Posts Tagged ‘Lewisham’

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)?

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What to do with your tree

January 4, 2010

Christmas has gone and Lewisham Central residents can bring their trees to Mountsfield Park (George Lane entrance).

But, if the most clever member of your family is a dog, then just give it to it to chew.

A few weeks ago I saw this dog having fun with this sapling in Rushey Green, his owner just sitting passive staring at him and looking pleased. I called the police and at a certain point, after I had explained what was the issue, described all that I could describe, given my name and address and telephone number and what not I had to stop the policewoman from asking more questions “just send someone, this tree will disappear soon.

Later on that evening I went back and this is all that was left of that sapling.

Timber Yard application refused

December 29, 2009

Good news!
I just received a letter from Lewisham Planning telling me that the planning application for a housing development on the Timber Yard site of Springbank Road that I had opposed has been refused.
You can read details of this development and the reasons of my objection here.

Thrilling and chilling times on Courthill Road

December 22, 2009

Braving a ridiculously cold weather and armed with stopwatches and clipboards this Sunday a team of Lewisham Libdems were joined by a handful of thermally resistant residents and timed the Courthill Road junction.
With people at each side of the junction raising a hand whenever the light they faced was red we could ascertain that there is never a moment when all lights are red for cars and the junction is safe for pedestrians to cross.

Another important observation that we could make spending half an hour there was that with intense traffic the junction becomes seriously gridlocked over and over again because just as pedestrians remain dangerously stuck halfway through the crossing, cars also remain very often stuck halfway through the junction.
Now, despite the fact that a gridlocked junction is actually quite safe to cross (unless you have a disability, carry shopping bags or push a pram of course), what this indicates is that TfL’s argument that a pedestrian light would slow down traffic doesn’t really have any merit because the junction doesn’t need any help from pedestrians to reach standstill.

But what is also important is the context of the junction. When traffic is intense all other junctions on its route are just as stuck and traffic between Catford and Lewisham (and beyond both ways) goes as slow as traffic can go, and this means that a pedestrian light wouldn’t make the Courthill Road junction a bottleneck on an otherwise flowing traffic, only a more ordered and safe junction of a road that every day at peak time receives much more traffic that it can take.
Out of peak time traffic the argument against a pedestrian light is also weak as traffic flows and cars can therefore afford the odd ten seconds to let pedestrians cross in safety.

What next? We’ll feed these data together with a stronger case for a pedestrian light at the bottom of Courthill Road to both TfL and Caroline Pidgeon AM who is chair of the Transport Committee at the London Assembly. We’ve been campaigning for a pedestrian traffic light at the bottom of Courthill Road for a long time and awareness is high, let’s keep it on the agenda of those that can make it happen.

I wrote this already but it’s worth repeating, you can help by emailing to londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk and adding your name to our online petition.


In the photo from left Tam Langley, me with a hat, Chris Maines and Andrew Milton.

On Thin Ice

December 21, 2009


This is Platform 2 of Elverson Road DLR station on Sunday 20th December, as you can see the whole platform is covered by a thin yet very hard, very even and very slippery layer of ice and this is of course extremely dangerous.
I took this photo at 12:19 pm and this means that this ice was there for the whole morning.
I appreciate that on Sundays from Elverson Road there are fewer passengers than on weekdays, but surely those few still deserve enough customer care to prevent them from slipping all the way under a passing train.

I would have thought that the DLR had been running for enough years to let somebody figure out that on Platform 2 of Elverson Road the sun doesn’t shine and the ice doesn’t melt and on days like these a bit of gritting salt must be spread on the platform.
I emailed this photo to the DLR customer services and I really hope that they’ll sort this out before their insurer finds out, or even worse.

The DLR is largely a commuters’ train, but this is no reason to neglect safety on Sundays.

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.

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.

Courthill Road Junction campaign

December 11, 2009

One of the issues that affect many residents of Lewisham Central and users of Ladywell Pool is the devilish pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Courthill Road at the junction with Lewisham High Street. Recently a very serious accident took place there and a woman was run over by a car, she was badly hurt but fortunately survived. Do we have to wait for a fatality before a pedestrial traffic light is provided?

Here’s a video I took a few months ago, it shows how in absence of a traffic light for pedestrians it’s actually near impossible to cross in safety. Cars can come at you from 4 different directions and as it happens most people have only two eyes. I’ve been crossing that road most days for about 11 years and I still don’t know which way to look.

About halfway through the video there is a window of about 20 seconds where it is possible to cross, only that without traffic light one cannot know if it is safe or not and for how long, maybe cars are not coming from some direction not because traffic lights are holding them but because there aren’t cars from there in that moment. With so many possible ways to have incoming traffic it’s very difficult to understand that and it does happen that just as you start crossing someone speeds in front of you, you just cannot know, you can’t see their traffic light.
Then just as the traffic restarts a woman wants to cross, notice how at first she is unsure about when to start crossing, and then after she starts crossing and reaches the middle of the road cars start to move, but again she cannot know if they’re going straight or turning into Courthill Road so she has a moment of hesitation and waits in the middle of the road with cars running near her until she finally finds the moment to cross the second half of the road.
It’s crazy, that’s the normal way to cross Courthill Road.

A few months ago me and Libdem Councillors Chris Maines, Andrew Milton and Dave Edgerton went to City Hall and delivered to Mayor Boris a 600 signatures strong petition asking him to give us the traffic light we need. The petition sheets were handed in by Caroline Pidgeon AM who is the Libdem Chair of the Transport Committee of the GLA.

We were then told by TfL that they were studying possible solutions but since a few months have passed and I haven’t heard anything about it I just sent another email to TfL asking for an update and I’ll post here any reply I receive.
You can do the same by emailing to londonstreets@tfl.gov.uk and in case you have not done so yet you can add your name to our online petition, the more people sign it the bigger the pressure we can put on TfL.

Convoy’s Wharf plans on display

November 25, 2009

News Shopper’s Dan Keel reports:

A PUBLIC exhibition is to be held on proposals for a new development featuring 3,500 new houses and 4,600 sq m of restaurants and bars.

Residents are invited to the Convoys Wharf site in New Kings Street, Deptford, from 10am to 4pm on December 5, with a further meeting taking place on December 8 from 2pm to 8pm.

Read more.

This is about a development in Deptford but the size of it makes it very relevant to all Lewisham.
For those that don’t know about it this area comprizes almost all of Lewisham’s riverfront and was for many years used as News International’s paper depo, a planning application for development was approved but not acted upon until it expired. It is now owned by the Hutchison Whampoa group.
The initial plan was designed by Richard Rogers and what will be presented is expected to be largely based on that initial plan.
Ironically part of this dilapidated site was once Sayes Court, the birthplace of the National Trust.

Oysters are expensive

November 25, 2009

Lewisham Station - platform 3 - passengers celebrate the arrival of Oyster cards


Oyster cards are arriving to the suburbian railways of Lewisham, Hither Green and beyond. But they come with a hefty bill, a bill you need a degree in billology to understand in full but in short means overall increase in fares, even higher fares for non-Oyster users (yes, there are those that don’t need an Oyster Card) and off peak, plus the introduction of a rather inconvenient system of Oyster Extension Permit for those with Travelcards wishing to travel outside the zones of their permits, something that will inevitably be felt more in areas like ours that are spread across zone 2 (Lewisham Station) and zone 3 (Hither Green).

I cannot possibly put it better than Darryl did in this post that deserves a nomination for some suitable blogging award. Read it here.

I agree with Darryl that this fragmentation of the London railway doesn’t work. London is one town, can we have someone with responsibility for pricing, timetables and routes please. We elect a Mayor of London, I  think it’s just natural that he should have control on these matters, not some control on some, all control and all responsibility.

The recent announcements about transports don’t really speak of joined up thinking and planning in the best interest of Londoners. You can just imagine the ballet of accountants and solicitors that on behalf of the baffling number of rail operators worked out who needs to provide what and how much to pay and to whom and in what way, what a headache. The cost of negotiations must be staggering, and the priorities will inevitably end up in the wrong order. If this byzantine pricing system inflicted on all of us is a symptom then the patient is in need of a cure.

Consultation on Local Development Framework

November 23, 2009

At last week’s Mayor and Cabinet the Mayor agreed to a public consultation on the very important Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework:

The Lewisham Core Strategy sets out the vision, objectives, strategy and policies that will guide development and regeneration in the borough over the next 15 years. Major change is anticipated and we need to plan for this, with a focus on Lewisham, Catford, Deptford and New Cross.

Following this consultation the Strategy will be submitted to Government to assess its ‘soundness’, but this will only happen after next elections so here’s a unique opportunity for a big public debate on the future of Lewisham.

You’ve been warned! Go and read it here.

Stop the great train robbery

November 19, 2009

These are tumultuous days in South London, the new trains timetables have been announced and those that have realized that their trains will be soon reduced or cancelled altogether are up in arms. Trains through Hither Green have been spared from the chop, but other lines in Lewisham and beyond have not been so lucky and as the railway is a network, every cut affects the whole system.

It looks like a gap in the investments needed for large projects like the East London Line have created a knock on effect with serious repercussions for some important railway routes across South London. Responsibilty is being shuffled between the various bodies overseeing transports, with the Government blaming TfL and TfL blaming the Government, the train operators saying that they just execute orders (we heard that already, didn’t we).

The Victoria to Bellingham line that was planned to make up for the closure of the  South London Line through Peckam Rye has been cancelled, the Victoria to London Bridge via Crystal Palace (touching in our borough the stations of Sydenham, Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park and Brockley) has seen a massive reduction. Blackheath commuters have been told that they will lose half of their rush hour trains.

It’s quite obvious that the recent consultation on the South London Rail Utilisation Strategy (link) has been a very flawed process that has failed to recognize the importance of sustained good and improving public transports for the quality of life in the myriad of communities that compose London.

Something serious must be done about it, there is widespread rebellion all around. Ironically that’s the real consultation, that’s what people think, and it’s coming through only now that the “consultation” is closed.

Southeastern announcement that they’re cutting services through Blackheath after Government asked them to do so because they want instead to bump up numbers on the DLR shows that there is an urgent need of a rethink of the role of Government.

Just a few considerations of strategic nature about what a weaker public transports system would mean for South London:

  • a weakening of the transport provision would harm the London economy;
  • the planning concept of sustainable communities to allow high density residential use around transport hubs needs sustained train services, taking away convenient public transport from outer London impacts the building industry;
  • people will  switch back to car usage instead of public transport harming the environment, damaging air quality and nullifying a whole host of other policies and investments to counter precisely those trends.

We desperately need strong political leadership to intervene in this process and provide guidance for a transport strategy that helps the economy, our daily lives and supports all those other policies that transport is a key part of. London is the birthplace of the railway, we live it and breath it. Weaken it and you weaken London itself.

Besides the flagship infrastracture we need sustained services across the urban region of London, the millions of commuters that pay their ways don’t feel they’ve been subsidized at all and surely deserve better.

Campaigning masterclass from Obama’s top campaigner

November 13, 2009

Tam&TreeThe dynamic Libdem candidate for Lewisham Deptford Tam Langley (here in the picture just after miraculously turning a tree Libdem) has organised an extremely interesting event for 29th November.

The Obama Regional Field Director for the Democratic Party in Northern Europe (in charge of convincing a large community of American expats to vote for Obama) will be speaking on the subject “What Lewisham can learn from the Obama campaign”.

In traditional Libdem fashion the event is very inclusive with a minimum 1p entry donation and a recommended £10 donation.

I think that this event says really clearly how serious we are about gaining control of this Borough Council, we’re setting up an effective campaigning machine, and you’re very welcome to join us in this exciting moment by coming along to this meeting.

Sunday 29th November at 7pm
St Hilda’s Church Hall
Courtrai Road
Brockley SE23 1PL

Book your seat here.

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

Bowling-Green

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.

Out and about with James – weekend roundup

October 26, 2009

Jamie_Billboard

This is James Jennings, who is also running for Council for Lewisham Central for the Libdems at next elections. Me and James were out leafleting last Saturday,  here he is on Hither Green Lane, standing in front of the famous forgotten billboard. I can actually remember the poster when it was new, but that was quite some years ago. I remember when the glue gave up and it became a sail that eventually broke off, I then saw what’s left fade. I think that it’s now time to change it, so I emailed a photo to the Council (without James in it). Let’s see what happens.

George-hoarding-450pxJames took instead this photo of me (badly in need of a haircut) at the bottom of George Lane where finally London & Quadrant erected a hoarding to start works on the site of the George Pub to build this mixed use development.

I want to thank Cllr Dave Edgerton for putting a lot of pressure on L&Q to remove the honeytrap that that stretch of pavement had been transformed into (see my previous post on this matter).

I still find it hard to believe that a housing association, whose purpose  is to serve the public, decided to set such an operation on the main road and just by a Job Centre, it’s bad enough being fined £500 for missing a very confusing no parking sign, but if you’re unemployed then having to fork out £500 to  get your car back can make the difference between having a roof over the head or not, especially in a recession like this one.

Last month I submitted a question at Council about it and when I read the reply I really felt quite angry, I didn’t expect Lewisham Council to just copy and paste from an email from L&Q in turn forwarding an email from the parking company (I received such email whilst dealing with L&Q directly).

At the Council meeting I used my right to a verbal supplementary question to express my astonishment at the unwillingness of the Council to engage with a major partner of theirs to make this operation cease and to be true for once the verbal response that I received was better than the written one and was told that they understood my point and would have tried to do what I suggested, i.e. contact L&Q and discuss it with them. I think that the fact that I wasn’t trying to score points but only to stop an activity which is antisocial in all but legal terms did come out.

Anyway, the honeytrap is gone now and work on site should start soon. Pity about the George pub (here in historic context), but it closed because of years of increasingly appalling management, a real pub suicide. It was sold to L&Q that received planning consent for this development and was boarded up and allowed to become a major eyesore with a parking honeytrap on the front. In my opinion the sooner they build there the better it is.

Commiserations also about another historic pub, the nearby Rising Sun, also on Rushey Green, the second pub to commit suicide within a few hundred metres. It was closed by the police because it had become a drug dealing centre and never reopened again. The pub stands in front of an enormous plot of land smack in the middle of Catford and now a developer has submitted this planning application for housing on the site.

News of the application was posted on the Hither Green Forum, I downloaded the documents and uncharacteristically I thought that it was actually quite good, and so I commented on the online forum. The comment was noticed by Micheal Stringer of the South London Press that contacted me asking me if I wanted to elaborate for the paper, and here’s the article that will make my reputation as a destroyer of pubs.

Rising-Sun-SLP

But Catford won’t go without beer, in less than a minute walk from there there is a very popular Wetherspoon, the London & Rye, and in another further minute walk the Goose and then the Ram, which is also excellent. There is also another smaller  pub near the Rising Sun that looks on its way out though, the Plough and Arrow is now sporting a sign that says that soon a hair and nails salon will soon operate from there.

To close this post “keeping it real” here’s a rare insight of Libdem party life recorded for posterity at Lewisham’s finest fish and chips place. At the excellent “Something Fishy” of Lewisham market my running mate James seeks my support for a seat at the party’s English Council.

Hither Green Community Association meeting report

October 22, 2009

Very good attendance at last night’s Hither Green Community Association meeting where updates on different aspects of community life where received from various people.

The Town Centre manager Deborah Efemini told us about shops opening at various locations on Hither Green lane. The unit at number 132 will soon have an art related business, A cafe is also due to open in the Meridian South Piazza.
This sudden activity at the long suffering Meridian South commercial units is attributable to the change of management that from Bellway Homes goes now to Johal Reagan which is much more proactive
If you are interested in one of those units you can contact David Byron on 020 8858 9303 or Chris Chidgey at 0208 532 2222.

In the largest commercial unit of the same piazza an indoor golf course will also soon open, but that’s been in the making for a long time so that’s not strictly news.
We were also told that the units on the shopping parade just by the yellow light crossing, next to the chemist, will soon have occupancy and also about developments at the unit at number 118 Hither Green Lane (towards the Spotted Cow end of the parade) that’s currently unoccupied and there a charity shop could open, this is an activity where the Church would be in part involved but they are looking for people that want to run it. If you’re interested please contact the Vicar here.
Another update Deborah gave was about the shopping centre where HMV is about to open an outlet.

There where then questions raised to Deborah about the problem of the car dealers and garages around the junction between Hither Green Lane and Benin Road where illegal parking has been making the area a complete mess for years.
And also about cars and shops I repeated the call for some short stay car park spaces on Hither Green Lane, a measure that would help some of the shops there that really suffer without the possibility to ever park a car nearby.

We then had a report from the Police and we learnt that the local Safer Neighbourhood Team for Lewisham Central is understaffed and likely to remain so because due to budget constraints the police is not currently recruiting.
We should have 1 Sergent, 4 PCs and 12 PCSOs, we have instead 1 Sergent, 2 PCs and 8 PCSOs. That’s for the whole of Lewisham Central Ward.
Another important information that was given is that recently there have been muggings where the victims were women who had their jewelery snatched from them on the streets by criminals on motorbikes. The advise was to avoid jewelery, that now replaces iPods on top of the list of items likely to be stolen. Also an appeal was made to avoid keeping valuables visible in your car as cars have been broken into even just for a few coins. This is a problem particularly felt at Meridian South, but there isn’t a place that is particularly safe.

This was followed by an update on signposts saying “welcome to Hither Green” and bearing a logo designed by a design student that was there to present it and take questions. This is an initiative that came out of what people answered to questionnaires about what could be done to enhance the area. About 10 of these signposts should go up around the area so attention should be paid to making them attractive.

Joanne Deverson (of HGCA) told us that after negotiations with Network Rail access has been granted to the overgrown Station embankement on Springbank Road so that it can be tidied up and landscaped by volunteer gardeners. There was real jubilation at this announcement.
The provisional date is 31st October (still in pencil) and everyone’s welcome to get a bit messy and help in. Tools and overall clothes including safety jackets and boots will be provided on the day.

Then I did my update on the Hither Green Community Hall and Arts Society activity, this means the cinema event of last Sunday and the struggle for the Park Hall Cinema, commonly known as Kidz Korner but now back in use as a shop under the name of “mostly 99p”. Now, my take is that this is preferable to having the building demolished or empty and it allows us time to put together the large funding we need to get hold of the building. Obviously the degree of success of the current shop will play a major role in determining the chances of success.
In a couple of weeks we’ll have a meeting with a serious potential private investor, two weeks ago we met with the Council’s bosses, we discussed options and the possibility is very much alive.

But, as I explained, in the meantime we constituted ourselves as an organization that “aims at promoting cultural events in the area with a view to establish an Arts and Community Centre in Hither Green”, and we carefully chose this wording to avoid tying up ourselves with one specific building, that as important for the area as is, is not as important as the activity that we need it for. So, emboldened by the spectacular success of last Sunday we’ll now think of more cultural activities to promote in the area.

One immediate consequence of the event is that Crave Arts Theatre that ran the Drama workshops for children at Sunday’s event are keen to start a regular drama group for kids in the area and this is a first tangible improvement to opportunities in the area as a consequence of our work. The availability of after school activities is a big indicator of a healthy community and we can do with more of them, so from me this is particularly welcome.
If you are interested in the Drama club you can contact Crave Arts Theatre here. A course may already take place on half term week.

My update was really well received and many people asked questions including how to join and help, which is the best question for me. If you want to help too then just write an email to contact@hithergreenhall.org.

Last point on the agenda was the election of a new steering group committee, many of the old members stayed in, but not the chair Chris Freed, who was the chair from start and did the work to set up the association and get it going from zero to where it is now. A huge thanks to her is due. Well done Chris.
A few new members joined the steering group and so with fresh blood end enthusiasm the association should produce even more good initiatives for Hither Green.

We must stop dogfighting (with poll!)

October 21, 2009

dogfight
I read in the South London Press that my friend Peter Richardson is raising the issue of dogfights in parks, this time in his neck of the wood, Manor Park. Well done Peter, we must tackle this scourge and keep on raising the issue again until something serious is done about it.

A few months ago I drew this little cartoon for the Libdem newsletter Focus as a commentary to an article about the growing population of aggressive and dangerous dogs and the effect that they have on our environment. This is a serious matter that affects everybody and the result of one of the most stupid fashions ever to appear on our streets. Dangerous dogs hardly under control intimidate people and diminish the enjoyment of public spaces, especially parks, and the dogfights that are organized at night in our parks are a cruel and primitive form of entertainment that must be stopped.

But I fear that there’s little room for reasoning with the owners of these dogs, these are idiots of the lowest form and quite possibly until licensing is introduced it will be difficult to eradicate this shameful practice.
If that was in place unsuitable owners could be detected and prevented from owning dogs unless authorities were satisfied that they were fit for ownership and the dogs were appropriately looked after. I know it’s an unnecessary inconvenient for the overwhelming majority of dog owners that are indeed responsible but the problem is real and is big and there’s nothing in place to stop it.

A few months ago I met with the Council officer that deals with dogs to report how the rubber seats of the swings of the playground in the local park had all been chewed up out of shape. What I heard from him is that the current toolkit to deal with this matter is inadequate and that the problem is much bigger than what we normally think.
He told me of a figure of 15 dogs a week rescued in Lewisham alone, puppies abandoned because although bred for aggressiveness didn’t come out as aggressive as they were supposed to be and are therefore abandoned.

So, let me run the first poll of this blog. What do you think? Should we introduce licensing for dog ownership?

Savings and pressures

October 21, 2009

There’s a big item discussed at Overview and Scrutiny committee tonight, it’s about over £4 of savings in the Council’s budget and some arising extra expenditures not considered at the time of the last budget.
In the Pressures document one item struck me:

Homeless Accommodation 16/17 year olds (Budget Pressure Risk of £800k)
5.2.4

The consequence of the Southwark judgement and how it should be applied is still being assessed. However, 16/17 year olds in Homeless Accommodation will have to be reassessed under the looked after children criteria. There are about 50 of these children. At this stage it is difficult to identify how many of this group will fall under Looked after Children and become the financial responsibility of children’s social care rather than housing. With one case costing around £50k the impact could be considerable and be as much as a £1m. A number of London Boroughs are indicating the costs will be between £800k and £1m. Some of the costs of the judgement are currently being borne by the Customer Services Directorate. The figure above reflects that the judgement requires care expenditure to be undertaken that was previously not required and there will be a net pressure on the Council’s overall budget.

Reading this made me want to understand what this Southwark Judgement is and here it is.
It’s a landmark judgement about a 17 year old who Southwark Council assisted with housing support but nothing else. As the Community Care website summarizes:

The ruling could mean that many more homeless 16 and 17-year-olds receive social care support, and not just accommodation, from councils, and a number of 18- to 21-year-olds become entitled to leaving care support.

Some fundamental questions about the level of support that a lot of young people in need receive arise.
The young person at the centre of this ruling was evicted by his mother at 17, a gigantic personal tragedy, as such he was in need of care, not old enough and lacking the stability that would allow him to make considered choices about his life. Obviously in great need of comprehensive support to surrogate his non existent family. Only that he didn’t find support other than housing. Important as it is in cases like this it’s surely not enough.
I think that savings on these kind of care are false economies, only if the person in question becomes a successful adult then social care costs will cease, but a lack of support at this stage is quite likely to inflict a damage to those chances of success.

In the post before this I mentioned the homeless hostel, its guests are a very visible component of this neck of the wood and on a daily basis the thought “what happened to you that made you like this” comes to my mind. For some of them part of the answer may be found in the Southwark Judgement and the document on discussion at tomorrow’s O&S tells us that probably in the past few years in Lewisham alone there always were about 50 young people in big need that were not supported enough.

Objection to 24 hour off-license application

October 20, 2009

I just sent this objection to an application for a 24 hours off-licence, you can also write in objection to licensing@lewisham.gov.uk.


Dear officer,

I here write in objection to the request of a 24 hour license to sell alcoholic beverages for the supermarket at 258-260 Hither Green Lane.
The area is home to St Mungo, a very large hostel for the homeless and such an establishment would have a very disruptive effect on all the work done by those residents of the hostel that are trying to overcome their addiction and improve their lives.
I therefore ask you to reject this request for license.

Kind Regards

Many thanks to Joanne Hall for raising the issue.

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.