Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Blog back

December 27, 2010

After a few months of blogging holiday this blog is back.

Obviously the focus will change, we’re not anymore in electoral period, and thanks for that. There will be politics discussed though, and in case you were wondering I’m not anymore a member of any party and this because I don’t feel that there is one party left in Britain that reflects my opinions.

I still think that the Lib Dems are the less bad of the three mainstream parties but I can’t really find it in me to feel associated to creeps like George Osborne, Eric Pickles or Michael Gove.

If Nick Clegg will decide that he has a mandate to veto a few of  these people’s policies then I’ll reconsider.

Courthill Road to get a green man in 2012

December 27, 2010

It’s with immense pleasure that I can report that on 15th December in a written reply to Caroline Pidgeon AM the Mayor of London Boris Johnson outlined the timetable for a green man crossing at Courthill Road.

Courthill Road junction
Question No: 3876 / 2010
Caroline Pidgeon
In answer to a previous question on Courthill Road junction in Lewisham (Question number 2981/2010) you stated: “Traffic modelling and discussions with key stakeholders are continuing to this end, and are scheduled to be completed by the end of this calendar year.” Can you please provide an update as to how far this modelling and discussions has actually progressed and how close Transport for London are to finding more ”radical solutions” as an alternative to providing pedestrian facilities at this junction as requested by current and former ward councillors and many local residents.
Answer from the Mayor
TfL is developing a design proposal for Lewisham High Street at its junction with Courthill Road.  Part of this proposal is to introduce a “green man” pedestrian crossing facility on Courthill Road.  I went out on site with TfL’s Chief Operating Officer London Streets and Heidi Alexander before she became an MP. The traffic modelling is completed and the preliminary design will undergo a road safety audit which is planned to be completed in January 2011.  Consultation on the scheme is planned for early in the New Year.  As the proposals include banning some movements at the Courthill Road junction, with displaced traffic being diverted onto other local roads, feedback from the consultation process will potentially affect not only the final outcome but also the timescales for delivery.  If a viable scheme can be developed, TfL has provisionally programmed detailed design to commence in the summer of 2011 with works commencing early 2012.

This is the result of  the coordinated pressure that residents of Lewisham Central have put onto TfL over a number of years, thanks to all those that helped towards this result. This blog has a Courthill Road tag to read about some of those efforts.

For now, until the traffic lights are actually in place, let’s still cross it with extreme caution, I was almost run over yesterday and the railings on one of the corners have just been replaced after someone smashed into them.

Ruddock’s war update – lambasted and exposed

April 28, 2010

In the US, we call this “Kabuki”. Vote for the meaningless amendment or bill that you know won’t pass in order to build a record so that you can claim that you voted against the war, for single payer health care, against FISA, whatever, and then go south when the vote that really matters comes up.

The LibDems have this one 100% right, and, apparently, the voters in the UK are beginning to understand Kabuki as well as those of us here in the states.

This above is one of the 60 comments left under Joan Ruddock’s article in Sunday’s Guardian Cif written in response to mine of Friday, they’re well worth a read (link).
Poor Joan, she really shot herself in the foot with a big gun.

And yesterday the issue was taken up by the South London Press that on page 3 featured this article.

Rattled Ruddock replies in the Guardian

April 25, 2010

In the thick of it!

“it is standard parliamentary practice to abstain when negotiating in private with your own leadership in an attempt to get them to change their minds.”

Really?
Quite a difference from what she wrote in her letter to Lewisham Central residents only a month ago:

“I have always acted with integrity and stuck to my principles – voting against the government going to war in Iraq.”

Read more.

Ruddock’s dodgy claim exposed in the Guardian CiF

April 23, 2010

I finally have some time today to write a blogpost, it’s been a truly intensive and eventful day, a non-stop that started bright and early with leafleting to commuters outside Hither Green Station, followed by work, followed by a gruelling session of hand-delivering of letters to postal voters up and down the ward.

This afternoon, as I touched home to pick up letters, I discovered that my post for Comment is Free was finally up there.
Oh emotions! Finally! Finally I managed to say this story the way it deserves to be told.
I am truly thankful to the Guardian for allowing me to say it from that platform.
Because I believe that Joan Ruddock did a true enormity by claiming that she voted “against the Government going to war in Iraq” when she didn’t take part to that vote at all.

I’m actually even inclined to believe that she broke the parliamentary code of conduct that on this is quite clear on what’s expected:

Openness
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

This story doesn’t end here.

Click here to read my piece on Comment is Free.

Secretive and authoritarian

April 18, 2010

The excellent website Liberal Democrat Voice has selected 10 key Parliamentary votes to help the public understand how liberal or authoritarian your MP has been during the last Parliament.

Now, if you enter Joan Ruddock MP you’ll find that she’s “only” 90% authoritarian, and this because despite backing government on each and every authoritarian proposal from ID cards to trial without jury, in 2007 she was absent on the vote to exempt Parliament from the Freedom of Information Act.

Only that despite missing the vote she’s on record as a ringleader of that proposal.

The bill was indeed approved at the Commons but failed at the House of Lords, if it hadn’t one of the things we wouldn’t have known anything about would have been our MPs expenses.

So, despite missing the vote we cannot at all say that she didn’t support it, because she did. Her 90% authoritarian score on the Lib Dem Voice Rank is only an appearance, she’s 100%.

Joan Ruddock’s War

April 6, 2010


I’ve been forwarded this letter that Joan Ruddock MP has sent to a selection of Lewisham Central residents.

I read it and gulped, again, the claim that Joan Ruddock voted “against” the war, only in a much clearer and unequivocal phrasing.

“I have always acted with integrity and stuck to my principles – voting against the government going to war in Iraq.”

Now, let’s be clear, Joan Ruddock is on record as absent on the crucial occasion of the Government’s motion to authorize the use of force against Iraq. That’s a fact.

(Click here for her record on the vote for the use of force)

She was also absent for every other vote on the main motions about Iraq.

What she did vote for were proposals to amend those motions on Iraq by inserting clauses saying that the case for war was yet unproven, but those attempts were always defeated, and following those failed votes for amendments the main motions went to vote, and on each and every occasion about Iraq she was absent.

(Click here for her voting record on Iraq)

So, I don’t think she’s being straight at all by saying that she voted against the government going to war in Iraq. She didn’t do  a Robin Cook or even a Diane Abbott, at the crucial moment she wasn’t in the room.

Something that voters should know, and that can potentially affect her chances for the forthcoming elections since it’s not just an embarrassing statement but also a great way to remind people of the clear position that Lib Dems took against the Iraq war.

She’s the incumbent with a large majority, but the debate is just starting. Lib Dems were the second party in Lewisham Deptford in 2005 and with the redrawing of the constituency boundary to include Lewisham Central ward (where Lib Dems are the first party) our chances have increased.

Train strike timetable for Southeastern services

April 1, 2010

The national Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) have announced strike action for four days, from Tuesday 6 to Friday 9 April.

This means that Network Rail signallers and maintenance union members will not be working during this period. This will have a significant affect on the services Southeastern are able to run.

Click here to read the revised timetable.

Update.
I asked Cllr Andrew Milton to enquire with Southeastern about the length of the 2 trains per hour that will pass through Lewisham and Hither Green Station during the strike period, and here’s the reply he received from Southeastern:

As you know the strike is the result of industrial action by signal workers belonging to the RMT union employed by Network Rail. The revised timetable is based on Network Rail’s estimate of the number of non-union members and trained managers able available to work on strike days. Trains will be of maximum length in accordance with the infrastructure available.

We are very sorry for the obvious inconvenience that will be suffered by our passengers and hope that a resolution can be reached. At the time of writing I understand that Network Rail has gone to court in a bid to have the strike declared unlawful on the grounds that they there may have been discrepancies in how the ballot was conducted.

Update #2 – Breaking News: The strike is called off.

Hot air doesn’t cut carbon emissions (with petition)

March 2, 2010

My collegue James Jennings just alerted me of this news item:

Apparently micro wind turbines could now be one of the many tools that will be used by local councils that are getting into the energy business. Apparently this news comes as Local Councils will be allowed to start generating and selling back electricity to generate green power in Miliband. All of this is a plan to curb emissions…

You don’t need a degree in media study to know that a paragraph of Government sponsored pseudo-news that contains the word “apparently” twice is “apparently” very dodgy.
Because Miliband gets new plan to curb emissions is “apparently” just that.

But the article contains also another tell-tale of apparentlyness, it tells us that:

The London borough of Lewisham wants to begin generating energy

Now, the London Borough of Lewisham has been for decades at the cutting edge of the production of hot air, so the step to micro wind turbines is only natural, but I really think we should object to it.

In his yesterday’s Guardian article explicitly entitled are we really going to let ourselves be duped into this solar panel rip-off? George Monbiot eloquently explains how incredibly inefficient this scheme is:

The people who sell solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and micro wind turbines in the UK insist they represent a good investment. The arguments I have had with them have been long and bitter. But the debate has now been brought to an end with the publication of the government’s table of tariffs: the rewards people will receive for installing different kinds of generators. The government wants everyone to get the same rate of return. So while the electricity you might generate from large wind turbines and hydro plants will earn you 4.5p per kilowatt hour, mini wind turbines get 34p, and solar panels 41p. In other words, the government acknowledges that micro wind and solar PV in the UK are between seven and nine times less cost-effective than the alternatives.

It expects this scheme to save 7m tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020. Assuming – generously – that the rate of installation keeps accelerating, this suggests a saving of about 20m tonnes of CO2 by 2030. The estimated price by then is £8.6bn. This means it will cost about £430 to save one tonne of CO2.

Last year the consultancy company McKinsey published a table of cost comparisons. It found that you could save a tonne of CO2 for £3 by investing in geothermal energy, or for £8 by building a nuclear power plant. Insulating commercial buildings costs nothing; in fact it saves £60 for every tonne of CO2 you reduce; replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs saves £80 per tonne. The government predicts that the tradeable value of the carbon saved by its £8.6bn scheme will be £420m. That’s some return on investment.

This is one of the worst possible uses of our money in the name of the curbing carbon emissions and saving our environment. It doesn’t stimulate the green economy, it doesn’t produce appreciable amounts of energy, and most of all, it doesn’t have a meaningful impact on the environment for the money spent.

Those that get into this scheme will make some good money out of it. Only that you’d be accomplice to a gigantic scam, as Monbiot explains:

Buying a solar panel is now the best investment a householder can make. The tariffs will deliver a return of between 5% and 8% a year, which is both index linked (making a nominal return of between 7% and 10%) and tax-free. The payback is guaranteed for 25 years. If you own a house and can afford the investment, you’d be crazy not to cash in. If you don’t and can’t, you must sit and watch your money being used to pay for someone else’s fashion accessory.

It’s one of those pacts with the devil that ultimately damage the same reason they claim to be supporting, like selling weapons to Saddam Hussein to further stability in the Middle East. That worked!

Those who hate environmentalism have spent years looking for the definitive example of a great green rip-off. Finally it arrives, and nobody notices. The government is about to shift £8.6bn from the poor to the middle classes. It expects a loss on this scheme of £8.2bn, or 95%. Yet the media is silent. The opposition urges only that the scam should be expanded.

Monbiot is right, this is about people living in flats paying more for their electricity in order to subsidize the solar panels and wind turbines of those that fitted them on top of their house. The environmental impact of this grotesque parody of environmental policy is negligible. Those countries that have gone down this route years ago are now getting out of it as all evidence shows that the amount of energy generated is minuscule, emissions cut are nil.

We don’t need to guess the results: the German government made the same mistake 10 years ago. By 2006 its generous feed-in tariffs had stimulated 230,000 solar roofs, at a cost of ¤1.2bn. Their total contribution to the country’s electricity supply was 0.4%. Their total contribution to carbon savings, as a paper in the journal Energy Policy points out, is zero. This is because Germany, like the UK, belongs to the European emissions trading scheme. Any savings made by feed-in tariffs permit other industries to raise their emissions. Either the trading scheme works, in which case the tariffs are pointless, or it doesn’t, in which case it needs to be overhauled. The government can’t have it both ways.

A week ago the German government decided to reduce sharply the tariff it pays for solar PV, on the grounds that it is a waste of money. Just as the Germans have begun to abandon their monumental mistake, we are about to repeat it.

We must say no.

This scheme appropriately starts on 1st April. There isn’t much time left to try and oppose it.
At local level we can ask Lewisham Council, which is an enthusiastic supporter of this scheme, to withdraw from it. If that would happen then the Government may decide to take notice of the criticisms moved towards this wasteful, even counterproductive, ill-conceived policy.
Sign the petition here.

You read it here first

February 25, 2010

At last night’s Local Assembly for Lewisham Central ward, among the other presentations of community groups there was one update on the state of the developments at Town Centre delivered by no less than Mr John Miller, Head of Planning of Lewisham Council.

The news is that the Loampit Vale development is now due to start in “spring/summer 2010” with the delivery of the Leisure Centre now forecast for the first half of 2013. That’s after the London Olympics. As readers of this blog knew already.

The other information given about the developments is that the Gateway is not anymore viable and the Council will now wait until the economy improves to restart talks with developers. Whenever that is.

Gym update

January 20, 2010

I received a reply to my enquiry about the operation of the gym that’s opening at the Firemaster building and here’s what it says:

Hi Max,

Thank you for your interest in our facility.
We are only in the early stages of developing it.
It will primarily be a facility for our private courses and classes. These classes will be open for the public and will be specifically in Olympic Weight Lifting, Boxing, Kettlebells, Parkour and Strength and Conditioning.
I recommend you jump on our website and keep and sign up to our newsletter for constant updates and information regarding our venue and opportunities.

Kind Regards

So unfortunately at least for the moment it won’t operate as a general purpose gym, but the classes are open to everyone, so, should you decide that it’s time to toughen up here’s your chance, all info at http://www.optimallifefitness.com/
I think I’ll still stick to swimming.

Southeastern trains reduced also tomorrow. Why?

January 7, 2010

Well, it has been snowing, but not exceptionally, nothing like it was forecast, and yet South East London commuters are faced with trains that are few and far between and so overcrowded that you can’t get on.
The theory that’s been going around is that Southeastern is advertising an emergency timetable to avoid being liable to pay refunds and compensations in case of real severe delays because of weather do occur.
If this was true then it means that this timetable was written by solicitors instead of engineers and what should be run as a service is instead run as a pure business with utter disregard for the customer they serve.

Londonist journalist and Hither Green commuter RachelH that has been pressing Southeastern for a statement since yesterday finally received one and to the attentive and cynical reader it shines for what it does NOT say:

“The decision to run a revised timetable was made based on the advice from Network Rail, who has responsibility for the track and they decide what service we will be able to provide.

They were out overnight with de-icing trains and we also ran ghost trains around the entire network, not just in London.

To ensure that we were able to provide a reliable service throughout the entire day and have the right staff and rolling stock in place for the evening peak, when the worst of the snow and ice hit London, we needed to run the revised timetable from the morning, as it would have been almost impossible to implement at the last minute for the afternoon. Our trains also come into London from across Kent where they will, of course, also be subject to the snow and icy conditions found there.

We told passengers at the earliest possible moment on Tuesday of the revised timetable through texts, emails, station notices, onboard announcements, station announcements and providing extra staff at stations, as well as advising the media of the plans.

The revised timetable remains in place for today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) and we are asking passengers to check with National Rail Enquiries for services and to check when their last train home tonight will be.”

I may be over-suspicious but to me this statement looks like it’s been written a tad too carefully, it doesn’t say for example that the decision was taken by Network Rail, only that it was “based on Network Rail advice” but what this advice was is not told. It says that Network Rail “were out overnight with de-icing trains and we also ran ghost trains around the entire network, not just in London” but doesn’t say that they found the network to be unworkable, actually, if you think about it, if they were out with de-icing trains it means that the track is fine. The whole statement to me only reinforces the suspicion that this timetable was indeed written by solicitors instead of engineers.

And reading the News Shopper I found this very interesting comment:

jonandbilly, Lewisham says…
11:52am Thu 7 Jan 10
I live close to Lewisham station.

I think it’s strange Southeastern are unable to maintain a scheduled timetable yet freight trains have been thundering through Lewisham more or less as usual?

The Ladywell Pool changing rooms debate

December 14, 2009

There are two letters about Ladywell Pool in this week’s Mercury, and both in response to a previous letter about the pool.
One is mine, the same that was published the previous week in the South London Press, the other is instead by a woman mostly saying the opposite of what my letter says, and that is actually quite funny. I guess that many readers that don’t have experience of Ladywell Pool will be thinking “who’s right?”.

In my letter I wrote among other things:

The way Labour-run Lewisham has kept the centre for years is nothing short of scandalous.
Still, the current manager is proactive.
There is work to be done but the place is in a better shape than it has been for many years.
Let me claim a share of the merit for the scrutiny that the Save Ladywell Pool Campaign has exercised.
The pool itself has clean water and offers a swimming experience that’s superior to most modern pools, as a large number of regular users can testify.

The other Mercury reader instead writes that (link to letter):

It is a public health issue. You only need to go to Ladywell to see what I mean.
I also have some damning photos taken inside the ladies’ changing rooms recently (scum, more scum, faeces, clumps of hair etc).
I am in full support of the Loampit Vale development.
It will provide a decent public pool facility for everyone in Lewisham.

I actually never understood the argument that because the changing rooms are dirty then you need to demolish a pool and build a new one. Do you blow up your house when it gets a bit messy? I suppose not, I guess you just get on and clean it. So why would a pool be any different?
As I said in my letter the water of the pool itself is actually clean, the water treatment plant was refurbished at the cost of £150k during the 2002-04 refurbishment. The legionella bacteria found at the pool had instead formed in the pipeworks of the showers, which is a separate system from the pool itself and was old and had been badly patched up during the decades, but that has now been replaced too.

I personally never campaigned for Ladywell Pool to be kept going in eternity, I campaigned for continuity of provision, for the pool to be kept open only until the replacement is built and operative, but I am not supportive of what the Council has planned for the reason that it will not be big enough for all, as I also explained in my letter:

The advice upon which the council based its sizing fails to accommodate the current users of Ladywell besides the thousands who will come and live around the new centre, not to mention that the impact of the transport interchange and the nearness of residents from the London Borough of Greenwich were also not taken into account.
In short, the centre is not bigger than Ladywell but the population to accommodate is – and by a great number.
As Ladywell Pool is currently working to capacity, then inevitably someone will be left out.

As for the cleanliness of the changing rooms, for obvious reasons I have never been in the Ladies’ changing rooms, but I have complained about the males changing rooms in the past and I think that things have improved. I heard from many women about their plight and was asked many times to tell the manager about the issue, which I did more than once.
Here are my notes from a meeting I had with the then manager in 2008:

Improvements have been done to the female changing room and there’s now a dedicated part time cleaner for the female changing rooms. He’d love to be notified by users if female changing rooms are in need of a clean. He can’t go in there, almost all personnel is male (this is an industry-wide problem) and if the female life-guards say that the changing rooms are dirty then they are sent to clean them and that’s not much of an incentive for them.

I can’t find my notes of the meeting I had a few months ago with the current manager (who is a woman and can therefore visit the ladies’ changing rooms) but I raised the issue again and she told me of a £25k budget this year to spend on the female changing rooms and as I wrote in my letter to the press I think she’s doing a good job but of course I can only speak about the male changing rooms.

There has always been a lot of discontent about the changing rooms, even from supporters of the pool, and especially women.
I think that there are various issues at play here.
One is the obvious argument that they are dirty at times and they need better cleaning.
But besides that I think that there is also an issue of perception and expectations.
The decor of the changing rooms is not great, they’re worn out 60’s changing rooms, basic but a bit grotty and even when just cleaned they don’t really shine. I’ve been to Downham Pool and I found the changing rooms quite dirty actually, obviously not cleaned carefully in the corners, and yet since it’s new and airy and bright it looks better than what it is.
The other consideration is about what we should expect from public pools. When you shower chances are that between you and the last time the shower was scrubbed a few tens of people showered in the same place. I see the attendants cleaning quite often and doing a decent job too. But there are hair in the shower, and many users do leave a mess behind them, and it stays there until someone cleans it, and in the meantime you’ll stare at it. I too recently found a turd in the plate as I entered the toilet, it wasn’t mine but I flushed it. I could have taken a picture of it but somehow didn’t think about it. I remember it clearly not because I was particularly shocked by it but because I and other swimmers in the changing room mowned at length about people that don’t flush and fantasized about what we’d do to them (things you chat about at the pool).
But there is also some responsibility of the Council, if the changing rooms were better looking then people would treat them better, that’s what always happens and it really wouldn’t cost a fortune to make them a nice and welcoming environment.

To finish, Ladywel Pool is owned by the Council and managed by a contractor of their choosing, why would ever Loampit Vale Pool, again owned by the Council and managed by a contractor of their choosing, have cleaner changing facilities? Just look at Downham Pool, quite new and not particularly clean.

Recently posters inviting people to shower before swimming have appeared in the changing rooms, I’d make that compulsory actually, to avoid the hair in the shower you just need to wear slippers, to avoid what people bring with them inside the pool you need a bodysuit, and that’s not really practical.

The X files

November 28, 2009

You may have noticed an item in this week’s local press about Councillor’s expenses.

The South London Press tells us that:

“Proposals made at a Lewisham Council committee meeting could see all councillors’ claims made public in full”.

and also tells us that:

“Councillors’ expenses claims over the last year were also published in the report”

At reading this I thought, hold on, aren’t these information public already? And aren’t these two statements in contradiction with each other?

So I went on the Council’s website to look for those papers, I found the meeting report, but not the expenses’ list, those pages were missing.
How strange I thought, even given that in the News Shopper the Independent Chair of the Standards Commitee Sally Hawkins said:

“We decided it was important that the system is transparent so that people can see that what is being claimed is reasonable.”

Yes, sure people ought to see, only that it looks like your idea of transparency doesn’t involve showing us the expenses’ list. Now, that’s a very odd idea of transparency.

But despair not, because I’ve got them for you and I can here release the two missing pages with the full Councillors’ expenses list. (click here to download as pdf or click on images to enlarge)

And look! One senior Labour Councillor expenses’ list stands out like a sore thumb.
She’s Labour Councillor for Crofton Park Cllr Sylvia Scott that last year clocked up the tidy sum of £1300 in taxi fares, and this despite the fact that she doesn’t even have cabinet duties.
I bet that many or her constituents would like to know this, in fact it’s their right as this expenses’ list is public.

Could this be the reason why this list was not made available to the public on the Council’s website?

Frankly, the behaviour of Lewisham Council needs explaining here. To remove important papers from public viewing whilst making a press release glorifying their openness is ludicrous.

Don’t they understand how silly they look? And what about the misuse of the Council’s press office? Who thought of issuing this kind of patronizing nonsense as if we were kindly given some big concession when to know this was our right all along?

But the most important question is why this expenses’ list is not available from the Council’s website. Who decided that these pages should be removed?

More pruning

November 20, 2009

Tomorrow Saturday 21st November there will be another round of pruning and clearing and planting at the Hither Green Station railway embankment along Springbank Road organised by Hither Green Community Association.
If you’re interested please email Joanna at info@ourhithergreen.com with your boot size, she must make sure that there are enough steel-capped boots for everyone.

Oysterlessness

October 20, 2009


Lewisham Station, c. 1900, passengers were already unable to use Oyster Cards!

If you want to get lost looking at old pictures of the area you can’t do much better than visit the wonderfully named IDEAL HOMES: SUBURBIA IN FOCUS.

Daily Mail jumps on my bandwagon

September 12, 2009

Only two days ofter my posting on rogue clamping in Lewisham and my call for the Council to do something about it the Daily Mail starts a campaign against Cowboy Clampers.

The article in the Mail gives some good legal background and call this activity a legalized mugging. According to the mail this is a completely unregulated activity and until legislation is introduced clampers are in their right to do whatever they want and suggest what new legislation should say.

I am not completely convinced that there isn’t anything that can already be done. Couldn’t this fall into street trading? It is indeed private land but open to public access.
One could say that trading has to do with the exchange of goods, I’d say that trading involves all economic activities, and clamping is definitely one.

The Council’s policy is to:

“oppose all street trading other than from areas approved by the Council where highway safety will not be impaired. For such sites a trader’s licence must be obtained from us”

So, if the legal definition of trading includes all economic activities then this could mean that Councils are already in the position to stop rogue clampers by denying licences for those sites not approved by the Council.

And if there were legal reasons why this would not work then all the legislation that’s needed is an extension of street trading to include clamping and a set of rules for the standards that need apply in order to obtain and retain a licence for this specific activity.

Loampit Vale #2

September 10, 2009

It’s tonight. Finally the Loampit Vale development goes to planning, and I spent the last couple of days reading from the mountain of documents that accompanies the application.
One document I can recommend is the design and access statement.
A massive tome of 277 pages giving a good overview of the project.
It’s very glossy and sexy, but planning should be about getting the best we can, and there still are issues.

I also spotted what looks like selective quoting there. At page 59 the document says:

We have met with CABE officers on two occasions and received a formal response following an internal Design Review Panel.
The outline proposals were considered at a panel meeting on 21 May 2008.
The panel stated that, “…whilst the quantum and size are large, this could be acceptable if carefully handled.
However, they remained to be convinced of the departure from the Development Brief Masterplan.
They concluded that, “…we see its potential to create a vibrant public destination and a pleasant place to live.”

Now, if you go and look at the CABE’s website and their responses to the submitted disegn you’ll find that those sentences are longer and have a somehow different meaning when read in full (CABE review 1 and CABE review 2).

The concluding paragraph of the latest contains one the quote included in the design and access statement document, only that in full it reads:

To conclude, while we see the potential to create a vibrant public destination and a pleasant place to live, we do not think that the composition of the different typological elements and the quality of the courtyards in terms of sunlight are fully convincing.

As I wrote in my previous post on Loampit Vale, I submitted an objecion and would be pleased if it was upheld and the plan being thought through to make it really worth its while.

It is of course also a matter of great concern that various massive developments are going up one next to the other and no overall study of the impact of these on traffic has been done.
The traffic through Lewisham Centre is traffic that generates elsewhere, Loampit Vale though narrow and congested is a major traffic artery, it hosts a public transport interchange and increased activity greatly impact on the flow of traffic. A study to determine what will happen once all these blocks go up would have been highly recommendable, the risk is that we create a spectacularly congested town centre when this could have been avoided with better planning.

There is no masterplan, in this document for the first time you find some pictures of how these giants would look like next to each other and personally I don’t like the result.
But that’s not a planning matter. Amenities’ space is a planning matter, quality of design is also a planning matter.
Tonight I’ll attend the meeting, let’s see what the committee members make of these concerns.

Waste

July 14, 2008

We’re 2 days away from next Council meeting and the Council’s website still hasn’t got the questions from the public and the members of last Council meeting held on 30th June. Here’s the link to the page where they should be, on 7th July I even wrote to the web communication team of the Council asking them to put them up and within a fraction of a second I had an automatic thank you reply, still no sign of them though.

In the meantime if you’re interested you can download a copy of the members’ questions from me, here, I post them here just to put them on the spot.

I had three questions, two on pools and I will write on them separately, one on waste. It may look like an unusual subject for a question at Council from me, the fact is that I was genuinely interested in how the Council deals with waste and also to know something about the recent Brown Bins initiative. Maybe my curiosity was solicited by the fact that quite a lot of those brown bins were assigned to people that have gardens and can therefore compost their own kitchen waste without the help of the Council.

Question

What is the cost of incineration of waste produced annually in Lewisham that could be potentially turned into compost instead?

Can you also provide me with a detailed breakdown of this cost to be able to understand how much each household of Lewisham as well as commercial activities contribute to this cost?

I would also like to have the data broken down between houses with use of a garden and those without. Can you also provide some data about the pilot brown bins initiative? I’m interested in its cost and the volume collected and how it has been disposed. I would also like to know how many households with brown bins have a garden.

Reply

Lewisham is in the process of undertaking a waste compositional analysis of its waste and from the reports that have been received to date approximately 35% of domestic refuse could potentially be composted at home. This includes kitchen waste and garden waste.

In terms of tonnage, Lewisham incinerated 76,093.37 tonnes of domestic waste in 2007/8. Based on the waste compositional analysis 35% or 26,633 tonnes of this could be home composted. Lewisham pays a set price per tonne (gate fee) to the SELCHP incinerator and the cost of the gate fee for 35% of waste was £1,211,268 for 2007/8.

Lewisham Council has to report on the costs of waste collection and waste disposal. The cost to the Council for waste collection per household is £51.31 and the costs for waste disposal are calculated per tonne at £47.01.

However, it must be noted that this is not the cost that householders pay through their Council Tax. The Council Tax only contributes a small percentage of waste costs, the rest of which comes from Central Government through the Revenue Support Grant. The data for this is not broken down for households with gardens and those without.

Businesses on the other hand do pay for their waste collection and disposal services and this amount depends on the amount of waste that they produce a week.

The trial garden waste service took place from July to October 2007 across approximately 5,000 properties. The areas that the trial took place in were chosen as they had a high proportion of properties with gardens.

The costs for running the garden waste pilot were approximately £180,000. The green waste that was collected from the properties on the green waste pilot was taken to Country Style Group via Veolia Environmental Services. This was then composted using a windrow composting system and the resulting compost used in agriculture and landscaping.

During the four months of the trial 219,960kg of garden waste was collected. A participation rate was also conducted towards the end of the trial, which showed that 51% of households took part in the scheme

What I find most of interest is that the incinerator charges a flat fee, no matter if it is a ton of dry wood or a ton of soggy rotten potato peels. Obviously a ton of dry wood will produce energy that the incinerator then sells on as electricity, the ton of soggy rotten potato peels will instead require additional energy into the system to be burnt.

Soggy rotten potato peels make wonderful compost at no cost but another interesting point that one evinces from this answer is that it’s so dirty cheap for Lewisham Council to incinerate that economic reasons will never be a push towards composting. With those figures I pay for collection and disposal of all my rubbish with less than 3 weeks of Council tax a year. A bargain.

The Brown Bin trial came at a cost of £108 per household per year and that’s only for the collection, the total for collection and disposal of the same stuff plus all the other non recyclable rubbish comes at £98.31.

What we don’t know from this answer is if the Council disposes of the compostable at any cost or if it even makes some money out of it but even if that would be the case I think that it would be a rather small sum given the extremely low grade nature of the traded.

Last year the Council paid £1,211,268 for the incineration of the potentially compostable material. I think that there are about 110,000 households in Lewisham, that makes it about £11 per houshold. That’s about two days of my Council tax. But as they say it’s not even paid by the Council tax, it’s mostly out of grants that the Council receives so they have even less of an economic reason to shift.

It may be that unless the incinerator starts charging according to combustibility there won’t be any significant shift towards mass composting and we’ll keep on burning soggy rotten potato peels at huge environmental cost for another while.

Price-fixing in Lewisham?

April 18, 2008

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has accused 112 construction companies of rigging bids for contracts.

It said the firms colluded among themselves while bidding for contracts, leading to customers, such as local authorities, having to pay too much.

The regulator added that in a few cases firms entered into agreements whereby the successful tenderer would pay a sum of money to those that lost out.

It said 40 firms had admitted price fixing, and 37 had asked for leniency.

The cartel practice involved the use of false invoices.

Construction giants Balfour Beatty and Carillion are among those the OFT accuses of taking part… (link)

Earlier I saw on telly a very well groomed man representing the industry, that with exceptional calm and self-confidence explained that the companies paid by us to build our hospitals and schools have not been involved with price-fixing practices to inflate prices but because they didn’t want those jobs and didn’t want to upset their prospective future clients by not bidding, so they were shooting high in the hope that they would not get the job but would still be considered in the future.

I admired the way he kept cool and insisted on that, he’s obviously been coached in keeping a line that beggars belief with a straight face. His coach must have been proud of him.

In spite of this particular kind of admiration that he inspired me, my mind did go to the traditional way that Japanese managers adopt in these cases to safe-guard their honour, self-disembowelment with a traditional sword.

After all, taking money away from hospital budgets means that somebody will not be able to be treated for their conditions and could sometimes even die.

It’s only a few days that here in SE London we’ve been consulted on how much of the local NHS should be dismantled with options of the like of the closure of the local A&E in Lewisham. They are seriously claiming that a borough with a quarter million people can do without an accident and emergency.

This proposal sounds all the more incredible since Lewisham Hospital just opened a very swanky new building, 7 storeys or wavy modern architecture, it came with a £60m price tag and it is such a generous space that one of the floors is completely empty.

Carrillion, the company that built it not just managed to get the usual 30 years contract for the maintenance of the building, but thanks to an innovative deal they also get to supply the Hospital for the next 30 years.

Carrillion is also one of the companies that admitted of price-fixing.

I think that it is reasonable to ask ourselves if the current financial deficit that could lead locally to the loss of critical services could have been generated by this and other recent contracts.

Of course another thing that we must ask ourselves is whether it was wise to spend such vast sum on a building when the Hospital is in such deficit that closure of A&E is one of the options.

I think that now our local politicians should make an effort to bring an investigation over the Hospital deal and see whether there were irregularities at bidding and if that would turn up to be the case, to try to recover money from the contractors so that part of the deficit could be covered and maybe some of our services be saved from closure.

April 6, 2008

Springtime in Mordor

aka Springtime in Mordor