Posts Tagged ‘community’

Lewisham Leisure mega-contract needs fresh re-thinking

May 5, 2010

Two contracts with leisure operators to run almost all the leisure centres of the borough are to expire soon and Lewisham Council is now advertising a major long term contract to run them all on a long term basis.

The London Borough of Lewisham is seeking a partner to enter into a contract to manage, operate and maintain a number of existing leisure facilities (“the existing facilities”) together with 2 possible new facilities (“the proposed facilities”). The existing facilities comprise of the following leisure facilities : The BridgeLeisure Centre and Indoor Bowls Hall (Kangley Bridge Road, Lower Sydenham, London SE26 5AQ, UNITED KINGDOM); Ladywell Leisure Centre (261 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6NJ, UNITED KINGDOM); Wavelengths Leisure Centre (Giffin Street, Deptford, London SE8 4RJ, UNITED KINGDOM). The proposed facilities are Forest Hill Pools (Dartmouth Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3HZ, UNITED KINGDOM) designed to replace the formerForest Hill Pools on the same site, and a new leisure facility development at Loampit Vale designed to replace the existing Ladywell Leisure Centre.

The Council proposes to award a 10-15 year contract in relation to managing, operating and maintaining the Existing Facilities with options (exercisable by the Council during this term) to require the partner to manage, operate and maintain the Proposed Facilities (such additional requirements to be performed within the 10-15 year term). It is estimated that the services in respect of the Proposed Facilities (if the option is exercised) will commence in the second year of the 10-15 year term.

Having watched closely how the leisure centres work in Lewisham I can surely say that there is a need of a serious re-thinking before committing to something like this.

The way this works now is a complete muddle, with results like the legionella bacteria crisis, when following discovery of the bacteria in the showers at Ladywell these were shut down by the contractor following an order from the Council (but allegedly without the knowledge of the Cabinet Member for Community). The result of this decision was that people couldn’t shower before swimming and therefore the water of the pool was becoming infested with other equally harmful bacteria.

The root cause was of course neglect, and at the root of that lack of funding for repair and maintenance.

This is a unique opportunity to re-organize these services so that they are maintained to the level they should be. It is also an opportunity to involve the local sport talents and clubs and develop a long term plan of sport development for the borough to make use the current local infrastructure to its full potential.

The first question to ask ourselves is how can we use these facilities at their best, and then look for the best way to run the centres to serve that plan.

Maybe Lewisham can set up its own social enterprise, 4 centres are already an economy of scale, that’s how Greenich Leisure started, they now run 70 leisure centres. Why provide profits for shareholders when we could be reinvesting in our community assets?

Because as the tender tells us there are money to reinvest, almost £2m per year:

Historic third party income levels in operating the existing facilities has been in the region of 1 940 000 GBP per annum (excluding VAT and the Council’s management fee). It is projected that income may not meet expenditure to manage, operate and maintain the facilities, thus, the contract awarded may involve a level of management fee payable by the Council. Further financial details will be provided in the tender pack and other procurement documents.

It can also be the way to keep services going and dodge those cuts that no doubt will soon hit our budgets.


What’s cooking?

April 1, 2010

Totally unannounced Jon Jacob walked in, he was holding a camera.
Why are you doing this?
He kept asking, over and over again.
I was evasive.

Read more on Thoroughly Good.

St Mungo’s & Safer Neighbourhood Team joint event

March 13, 2010

St Mungo’s, the very large homeless hostel of Arlington Close (off Ennersdale Road) is hosting an open day event in conjunction with the Safer Neighbourhood Team for Lewisham Central.

This event is set for next Friday 19th March, 4pm to 8pm.

In the words of PCSO Andy Griffey:

This will give you a chance to look around the hostel and see what work is carried out and ask questions, and speak with staff. The meeting will also give you the opportunity to meet members from our team and learn more about Neighbourhood Watch Scheme which would like to start in your area.

This is a very welcome event, at the latest Safer Neighbourhood Panel meeting we were told that they had just established a positive line of communication with the hostel and this initiative is evidently the first fruit of that forward attitude of the local SNT team.

Reducing Carbon emissions in Lewisham

March 12, 2010

This announcement has just been posted on the Hither Green Community Forum:

25th March 3pm – 6.30pm Low Carbon Zone Lewisham Central Launch Event
Lewisham NHS Hospital Education Centre (the Old Lewisham Library)

Lewisham has been successful in receiving funding from the London Development Agency to reduce CO2 output by 20.12% for an area in Hither Green and Ladywell. This is an exciting project that will bring together residents, businesses and organisations operating in the area to all reduce their CO2 output.

We would like to invite all community members to attend this highly informative event and hear from you what projects you would like to see happen in the area and how we can all work together to deliver a low carbon community.

For further information please contact us
Sarah Fletcher 020 8314 7234 or
Robert de Jong
020 8314 7973

Lewisham Central Assembly on Wednesday 24th February

February 23, 2010

An important community appointment for this Wednesday 24th February, it’s the Lewisham Central Ward Assembly and takes place from 7 pm to 9 pm, at the Methodist Church in Albion Way SE13 6BT.

I’ve been involved with the Assemblies as a member of the coordinating group for 2 consecutive years, since the local assemblies were set up in fact, replacing the old Area Forum meetings, and I’m glad I took part to this process and I hope my small input in trying to organize meaningful meetings helped towards better outcomes.

I always felt that in the beginning the assembly meetings were rather  over-structured and somehow lacked the spontaneity of community meetings, the set up was that of tightly managed workshop types of situation and since the results were apparent only at the following meeting those that saw only one may have missed the meaning of it all. The way the meetings work has since been reviewed and it’s now a good mixed bag of discussions, public notices and even free roaming around the buffet table.

What has happened though is that through group discussion 5 priorities for the Ward were identified:

  • anti-social behaviour and crime
  • lack of facilities for young people
  • lack of amenities
  • environment
  • traffic

Bids for funding that met at least one of these priorities were encouraged and this time there’ll be presentations on the outcome of some of the successful bids for the Assembly Funds, so be ready to hear about:

  • Hither Green Community Association – Hither Green Signage, Hither Green Week ad Station Regeneration;
  • The Ahoy Centre – Youth boating project;
  • 4th Lewisham Scout group – Yard play area;
  • Grenada Benevolent Society UK – Talent and Cultural Show; weekly social events for elders and Christmas Party;
  • LBL Youth Serice – Mural project and Youth Village;
  • Tamil Academy of Language and Arts – cultural awarness classes;
  • Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society (HGCHAS) & St Swithun’s Church – Cinema Day;
  • New You Health Camp – Boot Camp fitness day.

At  this coming meeting there will be a review of the priorities and suggestions for new priorities to focus on are welcome.

Brief Encounter

February 11, 2010

Brief Encounter

Sunday 14th February

6 pm

the Station Pub

Staplehurst Road SE13

Hither Green Cinema returns this Sunday with the first of a series of fortnightly cinematic appointments celebrating the very reason Hither Green exists as we know it: the railway.
And being Valentine’s day it’s all about railways and love.
The 1945 classic adaptation of Noel Coward’s play is a timeless story and just as involving as when it was filmed.

The film is followed by a themed pub quiz about films and a public vote to decide the next film aon the series’ calendar and everyone’s welcome to propose their favourite railway themed film.

Entrance is £3, participation to the quiz is £2.

Another initiative of the Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society.

Book your seat by emailing

Doing Civics in the 21st Century

February 9, 2010

A conference on Civic Societies and apparently also on Lewisham’s Local Development Framework (already discussed on this blog here).
Next week Thursday 18th February, 8pm to 10pm, The Golden Lion, 116 Sydenham Road, London SE26 5JX.
More here.

Thanks to Brockley Central for the tip.

Mum’s Cafe to open this week

January 24, 2010

This sounds like excellent news for parents of young children in the area, it’s in Manor Lane, Lee, just outside the borders of Greater Hither Green and at a very reasonable distance from much of Lewisham Central.
From this week’s South London Press:

Rhubarb and Custard will open its doors at the end of the month and, as well as the usual coffee and tea, there will be pottery classes and chocolate-making for the kids while their folks relax over a brew.

The cafe is the brainchild of Louisa Gillespie, 37, Marion Cattanach, 40, and Lucy Hunter, 39, who met outside the school gates picking up and dropping off their children from St Winifred’s Nursery and Infant School and Junior School.

The trio then met Anna Ferla, 41, over coffee in Blackheath, and the four women, from Lee, together cooked up the idea of Rhubarb and Custard in Manor Lane, Lee.

I here declare a personal interest as my daughter has just turned 4 and therefore pottery and chocolate making sound very interesting indeed.

The Cafe opens this Friday.

P.S.: I wonder if the name of the cafe has anything to do with the animated series Rhubarb and Custard. The author, the great Bob Godfrey lives in fact not far away in Blackheath.

Jolly Farmers up for grabs

January 21, 2010

A sad news and a great chance for anyone wanting to take on Lewisham’s best pub and keep it going “just as it is” please.
This photo was taken from a mobile phone and it’s not that readable so I transcribe it here:

To all our customers

We regret to inform you that on 24th Jan our lease with Enterprise comes to an end and after considering all our option we have decided not to renew it. If Enterprise find a new tenant we will leave on the 25th. If they don’t find a new tenant by then, and provided we can agree a short term deal, we may stay for a while longer.
We will sadly be living in the near future but would like to assure our customers that we will continue to run the pub in a professional manner, until we do so.
We would like to thank you all for your custom over the past 15 months and wish you all the best for the future.

Les & Helen

And so this coming Monday there will be what could be the last folk jam sessions at the Jolly Farmers. Good things never seem to last for long.
I was there two days ago and again it was fab, just as the last time I was there there were Flakey Jake and Jim Radford that were joined by a surprising number of other folk musicians.
There’s a rare atmosphere there right now and this coming Monday there’s a chance to savour it that may not repeat for a while, although I really hope in a smooth transition towards a new management as nice as this one.

All readers of this blog are warmly invited to join me there this coming Monday.

How to cope with snow in Lewisham

January 6, 2010

Its’ snowing. More snow is expected for the rest of the week and for the weekend.

Lewisham Council communicated that only priority routes and footpaths where sheet ice would occur will be gritted, all else will be left to the snow to take over.
This because the stock of salt is limited and until the arrival of extra salt what’s there will be rationed.
For more info on services during the next few days in Lewisham click here.

Train services are very affected with reduced services and cancellations, click here to read about disruptions on Southeastern services. For a translation of all that in plain English please read what Hither Green commuter RachelH wrote on the Londonist today.

Expect snowballs and snowmen to increase, but expect falls to do the same. Slippery footpaths pose a serious danger to many, especially the elderly.

There is a way to improve the situation and it’s normally found in the shed, it’s called shovel, and that’s what people normally do in countries where snow is a common event, they keep the path in front of their home clear.
So here’s a poll, please vote and please act accordingly.
Shall we all do 10 minutes of shoveling (when it settles, not now that it’s falling thick and fast)?

Christmas Carols, mince pies and snow

December 18, 2009

The Hither Green Community Association invites everyone to join in for mince pies and Carol singing by the Clocktower at Meridian South.
The appointment is for Saturday 19th December at 1pm.

Courthill Junction timing at Christmas time

December 16, 2009

This Sunday 20th December we have an afternoon double bill of Libdem initiatives and everyone is invited to come.

The appointment is for 3pm at the trouble junction between Lewisham High Street and Courthill road SE13. There we’ll time the traffic lights and we need quite a lot of people to do this because we need someone at each traffic light of the junction plus others with stopwatches and others marking down the time.

Ideally we’ll have more than one team to double check the measurements, so please join us if you can, there’s a job for anyone, whether with the stopwatch, the clipboard or just raising a hand when the light goes red (all hands up means that the junction is safe for crossing).

This timing is a very useful exercise, it will give us a precise understanding of the way the junction works and how much time this setting provides for pedestrian crossing. The collected data will then be used by the Libdem Chair of Transport Committee at GLA Caroline Pidgeon AM to press the Mayor of London and TfL to sort out the junction and provide it with the pedestrian light we all need.
Then once the timing is done, and that shouldn’t take much more than half an hour, we all move to the nearby Jolly Farmers pub to examine the collected data and… Christmas drinks.

The video here below shows well what’s the issue with the junction, about halfway through the video there is a 20 seconds window to cross but without light you can’t know it, then a woman crosses and does it quite dangerously, as many do every day.
In the past TfL rejected calls for a pedestrian crossing with the argument that it would slow down traffic, this is surely wrong for the reason that it puts cars before safety, but also it seems that there could already be some windows of opportunity to cross in safety, only that without a green light pedestrians can’t possibly know that.

Do something fun and useful this Sunday. Join us in Courthill Road.

Cycle to the Wave this Saturday

November 30, 2009

Are you planning to go to central London this Saturday 5th December to join in the Wave?

Then why not cycle it there with the cyclists’ group organised by Councillor Pete Pattison? The group will leave from the Clock Tower in Lewisham Town Centre at 11am.

The best local

November 25, 2009

On Monday night I met with a journalist for an interview, in a reversal of roles  he ended up confessing of a dark secret but as I swore to secrecy I cannot possibly tell you what that was. Why did I  tell you this? Never mind. The place for the meeting was my suggestion, the Jolly Farmers, one of Lewisham’s best pubs and very handily just round the corner from home.

And what a night it was, the place was brimming with old boys playing cards and what can only be described as the most authentic folk group in South London was providing live musical accompaniment. Among the musicians two Lewisham legends, one was the ever wonderful Flaky Jake, often seen performing with his accordion outside Lewisham Centre,  the other was D-day veteran, peace campaigner, historic memory, socialist activist and all out benchmark for perfect aging Jim Radford on Bodhram and voice.

As we sat there I explained the journalist who Jim Radford was and told him he should interview him instead. Discussing what the pitch of this article could be to fit the magazine he writes in I suggested “in praise of indipendent pubs”. Maybe that article will be written, maybe not, in the meantime I wrote it here and I can only end this by inviting you to support what is arguably Lewisham’s best pub.

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 with your boot size, she must make sure that there are enough steel-capped boots for everyone.

Action for Lewisham public meeting report

November 13, 2009

Yesterday’s public meeting of the Central Lewisham Action Group was much better attended that I expected, halfway down the meeting I counted 55 people, and most of them stayed until the end, and it was a very long meeting.

Here’s Cllr Andrew Milton‘s speech which was really well received:

Other speakers from the platform were Helen Mercer of the group that opposed the Lewisham Gateway, Fran Rogers of Transition Lewisham and Matthew Blumner of QWAG, who also spoke as a former board member of Urban Renaissance Lewisham (URL), the board that gave us the Gateway plan, he was the community representative on that board but was unable to scrutinize appropriately the plans (a thing referred to by Andrew Milton’s speech when he mentions that the former Deputy Mayor, also chair of URL told Matthew Blumner that he would not have received further answers to his queries about the new traffic system. A serious matter of concern indeed.)

I spoke a few times, giving my opinion on the developments (that is still the same as here) but also trying to advise on practical ways to campaign. I saw a lot of enthusiasm and I really got excited, there is a will to propose alternatives and if the Gateway fails to happen there will be a chance to try to make them into a reality.

Among the practical things I mentioned is that I have two questions about the development at the coming Council meeting of 25th November, these questions ask details of the roadworks program for the new road layout and associated consultation.
This is a follow up to one of my questions at last Council meeting when I instead asked about the original Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) for Lewisham Centre and whether sums were allocated but yet unspent. The answer was that yes, there are almost £9m (out of a total of £15.9 of the original SRB) that were originally transferred to the LDA for the enabling roadworks and are still there.
At that point I asked whether the fact that public money had to be paid for this development instead of the usual other way round where developers pay for works around the developments for the privilege of building there meant that this deal had always been at particular risk from market fluctuation since despite its hugeness it never really stood on its own two feet . The answer I received was that no, on the contrary, they were now consulting with partners about the imminent enabling roadworks.
And that’s why this time I’m asking details about these roadworks and the consultation. I told people to come and support, so that after the meeting we can go and have a quick update at the Ram pub that’s near the Council (and you’re welcome to join us too).

Other politicians present there were Ladywell Councillor Ute Michel, my fellow Libdem Candidate for Lewisham Central James Jennings, who actually spoke very well about how the centre of Lewisham is really “the centre” of Lewisham and if you mess up there you really mess up everywhere.

There was also a Labour Candidate for Lewisham Central, who only identified himself when asked to (shame, but not a surprise). Someone asked how to send a strong signal to Labour, “boot them out” I shouted, and I won’t apologize for that.

But besides the politicians there were plenty of ordinary people concerned about the effect of these developments for the area and willing to do something about it and work for an alternative.

A proper Cafe for Mountsfield Park

November 12, 2009


Mountsfield Park is one of the biggest green spaces in Lewisham, and in the recent years has been doing a steady progress, picking itself up from the its very own dark ages of degrade of not long ago.
Quite instrumental to this renaissance is the Mountsfield Park Users Group (MPUG), a group I attended since its very start.
One of the big projects that the group has always pursued was the establishment of a cafe, which besides quenching the thirst, facilitates a better use of the park and is essential in making the park safer.

Initially there was a very ambitious project led by the Council, asking for a few millions of Lottery Funds to restore part of the park to its original glory and at the same time building a bar and social space area.
This lottery bid failed, and so whilst we waited for a new bid and alternative funding streams to be pursued we managed to establish the current bar in a container which is much better than what it sounds, is very well managed and in just a few months made a big difference to the energy of the park altogether.

This Monday, the meeting of the MPUG was attended by officers from Lewisham Council that came with the news that they decided that there wasn’t much point in insisting with the Lottery Fund and that meant that the money held by Council as match fund could be instead spent immediately on a scaled down project for a Cafe in the park.

These are almost £400k and the place where the Cafe should go is the unused bowling green, that in this screengrab from Googlemap is the square on the top right, many visitors of Mountsfield Park never noticed it actually as it is completely shielded by conifers.
The bowling club ceased activity a few years ago, just like that, members aged and the club failed to attract young members, the green is still maintained in order by the contractors Glendale.
There was some serious work done by MPUG last year to bring back into use the bowling green, and a young enthusiast came forward to lead on this project, unfortunately vandals torched the hut that is absolutely necessary for the establishment of a bowling club. As we started looking for funds to remedy the damage this was torched again,  this time the damage was too extensive to be repaired, this was a blow because a case for funds for a new hut for a club that has ceased to exist is difficult to make. Then suddenly this Monday this proposal for a Cafe to be built there in very short times came. We were told that plans for the Cafe and landscaping could be presented by this springtime and works could be finished by April 2011, it takes a few months for plans to go through planning.

The only sting in the tale is that many of the conifers that surround the bowling green will have to be felled but that’s a necessity for the creation of a safe environment.  I asked if the trees can be uprooted and moved but the costs are so high that it’s just not possible, also the trees that are uprooted and moved very often die in short anyway. So the practical solution is to cut them down and replace them with new trees elsewhere in the park.

This is an opportunity that must be grabbed, money like these come round only once every few years and at the meeting we all voted to go for it.

One thing I said at the meeting is that we must make sure that this project is used to involve residents and users, that we can make it a community building moment, not just a Cafe building one.
By chance with the Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society we started working on a summer program of events to be held in parks and 3 weeks ago me and my friend Angelo visited the bowling green and took a few pictures of the site, at Monday’s MPUG meeting I mentioned this and how it could be used in a strategy to involve the local  community in this exciting project.

Shopping Centre gives more reasons to sign the petition

November 10, 2009

The Shopping Centre manager replied to my query about the leaflet’s rack (read previous post), here’s the reply in full. The reason he gives for removing the leaflets’ rack is that:

The information point within the shopping centre over time became overwhelmed with information which was not directly connected to the shopping centre. The information point became problematic with numerous issues regarding free newspapers, non-centre literature, bus and rail timetables, theatre leaflets and with members of the public being referred to it by the local library help desk.

As a result of the shopping centre refurbishment, a new information point was built to replace the old version. It was then decided that the information point would be solely  to provide information to our shoppers and shop units.

He also says that following my query the centre’s website has been updated so that mentions to the old rack have now disappeared.

And so here’s my reply:

Dear Mr Redden,

thank you for the reply.

I have to say, I think that the old leaflet rack  was particularly useful to many, you say that the library displays the same material, that’s true, but many people that do not use the library still come to your shopping centre.
May I ask you how many visits a day your centre receives? I’m sure I can find out how many the library has and then we can measure the impact of the removal of the leaflets’ rack.

You say that the people were referred to  the shopping centre by the library, well, that’s good, isn’t it? You surely want more people coming to the shopping centre and any referral surely benefits your trade and that of your tenants.

In your reply you mention “non-centre literature, bus and rail timetables, theatre leaflets” as some of the items you thought were a problem.
I honestly can’t understand what’s the problem with theatre leaflets and bus timetables, those are exactly the kind of information that I referred to as socially useful and that I think you’d well to display.

I have now started an online petition and hopefully if numbers will ask you to change your mind you’d reconsider.

All the best

Max Calò

I think that there’s only one way to conclude this post appropriately:


Shopping for Community – with PETITION

November 5, 2009

When a couple of weeks ago I tried to leave some leaflets for the Hither Green Cinema day at the Riverdale Shopping Centre I realized that the information kiosk had been replaced and the new one didn’t have a display rack for leaflets besides the space provided for the Shopping Centre own leaflets (see photo).
At that point I asked the man at the desk if I could just leave my leaflets there, on the desk surface. This request made him clearly uncomfortable and rather than saying no he directed me to the management office to ask for permission.

The management office is not very conveniently located for the public, especially on cold and drizzly days like that one, it’s outside the shopping centre, next door to the toilets, and you can only speak to the management through an entryphone.
Anyway, someone eventually answered and through the entryphone I asked this person if I could leave my leaflets and briefly explained what were they about.
The answer that I received was that I couldn’t because if they let me leave my leaflets then they would have to also allow “all and sundry”.
Let me now quote from the Shopping Centre’s own website at the page entitled “community”:

Lewisham Shopping Centre is located at the heart of Lewisham and seeks to plays its part in supporting local charities and initiatives. We seek to assist by offering:

• Display space in the Central Square to promote your organisation or cause…

I now wrote to the management, pointing at this contradiction between their alleged commitment to support the local community and their decision to replace the kiosk with a new one that doesn’t have space for leaflets other than the Shopping Centre’s own literature and asking for the display space to be reinstated.

It is a fact that for many the shopping centre is also a social space, and an important one, many pensioners and youths spend a lot of time there, but also other segments of population visit it regularly.
That display of community notices was an effective mean of communicating across the community, especially for those that don’t have internet access and the management’s decision to remove it flies in the face of their alleged commitment to support community initiatives. Let’s hope that now they will think again.


A bit of good old community pressure may help them focus minds, so please add your name to the petition.

On Springbank Road

November 1, 2009


I didn’t clear all that by myself, I only arrived after lunch actually, I wish I could have got there earlier but children’s meals are sacred, and I was the one doing the cooking. Anyway, for the hour or so I was there I had a brilliant time playing with proper gardening tools and picking up the strangest litter.

A great thanks to everyone involved with organizing it at HGCA, especially Johanna that took the lead, everyone at Enviroworks Lewisham and of course Network Rail for trusting we wouldn’t have chopped a major main by mistake.

The job there is not finished, it will proceed in stages, next time flowerbeds will be placed where it’s been cleared this time and at the same time the clearing will proceed further down the embankement, and we already have an appointment, it’s for Saturday 21st November.

Springbank Road clearing, pruning and planting

October 28, 2009

From the Hither Green Community Association:


Clearing, pruning and planting…

Please come along and help us improve the embankment along Springbank Road and Hither Green station. Plans include clearing the litter, pruning the trees, cutting overgrown vegetation back and planting wildflowers. Network Rail has given us permission for the project and has put in an access gate on platform 1; the project has been granted £5,000 from the Mayor’s Fund and Lewisham Biodiversity department at the Council will include the project under their insurance.

  • Date: Saturday 31st October 2009
  • Time: 11:00am – 3.00pm
  • Location: Springbank Road / Platform 1 Hither Station

Steel-capped boots and high-visibility vests will be provided on the day.

For further detail and/or to confirm attendance please email: