Tuesday, 30 June 2015

We're Still Open

One could be forgiven for thinking that so many shops in Central Road are closing that the only sensible thing for shops to do now is to actively advertise the fact they're still open.

That seems to be what the Designer Kitchen Studio is doing.

On closer inspection though it turns out that they are having a re-fit and just wanted to let us know they are not closing while the work is going on.

Sleeping Season

Or Beds To Go Down The Road

It seems I was mistaken in my report a few days ago that Beds To Go has closed. They are in fact moving. A new sign had a appeared in the window to tell us they are moving down to No 59 (Next to Costcutters) - or as the rest of us know it - The Old Seasonal Shop.

A quick inspection of said shop reveals that it is indeed filling up with all things beds. Perhaps the shop has finally picked a season - 'Spring'... (cue ROFL)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Hold The Phone

A little over a month ago I was contacted by three separate people about an issue that touched a bit of a raw nerve with me.

Residents near the corner of Auriol Park Road and Salisbury Road are fighting to stop the installation of a mobile phone mast on the grass verge opposite Auriol Park Road.

As one organiser pointed out:
"The mast will be completely out of keeping in the area and the base stations will be a platform for youths to climb onto once the park is closed, which will increase anti-social behaviour."
Anti phone mast protestAnother one stated:
"I feel it would definitely ruin a very picturesque road/area."
They have set up a petition which has already attracted over 500 signatures. Feel free to add yours to it here: www.stopauriolparkmast.org.

The issue of mobile phone masts has been one that has divided society for more than a decade. On one side people like the convenience of wireless 'anywhere' communication, however such technology requires the existence on hundreds of thousands of these 'masts' (the Americans call them 'Cell Towers') to actually send and receive the microwave encoded data signals to all those mobile devices.

Many people don't want such street furniture in their immediate vicinity for a variety of reasons. In this case they feel it is 'completely out of keeping with the area'.

I asked one organiser if they were prepared to put up with poor mobile phone reception as a consequence and was assured they certainly were. They said it should be up to them in their local area to make the choice between good mobile reception with a mast or poor reception and no mast. They wanted the latter.

I have personal first hand knowledge of dealing with a similar issue and they have my sympathy. What comes next is a description of my personal story with regard to this issue. In many ways it has had a bearing on who I am today and was the springboard to my becoming involved with the local community, of which getting involved with local politics, community issues in Worcester Park and ultimately running this blog all stem from.

Mobile Phone MastMy Story

In 2004 I moved to the area with my (now) wife - wanting to be closer to my Grandmother and other family near by. Less than a couple of months later O2 was preparing to erect a huge mobile phone mast directly opposite my house. I decided to research the implications of this and was stunned by what I unearthed.

Far from being 'no evidence of any harm' caused by the radiation from mobile phones and their corresponding masts, I found plenty. There have been numerous published (and peer reviewed) scientific studies on the issue and a great many of them show statistically significant evidence of biological harm (Google the subject and you will find many). A favourite quote being rolled out at the time was that, "The balance of evidence suggests that mobile phone technologies do not cause adverse health effects."

When it comes to my family's health however, 'the balance of evidence' is not good enough for me. Only 'proven beyond all reasonable doubt' is evidentially sufficient for my reassurance. I was not prepared to be a guinea-pig in someone else's epidemiological experiment and I didn't see why anyone else should be either. I knew that a letter of protest to my MP would be as much use as trying to push a mast over with my bare hands so my response was instead to leaflet all my neighbours, telling them what I knew and asking them to write to their local MP. Where one letter would do little, numerous ones might make a difference.

Yasmin Skelt and Simon Densley handing a copy of the Bioinitiative report into No 10 Downing Street for the Prime Minister, Gordon BrownI delivered around 1000 letters to residences within a 500 metre radius of the site. The response was phenomenal. My MP contacted me first to say he had received numerous letters about this 'because of me'. He even organised an adjournment debate in Parliament on the issue which he invited me to. His performance however was unresearched and sketchy at best and ultimately a complete waste of time. He was not able or prepared to put forward the strong arguments that would force a change in the law. Later on I found out from another MP that calling an adjournment debate is sometimes a way of placating a difficult constituent while having little intention of actually achieving anything.

After a few years I had printed and delivered a score of such leaflets to the same 1000 or so households, joined a group called 'Mast Sanity', organised a local protest, an on-line Government petition, a council debate in Merton which I addressed, covered my home in aluminium foil to make a point, been mentioned a few times in the Sutton and Wimbledon Guardian and petitioned Gordon Brown when he was Prime Minister with a copy of the Bioinitiative Report. All of it unfortunately futile.

I found out exactly how hard it is to take on the system when the system has already decided what the truth is. But I learned something else too. Something that seemed less important at the time but which has made a huge difference to my life. I learned that by merely getting involved I can change things.

Having mobilised the community once I tried it again but this time on something that could be achieved. I organised the largest public tree planting project in Sutton's History. The results of which stand proudly in Reigate Rec (just the other side of Stonecot Hill) or The Daisy Field as it is known locally. This formed the basis of The Friends Of The Daisy Field which I founded and have remained chair of for the several years since.

This is not my autobiography so I won't continue with the details of how this led to me writing this blog, becoming vice chair of the Worcester Park Residents' Association or even standing for a council seat. Suffice to say that I enjoy standing up for the the local community and want to help where I can.

What Now

The mast still stands outside our home (above is a photo of it taken by my wife from a bedroom window soon after it went up). I have little appetite for wireless technology and avoid using a mobile phone when I can. However on a positive side my family and neighbours haven't all been diagnosed with cancer (although next door's dog did die from a tumour) so touch wood we might be okay. The general public has since learned that they will be ridiculed if they protest against masts on health grounds so people have tended to drop such arguments.

The spectre of danger however never seems to quite go away. In Berkeley, Califorinia, lawmakers have just voted to require cellphone retailers to provide customers with a notice of the potential health hazards of their mobile phone radiation. This was of course fought against tooth and nail by CTIA – The Wireless Association.

There is much information but it takes a lot of wading to get to anything really useful. For further reading I would recommend:
  • "Cell Phones - Invisible Hazards in the Wireless Age" by Dr George Carlo, the American Public Health Scientist asked to run the $25 million research program into the health effects of mobile phones in the 1990's.
  • "Disconnect - The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation, what the industry has done to hide it, and how to protect your family." by Dr Devra Davis, Scientific Advisor to President Clinton.
The situation seems to boil down to this: The technology was being rolled out assuming it was safe. By the time they found out it might not be, too much money had been invested in the technology to pull out.

Planning Application Notice for phone mast outside 4th Worcester Park Scouts' Headquarters.
I take a much more relaxed view these day. I've said my piece. It is by no means certain that there is a problem, just as it is not certain that there isn't. I would just prefer the evidence to come ahead of the vested interests. For my part I will stand up for the right of people to decide for themselves if they want to take the risk. - I would prefer not to take it; others would rather be surrounded by masts and wifi if it means a better quality of wifi and mobile phone coverage. I don't care which you choose as long as you get to exercise your choice.

Additionally I was recently alerted to a mast planning application in Balmoral Road, just outside the Scout Hall there. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to really look at this until after the deadline for submissions to the council. However if local people want to have a say about this, I will certainly do what I can to help.

Shops Emptying

There looks to have been a recent spate of shops closing down in Central Road. Some have been known about for a while or half expected, others have been a bit of a surprise. Here are the recent changes:

Beds To Go have Gone. This shop has been on the verge of going out of business for months if not years it seems. I'm sure they were having a 'Closing Down Sale' every other month. It seems this time they really meant it.

The Charity shop Sue
Ryder has also been in trouble for a while. Nearly two years ago they needed to close their doors due to a lack of volunteer staff. They cut their opening hours back and brought in an area manager to run shifts but unfortunately it seems they haven't managed to keep things going.

Another Charity shop that has disappeared is the Geranium Shop For The Blind. I don't remember seeing any indications that this one was on the way out.

I do occasionally visit most of the charity shops to look for mainly books, toys and jigsaw puzzles and this one seems to have gone very quietly.

According to the note in the window, they do have another shop in Hampton Hill if you wish to support this charity specifically (it's at 66 High Street).

Another shop that has slipped quietly away is the Ladbrokes betting shop opposite Pizza Express. What with William Hill and Coral also vying for your weekly wager, I guess Central Road had reached it's natural equilibrium for the number of possible successful betting shops in the area. (Perhaps the same might be said of charity shops.) Mind you the last time I saw the inside of the Ladbrokes the person behind the counter was sternly asking at the only customer in the shop to get out - I didn't stop to enquire why.

Back in December last year a 'Shop To Let' sign was installed above the Discount Motor Spares shop.

The Owner told the the blog he had been in business there for decades and owned the freehold on the shop. He said he was looking for the right business to take over the premises and didn't mind if the process took some time.

It seems he's found someone (though I'm not sure who it is yet...) as he began his proper closing down sale in April. The shop is now basically empty. I look forward to seeing who will be taking over.

Lastly the shop that held the Flash in the pan that was Worcester Park's own Mini Mart began some refurbishment works back in May.

The gentlemen refitting out the shop said they weren't aware of any specific business moving in, just that the landlord had wanted it cleaned up. We will see...

It is not pleasant to see shops closing in our high street. I hope this is a blip rather than an indication of deeper underlying problem. I would once again call on people to support their local shops as this is what happens if people don't.

Cuddington Community Primary Summer Fair

While dancing with the subject of School Summers fairs, it is only right to bring to your attention today's Cuddington Community Primary Summer Fair.

Having started a few minutes ago the fair looks to be full of stalls and fun things to do. It's rather a shame it's just started raining - but hopefully that will stop soon...

The School PSA is looking to raise vital funds to support the school and children through various fund raising events and the Summer Fair is key part of this - so please come along and support the school while enjoying an afternoon out.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Be A Governor

Nonsuch Primary School (In Chadacre Road, just round the corner in Stoneleigh) is looking for people interested in becoming School Governors.

Having become one myself back in 2011 (at this school) I can say from personal experience that it is very rewarding to be able to make a genuine difference to the quality of education being provided to young people in the local area.

We have put out a flyer and I would agree with the statement on it that says:
"The most important qualities for being a governor are enthusiasm, commitment and an interest in education. You don't need teaching experience, but it's useful to bring skills from other areas of your life."
The school would be delighted to hear from anyone who has:

  • An interest in the performance of our school.
  • A desire to contribute and represent the community.
  • Human Resources skills that would complement the governing body.
  • The confidence to ask questions and join in debate.
  • A willingness to listen and make informed judgements.

Governors really need to be a 'Critical Friend' to the school and work with the head teacher to help shape policy and support the school in navigating the path to being the best possible school it can be.

It doesn't mean spending hours at the school every week - it is a voluntary position and it's expected that governors have other occupations and families. A little spare time for an evening meeting about once a month and to read the necessary papers, plus occasional school visits during the day when you can is basically all that is required of your time.

Knowing that you are part of a team helping ensure that local children are getting the best education possible is a great feeling.

At Nonsuch we have had a great team of Governors for quite a while (since I've been there certainly) but we have recently had a few step down and are now looking for some more. Governors will need to be CRB checked but the school will help organise this.

If all this sounds like you, or for further information, please contact the School Bursar on 0208 393 9209.

Caught Like A Fly (Tipper)

If you're going to do some fly tipping, be careful who's watching...

Last Saturday morning at around 11:20, Worcester Park Councillors were holding a surgery in the Library when they witnessed an open back vehicle drive up and dump a bunch of old boxes on top of the Pizza Express bin there.

It just so happened that the van had BR Fencing written down the side and by a circumstantial feat of coincidence, the box labels had the name and address of the same local business printed on them..

It might not have been a great lorry load that was dumped like recently in Wallington however if they feel it is normal for them to drive into the library car park to dump this, how much more and how many other times might they have done the same?

If there are two things that really diminish an area it is rubbish and graffiti. Cracking down on both is important.

Cllr Wingfield said:
"A case of wrong place, wrong time methinks as the Council is focusing on this kind of problem at the moment."
Local businesses in Worcestser Park are normally pretty good. It's a shame this one has let down the side on this occasion. Let's hope there's no more of this.

Thanks to Cllr Wingfield and Cllr Marsdon for the story and pictures.

Park Work

Over the past week Dorchester Park has been experiencing an upgrade to the play area. This all began last last week with workmen working through the weekend to ensure the new slide, swings and roundy-bouncing thing where all installed enough for the new rubber tarmac to be installed.

The hope was that these new areas of the park would be open be the end of the week but at the time of writing (Saturday morning) the new sections were still fenced off.

I hope the littleuns will be happy with the new equipment. I know WP junior was a big fan of the old slide and did enjoy playing in the old metal 'caravan' thingy, however this will give them some new things to enjoy - and the rubberised surface really did need some work done.

Green Fair And Boot Sale

Remember that today, two of our local primary schools are having their Summer 'Event' today.

Starting just about now (11am) is the Green Lane 'Happening Histories' Summer Fair. I popped down as they were setting up to get a few shots of what to expect. The fair will feature all the usual fair goodies including an obstacle course, tombola (separate adult and kids ones), stalls and a special 'teacher in the stocks' attraction. There will also be Bigfoot Theatre Workshop, Zumba, Kickboxing, Choir performance, fancy Dress and 'Jiggle & Jam'.

Meanwhile over at Dorchester Primary School, the Friends Of Dorchester School (FODS) are setting up for something a little different this year - a car boot sale and market.

As well as car boots full of goodies there will also be bouncy castle and other attractions. This begins at midday.

Pop along and support your local schools!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Flourishing First Fiesta

Maple Lodge in the Hamptons with attractions around

The inaugural Hamptons Midsummer Fiesta was enjoyed by many people yesterday (including self and family). Many people came together and contributed to make this a reality. Apparently there has been lots of good feedback and it seems that over £2000 has been raised for the Jigsaw4U charity. What a great result for a first attempt!

Below is a bit of a photo gallery of some of the goings on...

Food stalls and games
Lots of games and stalls
Food stalls
Lots of good locally produced food (and an ice cream van)
Football and fairground style attractions
Fairground style and local attractions and games
Police and cycle marking with Central Road's Cycle Power
Police and cycle marking
Paul Scully MP starts the Hamptons Fun Run race
Paul Scully MP starts the Fun Run...
Paul Scully MP presents the prize to the Hamptons Fun Run winner
And presents the prize to the winner

There was also tennis, fishing (WP junior proudly caught two fish!), photo gallery, ballet demonstration, DJ, bouncy castles and more...

There were two other events around KT4 that unfortunately I didn't manage to get to: The Cheam Common Infants' and Junior Schools' Summer Fair (which last year was really good) and the Big Day Out down at Shadbolt Park, run by the Cuddington Residents' Association.

If anyone has any feedback on these other two occasions, please do tell...