22 December 2020

Planning Application: The Cedars, 34 Sydenham Hill

The Forest Hill Society has written to oppose the Planning Application DC/20/118980: The Cedars, 34 Sydenham Hill SE26 6LS, which proposes the construction of a part single/part two storey extension at the rear, terraces at lower ground level and the provision of associated car parking spaces and bicycle storage to provide 11 self-contained flats, together with the demolition of the existing Coach House and the construction of 8 two bedroom cottages and associated landscaping and parking area.

We welcome the principle of converting the main building into residential use and bringing this historic asset back into useful purpose, but have some concerns as to how and which heritage features will be preserved.

The Coach House is original to the 1890’s main building and makes a positive contribution to the Conservation Area in its own right, yet no justification is made to warrant its demolition beyond not fitting in with the appearance of the proposed modern terrace. No argument is made as to its structural soundness or otherwise, no justification advanced as to why it the existing cannot form part of any development plan, even though it is believed to have been in recent use as a single 4 bedroomed house. Again, we would welcome the involvement and report of Conservation Officers in this respect.

The proposed replacement of this single house with a modern terrace of 8 houses represents an increased footprint of some 70%, together with hard standing for much increased parking requirements and turning circle, with the removal of several established trees. The great bulk of this will actually be located in the rear garden plot of the Cedars House rather than the existing footprint of the Coach House.

The materials and design of the proposed terrace do not appear to relate in any way to the main house, failing to match or sympathise with the main house or that location in any way discernable.
The design of a long terrace, staggered down the slope will also form an impenetrable barrier across an important wildlife corridor further separating vital remaining green spaces in this area.

The description of the 8 proposed ‘almshouses’ is somewhat misleading. We are not made aware of any charitable purposes or proposals for social rent. Our understanding is that all will be available at market valuations and there are in fact no proposed affordable dwellings provided in the entire development scheme at all.

You can view the full response here.

05 December 2020

SEE3 Christmas Shopping Guide 2020

Residents of Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham should soon be receiving the SEE3 Christmas Calendar and Directory through their letterboxes. This annual calendar will include its most comprehensive list of businesses in Forest Hill, Sydenham, Kirkdale and Honor Oak.


05 November 2020

Planning Application: 123 Devonshire Road

There has been a planning application for enlargement of existing planning permission on two additional storeys on the site of 123 Devonshire Road. The Forest Hill Society has written to the council recommending rejection of this application. The text of the letter is reproduced below:

DC/20/118644 | The erection of two additional storeys above the existing residential block to provide 6 x 2 bed flats with associated parking and internal refurbishment works with works to the fabric of the building and the provision of a new lift at Woodelm Court, 123, Devonshire Road, LONDON SE23 3LX.


I am writing on behalf of the Forest Hill Society regarding the proposed erection of two additional stories to existing residential block at Woodelm Court, 123 Devonshire Road SE23 (ref: DC/20/118644).


With regard to the proposed development we have a significant concern regarding this planning application. This relates to the increased mass and general bulk of the proposed top floor.


This application aims to increase the volume of the top floor to allow for 3 x 2 bedroom flats rather than the 2 x 2 bedroom flats in the 2017 application.


In 2017 the developer applied to add 2 more stories on top of the existing 3 floor block of flats. The plan was to step the new top floor in on all sides which would reduce the footprint giving space for 2 x 2 bed flats. This application dated 13th November 2017, was refused by notice dated 8th February 2018.


In February 2019 there was a successful appeal against this decision. However, in the Appeal Decision stated in item 8  " ...... the set back of the top floor would help to reduce its overall massing and general bulk, even with a small overhang of the roof and thus I am satisfied that the development would not have a jarring and incongruous effect."


This new 2020 application proposes to enlarge the footprint of this top floor by removing the step in on all sides so the footprint is the same as the floors below thus providing room for 3 x 2 bedroom flats. This implies that the block would now have a "jarring and incongruous effect".


We believe that granting an application for an enlarged top floor would be contrary to the judgement expressed by the Planning Inspector in the 2019 Appeal Decision.


Based on our above concern we ask that this application is refused.

26 October 2020

Christmas Quiz 2020

Following the success of our Summer Quiz during the first lockdown, we are back with the Winter Quiz on Tuesday 8th December (from 7:30pm).

To register your team go to Eventbrite 


The quiz is free to enter, however we encourage participants to support Lewisham Foodbank by donating here.

15 October 2020

Horniman’s Clock Faces Go Green for Parks

 Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum and Gardens will turn its iconic clock faces green tonight (14 October) to celebrate its 16th consecutive Green Flag Award.

The Horniman is one of more than 80 locations to GoGreenForParks, with buildings and landmarks lighting up in a nationwide celebration of great quality parks and green spaces
recognised by the Green Flag Awards, including the White Cliffs of Dover at Samphire Hoe, the London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Salford’s Media City.

Kirsten Walker, Director of Collection's Care and Estates at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, says: ‘We know how valuable parks and outdoor spaces are for people’s wellbeing, and this year they have been more important than ever. Our visitors tell us how much they value the Horniman Gardens as somewhere to enjoy nature, spend time with family and friends, be inspired by beautiful plants and displays, to exercise, relax and admire the views. Our Gardens and Estates teams have really done us proud this year, and we’re delighted to #GoGreenForParks to celebrate their hard work and the joy that the Gardens bring.’

The Horniman has minimised the environmental impact of taking part in #GoGreenForParks by adding coloured gels to existing lights, rather than using extra lighting and energy, in line with its Climate and Ecology policy. The green clock faces can be seen from dusk on 14 to 16 October.

Full details on the Horniman website.

13 October 2020

A new Chair for the Forest Hill Society

On 7th October the Forest Hill Society elected Claus Murmann as the new chairperson of the Society for the year ahead. Below is an interview with him to find out more about him.


 Q: How long have you lived in Forest Hill? 

My family and I moved here in 2011, so almost 10 years with 3 boys who all spent their teenage years here and all but the last one (17) have been happily dispatched out as adults.

We moved back to the UK after 11 years on the US East Coast where the kids grew up with a big backyard, a beach and schoolbus rides. Coming back to London was a crash course in city living and the 185. Prior to that I’d lived in Richmond for 10 years, grew up in Ealing from age 2 and rewinding right back to the beginning I was born in Germany. I do still speak German and my side of the family is all back over there now.

Q. What do you do when you are not running the Forest Hill Society?

I work in the City for a bank albeit more on the tech side in data, analytics and cloud adoption. I’ve done a variety of roles ranging from program management through product management, IT architecture and what I would describe as translating between the business and technology. Lots of facilitation between different parties to get stuff done basically. My background originally was an aerospace engineering degree so I like to joke with people who say ‘well it’s not rocket science’ when there are problems that need solving… to atone for my City job I volunteer a couple of times a week at the Lewisham Foodbank on the cycle delivery squad.

Q. What is your favourite thing about Forest Hill?

Well, it used to be Sugar Mountain I’m not ashamed to admit. I love the access to parks, open spaces and even nearby woodlands - from a location perspective you’re almost equidistant from the West End, City and Canary Wharf (especially on a bike). I think it’s a lovely diverse community: I’ve met people who will share everything from gardening tips to power tools or give up their time to help others and improve the area.

Q. What is your favourite cycle route from Forest Hill?

Ah, you know I’m an avid cyclist. Fear not, I am also a car enthusiast. But to answer the question, simply my commute: over the top of the hill, Wood Vale, Peckham Rye (the shopping street is great now it’s been closed to everything but bikes and pedestrians - there’s always someone signing or a band playing, street barbecues - transformational improvement), then past the Peckham library, up the old canal path and Old Kent Road, then over to London Bridge with it’s new segregated bike lane (yay) and into the City. I still do it regularly to get some lockdown exercise and often meet my wife after her work day up in Angel.

Q. What most impressed you about the Forest Hill Society?

Getting real things done. I see markets, people planting flowers, things changing for the better, support for local business and a general policy of positivity as well as keeping the history of the area alive through educational talks, support for the library etc.

Q. What is your top priority in the role?

I would look for ideas to solve the somewhat impossible problem of the Station access on both sides: pedestrian crossings & timings - I know it’s already on the list. Overall I’d describe myself as a good listener with no political affiliation meaning I’m not coming in with an agenda. I cycle but I also drive and also (used to) use the Overground regularly at weekends. Transport always seems to feature high up on the priority list for people. 

Aside from that I think we can help support local businesses as much as possible especially as we come out of lockdown - and back in again?

Q. If you could change one thing about Forest Hill, what would it be?

Apart from demanding Sugar Mountain re-open? I maybe hinted at it above, but I think rebuilding  the whole station complex as a workable town centre would help focus some regeneration of the area and remove a proper eyesore. Again I know there are plans for this so it would be great if we could make it a reality.

Q. What else would you like to confess?

Apparently I buy too many records and have too many bicycles. I hold the privileged position of being on the moderation team for one of the local forums and enjoy taking an active interest online. If I appear to be overly pro road safety campaigning it’s because I’ve had 2 free rides in an ambulance in the last 3 years after altercations with motor vehicles. And finally I’ve been married for over 20 years to my wife who is just the best.

08 October 2020

Transport Concerns from Forest Hill

At our AGM on 7th October, we were delighted to welcome Ellie Reeves MP to speak and take questions. A number of people expressed concern about the lack of train services through Forest Hill at weekends due to engineering works and the 'temporary' loss of all direct Victoria service, which is a well used route by many Forest Hill residents.

We are pleased that Ellie has written to TfL raising the issue on behalf of her constituents. Below is the text of her letter to members of the Forest Hill Society and we look forward to hearing when the services will be more adequate for residents.

Dear Society Members,

Many thanks for inviting me to speak at your AGM. I am always glad to attend and be involved in these community based events particularly during this challenging time.

I am aware that many of you raised the issue of a lack of weekend Overground services from Forest Hill station, and I have also been contacted about this issue by other constituents. 

I fully appreciate that these closures have significantly reduced your transport options at a time when we are all being encouraged to use our cars less. Furthermore I am also aware that this reduction of services to two trains an hour may have ramifications on passengers ability to social distance whilst using these services. 

I have written to Transport for London on your behalf, in my letter I have outlined your case and have requested an update on when regular weekend Overground services from Forest Hill will resume. I have also asked them to respond, more generally to the individual concerns raised by many of my constituents on this issue. 

I will of course let you know as soon as I receive a response. I will also write to Network Rail and the Department for Transport. Please be assured that I and my team will continue to follow up on this issue to ensure that Forest Hill receives an adequate service from London Overground and all other forms of public transport.

Best wishes,
Ellie Reeves

Member of Parliament for Lewisham West and Penge

30 September 2020

Getting More Involved

At the AGM in October we elect the new committee for the Forest Hill Society. We are always keen to have new members on the committee, as well as existing members who wish to continue.

We are fortunate to have a committee consisting of many people who are passionate about Forest Hill and making a difference to benefit the area. The most visible way this can be seen is the planting and maintenance of plants around the town centre - even when activities had to be socially distanced. This year the Forest Hill Society has again been awarded “Outstanding” for the In Bloom competition organised by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Having more members on the committee means we get a better idea of what is important to you and the everybody in the community. And it also means more people to help at events and in campaigns.

We are particularly looking for people with an interest in the following areas:
Environment - including planting and gardening around the town centre and looking at ways to improve air quality in the local area

Transport - including improving roads for pedestrians and cyclists, ensuring Forest Hill is well served by public transport, and considering flight paths over Forest Hill
Planning and Development - including developing long-term plans for the town centre, and also reviewing planning applications in the area
Communications and Events - including contributing to our newsletter and arranging events for the community (e.g. book sales, gin tasting, history talks, pub quizzes Christmas tree lighting and carols).
This is a great time to get involved, and there are even rumours that we might have a new chairperson starting at the AGM.

You can put your name forward for the committee in one of two ways:
1. Email email@foresthillsociety.com to let us know you wish to stand
2. Join us at the AGM and raise your hand when we ask for nominations
and you can become part of the team that has been making Forest Hill even better for 14 years.

22 September 2020

Forest Hill Society AGM 2020

All members and non-members are welcome to attend our Annual General Meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, 7th October from 7:30pm.

The AGM is an opportunity to find out more about what is happening in Forest Hill, to share your concerns and to shape the future of the Society.

We would encourage all members who wish to get even more involved by standing for the Executive Committee, or joining one of our committees focused on Planning, Environment, Transport, or Communications. And we continue to be on the look out for a new chairperson for the Society.

Please register in advance of the meeting to receive joining instructions: https://fhsocagm2020.eventbrite.co.uk

If you are interesting in discussing any of the roles in the Society or how you can get more involved, please email email@foresthillsociety.com

19 September 2020

Surviving Lockdown at Shannon’s

By Linda Shannon of Shannon’s Garden Centre

Since the official lockdown on 23rd March we have had to adapt several times to new ways of trading. With our doors firmly shut to the public and a lockdown in place, it was hard to imagine how we would  sell plants. In our industry, March to June is our busiest season so it couldn't have come at a worse time. Stock had arrived, having been pre-ordered at the beginning of the year, and a lot more was already on the way to us.

We realised quickly that people still wanted to buy plants. We did not have an internet-selling platform as our stock changes weekly, even daily in busy seasons, and comes from many suppliers. We asked customers to email their wish-list orders to us. We were overwhelmed with emails, which sometimes reached 250 per day with all sorts of enquiries; and for seven weeks we worked 12-hour days answering emails and preparing orders for collection and deliveries for a quarter of our normal sales. Since we are a family-run business, we created our own small family ‘bubble’ and worked together in isolation. We had to be careful like everyone else because, if one of us got ill, we could all catch the virus.

Since the weather at the time was glorious, people were enticed into their gardens. Whether they were sheltering at home, working from home or home-schooling their children or were just busy frontline workers looking for escapism, they all needed gardening supplies to be able to grow plants; for that, it was worthwhile to keep going as a business. 

It was a relief when our industry was allowed to reopen and let customers back in to choose their own purchases. We realise how lucky we were, as other local businesses could not open at that time. Customers came back and initially we had queues around the block!

We had good stock levels when we reopened but, as things started to sell through, we realised that new stock was either not available or on a long delay.  Understandably, upon lockdown, plant growers had to stop growing their plants. Instead of us choosing which plants we need, we now have to be content to take what the growers have. It's always a mystery what turns up! Compost was the new toilet roll as people bought it in large amounts in a small period of time; and we had to limit the quantities being purchased. The manufacturers of compost then went into lockdown and ultimately furloughed staff, which resulted in reduced stock levels and only larger bags of compost being packed for sale. 

During this strange time we have seen new gardeners who, whilst being confined to their houses, have rediscovered their gardens. With an enthusiasm to sow and grow their own vegetables and plants and the time to tend and care for them, they have been able to reap the benefits of gardening. 

It’s heart-warming to see people venturing back out and choosing our garden centre as the place they feel safe to shop in, and we are thankful we have been able to open for business. Many have commented since restrictions have lifted how grateful they were that they were able to source their gardening needs while under lockdown, and that gardening helped keep them sane.