27 October 2010

Save Sydenham Library

The Mayor of Lewisham is considering closing five of Lewisham's libraries; Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park, New Cross and Sydenham.

Friends of Sydenham Library believe that this is short-sighted and that the social cost of closing the libraries will be greater than the savings.

They know that the Council is facing tough decisions as a result of the Government's funding cuts, but strongly feel that closing the libraries is a knee-jerk decision that is wrong-headed and short-sighted. Many people support the campaign - nearly 20,000 people have signed the petition opposing the closure, which is roughly one tenth of the electorate in Lewisham.

They believe that the social and financial cost of closing the libraries will be far greater than keeping them open and that more and more people will come to rely on the libraries in the difficult times ahead.

Friends of Sydenham Library want to see the libraries remain open with similar or longer opening hours and continue to be run by professional staff; innovative, creative and original use of library buildings and resources should be able to improve the service, adding to their usage and income and involving the communities that depend on them.

They will be marching from Crofton Park Library to Lewisham Town Hall (in Catford) on Saturday, 30th October. The plan is that it will be a light-hearted event with everyone wearing brightly coloured clothes; anyone wishing to dress up as a book character will be most welcome. Bring whistles, drums or anything that will make a noise.

If you can attend, meet at 12:15pm outside Crofton Park Library and be ready to set off at 12:30. The aim is to arrive at Lewisham Town Hall by 1:30pm for a rally and speeches. Crofton Park library is at the junction of Brockley Road and Darfield Road, right next to Crofton Park rail station. The library is also served by bus routes 122, 171, 172 and P4.

If you cannot make the march, but want to register your protest, please write to Sir Steve Bullock, Lewisham Town Hall, Catford. SE6 4RU or by email to steve.bullock@lewisham.gov.uk

26 October 2010

Chair's Report 2010

It has been a busy year for the Society with active campaigns being run for the pools, trains and Tyson Road. Some of these have been more successful than others, but my thanks goes to all those who have volunteered their time, expertise and support.

This year has seen various improvements to the Town Centres, with a new footbridge and lifts at the station, four new coffee shops, repairs to the pavements, removal of some railings and the introduction of two hours' free parking in the Pearcefield Avenue car park as well as the extension of the Conservation Area (with stronger enforcement powers) and the arrival of the new London Overground service, which seems to have improved capacity and many people's commute.

After eight months of correspondence, we finally managed to arrange a meeting with TfL London Streets – the agency responsible for the South Circular – to discuss improvements that could be made in both the short and long term. This meeting was also attended by Jim Dowd MP, Deputy Mayor Allan Smith, local councillors and Peter Kalton from LOROL. We will be following up on this to make sure that changes are implemented.

We also managed to persuade TfL to allow the planting of the planters outside the station. Our thanks must go to Shannon's Garden Centre who have generously donated their time, expertise and plants. The Environment Committee also supported FHTA in the removal of many wheelie and commercial bins from the pavements which has generally improved the ambience.

Many successful events have been organised by the various committees, including those run by the 23 Club (especially the Burns Night supper), a trip to Brogdale to see the apple blossom, the May Day celebration on Albion Millenium Green, a picnic on the South Circular, Open House at Louise House as well as our first stall at the Forest Hill Day. My thanks to all those who baked cakes and staffed the stalls at Forest Hill Day and Blythe Hill Fields.

Looking forwards to the next year, our priorities will be the pools development, effecting change in Forest Hill Town Centre, revitalising the underpass and improving the environment. I am excited to welcome some of the new members who have expressed a desire to join the Executive.

We also need to do a better job at promoting ourselves and increasing our membership numbers. If we are not responding to your needs, we need to know. It is up to all of us to encourage our friends and neighbours to join so that we can more fairly represent the views of our community.

The Executive Committee has met formally on seven occasions this year, although there has been extensive communication and correspondence between meetings.

25 October 2010

Planning and Development Report 2010

The role of the development committee covers two main areas; the first is to review and comment on planning applications in the area and the second is to keep up with other local issues or initiatives, related to proposals that affect the physical environment of Forest Hill and Honor Oak.

The list of planning applications that we have commented on over the past year is covered below. We try to comment (for clarification, in support or objecting) on schemes that we think are important for the area as a whole and as such we don’t generally comment on smaller householder applications for extensions or smaller works. We are interested in trying to encourage good proposals that reinforce the strong character of Forest Hill and that help keep the town centre and other high street areas busy and vibrant. With the extended Conservation Area we are also interested in trying to make sure that this helps form a framework for high quality proposals within this central area, and is not ignored.

Other local issues and initiatives over the past year include:

  • Forest Hill Pools

    The main issue for the year has continued to be the Swimming pools. Things have moved forward considerably over the past year and we have continued to take part in the Councils Stakeholder Group Meetings.

    After a good level of local debate and a public meeting in June the detailed proposals received planning permission in July of this year. Whilst we have some relatively minor concerns about the bulk and design of the building we are generally happy that this will be a very positive addition to Forest Hill and provide a much needed boost to Dartmouth Road.

    The old pools were demolished over the summer, leaving only the retained superintendent’s block and a large pile of rubble on the site. The Council is currently identifying a contractor to build the scheme and intend to start work on site early in the New Year. The Council are working towards opening the pool before the Olympics in August 2012.

  • Louise House

    Alongside the progress that has been made on the pools project the Council and a number of stakeholders have been trying to secure a future for Louise House, the listed building next door to it. In March the Council invited Expressions of Interest from Groups who felt they could take on the building. Two groups came forward, proposing to use the building an arts centre or community run serviced offices and nursery. The office and nursery scheme has been further developed by the Crystal Palace Community Development Trust (CPCDT), who is working with Lewisham Council to seek funding which will enable the project to move forward. In the current economic climate and against a background of public sector cuts this will be challenging. But there are hopes that the autumn round of Lottery funding will provide some support.

    In September the Forest Hill Society was instrumental in arranging for Louise House to be open for Open House London. This London wide weekend event sees a broad range of buildings open to the public and attracts a very wide audience. In collaboration with the Sydenham Society, the Friends of Louise House and Lewisham Council we showed over 100 people around the building, had an exhibition about the building’s history and also hosted an exhibition about Janusz Korczak.

  • Town Centre

    The other ongoing issue for the Society is the town centre. There have been a number of new shop and café openings, which we are really pleased to see, and we understand there are more in the pipeline.

    Over the year the Street Clutter report prepared for the Ward Assembly has been taken to the Council with a recommendation that something needs to be done to see this implemented.

Next Year...

Over the next year we are planning to focus more on the town centre and to keep a close eye on progress on the pools. We are also looking for suggestions of other buildings that we might be able to help get opened up as part of Open House 2011.

We would love to hear from you if you would like to get involved in the work of the Development Committee


This has been another busy year for planning issues, particularly with the Tyson Road planning appeal.

Back in October last year the council rejected the latest plans for the Tyson Road development. However, the developer appealed against this decision and in February 2010 there was a week long appeal hearing. The Forest Hill Society acted as a 'rule 6' party, allowing us to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses from the developer. With the assistance of local residents, Councillor John Russell, and John Hutchinson from the Sydenham Society, we presented a well constructed objection to this development. However we were up against a team of well paid professionals including the leading planning barrister in the country.
Unfortunately the inspector allowed the latest scheme, although the previous, larger scheme was rejected. The fact that one scheme was rejected and another was allowed shows how close this decision was. Following the general election one of the first acts of the new government was to strengthen protection for backland sites and it is possible that, had these rules been in force at the time of the inquiry, we would have had a different outcome. Hopefully future developments of this nature will be prevented by this change to planning guidance.

On the more positive side Forest Hill swimming pool was approved for partial demolition and redevelopment. Work on the new building should be starting this year and we can look forward to swimming in Forest Hill once more in 2012.

Other planning applications which the Society commented on:

SiteFHSoc submissionResult
109-111 Kirkdale (DC/09/72209/X)Objected (overdevelopment)Rejected
29 Ewelme Road (DC/10/74149)Objected (overdevelopment)Rejected
81-83 Dartmouth Road
(Latest: DC/10/75146)
Objected (loss of retail space)Rejected twice and approved third application with modifications
Horniman GardensApproved with reservations (too many trees in bandstand area and lines of sight round the new building)Approved and some of our concerns have been addressed (no trees in the bandstand area)
Phoenix Works
Objected (overdevelopment)
Approved on appeal
35 Sunderland RoadObjected (church in a residential area with noise issues)Gone to appeal
Hoarding on London RoadObjected (out of character with conservation area)Rejected
Former Post OfficeApprovedWaiting for decision
Flats above former post officeObjectedWaiting for decision
27 Shipman RoadObjectedWaiting for decision
74 Canonbie RoadRequested further informationWaiting for decision
Church on Manor Mount/David's Road/ Devonshire RoadWill be objecting
6 Church RiseWill be objecting

This record shows that the Forest Hill Society's concerns are often upheld by Lewisham planning department. We try hard to object on solid planning grounds and this approach gives us credibility when discussing planning issues.

Conservation Area

This year the Forest Hill Conservation area has been extended to include the swimming pool and half of Thorpewood Avenue as well as Benson Road. We had recommended that the conservation area should also include Round Hill, Tyson Road, and the Waldram Park triangle, but these recommendations were not accepted by the council. However, we were able to itemise a number of buildings that were worthy of local listing that have been accepted by Lewisham council.

Death on a Building Site

Although not a planning issue, we were shocked at the development of 14 Waldram Park and the tragic death of a person on the site in September. Whilst it is too early to be sure of the exact circumstances, we will be following the inquiry into this death and any contributing factors. We will also be paying close attention to 6 Church Rise which has a new application from the same developer.

Future Developments

Next year we can expect that plans will be submitted to redevelop Featherstone Lodge, the former drugs rehabilitation centre at the top of Eliot Bank. This is a fine building with large space to the rear. It was marketed as having 'potential for development' but, as a backland site, we will be interested to see any proposals for this site.

Environment Report 2010

Over the course of the last year the Committee has been working to try to support issues in SE23, by looking at:

  • Green spaces,
  • Conservation & streetscape
  • Leisure
  • Local history
We have been trying to raise awareness of green spaces through arranging events and support, where we can, for those many smaller “neighbourhood” green spaces which are run by volunteers.

FH Soc volunteers worked with Lewisham’s Nature’s Gym to prepare Albion Millennium Green (AMG) for the May Day planting of 13 fruit trees, with money obtained from the Ward Localities Fund. AMG is now thriving, with an increase in species diversity noted, including sightings of the rare Jersey Tiger Moth. The interactive Google map has now received 1500 hits. A “Friends of AMG” meeting is planned to discuss further work: clearing more undergrowth, the creation of a dew pond water feature, the need to renew the collapsed boundary wall with fence/tree planting and possibly organise a fundraising event. Anyone interested would be welcome to come to the meeting at the All in One Pub (along from the Perry Rise station exit) at 7.30 on Friday 29th October.

The E & L Committee has also been supporting the work of the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Their programme of events includes a gardening group which meets every Friday morning and a Muddy Boots toddlers group every second Saturday morning. There was an Apple Day 3rd October 1-5.00pm, and a Hallowe’en (lamps and lanterns) event will be held in the afternoon on Sunday, 31st October.

Other activities have included an outing with Sydenham Society in April to Brogdale, the home of the National Fruit Tree Collection, and a guided walk around Sydenham Hill Woods with historian Steve Grindlay and Ashley from the Wildlife Trust.

We have also been highlighting the presence of the highly invasive Japanese Knotweed to the appropriate authorities when this has been reported to us. Please keep reporting this.

We have joined Lewisham’s Services Manager and the Forest Hill Traders’ Association in town centre walkabouts, identifying (as ex-Cllr Russell’s Street Clutter report had done) areas where improvements could be made, e.g. removal of the industrial rubbish bins which constantly line the main streets of the centre. It was agreed pressure should be kept on improving the town centre and that we should continue with the walkabouts, with another requested for this autumn.

A successful link was established between FH Station’s Manager and Shannon’s Garden Centre with Shannon’s generously donating and planting up the flower tubs at the main entrance to the Station, but no progress had been made with the acquisition of planters for the station platforms.

Regarding lack of flower baskets on lampposts in the town centre, and the question of flower troughs on street railings, as the FH Society has decided to enter “London in Bloom 2011”, we will be concentrating on this in the Spring. The Horniman Museum has agreed to be involved as have the residents’ association of the Eliot Bank estate. A small sub-committee will probably be needed to concentrate on this project.

Future activities:
Future events will include organising a Community Open Day at Dacres Wood in March.

There is an opportunity to be involved in the restoration of the ancient hawthorn hedge at the Horniman Triangle, working with Nature’s Gym, on Thursday, 6th December 11.00-2.00pm. There will also be the installation of a stag beetle loggery with interpretation board, which should help promote and enhance Biodiversity in Lewisham.

Following a lead from “Dulwich going greener” we are looking at the possibility of holding a “give and take” day where unwanted items could be deposited and swapped, free of charge, for something which is needed.

We have discussed re-cycling generally, but have specifically suggested an electrical goods re-cycling point should be established at a convenient local point, possibly at Sainsbury’s car park and will continue for work towards this. We are also planning an Executive Committee visit to Lewisham’s recycling plant to see how the work is organised.

The Environment and Leisure Committee would welcome new members and their ideas for future activity. Our next meeting will be towards the end of November.

Transport Report 2010

It has been a busy year for the Transport Committee – and a memorable one for transport in Forest Hill.

Without doubt, the highlight of the year has been the opening of the Overground which with its bright and frequent trains has put us on the Tube map and opened up lots of new transport possibilities. We were worried about establishing lines of communication with London Overground management, but after a bit of persistence, now have excellent links to senor management and attend their passInger board meetings.

During the year, Southern has started holding passenger forums to tell travellers about their plans, and seek their views. I was able to attend the first of these, an all day event at a Gatwick hotel, and found it very worthwhile.

We campaigned hard for the retention of a decent level of service to London Bridge after the Overground opened, a campaign which included us handing over a petition to Chris Mole, Minister in the former government, in the presence of MP, Jim Dowd. We are delighted to see that Southern services from London Bridge in the evening peak are to be increased from December and believe that this validates our campaign. Sadly last Christmas saw the end of services to Charing Cross, but we continue to argue for the return of these whenever we can.

London Road was temporarily pedestrianised in the summer following the collapse of a sewer. It proved that closure of the South Circular, whilst inconvenient for some, does not necessarily cause the sky to fall in and the world to end! In fact we might campaign for more temporary road closures, perhaps to support Forest Hill Day.

A long battle to get Transport for London to listen to our many suggestions for improvements to the A205 through Forest Hill finally resulted in a walkabout with TfL managers one sunny September afternoon. They listened to our many comments and said how good it was to get out of the office and meet people who really understood their area. Now we just need them to act on the suggestions!

We have been invited to major TfL events including the Mayor’s Transport Summit, at which the future of London’s transport was discussed in depth, and have contributed to a study on smoothing traffic flow in London. Closer to home, we are in discussion with Lewisham Council about what can be done short term to minimise their over enthusiastic efforts to re-engineer Sydenham Rise.

We have been and are active on a number of other fronts as diverse as the refurbishment of our stations and, particularly the Forest Hill station subway, and the control (or lack of control) of the heating on P4 buses! Looking much further ahead, we have been making suggestions for the best route for a future extension of the Bakerloo Line. New members are always welcome to join the committee and can be sure that their ideas will be received with interest.

22 October 2010

Planning Applications: 6 Church Rise and 32 David's Road

The Forest Hill Society has objected to two planning applications this week.

David's Road is retrospective application for large banners and new landscaping in front of the church. You can read the submission by the Forest Hill Society here.

The application on Church Rise is to build a number of flats on the site where a house previously collapsed. You can read our response to the application here.