18 December 2008

Support for a new Gym in Forest Hill

It is not often that the Forest Hill Society support planning applications rather than objecting to them, but in the case of the plans to convert the old McDonald's site into a gym, we have decided to offer our support.

This site is at the very centre of the high street and has been derelict for too long. We welcome new businesses to the area when we believe they will have a positive impact on the area and are pleased to support this application.

You can read the full text here.

06 December 2008

Christmas Events Weekend in Forest Hill and Honor Oak

Friday, 12th December - Honor Oak Christmas celebrations including Christmas lights, carols, and a small craft market.

Weekend, 13th & 14th December - Havelock Walk Open Studios - details at www.havelockwalk.com
(picture by Pip Tunstill)


Sunday, December 14th, 12-5pm - Craft market at the Hob, opposite Forest Hill Station.

Saturday, 13th December - Forest Hill Library, craft-making event.

Sunday, 14th December - Carol Concert at Horniman Gardens, including roasted chestnuts, toy stalls, and free Santa's grotto.

Sounds like a fun weekend - do not leave the area!

Perry Vale Planning Permissions

The application for conversion of a warehouse into three terraced houses at 11 Perry Vale was rejected by the planning department. Reasons for the refusal can be read here and reflect the concerns of the Forest Hill Society.

In a separate development, not far from 11 Perry Vale, Berkeley Homes appealed to the planning inspectorate after Lewisham Council rejected their plans for switching 10 of two bedroom flats to 14 one bedroom flats. Despite the objections from the Forest Hill Society the planning inspectorate has ruled in favour of Berkeley Homes, and this development will now be primarily one bedroom apartments.

Emotions will be mixed on this ruling. The good news is that Berkeley Homes has indicated that construction will recommence this month. Residents have had enough of starring at an eyesore from Forest Hill station and will be pleased that construction will now be completed.

However, Berkeley Homes won this appeal in part because they were able to demonstrate a lack of demand for two bedroom apartments. These apartments were significantly over-priced and no adjustment was made to the prices during a period of rapidly falling house prices. The lack of demand was used as evidence that there is little demand for properties of more than one bedroom in such a development. During the appeal process no work took place despite no external changes to the development. It can only be concluded that Berkeley Homes deliberately left the skeleton of the building in this state to put pressure on local residents to accept their demands.

Having said this, it is now time to move on, and look forward to new people coming into the town centre to live in this development, and a new business filling the retail unit on the ground floor. This is a prime location with the East London Line bringing new train services to their doorstep and it is in everybody's interest to see these flats occupied as soon as possible.

18 Woolstone Road

The Forest Hill Society objection to a retrospective application for permission for three windows overlooking the neighbouring property, can be read here.

The Forest Hill Society is happy to advise and assist any local residents who have concerns over planning applications. Whilst we may not always object as a Society, we will try to offer advice to local residents. If you have any concerns about planning applications please send them to email@foresthillsociety.com

03 December 2008

Access to Station from Perry Vale

This is the latest update from Southern Railway on the installation of gates at the foot of the stairs on Perry Vale:

Enabling works for the new gateline on platform two commenced on Wednesday 26 November and were expected to last for three weeks. During this period the side gate on platform 2 is closed. After that time limited access will be available. All works will be completed by late January and the gates will then go live. Once operational the gates will be left open unstaffed from 21.00hr to end of service as the entrance will be remotely closed by our control centre.

December Events in Forest Hill and Honor Oak

23 CLUB
Tuesday 23rd December, 8pm - Christmas Dinner, Italian style at The Old Bank, 76-78 Honor Oak Park, SE23 1DY. Telephone 8291 1738
This restaurant is close to Honor Oak Park Station - a bank converted into a restaurant before the credit crunch! As always, please book directly with the restaurant and mention you're with the 23 Club or Forest Hill Society so they know to seat you with everyone else. We do urge you to book as early as possible for this one. See you there!
CHRISTMAS EVENTS
Saturday 6th December, 12-4pm - Forest Hill festive activities - including an appearance by Father Christmas and his REAL reindeer. Foresters Arms, Perry Vale.

Sunday 7th December, 3-6pm Tree Dressing Day at the Devonshire Road Nature reserve - make your own lanterns and paint glass lanterns for the procession of light. Make Green Man masks to take home and enjoy music and story telling.
£2 donation per person to cover costs. Please note that this event takes place during the hours of darkness. Come prepared with warm clothes and a torch. Contact devonshireroadnature@yahoo.co.uk

Friday 12th December, 5-7pm - Honor Oak Christmas celebrations - carols, switching on of Christmas lights, craft market. Opposite Honor Oak Park train station.

Sunday December 14th, 12-5pm - upstairs and downstairs at The HOB (opposite Forest Hill Station). Ceramics, photography, handmade retro toys, glass, textiles, handmade bags and more besides. Free entry.

Sun 14 Dec 3-6pm - Horniman Carols in the bandstand in the picturesque setting of these award-winning Gardens. Enjoy performances from the English Baroque Choir and the Crystal Palace Band, carols, hot-roasted chestnuts, toy stalls, hot and cold refreshments and free Santa's grotto. Free admission.

02 December 2008

A member writes...

Is Forest Hill becoming a target for developers with grand designs? Recent experience suggests so. And the planning system is seemingly weighted in favour of the developer once planning permission is granted.

Last year one owner obtained planning permission for the redevelopment of half of a semi-detached house that is sharply out of character with the remainder of a modest 1930s street. The many objectors assumed that as this was similar to his earlier application, which had been rejected due to size and inappropriate design, that this would meet the same fate. Indeed, half of the Planning Committee agreed that this should be the case. Despite the development being three times the size of the original scheme and an over-dominant feature on the skyline, including an external staircase turret, this time Lewisham considered it to be aesthetically pleasing and respecting the local character of the neighbourhood. Worse still the developer has planning permission to demolish his half of the semi-detached, and rebuild. A nightmare for the adjoining neighbours, who fear their house, as well as their sanity, will be damaged.

Unlike the developer who has a right to appeal a Council decision to refuse an application, residents cannot appeal a decision to approve. And like Robert the Bruce determined developers can try and try again until the Council, who may be fearful of mounting costs, concedes. We continued to question Lewisham on their about turn. How much did the ‘greening-up’ of the application affect this? And what about the applicant’s expectations that this would feature on Channel 4’s Grand Designs? Naturally we could not suggest that these were the reasons, but with no satisfactory answer to many other issues, we took legal advice, and applied to the Courts to overturn the Council’s decision. Judicial Review is not for the faint hearted, and ultimately we had to withdraw from the chase as the financial risks became too great and we could not match the coffers of Lewisham. So this is no David and Goliath ending.

We asked central government why the system was so unfair. They replied that it was up to the local authority to act in general public interest and that our elected councillors must take into account the local view and justify these decisions to their electorate. With our three ward councillors and local residents association behind us at the planning committee meeting, and many others objectors, local democracy seems to have failed us.

29 November 2008

Tyson Road Objection

The Forest Hill Society is opposing the latest planning application for Tyson Road which was mentioned here previously. Full details of the objection can be read here. Some of the key reasons for rejecting this application are:
  1. Over-development - 76 flats in a backland site
  2. Loss of Biodiversity
  3. Vehicle and pedestrian accessibility
  4. Flood Risk
  5. Crime Prevention
  6. Grounds and gardens that do not meet Lewisham Council policy
We urge members to email the planning department to object to this application. At present there are only 16 objections compared to 193 objections to the previous application which was very similar to the new application.

Please feel free to use the text from the Forest Hill Society objection and add your own opinions.



In related news there was an article in the South London Press last week about this site.

24 November 2008

76 flats on Green Space - no thanks!

Once more, Loromah Estates have submitted a planning application (no. 08/70207) to build large blocks of flats on the green, wooded space behind Tyson Rd and the Christian Fellowship Centre on Honor Oak Road. You can see photos of the site on this website

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tysonroad/

The last time developers submitted an application to build on the site, local residents mounted a vigorous campaign to preserve this important green space and almost 200 people sent objections. The Council refused planning permission saying the plan to build 84 flats on the site was too dense, poorly designed and out of keeping with the area.

Now the developers have made some small concessions (only 76 flats this time!) and are trying again but residents still feel this is over-development which will have a big impact on local roads and schools. They're hoping to encourage even more people to send objections to the Council this time. To find out more, email the residents' group on se23openspace@hotmail.co.uk. You can also sign the online petition on

http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/23558.html

The Forest Hill Society and other local groups are also sending the Council detailed objections which will be posted here soon.

35 Sunderland Road - Protected Tree Preserved

Following the objection from the Forest Hill Society, the application to fell the eucalyptus tree has been refused on these grounds:
"The Eucalyptus tree is of high visual amenity value from both the near and distant realms.
The report submitted with the application discounts any damage to the building by the
tree. ... The Council has no objection to crown reduce the Eucalyptus tree T1 by 25%."

Well done to Lewisham Planning Department for making a good decision.

21 November 2008

23 Club dates for your Diary

Sunday November 23 at 1pm – classic & modern British; world
All Inn One, 53 Perry Vale SE23 2NE Phone: 8699 3311
This get-together is at lunchtime and the pub is child friendly. It is near Forest Hill Station.

Tuesday December 23 at 8pm – Christmas Dinner,Italian style
The Old Bank, 76-78 Honor Oak Park SE23 1DY Phone 8291 1738
Close to Honor Oak Park Station – a bank converted into a restaurant before the credit crunch!


Friday January 23 at 8pm – Burns Night theme evening
The Honor Oak pub, 1 St German’s Road SE23 1RH Phone 8690 8606
More details of the Burns Night will be available nearer the time – there are rumours of haggis (including vegetarian ones) and whisky tasting!


Monday February 23 at 8pm –Chinese
Tse’s, 54 London Road SE23 3HF Phone 8291 0019
An opportunity to enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations!

20 November 2008

Oystergate continued - Response from Southern Railway

Response from Southern Railways:
"Southern has been reviewing arrangements for closure of the gates at Forest Hill Station. You will be pleased to learn that the decision has been taken not to close this entrance until after the last train has departed. Closure will be undertaken remotely from our control centre.


The less good news is that the gate will be closed from the middle of next week while the new entrance and gate line is constructed. It would not be safe to allow passengers access to what will in effect be a building site for several weeks. Posters are being prepared for display at the station to provide details of the works."

The Forest Hill Society is pleased that the barriers will remain open during all hours of operation but we are disappointed that the safety concerns have not been addressed. Hopefully we will hear more from them soon.

17 November 2008

Oystergate continued - Letter to Southern Railway

Southern Railway once again have plans to close the Perry Vale exit after 8pm and to install ticket barriers close to the foot of the stairs at this exit. The Forest Hill Society has written to object to these plans, see below:


To: ian.rashbrook@southernrailway.com
Cc: Cllr John Russell, Cllr John Paschoud, Steve Bullock, Jim Dowd MP, Passenger Focus, London TravelWatch, Lewisham Head of Transport.

Dear Ian,

I was hoping that in the last two weeks you may have had an opportunity to respond to my previous email. As you will know the planning committee accepted the plans for the new ticket barriers at Forest Hill Station as they believed there were no planning grounds on which to object to this application.

However, the Forest Hill Society continue to have significant concerns about the plans for the new barriers at Perry Vale, specifically on the grounds of passenger safety and access to the station outside peak hours.

As I mentioned below the previous closure of this exit, the main exit during the evenings, prompted an outcry from local people, Jim Dowd raised the issue in Parliament, a council motion was raise by Councillor Russell which was passed, and a meeting at Forest Hill station with Mayor Sir Steve Bullock, Jim Dowd, representatives of the Forest Hill Society, London TravelWatch, Southern Railway, and London Rail.

It was confirmed by Southern Railway's representatives at the planning committee meeting that the gates will be shuttered and locked from around 8pm every evening causing major inconvenience to people living in Forest Hill. Already many less able-bodied people are unwilling to use Forest Hill station for their journeys from London Bridge, preferring to alight at Sydenham and get the bus back again (not a quick journey). For half of rail users who live on the east of the station they will be forced to go up a flight of steps, across the footbridge, down another flight of steps, out of the station and round WHSmith, down another flight of steps, though a badly lit underpass, and then up another small flights of steps, when they can currently use the single set of steps that you will be locking up in the evenings.

The planning officer responsible for the case has confirmed that a risk assessment has been undertaken, including a passenger count, but that details could not be provided to him "as it is an internal Network Rail document". I do not believe any such headcounts have been undertaken since the plans for barriers on platform 1, when headcounts and passenger flows were calculated by closing this exit. I believe that any modelling that was done based on this research cannot be used to apply to the Perry Vale exit, which gets more than 50% of the traffic from mid afternoon until after midnight. I would urge you to make any such documents available so that everybody can understand why you believe there is no safety risk - I am sure that there are ways to obtain these documents (at least by some of those copied on this email).

During rush hour the barriers present a danger to passengers due to the distance of the gates to the bottom of the steep stairs, going round a corner, and all in poor lighting conditions. In the event of one or two Oyster or paper tickets failing to function quickly this will lead to a rapid backlog of people round the corner and up the steps. In wet or icy conditions, passengers all have umbrellas open - blocking the dim light available, and restricting access to the furthest ticket barriers from the stairs. These conditions will inevitably lead to slips and injuries to rail passengers, something which should be a major concern when making such changes to access.

I have already noticed that there are rarely staff at the Perry Vale exit after 6pm during the height of rush hour services. Your argument that these plans are about revenue protect simply do not match with the service that you currently provide. The level of manning by revenue protection officers would suggest that when ticket barriers are installed we can expect closure of these gates during the main evening rush hour.

I believe it is in the interest of Southern Rail to resolve this situation by changing the plans for gates at the station. There is space for you to install ticket barriers further from the steps, there is another option of placing level access ticket barriers to provide a new exit at the Perry Vale car park, where there is plenty of space for such a structure.

Barriers that are installed must be open during all hours of operation until TfL take over the running of the station in September 09, when they will provide this level of service. If this cannot be achieved with the gates locked then they should be left open or a temporary alternative exit provided at this side of the station.

I would ask that a meeting take place at Forest Hill Station, after 5pm on a weekday in the next couple of months, so that you and John Oliver can understand the difficulties presented by the scheme that has been drawn up for one of the busiest stations on your network, and I would welcome your suggestion on another busy station that I can visit during rush hours to see how the positioning of gates at the base of steps will work in practise. As far as I can recall there are no such barriers anywhere in central London on the overground or underground systems, but I have not personally visited them all.

I hope you understand that the Forest Hill Society does welcome the introduction of ticket barriers for revenue protection and for the advantages of using pre-pay Oyster cards in the future. However, safety and accessibility are our primary concerns and we hope that you also take these concerns seriously.

I can only apologise to all those I have copied in that I have once again had to involve you in this issue when we thought that we had resolved the situation back in July. I hope that we can continue to count on your support to maintain the safety and limited accessibility that we do have for passengers at Forest Hill.

Help Tidy Up Honor Oak Park

Our friends in the Honor Oak Park Action Group are arranging a day of action this Saturday. Please join them to help improve the area around Honor Oak Park Station.

16 November 2008

139 Sunderland Road

The Forest Hill Society has objected to the planned development of 139 Sunderland Road (DC/08/69950/x). You can read a copy of the letter to planning officers here.

08 November 2008

Tree Preservation: 35 Sunderland Road

At 35 Sunderland Road is a large eucalyptus tree that already has a preservation order and application DC/08/69850/FT requests permission to fell the tree. The Forest Hill Society have written to object:

We wish to object to the proposal to fell the eucalyptus tree at 35 Sunderland Road, for the following reasons:

1. Factual inaccuracy: the application states that the tree has caused damage to the 'pavement'. However the accompanying surveyor's report states that the damage is to the 'paving', presumably in the front garden. I recently walked past the property and saw no damage to the pavement in front of the property.

2. The application does not include an arboriculturalist's report. The report submitted is a brief report by a chartered surveyor, which contains only two paragraphs about the trees. The report recommends that "an arboriculturalist be invited to inspect and report on the trees". The application provides no evidence that this has been done.

3. The loss of the eucalyptus would be contrary to policy URB 13 Trees of the Unitary Development Plan. Lewisham has previously acknowledged this, in relation to a planning application in 2006 (DC/06/63172). At that time the outlook for the eucalyptus was positive, with no suggestion that it needed to be felled, and both Lewisham Council and the Planning Inspectorate supported the retention of the three trees on the site:

3.1 An arboriculturalist's report by Simon Jones Associates was submitted with the above application and categorised the eucalyptus in accordance with British Standard (2005) 'Trees in relation to construction - Recommendations' as Category B: "Trees of moderate quality and value: those in such a condition as to make a significant contribution (a minimum of 20 years is suggested)". This categorisation took into account the tree's species and the contraints of its physical location. In no way did the report suggest that the eucalyptus needed to be removed. It did acknowledge that pruning or tree surgery was likely to be required on a regular basis to manage the tree's conflicts with its urban surroundings (s. 2.2.8), and that the constraints of its present situation would entail the need for crown reduction in the very near future (s.4.1.2).

3.2 Lewisham refused planning permission, one of the grounds being that the proposed development would be likely to prejudice the retention of the protected eucalyptus and two limes trees, contrary to policy URB 13 Trees of the Adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004) (s.5 of decision notice dated 1 November 2006).

3.3. The applicant appealed against Lewisham's refusal (Appeal reference APP/C5690/A/07/2042273). Based on a site visit in August 2007, the Planning Inspector supported Lewisham's decision in relation to the eucalyptus and two lime trees, stating 'To my mind, the loss of any protected trees in this urban setting would be a negative step in redeveloping the site. Views towards the site from Waldram Park Road confirm the value of the on-site trees and others in the street scene." (s.6).

It is for these reasons that we believe any claim that the eucalyptus is causing damage to property should be supported by strong expert evidence - evidence which is absent from this application. Both Lewisham Council and the Planning Inspectorate have acknowledged the importance of the eucalyptus and two limes, and permission to fell any of these trees should be given only as a last resort. The trees may well need pruning or crown reduction, in which case any work that is permitted should be carried out in a way that maintains the trees' contribution to the streetscape.

15 October 2008

New Chair for the Forest Hill Society

Congratulations to Peter Irby, the new chairman of the Forest Hill Society.
Peter was previously the vice-chairman of the Society and has now stepped up to the role of chairman. Michael Abrahams has moved from chair to the position of vice-chairman.

As well as Peter we have a strong Executive Committee of approximately 20 people, with many old faces and a number of new faces.

Many thanks to all those who attended tonight's AGM - photos to follow.

12 October 2008

October Update

The Forest Hill Society’s AGM - Wednesday 15th October at The Hob pub, 7 Devonshire Road, opposite Forest Hill Station. Doors open at 7pm, proceedings get under way at 7.30pm. This will be an opportunity to discuss the key issues affecting SE23 and to elect the Executive Committee. There will be a bar!

23 Club - Thursday 23rd October
The 23 Club conintues to pick some of the finest local restaurants to visit and share a meal with other Forest Hill Society members. For October we are back in Honor Oak at the Honor Oak Tandoori, 57-59 Honor Oak Park at 8pm.
Last month a number of people turned up on the night and we had to divide into two tables, so please remember to book in advance by calling the restaurant on 8699 2255. Map available at http://www.honoroaktandoori.co.uk/images/map.gif
Crofton Park ward Assembly - Monday 13th October
For people living in Crofton Park ward (north of Stanstead Road and east of the railway - i.e. Brockley Rise area) there will be a ward assembly tomorrow. This will take place at St Hilda's Church Hall, Courtrai Road, SE4 2DG at 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Forest Hill Library Users Group meeting - Thursday 23 October
Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road, 6.30 for 7pm
The first meeting of the users group since the library was refurbished and an opportunity for users to meet John Hughes, the Head of Lewisham's Library Service and Glenys Englert, District Librarian.

01 October 2008

11 Perry Vale - Planning Application

DC/08/69686 - 11 Perry Vale

On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to object to this application for the conversion of a warehouse into 3, 2 bedroom terraced houses.

1. Gardens
From the plans and application there is no evidence of provision of garden area or external amenity space for the new houses. This is in contravention of council policy HSG7:
"The Council will seek in all new dwellings the provision of a readily accessible, secure, private and usable external space. Family dwellings should be provided with their own private garden area. Normally, a minimum garden depth of 9 metres will be required."
As two bedroom houses these should be considered family dwellings and should have gardens of 9 metres in depth.

2. Cycle storage
The application mentions cycle storage (paragraph 5.05) but the plans do not show where this cycle storage will be provided. From the description it would appear that this would be on a public right of way which may reduce vehicular access to other properties in the location. We ask that the council confirm the plans relating to the cycle storage, including the numbers of cycles to be housed and the security of the storage, prior to approval of this planning application.

3. Environment
The area around this warehouse appears to have been used to dump disused vehicles and work is required to make the area around these new dwellings suitable for a residential area. There are no pavements on this narrow road and provision would need to be provided for deliveries to the rear of the commercial units on Perry Vale without causing significant inconvenience to residents of these new houses.

No information regarding building materials has been provided. In converting a warehouse to residential use increased insulation should be included in the design to provide normal levels of energy efficiency for residential accommodation.

4. Design
The ground floors of the properties only have single north-east facing windows to light the kitchen / dinning room / living room. This will result in low levels of light in the living room and poor ventilation available to the property. The low levels of light at points 8.4 metres from the windows will result in higher than necessary use of electric lighting during daytime. This is contrary to council policy HSG5 a and e:
"The Council expects all new residential development to be attractive, to be neighbourly and to meet the functional requirements of its future inhabitants. The Council will, therefore, only permit new residential development which:
(a) provides a satisfactory level of privacy, outlook and natural lighting with appropriate provision of private amenity space;
...
(e) would encourage energy and natural resource efficiency"

An additional concern relating to policy HSG5 is the second bathrooms in each property with no natural ventilation or lighting. These will require mechanical extraction which will use excessive energy. The positioning of all of the bathrooms and en suite facilities directly beside bedrooms in adjoining properties is likely to cause excessive noise for neighbouring properties. In is usual in terraces houses to reverse the layout of each house so that bathrooms are back to back rather than next to bedrooms. Proper consideration of policy HSG5 relating to "be neighbourly and to meet the functional requirements of its future inhabitants" should demand better design of these properties.

There has been little change in the outlook from the new properties, particularly on the rear of the ground floor. We believe that the council's second reason for rejecting the previous application (DC/08/68193): "The proposed development would fail to provide a satisfactory level of amenity for future occupiers by reason of poor outlook contrary to Saved Policies URB 3 Urban Design, URB 6 Alterations and Extensions, HSG 4 Residential Amenity and HSG 5 Layout and Design of New Residential Accommodation, of the Council's Unitary Development Plan (July 2004)."

I hope that you will consider the concerns listed above and reject this application for the proposed development at 11 Perry Vale

18 September 2008

Mayor and Cabinet - next steps on Swimming Pools

The mayor considered the pools issue this evening and once again reaffirmed his commitment to swimming in Forest Hill.

STFOFH (Save the Face of Forest Hill), the Forest Hill Society, and the Forest Hill Ward councillors all recommended to the mayor that a design competition is held. The mayor said he liked the idea and would not rule out the possibility, once we have the next feasibility study. He was concerned that it could add significantly to the timescale for developing the pool and he would need compare this with the timescale for appointing an architect through other means (European Tenders process).

The mayor was confident that English Heritage would not list the pools building following two rejections of the listing. Some people from STFOFH suggested to me that they would not seek to do this (however, it only takes one person to apply for listing). The mayor did indicate that the officers are making sure English Heritage is aware of their plans for the site. Both local councillors and I had suggested that the council apply for immunity from listing for the pools, to make sure that the 'sheds' at the back do not get listed and that the council can properly consider redevelopment that includes just the frontage or total demolition. However, this is apparently not possible until the planning application stage - which is still a long way off.

The mayor did clearly rule out refurbishment as too much of a risk even if it were technically possible - which is apparently doubtful.

There was no commitment to extra funding but a reassurance that the £7.5m allocated to the project would be safe.

Councillor Chris Best emphasised the need for a quality facility fit for the 21st Century with proper provision of accessibility requirements. She suggested that the changing facilities were 'not fit for purpose'.

Conclusion:
The mayor accepted the report from the officers. Suggested that the feasibility study should be completed by January / February 2009 (a clarification sought by the Forest Hill Society regarding 'early 2009'). He asked that between now and then that officers keep the stakeholders group informed of the situation and progress.

It will be interesting to see what the conclusions of the feasibility study will be, what can be done with Louise House, what the future holds for the frontage of the pools, if there could be a design competition, and how much it will all cost.

14 September 2008

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY

Wednesday 15th October The Forest Hill Society’s Annual General Meeting at The Hob pub, 7 Devonshire Road, opposite Forest Hill Station. Doors open at 7pm, proceedings get underway at 7.30pm. This will be an opportunity to discuss the key issues affecting SE23 and to elect the Executive Committee. There will be a bar!

Tuesday 23rd September
The 23 Club at Yune, 25 Dartmouth Road at 8pm.
Thursday 23rd October
The 23 Club at the Honor Oak Tandoori, 57-59 Honor Oak Park at 8pm.
(see the 23 Club article for more information)

Ward Assemblies:
Forest Hill - 24th September, 7pm, Holy Trinity Church Hall, Trinity Path, Sydenham Park, SE26 4EA
Perry Vale - 2nd October, 7:30pm, Forest Hill School Dacres Road, SE23 2XN

Back to Square One

On the 20th August 2008, it was announced that Louise House, part of the Forest Hill Pools site, had been listed Grade II by English Heritage following a request for listing from an individual living in the local area. This means that the recent feasibility options for the new pools will need to be rethought and the process begun again. This was completely fresh news at the Public Meeting held at The Methodist Church , Normanton Street, on the 21st August and attended by over 200 Forest Hill residents.

Louise House has been listed mainly because of its historical importance (as a Victorian Girls Industrial Home that took in girls suffering extreme poverty and trained them for work in Domestic Service) and the unaltered condition of the building. A number of these buildings were built in London but this is a rare surviving example. The listing also notes the importance of the building as a 'group' with the Library and the Pools Building, even though the Pools building itself has previously been considered and turned down for listing.

The problem (or opportunity) this causes is that Louise House was included as part of the site for the New Pools/leisure complex recently consulted on by Lewisham Council. It means that the options that were on the table are no longer achievable in their current form and additional work will be needed to find out what it is possible to deliver on the site.

When the Mayor announced in March that he was abandoning the original plan to refurbish the pools (intrusive surveys and discussions with potential developers persuaded him this was not feasible), he set a short timescale for delivering the pools (to be open by 2011) and this led to the 'rushed' production of feasibility options for the site and a public consultation during August, when unfortunately many people are away on holiday.

The options presented to residents were 3 versions of the same scheme, with more or less housing, leisure uses and open space on the site. The preliminary results from the consultation were presented to a stakeholder meeting on the 27th August. The Council received around 600 replies to the consultation and views were fairly evenly split between the 3 options with about 10% of respondents choosing not to select any of the options. The FHS submitted a response (the highlights of which are included in this Newsletter) raising a number of concerns about the proposals but mostly supporting the need for a new pool facility in Forest Hill in the foreseeable future and seeking to ensure a high quality building is developed – possibly secured through a design competition.

The public meeting on the 21st August was very lively and heard a wide range of views. It clearly demonstrated that the area does seem to be split on whether to try to keep parts of the existing Pools Building in the scheme or not. The main area of consensus seemed to be that we do want a new pool, that the consultation process had not been very good and that the 3 versions of the scheme proposed left a lot to be desired. The Listing of Louise House has helpfully given the Council a get-out from its previous 'options' and it was acknowledged that there is the opportunity for a significant rethink.

Meanwhile, the Stakeholder Group continues to meet.

It includes representatives from both the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies, residents groups, swimming organisations and local schools. To clarify, the stakeholder group does not in any way set the agenda.

Rather it is a forum for the council to present its plans and the group to make comments and seek information. However, it does mean that the Forest Hill Society gets the chance to have an input into the process as things move forward.

The Forest Hill Society members of the Stakeholder group are Hilary Satchwell and Penelope Jarrett. Both are keen swimmers as well as enthusiastic residents of Forest Hill and Hilary has particular experience of architecture and planning issues.

One of the key issues now will be testing whether it is still possible to achieve the range of leisure/residential options on the site and what the new use should be for Louise House. If any members of the Society have any positive ideas for new uses for Louise House that may be able to attract funding and allow a small element of public access, we would be pleased to hear from you so we can feed these ideas into the process.

The next step will be a meeting of Mayor and Cabinet on the 17th September 2008 when the Mayor will make recommendations for how the project should continue.

If you have any particular comments on what you think should happen at the Pools please let Hilary or Penelope know (hilary@foresthillsociety.com or Penelope@foresthillsociety.com).

Chair's report

This may well be my last chairman’s report for the Newsletter as I intend to resign from the position at our AGM on 15th October 2008. Please come along to the AGM and support or, better still, join the new committee. To encourage you to come along, we shall be having the AGM in The Hob public house and comedy club in the centre of Forest Hill. Unlike previous AGMs where we had guest speakers, we wanted this one to be an opportunity for people in Forest Hill to have a few drinks and meet the new committee.

As this is my final report, I want to take a moment to reflect on the last two years since we first set up the Forest Hill Society. In this time, we have taken the Society from a small group of people sitting round a table in the Dartmouth Arms, to a real civic society with almost 500 members and a significant impact on local issues. We have proved our capabilities particularly with respect to the railways and were able to get some significant enhancements to rail planning over the next eight years. But more importantly, Forest Hill now feels more like a community again rather than a non-descript suburb of London (not that it was ever non-descript).

As I step down from chairing the Society it is my hope that others will rise to the challenge of developing this community for the benefit of all local residents. I have chaired the Society for two years and we have some exciting times ahead. 2010 will see Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill being connected to the tube system as the East London Line finally makes it to SE23. We hope that we will see some improvements to the Horniman Gardens to improve this great public space. And, of course, we should see work progressing on bringing swimming facilities back to Forest Hill. But all of these projects require local people to get involved and make their voices heard. I hope that you will now consider what you can contribute to the Forest Hill Society and to your local community.

Of course the chairman is not the only person in the Forest Hill Society and I would like to thank everybody who has supported the initiation and development of the Society; particularly the team of people who organise the events, the finances, chair subcommittees, write the minutes of meetings, publish the newsletter and distribute the newsletters, those who provide their expert analysis to a range of issues, and those that have simply offered their feedback – positive or negative - on the work of the Society.

If you would like more information about joining the committee of the Forest Hill Society please contact me and I shall be delighted to give you more information.

Michael Abrahams

Dogs on One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill is a much-loved Local Nature Reserve on Honor Oak Park with fantastic views of central London. But it's also used by commercial dog-walkers and that's stirred up quite a debate in SE23. We invited Sandy Pepperell, the Chair of the Friends of One Tree Hill (FROTH) to explain the situation.

The Friends of One Tree Hill have received a range of correspondence related to dog walking on One Tree Hill. This has mainly focused on commercial dog walking. Incidents have ranged from several dogs running uncontrolled into the adjoining allotments (chasing a fox) to intimidation and biting of individuals. While we would advise people actually injured by dogs to report this to local police, we have endeavoured to pass on these observations to LB Southwark's dog wardens and they carry out patrols from time to time on the Hill.

However, we were particularly perturbed by a thread on a local Forest Hill chatroom (SE23.com) earlier this year which presented the site as unwelcoming due to the presence of dogs and as a result we have stepped up our requests to Southwark Council to investigate ways to address our concerns about the number of dogs being exercised on the Hill.

The LB of Southwark and the Friends of One Tree Hill have no intention of excluding dogs from the Hill, but we do wish (and have a duty) to protect this Local Nature Reserve from destruction and damage by large groups of dogs running loose, digging up the ground and leaving faeces behind. In addition, of course, our aim is to promote One Tree Hill as a visitor site and £15,000 has just been earmarked by the council to maintain and improve access and information. Our events have included bird and tree walks and this September sees the second stage of an archaeological dig relating to the likely siting of a WW1 anti-Zeppelin gun at the summit of the Hill.

All of this promotion of One Tree Hill will be undermined if local people (and this has included dog owners) are discouraged from visiting. It is to address this that we, together with Southwark, are investigating controls on dog walking. This is likely to relate to the number of dogs walked at any one time, to their being 'under control' and clearing up after them. Before anything official can be put into practice, however, the council is obliged to consult locally so there will be an opportunity for people to have their say.

We are aware that discussion of this issue sometimes results in strong feelings in respect of the freedoms of various users of One Tree Hill and that dogs and dog walking give some a great deal of pleasure which not everyone shares. In order to achieve a balance, we hope some kind of compromise can be achieved.

Then it will truly be a community amenity where we can all appreciate a bit of calm in an otherwise frenetic world.

You can visit our website and contact us at: www.onetreehill.org.uk

The 23 Club

We're delighted that the 23 Club we launched in the last Newsletter has been a real hit so far with a lively gathering at our first couple of events. So, to find out what it's all about do join us on 23rd September at Yune.

Most of the lucky thirteen people who came to the first get-together of the 23 Club had not been to Kafé La before. We agreed that the Bangladeshi dishes are interestingly different, not too hot and artfully presented.

We gave some current Society issues an airing, but mostly enjoyed finding out a bit more about our neighbours.

On 23rd July, it was the turn of Le Querce on Brockley Rise. There was a higher turnout and several people are already "regulars" of the 23 Club! Le Querce has the most eccentric ice cream and sorbet menu you'll find in the area. We loved the beetroot sorbet but nobody was brave enough to try the onion and garlic ice cream!

We did something a little different for August 23rd because it fell on the Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend. We switched to a lunchtime meal at the Perry Hill pub so that people could bring their families for a summer barbecue. Unfortunately, we didn't get enough advance bookings so the pub felt it wouldn't be worth setting up the barbecue. But choosing from the ordinary pub menu was certainly no hardship and, in the event, we had a very good turnout! The weather was very kind to us and the children had a great time running around the garden.

On Tuesday, 23rd September, we shall be at the Chinese restaurant, Yune, at 25 Dartmouth Road, London, SE23 3HN. Tel 020 8699 0887.

On Thursday, 23rd October, we shall be at the Honor Oak Tandoori at 57-59 Honor Oak Park, SE23 1EA. Tel 020 8699 2255 The idea is that you make your booking for 8pm directly with the restaurant making clear that it's for the 23 Club or the Forest Hill Society.

If you would like to be on the group e-mail for reminders about the 23 Club please send your request to: mary@foresthillsociety.com

Getting tied up in Knotweed

We have been invaded, but it is almost unnoticed by most of the people it is affecting.
Japanese Knotweed is a bamboo-like plant that can grow to 2-3 metres tall, has broad leaves and spreads, and spreads, ... and spreads. For the record, it is not bamboo and it can be very damaging.

The key problem it poses is that the roots and stalks are very strong, and the large leaves are slow to break down.

Plants push up through pipes, concrete and around flagstones, breaking up the structures on the way and undermining foundations of walls as well as breaking pipes. Above ground, one plant keeps growing and spreading in a way that prevents other native plants from growing by reducing light and creating a layer that stops other seeds from getting established.

Like many other invasive species, such as the Ringnecked Parakeet or the American Bullfrog, it was originally brought it for 'ornamental' reasons, in this case from Japan, without a thought for the potential effect. Now it affects pretty much all parts of the UK.

In Forest Hill, the Japanese Knotweed plant can be found in many places, including in a large mass along the sides of the railway on Stanstead Road. You can also see how invasive it is on the pavements and drives on the corner of Devonshire Rd and Waldram Crescent - where it was potentially responsible for what seemed like a permanent and rather dangerous leak this winter.
This plant spreads vegetatively, in other words it spreads from cuttings of the roots of other plants, and not by seed. It is, in fact, one single female plant that has spread along waterways, railway cuttings and spreading of soil waste.

It takes only the tiniest fragment of root for it to regrow. That makes it very hard to eradicate as it is almost impossible to ensure you remove all root fragments. Treatment with glyphosate on the leaves of young plants has some effect; older plants might require an injection directly into the stem. Nonchemical treatments are being developed, but short of removing, and safely disposing of, many cubic metres of soil from your garden, it is probably not yet possible.

Why should we care? Any invasive species threatens natural habitats and therefore native species. This one also threatens our property. At the moment, the level of our problem here in SE23 is small, but it could potentially get much worse and public awareness is very important.

We must all do our bit to help each other as plants in one garden can easily spread to neighbours' land. We also need to encourage the Council to deal with public areas.

You have been warned!
Read more here: http://bit.ly/japanese_knotweed
Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/srcosmo/169318031/

11 September 2008

Mayor and Cabinet - 17 September 2008 - Forest Hill Pools

The cabinet papers about Forest Hill Pool are now available:

  • Item 11 Forest Hill Pools
    Paper on the initial design and feasibility work undertaken with respect to the redevelopment of Forest Hill Pools detailed in part 5 of this report; to inform the Mayor of the results of the community engagement and consultation detailed in part 6 of this report; to inform the Mayor of the listing of Louise House and its implications detailed in part 7 of this report; and to seek the Mayor’s approval to proceed with the proposed approach set out in part 8 of this report.

  • Item 11 Forest Hill Pools Appendix A
    Community engagement and consultation

  • Amenity space affected

  • This Appendix includes the full written responses to the consultation from the Forest Hill Wart Councillors, the Forest Hill Society, and the Sydenham Society.
Hat tip: Andrew Brown

Flat refusal has led to 'eyesore'

Michael Abrahams, chair of the Forest Hill Society, is quoted in the Mercury this week regarding the Forest Hill Central development on Perry Vale. You can read the article here.

09 September 2008

Perry Vale closed for another month

Perry Vale was due to reopen this week unfortunately it has been delayed due to Victorian water mains and bad weather. Lewisham council have provided us with the following information:

With regard to the timescales for the scheme, I believe we are about a month behind schedule. This has been due to excavating around old Victorian water mains. We have caused damage to the pipes on a number of occasions. Therefore we had to continue the work by hand, which is a very slow process on a scheme of such a size. Also, we have lost time due to extremely bad weather.

We are now at a stage where we are constructing the carriageway. This is again causing difficulty as we are having to lay the materials by hand to ensure no damage is caused to the water mains below. I am hoping that the lower layers of carriageway will be constructed by the end of the week and then we will start on the construction of the new footways next week. Once all the kerbs have been installed we can then complete the construction of the carriageway, while at the same time laying paving slabs. Once the carriageway has been completed we can open the road and allow vehicles to once again drive along Perry Vale. If the footways have not been completed we will provide temporary traffic lights to enable pedestrians to walk safely within the carriageway.

I am hoping that the works will be complete by the Friday 3rd October 2008.

Contrary to some speculation Berkeley Homes are not responsible for the work being carried out and so the temporary suspension of work at Forest Hill Central will have little effect on the road works. Further work will be undertaken (hopefully later this year) on the underpass with funds already secured from Berkeley Homes.

Green Pennant Award to Devonshire Road

Congratulations to the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve on winning Lewisham's first Green Pennant award! The award is administered by the Civic Trust and rewards "standards of excellence in a community or voluntary managed green space. It has been presented in recognition of the hard work, dedication and achievement of the local people who care passionately about this green space."

This site is judged on an annual basis to maintain high standards so please do your bit to help preserve this site's special Green Pennant Award status.

For more information about Devonshire Road Nature Reserve please visit their web site or go along in person.

06 September 2008

23 Club - September

The 23 Club has now had three successful dinning experiences at local restaurants. But we still have many more to munch our way through in SE23 so come and join us on Tuesday, 23rd September at 8pm, at Yune, 25 Dartmouth Road. To book your place contact the restaurant directly on 020 8699 0887.

We are flattered that the Sydenham Society have picked up on this excellent way to support local restaurants and to give members a way to meet other local people. This month they will be starting Club 26 focusing on the restaurants of SE26, we wish them bon appétit!

31 August 2008

Louise House Listed

News reached us on 20th August that English Heritage, who have twice previously refused to list Forest Hill Pools, have decided to list Louise House including many of the internal features. What the future now holds for Louise House is uncertain as is the future of swimming in Forest Hill.

The three options presented by the council for the redevelopment of the pools are no longer possible and alternatives will need to be found.

For The Forest Hill Society our main concern now, as it has always been, is the future of swimming on this site. We call on the council to come up with innovative solutions to allow for a leisure centre on this site with two pools and community facilities. At present this looks like an onerous task, but the council need to find a way to make this possible within the new constraints. What must not be allowed to happen is for this decision to mark an end to swimming in Forest Hill.

The following day, on the 21st August, there was a public meeting to discuss the options for development of the site. 200 people attended the meeting where a range of views were expressed. Notes on the outcome of the meeting is available on Lewisham Council website.

At the Stakeholder Meeting on 27th August we found out some early results of the consultation. Although none of the options are possible following the listing of Louise House the results are still worth looking at. Of the 691 responses received:
Option 1 was preferred by 27% of respondents
Option 2 was preferred by 33% of respondents
Option 3 was preferred by 29% of respondents
11% expressed no preference.

The mayor and cabinet will meeting on 17th September and will be discussing the outcome of the consultation and development options.

20 August 2008

Forest Hill Central Appeal

Berkeley Homes have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate regarding the decision to reject their application for the conversion of 10x 2 bedroom units within the development to 14x 1 bedroom units.

The Forest Hill Society response can be viewed here.


In the meantime development work on the site will be halted due to cashflow problems on the development. This will temporarily leave a large unsightly skeleton structure in the centre of Forest Hill, giving a very poor impression of the local area. We wish to see the completion of this development according to the application initially approved by Lewisham Council.

18 August 2008

Planning Application, Westwood Park

Below is the text of the Forest Hill Society submission regarding planning application DC/08/69339/X, 15 Westwood Park.

On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to object to the proposed development at 15 Westwood Park which we believe is over development of the site and will have a detrimental effect on the local area.

Context of the site:
15 Westwood Park is just outside the Forest Hill conservation area in a suburban context with housing on three sides of the plot. The removal of three fine trees from the site is already cause for concern and should be reversed, as much as is possible, in any application. Policy HSG 7 states that:
‘The Council will require developers to retain any attractive or ecologically important existing natural features of a site’.
We would ask that the planning officers to ask for tree planting as part of any future development to remedy this loss of trees on the site.

Over development:
Whilst we welcome the building of family housing rather than flats at this location the density levels are too high for this suburban location. We understand that the density level is approximately 300 habitable rooms per hectare and this is significantly higher than outlined in policy HSG 16 which recommends denisty of 180-210 habitable rooms per hectare. The location of this development is not in a sustainable living area and is some distance from Forest Hill station with a substantial hill that impacts on the desirability of high density housing on such a location.

In relation to the London Plan (table 3A.2) this recommends a range of 150-250 habitable rooms per hectare in a suburban setting, outside the town centre and with a considerable hill separating the site from all public transport. This application has exceeded the maximum density recommended by the London Plan on a site that is unsuitable for such density. We recommend that the planning officers reject this application based on the high density levels on this site contrary to council and GLA policy guidance.

Internal layout of the houses:
Plots 1-3 only have a single door between the kitchen and the toilet. We would seek clarification from the officers whether this is in contravention of planning regulations. Many of the bathrooms higher than ground floor level, have no natural light or ventilation. We would recommend that for a more pleasant internal environment, and to save energy that as many of these bathrooms as possible have natural ventilation. In modern buildings we would expect to see the inclusion of windows to allow for natural light and energy saving without impacting on overlooking of other properties, however, with such high density levels on this site such provision would be very difficult.

Another concern is the small gardens of the plots. Policy HSG 7 states that:
‘Family dwellings should be provided with their own private garden area. Normally, a minimum garden depth of 9 metres will be required.’ None of the gardens on the site meet the desired depth set out in this policy.


Traffic:
Cars reversing from the garages and the access road create a concern because of the nature of this road. On this side of the road there is the peak of a hill directly before these houses. Cars exiting from the site will have little visibility of on coming traffic and any cars needing to stop to let them out would create a hazard for more cars coming over the hill. This problem of lack of visibility will only be exacerbated by the need for plots 1-3 to park on the road rather than in driveways or garages.

Policy HSG 8d states that there must be a proper means of access, suitable for the entry and egress of service vehicles which is convenient and safe both for drivers and pedestrians. We do not believe that this egress is safe for other road users or convenient for residents.

Subsidence
Horniman hill has many springs and underground waterways located on it. This has lead to the peculiar architecture of the Horniman School located in close proximity to this site. It is our concern that significant excavation and building on this location could lead to flooding and subsidence for houses in close proximity and further down the hill. We would ask that a full assessment of the affects of this backland development on neighbouring properties is undertaken and includes water surveys for the site.

We believe that for the reasons stated above the council should reject this application.

Planning Application Redberry Grove

Below is the text of the Forest Hill Society submission regarding planning application DC/08/69263/X, 4 Redberry Grove.

On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to object to the proposed development at 4 Redberry Grove which we believe is out of context for the local area.

Redberry Grove is very special road in the Sydenham Park conservation area and the development of a building that is substantially out of character will have a significant affect on the nature of the conservation area in close proximity to an area of nature conservation - Albion Millennium Green which has only recently been designated as such. By developing a new backland development in such close proximity to Albion Millennium Green we are concerned that it will have a negative effect on this area of nature conservation and access to it. Additionally 3 Redberry Grove is a listed building and again this proposed development would negatively impact on the context of this listed building.

Whilst the design and the materials used for this building are state of the art and make a very interesting modern building these are totally out of context within the conservation area, which is primarily one of large Victorian houses which have been well preserved due to the conservation area. It would be a great shame to spoil this area of outstanding Victorian architecture by the discordant nature of this development.

Policy URB 5 sections c-g should be taken into account when considering this development and we believe the council should reject this application.

12 August 2008

Forest Hill Society response to the Forest Hill Pools Consultation

Below is the full text of the submission from the Forest Hill Society on the pools consultation. We understand that this may not fully represent the views of every single member of the Forest Hill Society or of the wider community but it is the considered opinions of a number of residents who have been involved in understanding the council's plans, and with experience as architects, developers of conservation schemes, health professionals, active swimmers, and parents, and we have listened to many views from local residents to make sure that we do represent a significant section of local residents.

The Forest Hill Society welcomes London Borough of Lewisham’s commitment to swimming in Forest Hill, and the promise of “no demolition without consultation”. Whilst we welcome the three options presented as part of the consultation, we have some reservations about the options offered and consultation process so far.

Facilities

As the Forest Hill Society we believe that an improved leisure facility on the site of the pools and Louise House is vital to the continued success of Forest Hill as a town centre. These facilities will attract people to the area and they will use other local facilities such as the shops and library at the same time.

We have collated feedback from local residents and have already passed on some of the best ideas to the council through the stakeholders’ meetings.

The most important requirements are:

  1. The need for two pools – a main pool and a learner pool.
  2. We think that a strong connection between the library and the leisure centre is really important and envisage an overlap of courses between the two buildings enhancing the offering from both.

Other considerations:

  1. The learner pool could have a moveable floor to make it suitable for children of different ages and for hydrotherapy. According to the architects present at the station display this would not add significantly to the overall cost of the project (the figure of £100,000 was quoted).
  2. The community area should include a regular shaped space for use as a large meeting hall (for up to 150 people), but more often can be divided into 2 or 3 rooms which can be used for education or for sport or community groups.
  3. Innovative sporting facilities would help make the facility popular and well used e.g. a climbing wall and possibly boulders for non-supervised climbing outside the leisure centre.
  4. We think that a strong connection between the library and the leisure centre is really important and envisage an overlap of courses between the two buildings enhancing the offering from both.
  5. More retail units are not required when there are already many unoccupied retail units in the centre of Forest Hill.
  6. A cafe is a good idea and should overlook the pool, with easy access for parents to move between the cafe and the changing area to assist their children.
  7. Parking needs careful consideration, especially if there is to be additional housing on the site. We would not want to see a CPZ imposed on Derby Hill, Thorpewood Avenue, and Derby Hill Crescent, but there would need to be controls over car use for any residents of the properties on the site. With recent developments in Forest Hill there does not seem to be a way to implement car-free developments without the imposition of CPZ on all local streets. Lewisham council needs to look at other ways to ensure car-free developments for the life of these properties.

Design & Layout

We have been disappointed with the three designs presented which are fundamentally the same building with different levels of housing. Of particular concern were the following aspects of the design:

  1. The entrance of the leisure centre in all options is on the north side of the development making the public area and entrance north facing with little direct sunlight, but more importantly it is at the furthest point from the library, ‘turning it’s back to the library’ as some have put it.
  2. The link between the leisure centre and library looks like an afterthought rather than properly connecting the main part of the leisure complex to the library, although if a link at the library floor level could be made to work this could be very successful.
  3. We would prefer a building that is designed in sympathy with the library with a coherent frontage rather than showing disregard for a fine grade 2 listed building. The design of the centre needs to be improved to compliment the library rather than as a blank modern building to ‘avoid diverting attention from the library’ – something that option 3 certainly fails to do. The Horniman Museum extension is an excellent local example of how a modern building can be integrated into an existed listed building in a coherent way.
  4. We understand that there is a target of between 35% and 50% social housing on the site. Given that any profits from developing houses on the site will go directly into a community facility we believe that social housing should be minimised. That is not to say that there should be no social housing, but that a maximum of 20% would be more appropriate to allow for the best possible leisure development on the site. We are aware that Lewisham Council wish to see 35% social housing in developments of this size, but given the community benefit of profits going directly into the leisure centre it would make sense to adjust this target in this specific case.

Problems with specific options:

  1. In Option 3 the seven story development is out of character with the streetscape of Dartmouth Road.
  2. The high rise (7 storey) housing is too close to the road, built over the pavement and completely out of proportion to the other side of Dartmouth Road. This results in a strong physical separation between the part of Forest Hill with the pool to the north and the part of Forest Hill with the library to the south.
  3. The isolated unit in option 2 for retail and possibly for housing does not fit well with the overall layout of the area and breaks up the public space
  4. We are not happy with the scale or location of the housing along the frontage of option 3 and think that this needs serious reconsideration with alternative arrangements and locations explored e.g. along the back of pools building or around the square. There is plenty of room for extra housing to be built above the changing area and car park to the rear of the leisure centre. There are already large trees to the rear of the houses on Derby Hill Crescent that would prevent overlooking from this position. Access could be from the rear of the public space (possibly the same access as the flats aligned with Kingswear House). This is just one solution and we are sure that there are others that could be explored but have not been as part of this consultation.
  5. Further housing may be possible above the garages to the rear of the site on Torcross Drive. By redeveloping these garages to providing some residential areas above the garage facilities, less residential development would be needed at the front of the site.
  6. The loss on the pocket park is not a significant loss to Forest Hill with Baxter’s Field not far from the site and the new public space created on this site.

We hope that prior to awarding the contract for building the leisure centre other design options are considered, ideally opening up the process to a design competition. We understand that these designs were put together primarily to give an idea of bulk and massing and residential unit numbers, but they fail to show how different layouts for the site have been tested. We could easily be stuck with a sub-standard design for decades to come if the process now proceeds too quickly and without careful thought and proper consideration of what is possible, including allowing the architects selected through the OJEU process the opportunity to bring their creative design skills to the project.

Options and Bulk

From the three options presented by the council we believe that option 1 is not right as it does not include a learner pool. Options 2 and 3 both provide a better facility and although we are keen to maximise the leisure and community facilities available on this site, we do not believe that the housing set out in option 3 is the best way to achieve this.

Consultation Process

We have been disappointed with the consultation process for a number of reasons and we do not believe the council have engaged properly with the local community in regard to this development. This beginning sets a bad precedent as we move forward to the implementation phase.

Amongst our concerns are:

  1. Lack of different designs available for public consultation.
  2. The consultation has been open to people from across the borough, starting off in Catford, rather than focusing on the residents of Forest Hill.
  3. Leaflets that were delivered to local residents were delivered too close to the beginning of the consultation and were simple white A4 sheets. In the 2005/2006 consultation the consultation document itself was delivered to every house, this should have been done again to get maximum feedback. Instead residents have to go to the library to pick up a leaflet or have access to the Internet for the online consultation.
  4. The display in the library and the presentation of the three options in the consultation document significantly simplified the options and did not provide the full details that were in the full documentation that was available on the website. Copies of the full consultation document and historical report should have been available in the library to allow visitors to see the full context of the consultation.
  5. Despite a feasibility study being undertaken to determine if Louise House and the Superintendent’s House could be saved and incorporated into a new development, no designs have been produced to show if a leisure centre could have been fitted in with this development. Many local residents naturally feel angry that this was not presented as an option after the feasibility study was undertaken and concluded that these building could be converted into housing for a small profit.
  6. The consultation process took place during school holidays, when many children and parents are away. This will affect the results of the consultation and exclude many of the key users of the pools.
  7. A public meeting should have been organised where local residents could have an opportunity to discuss the plans with the council officers and hear the views of other local residents.
  8. There has been a lack of clarity for local residents regarding what the consultation is about – housing and leisure facilities or design of buildings and layout. By confusing these two issues it is difficult for the public to know how to respond.
  9. We would like to see all the responses to the consultation to get a better idea of the views of local residents before the report goes to mayor and cabinet, so that we can satisfy ourselves that council officers accurately represent the views of local people from this consultation.

10 August 2008

Pools Public Meeting - 21st August

Information from Councillor Chris Best:

Public Meeting 7pm Thursday 21 August at the Forest Hill Methodist Church and Centre on Normanton Rd SE23


As a recap - in February 2008 the Mayor of Lewisham approved the redevelopment of the Forest Hill Pools and Louise House site in order to bring new leisure facilities to the area. The Stakeholder Group (an inclusive Group of the key stakeholders including representatives from the Sydenham and Forest Hill Societies, swimmers, schools, residents and traders) held their first meeting in May. At the June meeting the group considered how we can redevelop the space next to Forest Hill's Grade II listed library and considered the feasibility and housing options from the consultants, HLM. The Council is currently consulting local residents on the three concepts that have been produced for the development of a new leisure centre including a six-lane 25-metre pool, learner pool and associated dry leisure and community facilities.

An exhibition was on display at People's Day on 12 July and the full exhibition was outside Forest Hill station on Friday and Saturday 18-19 July following the delivery of 20,000 flyers to homes in Forest Hill, Perry Vale and Sydenham wards. You can view the background papers and options online and take part in the survey at http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/foresthillpools. The exhibition was running at Forest Hill library until 8 August with residents providing feedback on the printed forms on the three options, range of facilities and other comments.

Focus groups are taking place with 'seldom heard groups' in accordance with the Council's consultation strategy, and further active consultation is taking place with local schools, businesses, and swimming clubs. Council officers have offered to meet with representatives from both the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies in addition to their ongoing involvement with the Forest Hill Pools Stakeholder Group.

As an adjunct to the consultation programme a public meeting has been arranged for Thursday 21 August at the Forest Hill Methodist Church and Centre on Normanton Rd SE23. The meeting will run from 7pm to 9pm.

The evening will include a presentation on the background to the Mayor's decision and will give local residents the opportunity to speak to local councillors and leisure officers about the current proposals. The exhibition which details the three development options will be available, and Council staff will be present to answer queries and to gather feedback on the options that have been presented as part of the consultation.

The Stakeholder Group will be meeting at the end of August to review the feedback from the consultation. Comments from the Stakeholder Group will be included in the report to Mayor and Cabinet on 17 September which is an open meeting starting at 6.30pm at the Town Hall in Catford. The tender for the architects is running in parallel with the consultation so that work on the design can progress once the option is agreed.

We look forward to seeing you on 21 August. If you have any queries about the meeting please contact Hilary Renwick on 8314 6359 - hilary.renwick@lewisham.gov.uk or contact Cllr Chris Best or Cllr John Russell who will be co-chairing the public meeting.

01 August 2008