Posts Tagged ‘Lewisham Council’

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.

Back to issues

May 8, 2010

It’s the day after elections, and despite the fact that my wife and daughter came out as the biggest winners it’s no time to rest. In all frankness I hate elections and I’m glad it’s finished, we can go back to think about real issues.

As I already wrote Lewisham Council is tendering a major contract for the running of most of our leisure centres. I write it here again to avoid it being buried under the electoral posts.

Because this is really important, it’s an opportunity that comes round only every few years, we must set up our local social enterprise to run the centres, just like other boroughs did. Local talents working for the local community and re-investing all receipts in our community assets.

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.

Fantasy school places found!

April 28, 2010

The primary school places shortage is starting to hit.

From the News Shopper:

by Kelly Smale
A COUNCIL is doubling the amount of reception children at a school despite it not having room for them.

Brindishe Community School, in Wantage Road, Lee, is being forced to take on 60 reception children in September rather than the usual 30.

Lewisham Council sent letters to parents offering places at the school even though the headteacher told the council it would not be possible to find room for them.

Read the rest of the article.

The article also mentions that the Council has “created” 510 such extra places, that’s 33 short of the extra need identified in February, a number that Council officers assumed was going to increase due to late submissions.

This Labour administration has failed to plan for the increase in numbers of primary school places. There was advance warning, there was an economic upturn, there were vacant sites that were potential opportunities for new schools.

Lewisham Labour wasted all these opportunities and now is inventing school places out of thin air.

Meet Ingrid Chetram

March 29, 2010

Ingrid Chetram is another of the Lib Dem candidates for Lewisham Central.

I was born in Guyana, South America and moved to London when I was 24. I am now the proud mother of 3 teenage sons and work for a homeless day centre in Deptford SE8.

My experiences can colourfully embroider a tapestry like none you have probably seen before:

I have 2 severely disabled brothers, both with speech impairments and one who is profoundly deaf. Therefore I have worked quite closely with Social Services and some service commissioners around care and disabled provision. They were both living with me for ten years and recently moved into registered care.

I studied Media at Goldsmiths University, have a Diploma in Person Centred Counselling and more recently a Masters Degree in Clinical and Public Health Aspects of Addictions.

My first job was as a secondary school teacher in Guyana for 8 years, then in London I worked for the NHS for 5 years and then at various Rehabilitation Centres; keyworking or counselling those who were homeless, disadvantaged, vulnerable, dependent on alcohol and or drugs, those with mental health unwellness, offenders, ex offenders, victims and perpetrators of domestic and sexual abuse and a plehtora of other issues.” I feel that with my combined personal and work experiences and being a mother of 3 growing sons in Lewisham, I can confidently represent Lewisham Central as a Councillor, as I am aware of the variety of issues affecting local life. I really want to share my knowledge and skills in assisting my fellow residents to access as much of the services as possbile and at the same time work for better and improved facilities in our borough.

Lewisham primary schools short of 543 reception level places

March 26, 2010

6.16 As of the end of January 2010 cut-off date, 3699 First Preference applications had been received on time for the 3156 Reception places available.

It’s impossible to exaggerate the impact of the numbers revealed in the Mayor and Cabinet papers of 24th February (link to document) and that the South London Press reports about today.
The sobering news is that next year Lewisham will be short of 543 reception level primary school places.

If we weren’t so close to an election the Mayor would have to be forced out of his seat for his inability to face up to the most basic needs of the community he is supposed to look after.

This report to the Mayor is full of explanations about why we are where we are, but on the side of the administration there are no excuses, the fact is that they saw it coming, and didn’t rise to the challenge.

Over 500 children and families will suffer greatly. A whole generation of Lewisham’s children will receive a reduced service, overcrowded classes, not enough teacher’s attention, insufficient play area. All of this at that most crucial stage of their education. As I said, the consequences are immense.

TfL in partial agreement on Courthill Road

March 17, 2010

I received further correspondance from TfL about my enquiries asking clarification on their position regarding the Courthill Road Junction.
This latest letter, that I received last week, has some very interesting points indeed, and I’m much delighted to read that they agree with the point I raised about the context of the junction and how a pedestrian traffic light here would only delay traffic to the next junction and traffic light, that in both directions on the Catford to Lewisham route is very near indeed:

You are right, this section of the A21 between Courthill Road and Catford Town Centre is a particularly busy route. However, the impacts of installing a pedestrian crossing at Courthill Road cannot be viewed as simply holding a queue at one location rather than another. We must be sure that any queuing created as a result of this pedestrian crossing does not have significant impacts on other neighbouring junctions, not just on the A21 but also on local borough roads.

So, it seems that the concern here is about Courthill Road and Withburn Road and whether a pedestrian light would make queses there longer than the current situation (note to self, ask to Head of Highways of Lewisham Council what he’s heard about this).

Later on TfL also says that:

As part of our previous investigations we built a model which replicates the operation of Courthill Road junction and nearby Ladywell junction which are both linked operationally. We are now testing the impacts of any changes of the junction to identify whether they are acceptable to both Transport for London and the London Borough of Lewisham.

And that’s encouraging. Read the full letter here.

P.S.: at point 1 the letter mentions an attachment with details of the recorded accidents. The attachment was actually missing, I have asked for those data again, both to TfL as well as to other contacts at City Hall and I’ll post that data here as soon as I receive it.

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 robert.dejong@lewisham.gov.uk
020 8314 7973

The wrong side of the track

March 10, 2010

Me and Cllr Andrew Milton have been pressing officers of the highways department about the lack of gritting at sensitive locations in Lewisham Central during the recent snowy and icy spells and one welcome but rather peculiar reply we received from highway officers tells us that:

The main entrance for Hither Green is in Staplehurst Road so that entrance automatically gets gritted, however, the other entrance in Nightingale Grove was not included so has only been gritted on request. We will make sure in future that both entrances to Hither Green are gritted, subject to salt stocks being available.

What makes the Staplehurst Road side the main entrance I don’t know, but the fact here exposed is that in the eyes of officialdom the Lewisham Central side of Hither Green plays second fiddle.

We have now won the promise that subject to salt stock being available it will be gritted in case of ice and snow, but this is only the start. We shall demand nothing less than full equality of status for both ends of the tunnel.

Lewisham Labour leader standing against transparency

March 4, 2010

At last Council meeting held this Monday 1st march Cllr Alan Hall, who is leader of the Labour group at Council, did a serious bit of grand-standing against Liberal Democrat disclosure of Councillor’s expenses.

His high sounding speech explained to all mortals that the £1300 taxi bill of Councillor Sylvia Scott was thoroughly justified by the fact that she is Vice Chair of the Council and as such wears a “Chain of Office” and you wouldn’t want to see someone wearing a Mayoral Chain going up and down buses.

I’m not sure I buy the argument in the first place, Ken Livingston never minded using buses, Boris Johnson cycles, and anyway Councillors receive an allowance that they can spend on cabs if that’s the way they want to travel for duties on those occasions that are not normally covered with extra expenses.

But there is another reason why Councillor Hall grandstanding is completely void of merit, and that’s that we are talking of the 2008/09 expenses, when the Vice Chair of the Council was Cllr Smith (who claimed no expenses at all), not Cllr Scott.

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.

Words fail me

February 22, 2010

Lewisham Council in South London, whose chief executive Barry Quirk earns £188,000-a-year, spent £10,635 for six senior managers to visit £200-a-night Rowhill Grange Hotel & Utopia Spa in Kent to discuss ‘strategic leadership, management delivery and ongoing service improvements’.

Read more

Labour’s got to go! Labour’s got to go! Labour’s got to go!
They really think they own the Town Hall and all its content.

Nightingale misunderstood

February 16, 2010

As I wrote last week, I asked Lewisham Council to grit a portion of Nightingale Grove in case of ice because of accidents involving cars that skid there in that specific spot as the road is both very steep and sharply curving.

I now received their reply and amusingly it’s based on an extract of the Council’s policy on gritting for…footways!

As you may have heard on the news media, salt stocks nationally are limited and supplies are now being managed by the government – in the case of the London Boroughs this is through the London Local Authority Co-ordinating Centre and Transport for London (LLACC and TfL), rather than local councils.

All highway authorities were asked by the government, on Saturday January 9, to reduce their salt usage and the advice from the Local Government Association for all councils across the country is that this will mean restricting treatment to priority networks only. Lewisham Council is carefully managing its reserves of salt to ensure that this priority network remains clear. This includes A and B roads and emergency services priority roads. This situation remains the case at present and the above will apply should there be further snowfall in the immediate future.

Footways are not routinely treated. However, the Council does have a priority list of footways for gritting including those in major town centres and local shopping centres, footways close to heavily used areas, such as schools, railway stations, hospitals and medical centres, those designated as “safe route to school” and other locations with specific access problems. Should there be further snowfall, gritting on these footways will be resumed as soon as adequate salt supplies are available again, starting with those at the top of the priority list.

Now, I understand that in the photo I sent them the dented railing stands on a footway, but this doesn’t mean that the cars that hit on that spot were traveling on the footpath!

I really didn’t think this needed explaining. You can never take anything for granted.

Anyway, I  replied to the Highways officers clarifying that it’s the road, not the pathway, that I’m advocating gritting. I also made a stronger and more explicit case and ended with a question, because I’d really like an answer.

It is a surprisingly trafficked road for pedestrians as it’s on the route to Hither Green Station for those coming from the Courthill Road side of Hither Green, so although technically a backstreet it’s a proven accident spot for cars and has substantial pedestrian flow.
Isn’t this reason enough for gritting the road in that point so that cars don’t skid and potentially hurt someone that’s passing by?

Playtower gets £400k to stop deterioration

February 12, 2010

The Budget Report has been approved by the Mayor, I’m reading it and will eventually comment as I digest it.

This paragraph caught my attention immediately though:

5.20 The Council owns two properties, Ladywell Playtower and Beckenham Place Park Mansion House and stable block, that appear on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register. Neither of the these buildings have a viable Council-related use and their listing and physical condition make them difficult development propositions. Officers have met with English Heritage to discuss Beckenham Place Park and will seek to bid for funding to undertake work to avoid any further deterioration. Officers will open similar discussions on Ladywell Playtower, but given the current condition of both properties, an allocation of £0.4m is proposed to undertake work to avoid further structural deterioration of the buildings.

These are £400k in addition to the £419k (and running) for 24hr security at the building.

When last November I received the  reply to my written question at Council and discovered that £419k had been spent on security I used my right to a verbal supplementary to ask the Deputy Mayor how that cost compared to what would have been spent to keep the building in use, allocating it to a suitable tenant, when a few years back the Ladywell Gymnastics Club relocated to Bellingham.

The question was dodged altogether with one of those warped reasoning that seasoned politicians master so well and involves answering another question that was not what was asked. In this case the Deputy Mayor decided to non-answer my question by saying that since the building was closed security had to be provided. Right answer to the wrong question or wrong answer to the right question? I leave that to you.

But, in the meantime what we have is a beautiful building that’s been kept as an eyesore for years and allowed to deteriorate. The Council has been dragging its heels, and at huge cost. There is a lesson here. Don’t leave buildings empty!

Careful!

February 10, 2010


This is Nightingale Grove SE13, that besides being the place where in October 1917 a bomb dropped by a German Zeppelin fell killing many, is also the scene of recurrent accidents when the road freezes.

If you look at the picture you’ll notice that the railing on the left is visibly dented, that’s exactly the spot that cars hit when they skid on ice there.
It’s a sharp bend and it’s steep, the perfect condition for an accident, in fact accidents do happen there.
I emailed to the Head of Highways of Lewisham Council asking to lay some grit on that spot when ice occurs again, and I hope they’ll do it.
It’s a surprisingly trafficked back street actually, as it’s on the route to Hither Green Station for all those walking from the Courthill Road area.

I post this today because the forecast say that it may snow and freeze again and so if that happens here are my advices for Nightingale Grove:
– if you walk through it use the path opposite the railway;
– if you drive through it pay special attention;
– if you drive to it, don’t park your car in front of the dent;
– if you work for Lewisham Council and are involved with grit, please spread some there if it freezes.

Combating recession or fighting elections?

February 6, 2010

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the case that the reason given for Labour’s decision to spend £200k on a temporary landscaping doesn’t make any sense?

Let me explain. If you read the Mayor and Cabinet item about this expenditure here’s how it’s motivated:

2.1.6 An allocation of £200k for temporary landscaping in Lewisham Town Centre to ensure that residents continue to visit the town and that demand for services and retail is maintained during the forthcoming programme of redevelopment.

There are two reasons why this doesn’t make any sense.

Reason one: if said programme of redevelopment was actually happening, the whole of the roundabout area would be dug up mercilessly for years and that little patch would be the first one on the list as that is where the centre piece of the new road layout to replace the roundabout would pass by. Only after that’s sorted the rest of the development can take place. In the light of this consideration this measure would not do anything to improve the area “during the forthcoming programme of redevelopment”.

Reason two: residents will continue to visit the Town centre regardless to what happens to that parade because they live in Lewisham and the centre is conveniently located. Lewisham Centre is not a shopping destination for people that don’t live in the borough, a point recently made by the shopping centre manager to the South London Press when interviewed about the soon to open Ann Summers outlet at Lewisham shopping centre:

“We haven’t really been too badly affected by the recent snow either, because we’re a local shopping centre and only a small number of our customers get here by car.”


In the same article we are also told that business at Lewisham Centre is going well:


a 17 per cent increase in customer spending compared with the same month last year, and a 13 per cent increase in customer footfall.


Which raises the question as to why Lewisham Council feels the urge to spend £200k to make that corner look attractive in order to sustain business at the town centre. It is hardly the case that Lewisham Council has £200k to spare.
And most oddly this budget has been found in the “Economic Recession Fund” budget, and it’s the greatest item of this list too, the whole of this package of measures sums up to £580k, the second biggest item is:

An allocation of £152k for improvements to high streets and shopping areas, which includes a grant of £52k from Communities and Local Government;

So, whilst £152k goes to combat the effect of the recession across all high streets and shopping areas of Lewisham (and £52k doesn’t even come from Lewisham Council budget), a substantially bigger sum will be spent on this item alone, the landscaping of a demolition site. To combat recession! Doh!

And what about the demolition money? We’re told that it’s the London Development Agency (LDA) that is carrying out these works, but what they forgot to tell us is that it’s Lewisham that’s paying, in fact the LDA has been holding for years about £9m that it received from Lewisham Council for works to regenerate Lewisham Centre, those money were originally part of the £15.9m Single Regeneration Budget allocated to Lewisham by the Government to redevelop the town centre and that in large part are still there unspent.
The LDA never felt any urge to demolish buildings unless redevelopment works are imminent (as the plan for an expensive “temporary” landscaping shows this is not the case here) so they’re obviously doing this at Lewisham Council’s request.

Could it be that the reason this has been decided is because elections are coming and works on site would induce people to believe that finally there is progress on the development? What a coincidence that this is happening just as an election looms.
Are these money being taken away from more useful measures to combat the recession in order to cover up a massive failure of Labour Lewisham that would no doubt damage Labour at the ballot?

Short stay car park for Hither Green Lane (with poll)

February 4, 2010

Lewisham borough presents a variety of local parades, some are very successful, some less so.
Today Brockley Central posted an item about Honor Oak Park, which is probably as good as it gets and should be used as a benchmark for what a local parade can aspire to, and discusses the implications of parking policies for the shops of the area. The Council has in fact revealed that preventing commuters from leaving their car parked all day there has helped shops.

I thought that this is also an argument in support of short stay car park to help shops on Hither Green Lane, that today can only draw trade from pedestrians as the Lane is completely surrounded by CPZ.
Some short stay car park for shoppers could be provided either on the side roads or by building parking bays on the Lane and in the past I have already put this proposal to the Head of Highways of Lewisham Council.

But is there popular support for this measure?

Catford deal closed

February 3, 2010

Lewisham Council has announced the completion of the purchase of the Catford shopping centre:

Lewisham Council has exchanged contracts in a deal that moves the renewal of Catford town centre a major step forward.

The deal will see the ownership of freehold and leasehold interests in and around the Catford Centre transfer from current owners, St Modwen Investments, to a wholly owned company set up by the Council to be called Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited (CRPL).

What next?

It is clear that what the Council wants to do is increase density, that’s what’s stated in the Council’s plan for the area, the shopping centre is a one storey building and this is for planners a huge opportunity. And since Catford is already an urban environment and we must build houses somewhere there’s not much that’s wrong with that, but of course the devil’s in the details.

Catford may not be upmarket, but it’s very lively, all the retail units are let out and working and the place is bustling with activity every day of the week. I believe that this is a richness that must not be squandered.
That area is the heart of Catford and as we know some open heart surgery procedures are a complete success but for the detail that the patient dies.
Do they want to retain Milford Towers? Do they want to scrap it and redo the lot? If so where and how will the residents be decanted? Do they have alternative sites for the shops that today utilize the units at Catford centre? The market?
The continued vitality of Catford must be the centre point of any plan.

Lewisham Centre is a flashing warning about what can happen when Lewisham Council wants to develop big projects and gets something crucial wrong.
Last week’s announcement that what was until recently a functioning shopping parade will be demolished to make way for a little garden is exactly the kind of risk that Catford starts to run with today’s announcement.
That demolition follows neglect, the neglect was caused by a false sense of security that a development would have taken place shortly. And now for quite a while there won’t be a new redeveloped centre and there won’t be the old parade of shops either. Only a “temporary” landscaping. A small fig leaf on a gigantic failure.

Let’s not move on from one failure to the next one.

The plan for Catford must be desirable and realistic, and it must not unnecessarily deteriorate the environment way ahead of the new development taking place.
And transparency is the key to success. As a guarantee that those involved don’t start believing in their own spin, with all the results (or non-results) that we’re now seeing at Lewisham Centre.

Catford is highly improvable and the Council does well to pursue a change. But it doesn’t all start and end at the shopping centre and Milford Towers, let’s not forget of other even worse parts of Catford.
The Plassy Road retail island is one of the worst places to be in-the-world. It’s bad planning on steroids. Is not even an urban environment, it would only make sense on a motorway, and an energetic effort should be made to transform it. I hope that the Council is speaking with all occupiers so that it can be redeveloped. Personally I think that that should be as much a priority as the shopping centre site.

Another big site in Catford is of course the Dogtrack. I opposed the currently planned development as too dense for a cul-de-sac that gives on a nearly constantly gridlocked road. But the objection was not upheld and planning consent was given in October 2008. Now the crisis has put a halt to it, but for how long that? I’d much rather see it used for something else, whether employment, education or wonderful almshouses overlooking Ladywell Fields. How appropriate that use would be for that site? We don’t build sheltered accommodations anymore! We’ll regret that when it’s out time to hit the scrapheap.

But in Catford there is also a trail of neglect that is completely down to TfL that holds up the area by keeping its options open for a re-routing of the South Circular that’s been talked about for years but never implemented, and that’s possibly the largest stumbling block for Catford.
Catford is an important centre and it’s clearly lost its ways. For the shopping centre there’s now a single ownership and that’s a good thing, for the rest there are many heads to knock together and a big job ahead.

Pathetic excuse for lack of primary school places

January 29, 2010

From South London Press:

Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock said: “The main reason for the extra demand is the housing market.

“People who are living in properties in Lewisham who had every intention of moving are now stuck and need to find school places here.”

Pathetic isn’t it? He knew that there was a shortage coming, I knew there was a shortage coming coming for sure, everyone knew there was a shortage coming.
That warning gave the opportunity to plan ahead, the Council didn’t take the opportunity.
In the light of the projections in primary school needs the Council should have reviewed its plans at least a year ago but they left it to last minute and the consequences will be paid by the children and their families starting with the beginning of the next school year.

If there is a thing that’s worse than a lack of secondary school places is a lack of primary school places, and when the data about this shortage emerged the decision to close Lewisham Bridge Primary to demolish it and re-open as an all through primary and secondary combined to include a reduced primary provision on site should have been reviewed.
What we’re now facing are overcrowded primaries and possibly parents being forced into long term stress to bring their children to school somewhere away from where they live or work.

Allow me a little “I told you so” moment and link to a comment I left at Brockley Central on 28th April 2009 when I wrote:

Another issue is that when the decision to use Lewisham Bridge Primary as the site for the new secondary was taken part of the motivation was that the number of children attending it was dwindling and it would have been sized down anyway.
At the time I attended the meeting of the decision and it was reported to the Mayor that the Head of the school had indeed asked for a reduction in size of the school.

Now we have new projections for needs of places at primary schools and the forecast is that we’ll need many more primary places than available so if the plan goes ahead then the Council will have to start thinking about a new Primary too, that means spending for building two schools instead of one.

It’s regeneration, but not as we know it

January 29, 2010

Lewisham Labour decided that ahead of elections this historic parade must be demolished because it will 'make a difference' and also 'create a good impression'.


Mayor Bullock decided that the once fine Victorian row of shops that now stands in front of Lewisham Police Station will be demolished and the site will be “landscaped”. Drunks and those waiting to sign on the offenders’ register (another town centre feature we must thank Lewisham Labour for) will have a nicer place to hang about.

I must confess that I have a soft spot for that parade, I always thought that although unassuming and unremarkable it still is positively handsome and provides much of what ‘sense of place’ exists around Lewisham Centre. Looking at it one immediately understands something about Lewisham’s past, in fact as this period photo shows it was an element of the original market square.
But now where once were shops and prosperity only a boarded up ghost of a better past stands, and despite the fact that the Council’s plans for regeneration of the town centre may fail to materialize for who knows how long, the Mayor’s decided that he’s seen enough of it and it must go, now, or better, in the next few months, which incidentally coincides with next elections. Activity, activity!

From the Mercury:

Lewisham’s deputy mayor Heidi Alexander said:
“Whilst the big redevelopment of the town centre is taking longer than expected due to the economic climate, it’s important that in the interim we create a good impression in Lewisham.

“The temporary landscaping which the council have agreed to fund are going to be make a huge difference to how the town centre looks and feels.”

Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?
Taking longer than expected due to the economic climate?

The Lewisham Gateway development received outline planning consent in April 2006!
With a buoyant housing market and a planning consent in the pocket works should have started soon after. If nothing’s happened since the fault is entirely of Mayor Bullock and his unquestioning Lewisham Labour group. The housing crisis only arrived 2 years after planning consent was given.

Labour promise of £200m of private investment to redevelop the area has been replaced by a £200k bill for the tax payer to demolish what was once a fine row of shops.
Elections are coming and Lewisham Labour have nothing to show for the years of announcements and the millions of public money spent on the fabled Lewisham Gateway project. That parade is a corpse and must be removed from the scene.

New Pool to miss Olympics

December 31, 2009

The Loampit Vale website homepage have not been updated in last few weeks, it still says:

Loampit Vale was granted planning permission at a Strategic Planning Committee meeting on 10th September 2009. Barratt Homes hope to start on site before the end of the year.

And unless works start in the next few hours before midnight this hope of Barratt will not realize.

Earlier today I passed by Lewisham Shopping Centre’s car park and from there there’s a good birds’ view of the site, I didn’t have a camera with me today, but apart from the seasonal colour the site looked exactly as it did a few weeks ago when I took this pictures in October.
Works have not started and the reason is clear, the business case for the Loampit Vale development stands on a 24 storeys high tower of one bedroom flats, and last week the Times told us that:

The effect of troubles in the City can be seen in the performance of the boroughs: Greenwich, a sought-after area in South East London within easy reach of Canary Wharf and popular with younger professionals and families employed there, has suffered this year, dropping 8.7 per cent.

Mr Lewis said: “The oversupply of new-build property around the Cutty Sark and Woolwich Arsenal has partly been to blame for the dip in prices.” The nearby areas of Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, also well-supplied with recently built apartment blocks marketed at first-time buyers, have also underperformed.

Three months ago, immediately after the Strategic Planning Committee unwisely voted in favour of planning consent to this scheme (Labour members for, all others against), I made here an analysis and a prediction. The analysis was that the developers are not in any hurry to start works, the prediction was that in the future a revised planning application to cut on amenities and affordable housing will be submitted.

And the fact that all was not well and that risks were high should not have been unknown to the committee members, in fact almost one year earlier, in November 2008, Sir Steve Bullock received this item telling him of a revised timetable for the delivery of the leisure centre:

5.2 Since the Mayor and Cabinet decision in July officers have been negotiating with Barratt a revision to the key terms which were proposed by Barratt in response to changing market conditions and the current economic situation with respect to the availability of credit. Other issues were also raised by Barratt but these did not result in the need to make any changes. As a result of this it has been agreed to extend the time Barratt have to deliver the new Leisure Centre from 24 to 36 months as Barratt had indicated that this was the only way they could continue with the scheme. The result of this deferment is to provide a cashflow for the scheme that is viable and enables them to continue with the scheme. Following this change contracts were exchanged with Barratt on 30th October

5.3 The time taken to negotiate the Development Agreement with Barratt had already pushed the programme back from an original planned completion date for the Leisure Centre at the end of 2010 to June 2011. This completion date was based on an assumed planning consent late January / early February 2009 with 6 months to complete outstanding S106 and Housing Corporation funding issues and clear the Judicial Review challenge period. On this basis, it was anticipated that the Development Agreement would become unconditional in June 2009 with Barratt then having 24 months to deliver the new Leisure Centre. The parties are still working to the original timetable for the Development Agreement to become unconditional. However, the 24 month period has now been extended to 36 months. Adding 12 months (on the basis of a June 2009 unconditional date) means an anticipated date for delivery of the new Leisure Centre not later than June 2012.

June 2012 is of course Olympic time for London and a new pool to celebrate it would be a great boast for Lewisham Council, but looking at the calendar today, reading the market situation for one bedroom flats and what the Mayor’s papers say about how long it takes to Barratt to build it I don’t think that anyone would bet a single penny on it happening.