The new corona virus, SARS-CoV-2, the cause behind the new pandemic influenza Covid-19, looms over everything, Kensington Town Hall included.
Covid-19 and its fallouts:
RBKC: much is closed, but parks remain open (updated 04/04/2020)
Following the government’s coronavirus advice issued on Monday 16 March, the RBKC council cancelled the following evening’s meeting of the planning applications committee and announced that all upcoming meetings of both the planning committee and the planning applications committee will be cancelled for the foreseeable future. Since then, all other committee meetings have been cancelled as well for the foreseeable future. The next full council meeting on 22 April is also expected to be cancelled, perhaps the one on 20 May as well.
The council has set up a special coronavirus web page with lots of important information for residents, local businesses and the council’s tenants. After its first version was issued on 17 March, a revised version was issued after the government’s announcement on Friday 20 March, and
That webpage has been revised and enlarged several times since it first appeared on 17 March. Originally, it has a link to a special page which listed all the changes to the councils services, but since early April that service disruption page has bee replaced by links to 23 separate pages, covering anything from NHS advice to a page for people who want to volunteer.
However, the information is still largely the same:
1) All council receptions have been closed. This includes the Customer Service Centre at Kensington Town Hall, which will remain shut until further notice.
2) All the council’s children’s centres are closed, but the Family Information Service website now hosts some “sing and sign” and “stay and play” group activities.
3) The Leighton House Museum and the 18 Stafford Terrace museum have been closed since 17 March. This includes all public events arranged by the council’s museum staff, such as costumed and conventional tours, pre-booked visits from schools and community groups and the free Holland Park guided walks.
4) All libraries are now closed. The smaller libraries closed on 17 March, and on 20 March the central Kensington library and the libraries in Chelsea and North Kensington were closed as well. Any due dates for borrowed items coming up while the libraries are closed will be automatically until the libraries can open again, so lenders will not be charged any overdue fees. However, the home library service and the libraries’ online offerings still operate (see separate piece about this).
5) At the Portobello Road and Golborne Road markets, the only stalls now allowed to remain open are food stalls and stalls selling household goods. The reduced number of stalls will be spaced out at a two market stall gap between each stall to encourage social distancing. The same conditions apply to the three farmers markets in the borough (South Kensington, Notting Hill and Portobello Spanish School) which operate every Saturday. In order to help the street traders, who are already experiencing a significant loss of business as many avoid the street markets, the council will be waiving charges for the sites and parking bays they use for 12 weeks, beginning 6 April 2020. This will be reviewed again in June 2020.
6) The borough’s parks will remain open until the government says otherwise, but all playgrounds and outdoor gyms in parks and on housing estates have now been closed. The council states that “we will continue to keep our parks across the borough open as we know how important they are for residents’ mental health and wellbeing and, so that our residents can continue to exercise.”
7) All schools are closed since Friday 20 March for all pupils except children of key workers and vulnerable children. The government will during the weekend provide a list which defines who is to be regarded a key worker beside NHS staff, police and delivery drivers. The council has learned that the term “vulnerable children” encompasses looked after children, children with a child protection plan, children in need and children with an Education, Health and Care Plan. The council has contacted the headteachers in the borough to find out which children’s parents are classified as key workers, and which children are classified as vulnerable, in order to understand how many pupils will still need to come into school. For pupils eligible for free school meals, the government has advised that schools need to speak to their school catering provider to see if they can prepare meals or food parcels that could be delivered to, or collected by families with such pupils. The government is also developing a national voucher scheme that can replace the free meals, but until that is in place, school which cannot provide meals or food parcels must offer an alternative, such as supermarket and shop vouchers that the school can order directly from retailers.
8) Kensington Leisure Centre, Chelsea Sports Centre, and St Luke’s pitches have been closed until further notice and all memberships have been frozen.
9) Street cleaning and waste collection (including recycling and collection of garden waste and food waste) continues as normal, with the following four exceptions:
a) the Too Big For The Bin collection service has been suspended for new bookings, and
b) council officers will not be searching waste bags left out at the wrong time or wrong day for the foreseeable future.
c) the waste centres in Smugglers Way and Cringle Dock are closed
d) TRAID is not operating its free home collection service for unwanted electric and electrical equipment and textiles
10) The council has relaxed parking enforcement for essential hospitals workers. Brompton, Chelsea and Westminster and Royal Marsden hospitals have provided the council with staff vehicle registrations, so parking enforcement officers will know which vehicles to not enforce against. Around hospitals, the council will only ticket obstructive parking and ask that other drivers do not park near hospitals unless absolutely necessary, so those spaces can be reserved for hospital workers.
11) As many can’t renew their parking permits, due to illness or social distancing, the council’s parking enforcement officers will not ticket cars with expired residents’ parking permits, blue or purple badges, car club badges or doctors permits. Those with expired permits will be able to make applications retrospectively at a later date, when social distancing guidelines have been lifted. Those who wish to renew a permit now, wish to apply for a permit for the first time, or require a new permit because of change of vehicle, may only renew online (or by calling 020-7361 43810) or complete online forms for new resident or change of vehicle and then email those applications to email@example.com, as the Customer Service Centre at Kensington Town Hall is closed.
12) All registrations of births, as well as all bookings for marriages, civil partnership ceremonies and citizenship ceremonies, have been suspended. Formally, all these activities are known as “non-essential council appointments” and consist of:
• Appointments to register new births. The 42-day deadline has been suspended.
• Appointments to give notice of intention for marriage or civil partnership or to book a marriage or civil partnership ceremony.
• Re-registrations appointments.
• Appointments to book public and private citizenship ceremonies.
• Applications to make a correction to a birth, death, marriage or civil partnership certificate.
13) The council’s noise and nuisance team will no longer make visits to measure reported noise, but will try to resolve problems via phone contacts.
In a video posted on Tuesday 17 March, council leader Elizabeth Campbell tells the RBKC residents about the council’s efforts to minimise the risks of Covid-19, and urges those who can to volunteer.
The RBKC council follows closely the advice and recommendations issued by the government at the daily press conference held after each COBRA meeting, usually by (from left to right) the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. This picture is licensed under the Open Government Licence 3.0.
Page originally posted 18/03/2020, updated 21/03/2020, 24/03/2020, 28/03/2020 and 04/04/2020.