Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free Gardening Classes in Frendsbury Gardens (and other bits and bobs)

Things are getting a bit hectic here in the run-up to the European Elections on 4th June - thousands of leaflets to deliver and doors to knock on, so posting may well be a bit more sporadic over the next few weeks. I will probably do a bit more twittering for speed, so if you're not following me yet, please do! If you'd like to help out in the campaign to re-elect Jean Lambert as Green MEP for London, either by delivering leaflets, displaying a poster, making a donation, joining, or in any other way, please get in touch.

Just wanted to give a quick plug to the free gardening classes that are taking place at Frendsbury Gardens. See the South London Garden Organic blog for details. I could probably do with them myself, as my gardening tends to be dictated more by the cycle of elections than seasons, which probably isn't the way to do things.

Other bits and bobs that I've twittered about:
  • the latest batch of the Shop Local in Ladywell bags have arrived today- Emine from Junction Express Drycleaners has them and will be distributing them to other businesses to sell (for which I'm very grateful, as it saves me a lot of work). They will be on sale for £2,50 each (slightly cheaper than last time - we went for a slightly thinner cotton as the price for the old style had gone up and we didn't feel we could sell them at a higher price).
  • Greatfield Close are hopefully setting up a tenants and residents association (TRA) - I went along to a well-attended meeting there last night.
  • Anyone know what the plans are for the former Life Cafe on the corner of Ladywell Road/Algernon Road? Looks like it is being refitted, which is hopefully good news. Might go and be nosy and introduce myself as a local councillor and find out!
I've also been asking officers a number of questions on the new school proposals, to try and get clarification on some of the points residents have been raising, and I hope to be able to post something more on this soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New blog and campaign website for Darren

Fellow Green councillor Darren Johnson has a new website and blog. As well as a blog, it's also our Lewisham Deptford parliamentary campaign site.

Take a look to find out more about Darren and his work at both a local council and London Assembly level, as well as ways you can get involved and join our campaign.

His kicked his blog off with a post about the ongoing new school saga.

This is the sister site to our local party website, which we relaunched a few months back and where you can find lots more information about our recent work. Both sites have RSS feeds so you can subscribe to get the latest news releases and blog posts.

I think that these two sites, together with Dean's blog, this blog, Twitter and Facebook give us a pretty good online presence locally. No substitute for getting out and talking to people face to face of course, but definitely a good way to keep local people informed in between ward newsletters.

Oh, and this is our 500th post on Green Ladywell!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tamil Petition and Full Council this week

Last Wednesday was full council. I handed in a petition to the Mayor and the local MPs signed by 428 residents calling for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. (Picture shows Darren and me with local Tamil residents outside the town hall before the meeting). I'm not suggesting the Mayor of Lewisham has the power to achieve world peace (though it would be nice if he did), and realise it was a gesture more than anything, but I was keen to do something to support local Tamil residents and shopkeepers, given who concerned they all are about what is going on in Sri Lanka. Many of them have either lost relatives in the conflict or have lost contact with family members since January, when the violence escalated. The petition read:

"We, the undersigned residents of Lewisham are alarmed at the escalating violence in Sri Lanka and the deaths of many civilians over the past few months. We note the grave concerns that many Tamil residents of the borough have for friends and relatives caught up in the conflict zone.

"We call upon the Mayor of Lewisham and Lewisham's MPs to write to the government and urge it to work to secure an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka and for the free and unrestricted flow of food, medicine and international aid agencies into the conflict zone. "

There was a similarly worded motion proposed by Whitefoot councillor Pete Pattisson, which received cross-party support.

Wednesday was a busy night for motions, as there were 6 on the agenda, although one was withdrawn.

I proposed a motion calling on Lewisham's 3 MPs to support the Fuel Poverty private members' bill currently in parliament (Jim Dowd to his credit supported this, but Joan Ruddock as junior climate change minister talked it out, while Bridget Prentice was absent). The Mayor spoke against, arguing it would commit the government to spending lots of money on insulating houses (yes, that's the point, we want the government to spend money on that, rather than Trident and helping people buy new cars) and Labour all voted against, but it was supported by the Greens, Socialists and Lib Dems and just passed, despite an indecisive Tory failing to vote either way. Lib Dem Cllr Philip Peake had proposed a similar motion, but withdrew it and supported ours (thank you!).

Other motions included one proposed by Socialist councillor Chris Flood condemning the way Network Rail has been destroying the green corridor through New Cross and Brockley in recent months, and calling on the Mayor to contact them as a matter of urgency to ensure the area is replanted with saplings. Mike proposed a few minor amendments to correct a bit of terminology and to add a bit about enhancing biodiversity, but we were happy to support this, and it was passed unanimously.

We also supported a Labour motion calling for a new station at Surrey Canal Road as part of the East London line phase 2 works, and a Lib Dem motion on the NHS, expressing concern at any proposals to end 'co-terminosity' (this was a new term for me, but means when areas covered by a primary care trust are the same as the local authority boundaries. Seems to make sense to me, particularly in order for proper scrutiny of service provision to take place).

Well that's my review of Wednesday's Council meeting, in a nutshell, albeit somewhat tardier and less concise than the Twitters from Lewisham Central councillor Andrew Milton).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, apparently. To mark it, Greenpeace have released a new video.

They are aiming to get 3 million more people signed up with Greenpeace as climate activists and taking action in an extremely important year for our climate - at the end of which will be the most important conference this century, the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, where deals will be struck that will determine our planet's environmental future.

You can find out more, or sign up for their updates here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New European Greens Campaign Video

The two UK Green MEPs (Jean Lambert MEP for London and Caroline Lucas MEP for the South-East) are part of the European Greens and Free Alliance group within the European Parliament. The European Greens/EFA have released a new video narrated by Caroline:

New local green blogger

Brockley resident and fellow greenie Hannah has set up a blog, Seeds and Stitches. So far she's steering clear of party politics and focussing more on her and hubby's effort to do the green thing at home, growing their own, being highly creative, and saving money in the process. Take a look. Personally I think she should be bringing some of those chocolate cup cakes along with her to our next local party meeting . . . :)

Transition Ladywell Meeting WEDS evening

Sorry for posting this up rather late in the day, but here goes, on behalf of the small but enthusiastic group of people starting the Transitions Ladywell initiative:

"Transition Ladywell is having its first meeting this evening (Wednesday 22nd) at 7.30PM. If you live in Ladywell, or have a direct interest in the area, please come along.

We will be watching A Farm For the Future, followed by a chat about how we can get the ball rolling.

The meeting will be round Hazel's house, in Eastern Road – please contact Dave Moore for address details. Mob: 0759 0588 491, email: mdavidjon@gmail. com "

For those who haven't heard of the Transition movement, it's a grassroots movement looking at how local communities need to adapt to get ready for a low-carbon, post peak-oil future. There are similar groups getting going in New Cross, Brockley and Honor Oak too and a 'Transition Lewisham' website due to launch soon.

UPDATE: Sorry, I clearly didn't know what day of the week it was when I did this this morning - meeting is indeed tomorrow, not tonight! Hopefully gives more people time to find out about it . . . .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Come along and help improve Ladywell ward

Just a quick reminder that the next meeting of the Ladywell Assembly is going to take place this Monday, 20 April from 7-9pm in the modern science block of Prendergast School on Adelaide Avenue. The Assembly is open to anyone who lives, works or studies in the ward – this covers a much larger area than Ladywell village: roughly from some streets North of Loampit Hill to Dressington Avenue in the South, from a stretch of Brockley Road and Tyrwhitt Road to Marsala Road.

The main focus of the meeting will be to move forward improvements in the area regarding local shops, streetscape and environment, youth and community facilities, anti-social behaviour and crime, and the Playtower. In groups focusing on one of these priorities each we are first going to get an update on current projects - a large number of these were developed from ideas brought up at earlier assemblies -, such as plans to improve Ladywell Road, youth provision, ideas around empty shops and initial schemes for the Playtower. Based on this, there will be further work in the groups about how the funding specifically available for Ladywell ward (£50k from the Mayor’s Fund, in addition to the £10k Locality Fund) can best be spent to ensure further improvements can be achieved this year.

We will also have the popular Community Updates with information about what's happening in the area and information about the Energy Action Zone (EAZ), a Council scheme that is now being rolled out in Ladywell with advice on how to improve the energy efficiency of homes and reduce energy costs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lewisham Bridge School gets grade II listing

The architecture minister, Barbara Follett, has given Lewisham Bridge Primary School building grade II listed status. There is an article with further details of the grounds for listing it here. Some local residents will be pleased, while others, including I suspect Mayor Steve Bullock, will be tearing their hair out in exasperation.

If the Council decides to press ahead with plans for a new secondary school on the site, it will need to get listed building consent for demolition first. However I imagine that this announcement may well mean going back to the drawing board and the prospect of Lewisham getting a much-needed secondary school by September 2010, following many years of delays seems to be receding.

The primary school pupils, meanwhile, are due to start at their decant site, Mornington Centre, when they come back from the Easter break.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mark Thomas endorses the Green Party

Not had chance to blog today, but thought I would do a bit of a cheat post and link to this video from comedian Mark Thomas on why he thinks people should vote Green in the forthcoming European Elections:

Obviously, I agree (bar the bit about the sandals, grrr!).

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ladywell Road: Community Planting Day Saturday May 16th

Just come back from a walkabout with highways and Green Scene officers and LVIG representatives to discuss plans for a community planting day on 16th May, and the highways work that needs to be done before then.

We have now fixed Saturday 16th May as the day when LVIG will be organising a community planting day, with the help of the Council, Envirowork Lewisham, and hopefully some local business support (times tbc soon, but please mark the date in your diaries). We've got funding from the localities fund for 4 more planters, and hopefully we will be able to get some trees in the Autumn (though this is dependent on a survey of where underground cables are on Ladywell Road).

Before 16th May, highways and Green Scene have promised to make sure they do the following (and I have witnesses that this has been agreed!):

1. Clear the paint off the pavement on the corner of Ladywell Road/Algernon Road (they've tried several times already without success, but are hopefully going to be trialling some new chemical).
2. Remove guardrailings where the safety audit recently carried out confirms it is safe to do so, and pending local consultation.
3. Rebuild the section of Ladywell Road that is currently subsiding (near Ladywell Tavern).
4. Chase the utility companies to reinstate paving stones where they have put temporary tarmac.

It's not the full scale, Living Streets-type rethink of Ladywell Road we had been hoping for, as funding wasn't forthcoming from TfL for this, but if all of the above happens as planned, it should be a good start. We are hoping the initial planting will lead to bigger things, and perhaps a bit of sponsorship and support from local businesses to do more next time (Ladywell Tavern currently lead the way with their hanging baskets, and Masons are also apparently planning some kind of floral display this year). If it goes well, we may even enter London in Bloom . . .

Something similar is in the pipeline for part of Brockley Road, but still need to chase up on a few things before I can say more about that.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Local Public Meeting on Fuel Poverty Bill: 28th May

A public meeting is being organised locally by the Fuel Poverty Coalition to discuss the Fuel Poverty Bill.

Date: Thursday 28th May 2009
Time: 7pm to 9pm
Venue: St Andrew's United Reformed Church, corner of Brockley Road and Wickham Road, Lewisham, London SE4 2SA
Chair: Ron Bailey - Fuel Poverty Coalition Director

Joan Ruddock MP - Member of Parliament for Lewisham Deptford and Climate Change Minister INVITED
Gemma Townsend - Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham Deptford
Cllr Chris Maines - Group Leader of Lewisham Council Liberal Democrats
Cllr Darren Johnson AM - Green Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham Deptford
Mervyn Kohler - Special Advisor for Age Concern and Help the Aged
Ruth Bond - Chair of Public Affairs for the National Federation of Women’s Institutes TBC
Dave Timms - Senior Parliamentary Campaigner of Friends of the Earth TBC

You may recall from my earlier post that local and junior minister for energy and climate change, Joan Ruddock, talked the bill out during its second reading on 20th March. This meeting is an attempt to persuade the government to back the bill when it returns to the house on 12th June.

Keep up to date with the latest from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Licensing Application: Village News

We've been notified of a new licensing application in the ward:

Village News
226 Algernon Road
SE13 7AG

Applied for sale of alcohol off the premises Monday – Sunday 07:00 – 23:00.

If you wish to make any representations on this they should be sent to Lewisham's Licensing team by 1st May 2009. E-mail: or write to Licensing team, Laurence House, 2nd Floor Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, Catford SE6 4RU. Tel: 020 8314 6400.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Tea yes, kettling no!

Lot's of reports from across the blogosphere about excessive and aggressive policing (again!) at yesterday's G20 demos. Disappointing, but not particularly surprising. It seems lessons haven't been learnt from the policing of last year's Climate Camp at Kingsnorth.

I was there in spirit, but had decided to stay home and catch up on my backlog of casework and other Council stuff. However, fellow Green councillor for neighbouring Brockley ward, Romayne Phoenix, was there, and experienced first hand police tactics, including 'kettling', where the police surround a crowd of protestors and don't let anyone come or go for a few hours until the crowd either starts to get so angry that surge forward and push their way through the police lines (cue headline about violent protestors at demo), or they are eventually allowed to trickle out once the police deem them to be thoroughly demoralised and to have learnt a lesson for daring to exercise their democratic right to protest. A potentially effective way to turn a bunch of peaceful protestors into an angry mob, if that's the headline you want (though the vast majority of protestors refused to oblige the police with any violence yesterday).

Kettling is a very dodgy way to police a peaceful protest, in my opinion, as is using anti-terrorism legislation to check the ID of every protestor before you let them leave. Sadly, a man died at the protest yesterday - the IPCC are investigating and the cause is not yet known, but the media have been strangely quiet about it. Green London Assembly member and member of the Metropolitan Police Association, Jenny Jones, will no doubt be raising concerns about policing tactics with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson.

Anyway, account of the protests from Romayne below:
Picture: Romayne with fellow Green Shasha Khan, from Croydon.
"In 31 years of active participation in peaceful street demonstrations I have NEVER before been close to the threat of being 'kettled' in ( trapped ) by police. This tactic has more often been used at stages much later in the day after the majority of protesters have left, and when small groups seem determined to continue with their actions, and possibly a few of these who could have plans to develop their actions beyond the lines supported by the demonstrators of the day.

We started the day by joining others, from many different groups and charities, at Liverpool Street Station. The 'street theatre' plan was for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to march from different locations towards Bank. Each horse representing a different threat - War, Climate Change, Financial Crimes, and Land Enclosures. Each was assigned a separate colour. We joined in with the Climate Change group, headed by a Green Horseman.

Many people were in fancy dress costumes, others with elaborate face paints, some with craftsmanlike banners and flags and others with moving, witty or plainly stated quickly concocted creations. The atmosphere was relaxed and the sunshine brought out a festive feel to the affair. With a few odd halts along the way, we at last reached the area of the Bank of England where others had also arrived from their separate journeys.

Planning to leave the area of the Bank of England, with a few friends, having made our peaceful protests for about an hour, we headed towards Queen Victoria Street, only to be met at a fork in the road by a solid line of police. Beyond them was a space and we could see two further roads where police lines were 'containing' other crowds of people, just as determined as us to leave . It was very warm, bright and sunny and it was lunchtime. As we became further 'herded' together the police seemed to sip from their water bottles in a very provocative manner. Someone was heard saying that the police had declared that they were paid to work through the night in reply to her question as to when we all might be allowed to leave.

We were told that our detention was due to their anticipation of a breach of the peace. Legal advice sought while we stood held against our will, confirmed that such a threat of breach of the peace was a valid power that the police could use. Supposedly, as soon as such a threat has passed then people should be released. In our 'pen' the mood was fairly stoical / calm and we kept ourselves amused as best we could.

As time pressed on I made several challenges to the police about our civil liberties/ about methods they could use to plan an orderly exit using the helicopter views and their ground forces / about the lack of any actual breach of the peace in view / earshot of any of the hundreds of people so trapped in this particular road. On one occasion a senior officer was contacted to answer my concerns but as he came towards the line he simply 'whispered' to an officer and retreated. We were then told that we were to be held. Told that we would be held until they said so.

If anyone had actually been arrested they would have been entitled to water , food and the use of a toilet. After being detained for a couple of hours, and having arrived an hour or so before that, with no estimate as to the duration of our further detainment, this treatment of very peaceful people certainly seemed to be a provocative police action and not an 'intelligent' use of police or an acceptable set of tactics. Added to this, at various intervals we could see riot police, in full kit, rushing out of their vans , causing some panic and consternation in the hitherto still and mostly silent crowds. Just as suddenly the riot police seemed to retreat back to their vehicles. Was the agitation of the crowds the essential factor in justifying the fears of 'breach of the peace' ?

Being at the front of the crowd I did on a few occasions make calls for our civil liberties, listing some of the important responsibilities that these individual people had the need and the right to carry out ( child care , jobs, care of relatives, simply choosing where to spend their time, or preparing and heading for the AGM of their local council........). These seemed to go down well and at least broke some of the boredom factor of the situation.

On two occasions I saw an individual attempting to demand their freedom by walking 'through' the police line. This action resulted in a very aggressive response each time with four or five police officers to tackle the individual to the ground.

Eventually, when a group of people pushed forward together they broke the line of police in front of us. There was a sudden movement of bodies that could have resulted n a crush, but people were mindful of each other and no-one fell under foot. The impetus was however 'forward', and as I made my way to the edge of the crowd I could see that the police line had collapsed and individual officers were standing alone looking lost and without a plan. Continuing to walk on, the crowds dispersed. Peacefully.

I returned to find friends and colleagues as we had become separated in the surge. As we prepared to leave we could see others still being trapped in at the far end of the road. We decided to turn down a side street. Calmly we walked to the tube station. Free once more. For now.

Is this a taste of things to come ?
What is the point of having so much surveillance and yet failing to make proper use of any of it? We need to challenge these counter-productive and unacceptable police tactics now."

Home Insulation Review

The Council's Sustainable Development Select Committee, which I've chaired for the past two years (and will hopefully be chairing for the next year, unless I get ousted) is about to start an in-depth review on home insulation in the borough. (Regular readers may be noticing a recurring theme here.)

The review aims to answer the following two main questions:
• What are the benefits of and barriers to improving the insulation of existing homes in Lewisham?
• What further actions are needed to achieve improvements to home insulation in Lewisham?

In answering the above questions, the committee will examine the following:
• gaps in the Council’s knowledge of the insulation needs of homes in Lewisham, and how these gaps could be filled;
• home insulation schemes currently operating in the borough;
• good practice examples from outside of the borough, and what lessons can be applied to future schemes in Lewisham;
• proposals from central Government, the GLA and the LGA to improve home insulation, and the implications of these for Lewisham;
• the extent to which insulation measures are taken into account in the terms of transfer of council-owned housing stock; and
• the extent to which Building Regulation duties around home insulation are enforced on properties still to be built, or on conversions/extensions to existing properties.

It is proposed that the review would take place over three sessions:
• Session 1: to examine home insulation schemes currently operating in the borough, and the barriers to improving insulation further (including the data currently available to the Council).
• Session 2: to examine good practice examples from other local authorities. outside of the borough, proposals from central Government, GLA and LGA, and the lessons to be
learned in Lewisham.
• Session 3: to examine the latest policy developments on a national and regional level.

The first evidence-gathering session is next Thursday (9th April) and papers for the meeting can be found here. Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe the meeting (and potentially make contributions, if you notify the committee in advance). Written submissions are also welcome: e-mail them to me.

At drinks after last night's Council AGM, a certain member of the leading group was extolling the virtues of a free insulation scheme, having heard Lord Chris Smith, chair of the Environment Agency, talk about it. I politely pointed out that we had proposed this in our budget amendment and he had voted against it. Sigh. We will get there.

Latest news from Jean Lambert MEP

The latest monthly newsletter from Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London is now available on her website. It details some of the work she has been doing both at a London and European level over the last few weeks, including stuff on the London Living Wage campaign, air quality and Heathrow expansion, climate change, employment rights, civil liberties, peace, International Women's Day, Chinese New Year and the ongoing situation in Sri Lanka. I think she's an exceedingly hard-working and effective MEP for London, but then I'm biased and would say that!

London is losing one of its MEPs after this June's Euro Elections, due to the EU enlargement, so we will go from 9 to 8 MEPs. Jean was the 8th out of 9 MEPs elected last time round, so we need to increase our percentage slightly to make sure she gets re-elected. If we do really well on June 4th, we will also get Ute elected as our second Green MEP for London, which would be great, although it would mean a by-election here in Ladywell!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Planning Application: 8b Hilly Fields Crescent

I've received notification of a new planning application for 8b Hilly Fields Crescent. In February last year, the owners were given permission to add an extension to the side of the existing property and to convert it into 5 flats. Now they have come back with a new proposal which involves demolishing the whole building and rebuilding it in a pastiche style, to again provide 5 flats, but a complete new build rather than keeping the existing building:

"The demolition of 8b Hilly fields Crescent SE4 and the construction of a two storey building plus roof space to provide 1 one bedroom, 1 three bedroom and 3 two bedroom self-contained flats with refuse store, communal cycle storage shed and a car parking space in the front garden. "

They have also applied for conservation area permission to demolish the existing building.

Details of both applications can be found online on the Council's Planning Portal. The application and drawings can as always be inspected at Lewisham Library or the planning information office. Any comments should be sent to Planning by 17th April. You can either e-mail or write to Planning Service, Laurence House, 1 Catford Road, London, SE6 4RU.

April Fool's Day

Some excellent April Fool jokes on the local and green blogosphere today:
Now, I must get back to my backlog of casework and writing my bit of our group response to the LDF (local development framework) consultation.