22 March 2017

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone – What Does it mean for Forest Hill?

By Brendan Cuddihy, Transport Committee

Transport for London (TfL) currently has plans in place to implement an ‘Ultra Low Emissions Zone’ (ULEZ) in Central London by 2020. This would require all motorised vehicles entering the current Congestion Charging Zone to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge.

Following the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London, TfL has been consulting on both bringing forward the ULEZ plans and widening them to cover a much broader area of London. This is in response to growing concern over the effects of air quality on the health of Londoners. Many parts of London — including the South Circular where it passes through Forest Hill, Sydenham Road and the whole northern half of the London Borough of Lewisham — currently fail to meet legal limits for air pollution, most notably nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter. The pollutants come from many sources, but the dominant one is motor vehicle engines, especially those which are diesel-fuelled. The legal limits are based on research into the health effects of air pollution, and failing to meet them is causing thousands of premature deaths in London each year.

Last summer TfL completed a consultation on initial ideas for the ULEZ. There were over 15,000 respondents, a significant majority of whom supported greater action on air quality. More recently, TfL has recently concluded a second phase of consultation in order to start the statutory process required to change the initial ULEZ plans. The proposals included:

  • Introducing an ‘Emissions Surcharge’ (which is also being referred to as the ‘T-Charge’, where T is for toxic) in October 2017 for older, more polluting vehicles driving into and within Central London. This would cover just the Congestion Charge Zone.
  • Bringing forward the introduction of the ULEZ to 2019 instead of 2020.
  • Extending the ULEZ from Central London to all of London for heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches, as early as 2019, but possibly later.
  • Extending the ULEZ from Central London to the North and South Circular roads for all vehicles not meeting recent emissions standards as early as 2019, but possibly later.
For residents and businesses in Forest Hill, the impacts could be felt as early as next year if you drive into Central London and have an older vehicle. Those purchasing new vehicles in the foreseeable future, whether for business or personal use, might also be wise to pay heed to the emissions requirements in order to avoid incurring costs associated with the ULEZ. However, most impacts will be felt only when the ULEZ comes into force. If your vehicle doesn’t meet the required standards you will have to pay each day you drive into the area bounded by the North and South Circular roads; those living or having businesses inside this area may also have to pay a daily charge if their vehicle does not meet the required standards — even if it’s not driven each day.

While that may sound onerous, the rationale behind adopting the ULEZ should not be forgotten. The plans will no doubt drive investment in cleaner vehicles across London, both by businesses and private owners, including in areas which are not directly affected. The result of this will be cleaner air for all Londoners and, hopefully, a fall in the number of people whose lives are tragically cut short by air pollution.

Above: Concentrations of annual average NO2 (Source: LAEI 2013)
Below: Proposed boundary of ULEZ on the North/South circular roads

A Recent History of Forest Hill Pubs

by Alistair Dey

When I came to live in Forest Hill in the early 1980s there were 14 pubs in the SE23 post code. I know this as I have a book from that time published by the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) entitled ‘Real Ale in South London’, which lists and briefly describes these pubs. Despite the nationwide demise of many pubs in recent years, Forest Hill has been less hard-hit than many other areas. There are now 13 pubs in SE23 — we have lost three and gained two pubs since the early ’80s.

The first of the three pubs which closed was Tyrols at 149 Stanstead Road, on the corner of Wastdale Road. This big pub was previously known as the Swiss Cottage and in the 1980s was a disco pub at weekends, which is when I occasionally visited it. The pub was demolished in 1990 and an apartment block now stands in its place.

The next to close was the Moore Park Hotel on Wood Vale, at the far western edge of SE23. This is the only pub of the 14 in which I never had a drink. It was closed in the early 2000s, and is also now a block of flats. The most recent one to close, in about 2010, was the Forest Hill Hotel, located in the quiet part of Stanstead Road on the way to Travis Perkins and Shannons. It is now a rather attractive block of flats.

The two pubs which we have gained are: The Capitol on London Road, which opened in April 2001 and, as many people know, was formerly a cinema, then a bingo hall; and the Sylvan Post on Dartmouth Road, which opened a couple of years ago in the former 1960s post office and retains many features of the original building. We could even say SE23 has 14 pubs if one includes the Perry Vale (‘Kitchen and Bar’), which opened in June 2015. This excellent establishment is listed in CAMRA’s What Pub website but I do not classify it as a pub — although there is perhaps a blurring of the lines now between pubs, bistros and bars. Similarly, in Honor Oak, the Two Spoons and Donde are bars as well as restaurants. So perhaps we even have 16 pubs/bars in SE23.

Of the other eleven pubs, I would say that the theme has been improvement over the years. Several have been extensively refurbished and some much improved since the 1980s. In this latter category, I would include:
  • All Inn One on Perry Vale, which was occasionally a bit rough in my early years in Forest Hill (though that did not prevent it from being my main local), but is excellent now.
  • The Dartmouth Arms on Dartmouth Road, which is pleasant and serves fine food now, unlike in the 1980s.
  • The Chandos on Brockley Rise, which was refurbished and reopened in September 2016 and is now (but was not always) a lovely pub
  • The Honor Oak on St German’s Road, which was extensively refurbished in 2006, 2014 and most recently in 2017.

Other pubs which were good in the 1980s and are still fine now are: the Prince of Wales on Perry Rise, which was my other main local back then and was renovated in 2013; The Signal on Devonshire Road, opposite Forest Hill station; The Bird in Hand on Dartmouth Road; The Hill, further up Dartmouth Road; and the Railway Telegraph on the corner of Sunderland and Stanstead Roads.

The remaining two pubs are ‘outlying’ ones, about which I have least knowledge: the General Napier on Bovill Road, Honor Oak Park and the Blythe Hill Tavern on Stanstead Road, almost in Catford. Both are traditional pubs serving the local community and are assets to the local area. The Blythe Hill Tavern has won several awards from CAMRA.

Of the 13 pubs in SE23, a few have changed their name in the last couple of decades: the All Inn One, which was previously known as the Foresters Arms; The Signal, which was the Pie & Kilderkin in the 1980s, then The Hobgoblin, and then The Hob, before becoming The Signal; The Hill, which was previously The Malt Shovel then Question Bar; The Honor Oak, which was previously known as the St Germain’s Hotel; and even the Chandos, which was formerly known as the Chandos Hotel.

Finally, of the 13 pubs, seven are located ‘centrally’, i.e. in or very near Forest Hill railway station; three are in or near Honor Oak Park; one, the Railway Telegraph is a bit further out; and two, the Prince of Wales and The Blythe Hill Tavern, are on the fringes of the SE23 post code. All of them deserve to be cherished.

21 March 2017

Make Forest Hill Look Good and Have Fun at the Same Time!

 By John Firmin, Environment Committee

Are you a keen gardener? Or, like me, someone who enjoys a bit of light exercise outdoors? Whichever you are, you are most welcome to join our merry band of volunteers led by Quetta Kaye, who tend the flower beds, tubs and planters at Forest Hill station and on nearby roads. You will enjoy the camaraderie and get a quite sense of satisfaction from seeing Forest Hill burst into colour each spring and summer.
You don’t need to be an expert gardener and I am certainly not! A key requirement is enthusiasm as well as a willingness to learn from your mistakes when identifying small plants from weeds! And there is expertise readily to hand if, like me, you need guidance.

There isn’t a lot to do if the work is shared among us. Each autumn we meet for a couple of afternoons to tidy up the beds and to plant bulbs for the spring, when there is more planting and weeding to do. And throughout the summer it is necessary to water the flowerbeds and planters especially if, like the recent summer, it is dry for long periods of time. Our aim is sustainability: we look to plant perennials that will return year after year and minimise the need for new planting.

The result is there for all to see: bright bulbs in the spring, wildflowers in the summer and different shades of green all year round. ‘Edible High Road’ tubs sponsored by local businesses brighten up the high street while multi-coloured ‘Tyre Tubs’ add a splash of colour to Perry Vale. And every time I’ve been involved there is a “thank you” from passing members of the public and the chance of a cup of tea and a piece of cake from a grateful café or bar owner!

For four years now, the Forest Hill Society’s efforts have been judged “Outstanding” in the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual awards. If you would like to help us keep up what is now a proud tradition, please contact Quetta Kaye at quetta@fhsoc.com or keep an eye on our website and newsletters for the next gardening party.

20 March 2017

Forest Hill Society AGM 2016

By John Firmin, Secretary

The Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place at Louise House on 20 October with approximately 50 members present.

The best possible future for Forest Hill Library

The Society’s chairman, Michael Abrahams, began by saying that much of the previous year had been dominated by Forest Hill Library. First, a campaign to persuade Lewisham Council to continue to run the library. Then, when it was clear this would not be the case, working with the local community to make sure the library had the best possible future. A bid to manage the library was made by a consortium comprising V22, the Forest Hill Society and Forest Hill Traders’ Association.

Tara Cranswick, CEO of V22, then described the many improvements made to the landscape to the front of the library and Louise House, and work which was now underway in the basement of Louise House. Going forward, facilities in the library and Louise House would be managed as one to maximise the benefits from each.

Simon Higgs, the library manager, then provided an update to the meeting on the plans for the community library, which re-opened successfully on 24 October. There has been a fantastic response from the community: a Crowdfunder target was reached in just two weeks, all the studio space in the library has now been let, over 100 volunteers have signed up but more people were still needed to make sure the library would remain open seven days a week.

Other highlights in 2016

Other achievements  of the past year were highlighted, and included a very visible aspect of the Society’s work  — its town centre's beautification efforts spearheaded by Quetta Kaye. Planting at Forest Hill station and vicinity were judged 'Outstanding' by the Royal Horticultural Society, for the fourth year running, and  of special note in this respect were the newly installed 'Tyre Towers' in Perry Vale.

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Forest Hill Society, Shakespeare — in the guise of the Teatro Vivo theatre group — came to Forest Hill in April, and entertained us with scenes from the Bard’s plays and created an Ode to Forest Hill. 

More projects to improve Forest Hill

Perry Vale - The Forest Hill Society’s proposal to make the north end of Perry Vale one way and to re-generate the area to the east of the station received lots of support at the AGM including from local Councillor John Paschoud.

Rail Services - Concern was expressed regarding Southern Rail’s proposed 2018 timetable, which was the subject of a consultation. The consultation included proposals to remove peak hour services and direct trains going to East Croydon. Following the AGM, the Society has had talks with Southern Railway senior management and has formally responded to the consultation.

Street Lighting - Concern was also expressed about Lewisham Council’s plans to reduce overnight street lighting in residential areas, which will likely increase the risk of crime and road accidents. The Forest Hill Society will work jointly with the Sydenham Society when raising these concerns with the Council.

A Cycle and Walking Strategy - The AGM was briefed on the initial stages of a strategy, which is being developed jointly with the Sydenham Society and will cover Forest Hill, Sydenham and Perry Vale wards. The strategy is to be discussed with local Councillors and then will be subject to wider consultation and a design workshop involving the public.

Michael Abrahams was re-elected as Chairman for 2016-17, along with Alisa Owens as Treasurer, John Firmin as Secretary and Belinda Evans as Membership Secretary.

Elected to the Executive Committee, in addition to the above officers, were: Sheila Carson, Brendan Cuddihy, Alistair Dey, Penelope Jarrett, Quetta Kaye, Katrin Klinger, David McKenzie, Andrew Orford, Rob Owen, Hilary Satchwell, Alona Sheridan, Jake Twyford, Katherine Willett and John Wysocki.

19 March 2017

Member’s Profile: Belinda Evans

Q: How long have you lived in Forest Hill?
A: My partner Keith and I moved to Forest Hill in 2006. I lived in Hither Green before moving here, and Keith was in Islington.

Q: What is your role in the Forest Hill Society?
A: I am the Membership Secretary of the Forest Hill Society, which means I keep a record of members and when they renew their membership. We have a complicated spreadsheet which I attempt to keep in some type of order and try not to delete, lose or destroy.

Q: How can people to join the Society?
A: There are many ways to join the Society and the easiest way is either by using PayPal or a standing order, which automatically renews you membership every year. Details are on the Forest Hill Society’s website. It's hard to remember when your membership renewal is due.

Q: What do you grow in your garden?
A: Since we have a very large garden we grow a lot of our own produce. We have many apple trees — both cooking and eating apples — gooseberry bushes blackcurrant bushes and rhubarb. We always grow potatoes, runner beans, courgettes and salad leaves. We’re also lucky enough to have a greenhouse, in which we grow tomatoes and aubergines. We are trying to grow grape vines, but we’re not having much luck yet. My husband is jealous of the vine at Alexandra Road Nursery, but it must be a very old established vine so, fingers crossed, our vine will eventually produce some actual grapes.

Q: How many chickens live with you?
A: We have four chickens in the garden: Lily, Lavender, Mandy and Tweedy. They are actually the chickens from Sydenham School which had to be re-homed due to the school’s rebuild. They are very amusing birds and have funny, individual personalities. Mandy is the boss, Lily and Lavender are the naughty bantams and Tweedy just follows the crowd. They have just started laying eggs again after a winter off, so are earning their keep. They love roaming the garden (but only when we are in the garden as there are lots of foxes resident here) and scratching about for bugs and tasty treats.

Q: What do you like most about living in Forest Hill?
A: I really like Forest Hill as it has great train connections to central London now and also seems to have quite a few independent cafés and shops. We actually now mainly go out in Forest Hill rather than travel into town. Since I work in west London, it's hard to go back out again once I get home.

Q: What are your favourite local shops?
A: We go to the All Inn One pub quite a bit (or Steve's house, as my husband calls it!) and love the Perry Vale. We’re very happy to use Waters’ fishmonger and greengrocer, which stocks a good range of veg, and the prices always take us aback as they’re so reasonable. I have a policy of buying all my presents for birthdays or special occasions from Bunka, as there is always something unusual and interesting there. It's a real treasure trove!

Q: If you could bring any shop in the world to Forest Hill what would it be?
A: I'm quite excited to see the arrival of Superdrug as I do like the offers and products there and think it's going to be a good addition to Forest Hill. It's a chain, I know, but let's hope it encourages others to consider investing in the area. I love the products in Il Mirto — if you haven't tried the burrata cheese you are missing out. I would love to see a lovely Italian restaurant in Forest Hill; we have two great pizza restaurants but nowhere really for good pasta. Perhaps we could encourage Trattoria Raffaele in Sydenham to open up on Dartmouth Road?

Q: Other than the Forest Hill Society, are you involved in any other groups in the local area?
A: I am involved in a local book group that meets monthly in the All Inn One. I was also part of a Wednesday walking club that walked for an hour early on a Wednesday evening, but I haven't gone for a long time. Perhaps, now the lighter evenings are nearly here, I may start walking again as it's fantastic to get out and walk and to get to know the local area even more.

18 March 2017

Forest Hill Library Update

Back in October Forest Hill Library converted to a community library. While it is officially run by a consortium comprising the Forest Hill Society, V22 and local traders, in reality the day to day running is by Simon Higgs and a team of enthusiastic volunteers. Every day we have up to nine people volunteering for morning, afternoon and evening shifts and helping to keep the library running.

Over the last few months we have replaced all of the library’s computers, upgrading them to faster computers using Windows 10, and replaced the photocopier/printer and we have invested in a new system for managing all of the computers. We have also been slowly adding donated books to the collection, although not as fast as we would like.

During the last few months, the transition has not been without its challenges: the boiler system failed for a number of weeks at the start of winter, there were a number of issues in switching IT systems, and all the books required re-tagging by Lewisham. Despite these issues we have been able to keep the library open and we have learned a lot from the experiences.

The local community has been fabulous in their support for the library — not only by volunteering their time at the library every day — but also by responding to the Crowdfunding campaign we started with the aim of raising £6,000 to improve the library. Within weeks we had surpassed our goal and by the end of six weeks we had passed £10,000 in donations for the library. This financial support, together with funding for activities from Forest Hill Ward Assembly and rental income from the upstairs’ rooms, means that Forest Hill Library is able to break even. As a not-for-profit enterprise, any excess income will be re-invested in the library and used to build up a contingency fund for general repairs and maintenance of the Grade 2* listed building.

Early in 2017 we set up a children’s advisory board and we will soon be forming a general (adult) advisory board, who will ensure that we are responding to the needs of all library users. During 2017 we want to ensure that all of the library’s standard functions are working smoothly, then consider holding more events in and around the library, to make it even more of a community hub.

If you would like to get more involved in the library, we would like to hear from you. We welcome new volunteers and new ideas. Just pop in and speak to Simon or email: volunteers@fhlibrary.co.uk

17 March 2017

One Way for the Future of Perry Vale?

For a number of years the Forest Hill Society has been looking for ways to improve the area to the east of Forest Hill station. In particular we have been looking at a small stretch of Perry Vale — between the South Circular and Waldram Crescent — where there are a small number of shops. We think this area could be revitalised and become a new destination in Forest Hill.

We have recently seen Waters’ fishmonger and greengrocer open, and Clapton Beers are planning to open a new craft beer shop later this year. But this road has much more potential. It is the only shopping street in the centre of Forest Hill which is not on a bus route, and we think this provides an opportunity to make it better.

Taking our inspiration from Catford Broadway and Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, we have put together a proposal for this stretch of road to become one way, allowing more space for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as some parking and dedicated loading bays. By widening the pavements it would not only improve the area for pedestrians, but it could allow for some of the cafes to have tables outside.

This scheme was discussed at the Forest Hill Society AGM and at a recent Perry Vale Ward Assembly. We have also encouraged people to respond to our consultation, for which the results were overwhelmingly positive (although some useful feedback was received from a number of respondents).
Perry Vale councillors are now working with Lewisham Council’s transport team to look at putting together a bid for funding from TfL to further develop the scheme and implement the necessary changes to the road layout.

This is not really a new idea, but the Forest Hill Society has turned an aspiration into a realistic plan, which can now be pursued further by Lewisham Council. 

Following the 20mph scheme now instituted across Lewisham, the Council are taking another look at the possibility of a pedestrian crossing close to the station — on the Perry Vale side, which would make a big difference to many pedestrians.

16 March 2017

Bakerloo Line Update

Transport for London is currently consulting about the location of stations for the extension to the Bakerloo line, planned for 2029 completion.

The Bakerloo extension would run from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham via two stations on the Old Kent Road and a station at New Cross Gate.

At New Cross Gate the proposal is to build an underground station just to the west of the existing station. Interchange details between lines have not yet been made available, but the Forest Hill Society has said that it wants to see platform-to-platform interchanges, where passengers would not need to exit one station and enter another. An easy-to-use interchange would help to relieve overcrowding at Canada Water.

You can have your say by visiting the consultation at before 21st April 2017.

15 March 2017

15 Years of a Growing Community

By Jim Sikorski, Founder and Chair of Sydenham Garden

Sydenham Garden, 28a Wynell Road (located off Mayow Road), comprises a community garden, nature reserve and resource centre. It promotes the physical and mental well-being of Lewisham residents — especially those in the early stages of dementia — primarily through horticultural and arts and crafts activities.    www.sydenhamgarden.org.uk

The meeting was very well attended — with around 40 people, if I remember correctly. The year was 2002 and the venue was Sydenham Green Health Centre. The purpose was to discuss forming an association to provide gardening and creative activities for local people coping with serious illness. We were addressed by Tijno Voors — the wise and experienced director of the Blackthorn Garden in Maidstone, which to this day remains a wonderful example of how such a project can develop. The meeting was followed by a group visit to the Blackthorn Trust and then the formation of the first Sydenham Garden committee.

The committee began meeting regularly at the Health Centre, and soon a weekly Art and Craft group started helping our first ‘co-workers’ (the name we have always given to our beneficiaries) who had been referred by members of the centre’s practice team. The search for a piece of land on which to use gardening in the same way was not easy, but we were enthusiastically supported by Lewisham Council and were granted a lease on the Queenswood Road Nature Reserve. The lease came with the main proviso that we continue to manage three quarters of the land as a nature reserve, and utilise the remainder for horticulture and built structures. A huge effort was then begun by a large number of faithful volunteers to clear the site in preparation for use by our first co-workers.

Sydenham Garden was formally constituted as a charity in 2005 and, with the appointment of Nick Fry as Garden Manager in the same year, we began welcoming our first co-workers to the garden. For several years we operated with only a Portakabin and used gazebos for shelter, but we then received Heritage Lottery funding to rebuild a Victorian greenhouse on the site in 2010. After seven years of patient fundraising, our wonderful sustainably-built Resource Centre was completed.

05 March 2017

Improving Dartmouth Road

Over the course of 2017, Dartmouth Road will be under-going a makeover with the aim of improving the street for all road users. This will cause a fair amount of disruption as sections of the road will require a contra-flow system to be instituted — whereby traffic lights will permit traffic to flow in only one direction at a time — to allow work to proceed as quickly as possible without completely closing this important route for buses and other vehicles.

With £1.2m being spent on the project there are quite a lot of improvements that will be made, but they won’t transform Dartmouth Road into a high street ‘paradise’ since there are simply too many constraints to make that possible.

Pedestrians will see some of the greatest improvements, with slightly wider pavements where permissible, better-levelled pavements that don’t try to trip you up every few steps, and narrower roads which will be easier to cross in places. However, there will not be any pedestrian islands, and the scheme will not address the issues at the junction with the South Circular, as this is a TfL-controlled road.

Bus passengers will benefit from two new bus stops closer to the shops and swimming pools on Dartmouth Road. Buses will be able to move more easily because of the replacement of single yellow lines with double yellow lines, which will reduce the problem that buses have in trying to get passed parked cars. However, there will not be any bus-stop bays for the buses, so cars will have to wait for them to load and unload passengers.

Parking will be slightly improved, with a few additional parking bays located opposite the pool. In addition, there will be some loading bays on wider parts of the pavement, allowing for traders to load and unload without creating any pinch-points in the road. We are hoping that parking bays will allow parking for slightly longer than the current 30-minute limit. Residents’ parking will not be permitted opposite Holy Trinity School, as this location next to a bus stop and a pedestrian crossing outside the school is no longer suitable for parking.

Cars and other vehicles are expected to encounter smoother-flowing traffic on Dartmouth Road. While there may well be queues up to the traffic lights to join the South Circular, reducing the problem parking will ensure that traffic will flow smoother when it can and avoid having to wait for buses and lorries to manoeuvre past each other.

Cyclists will, unfortunately, gain little benefit from the scheme. Dartmouth Road is not cycle-friendly today and it will not be much better after this scheme has been completed. The best that has been suggested is that, by narrowing the road, vehicles will be less tempted to overtake cyclists without giving them the necessary space.

Although 2017 will not be fun for users of Dartmouth Road while the works drag on for at least nine months, we can look forward to a more welcoming town centre and a slightly improved road layout in 2018.