Stephen Timms MP answers your questions

I met up with MP for East Ham Stephen Timms and put some of your questions to him.

We spoke about some of the most common and pressing concerns that businesses in Newham have with regard to the Olympics – having to change delivery times, transport problems, lack of communication from the council, and a relaxation of Sunday Trading laws for example.

He told me that he’s pushing parliament to allow businesses located near the Olympic Park who have incurred costs to be able to claim compensation.

Click below to find out how and to watch our discussion…..

Business owner fears third Olympic upheaval

A building contractors, currently situated within the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, could be forced to move location for a third time due to the Olympic Games.

The company was initially based where the Olympic Stadium now stands. They received a compulsory purchase order in 2005 along with over 200 other businesses. This forced them to temporarily move to Beckton. Poor communications and transport links in Beckton nearly destroyed the firm, so they moved back to Stratford eight months ago. Now plans to build a university campus on the Carpenters Estate has once again thrown their future into doubt.

The director of P.A. Finlay, Nick Athienitis, told this website that despite a healthy workload, the stress of the moves has caused financial problems and has broken family ties. In the interview below, he details how the company has had to relocate and how the threat of another move is affecting the business.

PA Finlay offer a wide range of services, ranging from large construction works to general maintenance. In the audio slideshow below, Nick explains a bit more about the type of work the company does.

Local pub faces an uncertain future and says the Olympics ‘hasn’t done them any favours’

Carpenters Arms Landlord and lady

The Carpenters Arms located just metres from the Olympic Site on the Carpenter’s Estate in Stratford faces an uncertain future as the borough continues to undergo radical changes. Regeneration in the area resulting in road blocks and houses and factories disappearing from the vacinity have led to a dramatic decrease in business. We spoke to the landlord Seamus on a Friday afternoon. He told us that just two years ago the place would have been packed. When we were there, there were only 3 other people in the pub.

And now plans for a new UCL campus in the area are causing further worries.

When asked whether he thought the Olympic Games would bring increased business to his pub, he said he couldn’t be sure, as the council haven’t informed him about new entrances and exits to the road the pub is located on.

Seamus told this website that he would like to be able to make plans for the future, such renovations and improvements, but doesn’t know whether the pub is coming or going…..

Ask MP Stephen Timms

We will be interviewing MP for East Ham Stephen Timms next week.

Photo:ICAEW Press Office/flickr

He has been MP for the area since 1994, having previously been Labour’s MP for Newham North East. He’s the shadow minister for employment and was formerly financial secretary to the treasury.

Stephen Timms was elected to Newham Council in 1984 and chaired the Planning Committee from 1987 to 1990, before serving as Leader of the Council from 1990 to 1994.

He has lived in the East London Borough of Newham since 1979. He has concentrated on regeneration in East London – including regeneration partnerships, the Thames Gateway initiative, Stratford international station on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and the Olympics in Newham in 2012.

We plan to put some of the concerns we have heard from small business owners and workers over the course of the last few months to him. These include the effect on businesses of road closures, VIP lanes and congestion, compulsory purchase orders, problems of forced labour, how changes to Sunday Trading laws could affect businesses and much more.

If you have any questions you would like us to ask, please tweet us on @2012newham or leave a comment on this site……

We look forward to hearing from you!

Newham leads the way for business start-ups

New figures reveal that in the last two years more businesses have started in Newham than any other London borough. The data also shows they rank second out of all authorities in England and Wales.

The findings were carried out by Experian and revealed by the BBC. They show that the number of businesses in Newham rose from 10,238 in early 2010 to 14,672 at the start of this year – an increase of 43.3%.

The main reason for this is the new Westfield Shopping Centre and the regeneration around the Olympic site. As well as the establishing of an Enterprise Zone in the Royal Docks.

There was also good news for neighbouring Barking and Dagenham which saw 7,685 new companies find their feet in the same time period.

This good news for the borough appears against a backdrop of gloom for London in general. The number of businesses in the capital dropped by 1.5%. Hounslow saw the biggest number of insolvencies, relocations and closures with a decrease of 3,169 businesses.

The alternative Olympics tour – this Saturday

Those over at the Site/Fringe project have planned a screening day for their finished film this coming Saturday. The production details how communities near the Olympic site have been affected by the Games. They’ll also be a walking tour conducted by one of the residents of the Carpenters Estate.

Six MA students from Goldsmiths University are behind this project along with CARP, The Friends of Queens Market and the Save the Atherton Campaign. The collected material from the event will become part of the Museum of London’s collection.

They’re meeting this Saturday 24th March at 3.00pm outside Stratford Tube Station.

Image courtesy of site/fringe

Living with Auntie: BBC granted permission to move into Carpenters Estate

Newham Council’s planning committee last night gave permission for the BBC and Al Jazeera to use two tower blocks overlooking the Olympic Park. From May till the end of September the top five floors of Lund Point and Dennison Point (pictured above) will change use from residential flats into a media broadcasting venue.

These blocks of flats form part of the 1960’s Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Since 2010 the council has begun a rehousing programme for tenants as homes are earmarked for redevelopment. Last year a deal was signed with University College London to look at the possibility of building a second campus in this area, much to the anger of current residents.

Al Jazeera image of studio to be built on the roof of Dennison Point – submitted to Newham Council

The towers are mostly vacant with around a quarter of the flats being used in both. In Lund Point (to be used by the BBC) there are five flats still occupied on the upper five floors, in Dennison (to be used by Al Jazeera) there are seven. Effectively, these tenants will be living within a media production centre throughout these five months.

The council has received written objections from twelve residents, most of whom were present at Stratford Town Hall last night. One was even allowed to keep hold of his placard inside the council chamber (pictured right).

Amy Brennan, who lives on the top floor of Lund Point, was worried about excessive noise from the studios. She said:

“How can I be expected to get a decent night’s sleep? I feel stressed and anxious at the mere prospect with sharing my building, my home, with a high-profile media organisation…shame on the BBC and Newham Council. Two organisations that exist to serve the public.”

She added:

“Why should we have to put up with this serious disruption to our daily lives? This discomfort in our homes? So that you Newham Council can make some extra money? You are capitalising on my discomfort, my ill-health and the discomfort of other residents.”

David McGinn, who moved into Lund Point six months ago, spoke on behalf of CARP (Carpenters Against Regeneration Plan). He brought up concerns regarding asbestos, something the BBC will have to tackle if they need to redesign the space for broadcasting purposes. He said:

“Newham Council informed residents awhile back that the reason the asbestos is still in the building was because it was too dangerous to move, that now seems to be no longer the case when there’s some money involved.”

He also mentioned his concerns regarding security and spoke about the ongoing regeneration project. He said:

“The council has been trying for seven years to move everyone out of the blocks for redevelopment. Having failed to do so, the council have now decided to redevelop it with the residents still in place.”

Jamie Hindhaugh, BBC’s Head of Production for the Games, was in attendance. He spoke directly to locals, responding to their concerns. He said:

“What the BBC are proposing is essentially a news coverage which is very much in a quiet environment, which the BBC will want to maintain throughout their period of occupancy there.”

It seems like the BBC’s hands have been tied. They couldn’t contact and consult residents until they had planning permission and in my view it looked as if the council hadn’t done a particularly good job in the interim. McGinn, allowed to speak again in what was turning into a very open and informal meeting, spoke about the building work that had already begun. He said:

“Why has it come to this? It’s because there’s been no engagement, no substantive consultation beyond this specific planning process. And we’ve been told by the [Tenant Management Organisation] that the council actually point blank refused to send a letter to the residents of Lund Point explaining what works were going on.”

The BBC, after reaching an initial agreement with Newham Council, has allowed all building work to be done by council contractors. It’s these contractors that have already dug two exploratory holes near the base of the towers and erected scaffolding.

Stratford Town Hall

Then the conversation turned to money. Prompted by a councillor as to what would make residents reason with the broadcasters, McGinn said:

“A discussion about actual financial compensation I think will not go amiss here.”

The chair of the meeting, Cllr Ron Manley, was quick to say that any agreement would be between the residents and the BBC and wouldn’t be a part of this planning application. Thoughts turned to the financing of this temporary studio. Cllr Shelia Thomas, Plaistow South ward, asked:

“How much money is the council making out of this planning application?”

Cllr Ron Manley responded that he didn’t have any idea but that all money paid by the BBC “will be ploughed back into sports and education for the borough”.

Despite the anxiety and anger shown at this meeting, representatives from the BBC and local tenants left on good terms and arranged to meet again to start more detailed discussions. Whatever its long term future, Carpenters Estate will be getting two high profile tenants for the Olympics. So when you’re watching the likes of Clare Balding, Gary Lineker, Hazel Irvine and Sue Barker this Summer – spare a thought for the people just metres beneath their feet, going about their daily lives.