Thursday, March 11, 2010

Questions to Mayor & Cabinet - responses

On 1st March, we had our final full council meeting of this term. I took the opportunity to submit a number of written questions to Mayor & Cabinet on a number of issues, including several long-term unresolved pieces of casework. Sometimes it can be useful to get a formal response on record, rather than just e-mail, and sometimes it can trigger useful action. I asked questions on:
  • road safety at the junction of Tyrwhitt Road and Hilly Fields Crescent
  • the state of the footpaths in Hilly Fields
  • environmental enforcement action on 46 Ladywell Road
  • Brockley PFI: leaseholder major works repayment terms
  • Brockley PFI: living roofs on garages
  • school places and discussions with the owners of Convoys Wharf about plans for the new school there
The questions and responses to these are below, plus one Ute asked about 63a Loampit Hill, another long-term unresolved piece of casework we've been chasing for 4 years.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Deputy Mayor
A number of local residents have raised safety concerns about the junction of Hilly Fields Crescent with Tyrwhitt Road. It is a popular place to cross to get to Hilly Fields, but something of a blind spot for all road users due to the bend in the road. Has the Highways department ever carried out a safety audit at this location and have highways officers got any recommendations on how safety could be improved here? Have there been any recorded accidents here in the past 5 years?

Hilly Fields Crescent and Tyrwhitt Road are within a 20mph zone with traffic calming, which was installed in 2005. There are no recorded accidents at this junction in the 5 year period to the end of October 2009, the latest available data.

There are no current proposals for this junction and safety audits are carried out only on planned schemes. Visibility at this junction on the western side is poor with the added complication of a bus stop there.

The Council maintains a list of small scale traffic management and pedestrian crossing requests. A proposal for a controlled crossing just east of this junction is on the list of locations to be assessed as to whether a zebra crossing is viable. An assessment will include pedestrian counts, vehicle speeds, desired crossing points and visibility before a crossing can be designed. If viable it will be added to the list of small scale schemes to be prioritised and those to be progressed will be the schemes with the highest priority and within the budget available.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
For the past two years Brockley Cross Action Group have organised a popular and well-attended Fun Run on Hilly Fields. However this year they are so concerned about the state of the footpaths on Hilly Fields that they fear it will be unsafe to do so. Obviously, this is very disappointing for the many local residents who take part in this event. Please could you provide an update on what progress has been made with plans to resurface the footpaths on Hilly Fields?

The poor condition of footpaths in a number of our public parks is one that we are keenly aware of and continue to make repairs through both planned maintenance and externally funded works. We were successful, in the spring of 2009, in securing funding to resurface and repair the east to west pathway.

Lewisham is very fortunate to have many great parks situated on high ground, affording wonderful views across London, however these hills are made up of London clay which cause more problems in laying pathways. The costs of resurfacing is therefore extremely high.

In partnership with the local community, we are actively making improvements at Hilly Fields, this Spring will see the installation of a new children’s playground and works are progressing with the exciting cricket project. These improvements make the need for good footpaths a priority. With this in mind we have bid for Transport for London cycling and walking funding to resurface the north to south pathway, from the bowls club to Eastern Road. We will learn the outcome of the bid in March, and if successful works can take place early in the new financial year. Should the bid not be successful some repairs will be made to this pathway, but not a full resurface.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
In September 2008 the Council’s environmental health team served an enforcement notice on 46 Ladywell Road, a long-term derelict property, regarding the state of the property and a pigeon infestation. Please can you outline what steps have been taken since then to bring the property back into a state of repair and whether the notice to carry out works in default will now be carried out, given that the owner has not taken any remedial action?

There is a Notice served under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 that requires the owner to abate a statutory nuisance being caused by pigeons infesting his property through holes in the rear main roof.

The notice requires the roof be repaired or renewed.

The owner has made no attempt to comply with the notice or accept offers of help made by the Empty Properties Officer. The Council has little option therefore but to carry out the works in his default if this nuisance is to be abated. Officers are currently arranging for the property to be viewed by a contractor to have the roof repaired.

The Council will pursue the owner for all its costs and charges for this work.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Please provide an update on when a decision on leaseholder repayment terms for major works bills will be taken?

A proposal on extending leaseholder repayment terms for service charges and major works has been sent to Lewisham Homes and Regenter B3 for their leaseholders to consider and provide comments on. It is hoped that a report setting out the extended repayment proposals will be made to Mayor & Cabinet during March for consideration.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
In answer to a question I asked in May 2009, I was told that Regenter B3 were looking at the possibility of constructing a living roof utilizing some of the garage roofs they manage. Please can you provide an update on how many garage roofs have been replaced under the Brockley PFI contract, and of these, how many to date have incorporated living roofs?

The construction of a living roof is still a possibility within the Brockley PFI. This scheme is non contractual and RB3 has had difficulty locating the owners and keys to the majority of the garages. RB3 is now in a better position to consider this scheme and will consult with councillors in the spring time to locate and construct a living roof.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Deputy Mayor
Further to my question in June 2009, have Council officers had any recent discussions with the owners of Convoys Wharf about the proposals to build a school on the site? Have the discussions focussed purely on primary school provision, or have officers discussed including some secondary school provision? Please can you also confirm whether any discussions have taken place with Greenwich Council about Lewisham utilising the now closed Charlotte Turner Primary School, which is almost adjacent to the Convoys Wharf site?

The Council is now in ongoing discussions with Hutchison Whampoa, the owners of Convoys Wharf, regarding their proposals for the site. The Council is seeking to secure the delivery of a primary school on the site together with a contribution to the cost of providing off-site secondary school places.

A variety of options are currently being considered about how to expand our primary place as well as ensure sufficient decant space is available for our building programmes. Officers are liaising with their counterparts in other boroughs so that a strategic response can be taken across borough boundaries.

Question by Councillor Michel of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Please could you provide an update on what steps the Council is taking to recoup the money it has spent on repairs in default to 63a Loampit Hill? Please outline the reasons for the latest delays and give an indication of how long you think it will take for this to be resolved?

A new roof was placed on this property, by contractors, who carried out works in default following an abatement notice under the Environment Protection Act 1990. The failed roof was giving rise to a pigeon infestation. Notice was served on 21.5.05 and works completed in November 2007. A charge of £20,442 has been placed on the property. This debt remains outstanding along with interest.

The elderly owner of the property has since died. Legal Services have been endeavouring to serve notice on the relevant proprietor to chase the outstanding debt and interest. Only recently has it been established that an application for probate has been made but outside of the jurisdiction of the UK. As soon as the issue of probate has been resolved the authority will pursue its outstanding charge. If the debt remains outstanding the council will seek to take possession of the property under the Law of Property Act 1925 and dispose of the property in auction.

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