Monday, January 22, 2007

Round-up of green blogs

Quick round-up of a few green blog posts that have caught my attention in the past few days:

Interesting post about CRAGS (carbon reduction action groups) on Ruscombe Green, including the onetonners, who are, as the name suggests, trying to cut down their carbon emissions to one tonne/year. Haven't heard of any CRAG in Lewisham as yet, anyone know of one? Sian shares her republican thoughts on royal 'green' Prince Charles and his globe-trotting on Green Berry. Scott on Coventry Green Voice discusses David Cameron and the EU Social Chapter, while Molly on the excellent Gaian Economics asks "Is it all worth it for 2 weeks in the sun?". Finally, over on Croydon Greens Shasha has strawberries in his front garden and is highlighting disparities in recycling collection in different parts of the borough, while also seeing how many Green Party bigwigs he can get photographed with during his by-election campaign ;).

Ladywell Fields Project: Public Meeting

Thursday 1st February, 7pm, St Mary's Centre, Ladywell Road.
You may be aware that a planning application is currently being considered for landscape improvements to the North Field of Ladywell Fields which falls on the boundary between the Lewisham Central and Ladywell wards. This is part of the EU funded Quercus project. The scheme includes proposals for a larger entrance area, terraced lawn, improved pedestrian access to Ladywell Station, creation of a secondary river channel, incorporating bridges, street furniture and associated signage. However, a particular concern of some local residents has been the proposed removal of 68 trees in connection with the works. Due to the degree of local interest, in line with Council policy, planning officers have arranged for a local meeting to take place on the evening of 1st February between 7 and 8.30pm at the St. Mary's Centre, Ladywell Road. A summary of the issues raised at the local meeting will be included in the planning officers' report to the Planning Committee.

Lewisham Peace Council Inaugural Meeting

The inaugural meeting of Lewisham Peace Council is taking place this Thursday (25th January), 7.3opm at Lewisham Town Hall, Catford . All welcome. If you are unable to attend but have suggestions or comments please contact Lewisham CND.

Agenda includes introduction by Chair of Lewisham United Nations Association, a short speech from the Young Mayor of Lewisham (to be confirmed), Bromley Peace Council experiences (Anne Garrett),
working groups and objectives for the first year, constitution discussion, including proposed dates for next meetings, concluding summary by Chair of the inaugural meeting, food and drink in the foyer, songs from the Strawberry Thieves and street theatre performance ‘Bethlehem’

Education in Lewisham Public Meeting

A quick plug for another public meeting:
Education in Lewisham
29th January, 7.30pm
Catford Broadway Theatre (small theatre)
Organised by Lewisham NUT, among others, the meeting has been called to discuss a number of education issues in the borough, including the proposals to merge Monson with Haberdashers', the new school at Lewisham Bridge and the proposed changes to special educational needs provision.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sustainable Communities Bill

I'm delighted that the Sustainable Communities Bill has this week got through its second reading in the House of Commons and will now go to committee stage. This bill, which local (Catford) campaigner Ron Bailey has been the driving force behind for a number of years and which the New Economics Foundation, Unlock Democracy and the Green Party, amongst others, have long supported, was first introduced to parliament back in 2003, but has always run out of time. This time it has been introduced as a private members' bill by Tory MP Nick Hurd who topped the private members' ballot. It also has the backing of the Conservative Party and the Lib Dems, along with many Labour back-benchers (including I believe Joan Ruddock, but I'm not 100% certain on that).

So what will the bill do? For a more detailed explanation take a look at the local works website, but in brief it is designed to give local communities more say over what happens in their area and to allow a more bottom-up rather than top-down approach to tackling local social, environmental and economic issues. For example if a plan to build a supermarket in the area was controversial, there could be a local referendum on it. One of the bill's key aims is to reverse the 'Ghost Town Britain' situation in which local shops, post offices and other services are closing and to instead promote local sustainability and help to create thriving local high streets.

I organised a meeting with the New Economics Foundation on this a few years back at Goldsmiths. Charles Secrett (former director of Friends of the Earth) and Jenny Jones (Green London assembly member) were among the speakers, along with Ron, if I remember correctly. Anyway, it's great that (fingers crossed) the bill may finally be getting somewhere. Another local blogger Do Something Extra, who I came across via Andrew Brown's blog has also blogged about this.

I've probably used way too much jargon there to explain something which is in essence about practical, common sense ways of reversing the decline in local communities, but in short I think it's a great bill and I hope it gets through committee stage without too much dilution and well done Ron!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New School Consultation - my response

1. Do you agree that the new school should be moved from the Ladywell Leisure Centre Site to the Lewisham Bridge Primary School site?
Yes. I don't think the Lewisham Bridge Site is ideal, but it is far better than the leisure centre - not right on the junction of a very busy road, no loss of swimming facilities for 3 years, site is slightly bigger than the leisure centre site and marginally closer to the north of the borough. However, I have my reservations about whether there is space for both primary and secondary provision on the site.
2.Do you agree that the new secondary school should incorporate one form of entry from Lewisham Bridge Primary School?
Possibly. I believe the case for a 3-16 form school has yet to me made. I am not entirely against it, but neither have I been convinced that the decision is based on educational, rather than economic grounds. We have not been given sufficient information to make an informed decision on this.
3. Do you have any comments on the proposed federation outlined in this paper?
Yes, I am not convinced that a hard federation is the best option. I think the idea of a federation with Crofton School and Prendergast is a good one, but I would prefer a soft federation, which while retaining close links between the schools doesn't have one shared governing body, which I fear would result in a less accountable and more pressured governing body, with looser ties with teaching staff, PTAs and pupils.
Other comments
I would like to make sure the Mayor and cabinet are fully aware of the considerable concerns of parents of pupils at Lewisham Bridge, many of whom are residents in my ward (Ladywell). They require considerably more information and consultation and every effort needs to be made to recognise and preserve the thriving community their school is. Lewisham Bridge Primary School should not simply be swallowed up into one school, but should be allowed to retain its identity in some form.
What is the evidence which assures officers that reducing Lewisham Bridge Primary School down to one-form entry will not lead to a shortage of primary places in the area, given the considerable number of new homes being built. How will this impact on other schools near-by, such as Gordonbrock Primary School, which currently has an awkward-sized two and a half form entry and would like to drop to two-form entry?
It is difficult to visualise how the planned 3-16 school will fit on the site, with separate entrances for the 2 schools and still have sufficient outside play space. We really need to be consulted further if/when more detailed plans are available. Lewisham Bridge has invested heavily in ensuring its pupils have a good quality outdoor play area, with a variety of play equipment and a wildlife garden. It is important to try and incorporate as many of these elements as possible into the new school.
I am concerned that this school will be hemmed in on every side by railway, road or housing, with no potential to expand at a later date. I would like the council to give serious consideration to allocating the land which is currently Porsons Court to the school. This could potentially give space either for 2 separate schools, or for a larger than 4-form secondary school.
I am not convinced that a 4-form entry school will be sufficient to meet the need for secondary school places in this part of the borough, or be big enough to allow a broad range of subjects, eg a range of modern languages and science subjects. Further information on this required please.
Parents and residents need further reassurance about how the wide age ranges will peacefully co-exist on one site. In particular, they are concerned about the risk of bullying of younger children by older pupils.
Please provide further information about the planned sports provision for this school, and how this will tie-in with the proposals for the new leisure centre near by. Will there be a sports hall with facilities open to the local community out of school hours?
It is crucial that this school, if built, is a beacon of sustainability, with significant on-site renewable energy generation, water-recyling, the highest standards of insulation, brown/green roofs where possible, on-site composting of food waste etc. It is also essential that good provision is incorporated for pupils cycling to school (covered, secure bike racks, safe routes to school by foot/on bike clearly established). Residents living in the area have considerable concerns about the extra traffic that may be generated by the school, in addition to the extensive regeneration projects planned nearby. These concerns need to be addressed.
Finally, I would like to note my objection in principle to PFI as a means to fund public services. Private companies should not be making money out of our schools and we are building up a huge debt that local council taxpayers will be repaying for many years to come.

Monday, January 15, 2007

M&S ups the green ante

Very encouraging news from M&S today that they are planning to go carbon neutral. See here and here. Even allowing for a considerable dose of greenwash, if they do all the things they are promising, and in turn prompt other companies to follow suit, it's a step in the right direction, and more than what the government seems currently able to muster. Among the things they are aiming for in their 5-year, 100 point eco plan:

  • more local and regional sourcing of food and source as much possible from the UK & Ireland to reduce air freight (no more year-round strawberries and avocados then?!).
  • polyester clothing to be made from recycled plastic bottles rather than oil.
  • transporting more goods by freight train.
  • millions more garments made from fairtrade cotton.
  • all stores and warehouses to use renewable energy sources.
  • no waste will go to landfill.
And unlike Tony Blair, they seem to understand that carbon offsetting is the last resort rather than a solution to climate change.
Tescopoly et al take note!

Will I shop there more? Probably not, I'll still get my veg from a local organic veg box scheme and other stuff from a local independent store that sells fairtrade, organic stuff (Sheel Pharmacy on Lewisham Hill, in case you're wondering), but I may be more tempted to try M&S when I need clothes.

Silver foil can go in green bin/box too

Not sure if this is a recent development, or if I'm the only one who didn't already know this, but having read a briefing for councillors on recycling provision in the borough, I now know that (clean) silver foil and foil trays can go in the recycling bin. Hurray! As if I needed another excuse to have take-aways from Ladywell Tandoori! Always wondered why aluminium cans could be recycled but not aluminium foil trays. All the trays I'd been dutifully saving in my cellar for next time I went to my Mum's (who lives in Worcester where they have recycled foil for ages) went in the green wheelie bin on Thursday. Dread to think what recycling collectors thought when they emptied the bin.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bring Back Democracy Public Meeting Monday 15th January

The Bring Back Democracy campaign are holding a public meeting on Monday 15th January at 8pm at Ladywell Pool. The aim of the campaign is to get a referendum to change back from the directly elected mayoral system of local government to the option of a Leader and Cabinet elected from and by the councillors. The campaign is supported by all the opposition parties and a number of Labour Party members.

The meeting will be chaired by Louise Irvine, chair of the New School Campaign, and addressed by John Hamilton and Nick Ingham, the Secretary and Chair of the Bring Back Democracy campaign. Also on the platform will be a representative of each of the parties involved, including a member of the Labour party. Questions from the audience will be invited and the party representatives will have a chance to respond to these.

The meeting is scheduled to last for about an hour.

Hope to see you there.

PS: Just seen that Dean has posted on this in much more detail than me.

Meeting on New School Proposal

Attended the public consultation meeting at Lewisham Bridge Primary School last Wednesday about the new school proposals. The meeting was packed out and it's fair to say that the majority of people there had considerable concerns about the plans to build a secondary school at Lewisham Bridge. Lots of Lewisham Bridge Primary School pupils and staff, along with local residents, New School Campaigners and a number of councillors. No Mayor or Cabinet member for education there as it clashed with a Mayor & Cabinet meeting.

Some of the worries people raised were about space (is the site big enough), fear of primary children being bullied by older kids, lack of evidence of any benefit of a 3-16 through school over seperate primary and secondary schools, concern that there would be a shortage of primary school places in the area if Lewisham Bridge primary dropped to one form entry, concern that a four form entry secondary school isn't big enough and will be limited in the range of subjects it could provide, concern that the school would be hemmed in with no room to expand (could adjacent land earmarked for new housing be incorporated into the school site?), parking worries, reduction in playground space, opposition to the proposed PFI funding, opposition to the proposals for a hard federation with Crofton School and Prendergast School.

I think part of the problem is that it's very difficult to visualise how this school will work and what it will look like at this early stage, without any drawings. It'll be one school, but needs to have seperate entrances and play spaces for the different age groups. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but my gut feeling is that this is still a better plan than a secondary at Ladywell Leisure Centre.

I share residents' concerns over the PFI funding of the school, as I do over the PFI funding for all the decent homes work in the area, the new building at the hospital, even the proposed new street lighting for the borough is being financed by PFI. We are borrowing huge amounts of money that will be being repaid at extra cost through our council tax over the next 25 years or more. Green Party national policy is firmly against PFI. That said, we're not in government and if the choice we are given in this case is a PFI school or no school, I might have to cross my fingers and reluctantly accept the PFI school.

I also share residents concerns over the hard federation and will be expressing this in my response to the consultation (deadline for responses is tomorrow, 15th January). I can see the benefits of schools collaborating closely, but don't see the advantages of having a chief executive and only one governing body in charge of 3-4 schools . It seems less accountable to me and risks leaving parents, PTAs and staff feeling disenfranchised.

Anyway, whatever your views, make them known.

Great response to locality fund

Mike, Ute and I met up this afternoon to go through the suggestions we've received from residents for the £10,000 locality ward fund (see earlier posts here and here). We received lots of excellent proposals and could easily have spent the money ten times over. Thank you to everyone who got in touch. We have provisionally decided how we would like to allocate the money, but need to get more exact costings before we can confirm anything. We are also looking into how some of the other ideas could potentially be funded/developed and following up on casework that has emerged from the process.

For your information, here are the suggestions we were sent (in no particular order):

Playground equipment for Gordonbrock Primary School, bat and bird boxes for Hilly Fields, Christmas tree on corner Algernon Rd/Ladywell Rd again next year, brighter street lighting in Malyons Terrace/Malyons Rd, hanging baskets, zebra crossing on Algernon Rd at junction with Ladywell Rd, pool tables for Crofton Baptist Church youth club, resurfacing pavement on lower part of Tressillian Rd, IT suite open to local community, extending opening hours of Brockley cemetery and promoting its use as a green space, health events aimed specifically at young people, additional Christmas lighting by shops on Algernon Rd, a bench by the post office on Algernon Rd, resurfacing of unused tarmaced area on Viney Rd and provision of basketball hoops for young people, Christmas lights and planters/hanging basket on Loampit Vale and Loampit Hill, playground equipment for Dressington Avenue, funding a Brockley Max closing night concert on Hilly Fields.


I'm back! Actually, I've been back since January 3rd, but was busy for a few days then went down with the awful chesty cold and cough that is doing the rounds at the moment. Finally on the mend.

Spent 10 days in Barcelona over Christmas and New Year, visiting Nigel, my partner, who splits his time between Barcelona and London. Enjoyed the nice sunny weather, fresh sea air and cheap organic wine. It was the hottest December in Barcelona in 30 years, apparently, and while I was there temperatures averaged about 15 degrees Nice, but worrying. Also worrying that my non-frost hardy plants from the Scilly Isles that I forgot to cover with fleece/put in mini-greenhouse before I went away, I still fine as there has been little or no frost to speak of here.

Before I get bombarded with comments about my carbon emissions etc, I should add that I travelled there by train, which was remarkably easy and stress-free (Eurostar to Paris, then a sleeper train from Paris to Barcelona). It costs a bit more than the plane, but wouldn't do if the aviation industry was made to pay for the pollution it produces. Having read Friday's Metro, I can see I'm not the only one switching. Ute always gets the train when she goes home to Germany. Thankfully not everyone is following Blair's 'bury head in sand and fly as much as I like philosophy.'

Loads of cyclists, skateboarders, roller-bladers and pedestrians in Barcelona. They have the advantage of having wide roads and pavements, with plenty of space for cycle lanes on the pavement. The other thing I like is that there are lots of small independently-run shops - supermarkets don't seem to dominate. They also seem to be investing in markets - the local market was being rebuilt and enlarged and the new building had solar panels across the roof (see picture). Didn't see a huge number of solar panels, considering the potential, but there is a huge solar panel 'art installation' near the beach.
Eating out as a veggie can be a bit of a challenge in Barcelona, unless you go specifically to a vegetarian place, or you're happy to eat cheese baguettes, Spanish omelettes or chips all the time, but I would whole-heartedly recommend Juicy Jones for excellent juices and vegan snacks, Biocenter (amazing value veggie place) and Maoz falafel bars (apparently there are 2 of these in Soho now too).

OK, nuff said about hols, which already seem distant, back to business . . .