08 September 2010

Café Society

Whether you’re after a standard black coffee or an extravagant flat white, the stretch of road between Forest Hill Station and the Horniman has become a real meeting place for coffee lovers. We asked the owners to tell us the secret of a great coffee.

Lisa Etherington and Dan Shardlow at St David’s Café, David’s Road

The key elements to a great coffee are a fantastic roastery, a clean coffee machine, achieving the perfect grind/extraction and finally a great atmosphere in which to enjoy it.

Petros Yiannourkou at The Teapot, London Road

We all like our coffee just so and at The Teapot it’s about creating a cup of coffee that is received with love and satisfaction. We take the leg work out of grinding Guglielmo beans, carefully frothing the milk and creating a mug of joy that hits the spot.

Kollier Bangura at From The Forest, 1 Devonshire Road, opp Forest Hill Station

A great coffee is a blend of carefully selected beans made to the customer's requirements, taking into consideration the strength, texture and temperature. Then it’s served in a warm, comfortable environment with great service from friendly staff.

Hip Ngo at The Lemon Grove, London Road

A great cup of coffee is so many things - the quality of the coffee beans, the roast, the water softener and, of course, the skill of the coffee maker. Then it has to be served with a sprinkle of love!

Honor Oak Park Station

Work is slowly proceeding after the embankment threatened to subside onto Platform 1. Checks are being made to see if the earthworks that have been done have stopped the movement. Once a new retaining wall has been built, it will be possible to remove the existing steel piles. They will then carry out repairs to the canopy and the platform.

It looks like station users will have to endure the narrow platform for quite a while yet.

Forest Hill Conservation Area Review

The Forest Hill Conservation Area is going to be expanded after plans were approved by Mayor and Cabinet in July. At the moment, it covers London Road from the Horniman Museum to the station and all the shops on Dartmouth Road. It also extends along Wood Vale, Manor Mount, and a small section of Devonshire Road.

The new Conservation Area will be extended south along Dartmouth Road as far as Thorpewood Avenue; north along Devonshire Road including Benson Road and part of Ewelme Road; and east to include the railway bridge and 1 Waldram Crescent (the small house next to the railway bridge).

Suggestions made by the Forest Hill Society and others, which are not to be adopted, included extending the boundary east of the railway to include the Waldram and Rockbourne 'triangles', and including part of Tyson Road and more of Honor Oak Road.

Sixteen buildings or groups of buildings will be 'locally listed'. This requires the buildings to be preserved or enhanced wherever possible, but doesn't give any additional planning control. The buildings include the Dartmouth Arms pub, Forest Hill pools frontage, the Horniman bandstand, and various buildings on London Road and Manor Mount.

An Article 4(2) Direction will be made, for the purpose of preserving and enhancing the area's character. This means that houses within the Conservation Area will need planning permission to make alterations such as replacing windows or doors, retiling roofs, or painting the exterior.

Why Theatreland needs SE23

Do you remember the good old days when we had direct trains to Charing Cross? One group of people misses that late night West End train more than most - the theatre performers who find Forest Hill the perfect place to live. Forest Hill Society member, Mark Stevenson, who works with Teatro Vivo and Ampersand explains what makes SE23 so attractive.

My home is as near as you can get to Lower Sydenham whilst still officially being in Forest Hill and on my street alone I know several actors, musicians and dancers - Forest Hill is crawling with us. Look around the train into London and chances are you'll see an actor silently mouthing their lines on their way to rehearsals or a musician strapped to a large and very oddly shaped instrument case.

Straightforward economics play a part here. Performers want a place they can afford and where they don't actually have to live in a garret. That’s especially true if you're a musician who needs a large space for your instrument and tolerant neighbours when you need to practise.

Then there are the trains giving us easy access to the South Bank and the West End. Mind you, since we've lost the direct train from Charing Cross, one actor I know has chosen to cycle instead, cutting out the draughty wait at London Bridge.

It's helpful living in a community near other performers. You can try out ideas, share props, exchange scripts and have a moan about arts funding over a pint in the local pub.

Performers do like to stick together! As soon as a place is discovered (nice housing, leafy gardens, decent takeaways) the performers’ network swings into action to spread the word. If you ever need to get some information out there, just mention it to an actor - it's by far the best way to reach as many ears as possible!

As for performance spaces, there’s the Brockley Jack Theatre and The Albany in Deptford close to hand. The Catford Broadway has a great range of shows in their studio and main house, and London Bubble always make sure they visit Sydenham Wells Park with their outdoor summer show. We also now have the fabulous Arcola (in Dalston) within easy reach thanks to the East London Line.

Perhaps because of all this, there are now several theatre companies based in the area - 'Bold & Saucy', 'Spontaneous Productions', 'Teatro Vivo', and my own company 'Ampersand'.

I work mainly with companies that perform in non-theatre spaces. I directed Teatro Vivo's 'Supermarket Shakespeare' in Forest Hill Sainsbury's and Ampersand's 'Headlines' in The Dolphin on Sydenham High Street. Spaces that people use everyday get transformed into magical places. And audiences interact directly with the action - one lovely man coached one of our (tense) characters in the supermarket in relaxation techniques right in the middle of a scene; kids tell off our grown-up characters, elderly ladies have given advice on love.

For me, it feels like this is the theatre I want to make, where the community has as big a part to play as the actors, especially the community where we are most at home.

Photo: Teatro Vivo perform Supermarket Shakespeare in Sainsbury’s. Photograph by Tim Sutton.

Local Libraries May Close

Lewisham Council is considering closing Crofton Park Library, Sydenham Library and three others in the Borough as part of its plan to reduce Council spending by £60 million over three years. Karen Jonason says Crofton Park Library is very well used and she’s set up an online petition and Facebook page to fight the closure.

You can find the petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/savecroftonparklibrary. Or you can sign the paper petition on September 11th between 11am and 1pm at the corner of Brockley Grove and Brockley Road.

There’s also a petition to save Sydenham Library at www.ipetitions.com/petition/savesydenhamlibrary

The final decision will be made by the Mayor on 17th November.

Getting Around

The Overground has become a regular part of many people’s everyday commute from SE23. The air conditioning now seems to work and the service is reliable – but the trains are already packed to capacity in the morning rush hour. We’ve asked Transport for London for load numbers and will be interested to hear how they propose to provide more capacity.

For the moment, we are happy that there appears to be adequate capacity to and from London Bridge on Southern but we will be continuing to monitor the situation.

The success of the Overground has increased the parking problems around both Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park and we will be working with Lewisham Council and residents to see what, if anything, can be done about this.

Lewisham Council accept that the changes made in Sydenham Rise haven’t pleased everybody. There has been displacement of car parking to other less suitable locations, and the coaches that were parking there have moved to a more residential area. In the long term, the solution is to provide a proper footpath on the park side of the road which would prevent visitors to the Museum and the Park having to struggle on an uneven and overgrown surface and the bus build out could be removed. More parking could then be provided without causing an obstruction to the road or compromising pedestrian safety. It is not clear that this option was properly investigated before the changes were made to Sydenham Rise and funding constraints mean that such major changes are not likely to happen soon. However, the Council are investigating whether the yellow lines above the bus build out could be reduced to provide about three more parking spaces and will be pressing TfL to review the pedestrian crossing at the junction with London Road. No major changes are likely in Sydenham Rise in the near future.

TfL has rejected our suggestion that traffic flow on the A205 might be improved by restricting right turns into and out of Devonshire Road. We will, however, be looking at the problems caused by traffic queuing to turn right to get to Perry Vale. A better right turn lane might help here.
Sometimes a relatively simple change makes a big improvement to local transport. A suggestion by a local resident has resulted in the northbound 356 bus stopping at Forest Hill Station. Previously it didn’t stop between Perry Vale and Wetherspoon’s.

If you have any suggestions that you would like the Forest Hill Society to pursue on your behalf, please email andrew@foresthillsociety.com

Forest Hill Pools Update

Mounds of rubble lie on the site of the pocket park. Buddleia sprouts from the superintendant’s house. Thomas Ardwinckle’s Forest Hill Baths are no more. But in late 2012 we will have two new pools, a gym, a community room and a cafe on the site.

Planning permission was granted on 22nd July at Lewisham Town Hall. Concerns remain in a number of areas. Local residents are worried about the impact of pool users parking on surrounding streets. The internal lift is planned to be one person only. The pedestrian versus coach access at the front entrance is confusing and the mass of plant block beside the superintendent's house will probably intrude unattractively on the streetscape.

But in spite of these problems, the Forest Hill Society believes that this is easily the best proposal Lewisham Council has put forward since they first started consulting on the issue in 2005. It is on the better site (not Willow Way!) and we will have two pools (only one was proposed in 2005). The conservationists are in part satisfied by the retention of the superintendent's house which, together with Louise House and Forest Hill Library forms the Victorian “Face of Forest Hill” and behind this façade, we will have a modern facility built to twenty-first century standards.

Tour de France

Every July, Philippe and Odette Grelat leave their home near the Horniman Museum for three weeks to join the huge support team which keeps the Tour de France on the road. They provide the catering for the TV crews and commentators who follow the cyclists for thousands of kilometres around France. We caught up with Philippe on his return to Forest Hill.

How did a French chef end up in Forest Hill?
We’re from the French Alps and Lyon originally. But eighteen years ago, I simply tossed a coin between going to Austria or England…adventure, adventure! Then ten years ago we found a flat on a hill surrounded by trees with no cars around to bother us!!!

How did you get involved in catering at the Tour de France? We approached the US, British, Danish, Belgian and Swedish television crews directly to see if they were interested. At that time, there was no catering and the organisers thought food service was far from essential. But now the Tour has become so big and everyone is too busy to leave the compound so they do need to be able to eat on site. We’ve been doing it for fourteen years.

So what’s a typical day on the Tour? An early morning to have the continental Petit Dejeuner ready by 07.00/07.30. Then lunch to be served by 12.00 until 15.00. Then, loading by 17.00 so you can hit the road to get to the next stage, to be on site for the next morning. Plus we have to fit in the food shopping every 3 days!!! An average of 16 hours a day for 21 days.

The driving is a killer really, covering a total of 5500/6000 km. But the thrill comes from knowing that for those three weeks, you are the key to survival for the 100 guys you are catering for.

What is the most popular dish you serve? I shall say Duck Confit. We tried this year a vegetable “toad in a hole” and this was very successful.

Are you a big cycling fan? Yes I am, Odette not that much!

What do you do for the other 49 weeks of the year? I am a freelance chef working in the UK and abroad and Odette a therapist

Do you have a favourite place in Forest Hill? Energie Fitness Club

07 September 2010

Planning Applications on Dartmouth Road, London Road, Canonbie Road

The Forest Hill Society has responded to three planning applications in the last week. Full details of our responses are available on request but below are the main points:

DC/10/75105: Hoarding to front of 79-81 London Road
We have objected to the size of this proposed hoarding in front of the flats on London Road. The initial response from the planning officer is that he will be recommending refusal.

DC/10/74442: 20-28 Dartmouth Road (above the former Post Office and Paddy Power)
We have objected to the addition of a 6th storey on this building due to the height, scale, and overbearing nature of this proposal.

DC/10/73762: 74 Canonbie Road
We have asked for further information regarding the loss of trees and biodiversity on this site due to the proposed application.

The council has informed us that the application for 29 Ewelme Road has been rejected in line with our recommendation. Details of our objection can be read in a previous post.

25 August 2010

Shipman Road planning application

There is a planning application for 27 Shipman Road which the Forest Hill Society objected to, see response below:

We are concerned about the principle of infill development generally and particularly whether any proposal is appropriate for its surroundings and the impact it has on its neighbours is not unreasonable.

Whilst we are aware that this site has previously had a house on it (pre-war?) in the recent past we understand it has been used as private garden for the adjacent house at 57 Siddons Road. For this reason and in accordance with the latest version of PPS3 it should be considered greenfield land, that should only be used for development once it has been demonstrated that there is no more available brownfield/previously developed land.

In this case the proposal is contrary to the following two planning policies:

• HSG8 Backland and In-fill Development
Backland and in-fill development will be permitted provided the following criteria are met:
(e) there should be no appreciable loss of privacy and amenity for adjoining houses and their back gardens

• HSG 5 Layout and Design of New Residential Development
The Council expects all new residential development to be attractive, to be neighbourly and to meet the functional requirements of its future inhabitants. The Council will, therefore, only permit new residential development which:
(a) provides a satisfactory level of privacy, outlook and natural lighting with appropriate provision of private amenity space

This proposal significantly increases the overlooking and overbearingness on adjacent properties to the rear. This is particularly the case as the development comprises flats, rather than houses which would have a more equitable arrangement with the surrounding houses in terms of overlooking and would not need to be as tall or so far back in the development plot.