Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hospital Demo

Above: Anne Garrett (Green Party GLA candidate for Bexley & Bromley), Sian Berry (Green Party Mayor of London candidate ) and me (Green Party GLA candidate for Greenwich & Lewisham).

Busy day today, with the 'Save our hospital services' march from Blackheath to Ladywell Fields, via Lewisham Hospital, recuperative lunch in Masons, then delivering London Green News in the afternoon.

Rather disappointing turnout for the march I thought, despite the best efforts of the organisers and lots of publicity in the local press - only about a hundred people (compared to around 1,500 at a similar march in Bexley a few weeks ago), and a good number of those were politicians keen to prove how much they wanted to 'save our hospital' (is there an election coming up or something?!). Admittedly it was a wet and windy day (although the rain held off for most of the march), but I'm concerned that the message hasn't really got through to a lot of residents about what is being proposed in the 'A Picture of Health' consultation.

A number of households haven't received the consultation document and many of those who did, may have read it and not understood it, as the options are presented in a very confusing way. I'm still struggling to get my head around the bizarre chart on p14, though I think I have just about sussed it now. Others feel disempowered and cynical about the whole thing, believing that it is a done deal. One of the passers-by I spoke to said as much. This is a real shame because if we want to save our services at Lewisham Hospital, we need to fight for them, otherwise the cuts will certainly be pushed through.

Just to be clear, option 3, which is understood to be the 'preferred option' (by the hospitals) involves downgrading Lewisham hospital by closing its children's department (one of the best in the country), downgrading A&E to an urgent care centre (ie only non-life threatening treatment or patients unlikely to require admission) and downgrading the maternity services (ante-natal care but no deliveries - you'll have to go elsewhere to give birth).

A Labour Party leaflet handed out today was encouraging people to go for option 2, which involves keeping the status quo at Lewisham, but, if I understand it correctly, cuts at Queen Mary's in Sidcup. Most others at the demo, Greens included, were saying that we shouldn't be playing off one borough's hospital against another's and should go for option 4, which is 'none of the above, think again'.

If you haven't already returned your response to the 'A Picture of Health' consultation, you have until 8th April to do so.

Sian, Ute and me recuperating after the demo at Masons on Ladywell Road. The place was absolutely packed - is this how people who aren't always out delivering yet another Green News spend their time then?!

Ladywell Tavern

Ladywell Tavern has been closed for a few weeks now and I'd heard that there had been another change of management and further refurbishment works were underway. However, I was glad to see notices go up on the boards outside the pub this week saying that it is will hopefully be re-opening at the end of April with real ales, fine wines and traditional pub food. Sounds good, fingers crossed!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ladywell Village Fete?

I am delighted to 'exclusively reveal' that plans are afoot for a 'Ladywell Village Fete' in Dressington Avenue. The date pencilled in for this is the afternoon of Saturday 19th July and it will hopefully take place on the rugby pitch opposite the old workhouse building (next to Ladywell Fields). The project is being driven by staff and users of Ladywell Day Centre, working together with Slagrove Partnership, Abbey Manor College, the local Safer Neighbourhood team and a number of other local groups and individuals. Hopefully details will be confirmed soon (the booking still has to be approved by Glendale and various risk assessments, H& S criteria met etc), and booking forms for stalls etc made available.

Ute and I have met twice with the group planning the fete, discussions are ongoing with Glendale and we are hopeful that it will go ahead. We have been keen, since the threat to demolish the sports hall of Ladywell Day Centre in 2006, to make sure that the facilities in the centre are more widely available for use by the local community. One important step towards this was achieved a few weeks ago, when Slagrove Partnership started a youth club, which meets in the sports hall at Ladywell Day Centre. This was one of the projects we supported through the localities fund. However there are also other excellent facilities in the centre, including a fully-equipped woodwork room and a pottery room that are currently under-used. We hope that this fete, as well as being a great day in itself, will also help to build stronger links between the centre and the local community and lead to further use of the centre by local residents.

Silly Signs

This fence separates Foxborough Gardens from Dressington Avenue (there is a big drop in levels, not because the two streets want to be divided, you understand). Foxborough Gardens residents contacted me concerned that people kept using the area as a shortcut between Foxborough Gardens and Dressington Avenue and that the fence had been bent to enable people to squeeze through, which also created a risk of small children falling through the gap. The drainpipe on the one house had also been pulled off by people climbing on it.

I was pleased to see when I went passed today that the fence had been fixed, but was somewhat bemused by the 'Warning! Anti-climb paint' sign that had been fixed to it. Unfortunately, the fence has not seen a lick of paint in many years, anti-climb or otherwise. I have now submitted another request that the fence be painted.

Meanwhile, as reported by my friend Jim, signs that mysteriously appeared on lamp posts along Tressillian Road and other parts of the conservation area have been causing controversy. The signs, which read 'thieves want your sat-nav' and 'they want your pod' have prompted a number of local residents to resort to a bit of direct action and pull them down.

Dean, one of the Brockley ward councillors is following up on who put the signs there and why. The Safer Neighbourhood teams, councillors and local residents certainly weren't consulted and many feel that the signs are unduly alarmist, not to mention unsightly and at just the right height to poke your eye out.

So at one end of the ward we have laughably ineffectual signage trying to stop anti-social behaviour and at the other signs seemingly designed to scare local residents and increase the fear of crime.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Calling all those in Lewisham Council's Pension Scheme

If you work for Lewisham Council, or one of the contractors that use the Council's Pension Scheme (eg Glendale) please take a few moments to complete this online survey on socially responsible investment issues. (It's the intranet so should only work for Council employees. Some of you may already have filled in a paper version of the survey sent with your last pensions magazine).

Lewisham Council's Pension Fund has a socially responsible investment policy, but it is one of positive engagement, rather than excluding any particular stocks or sectors. As a result, we have investments in most sectors, including arms manufacturers, tobacco companies, companies that test on animals etc. While positive engagement with companies can work in certain sectors, eg a fund manager putting pressure on a clothing company to stop sweatshops and improve workers' rights, it is arguably little more than lip-service in other sectors (eg arms and tobacco companies).

Pension fund trustees have a duty to take into account the moral concerns of pension fund members, as well as a 'primary fiduciary duty' to get the best financial return. However, we need clear evidence of members' concerns to support any stance we take on ethical grounds. So if you don't like your pension fund being invested in any particular sector or company, or you would like fund managers to take a stronger stance on certain issues, this is your chance to say so. As pension fund trustees our hands are to an extent tied unless we are given a mandate by pension fund members to act.

Trustees have a duty to get the best possible financial return on our pension fund investments and when the return on investments is insufficient to meet the Council's contributions, this gap has to be filled from the Council's budget, with a potential knock-on effect on Council Tax bills. That said, good investment returns and socially responsible investment are by no means mutually exclusive and 'ethical' funds and stocks have in a number of cases outperformed less ethical companies in recent months.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hospital Demo this Saturday

A march is taking place this Saturday to show local concern at proposals to cut services at Lewisham Hospital.

March and Demonstrate to Save Your Health Services

Saturday 29th March 2008. Assemble at All Saints Church, Montpelier Vale, Blackheath, SE3. Leaving at 11am to march to Lewisham Hospital and then to Ladywell Fields for a rally and speeches at 12 noon.

The march has been organised by Lewisham & Greenwich Pensioners' Forums, and is supported by Greenwich and Lewisham Keep our NHS Public, UNISON Greenwich Local Government, Lewisham NUT, Greenwich NUT and Lewisham Trades Council.

For Facebook afficionados, there are two groups for those concerned at the proposals: Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich & Lewisham United Against Hospital Cuts and Stop Health Cuts in Lewisham.

Also, if you haven't already returned your response to the 'A Picture of Health' consultation, you have until 8th April to do so.

I love Brockley Fun Run, April 27th 2008

Coming soon to Hilly Fields, courtesy of Brockley Cross Action Group. Details below from the BCAG website:

Event: The first annual I Love Brockley Fun Run 2008
Description: A non-competitive measured 5km running and/or walking course
Who for: Runners and walkers. Corporate teams; schools and colleges; individuals; and families
Date: April 27th 2008
Location: Hilly Fields, Brockley, London
Start time: Registration opens at 8.30am
Warm up at 9.45am, Run starts at 10am

The aim of the I Love Brockley Fun Run 2008 is to encourage a family atmosphere as well as an event for regular runners to enjoy. It is also a great chance to learn about your local community as well as fundraise for our large community-led project; The Brockley Common!

The Fun Run 2008 will be a friendly and relaxed morning of running and walking for all ages and abilities for a wonderful local cause. If you are feeling sluggish after the New Year and looking for an easy way to keep your resolutions on track, this is the answer!

Running in the one of the best parks in South East London this is a safe introduction to racing for all ages as well as a chance to meet your neighbours and enjoy an extremely picturesque landscape with a spectacular start and finish.

The event is held in association with Brockley Cross Action Group and a donation will be made from the entry fees from each runner to the charity. Your entry details will be passed to Brockley Cross Action Group for the purposes of sending you fund raising material but will not be shared with any other organisation/company.

A limited edition t-shirt as well as a medal and a goodie bag are included free with your registration.

Prices: Standard entry - £12.00
Concessions - £9.00
Children (under 12) – free entry (child t-shirt £5.00)
You can also register on-line at
You can also pick up a registration pack from The Broca coffee shop (4 Coulgate Street, Brockley, SE4 2RW) from Feb.28th onwards.

Coming soon: Film Club at Brockley Jack

In the next few months a group of local residents will be launching a new film club based in the theatre at the Brockley Jack Theatre, Brockley Road, Crofton Park. They have set up an online survey to find out local residents' views. The survey can be found here and they would appreciate feedback and suggestions from as many local people as possible. Sounds like a great idea to me.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Response to Lewisham Police Consultation

Below, for information, is the response I've submitted on behalf of the Brockley and Ladywell ward councillors in response to the Lewisham Police Asset Management consultation I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, which includes proposals to close Brockley Police Station.

Theme 1: Safer Neighbourhoods bases
A Do you have any comments and views about the provision of Safer Neighbourhoods bases?
We broadly support the proposals to have Safer Neighbourhood Bases.

B If you have any specific suggestions of premises or sites suitable for a Safer Neighbourhoods base in the borough please let us know.

There are a number of empty shops on Brockley Road at the moment, by the junction with Adelaide Avenue, some of them currently to let. One of these could make a good site for a Safer Neighbourhood Base for Ladywell and Crofton teams, as it is near the ward boundary between the two, and on the main thoroughfare.

Theme 2: Public counters
C Do you agree with the splitting of front counter facilities to provide dedicated space for reception, enforcement and victim-focused functions?


Theme 3: Office buildings
D Do you agree with the grouping of command, management and support functions into a single office building in the borough?

We do not oppose the grouping of command, management and support functions into a single office building in the borough, but we have consistently opposed the closing of local police stations in the borough and think it is important to have somewhere local that residents go to raise concerns and report crimes.

Theme 4: Summary
E Do you have any comments about the future of Brockley police station, bearing in mind the re provision of services elsewhere?

We would cautiously support the plan to move the Crofton Park and Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Team bases and the front counter facility to somewhere more prominent in the ward, such as a shop premises along Brockley Road. A prominently-located and staffed shop where people could stop by and report crimes/raise concerns would potentially be an improvement. It could also provide the opportunity to promote Neighbourhood Watch and other schemes. We recognise that the current police station, which is situated away from the main thoroughfare on a quiet residential street, is less than ideal for current requirements.

However, we understand that the existing police station is regularly used for a number of special operations, including Operation Trident, murder enquiries etc and we would be concerned if the closure of Brockley police station led to a shortage of space for these teams. We understand that the police station is already used as an overflow site because Lewisham Police Station is at capacity. We would not like to see the important work these teams carry out being hampered by the sale of the station.

We welcome the fact that the consultation document gives assurance that Brockley Police Station will not be closed until an alternative front counter facility is up and running in the area. We would be keen to ensure that the new front counter and SNT Base genuinely is a facility open to and accessible by the public, which we understand is not currently the case with the Brockley and New Cross SNT base on Lewisham Way (We understand that they operate from a shop, but there is no counter service for residents to report crime).

We would like to see some of the money saved from the running costs of the existing building, and the revenue raised by its sale being put into employing someone to staff a front counter for longer hours than the current 10-2pm service provided. We note that Sydenham Police Station is staffed by a paid civilian worker from 9-5pm daily, whereas Brockley is dependent on volunteers.

Furthermore, bearing in mind ongoing efforts by the Council, the local community and businesses to improve the local area, we would be keen to see a good quality shop-front that would enhance the local area and be in keeping with the character.

We are very concerned about the future of the existing building, which as I’m sure you are aware is locally listed and something of an architectural treasure. Assuming the plan is to sell the site off for redevelopment, we would very much hope that a sympathetic conversion into flats, preserving the main Victorian features of the building is proposed.

Concern over scope and validity of consultation
We would like to express our concern and reservation over the way the police have conducted this consultation. We were not informed as ward councillors about this consultation and only found out about it via an article in the South London Press. Considering that the consultation includes proposals to close Brockley Police Station, which is within Ladywell ward, but serves the people of both Brockley and Ladywell ward, we would have expected to be formally consulted as ward councillors.

We were further disappointed to find out that the Safer Neighbourhood Panels for the area were not informed (except by us), and even the volunteer staff at Brockley Police Station were not consulted. In fact, we have yet to find anyone in the wards who has been consulted, so we are uncertain as to what stakeholders have been informed of the proposals. We would recommend that a leaflet outlining the plans for Brockley Police Station and the Safer Neighbourhood Bases is circulated to households in the Brockley and Ladywell wards to give residents an opportunity to comment.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Great turnout for meeting to set up new Ladywell community group

Pictured: Tattoo Parlour window and Sunrise Ceramics' wares.

More than 60 local people turned out for last night's meeting in St Mary's Centre to discuss concerns about Ladywell, in particular the shops and premises on and around Ladywell Road and to set up a new community action group. This was in spite of the wet weather and the fact that a number of local people went to the planning committee meeting at the town hall that was on the same evening.

I won't go into a lot of detail now, as more will be forthcoming when the results of the survey etc have been analysed and the group has got established but I was delighted at the level of enthusiasm and determination to improve things. The new owners of Top to Toe hairdressers were the only business people there, but I know a few other businesses, particularly the dry cleaners and Masons are keen to support as much as they can.

Des Kirkland from Brockley Cross Action Group gave an inspiring speech about what they have achieved in Brockley and made useful suggestions about being realistic and setting short-term goals that can be met, as well as more ambitious medium and long-term ones. He also talked about plans to expand Brockley Max Festival to venues in Ladywell this year, if possible. The head of economic development from the Council also came along, and the two local Safer Neighbourhood Team PCs. It was interesting that a number of people said they feel safe in Ladywell compared to other places they have lived and while some people wanted CCTV, others were very much oppsed.

There was general consensus that:
  • We have a number of highways issues that need addressing (too much traffic, too much pavement parking, lack of short-term parking for customers, too much commuter parking, uneven pavments, unsightly railings).
  • We want a fruit and veg shop and or deli/wholefood shop.
  • Residents would shop more locally if shops sold what they wanted to buy, were reasonably priced and marked prices on goods (one guy related with great indignation how he was recently charged 59p for a Kitkat and once paid £9 for a watermelon at the now closed deli/continental food market!).
  • People would like to see another cafe/bar, but don't want any more take-aways or hairdressers.
  • People are sick of the sight of the empty shops and are keen for them to be brought back into use (Newsflash: environmental health have finally agreed to take action against 46 Ladywell Road, aka Nightwatch - fingers crossed it might prompt the owner to do something positive with the place).
Lots of people signed up to the e-mail list - Lara, who also facilitated the brainstorming part of the meeting, will be adding people to the e-mail list soon, and sending round notes from the meeting. The Ladywell community website is also going to be developed soon. Hellen is going to be analysing the results of the survey (approx 150 returned - much higher response rate than the average Council consultation!) and producing a report to circulate to residents and businesses and we'll take things from there. You can join the e-mail group here and the Facebook group here.

Anyway, feeling very inspired about the potential of this group, need to keep up the momentum now . . .

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Become a Recycling Champion - come on Ladywell!

From the Council's Press Office. Algernon Road won this in the first year, last year a street Sydenham won it - can we win it again this year in Ladywell?!

Pictured: Geoffrey Thurley, Algernon Road Resident and former recycling champion.

Lewisham Council is launching its annual quest to find the “Best Recycling Street” in the borough.

The Council wants to find dedicated recyclers to champion the recycling cause in their street - to encourage fellow residents to recycle more each week in their street than any other in the borough. Residents can nominate themselves and their road, a section of a road, or even another street. Then all they need to do is speak to their neighbours and persuade them to recycle that bit more!

Councillor Susan Wise, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, said: “Residents have always responded well to recycling schemes and our recycling rates are going up, but there’s so much we could all do to recycle more.

“We want to find the best recycling street in Lewisham - so if you’re already a recycling convert, or even if you’re just getting interested, and you want to get more people to act then get involved and make your nomination.”

Lewisham Council will provide information and a toolkit to make sure residents know what can be recycled. Each streets’ participation rate and the types of materials being collected for recycling will be measured when all the nominations are in, and again six weeks later.

The winning street will be the one that sees the biggest increase in recycling behaviour in terms of the number of people recycling three or more materials, such as paper, cardboard, glass bottle/jars, food/drinks cans and plastic bottles.

A special street sign will be erected on the winning street, proclaiming it to be the ‘Best Recycling Street in Lewisham’. The winner will receive a ‘Recycling Champion’ plaque recognising their efforts. All participants will receive recognition for their efforts and contribution.

Last year’s Recycling Champion street was, by a total coincidence, Champion Crescent in Sydenham, where resident participation increased from 21 per cent to 77 per cent!

Reasons to nominate
Lewisham Council wants to reward the dedication of those unique people who go the extra mile to encourage more recycling where they live because we know it can inspire others.

If you would like to get involved call 020 8314 2245 or 020 8314 2053 now or email to request an entry form and more information.

Closing for completed forms/to register interest is 16 May.

Recycling Champions
Environment and Community Development
Wearside Service Centre
Wearside Road
London SE13 7EZ. Recycling in Lewisham
Recycling: Lewisham Council offers a door-to-door recycling collection to all houses in the borough – that’s over 75,000 homes.

What can be recycled:
Plastic bottles

Tetrapak cartons: Cartons such as milk or fruit juice cartons cannot be placed into household recycling bins in Lewisham, however there are special bins where you can leave them to be collected for recycling, at:

- Sainsbury, New Cross Gate
- Sainsbury, Forest Hill
- Laurence House car park, Catford
- Grove Park Bus Garage, Baring Road
- Tesco, Lewisham.

Recycling collection services: Any resident who lives in a house, or a house that has been converted into up to three flats, is entitled to a green recycling box which Lewisham will empty each week. There is also a green bag scheme for garden waste.

Recycling facilities: There are 42 recycling sites in the borough and 350 sites on housing estates. Recycling sites can be located here. Residents can also text RECYCLE and provide their full London postcode to 63131 for recycling services in their street.

Guides to recycling.

Hilly Fields on Radio 4 Today Programme

Rachel Mooney, chair of Hilly Fields Park Users' group was on the Today programme on Monday morning, talking with someone from Natural England about engaging local people in protecting and improving green spaces, and the work HFUG have done with children from Gordonbrock Primary School in planting bulbs and primroses on the fields. The programme can be heard here, fast forward about 15 minutes to 8.45am. Not sure how many days the link will work for though.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Public Meeting in Ladywell this Thursday

Like these . . .

but sick of the sight of these?

Public Meeting: Thursday 13th March, 7.30pm, St Mary's Centre, Ladywell Road.

Back in January I posted about an informal meeting I had in Masons with a group of residents keen to set up a new community action group, along the lines of Brockley Cross Action Group, only for Ladywell. Well, things have moved ahead and a public meeting has been organised for this Thursday, 13th March, 7.30pm, in St Mary's Centre. Hopefully you have seen the posters in shops.

You may also have been given a survey at the train station or in one of the shops. This is the first project the group is doing - a bit of market research to find out what local people think of the area and how they think things could be improved. The results will be analysed and fed back to local businesses, the Council and local people. So if you've got one still in your coat pocket or somewhere, please take a few moments to fill it in and drop it in one of the 'post boxes' in Masons, the train station, the post office, Ladywell DIY, Top to Toe, the drycleaners or the chemist before next Thursday.

I'm delighted this group is forming and encouraged by the buzz it is creating in the local area. Hopefully there will be a good turnout on Thursday. Things won't be transformed overnight, but I think there is great potential for an active community group to work with the Council and local businesses to improve things on and around Ladywell Road. The name and aims of the group have all still to be decided at the meeting on Thursday, but for now it is being called Ladywell Village Action Group.

There is a (currently small) Facebook group and a (slightly larger) e-mail group.
Hope to see you there on Thursday.

Please help me to see my living room again!

This is my front room at 7pm this evening, with 18,000 copies of our new full colour 12-page newspaper London Green News. There are another 18,000 sitting at Darren and Dean's house.

The newspaper looks great and is packed full of articles on what elected Greens on the London Assembly have already achieved and what we would do if we got more Greens elected on May 1st. I'll post a link to it when it's available online.

If you would like to help deliver this excellent newspaper (and help to clear my front room!) , please give me a ring on 020 8690 0658. Many thanks!

Coming up this week . . .

A number of interesting events coming up this week in and around Ladywell:
Sunday 9th March 11am-1pm River Clean Up in Ladywell Fields. Meeting at the Environmental Classroom, come and take a wade along the new river channel and help keep it clear of rubbish and debris. Everyone is welcome including children that are accompanied by an adult. Refreshments will be provided for all.

Wednesday 12th March: Ladywell Fields Users Group Meeting (7pm in the Civic Suite, Lewisham Town Hall). LFUG secretary Robert Shepherd writes that there is a full agenda which includes:
  • Alison Taylor, QUERCUS project manager, floating plans for a Launch and Fun Day event;
  • Dann Jessen of East (Architecture, Landscape & Urban Design) talking about their feasibility; study on the future of our Park;
  • David Dyer from the Youth Service talking about the adventure playground proposal; and
  • Carole Crankshaw, the Council's Sustainable Transport Officer
Also on 12th March and unfortunately clashing with the above is Brockley Cross Action Group's AGM. Duncan Law from Transition Town Brixton is giving a talk. For those of you who don't know much about Transition Towns (and those who do!) I would very much recommend listening to him as he is a great and inspiring speaker. Transition Town Brockley/Ladywell anyone?

However, most excitingly for Ladywell, is the planned public meeting on Thursday 13th March to set up a new community action group for the area, which I think deserves a bit more details in a seperate post.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bell Court gets a bigger recycling bin

There still seem to be a number of properties around either without recycling facilities, or a tiny recycling bin compared to the size of the general rubbish bins. Bell Court on Ivy Road was until recently a case in point, but at my request at bigger recycling bin has now been provided. The recycling team are normally quite quick to respond to such requests, providing they have the appropriate bins in stock. If you have too many/not enough green/black bins, you can always call 020 8314 7171 to request another/ask for one to be taken away.

Brockley Road Post Box: going, going . . .

I have finally received a response to my e-mail to the Post Office, asking that they either re-open or remove the post box outside Crackerjack on Brockley Road. I didn't hold out much hope that they would re-open it, given their current post office closure programme, and indeed they're not going to. However they have promised to remove it within the next six weeks. So potentially a bit less street clutter on that stretch of Brockley Road, though a post box in use would have been preferable.

Questions to Mayor & Cabinet: March

Please see below, for information, the questions I asked to Mayor & Cabinet this month and the responses. As the budget discussions were rather lengthy, there wasn't an opportunity to ask supplementary questions, which I had wanted to do on the first question, which was in relation to a particular derelict shop premises on Ladywell Road.

Question by Cllr Luxton of the Deputy Mayor
The Council has had several notable successes in recent months in using EDMOs (empty dwelling management orders) to bring empty homes back into use. On how many occasions in the past year has the Council used section 215 or other planning enforcement powers to try and bring derelict and run-down commercial properties back into use? How does this compare with the neighbouring boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Southwark and Greenwich? From April owners of empty commercial properties will no longer be exempt from business rates. What plans are there to support, encourage and where necessary prod property owners to bring their properties back into use?


During the current financial year two Section 215 Notices were issued relating to derelict properties and their physical appearance. The vacant properties, previously in commercial use – nos. 159 and 161 New Cross Road – are adjoining and the Notices required that the external appearance of both be improved. The aim, of course, is to encourage the owner, through carrying out the necessary repairs, to bring the derelict properties back into use, but it is beyond the scope of the S215 Notice to require for beneficial re-use, being limited only to ensuring that they are better maintained.

The above properties fall within the boundary of the New Cross Gate New Deal for Communities Area boundary. Run as a central part of the Government strategy for regeneration in deprived areas the programme includes such initiatives as “Restoration Retail” which uses grant aid to effect repairs and restoration on derelict properties. In this particular instance a twin-tracked approach is being taken between the Council and the NDC body to ensure that the necessary works are undertaken. In the event that the owners fail to co-operate a charge can be placed on the land for future recovery of costs incurred.

As regards the use of S215 powers by other neighbouring authorities no figures are yet available but the Council is intending to carry out a benchmarking exercise in this connection.

In Town Centre areas the Council’s Economic Development Team, through the Town Centre Managers, will encourage the owners of un-let properties to bring these into use for occupation by new businesses that will enhance the Centre, particulary now that there will no longer be any business rate exemption.

With regard to Empty Dwelling Management Orders, this initiative was introduced through the Housing Act 2004; the intention being to bridge the gap between voluntary measures and existing compulsory purchase powers. Such an Order enables the local housing authority to take responsibility of managing a property and for ensuring it is occupied. It is however, only used as a last resort where it is clear that an owner has no intention to bring the property back into occupation.

The decision whether to pursue an EDMO – the property needs to have been empty for at least 6 months – is not a Planning issue, instead, being entirely at the discretion of the Local Housing Association (LHA). It is thought that the threat of issuing such an Order may be sufficient to put pressure on the owner to enter into constructive dialogue with the authority to agree the best course of action to secure re-occupation.

Question by Cllr Luxton of the Deputy Mayor

The recent public campaign to protect the Rivoli Ballroom, which resulted in the building being granted grade 2 listed status by English Heritage, was a great example of local residents acting swiftly to protect a local building. Does the Council Planning Department proactively apply for listed status for any buildings in the borough which it feels merit such status, or does it rely solely on amenities societies and local residents to do this? Please provide examples of where buildings have been listed as a result of the Council applying for them to be listed. Has the Council carried out any consultation with residents and amenities societies about local buildings that they feel should be protected/listed?

The great majority of the listed buildings in the borough were listed following a comprehensive survey in the 1970’s by English Heritage’s predecessor organisation. Since then other buildings have been added as listing criteria evolve or as buildings missed by the original survey are identified. They are usually put forward by either the Council, individuals and amenity societies, or English Heritage.

Examples of buildings put forward for listing by the Council Planning Service include the ex London County Council (LCC) fire station at 340 Lewisham High Street, 227 Deptford High Street, 329-331, 369 New Cross Road and the White Hart Pub in New Cross.

The Planning Service is usually aware of the aspirations of local people and amenity societies to achieve listed status for particular buildings and, where appropriate, will provide advice and support, for example the Rivoli Ballroom. The council wrote to English Heritage in support of listing the Rivoli in December 2007.

In the case of Council owned buildings the Planning Service always maintains a neutral position.

English Heritage periodically carry out thematic building reviews. For example a national review of post war public housing lead to the Passfields Estate, Bromley Road and Lammas Green, Sydenham Hill being listed recently, and a review of London cemeteries lead to parts of Brockley/Ladywell cemeteries being listed.

In terms of consultation exercises, the regular review of conservation areas (for example St Mary’s in 2006/7) involves consultation exercises which may identify buildings suitable to put forward for listing. There is also an on-going programme to update the list of locally listed buildings (buildings of local as opposed to national special architectural of historic interest), in conjunction with local amenity societies. This process could also identify buildings worthy of national listing.

Question by Cllr Luxton of the Mayor

Following the recent visit of Fouad Hanini from Beit Fourik on the West Bank in Palestine, has the Mayor taken any steps to establish closer links between the people of Beit Fourik and Lewisham?

It was a pleasure to welcome to Lewisham Fouad Hanani during his visit to the UK in November and I was pleased that his attendance at our full Council meeting was so well received.

Lewisham has been very active over many years in developing partnerships with local communities overseas. Unfortunately, we work with very limited resources and we are not in a position to enter into new civic partnerships at this time. But I welcome contact with overseas visitors and the support the Council provides to such exchanges of information and experience. I am always pleased to hear about the efforts that local communities around the world are making in tackling the political, economic and social challenges of our time. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members in wishing Fouad and his colleagues well in serving the people of Beit Fourik.

Question by Cllr Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Does the Council have a comprehensive, up-to-date database of residents associations within the borough, both those for council tenants and in private housing areas. If so, how do new residents associations get added to the list and if not, would you agree that it would be useful to establish one?

The Council does not have a comprehensive database of residents associations within the borough.

We do however have records of Residents Associations within the Council’s housing stock. The Council’s principal housing management agents; Lewisham Homes, Dunlop Hayward and Regenter B3 all maintain up to date records of the residents associations that they regularly engage within their individual areas. Lewisham Tenants contribute as part of their rent to the Lewisham Tenants Fund (LTF) an independent organisation which supports local resident associations through funding and advice. Any new TRAs would be added to the housing management agents records and then passed onto the Council.

Similarly Registered Social Landlords (RSL) partners maintain records of residents associations within their own stock as required by Housing Corporation regulations.

The Local Assemblies Programme will be building up a comprehensive list of community organisations, including resident associations in each ward, over the next 6-12 months.

Question by Cllr Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services

With the welcome expansion of recycling facilities in the borough, there have been a proliferation in the number of wheelie bins on pavements, sometimes causing problems on narrow streets and adding to existing street clutter. In some areas black bins have been replaced with smaller bins, which is welcome, but with the potential rolling out of a third bin in the future for kitchen and garden waste, street clutter and obstructions of pavements by wheelie bins are likely to be exacerbated. What steps is the Council considering to deal with this problem?

At the present time residents can request to have a green wheelie bin for their recycling. This tends to be in areas where households can accommodate two bins.

Current services have been trialled in areas that can accommodate a number of bins within the boundaries of the property. Future service planning will take into account the issue of how many bins street properties can accommodate, which may mean offering residents a number of possible solutions.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ninja Battle on Hilly Fields!

Just received this in an e-mail and thought it was so bizarre that I had to post it:

"I just wanted to remind (or let you know for the first time) about the filmed Ninja Battle which is taking place on Sunday 16th March 11.00am on Hilly Fields in Brockley, it's not too big a park so look out for a gathering of people dressed in black.

Its part of Fiona Brownlie's (The Other Half, Earth to Earth, Breaker) latest Straight8 film and should be a good laugh. If you're keen just turn up dressed in black and the rest will be provided/explained on the day.
Release your inner Ninja!"

So there you go, Ladywell Fields may have power-pramming, but Hilly Fields has its very own er, Ninja Battle.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Lewisham Toy Library - funding cut overturned

I was very pleased that Mayor & Cabinet decided last week to overturn the proposed cut to funding for the Lewisham Toy Library. The grant they receive is less than £5,000, but crucial to them continuing their work. The chair of their management committee made a very good speech about the volume of toys bought and thrown away in Britain each year, and the important role that toy libraries can play in reducing this waste, as well as enabling parents to save money and children to play with a wider range of toys (as pointed out in this Newsshopper article from last year on the toy library). There is no guarantee that the funding will be continued next year, but the toy library now has another year to publicise its work widely and to encourage as many families in the borough as possible to join and use its services.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Brockley Road betting licence appeal

The date has finally been set: the appeal against Lewisham Council's decision to turn down the betting shop licence application for the former Homeview video shop on Brockley Road will be heard at the Magistrates Court on 13-15 May.

In the meantime we are still waiting for the decision on the appeal against Haringey Council's decision to turn down an application in similar circumstances to Lewisham. The hearing was on 26-27 February but only got to the stage of hearing the evidence of the applicant and the Council. An additional date had to be found and the summing up and the Magistrates' decision are now going to happen on 1 April.