When not writing lists or counting cards in Vegas, Brockley Central pores over the stats for this site, like it was a particularly slow and frustrating version of Championship Manager.
And as a result, today is a very exciting day, for within a few hours, we will welcome our 50,000th visitor since the site began last year. Unfortunately, we won't be online to mark the occasion, but if current trends are anything to go by, the person is likely to be:
a) Someone trying to find the menu for Meze Mangal
b) Someone from the States who can't spell broccoli
Welcome, whoever you turn out to be.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 30.1.08
Yesterday's debate about Brockley's Chattering Classes went in all kinds of unexpected directions - we're still trying to decide whether the resulting argument supported or undermined our original theory about the nature of Brockley's chatter.
One of the issues raised was whether the Council delivers a good and cost effective service. Well, according to the Audit Commission, whose job it is to assess these things, Lewisham fares pretty well. In the last report, dated October 2007, it scores 4 overall, which means that it is "well above minimum requirements – performing strongly." Now admittedly, this is in comparison with other Councils, which means that it may not be the strongest benchmark to set it against, but the key findings of the report are:
"The Council is performing strongly. It is working for and delivering real improvements for Lewisham. It is with its partners extremely ambitious in creating and seizing opportunities to improve life chances for its young people and regenerate its diverse area, many parts of which are deprived but well-placed to develop. Its ambition to make Lewisham the most liveable and sustainable community in the most successful city in Europe is based on an exceptionally good understanding of its communities and their potential. Over the last five years the Council has prioritised clearly and delivered successfully improvements that are central to its vision, particularly the attainment of young people and the condition of streets and open spaces. Better transport links to London's commercial centres are fostering well-targeted regeneration. Strong partnerships deliver more than the sum of their parts including some world-class integrated facilities for local people. Some lower-priority services currently perform only adequately, but improvements are mostly in hand.
"The Council has achieved well against its key priorities over the last five years including important and continuing gains in school attendance, pupil attainment and the prospects of young people leaving care, in better-maintained and outstandingly clean streets and parks, measurably reduced deprivation overall and better energy use. Regeneration is building on the unique characters of communities, making good use of new transport links which have been achieved through active lobbying and starting to exploit the possibilities of the London Olympics. Remaining challenges, on which the Council is strongly focused, include securing an ambitious Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme to support its plans for education development, improving social housing through a complex stock transfer, and major regeneration proposals for its town centres and Thames frontage. These are things of real significance in improving the lives and life chances of local people.
"There are a few weaknesses in areas that are less central to the Mayor and Council's goal of a step-change in the Borough's fortunes. Early slowness in determining options for the housing stock has made the Council behind on Decent Homes Standards (DHS). Complaints in housing are not followed through well and tenants are dissatisfied and unsettled. Homelessness is still problematic. Relationships with voluntary organisations need more development. Older people have been a lower priority and although strategy is progressing, services to support healthy lifestyles for people over 50 are not well coordinated."
Full report here
We are hoping to write a feature about BrocSoc, but, before we do, we'd be interested to know whether any of Brockley Central's readers are members or have been involved with them in the past.
Please post below or email us at the usual address. Thanks.
[UPDATE: We have created a new poll relevant to this topic]
Not that anyone's ever invited Brockley Central to a dinner party locally, but if they did, we like to imagine that it wouldn't be like the one described in this ludicrous bit of navel-gazing in The Telegraph today.
"Picture the scene, and mark it well, for it will be coming soon to a dinner party near you... Where once the idle chit-chat might have been of a lavish basement extension or a holiday finca in Andalucia, now the talk is of crippling school fees, tumbling house values and the scandalous cost of commuting by rail. Or car. Or, for that matter, staying at home and putting the heating on... We are the Coping Class."
This is surely the silver-lining to the area having more than its fair share of rehab centres. It ensures we all maintain a sense of perspective, whatever our political persuasions or financial status. And it means that, when writing this blog finally earns us a seat at the most illustrious tables in Brockley, we expect the conversation to be a little less hellish than that described by The Telegraph.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 29.1.08
It's seemingly gone a bit quiet on site at the Tea Factory lately, with few workers visible since before Christmas.
Given the development's importance to the look and feel of Brockley's centre and its role as the home to the new community gallery and another cafe for Brockley, we contacted the developers (who kindly gave us a tour of the site last year) to find out what's going on.
Happily, the developer confirmed that work is on track for completion by April this year. For the last couple of months, the work has been internal - fitting-out the rooms and public spaces and installing the lifts. They have also been working with the team behind the gallery, to try and accommodate their plans and ensure
Work will move back outside next month, when the copper cladding arrives and the builders get ready to install the windows and, finally, take down the scaffolding.
The developers have offered to give us advanced warning about any traffic disruption this work may cause.
During the call, they also reconfirmed that the Gallery will be home to a new cafe (open 7am - 11pm), when it opens.
Many moons ago, through some random googling, Brockley Jon stumbled across a home-made looking website which provided walking guides around the more interesting parts of London, with the south-east very well represented.
The walks on the site, London Footprints, are squarely aimed at those interested in finding out a little more about the origins of the area, and possibly seeing some hidden gems of pre-war architecture scattered amongst all the estates and urban sprawl.
A few weeks ago, Brockley Jon and the other half ventured out to try the St. John's walk.
Starting at the war memorial on Lewisham Way, we picked up the 3 mile loop about half-way round. The walk meanders through some of the lesser known bits of the St.John's and Lewisham Way area. The whole walk took about two hours, including a stop at the quirky and excellent Deptford Properly café gallery. Rather than recite the route, which you can read (and hopefully try for yourselves) here, we'll let the photos below do the talking.
Highlights that you may or may not know about already include the hidden gem of a road that is Somerset Gardens, with Beaufort Lodge sitting at its entrance, the wartime stretcher railings of Carrington House, and the timber framed shops of Tanners Hill.
The magnificent Barclays Bank building on Lewisham Way
The fantastic fairy-tale inspired Beaufort Lodge on Loampit Vale
The epic ship-like Cranbrook pub (anyone been in?)
All that is left of the once grand Pynes department store, now home to a bookies (typical)
Cafe Neu, has closed down. The sign on the front door cites reasons 'beyond their control' for the closure.
We were sitting in Moonbow Jakes at 2.41pm on Friday, making mental notes for a review, when the news came through from an anonymous poster on Brockley Central. There was no answer when we called the enquiry number, but a neighbouring businessman thought the reason was simply money.
The comments in our review section suggest Cafe Neu was providing a decent service, but we confess we'd never got round to trying it. If the problem was a lack of revenue, then it wasn't because of a lack of local people with an appetite for spending money in cafes - Moonbow Jakes was virtually full while we were there, as it always is. But Moonbows is a practically perfect place and we'd guess that Cafe Neu didn't manage to come up with a quite a good enough reason why customers should cross the road.
And, as one reviewer wrote, it can't have been easy being flanked by a collection of old fridges and catering equipment on the pavement from the shop next door. Why that shop is allowed to clutter up the high street in that way, we have no idea.
We wish the Cafe Neu team good luck in the future and hope that another business tries to take on that site soon.
Cllr Dean Walton's blog has a great update from the recent planning committee meeting, summarising the decisions relevant to Brockley.
In particular, he reports on two issues that have been covered on this site - a new residential development on Geoffrey Road, that has been criticised by some local residents. He writes:
"Permission granted for the houses on the site of the garages adjacent to 72 (I think). The scheme is daring, has no car parking (but removal of the dropped kerb effectively brings a single space back to use), green roofs, a Green Travel plan for new residents and, following my suggestion, a committment to assist in the establishment of a car club for the area."
Local residents recently launched a Lewisham-wide campaign to halt the disappearance of local pubs but, as Dean reports, it has come too late for The Tiger's Head on Bromley Road. His article illustrates how difficult it is to save pubs, given the conflicting pressures facing the planning system, but it also suggests that the campaign may be successful in future:
"I support Lewisham's emerging policy against allowing pubs to be changed into residential use - but it was made very very clear that this policy is still at an early stage and there were no grounds on which the policy could be applied [to The Tiger's Head]."
Posted by Brockley Nick on 25.1.08
We've been debating whether to post something on the topic of crime and safety, as we run the risk of going over old ground.
However, the Brockley Central community has grown considerably since those days and a number of readers have emailed us concerning the release of CCTV images of a 'steamer' gang, that attacked and robbed train passengers from Forest Hill, before disembarking at Brockley. The attack took place in November 2007.
On the other hand, the News Shopper reported earlier today that:
"CRIME on [the Southern railway network] has dropped by 10 per cent, according to recently released figures.
"The statistics show there were 4,740 crimes on the Southern railway network, which includes Penge West, Brockley and Anerley stations, last year, compared with the 5,283 in 2006.
This figure includes a 16.75 per cent drop in violent crime from 639 instances in 2006 to 537 last year."
We were once the victim of an attempted "steaming", but it was when we lived in Greenwich and before the advent of mobile phones. We didn't have any money on us either, so they had to accept that it was a futile exercise. There was a short debate about whether one of them should beat me with his belt as a matter of principle, but they decided that their time might be spent more productively further down the carriage.
Conversely, when we lived in Charlton and travelled on the same train route, we accidentally got on the train while leaving our wallet on a station seat. In a panic, we got off at the next stop and sprinted back to Charlton to see if it had been handed in. We were told that a guy had found it and had just got on the train that was about to leave. We jumped on the train and went down the carriages asking if anyone had found it. It turned out the discoverer of our wallet had handed it to the train driver, without taking a single penny.
So, we suppose the point of those stories is that, on balance, we tend to be an optimist about human nature, rather than dwelling on the nasty people in life.
Since we wrote the original piece about safety, we have seen a few unsavory things locally and through writing this blog, have become aware of some other people's bad experiences, but we've still never felt threatened in Brockley, nor been the victim of any crime. However, we also recognise that, as a born-and-bred Londoner, we tend to see the city differently from others.
So would our Home Secretary feel safe on Brockley's streets? Do you?
Back in July, we reported:
"Lewisham Council has signed a £296 million [PFI] deal to do up nearly 2,000 council-owned homes in Brockley.
"A group of private sector companies is going to refurbish the council’s housing estates and street properties, including homes owned by leaseholders."
Evidently, the first letters, informing leaseholders of the costs they will have to meet, have started dropping through the letter boxes, prompting one reader to write:
"For our house (classified as a block of 2 flats) we're facing professional fees of over £7000 and scaffolding costs of nearly £5000 before any work of any description is done. Remember that there around 600 leaseholders in Brockley PFI - not all are in streets but even so why does it cost £7000 per house for professional fees?
"We've also read in a Lewisham Council report of the scrutiny committee for Housing, that there are plans to massively increase leaseholders service charges to claw back the ongoing costs of the PFI project. The figure we've seen is £750 a year per leasehold in Brockley PFI-it's not clear whether this will be applied to everyone regardless of what services they receive. At the moment we pay £100 a year so this is a MASSIVE increase!"
BC regular "James" has contacted Regenter's local office, for clarification, and was told that all costs will be capped at £10,000 - including professional services, scaffolding, and any works undertaken and that the lease will not be going up.
We hope that Sue Luxton and Dean Walton may be able to shed more light on this matter - or that someone from Regenter contacts us directly. We will be investigating this issue further, but in the mean time, if you have been contacted by Regenter, please let us know what costs you have been told you face.
29th Tuesday - Cuban Jazz Orchestra
Following the success of the first Brockley Central drinks and the recent, animated discussion of Brockley's best places for a night out, we think it's time to organise Brockley Central Drinks 2.
The drinks are open to anyone who fancies coming (not least because they will be in a pub and there will be no velvet ropes involved).
Last time, Brockley Jon and Nick, sat alone in the Wickham Arms staring balefully at the door for the first 45 minutes, waiting and wondering whether anyone would turn up. And it is with that in mind that we are waiting for Jon to confirm what date suits him, before committing to a fixture. However, it will be in February.
Please post below if you would be interested in coming along and if you have a venue preference. We have narrowed it down to a choice of two:
1. The Wickham Arms - served us well last time and is probably within easy walking distance of the majority of our readers. Big enough if lots of people turn up. Intimate enough if they don't.
2. Jam Circus - a popular venue with BC readers and a chance to spread our wings to the Crofton Park-side of Brockley. The management are enthusiastic contributors to BC.
For one day only, please vote on what you think the name for the new gallery should be. We couldn't feature all of the names suggested, in all their various iterations, for fear of breaking Google. However, we have listed the ones we think are the most popular. And, like all other polls on this site, it is "not official" and will just be used to help the team in charge of setting up the gallery make up their own mind.
Remember, the name is the easy bit, so if you want to get involved with running the place, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
On a different note - don't forget, the labels at the bottom of every article are a good way to navigate around the site. Click on one of the labels to find other stories on Brockley Central, related to the same topic.
Just as cyclists should have their own cycle lanes, wherever possible, it seems we need to create a special lane to keep them safely segregated from the rest of Brockley Central's traffic.
This is it. Cyclists - please use this post as you wish. And don't forget this link and this one too.
Right, there's been far-too-much sunny frivolity on this site lately - what with cycling reunions, drinking plans and and sure-fire, get-rich-quick property investment speculation.
So, following hot on the heels of the Upper Brockley Road demolition, let's have another dose of urban decay, with a Project Eyesore update.
Project Eyesore seeks to highlight Brockley's worst offences against the public realm. Over on her blog, Cllr Sue Luxton has been chronicling her struggle on this particualrly unlovely stretch of Brockley Road.
"On Tuesday I posted about a minor success I'd had getting an illegal advertising board removed from outside Brockley Kitchen. I may have spoken too soon. Yesterday I opened my councillor post to discover notification of a planning application for, yes, you've guess it, a "The retention of one double sided illuminated free standing advertisement display unit outside 258 Brockley Road SE4."
The advertising board is just one of many problems in that spot. Sue's list also includes:
"A BT exchange box, a redundant post box, a number of commercial waste bins stored there, railings [and] illegal pavement parking."
Click here for the full story and please send us your photos of Brockley at its worst to the usual email address.
The fire-ravaged house on the corner of Upper Brockley Road and Geoffrey Road is finally being demolished. Following a fatal fire last Spring, the house had been surrounded by scaffolding so elaborate that scaffolding companies travelled from miles around to marvel at its ugly splendour.
Now, work has begun to take it down.
The neighbouring MOT garage is a target for redevelopment, although previous plans for housing on the site were rejected by the Council.
The closure of the East London Line has prompted a small flurry of articles in the property press about destinations along its new route.
The Standard re-wrote its article from last year, for yesterday's paper ("Here's the hottest tip in town - buy in an area before a new tube arrives for a sure property profit. David Spittles reveals the East London Line's new stations opening in 2010. Start your search now.")
The Telegraph focuses on Forest Hill here
And the Standard's website carries another feature about Forest Hill.
Hats off to Berkeley Homes' PR people, who appear to be behind the coverage of SE23...
When we first looked at a place in Brockley, we were given a copy of SE4U magazine by the guy who was selling. It was a smart move.
“Ooh, this place has its own magazine,” we thought. “It must be nice. You don’t get that in Charlton.”
So we ignored the dodgy carpet and strange smell and took the plunge, little dreaming that we would one day be writing articles for it.
Last year, SE4U magazine got a new owner, when Angela Burgess added it to her stable of magazines, which also covers SE21 and SE22. So we decided to interview her about her plans:
“The couple who ran it before simply became too busy to keep it going,” she explains. “The magazine needed someone who could dedicate more time to it. With my background in publishing, I thought I could take it on.”
“One of the main reasons I was so excited by the idea of running a magazine for Brockley is that it is an area in transition, with plenty going on. In that respect, it reminds me of East Dulwich a few years ago, although the areas are very different in other ways.’
“I didn’t want to make too many changes to the magazine, although I did drop the U – as of the January issue, it’s just called SE4 Magazine. I’ve also doubled the circulation and it will now reach 5,000 homes.
“I plan to put the magazine online in the near future, alongside the other two magazines. I am also planning a magazine for Sydenham, so ultimately, the website will cover a large chunk of South East London.”
Although she now lives in Dulwich, it was Brockley that first welcomed her to London when she moved down from Manchester in 1987, if only for the first five days. When we met her, she was busy getting to know Brockley better:
“The most important thing I want to do is to integrate the magazine more with local life. For example, I plan to get involved with this year’s Telegraph Hill Festival; I want to encourage people with local events to contact me to include in the listings section and of course, I asked Brockley Central to write a column for SE4.
“I’m learning more about Brockley every day and I’d be interested in speaking to other people who have ideas for columns or to local businesses interested in running competitions.
“SE4 Magazine only works if people read and enjoy it, so the more feedback the better. There’s nothing I like more than seeing someone read a copy.”
If you have any comments or suggestions for SE4 Magazine, email Angela at: email@example.com
Posted by Brockley Nick on 16.1.08
Part of an occasional series of articles in which we try to write about something other than pubs and delis in the immediate vicinity…
Occasionally, while making our way through the backside of Surrey Quays on our journey to work, we reflect that South East London has its flaws and that, however nice Brockley is, it is also nearby some pretty awful spots.
Here though are some reasons to be cheerful about our wider surroundings:
The Elephant & Castle
£1.5 billion regeneration scheme that involves demolishing large numbers of buildings and replacing them with a high-quality, mixed-use scheme over 170 acres. It will reclaim the area, currently dominated by a roundabout system, for pedestrians. Construction on several of the new parts of the scheme is already underway.
Why is it important?
An important shot in the arm for South East London’s pride and reputation.
The Southwark Cycle Bridge , Rotherhithe
A project by Sustrans, to create a new river crossing for cycles and pedestrians, near the Rotherhithe tunnel. Awaiting results of feasibility study and still a hope that it could be completed in time for the Olympics.
Why is it important?
It will make cycling journeys from South East London to Canary Wharf much quicker and more enjoyable. No one of sound mind would go through the Rotherhithe tunnel willingly.
London Bridge Quarter
The centrepiece of this development will be the EU’s tallest building, London Bridge Tower, a building that will include office space, apartments a hotel and viewing galleries for the public. Demolition of the ugly brown building that currently stands in its place is already underway and it’s financing is nearly finalised. Completion looks likely for 2012-13.
Why is it important?
Together with More London, the development will bring thousands of new jobs to London Bridge, making London Bridge an even more important transport hub and business destination and putting Brockley 8 minutes away from one of Britain’s finest new buildings, with views of the capital from the 72nd floor.
Creekside village, Deptford
The Deptford site is currently being cleared, to make way for a new ‘creative village’, that will offer a new theatre space, artist workshops, apartments and retail. It will also have the benefit of integrating the Laban Centre with its surroundings more effectively.
Why is it important?
We don’t know too much about the merits of this one, but that stretch of riverside is currently a tragic waste and the plans do promise new public spaces, that will open up the waterways and create a new destination within walking distance for many in SE4.
Potters Fields, London Bridge
A recently opened park by Tower Bridge, albeit one still surrounded by building work.
Why is it important?
It adds another dimension to the South Bank river walk.
The Atrium, New Cross
One of many new residential developments in New Cross, reflecting new confidence in the area. Due for completion in 2009.
Why is it important?
We’d argue that New Cross is more important to Brockley than Lewisham town centre and, thanks to Goldsmiths and rail connections; the areas are more closely linked.
A new Lewisham-wide campaign has been created to preserve the borough’s pubs.
In recent years, Lewisham has lost dozens of pubs and more are under threat. In response, the snazzily-titled FOCAS (Forum of Conservation and Amenity Societies of Lewisham), called a meeting to identify ways in which greater protection can be offered to pubs, which play an important role in creating a sense of local identity.
The meeting included representatives from community groups in areas such as Sydenham, Telegraph Hill, Grove Park and Catford, though sadly no-one from the Brockley Society was able to attend.
The problem is most acute in the south of the borough, where a total 14 pubs have closed recently. Brockley too has lost The Maypole and The Duke of Edinburgh recently to new apartment developments. Though neither establishment was among the most dearly loved of Brockley’s drinking holes, it does underline the challenge facing traditional pubs, which are under pressure from changing drinking habits, increasing land values and the pressure to build new housing.
Given that large swathes of the Borough (like Telegraph Hill and Catford) were built by people influenced by the temperance-movement, Lewisham has precious few pubs to start with, so the issue is an urgent one.
Many Councils have much stronger policies concerning development of pubs and FOCAS’ immediate focus is to lobby Lewisham Council for an improvement to bring it in to line with authorities such as Kingston and Merton.
Ladywell Action Group
Cllr Sue Luxton is trying to get a local action group off the ground in Ladywell, to address issues in her ward. She writes:
“On Thursday I had an informal meeting in Masons with a group of local residents concerned about the state of Ladywell Road. A number of people have expressed concern over the past few months (and years) about the number of empty shops along Ladywell Road, the range of shops, the state of the pavement, the unsightly railings and various highways and safety issues. Things have got markedly worse recently since the only shop selling fruit and vegetables on the road has closed, and there is a potential threat of the Post Office being closed too.”
She envisages a group along similar lines to the Brockley Cross Action Group and BXAG member Des Kirkland joined the meeting to share the benefit of Brockley’s experience. If a group is formed, it could work in partnership with the BXAG to tackle issues of mutual concern.
Visit Sue’s blog for more details.
La Dolce Brockley
Local blogger and friend of Brockley Central, Richard Elliot, is having a midlife crisis, brought on by the glut of beautiful twenty-somethings that have suddenly appeared in Brockley. For the record, Richard, Brockley Central have reached our early thirties, but lots of people say we look younger, so you can be forgiven for making that mistake.
One of Brockley Central's guilty pleasures is to read the Housepricecrash forum - a haven for nihilists, misanthropes and people who sold their flat two years ago in the expectation that the house price market was 'just about to crash' and they could buy it back for thruppence, three months later.
However, it's been a bit less of a fun read since the credit crunch, as their property conspiracy theories have gathered momentum and the mood on the boards has shifted from paranoia to triumphalism.
So we thought we'd drop the H-bomb on Brockley Central and ask you what you think about the housing market in SE4. Here's some research we did earlier...
According to Home.co.uk, the average sale price of a property in Brockley rose between November 2006 and 2007 from £235,490 to £259,642, equating to a 10% rise, with flats enjoying the fastest price growth (20%).
And below is Ourproperty.co.uk's list of the 10 most and least expensive streets in Brockley, although in many cases the volume of transactions (measured over two years) is very low, so it may not be a terribly reliable guide to the area, most desirable locations...
Brockley's 10 most expensive roads
1 Crescent Way £613,750
2 Drake Road £515,000
3 Reservoir Road £402,000
4 Montague Avenue £400,000
5 Henryson Road £376,000
6 Elsiemaud Road £365,350
7 Harefield Road £360,500
8 Chalsey Road £356,533
9 Upper Brockley Road £335,722
10 Amyruth Road £333,112
Brockley's 10 least expensive roads
1 Kentwell Close £123,333
2 Pincott Place £146,926
3 Turnham Road £150,600
4 Barville Close £152,667
5 Greatfield Close £154,000
6 Foxwell Street £158,833
7 Brockley Road £167,221
8 Frendsbury Road £173,750
9 Reynard Close £177,500
10 Seymour Gardens £186,269
Date: Friday 11th January, 5.45pm for 6.00pm start
Venue: Edmund Waller School, Waller Road
The proposal to incorporate Monson primary school (Deptford) with Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College (Telegraph Hill) has provoked controversy, with a number of local residents concerned that it could adversely affect nearby primary schools such as such as Kender and Edmund Waller and, in or on the edges of the Brockley Area, John Stainer and Myatt Gardens.
Predictably, some of the debate has been clouded by ideologically driven sound and fury as a result of HAHC's Academy status. But beneath all of that, the plans do raise some serious questions.
HAHC is a successful Academy with an annual intake of just over 200 pupils. That means places are highly prized. Protestors complain that, by guaranteeing places at HAHC for Monson pupils, closer and more successful schools would lose out. The "fairness" of that arrangement is highly emotive and, as parents of a boy who may one-day hope to attend HAHC (although at this time, the "real nappies" question is the more pressing), Brockley Central are not exactly objective commentators.
In response to the debate, Cllr Robin Cross has arranged a public meeting with Mayor Steve Bullock. Cllr Cross says:
"This is a chance for you to put views directly to the Mayor, and to discuss the subject with him before any final decision is taken on whether to go ahead with the policy.
"Please let me know if you intend to come. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
"I realise this is short notice, as we have only just been given confirmation that the meeting can go ahead. However, I also realise the importance this subject has for many of you and I do hope you can join the meeting."
Blackfriars Crown Court has informed campaigners against plans to convert Homeview Video in to a bookie, that Portland, the company behind the scheme, has dropped its Crown Court appeal. The appeal against the magistrate's initial verdict was due to be heard on January 21st.
The fate of the Brockley Road store is still uncertain though. Due to a change in the legislation, Portland was able to make a second application, directly to the Council. The Council also rejected their application, but it remains likely that Portland will appeal that decision - no date has yet been set for a hearing.
We have contacted Portland to ask them for a statement about their plans and will report any answer that we receive.
Thanks to one of the leading campaigners, Marisa, for the information.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 10.1.08
In our predictions for 2008, we said that the opening of the gallery at the Tea Factory would be a highlight for the area. So we were very pleased to receive this email from Rebecca Glover yesterday, which shows the project is moving forward in the right way. In our view it's vital that the people taking it on are focused on the project and drawn from across the community, rather than from one pre-existing group:
As you may already know, a community arts/gallery space is planned in the renovated Tea Factory at 100-106 Endwell Road, SE4. This space is being offered to us, the people of Brockley, by the developers, rent free for two years. After this period we will have the opportunity to continue to occupy the unit on business terms. It is a 75 sq. mtr shell, on street level, due for completion in April 2008.
Having met with Andrew Carmichael from the Creative Lewisham Agency, we have discussed the possibility of creating a co-operative, non-profit making organisation which would be beneficial for all involved.
We feel that this is an exciting opportunity for Brockley, furthering social, economic and environmental well being in the borough. This gallery would support and promote the arts, encouraging personal and community development.
We are looking for involvement from anyone with an active interest in this community project. We are seeking advice and help from volunteers such as: designers, architects, solicitors, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, builders, glaziers, cleaners, painters and decorators, administrators, curators, invigilators, artists, managers, web designers, local business people, PR people, planners, gallery managers, promoters, technicians, registered gas fitters, evaluators, journalists, documenters, lifters and carriers, book keepers, security firms, communicators, negotiators, marketing and publicity managers, funders and fundraisers to name but a few.
We also welcome your views, supportive comments and supportive criticism on this venture.
• Do you like the idea of an art space in Brockley?
• Who should the gallery be for?
• What kind of art would you like to see in the gallery?
• Should it be run as a co-operative? If not, why not?
• How much money do you think a member of the co-operative should contribute per month?
• A name for the gallery? We like Art Tea Factory/Art Tea Place, your opinions please or any alternative suggestions.
Please could you spare some of your time, thoughts and skills in making this project work, or pass this message on to any friends, family and colleagues who may be interested.
You can email me (email@example.com) with any queries and/or to confirm your interest in attending the next meeting which will take place later this month.
Jolly, informal cafe with stripped-down aesthetic. The food is generally tasty, with a wide-range of vegetarian options. Some slightly disappointing starters, but the sweetcorn cakes are recommended.
On very cold nights, there's nothing to protect you from the cold winds whistling in when someone opens the door, which spoils the otherwise-cosy feel.
Like Swamp Thing, Brockley Central sometimes wonders whether we are human at all, or a manifestation of the collective consciousness of all life in SE4. That feeling was reinforced last night as we sat down to write this piece about finding Brockley's biggest eyesores and an email from Brockley Cross Action Group member Stuart popped in to our inbox:
"I've been reflecting on the state of our 'public realm' in Brockley," it began. "For six years, the BXAG has grappled with the question of how to get resources and political priority to improve the environment in bold, imaginative and lasting ways. How to put people, pedestrians, shoppers, prams, cyclists and children ahead of cars and tarmac. It's been a real struggle with some noticeable changes, but nothing on the scale that is needed. Real change needs mass action.
"I’ve been wondering if your website could develop some sort of ‘Shame and Praise’ section. Somewhere people could put their digital images of things they think need improving, fixing, changing or praising."
Now, as it happens, Brockley Jon has already been busy with his camera, documenting some of the worst offences in the area and we would like readers of Brockley Central to help us find other examples, so we can put them to Lewisham Council (who we know are regular readers of the site anyway). If we get lots of examples, we may even have a vote, to see which we think is Brockley's biggest affront to civilisation.
An alternative Brockzilla, this project aims to capture Brockley's monstrous aspects at their most gruesome. Sort of like "Love Lewisham", only for big stuff.
There are two rules:
1. The photos must be of the public realm - no sending in pictures of people's stoneclad houses or messy front gardens please.
2. The photos must be of semi-permanent stuff, like bent railings and derelict land. Flytipping and tagging is nasty, but that's what Love Lewisham is for already.
We ask for your nominations to be sent to the usual address: firstname.lastname@example.org (unfortunately, we don't have any digicams to help you with your mission, but we hope you can improvise). We will feature the most heartbreaking photos over the next month.
So, here is Jon's reportage.
Meze Mangal's Container, Lewisham Way
This container-come-skip lies like a shipwreck outside an ex-café that seems to be an everlasting building site on Lewisham Way. It is unfortunately bang nextdoor to Meze Mangal, actually encroaching on their restaurant front. What are your first thoughts when you turn up for your Turkish food? "Ooh, nice skip"!
The piled up bin bags seen in the photo only add to the pleasantness that pedestrians and road users alike can appreciate every time they go past.
Eternal Jerk, Mantle Road
Was it ever open? Is it a joke? Is it an art installation? [Brockley Nick says: We politely disagree with Jon on this one - how could anyone not love a place called Eternal Jerk?]
Recycling Farm by the Post Office, Brockley Road
This bin does little to enhance the already pretty nasty post office. Alfresco diners at both Toadsmouth and Ecosium get to enjoy the sight of it, if not the smell, and the wheelie bins seem to move around on their own, as if they roam the streets, creating dark corners and conveniant places to stow rotten sofas. [Brockley Nick says: the management of commercial waste is a huge problem for Brockley and for many other parts of the borough. It's a subject that we will be dedicating some space to, very soon].
The project took two steps forward over the festive period with the closure of the existing line from December 22 for a complete overhaul and work being carried out to demolish a viaduct over Network Rail’s main line into Liverpool Street, which was obstructing the new line’s route.
Watch "East London Line - the movie"
As the kids go back to Myatt Garden Primary this week, they'll be greeted by a fine reminder of why they should study hard - it seems that road workers in Lewisham need to learn their alphabet, especially when they are writing in two foot yellow letters.
This backwards gaff appeared shortly after Thames Water had dug up Upper Brockley Road to repair another leak, and is compounded by the fact that the all the other letters have near enough faded into obscurity. The roadworker in question should surely be made to come back and redo their handywork wearing a big dunce hat - either that, or be congratulated on their sense of irony.
Any other great road marking cock-ups in Brockley?
What is it about the decision to give the "£10 million" Rivoli Ballroom listed status that Bill Mannix, its current owner, isn't happy about?
Yesterday, the News Shopper reported him as saying:
"I'm very angry, actually. There might be another bid, but this would just blight the whole thing."
The deals that listed status will jeopardise are the ones in which the new owner planned to destroy the form or function of the building, ie: precisely the kind of development that, only weeks ago, Bill told the newspapers he didn't want:
"I don't want the place knocked down for flats and houses. The council says it's a jewel in the crown and it really is just that."
Apparently, what really gets Bill's goat is that:
"When we needed help in the past English Heritage was nowhere to be seen. I approached them about 10 years ago for financial help to keep the place going when we had to put in disabled toilets and meet new regulations."
But English Heritage clarified:
"As far as financial assistance goes, before now the building would not have been listed so it would not have been eligible for funding."
In other words, there would potentially have been help on offer, had listed status been applied for. But then, that would have limited the opportunities for a quick sale at a later date.
Running a successful Ballroom is undoubtedly a difficult job and Bill may be right when he says that "ballroom dancing is dying out. The Rivoli was really well used but times and cultures have changed and now we have to import an audience to fill the place," but then again, maybe all's not lost.
What listed status does is give the Rivoli Ballroom a new chance to succeed - to show that a venue that's been used for everything from S Club videos to Agent Provocateur shoots and a White Stripes gig does have a future.
And that's why we have a planning system that balances private profit with public good.
With all the positive comments about Meze Mangal on Brockley Central, it's about time we posted a proper review. Brockley Jon made his way down last night.
We've lost count of the number of times we've visited Meze Mangal. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that it's the only decent restaurant on the St. Johns side of Brockley, but it also says a lot about how good their food is (okay, let's get it straight from the start so that no-one accuses us of bias or bribery - we like this place!).
From the outside the frontage is quite unassuming, apart from the dirty great container sat in the car park (more on this soon), and it's a very unlikely location for what is easily a candidate for the best restaurant in the area.
We hadn't booked, but decided to risk it on a Thursday at 7.30, and arrived to a buzzing restaurant and a sea of "reserved" signs on tables - showing just how popular it is. No matter, as the staff were happy to try and fit us in, moving their furniture around and conjuring up a table for our party of three by the bar opposite the grill. I would say that more fussy Brockley folk might do best to avoid sitting next to the grill as it is a bit warm, and can be smoky, despite the industrial size cooker hood. Others might say it just enhances the experience!
The atmosphere once seated was friendly and relaxed. It really does feel a bit like you're on holiday, especially when there are Turkish families nattering around you, and friends of the staff pop in for a quick snack.
We opted for the Meze platter for two to start with, which will happily feed three, especially if you opt for the amazing Lahmacun Turkish pizza as your choice of hot starter. As always, freshly baked bread was served on the side.
For drinks, the authentic Turkish house wine is a safe bet and at only £10 a bottle is a bit of gem. They also have Efes beer and even the water is Turkish.
Onto the mains. The beauty of the Meza Mangal food is that it is simple and tasty. This is best shown in the kebabs, be them lamb, chicken or even quail! The traditional cooking, use of spices, and tasty trimmings all help to make you rethink the whole concept of the drunkards favourite dish. The Kleftiko, sampled last night, is also amongst the best we've tried - real melt in the mouth lamb. A range of pizzas complete the menu and looked tasty from afar, but for us the kebabs usually win hands down.
We can't really comment on the dessert, as by the time we get that far we are usually stuffed - last night was no exception. We were left in peace to finish our second bottle of red, paid up the very reasonably priced bill, and bid Meze Mangal farewell until next time!
Large, cheap and friendly staff. The Barge is a Wetherspoons pub and what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for with garish posters, advertising drinks promotions and special offers. Pleasant little beer garden, so long as you don't have to share it with a leery alcoholic.
The Rivoli Ballroom on Brockley Road has been listed by English Heritage (the government's statutory advisor on the historic environment), which has awarded the building Grade II status, which gives the Rivoli significant protection from developers who might want to change or demolish the building.
Kate's already posted this news in the comments section, but we now have confirmation from English Heritage and a copy of report (dated December 21st), which gives the reasons for its listing as being:
* special architectural interest for the highly-unusual interior of 1958, the total effect of which luxuriant, exotic and deeply theatrical
* special historic interest as an eloquent and unusual witness to the era of American jive and swing bands, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug and Rock'n'Roll, alongside the continued popularity of traditional strict tempo ballroom
* a rare surviving example of a once common conversion of an early C20 cinema to a
Grade II buildings are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them. Listing is not intended to fossilise a building. A building's long-term interests are often best served by putting it to good use, and if this cannot be the one it was designed for, a new use may have to be found. Listing ensures that the architectural and historic interest of the building is carefully considered before any alterations, either outside or inside, are agreed.
The report also includes some interesting historical background:
The Rivoli Ballroom was built in 1913 as the Crofton Park Picture Palace to designs by a Henley Attwater. Like the great number of local cinemas built in the early C20, it was a simple structure comprising a barrel-vaulted auditorium, accessed through a foyer from the street. The Picture Palace was refaced in the inter-war period - the Art Deco-style stepped parapet and decorative urns dates from this time - and a café was added; it was renamed the Rivoli Cinema in 1929.
The widespread popularity of television and the tendency for cinemas to be managed by chains led to the closure of many small or independent cinemas from the 1950s onwards. A great number of auditoria were converted to dance halls and subsequently to bingo halls or nightclubs as tastes in entertainment changed over the second half of the C20. On Boxing Day 1959, two and a half years after the screening of the last film (The Nat 'King' Cole Musical Story on 2 March 1957), the Rivoli Cinema reopened as the Rivoli Ballroom. The refurbishment had been carried out by a local businessman and dancing devotee, Leonard Tomlin, whose relative had been a lesee of the cinema in 1917. The original plans, approved by the local authority in September 1958, survive and reveal Tomlin's ambitious scheme for the interior which included a Canadian maple sprung dancefloor, crystal balls hanging from the ceiling, fixed seating around the auditorium and a side bar with booths. The makeover was clearly a success and in 1960 permission was sought for extension of the premises to include a member's bar. The building has been little altered since 1960, aside from an extension to the rear, and is still in use as a dance hall. In recent years it has become increasingly sought after by popular musicians for concerts (White Stripes) and video shoots (Elton John); attending a dance at the 'spectacular Rivoli Ballroom' is listed on Time Out's list of 101 things to do in London.
The listing is a commendably swift response from English Heritage and a great result for local campaigners who have done a fantastic job of highlighting the threat to one of the area's most important venues. As the report notes:
There are likely to have been later additions to the building and to the décor and without a site visit it has not been possible to ascertain the precise nature of these changes. The photographs used for the assessment, the original plans of 1958, and information from local historians and residents, however, has revealed that the majority of the decorative scheme and its most significant components described above, date to the original scheme of 1958.
Listing is not the end of the story, of course. The long-term future of the Rivoli depends on it being able to demonstrate a long-term future and that means, among other things, the support of the local community in which it stands.
Happy New Year everyone!
Before making our predictions for 2008, we looked back at one of our earliest articles, when we set out a modest wish list for the area. With the new Tesco (and its cash machine) and the planned upgrade of The Talbot next year, all three items have a tick against them. However, in the exchange with Sue Luxton that followed, we poured cold water on her vision of a Brockley which could support good local food shops, which just goes to show that we know nothing. So it is against that backdrop that we look forward to the next twelve months.
The property market is bearish and several properties near BC HQ remain unsold after months on the market but we believe that the East London Line and the improvements around Brockley Cross will create relatively stable house prices while continuing to draw-in young people, which will drive the success of local businesses and shape the character of the area.
Here are our four hostages to fortune...
In 2007, all of the good new businesses steered clear of Brockley's shabby high street, taking advantage of the blank canvass offered by the new shops created on the side streets. However, in recent months one or two shopfronts have been improved and the introduction of new trees to the ugliest parts of Brockley Road could help matters further. In 2008, we predict that at least one good new business will try its luck on Brockley Road, either in the stretch opposite the Barge or at Homeview.
One of our long-standing gripes has been the extraordinary number of car-based businesses hogging Brockley's pavements. We predict that, in 2008, at least one will bite the dust. Sadly, we suspect the first to go will be one of the MOT garages, which mostly offer a good local service, rather than one of the car lots, which simply suck-up pavement space for the benefit of non-existent customers.
The Council have already rejected at least two applications to convert car businesses in to alternative commercial and residential developments. 'Unsympathetic design' and lack of car parking provision have been the main stumbling blocks on these occasions, but we expect at least one of the developers to come back with a better proposal in 2008 and, if so, we hope the Council gives them the go-ahead, as we struggle to think of anything more unsympathetic to Brockley's streets than grotty forecourts.
The Gallery at the Tea Factory will create so many new possibilities for local artists and community groups, that we won't know how we did without it before. Assuming completion of the development isn't delayed too much, it should be up and running by the summer. This isn't really much of a prediction, except to say that it will surprise a lot of people with the impact that it has on Brockley - it's something to get very excited about.
This is our biggest punt, given that this project's been stuck in limbo for many years. We predict that, in 2008, we will finally get an agreement on that site, with a developer keen to capitalise on the arrival of the East London Line in 2010.
What are your predictions for 2008?
Posted by Brockley Nick on 1.1.08