Showing posts with label newsletter1208. Show all posts
Showing posts with label newsletter1208. Show all posts

14 January 2009

December 2008 Newsletter

The following articles are from the December issue of the Forest Hill Society Newsletter.
You can view them together at

Peter Irby takes over as Chairman

I am very honoured to have been elected as Chairman of the Forest Hill Society for the next year, writes Peter Irby. Michael Abrahams has done an excellent job for the last 2 years and I'm delighted that he has agreed to be the Vice Chair.

I have lived in Forest Hill for twenty-two years. My wife and I have two grown-up children - who live at home - and a cat. There are many reasons we enjoy living here; the green spaces, the Horniman Museum on our doorstep and a transport system which is, on the whole, excellent. I’m a great fan of the P4 bus as anyone on the Society’s Executive Committee will testify.

Before I retired eighteen months ago, I worked for The New York Times, based in London, as an advertising salesman. Before that, I spent seventeen years in the Army, in the Royal Green Jackets.

Apart from my family, my main interests are Chelsea Football Club which I’ve supported for fifty-five years and model railways.

So how do I see my new role as Chairman of the Forest Hill Society? My main priorities are to give guidance and to establish good relations with other local groups and individuals whose aim is to make Forest Hill a better place in which to live and shop.

Unfortunately, Forest Hill has one big problem. We are divided into four pieces by the South Circular Road and the railway line. This makes it very difficult to establish a vibrant town centre. However, if all members make it their duty to talk up Forest Hill, we will be closer to achieving this aim. There is too much negative talk about the area on some of the local web sites with people hiding behind anonymous names. Let's be positive!

The Society has made a good deal of difference already in the two short years of our existence, especially in securing our railway services. Looking ahead, I’m keen that we continue to push for improvements to Forest Hill station such as securing a new entrance to Platform 2 via the Perry Vale car park. We will continue to lobby for the Sainsburys car park, owned by LBL, to allow up to two hours free parking. That gives people time to use our local shops but denies commuters from outside the area a place to leave their cars all day.

The biggest local issue is the re-building of the Pools. I have formed a Committee whose sole purpose will be to help get the Pools re-built to the satisfaction of most people who live in the Pool Catchment area. We will never be able to satisfy everybody, but let's work together and understand other people's views. The pools will be a focal point in our town centre. The longer the delay in rebuilding them, the more the Town Centre will deteriorate and local shops will be forced to close as there will not be the custom they need to keep going.

There’s a lot to do and so I hope I can count on your support. Whether it’s attending our social events, delivering Newsletters, being active committee members or simply keeping an interest in local issues, our members’ contribution to the Society is highly valued. I hope I get to meet many of you over the coming year, perhaps at our monthly 23 Club meals, which I shall attend as often as time permits.

In the meantime, I can be contacted on:

Annual General Meeting 2008

Thank you to everyone who came along to our very sociable AGM at The Hob on 15th October. You can read the full minutes can be found here but here’s a flavour of the evening.

The main news is that we now have a new chairman. Having chaired the Society from its inception, Michael Abrahams decided to step down and Peter Irby was elected to carry on his work. Peter has been vice chairman of the Society for the last year and we are delighted that he has decided to step up to this new role. We’re not losing Michael completely though. He’s going to stay on as vice chair and will also chair the Planning Committee.

One of Michael’s final acts as Chair was to present his annual report to the Society. This too can be seen on our website. Liz Hannaford (Communications Officer) then thanked him for all the hard work and time he’d put into the Society and, after a highly deserved round of applause from the members, he was presented with a gift.

Apart from Peter and Michael swapping places, the Elected Officers for 2008-2009 remain the same.
  • Chairman: Peter Irby
  • Vice Chairman: Michael Abrahams
  • Treasurer: Helen McAllister
  • Secretary: Katherine Willett
  • Communications Officer: Liz Hannaford

In addition, we now have 16 Executive Committee Members. Many of these are carrying on from last year but it was great to see so many new faces coming on board. This is a very healthy sign and means that we should have continuity as well as fresh blood to make sure we don’t get too stuck in our ways.

There were no guest speakers at this year’s AGM because we wanted to leave plenty of time for members to discuss issues that concern them so that we can set priorities for the coming year. Judging from the questions from the floor, it looks like the Planning Committee is going to have a busy time ahead. Members discussed the poor appearance of our town centre, specifically shop fronts and the lack of a planning vision for our area. The problem seems to be a lack of planning officers in Lewisham. However, Jeff Lowe (Havelock Walk artists’ quarter) did announce that Lewisham’s Regeneration Department had recently told him they would enforce the Council’s own shop front guidelines but only for new frontages, not existing ones.

Members voiced concern about traffic problems on Honor Oak Road and asked for a pedestrian crossing on the junction of that road with London Road. This is a particularly important junction for pedestrians in our area since it’s on the walking route from the station to the Horniman Museum.

On a positive note, we heard that the group of roads around Rockbourne Rd – the Rockbourne Triangle – had been declared the winner of Lewisham’s eco-streets competition, partly in recognition of the Stanstead Road Community Garden. The area will become Lewisham’s centre for excellence for eco-issues and this was a good opportunity for the FH Society to become involved.

Inevitably, we spent a good deal of time discussing the now very uncertain future of Forest Hill Pools. Members were unhappy with the Council’s handling of the redevelopment, specifically the listing of Louise House. The Council must have been aware of the application to list it and yet seemed totally unprepared for the news that the application had been successful. There was a strong feeling at the meeting that the priority for the Society should be to press for an architectural competition to ensure a good design for the new pools. Many members, however, felt the outward appearance was of secondary importance compared to the provision of fantastic swimming facilities in our area.

So, plenty of issues for the Committee members to get their teeth into. If you’d like to get more actively involved with these and other issues, you don’t need to wait until next year’s AGM. Just contact Peter Irby to discuss ways in which you can help. We’re always pleased to hear from you.

Let’s Get Forest Hill Moving

We all love to moan about our train services, clogged up roads and poor parking. But with strong ideas and good relations with other local groups, we can make improvements, writes Tony Petim, the new Chair of our Transport Committee.

I moved to Forest Hill with my family two years ago and fell in love with the area. I’ve been involved with local residents’ groups before so I was keen to bring this experience to my new home in SE23.

I worked for a large international telecommunications company for fourteen years before setting up my own residential building company. I’m also the elected National Councillor & Director for the Federation of Small Business in Greater London, as well as its Southeast London Chair.

Forest Hill benefits from the South Circular passing through its heart, but also suffers from constant peak time traffic congestion as a result of it. With good traffic light phasing, and road layout, I believe that motor vehicles and cycles could move more easily and quickly, thus reducing congestion and CO2 pollution emissions.

Honor Oak Park, Forest Hill and Catford Train Stations should be transportation “jewels” in our community’s crown. These could be improved with some imagination.

None of the above can happen without working in harmony with residents, businesses, local MPs, local councillors, TFL and the Borough of Lewisham. We need to respect and understand the differences and dividing lines on opinions.

In my view, the Forest Hill Society is the body best placed to help achieve these goals. I decided to take on the role of chairing the Transport Committee, after being kindly elected, as a way to help drive improvements for residents and businesses in our community.

We shall lobby and campaign:
  • For better road, rail, cycling and bus links,
  • For roads to be friendlier for motor vehicles by looking at possible re-phasing of lights and road layouts,
  • To make road crossings safer for the public
  • To support the long-awaited tube extension line to Forest Hill,
  • To ensure there are no more Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) extensions or introductions in the Forest Hill area, and introduce more & longer free parking bays to encourage cars to stop and buy goods and services from our local shops to help them survive this recession.

If you have any ideas of how to achieve the above, then please contact Tony on:

Oystergate Two

Southern Railway has been granted permission to build ticket gates at the bottom of the steps leading out of Forest Hill Station on to Perry Vale. The FHSociety believes this will create a potentially dangerous bottleneck. But we have managed to persuade Southern to keep the gates open beyond 8pm.

In its original plans, Southern Railway had intended to close the proposed Perry Vale ticket gates at 8pm which would have meant inconveniencing many passengers returning home in the evenings. This was disappointing since we’d only just won our battle to persuade them to keep the existing gates open in the afternoon! However, our persistence paid off and again we – with the support of local councillors - have persuaded Southern to see sense and keep the gates open until after the last train has gone through.

But the Forest Hill Society still has concerns about the gating scheme at the foot of the Perry Vale stairs on the grounds of public safety. We believe that placing ticket barriers so close to the foot of badly lit stairs creates an accident risk. During wet or icy evenings these stairs are difficult to negotiate due to their steepness and the number of people using them. Placing ticket barriers at the foot of the stairs, round a corner, will inevitably cause a bottle neck for people coming down which could be dangerous.

Tyson Road Update

Developers have submitted a new application to build large blocks of flats on a green area behind Tyson Rd and the Christian Fellowship Centre on Honor Oak Rd.

Last time they did this, local residents mounted a vigorous campaign and almost 200 people sent objections. The Council refused planning permission.

Now the developers have made some small concessions and are trying again but residents still feel this is over-development which will have a big impact on local roads and schools. They’re hoping to encourage even more people to send objections to the Council this time. You can read more about it on the Lewisham Council website. It’s application no 08/70207.

To find out more, email the residents’ group on You can also sign the online petition on:

23 Club

This year the new 23 Club has visited KafĂ© La (Bangaladeshi), La Querce (Italian), a pub with a large garden – the Perry Hill, Yune (Asian), the Honor Oak Tandoori (Indian) and All Inn One (a child friendly pub).

Next up are:
Tuesday, December 23 at 8pm – The Old Bank, 76-78 Honor Oak Park SE23 1DY Phone 8291 1738. This is an Italian restaurant, close to Honor Oak Park Station. It’s a bank converted into a restaurant (before the credit crunch!)

Friday, January 23 at 8pm – The Honor Oak pub, 1 St German’s Road SE23 1RH Phone 8690 8606. This evening will have a special Burns Night theme. The team at the Honor Oak have very kindly agreed to provide haggis and trimmings FOR FREE as a taster to get you in the mood. Everyone then orders their own main meal from the menu. There will be a fixed price whisky tasting session afterwards.

Monday, February 23 at 8pm – Tse’s, 54 London Road SE23 3HF Phone 8291 0019. This is a Chinese restaurant so an opportunity to enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations!

Just to remind you, the Club is open to Forest Hill Society members and their guests. Please make your booking directly 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.

Finally, please send details of anyone who wants to be added to the 23 Club e-mail list, and also any suggestions you may have for restaurants in the Forest Hill area, to

We look forward to sharing a meal with you.

Shop Locally

Michael Abrahams may no longer be Chairing the Society, but we haven't let him get away completely. As well as being the vice chair, he's also chairing the Planning Committee which will be very busy over the coming year. It will have a broad remit covering not just planning applications but the development of our town centres, as Michael explains.

The economic downturn has clearly taken its toll on Forest Hill in the last few months. Most notably we have seen the recent closures of two long standing independent retailers; Scotchbrooks and Provender. Other shops have moved into the area including a new barber on Dartmouth Road, an antiques shop at the old site of Mercury TV in Perry Vale, and a pharmacy on Perry Vale.

There is one clear message for members of the Forest Hill Society and for our neighbours; if you want to keep town centres with good shops in Forest Hill and Honor Oak you must shop locally. Over the next few weeks, in the run up to Christmas, find time to rediscover what shops are around the town centres. Which is your favourite restaurant or coffee shop? Where do you get your hair cut? Have you been into any of the clothes shops recently? You might even be able to do some of your Christmas shopping in Honor Oak or Forest Hill - wouldn't that be convenient?

The Forest Hill Society is working with a number of other groups to find ways to improve the town centre. We want to take a look at some of the issues of parking and traffic, street furniture and bins, high rental charges, and generally improving the look of the town centres.

In the next few years, we should be able to look forward to tube connections and a new pool revitalising the area, and more housing close to the centre of Forest Hill will mean more local shoppers. In many ways, the future still looks bright for our area, but we have some difficult times to get through. We can either give up and shop in Bromley, East Dulwich, Lewisham. Or we can be part of the solution by making local shops our first thought when we need to spend money.

So, if you have ideas for improving our town centres, or you have concerns about a planning application in our area, do please contact me by email:

Secret Garden

The Dacres Wood Nature Reserve has woodland, a pond and a wide range of wildlife but it’s been locked up since 2003 because of vandalism. Now Susan Wise, one of our local councillors (Perry Vale Ward), wants to open up the site to supervised public access. She explains why it’s such an important part of our area.

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve is situated behind Dacres Road Estate, Perry Vale, and access is via a road behind Homefield House. The nature reserve is owned by the London Borough of Lewisham, and is designated a Grade II site of borough importance. It is a small site, bordered on the western side by the railway cutting (making this part of the “green corridor” that runs along the railway line to London Bridge, where the site’s close abutment to the line encourages the spread of many species along this corridor) and housing to the east, north and south.

The Dacres Wood site was originally part of the Croydon Canal which closed in 1836, and the construction of the railway isolated sections of the canal as “ox-bows”; one of which became the garden of a Victorian house. Following the house’s demolition, the garden was eventually taken over by Lewisham’s Parks Department and opened as a nature reserve in 1989. The site consists of open woodland with glades in the western half, and a large pond and wetland area (which was constructed in 1990) on the southern end of the former canal, in the eastern half. The reserve is fortunate in having a Field Study Centre Building attached to it.

Most of the site is secondary woodland, but there is a discontinuous canopy dominated by a large number of very large turkey oaks, as well as a few horse chestnuts and English oak. This secondary woodland is also made up of young growth of sycamore, English elm, ash, holly, lime and other species, such as English oak, hazel, spotted laurel, rhododendron, cherry, beech, elder and hawthorn. Much of the field layer is dominated by bramble and ivy, with other species, such as bluebell (both native and Spanish) red campion, wood dock, with lords and ladies also present.

A pond near the entrance to the wood is a feature of the site, and has a pond dipping platform with a bridge. The amphibians living in the pond include a large population of smooth newts and common frogs, accompanied by dragon flies and damsel flies. They are part of the diverse invertebrate fauna recorded on the site, which also includes stag beetles, purple hairstreak and speckled wood butterflies. This diversity is a reflection of the site’s history as a remnant of a large Victorian garden, which would have been home to many of the invertebrates from the “semi-natural” countryside. The site’s breeding bird species have included blackcap, chiffchaff, nuthatch and sparrowhawk.
Lewisham had kept the reserve permanently open until 2003, when it was decided to lock the reserve because the site had become extensively vandalised and fly-tipped, and had therefore become a potential health and safety hazard.

However, in 2004 the reserve was given “Local Nature Reserve” status and since then there have been many facilitated school nature study visits involving hundreds of schoolchildren. There have also been numerous “Green Gym” Nature Conservation Volunteer events on the site, and it has participated in several Mayow Park events. Currently, there is a bi-monthly Children’s Wildlife Watch Club on a Saturday, as well as the new “Nature’s Gym” and corporate volunteer workdays held there.

I am very keen to encourage and facilitate more supervised public access to this splendid site, and in order to do this, Lewisham Council is looking to set up a user group to act as champions of the reserve and to oversee visits. Future possible plans include BTCV’s (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) Green Gym relocating from Creekside, in Deptford, to the Field Centre Building on the reserve so that the project can use the site as a base for operations. If this occurred, BTCV would facilitate and supervise regular weekly public opening of the reserve.

If you are interested in this project, please contact who is our Nature Conservation Officer

Pools Update

As 2008 draws to a close, swimming in Forest Hill faces an uncertain future. The listing of Louise House has invalidated much of the preliminary work done by the council because this was all based on the assumption that Louise House would be demolished. At the meeting of the Lewisham Mayor and Cabinet on 17th Sept a new feasibility study was proposed and this will be presented to the Mayor and Cabinet in January/February 2009.

It has proved difficult to get new information from the Council about the proposed feasibility study and other aspects of the Pools' development. The Forest Hill Society has put together proposals for what we believe to be a better consultation process, involving the community at an earlier stage in producing the design brief. We have shared this with the Sydenham Society and Save the Face of Forest Hill.

A local architect has done some drawings which demonstrate the feasibility of locating two pools on the site, whilst retaining the facades of the current Pools building and Louise House as one credible option for the future of the site. Together with our shared vision of a design competition to produce quality alternative proposals for the site, we feel that we have much to contribute and the three groups are jointly seeking an urgent meeting with the council to progress this issue.

Meanwhile, the Council officers have arranged opportunities for stakeholders to visit Louise House to see the current state of the buildings. The English Heritage report says the internal layout is broadly original, dating from the time it was used as a Girls’ Industrial School. It suggests the bigger room on the upper floor would have been the girls’ dormitory. The girls would have been monitored from an adjacent room with windows looking into the dormitory! The laundry block at the back is a long, low building, mainly comprising one large room, until recently used as a nursery.