Monday, July 27, 2009

Open Gym wins social enterprise competition!

Congratulations to local resident and founder of Open Gym, Jo Hill, who is one of three winners of a competition organised by Cancer Research UK. The Open Gym concept, which is currently operating in Hilly Fields, Telegraph Hill Park and two parks in north London, will now be rolled out nationwide, along with two other projects, as part of a plan to raise £10m for Cancer Research UK*.

It's a great concept - get people out doing exercise, which in itself reduces the risk of people getting cancer, and at the same time raise money for a cancer charity. I've recently started going to Open Gym, and find it more motivating than being stuck in a gym or going to an indoor fitness class. Too many hours spent in front of this computer or in council meetings mean that I'm currently the undisputed least fit participant in the Hilly Fields Open Gym (to the extent that the instructor has to give me easier variations on some of the exercises!), but I'm hoping to persevere!

So once again congratulations Jo!

*I have long had mixed feelings about Cancer Research UK - on the one hand they clearly do a lot of good work, and as someone who watched their father die an unpleasant death due to cancer, I'm as keen as anyone to find a cure. However, I don't agree with their ongoing funding of tests on animals, and prefer to donate to other cancer charities, such as Marie Curie or the Lavender Trust.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Transition Brockley - films, 3 tonne club, carrot-mobbing, swishing and more!

Transition Brockley, a group of local residents who have got together to look at how the local community needs to adapt and prepare for a low-carbon, fossil fuel-free future (due to peak oil and climate change) has now had 5 or so well-attended meetings, and its members are working on a number of projects. You can join their e-mail discussion list here and check out the Transition Lewisham website here. Below are a few of the projects they are working on, and would welcome more people to help with. Lots of great ideas; do get involved if you can:
The first two in a series of film showings are planned for Thursday 6th August and Thursday 10th September at 7pm in St Andrew's Church Hall (corner of Brockley Road/Wickham Road). There will be a small charge of £2 to cover the hall cost. Both the films to be shown look at how dependent food production is on the availability of oil.

On 6th August they will be showing The Power of Community: How Cuba survived Peak Oil and on 10th September they will be showing Farm for the Future, in which wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family's farm in Devon into a low energy farm (recently shown on BBC 2 and it's available online in 3 parts if you can't make the showing).

Contact Alex or Fran if you'd like to help with the above. There are also tentative plans afoot to make a local film about action in Brockley.

A group of TTBers recently held a very convivial meeting where everybody calculated their carbon footprint over a glass of wine or two. They were using the 'Three Tonne Handbook' from the Women's Environmental Network, which offers tips on how you can reduce your footprint down to 3 tonnes a year (apparently the UK average is around 13.5 tonnes). The group have formed a 'Three Tonne Club' and will organise another “weigh-in” in due course. If you want to measure your carbon footprint then go to Carbon Independent. E-mail Tamara to join the club!

Transition Brockley is also looking at identifying possible spaces in the neighbourhood to grow food/set up community gardens. They are in contact with Pinnacle about one or two possible sites in the area, have been along to courses at Frendsbury Garden and are keen to work with Brockley Cross Action group on the community orchard project. A couple of people are mulling over producing a book of recipes using local produce (Brockley Honey flapjacks, anyone?!). One member, Ruth, is already busy with the community garden she's been instrumental in getting started at St Saviour's Church. Contact Ruth for further information or to offer to help with this. I'm also following up on one or two possible Ladywell sites for food-growing.

A swishing event is when a group of friends get together and have a party and swap unwanted but still useable clothes with each other. Rosa, from TTB is hoping to organise a club night/swishing/freecycling event in Brockley in October. Contact Rosa if you want to get involved.

TTB have submitted a number of proposals to Lewisham Council as part of the first year of the Sustainable Communities Act, which they hope will be taken forward as part of Lewisham's proposals to be passed on to the LGA (Local Government Association). (See previous post for submissions we made to this.)

Finally, but perhaps one of the most fun ideas, is the suggestion of a 'Brockley Carrot Mob'. The basic proposition behind carrot mobbing, is that you talk to local bars / pubs / restaurants and ask them what percentage of their profits they would invest in eco-efficiency measures to their business if you organise a group of people to spend an evening at their bar / restaurant. You then choose the business that offers the largest percentage and perhaps also consider the need for efficiency measures and organise an evening out. Then the next day the 'experts' are sent in to carry out whatever work money has been raised for. See Carrot Mob and 9 carrots for two similar takes on this. We sounded out Graham at Mr Lawrence's about this - he was quite keen, and we were keen to get more energy efficient light bulbs in there as a start!

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Change to Ladywell Ward Councillors' Surgery Details

We've decided to switch the venue for one of our councillor surgeries from September. We currently have two surgeries a month; one at the Old Bothy, Hilly Fields on the second Saturday of the month (11-12pm) and another at St Andrew's Church, Brockley Road, on the fourth Saturday of the month (11-12pm).

While the Old Bothy works well for the summer months, it's a bit grim in the winter, and accessibility is less than perfect. Therefore we're moving that surgery to Hilly Fields Medical Centre on Adelaide Avenue. Same time, still second Saturday of the month, just a hopefully more comfortable venue. We won't be holding surgeries in August, but as always you are welcome to phone or e-mail us with any queries (contact details in sidebar at top).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Save Vestas!

The only wind turbine factory in the UK, Vestas, on the Isle of Wight, is due to close at the end of this month with the loss of 600 jobs. At a time when we need to be massively increasing our renewables capacity in this country and investing in wind power, this is absurd.

The company is closing the factory despite rising profits and has taken a threatening and aggressive line towards workers protesting to save their jobs. It seems bizarre that the factory was creating blades for US wind turbines rather than the European market - a great example of globalisation gone awry. The government says the blades aren't the right specification for here. So modify things for goodness sake - don't lose the local expertise that's been built on now.

The government coughed up the dosh (ie our money) to prop up the car industry and the banks; now it's time for them to invest just a fraction of that in saving this factory, the jobs of the 600 workers, and with it our hopes of developing a viable low-carbon energy supply to replace our coal-fired power stations . To do otherwise yet claim to be green would be rank hypocrisy. Time for Ed Milliband and Joan Ruddock at the Department for Energy and Climate Change to stand up to the unelected Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, one Peter Mandelson, and demand he shows a bit of bloody innovation in saving these jobs.

Gordon Brown has talked a lot recently about creating green jobs, but he seems somewhat short on action. He also seems to include decidedly brown sectors such as nuclear power and coal-fired power stations within his definition of green. The Green Party's policies in contrast would create a million new jobs in genuinely green industries.

There was a demonstration in outside the DECC offices in London tonight, which Darren spoke at - I didn't go, but sent a message of support to the campaign via

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MEP, in whose constituency the factory is located, has also sent a message of support to workers and spoken out against the proposed closure.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ladywell CPZ Consultation - coming through a letterbox near you any day now!

I've just heard that the long-awaited Ladywell CPZ (controlled parking zone) consultation documents are back from the printers today, and distribution to local households could start as soon as this weekend. Regular readers will know that this is something many local residents have been requesting for several years and we have been flagging up their concerns to highways and Mayor & Cabinet since 2006.

You can see the map of the area they plan to consult here, and the consultation document should also be available to download on the Council website soon. The form just says the rather vague 'return within three weeks' as they don't want to put off those who are on holiday from completing the form when they get back. I've been assured that they will accept forms right up until they start compiling the results, which will be in about six weeks time.

An exhibition of the proposals, where there will also be a chance to discuss them with highways officers, will be held next Friday and Saturday at the Wearside depot:

Friday 17 July 2009 from 10am to 8pm
Saturday 18 July 2009 from 10am to 5pm
at The Visitor Centre, Wearside Depot,
Wearside Road, London SE13 7BR

Previously I've been fairly ambivalent about CPZs, not being a car-owner myself, and I'm still not a staunch advocate, but over recent years I've become more convinced of the merits of a CPZ in the Ladywell area because:
  • We get lots of complaints from residents who say they can't park in their street due to commuters parking in the area then going to the train station/hospital/town centre. We then get residents leaving out traffic cones to reserve 'their' parking space, causing conflict and tension between drivers.
  • A CPZ won't magically enable residents to park their car outside their house, but it should increase their chances of being able to park their car somewhere near their house.
  • While to an extent a CPZ simply displaces the problem to outside the zone, it may also prompt a few people to leave their car at home and use public transport.
  • The extension of the Lewisham CPZ in the Loampit Vale and top of Algernon Road area a few years back has had a negative knock-on effect on the rest of Algernon Road and surrounding streets.
  • The proposed developments in Lewisham Town Centre are likely to create extra pressure on parking spaces in the area, and if residents of the new homes can't park there (they won't get residents parking permits), they may well look to park in Ladywell.
  • The consultation also asks for views on some extra short stay parking at the top of roads adjoining Ladywell Road. This is something that local shopkeepers often cite as being lacking and key to their business.
  • The consultation also offers the opportunity to get more car club spaces in the area, which again has been shown to reduce car ownership and free up parking space on roads.
  • The more CPZs we have in the borough, the more revenue in the highways budget to sort out the appalling state of roads in this area. Boroughs such as Camden which is almost entirely CPZ, have significantly more revenue to spend on resurfacing works than Lewisham does.
So I anticipate returning my form in favour of the CPZ, and in support of car club spaces and more short stay parking near businesses, but I will wait until after the drop in event to make my mind up for sure.

Whatever your views on CPZs, it's important that if you live in the area you respond and make your views known. Unlike some consultations where it seems that the decision has already been made, that is not the case with CPZs - Lewisham's policy is that they only go ahead when a clear majority in the area are in favour, so do make sure your voice is heard.

"Green Team for Ladywell for 2010?!"

Well, not quite, but it may have got a few people's attention! I thought this photo of Ute after judging the 'Best Scarecrow' competition at the Ladywell Day Centre Summer Fete today deserved a wider audience. Surely the one with the rather bling jewellery and leopard skin tights would be enough to scare even the most hardy of London pigeons!

As always, the fete was a great event, with users of day centres from across the borough coming to Ladywell for the day. There were a wide range of arts and crafts, plants and cakes for sale, many produced by centre users. I bought a few bizzie lizzies for my garden which were grown by the gardening group at the centre.

As for Green Party candidates for the May 2010 local council elections, we have now put out the formal call for nominations to our party members, with a deadline for the first tranche of wards at the beginning of September. We are keen to recruit a diverse range of candidates from all sectors of the community. If you're interested in finding out more about what standing as a candidate and (potentially) being a councillor involves, feel free to e-mail me with you contact details to discuss further. You would need to be a party member before the close of nominations and broadly agree with our principles and policies of course!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mast Proposal: railway line between Foxborough Gardens and Prendergast Ladywell Fields School

I've received notification from Network Rail that they plan to put a 15m monopole mast on the stretch of line between Foxborough Gardens and Prendergast Ladywell Fields (formerly Crofton School).

The letter says that the mast is part of plans by Network Rail to "rollout a nationwide Railways Communications System across the entire network" and that this new radio system will for the very first time, allow direct and continuous communication between train drivers and signallers which will improve safety, reliability and punctuality on the rail network".

The letter says that they are aware that the construction of any mast may be of concern to residents who live nearby and that they plan to notify those residents before construction takes place, with information on the new system and a 24-hour helpline for any questions or queries. It also says that they are in discussion with Lewisham's Planning Department, but that they believe the mast falls within their permitted development rights to maintain and ensure the safe operation of the railway.

As far as I can tell from the map, the nearest homes to the proposed site are in Sinclair Place (just off Manwood Road) and the homes in Foxborough Gardens that back onto the railway line.

I don't have any more information about the type of mast being proposed or what the potential risks are, but I thought I should flag it up to readers, as I know that those concerned about the proliferation of mobile masts recently (eg of the Ladywell water tower in nearby Dressington Avenue) may want to be informed.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Who do you want to see running Lewisham Schools?

Lewisham Council has recently announced two consultations on major changes to how a number of schools in Lewisham are run.

Goldsmiths Education Partnership - this proposal is asking for views on three schools in the north of the borough (Addey & Stanhope, Deptford Green and Crossways Academy) joining forces with Goldsmiths to form 'Goldsmiths Education Partnership'.
Catford High and Colfe's Education Partnership - this proposal is asking for views on Catford High and the fee-paying Colfe's School forming an 'education partnership' (while remaining as separate schools).

In both cases, the consultation period is short, and responses need to be received by 20th July for the Goldsmiths proposal and 22nd July for the Colfe's proposal.

Why is the Council making these proposals?
The arguments being put forward by officers and heads of these schools (and presumably with the support of Mayor & Cabinet, although it hasn't been formally discussed by them yet, as far as I know) is that this is the best way to achieve rapid improvements in these schools, and that the schools will benefit from the resources of Goldsmiths and Colfe's.

There has been no debate or vote taken at a Council level on either of these proposals, and they haven't been looked at by the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee yet.

And the other side of the argument?
I atttended a public meeting organised by the NUT and Defend Education in Lewisham about the Goldsmiths proposal earlier this week, which over 80 local residents, parents, teachers and trade union members took part in.

I don't think anyone at the meeting was opposed to closer links between the 3 schools and Goldsmiths, but there was considerable concern that the proposals would result in a reduction in community and parental say in how the schools are run.

Under the proposals, rather than each school having its own governing body, with a combination of local authority, parent and staff governors, there would be one overarching governing body.

Local blogger Transpontine has a good summary of what this would mean in the case of the proposed Goldsmiths Partnership:

"The Goldsmiths Education Partnership (GEP) will have two levels of governance - the GEP Trust itself and the federated governing body that will replace the three current school governing bodies. The Trust will have six trustees, three nominated in perpetuity by Goldsmiths and one each initially by the governing bodies of Deptford Green, Crossways and Addey & Stanhope Schools. Each of the three nominated by the present governing bodies will be replaced on resignation by a nominee of the federated governing body of the three schools.

There is no requirement that any of these Trustees will be parent governors or staff governors. In fact the proposal does not specify how many parent or staff governors there will actually be - though by definiton a single governing body for three schools will have less parents involved than three governing bodies. It is proposed that the Goldsmiths Education Partnership will nominate the majority of the governors to the governing body - so there is a circular process in which Goldsmiths dominates the Trust which in turn determines the majority of governors, who then nominate the non-Goldsmiths members of the Trust. The proposal does say that 'each school will be legally required to set up a Parent Council which governors must consult so that more parents can be involved than would usually sit on the governing bodies'. The problem is that being consulted is not the same as actually having seats at the table where decisions are taken.

The proposal also mentions that 'The Trust may include an additional partner from the public or private sector able to make a complementary contribution' and that this partner may also nominate one or two additional Trustees. Without knowing who this partner is it is difficult to say much more, but clearly this would build in an automatic majority for Goldsmiths and the partner on the Trust, further marginalising the already limited scope for parent governor influence on it."

I don't think anyone is arguing against improving schools, and building good links with other local institutions such as Goldsmiths, but not at the cost of reducing still further any democratic input that parents and the local community have into how our schools are run. What is basically being proposed is a hard federation, similar to what is proposed for the new school, and which we argued against, for the same reasons.

The Catford High/Colfe's proposal is slightly different. The consultation document states:

"Catford High School would be a Colfe’s Associate School. It would remain a state school and have its own governing body, constituted outside the requirements of The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007, to include the Head Teacher of Colfe’s, and to allow Colfe’s to appoint other governors to strengthen the governing body significantly. The reconstituted Catford Governing body would report into the main Colfe’s Board, which would have responsibility to steer it and offer advice. The Catford Governing Body would have representation on the main Colfe’s Board and would take account of its views in deciding the strategic direction of the school and in making key operational decisions. Catford High School would change its name to reflect its aspirations and the new partnership."

As I understand it, this proposal seems to be about rebranding Catford High by associating it with the name of a prestigious private school, and a small number of the most academically-gifted pupils from Catford High may get bursaries to study in the sixth form at Colfe's. A further argument put forward is that with the 'Goldsmiths Partnership' proposal and the Prendergast hard federation already agreed, Catford High will be left out in the cold and isolated if it doesn't jump into bed with Colfe's. The document doesn't say why Catford High couldn't work in close collaboration with any of the other schools in Lewisham, eg Forest Hill, Sedgehill, Sydenham or Northbrook. I'm really not convinced and am again concerned that it will result in less parental and community say in how the school is run, the perpetuation of an 'us and them' two-tier system and giving an elite, fee-paying school a big say in how a community school is run.

I'm deeply concerned by both of these proposals, and the Green Group will be submitting reponses to both consultations. Whatever your views, I would urge you to do the same and have your say. I am concerned that the timing of these consultations, just as schools are breaking up for the summer holidays, means they might slip through 'under the radar' of many local people and parents.

Sunninghill Road: CPZ Consultation

If you are a resident of Sunninghill Road, you should be receiving a consultation booklet in the next few days asking whether you would like the Lewisham Controlled Parking Zone (which currently abuts Sunninghill Road) extended to include Sunninghill Road. This consultation is being carried out in response to residents' concerns about parking difficulties in the road, which have been compounded by the opening of the new medical centre, as well as the adjacent CPZ. I know this is something that Ute followed up on residents' behalf.

Whatever your views on CPZs, it's important that if you live in Sunninghill Road you respond and make your views known. Unlike some consultations where it seems that the decision has already been made, that is not the case with CPZs - Lewisham's policy is that they only go ahead when a clear majority in the area are in favour, so do make sure your voice is heard.

If you don't receive a copy of the consultation, do let me know - it should be available on the Council's website soon too.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Response to Loampit Vale Planning Application

The application for the major redevelopment of part of Loampit Vale, adjacent to Cornmill Gardens, is going to strategic planning committee for decision in a couple of weeks.

I have submitted the following comments from Ute, Mike and me, which we hope reflect some of the concerns local residents have expressed to us about the impact this development will have on neighbouring roads and local facilities, as well as our own thoughts.

I should stress that these comments are just from the three of us and are not a formal Green group position, as our councillor who sits on strategic planning needs to be free to make his decision based on valid planning grounds and without pre-determination.

Planning Application DC/09/71246/X: Land South Side of Loampit Vale, London, SE13 - submission by Ladywell ward councillors

While in principle we welcome the building of a new leisure centre, new retail and housing units on this site, we have grave concerns about some aspects of the proposals.

We formally object to the height of the buildings proposed. 24 storeys is too high and will tower over Cornmill Gardens and the surrounding area. The fact that there is a very ugly tower (Citibank) adjacent to the site should not act as a precedent to build more. We are supportive of high-density developments in areas with such good public transport links, but would argue that this is overdevelopment.

In addition we would like to flag up other concerns about the proposed scheme, which we would like to see addressed:

1. The impact on existing services, in particular GP services: residents in our ward are concerned that the existing facilities at St John’s Medical Centre are insufficient to cope with an additional 2,000 patients. What work has been done on the impact this development will have on local health services, as well as school places?

2. The impact on neighbouring streets from increased traffic as a result of the development: a controlled parking zone is already in place in part of the surrounding area and a consultation on extending this to further parts of Ladywell is due to commence shortly. Would the stated principle that residents of the new flats will not be eligible to apply for permits for CPZs be confirmed in writing by the Council if the application was successful? What measures will be taken to prevent neighbouring streets such as Algernon Road, Ellerdale Street, Marsala Road, Sandrock Road and Undercliff Road becoming rat-runs and through routes to and from the development?

3. Low level of social housing: while we welcome the fact that a reasonable percentage of the social housing proposed comprises larger, family units, we are concerned that the overall level of homes for social rent in the development is only 19%, and affordable housing overalls is only 24% including intermediate housing. This is below the borough’s stated threshold for developments of this size and does not sufficiently contribute to addressing the dire shortage of affordable housing in the borough.

4. If the committee is minded to pass the application, we would request that S106 contributions for improvements to the railway bridges and the footpath on Loampit Vale are added as a condition. We are concerned that with the new development, the existing businesses further up Loampit Vale and Loampit Hill, which are already struggling, will become even more marginalised.

We would welcome efforts to improve the streetscape along the lower part of Loampit Vale, but urge that these improvements are carried out further up as well, as far as the junction with Tyrwhitt Road, to help connect the two parts of Loampit more successfully than is currently the case. We would suggest that this should include the planting of street trees, installation of cycle racks outside shops and funds for a community artwork project under the railway bridge arches, which are currently an eyesore.

5. We welcome the fact that the leisure centre will reach BREEAM excellent. We acknowledge that code for sustainable homes level 4 is better than many developments in the borough are currently reaching, but given this is such a landmark development and considering the lifetime of the building, we would like to have seen it reach level 5.

6. We welcome the CHP and the potential for this to be used in the future by the neighbouring school, but 11% on site energy generation is lower than the London Plan specifies and leaves future residents exposed to high levels of energy insecurity in a future with dwindling oil supplies and high energy prices.

7. Is there any provision for on site composting of food waste? The volume of waste generated on site will create considerable extra vehicle movements and carbon footprints if it is all to be processed remotely.

8. In the travel plan it mentions the provision of 8 spaces for car club cars – this is to be welcomed, but we would urge that at least some of these are in publicly accessible areas so the wider community can benefit, as suggested, not just in the private car park.

Exotic Ladywell!

Agapanthus, mallow, fig trees . . . plants more reminiscent perhaps of Cornwall, the Scilly Isles or somewhere more exotic, but all these photos were of course taken on Ladywell Road. Just a couple of shots of the planters LVIG volunteers potted up a few weeks ago, and below a few of the more recent additions from last weekend's follow up session, plus the rather impressive display of wares in front of Ladywell DIY at the moment.

Things are progressing along here, slowly but surely, and I'm particularly pleased with the way local businesses have adopted and are watering some of the planters. Still waiting for the long promised highways works to sort out the pavement on the corner of Algernon and remove the railings where safe to do so.

Coming up this week: Brockley Fun Run and Open Studios

Lots happening locally over the next week or so:
  • Friday is the Broc Soc post-summer fayre BBQ by the Stone Circle, on Hilly Fields, 7.30pm onwards, for all those who helped organise the Broc Soc Summer Fayre.
  • Brockley Open Studios is taking place this weekend from Saturday to Monday. This is when artists living and working in the area open their studios to the public. The event has been held annually since 1992. Enjoy the opportunity to meet and buy direct from the artist and viewtheir work in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
  • Brockley Fun Run: Ute has already blogged about this - just a quick reminder that this is taking place this Sunday.
  • Lewisham Green Drinks: Monday 6th July, 7pm onwards, Mr Lawrence Wine Bar, 389 Brockley Road. For anyone who lives or works locally and has an interest in green issues.
  • See the calendar on the sidebar for more details and for a few events beyond next week.
BTW, for those not in the know, Moira's e-mail list is a great way to get regular updates on local art, music and cultural events: it's well worth getting yourself added to the list if you're not already on it.