Post People: Former Havering councillor on his time in the role and what the borough offers

PUBLISHED: 10:00 29 January 2017

Cllr Andrew Curtin with the book he has translated from Russian into English

Cllr Andrew Curtin with the book he has translated from Russian into English


This week the Recorder catches up with former Havering councillor and Romford Civic Society member Andrew Curtin.

Q How do you reflect on your time as a Havering councillor?

A Extremely positively. In many respects those of us at the top of the administration then had almost nothing in common with each other, we each had radically different experiences of life and, because of that, radically different outlooks.

But I think that added greatly to the quality of our thought and decision making as a team. (Sure, on occasion we had complete hum-dinging stand-up rows, and I played my part in some of those!!!)

It made us quite an interesting bunch and, on the whole, meant we took decisions which I hope a significant number of people could see were based on local considerations and have some sympathy with.

Q What are some of the things you are most proud of in the role?

A The public library service. No ifs, no buts – that is the central thing in the health of any community, because without the deepest possible knowledge of and love for our shared language then we have no community.

I am enormously proud that, while I was responsible for it, we built a phenomenal team of people who increased library opening hours at no extra cost to the taxpayer, increased book issues, increased membership to 67 per cent of the population, made Havering Library Service one of the most efficient in the country and ensured Havering was known as a place where people read and learn.

Q Why did you become a councillor and what challenges did you encounter in the role?

A I was asked! My family go back generations in the Conservative Party, both my father and my grandmother chaired their local parties, so as I was growing up it was just one of the things which we all did.

I remember when I attended an early meeting of People First, a self-advocacy group for learning disabled adults, I was asked what the main thing you had to do as a councillor was – and I said “think”.

You have to know what you’re doing, but also why you’re doing it. So I suppose the main challenge I had was fitting my rather cerebral way of working to the structures and work patterns of a local authority.

Q As part of the Romford Civic Society, what are your objectives?

A We’re focused on the environment of a defined area of central Romford, around the conservation area and roads near it.

We’re about places, not people, so we’re interested in the natural environment, conservation and restoration of the historic environment, how buildings and spaces relate to one another, and the exciting possibilities of new architecture.

We work with the local authority and a range of national and regional bodies to seek to maintain focus on the implications of what they do for the environment of central Romford.

Most importantly, we lobby for logical and reasonable application of clear planning policies, which is why we have been so disappointed by the current location proposed for a new building in Romford Market.

Whatever one thinks of the building, the location cannot be justified other than by exception in planning policy terms, and in our view that makes it an application which should never have been made and should now be rejected in order that a site which is in accord with policy can be considered.

Q Do you think more can be done to reflect the illustrious of Romford and especially its market?

A Very definitely. One of the main features of Romford in its comparatively short history as a big town (as opposed to its very long history as a market town and part of Havering) is very clear thought on interesting new architecture – from the social vision of the Victorian developers who ensured that swathes of new housing were accompanied by new social facilities in the latest eclectic style in the centre of the town, to the liberal idealism of the Edwardians who constructed the radical new Romford Garden Suburb and opened Raphael Park in the east of the town, and the faith in modernity behind the 1930s development of South Street as a “lane of light”, one of the main features of Romford has been a fascination with the latest ideas in architecture and design. There are many opportunities to pursue this in the modern world, but not if we ignore or ride roughshod over properly consulted upon and agreed planning policy, which brings us back to the proposed building contravening planning policy in the Market again.......

Q What do you think are some of Havering’s biggest selling points?

A The people. People aren’t just our most important asset, they’re our only asset. So, all the new ideas, new approaches to business, the arts, the environment, science, engineering and technology which thrive here – they’re our greatest asset. In terms of places – our reservoirs of nature at the RSPB, Thames Chase, our country parks and our other parks, landscapes and rivers, pumping life back into London and beyond. Our burgeoning grouping of artists developing in Romford, the huge success of Havering sports clubs, the Queen’s Theatre, Havering Museum, Rainham Village and Rainham Hall, Romford Garden Suburb at Gidea Park, Upminster Windmill, Havering’s almost unbroken history as a single entity going back over a thousand years, and much, much more

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