16 December 2009

United against train service cuts!

In an unprecedented show of force, volunteers at every station from Sydenham to New Cross Gate handed out flyers on the mornings of 17th and 18th November telling passengers about the proposed cuts to their services. The Forest Hill Society worked hard on this with the Sydenham Society, Telegraph Hill Society, Brockley Central and the Honor Oak Park Residents Association because only a tough, co-ordinated campaign is going to Save Our Services.

We need to spread the message about the extent of these cuts and what they mean in practice which is why we’re investing so much time, effort and a little money into this fight. Many of the commuters we spoke to as we handed out the flyers were completely unaware that these cuts were being planned.

Our online petition is gaining support by the hour and now has over 2600 signatures. We’re working hard with councillors and London Assembly members to see if there is any way to stop the cuts. We’ve also co-operated with local councillors of all parties to secure a clear and cross-party statement from Lewisham Council against cuts to our services.

We’ve written to the Minister for Transport, both privately and in an open letter, requesting a meeting. We’ve received a reply but he has not agreed to meet us, despite multiple requests. So, why are we so strongly opposed to these cuts? Well, much as we’d like it to be otherwise, the pessimists sometimes get it right. Those people who predicted that the East London Line Extension through Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park would be at the expense of existing rail services seem to have been spot on. From May 2010, our daytime and evening peak services will be cut from six trains per hour to four per hour.

Using the figures we’ve been given by London Overground, we believe that the ELLX coupled with the REDUCED rail service to London Bridge will do nothing to relieve the current level of overcrowding on our commuter services. This is because passenger numbers are expected to rise substantially – by 30% according to London Overground.

Yet, once the ELLX does become overcrowded, there is no scope for increased capacity. This is because the signalling system on the core section in East London can’t cope with more trains than are currently planned. It’s also difficult to see how the operator could simply add extra coaches given that several stations along the route can’t take the longer trains.

True, the ELLX gives us 8 trains per hour interchanging with the Jubilee Line at Canada Water and continuing to Shoreditch. By then, we will also have direct trains to Victoria in the morning peak. But we believe these additions do not make up for the fact that many of us will have fewer trains.

And that’s not all. It is now inevitable that from December 13th Southern Railways will cut our direct evening and Sunday services from Charing Cross. There will still be four trains per hour in the late evenings but they will all start from London Bridge. There will be no additional trains running between Charing Cross and London Bridge. There seems to be a complete lack of joined-up thinking on the railways in South London.

If you would like to support our campaign against rail cuts please sign our petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com

Introducing our New Chair - Richard Hibbert

We’re delighted that Richard Hibbert will Chair the Society for the next 12 months. We asked him to introduce himself.

Hello and welcome to another year of the Forest Hill Society. Firstly, I would like to thank Peter Irby and Michael Abrahams for their work in Chairing the Society for the last twelve months. Michael's efforts in leading the Society's campaign for the pools to be built on Dartmouth Road with live/work on Willow Way are greatly appreciated and will be a hard act to follow. Both Michael and Peter will continue to serve on the Executive Committee so we will not be losing their expertise and enthusiasm. Peter has been undergoing a series of operations on his hip and we wish him a full recovery, while Michael is taking a step back from the Society in order to prepare for an expanding family.

Three of the Chairs of our sub-committees stepped down at the AGM, leaving Liz as the only old hand (Communications and Events). Michael (Planning and Development), Tony (Transport) and James (Environment and Leisure) have stepped down due to personal commitments but will be replaced by Hilary, Andrew and Quetta respectively. My thanks to all of them for their time and hard work. I first came to Forest Hill in 2000. I could see that Forest Hill had an interesting past, neglected present and great potential. My partner kept telling me there used to be two butchers, a fishmonger and bakers in Forest Hill when she first moved here. The more I dug into the history and learned about the area, the more I felt the desire to get involved; one of my pet hates is people who complain but do nothing about it.

At about this time, Lewisham started their Local Assemblies and I volunteered to be on the Coordinating Committee. This was where I met Michael who encouraged me to get involved in the Forest Hill Society. I have been on the Executive and Transport Committees for the last year and was active in the Oystergate and Pools campaigns.

The next year has many challenges ahead, including threatened cuts to our train service by Southern and the redevelopment of the Pools. We are actively working with other local civic societies and politicians to campaign against the train cuts; we were promised that our current services would not be reduced when the East London Line extension was proposed and we intend to keep the politicians to their promise.

We also continue to push the council and Sainsbury’s to come to an arrangement for two hours' free car parking off Pearcefield Avenue. But away from the campaigning, there will be plenty of social events over the next twelve months and I hope I shall have the opportunity to meet many of you and hear your thoughts about the future of SE23.

23 Club 2010

The 23 Club enjoyed a successful year in 2009 but we’d like to broaden its appeal in 2010. For example, we could have lunch or even breakfast some months or arrange to meet for a drink in a pub or cafe rather than a sit down meal. If you have any ideas or preferences, your feedback would be really helpful while we are reviewing the way to organize it in the future. Please send your ideas on the 23 Club to Mary (at) foresthillsociety.com.

Here are some questions to encourage you:
  • Are there any venues we haven’t yet visited which you would like to recommend?
  • Do you think we should have a new start time? Currently we meet at 8pm.
  • Do you think we should reduce the number of sit down meals? What alternatives appeal to you: morning coffee, a sandwich lunch, early evening drink, anything else?

New Battery Recycling Scheme

Lewisham Council recently announced a battery recycling scheme. This is very welcome news for those of us with mountains of used batteries! ‘BatteryCans’ have been placed in libraries across our borough.

The UK has a very poor record in this field and lags well behind many of our European neighbours. Of course the ideal thing is not to have batteries to recycle in the first place by using rechargeable ones – this involves quite an upfront cost.
More details on Lewisham’s website.

Forest Hill Pools - The Way Ahead

We now know that the architects who will design our new Forest Hill Pools development are Roberts Limbrick Ltd. They seem to be fans of Thomas Aldwinkle’s legacy of Victorian civic buildings (he designed Forest Hill pools, Louise House and the library.) Roberts Limbrick are currently working on the refurbishment of another of his pools, Kentish Town Baths.

They have also designed and built a number of other modern swimming pools for Local Authorities in and around London including the Mile End Leisure Centre. When we got in touch to congratulate them on being selected for this project they wrote back to say they were “delighted, and indeed excited, over our selection for this prestigious and important project in Forest Hill.” More information about them can be found at www.robertslimbrick.co.uk.

The rest of the design team is WYG who’ll be the Structural Engineers and Building Services Partnership Ltd who’ll be the building services engineers. The Council’s programme for delivering the pools envisages that the design team now spends the next few months working up the final designs prior to the submission of a detailed planning application in April of next year. Construction would then start in June 2011 and the pools would open in December 2012. We are keen to ensure that the detailed proposals are consulted on as they are developed.

There are though a number of key issues we’d like to be resolved during this process. How will the Pools frontage work with Louise House and the Library? Is it possible to use this area to provide a coordinated entrance to and between each of the buildings, ideally one that doesn't require disabled users of the library to use the back of the building? Will the internal arrangement of the building work for the widest range of people? How will the building impact on its closest neighbours? We are hoping that the next stakeholder meeting will be used to focus on these issues and to start to refine a scheme that will really benefit Forest Hill Town Centre and become a well used destination for residents.

Louise House
There has also been recent progress on potential future uses for Louise House. Early in November, the Friends of Louise House submitted three different proposals:
• A serviced office scheme with a community
• an arts centre; and
• the ownership of the building by the National Trust

Red Grape Vines Flourish in SE23

Yep, you can grow large bunches of grapes outdoors in Forest Hill - and eat them! Tony Petim, a Forest Hill Society member, shows just some of his many bunches of grapes - many measuring over 25cm in length - from his small garden in SE23.

Tony was brought up growing grapes and making wine with his parents in Portugal but today he just enjoys them for garden decoration and eating. The tradition where he comes from is that you share excess harvests with friends, family and neighbours, which is how we found out about them. They are delicious! So we asked Tony to share his secret.
“Actually there is no Secret – It’s simple and probably only needs about 2 hours effort per year. Here are my tips:”
Position – Pick a reasonably sunny position, although not essential. Large pots are OK but a well drained hole in the garden soil is best.
Purchase - Get a grape vine from a local garden centre. Plant it and leave it alone. Variety is not important as most of the ones sold here will handle the average English weather.
Pruning – In late February or March the following year, prune back to the main stem, leaving one stem or the main two “brown” stems (if any).
Training – As new green buds grow, keep only 10-20 green bud shoots, depending on the size and age of your vine. Pick off the ones that grow low along the main stem. These sap the strength from the green shoots above. When you have your 10-20 buds, be merciless with any new ones and nip them off! The 10-20 buds will grow and grow.
Fertilizer – When buds start to appear in late February or March, feed the vine with a high potash fertiliser every 2 or 3 weeks. If growth is poor, then give it a boast with some nitrogen based fertiliser.
Nipping – OK, this is the real secret. i) when the grapes start to grow, nip 1 or 2 leaves nearest the grapes. ii) as the vine grows, say, another 50-100cm from the grapes, nip the ends of that vine to stem its growth. This means more of the plant’s energy goes into growing grapes.
Pests – Use standard pest control sprays to treat problems such as vine weevil, downy mildew, grey mould, etc.
Eating – Wait, wait,...wait...and then, in early to mid-Sept, pick the grapes off and enjoy them with friends, family and neighbours.

Tyson Road Development Rejected … Again!

We are pleased to report that following our objection to the proposed development on Tyson Road and almost 350 letters of objection, Lewisham Council’s planning department has rejected this development. The department’s planning officers say the “layout, height, design, fail to complement or, moreover, be compatible with the scale and character of the surrounding environment, resulting in an un-neighbourly form of development.”

Many thanks to all those who wrote to object to this planning application. However, if you’ve followed this story, you’ll know that it’s on ongoing battle of wills. The developer recently announced that he would appeal to the planning inspectorate. There will be a local public inquiry on 23 Feb 2010 at Lewisham Town Hall that could last up to four days.

The Society and local residents are planning their next move and we shall let you know how we plan to rise to this latest challenge.

Cricket on the Village Green

With much of the country under water, our thoughts turn to sunnier times … cricket could well return to Mayow Park.

Plans are afoot to rebuild the cricket square, renovate the outfield and, eventually, refurbish and extend the Pavilion. The former England Captain, Mike Gatting, has visited the park on behalf of the England and Wales Cricket Board and the ECB has now
agreed in principle to fund up to 75% of the project.

The local social enterprise, Envirowork, would then maintain the grounds as part of a training project for the long-term unemployed. Teachsport would provide coaching sessions. There will be a consultation before the full plans are drawn up; watch this space!

NoToTrainCuts! Article on East London Lines

The following article has just appeared on East London Lines

Funeral for last direct train to Charing Cross

Last Saturday commuters marched through Charing Cross station laden with an empty coffin to mark the end of Southern railway’s Charing Cross service.

 The protesters, many dressed in funereal black, had travelled into the West End on the last direct Sydenham to Charing Cross train.

From here on Southern services will terminate at London Bridge, forcing commuters who board at Brockley, New Cross Gate, Honor Oak Park, Sydenham and Forest Hill to change trains for Charing Cross.

Commuters opposed to the cut argue Southern’s Charing Cross service was vital to residents of southeast London, a claim supported by figures from the Office of Rail Regulation which show nearly 11 million people used that stretch of line in the 2007/8 financial year.

Dan Woods, 31, played the accordian during Saturday’s memorial. He said: “The train service has been getting increasingly worse and increasingly crowded. Now I take my bike into town. They’re doing a great job of promoting cycling by making the train service worse.”

His partner, Amy Ip, 30, added: “We’re both actors. If we’re working in town, we depend on the Charing Cross service, especially at night.”

The weekend’s protest was organisd by a collection of Lewisham civic groups angry at the service cuts. A petition for their campaign NoToTrainCuts has attracted 3,000 signatures so far.

Southern’s Charing Cross service was axed to make way for Britain’s fastest commuter train, SouthEastern’s Javelin, which shuttles between London and Kent at 140mph and began full service on Saturday.

Despite the cessation of the Southern service campaigners do not believe the battle is lost. Barry Milton, Chair of the Sydenham Society, said: “We believe we can still get the service resurrected.

“We’re trying to get the mayor of Lewisham and our MPs to go to the Department of Transport. If they want to get themselves reelected they need to get in and make them change their minds.”

Southern also plans to cut the number of trains traveling to London Bridge in the afternoons and evenings from six an hour to four to allow for the East London Line overground service due in May 2010. The ELL will run eight trains an hour.

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesman said: “TfL is not cutting any services. We are in fact extending the East London Line and it is because of this Southern has decided it can afford to cut their trains as fewer people will be using them.”

Mr Milton disagreed: “We love the East London Line, it’s the best thing to happen to us for years, but it’s only going to serve 30 per cent of commuters. We believe the core service must be retained.”

Southern say the cuts are out of their hands.

Demonstration against Train Cuts on BBC TV

Saturday's demonstration against the cuts in service made it on to the BBC London news.

12 December 2009

Farewell to Direct Services from Charing Cross

Thanks to @terryduffelen

Death of Charing Cross Direct Service

Today we bid a sad farewell to the through trains to Charing Cross.

A funeral procession, complete with coffin, will assemble on Platform 1, at 1 pm, at Forest Hill Station and will take the following train (back coach) to Charing Cross to mark our tragic loss.

13:09 - Sydenham
13:12 - Forest Hill
13:14 - Honor Oak Park
13:17 - Brockley
13:19 - New Cross Gate
13:26 - London Bridge

Ironically we will have to change trains at London Bridge due to Engineering works.

13:38 - London Bridge
13:47 - Charing Cross

Everyone affected by the unfortunate occurrence will be welcome come to the to the funeral, suitably dressed of course.

Funeral directors: Brockley Cross Action Group, the Brockley, Telegraph Hill, Sydenham and Forest Hill Societies

04 December 2009

December Festivities


10am-5pm – All Inn One – Dancing on Ice. The car park will be transformed into SE23’s only ice rink with skates of all sizes available for hire. Father Christmas will be there, as will carol singers and face painters. Food and drink a-plenty!

Father Christmas will also be at Question Bar 45/47 Dartmouth Road between 2 and 3.15pm. He will then do a walkabout in The Town Centre. Festive singing will be provided by the Youth Choir from Living Springs International Church

12-5pm - Craft Fair at The Hob, 7 Devonshire Road.

12-5pm, The Honor Oak, 1 St German’s Road - Tea & Make. Craft and the art of making-do. PLUS Celebrity Christmas Light switch-on at 5pm! (Special guest to be announced.)

Saturday, 12th & Sunday, 13th December - The Havelock Open Studios. The artists invite you to join the excitement and show your support for creativity in the community.

PLUS 11th December – 7-9pm - Opening Night. Barbecue, Music, Performance. They're also having a prize draw during the open studios to win one of three works of art - tickets £1 each. www.havelockwalk.com

Sunday, 13th December from 11am. Tree dressing in Mayow Park, by the pavilion. It would help us if you could bring any special scraps of fabric, coloured leaves, berries, paper, ribbon and glue with you. There’ll also be a Christmas Fair between 11am and 4pm with Father Christmas, a local choir and market stalls.

Sunday, 13th December – 3pm- 6pm. Horniman Gardens Carol Singing. Christmas really isn’t Christmas until you’ve sung your heart out at this fabulous annual event. The carols start at 5pm with the English Baroque Choir and Crystal Palace Band. But before that there’s festive fun with a FREE Santa’s grotto, refreshments, toy stalls, roasted chestnuts.