Friday, June 26, 2009

Lewisham Greens call for tightening of licensing laws in proposals to Sustainable Communties Act

I've blogged before about the Sustainable Communities Act (Greens were active in lobbying for the bill before it came law, along with a host of NGOs, and pro-active in making sure Lewisham was one of the first local authorities in the country to sign up to the act). Over the past few weeks we've been mulling over possible proposals to submit under the act. The deadline for submissions to Lewisham Council (who appoint a Citizen's Panel to consider them) was today.

Ute worked with local residents who had been active in opposing the opening of the new betting shop on Brockley Road to look at loopholes in national gambling legislation and ways it could be strengthened to give local authorities greater control over the number of gambling premises opening in a particular area. The proposal was put before Ladywell Assembly on Tuesday and passed unanimously.

Meanwhile, spurred on by this, (although rather last minute) I contacted New Cross residents active in the campaign against the White Hart operating as a lap dancing club, to see if they were planning to submit any proposal under the act. We submitted a proposal today, based on suggestions made by OBJECT, with details of the local campaign as evidence of support. It was jointly submitted by members of the Stop the Strip campaign, myself and Ute, as well as the three councillors for Telegraph Hill ward (a rare but welcome example of a bit of cross party working between Greens, Socialists and Labour!). The gist of our proposal was a) to close the loop-holes that mean some sex establishments currently escape needing a licence and b) calling for applicants for new licences to give evidence of benefit to the local community from their proposal.

In addition, Transition Brockley have submitted a long list of proposals designed to help the local community become more resilient in the face of climate change and dwindling energy supplies, including proposals to support local food growing, small businesses and home insulation.

Now we need to wait and see how the process to decide which proposals Lewisham's Citizens Panel decides to submit to the Local Government Association, which proposals the LGA submits to the government, and if the government agrees to them or not!

Something for the weekend?

It's that time of year when there are loads of things happening and tomorrow (Saturday) is no exception with two excellent local events.

In the morning LVIG are having the second of their planting days. These will be using 4 planters that we previously bought with our localities fund for Loampit Vale and Loampit Hill, but which TfL said had to be moved. We will be looking at alternatives ways to cheer up the Loampit streetscape soon (eg trying to persuade TfL to plant some trees along there, or let us do so), but in the meantime look forward to brightening up Ladywell Road some more. To help with the planting day, meet outside Masons at 10am.

Hot on the heels of the planting day, comes Gordonbrock Primary School's Summer Carnival, which is being held at the school from 12-3pm. Friends of Gordonbrock (FOG) invite you to come along and join in the fun. Highlights will include: Bouncy castle, Beat the goalie, coconut shy, games, arts & crafts, music performances, Tai Kwon Do displays, International Cuisine. BBQ, tombola, community stalls, Pimms and strawberries and much, much more….

LVIG's planting day last month was a great success with lots of local residents flexing their green fingers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anyone want to buy a shop on Ladywell Road?

Regular readers of this blog will know that we've been pushing for some time for action to bring the empty shops along Ladywell Road back into use. Well, fingers crossed, our persistant nagging, together with the invaluable work of LVIG over the last year in raising the profile of Ladywell Road, and the scrutiny work my committee carried out into how the Council deals with empty properties, may have resulted in some progress at long last.

One of the properties that was causing particular concern was 46 Ladywell Road, the former 'Nightwatch' shop, which has been in a poor state for many years, with a pigeon infestation due to a hole in the roof and a very dilapidated shop front. After a number of attempts the Council made contact with the owner and a notice was served to repair the property or the Council would carry out the works in default and place a charge on the property. Given the cost and scale of the repair works required, the owner has opted to sell.

The property has recently been placed with King Sturge and is likely to be auctioned on 7th October. Anyone interested in viewing the property should in the first instance contact Felix Riggs at the Blackheath branch on 020 70875327.

It needs someone with a fair amount of money to invest in repairing it as it's in a pretty poor state, but I'm told that quite a few people have already shown interest. (NB: the residents of Ladywell would really, really like a shop selling decent fresh food please, or maybe a dentist, not a fried chicken place, money transfer shop or betting shop please!)

The second property that has been empty an awfully long time is the 'Snack Bar' shop at 40 Ladywell Road, next door to Masons. Lewisham's empty homes officer has now made contact with the owners of this property, who apparently are also keen to sell. If you're interested, the best way to contact them is in writing to 40 Ladywell Road.

Meanwhile members of LVIG have been working hard to try and find a premises to open a community shop. There are looking either for a landlord willing to let their premises on favourable terms for the first few months, while the business gets established, or alternatively, a landlord willing to consider a Meanwhile use, until they find someone to let the unit at market rate. There has been a lot of talk locally and nationally about encouraging shop owners to let community groups etc rent their shops until the economy picks up and other businesses come along, and LVIG are busy putting a plan together in the hopes of being able to pilot such a scheme locally.

63a Loampit Hill: the long-running saga with this empty property continues. The Council is pursuing legal action to recover its costs on this building (around £22,000) and to bring it back into use. The previous owner died intestate and all attempts to contact his estate had failed, but since Council legal proceedings commenced, there have been signs of someone starting to clear the premises . . .

Monday, June 22, 2009

Local funding, Ladywell Fields and betting shops

These are the main agenda items for the next Ladywell Assembly, which is going to take place on Tuesday, 23 June from 7-9pm at Prendergast School, in the new science block on Adelaide Avenue, SE4 1JL. The Assembly is open to anyone who lives, works or studies in the ward, so please come along and have your say!

Tomorrow the Assembly is going to decide on allocating part of the Mayor's Fund (£50k available for the ward) to local activities and improvement projects which have come out of round table discussions at previous assemblies and have been costed and worked up in more detail. Four proposals will be presented - three on youth provision and one to fund urban design work to develop plans to improve Ladywell Road. The Assembly is going to vote on which and how many of those projects should be taken forward with formal applications to be submitted to Mayor & Cabinet for final approval. A second round of proposals is planned for the September Assembly.

This will be followed by a presentation of plans for Ladywell Fields. Following the successful transformation of the north field thanks to EU funding (the QUERCUS project), an application for national funds to undertake work in the middle and south fields has also been successful. Initial consultation with stakeholders and public exhibitions are currently under way and this will be an opportunity to find out more. Technically Ladywell Fields aren't in Ladywell ward (the railway line is the ward boundary with Lewisham Central), but they are very much part of the community and used and enjoyed by residents, and this presentation should be very interesting.

A proposal will be submitted to the Assembly urging the government to change national legislation in order to stop the proliferation of betting shops that has set in in particular since the new Gambling Act came into force in 2007. Ladywell and Brockley's recent experience of unsuccessfully opposing yet another betting shop in the area has been replicated not only across London but also up and down the country. The Sustainable Communities Act now enables local communities, groups and individuals to make proposals for a change in legislation that, if agreed, would give communities more power to shape things locally and live in a more sustainable way.

The meeting will be rounded off with community updates with news of what's happening in the area.

Run and have fun!

Close on the heels of Brockley Max Festival and Hilly Fields Fayre comes another local highlight, the second Brockley Fun Run, which is going to take place in Hilly Fields on Sunday, 5 July.

It's a 5 km route, and runners, walkers and families are all welcome. My fellow councillor Dean Walton from Brockley ward and I have registered at Hilly Fields Fayre on Saturday, and we both hope that as many people as possible will be entering. We are starting with very different goals - Dean wants to beat last year's time, and due to an ankle injury earlier in the year and too much comfort food during my mother's long illness I am running just for the fun of it.

The event is organised by Brockley Cross Action Group and sponsored by both Ladywell and Brockley ward Localities Funds, which means children under 12 can enter for free. I am particularly pleased with this as it is such a great opportunity to be active and have fun without costing anything, right on the doorstep.

For anyone aged 12 and above the advance registration fee is only £5 (£10 on the day). Registration is online at or in person at the Broca coffee shop, 4 Coulgate Street, Brockley SE4 2RW.

I hasten to add that this is happening at the same weekend as Brockley Open Studios. Now in its 17th year, local artists open their doors again from 4-6 July to present their recent work. Quite a few artists are actually based in Ladywell, and all of the 42 participating artists are just a walk or a short cycle ride away. For further information and artists' details see

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thank you!

Well, I had intended to write regular posts in the run-up to the elections, urging readers to vote Green and telling everyone how great Jean Lambert MEP is, but events somewhat overtook me as we entered the final stages of the campaign, and I was kept pretty busy with a steady stream of volunteers coming and helping to leaflet and campaign for us.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we did really well both across London and in Lewisham - our vote share (and number of votes) went up and Jean Lambert was re-elected as Green MEP for London.

Thank you to everyone who supported us, whether by voting Green, displaying a poster, helping to deliver leaflets to your street or simply reminding your friends to go and vote.

Across London we polled 10.9%, putting us in 4th place overall, although in a number of boroughs we polled significantly higher than that particularly in Lewisham (18%), Hackney (23%) Islington (20%), Lambeth (18%) and Haringey (17.4%). In Lewisham, Hackney and Islington we came second across the borough, beating the Tories and Lib Dems.

We only have official figures for across the borough, rather than by constituency, although the count was carried out loosely by constituency, but with the borough-wide postal votes thrown in. Our sampling at the count suggested that we polled significantly better in Lewisham Deptford (around 23%) than in the rest of the borough, and we were pretty much neck and neck with Labour, if not slightly ahead.

Of course, if all of London had voted like Lewisham, we would have also elected Ladywell ward councillor Ute Michel as a Green MEP! That was always a long shot and I would have been delighted if it had happened, but I admit I'm slightly relieved we don't have to launch straight into a local council by-election campaign now!

The independent Tamil candidate Jan Jananayagam polled well in Lewisham and in other boroughs with significant Tamil populations, such as Redbridge, making her, as the BBC reports, one of the most successful independent candidates ever.

Our vote across England and Wales went up 44% and we polled 1.2 million votes across the UK (not sure if that figure includes Northern Ireland or not though). Sadly, although our existing MEPs in London and the South-East (Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas) were re-elected, we narrowly missed making gains in several regions, in particular the North West, Eastern and South West regions. In the North West we were just 5,000 votes short of getting Peter Cranie elected, while in both Eastern and South West we were only 1% off.

Now, for real electoral anoraks (like me!), Mancunian Green has done a little post-Euro election quiz!