Friday, 30 November 2007

Politics in the Classroom

Yesterday I visited Chiswick Community School with Sam Hearn, the Chiswick Riverside by-election candidate and Boris Johnson MP, the Conservative London mayoral candidate. Sayeeda Warsi, the Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, and two local Councillors - John Todd and Felicity Barwood also joined us.

Andrew Dodge, the Chair of Governors, kindly welcomed us when we got there and introduced us to some great students. The sixth form gave us some tough questions.... but ones which were really important, including the real differences between Labour and Conservative, the role of leadership in politics and the ability of ID cards to improve national security. I was impressed with them ... they were thoughful and insightful. I am sure they will all go on to have great careers ahead of them.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Women at the heart of the Hounslow

Today I attended a conference at the Civic Centre in Hounslow - 'A Window on Extremism Conference' - led superbly by the Council Leader, Peter Thompson.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the youngest member of the House of Lords and the Shadow Cabinet member for Community Cohesion, gave a very personal speech on how to build cohesion in the UK. Using her own life journey, she talked about the need for us to unite around local issues, having a shared language, learning British history and empowering local communities.

We then went to see this in action - finding out the issues that the ethnic communities face and the support that is given to them. The Hounslow Racial Equality Council gave us an overview of the projects that they manage and the help that the Hounslow Asian Community Advice Service gives to local people. We then went to see an Asian women's group in Montague Hall - a wonderful group of women who gave us a warm welcome with music and song. Sayeeda spoke to them in several languages and although I hadn't a clue what she was saying, I am sure it was all good!

Community cohesion is about understanding each other, being at ease with one another, learning to trust each other, working together and feeling a sense of belonging. In the large group of Asian women today, I felt I belonged.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Concerned with Crime

I recently sent out a leaflet to about 40,000 homes and have just analysed the results. 'Crime and security' has come out top of your concerns with Heathrow airport expansion not far behind. The other important issues were roads, the elderly and education.

We have followed this up with a more detailed survey which we will analyse in the next few weeks as people are still sending them in to us. If you have received one, please do fill it in as I want to know what you think. Please help the new generation of politicians, to not just listen to themselves and their own views, but instead ... help me to be there, working for you on issues that matter to you!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Heathrow consultation begins

The Government has just started the consultation on Heathrow expansion. We only have three months to submit our views on this so it is really important that we all respond to say what we think.

My personal view is very simple. I am a business woman so I am certainly not against business growth and expansion. The problem here, is that future expansion at Heathrow Airport will affect the lives of thousands of residents and have huge implications on the environment and the quality of life of the local community:

Quality of life – residents already have to cope with a plane flying overhead approx every 90 seconds and constant aircraft noise which already exceeds World Heath Organisation recommendations. When aircraft numbers double for mixed mode, then they will have no relief at all during the day from noise.

Environment - the levels of environmental pollution in the air around Heathrow consistently breach EU Air Quality limits. The government’s planned expansion at Heathrow is totally inconsistent with its perceived concerns on environmental pollution and targets for reducing carbon emissions. There are also possible public health issues here that need to be carefully addressed.

Night flights - Heathrow is allowed to land 16 flights per night during the period 23.30 to 06.30 but the reality is that most of these arrive from 04.30 onwards, and a recent report suggests that this quota is regularly breached. The result is that sleep disturbance is a real factor for those under the flight path.

Education - children suffer from aircraft noise at school as well as at home. Many schools in the London Borough of Hounslow are under a flight path and the result is a stop-start education as teachers cannot make themselves heard through the noise. Some schools are partially insulated; some have no insulation at all. There is only minimal funding for noise insulation. The local authorities cannot afford to insulate all its schools and the aviation industry is not obliged to provide funding.

Transport – local traffic congestion around the airport is already a major problem and an increase in capacity would result in demand that the local traffic infrastructure would be unable to cope with.

Property Values – as Heathrow continues to grow, the value of properties in the area are likely to reduce. Residents moved to the area not realising that Heathrow would double in size which would impact their lives substantially and affect the value of their property.

Safety – the more Heathrow expands, the safety risks increase. We do not know the current figures for vertical separation but data has been requested from BAA to see the current levels of risk, in what is a densely populated part of London. We do not want a serious accident in a residential area to be the reason for change. We need to prevent that accident from happening.

Due to these reasons, what do I think we should do? Here is my view...

  1. Say no to the third runway
  2. Say no to mixed mode - keep runway alternation so that residents get relief from noise for part of the day
  3. Ban all night flights
  4. Maintain the current flight movement cap
  5. Agree a more comprehensive noise insulation scheme for schools, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and libraries
  6. Create a new longer term airline strategy for the UK that is aligned to an overall transport policy

Is that clear enough? I hope so!