Monday, December 18, 2006

No Justice, No Peas!

I attended the annual Lewisham Peace Vigil yesterday, organised by Lewisham and Greenwich CND together with Stop the War. I think this is the fourth one now and it's a bit depressing that the same wars that prompted us to start it are still rumbling on. We met outside the library then walked down to the market area carrying lanterns which spelled out 'No justice, no peace', although the person with 'ce' was a little bit behind the others so some shoppers looked a bit puzzled about what the protest against peas was all about. Music was provided by the Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir. Attendance was a little down on previous years, but it's always a busy day in the year for people to make it.
Interesting posting on Ruscombe Green about 2 campaigns calling for people to send fruit to the government. The Burma Campaign is calling for the UK government to ban British companies from investing in Burma, while the other, Blair's Banana Republic has been set up in response to the decision by the PM not to allow the police to investigate allegations that BAE Systems bribed Saudi Officials to secure a deal to sell them fighter jets. But hey, on the upside, shares in BAE Systems rose 7% on the announcement, which is good for Lewisham Council's Pension Fund, which invests in the company. Not so good for whoever the Saudis may decide to bomb with them, of course. Just seen that Matt and Richard have written about this whole Blair & BAE fiasco.
BTW, this is my 100th posting, and to celebrate the fact, I'm going to take a break from blogging until the new year. Happy Christmas and a peaceful new year to everyone.

Waste Strategy

On Wednesday evening I went to the Mayor and Cabinet meeting. The Mayor withdrew the items on the Monson consultation and the lighting PFI contract, but the main reason I was there was to here about the borough’s new waste strategy. The document looks at various options to meet our 20% recycling target for next year, including expanding the collection of kitchen/garden waste and making recycling compulsory.
While the strategy as a whole was approved, the Mayor was somewhat reticent about committing to any particular proposal out of those outlined in the document. He was concerned at the cost of implementing them, in particular the green waste collection. He's right to make sure money is spent effectively, but we will need to spend more money if we are to boost our recycling rates. I'm hopeful that this strategy is something we can get a degree of cross-party consensus on, and the Greens will certainly support any sensible plans to increase recycling in the borough, including compulsory recycling as long as it's implemented fairly and alongside a publicity campaign and making sure that everyone has access to recycling facilities.

New Loampit Vale Medical Centre Officially Open!

On Wednesday Mike, Ute and I attended the official opening of the new Loampit Hill Medical centre (next to the colourful local landmark that is 62 Loampit Hill pictured).
Personally, I think the exterior of the medical centre is rather ugly, but inside it is very modern and spacious, without the steep, pokey staircases which are a feature of so many doctors’ surgeries that are converted houses rather than custom-built. Mayor Steve Bullock gave a speech about how good he was getting at pretending to cut ribbons/turn on Christmas lights while posing for photographers, then dutifully cut the ribbon.
A number of patients attending the opening expressed concern and surprise that there was not any parking for patients, in particular no disabled parking spaces. Seems a little strange, although I understand that residents of Somerset Gardens expressed concern at the planning stage about parking for the development. Ute is going to follow up on this with highways/planning and see if anything can be done.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

CCTV in Ladywell?

A resident has lobbied me about getting CCTV installed in Ladywell on the corner of Algernon Rd with Ladywell Rd. I'm not strongly for or against CCTV, but I do know that it's expensive ie about £50,000 for the cost of getting a camera installed, linked into the Lewisham network etc, plus running costs.

There are almost 200 CCTV cameras in Lewisham now, mostly in the town centre and Catford. Arguably in all the areas around Ladywell, but not in Ladywell itself (maybe we were forgotten?). They were funded by 4 phases of home office funding, although maintenance and repairs are funded by the council on an ongoing basis. (The exception to this was £56,000 funding for a camera at the bottom of Clifton Rise (near the Venue Nightclub in New Cross). Police requested it and put up most of the money, with the remainder from the council budget.)

Apparently there is some research (but don't ask me to quote sources!) to show that CCTV doesn't work on its own, but can work in partnership with other measures and it tends to be reactive more than proactive. ie Most people don’t notice it is there and it's not a particularly effective deterrent eg for drunken fights, but if operators are aware of places/times/days when problems might occur they can monitor and send police as soon as a problem occurs. They can also look out for vulnerable (eg drunk) people and check they are ok. What CCTV is apparently most effective at is reducing people's fear of crime, rather than crime itself.

When I had my bike stolen from outside Ladywell Leisure Centre back in January there were 2 CCTV cameras - one on the street and one at the Leisure Centre, but one was broken/turned off and the picture on the other was too grainy to make anything out, so the CCTV in this case was absolutely useless. That said, there are of course lots of examples of cases when CCTV images have been crucial evidence to solve the crime.

According to the manager of Lewisham's CCTV system, there is no current funding for extra cameras, but they are trying to get funding for mobile CCTV cameras. At the moment I'm not convinced that if I had £50,000 to spend on crime reduction initiatives in Ladywell, or anywhere else in Lewisham for that matter, that CCTV would be top of my list. My inclination would be to spend it on youth provision, or maybe a couple more community support officers. What do you think?

Ladywell Youth Provision Working Party

The first meeting of the 'Ladywell Youth Provision Working Party' (to take forward issues raised about at the ward forum) will be held on Friday 2nd February 2007 2.30 - 4.30pm at the Professional Development Centre, Kilmorie Road, Forest Hill SE23 2SP. I'm not quite sure why it's in Forest Hill (I didn't arrange it), but I suspect it's because the potential meeting places in Ladywell are all being used at that time. I hope that doesn't deter anyone from going. Please let Bridget Akinbolaji know if you would like to attend.

Provisional agenda:
Welcome and introductions
Minutes from Ward Forum meeting
Background, Context and linked Strategies
Young People’s Consultation
Issues to be addressed – venues, funding etc
Further actions
Date of next meeting

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dreaming of a green Christmas?

Press release we issued today in response to a request from the Mercury. Interesting article in the Guardian today on a similar theme.

Everyone knows that turkeys can’t fly very far, so you might be surprised to learn that your Christmas dinner may have travelled a staggering 30,000 miles before it gets to your table.

From European fowl and African vegetables to Australian wine and American cranberry sauce, the ingredients of the traditional yuletide meal can notch up enough air miles to circumnavigate the globe.

But if that is worrying for the growing number of us who want to do what we can to help prevent climate change, local Green Party councillors have been spreading the message that you can still have a fantastic Christmas without it costing the Earth.

Councillor Ute Michel said: “There is no need to turn into Scrooge in order to help save the planet at Christmas time. By shopping at farmers' markets and local shops, watching our waste and reining in our spending we can enjoy a very Merry Christmas without sacrificing our Happy New Year."

The Greens have been brainstorming and have come up with ideas to make your celebrations more carbon-neutral:

Christmas dinner
Think local, think fair trade, think organic. With all the money being spent at this time of year, it is a great opportunity to support your local community by buying from small shops and market. Buying local produce also cuts down on those all-important ‘food miles’ – why buy Zimbabwean beans when great British produce is on our doorstep? You can find out about your local food suppliers on the Soil Association website.

Councillor Sue Luxton said: "By eating locally grown food we not only enjoy fresher, tastier food but we can spread Christmas cheer by supporting our local economies - and cutting out some of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the aviation industry."

With UK households already owing more than £1 trillion, festive spending risks pushing thousands deeper into a spiral of debt - a terrible worry hanging over many people at Christmas, spoiling what should be a joyful time. Giving Secret Santa presents means no one goes without, and adds some fun and mystery to Christmas morning. Or why not give home-made or edible gifts instead of spending unnecessarily? If you’re not the craft or baking kind, check out local flea markets and vintage clothing shops – you’ll be giving something beautiful and unique, and recycling without even realising it!

The Christmas tree
Save money and save resources – why not use a tree with roots? You could watch it continue to grow all year round.You can find out more about container-grown trees at Each year, 6 million trees end up in landfill sites. So if you do go for a regular tree, check out the council’s tree recycling service – there should be a drop-off place close to your home.

Cards and wrapping paper

Each year, 200,000 trees are cut down to supply the UK’s 1.7 billion Christmas cards, and enough wrapping paper is used to wrap the island of Guernsey. So don’t forget to recycle yours! Or, as your grandparents probably used to tell you, reusing is even less wasteful – why not help your children to show off their creative sides by turning those old cards into decorations for next year? Learn more here: Woodland Trust.

Christmas waste
When you go shopping, cut down on yet more waste by taking your own shopping bags with you – and avoiding presents with lots of unnecessary packaging. All those vegetables that go into the roast don’t need to come in plastic packaging – buy loose! And when your clueless auntie gives you that present you know you’ll never use, don’t throw it away – join your local Freecycle group and give it away to someone who will appreciate it. You never know what you yourself might get for free when you become a member – and it all helps to avoid adding to our bulging landfill sites.

Going abroad for Christmas?
Consider taking the train to destinations within Europe - it’s far less polluting than air travel, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. And if you know where to look – Seat 61 is a great place to start – it can be cheaper and quicker than you think. With no check-in, baggage reclaim, stale cabin air or cramped seating, avoiding the airport is really a Christmas present to yourself, and the amazing views from your train window are the best way to get know the continent on your doorstep.


The horrific murders in Ipswich have once more thrown the issue of prostitution, the law and the safety of sex workers into the spotlight. Sadly the murder of women sex workers is all too common, and sometimes it seems that it's only when a serial killer is on the loose that it attracts much attention.

I could be wrong, but I think the Green Party is unique amongst the main parties in having policies to decriminalise prostitution, with the primary aim of protecting the rights and safety of sex workers. Our policy can be viewed here (scroll down to where it says Prostitution and the Sex Industry). I attended a packed workshop on the subject at the Autumn Conference, where the vast majority of those present supported the policy as a whole, though some felt we didn't give enough attention to supporting women who wanted to move out of the industry, as well as protecting those who didn't. I'd be interested to hear people's views on the policy.

(and on a lighter note, it will also be interesting to see how many extra hits the blog gets just by having the words 'sex' and 'prostitution' in a posting !).

Addendum: Having posted this, I've just seen that Jim has beaten me to it with a much more detailed and coherent posting on the same subject over on his Daily (Maybe) blog.

Follow up to Ladywell Forum on Youth Provision

Apologies for the time it has taken me to post this report on our ward forum as promised.

Our first forum (Nov 9th) was reasonably well-attended with about 30 people. We had a number of people attend with a specific interest in youth provision - eg council officers from the extended schools and youth services teams, representatives from church youth clubs, one of the young mayor's advisors, a number of young people and parents from the area, PCSO Graham Andrews, who has been carrying out surveys on youth provision with local young people, a representative from 'Teach Sport' the organisation that ran the 'Summer Alive' sport activities that took place on Hilly Fields this summer. Thank you to everyone who took the time to attend, as well as those who couldn't attend but expressed an interest in being involved.

Below are notes from the meeting (not necessarily my views, but reflective of opinions expressed at the meeting by both young people and adults). Gill Wills, the Extended Services Manager, has agreed to set up a steering committee to take things forward and is hoping to organise another meeting/taster activity event early in the new year. If you would like to be involved with this steering group, please contact either me or Gill directly. I will also post up soon a summary of the feedback from the surveys that PCSO Graham Andrews carried out with young people in the ward.

What’s happening/What Facilities are available at the moment in and around Ladywell?
Plenty of open space/green space in ward.
Ladywell Leisure Centre (not being closed anymore!)
Ladywell Centre (Dressington Avenue) – but public access to facilities limited and it may be demolished.
Prendergast School (indoor cricket annex planned)
Gordonbrock Primary School (after-school club)
Ladywell after school club (where?)
St Mary’s Centre has a youth club on Fridays and Tai Kwon Do and they are keen to do more youth work.
Anything happening at St Cyprian’s Church Hall on Brockley Road?
London & Quadrant ran a football programme in Slagrove Place and the police fund-matched some football coach training with one of the housing associations.
Crofton Leisure Centre will re-open to the public in 2008 (when Crofton School’s rebuild is completed). Any chance of a gymnastics club there?
XLP Youth Work Charity with double decker activity bus (but not in Ladywell?).
Crofton Baptist Church has a weekly youth club on Wednesdays for 30 -35 young people. Nearing capacity and hoping to expand soon. JUMP.
Summer university (primary)
Skate Park in Ladywell Fields
Summer Alive (sports on Hilly Fields) was a success – can it be expanded to be all-year?
Youth club at St Andrews (they have plans to expand and make their basement a ‘youth space’ – but need lots of funding to do this!)
Brockley Baptist Church have an after school club 3 days a week for younger children.
Felix School of Rock (New Cross?)

Previously – Ladywell Gymnastics Club, but moved to Bellingham now. Also, Street Vibes – moved to site on TESCO car park. More used to happen at St Mary’s Centre. Ladywell Centre sports hall threatened with demolition.
Sure Start opening next year in Dressington Avenue, but may not have rooms for hire/community use.

What is good about existing facilities?
Street Vibes (music production)
Table tennis and Playstation, Pool, snooker, workshops, café, dance, drama and art (Crofton Baptist Church youth club)

What would you like to see in the area?
Organise trips (eg Quasar), Cinema, More performing arts, More youth clubs, More counselling, An adventure playground, Cheerleading, Computer consoles, Nightclub for under 18s, XLP double decker bus, Trampolines, Go karts, Theme park (!), Gymnastics, Nail salon (?!), Partnerships, Funding for all-weather sports facilities, Joined up provision and winter provision, More variety to include all, including kabbadi, badminton.
Need to bring together buildings, funding, facilities, expertise and staff.
Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Team – keen to see space alongside Viney Road flats turned into some kind of football pitch for kids there to use.

Proposals to take forward
More consultation with children
A list of activities for children to choose from
Identifying buildings – visit existing buildings to see what is currently going on and what can be developed.
Set up a steering group
Audit of existing provision and facilities and anticipated future need.
Useful contacts, networking, partnerships
Link in with Sure Start?
Some attendees expressed opposition to plans to demolish the Ladywell Centre Sports Hall and wanted to use the green area in Dressington Avenue for activities (Abbey Manor College wanted to put an all-weather basketball pitch there).
Build links with local schools
Can derelict changing rooms on Ladywell Fields (end of Malyons Rd be renovated for some kind of youth space?
Smthg at Old Bothy on Hilly Fields now it has been vacated by Envirowork (too noisy for residents on Shell Rd, and there may be plans for the site already?).

Possible sources of funding:
Youth Opportunities Fund and Youth Capital Fund
Jack Petchey Foundation (match funding youth initiatives)
Lottery money
Youth Services existing budget (!)
Housing associations
Locality Fund (only £10,000 and lots of interest already though!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Local Party Meeting: Monday 11 December, 7.30pm

Lewisham Green Party's monthly meeting:
Monday 11th December, 7.30pm, at Brockley Social Club, Brockley Road.
There will be a brief business meeting followed by our Christmas Social. All members and supporters welcome.

Locality Fund - further info

Further to my earlier posting on 29 November about the locality fund, I've pasted in below the letter we are sending out to local groups with further details of how to apply:

Ladywell ward Councillors
c/o Cllr Ute Michel
Tel: 020 8691 5212

c/o Governance Support
Civic Suite, Lewisham Town Hall

6 December 2006

£10,000 Community project funding for Ladywell ward – how should it be spent?

In November the Mayor and Cabinet approved the Localities Fund for 2006/07 – each of Lewisham’s 18 wards is allocated £10,000 for activities and projects supporting community initiatives that directly benefit the local neighbourhood, make a visible difference and deliver sustainable improvements to the area. We have a number of ideas about how the money could be spent in Ladywell ward, but we would like to hear suggestions from as many residents and local groups as possible.

Examples of possible projects include:

  • Hanging baskets/street planters/street trees
  • A youth project Park benches
  • A community art project
  • A local event (eg a football tournament or an outing)
  • Playground equipment/solar panel for a local school
The £10,000 can be allocated to one project or split between a variety of smaller ones.
Last year’s (2005/06) fund allocation was £5,000 per ward; in Ladywell this paid for hanging baskets along Ladywell Road and this year’s Christmas tree.

If you have an idea for an activity/project you would like to receive funding for, please submit a brief outline, which must include the following information:·
  • Details/Description of the planned activity/project including the benefit(s) to the local community and how engagement with local residents is achieved·
  • Geographical location (if appropriate)·
  • Dates the activity/project will take place (if appropriate)·
  • The amount of money requested·
  • Name and contact details of person/group submitting application.and provide any other information you find useful in support of your activity/project.
Please e-mail or send your proposal to Cllr Ute Michel (contact details above) by Friday, 5 January 2007. One of the conditions of the funding is that the money needs to be allocated and spent by 31 March 2007 (even if the actual activity takes places later as would be the case with plants). Money can be given in addition to funding already secured for a particular activity. If you would like to discuss details further, please contact Cllr Michel.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Cllrs Mike Keogh, Sue Luxton and Ute Michel
Green Party Councillors for Ladywell ward

How can Labour improve your environment?

Just got a 'Labour Action' newsletter through the door - have to say it's more carefully thought out than the 'Mayor Saves Ladywell Pool' leaflet. It's focussing on the environment and has a picture of J.R crouched down in front of Brockley Common. On the back it asks "How can Labour improve your environment?". Well, in the interest of cross-party co-operation, here are a few suggestions for Labour locally and nationally:

1. Stop all airport expansion - aviation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and any efforts we make elsewhere to reduce our carbon emissions will be cancelled out by a huge increase in air travel. Levy green taxes on air travel and subsidise rail more heavily so that there is a financial incentive to take the train to destinations within Europe, rather than flying.
2. Introduce personal carbon quotas, which are arguably more equitable than green taxes. See here, here, here, here or here for more info on these.
3. Don't put 500 car-parking spaces in the Lewisham Gateway development - make it a car-free development - it's right next to the borough's main transport hub for goodness sake.
4. Make sure the new local development framework has ambitious targets set for energy efficiency and renewable energy for ALL new developments, even a single building. Maybe starting at 20% to match the London Plan, then rising incrementally to 30% over the next few years? (I'm quietly optimistic that this one is going to happen)
5. Encourage people to shop locally, supporting small shops and farmers' markets. Stop giving planning permission for out of town shopping centres that threaten the livelihoods of town centre shopkeepers. Stop the great food swap and localise food production. This doesn't mean we all have to live like Tom and Barbara in the Good Life, but it is crazy for us to export British Lamb to New Zealand and import New Zealand lamb, or import green beans from Kenya in August, when they can be grown in the UK.
6. Introduce a 10p/bag tax on plastic bags and force supermarkets to stop excessively packaging products.
7. Fine TESCO/Sainsbury/TK Maxx/Lidl etc £50 for every one of their shopping trolleys that gets dumped on the streets of Lewisham, and then maybe they would look after them more carefully. (You may be starting to detect a trend here about my views on supermarkets ;) ).
8. Start taxing motorists according to mileage and how polluting their vehicle is.
9. Make sure there every child has a safe route to school and do much much more to encourage parents to let their kids walk/cycle to school. While we're at it, let's have a 20 mph zone borough-wide too, and some enforcement of that 'don't use your mobile while you're driving' law that is so often ignored.
10. Support allotments and community gardens, community planting days, river clean-ups, don't build on parks and green spaces etc etc.

That's probably enough to be getting on with, though I haven't even started on nuclear trains, Trident, SELCHP . . .

Now over to you - how can Labour improve your environment?

So much for a quiet week!

Last Sunday I made the mistake of saying I thought the week was going to be quiet with not many meetings. ..

On Monday we had a briefing from the council chief exec, Barry Quirk, on the new monthly report of performance indicators that the council is going to publish. Looked like a generally useful document, though of course statistics can be manipulated to say whatever you want them to potentially. A couple of things that lept out on the 'areas for management attention' page were that the council is not reaching its targets for take up of free school meals by those entitled to them, the percentage of household waste recycled/composted, the time to relet properties or the number of library borrowers. A few areas we are apparently doing well in are reducing the number of children killed/seriously injured on our roads, the occupation rates of Lewisham and Deptford markets and with planning application turn-around time.

On Tuesday I went with Mike to Hilly Fields Users Group, Ladywell Society and then the Pool Campaign Victory Party at the Rising Sun pub. Wanted to make sure HFUG and Ladywell Society knew about the locality fund. Discussed the state of the footpaths in Hilly Fields with HFUG and am following up with highways. (Footpaths in parks are normally the responsibility of the parks dept, but in this case they may be passed over to highways). HFUG have been successful in getting lottery funding for a project to install new decorative iron gates by the entrance to Hilly fields on Eastern Road (current ones are bent out of shape and not particularly attractive). The gates will be made by Heather Burrell, a local artist who made the gates at the Creekside Centre, among other things. She will be basing the design on an art project carried out by Prendergast students.

Ladywell Society members raised several issues I am following up with highways on their behalf (cars pulling up onto the pavement by Ladywell Supermarket, the state of the railings along Ladywell Road) and a member expressed an interest in setting up a ‘Friends of Brockley Cemetary’ society ('users group' didn't seem to be the right word!). Impressive turnout at the victory party, which we managed to get to at 10pm, by which time everyone was feeling pretty happy and victorious.

Didn't make it to the Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Panel meeting on Thursday, as it clashed with my work Christmas Party, but Ute went along.

Quiet surgery at Hilly Fields yesterday, after which we went to Gordonbrock's Christmas Fayre. Impressive range of stalls, including a very well-stocked cake stall; testament to an active PTA. Gordonbrock teachers, parents and governors are concerned at the time it is taking to get started on repair works to the school and the continuing uncertainty over whether they will get a rebuild within the next few years or not. They are also awaiting the outcome of the Primary Review to see if they can drop from 2 ½ form entry to 2 form entry. Work to clear/contain asbestos on the site is taking place next weekend, then hopefully a survey can be done early in the new year to work out what needs to be done most urgently and what can be done within the budget.

Monday, December 04, 2006

New School Consultation has started

The consultation on the proposed Lewisham Bridge Primary School site for the new school has started today and runs until 15 January. See here for further details and to download a copy of the consultation document. I found this table from the DfES website useful to give an overview of the difference between a hard federation and the various other governing options proposed.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Being nosey

Ute and I had a meeting on Tuesday with the director of Abbey Manor College and the head of their Dressington Avenue site (the John Evelyn Centre). V useful to meet them, find out more about their work and how they felt plans to demolish the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre would affect them (their students currently use both the hall and the adjacent grass regularly). Abbey Manor College has 2 sites - one in Lee Green and the other in Dressington Avenue. They cater for students who have already been or are likely to be permanently excluded from mainstream education. Students work towards qualifications in various subjects including (hope I get this right) sports and leisure management, graphic design, hairdressing and constructions skills, as well as having classes in basic skills (maths and English).

As a nosey person, it was also interesting to have a look inside a building with such a rich history. A grade two listed building, it's one of the few remaining bits of the vast Ladywell workhouse which once covered all of what is now Slagrove Place, Dressington Avenue and Foxborough Gardens. The picture above is of the dining hall, which is where most of the classrooms for Abbey Manor college are today. The building has been pretty well preserved, but with classrooms 'plonked' in the middle of the hall, and flats in other parts of the building. Other bits of the workhouse that have survived include the Watertower in Dresssington Avenue and the Ladywell Training Centre (the building behind Ladywell Tavern). While searching for a picture of how it used to be, I've found several interesting websites about workhouses and lots of old photos of Lewisham and south-east London. Oh, and I came across another interesting blog about south-east London, see Transpontine.
On Thursday I met up with some students from Goldsmiths who are interested in setting up a 'Green Democratic Society Party'. We didn't have Freshers' Fayre stall at Goldsmiths this year, unlike the previous 3 years, when we got a really good response on the day then didn't find anyone willing to get the group off the ground. Possibly not having a Freshers' Fayre stall was the answer, as its absence was apparently noticed and prompted this group of students to look into setting up a society of their own. I'm trying to persuade them to be a Young Greens society, but we'll see.

From Goldsmiths I went straight on to a short Overview and Scrutiny Committee (full council minus the cabinet) meeting to set up a housing sub-committee (!) to look into how ALMOs and PFI schemes are being set up in the borough and the implementation of the decent homes programme. I am going to be the Green person on the committee and am looking forward to delving more deeply into the ins and outs of housing in Lewisham.

I was back at Goldsmiths on Friday for an event to mark World AIDS Day. There was a speaker from The Positive Place talking about the crucial work they do there and someone from the NUS talking about a recent visit she'd made to southern Africa. One shocking statistic I took away from it was that 200 people around the world die of AIDS every five minutes. Positive Place are waiting to hear if they have got their funding for the next year, which normally comes via the NHS, but they are rather worried how the budget deficits of various PCTs will impact on them.

On Saturday I went to a 'market research viewing facility' off Oxford Street to watch a 'focus group'. All sounds a bit New Labour and not the kind of thing the Green Party usually has enough money for. Basically it was two groups of people who were paid £40 to take part in a focus group on politics. They started off with a general discussion on politics, their view of political parties, if you were prime minister what would you do etc, then they were told that the research was for the Green Party, and asked for their views on the Green Party and various posters and slogans that are being considered. We sat in another room behind a one-way mirror. Very interesting to see how we are perceived by others, and very useful to get others to look at what we thought were good ads/posters, but some of which, in retrospect don't work. Again, it also appealed to my nosiness to eavesdrop on their conversations! Of course, I couldn't possibly divulge what they said!

When I came out of the focus group thingy, I wandered down Oxford Street, which was closed off to all traffic in a special bus and car-free pre-Christmas extravaganza. Lots of street entertainers, lots of promotion of cycling and walking by good going and those organising the Tour de France, which of course is coming to London and (ever so briefly) Lewisham next year. Well, it pops into the borough along Evelyn Street then goes back into Greenwich but it does, nevertheless, pass through Lewisham! Oxford Street is considerably more bearable without the traffic, but the shops still seemed to be selling the usual tat and I wasn't inclined to linger long. Popped in to the art sale at St Andrew's Church on Brockley Road on my way home and got some great hand-made Christmas cards.

Today I abandoned Ladywell once again and went to the Animal Aid Christmas Without Cruelty Fayre in Kensington, which is an annual pilgrimage for me, then went on to help out Camden Greens with a by-election they have this coming Thursday. Sian Berry, the Green candidate, is one of the Green Party's principal speakers (the closest we have to leaders) and a founder of the Alliance against Urban 4x4s. Fingers crossed.

Not many council meetings between now and Christmas, so time to take stock of first few months as a councillor, try to wrap up any outstanding casework, start to look ahead a bit, binge drink etc.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

£10,000 for Ladywell - how should we spend it?

Each ward in Lewisham has been given a £10,000 fund to be spent on community initiatives. Last year there was a pilot scheme with a grant of £5,000 per ward. In Ladywell this was spent on the hanging baskets that were along Ladywell Road over the summer, and the Christmas Tree that has just gone up outside the baker's on Algernon Road.

The question is - what would you like the money to be spent on this year?

We have a few ideas, the local police team have suggested a few ideas for funding youth projects, Gordonbrock School could happily spend the money several times over, we haven't yet approached other local groups such as Hilly Fields Users Group, Ladywell Society, Ladywell Day Centre etc for suggestions, but will be doing so shortly and trying to consult as widely as possible in the time available. (The details of the fund were only confirmed to councillors a couple of weeks ago, and we need to submit our proposals by 15th January and the money needs to be spent by the end of March 2007. )

We could go for one project that takes up the entire £10,000 (more if match-funding is available) or a number of smaller projects. It could be a football tournament, a solar panel on a community building, an outing for young people or elderly residents, equipment for a school or club, improvements to a park, more planters or hanging baskets, a community art project, a wildlife garden, benches . . . .

So, please tell us how you think the money should be spent! (Suggestions only for projects within Ladywell ward please!)


Hello to Dean , Green councillor in neighbouring Brockley ward who has just started blogging. I certainly share some of his frustrations over housing in Lewisham - not only the shortage of social housing, but the fact that a significant chunk of my casework in my (limited) experience so far has been chasing up seemingly simple repairs like broken glass panes which should have been done within days, but have taken months to get fixed, or jobs that end up being much bigger and more expensive because they are left until they are urgent, even one case of a leaseholder who had been asking the council for over a year to invoice her for work they had carried out on her property! Yes, that's right - it took a year of this resident saying 'I want to give you money' before the council would send her a bill. Have to hope that for every case we get that needs following up, hundreds of repairs have been done within a reasonable time frame, but suspect that there are also hundreds of cases of residents who just give up after ringing the council a few times and nothing happening.

There still seems to be some confusion amongst council officers about who is responsible for what since the reorganisation of housing/regeneration earlier in the year, and the extensive use of contractors for repair work seems to lead to greater comunication problems than when council employees do carry out the work. On a positive note, I've now found a housing officer who seems to get things done, so I'll be hassling him regularly from now on!

We have an Overview and Scrutiny committee tomorrow which is going to set up a sub-committee to look at housing issues, including ALMOs and the implementation of PFI schemes. The Brockley PFI contract (which covers Ladywell) is due to be signed early in the new year - the improvements to the housing stock are welcome and long overdue, but PFI (putting it all on tick) is a very expensive way of doing things.

Lewisham Gateway

As we've had a number of enquiries from residents about the town centre development, I thought it might be useful to post a more detailed statement agreed by the Green group (minus Dean who is on strategic planning committee so didn't take part in the discussions) on the Lewisham Gateway application:

The Green Group supports in principle the regeneration of Lewisham TownCentre to improve the pedestrian links from the rail station to the town centre; to make the river more accessible and a key feature in the towncentre; and to provide high-density housing given that good public transport links make this a suitable site for accommodating Lewisham's growing population. We believe that making Lewisham a more attractive shopping venue will help encourage more people to shop locally and reduce the number of journeys to other town centres and out of town shopping centres. We also welcome plans to improve bus facilities to help accommodate the expected increase in bus usage. However, we have a number of serious concerns about the current proposals that need to be addressed: -
  • We support the Mayor of London's demand that detailed traffic modelling is required to determine whether the "low H" shape road layout is appropriate.

  • We support Lewisham Cyclists in demanding a number of specific measures to meet the needs of cyclists, including road safety improvements, improved cycle routes through and around the Gateway, crossing provision for cyclists, and increased secure cycle parking for residents.

  • We call for a significant reduction in the overall number of car parking spaces, given the location next to Lewisham's main public transport interchange. We would welcome a car-free development, with no automatic right to a residents' parking space, but the provision of a car club for residents. We have serious concerns that a development with extensive car parking provision will merely add to traffic problems, and exacerbate the already poor air quality in the area.

  • We call for exemplary standards in sustainable design and construction, and are extremely concerned about the lack of ambition and lack of detailed information in the current plans regarding renewable energy. Ideally, we wish to see such a landmark development be a carbon neutral development, but at the very least, we expect to see the renewable energy targets in the Mayor's London Plan strictly adhered to.

  • We are concerned that currently only 20% of housing is proposed to be affordable, way below the Mayor of London's overall target of 50%and Lewisham's target of 35%. We call for the level of affordable housing to be significantly increased, and with an appropriate mix ofsocial housing and intermediate housing, in line with the policies on affordable housing within the London Plan.

  • We support high density housing on this site in principle, but this is subject to being convinced by full daylight, shadowing and wind reports and the buildings being of high quality and sustainable design. We also require further clarification about whether the proposed level of housing density can all be accommodated, given the range of different facilities planned for this site.

  • We support proposals to remove parts of the rivers from concrete channels and place them in a natural setting, but we share the concerns of the Quaggy Waterways Action Group, that the opportunities for improving riverside access have not been maximised, and the plans need to be modified to improve upon this. It is important that there is no overall loss of public open space, and specifically that levels of accessible green space should at least be comparable to existing levels.

  • We support improved shopping facilities, but do not wish to see Lewisham just becoming more of a "clone town", and therefore wish to see start-up premises for small businesses included in the overall plans. We want to see planning conditions used to ensure a diversity of retailoutlets.

  • We are very concerned by the loss of the children's play area in the Shopping Centre. We support the Mayor of London's demand that provision needs to be made for children's play space, but believe indoor as well as outdoor play facilities are required.

For more info also see the official Lewisham Gateway site and a site set up by opponents to the scheme.

53rd best Green Blogger

Lots of mtgs and casework lately, plus relatives visiting and ward newsletter to deliver, so not so many posts in past couple of weeks. Only 2 meetings this week though, so hopefully I will be able to catch up on backlog of things to post here. Thanks to everyone who helped with delivering newsletters - the ward has been pretty much covered now, with one or two bits left.

Recent(ish) news from blogosphere - attended a Lewisham bloggers meet-up at the Jolly Farmers, organised by Andrew Brown. 9 bloggers turned up, some politicos, some not. Others have long since already blogged about it, so I won't bother repeating it, just read here, here or here. V interesting - thanks to Andrew for organising it.

Jim has published his long-awaited list of 100 Best Green bloggers - and I'm a disappointing 53rd! I guess my blog is a bit parochial compared to George Monbiot's, Caroline Lucas's et al, but I am hoping to make it into the dizzy heights of the top 50 next time round!

Green Party News - belated congratulations to Derek Wall who has been selected as our new male principal speaker, to work alongside Sian Berry, our female principal speaker. I'm sure he'll do a good job.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Help needed delivering Green News

Our next edition of Green News will be back from the printers on Friday, and any help delivering them around Ladywell would be very much appreciated. We are having a group leafletting session on Sunday 2-4pm followed by drinks at Life Cafe. Contact me for details.

Beckenham Place Park, Green Chain Walk and dinosaurs

Took the train to Beckenham Hill on Sunday, explored a bit of Beckenham Place Park then went along the Green Chain Walk to Crystal Palace Park to see the dinosaurs and finished up in the White Hart pub. Very enjoyable day out. Have to confess I had never been to Beckenham Place Park before and it came up as an item in the Sustainable Development committee meeting and I thought I should go and take a look. Next stop on my tour of parks I've never been to in Lewisham will be Chinbrook Meadows.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What should Ladywell Playtower be used for?

One of the questions in the questionnaire about the proposals to extend the St Mary's conservation area (mentioned in 24th October entry), asked what the Ladywell Playtower and Coroner's Court buildings should be used for. I suggested that it would be good if some of the site could be used to house a local history museum. Lewisham does not have a local history museum and local archives are apparently stored in a basement in New Cross (possibly the Art House, but don't quote me on that) which has occasionally been flooded. A couple of years ago, Citibank offered the use of the old watermill building to house a museum, but nothing came of this.

I know the local history society are keen to see some kind of museum set up and one of their members suggested that the inside of the Coroner's Court (which is a grade 2 listed building) is unique and would make a good museum. I think everyone would like to see as much of the Playtower as possible restored, as together with the Coroner’s Court it is an important local building that makes a positive contribution to the character of the area. That said, I would not object to some housing being built at the back of the Playtower, to help fund the restoration of the rest of the building for community use, but the front and as much of the building as possible should be preserved.

Anyway, I got some feedback from the conservation officer today, saying that other people had suggested turning part of the site into a musuem. As of Friday, the Playtower is a grade 2 listed building, which will give it added protection. Following feedback from people who thought other streets in Ladywell should be included in the conservation area, such as Embleton Road and Vicar's Hill, the conservation officers are now looking at proposing a separate Ladywell Conservation Area, rather than extending St Mary's further west than the bridge.

Incidentally, while looking for a good picture of the Playtower, I found a rather good website called Derelict London - worth a look.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pretty fair article about the Green Party in yesterday's FT, give or take the odd reference to beards. (Thanks to Natalie for forwarding this link.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reminder: Ladywell Forum this Thursday (tomorrow)

Just a reminder that tomorrow is our first Ladywell Ward Forum. Focus is on youth provision and we hope this will be a chance for local people, youth services, the Safer Neighbourhood Police team, housing associations and us to share ideas about what youth provision is needed in the area.

Ladywell Ward Forum
Thursday 9th November
Crofton Park Baptist Church
Brockley Grove
7.00pm - 9.00pm

Hope to see you there!

New School: Mayor does welcome U-turn

I've just got back from tonight's Mayor and Cabinet meeting where the Mayor took the decision to back down from building a new secondary school on the site of Ladywell Leisure Centre and opted instead for Lewisham Bridge Primary School as the new preferred site. This was following the motion proposed by Greens in July and supported by full council, which asked the Mayor to look again at alternative sites. It was a brave decision for the Mayor to make, and I welcome the fact that he has at last listened to the views of local people and the majority of the council. This means that there will not now be a 3 or more year gap in swimming provision in the borough and that Ladywell Leisure centre can stay open until new facilities are built.

The decision is dependent on a number of hurdles being cleared, including the revocation of the approval given by the Schools Organisation Committee to build a new school on the Ladywell Leisure Centre site. There will also now be a full consultation on the closure of Lewisham Bridge Primary school and the opening of a new school on that site. The council will also ask the Secretary of State to waive the competition requirements in order to help them meet the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) timetable. (Normally, when a school is built, there has to be a 4-month period during which interesed parties can bid to run the school. If this is waived, then we can opt straight for a community school, rather than having to open up the process to allow people bid to run it as an academy. My preference is certainly for a community school, not an academy.)

The option being suggested at the moment is a single 3-16 through school, with the primary school being reduced to one form entry rather than 2 form, and the secondary school being 4 form entry. Lewisham Bridge is officially a 2 form entry school at the moment, although it has on average 20 spare places per year, which means either very large classes, or small but expensive class sizes. With a through school, parents would have the choice of their children staying on at the school at 11, or applying to other secondary schools. A 3-16 school is fairly unusual in the state sector, but common and successful in the independent sector. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to find out more about the pros and cons of through schools versus separate primary and secondary schools, although Frankie Sulke, the director of the Children and Young People's Directorate, made a fairly strong educational case for them at the meeting.

I recognise that many parents at Lewisham Bridge Primary School have concerns about the impact these plans will have on their children, and the existing school community. Those of us who fought so hard to save the pool now need to work towards making sure the best possible school is built at Lewisham Bridge, with the minimum disruption to the education of existing pupils at the school. Lewisham Bridge is not a perfect site, but on balance I believe it is better than Ladywell Leisure Centre. It also offers the opportunity to replace the existing primary provision on the site with more modern, fit for purpose facilities.

The full report on the school sites can be found here.

Finally, well done to Max Calo and everyone else who worked so hard on the Save Ladywell Pool Campaign! Mission accomplished?!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Climate Change Demo

Took part in the climate change demo yesterday. Didn't quite get up in time to meet Lewisham and Greenwich cyclists at the Cutty Sark at 9.15pm, so did the Ladywell to Canon Street train ride instead, then unfolded my bike and joined the ride as they were just turning onto the Strand ;). Difficult to say how many cyclists took part, probably between 300-500, but it was great fun and definitely got noticed. Big bike rides like this and Critical Mass are always a good way to see London - you never get to see the tops of buildings from the pavement or when you are worried about getting knocked over by a van/bus etc, so en masse cycling is a great chance to take in the views. We went down the Strand, over Waterloo Bridge, along South Bank, over Westminster Bridge, around Parliament Square (several times, to say hi to Brian Haw and savour the moment of being allowed to protest there), down Whitehall, past Trafalgar Square and various other streets via Oxford Street to end up at the Climate Change Rally in Grosvenor Square outside the US embassy.

The square was packed and there were speeches from Green MEP Caroline Lucas, Lib Dem Norman Baker, would-be Tory MP and editor of the Ecologist Zac Goldsmith, Labour MP Colin Challen and George Monbiot, plus music from Seize the Day. Met up with loads of Greens from all over the country, a friend from Worcester who I hadn't seen in a couple of years, Lewisham WDM and Oxfam campaigners and even a 'Green Lib Dem' from Greenwich.

After the speeches we marched/ambled to Trafalgar Square. The square was packed and there wasn't room for bikes, so I had to chance it and lock my bike to some railings alongside a load of police and hope it would still be there when I got back (it was). The Trafalgar Square rally was organised by Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of NGOs, as part of their I count campaign. Whereas the US embassy rally, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change had lots of worthy speakers, the Trafalgar Square rally was going more for pop culture appeal and featured Razorlight, KT Tunstall and some bloke off the telly called Simon Anstell, whose risque jokes went down like a lead balloon with a crowd full of Christian Aid campaigners and eco-activists. I count is looking like it will be to the climate change campaign what Make Poverty History was to the drop the debt campaign, ie probably a good thing overall, which will get loads of publicity, but not everyone's cup of tea.

Big Green Party presence in the square (nice to have more banners than the SWP/Respect for once!), and at times people were clamouring for our membership forms and Green Energy Works leaflets, which was certainly a first ;).

And after the demo? Well, I, er, went to Blackheath Fireworks of course!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Full Council Meeting, Wednesday 1st November

The agenda for Wednesday's full council meeting looked relatively light and I thought we would get through things quickly, but that was not to be. I proposed the following motion, seconded by Darren Johnson:

“This council agrees with the Mayor of London’s reaction to the conclusions of the Energy Review (set out in “The Energy Challenge” published by the Department of Trade and Industry in July). The Council specifically endorses the Mayor of London’s stance that investment in massively reducing energy demand through improving efficiency and decentralising generation, together with a major increase in renewable energy is the way forward for London rather than a new generation of nuclear power stations.”

Labour councillors, who are normally whipped on most votes, were given a free vote, and they seemed to get quite excited at this taste of freedom and couldn't resist the urge to make speeches. There were a few technological problems and we didn't have the usual clock ticking down to show us how much of our 5 minutes alloted time we had left, so I charged through my speech fearful of getting cut off mid-way, though in the event I think the chair was a little lenient on timings anyway. The Deputy Mayor, Heidi Alexander, supported the motion, while suggesting it wasn't a Lewisham issue, while the Mayor, Steve Bullock voted against and revealed himself as a bit of a James Lovelock groupie. Lib Dem Cathie Priddey made a good speech in favour, Labour Cllr Alan Hall proposed a bizarre amendment to sabotage the motion by removing all references to nuclear, but then when that failed he supported it anyway. In the end, the motion was passed by 35 votes to 15, with Greens, Lib Dems and Socialists voting for, Tories against and Labour split for and against.

I do believe that the issue of nuclear power is of direct relevance to Lewisham residents, because if billions are spent on a new generation of nuclear power stations, there will inevitably be less money in the pot for renewable energy schemes in the borough, including microgeneration, which I think is a key way to reduce dependence on an ultimately inefficient centralised energy supply and to reduce fuel poverty. In addition, the more nuclear power stations we have, the more trains we may have going through Lewisham transporting nuclear waste.

The Mayor of London’s submission to the Energy Review can be read as a pdf file here. In it he argues that a 60% cut in CO2 emissions is possible by 2050 through decentralised energy and without nuclear power.

Other business: Lib Dems proposed a motion calling on the cabinet member for housing to be sacked for incompetence. While we shared their concerns about failings in the housing service, we weren't convinced that the motion was particularly constructive or in the best interests of the borough. When our (probably less than perfect) amendment to the motion fell, we abstained from the final vote and the motion fell. The other Lib Dem motion, proposed by Cllr Sera Kentman called on the council to increase its support to supplementary schools. Greens supported an amended version of this motion, which deferred the decision on the amount of extra money to be discussed in the round with the rest of the budget proposals. By the end of all the speeches and wrangling over these 2 motions, I was heartedly sick of the endless references to how good the yellow/red party was in Islington/Camden/Southwark/Lambeth (delete as applicable) - way too much political point-scoring. You would never get me trumpetting the achievements of Greens on councils in Kirklees/Norwich/Brighton/Oxford (delete as applicable) ;).

Main source of amusement at the meeting was the decision of the two Conservative councillors who previously sat between us and the Lib Dems to move over to the Labour side of the chamber. Apparently it wasn't intended as a snub to the Greens, or a hint for us to use less environmentally-friendly deodorant, but to do with a recent falling out between them and the Lib Dems, who have started delivering Lib Dem Focus leaflets in the Tory stronghold of Grove Park, how very dare they :).

Loampit Vale Consultation

I spent some time earlier this week putting together my response to the Loampit Vale development consultation. While the development is just outside the ward, it will have a significant impact on many residents, not least those living at that end of the ward eg in Algernon Road who are likely to be affected by construction traffic and an increase in traffic post-development, as well as all those whose children are at Lewisham Bridge Primary School and those who use the current Ladywell Leisure centre. Below are the comments I sent back, studiously ignoring the rather restrictive tick boxes and small space for comments on the consultation form.

1. In principle, do you agree that these sites should be developed for a high density, high quality mixed use scheme which includes new homes, new shops and community uses and a new leisure centre?
I don’t think a simple yes/no answer is appropriate here. Yes, in principle I agree with the above, but if Lewisham Bridge Primary School is chosen as the site for the new secondary school, then I think the first priority should be to make sure sufficient space is available, which may well mean including some of the adjacent land along Loampit Vale into the school site. We shouldn’t have a primary and secondary school squeezed into an unfeasibly small site, in order to build housing alongside.

2. Do you think a mixture of housing including one, two and three bedrooms and above should be provided on these sites?
Yes. While I recognise that there is a demand for more family houses in the borough, this site’s proximity to public transport and the town centre means that high density development is more appropriate.

3. Do you think the new pool should have six or eight lanes?
8X25m absolute minimum.

Ladywell Leisure Centre has a 33m pool with 6 lanes. A 6-lane 25m pool would be an unacceptable reduction in capacity. Given that there will be a increase in the area’s population with the new housing developments, plus the new pool will be more conveniently located for many more people near the transport hub, I would argue that the minimum we should be building is the equivalent size of the Ladywell pool, ie 8x25m. I understand this is also what the swimming club would like for galas. However, I have some doubts that this capacity will be sufficient, and would like to see further evidence to convince me that it is. Given that only 38% of Lewisham children reach the KS2 target for swimming, and just 11% in the north of the borough, we need to do everything we can to get more people taking their children swimming and increasing the use of borough swimming facilities.

I would also like to know if the council has looked into the funding possibilities for an Olympic sized swimming pool, given the lack of them in London and Lewisham’s proximity to the Olympic site?

4. Would you like to see conventional single sex or mixed 'village-style' changing facilities?
What a bizarre question to ask at such a preliminary stage in the consultation process! For the record, a mixture of both would be useful, to accommodate families and those who would prefer single sex facilities.

5. How do you think we could involve children and young people in the design of the new pool?
Talking to them and listening to them, having a consultation discussion with them before/after their swimming class, organising competitions for artwork to be displayed at the new centre, asking them to plan a ‘healthy menu’ of food that the café and vending machines should sell, looking at the renewable energy and energy efficiency features in a science class, getting them to design their dream leisure centre using a computer simulation programme, involving the swimming clubs, local Guides and Scouts etc.

6. Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Yes. Residents in my ward have expressed concerns to me on a number of points.
Firstly, they are keen to see all the facilities lost at Ladywell Leisure Centre replaced. This includes diving boards, the Turkish baths and sauna, a crèche, meeting rooms, and facilities for Lewisham Hospital to do hydro-therapy sessions. They are also worried that the swimming pool will be sited in a basement with no natural light. So please can we have natural light into the swimming pool, but with a degree of privacy from people looking in?

I would also like to see healthy fairtrade and organic food in any café and vending machines, not the junk food currently touted at Ladywell Leisure Centre. Also, easily accessible drinking water fountains and secure bicycle storage.

Residents are also worried that the leisure centre will not replace all the facilities that have been lost in the borough over the last few years. Specifically, residents have told me they are concerned that there are no ‘dry’ facilities planned eg squash and badminton courts and archery, which there were at Crofton Leisure Centre. However, I understand that Crofton Leisure Centre will be re-opening to the public in 2008, which alleviates some of my concerns, and if a secondary school is built on Elmira Street, there is also the potential for a sports hall there with facilities open to the public.

The development as a whole should incorporate the very highest possible standards of energy efficiency and produce a significant percentage of its energy needs on-site using renewable sources. Given the short time scale we have to reduce our carbon emissions by about 80% to avert global disaster, no development would be better than a development that failed to do this. It should also include brown or green roofs and grey water recycling. It should be a car-free development, given its proximity to public transport, with residents of the new homes understanding that they have no right to a residents’ parking permit. There should be a car club, for residents to use when public transport, walking or cycling are not possible. As for any retails units, I would like to see small local and independent retailers rather than the usual clone town Britain suspects.

In addition, while I accept that a significant percentage of the housing will be sold to pay for the social housing, I believe that we should be striving for as high a percentage of social housing as possible, which is where Lewisham’s greatest housing need lies.

I would also stress the need to consult fully and at an early stage with residents south-west of the proposed development re the impact that construction traffic, diverted traffic and any overall potential increase in traffic may have on their lives. Residents on Algernon Road in particular have expressed concern to me. I am also concerned that the existing poor air quality along Loampit Vale will deteriorate further.

Finally, while I appreciate that there were probably very specific reasons why the consultation document questions were worded as they were, many residents have felt that the questions were either unduly restrictive and either too vague or focussing on minor details rather than the bigger picture. Please can we have consultation documents that give residents sufficient space to say what they think, and a space for comments if they don’t want to just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I appreciate the need to analyse results in an efficient manner, but when questions are so narrow and restrictive, residents feel they are being tricked in some way.

Tidal-powered Lunar Clock

Read about this in the London Paper the other day: plans for the world's first tidal-powered lunar clock. If the Aluna Project is realised, it will see a huge sculpture 5 storeys high, made from recycled glass and lit up with the energy from the tidal water of the Thames being built near East India Dock. The green hippy part of me likes the idea of a clock telling natural time and us 'reconnecting with nature's rhythms'. Depending on how people get to the site to visit it, it sounds like quite a sustainable project too. The article quotes a Carl Honere, author of "In praise of Slow" saying the project is "a call to arms against the tyranny of the digital clock" which will "help our speedaholic culture decelerate". At the risk of being accused of being a fluffy green, I rather like the sound of that.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Application for travellers' site withdrawn

I've just been informed that the planning application to build a travellers' site in Dressington Avenue is being withdrawn.

The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Heidi Alexander has acknowledged that the council’s usual procedures were not been followed in relation to consultation with current users of the sports hall. Officers will now be working with them to "identify suitable alternatives".

This doesn't mean that the application won't be resubmitted in the future, but the Deputy Mayor has undertaken to consult with local residents prior to any new application being submitted.

As I'm on a planning committee I've not taken a position on this application, but Ute (Cllr Michel) has been liaising with the Deputy Mayor, local residents and users of the centre.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ladywell Forum - did you get a flyer delivered?

Hopefully everyone in Ladywell ward will have received a flyer this weekend advertising the forthcoming forum. I know that Adelaide Avenue was done, as I got mine yesterday. It would be helpful if you could leave a comment saying if your street did/didn't get flyers delivered. Just in case, forum details again are:

Ladywell Ward Forum
Thursday 9th November
Crofton Park Baptist Church
Brockley Grove
7.00pm - 9.00pm

Focus is on youth provision and we hope this will be a chance for local people, youth services, the Safer Neighbourhood Police team, faith groups and us to share ideas about what youth provision is needed in the area.

Electoral services organised the flyer delivery for us, which was a big relief as we thought we were going to have to deliver them ourselves. We have a Green News which will be ready in a few weeks, but we were told we couldn't deliver a council leaflet at the same time, and as a small party we didn't have the people power to do two deliveries to the whole ward within the space of a month.

I'm not going to Iceland!

Fancy an easy bit of online eco-warrioring? Take a look at thisGreenpeace campaign against Iceland restarting commercial whaling. I genuinely would like to visit Iceland and see the hot springs etc, and have even got as far as the shall I take 3 days to get there by boat or fly dilemma, but it's definitely on hold for now.

Richmond's plans to charge gas guzzlers more for parking

Richmond council's plans to link the cost of resident's parking permits to the emissions their cars produce has received massive publicity over the last few days and is a brave move. While anything which makes people think twice before buying a 4x4 or some other ghastly gas guzzler is to be welcomed, drivers should be taxed more on how far they drive as well as how energy-efficient their vehicle is. There is also concern that charging more for cars to park on-road, may encourage more people to concrete over their front gardens. This has serious environmental consequences including drainage problems and depriving London's sparrows of a vital food source. (The more paved surfaces there are, the less rainfall is soaked into the ground and the more London’s dilapidated sewerage system struggles to cope. As for sparrows; less front gardens means less insects and sparrow chicks starve, according to RSPB-funded research.) Darren wrote a report on this last year as chair of the GLA environment committee.

So while I think Richmond-upon-Thames should be applauded for this, David Milliband and Gordon Brown better hurry up with getting some serious green taxes in places before it's too late.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ladywell Station gets Secure Station Status

Ladywell Station has been given an award for safety improvements. There certainly have been some improvement with the station, and graffiti, in particular, is being cleaned off quickly. It's also noticeably cleaner than other stations in the area (Crofton Park springs to mind as one that is always strewn with litter), although I would like to see the clear plastic bin bags being used again - can't believe they would be that much of a security risk. I know that local residents and Ladywell Society have in the past called for a community noticeboard at the station and I have recently contacted South-Eastern trains to see if this is possible. In the meantime, the station manager let me tape a poster advertising our Ladywell Forum to the wall of the waiting room.

There are regular transport liaison committee meetings between the council and the transport companies, so if you have any train/bus issues you would like me to raise, please do let me know.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Busy busy

Busy couple of weeks, hence the lack of blogging on my part. Lots of meetings and casework, plus I've been trying to redecorate my mildew-ridden bathroom (have now given up and called in the experts - over a week without a bath in my flat, has, on the upside, meant that I have been using Ladywell Leisure Centre slightly more frequently than usual so I can shower!).

New School Site - Lewisham Bridge Primary School? D-Day 8th November
On Wednesday 11th October, Mike and I had a meeting with Sue Sarna, the headteacher at Lewisham Bridge Primary School, one of the three 'sites' being considered for the new secondary school (the others being Ladywell Leisure Centre and some land round the back of Lewisham Hospital). She is understandably concerned that by referring to it as a 'site', people are forgetting it is in fact a school of 300 odd pupils. While none of the proposed sites are perfect for the school (no rolling plain fields or site in Deptford or New Cross unfortunately), Lewisham Bridge looks the least worst option at the moment. Much will depend on how much of the land around the school, which hasn't yet been redeveloped, will be allocated to the school. Lewisham Bridge Primary School has quite a big site for a primary school, but it's difficult to see how a primary and secondary could be squeezed onto the existing site and leave enough space for playgrounds. Sue Sarna wasn't opposed to the idea of a rebuild, as the classrooms in the current Victorian building are rather small, but she doesn't want her school and all its history to be subsumed into a new 3-16 super school. Although the school is in Lewisham Central ward, it is very much a Ladywell issue, as many of its pupils live in Ladywell ward.

I await the Mayor's decision on November 8th with interest. We haven't taken a group stance on the Lewisham Bridge School site yet, but if it is chosen, I expect we will support the decision, with certain caveats and pledges to support the existing school and pupils during the transition, that the new school(s) would be community schools not academies, the need to use the adjoining land etc. If the Mayor does do a u-turn and the leisure centre gets a reprieve, it will be a significant victory for people power.

Last week I attended the inaugural meeting of Ladywell Pool Users Group, a large part of which was spent discussing plans for the new swimming pool and the Loampit Vale consultation. Concerns were raised over whether the new pool would have facilities to replace all those lost in the area over recent years, in particular the squash courts etc from Crofton Park Leisure Centre and the Turkish Baths and sauna from Ladywell Leisure Centre. If Lewisham Bridge is chosen as the site of the new school, potentially there could be a sports hall with shared use between the school and community.

I also attended the public meeting organised by the planning department on the Lewisham Gateway development. A lot of people at the meeting were sceptical about the scale of the scheme, in particular the size of the buildings, provisions for cyclists in the new road layout and the aesthetics of the buildings. I suspect the architects behind the scheme have gone away with considerable food for thought. The Green Party stance on the development is that we don't oppose high density development in that area in principle, as it is so close to the transport hub. However, the party does have concerns over the percentage of affordable housing proposed, cycling provision, the renewable energy targets, the number of proposed car parking spaces and the possible loss of green space, particularly along the river banks.

Last week I also had a meeting with Rev David Garlick, the vicar of St Mary's Church. Strictly speaking, St Mary's Centre is in Lewisham Central ward, but it is used by many Ladywell ward residents. He is keen to see a youth club started up there again, as is the council, apparently, so I'm hopeful we might get some progress there.

Talking of youth clubs etc, we have finally fixed a date for our first Ladywell Ward Forum, which will focus on youth provision:

Ladywell Ward Forum
Thursday 9th November
Crofton Park Baptist Church
Brockley Grove
7.00pm - 9.00pm

Hopefully, this will be a chance for local people, youth services, the Safer Neighbourhood Police team, faith groups and us to share ideas about what youth provision is needed in the area, and then work out what we can do. The PCSOs will also have the results of the surveys they have done with young people in the ward, asking them what they want. Ladywell, along with Catford South and Blackheath, has been recognised by the council as an area with a lack of youth provision and I am hopeful that there will be funds/grants available to get something started.

Other meetings last week: I went to the House of Lords for a meeting with the Green peer, Tim Beaumont, to discuss the Green Party's international policy, which is in urgent need of some updating. I've never done any national policy work before, and felt a little under-qualified alongside the others at the meeting, who all seemed to work for development NGOs or have loads of experience, but it was interesting, very plush surroundings, and I managed to resist the temptation to shout 'warmonger' or anything about veils when Jack Straw walked past.

I also went along to the consultation on the extension of St Mary's Conservation Area last week, which most people I've spoken to so far seem to be in favour of. I don't think all shopkeepers along Ladywell Road are aware of the consultation yet though, so I have asked for some more copies of the document to be sent to me to hand out.

Very busy surgery at the Old Bothy last week, with 9 people attending on various issues, followed by a very quiet street surgery this Saturday just gone, on Sandrock Rd, Undercliff Rd and Overcliff Rd. No one had put the flyer in their window for us to call, so we just reported the fly-tipping, pot holes and graffiti.

Oh, one more consultation coming up (seemingly endless round of them at the moment!): following on from the initial consulation which was carried out a couple of months ago, there will be an exhibition to show proposals for the Crofton Park / Ladywell South Exhibition 20mph schemes at the following times and locations:
Friday 2-8pm Sat - 10-2pm - 27 28 October (half term) Stillness School - Brockley Rise
Friday 2-8pm Sat - 10-2pm - 3 4 November Baptist Church - Brockley Grove

Reponses to the initial survey were as follows:
Over 10,000 leaflets were delivered to the area for the first stage consultation and over four hundred returned. 67% of responses experienced problems with vehicles travelling too fast. 58% of responses experienced problems from volume of traffic. 58% of responses experienced problems from volume of traffic. 40% said that vehicles used their road to avoid delays most of the delay and a further 31% in rush hour. 31% reported heavy vehicles using their road occasionally and 35% regularly.

Slightly quieter week this week (phew!), with any luck, just a training day on pensions (I'm on the pensions investment committee) and a possible meeting with the Ladywell Centre Users Committee.

Over and out.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Road Resurfacing

The highways team has just released its list of roads to be resurfaced over the next 12 months. Out of the 25 roads down for resurfacing, 3 are in Ladywell, and they are
Adelaide Avenue(Eastern Road to Ladywell Road), Chudleigh Road (Dressington Avenue to Bexhill Road) and Montague Avenue. Additional roads will be added if funding is available, apparently. Chudleigh and Adelaide are bus routes, so I guess they get priority. This could be opening a can of worms, but any comments?!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Street Vibes

Very concerned to find out last week that Street Vibes have been given notice to leave their premises by 20th October. They were only officially opened by the mayor a couple of months ago and now they are facing an uncertain future. I've been in contact with the mayor's office, the cabinet member for children and young people and youth services urging them to see if they can help find alternative accomodation for this popular and much-needed local youth project.

Lewisham Green Party AGM

Monday 9th October, 7.30pm, at Brockley Social Club, Brockley Road, SE4 (corner of Foxberry Road). All members and supporters welcome.

Formal business 7.30-8.45pm
Food for thought: 8.45-9.30pm "International Migration - a Green Party response"
Presentation by local expert and Green Party member Jill Rutter, who will give an overview of migration to the UK in general and outline the situation in Lewisham in particular, followed by discussion.

Lewisham Gateway: Meeting on 17th October

I have received the following from the planning dept re the Lewisham Gateway application: "In view of the level of neighbour response in respect of the Lewisham Gateway planning application, we have organised a local meeting for all those who have made representations (72 letters of invitation have just been sent out) to discuss the various planning issues. The date of the meeting is 17 October 2006 at Lewisham Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way (7pm-10pm). The applicant and agents will be present at the meeting and Councillor Andrew Milton has agreed to chair the Meeting."

If you sent an objection but have not received an invite, or you didn't send a letter but would like to attend, pls call the planning office on 020 8314 9219 or e-mail them to check.

Visible Difference

As I was cycling down Gillian Street on Friday morning, I saw the 'Visible Difference' graffiti clean-up team painting over the tagging on shutter of the off-licence on the corner. Delighted it has finally been cleaned - we'd delivered a number of permission cards for them to sign, but it took a while to get a signed one sent back. Next target: the tagging on the empty shop between Masons and the hairdressers (still waiting for the permission card to be signed).

I'm on the planning committee, get me out of here!

Probably the most difficult week as a councillor so far. Lots of residents in Slagrove Place and Dressington Avenue are angry about the plans to demolish the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre and relocate the travellers' site there. As a member of planning committee A, I can't express opinions on planning applications before the meeting - I have to go there with an open mind. As Mike is also on a planning committee, Ute therefore does all the liaising with residents on planning issues. Most residents understand this, but others think you are just sitting on the fence!

Anyway, all three of us went to a residents' meeting on the issue last Wednesday, which was attended by about 50 residents. Mike and I listened to residents' concerns and could answer some factual questions, but some of the issues raised really needed to be answered by the officers involved in the project, or the cabinet member responsible. Ute is attending a further meeting with the residents' steering committee and the project officers tomorrow evening. Any further questions/queries re the application should be addressed to Ute.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Climate Change

Local Friends of the Earth activists are lobbying Joan Ruddock about the climate change bill at 4pm this Friday in Toad's Mouth Too. If you are a Lewisham Deptford constituent and would like to take part, pls go along on the day or let Ted Burke from Lewisham FoE know in advance.

She is generally supportive and has already signed the early day motion calling for the Climate Change Bill to be introduced in this session of parliament (EDM), but there is no harm in reminding her of the strength of local concern on the issue!

More info about the Big Ask Campaign here.

Also, other climate change campaign events coming up:
Wed 4th October: Public Mtg on Climate Change - George Monbiot speaking
7.00 pm in the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square (Holborn Tube).

Saturday 4th November, National Climate March, 12 noon, rally at US embassy. Organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change.

PS: Do go and see 'An Inconvenient Truth' - an excellent film!

Quercus Project for Ladywell Fields

Went to see the plans for the Quercus Project this evening. This is an EU-funded project to improve Ladywell Fields. Some info here, although I hope more detail will be posted up to the site soon.

Basically, the aim of the project is to improve access to the river to make it more of a feature of the park, rather than hiding it behind railings. The plans I saw today included adding a second channel to bring the river out across the section of the park nearest Ladywell Road, and incorporating a wildflower meadow and terracing. Difficult to explain without the pictures, but it sounded good.