Friday, February 29, 2008

Heathrow Consultation - Lewisham Green Group Response

Yesterday I submitted a response to the Heathrow Expansion Consultation, on behalf of the Lewisham Green Party Group. Unsurprisingly, we oppose the plans for a third runway. The full response can be read here. Lewisham Council itself did not submit a response, which I find surprising, given the potential impact increased flights will have on noise pollution levels in those parts of the borough under flight paths, not to mention the impact that climate change will have on every single one of us. The current government seems content to put the onus for action on climate change on individuals, telling us to use energy efficient lightbulbs etc, while with breathtaking hypocrisy expanding airports and allowing new coal fired power stations to be built.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Brockley Police Station to Close?

I was somewhat surprised to read on the South London Press website yesterday that there is a Lewisham Police consultation ongoing which includes, amongst other things, a proposal to close Brockley Police Station. The report which is available online, was published in November 2007 and the consultation period ends on 6th March, but this is the first I've heard of it. There were rumours on Brockley Central last Summer, but I've heard nothing further until now.

Given that it's within Ladywell ward, I would really expect to have been notified either by the police or the Cabinet Member for Community Safety. Judging by the fact that no member of the public has been in touch with me about it either, I'm guessing that not many local people are aware of this consultation, which somewhat begs the question as to just how consultative the consultation is!

Anyway, the strategy document looks at the police buildings around the borough and how they meet current needs. One of the big changes that has happened to policing in London over the last few years of course is the introduction of Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and the property strategy looks amongst other things at the need to provide bases for them. Brockley Police Station currently serves as a base for three Safer Neighbourhood teams - Crofton Park, Ladywell and Telegraph Hill (the Brockley team have a base on Lewisham Way shared with the New Cross team). However, I know the Ladywell SNT have previously spoken of a wish to have a more visible base within the ward, potentially a shop premises somewhere along Brockley Road that could be shared with the Crofton Park team. The consultation document says:

"With all these changes, we do envisage a review of the future of Brockley police station with the re-provision of all the facilities currently housed there in more specialised and more appropriate facilities"

I can see the arguments behind this - the current police station, which I believe is a locally listed building, is situated away from the main thoroughfare on a quiet residential street, and is much larger than currently needed, given that the custody suites, offices and pretty much everything bar the counter service and the SNT are now centralised at the main police station on Lewisham High Street. There were attempts to close down the building and sell it off a few years ago, but this was fought and won by local residents. Since then the counter has mostly been staffed by volunteers.

I wouldn't in principle be opposed to a plan to move the Safer Neighbourhood Team bases and the front counter facility to somewhere smaller but more prominent in the ward, such as a shop premises along Brockley Road, but I would be keen to ensure that it really was a facility open to and accessible by the public, which I understand is not currently the case with the Brockley and New Cross SNT base on Lewisham Way (I understand that they operate from a shop, but there is no counter service for residents to report crime).

A prominently-located and staffed shop where people could stop by and report crimes/raise concerns would potentially be an improvement and I would suggest that some of the money saved from the running costs of the existing building, and the revenue raised by its sale could be put into employing someone to staff a front counter for longer hours than the current 10-2pm service provided by local volunteers. A visible shop location would also give the opportunity to promote Neighbourhood Watch and other schemes.

The consultation document does give assurance that Brockley Police Station will not be closed until an alternative front counter facility is up and running in the area:

"Central to all our decisions will be that no police buildings in the borough will be replaced until alternative and better-located facilities are up and running and without fully consulting the local community on our proposed changes. These changes will ultimately result in significant cost savings around the estate through reduced maintenance costs, more efficient buildings and a more effective use of the space that is occupied in the borough. Such savings will be reinvested back into the estate and ultimately back into supporting frontline policing."

My other main concern is what would happen to the existing building, which is something of a local architectural treasure. I heard somewhere that there is a covenant on the building, which says the building belongs to the local community, but I don't know if that is true. Assuming the plan is to sell the site off for redevelopment, I would very much hope that if this happens, a sympathetic conversion, preserving the main Victorian features of the building is proposed.

Here's a bit of background information about Brockley Police Station, taken from the planning application for its local listing, back in 2003:

"The police station was built between 1882-1883 by the surveyor to the Metropolitan Police, John Butler (1828- Photo Two 1900). The station was built at the same time as the surrounding residential streets, which is in contrast to later police stations, which were fitted into existing streetscapes. Many other police stations were built by John Dixon Butler, presumably Butler's son.

The building survives in its original layout with the sergeant’s family quarters upstairs; offices on the ground floor; the canteen in the Kneller Road wing and the cells in the opposite wing. Elements of the plain interior, Photo Three, survive and include a small number of panelled doors and timber partitions. The station is surrounded by a yard with its original six foot wall and substantial gate posts. The two storey building is built of red brick in the neo-Georgian style with six-over-six pane sash windows, Portland stone rusticated door cases and stone lintels. The ground floor is in rusticated brick and the building is topped by a slate hipped roof and highly decorative chimney stacks and terracotta pots."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Advertising board outside 258 Brockley Road - application refused!

Last month I posted about my efforts in getting an illegal advertising board outside 258 Brockley Road removed, only for the advertising company to then immediately apply for planning permission to get it back again. I objected to the application on the grounds of loss of amenity (unnecessary street clutter) and impact on the adjacent conservation area, as did a number of residents. Well, good news! I've just opened a letter from the Planning Service confirming that the application has been turned down under powers delegated to officers. If an appeal is lodged, planning will write and let me know. So thank you to all those who wrote in and objected - it clearly made a difference in this case.

Funnily enough, Ute and I were outside Brockley Kitchen today, with the town centre managers and Des from Brockley Cross Action Group, trying to decide what could be done to tidy up that stretch of pavement. The bins (commercial and residential) were once again on the pavement, which I will follow up on. Royal Mail are sending me weekly 'holding e-mails' assuring me they are still looking into the fate of the post box there, so hopefully something will eventually be done either to reopen or remove it. The bent railings have now been replaced and highways tell me the big pot-hole is the responsibility of the freeholder who owns the stone masons (and they have apparently written a letter asking them to fill it in). We are getting some progress, but rather slowly.

We also visited the horrendous cesspit that is the mews behind SIDS the plumbers and Moonbow Jakes on Brockley Road, but that's another story which I'll post more on separately.

Post Office Closures - Ladywell safe for now, but 171 others in London threatened

Today sees the start of Royal Mail's consultation on the 'restructuring' of its service in London, which includes proposals to close 171 post offices within the capital. Mr & Mrs Patel of Ladywell Post Office on Algernon Road were concerned that their post office was one of those earmarked for closure and were pleased to find out in the last few days that it isn't currently threatened. However, three other post offices within the borough in Hither Green, Lee and New Cross are. For the complete list of post offices facing closure, see this London Area Plan Proposal on the Royal Mail's website.

I struggle to see how the closure of so many post offices both within London and nationally fits into any kind of government programme on sustainable communities. Local post offices are an essential part of the community and do much more than sell stamps. The closure of so many branches will seriously hurt elderly and vulnerable people, for whom post offices play an important social as well as practical function. Those without a car will be particularly affected, while those with cars will be more likely to drive, rather than walk to their nearest post office increasing pollution and congestion. Yet again, as with the ongoing hospital consultation, no serious consideration seems to have been given to the impact this will have on carbon emissions. And when people do get to the post office they will face even longer queues. Sadly, it is yet another nail in the coffin for many local shopping parades.

The closures are being driven by a combination of factors, but in particular changes to the way Government pays benefits (a lot more is done through banks rather than post offices now, meaning post offices have lost a vital source of income) and the EU drive to liberalise and privatise postal services, despite a Green campaign at the European parliament against the proposals. Both of these have undermined the financial viability of many post offices.

The consultation runs until 2nd April. Views and comments on the proposals should be sent to:
Anita Turner
Network Development Manager
C/o National Consultation Team
Customer Helpline: 08457 22 33 44

Please note that your comments will not be kept confidential unless you expressly ask them to do so by clearly marking them ‘In Confidence’.

Fairtrade Fortnight 25th Feb- 9th March - Lewisham Events

Lewisham Council are in the process of updating the Lewisham Fairtrade Directory . Please take a look to see if the shops/cafes/pubs you know in Lewisham that sell faritrade products are mentioned and e-mail any additions/changes that you are aware of to Shola Ojo. I've already suggested she add Sheel Pharmacy, Shop on the Hill, Dandelion Blue and Mr Lawrence Wine Bar.
Fairtrade Fortnight starts on 25th February and there are a number of events happening in and around Lewisham:

28th March - Free showing of Blood Diamond film in the Broadway Theatre (but no more tickets available unfortunately - the event is free and has sold out very quickly)
1st March Lewisham Fairtrade stall in Lewisham shopping centre - Information and free prize draw .
6th March Talk by Sophi Tranchell from Divine Chocolate at Church of the Good Shepherd, Handen Road, Lee, 7pm. Fairtrade products available to sample and buy.
7th March - Fairtrade Music Competition in Blackheath Concert Halls (Recital room) 7pm. Entry free - please come along and support local musicians who have entered this competition to make a song about Fairtrade.
8th March - Lewisham Oxfam Campaigns Fairtrade Stall in Lewisham Shopping Centre, 9am onwards.

Plus there is also a big London launch event on Southbank on Sunday 24th February : Fairtrade Fairground, 11am - 4pm, Coin Street on the South Bank, London, see flyer for more info.

If you would like to get more involved in campaigning on fair trade and trade justice issues, you may be interested in joining Lewisham Oxfam Campaigns or Lewisham Trade Justice Movement. The latter is a coalition of a number of local groups and individuals, including, Oxfam, World Development Movement and Christian Aid, who work together to promote fairtrade and campaign against unfair world trade laws that trap producers in developing countries in poverty.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Mayor Supportive of 20mph proposals

Last night I presented the recommendations of the Sustainable Development Committee's scrutiny into 'Alternatives to Individual Car Use' to the Mayor & Cabinet. See previous post for further details on this. One of our key recommendations was for Lewisham to bid to become the first 20mph borough in London and he gave a strong hint that he would consider applying for TfL funding to make this happen. This is great news; a default 20mph speed limit on our roads, would help to reclaim them as community spaces and be safer and healthier for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, shoppers and businesses. Mayor Steve Bullock's (more or less) exact words were:
"We have made a lot of progress in creating small 20mph zones in Lewisham. I have long been of the view that that we are really only going to crack this when we change the way people think. We need people to think the normal speed is 20mph, not 30mph. I think the Mayor of London's proposals have the potential to allow us to make that quantum leap. I would very much want Lewisham to be at the forefront of it."

Ugly Plastic Very-ungreen and basically Cr*p Windows (aka UPVC)

A number of residents have been in touch recently concerned at Council plans to rip out their/their neighbours wooden sash windows and replace them with UPVC ones, as part of the decent homes programme. Those Council-owned or leased properties within the conservation area will get wooden sash windows on planning grounds, but the 40 or so Victorian properties that are within the Brockley PFI area but outside of the conservation area, get UPVC.

I'd like to make it clear that the Green group objected to this well before the Brockley PFI contract was signed, on environmental as well as aesthetic grounds, but the Council went for the UPVC ones on short-term cost grounds. As someone who's in the process of getting quotes for new double-glazed wooden sash windows to replace my rotting ones, I know just how expensive they can seem, compared to UPVC, but if properly maintained they can last over a hundred years, the thermal properties of wood are superior to plastic and you don't have the problem of disposing of hazardous materials when they reach the end of their useful life.

Some residents on Algiers Road are so annoyed that it has spurred them into setting up a residents' association and I've also been contacted by residents on Vicars Hill up in arms at the plans.

It's worth noting of course that many tenants and leaseholders are absolutely delighted that their rotten, draughty windows are finally being replaced and as I posted last month, leaseholders can opt to arrange to get their windows replaced themselves and have wooden instead of UPVC (provided they meet certain criteria), but tenants do not get that choice. In the current political environment when politicians in the main parties are falling over each other to offer 'choice' in healthcare, education etc (when people generally just want a good locally-provided service), it seems like Council tenants and leaseholders in Brockley and Ladywell are being given something of a Hobson's choice.

So to sum up, they look naff, they're not the green option, but the contract has been signed and unless valid planning grounds are found to object they are likely to be installed (I did ask the Mayor last night to ask if he fancied extending the Brockley Conservation Area to include Vicars Hill, but he was rather cautious, having been threatened with a judicial review after doing a similar thing in Sydenham when the Greyhound pub was threatened with demolition!). I hope that lessons will be learnt and wooden windows will be stipulated when drawing up future contracts.

For further info on the comparative benefits of UPVC versus wooden windows, please see the response to Cllr Romayne Phoenix's question to the cabinet member for customer services in May last year.

Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries Work Day Sunday 17th Feb

This Sunday (17th Feb) from 10am to 3pm, Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries are having another volunteer work day to clear some of the saplings which disturb the eco system of the cemeteries as well as harming the graves themselves. Tools will be available but people are welcome to bring their own if they are more comfortable. Please try and come down and tell your friends. The meeting point is at the chapel and there will be someone there from 10am to 3pm (and hopefully a flask of tea!).
Mike will be there but unfortunately I probably won't be able to make it.

PS: I was a little premature last week in saying that the volunteer work day in Brockey & Ladywell Cemeteries was last weekend, so apologies if anybody turned up last week to find no one there!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

February Live Events at Moonbows

Details of February live events at Moonbows below. All events are Free.

Sunday 10th February LONG LOST SON
Inspired by the dark Pennine landscape of their small Northern hometown, Long Lost Son present their hushed, tense and heartfelt sound that draws on the influences of Dram Parsons, Nick Drake and Cave.

Tuesday 12th February AMY MAY
A Cornish singer songwriter, Amy is making waves in the west country after the release of her debut album. Part of her UKtour, this may be the only time you will get to see this rising star in an intimate venue.

Thursday 14th February CHEESENIGHT
Valentine is the cheesiest night of the year so we are going to celebrate with a night of cheese. Cheesy music, cheesy cheese and lots of lonely single people eating cheese. Not one of our normal evening's but better than watching longing lovers staring at each other all night. Smart Dress (sort of) required.

Friday 15th February
DJ SAFFOLLA.featJAVIERORTAGA- MagicalMusicalMysterynight
Our own local Ninja Tunes DJ will be performing his usual magic on the decks while Javier Ortaga will be performing real magic at your table.

Sunday 17th February LITTLEG WEEVIL
This London born Memphis Blues songwriter reminds Jake of the many nights in dingy backstreet clubs of New York during the 90s. 'Little white boy with a black soul! Fantastic!' WADIRadio, Memphis, TN, 2005.

Monday 18th February POETRY NIGHT
This follows on from the huge success of January's evening that saw stunning performances by all involved. We are going to repeat the night with Peter Searls our MC, Augusto Monk with Jazz, stories and visuals, and our array of published and open mic poets. Take the stage yourself and perform your own favourite poem.

Thursday 21st IM
IM play a kind of ambient electronic groovy improvised jazz stew. Combining electric trumpet with Hammond organ, percussion, old analog synth sounds and home-made instruments, they explore sound and texture in a new and refreshing way. The sound of IM reminds Jake of the French trumpet player, Erik Truffaz.

Sunday 24th DJ NOVA
A Moonbow favourite, DJ Nova will take us on her musical journey from Jazz to Punk.

Tuesday 26th ORCHARD HILL
One of South East London's youngest and hottest new indie prospects. Orchard Hill are gathering a momentum that could propel them to the very top - come and see what all the fuss in about!

Thursday 28th FILM NIGHT
Declan McGill is back with a selection of high quality short films made by people living around South East London with Jazz singer, Hannah Northedge providing us with some classic film songs during the popcorn intervals. To submit your film please send URLlink to

Earl Green has won the best voice in the no less than four times in the past decade. Close to 400 people heard why during the Brockley Max festival last June and now he is returning with his band, The Right Time, to give Brockley the opportunity to hear one of Britain's premier Blues singer's.

All events start from 8pm onwards. See Moonbow’s website for more details.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich & Lewisham United Against Hospital Cuts

hI've set up a new Facebook group for all those concerned at proposed reductions in hospital facilities in Lewisham, Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich, as outlined in the consultation 'A Picture of Health', which is currently landing on doormats throughout the four boroughs. You can join it here. There is another group, Stop Health Cuts in Lewisham, which I'm supporting, but thought it was important we also made clear that this isn't about playing off one borough against another, but making sure all four boroughs have the excellent, locally-provided services we all deserve.

Of course Facebook groups by themselves aren't going to achieve a great deal, but I think they are a useful way of bringing together concerned individuals and, if need be, mobilising people into action if the Primary Care Trusts do try to plough ahead with some of the more controversial proposals, such as closing the maternity, A&E and paediatric departments of one or two of the hospitals.

I'm not convinced that the arguments made for increasing expertise on one or two sites outweighs the drawbacks of having to travel much further to receive treatment or visit relatives in hospital. I also see no evidence of any research carried out by the PCTs to assess the carbon cost of their proposals.

Recycling and rubbish being mixed together on Ermine Road this week

The contents of both green and black wheelie bins were all being thrown into the same refuse van along Ermine Road this week. Mike, who witnessed this, is following up with officers to find out why this happened and to make sure it doesn't happen again. It may have been a new member of staff not properly trained, but it is obviously very frustrating for all those who routinely separate their waste and try to do their bit, only to find that it has all been sent to the incinerator. Please keep separating your waste and recycling - we will get to the bottom of this and try to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Opening of Stephen Lawrence Centre

On Thursday I attended the official opening of the Stephen Lawrence Centre on Brookmill Road, by the Mayor of London. I've been cycling past the site almost daily since before the old Thames Water building was demolished, so it was interesting to finally see inside it. Deptford Dame and others have posted previously about the delays in opening the building and I hadn't realised that it has actually been in use for a few months - every time I've been passed, it's looked empty, but several thousand students have apparently already used its facilities.

The centre is run by the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and will be used to train students in urban design and to provide general advice, training and guidance for young people. It is a fitting legacy for Stephen Lawrence, who had ambitions to be an architect before he was murdered.

The site posed a number of challenges for the architects, as certain parts can't be built on due to underground water pipes which need to be accessed occasionally by Thames Water, so the shape of the building was pretty much determined by the footprint they were able to build on. The architect is David Adjaye and the windows were designed by Chris Ofili.

I wasn't completely convinced when I first saw the metal cladding going onto the side of the building, but it is growing on me, and I do like the windows. The views from the balcony on the second floor are great. No obvious sign of any particularly green features in the building, but they may well be there and I just missed them.

Hopefully at some point soon the trust will find a way either to remove or make less stark the foreboding old Thames Water fencing that encircles the site without exposing the building to further vandalism. There isn't yet a notice board announcing what the building is for, and how local people can take advantage of the the excellent facilities there is missing, but I imagine that will appear soon. A bit of landscaping besides the black tarmac, and a few more bike racks for the students who are going to use the building wouldn't go amiss either, but I'll leave my criticisms there, as they shouldn't deflect from the fact that the opening was a wonderful achievement for all those involved in seeing the project through to fruition over the years.

Brockley Central Drinks - a success!

Thanks to Nick and Jon for organising the second Brockley Central Drinks, which took place at Jam Circus on Wednesday. I think there must have been over thirty people there and it was nice to put faces to names of people who have commented on their blog and my blog over the past few months. As one person from Upper Brockley Road introduced themselves to someone else who it turned out lived about 3 doors away from them, and I met a fellow Adelaide Avenue resident (albeit from the other end of a long street) I wondered if this is how we're going to meet our neighbours in the future?!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Safer Lewisham Partnership Bus in Ladywell tomorrow

I've just been sent an e-mail to say that the Safer Lewisham Partnership bus will be parked at Ladywell Station from 10.30am – 3pm on 5 February. The focus will be around burglary and the Safer Neighbourhood Team and Council officers will be there to offer advice on crime prevention.
(please note that if parking is difficult then the venue will be changed to Adelaide Avenue by Hilly Fields Park.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Coming up this week . . .

Monday 4th February: Lewisham Green Drinks, 7pm onwards, Mr Lawrence Wine Bar. For anyone with an interest in green issues.

Tuesday 5th February: Ladywell Society, 7.45pm onwards, Nature Area Education building in Ladywell Fields (the old waiting room). Various agenda items are expected to be: report on the visit to the Playtower, Police Station site revised plans, Heathrow Expansion consultation, Catford Dog Track development. All welcome.