06 January 2009

Consultation of Green Spaces

Press Release from Lewisham Council:

Consultation on recreational spaces in Lewisham

Lewisham residents are invited to give their views on what improvements they would like made to open spaces, outdoor sports and recreational provision across the borough.

The public consultation, which opened on Monday 22 December, is seeking feedback on parks, natural green-space areas, outdoor sport facilities, provision for children and young people, and allotments. Local people, groups and organisations are encouraged to give their opinion about the quality of the facilities they use at the moment and what their needs are both now and in the future.

The study has been commissioned by Lewisham Council and will be carried out by Strategic Leisure Limited, a management consultancy company specialising in the planning, development, management and evaluation of sport and leisure facilities, services and events.

The consultation will end on Saturday, 31 January with the findings expected to be published at the beginning of April 2009.

The study will provide the Council with a clear framework for planning and future management. It will also provide targets for future improvement and provision, and ensure local needs are met.

Residents can have their say by completing the online questionnaire at:

01 January 2009

Happy 2009

2008 has been a mixed year for Forest Hill with two key issues dominating the work of the Forest Hill Society. Below is a brief summary of some of the key events for the Forest Hill Society since last new year.


The main issue for people in Forest Hill has been the closure of the Pools on Dartmouth Road and the effect this has had on the town centre.

In February Lewisham council published their recommendations on the pools, and the mayor accepted the recommendation to demolish both the pools building and Louise House to build a new leisure facility including two pools, as well as housing on the site.

Council Officers developed plans in conjunction with a firm of architects and presented their plans first to the General Meeting of the Forest Hill Society at the newly reopened Forest Hill School.

At the request of the Forest Hill Society and other stakeholders, a consultation took place in July and August to get views on the three options available. The Forest Hill Society submitted a detailed response before finding out that Louise House had been listed by English Heritage. This left us with no workable options from the council and back to square one.

In September the Mayor decided that a feasibility study should take place to decide the best way forward which would report in early 2009. This has meant that in 2008 no real progress has been made to bring swimming back to Forest Hill and as well as having two large empty buildings on the high street, the absence of the pool has led to the closure of other businesses, most notably Provender, which packed up and moved to Blackheath Village after more than 30 years in Forest Hill.

We hope that 2009 will bring some new plans that will bring swimming back to Forest Hill at the earliest possible opportunity.


On a more positive note 2008 has been a year of good news on the railways. In April the Route Utilisation Strategy was published by Network Rail, taking account of many of the concerns of the Forest Hill Society.

In March we found out about Southern Railways’ plans to shut the Perry Vale exit at Forest Hill Station in what became known as Oystergate. Prompted by TfL, Southern decided to shut the gate earlier than had been expected, from the beginning of July. This prompted motions in cabinet meetings and our MP, Jim Dowd raised the issue in Parliament, and a meeting between the Mayor Bullock, Jim Dowd, and rail representatives resulted in the reopening of the gates before the end of the month.

Today the gate is closed, but only temporarily, while work is done to install ticket barriers at the foot of the steps. One the gate reopens it will be open during all times that trains are running, thanks to further pressure from the Forest Hill Society and local councillors.

Berkeley Homes

During 2008 work took place close to the station on the building of Forest Hill Central on the former site of Finches removals.

In June Berkeley Homes applied to change a number of the units from 2 bedroom flats to extra 1 bedroom flats, having failed to sell any of the £400,000 2 bedroom flats on the open market. This application was opposed by the Forest Hill Society and rejected by the planning committee. As a result Berkeley Homes stopped all development work on the site and launched an appeal against the decision which they won in December. We are told that work will now recommence on the site.

Tyson Road

Another large development on Tyson Road had been refused in 2007 and although the developer appealed against the decision, they decided to withdraw that appeal in January. Not unexpectedly a new application was submitted in November which saw the number of units reduced from 84 to 76, with many aspects of the development the same as the previous development. The Forest Hill Society objected to this application, along with 260 other objectors and more who signed petitions. We hope that the council will reject this development early this year.

Forest Hill Society Events

In January 120 people attended the History Talk by Steve Grindley, which can be viewed here.

In May we had two nature walks, first in Garthorne Road Nature Reserve and then on the Green Chain Walk around Forest Hill.

In June we set up the 23 Club, which introduces members to a different local restaurant every month. With so many good restaurants in SE23 we will be busy for many months to come!

In October Peter Irby was elected Chairman of the Forest Hill Society at our AGM.

Other Activities

Local residents worked hard to open a new community garden on Stanstead Road. Devonshire Road Nature Reserve received a Green Pennant. A new action group was set up to improve Honor Oak Park.


Looking forward to 2009 there are some exciting developments in the pipeline. McDonalds site on London Road may be turned into a gym, the Berkeley Homes development should be completed, bringing new people to live in the town centre, and the ticket barriers on Perry Vale will be installed and the exit reopened.

More importantly we will find out what the council intend to do about swimming in Forest Hill and we hope to see new plans developed that provide two pools and additional leisure facilities on the site of the pool. It would be a disaster for the area if by the end of 2009 we do not have a clear strategy for the building of the new leisure facilities.

The Forest Hill Society is looking at other ways to improve the area and ways of attracting new businesses to the town centres in Forest Hill and Honor Oak. Despite the economic gloom, 2009 could be a good year for Forest Hill, and in our final year without tube services let’s hope that new businesses spot the opportunity for investing in an area of London that has huge potential for the near future.

Best wishes to you all for a Happy New Year.

18 December 2008

Support for a new Gym in Forest Hill

It is not often that the Forest Hill Society support planning applications rather than objecting to them, but in the case of the plans to convert the old McDonald's site into a gym, we have decided to offer our support.

This site is at the very centre of the high street and has been derelict for too long. We welcome new businesses to the area when we believe they will have a positive impact on the area and are pleased to support this application.

You can read the full text here.

06 December 2008

Christmas Events Weekend in Forest Hill and Honor Oak

Friday, 12th December - Honor Oak Christmas celebrations including Christmas lights, carols, and a small craft market.

Weekend, 13th & 14th December - Havelock Walk Open Studios - details at www.havelockwalk.com
(picture by Pip Tunstill)

Sunday, December 14th, 12-5pm - Craft market at the Hob, opposite Forest Hill Station.

Saturday, 13th December - Forest Hill Library, craft-making event.

Sunday, 14th December - Carol Concert at Horniman Gardens, including roasted chestnuts, toy stalls, and free Santa's grotto.

Sounds like a fun weekend - do not leave the area!

Perry Vale Planning Permissions

The application for conversion of a warehouse into three terraced houses at 11 Perry Vale was rejected by the planning department. Reasons for the refusal can be read here and reflect the concerns of the Forest Hill Society.

In a separate development, not far from 11 Perry Vale, Berkeley Homes appealed to the planning inspectorate after Lewisham Council rejected their plans for switching 10 of two bedroom flats to 14 one bedroom flats. Despite the objections from the Forest Hill Society the planning inspectorate has ruled in favour of Berkeley Homes, and this development will now be primarily one bedroom apartments.

Emotions will be mixed on this ruling. The good news is that Berkeley Homes has indicated that construction will recommence this month. Residents have had enough of starring at an eyesore from Forest Hill station and will be pleased that construction will now be completed.

However, Berkeley Homes won this appeal in part because they were able to demonstrate a lack of demand for two bedroom apartments. These apartments were significantly over-priced and no adjustment was made to the prices during a period of rapidly falling house prices. The lack of demand was used as evidence that there is little demand for properties of more than one bedroom in such a development. During the appeal process no work took place despite no external changes to the development. It can only be concluded that Berkeley Homes deliberately left the skeleton of the building in this state to put pressure on local residents to accept their demands.

Having said this, it is now time to move on, and look forward to new people coming into the town centre to live in this development, and a new business filling the retail unit on the ground floor. This is a prime location with the East London Line bringing new train services to their doorstep and it is in everybody's interest to see these flats occupied as soon as possible.

18 Woolstone Road

The Forest Hill Society objection to a retrospective application for permission for three windows overlooking the neighbouring property, can be read here.

The Forest Hill Society is happy to advise and assist any local residents who have concerns over planning applications. Whilst we may not always object as a Society, we will try to offer advice to local residents. If you have any concerns about planning applications please send them to email@foresthillsociety.com

03 December 2008

Access to Station from Perry Vale

This is the latest update from Southern Railway on the installation of gates at the foot of the stairs on Perry Vale:

Enabling works for the new gateline on platform two commenced on Wednesday 26 November and were expected to last for three weeks. During this period the side gate on platform 2 is closed. After that time limited access will be available. All works will be completed by late January and the gates will then go live. Once operational the gates will be left open unstaffed from 21.00hr to end of service as the entrance will be remotely closed by our control centre.

December Events in Forest Hill and Honor Oak

Tuesday 23rd December, 8pm - Christmas Dinner, Italian style at The Old Bank, 76-78 Honor Oak Park, SE23 1DY. Telephone 8291 1738
This restaurant is close to Honor Oak Park Station - a bank converted into a restaurant before the credit crunch! As always, please book directly with the restaurant and mention you're with the 23 Club or Forest Hill Society so they know to seat you with everyone else. We do urge you to book as early as possible for this one. See you there!
Saturday 6th December, 12-4pm - Forest Hill festive activities - including an appearance by Father Christmas and his REAL reindeer. Foresters Arms, Perry Vale.

Sunday 7th December, 3-6pm Tree Dressing Day at the Devonshire Road Nature reserve - make your own lanterns and paint glass lanterns for the procession of light. Make Green Man masks to take home and enjoy music and story telling.
£2 donation per person to cover costs. Please note that this event takes place during the hours of darkness. Come prepared with warm clothes and a torch. Contact devonshireroadnature@yahoo.co.uk

Friday 12th December, 5-7pm - Honor Oak Christmas celebrations - carols, switching on of Christmas lights, craft market. Opposite Honor Oak Park train station.

Sunday December 14th, 12-5pm - upstairs and downstairs at The HOB (opposite Forest Hill Station). Ceramics, photography, handmade retro toys, glass, textiles, handmade bags and more besides. Free entry.

Sun 14 Dec 3-6pm - Horniman Carols in the bandstand in the picturesque setting of these award-winning Gardens. Enjoy performances from the English Baroque Choir and the Crystal Palace Band, carols, hot-roasted chestnuts, toy stalls, hot and cold refreshments and free Santa's grotto. Free admission.

02 December 2008

A member writes...

Is Forest Hill becoming a target for developers with grand designs? Recent experience suggests so. And the planning system is seemingly weighted in favour of the developer once planning permission is granted.

Last year one owner obtained planning permission for the redevelopment of half of a semi-detached house that is sharply out of character with the remainder of a modest 1930s street. The many objectors assumed that as this was similar to his earlier application, which had been rejected due to size and inappropriate design, that this would meet the same fate. Indeed, half of the Planning Committee agreed that this should be the case. Despite the development being three times the size of the original scheme and an over-dominant feature on the skyline, including an external staircase turret, this time Lewisham considered it to be aesthetically pleasing and respecting the local character of the neighbourhood. Worse still the developer has planning permission to demolish his half of the semi-detached, and rebuild. A nightmare for the adjoining neighbours, who fear their house, as well as their sanity, will be damaged.

Unlike the developer who has a right to appeal a Council decision to refuse an application, residents cannot appeal a decision to approve. And like Robert the Bruce determined developers can try and try again until the Council, who may be fearful of mounting costs, concedes. We continued to question Lewisham on their about turn. How much did the ‘greening-up’ of the application affect this? And what about the applicant’s expectations that this would feature on Channel 4’s Grand Designs? Naturally we could not suggest that these were the reasons, but with no satisfactory answer to many other issues, we took legal advice, and applied to the Courts to overturn the Council’s decision. Judicial Review is not for the faint hearted, and ultimately we had to withdraw from the chase as the financial risks became too great and we could not match the coffers of Lewisham. So this is no David and Goliath ending.

We asked central government why the system was so unfair. They replied that it was up to the local authority to act in general public interest and that our elected councillors must take into account the local view and justify these decisions to their electorate. With our three ward councillors and local residents association behind us at the planning committee meeting, and many others objectors, local democracy seems to have failed us.