24 January 2009

Honor Oak cemetery used as fly tip

The following report was broadcast by the BBC on 21st January

An investigation is underway after a south London council discovered that three cemeteries were being used to illegally dump building waste.

Southwark Council said what appears to be large amounts of builders' demolition rubbish has been deposited.

The three cemeteries are Camberwell Old, Camberwell New (known as Honor Oak) and Nunhead.

Council officials say some of the cemeteries now have contaminated soil, but no graves have been affected.

Annie Shepperd, chief executive of Southwark council, said the fly-tipping first came to light in December 2007.

"As soon as the council was aware of the scale and nature of the activity taking place we notified the appropriate regulatory body, the Environment Agency, which is now carrying out a criminal investigation into the events leading to the building material being deposited without permission."

Ms Shepperd said the areas used for burials are unaffected, but other, vacant land on the sites are now the subject of an industrial clean-up operation after contaminated soil was detected.

"No graves will be disturbed by this but when material is being removed areas of the cemetery will not be accessible to the public."

It is unclear how long the dumping has been going on, but the council said waste was found "well under the surface".

"This material appears to have been processed and dumped at our cemeteries as part of alleged criminal activities by individuals intent on avoiding landfill charges and for their personal gain."

The council has begun civil proceedings in the High Court against a company named Brixton Tipping Service Ltd, its owner and a former manager who worked for the council.

Brixton Tipping could not be reached for comment.

A council spokesman said the former employee was past retirement age and has since taken his retirement.

The Environment Agency investigation is ongoing, a council spokesman said.

22 January 2009

Redberry Grove development approved

Despite the objections of the Forest Hill Society, the Sydenham Society, Councillor John Russell, and over 60 local residents, the planning committee tonight accepted the proposed development in Redberry Grove.

Only three of the councillors turned up to the planning meeting - John Paschoud, Sue Luxton, and Paul Maslin - the minimum number needed to hold the meeting.

Despite a number of good arguments put forward by Michael Abrahams on behalf of the objectors, and by John Russell as a ward councillor, there was little discussion from the committee of their reasonable objections.

Sue Luxton was most concerned about making the modern building the highest environmental sustainability rating of any building in Lewisham, something that the developer, to their credit, was happy to accept.

There was some concern about possible loss of biodiversity and Sue Luxton recommended that the decision was deferred until after a biodiversity report was completed. However, this was overruled by John Paschoud's casting vote as chair. What biodiversity has been lost we shall not know, despite evidence of deer close to the site from the 1990s. If you visit Albion Millennium Green please keep an eye out for deer the size of dogs hiding the bushes. And if you see one, take a photo and email it to us!

The councillors showed no concern for the Sydenham Park conservation area, not even discussing the effect this modern building will have on the character of the conservation area. Lewisham council policy towards conservation areas appears to be that any modern building is acceptable as long as it is energy efficient and we can expect to see more buildings of this type in some of our most historic streets (of which Redberry Grove is certainly one).

Despite the defeat it is worth noting that the local residents fought a good campaign against this development, to protect their streets, so worthy of conserving, and to protect the adjacent area of nature conservation.

21 January 2009

Perry Vale Car Park Pedestrian Access

Press Release from Lewisham Council:
Lewisham Council is proposing to undertake pedestrian improvements at the entrance to the car park in Perry Vale.

These improvements will include creating a step free crossing for pedestrians at the entrance, which in turn will reduce speeds at which vehicles enter and exit the car park. In addition we also plan to improve the footway between the car park entrance and the bus stop outside Perystreete flats.

It is our intention to begin work on Monday 2nd February 2009, and this should be complete within a month.

The Forest Hill Society has been encouraging the council to make the Perry Vale Car Park more accessible. There are two reasons for this:
1) Better pedestrian access to Forest Hill sorting office
2) Potential enhancements to access to Forest Hill railway station

Ideally we would like the southbound platform to be extended south to allow direct access to the Perry Vale car park. This would provide step free access to this platform and would allow the area in front of the station to be regenerated as a town square.

None of this will happen overnight, but it is good to see Lewisham Council taking to initiative and removing another hurdle in the race for level access to the station on both sides.

Forest Hill Pools Stakeholders Update 21st January 2009

This isn't much of an update because the Council is keeping us pretty much in the dark about what's going on and trying to get information is proving very frustrating. But we wanted to let our members know what we have managed to glean.

In October the Council commissioned further feasibility work to examine how a two-pool leisure centre could be delivered for Forest Hill, taking into account the results of public consultation and the listing of Louise House. This further work was to include examination of how Louise House and possibly the old pool building frontage could be incorporated into a new scheme. It would also assess the potential for other community uses, the scope for housing cross subsidy, the timetable, and the revised costs and risks for the project. At that stage, a stakeholder meeting was planned for 22nd January 2009.

The Forest Hill Society, along with the Sydenham Society and Save the Face of Forest Hill were not happy with the previous consultation process. We felt that there had been no opportunity for a two-way discussion.

As the autumn progressed, it became evident that the brief for the feasibility study was regarded as confidential. It seemed to us that excluding the community from the process of developing a brief was part of the reason that the plans presented in the summer were derailed so spectacularly. We approached local Councillors and officers for a meeting to discuss ideas we have for an innovative consultation event to draw up a brief which would then inform a design competition, as had been done elsewhere. This would provide real options for local stakeholders to consider, and does not have to be an expensive process. We had great difficulty in getting a meeting, but eventually it took place on the 8th January 2009.

There was some initial disagreement about the purpose of the meeting, as the Council officers felt that they had been directed to hold the consultation in a particular way, and only really wanted to look at the sketch plans which a local architect had shared with the societies. These demonstrate that even with the retention of Louise House and the Pools frontage building, there is space on the site for two pools, changing and other facilities, along with some housing. It would still require demolition of the laundry block at the back of Louise House in order to have plant and chemicals access. This is not out of the question because even when a building is listed it can still be possible to change or demolish parts of the building, as long as a strong and comprehensive case is put forward for it - in this case focussed around the positive reuse and repair of the building for a community use.

It was eventually agreed that the Forest Hill Society, Sydenham Society, Save the Face of Forest Hill and any other stakeholders would be able to table items for the agenda at the next stakeholder meeting. Thus we will have a forum to bring up our ideas about the consultation process. However, the Council officers are not prepared to have a stakeholder meeting until the feasibility study has been completed, and this will not be by the 22nd January date previously agreed but has be delayed to 5th Febuary. Yet again, the timetable slips.

If you have any ideas about how Louise House could be used, please email the Forest Hill Society representatives on the Stakeholder group:



Perry Vale Ward Assembly

Perry Vale Ward Assembly will take place next week:

Date: Thursday, 29 January 2009
Venue: Forest Hill Methodist Church, Normanton Road, London SE23 2DS
Map of location of meeting
Time: 7.30pm-9.30pm

Minutes from the previous meeting can be found here.

Perry Vale Ward is the area of SE23 south of Stanstead Road and East of the railway, a small part of the ward is in SE6. All residents from the area are welcome to attend this meeting.

15 January 2009

23 Club - January Scottish Special

Friday, 23rd January, Honor Oak Pub, 1 St German's Road, SE23 1RH, 0208-690-8606, 8pm - Burns Night.

The 23rd January is close-enough to Burns Night for it to be an excuse to celebrate it. We're very grateful to Jamie at the Honor Oak for arranging this alongside our very own Rob McIntosh who's managed to persuade his father to address the haggis for us.

Jamie is offering a free starter plate of Haggis, Neeps n' Tatties for anyone who calls and books in the name of the 23 Club. After that, you can choose your main courses from the pub's excellent menu.

Kilts are not obligatory but it might be nice to see one or two on the night!

This looks like being a well attended event, so do get in there quick so we can make arrangements for a suitably sized table.

There is an outside chance of a malt whisky tasting after the meal.

Remember that the 23 Club is a social club with a difference. It aims to bring local residents together, particularly members of the Forest Hill Society (you can always join on the night), but also supports our many and varied local hostelries that badly need our support this year. Individuals book directly with the venue, mentioning they're with the 23 Club. Everyone pays for their own food and drink. See you there!

We're planning more outdoor events for the Spring when we're feeling a little warmer so watch this space.

14 January 2009

December 2008 Newsletter

The following articles are from the December issue of the Forest Hill Society Newsletter.
You can view them together at http://foresthillsociety.blogspot.com/search/label/newsletter1208

Peter Irby takes over as Chairman

I am very honoured to have been elected as Chairman of the Forest Hill Society for the next year, writes Peter Irby. Michael Abrahams has done an excellent job for the last 2 years and I'm delighted that he has agreed to be the Vice Chair.

I have lived in Forest Hill for twenty-two years. My wife and I have two grown-up children - who live at home - and a cat. There are many reasons we enjoy living here; the green spaces, the Horniman Museum on our doorstep and a transport system which is, on the whole, excellent. I’m a great fan of the P4 bus as anyone on the Society’s Executive Committee will testify.

Before I retired eighteen months ago, I worked for The New York Times, based in London, as an advertising salesman. Before that, I spent seventeen years in the Army, in the Royal Green Jackets.

Apart from my family, my main interests are Chelsea Football Club which I’ve supported for fifty-five years and model railways.

So how do I see my new role as Chairman of the Forest Hill Society? My main priorities are to give guidance and to establish good relations with other local groups and individuals whose aim is to make Forest Hill a better place in which to live and shop.

Unfortunately, Forest Hill has one big problem. We are divided into four pieces by the South Circular Road and the railway line. This makes it very difficult to establish a vibrant town centre. However, if all members make it their duty to talk up Forest Hill, we will be closer to achieving this aim. There is too much negative talk about the area on some of the local web sites with people hiding behind anonymous names. Let's be positive!

The Society has made a good deal of difference already in the two short years of our existence, especially in securing our railway services. Looking ahead, I’m keen that we continue to push for improvements to Forest Hill station such as securing a new entrance to Platform 2 via the Perry Vale car park. We will continue to lobby for the Sainsburys car park, owned by LBL, to allow up to two hours free parking. That gives people time to use our local shops but denies commuters from outside the area a place to leave their cars all day.

The biggest local issue is the re-building of the Pools. I have formed a Committee whose sole purpose will be to help get the Pools re-built to the satisfaction of most people who live in the Pool Catchment area. We will never be able to satisfy everybody, but let's work together and understand other people's views. The pools will be a focal point in our town centre. The longer the delay in rebuilding them, the more the Town Centre will deteriorate and local shops will be forced to close as there will not be the custom they need to keep going.

There’s a lot to do and so I hope I can count on your support. Whether it’s attending our social events, delivering Newsletters, being active committee members or simply keeping an interest in local issues, our members’ contribution to the Society is highly valued. I hope I get to meet many of you over the coming year, perhaps at our monthly 23 Club meals, which I shall attend as often as time permits.

In the meantime, I can be contacted on:

Annual General Meeting 2008

Thank you to everyone who came along to our very sociable AGM at The Hob on 15th October. You can read the full minutes can be found here but here’s a flavour of the evening.

The main news is that we now have a new chairman. Having chaired the Society from its inception, Michael Abrahams decided to step down and Peter Irby was elected to carry on his work. Peter has been vice chairman of the Society for the last year and we are delighted that he has decided to step up to this new role. We’re not losing Michael completely though. He’s going to stay on as vice chair and will also chair the Planning Committee.

One of Michael’s final acts as Chair was to present his annual report to the Society. This too can be seen on our website. Liz Hannaford (Communications Officer) then thanked him for all the hard work and time he’d put into the Society and, after a highly deserved round of applause from the members, he was presented with a gift.

Apart from Peter and Michael swapping places, the Elected Officers for 2008-2009 remain the same.
  • Chairman: Peter Irby
  • Vice Chairman: Michael Abrahams
  • Treasurer: Helen McAllister
  • Secretary: Katherine Willett
  • Communications Officer: Liz Hannaford

In addition, we now have 16 Executive Committee Members. Many of these are carrying on from last year but it was great to see so many new faces coming on board. This is a very healthy sign and means that we should have continuity as well as fresh blood to make sure we don’t get too stuck in our ways.

There were no guest speakers at this year’s AGM because we wanted to leave plenty of time for members to discuss issues that concern them so that we can set priorities for the coming year. Judging from the questions from the floor, it looks like the Planning Committee is going to have a busy time ahead. Members discussed the poor appearance of our town centre, specifically shop fronts and the lack of a planning vision for our area. The problem seems to be a lack of planning officers in Lewisham. However, Jeff Lowe (Havelock Walk artists’ quarter) did announce that Lewisham’s Regeneration Department had recently told him they would enforce the Council’s own shop front guidelines but only for new frontages, not existing ones.

Members voiced concern about traffic problems on Honor Oak Road and asked for a pedestrian crossing on the junction of that road with London Road. This is a particularly important junction for pedestrians in our area since it’s on the walking route from the station to the Horniman Museum.

On a positive note, we heard that the group of roads around Rockbourne Rd – the Rockbourne Triangle – had been declared the winner of Lewisham’s eco-streets competition, partly in recognition of the Stanstead Road Community Garden. The area will become Lewisham’s centre for excellence for eco-issues and this was a good opportunity for the FH Society to become involved.

Inevitably, we spent a good deal of time discussing the now very uncertain future of Forest Hill Pools. Members were unhappy with the Council’s handling of the redevelopment, specifically the listing of Louise House. The Council must have been aware of the application to list it and yet seemed totally unprepared for the news that the application had been successful. There was a strong feeling at the meeting that the priority for the Society should be to press for an architectural competition to ensure a good design for the new pools. Many members, however, felt the outward appearance was of secondary importance compared to the provision of fantastic swimming facilities in our area.

So, plenty of issues for the Committee members to get their teeth into. If you’d like to get more actively involved with these and other issues, you don’t need to wait until next year’s AGM. Just contact Peter Irby to discuss ways in which you can help. We’re always pleased to hear from you.

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