Monday 26 April 2021

Why I want to save The Railway Hotel in Edgware

By Roger Tichborne,

If you have seen the appalling state of the Railway Hotel in Edgware, you have a unique opportunity to do something about it. Let me explain 

There is a by election for the vacant role of local councillor in Edgware, on the 6th May, the same day as the elections for the GLA and London Mayor. I have the privelige of having been selected for the local Liberal Democrats. I put my name forward for one reason.  Over the last five years, I've been actively involved in a campaign to get the Railway Hotel, a site that used to be the Jewel in the Crown on Edgware High Street restored to its rightful place on the High Street. It has been allowed to go to rack and ruin. Last January, I made a film with local historian Mark Amies detailing this. 

This video has received nearly 5,000 views. Mark Amies recently started a petition to get Barnet Council to take proper enforcement action. This has attracted 700 signatures, which considering the situation with Covid is a huge number to attract via a social media only local campaign with a pandemic going on.

A question I've been asked many times is "But what can you do?". The answer is simple. The council should issue enforcement action agains the current owners. If this does not result in the pub being properly restored, then the council should start proceedings for a compulsory purchase order. When this has been done, a community trust should be formed to run the pub. As a former hotel, there is also space for low cost flats for local key workers. A lot of good could be done with the space, I would like to see it be used as a community space during the day. 

Just in case you are wondering, I am not a "single issue politician". I care passionately about many of the issues that affect Barnet, London and the UK. I am not frightened to speak out about these, if you see my blog history, you will know this. Let me mention a few other issues that are as important, if not more so than the Railway Hotel.

If elected, I will campaign tirelessly for justice for victims of the cladding scandal. We all know all about the terrible Grenfell fire. What is not so well known in Edgware is that Premiere House is clad in the same material and is a death trap and an accident waiting to happen. Boris Johnson has used a three line whip to prevent Conservative MP's from following their consciences and getting justice for the victims of this scandal. There was a fire in Edgware recently right next to Premier House, fortunetly this didn't catch fire. Will we be so lucky next time.

Barnet has a social housing crisis. When I discussed this with a local Conservative supporter, they said "Good luck with that, there are no votes in social housing in Edgware" with a broad smirk. I believe he is wrong. Many people in Edgware are strugging. Many are being forced out. Where do we expect our trainee teachers, NHS workers and other key workers to live. Without these, we have no community. It is all very well putting up ever more luxury flats, which are marketed to people with no association with Edgware, but where is the affordable housing for our young people, who are just starting out on their journey. Barnet council has a huge waiting list for council housing and no plans to fix this. I believe that the citizens of Edgware want a fair and just community, where no one is forced out. That is why I believe that proper social housing is needed. 

I also want to see the Green Belt preserved and maintained. The Barnet Council Conservatives have a proposal to put solar panels on many of our parks. To me this would be criminal. There are many council buildings, schools, libraries, offices etc that they could use to mount these panels on. Why they want to destroy green spaces is beyond me. 

Barnet Council are working on a local plan for Edgware. This seems to be written purely to make a lot of money for large developers. I will work tirelessly to see that the needs of the current residents of Edgware are put at the heart of this plan. I was appalled that the consultation was done during the pandemic, when no one could attend consultation sessions. I would seek to have the consultation re-run with proper engagement. The people of Edgware are full of talents, I'd like to see this brought into local planning.

Another major issue affecting people in Edgware is the need for a step change in accessibility for local transport. The introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourghoods has been an unmitigated disaster across London. Such measures only work when local communities are onside. Millions has been spent, only for schemes to be abandoned. Low Traffic neighbourhoods only work if people can still go about their business. Sending cars on wild goose chases burns more fuel and generates more pollution. We should be looking at technology to make such schemes work. What no one is talking about is the way that developments such as Uber and Deliveroo, as well as online supermarket shopping have added huge numbers of car journeys. I'd like to see these services forced to use non polluting vehicles. Many local fodd deliveries could easily be done using bicycles and electric scooters. This would remove cars from the road and reduce pollution. 

If you are wondering why there is a local council election in Edgware, the election has been called because Brian Gordon, who was elected in 2018 sadly passed away. I used to get on quite well with Brian, we are both Ex Orange Hill and we'd gossip about our former teachers. Brian was a few years older, but most had taught us both.  Just in case you are unfamiliar with the workings of the local Council, Edgware has three councillors elected every four years. Three Conservatives were elected in 2018. These were Brian Gordon, Sarah Wardle and Linda Freeman. Whoever wins the election will serve until next May. The outcome will not affect the make up of Barnet Council as the Conservatives have a large majority. Barnet currently has two Lib Dem councillors. I am aiming to become the third. I believe that anyone who knows me, will recognise that I will work extremely hard for the people of Edgware.

I have to be honest and confess that the Campaign has not been easy. With the pandemic, it was impossible to put in the groundwork necessary. Political parties have only recently been able to actively canvass, and when your party came third last time, this may seem like an insurmountable mountain. However, I believe that Edgware is a special case. I believe that the local Conservative councillors have taken the voters for granted.

On Saturday, I went for a walk around Edgware and spoke to many local families. What surprised me was that everyone told me the same thing. Most were unaware of the by-election, but held strong views on the Mayoral Election. It seemed that everyone was singing from the same sheet. Sadiq Khan has no interest in the outer London Boroughs and is only concerned about the Labour heartlands. He has no interest in protecting the Green Belt and in an area like Barnet, there is a feeling that he wants to clobber the motorist and impose schemes that simply add expense and don't work. What was surprising was that they would then say that the Conservative candidate was a lightweight with no credible policies. I told them that I will be givin the Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt my vote and giving my second preference to Sian Berry, the Green candidate. Luisa hs run an excellent campaign, has genuinely innovative ideas and would be a breath of fresh air. Sian Berry, the Green candidate performed also very well in the recent Mayoral debate. The Greens have some excellent ideas for London and I would not be upset to see her pick up a lot of Lib Dem second preference votes. I genuinely believe that Sadiq Khan has not served the Borough of Barnet well as Mayor. 

As for the GLA assembly, this is one of the few political structures that has a fair system of PR to elect members. It is essential that the Mayor is held to account. I'd urge everyone to look at the work done by the Lib Dem candidate Marisha Ray before casting your vote. Please also cast your vote for the Lib Dems on the list preference (this form asks for you to select a party). 

Edgware needs a councillor who will not let the council officials rest until action is taken and who will be proactive in engaging with the owners. If you want to see the decay halted, then please support me. If I let you down, you can kick me out next year. 


Roger Tichborne is the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Edgware Ward in the May 6th By Election. Roger has run Mill Hill Music Complex sudios since 1979. He attended Orange Hill School and as a teenager lived in Warwick Avenue, in Broadfields.

This article was published and promoted by Roger Tichborne on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, 29 Millway, London, NW7 3QR

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