2008 has been a mixed year for Forest Hill with two key issues dominating the work of the Forest Hill Society. Below is a brief summary of some of the key events for the Forest Hill Society since last new year.
The main issue for people in Forest Hill has been the closure of the Pools on Dartmouth Road and the effect this has had on the town centre.
In February Lewisham council published their recommendations on the pools, and the mayor accepted the recommendation to demolish both the pools building and Louise House to build a new leisure facility including two pools, as well as housing on the site.
At the request of the Forest Hill Society and other stakeholders, a consultation took place in July and August to get views on the three options available. The Forest Hill Society submitted a detailed response before finding out that Louise House had been listed by English Heritage. This left us with no workable options from the council and back to square one.
In September the Mayor decided that a feasibility study should take place to decide the best way forward which would report in early 2009. This has meant that in 2008 no real progress has been made to bring swimming back to Forest Hill and as well as having two large empty buildings on the high street, the absence of the pool has led to the closure of other businesses, most notably Provender, which packed up and moved to Blackheath Village after more than 30 years in Forest Hill.
We hope that 2009 will bring some new plans that will bring swimming back to Forest Hill at the earliest possible opportunity.
On a more positive note 2008 has been a year of good news on the railways. In April the Route Utilisation Strategy was published by Network Rail, taking account of many of the concerns of the Forest Hill Society.
In March we found out about Southern Railways’ plans to shut the Perry Vale exit at Forest Hill Station in what became known as Oystergate. Prompted by TfL, Southern decided to shut the gate earlier than had been expected, from the beginning of July. This prompted motions in cabinet meetings and our MP, Jim Dowd raised the issue in Parliament, and a meeting between the Mayor Bullock, Jim Dowd, and rail representatives resulted in the reopening of the gates before the end of the month.
Today the gate is closed, but only temporarily, while work is done to install ticket barriers at the foot of the steps. One the gate reopens it will be open during all times that trains are running, thanks to further pressure from the Forest Hill Society and local councillors.
During 2008 work took place close to the station on the building of Forest Hill Central on the former site of Finches removals.
In June Berkeley Homes applied to change a number of the units from 2 bedroom flats to extra 1 bedroom flats, having failed to sell any of the £400,000 2 bedroom flats on the open market. This application was opposed by the Forest Hill Society and rejected by the planning committee. As a result Berkeley Homes stopped all development work on the site and launched an appeal against the decision which they won in December. We are told that work will now recommence on the site.
Another large development on Tyson Road had been refused in 2007 and although the developer appealed against the decision, they decided to withdraw that appeal in January. Not unexpectedly a new application was submitted in November which saw the number of units reduced from 84 to 76, with many aspects of the development the same as the previous development. The Forest Hill Society objected to this application, along with 260 other objectors and more who signed petitions. We hope that the council will reject this development early this year.
Forest Hill Society Events
In June we set up the 23 Club, which introduces members to a different local restaurant every month. With so many good restaurants in SE23 we will be busy for many months to come!
Looking forward to 2009 there are some exciting developments in the pipeline. McDonalds site on London Road may be turned into a gym, the Berkeley Homes development should be completed, bringing new people to live in the town centre, and the ticket barriers on Perry Vale will be installed and the exit reopened.
More importantly we will find out what the council intend to do about swimming in Forest Hill and we hope to see new plans developed that provide two pools and additional leisure facilities on the site of the pool. It would be a disaster for the area if by the end of 2009 we do not have a clear strategy for the building of the new leisure facilities.
The Forest Hill Society is looking at other ways to improve the area and ways of attracting new businesses to the town centres in Forest Hill and Honor Oak. Despite the economic gloom, 2009 could be a good year for Forest Hill, and in our final year without tube services let’s hope that new businesses spot the opportunity for investing in an area of London that has huge potential for the near future.
Best wishes to you all for a Happy New Year.