Recorder letters: Knife crime, rats, fire risk, Dovers Farm Estate, empty homes, women’s museum and support for hospice.

PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 February 2018

Residents of Passive Close in Rainham have been reporting problems with rats since mid-December, Photo: Lisa Walker.

Residents of Passive Close in Rainham have been reporting problems with rats since mid-December, Photo: Lisa Walker.


Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Clear fly-tipping to get rid of the rats

Cllr Graham Williamson, Independent Resident Group, South Hornchurch, writes:

Further to your article about the infestation of rats on Passive Close (Rats enough!, Recorder, January 26) I would like to offer an update.

The issue has been a long standing one because of a nearby stream and undeveloped land.

I brought it up over a year ago and thought it was in hand. Unfortunately, it has erupted into a major infestation because of the growing amount of waste being dumped in neighbouring properties eg Creekside Estate.

These sites are due to be developed so the owners and operators are not spending any money on clearing fly-tipping etc.

Permanent baiting has been put down which will help but until the surrounding area is cleaned and monitored it is only applying a “sticking plaster”.

Having dead rats littering the estate is not acceptable either.

I am urging the council to take remedial action to either demand immediate action to clean the areas in question or to take it ourselves and invoice the owners.

I fear however that all the land south of the A1306 will experience this problem once developed as it is, after all, marshland with some previous landfills (legal or otherwise) and vermin nests has been disturbed on recent sites eg by Rainham Station, so a longer term solution must be found.

Council can’t blame mayor Khan for knife crime rise

Mark Whiley, Roseberry Gardens, Upminster, writes:

Your letters page featured correspondence from two local councillors commenting on the disturbing rise of knife crime in the borough and local policing.

According to the council’s own Serious Group Violence and Knife Crime Strategy 2017-2021 report, the steep rise in knife crime began from the year ending June 2014 until year ending June 2016.

There’s no disputing that knife crime is still high, as of now Havering remains in same league as neighbouring boroughs Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, and Waltham Forest, yet it’s a trend across all east London boroughs except for Barking and Dagenham.

Unfortunately for Conservative Cllr Jason Frost, that does put the largest increase in knife crime figures under the period that Conservative Boris Johnson was London mayor rather than Labour’s Sadiq Khan.

Cllr Williamson is right to restate the link between Havering Council’s participation in resettlement strategies and the rise since 2013, these strategies deployed nationwide were an attempt to break the cycle of reoffending by taking youngsters out of the reach of these gangs and conditions that may influence violent behaviour – wanting young people to contribute to society rather than jailing them for long periods in our overcrowded, under-funded prisons.

These strategies have been influenced by extensive research detailed in the Strategic Ambitions document of the mayor of London in 2014, but they do acknowledge that enough evidence to prove “what works’ is not known. Still, we do have survey findings on the strategy in action that name several key problems with the strategies including: lack of consistent support and interventions for gang involved young people post-resettlement; lack of trust between black and minority ethnic young people and the police to co-operate; and lack of youth services and volunteering or community based opportunities for gang involved young people.

Unlike what you might have heard, this has been on London mayor Sadiq Khan’s agenda for some time, resulting in June 2017’s new knife crime strategy.

In the past several months this strategy has been further renewed with calls for schools to increase usage of knife detection equipment; increased use of intelligence-led stop and search; fostering trust in communities to gather intelligence on gangs; stricter knife sale policies agreed with retailers; and working with local authorities to increase opportunities for those seeking a way out of gang culture.

However, money is tight with our local authorities as well as our police services. The independent fact checking agency Full Fact has confirmed that we’ve lost 19,000 police officers since 2010.

If you want a non-London and non-Labour example, search for The Tipping Point report by independent police crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens about frontline policing in Avon and Somerset – now asking the public if they’d mind paying more council tax to maintain basic operations.

If we are to get serious on knife crime and moped crime in Havering then the Havering Conservatives will need to try harder than pin the blame on one of many mayors and crime commissioners that have been dealt funding cuts year-on-year by this national Conservative government.

Wood puts estate at risk of fire

Cllr Michael Deon Burton, deputy leader of the Independent Residents Group, writes:

Braeburn Court fire, Orchard Village.

As a Havering councillor I have formally been warning the Orchard Village landlord about the dangers made known to us (particularly after the mass loss of life which occurred at the Kings Cross Underground fire, November 18, 1987) that wood was an accelerant. Their wood helped the fire traverse gaps.

At the Orchard Village wood is a primary construction material; Wood walkways, wood balconies, wood walls etc.

Yet even after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Orchard Village has far too many similarities to a tinder box and the minuted statement by the director of Clarion Housing Group – “if there is a fire, because of the height we can get you out” – has far too many similarities to an insult if one is a child or suffering infirmity .

The frightening thing is I am informed the fire personnel which were sited upon the Orchard estate, to aid residents’ safety, have been stood down.

Whilst I was thinking they will be back, never did I foresee their colleagues return almost immediately to put out a fire in our homes concerned with one or many of us still in them.

Fact: The fire’s speed and ferocity in the way it spread was due to the part wood construction of the Braeburn Court residence – no ifs ands or buts.

There is a very wise old saying which states: “If you’re at a party and three people or more tell you you’re drunk, then you had better not drive home.”

Residents state their lives are demonstrably in clear and present danger at Orchard Village, however the landlords’ denial of the threat the prolific inclusion of wood in the construction of the Orchard Village poses and their outright refusal to instigate removal, continues.

When it comes to property commission by Old Ford or Circle Housing and built by Willmot Dixion on the above estate, who you gonna call ?

My opinion is, make it the fire brigade and be pretty darn quick about it.

Will council help save open space?

Supporters of Dovers Farm Esate write:

We have noted with interest recent news from Harold Hill, where valued open space has been acknowledged and given a degree of protection.

With election season upon us, it is only natural that the current administration should try to buy a few votes given the general discontent in the borough.

In the middle of the Dovers Farm estate sits a different but equally valued open space, which the council has attempted to seize for housing despite overwhelming opposition from the community.

Perhaps the council will throw us a crumb or two from their table before they lose their jobs?

Rent empty homes to young families

A Harold Hill resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

I am writing to you about the section about ‘building homes must be realistic’ in last week’s Opinions (February 2).

My late mother-in-law who passed away before Christmas lived in a two-bedroomed house on the Harold Hill estate for 60 years.

The house had to be handed back to Havering Council, my sister, brother-in-law and myself worked tirelessly to clear the house to get it ready to hand back to the council.

Thinking it would go to a young family, I have just found out it has gone to a 72-year-old man living there on his own.

I do believe that the council with their empty housing stock should be allocating to young families with children.

As for this new building going on, these empty council houses should be for people already on the waiting list who really need them.

No events to mark suffragette centenary

Fay Hough, full address supplied, writes:

In last week’s Romford Recorder, I read a double page spread about the fantastic, brand new East London Women’s Museum.

As an avid activist for women’s rights it was delightful to read. Page 11 listed several events happening around east London, but I couldn’t find any events happening in Havering.

I went online to search, hoping to find a local event I could attend and I couldn’t find one. I would like to ask Havering Council why, in such a historic year for women, are there no events organised and promoted to celebrate the women’s suffrage centenary?

2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed a law which allowed women to vote for the first time. Across the nation people are recognising the huge sacrifices and contributions made by so many to secure the vote for women. Havering Council seem to have missed this…

Hospice needs our support now

Cllr Clarence Barrett, Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Association, writes:

It is of clear concern that Saint Francis Hospice runs an operation costing some £11m per year yet receive only 30 per cent of its funding from NHS/government sources (Recorder, last week).

The remaining £7.7m then relies on legacies, donations, retail and fundraising activities.

The hospice provide an important and essential service to the community, and with the number of people aged 85 and over expected to double over the next 20 years, along with the number of young adults living with life-limiting conditions also on the increase, the pressure on hospices is only set to increase.

It should be a government priority to put hospices on a more sustainable and reliable funding basis. For example, instead of building HS2 at a cost of some £90billion, imagine how just a fraction of that would benefit the hospice movement.

World Hospice Day is on October 13, but every day is a hospice day to many patients and their families and they need proper funding and our support now.

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