05 September 2019

Forest Hill Society Visits Parliament

By Belinda Evans

Thursday the 6th June was an inspirational day for members of the Forest Hill Society, who joined our local MP, Ellie Reeves, for a tour of the Houses of Parliament.

It was a sunny, balmy evening and, once through security, we entered the grand building’s interior. Funnily enough, the first stop was the gift shop! (Surely it should be ‘exit via the gift shop’?) Many of us purchased something, including some of their excellent whisky.

We met up with Ellie in Westminster Hall, a vast and imposing building which, interestingly, is the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate. It has a magnificent hammer-beam roof which was commissioned in 1393 and is the oldest example of such a roof in Europe. On the floor were plaques which signify who has lain in state in the hall with details of their dates, the most recent one being for the Queen Mother in 2002. There were also plaques celebrating events which took place in the Hall, such as historic addresses by famous visitors such as Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

Ellie also pointed out the Hall’s statues and other important aspects, and told an interesting story of how some suffragettes in 1909 handcuffed themselves to the statues. One particular statue — of Viscount Falkland — was damaged by Margery Humes, who handcuffed herself to the spur on his statue! No charges were brought, but the same statue was damaged many years later when school children managed to break its sword.

We were very impressed with a modern installation at the far end of the Hall called “New Dawn”, created by artist Mary Branson. This is a spectacular glass, metal and light sculpture which marked the 150-year anniversary in 2016 of philosopher and MP John Stuart Mill having presented a petition to Parliament calling for votes for women. It was designed in the colours of the suffragette movement and its lighting changes over a twelve-hour cycle, governed by the ebb and flow of the Thames.

Once we left Westminster Hall, we entered Central Lobby — a bustling and busy interchange at the core of the building where members of both houses can meet, MPs can meet their constituents and where you can lobby your MP. There are beautiful mosaics above each of the four exits depicting the patron saints of the four constituent countries of the UK, and there is even a working post office! This Lobby is also the place you see in televised news broadcasts when MPs are interviewed inside Parliament.

Our next stop was the Members’ Lobby, which was designed to be a working anteroom to the House of Commons Chamber, where we saw statues of past Prime Ministers. There weren't any statues on display which were more recent than a bust of John Major, but there are portraits planned for the more recent Prime Ministers. The 2007 bronze statue of Margaret Thatcher was imposing, if not scary, as she is portrayed with her arm outstretched and posed as if addressing the House. She seemed to dominate the room! She is famously quoted as saying, “I might have preferred iron (a reference to the iron lady), but bronze will do.” We then moved to the Commons Chamber via the Churchill Arch.

While the Commons Chamber is probably very familiar to everyone from televised debates, it still gave us all a “Wow!” moment when we entered it via one of the two voting corridors, where MPs, when voting or discussing an amendment, have to queue up to register their votes. Ellie explained the process for voting and it did seem to be quite a tedious process. The Chamber was impressive with its familiar green seating, tiered benches, Speaker’s chair and central debating area. Interestingly, there still remains, delineated on the floor, a distance between the Government and the Opposition of 3.96 metres (13 ft). This is equivalent to the length of two outstretched swords, and was marked so that members could not lunge at each other. It is purely symbolic, of course, especially as weapons have been banned in the Chamber for hundreds of years!

Ellie pointed out a significant, recently placed plaque in the memory of Jo Cox, the murdered MP.

We stayed in the Commons Chamber for the remaining time we had on our tour, asking Ellie questions about parliamentary procedures, changes and updates; and what the life of a modern MP is actually like in very interesting and challenging times.

It was a fascinating visit, and one which afforded us a glimpse of what it’s really like to be an active and passionate MP, as Ellie Reeves obviously is. Many thanks to Forest Hill Executive member Paul Corley for organizing it!

If you get a chance to visit the Houses of Parliament, please go as it’s a beautiful, inspirational building, steeped in history.

31 August 2019


Children’s Book Sale: Saturday 14th September, 10am-4pm. 
Outside Forest Hill Library; a fundraiser for the community library.

Clean Air for SE23 Meeting: Saturday 28th September, 10am.
Forest Hill Library.

Forest Hill Society Social: Thursday 3rd October, from 7:30pm.
Sylvan Post Pub, Dartmouth Road. A chance to have a chat with other local residents, old and new.

Forest Hill Society AGM: Thursday 17th October, 7:30pm.
Louise House, next to Forest Hill Library, Dartmouth Road.
Including a presentation by TfL on their plans for extending the ULEZ to the South Circular in 2021.

11 July 2019

Consultation on local NHS Services - 16th July

 A local GP writes:

The NHS Long Term Plan was published last January 2019. One of many suggested changes was that each Sustianability and Transformation Partnership(STP) should become an Integrated Care System (ICS). To help achieve this, NHS England (NHSE) would like there to be one Clinical Commissioing Group (CCG) for each STP area. It is not explained, but the reason is to give the STP/ICS legal footing.  The CCGs are set up in law by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The STP/ICS are a later idea, and currently only have legitimacy insofar as it is shared by their constituent CCGs. 

The changes would mean moving from the current 191 CCGs to just 44, one per STP "footprint".  The Plan suggests that should be achieved by April 2021, but in SE London they want achieve it by 2020.  

CCGs are important because they commission most of your local services. A few are commissioned by the local council. NHSE and Public Health England commission services nationally. The commissioners  decide what work they want to be done, and contract with providers to provide these services. The providers are GPs, hospitals, community health services, mental health trusts etc. The providers have some choices about how they provide the services, but little choice over what services they provide.

In Lewisham, the opposition of Lewisham CCG was a significant factor in throwing out the plans to close the A&E and maternity services at Lewisham hospital. If we had a CCG covering the whole of SE London would we have had such support?

The consultation period is now!  There is one consultation event for each of the 6 boroughs/CCGs (Currently boroughs and CCGs are co-terminus). It does not give you the date until you click on the Eventbrite link, but the Lewisham one is on Tuesday 16th July, 16.30-19.30 St Laurence Centre, Bromley Road SE6 2YS


Some of the issues you may wish to consider:

  • Will mergers on this scale cause a loss of accountability?  
    • Local accountability was a big feature of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.  They may say that there will be sub-committees at borough level, but will these have decision-making powers?
  • Will meetings still be held in public? 
    • The Act says that CCG Governing Body and certain other meetings must be held in public. If the CCG is at SE London level, you may have to travel a long way to attend meetings, and much may be about other parts of SE London in which you have little interest/knowledge.  They may say local meetings could still be held in public, but there will be no statutory responsibility to do this.
  • Will clinicians still have the same influence? 
    • This was another big feature of the 2012 Act - more clinical involvement, less managerial.
  • Has it really been made clear what is proposed? 
    • The website does not say anything about mergers!
  • What will happen if local GPs vote against merger?

08 July 2019

Death of well-known Forest Hill resident

Last week news spread that Stefania, the woman who often sat in the Forest Hill railway subway, had passed away, apparently from complications following an operation.

Stefania had occupied this spot for a number of years and was a familiar face to the pedestrians who use the subway.
She was a friendly and popular woman, which is reflected by the many tributes to her placed in the subway and posted online. 

A Go Fund Me page has been created in her memory, to raise funds for her funeral and to support people in similar situations. If you have been touched by Stefania's plight, you may wish to contribute to her memorial fund.
Update: Details of the memorial service are now available.
Saturday, 20 July 2019 from 10:00-12:00 at Sydenham School, Dartmouth Road
If you will be attending please let the organisers know by marking yourself as 'going' on the Facebook page

01 July 2019

Future Framework for the Horniman

Horniman Museum are consulting on an ambitious plan to develop Horniman Gardens including:

  •     New Garden Arrival Square
  •     Spacious Reception with Improved Facilities
  •     Reorganised and Reimagined Museum Spaces
  •     Nature Zone and Kindercaf√©
  •     Stepping Gardens
  •     Horticultural Hub and Winter Garden

To find out more about their plans view the exhibition in Gallery Square or view online here.

Blythe Hill Fields Festival

The 2019 Blythe Hill Fields Festival will be held on Sunday 7th July. The festival is a local community event, attracting about 4,000 people, with a great line-up of stalls, performers and musicians coming together for yet another brilliant day out.

You can expect an eclectic mix of music on the main stage; family events on the woodland stage; huge varieties of stalls to browse and fabulous food and drink. Not to mention great activities such as the funfair, crazy golf, giant games and a treasure hunt!

To find out more visit https://www.blythehillfields.org.uk/festival-2019/festival

29 June 2019

Forest Hill Ward Assembly - 2nd July

Tuesday 2nd July 7.30pm  at Sydenham School, Dartmouth Road, SE26 4RD

What's on the agenda?
  • Mais Housing Update
  • Clean air for Forest Hill update 
  • Update on tree planting in Forest Hill 
  • Consultation: Introducing licensing for all private rented homes in the borough
  • Tewkesbury Lodge & Thorpewood Avenue Traffic/Parking Working Groups updates
  • Community Updates and question time

Your Forest Hill Assembly discusses issues of concern to you and your neighbours. It’s a place where you  and other local residents can work together with the local councillors, police, local organisations and the  wider community to make Forest Hill a better place to live, work and learn. Anyone who lives, works or  studies in Forest Hill Ward can come along and get involved.

Organised by Lewisham Council and Forest Hill Ward councillors

13 June 2019

Devonshire Road Festival in the Forest

Saturday, 6th July, from 1pm to 11pm, Deveonshire Road Nature Reserve

An afternoon full of live Country, Folk, Americana, Blues and Irish music in South London's hidden natural paradise!

To book your tickets go to their Eventbrite page.

10 June 2019

Lark in the Park

Saturday 22nd June, 12 noon - 4pm, Mayow Park

Lark in the Park is the community festival brought to you by Perry Vale Assembly, designed to bring local people and community groups together for a day of fun in the park. This year, the theme will be celebrating world cultures.  We hope to have a music and performance stage, and we are also looking forward to welcoming the police #together team with their police horses and dogs.  Plus all the usual attractions including free face painting and storytelling for under-fives, free tennis tasters, Dr. Bike and all our favourite local community groups and charities.

Thanks as usual to Friends of Mayow Park for helping to plan and publicise the festival – find out more about the Friends on their Facebook page: @FriendsofMayowPark.

07 June 2019

SE23 Jumble Trail - Sunday 9th June

SE23 will host its first Jumble Trail this June. Jumble Trail is a community event where people sell their unwanted goods- (bric-a-brac, music, toys, clothes, books, tools, plants and cakes) from a tabletop outside their home. A map is available with locations of sales across SE23.

Simply follow the trail and bag a bargain.