Thursday, January 29, 2009

All 3 Lewisham Labour MPs back government on aviation expansion

Assuming the Standard has got it's voting figures correct, it seems that all 3 Lewisham Labour MPs, including Lewisham Deptford MP Joan Ruddock, junior minister for climate change, backed the government and supported the expansion of Heathrow Airport in yesterday's vote in the House of Commons. Nice one Joan, but you're supposed to be the minister that takes action to prevent climate change, not to guarantee runaway climate change. Just keep telling us to change our lightbulbs, that should do the job . . . not.

'Disgusted of Ladywell'

Friday, January 16, 2009

Re-Elect Jean Lambert MEP

Along with lots of my fellow Green bloggers, I want to give a plug today to the work of Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert.

Jean was elected as London's first Green Party MEP in 1999- and in 2004, she was re-elected with an increased share of the vote. On June 4th 2009, she faces re-election again - but due to EU enlargement, there are less European Parliament seats to go around in the UK, and more votes are needed every time to achieve re-election.

Second on the Green Party's London Region list for the European Parliament is our very own Ladywell ward councillor, Ute Michel. Getting two Green MEPs in London is a tall order, but I know Ute would do a brilliant job given the chance, as has Jean.

Pictured above: Ladywell ward councillor Ute Michel, with Shahrar Ali and Jean Lambert, the top 3 London Region Green candidates for the Euro Elections.

The work of the European Parliament can sometimes feel remote from people's everyday experience - but much of the UK's environmental, social and human rights legislation is now decided at an EU level, and the often unheralded work of our MEPs makes an enormous difference to the shape and impact of those laws. Jean has been tireless in working for social justice, environmental sustainability and peace - as recognised by the fact that she was named Justice and Human Rights MEP of the year in 2005.

Among other issues, Jean has focused on trade union rights, fairer treatment for asylum seekers, and the abolition of the UK opt-out to the Working Time Directive. She has been a prominent voice in proving that Green issues are not confined to the environment, but are concerned with building a more fair and just society.

It was Jean's 'Hothouses' report on climate change and greening London's housing stock, that first got me thinking seriously about ways of insulating my flat. The report highlights the importance of insulating London's existing housing (97% of London's housing was built before 1995), including the challenge of dealing with the 1.7m solid wall homes in London (over half of London's housing stock, including much of the Victorian housing in and around Brockley and Ladywell).

Her more recent 'Green Work' report looks in more detail at the need to create thousands of jobs in green industries such as insulation, and train up thousands of people to meet the 'green skills gap' in insulating homes, the renewables and recycling industry, plumbers, builders etc.

The BBC who have done a week-long blog and feature on the role of MEPs this week, in an attempt to demystify their work slightly, which includes an interview with Jean.

To continue her excellent work in Europe, Jean needs to get the message out to millions of Londoners, but she isn't funded by corporations, lobbyists or millionaires, so instead, her re-election campaign is relying on the efforts of ordinary Londoners. If you'd like to donate to her campaign, you can do so here via Paypal. If you'd like to volunteer in anyway, contact the campaign (or e-mail me for details of local events), and keep in touch with developments through Facebook.

Insulation Day 3

OSB (oriented structure board) has started to go down in the front room today. Just 8mm thick, but enough to give extra support to the boards that will go over the top, as well as add an extra air-tight layer over the insulation. Apparently OSB is better than using plywood or MDF as it contains less formaldehyde and wastes less wood. Slight hitch in that my phone line was accidentally cut today when the skirting boards were removed - apologies to anyone who tried to call and couldn't get through - it's back up and running now though, so do call again.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Operation Insulation and the Lunacy of Expanding Aviation

The insulation has been laid in my front room now, and it already feels warmer, even before the floorboards have been put back on top!

I wondered for a while today why I'm bothering to make the effort though, when our government has today announced it was to press ahead with Heathrow Expansion, which would cancel out any carbon savings individuals make and put us well and truly on course for runaway climate change.

- Sorry Bangladesh, our government thinks BAA's business interests are more important than rising sea levels that will put your country underwater.
- Sorry Londoners, 1,000 of whom already die prematurely each year due to air pollution, but your government has just decided to make it all much worse and build an airport that will almost certainly be in breach of EU air pollution laws.
- Sorry to all those who already get woken up at 5am by the first planes overhead - for those of you who don't yet - stand by as it's going to get a hell of a lot noisier soon.

I am absolutely furious, and for me this is a line in the sand. I will do everything I can within the law to oppose this, but will also now consider taking part in direct action and if necessary risk arrest, as I think what the government is proposing is criminally negligent (and they didn't even have the guts to put it to the vote in parliament).

I haven't heard much from our 3 Lewisham MPs on this issue, but have written to Joan Ruddock MP asking for clarification of her stance on this, both as my constituency MP and as Parliamentary Under Secretary in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. By dodging having a vote in parliament on this issue, the government has tried to avoid embarrassment for any of its ministers with London constituencies.

Of course there is every possibility that we could end up with a Tory government after the next general election and if so they have pledged to scrap the plans for Heathrow expansion, but can we really trust them not to cave in to big business on this one? Clearly some of their members are less than supportive of their leaders' stance (not to mention being head in the sand climate change sceptics).

Good press release from the national party today and it was also announced that the Labour group leader on Bury St Edmonds Council has resigned from Labour and applied to join the Green Party in disgust at the Heathrow decision.

Finally, if you haven't already done so, why not sign up to Greenpeace's Airplot campaign, and declare a beneficial interest in a plot of land within the site of the proposed new runway? There is also a Flashmob at Heathrow Terminal 5 at midday this Saturday (17th).

Have your say in shaping improvements in Ladywell - come along to the Ladywell Assembly on Tue, 20.01. from 7-9pm

The next Ladywell Assembly will take place on 20 January from 7-9pm in the modern science block of Prendergast School on Adelaide Avenue and it is open to everybody who lives, works or studies in the ward.

At the last assembly, residents selected the top five priorities for the ward: Local Shops, Streetscape and Environment, Lack of Youth and Community Facilities, Anti-Social Behaviour and Crime, and The Playtower. At the forthcoming assembly, feedback from a meeting of the assembly coordinating group and councillors with Council officers about these priorities will inform the discussion on concrete action to tackle issues raised, and on specific project proposals that could be put forward for funding from the Mayor’s Fund, a pot of money from which the Mayor has allocated £50k to each ward (£25k from this and from next year’s Fund) as part of the assembly process. This is in addition to the Locality Fund of £10k, and so £60k will be available for improvements in Ladywell ward. This assembly will start considering good uses for the money and at a later assembly meeting the detailed proposals will be assessed for funding.

In addition, one of the participants will give a brief update from the recent LINC meeting on reducing our impact on the environment. This is a project that was launched at the last assembly but is independent of it and taken forward by a group of Ladywell residents. The discussions we had on waste and recycling, home insulation for both Victorian and more recent properties and transport issues were very lively and informative, and more information on practical activities and access to further information will be available soon.

There will also be information on the activities funded with this year’s Locality Fund, and the popular community update will focus on youth provision in the ward. In addition, everybody who would like to share local information is going to have an opportunity to do so. It is a great opportunity to find out what is going on in the ward.

Last but not least there will be elections to the assembly co-ordinating group for a one year term.

It would be great to see many of you there as it promises to be a very interesting meeting and is local residents’ chance to shape the look and feel of Ladywell ward.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Operation Insulation has commenced!

Finally, after months of reading up and getting estimates, and just over a year after I joined the Green Homes scheme and got my home energy audit, my plan to insulate and 'green up' my flat took a step forward today, with the start of the work to insulate under my floor boards. Living in the ground floor flat of a converted Victorian house with stripped floorboards and single glazed sash windows has been more than a bit draughty over the past few weeks, but hopefully that's all set to change. The works are going to take a few weeks, and involve moving all the furniture out of one half of the flat while all the floorboards are taken up. Any inch of space that isn't taken up with furniture, is jam-packed with huge bales of insulation material.

Work started today in the front room. The floorboards have all been lifted and the skirting boards removed. 'Periscope vents' have been fitted onto the air bricks to channel the air down. It's important that air continues to circulate underneath the insulation to avoid damp problems. A fair amount of rubble has been removed to make sure the air holes are clear. A breathable membrane is going to be placed over and between the joists, to hold the insulation in place.

The insulation that I'm using is hemp based, and (I'm assured) both fire retardant and treated with smthg which makes it unappealing to mice. After discussion with the builders today, we decided to add an extra 6mm layer of board on top of the insulation and joists to add extra support to the floorboards (they've already been sanded once and after being sanded a second time might be slightly thinner than ideal).

All this insulation will just about bring my floor insulation up to modern day building regs standards, ie not by any stretch of the imagination zero carbon, but significantly better than it currently is. We're limited in what we can do by the fact that the gap under the floor boards and the depth of the joists is not that big, but the insulation should certainly be enough to block the draughts that currently blow through the place and help to make my home a bit cosier and more comfortable than it has been.

Blogging may be slightly intermittent while the works are underway . . .

Free Compost Bins Available

Lewisham Council has a limited number of free compost bins to give away to residents.

Why compost?
42% of the waste in the average rubbish bin is compostable kitchen or garden waste. Home composting can save you money on buying expensive compost and helps the environment by reducing car and truck journeys.

To request your FREE compost bin and for more information, call Envirocall on 020 8314 7171.

Algernon Road does it again!

Well done to the residents of the Loampit Vale end of Algernon Road, who have been crowned the 2008 Lewisham Recycling Champions. They achieved a recycling participation rate of 84%. The scheme itself was a great success with an average increase in recycling through the kerbside collection scheme in nominated streets of 9%.

This is the second time Algernon Road has won the recycling champions award - the Ladywell end of Algernon Road won the first ever recycling champions award in 2006. In 2007 it went to Champion Street in Sydenham, but in 2008, I think a bit of friendly neighbourly rivalry may have kicked in with the 'other' end of Algernon Road determined they could go one better than their neighbours! Well done to all concerned.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Quick roundup

I was away on a training course over the weekend and have a pile of things to catch up on, but wanted to very quickly flag up a few things:

A blog from the Hilly Fields Birdwatch project and update on Hilly Fields playground from the park users' group, over on Brockley Central.

South London Garden Organic want your plastic bottles to make a greenhouse.

A quick reminder that Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery have their next workday this coming Sunday, 18th January, and their next meeting on Wednesday 21st January. For the workday, meet by the chapel at 10am. The meeting is at Brockley Grove depot at 7.30pm.

Interested in the Transition Towns movement? Well, an e-mail discussion list has now been set up for people interested in starting some kind of initiative in Lewisham. There are already people from Brockley, Ladywell, New Cross, Sydenham and Catford on it. Join the list for further info, or see here for my previous posts on Transition Towns stuff.

Finally, Lewisham Green Party's monthly meeting is tonight at Brockley Social Club, 7.30pm. All members and supporters welcome, although only members are entitled to vote on any items on the agenda, which includes among many other exciting things (honestly!), the selection of our candidates for the Downham double by-election.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Empty Properties Recommendations

Lewisham's Sustainable Development Committee, which I chair, has this week published a report and recommendations following our scrutiny into the issues surrounding empty properties in the borough, an issue which is of course significant in Ladywell ward, and only likely to be exacerbated in the current economic climate. The full report can be viewed here. Our key recommendations were that:
  • Council staff need to share information more effectively about empty properties, and use their full range of enforcement powers to bring them back into use, including compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) where necessary as a last resort.
  • Owners of shop premises left empty by bankrupted businesses should be encouraged to make available to voluntary and community groups hungry for space, if commercial tenants are in short supply
  • The Council's refuse collectors could act as the community's eyes and ears by reporting when bins are consistently not left out, alerting empty homes officers early
  • There should be more publicity for residents about how to report empty or problematic properties and those with empty properties should be given more support in bringing them back into use.
  • Businesses should be made aware of the empty commercial properties database
Lewisham isn't necessarily worse than other local authorities on dealing with empty properties, in fact it has had notable success with its use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs). However, our scrutiny found that is lagging behind neighbouring boroughs such as Bexley in its use of planning enforcement legislation, and Lambeth in its use of CPOs.

I will present the report to Mayor & Cabinet on behalf of the committee in a couple of weeks, and hopefully the Mayor will look at implementing some of our proposals.

As far as 'problem properties' in Ladywell ward are concerned, as ward councillors we are continuing to follow up with planning and environmental health to get enforcement action taken on a number of properties, in particular 46 Ladywell Road (the former Nightwatch shop) and 67a Loampit Hill (the old shop on the corner of Tyrwhitt Road). We are hopeful of some progress on both soon, after two years of pushing for action, but can't say more at this stage.

Boris Watch

2 things in particular that the Mayor of London has done have annoyed me this week:

1) Motorbikes can now use red route bus lanes on TfL roads. (Borough bus lanes are at the discretion of local authorities and Lewisham has already confirmed that it does not plan to allow motorbikes to use its bus lanes). This measure is not going to encourage people to take up cycling on London's streets. Motorbikes may use less fuel than cars, but they're still dependent on fast-depleting fossil fuels and contributing to greenhouse gases. The Mayor of London should be focussing his efforts on promoting walking and cycling, not pandering to petrolheads while imposing above inflation increases on public transport fares.

2) It's also been revealed this week that he is scrapping the London Green Homes Concierge Service. Regular readers of this blog will know that I signed up to this scheme last January, and since then have been working on ways to improve the thermal efficiency of my home. The scheme was launched a year ago by the previous Mayor of London and the London Development Agency and was designed to help Londoners cut climate emissions and fuel costs by making their homes more energy efficient.

It wasn't perfect (a London-wide free insulation roll-out to every home would have been better), but it's better than nothing, which, as far as I can gather so far, is what it's being replaced with. The London Development Agency has axed the Green Homes Service from its plans for next year and beyond. This was confirmed early this week by LDA chief executive, Peter Rogers, under questioning by Darren Johnson at the Assembly's budget committee. It seems a huge waste of money to scrap something just one on, just as it was getting established.

Anyway, that's the end of my anti-Boris rant for now. You may have gathered that I'm not a fan, and couldn't quite believe that the people of London elected him as Mayor last year, but I guess that's democracy and we just have to make sure a progressive and green candidate gets more votes than him next time!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Greening Your Community event on 8 January

An exciting project is under way in Ladywell which aims at reducing people's impact on the environment and climate change; in the process it will reduce bills and boost community action.

As part of the LINC (Low Impact Neighbourhood Community) project a facilitated workshop is going to take place this Thursday, 8 January, from 7-9pm at Prendergast School, in the new science block on Adelaide Avenue. It will look at environmental concerns of residents, which will be turned into an action plan for individuals and the community and provide information about practical support available to get going. So whether you make new year's resolutions or not, come along to develop some actions to reduce our impact on the environment and amongst other things, find out about how to cut your fuel bills and make your home warmer.

For more information contact Tony Rich at If you cannot make it on Thursday but would like to get involved or be kept informed please contact Gordon Cowie at