15 June 2008

Forest Hill Pools Update

As part of its consultation process on the development of Forest Hill Pools, Lewisham Council has set up a stakeholders group which meets regularly to represent the community and give feedback. The Forest Hill Society is one of the stakeholders, alongside the Sydenham Society, Saxon Crown swimming club, Holy Trinity School, local councillors and others. The second stakeholder meeting took place at Forest Hill School on 15th May 2008.

Project Scope:

The Council has identified £7.5 million from its own internal budgets for the project. This does not rely on government or any other grants for building.

The project will include housing. They have asked the architects, HLM, to look at three different scenarios: high, medium and low density housing, with the intention of raising about £2 million from this. The more housing, the more facilities they would be able to include. Housing would not be built until the Pools building is finished.

What happens next:

· The nursery next door to the pools is expected to vacate the site in August

· An historical surveyor visited the pools in May. It’s expected that some historical features of the façade and building will be incorporated in the eventual design.

· The plan now is to demolish the pools in August. Apparently, it is costing £100,000 p.a. in security and power to keep the building up.

· HLM Architects have been appointed and have begun the initial design work. The basic design will include a six lane, 25 metre pool with an additional training pool. They have been asked to come up with three different designs for the development. But the only difference between each design will be the density of housing. It seems that, at this stage at least, there will be no consultation on the initial draft drawings of the leisure facilities themselves. Local people will get a chance to review these three options in June, probably in the form of an exhibition in Forest Hill Library. This will then be put before the Mayor and the cabinet in July.

· Sept-Oct 2008: get planning permission

· Nov 2008: Finalise design

· March 2009: appoint principal contractor

· July 2009: start construction

· March 2011: open building

This is later than the 2010 we were originally promised and the councillors at the stakeholders meeting were unhappy about this.

Initial Thoughts:

It will be difficult to provide parking at the pools. Underground car parking would be prohibitively expensive. Apart from disabled parking and a coach drop-off for schools, some stakeholders felt there should be no - or minimal - parking to discourage car use. Not everyone thought this feasible. Stakeholders put forward various suggestions for the development including: community room, crèche, hydrotherapy, disabled access above DDA compliance, café, exhibition area.

Date of next stakeholder meeting: 11th June 2008

You can find out the latest developments on this website or the Lewisham Council website. Regular updates will be posted on the notice board in Forest Hill library. You can also become part of Annette Stead’s email group by emailing annette.stead@lewisham.gov.uk She is happy to receive comments and keep you updated.

Saxon Crown Swimming Club writes

Saxon Crown Swimming Club is the only competitive Swimming Club in Lewisham with around 250 swimming members. As well as offering lessons and training for swimmers from the age of 5 and a masters group for adult strong swimmers, it has a busy Disability section, swimmers from which have represented England at European level. Until its closure, Forest Hill Pools was one of the club’s main training venues. The Club is a stakeholder involved in the consultation process and has strong views about the future development of Forest Hill Pools, as the Club secretary, Sophie Wheeler, explains.

It really makes a difference to our swimmers and coaches if they are working in clean, well-designed pool facilities. External appearances are probably less important to us than internal use of space.

Saxon Crown would really benefit if there were a minimum of a training pool and a main 25-metre pool. The main pool should be at least 6 lanes wide and at least 1.2m deep in the shallow end for safe turns and dives. Our swimmers will need good quality anti-wave lane ropes, starting blocks and backstroke flags. Our priorities will also be for wide poolside walkways for both main pool and training pool as well as storage. The swimmers need ample changing facilities and their parents/supporters need somewhere to sit and watch and maybe gym or other facilities for them to use while waiting for their children to swim.

We would really appreciate special facilities for disabled swimmers, including hoists and wheelchair-friendly changing facilities. A viewing gallery with seating for over 100 people would be useful if we were to host a swimming gala.

If you are interested in finding out more about Saxon Crown Swimming Club, please go to www.saxoncrown.org.uk or come to Ladywell Pools on Monday evenings between 6.30-8.30pm (once Ladywell pool is reopened).

Be Nice to Nettles

Wildside – our regular look at the non-human residents of SE23

Next time you're tidying up the garden, spare a thought for the humble nettle. It may be a weed with an unpleasant sting, but it's a vital part of our ecosystem which is why it's actively encouraged at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve.

Some of our favourite butterflies - Comma, Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell - and several moths use the nettle as food for their larvae.

Nettles are the only British plant with true stinging cells formed of silica-rich "hairs" which fracture on contact with your skin. They then release a complex, chemical toxin. There's a very good evolutionary reason for this sophisticated defence mechanism; young nettle leafs are highly nutritious and need to protect themselves from hungry grazers.

But, if you're prepared to take a few precautions, nettles are very edible and, of course, they don't sting once they're boiled. In fact, the leaves are rich in iron and calcium. Nettle pudding was recently claimed to be Britain's oldest recipe dating from 6000 BC.

Traditionally, nettles have mainly been used in soups in springtime although nettle risotto is also very good (NB - nettles can cause indigestion in some people and you should only use the young leaves).

These days, there is interest in the nettles' pharmacological properties and there is research currently into the use of nettles as an anti-inflammatory in the treatment of arthritis.

National Be Nice to Nettles Week takes place every year in May so check out www.nettles.org.uk for details. And if your appetite for stinging nettles has been whetted, there is a pub in Dorset (The Bottle Inn) which runs an annual World Nettle Eating Competition which this year takes place on June 21st.

Community Garden, coming soon...

Last year we featured a community-led project to transform an ugly brick wall on Stanstead Road (the bit that isn't part of the South Circular) into Forest Hill's latest beauty spot.

We're now delighted to hear that Rebecca Leathlean's hard work has paid off and the Garden's grand opening should be at the end of July or early August. A community artist is working with local children at the Rockbourne Youth Club to create an art work which will go on the wall itself. Other local children are working on some mosaics for the path. Travis Perkins and Shannons garden centre are supporting the project with cut price and free materials and plants.

Update 20th June: More information on the community garden can be found on Love Perry Vale.

Redevelopment of Horniman Gardens

The Horniman Gardens have developed on a rather ad-hoc basis over the last century since they were first opened to the public. Now the Horniman Museum is developing a 'Masterplan' to guide the development of the Gardens for the next ten to twenty years.

Janet Vitmayer, Museum Director, and Kirsten Walker, Head of Collection Management and Special Projects provided an update on the current state of development of the Masterplan at the AGM of the Tewkesbury Lodge Estate Residents' Association on 27th April.

The Museum has applied for funding from a number of sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund to support their plans. At the time of the meeting, the Lottery Fund was unable to announce the outcome of the bid because of a pre-election embargo. However, it was stressed that getting the funding would mainly affect the speed with which any development could be implemented, rather than what would eventually be achieved.

The current proposals have been drawn up by an independent consultancy, Land Use Consultants, after consultation with users. The Museum is seeking feedback on the proposals over the next few months with a view to coming up with revised proposals by June. Copies of the outline proposal map with a form attached for comments are available from the Museum. Those responding will be invited to take part in the next round of consultation and it is expected that the Masterplan will be finalised in around nine months time.

Work is not expected to start until 2010. The main elements of the current proposals are:

  • Moving the boundary of the Gardens to encompass the nature trail, where it adjoins the Gardens, with the footpath between Westwood Park and London Road re-routed to run along the line of the railway and into Wood Vale (rather than London Road). The nature trail could become part of a Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace.

  • Creation of a reed bed and pond area at the northern corner of the gardens with areas managed to increase their nature conservation value. The pond area would be used by school groups for pond dipping.

  • Creating a 'Wild Play Area' using natural materials at the southern end of the nature trail and a 'kickabout' area to the north.
  • Considerable rearrangement of the area around the bandstand including restoration of the bandstand and the Dutch Barn, the provision of high quality surfacing to replace the current asphalt, moving the compost area between the top of the animal enclosure and the Horniman Drive entrance to open up views and improve sight lines from the Avenue and the construction of an education building in line with the Dutch Barn.
  • Restoration of the Sunken Garden and the use of the current African Garden as a 'living collection' area complementing exhibitions in the Museum – this area might be closed outside Museum opening hours.

Some members of the Residents’ Association thought the proposals to construct the Education Building and to close the Sunken Garden at times were controversial. There were other concerns raised at the meeting - the possibility that the developments might encourage rodents near housing and the fact that the proposed Wild Play Area was adjacent to the South Circular, possibly the most polluted area of the Gardens. However, there appeared to be general agreement that the concept of a Masterplan was a good one and The Horniman Museum was really trying to take on board comments made during consultation.

So, if you feel strongly about the future direction of the Horniman Gardens, do make sure your voice is heard.

23 Club

To encourage you to get to know other members of the Society, and to try our local restaurants, we have set up the 23 Club, meeting up on the 23rd of each month at 8pm.

The restaurants will be in Forest Hill and Honor Oak (the SE23 area). The Club is open to members and their guests, to ensure you will meet other members. We will arrange with a local restaurant to take your booking and seat everyone together, or maybe on two large tables. The restaurant will be different each month, enabling you to try out a wide range if you wish. There is of course no obligation to do so, but we hope the idea will be well supported.

Please book direct with the restaurant, making clear it is for the 23 Club (or the Forest Hill Society). Everyone orders their own meal and pays for themselves.

Monday June 23rd

The first 23 Club get together will be at:

Kafé La: 15 Perry Vale SE23 2NE, 020 8699 2028.

This is a Bangladeshi restaurant in the heart of Forest Hill.

Wednesday July 23rd

Le Querce: 66-68 Brockley Rise SE23 1LN, 020 8690 3761

A great little Italian restaurant in Honor Oak.

Saturday August 23rd

Perry Hill Pub, 78- 80 Perry Hill, SE23ish. Forest Hill Society Summer Barbeque – this is a lunchtime event which we hope will appeal to families. We need to get an idea of numbers in advance, so please contact Mary by email if you'd like to come along.

Future restaurants will be announced in the Newsletters and on the website, and circulated to members by e-mail on request—please contact mary.sutherland@talktalk.net.

LETS Trade

Lunch in Forest Hill for three Anchors? The alternative economy of LETS is alive and well in Forest Hill writes local resident, Maggie Smith.

A group of people meet in my home on the first Saturday in the month to trade plants, home-made bread, outgrown children’s clothes, books – anything, really - and lunch on home-made soup (three varieties, seconds welcome). Cost? Three Anchors. What kind of money is that?

LETS - Local Exchange Trading Systems - are local community-based mutual aid networks in which people exchange all kinds of goods and services without the need for money. Introduced originally in Canada, LETS for several decades revitalised communities. Most popular in the eighties, when there were some 450 LETS schemes, there are now fewer - perhaps 30,000 members in the UK - but this has been accompanied by an increase in related initiatives, such as Timebanks, Freecycle and other Community Networks.

A group of people within a local community pool resources and compile a directory of skills, services and goods, plus requests for anything they need. Each member is given a personal account with a currency usually reflecting the locality, which they use to pay for goods or services they offer and use. Lewisham LETS, active for the last 14 years, began in Greenwich and still uses Anchors as its currency, with 1 Anchor equivalent to £1. Members earn Anchors by providing a service, and can spend the credits on whatever is offered by other members - transport, gardening, decorating, the hire of tools etc. It is not necessary to make direct exchanges. New members receive a ‘starter credit’ of 20 Anchors.

As a founder member of LETS in Harrogate (Nidderdale LETS, currency in Nidds); when I moved back to London a year or so ago I naturally joined Lewisham LETS. As I live alone, how else would boxes have been unpacked and curtains hung within a couple of days of the move? In Harrogate, I organised plant and book sales and attended a monthly soup lunch, but found that no similar events existed in Lewisham LETS. The soup lunch took off and there will be a plant sale later this year. It’s a good place for new members to meet and find out what skills are on offer or needed. For people on a restricted income or living alone it is useful to have one shelf put up (hard to find a professional joiner who will accept such a small job); help with computer glitches, babysitters who don’t add to the cost of an evening out. I’ve recently been providing home-made, mainly organic frozen meals for an ultra-busy executive and two tired new parents.

How does Lewisham LETS work? Its website posts ‘Offers and needs’ with profiles of many of the members. Non-members cannot access personal details. For those without Internet access, a Newsletter and lists of offers/needs is sent by ‘snail mail.’

Find out more at http://letslewisham.org or ring the Lewisham LETS Administrator: 020 8692 8417

This Green and Pleasant Land

If you'd ever like to impress your visitors with the greenness of SE23, then we can recommend the walking route from Sydenham Wells Park to One Tree Hill. Well-kept gardens, dense woodland, panoramic views - we have everything on our doorstep.

On 25th May, Peter Frost of the Friends of One Tree Hill led this walk in perfect weather - in spite of the torrential rain throughout the morning. It took us two hours at a leisurely pace with lots of stops whilst Peter filled us in on local history, flora and fauna.

Without the stops, you could do it in an hour. It's a tricky route to do with a buggy because of the swing gates in Sydenham Woods but the 7 month old in our group certainly enjoyed herself being carried in a sling. The vicar of St Augustine's on One Tree Hill had very kindly invited us to use the church's facilities at the end of the walk and there were refreshments there as well.

There are plenty of buses that go past both ends of this walk so you can certainly leave the car at home.

11 June 2008

Public Transport Liaison meeting

Cllr Paschoud (Perry Vale), Cllr Nisbet (Sydenham) and representatives from the Forest Hill Society and Sydenham Society attended a meeting last night with bus and train managers, as well as Lewisham Council officers and London TravelWatch.

Forest Hill station ticket barriers will be in operation from 7th July. At this time the Perry Vale exit will remain closed during the day until 3pm. At 3pm-8pm ticket inspectors will be present on the Perry Vale exit and after 8pm the gate, along with the ticket barriers will be left open when the station is unmanned (Open gates after 8pm is a concession that Forest Hill Society were able to get previously in communications with Southern Railways).

Sydenham Station is expected to have the barriers and gates in operation from today. At Sydenham they have a buzzer on the back entrance to enable step-free access to the platform but this is not planned for Forest Hill.

Points raised by stakeholders that require action by Southern:
  • Will consider a Sydenham style buzzer for Perry Vale gate in daytime hours, but not likely. This would give the same accessibility to Forest Hill as currently available. I have spoken to older rail users who commute southbound or Victoria bound off-peak on a daily basis and will likely drive to Sydenham rather than walk across four staircases to get to southbound platform at Forest Hill
  • Continue to look at the barriers at platform 1 for Sydenham
Other points raised by stakeholders that may require further follow up:

  • Risk assessment for Forest Hill was only done on the new ticket barriers on platform 1, no risk assessment was done on the manned exit from Perry Vale and congestion on the platform.
  • We recommend a policy of self-certification for mobility restricted access to Sydenham platform 1, i.e. if a customer says they need the gate opened the staff should not question this. Customers should not be forced to state their medical condition into an intercom system. Staff are not medically qualified to make such judgments.
  • We need to keep pursuing the long-term Perry Vale car park access to the station. Basic access could be achieved in a few minutes with the demolition of a single wooden fence or removal of a padlock [by qualified professionals of course]. Proper access would take a little longer to achieve.
  • Len Duvall (our London Assembly Member) has written to Mayor Johnson as well contacting the transport authorities directly regarding this issue.
  • London TravelWatch has written to the rail authorities expressing concern about the plans at both Forest Hill and Sydenham stations but have yet to receive a reply.

Prompted by demand on se23.com and East Dulwich Forum for the extension of the 63 route to Honor Oak / Brockley Rise, I raised this issue with the bus companies. The 63 route is currently under review and there will be a consultation shortly. This is an excellent opportunity to extend the service and I shall be writing to TfL buses to fully argue the case.

When the public consultation happens members of the public will have the opportunity to express their opinion on this possible route extension which I feel would be of great benefit to local residents wishing to travel between Peckham, Honor Oak Park, and beyond.

05 June 2008

Latest news from Forest Hill Society

Forest Hill Day and Devonshire Road Nature Reserve Open Day - Sunday 8th June
Horniman Gardens will host the annual Forest Hill Day organised by the Forest Hill Traders Association from 12 noon to 5pm, and Devonshire Road Nature Reserve has an open day running from 12:30pm-4pm on the same day.

Forest Hill Station Barriers and Gates
According to the latest information from Southern Railway, this weekend will see the introduction of ticket barriers in Forest Hill station ticket hall. At the same time the Perry Vale gate will be closed for most of the day - possibly even when the ticket barriers are open on the other side of the station after 8pm. The Forest Hill Society oppose the closure of this important access point for people on the Perry Vale side of the station and the inconvenience that will result from the closure.

If you wish to comment on this policy of gate closure you can write to: comments@southernrailway.com
You can also speak to one of the managers from Southern Railway at London Bridge station on 19th June - 7:30am-9:30am.
Full contact details for Southern Railway can be found at http://www.southernrailway.com/main.php?page_id=438

Pools to be demolished in August
At the latest meeting of the stakeholders group for the new pools we learnt that demolition of the existing pool and Louise House will begin in August this year. Completion is not due until March 2011, which is later than previously proposed. Further notes from the Forest Hill Society representative on the stakeholder group can be found at http://www.sydenhamsociety.com/ForestHillPoolsStakeholders2.html

A petition has been set up by local residents concerned about the demolition going ahead before the public have seen the designs for the new pool. You may wish to sign the petition at http://www.gopetition.com/online/19745.html

23 Club
The first meeting of the 23 Club will take place on the 23rd June at Kafe La, 15 Perry Vale. The club is open to all members, their friends and relatives and is a simple idea - to try out restaurants in and around SE23 on the 23rd of each month. This is a great way to support local restaurants and to chat to others with an interest in the local area. If you wish to book please call Kafe La directly to reserve your place 020 8699 2028. Each person is responsible for their own booking and bill.

Further meetings of the 23 club will take place on the 23rd of each month and details of the next venues will be published in the newsletter.