Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Public Meetings Coming Up this Week

A few anti-cuts events coming up locally this week that I wanted to highlight:

Wed 24th Nov: Lewisham Right to Work Public meeting with PCS Gen Sec Mark Serwotka, 7pm, Lewisham Methodist Church, Albion Way. Details here.

Thurs 25th Nov: Goldsmiths University Rally Against the cuts with Tony Benn. 6.30pm, Great Hall, Goldsmiths College, Lewisham Way. Details here.

Mon 29th Nov: Lobby of Full Council to oppose cuts. 6.30pm. Details here.

I don't see eye to eye with everything some members of the Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance say (personally I don't support the idea of setting an illegal council budget in Lewisham), but it's a fairly broad church and I do share with them utter opposition and horror at what the impact of the ConDem government's cuts are going to have at both a local and national level, often on the most vulnerable in society.

Lewisham Anti-Cuts Alliance
are on Twitter, if you would like to follow them, and they also have a blog, as do Lewisham Right to Work.

LVIG mtg tonight - community garden in Church Grove on Agenda

Ladywell Village Improvement Group is holding a meeting at the St Mary's Centre, Ladywell Road, TONIGHT (Tuesday November 23 at 7.30pm.) On the agenda are: Ladywell Christmas Market, an update on the streetscape plans, help organise a tree sponsorship campaign in the high street, and find out the latest on the Playtower.

The item that caught my eye is the proposal for a community garden scheme on the former Watergate School in Church Grove. My understanding is that residents are working with the council to get a short-term (12-months) lease on the site, pending a decision about its longer term future, and the tentative plan is to use builders bags, or similar to grow fruit and veg, a bit like has been done in Hackney and elsewhere with temporary lots. It sounds like a great idea, and if it works well, I can think of at least one other site in Ladywell that would be ideally suited to doing something similar. There is certainly local demand for more space to grow fruit and veg, and a long waiting list for local allotments, and this seems like a pragmatic way to help bridge that gap.

By-election results - belatedly

It's a little bit after the event now, but in case there's anyone who doesn't know, Labour held the seat in the recent Ladywell ward by-election, although it was a pretty close run thing in the end. Both Labour and the Green vote went up, while the Lib Dems and Tories both went down. The Green vote up by the most, and we have narrowed the gap between us and Labour a bit more. The results were:

Carl Handley, Labour 1231 (41%, up 2.4% since May)
Ute Michel, Green 1041 (35%, up 4.3% since May)
Ingrid Chetram Lib Dem 314 (11%, down 6.5% since May)
Helen Mercer L4PNP 233 (8%)
Ben Appleby, Conservative 153 (5%, down 4.9% since May)

Turnout: 29.9% (not a bad turnout for a November by-election).

Obviously we're disappointed not to have won, but I think this election makes it clear that this is still very much a Labour/Green marginal ward and keeps us in contention for 2014 (unless there is another by-election before then, of course).

Many thanks to all those who supported us, whether at the ballot box, by displaying a poster or helping us with leafleting/canvassing.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A few photos from the campaign

Well it's been a busy few weeks out campaigning for Ute in the by-election. I've been having a break from my 'break from politics' to help with the campaign. We've been getting a great response on the doorstep, and have spoken to loads of residents that have previously never been in when we've called.

Back in April/May, it was difficult to get people interested in the local elections, with all the focus on the leadership debates on TV etc. This time the emphasis is firmly on local issues, albeit with the impact of the government cuts to local government a top concern for many. And there is much more emphasis on the candidate than there was in May, where quite a few people seemed to be voting on party lines, rather than for individuals.

When the by-election was called, the national party asked us if we would like some 'big guns'. We looked a bit askance at first and thought it sounded very ungreen, but we've been delighted that Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP, deputy leader Cllr Adrian Ramsay and London Assembly member Jenny Jones have all come and supported our campaign, along with lots of members and supporters from both the local area and further afield.

Caroline Lucas (top and second picture) is pictured here with local Greens supporting the campaign to keep Crofton Park Library open. Jenny Jones AM (third picture), who leads on pedestrian issues for us on the London Assembly, came to take a look at the Lewisham Way crossing that the Mayor of London is inexplicably threatening to remove - passersby told us that they remembered signing the petition a few years back to get the crossing put in, and couldn't understand why TfL would want to ride roughshod over local opinion now. And Cllr Adrian Ramsay is pictured canvassing on Gillian Street.

It's been a while since I've spoken to anyone on the doorstep who wasn't aware of the by-election, and many residents are probably starting to get a bit cheesed off with the unusual level of attention they are getting from local political parties. Hopefully those who've lived in the area a while will know which parties they hear from regularly, and who are just showing a fleeting, by-election related interest in the ward.

Anyway, time for me to get back on the doorstep rather than sitting here in the warm . . .

Save our Libraries March

There was a good turnout for yesterday's libraries march, and despite the ominous weather forecasts, the rain held off too. I would estimate that there were about 200 people who marched from Crofton Park library to the town hall in Catford. There was a good range of people there - lots of families with children and older residents, as well as the usual activists.

Lewisham MPs Joan Ruddock and Heidi Alexander attempted to speak at the beginning of the demo, but their voices were pretty much drowned out by heckling, with people shouting 'Vote against the cuts'. A number of politicians there were looking rather uncomfortable - the local Lib Dem cllr, as his party is being blamed for cuts at a national level, and the Labour cllrs and MPs as they run Lewisham.

I want go into loads of detail as Transpontine has already beat me to it with a good write up and photos, but suffice to say the march was vocal, determined and presented a united front from the 5 libraries campaigns, who have now collected over 20,000 signatures for their petitions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Second meeting on Crofton Park Library - community again says 'keep it open'!

Left: Ladywell ward by-election candidate Ute Michel outside Crofton Park library.

On Tuesday I went along to the second public consultation meeting about the Council's proposals to close Crofton Park Library (along with Blackheath, New Cross, Sydenham and Grove Park Libraries). Once again it was officer-led, with officers at pains to stress that no decision had been taken and that they would report back to the Mayor who would ultimately make the decision. Two of the councillors for Crofton Park were there, as was Chris Best, the cabinet member for community services, which includes the library service, and she spoke briefly at the end of the meeting.

Once again, the vast majority of those at the meeting were firmly opposed to closing the library, and spoke of the important role it plays in the local community. Gwen, the now retired former librarian at Crofton Park spoke eloquently and with passion about how many parents and children use the library, which was backed up by a local head teacher concerned about the impact it would have on her pupils. And there were a notable number of older library users' there, including a blind woman whose grandson borrows books from the library to read to her. The very angry bloke who shouted so loudly at the last meeting that the chairs vibrated was there again, still just as angry, and intimidating!)

One interesting snippet of information was that while the majority of Crofton Park Library Users are, as to be expected, from within Crofton Park ward, 16% of users live in Ladywell ward and 11% in Telegraph Hill ward, so closing the library would have an impact on a much wider area than just the one council ward.

Perhaps the most interesting, 'meaty' part of the meeting, however, was when officers invited representatives from 'Make Believe Arts' (a local social enterprise) and the Ackroyd Community Centre to come up and speak. Both were at pains to stress that they didn't want the library to close and as local residents would far prefer it if it stayed open, but then went on to talk about possible ways of keeping the building in community use in the event the library does close.

'Make Believe Arts' outlined what use they would like to make of the building if it does close as a library. This included bringing the upstairs back into use as office and community space, in addition to the downstairs. The building would be more of a (social entreprise run) community centre, a hub for various classes, rather than a library, although they would work with Lewisham Library Services to see if they could maintain some aspects of the library service (eg some books still there, albeit a greatly-reduced number, or some kind of order and collection service of books from elsewhere). They talked about the work they have been involved in at the Leegate Centre, where they have brought an empty shop unit back into use as a community centre.

The Ackroyd Community Centre didn't have a firm proposal as such, but had been approached by council officers and said that they were willing to work with the local community to see how the building could be kept in community use, with some element of library provision incorporated within that, if it closed.

People listened politely to the presentations, then got straight to the point with the questions and comments - where did Make Believe Arts' funding come from, who would own the building, what would prevent an organisation changing the use in the future, how much of the current library services would be retained, etc. The thrust of what people seemed to be saying was yes, we'd love to see the upstairs of Crofton Park Library brought back into use, and might not be averse to a social enterprise or similar getting involved in making greater use of the building and bringing in more revenue, but we want this in addition to the much-loved library downstairs we already have, not instead of, with a tokenistic shelf or two of books thrown in alongside another use. You can find a view more comments on this from people who attended the meeting on the 'Save Crofton Park Library' Facebook group.

A lot of those present were concerned that if they said anything positive about the proposal put forward by Make Believe Arts that this would be interpreted in the report to the Mayor as acquiescing to the closure of the library. Officers assured us this would not be the case. Others felt it risked undermining the campaign to save the libraries to put forward alternative 'what to do if it closes' proposals at this stage - to an extent I agree with them, but I do think that Make Believe Arts were brave in coming and speaking to the meeting, and that they are genuine in their passion to keep the building in community use.

In the meantime, however, the campaign to keep our libraries open goes on, and it is one that the local community is determined to win. It was great to see at the meeting that campaigners from all 5 library campaigners are united and working together, rather than taking any kind of nimbyist, just save my local library approach.

Next weekend (Saturday 30th October) there is a march 'with a carnival flavour' to the town hall to protest against library closures. It starts outside Crofton Park Library at 12pm, to arrive at the Town hall by 1.30 for a rally. More details on the 'Save Crofton Park Library' Facebook group.

Friday, October 15, 2010

El's Kitchen Opens in Ladywell on 30th October!

Eleanor lives next door but one to me. She has put so much work into this over several years now, and I have a feeling it's going to be a big success. Very excited about this, and really hope it is going to fill a hole in the local market. I will certainly be popping in to refuel on 30th in between canvassing sessions.

With 46 Ladywell Road (Nightwatch) finally getting renovated, the efforts of LVIG and the ward assembly in getting the streetscape improvements on the Council's agenda (if not quite within the timeline we were after) hopefully Ladywell Road is on its way up.

Good luck Eleanor!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cemeteries Work Day and Guided Walk this Saturday

If you haven't ever explored the wonderful Brockley & Ladywell cemeteries, now's your chance.

Saturday 16th October
11am - 2pm Workday jointly with Nature Conservation Dept's Nature's Gym.
Meet at the chapel in the Ladywell Cemetery

2pm - 3.30pm (approx) Guided walk of the two Cemeteries led by FoBLC
members. This will start from the Ladywell gate, and takes a circular route.

Find out more on the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries blog.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Vote Ute Michel in Ladywell Ward By-election on 4th November!

I'm pleased to be able to confirm that we've now formally selected former Ladywell councillor Ute Michel as our candidate in the upcoming Ladywell by-election.

After the resignation of one of the newly elected Labour councillors for Ladywell, the by-election on November 4th will be a chance for the Greens to regain one of the council seats lost to Labour in the elections last May, when the party missed out on winning a seat in Ladywell by just 65 votes.

Ute Michel was a Ladywell councillor from 2006-2010 and was chair of the ward assembly. She worked hard over four years to help individual residents and the local community, and I know she would do an excellent job serving Ladywell again.

As a councillor, Ute supported local opposition to a betting shop in an area already full of bookies, and campaigned successfully to avoid cuts to social care services. She played a leading role in making Green amendments to Lewisham Council's budget and challenged council proposals. Outside of politics, Ute has worked as a research assistant in the European Parliament and for disability organisations and now works in the NHS.

Darren Johnson, Green councillor for Brockley, said:

"This by-election will be a straight fight between Greens and Labour - the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives were a long way behind last time. Quite a few people voted Liberal Democrat last time, expecting a new style of politics, but many are feeling betrayed that the Lib Dems have gone into a cuts coalition with Conservatives. If just a few dozen people switch over from Liberal Democrat to Green then Ute Michel can win in Ladywell and give residents the strong voice they deserve."

Can you help deliver some newsletters for us, or put up a 'Vote Green' poster in your window? If so, just e-mail sue.luxton@greenparty.org.uk with your contact details and we'll be in touch asap. Thank you!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ladywell Village Improvement Group Petition

Ladywell Village Improvement Group have been collecting signatures for their petition, which calls upon the Council "to accept and to implement from 2011, the recommendations of the Ladywell Streetscape Study which will help arrest the long and sad decline of Ladywell. These proposals are supported by residents and businesses alike, and to date have been warmly supported by Council officers also".

The petition seems very reasonably worded to me:

"The Ladywell Village Improvement Group, supported by the Ladywell Assembly, secured £10k from the Mayor's Fund to commission a Ladywell Streetscape Study. Experienced consultants Shape have undertaken this work, which included throughout extensive consultation with local residents and businesses and liaison with Council officers. The Consultants have now submitted their final report which makes clear, informed, robust and eminently sensible recommendations. Furthermore, mindful of the financial climate, it makes suggestions for the phasing of the recommended works. To fail to include these works within the Local Implementation Plan for 2011/12 and beyond will betray the aspirations of local people and could see the further decline of Ladywell as a viable centre."

You can read more on LVIG's blog, or go straight to sign the e-petition here. The petition closes early next week (you can also sign a paper copy in Oscar's Cafe in Ladywell). LVIG are keen that as many Lewisham people as possible add their names as we want to ensure that the Ladywell improvements happen in 2011 and are not scheduled for a later year when the level of TfL highways funding is uncertain.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ladywell By-Election - help us put the Green back in Ladywell!

You may by now have heard that Tim Shand, one of the new Labour councillors elected in May to serve Ladywell has chosen to take up a job offer in South Africa and resigned as a councillor, which means there will be a by-election. We don't know the date yet, but are assuming it will be on or around 4th November.

While it's annoying that someone who was only elected in May, has resigned and triggered a by-election, at a cost to local taxpayers in excess of £10k, it does of course present an opportunity for Ladywell Greens to regain one of the seats we lost back in May! I am looking forward to getting back out campaigning over the next few weeks to try and get a Green candidate, who is trully committed to Ladywell ward elected.

Our candidate selection meeting is taking place this Thursday, and we will announce on here shortly after who our candidate is. I know we have at least two excellent people who plan to put their name forward. I'm not standing myself this time - I'm rather enjoying the extra time I have now I'm not a councillor.

I think we have a very strong chance of winning this seat back, and making sure Ladywell has a strong green voice standing up for it again, looking for alternatives to cuts to services, campaigning to keep our childrens' centres and libraries open, but we'll need your help.

Here's how you can help:
  • By-elections cost money! Help us run an effective campaign by making a donation to our campaign fund today.
  • Put up a 'Vote Green' window poster for us. E-mail me your contact details and we'll get one over to you once the election date is declared.
  • Can you help us deliver our election address to your street, or could you convince some of your neighbours to go out and vote Green? Again, e-mail us and let us know what you would like to do.
  • Have you got questions/suggestions on our campaign, what you think our priorities should be? Again, get in touch.
  • Join us! We're a small party, but a growing one. We can do so much more and be so much more representative of the local community, if more of our supporters join us.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Two events this Saturday

Two Lewisham Green Party events this weekend that supporters, as well as members, are welcome to attend:

80s Disco
Lewisham Green Party is 30 years old this month. To celebrate we are having an 80s disco. Come and join us and celebrate in style!

Saturday 25th September From 8pm. Brockley Social Club 240 Brockley Road, SE4 2SW. £4

Special prize for the best 80s outfit!

Autumn Foraging Foray: Saturday 25th September
Back in June we held a very successful foraging walk. Local member Darren Flint led a group of members and supporters around various sites in New Cross and Deptford. Participants picked wild rocket, nettles, elderflower, pineapple weed and fennel, amongst other things, which were then taken back to Darren's kitchen and turned into the most delicious meal.

Now, due to popular demand, we are having a follow up event. Saturday 25th September, 11am-2pm. Gather at the gates of Brimmington Park, towards the New Cross end of the Old Kent Road.
Come on a food foraging walk around South Bermondsey - we will gather a Summer harvest and walk up Telegraph Hill, where we will prepare a lunch of wild food and drink.

A voluntary contribution will be taken in support of Lewisham Green Party. To give us an idea of numbers, if you would like to join us, please RSVP to Darren.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reminder: Council Consultation Meeting on Closure of Crofton Park Library TOMORROW, 23rd August

The Council's public consultation meeting to get local views on proposals to close Crofton Park Library, is tomorrow evening (Monday 23rd August) at St Saviour's Church Hall, Brockley Road, from 7pm.

I plan to attend, and would encourage everyone else concerned at the proposals to come along too.

There is also a petition, which already has over 1,500 signatures. If you would like to sign it, you can do so online here, or by signing one of the paper copies available in various local shops, including Mr Lawrence Wine Bar.

Check out the Transition Brockley Blog!

I just wanted to give a quick plug to the rather good Transition Brockley blog maintained by Alex, who also designed the rather nifty logo . The most recent article sports a picture of blackberries picked by yours trully in Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries. They made a spectacular blackberry & apple crumble!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Free food?! Foraging Walk and other events this weekend

There's lots going on this weekend, including of course Hilly Fields Fayre on Saturday (midday onwards) and the Friends of Brockley & Ladywell Cemeteries workday on Sunday (meet 10am by the old chapel).

Food Foraging Walk
Also, this Saturday, local Green and wild food afficionado Darren Flint is leading a food foraging walk between Deptford and New Cross. The plan is to gather wild plants (responsibly and carefully, under guidance from Darren as to what is ok to pick) and then go back to Darren's kitchen to prepare salad, soup, fritters and drinks using what's been gathered.

If you'd like to attend, e-mail Darren Flint today to book your place. Gather at the gates of the Laban centre on the corner of Creekside and Berthon St at 11am on Saturday (19th June). The walk is free, although donations to Lewisham Green Party are welcome.

I've always wanted to find out a bit more about this so will definitely be popping along before Hilly Fields Fayre.

Sponsored Walks
This week is Refugee Week and Sunday is World Refugee Day. AFRIL (Action for Refugees in Lewisham) is organising a sponsored walk to raise funds. They have a 5 mile walk "starting and ending at Hilly Fields and taking in the beautiful local sights of Blackheath, Greenwich Park and Lewisham Bus Garage" or a "a 1 mile circuit around Hilly Fields for smaller legs and families"! 10am -2pm on Sunday 20th June. For a fundraising pack or further information please contact Vanessa .

Another sponsored walk happening on Sunday, albeit a substantially longer one, is being under taken by local (Honor Oak) resident Norma Hibbert, who is walking from London to Brighton. Norma is one of the regular volunteers at Frendsbury Gardens and also won the 2010 'Love Lewisham Community Champion' award, in recognition of her hard work on the project. This is an annual walk she and a small group of friends make in memory of her son, Jonathan, and to raise money for the charity set up in his honour, which supports scholarships for Jamaican students. You can find out more information, and donate online at the Jonathan Hibbert Foundation website.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Free Composting Workshops at Devonshire Road Nature Reserve

The Council's waste team is organising several free workshops on home composting:

Sun 27 June 10.30am - 12
Sat 17 July 11am - 12.30
Wed 11 August 6.30am - 8

The sessions will all take place at Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (which, if you haven't ever been there, is in itself well worth a visit).

To book your place (spaces are limited), e-mail the aptly-named Kristina Binns, with the title "YES for composting workshop", stating which day you will be attending and how many people will be attending.

Local Peace Events

A few peace events coming up which may be of interest (via Lewisham & Greenwich CND):
  • The next Lewisham and Greenwich CND business meeting is on Tuesday 15th June in Mr Laurence's Wine Bar, 391 Brockley Road, London SE4 2PH at 7pm.
  • On Wednesday 16th June, at St. John's Church, Lewisham Way, SE8 4EA, South East London Palestine Solidarity Campaign is holding its AGM at 7pm with a report on the Gaza Flotilla at 7.30 pm. There will be an eye witness account from Alex Lort-Phillips who was on the Mavi Marmara. Frank Barat from the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will provide further information on the siege and the occupation. All are welcome to both the AGM and report on the Gaza Flotilla.
  • On Tuesday 15th June, at Mr Laurence's Wine bar from 6pm until 7pm, there will be an organization meeting for the Hiroshima Day commemoration on Tuesday 3rd August in Charlton House at which an atom bomb survivor (Hibakusha) will speak. This will be the 65th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb, and probably our last opportunity to hear about the effects of an atom bomb from somebody who was there.

    The Charlton House Hiroshima day commemoration will continue with an evening of music and poetry organised in collaboration with The One World Club - a club of musicians and poets which meets at the Mitre in Greenwich every Thursday evening - see . If you would like to help organize this event, please come at 6pm.
  • Lewisham United Nations Association AGM: the Lewisham branch of the United Nations Association will hold its AGM on Thursday 17th June 2010 at 7,30pm in the Civic Suite of Lewisham Town Hall.

    Immediately following the brief AGM, Lord Hannay, Chair of UNA-UK will speak on "A nuclear free world and how to achieve it". The event will be chaired by Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham. The evening will will conclude with music by the Lewisham choir with a conscience, The Strawberry thieves, and a light supper.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Hilly Fields Midsummer Fayre, Saturday 19th June, 12-5pm

Sad that Brockley Max is finished for another year? Fear not, there's another community bash coming up on 19th June in the shape of Broc Soc's Midsummer Fayre on Hilly Fields. Details below, see you there!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Planning Application submitted for 46 Ladywell Road

I'm pleased that the new owners of the former Nightwatch shop at 46 Ladywell Road have wasted no time in submitting a planning application:

"The construction of a two-storey rear extension in connection with the alteration and conversion of the rear part of the basement, ground and upper floors of 46 Ladywell SE13 to provide 2 one-bedroom self-contained maisonettes, together with the installation of a new shop front incorporating a separate entrance to the flats above and roof lights the front roof slope."

I think this will be the first planning application along Ladywell Road since the Ladywell Conservation Area came into affect, so it will be interesting to see whether officers insist on a higher quality shop front than many of those currently visible on the road. From the design and access statement it certainly sounds promising, with a commitment to installing a timber-framed new shop front and slate roof. I'm also pleased that they haven't applied for change of use but are sticking with A1 retail - we really don't want to lose any more units along Ladywell Road to non-retail uses.

I think this offers great potential to improve Ladywell Road and finally get rid of one of our longstanding blights. Having spent 4 years as a local councillor pushing for enforcement action to be bring this property back into use, this is one planning application I'm tempted to write in to support, now I'm not on a committee and can speak my mind!

The planning application number is DC/10/74347/X and you can view the details online here. Any comments should be sent to planning@lewisham.gov.uk.


Another cracking Brockley Max Festival

I spent a pleasant few hours yesterday sitting in Hilly Fields, reading the paper and listening to the music at Brockley Max. There were loads of people there, in particular lots of families and children who'd be taking part in the arts & crafts events.

Brockley Max is now a firmly established part of the local calendar and I very much hope that the new councillors and the ward assembly continue to give it their support.

Many thanks to Moira, John, Gill and all those who helped with this year's festival.

Three local schools, three planning applications - have your say

Two schools in Ladywell ward, and two just outside it but attended by a lot of Ladywell children, have planning applications due to be submitted soon for refurbs or rebuilds - Gordonbrock Primary, Prendergast Hilly Fields, Lewisham Bridge and Brockley Primary School. Like most residents, I'm keen to see improvements made, and for the work to go ahead before the funding is lost, but am also keen to see good quality, sustainable buildings that will serve the local community for many years to come.

Gordonbrock Primary School
Following the legal action taken by Broc Soc and the consequent delay to the decant of the school, the Council plans to re-submit a planning application for the re-build of the school and is holding a public consultation event on its plans. Officers say that the scheme is based on the last planning application, but amended to reflect some of the comments made during the previous proposals.

The updated drawings along with members of the project team will be available at Gordonbrock school on Wednesday 9th June from 3:15pm to 7:30pm.

I haven't seen the revised plans, but from what officers said a few weeks back, I'm assuming the amendments to the plan include changes to the entrance area, so the Edwardian building isn't hidden behind the new building, and also to the materials proposed for the new building, rather than the white render previously proposed.

Prendergast Hilly Fields
I previously blogged about plans for the rebuild of the lower site of this school, and refurbishment of the listed building in the park. An application has been submitted to have temporary classrooms on Hilly Fields, on the flat patch of grass in between Prendergast School and the top of Eastern Road (see photos). You can view the application here.

I think it makes sense to make use of this space for the decant classrooms given it is there, rather than bussing students, provided the mature trees and the hedges around the edges are preserved, and the site restored to at least current condition (preferably better) after use.

Following a quick site visit with the chair of Friends of Hilly Fields yesterday, there are a few points that need clarifying, which we hope to raise with officers. We also thought that it wouldn't be unreasonable to ask for a small S106 commitment towards improvements to Hilly Fields, in exchange for a section of the park being effectively annexed for two years. One suggestion from the chair was for funding to be provided to resurface the section of road from the gate at the top of Eastern Road to the school, particularly given that heavy vehicles are likely to be using the road and exacerbating its already poor condition. She was also keen for a granite sett under the gates, to make the entrance to the park clearer and smarter. It doesn't seem like a big ask, given the likely disturbance to park users while the building work is underway.

Astonishingly, and despite me specifically asking officers to do so several months back, Friends of Hilly Fields have still not be formally consulted on these plans, either by the planning department or the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) team. I think the planning department's list of local groups to consult needs updating to include park users' groups and other more recently established groups.

Anyway, comments on the application should be sent to planning@lewisham.gov.uk, with the planning application number (DC/10/74021/X) clearly marked.

Lewisham Bridge School
There was an initial, pre-planning consultation event a few weeks back, with new designs for the school, which incorporate the listed building, on show. I wasn't able to attend and can't find any online links to the plans. Has anyone seen them? What did you think? I'm particularly keen to see how much outside space is left with the revised plans. It would be really useful if the BSF team made these plans available online.

Ladywell celebrated the opening of two new playgrounds yesterday!

Yesterday I was really pleased to be able to attend the official openings of two new play areas in Ladywell ward. At 2pm, the Mayor opened the brilliant new play area on Hilly Fields. It was a beautiful day and the playground was packed with children and parents using the new equipment and taking part in the arts & crafts sessions laid on as part of Brockley Max. The water pump, sand and fortress are huge hits.

Brockley owes a huge debt of gratitude to Rachel Mooney, chair of the Friends of Hilly Fields, for all her work on the plans for this play area and driving the project forward. A landscape architect by trade, she knows her stuff and also put in many hours of tedious form-filling to various bodies to get all the funding together for the project.

Keith has some good photos of the opening over at Hilly Fields Birdwatch.

Just before 3pm I popped over to Foxborough Gardens. While the Mayor was watching Billy Jenkins perform over at Brockley Max, Cllr Susan Wise, cabinet member for customer services (which includes housing and the environment) was doing the honours and opening the new play area in Foxborough Gardens. This is a project I've been involved in and supported since residents first got in touch back in June 2008, so I was determined to be there, even if only as an ex-councillor!

I was asked to judge the competition to choose the name for the new play area. It was a tough call, but the play area is now 'Fox's Garden', as suggested by nine year old Leila.

As well as the new play area, the TRA was successful in making a bid to Capital Growth, for funding to help set up a gardening project for children on the estate. Last weekend I helped residents and children (aged from approx 2 years to pensioners) with their first planting day. The children enjoyed it, though one of them ran off in disgust when he found out he was digging in horse manure! At the end of the session the children all took away a sunflower seed they had planted in a pot and are having a competition to see whose grows the tallest. I was pleased to see yesterday that the runner beans were already climbing up the sticks, and the only signs of any damage were due to local wildlife and easily fixable.

I'm now looking forward to seeing the new adventure playground on Ladywell Fields opening soon too, which will provide a much needed base for some of the older children in the area, and hopefully help keep them occupied over the summer.

Reviewing local assemblies priorities: online survey

I meant to include this as part of my post yesterday but forgot.
At the meeting on Tuesday the ward assembly will be reviewing the current priorities. The priorities are the main concerns that effect those that live, work and learn in Ladywell and are likely to be the issues which are worked on over the coming year.

To help get feedback from as many local residents as possible, a short online survey has been set up about the current priorities and suggestions for new ones which can be accessed here.

The current priorities are:

1. Local shops
2. Playtower
3. Streetscape and environment
4. Lack of youth and community facilities
5. Anti social behaviour and crime

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Ladywell Ward Assembly, Tuesday 8th June

Update from ward assembly team and reminder about the Ladywell ward assembly this coming Tuesday.

Ladywell Local Assembly, Tuesday , 8 June 2010, 7 – 9 pm
Prendergast School Science Block, Adelaide Avenue SE4 1JL

What is happening on 8 June?
  • Streetscape Project feedback
  • Prendergast School Redevelopment
  • Elections to CG Group
  • Priority Feedback
  • Results of CG Elections
  • Community Updates
Elections to the Coordinating Group
The Ladywell Coordinating Group has been in place since the first Assembly and is due to be refreshed.

Being a coordinator is open to any assembly member. No past experience is required except for the expertise you bring as a community member. Being a volunteer on the coordinating group might involve helping to plan assembly meetings, helping design leaflets and flyers, suggesting how the assembly can reach out to all parts of the ward amongst different communities and contributing to the success of the Assembly Meetings.

Nominations and voting will take place at the Assembly on the 8 June so if you fancy becoming a member of the Coordinating Group come along and put yourself forward.

Project spotlight: Streetscape and Transport
As part of the Mayors fund £10,000 was approved for the commission of an urban designer to produce a design action plan for improving the streetscape for Ladywell neighbourhood shopping centre.

The project aims to achieve an action plan for improving the streetscape of Ladywell neighbourhood shopping centre which would be credible, achievable and have the backing of the local community as well as key stakeholders involved in the area.

The consultant involved in the project will be giving a presentation at the Assembly on the progress made so far and what happens next.

Easing back into things

OK, we've had a few weeks to lick our wounds, sulk, be a bit indignant and ponder what to do next, including with this blog. Of course we've also had a few weeks of going to the pub, cinema etc instead of having evening council meetings, which has been fun! We are keen to avoid turning this into a sad ex-cllrs' blog, simply sniping at the new cllrs from the sidelines, but we didn't want to stop writing about things we are passionate about either. We had over 20,000 hits on this blog last year, and clearly did have a reasonable-sized local readership, in addition to the Chinese/Korean spammers.

So, the aim is to keep the blog going, mostly about local stuff, but also occasionally to scrutinise what's happening at a borough level. We may also open it up to a few other local Greens to post here too. Do get in touch if you have an event coming up or issue that you want us to mention here. And if it does start turning into nothing more than bitter rants or pictures of our latest gardening or culinary exploits, we trust you will let us know!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thank you!

Oh well, we gave it our best shot but it simply wasn't to be.

We always knew it would be tough to get re-elected in a local election on the same day as the general election, and despite our best efforts, we didn't quite make it. Darren was re-elected in Brockley ward, but we've been reduced from a group of 6 Green councillors down to just one. It was very close for the third placed councillor in the end, with Charlotte just 60 votes shy of getting elected.

Congratulations to Vincent, Helen and Tim, the new councillors for Ladywell. You can see the results in full here. Ladywell again had one of the highest turnouts in the borough, at 64.3%.

On a brighter note, the clear high point in an otherwise gloomy night for Greens in Lewisham was seeing Green Party leader Caroline Lucas elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion.

Thank you to everyone who supported us and the kind messages we've received in the past day or so. It is gutting to put so much work in to something only to lose, but that's politics. It was an honour to serve as a local councillor in Ladywell for four years, and I learnt a huge amount over that period. I'm proud of the work we've done, and hope to stay involved in the community as a local resident. I'm also looking forward to spending more time going out and having fun, rather than being stuck in meetings at the town hall until 10pm!

We're having drinks for everyone who helped us with our campaign next Sunday, 16th May, at Mr Lawrence Wine Bar, Brockley Road, Crofton Park, from 4-9pm. All supporters welcome.

Not quite sure what will happen with this blog, whether we'll just leave it like this, or pick it up again at some point down the line, but we'll keep it up here for now as snapshot of some of the work we did.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Decision Time

Well, polling day is finally upon us. Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat in the past few weeks in the hurly burly of the election campaign. We've spoken to thousands of local residents - if we didn't speak to you, we knocked on your door and tried. We've worked hard over the past four years, think we've made a difference locally and would be honoured to serve the people of Ladywell for another four years.

If you agree, we hope you'll give us your support today, and vote for Charlotte, who we believe will make an excellent councillor and ourselves, as well as Dean for Mayor of Lewisham and Darren for MP.

Ute and Sue.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Brockley Society Meeting about Gordonbrock School

Brockley Society, at the request of a number of parents of Gordonbrock Primary School, has agreed to hold an extra meeting to discuss their legal action against the Council with regards to the planning application for the school. Their invitation reads:

"OPEN MEETING: Proposals for refurbishment of Gordonbrock School. Tuesday 4 May, 8pm-9.30pm, Crofton Park Baptist Church, Brockley Grove (cnr Huxbear Street), SE4 1EA.

Brockley Society would like to present its alternative proposals to those of Lewisham council for the modernisation of Gordonbrock School. Working with a number of Gordonbrock parents and our architect, we have sought to demonstrate that there are alternatives to demolition and rebuilding, still achieving all of the goals for the school, and within budget.

We will explain why we intervened, and why so late. There will also be an opportunity for all interested parties to express their views and ask questions. All welcome."

A number of parents from Gordonbrock have asked that the motion below be put to the meeting:

"In light of the current economic climate and the certainty that budget for a school refurbishment shall be lost should work not commence this financial year, the Brockley Society shall offer no further objections to the redevelopment of Gordonbrock School".

I'm anticipating a lively and well-attended meeting, and (optimistically perhaps) hoping some kind of common ground can be found within the community.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Ladywell Hustings this Wednesday

Ladywell Village Improvement Group are organising a Question Time with candidates for the local elections. Representatives from all the parties standing in Ladywell ward will be taking questions from local residents from 7.30pm on Wednesday 21 April at the St.Mary's Centre on Ladywell Road, SE13.

LVIG say:

"This is your opportunity to find out what each party has planned for our ward and everyone is welcome.

Please note - if you are attending and have a question you'd like to ask please register it by midday on Tuesday 20 April, along with your full name and address, by e-mailing ladywellfields@yahoo.co.uk. Priority will be given, on the night, to questions submitted in advance."

Charlotte, Ute and I look forward to meeting people there on Wednesday.

Good news for Ladywell Road!

After 4 years of Ladywell ward councillors hassling officers, officers threatening legal action against the owner and lots of residents getting in touch with us asking 'What is happening with 46 Ladywell Road?' I am happy to confirm that it has now been sold. I met on site today with the new owners, Ladywell town centre manager, Lewisham's empty homes officer, representatives from LVIG (Ladywell Village Improvement Group) and one or two people keen to get in quick and pitch their business proposals to the new owners.

The new owners are very keen to crack on and renovate the whole building, with a view to letting the upstairs out as flats and the downstairs as a retail unit. Their architect came today and made some preliminary sketches. We talked about local residents being keen to see a good quality shop front, and an A1 retail use, rather than yet another take-away or betting shop. We also touched upon the point that the area is soon to fall under a conservation area. I welcome this fairly open approach by the new owners and hope that by having this meeting with various interested parties early on, the property can be brought back into use in a way that will benefit, rather than bring down, the local shopping parade. Time, of course, will tell, but that's the hope!

It's been a very long drawn out process to get this far, but credit is due to the empty homes officer and the environmental health officer for doggedly pursuing this, along with LVIG members for keeping the pressure up alongside ward councillors.

I look forward to seeing 46 Ladywell Road back in us and if re-elected on 6th May, 63a Loampit Hill, the other most problematic property in the ward, will remain firmly on our radar. Its fate currently resides with lawyers wrangling over probate issues, as I understand it, which seems to be an incredibly protracted and frustrating process.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Green Party Election Broadcast 2010

The Green Party launched its election broadcast today, with a new website. As well as watching the broadcast, you can personalise it and email it to your friends, and they can visit the site and not only look at our key policies but take a Policy Matchmaker test to see how close to the Green Party they are.

We don't get a great deal of national broadcast media exposure, so when we do, we need to get it right. I think this is pretty nifty, but what do you think?

New Campaign Video from Darren

There is also an article about Darren and our campaign in Lewisham Deptford at Red Pepper. You can find out more at Darren for Lewisham Deptford. We welcome any offers of help - just pop into our campaign shop at 252 Brockley Road - open daily 10am-7pm.

Ladywell Young Greens!

I've been feeling a bit exhausted today after canvassing most of the weekend (and for most weekends since well before Christmas), so it brought a smile to my face when a local resident and Green supporter sent me this picture of his baby daughter 'reading' our latest leaflet!

Letters with 'Vote Green' posters are going out now across the ward to many of our supporters. If you would like to put a poster up for us, please drop me an e-mail and we'll get one round to you - thanks!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Licensing Application: Cafe Oscars

Café Oscars
48 Ladywell Road
SE13 7UZ

Applied for sale of alcohol Monday – Friday 1100 – 1800, Saturday 1100 - 1700 & Sunday 1100 – 1600.

Any representations either way should reach Lewisham Licensing Team by 28th April 2010. E-mail licensing@lewisham.gov.uk.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prendergast Hilly Fields Plans - what did you think?

I popped in to look at the proposals for Prendergast Hilly Fields at the drop in session this evening. I was quite favourably impressed, but would be keen to hear what others who saw the plans thought.

I suspect the two potentially most contentious aspects of the plans will be where to place the temporary classrooms while the lower site is decanted and rebuilt, and the extra height of the lower site buildings. The two options proposed for the decant classrooms are either to put them on two of the tennis courts for the year while the work takes place, or to put them on the land adjacent to the upper site school, near the basketball courts. With the first option, the community would lose the use of the tennis courts for a year, but potentially at the end of it, get brand new, resurfaced tennis courts. The second option would involve temporary loss of green space adjacent to the school but not, I'm told, involve needing to remove any mature trees. I need to go and take a look at the site to get a clear picture of it in my mind, and would be keen to hear the community's views on this, and the thoughts of Friends of Hilly Fields.

I like the idea of having one, high quality building on the lower site rather than the mish mash that is currently there. The proposals involve keeping the existing sports hall, but building around and above it. The new buildings would be 4 storeys in the middle and 3 storeys at the sides adjacent to the neighbouring houses. The extra height would enable the sixth form to grow, while the plans also include more landscaped outside space in the middle, with a sightline from Hilly Fields through to the cemeteries, 'connecting the two green spaces'.

The boundary treatment would be a combination of brick wall and quality railings, rather than the rather tatty chainlink fence currently there. There haven't decided on the exact materials they plan to use the the building itself, but are looking at brick, rather than a rendered finish, which should age better. The architect seemed keen to go for a brick colour that contrasted with the neighbouring red brick buildings on Adelaide Avenue rather than trying to match it.

I was keen to see how they envisaged the new building relating to Ivy Road, which has been problematic in the past. The windows of the exam hall that face onto Ivy Road have been boarded up almost since it was built, due to vandalism problems. Ivy Road is looking better these days, with less graffiti and flytipping, but there is still limited footfall along there and security is an issue. They seemed to be planning a delivery entrance on the Ivy Road side, and a bit more landscaping, rather than just the back wall of buildings, but it's a tricky issue to resolve.

The flat roofs on the new building incorporate both brown and green living roofs, which if done properly could look good from Hilly Fields, and while they were uncertain how they would attain the 20% renewables target, were looking at using air source heat pumps and solar thermal on the roof. Previous BSF schools in Lewisham have tended to go for biomass boilers, as they proved the most cost-effective way to meet the 20% target, but now there are concerns over the impact these may have on air quality and they are looking at other options. Solar thermal is not normally a viable option at schools, as there isn't a huge demand for hot water, but if the kitchens and sports facilities are all on the lower site, this may be more viable.

The changes to the top site building are fairly minor and, as far as I can tell involve adding a lift inside the main building, moving the kitchens down to the lower site to create more space next to the main hall, demolishing the rather tatty white toilet block and replacing it with outside space, and, rearranging some of the classrooms to create extra space.

The project team are looking to submit the planning application in April with a view to getting planning permission over the summer and starting the rebuild/refurb in the Autumn term. I would be keen to hear your views on the plans, if you saw them. I've asked if they can also be made available online for those who were unable to attend the drop-in session.

New refuse bins and recycling box/bin changes in the pipeline

Over on his Love Lewisham blog, Nigel Tyrell, the Council's head of environment, has outlined his team's plans to make black bins smaller and green bins bigger, in a bid to encourage people to throw away less and recycle more. The new bins are being rolled out over the next few months and if it's affecting your street, you should get a leaflet beforehand. I supported the plans when we scrutinised them on Sustainable Development Committee and think it's a step in the right direction. I suspect they may be more suitable for houses rather than houses converted into flats. More details here.

Smaller wheelie bins will of course also block less of the pavement than bigger wheelie bins, though clearly the optimum is no wheelie bins blocking the pavement! This particular issue is clearly a bug bear of a number of residents I've been speaking to recently and I'd be keen to hear from more people about how you think the Council should approach the issue.

Future Community Garden?

This little patch of ground, between Huxbear Street and Elsiemaud Road, has long been a bit of an overgrown spot, that has tended to attract fly-tipping. It probably did also provide a useful bit of habitat for a bit of wildlife, but it has now been cleared under the Community Payback scheme. It seems like an ideal spot for a few trees and a mini community garden.

After speaking to a number of residents on Huxbear Street and Elsiemaud Road, there seems to be support for something along these lines, along with some kind of path to maintain the short cut between the two streets. I've had a chat with an officer from the Council's Greenscene today, who is going to check who the land belongs to, but he was potentially up for offering support for a community garden there.

Any thoughts or offers to get involved? Leave a note in the comments box or e-mail me if you prefer.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ladywell to get its own conservation area

Back in December I posted about the consultation Lewisham's Planning Department were running to find out residents' views on establishing a conservation area in Ladywell. The report on this, went to Mayor & Cabinet on Wednesday and the Mayor agreed the recommendation to create a conservation area in Ladywell and approve the making of article 4 directions to the residential streets .

The area includes Algiers Road, Gillian Street and sections of Embleton Road, Ermine Road, Algernon Road, Ladywell Road and Vicar's Hill. You can see a (not very clear) map of the proposed area here, the report for Mayor & Cabinet here, and the report on the consultation responses here.

A bit of background from the report on the reasons behind establishing the conservation area:

"When the review of the nearby St. Mary’s Conservation Area was considered by Mayor & Cabinet on 29 November 2006, members of the public asked for the boundary to be extended to include the Ladywell area. Officers’ advice was not to include Ladywell into the St. Mary’s Conservation Area, but to consider it as a conservation area in its own right. Subsequent to this, this year’s conservation area review programme included the survey of Ladywell to assess the architectural and historic interest of the area and the drafting of a conservation area appraisal. The proposed Ladywell Conservation Area comprises a late Victorian residential suburban development which was built by Lewisham local developer Samuel J. Jerrard through the 1880s and 1890s. Jerrard built up long stretches of Vicars Hill and the newly laid out streets Algernon Road, Algiers Road, Ermine and Embleton Road, taking advantage of the topography and the good transport links to London. His houses are generously sized and stylistically highly distinctive as a group. The proposed conservation area also includes the infill development of the late 19th and early 20th century that completed the Jerrard streets as well as the commercial core of Ladywell, known as Ladywell Village, along Ladywell Road between the railway bridge and Slagrove Place. This area contains some of the oldest houses and pubs of Ladywell and Edwardian commercial properties that were constructed around 1900 in response to the rapidly increasing community around them."

The report states that the Article 4 direction will "withdraw permitted development rights currently allowed under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No. 2) (England) Order 2008 where visible from any public viewpoint. This means that planning permission will be required for alterations such as the replacement of windows or doors, retiling of roofs, rooflights, alterations to chimneys, demolition of garden walls, pebbledashing or painting of elevations and other minor alterations. The effect is not that those developments can not be carried out, but simply that they are no longer automatically permitted. This enables the planning service to retain some control over the design and detailing of proposed alterations".

The report explains that making an Article 4 Direction "usually involves formally serving a notice upon owner and occupiers and inviting representations. The notice will be accompanied by a guidance sheet explaining what an Article 4 Direction is, and why one has been served in this particular case. The need to apply for planning permission comes into force with serving the notice, but the Council will have to confirm the direction within six months, or it lapses."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gordonbrock update

Sue and I attended a meeting with council officers yesterday, and this is the update on the situation (further information will be available at the meeting with parents tonight):

Legal challenge: Judicial review proceedings have been issued against the Council in relation to the planning permission for Gordonbrock School granted on 21st December 2009. They were issued by an individual with the support of the Brockley Society on 18th March under reference CO/3771/2010. The basis of the claim is essentially that the planning decision is procedurally flawed. Following receipt of a pre-action protocol letter, which is part of the standard procedure in these cases, the Council instructed Leading Counsel, attended a consultation with him, and responded to the pre-action protocol letter. At all times the Council has acted in accordance with the advice of Leading Counsel. It was his advice that the Council could not resist the claim – in other words the Council has accepted that the planning application was procedurally flawed as it was claimed (even if legally correct), and notified the claimant accordingly. The claimant is pursuing the judicial review proceedings in spite of this.

Funding: As notified earlier, the funding for this scheme is less at risk than initially feared as it does not consist of government grants that have to be spent by a certain time. However, there are still financial risks associated with the delay. These are primarily due to the fact that we are close to elections both at national and local level. As the project is far advanced, in spite of the current situation, it seems unlikely that funding would be withdrawn after the general election. However, theoretically this could happen if an incoming government issued a moratorium on spending whilst all funding commitments of the previous government were reviewed. Likewise, at the local level, as financial decisions are made by the mayor, the decision to fund the Gordonbrock scheme could theoretically be reviewed by the incoming administration after the local election on 6th May. In responding to parents Mayor Steve Bullock has stated very clearly that he is fully supporting the part rebuild/part refurbishment of the school as planned. As ward councillors, we are writing to the mayoral candidates to ask for a formal commitment for funding for Gordonbrock school from them should they be elected. All responses will be posted on the blog in due course.

It is worth noting that these risks are less significant than a direct government grant funding scheme would have been but nevertheless they exist and need to be considered in assessing the situation and the impact of the delay on the Gordonbrock project and the overall funding required for it. It is clear now that there will be additional costs in implementing improvements at Gordonbrock and that the council will have to cover them.

Next steps: The Council is committed to the Gordonbrock project as planned and officers continue to work on it in light of the new circumstances and new timeframe. As stated above, the legal challenge is still being pursued. This means that the whole planning process has to be completed again and the decant would be more likely to take place in December/January. If the legal challenge were to be withdrawn (and we are not in a position to assess how likely or unlikely this may be), the decant could probably happen in time for September because different requirements would apply and a shorter timetable would be possible.

The Council's appraisal of Brockley Society's feasibility study will be discussed with Broc Soc representatives at a meeting on Friday in the first instance.

Access to documents: Some parents have written to Council officers requesting access to documents related to the legal challenge. Please note that the Council is not prepared to disclose the documents as they are currently the subject of legal professional privilege as litigation is now in progress (Section 42 FOIA 2000). The Council is also acting in accordance with Leading Counsel's advice with a view to securing that the flaws in the Council decision making are resolved as soon as possible.

The bigger picture: Understandably this may be of no importance to Gordonbrock parents, but the delay also adds pressure on the Council's provision of primary places as Gordonbrock won't be able to go up to 3 form entry from September as would have been possible with the planned decant to Greenvale. This shortage is substantial in the whole borough (and not related locally to the reduction at Lewisham Bridge School) and the Council has to take this into account when planning future provision of primary school places.

As the different issues above show, it is not possible to see just one concern in isolation when assessing the situation and the merits of different proposals for Gordonbrock School. It is rather a jigsaw of different factors that need to be considered together, and ultimately this means in most cases that the outcome is a compromise. The main objective in this case is to improve the learning environment for pupils at Gordonbrock – with the added complications of previous delays, limited funding available, limited space, inevitable disruption for pupils, staff and parents, increased school place requirements and beautiful old but no longer entirely fit for purpose buildings. Noone has probably ever claimed that the plans for Gordonbrock that were passed in December were anything other than a compromise, but we feel they were acceptable in the existing circumstances that should finally enable much needed and long overdue improvements to be made for the benefits of current and future generations of pupils. It is laudable to strive for the perfect solution – it is even more ambitious to aim for the best that is practically possible. We don't think solely pursuing the preservation of the buildings regardless of the consequences, even if this ultimately might mean no changes were made at all, is a responsible position to take.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This blog is 4 years old today!

I've just belatedly realised that it was 4 years ago today (24th March), in the run-up to the 2006 local elections, that I started this blog, more of an experiment than anything. Rather pleased that notwithstanding the occasional break we've managed to keep posting on it right through our term as councillors.

Hopefully it's served its purpose and has been another way for us to let residents know what we're up to, in addition to our newsletters, ward assemblies and face to face contact with people.

It's late now and time to sleep, but we will post tomorrow on Gordonbrock (Ute's writing up notes from our meeting with officers today), Ladywell Conservation Area and the Street Markets Review my committee has just finished . . .

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gordonbrock decant delay - a bit more info

I've been out and about in the ward over the past few days, spoken to a fair few residents and understandably the delay to Gordonbrock School's decant is the number one issue on many people's minds. Lots of concern over the impact this will have on pupils, some children in tears at the news (having spent a large part of this term preparing for the decant), parents left out of pocket having arranged childcare for the extended holidays that wouldn't now be needed and on the whole, great annoyance.

Even some of those who had not been keen on the rebuild plans or the prospect of their children being bussed to Greenville for 18 months said they had got used to the idea, prepared their children, and now the rug has been pulled from under them. Unsurprisingly, I didn't meet a single parent delighted at the prospect of their children being educated in those awful huts in the playground for another 6 months.

A little more info I gleaned from officers:

Parents Meeting: There will be a meeting for parents of Gordonbrock pupils at the school on Thursday 25th March at 7pm to discuss the situation.

One of the key concerns parents have raised is whether the funding will still be there in 6 months time, given the economic climate, the forthcoming general and local elections, and the prospect of a new government making big cuts. Officers said that a large part of the funding for the work is due to come from council prudential borrowing rather than central government funding which means that, assuming the incoming Mayor after 6th May supports the project, the chances of it going ahead are pretty high and not wholly at the mercy of a new national government.

A lot of people I spoke to were highly suspicious about the reasons given for the delay, given that funding was withdrawn in 2005, and thought it was some kind of council ruse to avoid rebuilding Gordonbrock. Nothing I've heard from officers so far makes me think this is the case and I believe the Mayor is still fully committed to the project (and will hopefully confirm this to reassure parents in the next few days). Never say never, however.

What happens next?
Things should become clearer to everyone by the end of this week, but it looks like the planning application will have to be resubmitted and the process gone through again. As I understand it, this is due to a mistake by the planning department and picked up on by Brockley Society lawyers, in not getting an Environmental Impact Assessment done, which apparently is required for sites over half a hectare.

Clearly there are lessons to be learnt by the planning department here, and potentially exceedingly expensive ones for the Council (going through the whole planning process again, securing the decant site and temporary classrooms for six months, legal costs etc won't come cheaply).

Council Officers, together with the head teacher and a governor, are meeting with representatives from Brockley Society this Friday, to discuss their legal letter and feasibility study and have promised to update ward councillors shortly after that.

In addition, Ute and I have a meeting with the Council officers leading on the project this Wednesday. If you have specific questions you would like us to put to them, do let us know, or of course you can ask them at the parents meeting on Thursday evening.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Prendergast Hilly Fields - drop in session to view designs for rebuild/refurb, Monday 29th March

Gordonbrock Primary isn't the only school in Ladywell earmarked for rebuild/refurb plans - Prendergast Hilly Fields is also due to have millions of pounds spent on it, under the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme. The plans involve demolishing and rebuilding the existing buildings at the lower site on Adelaide Avenue, and refurbing the existing listed building on Hilly Fields "in line with English Heritage guidelines".

A drop in session has been arranged for local residents to see the designs and meet the project team on Monday 29th March, from 5-8pm, in the hall on the Adelaide Avenue site.

I would urge people to go along and have their say. Let's see if this can be third time lucky, after the problems with both the Lewisham Bridge and Gordonbrock school projects. Done properly, Lewisham could make this an exemplar of how to refurbish a historical building to high modern standards of energy efficiency. As with the other BSF projects, the funding is PFI, so as we'll be paying through the nose for it for the next 25 years, let's at least make sure it's good.

Gordonbrock Decant - delayed

I found out today that the decant and rebuilding programme for Gordonbrock School has been delayed by six months due to a legal challenge by Brockley Society. I heard from Council officers on Tuesday evening that a delay was likely, and letters were sent home to parents yesterday confirming this. I understand that Council officers and Brockley Society representatives will be meeting next week to discuss the legal challenge, and hopefully more will become clear after that. There will also be a meeting for parents at the school soon, date tbc.

I don't know the details, but my understanding is that the challenge is to do with whether or not the Council carried out an environmental impact assessment as part of the planning process.

At this stage I've got a lot more questions than I have answers, and am keen to get more information from officers as soon as possible, particularly about what the financial implications of this latest delay will be. While I've been quite vocal in my criticism of aspects of the planning application, in particular the appearance of the new building, I worked constructively with officers to secure some (modest) improvements to it, and was clear that the latest application was an improvement on the 2005 application in a number of ways. I am concerned that this latest delay may jeopardise the funding, and while I think the current plans are far from perfect, they are far better than no improvements at all. It would be awful for the school to once again lose the funding, as happened 5 years ago.

In addition to the legal challenge, Brockley Society have published a feasibility study suggesting an alternative way of refurbishing the existing buildings, without demolishing any of them, but still increasing capacity to three form entry, creating larger classrooms, a large assembly hall etc. The document, looks professionally produced and clearly the society have put a lot of time and effort into it, but comes very late in the day, just a few weeks before the decant was scheduled to start. I've asked officers for their views on the viability of what is proposed in it, and what the financial implications would be.

I hope to be able to be able to post more information soon, when I have it. In the meantime I've set up a straw poll on the site to gauge readers' opinions. If the options I've given don't cover your view, please use the comments section of this post to share them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Questions to Mayor & Cabinet - responses

On 1st March, we had our final full council meeting of this term. I took the opportunity to submit a number of written questions to Mayor & Cabinet on a number of issues, including several long-term unresolved pieces of casework. Sometimes it can be useful to get a formal response on record, rather than just e-mail, and sometimes it can trigger useful action. I asked questions on:
  • road safety at the junction of Tyrwhitt Road and Hilly Fields Crescent
  • the state of the footpaths in Hilly Fields
  • environmental enforcement action on 46 Ladywell Road
  • Brockley PFI: leaseholder major works repayment terms
  • Brockley PFI: living roofs on garages
  • school places and discussions with the owners of Convoys Wharf about plans for the new school there
The questions and responses to these are below, plus one Ute asked about 63a Loampit Hill, another long-term unresolved piece of casework we've been chasing for 4 years.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Deputy Mayor
A number of local residents have raised safety concerns about the junction of Hilly Fields Crescent with Tyrwhitt Road. It is a popular place to cross to get to Hilly Fields, but something of a blind spot for all road users due to the bend in the road. Has the Highways department ever carried out a safety audit at this location and have highways officers got any recommendations on how safety could be improved here? Have there been any recorded accidents here in the past 5 years?

Hilly Fields Crescent and Tyrwhitt Road are within a 20mph zone with traffic calming, which was installed in 2005. There are no recorded accidents at this junction in the 5 year period to the end of October 2009, the latest available data.

There are no current proposals for this junction and safety audits are carried out only on planned schemes. Visibility at this junction on the western side is poor with the added complication of a bus stop there.

The Council maintains a list of small scale traffic management and pedestrian crossing requests. A proposal for a controlled crossing just east of this junction is on the list of locations to be assessed as to whether a zebra crossing is viable. An assessment will include pedestrian counts, vehicle speeds, desired crossing points and visibility before a crossing can be designed. If viable it will be added to the list of small scale schemes to be prioritised and those to be progressed will be the schemes with the highest priority and within the budget available.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
For the past two years Brockley Cross Action Group have organised a popular and well-attended Fun Run on Hilly Fields. However this year they are so concerned about the state of the footpaths on Hilly Fields that they fear it will be unsafe to do so. Obviously, this is very disappointing for the many local residents who take part in this event. Please could you provide an update on what progress has been made with plans to resurface the footpaths on Hilly Fields?

The poor condition of footpaths in a number of our public parks is one that we are keenly aware of and continue to make repairs through both planned maintenance and externally funded works. We were successful, in the spring of 2009, in securing funding to resurface and repair the east to west pathway.

Lewisham is very fortunate to have many great parks situated on high ground, affording wonderful views across London, however these hills are made up of London clay which cause more problems in laying pathways. The costs of resurfacing is therefore extremely high.

In partnership with the local community, we are actively making improvements at Hilly Fields, this Spring will see the installation of a new children’s playground and works are progressing with the exciting cricket project. These improvements make the need for good footpaths a priority. With this in mind we have bid for Transport for London cycling and walking funding to resurface the north to south pathway, from the bowls club to Eastern Road. We will learn the outcome of the bid in March, and if successful works can take place early in the new financial year. Should the bid not be successful some repairs will be made to this pathway, but not a full resurface.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
In September 2008 the Council’s environmental health team served an enforcement notice on 46 Ladywell Road, a long-term derelict property, regarding the state of the property and a pigeon infestation. Please can you outline what steps have been taken since then to bring the property back into a state of repair and whether the notice to carry out works in default will now be carried out, given that the owner has not taken any remedial action?

There is a Notice served under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 that requires the owner to abate a statutory nuisance being caused by pigeons infesting his property through holes in the rear main roof.

The notice requires the roof be repaired or renewed.

The owner has made no attempt to comply with the notice or accept offers of help made by the Empty Properties Officer. The Council has little option therefore but to carry out the works in his default if this nuisance is to be abated. Officers are currently arranging for the property to be viewed by a contractor to have the roof repaired.

The Council will pursue the owner for all its costs and charges for this work.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Please provide an update on when a decision on leaseholder repayment terms for major works bills will be taken?

A proposal on extending leaseholder repayment terms for service charges and major works has been sent to Lewisham Homes and Regenter B3 for their leaseholders to consider and provide comments on. It is hoped that a report setting out the extended repayment proposals will be made to Mayor & Cabinet during March for consideration.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
In answer to a question I asked in May 2009, I was told that Regenter B3 were looking at the possibility of constructing a living roof utilizing some of the garage roofs they manage. Please can you provide an update on how many garage roofs have been replaced under the Brockley PFI contract, and of these, how many to date have incorporated living roofs?

The construction of a living roof is still a possibility within the Brockley PFI. This scheme is non contractual and RB3 has had difficulty locating the owners and keys to the majority of the garages. RB3 is now in a better position to consider this scheme and will consult with councillors in the spring time to locate and construct a living roof.

Question by Councillor Luxton of the Deputy Mayor
Further to my question in June 2009, have Council officers had any recent discussions with the owners of Convoys Wharf about the proposals to build a school on the site? Have the discussions focussed purely on primary school provision, or have officers discussed including some secondary school provision? Please can you also confirm whether any discussions have taken place with Greenwich Council about Lewisham utilising the now closed Charlotte Turner Primary School, which is almost adjacent to the Convoys Wharf site?

The Council is now in ongoing discussions with Hutchison Whampoa, the owners of Convoys Wharf, regarding their proposals for the site. The Council is seeking to secure the delivery of a primary school on the site together with a contribution to the cost of providing off-site secondary school places.

A variety of options are currently being considered about how to expand our primary place as well as ensure sufficient decant space is available for our building programmes. Officers are liaising with their counterparts in other boroughs so that a strategic response can be taken across borough boundaries.

Question by Councillor Michel of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services
Please could you provide an update on what steps the Council is taking to recoup the money it has spent on repairs in default to 63a Loampit Hill? Please outline the reasons for the latest delays and give an indication of how long you think it will take for this to be resolved?

A new roof was placed on this property, by contractors, who carried out works in default following an abatement notice under the Environment Protection Act 1990. The failed roof was giving rise to a pigeon infestation. Notice was served on 21.5.05 and works completed in November 2007. A charge of £20,442 has been placed on the property. This debt remains outstanding along with interest.

The elderly owner of the property has since died. Legal Services have been endeavouring to serve notice on the relevant proprietor to chase the outstanding debt and interest. Only recently has it been established that an application for probate has been made but outside of the jurisdiction of the UK. As soon as the issue of probate has been resolved the authority will pursue its outstanding charge. If the debt remains outstanding the council will seek to take possession of the property under the Law of Property Act 1925 and dispose of the property in auction.