20 March 2017

Forest Hill Society AGM 2016

By John Firmin, Secretary

The Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place at Louise House on 20 October with approximately 50 members present.

The best possible future for Forest Hill Library

The Society’s chairman, Michael Abrahams, began by saying that much of the previous year had been dominated by Forest Hill Library. First, a campaign to persuade Lewisham Council to continue to run the library. Then, when it was clear this would not be the case, working with the local community to make sure the library had the best possible future. A bid to manage the library was made by a consortium comprising V22, the Forest Hill Society and Forest Hill Traders’ Association.

Tara Cranswick, CEO of V22, then described the many improvements made to the landscape to the front of the library and Louise House, and work which was now underway in the basement of Louise House. Going forward, facilities in the library and Louise House would be managed as one to maximise the benefits from each.

Simon Higgs, the library manager, then provided an update to the meeting on the plans for the community library, which re-opened successfully on 24 October. There has been a fantastic response from the community: a Crowdfunder target was reached in just two weeks, all the studio space in the library has now been let, over 100 volunteers have signed up but more people were still needed to make sure the library would remain open seven days a week.

Other highlights in 2016

Other achievements  of the past year were highlighted, and included a very visible aspect of the Society’s work  — its town centre's beautification efforts spearheaded by Quetta Kaye. Planting at Forest Hill station and vicinity were judged 'Outstanding' by the Royal Horticultural Society, for the fourth year running, and  of special note in this respect were the newly installed 'Tyre Towers' in Perry Vale.

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Forest Hill Society, Shakespeare — in the guise of the Teatro Vivo theatre group — came to Forest Hill in April, and entertained us with scenes from the Bard’s plays and created an Ode to Forest Hill. 

More projects to improve Forest Hill

Perry Vale - The Forest Hill Society’s proposal to make the north end of Perry Vale one way and to re-generate the area to the east of the station received lots of support at the AGM including from local Councillor John Paschoud.

Rail Services - Concern was expressed regarding Southern Rail’s proposed 2018 timetable, which was the subject of a consultation. The consultation included proposals to remove peak hour services and direct trains going to East Croydon. Following the AGM, the Society has had talks with Southern Railway senior management and has formally responded to the consultation.

Street Lighting - Concern was also expressed about Lewisham Council’s plans to reduce overnight street lighting in residential areas, which will likely increase the risk of crime and road accidents. The Forest Hill Society will work jointly with the Sydenham Society when raising these concerns with the Council.

A Cycle and Walking Strategy - The AGM was briefed on the initial stages of a strategy, which is being developed jointly with the Sydenham Society and will cover Forest Hill, Sydenham and Perry Vale wards. The strategy is to be discussed with local Councillors and then will be subject to wider consultation and a design workshop involving the public.

Michael Abrahams was re-elected as Chairman for 2016-17, along with Alisa Owens as Treasurer, John Firmin as Secretary and Belinda Evans as Membership Secretary.

Elected to the Executive Committee, in addition to the above officers, were: Sheila Carson, Brendan Cuddihy, Alistair Dey, Penelope Jarrett, Quetta Kaye, Katrin Klinger, David McKenzie, Andrew Orford, Rob Owen, Hilary Satchwell, Alona Sheridan, Jake Twyford, Katherine Willett and John Wysocki.

19 March 2017

Member’s Profile: Belinda Evans

Q: How long have you lived in Forest Hill?
A: My partner Keith and I moved to Forest Hill in 2006. I lived in Hither Green before moving here, and Keith was in Islington.

Q: What is your role in the Forest Hill Society?
A: I am the Membership Secretary of the Forest Hill Society, which means I keep a record of members and when they renew their membership. We have a complicated spreadsheet which I attempt to keep in some type of order and try not to delete, lose or destroy.

Q: How can people to join the Society?
A: There are many ways to join the Society and the easiest way is either by using PayPal or a standing order, which automatically renews you membership every year. Details are on the Forest Hill Society’s website. It's hard to remember when your membership renewal is due.

Q: What do you grow in your garden?
A: Since we have a very large garden we grow a lot of our own produce. We have many apple trees — both cooking and eating apples — gooseberry bushes blackcurrant bushes and rhubarb. We always grow potatoes, runner beans, courgettes and salad leaves. We’re also lucky enough to have a greenhouse, in which we grow tomatoes and aubergines. We are trying to grow grape vines, but we’re not having much luck yet. My husband is jealous of the vine at Alexandra Road Nursery, but it must be a very old established vine so, fingers crossed, our vine will eventually produce some actual grapes.

Q: How many chickens live with you?
A: We have four chickens in the garden: Lily, Lavender, Mandy and Tweedy. They are actually the chickens from Sydenham School which had to be re-homed due to the school’s rebuild. They are very amusing birds and have funny, individual personalities. Mandy is the boss, Lily and Lavender are the naughty bantams and Tweedy just follows the crowd. They have just started laying eggs again after a winter off, so are earning their keep. They love roaming the garden (but only when we are in the garden as there are lots of foxes resident here) and scratching about for bugs and tasty treats.

Q: What do you like most about living in Forest Hill?
A: I really like Forest Hill as it has great train connections to central London now and also seems to have quite a few independent caf├ęs and shops. We actually now mainly go out in Forest Hill rather than travel into town. Since I work in west London, it's hard to go back out again once I get home.

Q: What are your favourite local shops?
A: We go to the All Inn One pub quite a bit (or Steve's house, as my husband calls it!) and love the Perry Vale. We’re very happy to use Waters’ fishmonger and greengrocer, which stocks a good range of veg, and the prices always take us aback as they’re so reasonable. I have a policy of buying all my presents for birthdays or special occasions from Bunka, as there is always something unusual and interesting there. It's a real treasure trove!

Q: If you could bring any shop in the world to Forest Hill what would it be?
A: I'm quite excited to see the arrival of Superdrug as I do like the offers and products there and think it's going to be a good addition to Forest Hill. It's a chain, I know, but let's hope it encourages others to consider investing in the area. I love the products in Il Mirto — if you haven't tried the burrata cheese you are missing out. I would love to see a lovely Italian restaurant in Forest Hill; we have two great pizza restaurants but nowhere really for good pasta. Perhaps we could encourage Trattoria Raffaele in Sydenham to open up on Dartmouth Road?

Q: Other than the Forest Hill Society, are you involved in any other groups in the local area?
A: I am involved in a local book group that meets monthly in the All Inn One. I was also part of a Wednesday walking club that walked for an hour early on a Wednesday evening, but I haven't gone for a long time. Perhaps, now the lighter evenings are nearly here, I may start walking again as it's fantastic to get out and walk and to get to know the local area even more.

18 March 2017

Forest Hill Library Update

Back in October Forest Hill Library converted to a community library. While it is officially run by a consortium comprising the Forest Hill Society, V22 and local traders, in reality the day to day running is by Simon Higgs and a team of enthusiastic volunteers. Every day we have up to nine people volunteering for morning, afternoon and evening shifts and helping to keep the library running.

Over the last few months we have replaced all of the library’s computers, upgrading them to faster computers using Windows 10, and replaced the photocopier/printer and we have invested in a new system for managing all of the computers. We have also been slowly adding donated books to the collection, although not as fast as we would like.

During the last few months, the transition has not been without its challenges: the boiler system failed for a number of weeks at the start of winter, there were a number of issues in switching IT systems, and all the books required re-tagging by Lewisham. Despite these issues we have been able to keep the library open and we have learned a lot from the experiences.

The local community has been fabulous in their support for the library — not only by volunteering their time at the library every day — but also by responding to the Crowdfunding campaign we started with the aim of raising £6,000 to improve the library. Within weeks we had surpassed our goal and by the end of six weeks we had passed £10,000 in donations for the library. This financial support, together with funding for activities from Forest Hill Ward Assembly and rental income from the upstairs’ rooms, means that Forest Hill Library is able to break even. As a not-for-profit enterprise, any excess income will be re-invested in the library and used to build up a contingency fund for general repairs and maintenance of the Grade 2* listed building.

Early in 2017 we set up a children’s advisory board and we will soon be forming a general (adult) advisory board, who will ensure that we are responding to the needs of all library users. During 2017 we want to ensure that all of the library’s standard functions are working smoothly, then consider holding more events in and around the library, to make it even more of a community hub.

If you would like to get more involved in the library, we would like to hear from you. We welcome new volunteers and new ideas. Just pop in and speak to Simon or email: volunteers@fhlibrary.co.uk

17 March 2017

One Way for the Future of Perry Vale?

For a number of years the Forest Hill Society has been looking for ways to improve the area to the east of Forest Hill station. In particular we have been looking at a small stretch of Perry Vale — between the South Circular and Waldram Crescent — where there are a small number of shops. We think this area could be revitalised and become a new destination in Forest Hill.

We have recently seen Waters’ fishmonger and greengrocer open, and Clapton Beers are planning to open a new craft beer shop later this year. But this road has much more potential. It is the only shopping street in the centre of Forest Hill which is not on a bus route, and we think this provides an opportunity to make it better.

Taking our inspiration from Catford Broadway and Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn, we have put together a proposal for this stretch of road to become one way, allowing more space for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as some parking and dedicated loading bays. By widening the pavements it would not only improve the area for pedestrians, but it could allow for some of the cafes to have tables outside.

This scheme was discussed at the Forest Hill Society AGM and at a recent Perry Vale Ward Assembly. We have also encouraged people to respond to our consultation, for which the results were overwhelmingly positive (although some useful feedback was received from a number of respondents).
Perry Vale councillors are now working with Lewisham Council’s transport team to look at putting together a bid for funding from TfL to further develop the scheme and implement the necessary changes to the road layout.

This is not really a new idea, but the Forest Hill Society has turned an aspiration into a realistic plan, which can now be pursued further by Lewisham Council. 

Following the 20mph scheme now instituted across Lewisham, the Council are taking another look at the possibility of a pedestrian crossing close to the station — on the Perry Vale side, which would make a big difference to many pedestrians.

16 March 2017

Bakerloo Line Update

Transport for London is currently consulting about the location of stations for the extension to the Bakerloo line, planned for 2029 completion.

The Bakerloo extension would run from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham via two stations on the Old Kent Road and a station at New Cross Gate.

At New Cross Gate the proposal is to build an underground station just to the west of the existing station. Interchange details between lines have not yet been made available, but the Forest Hill Society has said that it wants to see platform-to-platform interchanges, where passengers would not need to exit one station and enter another. An easy-to-use interchange would help to relieve overcrowding at Canada Water.

You can have your say by visiting the consultation at before 21st April 2017.

15 March 2017

15 Years of a Growing Community

By Jim Sikorski, Founder and Chair of Sydenham Garden

Sydenham Garden, 28a Wynell Road (located off Mayow Road), comprises a community garden, nature reserve and resource centre. It promotes the physical and mental well-being of Lewisham residents — especially those in the early stages of dementia — primarily through horticultural and arts and crafts activities.    www.sydenhamgarden.org.uk

The meeting was very well attended — with around 40 people, if I remember correctly. The year was 2002 and the venue was Sydenham Green Health Centre. The purpose was to discuss forming an association to provide gardening and creative activities for local people coping with serious illness. We were addressed by Tijno Voors — the wise and experienced director of the Blackthorn Garden in Maidstone, which to this day remains a wonderful example of how such a project can develop. The meeting was followed by a group visit to the Blackthorn Trust and then the formation of the first Sydenham Garden committee.

The committee began meeting regularly at the Health Centre, and soon a weekly Art and Craft group started helping our first ‘co-workers’ (the name we have always given to our beneficiaries) who had been referred by members of the centre’s practice team. The search for a piece of land on which to use gardening in the same way was not easy, but we were enthusiastically supported by Lewisham Council and were granted a lease on the Queenswood Road Nature Reserve. The lease came with the main proviso that we continue to manage three quarters of the land as a nature reserve, and utilise the remainder for horticulture and built structures. A huge effort was then begun by a large number of faithful volunteers to clear the site in preparation for use by our first co-workers.

Sydenham Garden was formally constituted as a charity in 2005 and, with the appointment of Nick Fry as Garden Manager in the same year, we began welcoming our first co-workers to the garden. For several years we operated with only a Portakabin and used gazebos for shelter, but we then received Heritage Lottery funding to rebuild a Victorian greenhouse on the site in 2010. After seven years of patient fundraising, our wonderful sustainably-built Resource Centre was completed.

05 March 2017

Improving Dartmouth Road

Over the course of 2017, Dartmouth Road will be under-going a makeover with the aim of improving the street for all road users. This will cause a fair amount of disruption as sections of the road will require a contra-flow system to be instituted — whereby traffic lights will permit traffic to flow in only one direction at a time — to allow work to proceed as quickly as possible without completely closing this important route for buses and other vehicles.

With £1.2m being spent on the project there are quite a lot of improvements that will be made, but they won’t transform Dartmouth Road into a high street ‘paradise’ since there are simply too many constraints to make that possible.

Pedestrians will see some of the greatest improvements, with slightly wider pavements where permissible, better-levelled pavements that don’t try to trip you up every few steps, and narrower roads which will be easier to cross in places. However, there will not be any pedestrian islands, and the scheme will not address the issues at the junction with the South Circular, as this is a TfL-controlled road.

Bus passengers will benefit from two new bus stops closer to the shops and swimming pools on Dartmouth Road. Buses will be able to move more easily because of the replacement of single yellow lines with double yellow lines, which will reduce the problem that buses have in trying to get passed parked cars. However, there will not be any bus-stop bays for the buses, so cars will have to wait for them to load and unload passengers.

Parking will be slightly improved, with a few additional parking bays located opposite the pool. In addition, there will be some loading bays on wider parts of the pavement, allowing for traders to load and unload without creating any pinch-points in the road. We are hoping that parking bays will allow parking for slightly longer than the current 30-minute limit. Residents’ parking will not be permitted opposite Holy Trinity School, as this location next to a bus stop and a pedestrian crossing outside the school is no longer suitable for parking.

Cars and other vehicles are expected to encounter smoother-flowing traffic on Dartmouth Road. While there may well be queues up to the traffic lights to join the South Circular, reducing the problem parking will ensure that traffic will flow smoother when it can and avoid having to wait for buses and lorries to manoeuvre past each other.

Cyclists will, unfortunately, gain little benefit from the scheme. Dartmouth Road is not cycle-friendly today and it will not be much better after this scheme has been completed. The best that has been suggested is that, by narrowing the road, vehicles will be less tempted to overtake cyclists without giving them the necessary space.

Although 2017 will not be fun for users of Dartmouth Road while the works drag on for at least nine months, we can look forward to a more welcoming town centre and a slightly improved road layout in 2018.

27 February 2017

Dates for Your Diary

Friends of Baxter Field AGM — Wednesday 29th March, 8pm. Venue TBC

Horniman Easter Fair — 15th-16th April, 10:30am-4:30pm

Spring Walk Through Sydenham Woods — Saturday 29th April, 2pm, meet at main entrance to Horniman Gardens (Forest Hill Society event)

Edible Plant Giveaway — Saturday 6th May from 2pm, at Forest Hill station (Forest Hill Society event)

Spring Planting — Saturday 13th May from 2pm, at Forest Hill station (Forest Hill Society event)

Horniman Farmers’ Market — Every Saturday, 9am-1:30pm

15 February 2017

Planning Application: 62 Sunderland Road

This letter is an objection to the proposal at 62 Sunderland Road - planning application reference DC/16/099620

The Forest Hill Society object to this proposal because it involves the demolition and replacement of an important building within the group of Christmas houses on Gaynesford Road, Sunderland Road and Perry Vale in Forest Hill.  In its own right this house an important non-designated heritage asset.  It is also a key building within the wider group of Christmas Houses on the corner of Sunderland Road and Gaynesford Road. 

The Christmas houses were built by E.C. Christmas (Ted) who was a Forest Hill carpenter, sanitary engineer and builder, who in 1901 started building houses in the Arts and Crafts style between Perry Vale and South Road.  These houses have largely been well maintained and retained their exterior appearance.  They form a notable group of local historical significance.

There have been previous discussions with the Local Planning Authority about designating the Christmas Houses as a Conservation Area.  We believe the group of buildings would justify this status because of its special architectural and heritage interest.   The group of Christmas houses is currently remarkably consistent and complete.  The demolition of this house and its replacement as proposed would not only be the loss of a heritage asset in itself it would also negatively impact on the character and appearance of the wider group of Christmas Houses.

62 Sunderland Road is an intrinsic member of the group of Christmas houses with a character and design entirely in keeping with the surrounding houses.  It was built with an unusual triangular footprint in order to maintain the building lines along Sunderland Road and Gaynesford Road and to relate carefully to the surrounding houses. 

Further to our objection to the loss of the house we also object to the replacement building and the way that it is inappropriate to the site in both scale, design, building lines and built form.  The proposed units also have poor access arrangements with convoluted routes to front doors.

This proposal is contrary to the paragraph 58 of the NPPF in terms of its negative impact on local character and history.  The proposal is contrary to Lewisham’s DM Policy 38 which directs that proposals for demolition of heritage assets will be refused unless it can be demonstrated that these are necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh the harm or loss.  No case for any public benefit of this proposal is put forward in this application.

09 February 2017

Horniman announces new Butterfly House attraction

The Horniman Museum and Gardens will open a Butterfly House in summer 2017, it announced today, following a successful planning application to Lewisham Council.

The new attraction will offer visitors an immersive experience, in a specially-planted indoor garden that will be home to a colourful range of free-flying, exotic butterfly species. The Butterfly House complements the Horniman’s current Living Collections, including alpacas, jellyfish and bees in its Animal Walk, Aquarium and Nature Base.

Victoria Pinnington, Director of Communications and Income Generation at the Horniman, says: ‘We’re thrilled to receive planning permission to create this wonderful new experience for our visitors. Butterflies are beautiful and fascinating creatures which play an important role in ecosystems around the world, and we can’t wait for our visitors to enjoy and learn about them close up. The Butterfly House will be an additional attraction in an underused part of the Gardens, making a day at the Horniman even more memorable.’

Work will begin with the demolition of an existing, unused building to make way for the glasshouse and surrounding landscaping. Tickets to the Butterfly House will go on sale later in the year, in advance of the summer opening. Horniman Members will enjoy free, unlimited visits.

See www.horniman.ac.uk for more information.