Monday, August 31, 2009

New blog poll: Should solar panels be permited on conservation area properties?

I've set up a poll to gauge readers' views on whether solar panels should be permitted on conservation area properties. Please do vote - you can find it in the right-hand column of the blog.

To be absolutely clear, I'm not claiming any particular scientific validity for the poll, self-selecting as readers of this blog inevitably will be, and it's not in any way an official council consultation, it's just a straw poll.

The poll has come about as a result of an ongoing discussion on an earlier post with a blog reader. My own view is that action to reduce carbon emissions and prevent climate change is a bigger priority than preserving the aesthetic qualities of a conservation area, but that most of the time the two need not be incompatible anyway. I would generally support solar panels on roofs in conservation areas, as long as they were positioned and designed as unobtrusively as possible, and the owners had already taken all reasonable measures to insulate and improve the energy efficiency of the property. ie I'm not into solar panels purely as fashion statements - insulation, an energy efficient boiler etc come first. That said, I don't see preserving the character of the conservation area and doing our bit to reduce our carbon footprints as mutually exclusive, and think St Peter's Church on Wickham Road is a good example of how this can be done sensitively.

Anyway, I would be interested to know what my readers think, so please do participate in the poll, which will run until 20th September.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

St Cyprian's Hall to be auctioned off on 22nd September

According to the notice that has just gone up outside it, St Cyprian's Church Hall, on the corner of Brockley Road and Braxfield Road is due to be sold at auction on 22nd September. As well as the church hall (which in itself is a considerable size), I understand that the auction includes the sale of the neighbouring commercial premises and flats above (the undertakers, and the premises on the other side of the hall too).

Taken together, these represent a sizeable site, onto which I imagine some developer will be hoping to squeeze as many flats as possible. As far as I'm aware, none of the buildings are listed, so theoretically they could all be demolished. although the owners has to honour existing leases with the businesses.

Personally, I think it would be a real loss to Brockley Road if these buildings were demolished, and would hope to see a sensitive redevelopment that incorporates at least parts of the existing church hall, and brings the front entrance to the church hall, that has been bricked up for so long, back into use.

The hall and neighbouring premises are 'owned' by the RC Diocese of Southwark, although I know there is some controversy as to whether the diocese actually owns the hall and has the right to sell it, due to a covenant that was allegedly signed when it was transferred over from the Church of England in 1968, which says the building is to be preserved for community use. Back in 2007, when rumours of plans to sell the building surfaced, a group of local residents got together to oppose the plans, but I'm not sure what came of it all. If any of those residents is reading this and would like to get in touch, please do. Given it is about to be sold at auction, I'm assuming the diocese are confident that this is not the case.

It would be nice to see the hall brought back into community use, but I'm rather cynical about the chances of this happening, given the pending auction, the considerable sums of money that need to be spent on the hall roof to make it safe, the proximity of St Andrews and the fact that the hall has not been in proper community use for a while now. The RC Diocese of Southwark has allowed the hall to get into a very run-down state over the years, and over the past few years the number of events, classes etc held at the hall gradually dwindled, until it was closed entirely about a year ago, on health and safety grounds I understand. Furthermore, the diocese's efforts at community consultation and engagement over this have been non-existant, as far as I'm aware.

A potted history of the St Cyprian's Hall, according to Geograph:

"The building was erected in 1881-2 as St Cyprian's mission church in the parish of St Mary, Lewisham (Anglican). It was superseded in 1901 by a new parish church of the same name in Adelaide Road [sic] (which was bombed in WW2) but retained as a parish hall and occasional place of worship until 1968 when it was sold to the Roman Catholics for use as a church hall."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Climate Camp comes to Lewisham!

Exciting news for Lewisham today as climate camp sets up on Blackheath.

I went to both the Heathrow and Kingsnorth camps and found both to be very well organised, and the sites were left in immaculate condition. The main irritation in both cases was the heavy-handed policing.

Brockley ward councillor Darren Johnson and I popped up to the site earlier on today and were impressed with how things were being set up. Happily, policing was reasonably low key and hands off. In fact, campers told us that the local ice cream vans got there before the police vans did (covert surveillance with your Mr Whippy perhaps?!).

The camp runs from now until 2nd September and there is an emphasis on education, awareness-raising and training at this year's camp, with a whole range of workshops on all sorts of things from composting, DIY and yoga to training for non-violent direct action. You can see the full programme of workshops here, and it's all free.

Lewisham Green Party have put out a supportive press release today. Lewisham Lib Dems and Labour in contrast have condemned the climate campers as irresponsible. Hmm, now let me think about that one . . . supporting the building of more motorways, airports and coal-fired power stations, allowing the only wind turbine factory in the country to close, or a group of people camping in a field and discussing practical steps that they need to take to reduce our carbon emissions and curb climate change. Hmm, I know which one I think is more irresponsible, how about you?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to discussing green stuff with like-minded people and attending some of the workshops at climate camp over the next few days, and hope that the peaceful atmosphere and hands off policing continues.

It's also great to see more micro-renewables in the form of solar panels and wind turbines in Blackheath Conservation Area than have ever been seen before -a dream for a Green councillor who sits on planning and is constantly frustrated by how inadequate our planning policies are to meet the challenges of climate change!

Greenwich Green Darryl also has a nice write-up and photos of the setting up of the camp on his 853 blog.

UPDATE 11pm, 26th August: pleased to see that Lewisham Lib Dems have now released a more positive statement about climate camp following the earlier quotes attributed to Blackheath councillors that appeared on the Guardian website.

Tree removal on Fossil Road

Just a quick post as a number of residents from Fossil Road have contacted us concerned about a street tree being removed. We spoke to an officer from the tree team this morning who clarified that the tree was removed as it had two types of diseases; some kind of fruiting fungal infection that was making the tree go sponge like from the inside, and another which had killed the crown of the tree. There are no plans to remove any other trees from Fossil Road, although one more will be reduced and reshaped.

The Council's arboriculturalist team have recently completed a full survey of the borough's street trees - every one is now logged on their new database and has been prioritised according to how urgently it needs work on it or not, so there should be a noticeable increase in tree works over the next few months as they carry out this work.

The bad news is that I've been told that the budget for street tree planting has already been allocated for this year and that the Fossil Road tree can't get replaced this Autumn. Do people think we should dip into our localities fund to get it replaced sooner, or should we hang on for it to come out of the normal street tree planting budget next year?

I've asked for clarification on how big the tree planting budget is and how big the shortfall is, as I know a number of roads in the ward have 'missing' street trees.

Interestingly, residents tell me that the cherry trees on Fossil Road, which were planted at the same time as the houses were built, are an unusual species that flower three times a year, although we haven't yet found out the name of the tree type - any suggestions on that?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Boris keep your promise!

London currently only has one rape crisis centre to support female victims of rape in a city with 3.9 million women. In his election manifesto, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson promised he would fund three new rape crisis centres for London at a cost of £2,230,000. He said he would divert £744,000 a year that the previous mayor spent on publicity. Since then, however, the cycling mayor has been furiously back-pedalling on this pledge and that figure changed to £1,400,000, 37.3% less. Campaigners, as the video below makes clear, are less than impressed.

It would appear that the mayor who famously referred to his £250k salary for writing his newspaper column as 'chicken feed' isn't placing a very high priority on supporting rape victims. For more details, including ways you can help, visit the Boris Keep Your Promise website.

UPDATE 18th August: There is a petition you can sign about this on the 38 Degrees website.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Pedal-powered screening of 'Age of Stupid' in Deptford this Thursday!

Slightly outside of my usual geographical remit, and unfortunately clashing with Transition Brockley's film at St Andrew's this Thursday, but this sounds like a good event:

Oxfam’s Pedal Powered Outdoor Cinema
plus panel discussion with local leaders, the film’s director and climate campaigners!
Thursday 6th August 2009, Doors open at 7:30pm
Laban Outdoor Theatre, Creekside, Deptford, SE8 3DZ

Showing award winning film with Peter Postlethwaite:
For your free ticket and more info please e-mail Sophie Freeman or call 020 7802 9971.

New links added

Just added a few new links to this site. First up, Deptford Misc, a new blog by long-term Deptford resident and campaigner Bill Ellson join the ranks of Deptford Dame and Caroline's Miscellany.
And a couple of newish Green bloggers added are Green Kentish Town and Matt Sellwood for Hackney. Any more I've missed?