13 March 2009

Environment and Leisure Committee

We love being close to the big metropolis and having all the amenities that come with urban living. But we also love the tranquil, green spaces that make SE23 so special. James Marmion is on a mission to make Forest Hill a community we can all enjoy and we’re delighted that he’s volunteered to chair the Society’s Environment and Leisure Committee. We asked him to set out his vision.

I’ve lived in Forest Hill for ten years and in southeast London for twenty. Before coming to London, I lived in Liverpool, overlooking a lovely beach now filled with figures made by Anthony Gormley, the Peckham sculptor (which makes it even lovelier).

In SE23 we benefit from all the good places to go out that come with being close to a big metropolis. But the main reason I became involved with the Forest Hill Society was to try to round off some of the sharper urban edges that come with being next to that great metropolis. So what do we need to do?

We need to foster our green spaces. It’s been great to see the continuing development of the green chain walks and we have an active community presence at our several local nature reserves at Devonshire, Garthorne and Dacres Roads. We’ve organised a walk around Dacres Road reserve to raise its profile, stimulate involvement and, not least, admire the last remaining remnants of the canal that preceded the railway line. We’ve also combined volunteering with relaxation by organising a tidy-up followed by a picnic in one of our hidden away green spots. Elsewhere, I’d like to build support for the excellent community idea of using the vacant lot next to One Tree Hill allotments as a family allotment space.

We should promote green issues too – such as supporting the Eco Street project running in the “Rockbourne Triangle” and persuading the council to rollout benefits such as improved recycling schemes across SE23.

We need to smarten up our streetscape and immediate surroundings. The Honor Oak Park Action Group has performed wonders to improve the look of Honor Oak’s Parade and station. Wouldn’t it be good if we could have a similar, community driven group to smarten up London Road and Forest Hill station? Friends and neighbours often complain about how development of our area is handicapped by the presence of the South Circular Road. So how do we turn a handicap into a virtue? Can we improve the road with street art or planting? The railway bridge too is in desperate need of smartening up - a shame as it has the potential to provide a wonderful welcome point to Forest Hill with a good clean, a lick of paint and a well-designed sign.

Most of all I’d love to see children and families get involved – harnessing that sense of civic pride for those growing up or settling down in the area – and having our local schools and youth clubs join in with environmental projects.

I need to hear your ideas too. If you want to drop me a line about them, or if you’re inspired to get involved with what we’re doing, you can write to me at james@foresthillsociety.com.

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