Homeview hearing tomorrow

Tomorrow night, Lewisham Councillors will meet to decide the fate of the former Homeview Video shop, which is currently targeted by Portland Bookmakers, who want to convert it in to yet another Brockley betting shop. The background to the application can be found here.


Unsurprisingly (given that the Magistrate for the first hearing received an "unprecedented" number of complaints), the letters of objection from local people were sufficient to trigger a licensing committee hearing where Councillors, rather than officers, will have the final say.


As we've said before, Brockley is beginning to prove that it has a future as a commercial centre beyond car dealerships, fried chicken and bookies. If an application on such a prime site is successful, it could be a major set back for Brockley Road's revitalisation. Sadly, the planning system seems to make little allowance for that kind of issue, although we hope that it matters to our elected representatives.


Fortunately, there is also a perfectly good and legitimate reason to reject the application too. Namely, its near-neighbour, which happens to be a rehabilitation centre for people suffering from addictions. Portland's stated unique selling point is that they aim to create a 'luxurious' ambiance that caters for a different breed of punter, which they claim is not well served by the current range of local bookies. In other words, Portland would represent a new form of temptation for people struggling with gambling addictions. The guidelines say that if a new bookmaker would put vulnerable people at increased risk then that constitutes the basis to reject a license application.

So, given there are both valid technical grounds to reject it and that to do so would be widely welcomed by the community, we hope that the Council rejects the application tomorrow night. We will, of course, report the result.

Hallowe'en in Brockley


'Flying Brockzilla' - by Asad


Last year, we didn't get a single Trick or Treater. This year, we haven't had any of the premature visits from costumeless chancers that we used to expect in our old neighbourhood.

Is that a reflection of the fact that families have been crowded out by professional couples or that Brockley's yummy mummies are frightened to let their kids out after dark, lest they encounter kids who consider hoods normal daywear?


In any case, we're not complaining, just curious. In the absence of monstrous kids, the Brockzilla project has provided plenty of local scares, as a quick visit to Howard's site will show.


There's also an honorary contribution to the pantheon of Brockley horrors by the Deptford Dame, whose ungodly creation can be found here, if you dare...



Degustation, Coulgate Street

Dugustatin on champagne tasting evening!
12 Coulgate Street
SE4 2RW
http://www.degustation.co.uk/

Yes, we know it's not new news that Degustation is now open and there are lots of reader comments on here already, but soon, we will have a review section, where we will collect together information about local places to eat, drink and shop.

This story will be fleshed out when we've actually had a chance to shop there, but we wanted to create this now, so that any comments you have about the shop will get ported over to the new section, when it goes live.

So far, we understand that Augustin, the owner of Degustation, is very happy with the reception he's had from local people. Although we didn't doubt that would be the case for either this or Dandelion Blue, it's nice to have that confirmed. The shop has just received its license to serve alcohol, so there is now a selection of wines on sale and the range of produce is set to grow over the coming weeks.

Lewisham Safer Neighbourhoods Survey

The Met Police now have an online survey for residents of Lewisham to report local problems.

Oddly, the survey lumps together issues such as flytipping and poor streetlighting with crimes like sexual or racially-motivated assault. We'd hope that there are more appropriate vehicles for registering those kinds of problems than an internet survey, but the data will help the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Lewisham, so worth doing if you have any ongoing concerns in your area.

Acceptable comment

To date, we have been incredibly impressed by the quality of posts that this blog generally receives and the responsible manner in which the vast majority of people have used the public platform that a blog gives them.

However, as the community of people using this site grows, it is important that we all continue to exercise this power sensibly. This issue is particularly important given the localised nature of the debate on this site - the people we discuss are often our friends and neighbours, rather than statesmen or celebrities.

We will apply the "Civility Enforced" standard, which is the closest thing that exists to a standard code of conduct for bloggers.

  • We strive to post high quality, acceptable content, and we will delete unacceptable comments
  • We define unacceptable comments as anything included (but not limited to) or linked to that is being used to abuse, harass, stalk, or threaten others is libelous or knowingly false, victimises an individual, infringes upon any copyright, trademark or trade secret of any third party, violates an obligation of confidentiality or violates the privacy of others
  • We define and determine what is "unacceptable content" on a case-by-case basis, and our definitions are not limited to this list. If we delete a comment or link, you may email us for an explanation
  • When someone who is publishing comments or blog postings that are offensive, we'll tell them so (privately, if possible) and ask them to publicly make amends, unless it is considered that doing so will only inflame or worsen the situation. If those published comments could be construed as a threat or of an illegal nature, and the perpetrator doesn't withdraw them and apologize, we will cooperate with local law enforcement regarding those comments and/or postings.
  • Comments or posts that are deemed offensive will result in a request - private, if possible - that the commenter or poster make public amends, if practical. If those published comments could reasonably be viewed as illegal (threat or otherwise), we will report the comments and commenter to police.
The rule of thumb should be: don't say anything on the blog that you wouldn't say in person to the people you're talking about.

There is also a forum available, South East Central.

Thanks for your continued support and co-operation.

Things we realised at 3am this morning, between Forest Hill and Brockley

  1. That it's actually a very long walk
  2. That there aren't very many night buses
  3. That the cliche about taxis not wanting to venture south of the river late at night still has some basis in fact
  4. That Gogis does sometimes shut

The Tea Factory Gallery [Updated]

The Tea Factory Gallery is perhaps the most exciting development planned locally. The planning agreement struck between the Council and the developer guarantees the creation of a gallery space, which will be given rent free to the community for two years.

So, Brockley has two years to make it work - to create a financially sustainable business model which will enable it to pay its own way as a permanent facility.

Yesterday, we spoke to Andrew Carmichael, Director of the Creative Lewisham Agency (responsible for promoting the growth of Lewisham's creative industries) for an interview we hope to publish next week.

However, he gave us one piece of news that demanded immediate airing:

The gallery space is due for completion in Spring 2008 (when the Tea Factory is completed), at which point it will be nothing but an empty shell. How that shell is ultimately used is currently up for discussion and there will be a meeting in the evening of November 8th in Brockley to debate the issues. Anyone with an active interest in the gallery (including artists or people interested in running the gallery) is welcome to attend.

If you'd like to go, please email Andrew in advance to request a place.

And now, here's the official version, just sent out by Creative Lewisham, with some interesting new details...

The disused 1940’s tea and coffee factory is being converted by Michael Trentham Architects into 1440m2 mixed use space, which will consist of 4 commercial units at ground level, one of which will be a café, and 13 residential units above. Of the commercial units, the largest will be made available for use as a gallery. As yet no person or organisation has been appointed to operate the space and the meeting will be about how that process will be taken forward. Although the space will be rent free for two years it will have other operating costs and a good business plan and management structure will need to be put in place.

The Tea Factory is situated right in the heart of Brockley, beside the station and minutes away from the café’s and restaurants of Brockley Road. This is a great opportunity for local artists, arts organisations or other consortia to explore how this project could operate. Andrew Carmichael from the Creative Lewisham Agency will facilitate the meeting and Colin Yeates of DPS Property who owns the building will be present to answer questions.

Brockley Bites - Democracy Special!

Councillor Sue Luxton APB:
"The Ladywell ward councillors are holding a Ladywell Ward meeting at St Andrew's Church this Thursday, to discuss suggestions for this year's £10,000 localities fund.

The time: Thu 25 October 2007, 7.30pm
The place: St Andrews Centre, Brockley Road, London SE4 2SA

"Over the last few weeks Ladywell residents and community groups have been coming up with ideas on how to spend £10,000 of Localities Fund set aside for projects in our neighbourhood. The best ideas will be presented at the meeting, where you are invited to ask questions and have your say on where the money should go. There will also be an opportunity for people to discuss other council-related issues they would like to raise with us.

"The Council budget for promoting the localities fund unfortunately didn't stretch to delivering a flyer through every door in the ward, but we've done what we can to promote the meeting with flyers and posters in shops, at the station etc, but please help to spread the word by telling others who may be
interested."
Councillor Darren Johnson asks the tough questions others shy from
In response to requests from local residents, Darren Johnson has tabled the following question for the next full Council meeting (we'll report on the response):

What efforts has the Council made to find resources to improve the Brockley Cross traffic junction and pedestrian environment since the four options put forward by consultants as part of the master-planning exercise were presented to officers?
Robo-Mayor Vows to take out Brockley's trash
Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve "Robocop" Bullock made Middlesbrough's zero-tolerance Mayor Ray Mallon look like a whimp, according to icsouthlondon that reports that he has vowed to "take control of the troubled street", by which he means Upper Brockley Road.
The site reports that "Drug-taking and dealing, drinking, shouting, partying and intimidating behaviour have been making residents' lives a misery for years," but that pressure from local people has forced Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock and police borough commander Alan Pughsley to act.
Sir Steve told the council on Wednesday: "The local authority has used its full range of powers in tackling antisocial behaviour in this area."
The report claims that the police and council will now introduce a drinking control zone in the small residential street.
We'd be interested to hear if this starts to make a tangible difference to something that has long been a problem for many of BC's readers.

Love to the west side

Being a glass-half-full sort of a blog, Brockley Central decided to make the most of missing our train this morning by venturing over to the west side of Brockley Station, to see what was happening.

We wandered up and down, trying to envisage how Mantle Road will look when all of the planned developments have taken place and then ventured further afield. It looked quite lovely in the autumn light, though the streets were incredibly quiet, as they have always been whenever we've walked around the area.

So we'd like to ask Brockley Central's west-side readers (who we suspect are in the minority) why we should visit the west wide more often?

It's not a rhetorical question and it's certainly not meant to fuel east-v-west debate, but, such "destinations" as Brockley has all seem to be on the east side of the station: Hilly Fields, the Cemetary, the Brockley Jack, Moonbow Jakes, Jam Circus, the Rivoli, the Sunflower Centre and so on.

The west has some nice streets, but is there anything to tempt the east-siders to run the gauntlet across the station bridge?

Brockley MAX: new leader needed

Moira Tait, the founder and primary organiser of the Brockley MAX arts festival, has announced that she is stepping down from her role and is actively seeking a successor.

In its six year life, the MAX has become a showcase for Brockley creative talent and a major part of the Brockley summer season.

In an email to contacts involved with the organisation of the festival, Tait said:

"I’d like to thank everyone who has taken part over the years as it would not have been possible without you. Because it feels as if Brockley Max is finally becoming established, it either needs more formal organisation or new blood to take it to a new stage."

We hope that someone else comes forward and that the MAX continues to grow.

The Talbot: The Story Continues


We've had a few people contact us to tell us about the signs outside The Talbot, advertising its lease. We've been trying to find out what this means for the much-anticipated plans to invest some money in it.

Today, we got our answer in this statement from Punch:

"The pub has indeed been up for let. Punch is now in the final stages of confirming a lease agreement with new licensees. The refurbishment is still planned for early next year as previously stated, the details of which will be discussed in partnership with the new licensees."

The Brockley commercial property market


With lots of new shops being built around Brockley Cross and the future of the Homeview site still in the balance, we contacted Pavilion, one of the leading local estate agents, to find out how much interest in the area there is from business? Pavilion are currently the letting agents for the new units on Mantle Road [above] and recently negotiated the Degustation deal.

Here's the reply we got:

"We've been in the area for many years and, from a commercial point of view, it is very slowly beginning to take off. There is a belief about the area now and that is critical for business investors.

"In the past, very few of the businesses opening in Brockley were properly resourced, or run by experienced business people. That is beginning to change, although Brockley Cross is still many years behind where it should be. Crofton Park is obviously a much stronger commercial area, with a coherent high street.

"The two delis will be a roaring success - everyone wants one and currently, local people travel far and wide to get fresh food from places like the fishmongers in Nunhead.

"Brockley Road is held back as a commercial centre by the problem of commercial waste, with not enough attention given to this problem by the Council [there is a pattern emerging here] - there are too many large bins on the pavement.

"This is one of the reasons why most new local development has taken place away from the high street. At Mantle Road, we are going to be selective about which types of business we let the units to. The kinds of businesses we think would be right for the site include a sandwich shop, professional services practices such as lawyers or architects, drop-in services, such as delivery dry-cleaning and tailoring or an arts, crafts and stationary shop."

So, while there is interest in the area, it is still relatively low and constrained on the high street by the fact that many businesses simply don't want to locate themselves on a street dominated by run-down, infrequently-open, ugly shops and large-scale commercial waste bins, such as the ones outside the Sorting Office and the Brockley Barge. Without co-ordinated action to improve Brockley Road (officially the heart of Brockley Town Centre) progress on the high street is likely to remain slow and new businesses will locate themselves on side streets.

Thanks to Pavilion for their candour.

Nominate your favourite street in Brockley

Because Hugh Demanded It...

Just to show that the "Suggest A Topic" section isn't just there for window dressing, we're starting an open thread, based on Hugh's suggestion that readers nominate their favourite streets.


In case anyone accuses us of trying to inflate our own house price again, we'd like to put on record that our street is highly unlikely to get a single nomination.


However, the other day, we opted to catch the train to St John's and walk back the long way through Brockley at dusk and we were struck by the beauty of so many of the streets. The Geoffrey Road end of Upper Brockley Road would be our choice, purely because of the old (and disappearing) row of shops next to the Wickham Arms, which give it real character).


What are your favourites?

Loud car stereos

We've no idea what a 'mini-moto' is - it sounds too cute to be harmful - but if you've ever lost a filling to the bass tube of a car stereo rumbling past your window then this might be of interest...

The London Assembly's Environment Committee is carrying out an investigation into the impact the noise from loud car stereos and mini-motos has on Londoners' quality of life. The investigation, led by Val Shawcross AM, is looking at how these sources of nuisance noise can be tackled - and she wants to know what you think.

To submit your views, email rishna.shah@london.gov.uk

There's no indication about what they can actually do about it, given that the threat of tinnitus doesn't seem to work, but if you want to get it off your chest, then email Rishna (and post your feelings here, if you like)

Them and us: Forest Hill

Cultural Learnings of Forest Hill for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Brockley

We all know Brockley's great. All those trees and that art and stuff. And the community! Lovely. You can't buy that in Chelsea. But sometimes, we have to concede that we haven't quite cracked it. Eden lies tantalisingly beyond our grasp.

So, this is the first in a two-part series of interviews, which looks over the fence at our neighbours, to ask what Brockley can learn from the Joneses. Specifically, we think there are two nearby areas that have a lot in common with Brockley - Forest Hill and Hither Green. Not identical of course, but similar: same local Council, comparable (although worse) transport links, similar housing stock (particularly Forest Hill) and demographic mixes - though neither is as ethnically diverse. Neither of them is a "destination", like Blackheath or Greenwich, nor have they been overwhelmed by the forces of gentrification, like Dulwich.

Both of them have qualities to be admired. So we wanted to learn from them and, where possible, steal their best ideas for the greater glory of Brockley.

We began by speaking to Michael Abrahams, Chair of the Forest Hill Society - a group whose workings we find easier to follow than our own Brockley Society. The Society is a relatively youthful organisation, little more than one year old, but it has already established itself as the leading campaign voice against planned train service cuts to London Bridge and has also done some work to improve the local environment.

We began by asking him how the Society engaged with the local community:

"It's important for the Forest Hill Society's credibility that we have a substantial local mandate, so we place a lot of emphasis on local communication and we encourage as many people as possible to come to our meetings. We produce a newsletter and run the website and at the last AGM, we had at least 90 people.

"There are a number of other representative groups in the area, including a traders association and the Friends of the Horniman Museum, we try to maintain regular dialogue with them too."

How is the area changing?

"I'm not sure the population is changing particularly rapidly. There are a lot of people in the area that have lived here all their lives."

What positive changes would you point to?

"The Comedy Club [The Hob] has made a real difference to the area - together with the Horniman Museum, it's a reason for people to visit. I suppose Brockley's equivalent would be the Brockley Jack theatre pub, but that hasn't had the same level of investment put in to it."

How do small businesses cope with the competition from local supermarkets?

"Forest Hill has a long history of Sainsbury in the area and we believe that it's important to have local supermarkets to keep people in the area. Small shops alone won't attract people."

Few things get the readers of Brockley Central as animated as the subject of gastropubs, what's the Forest Hill picture like?

"Yes, we've got gastropubs, like the Dartmouth Arms and the Honor Oak [in the disputed zone] and they're great, but I don't think we'd want all of our pubs to be like that. In Dulwich, they're all gastro pubs and the area has lost something as a consequence. But I think we've got a good mix - places like the Blythe Hill are brilliant old fashioned pubs."

Aside from the issue of rail services, what issue is causing concern at the moment?

"The number of commercial [ie: massive] bins on our main streets is alarming. Planning applications are being granted for businesses without sufficient consideration given to how they will deal with waste [a similar thing happened with the Brockley Barge and, as a result, people walking from the train station are regularly confronted with a dozen overflowing commercial bins]. We don't want to pit traders and the public against each other, but it is a serious problem that needs a co-ordinated approach."

What are your perceptions of Brockley?

"Well we see all the people who are getting off the train at Brockley Station. There are lots of young people disembarking off at Brockley these days and it's good that the area seems to be attracting new people with new energy."

"However, I don't think many people here think of Brockley as a place to visit. It doesn't offer too much to the casual visitor. Dulwich is the place most of us visit if we're going out locally and Sydenham is probably the area that local people most closely identify with."

What do you think Brockley can learn from Forest Hill's experience?

"I'm not sure we can teach Brockley anything very much. It's important to keep pressure up on the Council, but try to be constructive and focused. Our focus here has been on the station (and, before that, the pool closure)."

Do you have a message for the people of Brockley?

"Yes, I do want to take this opportunity to highlight the issue we both face in terms of the possible cuts to the rail services as a result of the East London Line extension. The East London Line will be a great boost to our areas, but it should not come at the expense of reduced main line capacity. I hope people in Brockley will join our campaign by signing the petition."

So, what lessons did we learn from our lofty bretheren?
  1. The more that local organisations, such as the Brockley Cross Action Group and the Brockley Society, can do to communicate their work locally and build their mandate, the more effective they will become.
  2. Gastropubs are good, so long as there are other options
  3. Brockley would benefit from a few more places that persuade people from outside the area to visit - if done well, the mooted gallery at the Tea Factory could be a draw
  4. That commercial refuse, cluttering our main streets, is a problem we share and we should work together to tackle it. More on this topic at a later date.
Next: Hither Green.

Brockley Central @ The Wickham Arms

Last night, the Hot Chip were the hot local ticket at the opening night of the new Amersham Arms. All of Brockley high-society was there. Probably. But Brockley Central was at the Wickham Arms.

We got together with some regular readers to take the conversation offline at the pub. Before the event, we worried whether some of the people who said they were coming might turn out to be people we'd cut in front of in the queue for Costcutters or squeezed ahead of on a morning train. As it turned out, we didn't recognise any of them, which just goes to show how rich and varied the world of SE4 actually is.

This was the line-up:

Brockley Nick
Brockley Jon and Brockley Sarah
Bob from Brockley
Sk8er Boi Joe
Fragrant Kate
Assistant to the Regional Manager at Coral, Elijah and the radiant Brianey
Dethroned King of Blackheath, Andrew

Every time a rakish gentleman walked through the door, or the sound of a Penny Farthing's bell tinkled outside, people wondered whether this was the arrival of Gentleman Hugh. But alas, that moment never came.

The Wickham lived up to its billing as the most idiosyncratic of Millwall pubs, with some great live jazz but its modernisation programme unfortunately hasn't got round to installing a card payment system, so we only bought two drinks the whole evening. Fortunately, the Brockley community once again demonstrated its generous nature and we are suffering a slight hangover as a result.

Thanks to everyone who came - we really enjoyed it and maybe we'll even try and organise another one in the not-too-distant future.

'Degustation' opening imminent

Get ready to degust, because Brockley Cross' 'other' fine food and drink shop is expected to open this month.

'Degustation' will be run by a French man who lives in Brockley and its fare will be predominantly French produce, including wine, chocolate, cheese and bread.

Although we've been unable to contact the owner so-far, we have been reliably informed that the shop (the former Pavilion office, near the station) requires very little modification to get it ready to open. Work is already underway and the shop could open within two weeks.

Happily, the news has been welcomed by the owners of Dandelion Blue, the deli on Coulgate Street that is also due to open imminently. They believe that both shops offer a sufficiently different service that they will compliment each other. Together with the Broca and Matchbox, the area around the station is set to become the gourmet hub for Brockley, helping to ensure more custom throughout the day, rather than just during busy commuter periods.

The Big Draw at Goldsmiths

We haven't had much family-orientated news at Brockley Central for a while, so we were very pleased to be sent the details of Goldsmith's family event in support of The Big Draw (a national campaign to encourage drawing), which is taking place on Saturday, October 20th, 11am-4pm.

There will be a number of different activities for kids of all ages and abilities, including:

Body Moving

Draw using a variety of media, light projections and your own body. Each drawing will then be rolled up 20 feet in the air to become part of a dynamic moving installation that will transform continuously through out the day.

Teepee

Children will get the chance to explore inside mini paper teepees and leave their mark to decorate their secret space.

Universe

Create your own unique space, your very own planet - exactly how you want it. [Ours would be like Brockley, only bigger, obviously]

Trainee teachers at Goldsmiths will be guiding visitors through the activities so it will be easy to join in.

For more information visit www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/bigdraw or contact Tim Hirst on 020 7919 7970 or ext-comms@gold.ac.uk

The Scores on the Doors

Brockley Central has always taken a rather cavalier attitude towards food safety - we know McDonald's has built a global empire on cleanliness, but it's never concerned us too much. We have paid for that approach with unpleasant consequences twice - once in Singapore and once in Hong Kong. But never in Brockley, despite eating locally on a regular basis. And we hope it stays that way, however...

The Your London website provides a "Scores on the Doors" service, which lets the public see how restaurants have fared in food safety inspections. And it pains us to say this, but few of our local restaurants emerge with much credit.

The data on the site comes from local food inspections - most of which are pretty recent. There is a basic scoring system of 0-5 stars. Zero being "very poor" ("little or no appreciation of food safety") and five being "excellent".

A quick search yielded the following results for our favourite locals. It comes to something when City Noodles is one of our best-performing fooderies.

3 stars

The Broca
Babur

2 Stars

La Lanterna
Brockley Jack
City Noodles

1 star

Jam Circus
La Querce
Cinnamon
Meze Mangal
Brockley Kitchen
Fishy Business

No stars

Moonbow Jakes
Ecosium
Toads Mouth Too
Just Thai Thai

The triumph of old Brockley

Put your shaved Parmesan away, the wave of gentrification sweeping Brockley has hit a snag - Old Brockley has drawn a line in the sand.

In the heady days of summer, when it seemed Brockley was somewhere between steps two and three in the 'five stages of up-and-comingness', we covered the landlord's decision to update the Wickham Arms. Admittedly, the 16-point manifesto for change stopped short of the full gastropub treatment, but it did at least include radical new thinking, such as the promise to ventilate the men's toilets.

However, like the 300 Spartans, facing the Persian empire, the regulars have decided that, if the thousand city-workers descending on their pub blot out the sun, then they shall drink in the shade.

Having tolerated the decision to replace the front patio with decking, it seems that the proposal to replace the frosted windows with glass you can see through was a step too far.

A regular reports that our local Andy Capps protested that see-through windows would make it easier for their wives / children / employers to spot them at the bar and make it harder for them to prop it up. After a lobbying campaign, the landlord's been convinced by the argument that it's better to turn out your base than to chase the floating voter. Karl Rove would approve.

And so do we.

Sure, see-through windows might have been nice. And we don't see what's inherently twee about floorboards, rather than sticky carpet, but despite our original clamour for a Wickham upgrade, we've come around to the view that the evolution of the Wickham should mirror the regeneration of Brockley - gradual, subtle and without sacrificing the character of the place.

Decking aside, the pub has changed for the better. There's more of a welcome for non-regulars and the smoking ban means that any light that makes it through the frosted windows is no longer strangled by a the fog of fag smoke.

So long-live Brockley's velvet revolution. But maybe a better selection of wine (for the ladies, naturally) wouldn't hurt?

Brockley Christmas market details announced

Brockley's Christmas Market is confirmed for December 1st.

The Christmas Market will take place on Coulgate Street and will feature 15 stalls, all of which have been allocated. Goldsmiths College will be supporting the market [update: apparently, Goldsmiths are no longer able to participate, but the fair will still have a full complement of stands].

The market is a pilot initiative, led by Sarah Pfeiffer of Lewisham Council and the Brockley Cross Action Group (yes, them again) and its success could lead to further street market events in future.

Street market operators have so-far been discouraged from considering Brockley as a location because of perceived lack of local demand and the relatively small and inaccessible sites which Brockley can offer.

Last year's Christmas programme included carol singing, lantern making and an "illuminations" ceremony for the Christmas lights.

Brockley Bites

Lewisham Gateway approved
Cllr Dean Walton's blog contains the best report from the Strategic Planning Committee meeting that passed it, yesterday.

Broca-Zilla
Brockzilla - if you don't know, click here - is now on show at the Broca, until Halloween.

More police to target low-level crime in Brockley

In October, twelve extra Police Community Support Officers joined the streets of Brockley. The officers patrol the borough in New Cross, Brockley, Lewisham Central and Rushey Green.

Crossrail to meet East London Line

This one's for people who really are committed to Brockley for the long-haul. The confirmation that Crossrail will go ahead means a major new transport interchange will be created at Whitechapel, on the East London Line route. We just have to wait until 2017.

Brockley Central get-together next week
A few Brockley Central regulars will be meeting up for a drink on Thursday, October 11th. If you would like to join us, please email Brockley Nick for details. Warning: very little of any practical benefit to the area will be achieved, or even discussed.

Welcome to the new-look Brockley Central

Well done Brockley Jon! The site redesign is thanks to his work and expertise and we hope you agree it's a great leap forward. It's now easier to make suggestions for new stories and there is a permanent home for the photography of the Brockley Flikr group, which is really impressive and captures the spirit of Brockley far more vividly than we could manage.

The redesign is timely, because the site has experienced significant growth in the number of people reading, searching and posting comments recently. When we first began, we were stupidly excited if we got one comment in response to our articles. This week, the article about the £10,000 community fund set a new BC record of 97 comments (and counting).

This week has also created two more records:

The highest-ever number of visitors was on Monday, with 259
The highest-ever number of pages viewed was yesterday, with a total of 1,060

In the coming weeks, you will see further changes to the site. The plan is to create a dedicated section for places to eat and drink and, longer-term, to explore the options regarding a proper forum.

The main sources of visitors to the site (after the all-powerful Google) are Britblog.com followed by Findaproperty.com, Kateshomeblog (though we suspect most of those are Kate herself!), Wikipedia and Facebook.

But our favourite stat is the number of posts the site has generated: 1,227 so-far. As well as a growing list of regular commentators, we've also had contributions from Councillors, community activists, businesspeople, artists and campaigners. Every one has enriched the site and made it what it is today. So thank you everyone and long may the sun shine on Brockley.

Answers from Lewisham Council

THE BROCKLEY CENTRAL INTERVIEW
JOHN MILLER, HEAD OF PLANNING, LEWISHAM COUNCIL

PART TWO - THE LEWISHAM GATEWAY

This is the second part of the Brockley Central interview with John Miller about the future for our Borough. Part one can be found here.

Today is the day when the Strategic Planning Committee will meet to consider the Lewisham Gateway developer's application, so we thought it was timely to publish this background interview. As it's a live planning application, John was unable to make any comment about the merits of the developers' proposal, but he was happy to explain what the Council is trying to achieve with the Lewisham Gateway project:

"Lewisham Council wants to create a very high quality environment, reconnecting Lewisham Station with the community it serves by getting rid of the traffic system [the massive roundabout] that divides one of South East London's most important interchanges from a high street that has suffered a relative decline over a long period."

"Specifically, this means that we want to create new facilities, including retail, cafes, restaurants, a cinema, new parkland, a square and better pedestrian routes. It will also include a dense residential development, which will bring new people and new life to the area, and help Lewisham meet the targets for new housing that it has been set [see part one of the interview for details]."

So what will go forward for the Conucil's consideration on October 4th?

"An outline application from the developers [Muse Developments and Taylor Wimpey]. While the specifics of the masterplan, such as the style of architecture, won't be determined at this stage, the application will include details such as the maximum number of residential and retail units that the developers propose."

And what guidance has the Council provided to the developers?

"This project has been many years in development. We have invested £15 million [money secured from government funds] and worked with the London Development Authority, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to bring it to this point. It's strategically important for the development of London and the Borough."

"We favour the "low-h" scheme [so called because the road layout will resemble an 'h'] because it frees up a lot of land and allows us to do something really radical, which is what we believe the area needs."

One or two residents have been highly critical of the scheme in the belief that the "low-h" will add to the time it takes to drive from one side of Lewisham to the other. What's your response to that?

"Contrary to those claims, the revised road layout has the support of TfL, which has endorsed the scheme."

Brockley Common moves forward

Brockley Common plan

Brockley Common, otherwise known as the "area of lovely trees and wilderness by the station... fenced off with very ugly chicken wire fencing," (copyright: Spincat) is finally set to be transformed in to a public space which we can not only be proud of, but also access properly.

The project to transform the east side of the station on Coulgate Street is known as "Brockley Common Phase 2" - an idea for which the Brockley Cross Action Group (BXAG) has campaigned tirelessly. The vision is to create a new way to access the station and make proper use of Brockley Common - an asset which has been ignored for many years. The wire fence will be replaced by green terracing, which will lead up to a new public space, next to the station.

Brockley Common 3D drawing
As we reported last week, funding for the next stage of the project has now been secured and work will move ahead shortly. Although there are several details to be finalised, Rupert King of the BXAG was able to explain more:

"Lewisham Council, in partnership with BXAG, Southern Rail and Network Rail, has secured £110,000 funding for Brockley Common from SELTRANS, a transport body administered by local authorities in South East London.


"The money has to be spent within the current financial year. Therefore works will commence early in the New Year and should be complete by March 2008.


"The money will fund the construction of a new DDA compliant 1:20 ramp [for wheelchair access] and the set of steps at the south end of the site leading up to the ticket office, including the paved space outside the office and the switchback path from the top of the ramp back to the office. This Phase, which we will call 2A, will also include new lighting, hand rails and some seating. The scheme is essentially the same scheme as currently displayed on the BXAG website, though this will need updating to show minor amendments. I can confirm that Council have agreed in principle that high quality paving be used for the ramps and steps in recognition of BXAG's vision for the creation of a landmark public open space. This is good news and something we have pushed for throughout the project's development.


"We also have £28,000 of S106 money [funding secured by the Council from private developers, as a contribution towards local community projects] for the project and at present we are looking at using all available funding to carry out all of the hard landscape works in Phase 2A - i.e. including the performance space and steps at the north end of the site. This makes complete sense in terms of minimising disruption and addressing access issues for subsequent phases of works after Phase 2A is completed. But it is not confirmed and is subject to costs. All agree it would be ideal.

"The current funding does not include any soft landscaping, such as planting, or the proposed terracing along Coulgate St. This will be funded separately and would constitute Phase 2B. Phase 2A will open up Brockley Common to the public, but the temporary treatment of the soft landscape areas requires further discussion with the Council. A key consideration will be the safe use of the site, which will contain several banks.


"Although the ramp and steps are mainly about improving access to the station ticket office and footbridge, they are an integral part of the Common and we hope people will make use of the new access to enjoy Brockley Common's wildlife, its views and openness. Seating will be provided. It will be safer, more open and a good place to meet and hang out. But Brockley Common will only become a finished public open space once Phase 2B is funded and completed.


"Of course, we sincerely hope that when Transport for London take over the Ticket Office, they carry out some serious improvements to the building. One thing I do know is that automated ticket barriers are on the agenda, meaning everyone will have to go through the ticket office to access the platforms. This makes the new access improvements - the ramp and steps - even more important and will increase pedestrian traffic through and into Brockley Common."

Thanks to Rupert for providing such a detailed explanation of the status of the project. We think it will make a profound difference to the area and, if money can be secured for the performance space element, it will open up new possibilities for local events.

£10,000 for Brockley Ward - who gets it? You decide... by proxy

"Y'know, a town with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it!"

Lyle Lanley, Marge vs The Monorail

If you had £10,000 of tax-payers' money to spend improving Brockley - what would you do? The obvious answer is to subsidise gambling for children at a new, publicly-funded betting shop on the high street. Sadly, in a representative democracy, it's the politicians who get the final say.

However, Brockley Councillor Dean Walton is asking for our help to decide how £10,000 of public money can be spent on local community projects that will improve Brockley ward.

Cllr Walton explains how the money can be used:

"This is money councillors can use to address so-called low level problems in the Ward that have fallen below the radar of Lewisham's services. This year we want to focus on three key themes of keeping young people active, improving the physical environment and designing out crime & anti-social behaviour if possible."

Last year, the Brockley Councillors allocated the cash to provide solar panels at two local primary schools, financial support for the Brockley Max Festival, improved gardens on the Wickham Road estate and tree planting in Tanners Hill. All very worthy, no doubt, but only 5 out of 10 for imagination. Now that Brockley is one big, socially-networked happy family, we must be able to do better. It's time to put the wisdom of crowds to the test.

Sue Luxton recently promoted a similar scheme in Ladywell on her blog. You may or may not think that any of her suggestions for her ward are worth nicking.

If you have an idea for an activity or project you would like to receive funding for, please contact Cllr Dean Walton by Friday 16 November 2007.

E-mail: cllr_dean.walton@lewisham.gov.uk
Phone: 020 8691 1046
Write to: Cllr Dean Walton, Lewisham Town Hall, Catford, SE6 4RU.

And tell us what you think here.

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