29 June 2009

Forest Hill Society Response to the Pools Consultation

You can read the Forest Hill Society response to the May 2009 pools consultation by following this link.

5.1 We fully support the Council in a decision to return swimming and public leisure facilities to Forest Hill in the near future.
5.2 We continue to believe that the Dartmouth Road site is the most deliverable and appropriate site for this facility.
5.3 We believe that the recent Consultation supports the need for swimming in Forest Hill and that most people who would make use of the facility believe that this should be located on the existing Dartmouth Road site.
5.4 We would like to see a robust reconsideration of the delivery programme and budget requirements of this project, including consideration of any phasing potential of the development in order to provide a facility that the people of Forest Hill can make use of at the earliest opportunity.
5.5 We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Council to demonstrate the potential for live/work development on the Willow Way site.

23 June 2009

Pools Consultation Results

The results of the consultation were presented to the Stakeholders group yesterday evening. You can view the results on the Lewisham Council web site.

Although total numbers are not given we understand that the result is just over 51% in favour of the Willow Way pool in Sydenham (slide 14), although the margin of error makes this a statistical draw and it is difficult to weigh up the differences between schools who may or may not use the pool and individuals who may or may not use the pool.

Of key importance to people in favour of both options is an accessible location (slides 15 and 16). A key consideration for those who voted for Willow Way was that they want to see a pool in the area as soon as possible, and the consultation told them that Willow Way could be delivered faster than the Dartmouth Road pools site.

One clear message (slide 18) is that in all groups people are more likely to visit the site if it were built in Dartmouth Road and the groups who are most likely to go swimming are also those who most preferred the Dartmouth Road site.

Online respondents were the most Forest Hill based group (slide 10), and out of this group a massive 66% favoured the existing site, and an enormous 93% would swim there, compared to only 38% if it were in Willow Way. Taking this into account we believe that the Forest Hill Society has accurately reflected the views of local people and will continue to push for the pool to be built in the Forest Hill town centre, not in an industrial estate in Sydenham.

Please feel free to add your own comments below.

20 June 2009

Proof that the Community Can Win - Tyson Road proposal defeated

Written for the Forest Hill Society Newsletter by Cllr John Russell and Cllr Philip Peake

It doesn’t often happen so when the community comes together and wins a significant victory against overdevelopment, we should all take note and learn lessons for the future. When Loromah Estates put forward a planning application to build nine blocks of flats on a backland site behind the Christian Fellowship Centre on Honor Oak Road and to the rear of Tyson Road, local residents refused to accept the odds stacked against them and came out fighting. The Forest Hill Society supported them all the way as did their local councilors, John Russell and Philip Peake. We asked the councillors to explain why this victory matters.

In our short number of years as councillors, we have frequently come up against that bane of local campaigners’ lives: the English planning system. Particularly at Lewisham Council, it is very difficult and rare to be able to defeat a developer’s proposal once it has the support of the Council Planning Officers.

Yet on 31st of March, that’s exactly what we all did at Planning Committee ‘B’ – not just marginally, but entirely: members of the committee voted unanimously to turn down officer advice and reject Loromah Estates’ application to build 74 flats on predominantly ex-garden land between Tyson Road and the Christian Fellowship Centre on Honor Oak Road.

The community, Forest Hill Society, and we councillors can all be proud of ourselves. But celebration should be tempered by caution. Draft documents in the council’s new planning policy – the ‘rules’ committee members have to consider – still allocate the site for 80-odd flats. Loromah may not appeal but instead present another plan: it remains to be seen whether any new ideas will genuinely address local people’s concerns.
Now is a useful time to look and see what happened: just why did the residents, the Forest Hill Society and ourselves working together manage to win this one? We can all learn lessons and apply them to future planning applications.

In this case, the developer was his own worst enemy. In an attempt to maximise profit, his team had introduced a fundamental design flaw. All car movements would have had to go underneath the blocks as there was no space for roads elsewhere. And despite extensive use of public relations consultants, it was clear that the development would not feel like a “woodland glade” after most of the trees had been removed and bat-boxes and green/brown roofs had been used as eco-sticking-plaster.

The obvious flaws created a vigorous residents’ campaign. Three-hundred-and-thirty-five objections must be a record for this borough. Led by Andrew Wood, residents did their homework and fought a very informed and highly effective campaign. The secret to their success was not to object saying “we do not like this,” but in properly studying and understanding the Lewisham Council planning policies and the London and national planning frameworks.

Campaigners were then able to argue from a postion of knowledge, putting together a coherent argument, based in planning law. This is a position which has to be taken seriously. Backed up by the strength of local feeling, residents, FHS and councillors were able to pull this together into an argument that ultimately won over the committee.

It is a powerful example of what local residents can do when working in partnership with the FHS and ourselves in a common cause. We should be proud of what we have done and ready to start again at a moment’s notice when necessary.

Chair's Report

Unfortunately, our Chairman, Peter Irby, has been unwell for a few months now. We all wish him a speedy recovery but until then the honour of writing the Chairman's report has fallen to our vice-chair, Michael Abrahams.

We have had an eventful few months with visits to areas of nature conservation, a pub crawl, a general meeting plus our regular events from the 23 Club. Behind the scenes, we have had lots of meetings about swimming pools, planning issues, transport, swimming pools, improving the natural environment, and ... swimming pools.

All these issues and more came up at our General Meeting at The Hob on 7th May. Thank you to everyone who came along and shared their views. You can read the full minutes on our website www.foresthillsociety.com.

Beyond the Forest Hill Society, we have seen some great things happening in SE23 despite the gloom of the global recession and the flu pandemic raging around us. There’s investment going into our parks and gardens (see below) and, although we have seen a few shops closing recently, we have also seen some new shops opening including a gym in the former site of McDonalds, and Tapastry is now twice as big but with the smaller name of Try. This bodes well for developments in the coming year as we see TfL take over the station this Autumn and the East London Line starting next summer.

We are particularly pleased to see fewer bins in Dartmouth Road and London Road with daily collections being arranged by Lewisham Council. Honor Oak Parade is looking better than ever thanks to the support of the Friends of Honor Oak Park.

So this Summer, don't fall for all this gloom in the outside world. It's a bright future in Forest Hill - we might even have a swimming pool one day!

Thanks to everybody who has continued to support the Forest Hill Society. Attending events and helping out in any way allows us to do so much more. So if you would like to get actively involved, please let me know - don't leave it all for others to make Forest Hill an even better place to live.

Improvements for Forest Hill Parks

We’re not short of green spaces in SE23 but some of our parks have been neglected over the years. Now, thanks to extra funding, the Horniman Triangle and Mayow Park are getting the tender loving care they deserve.

Horniman Triangle
.... or Forest Hill Beach, as we like to call it! Yes, it’s just a sandpit at the side of the noisy South Circular but this is no ordinary sand pit. It’s got climbing frames and a water pump and the children love it. It has been packed since it opened in early April thanks, no doubt, to the unexpectedly warm weather this Spring. There’s also a little cafĂ© with outside seating BUT there are no toilet facilities and this is a regular complaint. The swings are also missed especially by people with very young children. Nothing’s ever perfect, unfortunately.

Mayow Park
The Friends of Mayow Park (FOMP) put in a bid to Lewisham Council for ‘Playbuilder’ funds to create a new space where older children could socialise and exercise. That bid has now been successful and the park will receive the funding in 2010-2011. The new space is intended for young people of around 10 to 14 years old.

Even before this exciting news came through, FOMP had started talking about the scheme with some of the Lewisham Young Advisers to the Young Mayor. They are keen to take a lead with planning and development of the proposed new area and a committee has been formed with some Young Advisers, the Council Officers who support them, Green Scene officers, Councillors and FOMP members.

Meanwhile, a revised version of the plan for the Bowls Club accommodation has been submitted to Lewisham Planning Department. Plans were available for viewing in the Bowls Club Pavilion on Saturday 16th May. If the Bowls Club can vacate the present pavilion, it would be available for refurbishment and potential use when cricket restarts in the Park, it’s hoped in Summer 2010.

May Bank Holiday Revels on our Millennium Green

Some places celebrate May Bank holiday with parades, or dancing, maypoles and ribbons. Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies decided to join forces to celebrate with.... a group litter clear-up.

Millennium Gardens, a little visited green oasis at the end of Albion Villas Road, off Sydenham Park Road, was the venue. And, true to Bank Holiday tradition, on a grey, overcast day, enlivened with occasional drizzle, a small group of stalwarts turned up armed mainly with eagerness to sort out any mess.

If that all sounds a bit grim, well, it really wasn’t. With a freshly mown grass meadow, a copse of deciduous trees, bluebells, lilac, frothy masses of mayflowers and the remains of a tennis court with benches, we set to hacking through stinging nettles to retrieve the miscellany of rubbish which had been dumped over the perimeter wall. An hour or so later, a now warmed-up people-chain had passed old sofas, defunct computers, bags of domestic and garden refuse and other junk into a clearing near to the exit from where it could be collected.

It’s amazing what people throw away – and where they choose to throw it. Why would anyone dump their junk into a lovely public space like Millennium Gardens? But discarded old chestnut paling was quickly identified by gardeners in the group as recyclable for bean or netting supports. And a couple of wooden pallets, separated by bricks and stuffed with other debris, were reconstructed into a bug hotel.

There were about thirty of us for the picnic lunch, tucking in with a satisfied air after a job well done. Revels it wasn’t, but a junior cricket match on the meadow green and senior boules on the old tennis court rounded off the afternoon.

Maybe next year we could have dancing and ribbons and maypoles?

19 June 2009

23 Club Update

June 23rd is the first anniversary of the 23 Club. It’s really taken off and exceeded our expectations. Thank you to Mary who organises the venues, thank you to Rob for coming up with the idea, thank you to all our members who’ve supported the event and thank you to the local restaurants who’ve given us a great welcome and twelve enjoyable evenings of good food and good company.

A quick recap of where we’ve been since the last Newsletter:- In March, the 23 Club went to the Old Bank restaurant in Honor Oak for some excellent, authentic Italian food. You can see your food being prepared as the main kitchen area is in full view. With the restaurant busy, the service was a little slow, but the results were worth waiting for!

On April 23rd, we celebrated St George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, choosing from an excellent and imaginative menu at the Dartmouth Arms, a gastropub with car park in Dartmouth Road. One member, Bernard Keeffe, rose to his feet and recited the topical passage from Henry V, getting a round of applause from everyone there!

We hope you’ll continue to support the 23 Club in its second year. The restaurants we have chosen for the Summer months feature delicious dishes from Bangladesh, Spain and England at reasonable prices. And please note that because August 23rd falls on a Sunday, we’ve turned it into a family-friendly Club event and we’ll be meeting at 1pm.

Tuesday June 23 at 8pm : Elachi – (Bangladeshi) 16-23 Sunderland Road SE23 2PR : Phone 8699 0866

Thursday July 23 at 8pm : Try (formerly Tapastry) - Spanish tapas 39 Honor Oak Park SE23 1DZ : Phone 8291 2822

Sunday August 23 at 1pm : Forest Hill Tavern – lunchtime, family friendly get-together 108 Forest Hill Road SE22 0RS : Phone 8693 0338

Just to remind you, the 23 Club is open to Forest Hill Society members and their guests. Please make your booking directly with the restaurant, saying you want to be seated with the Forest Hill Society or 23 Club group. Everyone orders and pays separately for their meal. Do please book so that the restaurant can arrange the seating in advance – thank you.

The Third FHS Pub Crawl

It may have been only April, but it was a lovely, warm evening for a stroll through SE23. It was also the first real opportunity to celebrate the refusal of planning permission for the Tyson Road development.

We started with a small crew at the Railway Telegraph, recently taken over by the new landlady, Pam, who kindly brought over a large plate of hot dogs to help line our collective stomachs. The Telegraph is a fine, large, old pub serving Kentish Shepherd’s Neame beers. We wish Pam the best of luck and hope that members will try it out – maybe even the poker table!

More people joined us at our next pub, the hidden back street gem, the General Napier, on Bovill Road. On the walk over, we passed the Stanstead Road Community Garden – immaculately tended - and an assortment of interesting, small businesses including one that makes large models for the performing arts. The Napier just seems to get better and better – on first viewing you may find it a little old fashioned but then it simply grows on you. And it is not featured in any pub guide or blogs on the area. Maybe it is best kept as our secret.

Onto the refurbished Tapastry for the grand reopening, no less, now that the owner, Jason, has expanded into the old video shop next door. But the name has truncated to ‘Try’. It was buzzing, so much so that we sat outside in the still mild evening. There were new beers to try from the Meantime brewery in Greenwich (a note for your diary is the Greenwich Beer and Jazz fest on 8-12 July at the old Royal Navy College, where the brewery will soon be located.) Our agenda would have had us crossing the border into Crofton Park to check out the refurbished Brockley Jack and onto a fave, Mr Lawrence’s Wine bar, but we couldn’t face leaving Honor Oak so left these exciting venues for another crawl.

18 June 2009

Friends of Honor Oak Park

There are some very energetic, creative, dedicated people here in SE23 working hard to make our community an even better place to live. Take Fiona Hull. She’s one of the founders of the Honor Oak Park Action Group (HOPAG) which has made a big difference to the high street there already. HOPAG has now changed its name to the Friends of Honor Oak Park. Fiona would love to inspire some of you to set up similar schemes around SE23 so she passes on these tips.

Why we set up the group
After walking past this kind of mess for the umpteenth time, I thought to myself enough is enough.
I’m lucky that I have a close friend who lives in Honor Oak Park whom I could moan to about the state of our neighbourhood. Eventually, we decided to stop moaning and do something about it. We gave ourselves a name - Honor Oak Park Action Group - and we started the slow, painstaking process of finding out whom to talk to about the things we wanted to change. Recently, we changed our name to Friends of Honor Oak Park. This way we will be able to work more closely with Southwark and Lewisham Councils and residents on larger projects.

Rule 1: Getting started
We contacted our station manager, sent him photos of the mess outside the station and asked him to come down and pay us a visit. Seeing that we were passionate and determined, he agreed to give us £250 to plant up a drought-tolerant garden in front of the station. He arranged for the railings to be painted a nice, pale green and removed all the fly tipping and rubbish.

Rule 2: Get to know your local councillors and Council
We held a planting a planting day at the station, invited local councillors and raised money and awareness of what our group was trying to achieve.

Rule 3: Get to know your members
We set up a blog www.honoroak.blogspot.com where we could let our members know what was going on and ask them what they thought. We told them about the cleverly designed Moo Moo recycling bin. We decided we wanted one because, apart from its funky design, it increases recycling rates by 66%. We put a paypal donation button on the blog and had raised £200 in less than two weeks. We were amazed and excited. Lewisham council agreed to contribute the rest so that we could have our own Moo Moo bin.

Rule 4: Create partnerships with people who are in a position to help you
We invited Joan Ruddock MP to come down and have a look first hand at what we were trying to achieve, particularly the fly tipping issues and overflowing refuse bins in Honor Oak Park. We spoke to the Head of Environment who encouraged our non municipal approach and we now have a lovely, clean high street.
We spoke to a Director at O2 as we have an O2 phone mast painted navy blue and a cabin outside Honor Oak Park station painted dark green. We asked him to come down and see our Moo Moo bin and how we wanted the O2 mast and cabin painted black. Not only did he do this, but he put us in touch with his community funding scheme at O2. Encouraged, we applied for funding and were recently awarded £750.

Rule 5: Get informed and involved and don’t take no for an answer
Find out what’s going on at all levels, locally and nationally. There’s so much going on now at a grass roots level and we firmly believe that this is the way things are going to change. This is the way to keep inspired and motivated because you have to have a huge amount of energy and determination to get things done as some projects are not easy to get off the ground.

09 June 2009

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Open Day

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Annual Open Day takes place this Sunday, 14th June 12:30-17:30
  • Enjoy the Woodlands, meadow, wildlife garden and ponds
  • Exhibition of drawings for the new gates
  • Blacksmith and mobile forge
  • Guided Walks
  • Plant and craft stall
  • Live amphibians & reptiles
  • Refreshments
The reserve is also open on Saturday 13th June - 12:30-16:00 as part of th Open Garden Squares Weekend