimes experience on a Sunday morning. I was told that these are quite different to the five daily prayers that a Mosque would host, and also that to be a Mosque it would require other things including a minaret.

Mind you regardless of what it is called, I don’t have any problems with people praying, either all together or separately. The only problem with a large number of people turning up to attend a specifically timed function, be it prayers, choir practice or a used car auction is Worcester Park’s age old traffic and parking one. It is very possible that more people were in the building at any one time when it was a pub, than will be attending one of the Ismaili events. And there are 54 car parking spaces which I would think would be enough for 135 people, especially when you consider many people will be husbands and wives (plus others) in a single car and some will arrive by train etc. However while I was reassured that they would not all turn up and leave at the same time, I can’t help thinking it would be within a much shorter time span that those turning up to hear the “Rough Diamonds” play a few sets at the Tavern, especially when many of those drinking would have specifically chosen not to turn up by car. I am not an expert on traffic and parking but I am open to the idea that this may cause some extra problems in the immediate vicinity at certain times of the week.

I also find myself wondering why they have stated a rough maximum of 135 people when their recent proposal in Hook, which was turned down by Kingston council, was expecting a daily attendance of 200 people. Being that this would be representing the same large overall area, where have the other 65 people gone? I realise that only a lowish percentage of all the area’s Ismailis would be turning up regularly, but it is stated in this report that there are 600 members around Kingston and if this centre was serving all of Kingston plus parts of Sutton, Surrey and other areas, I wonder if 135 people is an accurate projection. Conflicting figures are never a good sign.


The Ismailis

I must admit from my experiences so far I rather like the Ismaili people I have met. In one of the articles in their Winter 2012 issue (No. 74) of “The Ismaili”, which I picked up on Saturday, I noted that they are encouraged, though thinking carefully and living their values, to “become ambassadors of Islam who represent a positive, ethical face of the faith.” (Page 69 if you are interested.)

As far as I am aware, unlike the group at 2-4 Green Lane, they don’t make a habit of pushing the same proposal numerous times trying to wear down local opposition until they get their way. They have a reputation for being moderate, professional, educated and generous which is borne out by several things I have heard and read, (not only from Ismaili publications.)

They seem to be quite concerned with building bridges with other communities, something that gets a big thumbs up from me. In a speech by their leader, His Highness the Aga Khan (pictured left), which I feel captures this concern, he mentions one of the famous story about Jesus:
“'Who is my Neighbour?' - one of the central Christian narratives asks. Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan -- a foreigner, a representative of the Other, who reaches out sympathetically, across ethnic and cultural divides, to show mercy to the fallen stranger at the side of the road.”
The whole speech can be found here and I would say is well worth a look.

I have read comments from other members of the Muslim community denouncing Ismailis as not 'real Muslims'. See here for a sample. Although I hope and assume it is just a minority expressing such opinions.


In Conclusion

Readers will note it has taken me a few days to formulate this particular post. This is a complex issue and not one where I would want to be jumping to a quick conclusion based on scant evidence. I admit if we are not going to see the building turn back into a pub, I would probably rather see the proposed hotel development go ahead which I think would do immense good for the local economy. Incidentally I was told that the building is still owned by Shiraz and Nameem Bhogani who are Ismailis but have not actually sold it to the Ismaili community.

However I think the numbers of people and also timings of visits need to be made much clearer and the conflicting numbers all resolved independently before any real conclusions can be drawn about this proposal. While the Green Lane proposal was clearly just a bad planning proposal (an opinion now endorsed twice by Sutton’s planners and the Development Control Committee), this one could possibly be a bad planning proposal but it is not as clear cut. More independent evidence is clearly needed.

Many have said that the building should continue to serve the whole community. One of the first things I suggested at my first meeting was to find a way to involve the whole community in the centre.

Perhaps the hotel could still go ahead, but include a smaller meeting area dedicated for Ismailis plus a community centre as well. In a five or six story hotel building taking up the land available (with underground parking for 150 cars), I’m sure that would be a very feasible arrangement that would hopefully be better received by the Worcester Park community. – Just a thought.


Friday, 11 October 2013

Express-O-Pen


Yesterday I was walking down Central Road at around 3:30pm looking for some lunch (rather late in the day I admit) and when many of the eateries had closed. On walking past the new Express-O Café, occupying what was the Medusa Café, I noticed it had opened and so chose to give it a try.

It transpires that they only opened on Wednesday (9th October) and are a family run business. Dad cooks the hot food while his wife (Irma) and daughter (Shay) (both pictured here in the opposite order) look after the customers. I was only after a snack so opted for a half a baguette with some curry chicken with lettuce and onion which was fresh and very nice, and a cappuccino.

Now Mrs WP knows a thing or two about coffee and some of it has rubbed off on me (still trying to remove the stains) and so I was anticipating a rather bitter coffee as it was a new machine. However this was not the case and it was actually a rather good cappuccino. I didn’t even need the extra sugar I has asked for in anticipation.

So thumbs up for both the quality of the food and the service which was both friendly and thorough – if indeed it can be judged on half a baguette and a cappuccino. The only thing missing was some deserty type things, maybe some cakes or something which would go well with an afternoon coffee. But they said they might look at doing cakes and they do do milkshakes so I’m not too worried.

Their specialty seems to be breakfast (which they serve all day); they open a 6am and a Full English adorns their shop front and menu which also features mainly burgers, chip, omelettes, jacket potatoes, sandwiches and salads. It is still early days and apparently there was more business on Thursday than there was on Wednesday so it all seems to be going in the right direction for them.