29 March 2007

Stanstead Road Community Garden

For a few months now a group of residents have been discussing plans to improve the area around 'Old Stanstead Road' (the bit that is not the south circular). With the support of the Forest Hill Society, and the active involvement of some of the committee members, local residents have been drawing up plans for a small community garden to improve the environment around Travis Perkins and a small plot of land.

What is particularly nice about this group is the way they plan to involve local people, from children to adults, and have been able to get the support of local businesses and Lewisham Council.

It is small scale projects such as this that help to create a sense of community and improve the surroundings for everybody in the area. We wish them the very best of luck in developing their plans for the community garden, and may what starts as a garden, blossom into even greater things!

27 March 2007

The walls come tumbling down

We are beginning to see some improvements in the path between Trilby Road and Sunderland Road. As previously reported plans are in progress to improve this pathway. Some of the pot holes have been filled in (not very well in my opinion, but it will do), but more importantly some of the concrete fences have been knocked down at the end of the path, assuming this work continues and the land at the end of the path is cleared, this should make a significant difference to safety on this path.

We are also discussing the possibility of straightening the route of the path on the corner of Trilby Road so that there are no surpises round the corner, although a mirror would also help to do this.

Update [15th April]: Posts have now been removed from the remains of the fence along the path. However, the area at the end of the path has been used to dump and burn household goods. This area needs to be cleaned up very soon, something which Forest Hill Society, Lewisham Council, and the neighbours are working on.

Update [8th May]: Resurfacing work has been carried out properly now and the path looks lovely. The burnt wood has been removed, but we are still waiting for the area to be cleared and for a new fence to be errected.

19 March 2007

Sydenham Society Public Meeting - Minutes from 14th March

Minutes from last week's Sydenham Society public meeting are available on the Sydenham Town website.

The presentation I made about the petition and survey conducted by Forest Hill Society can be downloaded from here. The presentation made by Peter Field from TfL can be downloaded from here but this is a big file (6Mb) so it may take a few minutes.

17 March 2007

Welcome to the second newsletter from the Forest Hill Society

All today's articles on the blog are from the March edition of the Forest Hill Society Newsletter. Paper copies are delivered to all our members - if you have not received your copy please contact me.
To view all the newsletter articles in one go click here.

Since the last edition we have been busy campaigning to keep the existing train services to London Bridge and we would like to thank you for your support. Our on-line petition has over 800 signatures from local residents in Forest Hill, Honor Oak, Sydenham, and beyond.

Due to popular demand we are planning to have our second General Meeting on 10th May, and I am delighted that local resident and Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock has agreed to speak at this meeting. So if you have questions about anything related to Lewisham Council, come along and put your questions to the top man. There will also be plenty of time to discuss other issues for Forest Hill and what you think the Society should be doing. This meeting is open to members and non-members and there should be seats for everybody (we have learnt from the popularity of our last general meeting). So I look forward to seeing everybody there.

Michael, Chair, Forest Hill Society

Dates for your diary

Guided Wildlife Walk
15th April 2pm, Devonshire Road Nature Reserve. Nick Pond, who’s responsible for nature conservation in Lewisham, will reveal the flora and fauna which inhabit this secluded spot. He’ll also give tips on encouraging biodiversity in our gardens. Meet in the classroom.

Forest Hill Society General Meeting
10th May 7.30 pm (doors open 7pm) – Christian Fellowship Centre, Honor Oak Road (opposite
Fairlawn School). Guest Speaker – Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham.

Non-Forest Hill Society Events:
Forest Hill Day organised by the Forest Hill Traders Association.
10 June 2007, Horniman Gardens.

The future of our Pools

So, after a long wait we finally know the result of the structural survey into Forest Hill Pools and what Lewisham Council intends to do now. The Mayor, Steve Bullock, has decided to refurbish the facilities rather than opt for a rebuild. The intrusive survey carried out on the building last year concluded that this is feasible but warns that the investment needed will be “significant.”

The Background
Forest Hill Pools (built in 1884) are amongst the oldest but certainly not the most spectacular of the Victorian era public baths. Many of the original features have been lost over the years. As a result, in May 2006 English Heritage turned down an application to have the building listed.

The long-term future of the pools has hung in the balance for some time. They’ve been run on a management-only (that is, no investment) contract since 2001 pending a decision on their future. Not surprisingly, the condition of the pools deteriorated.

A public consultation was held in October 2005 to determine whether local people wanted to refurbish the pools or knock them down and start afresh with a new build. The two options were limited but most people who replied chose the rebuild. However, the strength of feeling at public meetings and focus groups – which strongly supported refurbishment, retaining two pools – persuaded the Mayor to chose this option pending the outcome of the intrusive survey.

The pools have been closed since March 2006 when the roof was deemed unsafe.

The Timetable
April 07 to Oct 07 - design, consult, plan
Feb 08 to Jan 09 - construction
Jan 09 to Feb 09 - commissioning
Feb/March 09 - THE POOLS REOPEN!

The Cost
According to the consultants, Capita Symonds, it will cost £5.05 million to repair the pools complex. If you include inflation to 2008, the cost is nearer £5.6 million.

Is this the end of the matter?
Probably. But many people will be unhappy that other options for the pools have been lost for the time being. For example, the building could have been redesigned with a larger, more modern fitness suite if it went down to just one pool, rather than retaining both. Or perhaps the disused public building next to the pools (Louise House) could have been incorporated into the plans to create a much bigger community centre for Forest Hill, offering not only swimming and sport but a community hall and meeting rooms (sadly lacking in Forest Hill). The Mayor says financial concerns prevented other solutions being put forward and there are certainly some advantages to having two swimming pools rather than one. So perhaps we should just be glad that swimming is set to return to Forest Hill – perhaps in time to produce an SE23 champion for the 2012 Olympics!!

The Forest Hill Society will be keeping a close watch on how things progress but do let us know your thoughts. And if you have a question for the Mayor on this issue, then make sure you come along to our General Meeting on May 10th when you can ask him directly.

Walking the streets

What drives a man to map out his home postcode area, buy a pedometer and determine to walk every street in that area within 12 months? Health? Madness? Curiosity? Boredom?
Rob McIntosh explains his personal quest.

I moved to Forest Hill about 2 years ago with my young family having bought a house here. I grew up moving from one country to another and never had time to put down roots, so buying our first house seemed to be a good reason to look into the history of the property and the area.

This search in turn led me online and thus I uncovered a wealth of community events and forums. I had rarely felt properly part of a community before. This was fun!

Around December time, I discovered blogging and photo sharing. As with millions of others, I thought, “I can do this too!” I work from home and sometimes you need an excuse to get out and stretch your legs. So I determined to get out, see, learn, take some photos, get some fresh air and tell others about what I came across. Simple really.

The result was “Walking the Streets of Forest Hill, SE23”.

The blog gets about 70 visitors a week and one or two comments. It means I now feel an obligation to keep it up to date, and it is nice to know people are interested. But mainly I do it to learn about the area and try and stay sane.

As for the future, “how many roads must a man walk to be a called a man?” Well, not as many as I first thought, so the goal should be achievable. Most importantly, I hope to pass on some of my enthusiasm for the area and attract others here.

If you want to follow my progress, please do visit the site and leave me suggestions on routes, places to visit or any other comments. And if you fancy joining me on a walk, leave me a comment and we can try and arrange something.

Transport Update

It has been a busy few months for the Transport Sub-Committee with the East London Line Extension at the top of the agenda. But road transport isn't far behind on our list of concerns.

ELL/London Overground
It has not been easy pinning down the facts! What we do know is that there will be 8 x 4-coach trains per hour in both directions, passing through Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park on their way to / from Dalston Junction and Crystal Palace / West Croydon. These trains will be similar to Suburban Rail stock but will have fewer seats so that more passengers can be carried during the Morning and Evening rush hours. The station at Canada Water will become a major interchange for passengers travelling to Canary Wharf. There is also an Interchange with Docklands Light Railway at Shadwell.

We also know that the current East London line will close on 23 December 2007 for rebuilding and upgrading.

But the big issue for us is that we believe that Southern trains to/from London Bridge station will be cut. We do not know by how many, but from conversations with Transport for London and documents available deep inside the Network Rail web site, we believe that the cuts will be by 2 or 3 trains per hour in the morning and evening rush hours as well as all day long.

A lot of lobbying has gone on. Len Duvall, London Assembly Member, Jim Dowd MP and Joan Ruddock MP are all well briefed as the result of much communication from us. At first, we were not certain they believed the facts and figures we were presenting them with. But we were able to prove that all our information came from reliable sources, using the Freedom of Information Act as well as thorough research of available public domain information.

We have also raised public awareness by distributing 2,500 leaflets at Honor Oak Park and Forest Hill stations in the run-up to Christmas, urging people to sign our online petition to Save our Train Service. More than 800 of you signed (thank you!) and we presented the petition to Transport for London at the end of January.

Local Roads

Dartmouth Road has had Speed Bumps and 2 Speed Tables built. The effect is to slow down traffic, particularly opposite the Primary and Secondary schools where the Speed Tables have been built. Parking remains a problem at the Forest Hill Station end of the road where on a Sunday cars are parked three-quarters on the pavement.

Honor Oak Road with Honor Oak Park is underway as we go to press. The first effect, while the building is taking place, is to slow the traffic down even further particularly towards the traffic lights with London Road. The next plan will be to lobby for the phasing of these traffic lights to be lengthened to prevent such a queue – at least 20 cars for most of the day. We will be monitoring these works to check if the desired effects have been achieved and that the safety measures are being enforced. Also the new parking restrictions at the London Road end of Honor Oak Road will need to be enforced, as will the new parking restrictions on Honor Oak Park near Honor Oak Station.

20 Questions for Transport for London

Below is a list of questions submitted by the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies to Transport for London following a meeting with them on 31st January 2007. We hope that when the answers come they will clarify the situation.

1. What cuts in services to and from London Bridge does the feasibility timetable envisage?

2. Is the feasibility timetable, one that TfL broadly supports?

3. Will the London Bridge to Victoria via FH service continue to run and if so what will be the frequency of this service in each direction?

4. What will be the time of the last train from LB and the last train running on the ELL?

5. Before the East London line closes for construction, what can be done to ensure that all peak hour trains in operation to and from LB are a minimum of 8 carriages long?

6. What can be done in the future to increase the length of trains to and from London Bridge, beyond 8 carriages? What is the minimum timescale that such changes can be made if government investment is forthcoming?

7. What are your estimates of the percentage of passengers who will use the ELL as opposed to LB services in 2011?

8. Taking into account growth in passenger numbers by 2010 plus the additional commuters who will be attracted by the new service, can you be sure that the ELL and LB service will be able to operate without overcrowding?

9. What reduction in demand for London Bridge services through FH do you expect in 2010 during the morning peak period?

10. What reduction in demand for London Bridge services through FH do you expect in 2010 during the evening peak period, both in total and per train?

11. What is the capacity of each new ELL train carriage, including standing and seated?

12. What is the capacity of an 8 carriage train on the existing Southern Service, including standing and seated?

13. Based on the capacity figures above what is the total increase in capacity to services through FH during the morning peak and off-peak?

14. Will there be any through services to Charing Cross from FH (a service currently available in evenings and weekends)?

15. What is the percentage increase in customers from FH travelling to Canary Wharf and Docklands in 2011?

16. What proportion of passengers from FH will experience a faster journey in 2011?

17. What proportion of passengers from FH will experience fewer interchanges in 2011?

18. Given the introduction of zonal fares, introduction of Oyster will a ticket to London Bridge cost the same as a ticket to Paddington? Will this be more than the current cost of a single ticket to London Bridge?

19. Will any fast trains stop at New Cross Gate in 2010 to allow for interchange?

20. When do TfL expect to begin running FH station and when does TfL plan to upgrade the station to tube standards (manned when open and able to accept Oyster Cards)?