Posts Tagged ‘Local politics’

Ferocious at hustings

April 22, 2010

Many thanks to LVIG for organizing yesterday’s hustings meeting, it was very well attended and the questions raised from the floor were excellent, I was very glad to be there representing the Lib Dems and explain what our plans for the future of Lewisham are.

I found myself surprisingly ferocious against the Lewisham Labour administration, but surely people could appreciate that there is some real distance between us and them and we’re not “all the same” at all.

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A great day for campaigning

April 19, 2010

Good morning!
Another wonderful day without the noise of air traffic above our heads has just started.

I think that now that we savoured what life is without that constant noise we’ll be more careful before agreeing to more planes to fly above us next time new routes are proposed.
I find that quality of life has improved, in fact, as you may gather by the tone of my writing, I’m in a very good mood today.

I’m also of such mood because I’m enjoying canvassing, especially when the Lib Dems are so much on the up and people responds so well to our knocking on their doors. And this is quite visible in the amount of window posters and stakeboards that are going up in the ward.
Do you support us? Do you want a window poster or a garden stakeboard delivered to you? Just email me.

And if you want to help with leaflets and canvassing then join us, this week we are meeting every day from Monday to Friday outside the Kids Corner (corner between George Lane and Hither Green Lane). The appointment is for 6pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s instead for 5pm on Thursday.

It’s time for the final push to move Labour out and help in a new Lib Dem administration for Lewisham.
With your help it can be done.

Ladywell Hustings – Wednesday 21st April

April 15, 2010

The Ladywell Village Improvement Group (LVIG) is hosting a hustings for Council hopefuls, and since part of Ladywell falls within the borders of Lewisham Central there I will be.

The meeting takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 21 April at the St.Mary’s Centre on Ladywell Road, SE13 (also within Lewisham Central borders).

People are invited to submit questions in advance by emailing ladywellfields@yahoo.co.uk by midday of Tuesday 20th April.
At that point the submitted questions will be forwarded to the candidates so that they can prepare answers.

This electoral debate will follow a strict format with 5 minutes for each party to make a presentation speech and 2 minutes to answer to each of the questions, please note that the organizers want to focus on Ladywell and the Borough, not on national politics.
To make sure that your question is put forward please be also present at the meeting to read it aloud, submitting it in advance but missing the meeting may end up with the question being relegated down the agenda and possibly not being asked.
The event closes at 9pm and adjourns at the award winning Ladywell Tavern for further discussions.

For those more interested in national politics the Deptford Dame has also details of a parliamentary hustings for Lewisham Deptford taking place this Saturday April 17, 5pm, at the Utrophia Arts Project at Tanners Hill, SE8 4QD (entrance opposite the Royal George pub).
Our Lib Dem candidate Tam Langley will be there to impress you.

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 Labour member deceiving the public on Council Tax

March 12, 2010

There is an interesting letter in this week’s Mercury, it’s signed by a “Neil Watkins” who declares he just moved to this Borough.

A quick Google of the keywords Neil Watkins and Lewisham and Labour clarified further where he comes from. A rank and file Labour Member whose Facebook profile puts in the UK Parliament network. Possibly a young researcher.

Here’s what he writes:

I received a leaflet from the Lib Dems complaining about the level of council tax in Lewisham.

I’ve recently moved to the borough and I can tell you that the boroughs with the highest council tax in London, Richmond and Kingston, are Liberal Democrat-run.

Kingston’s Band D rate is 30 per cent higher than Lewisham’s, so I think a bit of perspective is required.

Everyone in the UK pays council tax, so it’s worth knowing where we stand.

We all know that what the Liberals say and what they do in power are two different things, but let’s hope we never have to find out in Lewisham.

Neil Watkins, Blackheath

Now, since Mr Watkins is so politically aware, he must also have spotted that the Libdem literature informs people that Lewisham has the highest Council Tax of all Inner London Boroughs.

And that is entirely true, as it is true that Mr Watkins craftily manages to avoid refuting this fact (and if you read carefully you’ll also realize that he says he just moved in the Borough but not necessarily from Kingston or Richmond).

It is also true that all Outer London Boroughs bar one charge more than all Inner London Boroughs, and this is  due to the fact that they all receive much less Government Grants, also for the reason that they are wealthier, and since they must deliver the same services the difference can only be found through Council tax.

It’s a redistributive measure to make those that need more receive more and those that can afford more pay more, and in fact the two Boroughs that Mr Watkins chose to focus on are two very wealthy Boroughs indeed, that therefore receive a much lower government grant from central government to integrate the collected Council Tax.

For each resident the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames receives a yearly grant of £231, the London Borough of Richmond receives £150. The latter is in fact the London Borough that receives less grants than all other Outer London Boroughs.

The London Borough of Lewisham receives £715 for each of its resident!

In his letter Neil Watkins points specifically at Kingston’s Band D Council Tax and says it’s 30% higher than here. Let’s take a look at this specific.

First of all this is factually incorrect, to be precise it’s 24.7% (Lewisham is 1,351.92 and Kingston is 1,685.88), but mostly, since Lewisham Council receives for each resident a grant that is £484 higher than what Kingston receives then Kingston must have a higher Council Tax to deliver the services it must deliver.

If Lewisham had to add the same £484 to the tax it charges then Lewisham’s Band D would be £1835, 92 and that’s £150 above what Kingston charges.

Band D Council Tax for the London Borough of Richmond is £1,597.21 , and this despite the fact that it receives a paltry £150 of central grant per resident, that’s a staggering £565 less than Lewisham. If Lewisham would add that to what it charges then Band D here would be £1916.92.

In conclusion, after adjustment to consider the different Government Grant received by each Borough it emerges that the Labour run Lewisham charges a Band D Council Tax that’s 8.9% higher than Lib Dem run Kingston and 20% higher than Lib Dem run Richmond.

P.S.: to make this calculation I made here the assumption that each individual resident is also a Council Tax payer. This is not true because the Council tax is instead a tax on the property, and since each property is on average the residence of more than one person it means that Lewisham charges in real terms even more than that when compared to Richmond and Kingston.

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.

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?

Roadworks at Loampit Vale

January 27, 2010

TfL has communicated that major roadworks on Loampit Vale will start on 1st February and will complete by 12th March. These are non-essential maintenance and are done to solve the problem of road drainage and will be a major disruption for traffic and bus service for the period involved.
Brockley Central has more details.

I wonder, does TfL knows that just there a major development is supposed to start? There Barratt should not only build hundreds of flats and a leisure centre, but also provide new pedestrian paths and also new bus stops.
Is this a case where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand’s doing?

Maybe the timing of these works is a couple of years off the mark and those money would be better spent elsewhere, like providing pedestrian crossing at the various dangerous crossings around the borough, like Courthil Road, also belonging to TfL. But those are money for pedestrians, not cars, so Boris’ TfL may not see that as much useful.

Unless TfL has information that the Loampit Vale development won’t happen anytime soon, but in that case they could tell us as it would be an information of extreme public interest.

Sign the Southeastern Public Refund Petition

January 12, 2010

These days the Southeastern Railway website opens with a photo of a man holding an enormous watch in front of his face, the caption says “it’s time for change”. At seeing it many will think “indeed”.

There’s a widespread feeling among South East London commuters that last week suffered the consequences of the 3 days of severely reduced timetable, they feel badly let down.
As freight and high speed trains were running seemingly as normal, commuter trains operating on the same lines were few and far between and so overcrowded that one could hardly fit in, if at all. Many couldn’t go to work, self-employed lost income, countless trips had to be cancelled. Central London was almost out of reach from many areas of South East London and Kent.

It wasn’t an exceptional weather, temperatures were just below zero and only a few inches of snow fell over a few days. That’s a normal winter weather, as normal as it can be, and services should be able to stand that.

Southeastern underperformed so badly when compared to all other operators around London that measures must be taken.
That’s why the Lib Dems are now collecting signatures on a petition that aims at giving a strong message to Southeastern: put your house in order!
When a company accepts a £136m public subsidy to run a public service it must provide the service all year round, it must have measures in place to run the service in normal winter weather and since the railway is an essential and strategic service it must be prepared to make an effort even when providing the service is not easy.
Last week Southeastern threw in the towel even before the match started.

Today we ask Southeastern to return a share of that subsidy equivalent to 3 days of service (£1.1m) to Network Rail to be invested in improvements at stations served by Southeastern. It’s a practical way to compensate those that for 3 days have been inconvenienced and to publicly acknowledge that it must do better if it wants to keep on running this strategic public service.

Please either download the petition sheet, print it and collect signatures at your workplace, home or at the station or sign online. Improve your train service.

Catford to be nationalized behind closed doors

December 14, 2009

Just as we celebrate the liberation of the expenses’ list Lewisham Council’s bosses instead decide that the papers for this week’s extraordinary Full Council Meeting regarding the proposal to buy the Catford Centre for redevelopment are all confidential i.e. not for you and me.
This is all we’re allowed to know:

It is recommended that under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Part 1 of Schedule 12(A) of the Act, as amended by the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (Amendments) (England) Regulations 2006 and the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information:-

I’m really not happy about this.
There may be reasons to keep discussions confidential, but there are all sorts of meetings at Council where they can flesh out deals without the public and the press nosing around, and this is particularly true for boroughs that adopted the Executive Mayor system like Lewisham.
The wrap of confidentiality at Full Council meeting means that if any member of the Council has an objection to the deal he or she will be unable to tell us why.

Victory on Councillors’ expenses transparency

December 12, 2009

From this week’s News Shopper:

A Council spokesman said:
“Papers published ahead of the standards committee did include a full list of councillors’ allowances and claims for expenses.
“However, these were not included on our website due to an oversight. We are grateful to the News Shopper for drawing this to our attention and details are now available online.

Can you smell it? It’s the sweet smell of victory!
After having been available from this blog as online exclusive the Councillors’ expenses list is now finally available from the Council’s own website (appendix 2 to item 6 at the bottom of this page).

Thanks to all those that signed the petition and joined the Facebook group. We didn’t get the official Council Spokesman’s thanks but we can surely pat each other on the back.
A big thanks goes to the News Shopper for picking up the story and helping us to make Lewisham Council more transparent.

Labour keeps democracy out of Council

November 27, 2009

I sat through the whole of last Full Council meeting last Wednesday and frankly, it was one of the worst meetings I ever saw. Due to the absence of a couple of opposition Councillors Labour had the majority and used it to vote to re-write the order of business, so that the first motion to be discussed was a sickeningly Stalinist Labour motion praising the Mayor for his balanced decisions!

I am not joking, they forced the Council to discuss this spectacularly ludicrous matter, end even worse, made sure to occupy all the time left available in the meeting with the discussion on this motion, so that when 10 pm came there wasn’t any time left to discuss anything else. A vote was asked to extend the meeting so that the rest of the Agenda could be discussed, all Labour Councillors voted against.

One of the points that were so effectively barred from discussion, and far more serious than what was discussed, was the motion proposed by Libdem Councillor Chris Maines and seconded by Cllr Brian Robson (read his excellent post on the subject here) about one of the matters where Lewisham Labour has an abysmal record, housing, obviously the motion was not allowed to be discussed.
Thank you Labour, this week you reminded me why I’m running for the Libdems.

Sad dives

November 26, 2009

Everytime I asked at Council why the specifications of the “state of the art” new swimming pool planned for Loampit Vale are so poor and made specific reference to the very low depth that would never allow diving again in this Borough I was always told that hopeful divers are very well provided in South London and that there’s no demand for more diving facilities.

The South London Press now shows us what these wonderful facilities that our Labour Councillors were speaking about look like. Kids in a freezing room jumping on mattresses pretending they’re in a swimming pool! Of course when the Olympics were presented the opening video opened with some great divers, good for presentation purposes, not good enough to support for real.

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.

Lib Dems have the best record of questioning Lewisham Council

November 16, 2009

Questions-graph-blog

When a few days ago I received a copy of the Councillors’ questions for next Council (thanks to Cllr Mike Keogh for sending them to me) I saw that one of them (Q 64) had already the answer provided, presumably because the answer could be given by the officer that attends at questions, it’s in fact a question asking how many questions has each Councillor asked this Council year and at what cost.
Unsurprisingly the question was from Tory Councillor David Britton, the cost of questions is in fact one of his biggest pet hates.

The answer puts the cost of each question at an average cost of £168.
But how are these money calculated?

I’m told by Cllr Peake that the this figure of £168 had already been given and it breaks down in £160 for officer time and £8 for printing per question.
According to his calculation on this estimate it takes 3 and half hours of work of someone paid in excess of £83k per year to answer the AVERAGE question ((£160 ÷ 3.5) x (35 x 52) = >£83k). A spectacular inefficiency if true.
Now, take a look at the questions Councillors ask and make up your own mind. Is the average difficulty of those questions such that it would take as much to give an answer? I really don’t think so.

And by the way the council would still have to maintain the knowledge and admin infrastructure, and employ the staff even if half the number of questions were asked. Heads of service have to answer questions like this as part of their normal job, and they would perform much worse if they weren’t accountable in this way. The principle that the cost of questioning the administration is a price worth paying as it’s the main driver of fairness and efficiency is hard to dispute.

But tell that to Councillor Britton.
Anyway, leaving aside his warped reasoning and the irony that’s obviously lost on him that he asked a question to know the price of a question, the answer is excellent, the Libdems have the best record of questioning the Council’s performance on your behalf.

Since April the average Libdem submitted 8.5 written question, followed by the average Green with 7.3 question, far away down the average Labour asked only 1.6 questions and the average Socialist asked only 1 question.

And the Conservatives? Well, fortunately there’s Britton asking something because if he had left it all to the other two Conservatives at Council the average would have been zero but fortunately thanks to his 2 questions they have a very honourable average of 0.67 questions that each of them three asked on behalf of their Constituents this year.
A record they will no doubt soon write about in their leaflets.

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.

Sock puppetting wave hits Lewisham

November 11, 2009

A few days ago it was Darryl’s turn, yesterday it was my turn, only that this one is actually a bit worse.

The unadorned truth is that besides those that do it for the good reasons local politics is also the playground of a lot of big morons.

Sock-Puppet-1

Sock-Puppet-2

The last two commenters on this blog may have looked to the untrained eye just a strange mixture of naivity and odd information and misinformation but to me they looked more than that, and when I looked at the IP address and discovered they were coming from the same address, 62.49.122.51 I thought that it was really a bit too much of a coincidence. An IP lookup showed to be the registered IP of Free Word Centre, a conference and meeting centre with Cafe and wireless connection in Farringdon.

I can’t know who this person was exactly but I have a justified suspicion about where this is coming from, I may be wrong but what a coincidence, just last Saturday a Labour activist told me:

“You won’t attack us personally, won’t you… we could say that Edgerton voted for the conversion of the Kids Korner into flats… but we rather not.”

As explained in these comments here.

So, Cllr Edgerton is on record as member of the committe that 2 years ago unanimously agreed to convert the Kids Korner into flats with a shop on the front (conversion that never happened because probably would not make much money), this after 2 unsuccessful planning applications were scaled down, the final application didn’t have much ground for rejection and following officers’ advice the committee voted in favour of conversion within the existing walls, after all it was a request for a change of use for a private property within planning policies and guidelines and back then there wasn’t anyone else around trying to rescue the building, so one could say why not?.

This is the planning application the trolling moron was talking about and my fellow Libdem Cllr Edgerton is the only committee member mentioned in the officers’ report because he declared an interest as a Councillor for the area.

Now someone in the Labour Party thought that this was a big deal and that it was worth mentioning it to me so that I keep quiet. The smoking gun!

Look how quiet I kept! Now choke on your peace pipe.

Public meeting on Loampit Vale

November 9, 2009

This coming Thursday 12th November, at 7:30pm at the Tabernacle, Algernon Road SE13 7AT there will be a public meeting held by the Central Lewisham Action Group, a group of residents that opposes the current plans for redevelopment of the area often referred to as Lewisham Town Centre although currently this area is still mostly a transport hub with a roundabout.

This promises to be a very interesting and lively meeting, many important issues will be discussed, I will be attending and very possibly say something too.

Speakers announced so far are Libdem Councillor for Lewisham Central Andrew Milton and Fran Rogers of Transition Brockley.

Rivers of electronic ink have already been poured on this subject but here’s a quick to recap of the main points to allow me to state clearly where I stand on this issue.

There are two adjacent yet distinct main developments that are supposed to be built near Lewisham Station and that already have planning consent, these are the Lewisham Gateway and the Loampit Vale development. Besides these developments very close to these two there are other large blocks on the horizon and also a few others that have just been built. These developments would bring thousands of new accomodations, a large amount of commercial space, a leisure centre, a school, a new road layout, a new bus station and more. All in a relatively small area, with all the repercussions on the environment and services that a development of this scale creates.

The Lewisham Gateway development should rise where today lies the roundabout plus quite a lot of land around it, edging the Citibank Tower on one side and including what today is the Lewisham Bus Station on the other side.
Planning application for the Gateway development was agreed in April 2006, works have not started yet.

The other development with planning consent is the Loampit development and I wrote extensively about it on this blog (link to posts on Loampit Vale).

I personally strongly oppose the Loampit Vale development mostly because it includes a leisure centre that is not built to a size sufficient to serve both the existing local community and the newcomers that would populate all those new developments. There would be many losers, mostly among the current users of Ladywell Pool.
This is a straightforward damage to the quality of life of the residents of Lewisham that use Ladywell pool that would have reduced access to swimming. I squarely blame Mayor Bullock and his uncritical supporters and associates for the inability to plan for sufficient leisure provision.

Regarding the Lewisham Gateway I oppose that too, but for different reasons, one more mundane reason if you will is that to my eyes that’s plain ugly. Despite the best efforts of the architects it still remains a massive bulk, and this is  due to the economics of the development, that burdened by an unusually high level of expenditure for the preparatory infrastructural work, to cover costs and allow a profit for the developers must include an enormous volume of built and no matter which way you turn it the bulk just doesn’t  go away.

To be more specific this development must pay for a new road layout to replace the roundabout so to create the space for the development, and that alone is 2 years of roadworks, then it must move some very large utility mains that run under the roundabout, move a river and a bus station. All this is mightily expensive hence the massive bulk.

My main reason for opposing it though is that I am not convinced that the design of the new road layout is a good plan for Lewisham. I fear it will transform much of the centre in a massive near constant gridlock and that’s surely not my idea of a thriving town centre.
During the years of planning for this project we were all told that this new system would not have had any negative impact on the traffic, there was an explicit firm guarantee that at the very least the impact would have been neutral, this guarantee was repeated at every stage of the process. Then when the study was finalized for planning consent the admission came that it would have been marginally worse.
Now, even assuming that the admitted marginal worsening would have been acceptable the fact remains that the traffic model was done on the Gateway alone, without considering the impact of the other developments around it and so what we have is a traffic model that implies the same amount of built as today, which is a semi-desertic half baked retail park and employment area where there are supposed to be tall buildings all around and a few thousands people living in them, plus a school for 600 children, a leisure centre, a new parade of shops in front of the station. There is a lot of extra activity associated with this plan and this would have a serious further impact on traffic. Think about Lewisham roundabout at peak time today, well, it will be substantially worse.

At the recent planning committee meeting on Loampit Vale the Head of Planning himself admitted that the traffic passing through the Lewisham roundabout is not traffic generated locally, that there’s little that can be done to alleviate it and that probably it won’t get any easier. And I ask myself, if the new traffic system is guaranteed to make traffic slightly worse than now, and this even without considering all the developments surrounding the Lewisham Gateway, what will this high rise traffic-ridden quarter be like to live in? The answer is that probably it won’t be that great. And so, because I don’t believe that we should build houses we wouldn’t like to live in, I oppose it.

Now, as I already said, the Lewisham Gateway has planning consent, so whether we oppose it or not it doesn’t actually make any difference, but there is a concrete risk that the project derails without any external help, just because the numbers don’t stack up anymore, and 3 and half years after planning consent we’re now beginning to be quite close to the moment the planning consent expires.
And if the Gateway wouldn’t happen then that land and adjacent large plots like for example Thurston Road could be at the centre of new planning considerations because the much trumpeted new Town Centre wouldn’t have materialized and a fresh thinking would be required.
Likewise the Loampit Vale development may not happen, but that in my opinion is more at risk of delaying or losing some bits (like part of the social housing) than to derail completely.

Anyway, it may not happen, but a degree of risk that the project derails exists, and for us Libdems it’s time to think about it concretely so that if after next elections we gain control of this Borough Council we can work on an alternative and of course we must start by listening around to what people would like to see there and what ways there could be to move the current scheme to a more desirable one.

So,  if you’re interested in these and other matters related to the developments at the fabled Lewisham Town Centre (schools for example) then you’d do well to attend this public meeting.

Lewisham Labour loses a wheel

November 5, 2009

Looks like star candidate David Micheal didn’t leave Lewisham Labour quietly:

Michael believes he has been shabbily treated and condemns the two tier system he says, “Allow friends to sort out seats for themselves and leaves others to pick up the crumbs. A system which does not consider ability or capability and one that is devoid of succession planning or diversity considerations”.

A disappointed Michael continued, “The local branch does not reflect the Labour party or the local people.  He concluded, “Others may be happy to operate under a scandalous apartheid system accepting that they are second class citizens, but there is no way I can continue in an organisation that is presenting itself like that. I do not want to hoodwink the locals”.

Read the rest here.

Read what Duwayne and Chris have to say about it here.

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.