Saturday, October 25, 2008

Missing Street Trees?

Staying on the subject of trees, while I've been out and about in the ward delivering newsletters over the past few days, I've noticed a number of places where street trees have been removed and not replaced. In some cases it may be that they were removed this year and replanting is scheduled for the coming months, but in other cases I suspect they have somehow slipped through the net and been forgotten. The ones I noticed while delivering newsletters were on Abbotswell Road, Francemary Road, Elsiemaud Road, Arthurdon Road, Henryson Road and Brockley Grove.

I've contacted the Council's tree officer about these, but if there are any other places in your area where street trees have fallen down/been removed but not replaced, do leave a comment or e-mail me with the location, when the tree was removed and what species it was (if you know) and I will add them to my list to follow up on. Meanwhile, I'll continue my mini-audit of street trees as I deliver newsletters elsewhere in the ward.

NB: I'm already aware of the missing tree outside 15 Veda Road, which I've been assured will be replaced before Christmas, and am following up on requests from residents on Braxfield Road for some street trees.

Tree Works in Ladywell Fields

I have been informed by Council officers that unfortunately a number of trees need to be felled in Ladywell Fields. This is because they are diseased and pose a health and safety risk to park users. These are works that were identified as necessary during a survey carried out by an independent tree consultant in 2006, but it was agreed to leave them until after the QUERCUS project was complete. The Council has now revisited the survey with the help of another tree expert.

The aim is to minimise the works required, for the sake of the park as well as the budget, but the arboriculturalist has confirmed that several mature trees will have to be felled (most notably a number of Ash by the main path running parallel to the railway line in the northern field) as they pose real danger to park users. However some other trees in less prominent locations, e.g. on the river bank and/or behind railings may be allowed to die naturally, and remain standing or fall as deadwood.

Council officers had a walkabout this morning with representatives from Ladywell Fields Users Group and Ladywell Society to point out the trees in question and explain why the work was necessary. My understanding is that all trees felled will be replaced, but I will check this with officers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confessions of a Green Councillor

This week (20th-26th October) is Energy Saving Week and this year's theme is 'Green/Life Balance'. According to a survey carried out by the Energy Saving Trust, half of us say we would be greener if we had more time, and a third of us say our job is the main reason we don't have time to be green.

I'm certainly guilty of falling into that category now and then, but I took a small green step forward today when I finally got my water butt connected to my drain pipe. I bought it about 8 years ago but it has been sitting idle at the bottom of the garden ever since as I lacked the DIY skills to remove the cast iron drain pipe and replace it with a plastic one that I could fit a butt to. Anyway, I poached my neighbour's plumber who came and did the job for me this morning. A good example of why free water butt schemes need to include installation!

Left, the finished item. I have another smaller one I'm thinking of putting in the front garden too (hopefully it won't take me 8 years to get round to it). I'm almost looking forward to the next time it rains . . .

To show you just how quick energy saving can be, the Energy Saving Trust have produced an Energy Saving Clock, with suggestions on things you can do, ranging from those that take just 1 minute to an hour to save energy (and money). They also have an interactive energy saving house you can explore and Britain Unplugged a new community site, which they hope will develop into a large scale resource for UK energy savers.

For those wondering what happened to my New Year's resolution post to green up my house and cut my carbon emissions, I hope to be able to post more on this soon. It's taken longer than I expected to get quotes for the work I need doing (the May elections got in the way somewhat too), but I'm close to making some decisions now.

I'm going to replace my draughty and rotting windows with wooden-framed double glazed ones, and hopefully also get insulation under my floor boards and on my walls (they are solid brick walls so this has to be done either inside the rooms or externally - I'm probably going for internal, as only a few of my walls need it, being a terraced house). I've had to submit a planning application for my windows even though it isn't in a conservation area, as it is a house split into 3 flats. Normally this kind of decision would be made by officers under delegated powers, but as I am a councillor it has to go to a full planning committee to make sure it is all above board, so it may take a while yet and be 2009 before I can actually get them fitted.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Water Leak on Ladywell Road

In case anyone else was wondering, this leak by the bus stop on Ladywell Road (near the tavern and opposite the car wash) was reported on 14th October. I called today and apparently someone has been out and inspected it, and they are aiming to mend it within 15 days as it's deemed a moderate leak. I've lost track of how many times Thames Water have dug up that section of Ladywell Road in the past few years, but surely at least 4 times? It seems to be a recurring problem. Expect some inconvenience while this is (hopefully) fixed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Something for the weekend?

Two 'rival' workdays organised by local community groups this Sunday!

Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries are clearing brambles from paths this Sunday, with the aim of enabling more people to walk around the cemeteries and to get to graves. Meet by the chapel near the Ladywell entrance at 10am. Wear suitable clothes, gloves and tools will be provided, but bring your own secateurs if you have a pair.

Meanwhile, just over the 'border' in Brockley ward, Brockley Cross Action Group are having a clear up of the Wickham Road estate flowerbeds from 11am-5pm. Tools and refreshments provided. Meet between Connifer and Pear Tree Houses, Brockley Road. Gloves and wellies recommended.

And if that's not enough, Lewisham Green Party are also having an action day tomorrow (Saturday), to try and get the rest of our Autumn newsletter delivered. Meet at 202 Malpas Road from 10am onwards if you'd like to help. Refreshments provided.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day, when thousands of bloggers around the world all blog on the same topic and this year it's poverty. I've left it a bit late in the day to post this, but if I type fast I should just scrape in before midnight!

Here in Lewisham, Greens had a success a few months ago when we got the Council to sign up to commit to paying at least the London Living Wage to all its employees and require its contractors to do the same. The Council already was paying at least London Living Wage to all its employees, but there are plenty of cleaners, care assistants and others working for contractors that are still earning less than this. I have yet to see a Council contract where this stipulation was inserted as a result of the motion, but we keep prompting and asking about it and it will in time become the norm as contracts come up for renewal.

Lewisham Oxfam Campaigns have a busy few days coming up as part of the Stand up against Poverty Campaign. This Friday there is an Oxjam event at Jam Circus, on Sunday they have a collection and event in Lewisham Shopping Centre and on Monday they have a 'Stand up Take Action' comedy night at the Amersham Arms in New Cross. See their Facebook group for all the details of these 3 events.

Thanks to Jim for the prompt on this, I was suffering from poverty of imagination for a while there.

Paving over front gardens now needs planning permission

Been meaning to flag this up for a couple of weeks:

Thanks to the work of Brockley councillor and London Assembly member Darren Johnson and other members of the London Assembly Environment committee, as of 1st October, planning permission is now needed for paving front gardens. The new planning laws respond to calls in the Crazy Paving report for legislation to control the number of concrete-covered gardens in London.

Paving over front gardens can cause drainage problems and flooding problems, has a detrimental impact on the environment and very often looks hideous. The report estimated that green space equivalent to the size of 22 Hyde Parks had been lost as a result of people paving over their front gardens, so it's great that the government responded to these concerns and passed this legislation.

FirstStop; new information and advice service for older people, their families and carers.

I've been sent an e-mail to promote a new information and advice service for older people, their families and carers. FirstStop is provided jointly by Help the Aged, The Elderly Accommodation Counsel, and Counsel and Care and supported by a commercial partner NHFA Care Fees Advice. In addition to the website, there is a telephone Advice Line on 0800 377 7070. The service aims to offer advice on:
  • Care and support - in the home, in specialist housing or in a care home.
  • Housing - services to help people 'stay put' successfully; information about all the options if choosing to move somewhere more suitable.
  • Finance - including paying for care, benefits and allowances, Council and NHS funding, insurances, financial planning and financial products.
  • Rights - the law; standards to be expected; how to get what you are entitled to, including advocacy services that can support you.

South London Garden Organic

The South London Garden Organic group I mentioned a few weeks back has now been set up. Their first meeting (which unfortunately clashes with Lewisham Green Drinks) is on Monday 3rd November 7.30pm, at Devonshire road Nature Reserve. E-mail them for further info or take a look at their blog. Among other things, they hope to be able to obtain organic seeds at a reduced price from Garden Organic.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Climate Rush - 100 years on from the Suffragettes

Well done to local Green Party member Andrea Hughes who took part in the Climate Rush protest at Westminster today - hundreds of women dressed in Victorian outfits marking the one hundredth anniversary of the suffragettes rush and calling for government action not just words on climate change. I had very much hoped to join her but had to be at a meeting locally.

Boos to the police who pushed Andrea around and left her with bruised ribs - she's 61 years old, volunteers for a number of local projects in Lewisham including the Time Bank and Green Gym and really isn't a great threat to national security for goodness sake - bashing pensioners about was not in the police job description last time I looked.

The protest comes just days after the approval of the Stansted and City Airport expansions undermined for many green activists any remnants of credibility the government may have had with regards to its commitment to curbing carbon emissions. If the government continues in this way, it shouldn't be surprised if an increasing number of generally law-abiding citizens turn to more militant methods of protest, much as the suffragettes had to do.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Football Coaching, Homework Club and New Youth Club

Several new activities for young people are starting in the ward this weekend. In Slagrove Place, football coaching with trainers from Millwall will be taking place 10-12 every Saturday starting tomorrow. It is free and the aim is to start up a football team.

Also on Saturday mornings, there will be a homework club for primary and secondary school students at Ladywell Day Centre from 10-12pm. Cost £1 per child.

Both of these events are being organised by L&Q Housing Association. Contact Sonia Meggie for further information.

At the other end of the ward, a new youth club has started at the Tabernacle (the big red-bricked church at the end of Algernon Road). It takes place every Friday from 6.30pm. It's free and refreshments will be on sale. There are two groups: one for ages 13-17 and another for 18-25. Contact The Tabernacle on 020 8691 1000 or email them for further details.

Dog Control Order Consultation

I mentioned in my earlier post about dogs, that a Lewisham Council consultation on dog control orders would be out soon. It is now available online. New legislation, under Section 55 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (2005), will give local authorities extra powers to take action and enforcement against dog owners who do not comply with new rules.

Lewisham Council wants to introduce new enforcement powers that will enable it to take action against people who act irresponsibly by not controlling their dogs, or by allowing them to foul our footpaths and green spaces. It is hoped that the introduction of the Dog Control Order Act, which carries a £75 on-the-spot fine, will enable the Council to deal with irresponsible dog owners far more effectively.

Proposed offences that will attract an on-the-spot fine are:
  • Failing to remove dog faeces
  • Not keeping a dog on a lead in designated areas (these will be sign-posted in public areas)
  • Not putting, and keeping, a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer
  • Permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded
  • Taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land.
The issue that has proved controversial for Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries is the proposal to allow owners to walk their dogs on leads in the cemeteries, whereas they are currently banned, although this policy is often flouted and not enforced. And of course Lewisham does only have two animal welfare officers to cover the entire borough, which while more than other London boroughs, leaves them rather stretch and with limited capacity to enforce the legislation.

Anyway, the public consultation period runs from Monday 13 October to Friday 14 November. Members of the public who wish to comment can complete the online survey, call 020 8314 7171 or email for more information.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Tess Daley from Gordonbrock Primary School, and Nicole St Lewis from Prendergast Hilly Fields school, who won the “Bag it and Bin it” competition to design posters to remind people to clean up after their dog. Their winning entries, which were picked from 85 entries from across the borough were enlarged and put up on the sides of two refuse trucks. Glad to see Ladywell ward schools take a 'clean sweep' on this!

Beckenham Place Park Consultation

Beckenham Place Park is a huge park on the borders with Bromley. Never been there or heard of it? That's kind of the problem and what the Council wants to do something about - to raise the profile of the park, give it a revamp and attract more visitors to it. I have to confess I've only made it there once, although I keep meaning to go back.

One of the issues the Council wants local views on is whether the 18-hole golf course currently in Beckenham Place Park should be reduced to 9-holes, to enable other uses of the park and to make it less 'golf-dominated'. Personally, I think this is probably a good idea, although there is strong opposition from golfers.

The park also has some ecologically-important ancient woodland, which deserves proper management and is often overlooked in the arguments over golf courses. The other key issues are what to do with the the grade II* listed Mansion House in the grounds and the Homestead buildings. Both are in need of significant invesment to renovate them - money which the Council doesn't have. Anyway, you can have your say by filling in the survey here. The deadline for responses is October 17th.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Lewisham and Icelandic Banks

I'm told that Lewisham transferred the £40m it had in 4 Icelandic Banks about 6 months ago - phew! Assuming the banks we moved it to don't go under as well . . .

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Transition Town Lewisham cont'd

We had a record turnout for Lewisham Green Drinks last night, with approximately 25 people packed into the back room of Mr Lawrence Wine Bar to hear about and discuss the Transition Towns movement. There was a lot of enthusiasm for getting something off the ground, though exactly what isn't yet clear. I suspect it may start with a Lewisham-wide e-mail list, then as people make contact with other interested people in their area, smaller projects will get off the ground. At the moment, people from Brockley, Sydenham and Lee Green all seem keen to start something.

Will post again when I hear more. In the meantime, those who are interested may like to join Project Dirt, and specifically South London Low Carbon Communities, which is trying to bring together the many and varied initiatives that already exist.

And of course, if you live in Ladywell ward, don't forget to come along to our ward assembly tomorrow at Prendergast School (lower site), not least as we have the chance to become a pilot project for a local low carbon initiative (more details at the meeting).

Previous posts on this.

Walking the Talk

I have a bad habit of buying books I want to read, rather than using my local library, which is a)expensive and b)not very green. I regularly went to the local library as a child and was even occasionally found in a library when at university, but since moving to Lewisham 8 years ago, although I joined the library, I don't think I've ever taken anything out.

So I have resolved to turn over a new leaf. I started by phoning Lewisham Library Services and getting a PIN so I can search their online catalogue. I did that and couldn't find the book I wanted, so spoke to a librarian who is going to order it in for me, for the bargain price of 50p.

So, I've belatedly woken up to the idea that libraries are very green places, and that I should use them more often. Maybe everyone who reads this is already a regular library user, and I'm just a bit slow to cotton on?

Of course, another thing I am looking forward to borrowing from the library, when they eventually arrive, are the electricity smart meters that we got through the budget this year.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Free Dog Micro-chipping this Saturday (11th October)

Further to my earlier post on dogs which mentioned BARK, please see below for details from the Council's Communications team of an event to formally launch Lewisham's version of the scheme:

Free dog micro-chipping : Saturday 11 October 2008

To mark the launch of BARK - Borough Action for Responsible K9’s – a free dog micro-chipping and information event is being held on Saturday 11 October.

BARK aims to encourage responsible dog ownership in the borough and is a joint project organised by Lewisham Council, the RSPCA and Battersea Cats and Dogs Home.

The numbers of stray dogs being reported continues to rise each year. One way of finding a lost four-legged friend more quickly and easily is to have it microchipped. Microchipping is a safe, permanent form of ID that can help to reunite owners with their dogs should they become lost or stolen.

The microchipping session is on Saturday, 11 October from 10.00am to 3.00pm at:

Wearside Service Centre
Wearside Road
SE13 7EZ

Pre-booking for micro-chipping is essential. It is not possible to safely accommodate large numbers of dogs and their owners in one space at the same time. Dog owners wanting to bring their dogs along must call 020 8314 2098 for an appointment.

The event is open to Lewisham residents only. Residents – or rather their dogs! – will also get a free engraved tag as well as the micro-chip.

Residents can bring as many dogs as they like but do need to make an appointment first. Residents are asked to bring proof of pet ownership wherever possible, such as a vet card or bill, or pedigree papers. Proof of living in the borough is also necessary, e.g. Council Tax statement or utility bill.

Staff will also be on hand to give information and advice about responsible dog ownership.

UPDATED on 7th October to insert the all-important word 'responsible' before dog ownership in the Council's press release - thanks to Zoe for pointing out that omission to me!

Two Courses in Ladywell

Two courses coming up in Ladywell which I agreed to mention on this blog:

The first is called 'What can a parent do?' and is "designed to give practical skills to help parents be more effective: encouraging your child, being a good listener, communicating about problems, what kind of discipline". It runs for 8 weeks from 7th October (ie tomorrow) from a house in Cliffview Road. Call 8469 2538 for more info, or visit the Brockley Community Church website.

The second is "How to Drug Proof Your Kids", which is being run in association with Care for the Family and Hope UK. Course starts 16th October and runs weekly until 20th November, 7.30-9pm from a house in Dressington Avenue. Call Micky on 07828 162668 for further info.

Come along to the second Ladywell Assembly

The second Ladywell Assembly is going to take place on Wednesday, 8 October from 7-9pm in the modern science block of Prendergast School on Adelaide Avenue (no need to trek up the hill in Hilly Fields!).

The first assembly at the end of June identified the key areas local residents were concerned about: local shops (improving local shopping parades), streetscape and the environment, traffic and parking, lack of youth and community facilities, anti-social behaviour and crime and the Playtower on Ladywell Road. Updates on recent developments and progress reports will be presented, and priorities for future action will be further discussed at the assembly on Wednesday.

There will also be an introduction of an exciting project which would involve the whole ward – how Ladywell can become a more sustainable community. This can cover a range of issues such as food, waste, travel, domestic energy consumption, renewable energy installations, sustainable construction – something in there for everybody to get involved in and benefit from. There is funding available to take this forward if the assembly thinks it would benefit the ward.

In addition, there is an opportunity for community groups and local organisations to present themselves and their work in Ladywell.

Ladywell Locality Fund - proposals for spending requested

Because the deadline for proposals on how the £10,000 Locality Fund should be spent in Ladywell is on Monday, 20 October, this is not a major agenda item for the Ladywell Assembly on Wednesday. As in the past, activities or projects should aim to improve the local area and involve the community. Staff costs cannot be covered and the money needs to be transferred by 31 March 2009 even if the activity takes place later, for example in the summer. There should be a reasonable balance between activities in different parts of the ward and involving different parts of the community.

A tall order but I think this has worked fairly well in the past two years. The Locality Fund has paid for youth activities in Slagrove Place, playground equipment for Gordonbrock School, street planters, the Christmas tree in Ladywell village and additional Christmas lights, toys for a playgroup in Crofton Park Baptist Church, training equipment for the football classes in Hilly Fields, a contribution to Brockley Max arts festival and various other activities.

For further information please contact me on

Betting shops in the news

Who would have thought that the Gambling Act 2005, which came into force on 1 September last year and which I have earlier described as a sorry piece of legislation, would make national news? Well, it happened on Saturday when betting shops were the main news feature (alongside Peter Mandelson’s return to cabinet) on BBC Breakfast.

The Local Government Association, the umbrella organisation for local councils, has grave concerns about the impact of the new legislation and says it doesn’t work as it has led to a considerable increase in the number of betting shops particularly in deprived areas. Unsurprisingly, this mirrors our arguments against the betting licence application for the new bookies on Brockley Road. The BBC go onto it and came to Lewisham to do part of a feature for the Saturday Breakfast programme with local campaigner Glenda Rodgers and Sue (who was ultimately edited out of the final version). They then invited me to be interviewed live on Saturday morning, not about the battle over Brockley Road in particular but about the general implications of the proliferation of bookies for local communities and local councils.

It’s a bit difficult to make all the valid points in two or three minutes, especially if this was your first live TV interview and you had to get up at 5 a.m. after a busy week, but I feel a local campaigner from Hackney and I were able to retort the arguments in favour of the new legislation much better than the owner of a smaller chain of betting shops was in responding to the arguments against.

Lewisham has had its fair share, with the total number of betting shops going up by five to 77 in only a few months since the appeal against the Council’s decision to turn down the application for Brockley Road was decided in favour of the applicant in May. The fact that there is now a national campaign is definitely good news. It won’t change anything for Brockley Road, but if it ultimately leads to a change in the legislation towards better regulation and more power for local councils to take decisions for the benefit of their communities, that is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Loampit Vale Planning Application

The application for Loampit Vale has now been submitted to Planning. This is a major application adjacent to Ladywell ward and likely therefore to have a significant impact on residents in nearby streets, so I thought I would flag it up so you can find out more and send any comments you wish on this to planning. You can see the application here. The developers also have a website.

It is for "The comprehensive mixed use redevelopment of the land on the South Side of Loampit Vale, SE13 7DJ between the two railway bridges, either side of Elmira Street and north of Vian Street and Cornmill Gardens as follows: Eight buildings ranging in height from 5 to 22 storeys 819 residential flats A leisure centre (including a swimming pool) (D2) Replacement facilities for the existing London City Mission (D1) Shops, Financial/Professional Services and Business space (A1, A2 and B1) (approx. 1,670m², including Business space for 'Creative Industries' of approx. 620m²) Public and private open space 201 car parking spaces, 893 cycle spaces and 20 motorcycle spaces An energy centre Associated highway works."

Previous posts on this.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Off-licence Application: Peacocks Food & Wine 103 Ladywell Road

I've received notification of the following application from Licensing:

Application for a NEW / VARIATION Premises licence under the Licensing Act
Peacock Food Wine
103 Ladywell Road
SE13 7JA

Applied for sale of Alcohol Off the premises Monday – Sunday 06:00 – 00:00.

If you wish to make any representations, they need to reach Licensing by 30th October 2008.
Licensing team
Laurence House, 2nd Floor Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, Catford SE6 4RU
Tel: 020 8314 6400. E-mail:

This is the shop which until recently was YOGI's newsagents but is now under new management. This would mean that there would be 3 off-licences on Ladywell Road, plus the 'local' one on Algernon (I can't remember off the top of my head if Village News has an alcohol licence or not). Is this something readers of this blog feel strongly about, or not?