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.

17 November 2009

No To Train Cuts! - The Campaign moves up a gear

Our train services are under threat again from multiple fronts.

With the cross-party support of local politicians, the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies have been running a campaign against proposed cuts to our service on one of Southern's busiest passenger routes. We have written to the Minister of Transport, both privately and in an open letter, requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns, but while we have had a reply, he has not yet agreed to a meeting. Over 1500 people have already signed our petition.

As a result, all the civic societies along the line will be leafletting their local stations demanding action. Brockley Central, Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies handed thousands of leaflets out today and HOPRA and the Telegraph Hill Society will leaflet Honor Oak Park and New Cross Gate tomorrow. We will be encouraging all the affected commuters to sign our petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com/ and write to their MP (either Joan Ruddock or Jim Dowd) asking them to raise this matter with the Minister for Transport.

What are the cuts?

In December, Southern Railways plans to cease service into Charing Cross station, terminating all services at London Bridge.. This is as a result of the DfT and SouthEastern Railways agreeing to exclusive access by SouthEastern Railways (also operated by Southern Railways' parent company GoVia). Southern have tried to smuggle this change in without any announcement; there is nothing on their website regarding this change in service despite the fact that they claim to have consulted widely in their official submission to ORR, the rail regulator. This off-peak service on one of south London's busiest lines has significant demand and there was supposed to be further investigation before the service to Charing Cross was altered.

As if this wasn't bad enough, Southern Railways plan to reduce the number of trains in the afternoon and off peak which serve the Sydenham line by making the Caterham and Sutton trains fast to Norwood Junction. This means that the number of trains will be reduced from six trains an hour to four trains an hour once the East London Line starts operation in May 2010.

Southern have previously argued that the Sydenham line requires eight trains an hour formed of 12 coaches in order to have sufficient capacity to take commuters to Central London, which is where the majority wish to travel. How can a reduction from six trains an hour to four be justified (regardless of the number of coaches)? They claim that we will have additional capacity, but official modelling of demand for the East London Line service predicts severe high peak crowding from day one.

The third threat to our services comes from the possible reinstatement of the South London Line service from Victoria to either Bellingham or London Bridge. One of the options currently being considered by TfL and Passenger Focus is to cancel our loop service from London Bridge to Victoria via Crystal Palace and replace it with one via Peckham Rye instead.

02 November 2009

Letter to South London Press

Below is the text of a letter published in the South London Press from the Forest Hill Society, other local civic societies, and local councillors.

Dear Sir,
We are deeply concerned by the proposed deep cuts to already overcrowded train services run by Southern Railways via Sydenham, Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park, Brockley and New Cross Gate. Passengers are rightly outraged by these cuts and concerned that an already overcrowded and unpleasant commute will turn into a daily nightmare.
We welcome the introduction of the East London Line extension which is due to start in May 2010, but local residents were promised by Transport for London that existing services would not be cut once the East London Line became operational. These promises have been broken. From December all direct evening services to and from Charing Cross will be stopped. From May 2010 Southern intend to cut 1/3 of all main line services during the day and most importantly during the evening rush hours.
Over 11 million people used this train service in the years 2007/8 and Department for Transport figures and Transport for London figures all show that this line has suppressed capacity of up to 40%. In other words, were train services to improve the numbers of people using this line would increase significantly. The argument put forward by rail bosses that passengers will immediately transfer to the East London Line do not stack up. Improved services will create extra demand for all services, not less.
As representatives of Local Residents Groups, Locally elected politicians and as Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee we have written to the Minister at the Department of Transport requesting an urgent meeting on these issues. The Department of Transport sets the requirements of the Train contracts that train operators have to run. It is the Department of Transport who can resolve this problem. Both TFL and Southern have made it clear that solutions must come from the Government Department. We have asked the Minster to travel on an evening peak time train service with us to see for himself how overcrowded it is. The Department must take responsibility for this issue, engage with local residents, and provide solutions to their concerns.
Kind Regards
Lewisham Councillors:
John Russell; Philip Peake and Alex Feakes - Liberal Democrat Councillors Forest Hill Ward.
Dean Walton; Romayne Phoenix and Darren Johnson - Green Councillors Brockley Ward.
Chris Best, Marion Nisbet and Seamus McDermott - Labour Councillors Sydenham Ward
Susan Wise, John Paschoud, -Labour Councillors Perry Vale Ward
Local Residents Groups:
Richard Hibbert, Chair; Michael Abrahams; Tony Petim - Forest Hill Society
Tim Lund, Chair - Sydenham Society Executive Committee
Malcolm Bacchus- Telegraph Hill Society
London Assembly Members:
Caroline Pidgeon AM - Chair, London Assembly Transport Committee.

24 October 2009

200th Anniversary of the Croydon Canal

Over 120 people from the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society celebrated the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Croydon Canal with a walk from Sydenham station to Forest Hill station, via the last remaining section of the canal in the area in Dacres Wood.

Steve Grindlay provided the historical details with stops along the route and a talk and slide show at the Hob.

We had traditional bargeman's songs along the route provided by Andrew King, including a special song composed for the opening of the Canal 200 years ago!

After the walk many of us went to the Dartmouth Arms, where a traditional bargeman's lunch had been prepared of beef or vegetable stew with beer.

If you have other good photos from the day, please send them in for us to include on the website, and we hope to make the slide show available soon. In the meantime, you can read the article on the history of the Canal from our latest newsletter.

16 October 2009

Introducing the new Chairman

Last night's AGM saw the election of the new chair of the Forest Hill Society, Richard Hibbert.

Richard has been on the Executive committee for the last year and is also on the Forest Hill Ward Assembly Coordinating Group.

We wish him congratulations and a successful year ahead.

TfL Presentation to the Forest Hill Society

12 October 2009

Meet the Manager - Southern Railways

This Thursday, 15th October, Southern Railway are organising one of their regular 'Meet the Manager' sessions on the London Bridge station concourse from 7:30am - 9:30am. We would like as many people as possible to join us to explain to them why cuts to services is unacceptable. We hope that a large number turn up so that Southern Railway management will see the strength of feeling from their passengers. Additionally we have invited the press and local politicians to join us to hear the views of passengers.

Please join us on Thursday in opposing these cuts.

In December 2009 Southern Railways plan to cut our direct evening service (and Sunday service) from Charing Cross, running all trains from London Bridge. This is a well used service and provides a direct connection from the West End after 7:30pm. As this is an off-peak service we reject Southern Railway's claims that there is no capacity through London Bridge.

In May 2010 Southern Railways plan to reduce evening peak services and daytime services from London Bridge by over 30%, from 6 trains per hour to just 4 trains per hour. They will continue to run 6 trains per hour in the morning, meeting the demands on the line, but will not provide a similar service in the evenings, hoping that customers will switch to East London Line services or put up with serious overcrowding.

You can also join over 1,200 other people and sign the petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com

09 October 2009

Horniman Gardens Redevelopment

Below is the Forest Hill Society response to the planning application submitted by Horniman Gardens:

Members of the executive committee of the Forest Hill Society met with representatives from the Horniman to discuss their plans. As a result we would like to provide some feedback on the planning application.

We generally welcome the the planning application for Horniman Gardens which will improve many aspects of the gardens. The changes to the bandstand and the surrounding area will substantially improve the views across London which make the gardens so special. The improved access and integration of the animal enclosure will also enhance the gardens particularly for visitors with young children.

However there are some comments that we would like to make that may further improve the plans for redeveloping the gardens.

1. The positioning of the new community education building appears to leave a narrow path to the west which leads to the entrance to the animal enclosure and to the meadow field. Due to the topography of the area and the trees and shrubbery this narrow path may look as if it goes nowhere, despite being a major route around the park. This could present some safety and security concerns, as well as obscuring the entrance to the enhanced animal enclosure. We would recommend adjusting the positioning of the education building so that it is slightly higher up the hill (to the east), leaving more space for this path.

2. The sunken garden is an important feature of the park and is enjoyed by older members of the community, who are able to sit on the many benches available and enjoy the flowers. It is important to continue to provide a bright, well planted, space in this section of the park that can be enjoyed throughout the spring and summer. A water feature in the centre of the sunken garden is most welcome but should not be to the detriment of the high quality planting that has long been a feature of the gardens.

3. There are some concerns about the number of trees and lampposts positioned around the bandstand which may obstruct views of the bandstands from the avenue leading from the museum and London Road, the trees may also limit the views of the bandstand during concerts. Some trees in this space will help break up the large empty space, but putting lamppost between them seems to turn the area into an obstacle course. A better solution would be to provide lighting incorporated into the branches of the trees together with less obtrusive lighting around the edges of the area.

We hope that Lewisham planning department, together with the Horniman Gardens, can consider these issues and whether the implementation of this development may be further improved in line with our suggestions. Subject to these points, we recommend that the planning department approve this planning application and we wish the Horniman great success in raising funds to make these enhancements to the gardens, which are well loved by all in Forest Hill.

Tyson Road Application Rejected Again

We are pleased to report that following our objection to the proposed development on Tyson Road and almost 350 letters of objection from local residents, that Lewisham council planning department have rejected this development for the following reasons:
The outline proposal, for which scale, appearance, layout and access fall to be determined would, by reason of 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 contrary to URB 3 Urban Design, HSG 5 Layout and Design of New Residential Development and HSG 8 Backland and Infill Development in the Councils adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004).

We applaud this decision by the planning department but there is a strong possibility that the developer will now appeal to the planning inspectorate. We hope that, should this happen that the inspectorate will reaffirm the decision of the planning department and back the views of local residents.

Many thanks to all those who wrote to object to this planning application.

02 October 2009

New Gate for Devonshire Road Nature Reserve

Saturday, 3rd October – 5pm. Official opening of the new fencing and gate at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve.

Do join the Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve as they celebrate the culmination of several years’ hard work. No longer will this fantastic piece of urban nature be hidden behind tatty, municipal fencing. It now has an entrance to be proud of, designed by Jacob Twyford and hand made in wrought iron and welded steel by local blacksmith, Steve Capper. The reserve will be open from 3.00pm and there are plans for a party with music and more after the opening. There is an exhibition of children’s drawings and a sculpture in lead made by girls at Sydenham School - all used as inspiration for elements of the gate design.

26 September 2009


Thursday, 15th October at 7.30pm
upstairs at The Hob opp. Forest Hill Station.
Guest Speaker from Transport for London.

Croydon Canal Bicentenary Celebrations.
Saturday, 24th October, 11am at Sydenham Station.
see below for further details

Forest Hill Ward Assembly
Wednesday, 7th October 7.30-9.30pm
Living Springs International Church, 8-10 Devonshire Road, SE23 3TJ

Perry Vale Ward Assembly
Thursday, 15th October 7.30-9.30pm
Forest Hill Methodist Church, Normanton Street, London SE23 2DS.

(book direct with restaurant mentioning 23 Club/FHSoc)
Saturday, 24th October at approximately 2pm: Dartmouth Arms. PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE as we come together with the Sydenham Society for the Croydon Canal bicentenary celebrations.
7 Dartmouth Road, SE23 3HN, 8488 3117

Monday, 23rd November at 8pm : Honor Oak Pub.
1 St. German's Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 1RH.
Tel 8690 8606

From Strength to Strength

Forest Hill is changing fast and the Forest Hill Society is now truly part of the process of making Forest Hill an even better place to live. As he prepares to step down after a busy year as vice-chair and acting chair, Michael Abrahams assesses the role of the Society in SE23.

Over the last few years, we have had victories on train services, on defeating and supporting a number of planning applications and, most recently and most importantly, on keeping swimming at the centre of Forest Hill. We have worked to form a better sense of community in Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park. The 23 Club has created a monthly event for people to share a meal and conversation with others in the area and to support local restaurants. We have also had nature and history walks opening up areas that none of us had previously visited.

October sees an important milestone in the history of Forest Hill since it is exactly 200 years since the London to Croydon canal came through the area and Forest Hill came into being. We are celebrating this with our most exciting event to date. You’ll find details in this Newsletter but, basically, it’s a walk, some nature, a bit of local history, and some food - a great day out in your local area!

But before that, we have our AGM which will take place on 15th October upstairs at the Hob, opposite Forest Hill Station. This is a chance to hear our guest speaker from Transport for London who will explain the plans for our local stations now that TfL controls them and the East London Line that will be running through them from next year. This will be followed by elections for the Forest Hill Society Executive. There are up to twenty-three places available on the Executive all of which will be up for election. There are also roles on sub-committees looking at Development, Transport, Environment and Green Spaces and Events and Communications. With so many positions available, we hope that you will consider getting more involved and helping the Society to continue its run of successes over the last few years. Every year, new people join our committee bringing fresh ideas and energy to the Society. Without them and people like you, the Society would not be able to function, let alone succeed time after time.

Unfortunately, our Chairman, Peter Irby, has not been well this year and will be resigning at the AGM. I, in my capacity as vice-chair, have been running the Society in his absence but work and other commitments mean that I am unable to continue next year so we are looking for somebody to take over and shape the direction of the Society.

If you are interested in joining the committee, please contact Michael Abrahams or come along on the 15th October and throw your hat in the ring!

Train Services

The East London Line is creeping closer to Forest Hill and changes are already underway. From 20th September, Transport for London will take over the management of the stations on our line including Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill. Already at Forest Hill we are seeing the old footbridge replaced with a new one with lifts to both platforms. But the picture is not all positive.

Most importantly, we are expecting East London Line trains to start running to Forest Hill from June 2010 or possibly a bit earlier. We expect these to comprise four carriages from the start of operations.

But on the railway system every silver lining appears to have a cloud and we have learnt that Southern Railways intends to cut some services from Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park from December this year. This is in spite of intense lobbying by the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society over the last two years.

From December 2009, we will no longer have any services to or from Charing Cross. All trains to Forest Hill will start or terminate at London Bridge. Southern claim that their sister company, South Eastern, requires the tracks between Charing Cross and London Bridge for Kent services. But at off-peak evening times there is clearly spare capacity on these lines, just as there is today for our direct services from Charing Cross.

From May next year, Southern is planning to reduce daytime off-peak services to Forest Hill from 6 trains per hour to 4 trains per hour. This is not a disaster as it is relatively recently that these services were increased to 6 per hour, and at off peak they are not entirely full. However, in the last month we have confirmed with Southern that it is not just the off-peak services that will be affected - THEY ARE PLANNING TO CUT PEAK EVENING SERVICES AS WELL. This decrease to 4 trains per hour will hit passengers travelling all day after 9am, right through the evening peak. Frequent users of these evening services will confirm that they are already running at maximum capacity, and the removal of 30% of trains is likely to be a real problem for passengers from London Bridge.

The Forest Hill Society has asked Southern to reconsider these cuts to our services and we have been speaking to politicians to see what can be done before the all important date of May 2010, when we lose 30% of our trains.

Transport News

Forest Hill Station - Perry Vale Entrance Open Till Late !
We finally get Network Rail approval to have the new automatic ticket and Oyster machine access via the Perry Vale entrance to the Forest Hill Station open until the last train leaves from the station. We wish to thank all those groups and volunteers who campaigned with us and lobbied for this to happen.

Disability Access Challenge – Perry Vale Car Park & Post Office
After much expense to try and improve access to the Perry Vale Car Park and the entrance to the Post Office Delivery Depot, someone has forgotten to make the facility easily available for all. Someone else has decided to locate the Car Park Ticket Machines at one end of the Car Park in the middle of an island that is extremely difficult for anyone in a wheelchair to use. The Forest Hill Society will be pressing Lewisham Council to come up with reasonable alternatives.

Honor Oak Road Traffic Light Phasing
We received news last month that, following our representations to Transport for London regarding the junction between Honor Oak Road and London Road, the traffic lights and traffic management system have been adjusted to allow a more responsive green time for Honor Oak Road. Hopefully this should remove the excessive queuing on Honor Oak Road.

Controlled Parking Zones – Perry Vale Consultation Not Going Ahead
The Forest Hill Society does not support Control Parking Zones in principle, unless the majority of local residents wish for them. It was good news, therefore, to see that Lewisham Council has listened to the views of local residents in the Perry Vale area and voted down any new Controlled Parking Zones in that area. Controlled Parking Zones, albeit useful in some situations, normally push any parking problems to local neighbours and neighbourhoods. The annual hike in permit costs is normally well above inflation.

If you have any comments or views about the above, please contact Tony Petim, Chair of the Forest Hill Society Transport Committee.

Brief History of Croydon Canal

By Steve Grindlay

The Croydon Canal was formally opened on 23rd October 1809, fifty years after the opening of the pioneering Bridgewater Canal. It connected Croydon with London, by way of the Grand Surrey Canal at Rotherhithe and the Thames, and passed through Sydenham and Forest Hill.

The canal was intended to make the transportation of fuel (timber, coal, charcoal), building materials, foodstuffs and other goods more convenient than was possible on the roads. These goods were delivered to our area, and local produce sent to Croydon and London from a wharf near Sydenham Bridge and another near the Dartmouth Arms.

The canal was 9.5 miles long and rose, by a series of some 28 locks between New Cross and Honor Oak, to 150 feet above sea level. From the final lock, near Honor Oak Park station, the canal wound round the hills of Forest Hill and Sydenham towards Norwood and Croydon keeping about 160 feet above sea level. The canal was 5 feet deep, 34 feet wide and had a towpath on the eastern bank. It was crossed by a swing-bridge at Forest Hill and a road bridge at Sydenham.

In 1878, an elderly Sydenham resident described his memories of the canal: “My brothers, myself and others often used to hire a boat at Doo’s Wharf, situated near the [Sydenham] bridge, and row either to Croydon, or the other way to the first lock [near Honor Oak Park station]… occasionally we had a picnic in Penge wood… listening to the nightingales… There was a large reservoir occupying the site of Sydenham Park… much used by the young men of the neighbourhood for bathing in summer and skating in winter”.

It was not all peace and tranquillity. Several murders, suicides and drownings are recorded along our stretch of the canal. Perhaps the most touching was the murder of Mary Clarke in June 1831. Mary bought tea and hot water from Mrs Stacey, who sold groceries from her cottage near the Dartmouth Arms. Mary told Mrs Stacey that she was planning to meet the father of her unborn child. Mary was last seen that evening in a boat on the canal, with a “young gentleman”. The next day the empty boat was floating on the canal, but there was no sign of Mary. Her body was discovered several days later, her face bruised and her forehead fractured. Although the Coroner’s verdict was that Mary was “found drowned” he gave strict instructions that the young man be tracked down and certainly local people were “firmly persuaded the hapless young woman was foully murdered”.

The canal was beset with problems. The 28 locks were costly to maintain and caused “traffic jams” for the barges waiting to negotiate them. It was also difficult to maintain the water level of the canal. The canal was also a financial failure. The proprietors raised money to build it by selling shares at £100 each (more than £3000 in today’s money). By 1830 theses shares were worth just 2/- each.

The final blow was the arrival of the more profitable and efficient railways. In 1834 the London & Croydon Railway Company began showing an interest in the land and assets of the canal. On 22 August 1836, the Croydon Canal closed and the railway line from London to Croydon was built, generally following the route of the canal. However, the greater speed of trains meant that, unlike the leisurely meanderings of the canal, the railway line used cuttings and embankments to avoid such twists and turns. The railway opened in June 1839, and is the second oldest passenger line in London.

Although most evidence of the canal has long disappeared, it is still possible to find traces, if one knows where to look…

Blaqua gets the party started

There is a creative vibe to Forest Hill these days, with the live/work artist community of Havelock Walk, the renowned ED Comedy at The Hob, and the fashion businesses of Bunka, Mayo Maker and Blaqua. Forest Hill has recently exported that vibe to Carnaby Street as Blaqua is now selling its eye-catching designs in one of London’s hippest fashion quarters.

The launch event on August 13th involved dozens of Blaqua customers marching around Carnaby Street wearing their Blaqua creations accompanied by photographers, musicians and even a fire breathing male model. It certainly made an impact.

Blaqua is a true Forest Hill success story, having been established in 2005 by long term FH/HOP residents Simon Green and Debbie Jeffery, whose combined creative skills have resulted in a unique design style and lots of fans around the country and abroad. It is just the kind of unique and memorable business that makes a place like Forest Hill a destination for shoppers.

Previously called Oliver London, the shop offers bespoke tailoring, shirts, cufflinks, jewellery and even handmade leather shoes. The Forest Hill shop, located at the end of David’s Road, attracts local residents and curious drivers whose regular commute takes them past the ever-changing window display. The steady stream of customers convinced Simon and Debbie that the best future for their brand was to develop the retail side of the business and allow them to meet the customers in person.

They have set about expansion, keeping the Forest Hill shop but also taking their brand to the fashion elite, opening a second shop on Newburgh St. behind Carnaby Street itself.
It is exciting to see a Forest Hill business doing so well, and helping to put the area firmly on the map.

Read more about their exciting plans at: blog.blaqua.net

Who was Janusz Korczak?

When English Heritage decided to list Louise House in Dartmouth Road Grade 2, one of the reasons given was the “decisive impression” it made on Janusz Korczak when he visited in 1911. Korczak is little known in this country but, as local historian, Steve Grindlay has been finding out, Forest Hill should be proud to be linked with his name.

Janusz Korczak was born Henryk Goldszmit in Warsaw in 1877. He took “Janusz Korczak” as a pen-name when he began writing in his early 20s. He studied medicine, became a paediatrician, a teacher and then worked in an orphanage, where he began developing his ideas about working with children.

In the Autumn of 1911, Korczak visited London. Political unrest in Warsaw, with rising anti-Semitism, left him uncertain about his future and he hoped his visit would relieve his depression.
While in London, he came to Forest Hill to visit the two industrial homes established here in the mid-1870s and see how they cared for destitute and orphaned children. Louise House and Shaftesbury House, Perry Rise (demolished a few years ago), were founded on principles similar to those Korczak was developing of giving respect, care and support to needy children.

His visit to the industrial homes made a deep impression on Korczak. He described how the girls had a laundry and were also taught sewing and embroidery. They walked each day to the local school (Kelvin Grove). Korczak also mentions an aquarium and rabbits, guinea pigs and pigeons kept as pets “like a miniature zoo”.

Thus inspired, Korczak returned to Warsaw to develop his own orphanage along similar lines to those he saw at Louise House.

Korczak believed that children had rights and his proposals were eventually incorporated into the United Nations 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.

His orphanage thrived, his enlightened ideas influencing teachers across the world, until 1 September 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In 1940, the Warsaw Ghetto was created, a small area of the city to which Jewish people were confined. Korczak was told that he would have to move his children and staff to premises within the ghetto. Korczak was given many opportunities to leave but each time he refused saying he would not abandon his children.

On the morning of 6 August 1942, German soldiers ordered the occupants of the orphanage to line up in the street. Korczak made sure his children were dressed in their best clothes and carried a favourite toy. The orphanage staff and 192 children were then herded through the streets of Warsaw towards the railway station with Korczak at their head. During that fateful walk, Korczak was again given the opportunity to escape and again refused. Eye-witnesses said that his only concern was to comfort, reassure and support his children. The group was forced onto a train bound for Treblinka extermination camp. That is the last that was heard of them.

To have such a courageous and principled person so strongly associated with our area is a rare privilege and something we should cherish and celebrate.

Korczak Links:

25 September 2009

Council Supports NoToTrainCuts! Campaign

The council last night unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Mayor to write to Southern Railway, TfL and the Secretary of State for Transport in support of our campaign against the cuts in National Rail services later this year.

The motion was put forward by Green Party Councillors Dean Walton and Darren Johnson of Brockley ward. An amendment put forward by Bellingham Councillors Ami Ibitson and Alan Hall (Labour) added the final paragraph concerning the South London Loop service via Denmark Hill.

Councillors Pete Pattisson (LibDem, Whitefoot), John Muldoon (Labour, Rushey Green), Philip Peake (LibDem, Forest Hill), Heidi Alexander (Labour, Evelyn) and John Paschoud (Labour, Perry Vale) contributed to the debate.

The Council RESOLVED that the following motion be agreed
  • “This council calls on the Mayor to write to Southern rail, Transport for London and the Secretary of State for Transport to:
    • Express the council's grave concerns about Southern's plans to reduce off-peak and evening peaktime services to and from London Bridge on the Brockley/Sydenham line from six to four per hour, a reduction of one third, and to oppose these service cuts;
    • Ask for an explanation for Southern's refusal to attend a recent meeting with council officials and residents to explain the planned service cuts and invite them to a further meeting, to include the Mayor himself and ward councillors from affected areas;
    • Seek a full explanation of the planned service cuts and clarification on the maximum capacity of the rail line for both East London Line and London Bridge services;
    • While wholeheartedly welcoming the new East London Line service, oppose any reduction in services to London Bridge that are carried out purely for financial reasons rather than capacity reasons and lobby instead for the maximum possible services to London Bridge.
    • That in the eventuality that it is shown to be unfeasible for the current South London Line ‘loop’ service between Victoria and London Bridge via Denmark Hill to continue to run to London Bridge to facilitate Thameslink works, to urge the reinstatement of the originally intended mitigating measure of diverting the South London Line to Bellingham, as recently recommended by London Travelwatch.”

22 September 2009

NO to Train Cuts

The Forest Hill Society has launched a petition opposing cuts to our train services:

Southern Railways are planning to cut trains to Brockley, Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill, and Sydenham in December 2009 and again in May 2010.

In December 2009 they plan to cut our direct evening service from Charing Cross, running all trains from London Bridge. This is a well used service and provides a direct connection from the West End after 7:30pm. As this is an off-peak service we reject Southern Railway's claims that there is no capacity through London Bridge.

In May 2010 Southern Railways plan to reduce the PEAK SERVICES (as well as off-peak services) from London Bridge by over 30%, from 6 trains per hour to just 4 trains per hour (the same as the off-peak service). They will continue to run 6 trains per hour in the morning, meeting the demands on the line, but will not provide a similar service in the evenings, hoping that customers will switch to East London Line services or put up with serious overcrowding.

We reject the cuts to services through Forest Hill and call on Southern Railways to run the same level of service as they do in September 2009.

We call on rail authorities and local politicians to support our calls to maintain 6 trains per hour in the evening peak and direct services from Charing Cross in the late evenings.

Please sign the petition at http://nototraincuts.notlong.com

Update: BBC Online have covered this campaign on 22nd September. LBC will be covering this issue tomorrow morning.

21 September 2009

Forest Hill Conservation Area Response

The Forest Hill Society has responded to the Forest Hill Conservation Area Consultation. Overall we welcome the extensions and character assessment, however we have asked Lewisham council to consider extending the conservation area further than they have specified.

Lewisham's proposed extension:
  • Dartmouth Road including swimming pools, library and Louise House
  • Thorpewood Avenue - Christmas Houses and 1930s semi-detached houses
  • Benson Road

Forest Hill Society's proposed additional areas for extension:
  • Round Hill - Christmas Houses and apartment block plus Sir Christopher Wren church spire.
  • Thorpewood Avenue - continuation to include additional houses
  • Waldram Park Triangle
  • Rockbourne Triangle
  • Tyson Road and Honor Oak Road - including green space behind Christian Fellowship Centre
The consultation closes on Friday 25th September and you can complete the survey for Lewisham Council to provide your own response.

Croydon Canal Bi-centennial celebrations - 24th October

Local History Event - Saturday 24th October 11am at Sydenham Station

Come and celebrate the opening of the Croydon Canal two hundred years ago. It passed right through Forest Hill and remains of it can still be seen today. We shall follow the route from Sydenham Station to Dacres Wood Nature Reserve, along the railway line, through Havelock Walk and up David’s Road.

Local historian, Steve Grindlay, will be on hand to explain the historical significance of this important transport link as we go along. We shall finish upstairs at The Hob (opp. Forest Hill Station) at approximately 1pm where Steve will do a presentation including many fascinating documents and images from the canal’s past.

This will take us through to approximately 2pm – lunchtime! We’ve come together with the Sydenham Society to organise a special version of the 23 Club. We’re calling it the 49 Club (combining SE23 and 26!) and it will take place at the Dartmouth Arms which will put some traditional bargeman lunch items on the menu especially for us. Please book directly with the restaurant on 020 8488 3117 if you’d like to join us for that part of the event.

To whet your appetite, Steve Grindlay has written this brief history of the canal. We hope it inspires you to join us on 24th October to hear more.

23 Club News : September 2009

Don’t forget to book for the forthcoming get-together at Babur – an exceptional Indian restaurant celebrating a remarkable 24 years in Forest Hill. It is more expensive than our previous haunts, but we believe you will not be disappointed. They have a lively website: www.babur.info if you want to find out more.

As you know in October we are joining the Sydenham Society – who were inspired by our 23 Club to start their own “26 Club”. Together we are going to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Croydon Canal (which used to go through the centre of Forest Hill). Please note the date is neither the 23rd or the 26th, but on this occasion Saturday October 24th. There is a walk and a talk before lunch – please see the attached information provided by the Sydenham Society. Early booking for lunch is a good idea as we and they expect this to be a very popular event.

Wednesday September 23 at 8pm : Babur – Indian with a touch of class
119 Brockley Rise SE23 1JP, 8291 2400 (look for the tiger above the door!)

Saturday October 24 at lunchtime : The Dartmouth Arms : Croydon Canal Celebrations
7 Dartmouth Road SE23 3HN, 8488 3117

Monday November 23 at 8pm : The Honor Oak pub
More information to follow in October.

Wednesday December 23 : Please note there will be no 23 Club in December

How the 23 Club works The Club is open to Forest Hill Society members and their guests. Please make your booking direct 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.

Mary Sutherland, 23 Club Organiser

12 September 2009

109 Kirkdale Planning Application

The Forest Hill Society has written to object to the proposed development at 109-111 Kirkdale.

Our main concerns are on the impact to the streetscape, access to the rear building, issues of overlooking, inadequate amenity space, lack of parking provision, and the effect this development could have on the redevelopment of the Willow Way site for employment use.

Details of the application can be found on Lewisham's website.
Full details of the letter of objection from the Forest Hill Society can be read here.

11 September 2009

20mph Zone in Forest Hill

Below is the Forest Hill Society response to Lewisham council's plans for a 20mph zone between Wood Vale and Devonshire Road.

The Forest Hill Society Executive, after reviewing the council’s own statistics and proposed plan, could not support this proposed 20mph zone as it is, nor could we support the road humps being introduced in this wholesale manner. There is widespread support for this view from the Tewkesbury Lodge Estate Residents Association (TLERA), although they will respond separately.

This view was confirmed by the council’s own statistics showing the maximum speed that 85% of traffic are travelling at along these roads are in most cases below the 24mph guidelines.

There were some strong views from the Executive committee that most people “would prefer that drivers kept their eyes on the road, and not their speed odometers”. There was general agreement that most people did not perceive a speeding problem in this area, and council statistics showed that there was not a significant accident problem either. One other view/comment was “the money spent on this consultation could be better spent on improving the bus stop at Sydenham Rise, which would only cost £8k-£10k and benefit the wider community greatly”.

Therefore, the Forest Hill Society asks that Lewisham Council abandon this proposed 20mph Zone and humps as is, and instead look at a more targeted, and better value for money approach summarised below:

  • Manor Mount - statistics shows that of 85% drivers are going below 23mph, which is well within government guidelines. The drivers going down the “wrong way” go at 30.9mph because they are trying to avoid being caught.
  • We believe it would be better to have temporary or permanent cameras in place on the one-way Manor Mount System, or a sign saying “mobile traffic enforcement cameras operate in this area” to discourage people entering the wrong way down this road, and thus bring speeds below 23mph and thus no need to introduce a 20mph zone on this street.
  • We support some limited speed restrictions or traffic calming outside schools, nurseries or places where known accident hot spots are, say at junctions. Although, as per council’s own statistics there is no widespread accident problem within the proposed 20mph zone.
  • Waldenshaw Road - This road does appear to have a minor speeding problem of average 27.3 for one-way and 31.5mph for the other, after looking at the Lewisham Council statistics. However, the Forest Hill Society ask that Lewisham Council look to other means of speed control, which does not involve reduction in parking spaces or road humps/cushions.
  • General - If against our recommendation the council does pursue their proposed 20mph zone, then we would be happy to work with Lewisham Council to come up with a sensible plan that is targeted and meets local needs.
In summary we welcome the opportunity to consult on this proposal, and ask that Lewisham Council abandon the proposal and implement the above suggestions as an alternative which will be just as effective, but not be anywhere near as costly to implement and run. The money could be better spent on other road improvement work and real safety measures.

Cuts to Southern Railways Services to Forest Hill

The East London Line is creeping closer to Forest Hill and changes are already underway. From 20th September TfL will take over management of the stations on our line including Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill. Already at Forest Hill we are seeing the footbridge replaced by a new, disabled accessible, footbridge with lifts to both platforms. Passengers with limited mobility will still need to access the station through the main entrance, rather than the Perry Vale entrance, but from there both platforms will be accessible with or without stairs.

Most importantly we are expecting East London Line trains to start running to Forest Hill from June 2010, or possibly a bit earlier.

But on the railway system every silver lining appears to have a cloud and we have learnt that Southern intend to cut some services from Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park from December this year. This is despite intense lobbying by the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society over the last two years.

From December 2009 we will no longer have any services to or from Charing Cross. All trains to Forest Hill will start or terminate at London Bridge. This is a real shame as, in the evenings when these trains run, most passengers are coming from the West End. The Route Utilisation Strategy of 2008 described this service as 'well utilised' (meaning that there are usually people standing on most evening trains). Southern claim that their sister company South Eastern require the tracks between Charing Cross and London Bridge for Kent services, but at off-peak evening times there is clearly spare capacity on these lines, just as there is today for our direct services from Charing Cross.

From May next year Southern are planning to reduce daytime off-peak services to Forest Hill from 6 trains per hour to 4 trains per hour. This is not good, but it is not a disaster, as it is relatively recently that these services were increased to 6 per hour, and at off peak they are not always entirely full. However, in the last month we have confirmed with Southern that it is not just the off-peak services that will be effected - THEY ARE PLANNING TO CUT PEAK EVENING SERVICES AS WELL. This decrease to 4 trains per hour will hit passengers travelling all day after 9am, right through the evening peak. Frequent users of these evenings services will confirm that they are already running at maximum capacity, and the removal of 30% of trains is likely to be a real problem for passengers from London Bridge.

This cut in peak services will take effect from May 2010, before the East London Line is scheduled to be running, and even when the East London Line is running it is unlikely to be carrying 30% of existing passengers at peak times - even if everything works perfectly from day one. We know that there is 'surpress demand' on our line, meaning that if there were more carriages and trains then 40% more people would be travelling on our line.

The Forest Hill Society has asked Southern to reconsider these cuts to our services and we have been speaking to politicians to see what can be done before the all important date of May 2010, when we lose 30% of our trains.

Other sites commenting on this issue:

24 August 2009

Forest Hill Conservation Area Consultation

Lewisham Council are consulting regarding extending the Forest Hill Conservation Area.

There will be a Public meeting and exhibition to discuss the conservation area with council officers and the consultants who have prepared the appraisal and its recommendations.
Saturday 5 September 2009, 12noon - 3pm
Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road

More information about the Forest Hill Conservation Area and the proposals can be read on the council web site.

20 August 2009

Honor Oak Road Traffic Lights

We received news today that, following representations made by the Forest Hill Society to Transport for London regarding the junction between Honor Oak Road and London Road, the traffic lights and traffic management system have been adjusted to allow a more responsive green time for Honor Oak Road, allowing more time if needed for this road. Hopefully this should remove the excessive queuing on Honor Oak Road.

They have also adjusted the overall amount of green time given to each set of traffic signals which are linked along the South Circular in Forest Hill. This has been increased allowing the signals in Forest Hill to automatically increase the overall green time in the area when needed.

Hopefully these changes will have a positive effect on traffic coming through Forest Hill. Let us have your feedback on whether these changes have the necessary improvement, especially as we go into September with more traffic on the roads.

15 August 2009

Tyson Road Planning Application 2009

The Forest Hill Society has written an objection to the latest proposal for 69-74 flats on a backland site behind Tyson Road and Honor Oak Road.

You can view the planning application on the Lewisham website and can view the details of our objection here.

In summary:
1. Poor design
2. Poor access
3. Over-development
4. Reduction of green space
5. Does not fit with the character of the area

More photos of the site on Flickr

You can sign the petition that local residents have set up. Alternatively send your own objection to planning@lewisham.gov.uk

04 August 2009

Jerk Cookout Festival

Date: Sun 9 August
Times: 1 - 6pm
Venue: Horniman Gardens

Come to the biggest and best Jerk Cookout competition live from the Horniman Gardens. Relax in our award-winning green oasis, listen to sizzling live music, sample the finest Jerk in south London from the many stalls competing, and buy fantastic gifts.

The Forest Hill Society will have a stall, so look out for us and buy an SE23 fairy cake or our special gingerbread people!

31 July 2009

Response from Southern Railway

Below is the response from Southern Railway to the letter concerning trains to Charing Cross:

The recommendation from the South London RUS – for further investigation around off-peak services to Charing Cross - was done in the context of the new Southeastern timetable for December 2009 (incorporating the high speed service) and the new South Central franchise.

During the development of the Southeastern December timetable it was identified that in order to make it workable there would be significant limitations on the ‘through London Bridge’ pathways available for other TOCs. There are implications for the First Capital Connect service particularly in the peak at London Bridge, and for Southern off peak services to Charing Cross and Waterloo East.

As a result, the Department for Transport did not specify that South Central franchise services should operate through to Charing Cross from December 2009. Subsequent scrutiny of the off peak timetable by Southern has confirmed that it is not possible to run Southern services through London Bridge into Charing Cross given Southeastern’s timetable specification from December.

As you know we use our passenger loading equipment to help specify how many carriages should go on each train and if carriages should be moved to better cover passenger demand. This we did during the current franchise deploying additional carriages to the Sydenham line in the morning peaks for example. We will continue to do this as normal but in general terms there is no reason for us to reduce the number of carriages on this route simply because the service will start and finish at London Bridge rather than Charing Cross.

26 July 2009

Loss of Charing Cross Services

Below is the text of a letter sent on behalf of the Forest Hill Society to Southern Railways:

Dear Yvonne,

I read in the Southern Stakeholder Briefing that Southern now intend to stop running direct services between Charing Cross and Forest Hill. On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to express my disappointment at this decision and ask Southern to find ways to reverse this decision before December 2009 when we will lose these services.

In the 2007 draft version of the South London RUS which stated in option 20.4 (p176):
“At present 2 tph direct services operate from Charing Cross to the Sydenham line between around 19:30 and shortly after midnight. These services are very well utilised. On Sundays they operate all day.
Retaining or running additional direct trains to Charing Cross would provide improved journey opportunities for all stations on the Sydenham route and alleviate crowding at London Bridge.”

The final version of the RUS concluded that regarding this option (p145)
“Not recommended for peak services. Further investigation recommended regarding off peak services.”

It is clear that this service, which transports passengers from the West End to South London suburbs, is a well used service at off-peak times. Removing this half-hourly evening service has no practical benefit in reducing congestion or improving journeys for other rail users.

It is recognised that most evening travel in the South London area originates from the West End, not from the London Bridge area. The link from Waterloo East and Charing Cross to Forest Hill provides a convenient service that matches passengers’ travelling patterns. Rather than scrapping these services you should be considering running them all day on Saturday as well as the current Sunday timetable.

The Forest Hill Society is aware that it would not be possible to run these services during peak times, but there is capacity between London Bridge and Charing Cross for the evening and weekend services, as demonstrated by their existence today. Even with the introduction of new services on the South Eastern timetable from Charing Cross, there is still off-peak capacity from Charing Cross that Southern should be utilising for the services via Sydenham.

I would like to ask what further investigations have been carried out into maintaining these off-peak services, as recommended in the RUS? Why have stakeholders not been consulted about this decision prior to the announcement by Southern? And how we can now get Southern to reverse this position before this important service is lost?

I would also like to ask what length the planned services will be from London Bridge in comparison to the services from Charing Cross, as the reduction in the number of carriages on these off-peak services would be another blow to passengers from Forest Hill and our neighbouring areas.

I hope that you will give this issue your urgent and serious consideration so that you can avoid a big disappointment for a large section of your passenger base.

Michael Abrahams
Vice-chair, Forest Hill Society