Al Lewis is a charity worker who works for CAFOD, the Catholic development charity in Waterloo, and has lived in Shepherds Bush for a decade.
He is now running as a Conservative candidate in Addison Ward, Shepherd's Bush.
We asked Al some questions about his candidacy, and why this election matters.
Al Lewis: In less than a year, I have moved from being a floating voter to a Conservative Candidate for Addison ward. Political life is in a season of unexpected change and I felt called to get involved & play my part in trying to make it work for everyone. If not me, then who?
|LBHF Ward MapWhy are you running for election this year?|
While I was looking for a party to join, the Labour party moved over to the hard left. I’m a moderate and a centrist, so I knew that I could not be on the right of the Labour party. I met plenty of moderate London Tories and have found a good place on the left of the Conservative Party.
I joined the local party last year & was involved with the general election locally, which gave a fascinating insight into the process.
Late last year, I was invited by the party to be a potential council candidate. I reflected on it for a week and decided to accept. Then in January I was offered the opportunity to join James Colquhoun and Clare Ambrosino in Addison ward as a Conservative candidate.
What are the challenges faced by Addison Ward?
Al Lewis: I’ve enjoyed talking to residents on the doorstep over the last few months, hearing their concerns and troubles and looking to see where I can help. Fly tipping is a big problem across our ward. Lots of rubbish, furniture, mattresses, builders waste and white goods are abandoned in random places. This is unsightly and unhealthy.
Anti-social behaviour and crime are a problem, particularly in the north of the ward. Recent police activity on Shepherds Bush Green has pushed the local gangs out and some have come south. I’ve spent time with the Addison Police Safer Neighbourhood Team and have learned of their approach and recent successes in curbing street drinking and trouble in betting shops.
Traffic congestion and pollution is a major concern, especially on Batoum Gardens and Lena Gardens. Cars use the area as a short cut from Hammersmith Grove or as a short cut to queue jump the traffic on Shepherds Bush Road. The area can be deadlocked with traffic on occasion. This results in bad pollution and worse tempers.
Dog fouling is a problem that many residents have told us about. People are not tidying up after their pets.
Regal homes development on Sinclair road has not been well managed by the council, causing distress to residents and damage to their homes.
What are the current Council doing well, and badly?
Al Lewis: New street markets are flourishing in the borough, the council has encouraged these.
The Brook Green Market & Kitchen in Addison primary school has gone from strength to strength and has a great array of wonderful foods. There are excellent lunch stalls in Lyric square. The all-day Christmas market on King st was a great success.
North End Road has Christmas and summer all day markets when the street becomes pedestrian only and people mingle, chat and shop. When I was a director of the LondonPlus credit union, this was one of the highlights of the year as we got to meet a lot of our customers & local residents in a relaxed, more social environment.
This work is much appreciated. It gives life and flavour to our borough.
|Fly tipping in Shepherd's Bush|
Housing provision is also poor. We have twice as many council houses of unacceptable condition than previously – 1095, nearly 10% of council housing stock. The council has only built 306 affordable homes built since 2014, 10 in the last year. This is a terrible result. While more homes have been promised, little has been delivered.
The changes to parking have been unpopular with residents. Some machines only take old £1 coins, some only take new £1 coins. It has been badly organised.
The previous visitor parking permit was popular, but the new Ring-Go system for visitors appears to be of low quality and high price. I’ve heard a lot of unhappiness about this.
The CEO of the council was paid £310,000 last year. I’d like to know if this is considered good value for money. The highest paid in London.
Our recycling rates are almost half of the national average, among the worst in the country. 23% in H&F vs 44% nationally. Residents on King st are not given recycling bags. This is a shocking result.
How do you hope to change things?
Al Lewis: I am a pragmatist and a problem solver. I’m a facilities manager for a charity, I run buildings for a living, so the physical environment where we live & work is important to me.
If you give people a good local environment, they will treat it well. If you let it decline, people’s behaviour will follow.
I’m sure a lot of the problems in Addison Ward can be resolved by diligent care and attention, sorting out one issue at a time.
We will give smart phones to traffic wardens, so that they can report fly tipping and get it dealt with much more quickly. We intend to do DNA testing on dog fouling, to help us track the owners. Smarter use of CCTV and some localised street amendments will help with the anti-social behaviour issues.
We would propose more traffic calming and a one-way system in Lena and Batoum Gardens to ease the traffic problems and associated pollution & bad tempers.
We would look at whether a business improvement district would be suitable for Shepherds Bush, similar to the one in Hammersmith. This would allow access to funds to improve the whole area.
I am on the Environment Committee for the Waterloo Business Improvement District, through work, and I help with them to improve the physical environment in that area.
Good lighting, improved air quality, decent signage, bins and dealing with anti-social behaviour can quickly improve the quality of an area.
What needs fixing in our Borough?
Al Lewis: Traffic and housing are the two big picture, long term problems that need to be addressed. The current Labour run council has no vision and little hope.
We have some innovative ideas for these issues. In 2030 Hammersmith could be a much cleaner, greener, better place to live and work.
We would build the southern fly-under for the A4. A tunnel from Hogarth Roundabout to Baron’s court, taking all through traffic off Hammersmith roads. This proposal was agreed by central Government when we last held the council. All the air from the traffic would be filtered, dramatically lowering pollution levels.
The land freed up by the reduced road space would be available for housing. It would be self-financing, as the house-building opportunities would pay for the cost of the tunnel. We would negotiate hard and keep a firm rein on developers to ensure a high level of social or affordable housing as part of this mix, unlike the situation in Elephant and Castle under Southwark Labour council.
We would propose a northern fly-under for the A40. A tunnel from, perhaps, East Acton (Homebase) to Ladbroke Grove area. This would all the through traffic to flow quickly past Shepherds Bush and avoid delays caused by the Westfield filter traffic. Again, the air tunnel air would be filtered and the pollution levels greatly reduced. Houses would be built on the freed land to help pay for the tunnel.
Both of these schemes will help reconnect parts of the borough previously severed and allow easier pedestrian and traffic flow throughout the area.
We would propose covering parts of the district line and building affordable housing on top in a manner similar to that in Switzerland. A lot of land would be freed up and medium density 5-6 storey housing built on top.
These proposals come from the policy team that I’ve been involved with and will be more fully developed when we gain the council.
We have a vision for a better Hammersmith and we have the imagination and commitment to make it happen.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve the residents of Addison ward for the next four years if given the opportunity, standing for the Conservative party.
Politics matters, it makes a difference, so remember to vote on May 3rd. Please lend me your vote and let me make Addison a better place to live and work.
--- Al Lewis
The Shepherd's Bush Blog offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us at shepherdsbushblog(at)gmail.com.