Happiness in Lewisham

The Guardian has the list of Britain's local authorities, ranked by indicators of happiness, based on data provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

We can discount the opinions of the rest of the country because their sense of well-being is artificially inflated by projecting all their resentments on to London. But how does Lewisham compare to the 33 other London boroughs?

The data comes from a survey which we vaguely recall taking part in and - being an optimistic sort of website - we may have skewed Lewisham's results. But even so, Lewisham performs fairly poorly. Although it ranks 12th best for community cohesion it only comes 29th for a sense of belonging, 28th for volunteering, 15th for effective policing, 19th for courteous public services.

As a place to live, Lewisham ranks 18th out of 33 London boroughs.

However, in terms of the negative indicators on the list, Lewisham is better than the London average: 20th for anti-social behaviour, 22nd for drug abuse and 28th for drunk and rowdy behaviour (presumably helped by the dearth of nightlife in the area).

The one glaring black spot in Lewisham's performance is in response to the question about whether other people in the area treated the area with respect. Lewisham was the 8th worst borough and we strongly believe that that is a reflection of the general lack of attention paid to the public realm. Radio 4's Analysis this week looked at herd behaviour in people, and featured studies of littering. They showed that when there was graffiti present, the rate of littering increased hugely [one caused the other]. In other words, they proved what we all know - that if the Council maintains the public realm properly, people will respond positively - anti-social behaviour will decline.

This is the big challenge for Lewisham and for Brockley: restore pride to our streets by embracing good quality design and enforcing the basic rules - to create a virtuous circle of improved behaviour and reducing the amount of money spent on cleaning up people's mess. Some positive steps have been taken in Brockley, but the terrible state of Brockley Cross is just one example of how much there is still to be done.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure if the litter is causal. Maybe the people who do tagging etc are the same ones who drop litter. Not sure why I say maybe?

853blog said...

How was the survey done, and what was the methodology?

I ask that because London boroughs are such oddly-defined areas, lines drawn on a map in the 60s that cut between communities and in many parts make little sense. Unless you're talking about local council services, it's hard to read that much into them.

You can't apply the same thinking to Brockley as, say, Downham, for example. A lot of this is as meaningless as a per-borough house price survey.

The figures about being involved in local decision-making are interesting, especially as Lewisham Council's big on local assemblies, and there's other things where people interact with local bodies; but a lot of this doesn't mean that much at all.

Now, if someone was to do a ward-by-ward survey...

Sorry to be a spoil-sport pedant, and that.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon, it was a controlled study. They tested people's propensity to litter, depending on the environment they created (ie the scientists added the tagging themselves). It was absolutely causal. People's propensity to steal a wallet also went up if grafitti was present.

If people see that one 'social boundary' has been broken, they are more likely to break others.

Brockley Nick said...

853 it was a face to face survey. About 30 mins interview.
I guess the methodology was fairly sound, but agree that experiences will vary hugely across boroughs, eg blackheath v catford, greenwich v charlton

Anonymous said...

Why do the road sweeper's have Cleanest streets in London on there Hi viz jackets ?

Anonymous said...

anon 08:12 - that's an aspiration - not a fact, and that's how the Council answer that question.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

"They showed that when there was graffiti present, the rate of littering increased hugely"

I knew it; the stencils (we know which ones) are to blame for the litter, which I percieve (despite the slogan referred to above) is getting worse, not better, on Lewisham's streets.

Brockley Nick said...

Just to be clear, the study on littering was just an example to prove a wider point that different forms of anti-social behaviour are interlinked. It's reasonable to assume that the lack of respect that respondents were talking about included noise pollution, grafitti, pavement fouling by dogs, bins being left on pavements, illegal parking, spitting, public urination and littering.

The evidence strongly suggests that if you tolerate too much of any one of these things, you encourage more of the others. High standards are self-enforcing but it needs government intervention to set the tone.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes TM, that's another reasonable extrpolation and a point we've tried to make many times. In essence, if the council treat our streets as a crapholes to be flyposted and sprayed with pictures of dog poo, if contractors make no effort to repair things properly or return bins to their proper place, we can expect people to follow suit.

Town Planning said...

I think much of Lewisham would look less run down if the shops didn't have metal shutters covering their windows. These shutters encourage graffiti and do nothing for the look of the local area. I know business owners will baulk at the idea of having slightly increased insurance costs, but they will reap the benefits of a nice attractive parade of shops. There are many other boroughs similar to Lewisham where the shops remain unshuttered. The windows don't seem to get broken and the area sports less graffiti. Have a llok around Brockley and Ladywell at night and see how run down it look with all of the metal shutters. Perhaps we can encourage shop owners to remove these eyesores?

trilby wearer said...

No errant parking on Brockley Cross recently then?

Anonymous said...

I used to live on Jerningham Road and although I adored Telegraph Hill as a single person I never felt safe there as a mother. We were burgled whilst we were sleeping, I was threatened twice when I was pregnant, we used to find knives that had been thrown into our garden. The point is, as a parent 'feeling safe' whether you are or not, is vital to how you feel about an area. Telegraph Hill could be beautiful if it was respected and cared for. We moved out because we didn't want our children to grow up there.

osh said...

Trilby Wearer - eh?

osh said...

anonymous - where do you live now?

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a bloke at the bus stop opposite me - he was pretty well ali g'd out - the full deal. Brand new sports gear - the whole works. He saw some minor imperfection on his trainers that he carefully wiped clean with a tissue, then chucked the tissue on the pavement...

Anonymous said...

The survey's just saying zero tolerance is the way to go.

Which means more incarceration, and removal of these idiots fom our lives.


Which solution many people are opposed to as they believe prison reinforces bad behaviour (or so the soft left propagates - actually it's people's own dishonesty that allows them to commit crime but that's another story).

There is an answer - better education in prisons to give these people, many of whom are actually illiterate a chance of a job. OR....take it further - don't allow them to leave unless there is a job they've applied for and got waiting for them or they reach certain educational standards.

Radical yes but the current cj system isn't solving the problems.

Brockley Nick said...

Zero tolerance, yes, of sorts. But it doesn't mean we need to put people in prison for littering - the solution seems to be:

1. Council sets high standards in the way it behaves - contractors made to do the job properly, developers held to their commitments in terms of the finish quality of new buildings (eg: the shocking condition of the pavement outide the tea factory).

2. Council treats our streets with reverence - no arbitrary decisions to slap up big anti-crime signs, for example.

3. Council takes a more punitive approach to people who break the law - fines, not prison!

4. Community takes responsibility itself - more volunteering, more planting, take your bins off the streets every week, pick up litter outside your homes, no parking on the kerb, keep your front-gardens tidy, etc.

5. Shop keepers join in - get rid of shutters, don't park your vehicles on the pavement, encourage customers not to drop their litter outside your front door, clean it up if they do, etc.

unlikely agreement with Nick said...

I agree with you Nick, but how to achieve these aims?

We vote in Councillors to be our representative on the Council but as soon as they're there it seems they change from being the hopeful, promising voice of positive change to one burdened with the administrative duties of the Council and having to deal with petty, un-elected bureaucrats and jobsworths for central Government.

Brockley Kate said...

Broken Windows theory, innit.

Brockley Nick said...

Well that's the tricky bit...

I think the obvious response is that there are no easy answers - these are difficult problems, the Council does not have infinite resources and it's under pressure from all sides.

I think the other thing to say is that we must be patient and give credit where it is due. Some of the early grievances this blog explored have been dealt with - most impressively, the huge amount of rubbish that used to be stored on Brockley Road has been reduced by more frequent collections and education of local businesses. The old bins were replaced with new ones, and so on.

Likewise, there has been investment in the Common project, with decent materials now being used and hopefully this will pay dividends in terms of the lift it gives the area.

Some new businesses have moved in to the area, bringing the right attitude with them, making a positive contribution to their surroundings.

Localities money has been allocated to planting trees and improving the public realm (rather than blowing it all on solar panels on school roofs).

The Assemblies are a positive development - getting more people engaged in their area. Groups like the Brockley Cross Action Group and Tea Leaf Arts have made the place tangibly better in small and big ways - most recently, the planting on Mantle Road.

I also believe that Brockley is lucky to have local councillors who do care and who do share many of these priorities.

All this work must be celebrated, not ignored, if we want to encourage more of it. BC tries to do that and it's always good to see people post positive comments in relation to good news stories.

How do we achieve more? I guess sheer effort. We must call the Council to account, keep asking questions of our Councillors, keep pressuring for change through letters, emails and campaigns. Use our votes wisely at election time and vote with our wallets, by rewarding good business practice and punishing bad.

But we must do all of this in the right spirit. Let's not attack the Council or businesses that have made mistakes - setting up a 'them and us' mentality only causes positions to become more entrenched. Let's always try to keep positive and focus on what can be done, rather than what is wrong.

Those are my thoughts, anyway...

unlikely agreement with Nick stretched to breaking point said...

One does have to be positive - and with many 'smaller' things we can try and have an impact.

But there are overwhelmingly depressing things that Lewisham do or are trying to do - and things that will have a massive impact far beyond taking your bin off the pavement after rubbish collection. And although they claim that consultations take place, and they do of course, these consultations are token events because of obligation.

But anyway...

Brockley Nick said...

Maybe. It would be good if you could be specific, but I imagine you are talking about Lewisham Gateway and related developments there.

If so, then I happen to believe that the net effect will be positive. Again, we must challenge on points of detail - the size of the pool, the allowance made for parking, the quality of the build, the commitment to public spaces, the management of the construction process (to minimise the damage to air quality during this time), etc.

But calling them all crooks and incompetents and refusing recognise the Council's need to provide new homes or to acknowledge that anything positive could come from demolishing a roundabout and a decaying row of shops and turning it in to a major new urban centre... in my view that is not a constructive way to debate the issues.

To give you an example from elsewhere. There is currently a terrible proposal for Waterloo, creating a monolithic slab next to the river while adding very little to the public realm in what should be one of London's most important areas. Despite its many flaws, this proposal has a very good chance of going ahead because of focusing on these issues, the opponents of the development have been fixated on the height of the buildings proposaed. It's not their height that's the problem, it's the massing, but by missing the point, they have constructed a weak argument that has thus-far failed.

"I don't want Lewisham town centre redeveloped because I might be able to see one of the buildings from my leafy perch in Brockley" is not a good argument against creating new homes, employment and civic facilities.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to think fining them would do the trick. They just don't pay fines though. Stopping benefits where applicable might work.

(it's like id cards - the people you need or would like to track can wangle different cards all the time. you end up arresting soft targets like old ladies forgettign their card. v similar to traffic offences....)

Anonymous said...

I've attended public meetings in nearly all 18 wards and it struck me the difference of 'tolerance' between wards.

A similar issue was raised in both Catford and Blackheath.

The response in Catford was almost 'what do you expect'and a shrug of the shoulders from those in authority.

Over at Blackheath a meeting was arranged to take place within 5 days between concerned residents, police, council officers and councillors.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find that the 'official' objection - compiled by several groups and presented to the Planning Committee - against the redevelopment of Lewisham Centre, didn't mention any of those trite concerns you list.

That opinion may have been mentioned here, but this blog will not, and should not, have been taken into account on this, or any other planning consideration, when the committee make up their minds.

Brockley Nick said...

I was referring to the news coverage actually.

http://tinyurl.com/lfzd9q

And of course, the anti-gateway website that was set up.

I think the discussion on here has been comparitively intelligent.

But do carry on dismissing the legitimacy the discussion by the 4,000+ people who read this blog every week.

Anonymous said...

I was referring to Planning decisions made by the Council, and official objections to that committee, not press coverage, websites or blog discussions, any of which should have an impact on such a decision.

westsider said...

Anon, welcome to the real world, where politicians care what the public thinks.

sonofagun said...

Could the shops need for shutters, be something to do with insurance ?

Danja said...

Describing objections made by certain self-selected interest groups as official sounds more than a little officious.

drakefell debaser said...

I think most shop keepers will be against removing the shutters in the short term but, they needn't be ugly. We only have to look at what Long Time Cafe have done for inspiration.

Perhaps the chap that did the last mural could kick things off.

Brockley Nick said...

Anon 12.30 that's really interesting but perhaps not that surprising... Out of interest, what did you make of the Brockley and Ladywell assemblies, compared to Catford and Blackheath?

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

I've not seen the Mural in the flesh yet or observed first hand the parking at Brockley Cross from on the pavement.

I shall therefore divert from my usual route, to pass both on my way to the Wickham Arms tonight to see Paul Astles and Booby Valentino playing LIVE MUSIC.

No Apologies for the shameless plug.....

Ian on the HIill said...

Booby Valentino? You're sure you are not on the way to the White Heart Strip Club?

TM said...

Freudian slip should have read Bobby..........

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