14 September 2008

Getting tied up in Knotweed

We have been invaded, but it is almost unnoticed by most of the people it is affecting.
Japanese Knotweed is a bamboo-like plant that can grow to 2-3 metres tall, has broad leaves and spreads, and spreads, ... and spreads. For the record, it is not bamboo and it can be very damaging.

The key problem it poses is that the roots and stalks are very strong, and the large leaves are slow to break down.

Plants push up through pipes, concrete and around flagstones, breaking up the structures on the way and undermining foundations of walls as well as breaking pipes. Above ground, one plant keeps growing and spreading in a way that prevents other native plants from growing by reducing light and creating a layer that stops other seeds from getting established.

Like many other invasive species, such as the Ringnecked Parakeet or the American Bullfrog, it was originally brought it for 'ornamental' reasons, in this case from Japan, without a thought for the potential effect. Now it affects pretty much all parts of the UK.

In Forest Hill, the Japanese Knotweed plant can be found in many places, including in a large mass along the sides of the railway on Stanstead Road. You can also see how invasive it is on the pavements and drives on the corner of Devonshire Rd and Waldram Crescent - where it was potentially responsible for what seemed like a permanent and rather dangerous leak this winter.
This plant spreads vegetatively, in other words it spreads from cuttings of the roots of other plants, and not by seed. It is, in fact, one single female plant that has spread along waterways, railway cuttings and spreading of soil waste.

It takes only the tiniest fragment of root for it to regrow. That makes it very hard to eradicate as it is almost impossible to ensure you remove all root fragments. Treatment with glyphosate on the leaves of young plants has some effect; older plants might require an injection directly into the stem. Nonchemical treatments are being developed, but short of removing, and safely disposing of, many cubic metres of soil from your garden, it is probably not yet possible.

Why should we care? Any invasive species threatens natural habitats and therefore native species. This one also threatens our property. At the moment, the level of our problem here in SE23 is small, but it could potentially get much worse and public awareness is very important.

We must all do our bit to help each other as plants in one garden can easily spread to neighbours' land. We also need to encourage the Council to deal with public areas.

You have been warned!
Read more here: http://bit.ly/japanese_knotweed
Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/srcosmo/169318031/

11 September 2008

Mayor and Cabinet - 17 September 2008 - Forest Hill Pools

The cabinet papers about Forest Hill Pool are now available:

  • Item 11 Forest Hill Pools
    Paper on the initial design and feasibility work undertaken with respect to the redevelopment of Forest Hill Pools detailed in part 5 of this report; to inform the Mayor of the results of the community engagement and consultation detailed in part 6 of this report; to inform the Mayor of the listing of Louise House and its implications detailed in part 7 of this report; and to seek the Mayor’s approval to proceed with the proposed approach set out in part 8 of this report.

  • Item 11 Forest Hill Pools Appendix A
    Community engagement and consultation

  • Amenity space affected

  • This Appendix includes the full written responses to the consultation from the Forest Hill Wart Councillors, the Forest Hill Society, and the Sydenham Society.
Hat tip: Andrew Brown

Flat refusal has led to 'eyesore'

Michael Abrahams, chair of the Forest Hill Society, is quoted in the Mercury this week regarding the Forest Hill Central development on Perry Vale. You can read the article here.

09 September 2008

Perry Vale closed for another month

Perry Vale was due to reopen this week unfortunately it has been delayed due to Victorian water mains and bad weather. Lewisham council have provided us with the following information:

With regard to the timescales for the scheme, I believe we are about a month behind schedule. This has been due to excavating around old Victorian water mains. We have caused damage to the pipes on a number of occasions. Therefore we had to continue the work by hand, which is a very slow process on a scheme of such a size. Also, we have lost time due to extremely bad weather.

We are now at a stage where we are constructing the carriageway. This is again causing difficulty as we are having to lay the materials by hand to ensure no damage is caused to the water mains below. I am hoping that the lower layers of carriageway will be constructed by the end of the week and then we will start on the construction of the new footways next week. Once all the kerbs have been installed we can then complete the construction of the carriageway, while at the same time laying paving slabs. Once the carriageway has been completed we can open the road and allow vehicles to once again drive along Perry Vale. If the footways have not been completed we will provide temporary traffic lights to enable pedestrians to walk safely within the carriageway.

I am hoping that the works will be complete by the Friday 3rd October 2008.

Contrary to some speculation Berkeley Homes are not responsible for the work being carried out and so the temporary suspension of work at Forest Hill Central will have little effect on the road works. Further work will be undertaken (hopefully later this year) on the underpass with funds already secured from Berkeley Homes.

Green Pennant Award to Devonshire Road

Congratulations to the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve on winning Lewisham's first Green Pennant award! The award is administered by the Civic Trust and rewards "standards of excellence in a community or voluntary managed green space. It has been presented in recognition of the hard work, dedication and achievement of the local people who care passionately about this green space."

This site is judged on an annual basis to maintain high standards so please do your bit to help preserve this site's special Green Pennant Award status.

For more information about Devonshire Road Nature Reserve please visit their web site or go along in person.

06 September 2008

23 Club - September

The 23 Club has now had three successful dinning experiences at local restaurants. But we still have many more to munch our way through in SE23 so come and join us on Tuesday, 23rd September at 8pm, at Yune, 25 Dartmouth Road. To book your place contact the restaurant directly on 020 8699 0887.

We are flattered that the Sydenham Society have picked up on this excellent way to support local restaurants and to give members a way to meet other local people. This month they will be starting Club 26 focusing on the restaurants of SE26, we wish them bon app├ętit!

31 August 2008

Louise House Listed

News reached us on 20th August that English Heritage, who have twice previously refused to list Forest Hill Pools, have decided to list Louise House including many of the internal features. What the future now holds for Louise House is uncertain as is the future of swimming in Forest Hill.

The three options presented by the council for the redevelopment of the pools are no longer possible and alternatives will need to be found.

For The Forest Hill Society our main concern now, as it has always been, is the future of swimming on this site. We call on the council to come up with innovative solutions to allow for a leisure centre on this site with two pools and community facilities. At present this looks like an onerous task, but the council need to find a way to make this possible within the new constraints. What must not be allowed to happen is for this decision to mark an end to swimming in Forest Hill.

The following day, on the 21st August, there was a public meeting to discuss the options for development of the site. 200 people attended the meeting where a range of views were expressed. Notes on the outcome of the meeting is available on Lewisham Council website.

At the Stakeholder Meeting on 27th August we found out some early results of the consultation. Although none of the options are possible following the listing of Louise House the results are still worth looking at. Of the 691 responses received:
Option 1 was preferred by 27% of respondents
Option 2 was preferred by 33% of respondents
Option 3 was preferred by 29% of respondents
11% expressed no preference.

The mayor and cabinet will meeting on 17th September and will be discussing the outcome of the consultation and development options.

20 August 2008

Forest Hill Central Appeal

Berkeley Homes have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate regarding the decision to reject their application for the conversion of 10x 2 bedroom units within the development to 14x 1 bedroom units.

The Forest Hill Society response can be viewed here.

In the meantime development work on the site will be halted due to cashflow problems on the development. This will temporarily leave a large unsightly skeleton structure in the centre of Forest Hill, giving a very poor impression of the local area. We wish to see the completion of this development according to the application initially approved by Lewisham Council.

18 August 2008

Planning Application, Westwood Park

Below is the text of the Forest Hill Society submission regarding planning application DC/08/69339/X, 15 Westwood Park.

On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to object to the proposed development at 15 Westwood Park which we believe is over development of the site and will have a detrimental effect on the local area.

Context of the site:
15 Westwood Park is just outside the Forest Hill conservation area in a suburban context with housing on three sides of the plot. The removal of three fine trees from the site is already cause for concern and should be reversed, as much as is possible, in any application. Policy HSG 7 states that:
‘The Council will require developers to retain any attractive or ecologically important existing natural features of a site’.
We would ask that the planning officers to ask for tree planting as part of any future development to remedy this loss of trees on the site.

Over development:
Whilst we welcome the building of family housing rather than flats at this location the density levels are too high for this suburban location. We understand that the density level is approximately 300 habitable rooms per hectare and this is significantly higher than outlined in policy HSG 16 which recommends denisty of 180-210 habitable rooms per hectare. The location of this development is not in a sustainable living area and is some distance from Forest Hill station with a substantial hill that impacts on the desirability of high density housing on such a location.

In relation to the London Plan (table 3A.2) this recommends a range of 150-250 habitable rooms per hectare in a suburban setting, outside the town centre and with a considerable hill separating the site from all public transport. This application has exceeded the maximum density recommended by the London Plan on a site that is unsuitable for such density. We recommend that the planning officers reject this application based on the high density levels on this site contrary to council and GLA policy guidance.

Internal layout of the houses:
Plots 1-3 only have a single door between the kitchen and the toilet. We would seek clarification from the officers whether this is in contravention of planning regulations. Many of the bathrooms higher than ground floor level, have no natural light or ventilation. We would recommend that for a more pleasant internal environment, and to save energy that as many of these bathrooms as possible have natural ventilation. In modern buildings we would expect to see the inclusion of windows to allow for natural light and energy saving without impacting on overlooking of other properties, however, with such high density levels on this site such provision would be very difficult.

Another concern is the small gardens of the plots. Policy HSG 7 states that:
‘Family dwellings should be provided with their own private garden area. Normally, a minimum garden depth of 9 metres will be required.’ None of the gardens on the site meet the desired depth set out in this policy.

Cars reversing from the garages and the access road create a concern because of the nature of this road. On this side of the road there is the peak of a hill directly before these houses. Cars exiting from the site will have little visibility of on coming traffic and any cars needing to stop to let them out would create a hazard for more cars coming over the hill. This problem of lack of visibility will only be exacerbated by the need for plots 1-3 to park on the road rather than in driveways or garages.

Policy HSG 8d states that there must be a proper means of access, suitable for the entry and egress of service vehicles which is convenient and safe both for drivers and pedestrians. We do not believe that this egress is safe for other road users or convenient for residents.

Horniman hill has many springs and underground waterways located on it. This has lead to the peculiar architecture of the Horniman School located in close proximity to this site. It is our concern that significant excavation and building on this location could lead to flooding and subsidence for houses in close proximity and further down the hill. We would ask that a full assessment of the affects of this backland development on neighbouring properties is undertaken and includes water surveys for the site.

We believe that for the reasons stated above the council should reject this application.

Planning Application Redberry Grove

Below is the text of the Forest Hill Society submission regarding planning application DC/08/69263/X, 4 Redberry Grove.

On behalf of the Forest Hill Society I wish to object to the proposed development at 4 Redberry Grove which we believe is out of context for the local area.

Redberry Grove is very special road in the Sydenham Park conservation area and the development of a building that is substantially out of character will have a significant affect on the nature of the conservation area in close proximity to an area of nature conservation - Albion Millennium Green which has only recently been designated as such. By developing a new backland development in such close proximity to Albion Millennium Green we are concerned that it will have a negative effect on this area of nature conservation and access to it. Additionally 3 Redberry Grove is a listed building and again this proposed development would negatively impact on the context of this listed building.

Whilst the design and the materials used for this building are state of the art and make a very interesting modern building these are totally out of context within the conservation area, which is primarily one of large Victorian houses which have been well preserved due to the conservation area. It would be a great shame to spoil this area of outstanding Victorian architecture by the discordant nature of this development.

Policy URB 5 sections c-g should be taken into account when considering this development and we believe the council should reject this application.