In recent conversations with various people, it has become apparent that there is some confusion about the difference between local assemblies, Forest Hill Society, SEE3 and Totally Locally and how they interact.
The Forest Hill Society is a civic society, supported by its members through their membership fees and volunteer actions. The Society has an Executive of about sixteen members who, together with the additional members on its committees, organise the various events, activities, publicity and campaigns which we run. None of the Executive or committee roles are paid.
SEE3, Totally Locally and the local assemblies are all separate local entities with no direct association with Forest Hill Society. However, since we are the sort of people who are passionate about their community, many of the Executive are also heavily involved in these other organisations too.
The local assemblies are Lewisham Council's way of communicating at a local level. These have been running since 2008 and meet about four times per year. Each ward is given a small amount of money to spend each year on the priorities set by their local assembly. Originally, this was £25,000 per year, with an additional £10,000 at the councillor's discretion. These budgets have shrunk to £15,000 and £3750 as Lewisham Council has had to implement cuts. The Forest Hill Society has successfully bid for funding from various local assemblies to support the Food Fair, cover planting and watering at Honor Oak and Forest Hill Stations, install swings and table tennis tables in the Horniman triangle, run the original PopUp Forest Hill and for a few other projects.
In February 2012, we were approached by Lewisham Council who asked various groups in eight wards to submit a bid for £100,000 of government money. Based on these bids, they chose Sydenham and Forest Hill to put forwards a joint bid for Portas Pilot funding. This bid was put together by a group of people which involved Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies, local councillors and various locals whom we had been working with to improve the area.
Unfortunately, our first round bid was unsuccessful, but we had continued working on the problems and asked why our bid had failed. As a result, a modified bid with matched funding from s106 money (planning conditions) was submitted in Round Two, and was successful at the end of July 2012. None of the money will come to the Forest Hill Society. We are, however, represented in the core group and on the Board of SEE3. We are also deeply involved in delivering the various projects. There are three main projects – Jack & Jill hubs, markets and Pop Up shops. There are also additional projects to support existing businesses.
SEE3 is a commercial organisation which aims to improve the town centres by creating events, improving publicity and encouraging new businesses. They are also required to build a Town Team which involves community groups, landlords and traders. The Town Team will define how the town centre evolves over the next ten to twenty years.
One of the prerequisites for the Town Team is a traders' group in each area. As a result, we encouraged Forest Hill's traders to reform the Forest Hill Trader's Association. This had been neglected following the passing of Michael Davey. Totally Locally is the public face of the FHTA. It has nothing to do with SEE3.
Together all these organisations are working together to make a real difference in the local area, and we are proud that the Forest Hill Society is an integral part of this.