02 April 2015

Everything's Going to Look Bloomin' Marvellous!

Quetta Kaye (Chair, Environment Committee) provided information for this report. See the Forest Hill Society’s website for updates, which will be posted when details become available.

Landscaping-improvement areas
Forest Hill station
*: A working group is to be organised soon to tidy up the station’s platform and forecourt planters. This is in preparation for the Forest Hill Society’s entry for London in Bloom’s annual It’s Your Neighbourhood scheme, which is run by the RHS Britain in Bloom campaign. Judging takes place between 29th June-17th July, 2015.
Job Centre Plus, 32-34 Dartmouth Road: Before Christmas nearly 600 free bulbs supplied by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association were planted beneath the trees in front of the Centre by volunteers.
Horniman Triangle play area*: On Thursday, 9th April from 11am-2pm, 30 hedgerow whips (young bare-root saplings) provided by the Woodland Trust are to be planted by Nature’s Gym and a general litter pick-up and tidying exercise is to be undertaken — volunteers are welcome! By early spring, 400 bulbs that were planted by volunteers in mid-December are expected to be blooming.
London Road pavement, opposite the Horniman Museum: Transport for London has advised us that two Indian Bean trees will soon be planted to fill in the gaps left by former trees.
London and Dartmouth Roads: The Edible High Road will continue its journey this year with local businesses sponsoring tubs of fragrant plants, adding vitality and interest to the town centre this summer. Each tub will comprise either a Bay tree, lavender or rosemary and be surrounded by Sanvitalia, a yellow trailing daisy-like plant. Potting-up day is planned for Saturday, 25th April (11:30am-3pm) at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Road, with distribution planned for Saturday, 9th May (3-5pm). Volunteers are not just welcome, they are actively encouraged!

Hop growing in Forest Hill
The Forest Hill Society is encouraging people to plant easy-to-grow hops which, when ripe and harvested, can be combined with those of others as part of a community project to produce a local beer — perhaps even Forest Hill's own version of Crystal Palace’s Palace Pint?

Clutter clean-upTown centre: Plans are on-going, through campaigning work by the Society working with local businesses, but progress is slow, in tidying up the unsightly areas above and beside Forest Hill station’s underpass.

Long-term campaign
In the long term, we are working on an environmental campaign to consider car use in Forest Hill that will seek to address the problems of air pollution, noise, safety, and parking issues created by both through traffic and local traffic.

* Funding for plants and associated materials for these areas was awarded to the Forest Hill Society in November by the Forest Hill Assembly for the 2014-15 year, under the auspices of the Society’s Making Forest Hill Beautiful proposal.

Ward Assembly Funding 2014-15

At Forest Hill and Perry Vale Assembly meetings on 23rd and 27th November, respectively, local residents decided on how to spend the annual £12,500 Assembly Fund that each ward had been allocated for 2014-15 by Lewisham Council. Priorities for funding had already been identified at previous Assembly meetings: for the Forest Hill Assembly, these were youth engagement and provision, making Forest Hill more attractive, and community events and publicity; while for the Perry Vale Assembly the top priorities were the environment, roads and traffic, activities for younger people, antisocial behaviour and crime, and activities for the whole community.

At both Assembly meetings, residents were encouraged to talk to representatives of each of the groups who had submitted proposals for projects to be funded (up to max. £2,500) and completed by November 2015, and were then asked to mark each proposal out of 10. Based on the number of votes received (highest first), the following groups' projects were awarded a share of Assembly Funds.

Forest Hill projects• Crime Reduction Initiatives (CRI): Family Fun Day (£2,500)
• Lite-Waves Therapeutic Education: Re-Connect Programme at Platform 1 (£2,500)
• Lite-Waves Therapeutic Education: Therapeutic Art Project at Platform 1 (£2,500)
• Friends of Albion Millennium Green: Storage container (£2,475)
• Forest Hill Society: Making Forest Hill Beautiful (£600)
• Doopo Doopo CIC Art Hub And Gallery: Kelvin Grove Activities (£1,120)
• Sydenham Arts: Sydenham Arts Festival 2015 (£805*)

Perry Vale projects
• Grow Mayow: Beekeeping activities (£1,890)
• Dalmain Athletic Girl’s Football Project (£2,000)
• Safer Neighbourhood Team: Crime Prevention and Awareness Days (£1,584)
• Young Lewisham Project: Intergenerational Project Young Lewisham and Mind (£1,560)
• Sydenham Forest Hill Youth Forum: Consortium Development Project (£1,912)
• London Thunder: Community Basketball Project (£2,000)
• The Forest with the Big Hill: Storytelling Project (£300)
• Seniors: Young Enterprise Day (£1,254*)
* Projects that received partial funding.

It’s not too early to start thinking about a worthy cause or need that deserves support in 2016 since this funding is available only once per year.

For more info: www.lewisham.gov.uk/getinvolved/localassemblies/assembly-funding/Pages/Local-assembliesfunding.aspx
Article by John Wysocki, Newsletter Editor

01 April 2015

Woodlands — Springing Back to Life!

Three of Forest Hill’s natural assets are relatively small pockets of woodlands located next to the railway line running between Honor Oak Park and Sydenham stations. These sites are open to the public, albeit on limited days in two cases, and are managed by dedicated groups of volunteers. Now that spring has arrived after winter’s lull, activities — as well as plants — at these sites are starting to show signs of renewed life.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (DRNR) abuts the west side of the railway line between Forest Hill and Honor Oak Park stations, and has been run by the Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve (FDRNR) for 15 years now, who have been awarded a Green Pennant year after year.

Since October, the Friends have been doing tree and brushwood removal around the edges of the reserve’s meadows, and improving paths. Starting this spring, guided school visits — or ‘Muddy Boots’ sessions — will be offered to primary school children.

The Friends are in desperate need of someone to help run their website and with publicity, as well as to volunteer in general; for more info, see contact details below or attend the Friends’ annual general meeting on Sunday 22nd March.

DRNR is open to the public on the last Sunday of each month (currently between 2-5:30pm). 170 Devonshire Rd, SE23 3SZ.
For more info: www.devonshireroadnaturereserve.org

Albion Millennium Green (AMG) is situated on the west side of the railway line between Sydenham and Forest Hill stations. It is managed by the Friends of Albion Millennium Green, who organise a range of arts-related activities and plantmanagement work days throughout the year. After a winter break, work days, which occur on the second Saturday of each month, will start again in March.

At the Friends’ annual general meeting held on 21st February at Forest Hill Pools, activities and achievements in a very productive year were highlighted, including:
• Work carried out by volunteers that resulted in a Green Flag Award being awarded again.
• The AMG’s owner, the Albion Millennium Green Trust, a charitable trust, being revitalized at its AGM in November with the election of a new board of trustees.
• Also in November, the Friends being successfully awarded a Forest Hill Assembly grant for a much-needed 10-foot storage container, in order to securely house equipment and materials.

AMG is accessed year-round from Albion Villas Road, SE26 or the path adjacent to the railway line. For more info: www.amgfriends.org.uk

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve (DWNR) abuts the east side of the railway line between Forest Hill and Sydenham stations, and is run by the Friends of Dacres Wood Nature Reserve (FoDWNR) committee.

Having closed for the winter months, the Friends group is planning to re-open the reserve to the public on 28th March for regular last-Saturday-of-the-month open days. A variety of outdoor sessions and activities, including nature trail days, will then be offered in the spring for pre-school children and school children aged 5-plus.

The Friends group is looking for more volunteers to help on open days, plan and run events, or even join the committee.

DWNR is situated behind Homefield House, Dacres Estate,Dacres Road, SE23 2NZ. Its main entrance is at the end of Honeyfield Mews, which is off Dacres Road and just south of Catling Close. For more info: dacreswood.org.uk.

Article by John Wysocki, Newsletter Editor

Local Dates for your Diary

Forest Hill Society’s Edible High Road, potting-up day: Sat 25th April, 11.30am-3pm. Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Rd.

Forest Hill Society’s Edible High Road, distribution day: Sat 9th May, 3-5pm. Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, 170 Devonshire Rd.

Havelock Walk Open Studios: Sat 9th-Sun 10th & Sat 16th-Sun 17th May, 11am-6pm. Part of Artists’ Open House, Dulwich Festival 2015. For all participating SE23 artists and venues, see www.dulwichfestival.co.uk/openhouse

Forest Hill Society’s Edible High Road, launch day: Sat 16th May, 2.30pm. Forest Hill station forecourt.

Horniman Farmers’ Market: Every Sat 9am-1:30pm, Horniman Gardens’ bandstand.

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve: Open to the public on the last Saturday of each month, 1-4pm. 28th March, 25th April, 30th May. Behind Dacres Estate, Dacres Road.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve: Open to the public on the last Sunday of each month, 2-5:30pm. 29th March, 26th April, 31st May. 170 Devonshire Road.

19 March 2015

Funding awarded for improvements in Dartmouth Road

The bid for £113,000 from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund has been successful. The bid was submitted by SEE3, V22, and Lewisham Council with the support of the Forest Hill society.

The funding will help improve public space on Dartmouth Road and will help to develop a long-term cultural strategy. Plans include animating the underused spaces outside Forest Hill library, Louise House and Forest Hill pools, to ensure they are a key feature of the place.

V22 have also received Arts Council funding to renovate the old laundry at Louise House and the rear garden. The plan is that in a year from now there will be an integrated space around the library, Louise House and the pools that will provide a welcoming area for a range of events, markets and other community activities.

This grant adds to the £600,000 from Transport for London for pedestrian and road improvements from the library to the junction with the South Circular. The initial concept design work is now underway to see how the public realm can be improved with views being sought on areas such as parking arrangements.

More details from the South London Press.

12 March 2015

Local History Talk - Wednesday 25th March

The Forest Hill Society has organised a Local history talk by Steve Grindlay following the publication of his new book ‘Sydenham & Forest Hill Through Time’.

The talk will take place on Wednesday 25th March, 7:30pm. At The Hob pub (opposite Forest Hill Station). Entry is free to members and non-members.

Steve is a great speaker and his talks are always illuminating and well attended. If you want to know anything about the history of Forest Hill you should come along.

03 March 2015

Life is better in South London

Talk London have produced a survey of Londoners with over 3,600 people taking part. This paints a positive picture of many aspects of London Life, but particularly in South London.

They provide data divided by area of London and the results in South London stand out in a few areas. Below are a few of the areas where South London stands out. It shows that South Londoners like their local area more than other Londoners like their area - only Central Londoners come close to the 83% satisfaction rate. South London is more than 7 percentage points ahead as a pleasant place to live.

South Londoners feel safer walking in their local areas both during the day and at night, during the day this is up at 95%. They see the best relations between different ethnic and religious communities, and more generally they see local people working together to make the place better.

However, on the issue of roads South Londoners see less improvement and investment than other areas of London. 47% of South Londoners have seen no improvement in roads 'circling outer London' (there was not an options to say it has got worse) and only 10% have seen any reduction in congestion - less than any other part of London (again there was not an option to say it has got worse).

How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your local area as a place to live? Very or Fairly satisfied: 82.1% 69.8% 82.7% 69.5% 72.5%
My local area is a pleasant place to live Agree: 76.3% 69.1% 83.6% 70.3% 74.2%
There are good relations between different ethnic and religious communities in my local area Agree: 51.7% 51.3% 57.1% 51.9% 55.5%
People in my local area work together to improve the neighbourhood Agree: 37.0% 37.3% 41.6% 38.2% 37.7%
How safe do you feel walking alone in your local area during the day Very or quite safe: 90.6% 91.4% 95.1% 88.6% 88.1%
How safe do you feel walking alone in your local area during the evening Very or quite safe: 62.8% 55.2% 69.5% 55.7% 58.5%

Thinking about how you get around London, have you noticed any improvement in roads, and if so how much? - Road routes circling outer London not at all: 27.1% 36.5% 47.5% 41.4% 44.8%
Thinking about how you get around London, have you noticed any improvement in roads, and if so how much? - Road congestion A lot or a little: 14.8% 14.2% 10.4% 15.6% 15.4%

All figures come from the London Datastore.

29 January 2015

Planning Application: M&Co application by Morrisons

The Forest Hill Society have written to oppose the application from Morrisons Supermarkets to convert M&Co on London Road. Below are the details of our objection:

I write on behalf of the Forest Hill Society to object to planning application DC/14/89770 for alterations to the shop front and side access arrangements at 10-12 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3HF. 

We understand that planning permission is not required for the change from the current A1 retail use of this property to the use of the proposed supermarket.  However, this application raises a number of important issues about this proposal that we believe will be detrimental to the function and operation of the shopping area of Forest Hill.  We believe that the Council should be extremely concerned about the highways and servicing impacts that will arise directly from the proposals within this application in that they facilitate a much more servicing intensive use that conflicts directly with the surrounding streets and pedestrian users. No information on servicing, deliveries or refuse arrangements is included with this application.

The proposal in this application includes changes to the side access into this building from Havelock Walk, partly for access to the upper floors but this also gives access to the main store area "for access and means of escape for ground floor retail unit".  We are concerned that this change to the side access may be intended to be used for servicing and for deliveries for the new supermarket and that both Havelock Walk, and this busy stretch of London Road is highly unsuited to this arrangement or possibility.   Another concern that we have is that the new set back doorway onto this edge creates a hidden space and may facilitate crime and antisocial behavior in this area.

No information is provided in this application to explain how the regular heavy servicing necessary for a supermarket use will be accommodated on this busy corner of the South Circular and TFL red route.  The proposed changes to the building to not make it clear how this will work or whether they intend to use the front or side access for servicing.  It is also not clear where deliveries are to be stored before they go on the shop floor.   If the existing service bays are to be used that are along London Road 20m or so away then this will mean trolleying deliveries from this point into the store on a very regular basis.  We would like to understand whether TFL have been asked to comment on the impact this may have on the adjacent bus stops.

No obvious space is provided within the new internal layout for storage, refuse or the other paraphernalia that goes with smaller supermarkets and which if not properly planned for end up on the street causing a nuisance to pedestrians and other town centre users (there is a particular current problem with this at the small Tesco Store on Kirkdale/Willow Way which causes problems for pedestrians and other users as well as looking unattractive). This is one of the busiest and most congested corners of Forest Hill already with bus stops, vehicular traffic, servicing bays, road crossings and many shop units.  This corner cannot cope with the amount of bins that are already located here and any more will cause considerable harm.   At the very least we would expect a planning condition that prevented the locating or storing of trolleys for deliveries or store use, bins or other items outside of the store on the public highway.   The current shop frontage has a set back doorway which at least allows those entering the shop to shelter from the busy street.  The new shop front arrangements do not allow this.

We are of the view that there is no need for an additional cash point in this location as there are at least 5 others within 50m of this point.  This is a busy and narrow area of the pavement given its use and location and this will just add to the congestion.  We would disagree with the applicant's statement that the pavement is wide in this location. 

Our last concern is about the design of the shop front itself and whilst these changes are not extensive we are concerned that they do not enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.  This is therefore a missed opportunity to improve the area and particularly this building which is one of the least attractive in the town centre but in a highly visible location.  

In summary, our objections to this application are:
  • Lack of clarity over servicing and refuse proposals and arrangements that come about as a direct result of the proposed changes in this application;
  • The purpose of the enlarged side entrance included within this application and its impact on Havelock Walk;
  • The design of the new access onto Havelock Walk and the potentially dangerous set back area along the alley way;
  • Impact on the street scene of additional servicing vehicles along London Road;
  • Impact on access to and the operation of Havelock Walk (which is entirely unsuitable for large vehicles or lorries);
  • The missed opportunity to enhance this building and this part of the Conservation Area; and
  • There is no need for an additional cash point machine in this location.

We hope that you will be able to refuse this application until acceptable proposals for servicing the new use are established that will minimise any impacts on this important corner of the town centre.  We believe that any servicing proposals should be widely discussed prior to any application being approved so that the traders, shoppers and other users of the town centre can understand their impact and have a chance to comment on them.

26 January 2015

Burns Night Supper 2015

Barry Milton addressing the Haggis. One of the highlights of our Burns Supper at The Hill, Dartmouth Road.

07 January 2015

Planning Applciation: 26 Inglemere Road

An application has been made to convert a building to the rear of 26 Inglemere Road to a one bedroom dwelling. The application can be viewed on Lewisham website.

The Forest Hill Society has written to the council to express our concerns regarding this application:

1. Inaccurate and inadequate documentation
1.1  I am surprised the application was validated as the documents contradict each other.  The application and Design & Access Statement refer to a 1-bedroom, single storey building, yet the the Proposed Plans clearly show a staircase and area for a potential lift, and a Basement plan has also been submitted.  Why was this application validated if the submitted papers were inaccurate?

1.2 There are no photos of the existing building, only photos of an empty site.  Has an 'existing building' actually been constructed?  Aerial maps currently on Google and Bing do not show a building on this site.  If it has been built, has it ever been used for its original purpose for storage?  Without photos of the existing building how can anyone judge the Planning, design and access statement's claim that "the appearance ... is similar to its existing relationship"?

1.3 The Parking Study in the Design & Access Statement doesn't include the position of the proposed building.  Judging from drawings that do show the building and using its position in relation to 26 Inglemere Road to estimate where the proposed building is sited, it appears that the space required for turning a car would overlap with the building itself.  And if the plans in the Design & Access Statement are correct, there will be a below-ground-level patio on the western side of the house which will further reduce the area for a car to turn.

2. Lifetime Homes: poor provision for wheelchair access

There is an external ramp down to the front door but the area in front of the door doesn't seem large enough to allow a wheelchair to turn into the building.  And is the hallway large enough for a wheelchair user to get through the front door and manoeuvre around?

3. Circumvention of planning policies

The Decision Notice (dated October 2012) granting the application for the original outbuilding (DC/12/80972/X | The construction of a single storey outbuilding in the rear garden of 26 Inglemere Road SE23) imposed an additional condition that the building should not be used as residential accommodation:

"Additional Condition

The outbuilding hereby approved must only be used for storage and purposes incidental to the enjoyment of flat 1, 26 Inglemere Road and not as residential accommodation or for any commercial activities.

Reason for the imposition of the Additional Condition
The use of the outbuilding as a separate commercial or residential unit would not comply with the local planning authority's normal policies in respect of such schemes, with particular regard to the protection of residential amenity, in accordance with policy 15 High quality design for Lewisham in the adopted Core Strategy (June 2011) and saved policies URB 3 Urban Design, URB 6 Alterations and Extensions and HSG 4 Residential Amenity of the adopted Unitary Development Plan (July 2004)"
I see no reason why this condition should not be enforced and the current application refused.  I am concerned to see the Application Form states that pre-application advice has indicated that the application is acceptable in principle.  Residential use was not acceptable in 2012 so why is it acceptable now?  If this application is granted it will appear that the applicant has successfully circumvented planning policies by a method of incremental planning applications.