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Fire on Uxbridge Road causes Monday morning misery

Monday, 28 November, 2011 2 comments

A large fire broke out near Parkfield Avenue just before 7am this morning, causing traffic chaos and misery for thousands of commuters and schoolchildren.

Aerial view of the affected shops. Credit: Sky News

The affected property is said to be Tops Pizza. London Fire Brigade were called to the scene at 7.15am and deployed eight fire engines carrying 40 firefighters. A wooden struture on the roof of the property is said to have caught fire, igniting the rest of the building.

Three people were evacuated from the flat above the pizza shop and ten others were led to safety from the surrounding flats.

No traffic is able to pass along the Uxbridge Road due to closures between the Lees Road and Long Lane juntions, with consequent tailbacks stretching for miles. Long Lane is reported to be at a crawl whilst traffic flow has been affected on the A40 near Hillingdon as motorists seek alternative routes to work.

There is no suggestion of any fatalities at this stage. The exact cause of the fire is unknown but it is linked to the wooden structure on the roof.

Map of the affected area. The pin marks the approximate location of Tops Pizza.

Image of firefighters extinguishing the blaze. Credit: Ben Beckford.

First Great Western adds extra seats to commuter services

Friday, 25 November, 2011 2 comments

First Great Western will add an extra 4,500 seats to commuter trains running into and out of London Paddington starting from early next year.

15 of these Mark III carriages will be added to high speed trains running into Paddington. Pic via Matthew Black.

Extra government funding means a total of 48 carriages will be added to First’s services between London, Reading and the south west. New trains will start operating between Worcester and London Paddington, freeing up capacity for extra seats on Thames Valley commuter services.

Vernon Barker, Managing Director of FirstGroup’s UK rail division, said: “We’re delighted at this announcement by the Department for Transport, which is good news for First Great Western’s customers across the network and will reduce crowding on the most popular peak services.”

A total of 27 peak daily services calling at Twyford, 28 calling at Maidenhead and 23 calling at Slough will receive extra carriages.

Theresa Villiers, Transport Secretary, said: “We are determined to tackle overcrowding and provide better, more comfortable journeys for passengers. These extra carriages will enable existing services to be lengthened which will significantly increase their capacity.

Fifteen carriages being added to the high speed trains operating out of Paddington are ex-British Rail Mk.III buffet cars which will be converted to standard class. 33 carriages will be added to other services across the areas targeted for improvement.These will be phased in between February 2012 and September 2012. The Government hopes the extra carriages will be deployed in time for next summer’s Olympic Games.

The cost of improving capacity on the network will be £28.9m.

Hillingdon children deliver HS2 petition to Downing Street

Thursday, 24 November, 2011 Leave a comment

Hillingdon children are presenting a petition against the Government’s High Speed Rail (HS2) plans today.

Trains similar to these will operate on the proposed HS2 line between London and Birmingham. Image courtesy John Curnow.

Nine-year-old Max, the oldest of the four youngsters, wanted to send a message to the Prime Minister that it is unfair children don’t have a say in the government’s proposal for the HS2 line between London and Birmingham.

Max will deliver the ‘Save Us From HS2’ petition to Downing Street along with Caitlin, 8, Eve, 6 and Sian, aged 5, accompanied by local Conservative MPs Nick Hurd and John Randall. The petition has been signed by hundreds of children worried the development will ultimately threaten their gardens, schools, scout huts and a play park.

Keri Brennan, Chairman of Hillingdon Against HS2, said: “We have been amazed and humbled by children’s grasp of the facts about HS2.”

She said six Hillingdon schools will be closed in the plans and more will be affected by noise and construction. Hillingdon Outdoor Activities Centre is also under threat.

“Local children understand just how much their neighbourhoods and environment could be affected if HS2 is built,” added Mrs Brennan.

Hillingdon Council is among 14 councils opposed to HS2 and it backs Ruislip Against HS2.

Pro-HS2 MPs cite the economic benefits and improved links between north and south. HS2 will reduce the journey from London to Birmingham to a commutable 49 minutes while construction of the line over the next 7-10 years is expected to create more than 40,000 jobs. Half of the jobs created will be in London.

Director of Consultation and Communications for HS2, Miranda Carter, said: “It can’t stop in Hillingdon because that is where it picks up the high speed but it is a national project. The benefits of economic growth for the whole country will trickle down.”

The main petition against the project, with 108,000 signatures, was presented to Downing Street last month. The Government will make its final decision on the line in mid-December.

Councillors pass direction in landslide to reduce student housing

Monday, 7 November, 2011 1 comment

Hillingdon Council have passed new legislation which will see student housing drastically reduced in the Uxbridge South and Brunel wards.

Hillingdon Council targets students, but will renting families be hit? Credit: ktylerconk, Flickr.

The new legislation, an Article 4 direction, means landlords will have to apply for planning application on houses with three or more occupants.

Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning Act allows authorities to require planning permission for things that would normally be permitted to an individual regarding their private property. Up to now, converting a house to HMO did not require permission.

The new legislation means the landlords will have to seek planning permission for any such changes; however, it will not come into effect for another 12 months.

Currently the area has 562 HMOs in the Uxbridge South and Brunel wards alone. Roads dominated by student housing include Barchester Close, Lodge Close, The Greenway, Derby Road and Hinton Road, in the Uxbridge South ward, and Bosanquet Close and Peachey Lane in Brunel ward.

Cllr Keith Burrows (Conservative), cabinet member for planning said: “This is no way an attack on students or Brunel. We regard Brunel as strong partners of ours. We have had enough of our community being split.”

Since 2006 there have been over 400 complaints about HMOs in the Hillingdon area, including complaints about anti-social behaviour and parking problems.

Cllr Mo Khursheed (Labour) supported the motion, but suggested that it did not cover a large enough area. He said: “To save any further delay, this movement should serve other wards. We act when were able to act to protect our residents and we will move forward with a clear planning process.”

The movement will ensure the protection of long term residents and their homes; however it could be seen as sending a message to students that they are not welcome in the area.

A number of other large University cities have taken advantage of recent changes in planning regulations and at least eleven towns and cities have had Article 4 directions initiated by local authorities. Manchester and Portsmouth have already passed their 12 month period of notice and are now in full effect.

It is not known what effect the Article 4 direction will have on families and working households (e.g. flatshares) comprising more than three people.

Brunel University students face housing shortage

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011 33 comments

Students at Brunel University could soon face a critical housing shortage if the council implements essential planning permission on houses in multiple occupation.

A shortfall of student houses is predicted in Uxbridge. Image via Harshil Shah, Flickr.

Since 2006 there have been over 400 complaints about HMOs in the Hillingdon area, with issues concerning anti-social behaviour and parking problems.

Currently, landlords can rent out a student house with up to six occupants without planning permission. If the council agree on implementing an Article 4 direction, which allows them to override the law, landlords will need to apply for planning permission for more than three occupants.

The council will also discuss the option of putting a limit on the amount of student properties which can be rented out in an area.

Locals claim there is still an ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling between students and local residents, despite the council setting up a “Brunel University Liaison” group five years ago for local residents to meet and discuss any problems they have with Brunel students.

The cost of implementing such a direction will cost £6,000 alone for publicity and public notes, with ongoing council costs of £20,000 a year.

Hillingdon council will meet to discuss this issue and propose a conclusion on Thursday 3rd November.

Double trouble at Brunel University

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011 8 comments

A stabbing and a fire occurred within an hour of each other at Brunel University this evening.

Brunel's Uxbridge campus. A marks the Hamilton Centre and B marks the Heinz Wolff building (just out of shot).

Witnesses reported a man who claimed to have been stabbed near to Cleveland Road, which runs through the middle of the university’s campus in Uxbridge.

Edward Whitaker, a Brunel University student, saw the aftermath.

“Me and Jane were walking past the arts centre,” he says, “and saw some guys having a fight. Then one of them started running towards the Hamilton Centre shouting ‘I’ve been knifed’ and holding his side!”

Police were called at about 8.30pm, arriving on the scene in force. A spokesman described the victim’s injuries as a “slash wound to the body” whilst other eyewitnesses commented how “calm” he was. He was taken to a West London hospital with what police described as “non life-threatening” injuries.

University officials denied that an incident had taken place on campus, whilst police were seen apparently removing bags of evidence from the scene. At the time of writing the police could not confirm whether an arrest had been made.

About an hour after the stabbing, fire alarms in the university’s Heinz Wolff building went off. Campus security evacuated the building just before four fire engines from Hillingdon and Hayes fire stations arrived.

Details about the cause of the fire had not been released at the time of writing but university sources confirmed that works were being carried out on underground tunnels carrying electricity, gas and water supplies to the building. An eyewitness claimed to have seen evidence of a fire from the outside of the building.

No smoke or flames were visible from outside, although a small number of firefighters entered the building with a hose.

editor’s update 2nd Nov: A university source who does not wish to be identified confirms that the fire started because of a light fitting. We are seeking an official statement from the university.

Cancer patient dies following attack in Hillingdon Hospital

Tuesday, 1 November, 2011 3 comments

A cancer patient has died after being attacked by an Iranian illegal immigrant as he lay in his hospital bed.

The illegal immigrant was removed to a nearby detention centre (file picture, courtesy Home Office).

Anthony Wilson, a 78-year-old man from Harefield near Uxbridge, had undergone an operation to remove part of his bowel just four days previously. He was asleep when he was assaulted by an Iranian man who had been brought into the hospital two days earlier complaining of breathing difficulties.

Three UK Border Agency guards, who had been brought in to sit with the Iranian during his hospital stay, had to intervene when the shocking and unprovoked attack on Mr Wilson took place.

The man was removed from Hillingdon Hospital immediately and returned to a nearby immigration removal centre, where he is currently awaiting deportation.

The attack occurred in front of other patients on the ward at approximately 8.20am on October 17. Police were called but the UKBA guards dealt with the incident swiftly.

Mr Wilson, who served in the Army as a teenager after the Second World War, was admitted to hospital on October 11. He had been battling bowel cancer for three months prior to being admitted.

Mr Wilson was pronounced dead at 4.20am on October 18, when police were again called to the hospital.

Following the attack, Mr Wilson’s brother, Jeffrey, 68, told the Mail on Sunday “I have lost my brother, who was my right-hand man. He used to do everything for me and I miss him.

“He went for the operation and got through it and did all right, but someone may have taken his life away from him so I want to know the truth of what happened.”

A post-mortem examination concluded that Mr Wilson had died from septicaemia, but an inquest will be held in order to determine whether or not the attack was a contributory factor.

Doctors had previously informed him of the various risks involved with the invasive surgery, especially because of his age and because he had been fitted with a pacemaker earlier this year. The former engineer decided to go ahead with the operation anyway and had made plans to recuperate at home by his brother’s side.

Jeffrey went on to say: ‘We lived together all our lives, we were best friends and I will miss him. Sometimes we fell out over different things at one time or another, as  brothers often do, but it was a good life together.’

It is as yet unclear whether the attack on Mr Wilson was a factor in his death; Jeffrey insists that his brother was strangled, but the investigation is ongoing.

Hillingdon Hospital NHS Foundation Trust claims the assault “took only seconds and amounted to him [the immigrant] putting an arm round Mr Wilson’s neck.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said they attended the hospital and that the death is being treated as non-suspicious.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency confirmed that they are in the process of removing the Iranian man: “We are reviewing this incident and, if necessary, will take appropriate action.”