14 January 2009

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: tony@foresthillsociety.com

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 se23openspace@hotmail.co.uk. 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 mary@foresthillsociety.com.

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: michael@foresthillsociety.com

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 jessica.rushton@lewisham.gov.uk 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.

10 January 2009

Vote for Mayow Park

Online voting is now open for you to support parks in Lewisham. Lewisham Council have entered Deptford Park and Mayow Park for the competition to win up to £400,000 of funding from the Greater London Authority.

Find out about the all the entrants from around London, plus more about the competition on the GLA website. Londoners can vote until Friday 30 January 2009 to choose which ten London parks will win the funding.

Vote for Mayow Park
Mayow Park has been open to the public since 1877, so it's time for a facelift.

A grant would help to make it more welcoming by restoring the drinking fountain and improving the children's playground, plus:

  • new multigames pitch
  • improved wildlife habitats
  • new seating and bins
  • repainted railings and new signage at entrances
Reproduced from Lewisham Website

UPDATE: Spread the word by joining our Facebook Group at http://votemayowpark.notlong.com, but make sure you vote as well!

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.