Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reflecting on 2008 and looking to 2009

Best wishes for 2009 to all readers of this blog. Nick over on Brockley Central has done an excellent recap on the main local events in 2008 (I'll turn a blind eye to his ongoing attempts to subsume Ladywell into Greater Brockley!!), but I wanted to write a few words from the point of view of a Green councillor on what the main challenges were in the last year and what we managed to achieve.

At the beginning of the year we spoke out against plans to expand Heathrow while the Mayor of Lewisham chose to remain silent. By the end of the year he had agreed to write to the Minister for Transport urging him not to grant permission for the expansion plans.

January saw the publication of Lewisham's Sustainable Development Committee's report on 'Alternatives to individual car use' (yes, that's right, people were queuing up to get their hands on a copy!) which advocated a 20mph zone across residential streets in the borough and greater resources for cycling training in schools, amongst other things. As chair of the committee I spoke in favour of the recommendations at Mayor & Cabinet and in February, the Mayor of Lewisham supported the call for a borough-wide 20mph zone, and the previous Mayor of London was also supportive, but that was all scuppered when (the outer ring of the doughnut that is) London (overwhelmingly) opted for Bojo in May.

January also saw the first informal meeting in Masons, which led to the launch of Ladywell Village Improvement group, and I organised the competition to design the 'Shop Local in Ladywell bags'. The bags proved popular and sold out, but more have been ordered and will be arriving in early 2009. Rivoli Ballroom was listed by English Heritage and I vowed that 2008 would be the year I would green up my home (ahem, more on this v soon in 2009, I promise, work is due to start on Jan 12th!).

The controversial 'A Picture of Health' consultation, with its proposals to cut services at Lewisham Hospital was launched, decent homes work started in Ladywell, and I enjoyed two minor successes locally with the removal of an illegal advertising hoarding and finally getting a street bench repaired.

In February, Green councillors highlighted the amount of money Lewisham Council was wasting on water coolers: as a result a plan is now being implemented to phase out most of the water coolers in Council buildings. We also highlighted Council leaseholders' concerns at having their original Victorian wooden sash windows replaced with UPVC windows.

In March we responded to a police consultation that included a proposal to close Brockley Police station and joined residents marching to oppose the proposed hospital cuts. We also, finally , got a bit more redundant street clutter removed.

In the annual budget negotiations, despite a tough financial settlement for the borough, the Green Group secured the following budget concessions:
- 'Smart meters' - devices proven to slash household CO2 emissions and fuel poverty - to be on loan through libraries and schools.
- -Cash for a bid to be the first London borough to run street-by-street energy reduction scheme.
- More sustainable transport officers to boost cycling and draw in more TfL funding.
- Full funding of the successful Real Nappies scheme piloted last year which has brought Lewisham to the top three of all participating boroughs.
- Reversal of cuts to sports programmes targeted at poor young people and obese people.
- Reversal of staff cuts in food and licensing enforcement.

April was full of election campaigning for London politicians, but locally also saw the results of the Ladywell Road survey and improvements for cyclists on St Margaret's Road.

In May, following a motion proposed by Greens, Lewisham Council committed to ensuring that all its employees and contractors earn at least the London Living Wage. Greens will be monitoring progress on this closely, particularly with regards to contracts with external providers.

Also in May, following our biggest election campaign ever in Lewisham, Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones were re-elected to the London Assembly. Encouragingly, despite the tight squeeze London-wide our vote share went up in 14 out of 18 wards across Lewisham, most noticeably in our target constituency of Lewisham Deptford. In Ladywell the Green vote was up nearly 6%, the second highest increase for Greens in London.

Greens supported a long-running and vociferous local campaign against the opening of another betting shop on Brockley Road. In May, the betting shop won its appeal. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the campaign helped trigger a Local Government Association campaign calling for the laws to be changed.

The Mayor of Lewisham did a u-turn on affordable housing and agreed to Green demands for a 50% affordable housing quota in new developments.

In June, Ladywell Leisure Centre was closed for a few weeks due to an outbreak of Legionella, the first Ladywell ward assembly was held and Francis Drake Bowling Club got some lovely new gates.

Following a survey of Lewisham Council Pension Fund members, which I called for, a massive majority called for a more ethical investment policy. Not much has changed yet though, and in July our fund managers even opposed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls motion to get TESCO to phase out battery-farmed chickens. Hmph, still working on that one.

Over the Summber, 3 Brockley primary schools got solar panels on their roofs thanks to funding agreed by Green councillors via the localities fund.

Meanwhile, Foxborough Gardens TRA held a successful Fun Day,

Lewisham Greens went to Climate Camp to protest against new coal-fire power stations, and on Ladywell Road, Oscars Cafe opened and Ladywell Tavern re-opened. There were some successes on environmental enforcement issues in the ward, particularly in Howson Road.

We continued to support tenants and leaseholders affected by the Brockley housing PFI. As well as supporting leaseholders unhappy with the lack of information about the scheduled works, we also highlighted discrepancies in insulation standards proposed between properties in the conservation areas and those outside it and pushed for living roofs to be installed when garages roofs are renovated. A number of Green Group initiatives were incorporated into the borough’s new climate change strategy.

In September, following a motion proposed by Green councillors, Lewisham Council agreed to opt in to the Sustainable Communities Act. Greens organised a public meeting to raise awareness of this new legislation and will be monitoring progress closely. September also saw a new national leader for the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MEP.

In October, we found ourselves again opposing proposals to cut social care to vulnerable Lewisham residents (elderly and disabled people), calling for a more ambitious PC shutdown system at the town hall, a year after we first proposed it, and welcoming the Mayor of Lewisham's recession plan as far as it went, but urging him to go much further and to create a 'Green New Deal' for Lewisham. Within Ladywell, we were highlighting missing street trees and the consultation on dog control orders, which will potentially impact on the cemeteries.

In November, we welcomed another victory against the ongoing PFI UPVC onslaught on local Victorian buildings, this time for Ladywell Lodge, but mourned the passing of the Pepys Community Forum Recycling Scheme.

In Ladywell, the year was rounded off with an excellent Ladywell Christmas Market organised by LVIG and a nice bit of graffiti admonishment to Nestle. We quietly launched our new local party website and gave this blog a slight facelift, although there is more to come.

My predictions for Lewisham for 2009? Well, there's little doubt that it'll be a tough year, with things likely to get worse before they get better, and little sign of the government addressing the root causes of the economic crisis rather than just propping up the status quo. So far, so obvious.

Nationally, we urgently need our government to invest in a nationwide free home insulation programme, which would create lots of jobs and dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and fuel poverty. We also need to look at our nation's food security in a time of great economic uncertainty. We are far too dependent on a centralised food distribution system and supermarkets, which looks increasingly unstable as energy sources start to dwindle.

However, I am encouraged by the way the community has worked together over the past few months, with a number of new groups formed, and think a strong community-based approach is key to getting through the crisis. I think that 2009 will be the year Transition Lewisham gets off the ground and starts to question how we are doing things, and whether we are ready for the economic, energy and environmental challenges that lie ahead. And on a personal level, 2009 will be the year when I finally get my insulation and new windows fitted!

If the government takes the decision to go ahead with expanding Heathrow Airport, we will see unprecedented levels of people involved in direct action to oppose this, including this and I suspect many other elected representatives in the capital.

Darren thinks there will be a general election in March, I'm less sure, but we're getting prepared just in case.

And I sincerely hope that Israel and Palestine call a ceasefire and go back to the negotiating table.

Anyway, it's high time I got off to Moonbow Jakes to see in the New Year, and sadly mark the end of this Brockley institution, as it ceases trading today. Best wishes for the New Year to everyone.

How many people read this blog?

These are the visitor stats for this blog since it started in March 2006. Not sure if they're good or not, but the number of visitors continues to grow, which is encouraging.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No councillor surgery on 27 December

The fourth Saturday of the month is on 27 December and due to the Christmas bank holidays both surgeries that day at St. Andrew's on Brockley Road - mine for Ladywell ward and Cllr Dean Walton's for Brockley ward - have been cancelled.

The next regular surgeries are on 10 January: in the old bothy in Hilly Fields from 11am-12pm for Ladywell and in St John's on Lewisham Way from 10-11am for Brockley.

In the meantime I can be contacted by e-mail or by phone and will deal with enquiries and casework after Christmas. In case of an emergency please contact Lewisham Council's switchboard on 020 8314 6000.

The next major ward event is going to come soon: the Ladywell Assembly on Tuesday, 20 January from 7-9pm at Prendergast School (modern science block on Adelaide Avenue), with an update on ward priorities and improvements undertaken and planned. More on this soon.

In the meantime have a quiet or exciting but in any case stressfree break; or, if you are working at this time, like the carers, nurses and doctors, policemen and fire fighters who provide essential services, I hope you get at least a moment or two to take a deep breath and have a cup of tea.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

If you're still short of a present or two for a loved one in Ladywell . . .

. . . the last 3 Shop Local in Ladywell bags are on sale in Oscars, as of this evening. Everywhere else has sold out now. Some more are being ordered and will be on sale in the Spring. Failing that, have you tried the chocolates, gifts and ceramics at Sunrise Ceramics on Algernon Road? Margaret who does the pottery side of things, is now sharing the premises with a chocolatier and a jewellery maker. Good time for all of us to put our money where our mouth is and shop locally.

I'm logging off for a few days now. Best wishes to all for Christmas, Hannukah, Yule etc and the New Year.

Discussion on Brockley Central Blog

I'm braving the dragon's den that is Brockley Central blog today, by asking for views on spending the £2,000 we have allocated for the Ladywell ward bit of Brockley Road. Thanks to Nick for posting my request up there. Comments of late on the BC blog have been a touch heated, to say the least, so I'm hoping people will be kind! Feedback so far suggest we should stick to plan A, which is to spend the money improving the area outside the row of shops opposite St Andrew's Church.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dressington Avenue 'Ghost Playground': What's the Story?

Last week I went on a walkabout around Foxborough Gardens, Dressington Avenue and Rushey Mead with a representative from Regenter B3. The walkabouts are organised quarterly and and I find it's useful to pick up on issues that we've previously raised via e-mail but which haven't yet been resolved: sometimes a site visit helps.

I had a whole list of things I wanted to check up on from previous casework, but what was really interesting for me was finally to get into the derelict playground which is locked away in the middle of Dressington Avenue, in between the back gardens of some of the houses. I'd seen it before from the entrance near Ladywell Lodge, but had no idea how far it went back, or how big it was. It looks like as well as a playground area, there was also some kind of sports court. There are also various alleyways that run between the backs of the houses but are now sealed off.

I would love to know the story behind this; why was it locked up and abandoned years ago? I suspect it is a story of a poorly-designed 1970s estate and that the area, sheltered between back fences attracted anti-social behaviour and residents got fed up with the noise etc, but I could be wrong. It seems a shame just to leave it, but maybe that is what residents wanted? From a biodiversity point of view, the area is probably quite good for wildlife now, but in terms of local amenity, clearly it's wasted space.

Next time we're out door-knocking and speaking to residents in Dressington Avenue I will ask people, and I'll see if there is anyone in the Council's Housing team who knows the history. In the meantime, if there's anyone reading this blog whose memory stretches back to a time when this playground was open, I would be interested to hear from you. And if there are any current residents of Dressington Avenue reading this post, what do you think should happen to the space?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Website for Lewisham Green Party

One of the reasons my blogging has been a little more sporadic over the past few weeks is that in my part-time day job as constituency organiser for Lewisham Green Party, I've been working on a new local party website. Well, that is, doing the donkey work of uploading stuff, not the funky designing bits. It's not entirely there yet (a couple of videos are coming soon), we need a few more photos etc, but it's nearly finished. We're the pilot for a new Green Party local party website template - what do you think?

Get an RSS feed of our press releases, sign up to our supporters' list, find out how you can get involved in our campaigns, join, make a donation, or simply find out more about our policies and what we've been up to.

The next project (again with my constituency organiser rather than local cllr hat on) is a website for our Lewisham Deptford parliamentary campaign, just in case the general election is called sooner than many expect. . .

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Just wanted to flag up two sites I have recently added to the 'Local Links' section of the blog.

The first is Lewisham LINK (Local Involvement Network) the successor to PALS, what was the patient advice and liaison service, ie the body for hospital patients and other healthcare users to make their views/concerns known. It says it is "an inclusive network to enable people and organisations in Lewisham to have a say and influence the planning, commissioning and delivery of health and social care services to improve the health and well being of patients and service users". It is being run by Parkwood Healthcare and based at Ladywell Leisure Centre.

The second is to the Ladywell Assembly page on the Council's website, which gives details of our next ward assembly (January 20th), as well as the ward priorities, minutes of previous meetings, the localities fund spending etc.

Hilly Fields: Tree Work Planned

Fairly extensive tree works are planned over the next few days in Hilly Fields. The Council's tree officer has identified a number of trees that are potentially dangerous and either need to be pruned right back, or felled. Replacements will be planted for any trees that are removed, with the species agreed in discussion with Hilly Fields Users Group. Some of the logs will be left on site to make benches and/or as wildlife habitat (stag beetles etc).

For info, the works planned are outlined below, with maps that illustrates the approximate locations of the trees.

(by junction of Montague Ave with Adelaide Ave)
T138 - London plane: Crown lift tree to clear lamp post.
T139 - Sugar maple: Pollard: this pruning will be sever due to the presence of a root decaying fungus. A Sweet chestnut tree has already been planted adjacent to this tree to mitigate the future loss of the tree. It is likely that the maple will need to be removed in 5 to 10 years time, once the Chestnut is well established.

T140 - Ash: Fell. This is due to a trunk cavity and split in the trunk.
T141 - Ash: Reduce heavily - This work is necessary due to the presence of a root and trunk decaying fungus. The borough's tree officer will increase the frequency of inspection for this Ash.
T142, T143 and T144 - Hawthorn: All three trees are in very poor heath and require felling.
T145 - Spp?: Hanging branch is to be removed
T146 - Sycamore: Fell as it is dead.
T147 - Poplar: Fell - There is a large cavity at base that has compromised the structural integrity of the tree.
T148 - Sycamore: Fell. It is in very poor heath and structurally unstable.
T149 - Ash: Fell. Very poor condition
T150 - Sycamore: Fell. Very poor condition
T151 - Poplar: Pollard. Tree has been pollarded in the past and the branches that have developed from the old pollard need to be cut back.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ladywell women say 'Give us a Break' Nestle?!

Hats off to whoever daubed 'Sexist nonsense - give us a break' on this KitKat advert on Ladywell Road today. One bit of graffiti I won't be rushing to report to lovelewisham.

I took the photo in the dark so in case it's not readable it says 'Goodwill to all women' then underneath it says 'only 165 calories'. That's right men, no need to bother with the calorie counting -that's just for us women.

I couldn't quite believe the message this advert sent out when I first saw it at London Bridge station, and it seems I'm not the only one to find it a tad insulting. Apparently Nestle are planning to spend £16m advertising KitKat over the next year, so plenty more opportunities for a bit of subvertising, perhaps.

UPDATE 21/12/08: top of Adelaide Avenue:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Well done LVIG!

Well done to everyone from Ladywell Village Improvement Group who worked so hard to put on yesterday's excellent Christmas Market at Ladywell Station, together with City and Country Farmers' Market. Despite the rain, hundreds of local residents turned out to stock up on Christmas food and gifts as well as to sample the mulled wine, mince pies and/or hog roast. St Mary's Church choir sang, the Mayor came and turned on the Christmas lights and Ladywell Tavern was heaving in the evening for the live music, raffle and quiz.

It was surprising how many Ladywell residents didn't know that there was a monthly farmers' market on Hilly Fields, so perhaps they will have gained a few new customers for the new year. Lots of people also went to/came from the Brockley Christmas Market which was on the same day. It was great to see so many of the local businesses involved and supporting the event by donating prizes to the raffle. Here's hoping it becomes a regular event in the local calendar (once Sian, Cynthia, Eleanor and everyone else who helped have picked themselves up off the floor and recovered a bit).

(I somehow managed to lose my camera at the Lewisham Green Party Christmas meal the night before, so apologies for the slightly grainy camera phone pictures, but hopefully some better quality ones will be up on the LVIG site soon.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nature's Gym: January Events

I just wanted to give a quick plug to Nature's Gym, the volunteer conservation workdays in various parks and open spaces in the borough that are run by the Council. It's a great way to keep fit and do something to improve the local environment too.

The January events can be viewed online here, and include a number of workdays locally. I'm really pleased that for the first time, we've managed to get a day in Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries in the schedule. A few of the local events planned:

Sunday 18th Jan: Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries workday (organised by FOBLC). Meet by the old chapel in Ladywell Cemetery at 10am. See FOBLC website for further details.

Thursday 22 Jan: Nature’s Gym in Ladywell Fields, 11.00am-2.00pm. Various nature conservation activities in the park, anything from river clean-up to shrub clearance. Meet at the environmental classroom just off Ladywell Road.

Saturday 24 Jan: Bird Watching Event at Hilly Fields, time TBC. Take part in the RSPB Garden Birdwatch by surveying the various bird species in Hilly Fields. Meet by the park keepers office.

Saturday 31st Jan: 11am-2pm, Nature's Gym, Blythe Hill Fields: Planting a native hedge around the perimeter of the field.

Thursday 26th Feb: Nature’s Gym in Hilly Fields, 11am-2pm, . Meet on Eastern Road off Adelaide Avenue. Look out for the white van.

Saturday 28th Feb: Natures Gym in Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries, 11am-2pm.

For further details on any of the Nature's Gym events, contact Jess Rushton(020 8314 2119) or Lara Al Jabi (020 83183986).

River Channel in Ladywell Fields

We've been informed that the new river channel in Ladywell fields has run dry. It seems that the weir was breached on Sunday, the river dried up very quickly and sadly many fish have been found dead in the channel.

It is not entirely clear how this has happened, but Council officers believe a combination of causes may have contributed:
  • High flows over the previous weeks weakening the dams structure by dislodging smaller rocks
  • Vandalism - some smaller rocks may have been taken - quite possibly for garden rockeries….
  • The Environment Agency's river works - a huge amount of debris has piled up on the weir following the river works. This will put greater stress on the weir, and it is possible that a large trunk flowed down and dislodged rocks in the weir.
Although the site of the breach is quite small, the result has been severe.

The weir, which was part of the recent Quercus works, was built to the Environment Agency's specifications, and strengthened in the spring, as they were not happy with the initial specifications. A further review was planned for the coming spring.

Council officers are working together with the Environment Agency and their works contractor to put this right. They hope to get an interim solution in before Christmas, and to rebuild the weir early in the new year. They have been advised to stick to the same approach, but that the weir will need to be considerably larger - 5+m in the direction of flow, so that a riffle effect is created rather than a waterfall, and larger boulders will also be used.

Notices have been put up in the park to explain what has happened.

Ladywell Train Station Kiosk

Every month or so there is a 'Transport Liason' meeting in Lewisham, which is designed as an opportunity for local amenities societies, councillors and residents to ask questions and raise any concerns with the train and bus companies and TfL. Both Ladywell Society and I asked a question of South-Eastern trains at this week's meeting. My question and the (to my mind) rather unsatisfactory response from South-Eastern trains is below, for info.

Question for South-East trains
I understand that the previous leaseholders for the shop in Ladywell Station gave up the lease a few weeks ago as the rent was raised from £400/month to £1000/month. What plans do you have to re-let the unit? I know also that local residents value being able to get a coffee and newspaper from the station in the morning and will miss it if it remains empty for a long time.


We have duty to maximise revenue from station properties and the rent does reflect the local market. We are actively trying to let the kiosk but if a tenant cannot be found, particularly in the current climate, we may consider reducing the rent.

It seems to me that South-East trains were a little hasty in their decision to more than double the rent, when they didn't have another business lined up to take over. I hope the kiosk gets let soon, but suspect it will be difficult in the current climate. £1,000 rent a month seems an awful lot to me for the location and footfall, but time will tell I guess.

I don't want to be too harsh on South-East trains this week, however, as they have been very co-operative in allowing the Ladywell Christmas Market to take place on their property this weekend. Don't forget to come: 11am-5pm, Saturday 13th December, outside Ladywell Station. Quiz etc to raise money for LVIG in Ladywell Tavern in the evening.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Climate Change Stuff

Rather busy today, but just wanted to post a couple of climate change related links. The first is to the informative Stop Climate Change website from the Green Group in the European Parliament. And the second is to a video from Saturday's climate change march in central London:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ladywell Chemist moving to Hilly Fields Medical Centre

We've received formal notification that Ladywell Chemist is moving from 79 Ladywell Road to Hilly Fields Medical Centre, 172-174 Adelaide Avenues, SE4 1JN. This has been on the cards for some time. My understanding is that the existing shop will remain but that the dispensing side of things will move up to the medical centre on Adelaide Avenue. I will check with the owners of the chemist that this is still the case, as I'm keen to ensure that we have a viable parade of shops on Ladywell Road, but moving the pharmacy to the doctors' surgery seems to make sense to me and will be more convenient for patients.

However, if anyone does have any concerns about the proposed move you should write to:

The Chief Executive
Family Health Services Appeal Unit
NHS Litigation Authority
30 Victoria Avenue
North Yorkshire, HG1 5PR
Tel. 01423 535280; Fax 01423 522 034

Any representations should be received by 31st December 2008.