Community campaign halts closure of Battersea Sports Centre

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Wandsworth Council has agreed to keep Battersea Sports Centre open following a community campaign led by local Labour councillors.

The Tory council planned to demolish the Sports Centre as soon as possible to make way for new housing. Strong objections from local people led the council to find a different site for the new homes.

Battersea Sports Centre will now remain open, and meanwhile plans are being drawn up to build a new large leisure centre as part of the nearby Winstanley and York Road Estate regeneration.

Simon Hogg, Leader of Wandsworth Labour said: “I’m delighted that we’re keeping our Sports Centre open. So many local people told me they love Battersea Sports Centre – from jiu jitsu black-belts and basketballers to the kids who play football on the AstroTurf. The council should create more opportunities for people to play sport, not take them away.”

The Labour Party has always opposed the knocking down of Battersea Sports Centre on Hope Street which is well used and a key asset to a deprived community. Last year, Battersea Labour Councillors submitted a petition to the Council with 750 signatures.

The Council papers agreed last week state: “as there is no immediate requirement for the Hope Street site as a decant site…[the acquisition of the Shuttleworth Road site] provides an opportunity to review the closure of Battersea Sports Centre”.

The Battersea Sports Centre has four badminton courts, a gym, dance studio, café, treatment room, outdoor basketball court and an outdoor pitch.

Labour wins reprieve for healthy trees on Tooting Common

20160221_153414This week Wandsworth Council voted to fell and replace the majority of the 77 trees on Chestnut Avenue which crosses Tooting Common. Those judged “healthy” by the Council will be preserved, following a Labour amendment in favour of saving the healthy trees.

Recent tree surveys had found that many, though not all, of the trees were diseased and a recent Council consultation found that a 74% of residents wanted to see the whole avenue replaced.

However, the issue has divided opinion. The Friends of Tooting Common conducted their own survey which found that a majority opposed the felling of the avenue and an FOTC petition opposing felling gathered 2,800 signatures. Many residents felt strongly that healthy trees should not be removed.

According to Labour Speaker on the Committee, councillor Fleur Anderson; “The Council consultation showed that local people are in favour of preserving the avenue for future generations by replanting. However the Labour Group on the Committee listened to the concerns of those who opposed the felling of healthy trees and amended the proposal to save as many trees as possible. We will continue to fight for the healthy trees to be saved”.

Cllr Anderson added that she had concerns about the way the Council had sought the views of residents. “Wandsworth wasn’t going to consult on this issue until we pushed for public consultation. The consultation was poorly promoted until we pushed for 9,000 letters to be sent to residents and public drop-in sessions to be held on the Common. Wandsworth was going to fell all the trees, including the healthy ones, until we secured a reprieve. This is not a Council that knows how to listen”.

Initial Council surveys indicated that a large number of trees were in good or fair condition. The Council recently downgraded this assessment and now classifies just 5 of the 77 trees as “healthy”.

Fishponds playing field in Tooting opens to the public after 6 year campaign

Fishponds playing fieldsThe Fishponds playing field on Hebdon Road in Tooting will finally be open to the public after a six year campaign by the then MP for Tooting, Sadiq Khan, local Labour councillors and residents.

“It has taken the council a long time but we are delighted that what used to be a locked door for all except those who could afford to pay will now be open for all local people to use”, said Annamarie Critchard, one of the Labour councillors for Tooting.

The council has agreed to open the playing fields on a trial basis until October 28. Councillor Critchard said: “We want the trial to be a success, so please visit the playing fields and send your all-important feedback to the council by emailing parks@wandsworth.gov.uk”. Continue reading “Fishponds playing field in Tooting opens to the public after 6 year campaign”

Ben Johnson steps down as Tooting councillor: “great honour and an absolute pleasure”

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On Thursday, with great regret, I stepped down as a councillor for Tooting Ward.

Serving the local community, and Tooting Labour Party, for these past six years has been a great honour and an absolute pleasure.

Our part of London is one of the most welcoming, diverse, and dynamic places to live in the country, and a place I continue to be proud to call my home.

However, in my professional life, I have accepted a new role as an advisor to our new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Roles in public service such as this come with political restrictions, including a bar from holding elected office, and therefore in order to take on this new job I have had to resign from the Council.

I’m very sad to be leaving my role as a local councillor behind. Over the past six years, I’ve worked hard, alongside my fellow Labour councillors, to support local residents, businesses and voluntary organisations, and to protect them from the worst impacts of the enormous cuts being made to our local services.

I’ve enjoyed worked with local campaigns and charities to help make Tooting an even better place to live and work, and have always done my best to help those I have met who have had problems relating to housing, finance or the local area that needed solving.

I’m equally excited to be going to work for the Mayor of London. In my new role, advising him on business and digital matters, I hope to make a real difference for the people of Tooting and for all Londoners.

London faces a time of great economic uncertainty, and for the sake of our businesses, jobs and family finances it is vital that we work hard to keep London’s economy prosperous, fair and open.
There will soon be a local byelection to elect a replacement for me, who I’m sure will do a great job.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to the people of Tooting for electing me, first in 2010 and then again in 2014. Despite no longer being a councillor, I’ll always do my best by Tooting and its fantastic residents.

Large turn-out expected at post-Brexit Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees meeting

imageWandsworth Welcomes Refugees, a voluntary group set up in Wandsworth with the aim of encouraging the borough to welcome more refugees, will be holding its first large-scale public meeting this Thursday (June 30).

The meeting takes place to coincide with National Refugee Week.

Currently, the Council houses around 55 individuals defined as “destitute”, a little over half of whom are asylum seekers.

Carmel Dann, a local resident whose son recently played in a football tournament in the Calais jungle, said “I feel there’s more that Wandsworth could do to help refugees and asylum seekers. I am attending this meeting because I want to be part of the discussion to encourage Wandsworth to provide more support for them”. She added “I am fearful that given the referendum result, it will become harder to welcome refugees in Wandsworth”.

Fleur Anderson, Labour councillor in Bedford ward, said: “The Labour Group in Wandsworth is a firm supporter of the Wandsworth Welcomes Refugee network. In a post-Brexit Wandsworth it’s more important than ever to be a welcoming community. If the number of emails I have received is anything to go by I think the meeting will be extremely well-attended”.

Lord Alf Dubs, who will be speaking at the meeting, said: “The UK has a long and proud tradition of welcoming refugees, myself included. I congratulate Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees on its work to date and look forward to cooperating closely with them. Never has there been a greater need for this group, to help and support refugees coming here, but also to argue against the alarming increase in racism and xenophobia”.

Alf Dubs, the former MP for Battersea and Chair of the Refugee Council, successfully tabled an amendment to the refugee bill to welcome unaccompanied refugee children to the UK.

The meeting will be chaired by John O’Farrell, well-known local author and comedy scriptwriter.

Councillor Fleur Anderson said: “the meeting will give us the opportunity of hearing from refugees and from members who’ve recently visited Calais. The Labour Group tabled a motion for debate on welcoming more refugees in the borough, which was sadly defeated, but there are still things that residents can do to encourage Wandsworth to support refugees and we hope the Council will reconsider their position. Other boroughs are doing more.”

The meeting takes place this Thursday June 30th at 7.30pm at the East Hill Baptist Church, SW18 2HD

‘We are all proud of Wandsworth’s diversity and cohesion’

Wandsworth’s Labour councillors endorse this statement from independent councillors Malcolm Grimston and James Cousins:

“As councillors we are all proud of Wandsworth’s diversity and cohesion. We are confident Wandsworth will remain a great place to live for everyone.

“However, we are aware that there have been examples across the country of people interpreting the vote to leave the European Union as an excuse for racism and other divisive behaviour, not just aimed at our good friends from the European Union.

“We want to stress that we fully support the comments of Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and our three local MPs, Jane Ellison, Justine Greening and Rosena Allin-Khan: to everyone who has chosen to make Wandsworth their home wherever they may hail from we reiterate you remain warmly welcome in the Brighter Borough.

“Wandsworth is all the stronger for its diversity and the different contributions made by all our residents and we as councillors will do everything we can to make sure that you continue to enjoy the inclusive and peaceful life which characterises our borough.”

Foodbank use in Wandsworth up 25%

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Will Martindale (left) and Simon Hogg (right) with volunteers Sarah Chapman and Dan Frith at Wandsworth Foodbank in St Mark’s Church, Battersea

Shocking figures released last week show that the number of people using foodbanks in Wandsworth rose by 25% last year. Across London as a whole, the increase was 4%.

The figures, released by the Trussell Trust in their Food Poverty Report 2015-16, showed that last year 4078 people in Wandsworth relied on foodbanks. A quarter of them were children.

Commenting on the figures, Labour councillor for Furzedown, Candida Jones, said: “What possible excuse could there be for a 25% increase in food poverty in one of the richest boroughs in one of the richest cities in the world? If 25% more people are relying on charity for food this year then there is a serious problem with the support systems in this borough. The systems that are supposed to protect our most vulnerable people are not working”.

The Trussell Trust, which runs foodbanks in Wandsworth describes them as “an increasingly essential part of the safety net.. standing between people in crisis and destitution”.

Compared with the figures for 2013-14 there has been a 76% increase in food bank use in Wandsworth.  Continue reading “Foodbank use in Wandsworth up 25%”