Chainsaw massacre of trees in W9 – whats going on?

At the risk of sounding like a tree hugger, l have noticed a number of fully matured trees which have been chopped down in W9, particularly in Little Venice. The above one is on the corner of Clifton Rd & Randolph Avenue and last week l noticed the one in front of 192 Sutherland Avenue had been completed taken out including its roots!  In previous years we have seen a number of trees along Warwick Ave taken down as well. 

The one that use to be on Clifton Rd,W9 appears to show nothing wrong with the roots of this tree and if it was just the branches, surely some pollarding would have done !  These trees take decades to grow and offer the shade and cooling to nearby buildings like Melcombe Court, so these decision to just chop them down should not be taken lightly. They also give light relief to the urban heat effect that the streets of Westminster suffer from.

Indeed there is an argument that local residents should be involved in all these chopping down tree decisions on trees we take for granted till they are felled. Or at least be notified, in a similar manner as planning matters.  

I feel the council needs to hold the officers to account on their decisions and would welcome a scrutiny on the matter. Clearly being too risk averse has meant officers taking out trees far too often certainly in Little Venice, W9 recently. And l am not sure whether it is happening in other parts of the City of Westminster but a scrutiny could establish this as well. 

Speeding fines & legalities of it all

Enforcing the 20 mph speed limit Westminster


After attempting unsuccessfully to get information during the Spring about the number of fines made since the council put a 20 mph speed limit on the streets of Westminster, l come to realise the legalities of it all today. I was just trying to see how the 20 mph enforcement was going in the City. This was after the last administration in the Council put in place speeding limits of 20 mph on the council roads in the borough hoping to reduce the rates of causalities and fatalities on the streets of Central London. 

In order to successfully prosecute speeding drivers or where the registered keeper of the vehicle withholds information on the driver, Local Authorities need to have authorisation from the Police to act as “Public Prosecutor” as well as having the appropriate internal processes.

This will need to come from the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Section 29 which sets out the procedures as follows. Under the first point under Section 29, gives a public prosecutor the means to institute criminal proceedings against a person by issuing a document that is a “written charge” which charges the person with an offence.  While in fifth point in Section 29, defines a public prosecutor as the police force or a person authorised by a police force to institute criminal proceedings. 

This while at the same time the Local Government Act 1972 gives Local Authorities powers to prosecute or defend legal proceedings as “private prosecutor” This power being granted to promote the interests of the Local Authority’s residents provided that appropriate authorisation is recorded. 

And of course, where further proof is required, such as speed camera records, vehicle registration details or driver identification, the police will need to authorise under Section 20 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 for speeding and Section 172 (2) on the Road Traffic Act about driver identity. 

So the legalisation provides the scope for Local Authorities to institute criminal proceedings for offences such as speeding. As well as bringing private prosecutions, where they wish to protect the interests of their residents, Local Authorities can also act as a “Public Prosecutor’, if the authorised by the police.  It would also be interesting to know whether the same procedures etc are required with noisy vehicles as well. 

So Met police when are you going to hand over these responsibilities to our London local authorities and get this responsibility off your hands?  

Hire bike parking problems

Crazy parking off pavement but in the middle of the road in front of a tube station!


I have issued a number of twitters of the incredible parking of hire bike riders on the streets of Central London, with out to much thought of pedestrians and on going traffic.

Whilst we want to encourage more cycling etc on the streets of London, the playing of cycling hire schemes is somewhat wanting. I myself has made this switch using Santander hire bikes in Central London, where l have to park them at docking stations at the end of my journeys. This clearly does not happen with hire bike users like Lime, where there appear to be encouraged to park their hire bikes anywhere! 

Now as a fellow cyclist, it does not really bother me but it certainly does with other users of the pavement, so l have been advocating the bikes be at least parked off the pavements on the street but this also presents it problems as well. As the photo above illustrates very well. 

So maybe London Councils with lead councils like Westminster in particular, should seat down the the bike hire firms and sort out some bike parking spaces on the streets of London. It should be no different from parking spaces for cars administrated by the councils with the costs etc borne by the bike hire firms. 

Insulation,Insulation,Insulation @Westminster

In the old family house which was grade II listed, we found it incredible difficult to make the family home more energy efficient for our use, in the City of Westminster where as much as 80 per cent of housing stock is in conservation areas. This whilst we have some 40 per cent of CO2 emission also coming from our buildings, makes it imperative that we deal with planning system which clearly hinders making our homes much more energy efficient.  

So it is good to hear one local authority making some effort to reduce the planning bureaucracy next door in Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea. Here heritage rules were blocking energy efficiency and renewables for historic UK homes and they have loosen their restrictions binding residents who want to better insulate their homes. 

So with heat pumps, planning requirements are to be 1 metre off the surface of the building will considerable restrict the numbers that call replace all the boilers in the homes of our City. Given it was a response primarily due to noise concerns and that these have now been dealt with in the design of heat pumps, the Council needs to make it much easier than now to get the consent to put them up, in response to the climate emergency. 

Similar issues also apply to the Office blocks in the City, which may of course strand these assets so its a good reason for the managers of these assets to a dress these issues. 

So whilst there is much emphasis on the supply side of the energy markets, we also need some time thinking about what needs to be done to reduce the demand for energy in the first case, particularly in the housing stock of Central London. 

Having visited Westminster Councils Energy Saving Show Home at Bravington Road, W9 during last summer it shows well all the measures you can undertake – wall & underfloor insulation; window and door improvements; heat pumps & new radiators; solar panels & battery storage; waste water heat recovery systems and finally electric cookers – with the likely costs, energy savings and carbon savings as well. In these cost of living crisis it was well worth having a look around.  

Finally, if you want to check your homes energy efficient please check this ft link for a quick analysis.


ONS figures for energy in homes make up in the City of Westminster.


Old “Hero of Maida” pub – signage please

There has been a lot of developments in this bit of the Edgware Rd where the old Hero of Maida pub use to be with the Parson House car park site developed into Venice Court and the petrol station site development otherwise known as Lyons Place as well which has improved the physical environment a lot along this part of the Edgware Rd. 

A further nice touch would if the residential developers of 435-437 Edgware Rd now repair the old pub sign outside the building. Thankfully it is still there. It use to be an old land mark for Maida Vale and it would be great if it was brought back to its former glory. All it really needs is a new board with the head of the Duke of Maida, some repairs done and a lick of paint at the end of the works on 435-437 Edgware Rd.

1971 Apple film review – “….the year that music changed everything”

The year 1971 was a fateful year for my family. What l did not realised was how momentous the year was musically and that Bangladesh was hip then. So l learnt from watching the film 1971, the year that music changed everything. 


With Chrissie Hynde commentary through the student protests against the Vietnam war the first thing that l learn was what a revolutionary Marvel Gaye was as the 1971 film with the music of his singles “whats going on” and ends with “Intercity Blues”. The first reflects his concerns about his brother being sent to Vietnam when l thought it was all about lovers not being sure whats happening between them! And of course “Intercity blues’ about what was happening to the black community in American cities. This has also clearly changed my perspective on Motown, as l had always thought of them as solely interested in having a good time. As clearly they took some major risks in promoting the work of Marvel Gaye in those times and we are shown rare footage of the time clearly illustrates where they discussed theses issues very clearly with Marvel. 

The demise of the Beetles also features strongly in the documentary film, with both John Lennon and George Harrison clearly finding their own way whilst keeping in touch with each other. In the meantime Paul McCartney wonders into the wilderness at the start of the 1970s, though he is one that survives the longest amongst them as we all know now.   Both John and George find themselves involved in the politics of the day, John with war and peace and George more specifically with the Bangladesh Liberation War after his friend Ravi Shankar approached him to help out. George responded by organising The Bangladesh Concert in Maddison Square Gardens on the 1st of August. The first highly successful and influential humanitarian aid project, generating both awareness and considerable funds as well as providing valuable lessons and inspiration for projects that followed, such as Live Aid. All of course suggesting the Bangladesh liberation was hip in New York City at least.  I particularly like the footage of a young Tariq Ali explaining the Bangladesh liberation War to John Lennon. 

The music of 1971 clearly reflected the times but whether they shaped them is another matter altogether. One thing that helps the case of the movie, outside of what they illustrate was clearly the authorities in the US were concerned with John Lennon presence in New York and how this may influence public opinion particularly as he campaigned against Nixon’s reelection in 1972.

Alas John Lennon was killed on the streets of New York in 1980, and l am left remembering the commentary from Tariq Ali suggesting that John should not have needed to go and live in New York. We are left wondering what could have been as an anti-war campaigner had he not left our shores.

Neighbourly advice more difficult to accept sometimes

The Economist are right to emphasise in their 3rd September editorial leader response to the floods in Pakistan, what Pakistan needs to learn from Bangladesh in getting ready for the rains. Particularly in light of the more regular floods they suffer including this year’s Monsoon across the whole of the Indian sub-continent. 
But we should not also forget the cyclone of 1970 also had an important bearing on the first free and fair General Election in Pakistan which was put back to December 1970 in light of the cyclone in East Pakistan. It was clearly a deciding factor in that General Election, as the lack of relief efforts given by the authorities was an important factor in the result and subsequent mandate for the liberation of Bangladesh. Which poses the question of how a future General Election in Pakistan could be influenced by the events of the floods in 2022, going by how other national calamities have influenced their elections before. So the question can be posed from this historical precedent, what influence will the handling of these floods have in Pakistani election particularly in Sind & Balochistan. 

Community fund raising for Bangladesh Floods

With all the talk of aid assistance for flood victims around the world, let us not forget community fund raising by their diaspora communities. 

A case in point is the Bangladeshi community in Camden and their efforts of assistance to Sylhet where we had flooding not seen there for more than 120 years. Almost three-fourths of the Sylhet Region in North East Bangladesh was inundated earlier this year due to the heaviest rainfall the region has seen in living memory causing over 100 fatalities, marooning millions and uprooting thousands. As a result many in the Bangladeshi community in the UK sent monies to their villages and towns to give assistance to people directly affected by the floods.  Others went further like the Surma Centre in Camden, which via televised Appeal on Channel S and Charity Dinner event at the Irish Centre raised over £10,000 for the victims to dispersed directly by the Surma Centre, to help rebuild homes and tube wells and livelihoods like buying richshaws and of course food parcels. 

Many will already know this financial assistance from the diaspora aboard is often more reliable than any official assistance. Ask any Finance Minister from the developing world and they will confirm this picture. 

So while the Pakistanis attempt to raise monies for the humanitarian assistance for their flood victims in Sind predominately via aid assistance from the developed world based on historic damage down by carbon emissions of the developed world bear a thought for community assistance for flood victims from their diaspora communities like we do in the Bangladeshi community around the world as shown by the Camden Bangladeshi community via their local community centre, the Surma and the Bangladesh Workers Association (BWA). And well done to them as well. 



Supporting the posties strike at Crown POs

Picket line in front of Baker St Crown PO

In my part of Westminster, we are still fortunate to have a few Crown Post Offices in service still like on Baker St & Praed St but they need protecting particularly the staff from real term cuts in their wages particularly through the impending energy crisis. That is why l joined the picket lines over the past few day with fellow CWU members. 

The Post Office Ltd is to pay over £2 million to managers in bonuses but nothing for the workers. This when the Post Office made £39 million for year ending 2021/22 and £35 million the previous year, triggering maximum bonuses for the managers to be paid this month.  The workers on the counters deserve much better than the offer made so far particularly with the cost of living keep going up like keeping their homes warm has hit the roof. So key workers who helped get us through the COVID pandemic deserve a pay rise. 

Unless this is resolved soon, you can be expecting further strike actions on the 31st of August and 8 & 9th of September.

Utter incompetence of Mountbatten exposed at Partition

In the run-up to the Indian subcontinents’s 75th anniversary of independence from British rule this week, Channel 4 screened their two part documentary, India 1947 Partition in Colour, which tells us about the characters involved in the decision making towards partition. 

I have been riveted for the past two Sunday nights. It beats Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi, which portrays ” jolly good fellows just getting it wrong” commentary on partition if discussed at all.  

The first part of the two part Partition in Colour, goes into much details about the personal relationship between the lead characters in partition and how that may well have influenced partition itself, even to suggest that “Mountbatten and Nehru were attracted to each other on a romantic level” but that is all best not to dwell on too much. The most important things, we learn are that Mountbatten’s Plan Balkan is approved in London, despite not benign discussed with any Indian leaders that is Jawaharlal Nehru and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, when he arrives six months before partition. What later became known as the Mountbatten Plan wasn’t his at all, it was YP Menon who hastily came up with the idea to transfer power to two countries rather than a dozen or more provincial governments when facing opposition from the likes of Jinnah.

Whilst it may have over emphasised the personal relationships between the leading characters, it does at least begin to hold the Mountbatten legacy in India to full account. 

Firstly out of the blue, Mountbatten declared that independence had to happen by the 15th of August even though the British government had given him till June 1948 to leave British India as its last viceroy. This clearly made a tight programme even tighter and led to bad decisions becoming even more profound as it gave little space to look at bizarre decisions like that of creating a new state of Pakistan with two parts 1,000 miles from each other, and a potential future adversary in between. Furthermore he had to stay around after 15th of August anyway too sort out the independence of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in June 1948. It’s not clear at all what advantages they were in bringing this deadline forward at all apart from personal convenience and vanity on the part of Mountbatten. 

Deciding to announce the boundaries of partition till after independence appears to have been solely the decision of Mountbatten and what a crazy one it was indeed, as we see him locking away the maps of the new borders in the second part of the review.This undoubtedly added to the insecurity of many who wanted to be on the right side of the new borders and was clearly a contributing factor to over one million who were killed in communal violence with one of the biggest mass transfers of people humanity has seen of up to 15 million. Once announced, it caused mayhem and chaos and lead to one of the worst humanitarian crisis in human history. On top of this, some parts of Bengal put up the wrong flags on independence only to find out a few days later how wrong they were. In Malda and Murshidabad they hoisted the Pakistani flag before becoming a part of India and similarly Khulna and Chittagong hoisted the Indian tri-colour only two days before becoming part of Pakistan! While Karimganj in Sylhet which had been elected by plebiscite to be part of East Bengal found itself astonishing in India. Thankfully my family stayed put not far from the new India & Pakistan border defined by the Ratcliffe Line. 

It is also clear that Mountbatten had also given Nehru privileged access to the Radcliffe lines of partition proposed by British Lawyer Cyril Radcliffe who knew little about India at all. A line that has not stopped bleeding since 1947! Nehru thus was able to argue for certain bits to be included in India like Kolkata in Bengal. Jinnah was clearly disadvantaged and suspected this to be the case and it of course complicated his relationship with Mountbatten even further. 

Furthermore there was a complete reluctance to use British troops in communal riots in the lead up to Partition in both Punjab and Bengal by Mountbatten. There may have been a case after independence when the British still had control of the armies even though we had two independent countries now, but beforehand it may well have saved many lives at least as a deterrent to the religious gangs roaming the streets. The reorganisation of the future armies of India and Pakistan was clearly their priority even with the mayhem around them. 

Clearly no one in the Indian Office at Whitehall either at Minister or civil servant level, kept an eye on the complete and utter maladministration of Mountbatten and his antics in Delhi at all. This at the great cost of many lives and souring the relationship between the two states created at independence right from the outset. 

Where it falls down is its lack of coverage of the circumstances in Bengal with its complete focus on the situation in Punjab which l try to make amends with above. And in doing so does not acknowledge the revolutionaries and martyrs in the independence movement, many of whom were Bengali.  Where not Rabindranath Tagore who wrote the Indian national anthem and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who famously said “Freedom is not given, it is taken” not critical to how partition came about in the first place by offering an alternative. Furthermore many Bengalis were also involved in the All India Muslim League, as its illustrated by its founding meeting occurring in Dhaka. As Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a senior leader of the Indian National Congress once said “What Bengal thinks today India thinks tomorrow” 

A copy of this blog was published in the Morning Star on the 17th of August 2022.