Thursday, January 31, 2008

Alternatives to Individual Car Use

Over the past few months, Lewisham's Sustainable Development Committee, which I chair, has been conducting a scrutiny on 'alternatives to individual car use'. We've looked at existing schemes within Lewisham to promote walking and cycling and encourage people to use their cars less (eg the existing free cycle training for adults and children, the Lewisham Walking Festival), and heard from expert witnesses (Living Streets, Lewisham Cyclists, TfL, Streetcar and Council transport officers) about best practice elsewhere in London.

Last week we agreed recommendations, in a report which will be going to Mayor & Cabinet in a couple of weeks. Our recommendations included expanding and more widely-promoting the free cycle training for adults and children, extending 20 mph speed limits to all residential roads where practicable, and bidding for extra funding to complete, improve and promote existing cycle routes such as the Waterlink Way (there is some concern from Lewisham Cyclists that TfL have decided to withdraw the funding needed to complete the remaining sections of the Waterlink Way route, including the section from Wearside to Ladywell Fields, and Ladywell Bridge).

We were also keen to see the continued expansion of car clubs in the borough, as research has shown that for every car club car, as many as 20 private cars are taken off the road (or not bought). Incidentally, residents in Marsala Road, Ellerdale Road and Algernon Road might be interested to hear that a new car club car will soon be located on Elmira Street.

The full report is available online, but in brief other recommendations include:

  • The extension of car club provision in new housing developments of more than 30 homes
  • Promoting Workplace Travel Plans for local employers and their employees
  • Working with employers to encourage them to achieve substantial reductions in car use through workplace travel plans
  • The provision of shower facilities for cyclists in planning applications for new businesses
    Promotion of ‘Cycle to Work’ schemes that loan bikes to employees
  • More provision of more cycle racks at health centres, shopping centres and arcades
  • More active promotion of off-road cycle routes in Lewisham, e.g., LCN 21 and Waterlink Way

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Greening my home dilemma 1

I posted at the beginning of the month about the London Green Homes Concierge Service doing an energy survey of my flat. Since then they have been finding out more info for me, arranging quotes etc. Today someone from a sash window company came to give me quotes for renovating/draught-proofing/replacing my windows. I was expecting the quote to be v high, and indeed it was. While my front bay windows, which are the original 1900 wooden sash windows are in surprisingly good nick, and could be either just draught-proofed or retrofitted with double glazing without replacing the whole thing, my bedroom and back room French windows and sash windows are rotting and need replacing. The guy who did the quote seemed pretty thorough and knowledgeable.

However, I hadn't quite expected his answer when I asked about where the wood was sourced from. I had expected/hoped him to say 'it's all FSC certified'. How wrong I was. Apparently they use a wood called utile, which is similar to mahoghany and he said it comes from South America (although when I looked it up in the Good Wood Guide it said it comes from West Africa). They said they go to 'extensive lengths' to ensure it is sustainably procured, but I would like a bit more proof.

He also said the reason they couldn't use UK-sourced wood was because China is buying up all the British oak for their construction projects so they buy from South America. He said they could get French Oak, but it would cost 8-10% more. I think the world economy has gone mad when it's cheaper for us to get tropical hardwood from South America/Africa than to get oak from within the UK. So now I have something of a dilemma - I want to do the green thing and a) improve the energy efficiency of my home and b) get wooden rather than UPVC windows, but I don't want to use wood that has been unsustainably sourced. I'll get at least one more quote before making a decision, but meanwhile does anyone know of a reputable company that does double-glazed wooden sash windows made of FSC-certified wood?!

It isn't as easy as it should be being green . . .

Roads due to be resurfaced

Highways have sent councillors a list of streets due to be resurfaced by the end of April. The ones in Ladywell ward are:

St Margarets Rd
Vicar's Hill (Reconstruction o/s No. 7 to o/s No. 48) - I assume that means the bit of Vicar's Hill that has been slowly subsiding over the years, in which case that's good news.

In Brockley ward, Alpha, Avon, Deloraine, Heald and Heston are down for resurfacing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ladywell Fields Kids Club Restarting in March

Very pleased to hear from Nick Harvey, the Waterlink Way officer, that the Ladywell Fields Kids Club, which started last year, before being temporarily stopped due to the river channel in the park being diverted, is restarting.
The first club will be on Saturday March 15th from 10 till 12 and then the 3rd Saturday in the month from there on in.
Nick says:

"Each month we will have different activities based around the environment with the main aim being having fun in the park. The club is aimed at children aged 6 to 13 and it is based in the Environmental Education Classroom located in the Northern Field off Ladywell Road
Link for Map showing the location of the classroom.
If you have any children that you think would be interested in coming along, please let me know via email or phone giving me the child's name and age, we charge a nominal fee of 50p a child to help with the cost of materials.

The Club is only possible with the help of volunteers who help run it. So I would be very grateful to anyone who could give some time in helping to run the club, this help can be through actually helping on the day through to suggesting activities/game for the Club. Please contact me on
0208 3142172 or e-mail if you think you maybe able to help."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shop Local in Ladywell Bags

Thanks to all those who entered the competition to design a logo for a 'Shop local in Ladywell bag'. I've received over 40 entries, including some lovely ones from pupils at Gordonbrock Primary School. I'm hopefully meeting with an officer from the Council's communications team this week to look through the designs and decide which one to use and will post the winning design here in due course!

Mike loves Lewisham!

Well done to fellow Ladywell councillor Mike Keogh, who reported more graffiti and fly tips via the Love Lewisham site last year than all of Lewisham's other politicians put together, according to the response to a question Ute asked at Full Council. Of all the graffiti/fly-tipping reports sent in by councillors to the site in 2007, 772 reports - or 74% of the total - came from Ladywell ward, and more than half of the total came from Mike, who also sometimes scrubs off and clears up some minor tags himself. This doesn't include the reports made by e-mail or telephone direct to Envirocall or an officer, which of course many councillors also do.

"Question asked by Councillor Michel of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services at the January 23rd Council Meeting:
How many environmental issues in Ladywell ward have been reported via ‘Love Lewisham’ in 2007 (or since the beginning of the financial year 2007/08, whichever is the reporting period)? How many of these have been reported by ward councillors, and how many of the total have been resolved?

Information reported through ‘Love Lewisham’ is not currently stored against Lewisham electoral wards. However in 2007:
Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Teams have made 54 reports to ‘Love Lewisham’ (6.4% of the SNT reports to Love Lewisham)
Ladywell ward members made 772 reports (74% of all reports from Members to Love Lewisham)
We are unable to produce information about resolved issues on a ward basis, although progress can be viewed on the Love Lewisham site for each reported job.
I would like to personally thank Cllr Keogh who is responsible for most of the reports. This is a really good example of how Councillors can work together positively with officers to improve the local environment."

Very nice of Cllr Susan Wise to say that. I also report fly-tipping and graffiti I see in the area, but not at anything the rate Mike does. On the whole, I think the Council is pretty quick to clear up graffiti and fly-tipping from public areas, once reported, but there are a couple of areas where we have ongoing problems (eg the garages at the end of Malyons Road, Mercy Terrace, the alleyway behind the shops on Brockley Road etc) where it's private land and enforcement action against the owners can take longer.

(Amended slightly on 29/01/08 to reflect the fact that lovelewisham is not the only way councillors can report graffiti, and that some report graffiti directly to officers by phone or e-mail, having received an e-mail to that effect from Lib Dem Cllr Mark Morris!)

January Questions to Mayor & Cabinet

Below are the questions I submitted to Mayor & Cabinet for last Wednesday's Full Council meeting. Unfortunately we ran out of time to ask supplementary questions, but if I'd had the opportunity I would have asked the deputy mayor why she feels no need to submit a formal response to the Heathrow Consultation, given that the impact of an increase in aviation would not only increase air and noise pollution for Lewisham residents but also negate any reductions in carbon emissions that Lewisham Council manages to achieve.

Will Lewisham Council be submitting a formal response to the public consultation on Heathrow airport expansion, given the likely negative impact on Lewisham residents' quality of life from additional noise and air pollution?

The council does not intend to submit a formal response to the public consultation on adding capacity at Heathrow.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
How successful have the Tetrapak recycling banks been since their installation last year, approximately how many tonnes of waste have been diverted from the incinerator as a result, and are there any plans to expand the scheme by increasing the number of such recycling banks in the borough?

The Tetrapak bins have proved popular with residents. During the period from their installation in August to November, 584.75kg of Tetrapaks have been collected. The figure has increased steadily each month throughout this period from 33kg in August to 220kg in November.

The five Tetrapak recycling bins are provided by Bywaters Waste Management on behalf of Tetrapak UK. Five bins were allocated to each of the London Boroughs, and there are no plans for Tetrapak to increase this in the near future.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Please clarify how residents should safely dispose of low-energy light bulbs, batteries and waste electrical equipment? How many collection points for these items do we have in the borough and how does this compare with neighbouring Greenwich?

Greenwich has introduced bring sites to dispose of Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in addition to their Reuse & Recycling Centre. However, since the new WEEE regulations came into force last year, it is the manufacturers of electrical items that have a responsibility to properly dispose of them. Some stores offer a take-back service. If this is not available, Lewisham Council has registered as a Designated Collection Facility to enable residents to take their WEEE items, which include light bulbs, to the Reuse & Recycling Centre. Bulky items can be collected by the council at a cost of £15 for three items or £30 for fridges / freezers. Batteries can also be safely disposed of at any Sainsbury’s store, where people can ask for a battery disposal bag at the customer services desk.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Recent casework of mine has uncovered the fact that the council is currently working to a policy of not repairing broken benches but instead replacing them entirely even where a simple repair would safely restore it to use. Does the Deputy Mayor agree that, as we are supposed to be moving to a low-carbon, low-waste, resource-efficient economy, this is a waste of council resources and runs completely counter to the 'reduce, re-use, recycle' hierarchy that the council urges residents to adopt? How will she spread the 'reduce, reuse' culture through all council departments with responsibility for maintenance?"

I understand that this relates specifically to the occasional street bench where the cost of the repair is in excess of the replacement costs. Officers are aware that this is not an ideal situation and are currently trying to engage a local organisation that may be able to carry out repair more cost effectively than the Council’s larger contractors.

As regards ensuring that all Council Departments are aware of their environmental responsibilities, all services are required to regularly demonstrate how they are improving their environmental performance as part of the council’s annual service planning process.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Big Garden Birdwatch 27-28 January

In case you're interested, the RSPB's annual garden birdwatch is coming up next weekend.
From the RSPB's website:

"Calling all armchair scientists
You really don't need to be an expert to take part. Whether you're young or old, an 'expert' or a beginner, there really is no better place to start than the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch
By joining hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and counting the birds in your garden, you really are helping to save wild birds.
Spend an hour spying on your bird neighbours over the weekend of 26-27 January 2008, and help us discover who is top of the pecking order in UK gardens."

In the past I've had goldfinches, greenfinches, robins, wrens, blackbirds, starlings, blue tits and the ubiquitous pigions, wood pigeons and magpies in my back garden, but I've never seen any sparrows. Maybe they just don't like being sandwiched between 2 busy roads on Ladywell Road and Adelaide Avenue, but there are dozens around Vicar's Hill and Cliffview Road. I've recently planted a few native hedge plants like hawthorn to try and encourage a few more birds, will see if it helps.

Going Local

I've just added a new link to my Brockley/Ladywell blogroll - Going Local is a new blog by Brockley resident Tom charting his 'adventure in localism' as he attempts to start shopping and living more locally, inspired in part by having read Tescopoly by Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation.

Forthcoming Events at Moonbow Jakes

John from Moonbow Jakes sent me an e-mail with details of their January events, details below, FYI:

22nd Tuesday - Orchard Hill
Orchard Hill is one of South East London's hottest new indi prospects - come and see what all the fuss in about
24th Thursday - Meet the Artist: Photographer Phil Green
Bill will be around from 6pm to talk about his work and influences of his latest photographic work on Images of London - see flyers for more information
28th Monday - Bring Your Favourite Poem for Open Mic
Poetry Evening introduced by Peter Searls
Published poets John Clarke and James McConalogue will read selected poems from their new books plus music and stories from Augusto Monk and an opportunity for poets of all experience to read their favourite poem or poems.
29th Tuesday - Cuban Jazz Orchestra
What came before Samba and Rumba? Find out on this truly wonderful evening.

For further details see Moonbow Jakes website.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Decent Homes work starting soon in Ladywell

I've received an e-mail today to say that B3 will be starting refurbishment works on council homes in zone b of the Brockley PFI area in the next few weeks, which covers about a third of Ladywell ward, from Somerset Gardens, Elswick Road and Sunninghill Road, down to Malyons Road (so including Viney Road, Nuding Close, the blocks on Brookbank, Ermine and Embleton and any other council properties in that area). Zone A (the northern bit of Brockley along Shardeloes and Barriedale) is nearing completion, and the contractors appear to be running slightly ahead of schedule. Council tenants and leaseholders in zone b should all have received information about the refurbishment programme and will be getting an invitation in the next few days to see a 'show flat' in the area, which has been brought up to decent homes standard.

The properties in the conservation area are next up, in zone c, followed by the roads off Brockley Road from the cemeteries to St Andrews (zone d - Braxfield, Arabin etc) and lastly zone e, which comprises Foxborough Gardens, Dressington Avenue and all the Elsiemaud, Amyruth etc streets.

Just to reiterate, I'm no fan of PFI as a way of funding public services or council housing, but I'm glad that housing in the area is going to be improved.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Community Action Group in Ladywell

On Thursday I had an informal meeting in Masons with a group of local residents concerned about the state of Ladywell Road. A number of people have expressed concern over the past few months (and years) about the number of empty shops along Ladywell Road, the range of shops, the state of the pavement, the unsightly railings and various highways and safety issues. Things have got markedly worse recently since the only shop selling fruit and vegetables on the road has closed, and there is a potential threat of the Post Office being closed too.

I organised Thursday's meeting to bring together people who had expressed concern, but also enthusiasm to do something about it. Anyway, I was delighted that 10 people attended who are all keen to get involved and do something to improve the situation along Ladywell Road. Des Kirkland from Brockley Cross Action Group also came along and provided an insight to what BCAG have done and how they got started, which was much appreciated.

Outcomes from the meeting, in brief:

  • We have agreed to form a group to work for improvements to Ladywell Road, kind of Ladywell's answer to Brockley Cross Action Group.
  • A survey is being put together, to gather views from local people on the shops and facilities along Ladywell Road, and what they would like to see.
  • A provisional date for a public meeting to formally launch the group and agree a plan of action has been set for Thursday 13th March, 7.30pm. Venue will hopefully be St Mary's Centre, but that's to be confirmed.
  • We haven't decided on a name yet, though suggestions so far include Ladywell Road Action Group (LRAG), Ladywell Action Group (LAG), Friends of Ladywell Road Shops (FOLRS), SOLVE (Stakeholders for Ladywell Village Enhancement), BLAG (Better Ladywell Action Group) or the 'We want a deli too, Brockley can't have them all' group. Any thoughts on these, or another name?
  • An e-mail group has been set up; to join the group, e-mail with your name and street name (to avoid spammers). You will then be forwarded the minutes of the meeting.
  • A Facebook group has been set up; join it here.
  • A website I've been cyber-squatting, is hopefully going to be brought into use to promote the group, but by someone with better website designing skills than me!
  • The group is keen to complement, rather than compete with existing groups such as Ladywell Society and to involve local businesses as much as possible.
  • Hopefully, among other things, the new group, along with local shops, will help sell and promote the Shop Local in Ladywell bags, which should be ready in a couple of months.

I left the meeting feeling very encouraged by the level of enthusiasm and determination among local people to do something to improve the area. I will of course continue my efforts to get action at a Council level to bring the empty shops back into use, for highways improvements etc, but sometimes it is much easier as a councillor to be able to show you are representing the views of a local group, not just your own pet concerns.

Finally, a reminder that any designs for the Shop Local in Ladywell bag should be submitted by Friday 18th January to or posted to Cllr Sue Luxton, c/o Governance Support, Lewisham Town Hall, Catford, SE6 4RU.

Funding for activities in Ladywell

Lewisham Council’s Localities Fund scheme provides each ward with £10,000 each year for projects that involve and strengthen the local community and make a visible and lasting difference to the area.

We received over 30 ideas from local residents; after further consultation the following proposals were submitted to the Council for final approval:

· Setting up a youth club/sustainable youth project in the Slagrove Place area (£3,000) – this co-funding will enable Slagrove Partnership to build on their very successful summer scheme last year and develop activities from a more permanent base.

· Purchase and set-up of a table tennis table on Hilly Fields (£2,150) – an initiative by Hilly Fields User Group with support from Glendale.

· Streetscape improvements for Brockley Road (£2,000) – for various reasons the area opposite St Andrew’s Centre has become an eyesore and a blight for the entire shopping parade and surrounding area. Different partners need to be brought together to turn this around and implement durable improvements.

· Annual maintenance for the 8 street planters (6 along Loampit Hill, 2 on the corner of Algernon Road with Ladywell Road, £1,200) bought with last year’s Localities Fund money – following feedback from residents local social enterprise Envirowork Lewisham, who provided the planters last year, is going to use more colourful blooming plants this year. The reason for the choice of plants last year was that they are more resilient in periods of drought.

· 2 notice boards for Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries (co-funding of £1,000) – local group Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries aims to improve access and use of the cemeteries by the local community as a public space. The notice boards will provide information about wildlife.

· Summer Fayre on Ladywell Fields (Dressington Avenue area - £300) – initiated by users and staff of Ladywell Day Centre, a community event is being planned for the summer.

· Toys and equipment for Rainbow Drop In (contribution of £200) – this very popular community parents and carers, toddler and baby group at Crofton Park Baptist Church needs to replace their toys and equipment after years of use.

· Equipment for football training on Hilly Fields (contribution of £150) – Brockley County FC run very popular football training classes for younger children and teenagers every Saturday.

The Christmas tree in Ladywell village (£500 including set-up and lighting) has so far been paid for from the previous year’s Localities Fund. Because of new timeframes and procedures it is no longer necessary to plan ahead for it like this.

From the next financial year (2008/09) onwards decisions about the Localities Fund will be made by the new neighbourhood/ward assemblies which are going to be set up in spring.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One betting licence appeal withdrawn

I've finally got myself sorted and become a contributor to the Green Ladywell blog so that I can report directly on the issues I'm working on as Sue's fellow councillor for Ladywell ward (I'm a less prolific writer, though, so don't expect a similar output).

What better start than a piece of good news: the Crown Court appeal against the Magistrates' Court decision in September to turn down the application for a betting licence for the former Homeview video shop at 329-331 Brockley Road has been withdrawn!

Having supported the campaign by local residents to oppose the betting shop from the beginning a year ago, I am of course very pleased with yet another intermediate success for the local community. Three out of four possibilities for the applicants to obtain a licence (2 applications and 2 appeals) are now gone. This leaves the second appeal (to the Magistrates' Court) against the Council's decision to turn down the second application made under new legislation. The date for this hearing is going to be decided at the end of January.

The appeal against a decision by Haringey Council to turn down a betting application on very similar grounds is going to be heard in late February. The outcome of both is going to have implications not only for the local area that is affected, but is of national significance as these have been the first cases to be decided under the new Gambling Act (2005).

Just when you think you're getting somewhere . . .

On Tuesday I posted about a minor success I'd had getting an illegal advertising board removed from outside Brockley Kitchen. I may have spoken too soon. Yesterday I opened my councillor post to discover notification of a planning application for, yes, you've guess it, a "The retention of one double sided illuminated free standing advertisement display unit outside 258 Brockley Road SE4". Application details can be found on the Council's planning website. This isn't an application by Lloyd who runs Brockley Kitchen (who would like to use the space to have tables and chairs in the summer), but by the advertising company and his landlord.

Given that I have already expressed delight on the board's removal, I can't really claim to have an open mind on this for any future planning committee meeting it may come to, so I have decided to write in and object. The planning grounds I will be objecting on are loss of amenity and impact on an adjacent conservation area.

As I mentioned previously, that section of pavement along Brockley Road has a number of issues with excessive street clutter already, with a BT exchange box, a redundant post box, a number of commercial waste bins stored there, railings, illegal pavement parking etc. Any efforts we make as local councillors, with the town centre manager and the businesses along Brockley Road to get some improvements to this stretch of the street would only be undermined by having an ugly great advertising board stuck in the middle of the path.

I believe that this is an unnecessary piece of street clutter that will have a negative impact on the amenity of the area, and force pedestrians to weave their way around yet another obstacle in order to get past. Furthermore, it looks unsightly and out of place on the edge of a conservation area, and opposite St Andrew's Church, which I believe is a listed building.

Should anyone else wish to write an object to this application, objections should be received by Planning by 28th January and can either be e-mailed to or posted to Planning Service, Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London. SE6 4SW.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Questions to Mayor & Cabinet

Each month councillors (and for that matter any member of the public too) are allowed to submit questions to Mayor & Cabinet and to receive written responses at full council. There is then a fixed period of time within the meeting to ask supplementary questions. Below are the questions I asked at the November meeting (seems a long time ago now) and the responses I received, and underneath that, my questions for January's meeting. The Save Ladywell Pool campaign used the public questions to great effect and meetings have simply not been the same since Max Calo and friends stopped asking questions!

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
How many Victorian properties that come under the Brockley PFI contract but are outside of Brockley Conservation area are due to have their wooden sash windows ripped out and replaced with UPVC ones? Can you confirm that leaseholders have the right to get their own replacement wooden sash windows installed instead if they prefer (with notice to the authority's contractor 3 months prior to the Authority’s contractor commencing work on the leaseholder’s block)?
On a contractual basis, the information requested has not been required and would therefore, be difficult and time consuming to collect. However we have previously been asked to gather the same information for the area between the Brockley conservation area and the St Mary’s Conservation area.
We can advise that in the area between the Brockley and St Mary's conservation areas, there are 44 properties that are likely to have their sash windows replaced with UPVC.

The Authority does permit Leaseholders to carry out window replacement, at their own cost, should they wish to do this, but there are a number of conditions attached.
The leaseholder/s must firstly write to the Authority to request permission to carry out this work.
The leaseholder must give the Authority and the Authority’s contractor at least 3 months notice of his/her intent. (This is 3 months prior to the Authority’s contractor commencing work on the leaseholder’s block). This is to give the Authority’s contractor enough time to cancel any orders that it may have placed for the leaseholder’s windows and thus not incur additional costs, which may be passed to the leaseholder.
The Authority OR its contractor, will provide the Leaseholder with a window specification which the Leaseholder’s contractor will need to comply with. In addition to obtaining the Council’s permission as landlord, the leaseholder will also be required to obtain any consents (planning approval, building control etc) which may be necessary.
The leaseholder will then need to provide the Authority with written evidence that they have engaged in a contract with a window installer/ manufacturer, to carry out the window replacement. This is to ensure that the window replace will be carried out within a reasonable time and will not over run any other works being carried out to the building by the contractor.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Mayor
Would the Mayor consider making it a condition at next year's People's Day that traders use only compostable paper plates and cups and not polystyrene, to reduce the volume of non-recyclable waste created by the event? Such a condition has worked well at Glastonbury Festival, which is now a polystyrene free zone and recycles and composts a large proportion of the waste produced.
The Arts Service are working closely with Continental Drifts, the contracted production company for People’s Day, to explore solutions to the use of non-compostable catering supplies, and investigate the policies of similar community festivals and events in order to identify a set of standards for caterers and traders.
It has proved difficult to attract high quality catering concessions to a one day event with a perceived low income visitor demographic. People’s Day has worked over several years to develop relationships with many local catering providers and works hard to offer a culturally diverse range of food options.
Many of the catering providers have expressed concern over the financial and practical implication of sourcing specialist containers for this event alone. The Peoples Day Team is keen to continue to support local businesses and maintain the Council's longstanding relationships with traders, and to adopt a phased approach to introducing new guidelines.
With these factors in mind, in 2008 Peoples Day is likely to follow the model adopted by Southwark Council Events Team and buy corn starch or paper plates and cups to sell on to caterers for use at the event. This takes away the onus from catering providers to source suppliers. The Council will make it clear that it plans to enforce strict environmental guidelines in 2009, many other festival organisers will be doing the same so that it will be in the traders' commercial interest to use only environmentally friendly products.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Mayor
Would the Mayor consider following the example set by the Mayors of London and New York in providing tap water for staff and visitors, rather than bottled water, thus both saving money and eliminating the pollution and wasted energy in needlessly transporting the water?
The Council’s bottled water contract will end in June 2008. Works are being planned to coincide with the end of this contract to replace as much bottled water provision as possible with mains fed drinking water.
Encouragement will be given to all staff to use tap water wherever practicable however, given that it is a health and safety requirement to provide drinking water in the work place there will be a need to provide bottled water where it is impractical to provide an accessible mains fed drinking water outlet.
I will also ask officers to investigate both the financial and environmental impact of current and alternative arrangements such as those referred to and also the use of refillable bottles as at Local Government House and also the bottling of local tap water as is done in Ekurhuleni, our sister authority in South Africa

Questions for January Meeting:

1) Question for Mayor
Will Lewisham Council be submitting a formal response to the public consultation on Heathrow airport expansion, given the likely negative impact on Lewisham residents' quality of life from additional noise and air pollution?
2) Cabinet Member for Customer Services
How successful have the Tetrapak recycling banks been since their installation last year, approximately how many tonnes of waste have been diverted from the incinerator as a result, and are there any plans to expand the scheme by increasing the number of such recycling banks in the borough?
3) Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Could the cabinet member for customer services please clarify how residents should safely dispose of low-energy light bulbs, batteries and waste electrical equipment? How many collection points for these items do we have in the borough and how does this compare with neighbouring Greenwich?
4) Question to the Deputy Mayor
Recent casework of mine has uncovered the fact that the council is currently working to a policy of not repairing broken benches but instead replacing them entirely even where a simple repair would safely restore it to use. Does the Deputy Mayor agree that, as we are supposed to be moving to a low-carbon, low-waste, resource-efficient economy, this is a waste of council resources and runs completely counter to the 'reduce, re-use, recycle' hierarchy that the council urges residents to adopt? How will she spread the 'reduce, reuse' culture through all council departments with responsibility for maintenance?

Not quite with it - deadline for competition is the 18th, not the 11th!

In my earlier post, I mistakenly wrote that the closing date for the bag design competition was 11th Jan; I meant the 18th Jan, sorry! So still not much time, but a good week or so to get ideas together.

Two important consultations

Sometimes as a councillor (and probably to local residents too) it seems like there is an endless round of consultations to respond to. Well there are two at the moment that I think are particularly important, which Lewisham Green Group will definitely be submitting responses to and I encourage others to do likewise.

A Picture of Health
A consultation on possible changes to how NHS services in south-east London are organised started yesterday and runs until 7th April. Everyone who lives in Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley should be getting details through their door, or the consultation can be viewed online at: There are four possible scenarios being consulted on, which include among other things proposals to close the A&E and maternity facililities at Lewisham Hospital. Suffice to say that this is controversial and will, I suspect, be a big issue in the forthcoming elections in London (even though the NHS is not really within the GLA or Mayor of London's remit). This consultation pre-empts the final publication of the Darzi report on healthcare in London.

Heathrow Expansion
The Department for Transport are currently consulting on proposals to expand Heathrow Airport. Putting aside arguments about climate change, not destroying historic villages etc, any expansion in capacity is likely to lead to increased noise and air pollution across much of London, including in south-east London which is directly under some flight paths. I would urge anyone concerned about how this may impact on their quality of life to respond. The consultation can be found at
For Friends of the Earth's take on the expansion, see

Of course there was also the pseudo consultation on a new generation of nuclear power stations, but that was too shambolic for words, and I await the outcome of the next legal challenge by Greenpeace and other NGOs to that.

Oh, and there's also the planning bill currently going through parliament, which you may wish to lobby your MP about, as that will enable the government to force through major developments such as airports, nuclear power station and motorways. More info on the Friends of the Earth website:

2 Minor Successes

Possibly another contender for 'not the most exciting blog post in the world ever', but bear with me; anyone who has ever been a local councillor and experienced at first hand how excruciatingly slow a process it can sometimes be to get things done, may appreciate this.

Minor success Number One: New bench by bus stop at top of Adelaide Avenue!

We finally have a new bench by the bus stop at the top of Adelaide Avenue. First reported that the previous one was broken in the Summer of last year. Eventually got a response saying that it was going to be replaced. I queried why it had to be replaced and not simply repaired, but never got a response to that. I noticed when I cycled past today that it had finally been replaced. A good quality new bench, though arguably we need to be repairing things more, rather than automatically replacing broken things. Does look better quality than the previous one though. Sadly some silly so and so has already tagged it, but I've reported that to lovelewisham, so hopefully it will be cleaned off this week, along with yet more tagging on the bus shelter.

Minor Success Number Two - unauthorised advertising board in the middle of the pavement on Brockley Road finally removed!
I have been exchanging e-mails with council officers for some time about the state of the bit of Brockley Road opposite St Andrew's Church (where Brockley Kitchen is). There are horrendously bent, railings, lots of pot holes, lots of commerical refuse bins creating an eyesore, constant illegal on pavement parking in front of the barbers, an unauthorised advertising board in front of Brockley Kitchen and a disused post box that has been there since the post office closed years ago. Generally, the area has a feeling of neglect and excessive street clutter about it.

Anyway, after being told several times by officers that there was no unauthorised advertising hoarding and me insisting that there was and sending photographic evidence to prove it, the Council wrote to the advertising company and gave them 28 days to remove and it has finally gone. Lloyd from Brockley Kitchen is delighted and talking about being able to put some tables and chairs on his forecourt in the summer .

I'm still working on the other issues along there, but at least that's one thing ticked off the list. The railings are apparently going to be replaced (highways won't even consider removing them apparently), the pot hole may or may not be filled in (it's a slightly grey area whose land it is), the post box is apparently on Crackerjack's land (so I guess I need to take that up with Royal Mail directly) and parking are apparently clamping down on illegal parking on the pavement, although when I asked how many tickets had been issued, the answer came back 'none', so there is still room for improvement there.
We have allocated a small part of our localities fund for improvements to this bit of Brockley Road, but I'm still trying to get the things that should be done anyway sorted first, before we think about any frills.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Your designs wanted! Ladywell Bag Competition

OK, after a certain amount of negotiating, Ladywell is soon to get its own 'shop local in Ladywell' fairtrade organic cotton (or possibly jute) bags. There was some criticism of the design of the other shop local bags by commenters on this blog and elsewhere. We have taken that on board, and are going to have a competition for local residents to come up with the design to go on the side of the Ladywell bags!

We don't have a great deal of time to come up with a design, unfortunately, as the bags need to be ordered along with another batch in time for Fairtrade Fortnight, so I need designs by the end of next week, ie 18th January. Designs should be bold and clear and in no more than 3 colours and the words "Shop local in Ladywell" need to appear somewhere in the design.

So if you would like to see your design printed on 500 bags and become the must have accessory in Ladywell in 2008, get your felt tip pens out and creative juices flowing and please send your designs to me by the end of next week. E-mail: or post them to me c/o Governance Support, Lewisham Town Hall, Catford, SE6 4RU. Prize for winner: a free bag and lots of local kudos. There is no lower or upper age limit: entries from children and adults all welcome.

Bags will be on sale in local shops and hopefully will be sold by an about to be formed 'Ladywell Shops' group (more on this v soon)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Song Competition: Help Lewisham celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight

Lewisham Council are launching a song competition, open to all who live work or learn in the borough, about fairtrade issues. Win a day in a recording studio and the chance to perform at People's Day 2008. Email to register your interest by4 January 2008. Closing date 1 February 2008.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Putting my own house in order

As a Green councillor, clearly I talk green, and push for greener policies to be passed locally and nationally, but to what extent am I actually practising what I preach and living a green lifestyle? I do the easy things (use low energy light bulbs, recycle, compost, buy organic, local food as much as possible, walk, cycle, use public transport, don't own a car, avoid flying whenever possible etc etc), but today was the day I got to find out just how green my home is (or isn't as the case may be), as I had someone from the London Green Homes Concierge Service come and do a full audit of the energy efficiency of my flat and discuss ways of improving it.

The London Green Homes Concierge Service was launched with a flourish by Ken Livingstone and Brockley councillor and London Assembly member Darren Johnson at the beginning of December. It was one of the Green Group budget items that the Mayor agreed to in order to get the support of the Greens for his budget. You may remember that Lewisham was a pilot area for this scheme earlier on in the year. Since that pilot the scheme has evolved so that it isn't just a service providing an energy efficiency assessment of your home, but also a 'concierge' service that provides advice, arranges quotes and generally holds your hand for the next 12-months as you make the changes to improve your home and reduce your carbon emissions. I was going to sign up to the pilot scheme, but wasn't quite clear what I was getting for my money. The new scheme, now launched London-wide, seemed more comprehensive so I decided to give it a whirl. Being green shouldn't be difficult or a sacrifice, individuals need support to make changes, which is exactly what this particular scheme is about.

Anyway, two Green Homes officers turned up at my home, bang on time today and did a thorough assessment of the energy efficiency or otherwise of my home. Was easily impressed when one of them said he had done an energy audit of Ethical Man Justin Rowlatt's house (well they must be the experts, mustn't they?)! They did an assessment for an EPC (energy performance certificate, the thing that's part of the homesellers' packs), but also went much further than that, with thermal imaging, a blower thingy (technical term) to assess how draughty my flat was, using a smoke pen to show me how heat was escaping through my leaky sash windows etc. At one point the entrance to the flat looked like something from a crime scene/contamination zone as it was all covered over with this blower door thing to assess how airtight my home is.

After all that they sat down and went through their findings and suggestions with me. My flat scored slightly above national average on the EPC at 63/100, where the national average is about 55/100, but way below the 80/100 required by current building regs for a new-build house. This was mostly because as a ground floor terraced flat I don't lose any heat through a roof or through the walls shared with my neighbours. Also, the EPC doesn't take into account draughts, and as I was all too aware following the cold spell in December, my flat is very draughty.

Frighteningly, they assessed the carbon footprint of my 2-bed flat at 3.7 tonnes a year, way above what we need to get our total individual carbon footprints down to in this country to avoid runaway climate change (in my defence, this didn't take into account the fact that I have a green electricity supplier and assumed levels of gas use that may well be above what I actually use!). Then they suggested measures I could take to get this down to 2.2 tonnes and save 1.5 tonnes of carbon a year.

Interestingly, the number one thing I could do to improve my home insulation is to add wall insulation to my solid brick walls, either internally or externally. Jean was right! This apparently would reduce my carbon emissions by 20%. The nub of course is cost and the trade-off is between having internal wall insulation, which takes about 2 inches from the width of your room on each side it is installed, plus entails redecorating onto the insulated plasterboard, or external insulation, which would involve adding insulation and rendering to the outside of a Victorian property and may look unsightly, but apparently is slightly more effective. Something to ponder, and I will certainly do it as and when I redecorate areas, but not sure whether I am willing to get the whole lot done just yet, with all the upheaval that entails. They're getting me quotes anyway.

After that, the next big energy efficiency gains, but again at a big financial cost, were replacing the windows and getting underfloor insulation and sealing the gaps between the floorboards. The efficiency savings they proposed were based on triple-glazing, rather than double-glazing and I've agreed for them to get me some quotes as my windows are at the very least in need of renovation, if not replacement. I suspect that triple-glazed sash windows will be horrendously expensive, but it may be a sensible once in a lifetime investment. I'll see. I'm quite keen to get the underfloor insulation and to get the floorboards sealed, as my lovely stripped floors are very draughty, but I'm not keen for the insulation to become nesting material for all the local mice that occasionally venture into my flat, so will need a bit of reassurance on that front.

Replacing my boiler with a gas-condensing one would knock about 10% off my home's carbon emissions, but as my current boiler is only about 7 years old, I won't be forking out on that just yet. They also suggested replacing the radiator temperature controls with something a bit flashier involving zoning and room thermostats and again are getting me quotes on that. The other measure they sometimes suggest, such as solar hot-water, aren't options for a ground floor flat with no roof and a garden shaded by a huge London plane tree.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting the full report and finding out more and getting some quotes for some of the work, though if I have everything they suggested done it will be very expensive. In the meantime I have been filling in draughts in my windows with rolled up bits of old council meeting papers and am going to make a big sausage draught excluder to go in front of my cellar door. Greening my flat up and improving its energy efficiency is my big resolution for this year, watch this space for updates.

Rivoli Ballroom: Strictly no demolishing!

English Heritage have acted swiftly in response to local concern and given grade 2 listed status to the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park. As reported in local papers the current owners are looking to retire, and put the ballroom on the market. There were concerns that as the building was not protected and not in a conservation area, it could be demolished and turned into flats. The grade 2 status means that this can not now happen, which is great news. Let's hope a buyer is found who will manage to run the Rivoli as a viable business, with the ballroom preserved in its full glory. Full story on Brockley Central.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Changes to Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Team

Big changes within the Ladywell ward Safer Neighbourhood Team. Two of our three Ladywell community support officers (PCSOs), Graham Andrews and Ben Lewis, were both accepted onto training programmes to become PCs, and left the team at the end of 2007 to start their training in Southwark. They did sterling work during their time in Ladywell and they worked closely with us on a number of issues, in particular improving youth provision in the area. One of the new PCSOs was recruited before Christmas, the other will hopefully also be starting soon.

Also, one of our PCs, Don Cormican has been promoted to sergeant and has now left the team. His replacement, Sinita, is already in post. Congratulations to them all. PCSO Abdul Glover, PC Brian Jemmett and Sgt James Hart make up the rest of the team of six.

If you need to contact the Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood team, you can e-mail them or call 020 8721 2484 or 07920 233875 (obviously, if it's an emergency, call 999). I believe there are also still a couple of places on the Safer Neighbourhood Panel, which is made up of local residents and meets four times a year to set the priorities of the team for the next few months. If you are interested in being on this, contact the SNT team and they can put you in touch with the chair (NB: the next Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Panel meeting is tomorrow, Thursday 4th January, 7.30pm at the Tabernacle on Algernon Road).

Happy New Year!

Oops, haven't posted anything in ages, v busy last couple of months of 2007, plus I seemed to come down with every cold and 'flu bug going and blogging was an added extra I couldn't quite fit in around everything else. Have sinced dosed up on the echinacea and hope to resume posting regularly in 2008, but don't want to be a slave to the blog so there may be the occasional gap.

Anyway, lots of mini posts of things I forgot to post last year, coming up shortly . . .