What would you like Lewisham Council to prioritise, and do other people agree with you?
The Department for Communities & Local Government has just released the results of a national process to draw up priorities for each local authority for the next three years. These 'Local Area Agreements' are negotiated between the council, public sector organisations such as the NHS and the police, and central government. The idea is that councils will now use these priorities to guide their allocation of funding and focus their efforts.
The outcome for every council in the country can be viewed at the DCLG website; here are Lewisham's target priorities* ...
* = Many of these are couched as percentages; the idea is that over time the percentage changes, reflecting an improvement/deterioration.
% of people who believe people from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area
% of people who feel they can influence decisions in their locality
Environment for a thriving third sector
Adult participation in sport and active recreation
Serious violent crime rate
Serious acquisitive crime rate
Rate of proven re-offending by young offenders
Dealing with local concerns about anti-social behaviour and crime by the local council and police
Repeat incidents of domestic violence
Number of drug users recorded as being in effective treatment
Ethnic composition of offenders on Youth Justice System disposals
Services for disabled children
Obesity in primary school age children in Reception
Stability of placements of looked after children: length of placement
Achievement gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers achieving the expected level at Key Stages 2 and 4
First time entrants to the Youth Justice System aged 10-17
Under 18 conception rate
Substance misuse by young people
16 to 18 year olds who are not in education training or employment (NEET)
All-age all cause mortality rate
Achieving independence for older people through rehabilitation / intermediate care
Carers receiving needs assessment or review and a specific carer's service or advice and information
Percentage of vulnerable people achieving independent living
Adults with learning disabilities in employment
Overall Employment rate (working-age)
Working age people claiming out of work benefits in the worst performing neighbourhoods
Number of affordable homes delivered (gross)
Number of households living in temporary accommodation
% non-decent council homes
Number of Level 1 qualifications in literacy (including ESOL) achieved
Percentage of small businesses in an area showing employment growth
Per capita reduction in CO2 emissions in the LA area
Residual household waste per household
Improved street and environmental cleanliness (levels of litter detritus graffiti and fly-posting)
The picture this paints probably isn't too far from the truth: an urban population with relatively low average incomes, lacking recreation opportunities, worrisome yoof, and high concern about crime. However it could be argued that the council has missed a trick here in focussing on the symptoms rather than the cause. There's only one employer-related priority here, and that focusses on small businesses. Where are the job creation measures which would help Lewisham's population to improve its lot? Who are the borough's major employers and what do they make of these priorities? What can we do to attract more sizeable firms?
Taking our Telegraph-reading hat off and putting our Brockley Central hat on, we note there's nothing in these priorities about transport. This is bad news for those who believe the Brockley Cross roundabout desperately needs to be re-worked. But what else does this mean for Brockley - what do BC readers think?
What would you like Lewisham Council to prioritise, and do other people agree with you?
In our recent interview with Cllr Alexander, we discussed planning enforcement on our main streets, using the case of Speedicars on Coulgate Street as an example. She promised to look in to the case and keep readers informed, which she has. Here's what she's found out, so far:
Following receipt of three separate complaints a letter was sent to the occupier of 6 Coulgate Road (trading as Speedicars) on 14th May explaining that an illuminated fascia sign and a new shop front, both recently installed would require consent. The premises lie within the Brockley Conservation Area.
A written response was received on 21st May from a Director of Speedicars indicating that, as he understood, the Council had previously granted permission for the shopfront and the sign is a like for like replacement.
The council wrote back on 29th May stating that records do not indicate that any permission was sought let alone approved. The relevant forms were enclosed with the council's response requesting that the necessary submissions be made by mid June.
On receipt of the letter the Director then telephoned asking for an extra 4 weeks to put together an application. The planners agreed to this.
This means we can expect a formal application in mid-July. Given that it seems a clear breach of planning rules, we struggle to imagine on what basis it would succeed, and we hope the Council team work with Speedicars to find a more appropriate solution.
We hope that the combination of the residents' protests and the fact it's on the Councillor's radar will have a Double Impact and that the lopsided plastic sign will receive its Death Warrant soon. But it has proved a Hard Target thus far.
With thanks to Luc Deveraux.
If you want to feel bad about your crappy house, your unkempt garden and your unrewarding desk job, then Brockley Open Studios is the event for you. It is also one of the finest ways to spend a sunny afternoon:
Strolling around Brockley's beautiful, sun-dappled streets, popping in to any doorway with a poster outside, appraising their work, nosing around their amazing houses and gardens, chatting to the uniformly charming hosts and eating their crisps.
We had been aware that Brockley is an artistic community, largely because people kept telling us it was so. But we never really felt it. Today, we did. Some of the work is fantastic - all of it was pretty good (although we seem to be more generous in these matters than some). Biddy Bunzl could charge admission for her technicolour beachcomber house.
Monday is the last night of this year's event. If you've not been, go. You may hate yourself if you do, but you will hate yourself a lot more if you don't.
Click here for details.
Walking along Wickham Road, we bumped in to Brockley Sarah, who had a map of the event, with notes from the last two years' events. She's seen nearly every artist and we are hoping to persuade her to write a comprehensive review.
How will Brockley's next generation of yummy mummies be catered for? Brockley Central went gonzo to find out...
Lewisham Hospital's Maternity Ward encapsulates much of what is good and bad about the NHS.
At first sight, it's fairly grim. On a pre-birth tour of the facilities with a host of mums, you could see smiles of first-timers drop as they inspected the rooms where they would have to undergo "the magic of childbirth". Despite being refurbished in 2003, the ward isn't pretty, the hospital is fraying at the edges and, currently, the delivery rooms overlook a building site, which means they're very noisy during the week. There's only one birthing pool, so your chances of getting in are slim.
However, the battle hardened labour-veterans, who knew the visceral truth of what lay in store, were more pragmatic.
When the reality is more Dante than Disney, you want to know: Are the rooms clean? Are the staff competent and properly resourced? Are there plenty of doctors on-hand? Is there somewhere comfortable for the dad to sit?
We're conscious that the childbirth experience is highly personal (and the greatest tragedies that have befallen our friends have happened is some of the most reputable hospitals) so we can't offer a definitive answer to any of these questions, except the last one, which is a resounding no.
In our own experience though, all of the staff were calm, professional and didn't patronise - the mother's wishes came first and the father was made to feel welcome, even when he sat in the wrong place.
The rooms are decent-enough; brighter and seemingly cleaner than the rooms to be found at Woolwich and Sidcup.
When we arrived, we were made to wait for over an hour before we could be seen, but it was clearly a very busy time for the staff who were coping with a glut of deliveries. From the point they finally got around to seeing us, we were well-attended to.
This standard of care followed us home, with regular visits from midwives, who were friendly and professional.
If the sight of the old wheelie bins isn't seared on your retina, click here to see what this scene used to be like.
Well done to everyone involved. More please!
Ladywell Assembly Meeting tonight
The Ladywell Assembly takes place tonight, from 7pm-9pm at St Andrew's Centre on Brockley Road.
Residents of Ladywell ward are encouraged to attend the public assembly and air their views about the key issues facing the area. The Brockley Assembly attracted a big turn-out and you can read about it here if you want to know what to expect.
Burned-down house rises from the ashes
The house on the corner of Upper Brockley Road and Geoffrey Road that burned down last year, killing one person, is now almost completely rebuilt. However, some residents have expressed concern that the addition of side windows, facing on to the site of the neighbouring MOT garage, could hamper plans to redevelop that site. Any new application for housing on the garage would be restricted by the need to avoid blocking the new windows.
Ecosium under new management
Well, not that new. But one of the partners in the Harefield Road restuarant has taken outright control, installing a new menu and focusing on the service problems that have blighted the business. Given that much of the criticism it received from Brockley Central readers pre-dates the takeover, it could be worth a reappraisal.
There's no such thing as virtual society
Who better than the harmonious folk of Brockley Central to take part in an experiment about online co-operation?
The Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London is looking for volunteers to take part in a trial of a new online social game.
Whether you are into online gaming or not, this is a great excuse to play games whilst contributing to valuable university research. The game involves creating an online persona, or 'Familiar', for yourself and then creating and collaborating on various tasks with other players through your in-game character.All you need to do to take part in the trial is to play the game for 6-8 weeks, but this means you will need internet access.
All players taking part in the trial will be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 voucher redeemable at Currys.digital, PC World, or the Link, and after the trial has finished you will be asked to fill in some questionnaires. Goldsmiths is looking for 100 volunteers from all walks of life - you don't need to be an experienced gamer. If you are interested please contact Dr Elaine Beattie on 020 7919 7338 or email email@example.com
Posted by Brockley Nick on 26.6.08
The Big Mac index, the Pants-per-Share index and the Hemline indicator. There are plenty of unusual ways of reading the economic runes.
To this list, we'd like to add the Brockley Central Window Rattle Index.
For if we ever doubted Goldman Sachs' prediction that Oil prices could hit $200 a barrel, that was put to rest by the number of times a day our windows are rattled by boy racers driving pointlessly round and round the streets of Brockley, with their sub-woofers juiced to military levels.
Soaring prices don't seem to have affected the frequency of rattle, which suggests there is still plenty of room for prices to rise.
Just off Vesta Road, running along the railway line between Brockley and New Cross Gate, is a narrow but deceptively large strip of wooded land. Left for years to do as it pleases, it now forms Brockley's very own nature reserve.
Despite there being only really one route round the place, you can still lose yourself once inside. As it's not open on a regular basis, it is completeley undisturbed. There are no surfaced paths, benches, or litter bins here. These photos, taken last year, give you a taste of how tranquil and unspoilt the place is.
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to interview Cllr Heidi Alexander about some of the issues facing our area. You can read the first part of our interview with Cllr Alexander here.
What are the big development opportunities in Brockley?
Aside from the Martin's Yard site, the Timber Yard at Brockley Cross is a key priority for us. We hope to redevelop it as a mixed use site, but although we have held discussions with a number of potential developers for a number of years, there are currently no active discussions.
That's bound to disappoint people who've been waiting many years for something to be done to Brockley Cross. The Tea Factory will hopefully play a positive role in the area, but there are a number of semi-derelict buildings there - right in the middle of Brockley, next to what will be a tube station in a couple of years. If the developers aren't biting at the moment, it's presumably got a lot to do with the terrible road layout at Brockley Cross. Are there any plans to finally sort out the traffic system there, if only because of the high number of road accidents it currently creates?
As you may know, the Council did investigate the options a while back [alternative layouts can be seen on the Brockley Cross Action Group website, in the masterplanning section]. Before we can make any changes, we need to properly understand the impact this will have on traffic in the area more widely - changes to the system can have profound knock-on effects. Unfortunately, we don't have the budget to commission that work at the moment. We need to raise it from Transport for London and, at the moment, the Council's priorities are the New Cross gyratory system and the roads in Sydenham.
It's a difficult decision and I agree that the road system in Brockley Cross is far from ideal. I would love to tackle it - along with many others in Lewisham. I can't make any promises today, but we are very aware of the issue and will address it as soon as possible.
It's impossible to keep everyone happy when you have to prioritise, but many people we've talked to and who have posted on Brockley Central in the past feel that the Council places too much focus on Lewisham and Catford town centres, to the detriment of other parts of the borough. What's your response to those concerns?
Lewisham Borough is absolutely not just about Lewisham and Catford. But they are our two largest centres, both of which need significant investment, and it is right that they should be a key focus for us. Brockley is an exciting opportunity, thanks to the arrival of the East London Line and our challenge is to help add to the interest that the project will generate.
Which brings us back to Lewisham Way and Brockley Road. One recent application to redevelop a car dealership on Brockley Road was turned down. In rejecting it, the Council highlighted concerns about the quality of design. But it also suggested that any non-residential-led development on that site would be inappropriate, because there are a number of empty shops in the area and the size of the site might lend itself to something like a chain restaurant, which would not primarily cater for "local" people and might therefore add to parking problems in the area. But isn't there a case to suggest that a "destination" restaurant might help to draw new people and therefore new businesses in to the area - to take up some of the empty shops? And isn't it reasonable to assume that a lot of people in Brockley might want a few more options to eat out locally? Or that visitors might come by public transport, especially when the ELL arrives?
I can't comment on that particular proposal, but we're not opposed to bringing in chains or larger restaurants to Brockley. It's true that commercial space is currently confined to a number of clusters along the road and our preference is that we develop those existing clusters, rather than stretching them.
Beyond Brockley, what are the most significant developments in Lewisham?
In Lewisham Town Centre, we are currently awaiting a detailed application and we hope that work will start next year on the road layout, rivers and services. At the nearby Loampit Vale Site we are currently working with Barratt on pre-application consultation to create new homes, a community swimming pool and leisure facilities. We're really determined to create a top-quality swimming pool facility. Currently, the plan is to create a swimming pool with an 'active frontage' - large windows that look out over Cornmill Gardens and on to outdoor space, where people can get a coffee or something to eat. It will be a very accessible site.
At Convoys Wharf in Deptford, the GLA were initially very supportive of our plans, but during the planning process, they changed their position on safeguarded wharves and the landowners News International were asked to carry out additional work on this issue. That work has only recently been finalised and the GLA are now considering it and we're waiting to hear whether the application can proceed.
And in New Cross, we're in discussions about the site currently occupied by Sainsbury. There are a number of options being considered at the moment, including rebuilding New Cross Gate Station and bringing the store forward, closer to the road, to create more space for new homes.
[Click here for more information about developments in Lewisham]
- Thanks to Cllr Alexander for her time. During the interview, she offered to go on a walk-round of Brockley with some BC readers, to understand the issues that concern them most. We will be publishing details of that initiative in the coming days...
This year's Hilly Fields Summer Fair really lived up to the memory of previous years. Even the weather was an improvement on last year's showers ...
We've run some pics already but here are some more, taken by Brockley Jon.
Particular highlights for BC were the falconry display, the dogs' parade, the cake stand (of course!) and the vast range of shopping opportunities from plants to retro patterned crockery to handmade jewellery.
A joker's entry for the cake competition (theme: The Olympics)
The 'Extreme Falconry' dude.
What was your favourite bit of the day?
Posted by Brockley Kate on 23.6.08
Brockley Open Studios takes place this weekend, beginning Saturday at 2pm and running through to 8pm on Monday.
The full list of participating artists is available at the Brockley Open Studios website. Manor Avenue would appear to be the epicentre of Brockley's artistic community, with no fewer than six different artists displaying their work.
You can read more about the history of the Open Studios here.
As longterm BC readers will be aware, big plans are afoot for Lewisham town centre. But you may not be aware that the council has similarly ambitious ideas for other parts of the borough. BC recently stumbled across a feature outlining the council's regeneration plans in Estates Gazette (unfortunately no link as the article is behind a paywall), and thought our readers would be interested in some of the detail ...
As part of the Thames Gateway housing growth area, northern/eastern parts of Lewisham borough should see 1,000 new homes delivered per year for the next 10 years. Specifically, this means Deptford, Catford, New Cross and Lewisham town centre. These areas, therefore, are where the council's major regeneration projects are focussed.
This £240 million scheme aims to transform Lewisham into a 'metropolitan' shopping centre on a par with Croydon and Bromley. To do this it must deliver more than 215,000 sq ft of retail floorspace.
Funding-wise, it's heavily leveraged, with only £16 million of the total being public money. That makes it seriously vulnerable to the ongoing liquidity squeeze.
John Miller, Lewisham council's head of planning, told Estates Gazette: 'Many of our schemes rely on housing to make them happen. We are very much in the hands of the private sector and the banks in terms of bringing regeneration forward.'
The key project here is a partnership between Muse Developments and Taylor Wimpey to deliver 1 million sq ft at the northern end of Lewisham high street. The application for outline planning consent is underway now and permission is 'almost delivered', EG reports.
The first stage of the scheme will deliver 150,000 sq ft of retail space, 80,000 sq ft of leisure space, some offices and 800 homes. There will also be an urban park, a new town square and potentially an extension to Lewisham College.
The Gateway plans have attracted other developers to sites around the town centre's margins. These include the former silk mill on Conington Rd, which is being converted by St James Urban Living into 270 flats and 5,000 sq ft of office space; and Barratt Homes' £226 million regeneration proposal for Loampit Vale involving up to 800 homes, a leisure centre and a cultural centre incorporating office space for arts industries.
Deptford town centre
As reported recently on BC, the area around Deptford train station is to be re-developed to create a public piazza on the existing goods yard. According to EG the former Princess Louise community centre will also be replaced by offices and flats.
Catford greyhound stadium
Over 7,500 sq ft of shops and offices and 600 homes have been proposed by Countryside Properties and Hyde Housing Association for the 10-acre site of the former greyhound stadium. Lewisham Council is currently scrutinising the planning application for this scheme.
Other projects :
Large residential-led schemes are also under discussion for the 40-acre Convoys Wharf site in Deptford, and the area around Millwall FC's current site. Southend Village (between Catford and Bromley) is another area identified as offering development potential.
These are all considered by the council to be long-term projects that would take 10 to 15 years to come to fruition.
All this work will require a lot of private investment, something which can't be taken for granted in the current economic climate. Whether Lewisham can deliver large-scale regeneration depends on whether developers can secure funding. And that brings the global credit crunch home to Brockley Central's doorstep.
Posted by Brockley Kate on 20.6.08
The Ladywell Tavern is under new management, and flyers are doing the rounds offering a free drink and nibbles from 4pm on the day of the grand opening, this Saturday 21st June.
We never visited the pub in its previous incarnation, and we've yet to talk to the new owner, but there is a note on Beerintheevening stating their intentions:
"...a lovely traditional english pub with a modern twist selling a good selection of our favorite beers, ciders and guest ales. We have a top kitchen and are hoping to provide good old simple grub daily and a smashin sunday lunch. Our philosophy is all about good drink, good food, good music and good times."
Families are welcome to the opening day, but it's over 21s after 8pm. A note on the flyer also states "no sportswear or dirty work clothes", which implies an upmarket feel. BC has never been a fan of dress codes since we spend most of our life in trainers, but this sounds like a simple "no scruffs or chavs" rule (classism? - discuss).
BC readers have been crying out for a decent gastropub for years, so get along there after the Hilly Fields Fayre to find out if it's up to the task.
The Ladywell Tavern, 80 Ladywell Road, SE13 7HS.
If you'd like to see some of the money available to upgrade Lewisham's children's play areas spent on Hilly Fields then today is your last chance to sign the online petition.
Campaigner Marcus Fox will be collating all of the signatures this afternoon, so please click here now to show your support. It only takes a few moments.
We've already collected more than 100 signatures this way, but it would be great to have even more.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 19.6.08
Brockley Central has received news from Gregor Murbach, the auter behind the Brockley Jack Film Club and it appears a monthly film club will be coming to the area very soon. He explains:
"The good news is that the film club will go ahead, funding permitting. I’ve met with Kate and Karl, the team behind the Brockley Jack Theatre, and we have now come up with a concept which we believe will make it successful.
"You and some of your readers mentioned the Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park as a potential venue. I looked into it but, sadly, hiring it to screen films as a non-profit film club just doesn’t make sense financially for the time being.
"However, the Brockley Jack Theatre is a great, intimate venue. We are hoping to show our first film there in the next few weeks to officially launch the film club. It will also be an opportunity for everyone to join our membership scheme. More information on this and results of the survey can be found on the Brockley Jack Theatre website."
Ex-Brockite Lee has alerted Brockley Central to a feverish discussion on the Sydenham Town Forum, about whether Sydenham needs to strike out on its own, breaking away from the tyranny of Lewisham. While El Cid conquered Valencia with an army of Moors and Christians, Lee plans to use a new logo.
Apparently, they covet the Catford Cat and want a symbol which represents all that is good and pure about SE26.
Lee kicked off the debate, explaining:
"I get fed up of seeing the same Lewisham signage, horrible generic plastic Lewisham bins with Borough of Lewisham plastered all over them.
"I live in Sydenham. I want to be reminded of where I live when I walk down the street, I don't want to keep being reminded of 'brand Lewisham', the local authority who take away our rubbish and 'ahem' clean our streets.
"With all this talk about regeneration and roundabouts I think it's high time we got our own identity."
The current front runner is a Green Dragon, way ahead of the alternative "Grey Hound".
This begs two obvious questions:
1. What do outsiders like us think the symbol for Sydenham should be?
2. What would Brockley's symbol be?
We once took one of our children to a Beavers class in Eltham. It was held in a small, battleship grey portacabin with bars on the windows. Oddly for a movement reputed for its woggle-fastening fastidiousness, the session was complete chaos.
As more and more six-year-olds piled in to the room, the Beaver Leader's response was to throw ever-larger numbers of balls and bats at the problem. It was half-an-hour of battle-royale that our six-year-old novice was ill-prepared for. As we left the class, we were told off by the most senior Beaver Leader for parking in the wrong place, violating an unwritten rule, which gives prime spots to the Beaverati.
Our first visit to Little Kickers - a company that runs football classes for 2-5 year-olds - was in stark contrast.
Classes are held in a community centre, set in the grounds of a small church, just off Peckham Rye. It is bright, light and well-loved. The class is planned and structured, with exercises that vary each week. Better still, they are delivered by three coaches who know what they're doing and seem to enjoy their job.
Ali G-accented Coach Dave is brilliant, controlling a class of 15-20 toddlers with good humour and bottomless patience. A short warm up is followed by exercises which help develop their balance, spatial awareness and ball control. This is interspersed with lots of running around and chasing after bright plastic cones. Every kid gets a turn to try each of the exercises, which means that patience is one of the qualities they learn first (in Brockley Central Junior's case, this was a lesson hard-learned).
While there is plenty of actual football involved, children don't have to be football fans to enjoy it and parents are encouraged to join in during free time, which means lots of enthusiastic dads demonstrating their flicks and back heels with miniature padded footballs.
Classes are held on Saturday mornings at St Peter with St Clements Church Hall, Friern Road, SE22. The price is roughly £7 per session. They are currently operating a short-waiting list.
Until recently, Little Kickers ran a class in Telegraph Hill, which apparently closed due to lack of demand, which is a great shame. If they ever think about bringing it back to the Brockley area, we heartily recommend that you give it a go.
The other weekend, we popped down to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, and felt compelled to tell you how great it was.
As avid readers will already know, in a recent poll by the council on its website, The Horniman is “the place which makes Lewisham residents feel most proud of their home town” (of course, we’re talking about Lewisham as a borough here, the town would be Forest Hill, but let’s not be pedantic, eh?). With this in mind, and a sunny afternoon in the reckoning, we set off to Forest Hill on our bikes.
The impressive exterior of the museum gives an indication of the history inside. Taking up a large portion of the museum is the display of taxidermy which looks like it was shipped in from the Natural History Museum in the 1930s. You’ll either love it or hate it, and it’s sure to scare small children. There are even some dissections to be seen – a bit Damien Hirst, but very educational.
It’s not all about the dead animals though, in fact, the museum has a definite focus on the world's people and cultures. There are lots of related workshops, talks and ongoing courses, so have a look on the website for these.
An unexpected surprise was the aquarium down in the basement. A series of displays gives you a chance to gawp at tree frogs, sea horses, octopi and many others – remember, all for nothing but a charitable donation!
The gardens are a nice place to laze around too, and you get a pretty good view across London – if you can see past the ship-like Dawson Heights estate on the horizon! In all, the Horniman is recommended for a day out, and just next-door to Brockley.
Local resident Marcus Fox has launched a campaign to secure a chunk of Lewisham Council's Government windfall to upgrade Hilly Fields' playground.
Paper copies can be found in many local schools and businesses, but we've set up an electronic version, readers can sign here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/BrockleyCentral/
Never let it be said that Brockley Central is narrowly parochial in its outlook; as locals from neighbouring districts are already well aware, we claim the widest possible geographical area as our domain and, sorry Deptford, that means you too.
BC was therefore delighted to be invited to the opening of Deptford's jaw-achingly trendy new cafe-bar, the Deptford Project. Situated inside a real live train carriage (no joke - check out the website for video of it being installed on site), the DP on Deptford High Street is just the first step in an ambitious regeneration scheme ...
Deptford train station will soon be re-built and when that's complete, work will start to transform the original railway yard. The new public space will house a weekend creative industries market incorporating shops and galleries. It will be run by the people who set up Spitalfields Market and currently run Greenwich Market.
And that's not all: uber-architect Richard Rogers is going to design a new apartment block to be built at the back of the site. Those involved hope all this effort will 'form a new heart to Deptford High Street'.
Regeneration projects such as this are notoriously fragile and given the current property market climate nothing can be taken for granted. But the new venue is a lovely addition to our (wider) local area and we wish it and those involved in the rest of the scheme the best of luck. Oh, and thanks for the free beer!
Anyone feeling frustrated by the new ban on drinking on public transport should head down to Deptford High Street to satiate the urge ...
(Pics from the launch party by Brockley Jon).
Following our recent article about unforseen obstacles for Brockley's new community art gallery at the Tea Factory, we're happy to be able to bring better news about the project.
Lewisham Council's planners now appear to be taking a much more proactive approach to solving the deadlock, which could have led to the collapse of the Gallery project. Discussions with the Council, Tea Leaf Arts (the group responsible for running the Gallery) and Creative Lewisham have culminated in it being agreed that Tea Leaf Arts is the "nominated occupier" for the Tea Factory unit.
This is important because the Gallery idea was proposed the original developer, who then sold the site onto DPS, the company that have seen it through to near-completion.
The Council have also confirmed that the residential units cannot be occupied until the lease has been signed by the nominated occupier, which puts Tea Leaf Arts in a strong negotiating position.
They are currently in negotiation with the developer, and will not be signing the lease until one of the following options has been agreed:
1) An extension to the rent-free period by a minimum of 6 months
2) The payment by DPS to Tea Leaf Arts of the money needed to fit the unit out
3) The unit to be fitted out by DPS prior to occupancy
A meeting with DPS is due to take place in a couple of weeks time, to agree a way forward.
Sian Knight, of Tea Leaf Arts, said:
"We're very much hoping to resolve the issues surrounding the fit-out of the gallery unit both amicably and quickly, so that Brockley residents can look forward to the opening of their new community arts space as soon as possible."
"We are still recruiting artists to join our co-operative, so that they can exhibit in the new space. Anyone who wants to get involved should email us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org."
The Gallery team will also be at this year's Summer Fayre in Hilly Fields, handing out leaflets and answering your questions about the project. Look out for their lovely T-shirts in the crowd.
BrocSoc has had a bumpy ride on BC, so we were keen to find out more about the society's history and achievements. With this in mind, BrocSoc member Kate Hinze has put together some information to highlight its work. Here's what she has to say:
The Brockley Society is one of the longest running and most successful community groups in London. Started in 1974, the Society is responsible for Brockley being the fantastic place to live that it is today.
If it wasn’t for the Society, there would be no Lewisham Art House, the police station would be entirely closed down, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link would be undermining our homes and St Peter’s Church, there would be buildings on the grassy knoll (Brockley Common) by the station (which the Wildlife Trust has now covered in wild flowers) and there would be no annual Hilly Fields Fayre. In fact, there might not even be a Hilly Fields or Prendergast School without the Society – in 1991 BrocSoc ensured the extension of the conservation area to cover the park so it would be protected from development.
Everyone who lives in the conservation area is automatically a member of the Society. Over the years, BrocSoc has welcomed people from outside the area who just want to take part in the community or seek advice on how to protect their own areas. The Society doesn’t turn a blind eye to anything in this neighbourhood.
These days the Society is a well-established presence in the area, supporting local residents and the on-going development of Brockley. Most importantly, we have the ear of Lewisham Council and attend the fortnightly amenities panel meetings, reviewing plans for the area and ensuring that this wonderful area embraces the new while respecting the old.
BrocSoc is YOU! If you want to make a difference or see a change, take part!
What has Brockley Society done in the 34 years since it was founded to make Brockley a better place?
• We constantly work with the council on planning and conservation matters;
• In 1974 we started a Midsummer Fayre, intended as a ‘village fete’, because people said ‘nothing happens in Brockley’. The Fayre is still going strong, second only to Lewisham People’s Day, run by the council and costing lots of ratepayers’ money. Brockley Society runs the Fayre at no financial cost to anyone, because a lot of hard work is done by many people.
• We started a newsletter, delivered free to every house in the conservation area. It has won several prizes and continues, three times a year.
• We were the first in the borough to collect waste paper. So recycling started in Brockley!
• We ran our own tree pruning service;
• We researched local history and set up two exhibitions and several talks;
• We campaigned to stop the demolition of St Peter’s Hall and helped to raise funds to maintain it as a community centre. We refurbished the building and helped run the centre with new activities. Sadly, it was sold in 2002.
• We were the first to realise in 1989 the devastation that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link would cause Brockley and south-east London. We battled against it, telling the government that it should be routed through north Kent, under the river, through to Stratford and St Pancras (to link up with trains from the north.)
In the end, this is what they have done!
• We campaigned against the boarding-up and sale of Brockley County School on Hilly Fields. We got the building listed and asked that a group of artists should caretake it until a suitable future use was found. Prendergast School soon took an interest and is now a very successful school on its new site.
• We campaigned against the closure and sale of Deptford Library and spent three years negotiating its use as a visual arts centre. When the council finally agreed, the artists, now homeless when Prendergast took over the school on the hill, moved into the listed library building and re-named it Lewisham Arthouse.
• We helped to set up Hilly Fields User Group.
• We spent 30 years arguing against residential development in the mews that would benefit only developers, would be detrimental to the character of the conservation area and would add to loss of water resources. The council now agrees. A Bill is going through parliament trying to stop development of gardens, currently designated as brownfield sites and therefore fair game for the developers. We are ahead of the field!
• We got an Article 4 Direction made for the conservation area, which includes not concreting over front gardens. This will also help preserve water resources.
• We got the council to increase the conservation area to include Eastern Road, Coulgate Street and the area around Brockley Station in 1991 and Vicar's Hill and Brockley & Ladywell Cemetery in 2005.
• We set up the first Neighbourhood Watch in London with Brockley Police.
• We got the Breakspears Arms closed because of drugs and robberies.
• We helped to set up The Brockley Sector Working Party to liaise with the Police.
• We were the first police station front desk in London to be run by volunteers. We still keep the police station open, making Brockley a better, safer place to live.
• As a Millennium project, we planned, designed, organised grants and oversaw the creation of the stone circle and sundial on Hilly Fields.
Whatever your view of BrocSoc's activities, this is a history to be proud of. There are some real improvements on the list from which many of us have benefitted. The Society is an asset to the area and its continued existence is in all of our hands - so let's hope its future is as busy as its past.
You can contact the Society via its website.
Posted by Brockley Kate on 11.6.08
So this thread is for them and other local business people to use as they wish - to share ideas, ask for information and advice, publicise their services and test their ideas with the Brockley public. It was suggested by Jo Hill of Open Gym and a range of other posters have expressed an interest in a thread like this.
Hackney blogger Luke Ackhurst has published a list of the wards in which the main candidates recorded their highest levels of support. Brockley and Ladywell reasserted their status as hotbeds of Green politics, by giving candidate Sian Berry her second and sixth highest proportions of the vote.
Top six highest votes for Sian Berry (Green Party):
1. Highgate, Camden: 10.68
2. Brockley, Lewisham: 9.663. Clissold, Hackney: 9.35
4. Stoke Newington Central, Hackney: 8.74
5. Kentish Town, Camden: 8.67
6. Ladywell, Lewisham: 8.61
Thanks to Dave for spotting it.
Posted by Brockley Nick on 10.6.08
Last night saw the finale of the this year's Brockley Max festival take place in Jam Circus. Brockley Central arrived fashionably late, so unfortunately missed most of the live acts, but we did catch the headliner, Joel Pott, lead singer of Athlete.
We weren't disappointed. Joel played an acoustic set with a mixture of classic Athlete songs and new material. Chatting to the crowd in between songs, he even managed a few sing-along moments.
Joel Pott, mid-strum
Jam Circus, which has replaced Moonbow Jake's as chief venue this year, was buzzing with people packed into every corner. Amazingly though, the queue at the bar was still moving swiftly. The crowd was noticeably younger than previous Max final nights that we've been at before - perhaps down to the venue, the music, or a sign of Brockley's growing popularity?
After Joel's encore, Des from the Brockley Cross Action Group took to the stage to close the festival, giving a well-deserved pat on the back to all the Max team, and reminding us why we were there - to support the work of the BXAG, and celebrate all the creative talent that comes out of Brockley!
Des from the BXAG, and Terry, one of Team Brockley Max, remind us what it's all about
If you were there, then let us know what you thought of the music, the venue, and share your photos with us (we reckon there are probably some better ones out there than our phone cam pics!).
We recently received this article from Clare Cowen, editor of the Brockley Society newsletter, as an open reply to the recent article we wrote about BrocSoc:
Brockley Society welcomes the arrival of Brockley Central blog. It adds an important internet dimension to the Brockley community.
A lot of discussion followed the original posting about Brockley Society. Yes, Brockley Society is really the Brockley Conservation Area Society. All conservation areas - of 'special architectural interest' - have an associated amenity society to maintain vigilance over developments. But they have no obligation to carry out other activities, though BrocSoc does.
Unusually, Brockley Society's membership is everyone who lives in the Conservation Area and the newsletter is distributed to every house bynumerous volunteers who deliver in their street or block. We would likewider distribution, even outside the area, in various outlets. But here comes the crunch. Who will organise it? At the moment it's taken on by busy people already doing other things in BrocSoc (all voluntary). It requires about eight hours of time three times a year, with a few phone calls in between. Will someone volunteer to take on this interesting andnot very arduous challenge?
BrocSoc is good at cooperating with other community initiatives in thearea, such as Hilly Fields Park User Group, Francis Drake Bowling Club,Brockley Cross Action Group, Ladywell Society, Brockley Artists' Open Studios, Brockley Max, Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries, Lewisham Arthouse. We are proud of these and other local organisations. Brockley Central says BrocSoc 'could be doing so much more' and'would like to see BrocSoc focus on Brockley Road'. Fine. WHO in BrocSoc? The people who already spend hours checking the planning applications and attending meetings? The people who work so hard on the brilliant Midsummer Fayre? The people who deliver the newsletter or run other events within BrocSoc as volunteers?
When some teenagers wanted the weatherproof gym bars for their age groupat the top of Hilly Fields, BrocSoc helped them apply for funding. In 1999 local sculptor Polly Ionides came to BrocSoc with an ambitious proposal for a Stone Circle on Hilly Fields for the Millennium celebrations. With enthusiasm BrocSoc provided the organisational structure for this imaginative project.
What ideas would YOU like to carry out within or supported by BrocSoc? In the 17th century John Donne wrote: 'No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. . . therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.' Grotesquely to paraphrase: 'No man (or woman, or child) is an individual outside BrocSoc (if they live in the Conservation Area). Don't ask whatBrocSoc should be doing. BrocSoc is you.'
Please bring your grand ideas -- and your small ones -- and let BrocSoc assist you in achieving them.
The next events are:
- Brockley Barbecue, Friday 4 July, 7.30pm, Stone Circle, Hilly Fields. Bring friends and family - meet others from the Brockley area. Somefood and refreshments provided - and bring your own to cook on BrocSoc's large barbecue. All welcome!
- Brockley Society Open Meeting, Wednesday 16 July, 8pm. Baptist ChurchHall, 60 Upper Brockley Road, SE4 (entrance in Vulcan Terrace). Speaker from Stephen Lawrence Centre (to be confirmed). Bring your ideas forBrockley, meet neighbours, and find out more about Brockley Society.
Here's something you didn't see advertised for the Brockley Max - Morris Men took charge of the Wickham Arms car park tonight, entertaining locals and passers by alike.
The group were part of the Blackheath Morris Men. Their home pub is the rather good Ashburnham Arms in Greenwich, and being the modern web 2.0 type morris men they are, even have a Flickr group!
Councillor Heidi Alexander is the Deputy Mayor of Lewisham and Cabinet Member with responsibility for regeneration in the borough.
When we first mentioned on the site that we’d interviewed her, we were immediately asked whether it was good or bad news. The answer is, it depends what you’re expecting.
There were no dramatic revelations about exciting new developments in Brockley or promises of millions of pounds of investment in our public spaces. There is a long list of things that need fixing in Lewisham and not many of Brockley’s faults are currently at the top.
However, she had a clear understanding of many of the challenges the area faces and offered to take further action on some of the issues raised. Most encouragingly, she has offered to walk around Brockley with a few readers of Brockley Central who can highlight the issues that matter most to them. That’s something we are hoping to bring you more news about very soon.
If the key to achieving real, long-term improvements is for the community and the Council to be aligned and working together, then what Cllr Alexander had to say is good news.
Here’s part 1 of the interview…
What is the Council’s vision for Brockley?
We think Brockley’s future is as a vibrant local centre with shops that people want to use, small cafes, restaurants and galleries. Some of that is already there, but we think there’s potential for a lot more.
We’re starting to see the evolution of Brockley. Many of the people now moving to the area have more time and more money to spend locally. There’s great residential architecture and the East London Line is opening up new possibilities.
So what is the Council going to do to help encourage that change?
Well, we have to get the basics right. That means improving the general quality of the environment. Satisfaction rates in terms of street cleaning are already good, for example.
We’re also about to introduce timed waste collections along parts of Brockley Road[see here], which will improve the high street – it’s been very successful in the other parts of the borough that we’ve carried out trials.
Hiding the bins near the sorting office, improving
We’re pleased to hear you say that it’s important to get the basics right, because everyone we talk to about the area – from residents to shop owners and estate agents – says that the poor condition of Brockley Road is a major barrier to improving the neighbourhood. What can you do for
Firstly, we need to promote sensitive development in the area – only granting planning permission for buildings that will enhance the street. Secondly, we want to provide business advice for local entrepreneurs. We’re re-structuring the Town Centre Management team – the previous manager was too spread out geographically to provide the support the area needs. The new council officer, Julie Such, will be a more familiar and accessible face in Brockley.
I recently met with the London Youth Support Trust, a charity which works with young entrepreneurs to provide affordable business premises. I think there is an opportunity to bring more of these businesses to Brockley and I will be speaking to them about sites in SE4.
I live in Hither Green and the areas around Hither Green and Brockley stations are very similar. Some great work has been done by committed local groups [in Brockley’s case, the Brockley Cross Action Group] in both areas, making small scale but important changes.
We need to support these groups, but people need to remember that the Council has a lot of competing groups banging at our door all the time. My advice is, if you’re not getting the response you want from the Council right away, keep banging on the door, it will pay off. People can always contact me through my website if they feel they’re not getting the response they need.Another of the basics that needs to be got right is the state of our pavements. What works are planned in this respect?
The total amount of money available to resurface roads and pavements in this financial year has not as yet been set (we need to work out how much money we can afford to borrow and this will determine how far down the priority list of pavements we get - the priority order is determined by a rather complex formula. There are some pavements in the top 50 of this list in the Brockley, Telegraph Hill and Ladywell areas, however, there are no guarantees at this stage that we will be able to afford all of this work.
The real glimmer of light relates to possible works on the pavements in Coulgate Street as part of a one-off scheme. We are looking at ways of completing works to the proposed ramp to Brockley station this year (with possible landscaping to follow at a slightly later date) and we are keen to carry out some pavement works on Coulgate Street to complement the improvements in accessibility to the station. Funding needs to be identified for this and council officers are working upon this at the moment.
It’s also interesting you mentioned sensitive development, because one of the frustrations many of us feel is that planning regulation enforcement along
It is a very important issue – if there is a contravention of the planning regulations, please highlight it to the Council enforcement team and we will investigate.
Well there have been a number of complaints recently about the new signage outside Speedicars on
I will look in to that issue myself and let you and your readers know as soon as there is any development.
That would be great, thanks. A much bigger problem is the number of shops that are either completely empty or give the impression of being active businesses, without ever actually opening. It makes the ‘shop local’ ideal a little tricky.
I hope this is an issue that our Town Centre manager will get to the bottom of. The changes to business rates which are due to come in to force soon will help, because landlords will be forced to pay rates, even on empty properties, providing a bigger incentive to let them out.
As an authority, we have a limited range of powers at our disposal to intervene. But if landlords break health and safety or security regulations then we can take action.
Part 2 coming soon…
It's always a bad sign when people who were once happy to chat with us no longer return our calls. The developer behind plans to redevelop the small brick building by the station that once housed Speedicars has been 'busy' whenever we've called recently. But sadly, not busy redeveloping the site.
During our interview with Cllr Alexander about the future of Brockley (which we are currently writing up) we asked her about plans for that site. She looked in to it for us and this is what she says...
The former Speedicars premises beside Brockley Station is 16 Coulgate Street. One of our Planning Committees resolved to grant permission in August 2006 for a building up to 5 storeys (7 flats and commercial ground floor), subject to a S106 Agreement regarding landscaping of area at the front and financial contribution to environmental improvements in the Brockley Cross area. The agreement was not completed and so permission has not been issued. There have been no further planning applications.
This isn't the biggest disaster in Brockley's history, but the current building is not pretty and the prospect of a new commercial unit, adjacent to Dandelion Blue, The Broca, Magi and Degustation could have led to another high-quality business moving in to Brockley's fashion district.
This morning was one of those times when the public transport system decides to play a game with us.
The 8.04am train (arrived Brockley 8.06, natch) broke down just outside New Cross Gate and limped in to the station, where upon we were notified that some men would be along to fix it “shortly”.
At times like this, commuters are faced with a complex risk-reward matrix – a range of options, with uncertain outcomes.
So, we could stay on the train and hope it got fixed quickly, make our way to the other platform to try and squeeze on the next London Bridge-bound service, catch the train back the other way to get a later service from Brockley, catch a bus, or walk to New Cross station and get a train from there.
It’s all very exciting.
In the end, we took the last of those options and were delayed only by a total of 20 minutes.
We reckon we did the right thing and patted ourselves on the back when we pulled in to London Bridge but ordinarily, we have no way of knowing whether the people who took other options did better.
Thanks to the power of Brockley Central, we now have a chance to find out how the other options worked out for people.
So, were you on that train? If you were, what did you do and how much were you delayed? Did Brockley Central manage to beat the system?
St Peter's Church on Wickham Road will host its Summer Fayre on June 28th, 1-4pm.
The organisers are promising such wholesome diversions as a coconut shy, face painting, cream teas, a bring-and-buy sale and a raffle plus the obligatory "much more".
The church and its grounds are gorgeous and the team at St Peter's were responsible for the beautiful lanterns that brought so much colour to the Christmas market, so it's likely to be a lovely day.
Call 020 8469 0013 for more details about hiring a table for the sale.
Kate's article about Brockley Bowling Club's new gate generated a lot of discussion, prompting the woman who commissioned it to get in touch and address some of the points raised. Here's what she says....
I'm responding to comments about the new gate at the bowling club.
I'm Secretary of the club and commissioned the gate. It was designed by three A-level art students from Prendergast School: Helen Vicary, Hannah van den Wijngaard and Hetty Malik, supported by their art teacher, Kathryn Rosse.
They visited the club and sketched bowlers at play. It was constructed by local artist/blacksmith, Heather Burrell, who was also responsible for the gate in Eastern Avenue. It is still to be painted a 'black green'. It was paid for by my father, Richard Tritton, who was Captain of the club from 1997 to 2003. He is now in a care home suffering from dementia. On his behalf, I am using some money he received in a legacy. Both he and his wife, Betty, my mother, gained tremendous pleasure from bowling at the club and this is a way of giving something back.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 3rd June at 3.00pm, there will be a 'Gate Opening' at the club attended by various people who have worked on the gate plus several club members. I hope my father will be able to attend. Hope this answers some of the questions. Best wishes, Jill Jenkins
But this is where the story gets (slightly) more interesting. For Lewisham Council head of environmental services Nigel Tyrell read the blog post and accompanying comments thread, and emailed BC. He said the council was keen to improve the way it responded to residents who use LoveLewisham, and that council staff have increasingly been using the service to report fly-tipping, graffiti and other problems they spot while out and about; this has resulted in a noticeable drop in the number of reports by residents. He also promised to look into BC's concerns about the wall.
A period of radio silence ensued, while the council cogs turned, and then last week came another email from Mr Tyrell. There had been some scratching of heads to work out which part of the council, or its sub-contractors, was responsible for the wall, and the buck had finally stopped with Pinnacle, which runs the council's housing PFI contract. The wall stands on council property, but the house and its grounds have become the responsibility of the PFI contractor. Pinnacle has now been informed of the problem and intends to re-build the wall; the council is keeping an eye on it to ensure that this happens, Mr Tyrell added.
As for the wall, little has changed as yet - the only concession to BC's complaint is the appearance of some fencing panels (visible in one of the pictures above) at quite a distance from the wall and with a large gap in the middle. We're not sure what effect these are intended to have, but we hope that Pinnacle must have some idea what it's doing.
BC will of course bring readers further updates on this vital issue as and when anything happens.
Posted by Brockley Kate on 2.6.08
On one of our regular runs around Hilly Fields BC was thrilled to see that the Francis Drake Bowling Club has gone all arty and commissioned a wonderful new gate:
A definitely positive addition to Hilly Fields, we feel. Hope it was made by a local artist! Can any bowls-playing readers provide more detail?
BC has shamelessly stolen a great idea from local blogger the Greenwich Phantom and had a quick look at the location of other Brockleys around the world. Unlike Greenwich, however, there aren't too many to choose from. According to Wikipedia our main competitors are in Somerset and Suffolk.
The Somerset Brockley was the location of a 300-person prisoner of war camp during World War II, initially housing Italian prisoners and later Germans. There's a nearby Site of Special Scientific Interest involving greater horseshoe bats, and nearby is Brockley Combe, an area of fetching woodland - oh, and also the site of Bristol International Airport. Coleridge wrote a poem about it (the wood, not the airport).
Posted by Brockley Kate on 1.6.08