Sunday, April 15, 2007

Coming up this week . . .

Lewisham Draft Regeneration Strategy
All being well, on Tuesday I will be confirmed as the new chair of the council's Sustainable Development Select Committee, taking over from Darren. Tuesday's meeting has been called to scrutinise the draft of the Lewisham Regeneration Strategy, before it goes to Mayor and Cabinet. If it is approved by Mayor & Cabinet, it will then go out to public consultation before a final version is adopted in six months or so.

Travellers' Site Relocation/Ladywell Day Centre Sports Hall
Mayor and Cabinet meeting on Wednesday will consider a report on possible sites to relocate the existing travellers' site from Thurston Road. Last summer the council submitted a planning application to move the travellers' site to Dressington Avenue, which would have involved demolishing the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre. Assuming the report is approved at Wednesday's meeting, that is no longer the plan, and two alternative sites are now being considered; the former Watergate School site in Church Grove, and the Lorry Park behind Laurence House in Catford.

The report states

"During 2006 a possible replacement site was identified that is currently occupied by a sports hall plus adjoining land adjacent to Ladywell Day Centre. Use of this site would require the re-provision of services provided from the sports hall in alternative locations. Consultation was carried out from 18 November to 8 December 2006 with users of the sports hall and other interested groups and the results are set out in Appendix 1. The consultation examined the needs of users of the sports hall, the possible alternative locations for each user group and the associated service and cost implications of providing alternative venues for users.

The consultation concluded that although it may be possible to relocate all the existing users of the gymnasium, the alternatives would present significant difficulties in terms of service to users, many of whom are disabled, and cost. For example, the sports hall is used by 15 user groups comprising 152 service users and over half of the service users are over 65 years of age. It is not therefore proposed to pursue use of this site as a replacement for Thurston Road."

What the report glosses over was the failure to carry out adequate consultation with residents and sports' hall users before the planning application was submitted. Hopefully lessons have been learnt, proper consultation will be carried out this time and a high-quality new travellers' site can be built before the deadline to vacate the Thurston Road site comes. I also hope that assuming the future of the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre is now more secure, we can start looking at how the local community can make greater use of the facilities there.

Directly Elected Mayor
An EGM (extraordinary general meeting) of full council has been called for this Wednesday by councillors from all the opposition parties, to consider a motion about changing the existing directly elected mayor system in the borough. The motion states:

“This Council notes that in October 2001 there was a referendum in Lewisham to consider the model of local government to be adopted in the Borough. The result was that 16,822 residents voted in favour of an elected Mayor and 15,914 voted against. The turnout was 18 per cent.

Council believes that after five years of the current system the people of Lewisham should now have the opportunity to consider whether an Elected Mayor is the best method of delivering local government within the Borough.

Council requests the Chief Executive to start the statutory consultation and to report back to the Council at the earliest opportunity on the outcome, so that the Council can consider whether to move to a referendum if the outcome of the consultation supports change.”

However, we have been advised by the Council's legal team that if the Local Government Bill currently going through parliament becomes law, it is going to be impossible for us to change the directly elected mayor system until 2011 at the earliest and arguably we would be spending money consulting on something that we couldn't then implement. If the bill goes through parliament, local authorities will be stuck with a choice of just 3 models for the executive, all involving a 'strong' leader elected for 4 years with powers similar to that of the existing directly elected mayor. Amendments to Wednesday's motion are likely, I think!

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