Brockley Common: Two steps forward, one step back?

The council's contractor for the long-awaited Brockley Common works, Conways, has begun to clear the site today having installed a ramp and steps. The area around the station entrance has been left as bare soil, unplanted, and due to the previously-documented alleged asbestos problems the planned performance space has not been created.

The council's highways department is project-managing the scheme but the Brockley Cross Action Group have kept a close eye on progress and are very concerned about some aspects of the work.

These include the incomplete works, the lack of a completed footpath on the west side of Coulgate Street, the lack of greening/plants, the missing performance area, the missing corner stairs, the time and money allegedly spent on asbestos removal, and the lack of communication to the community about project progress (the only signs around the site were placed by the train company, not the council, according to BXAG).

BXAG are calling on the council to publish a project plan stating when the above will be completed.

Local residents who want to lobby Lewisham Council about this situation can email gill.redrup @lewisham.gov.uk (remove space).

In Bloom

Today, the Mayor of London launched a strategy to 'green' London, planting more trees and encouraging the development of roof gardens and living walls.

Whatever the substance of the report, the strategy is clearly the right one - not simply to cope with climate change, but also to improve quality of life in the city.

A walk down through Deptford to Greenwich last weekend provided a couple of examples of how dramatic the effect of some vigorous planting can be.


While this tower block has been transformed by a few pot plants, Oscar Street - just behind Tesco Metro on Lewisham Way - has clearly benefited from some collective action, as you can see on Streetview.

Every tree nests in a bouquet of flowers, every house has a hanging basket. The wheelie bins can't be hidden, so instead they're decorated. It's a triumph of collective action and it sure beats dog-poo stencils and double-parked cars:


Brockley Bites

Memphis, New Orleans and South London Film Night

The Old Police Station, Deptford, is proud to invite you to a special night of exhibitions, a fundraising auction and cocktail bar afterparty. Friday 31st July 2009 6-11pm.

114 Amersham Vale London SE14 6LG www.tempcontemp.co.uk/oldpolicestation.html

Transition Brockley

Brockley's Transition Town Group is meeting on Thursday 6 August at 7.00pm at St Andrew's Church. They'll be showing a film about "how Cuba survived peak oil." Fran writes:

"We are just starting up and the 3 tonne club (reducing carbon footprint), the swishing (swapping) and the films are some of our first events in Brockley. We are going to be promoting food growing too.

"We aim to suggest, encourage, facilitate and where necessary support initiatives in the area rather than Transition Brockley being the main activists."

The Talbot, Tyrwhitt Road

Finally, we can bring you official confirmation that The Talbot pub on Tyrwhitt Road is to be redeveloped by the people who brought us the excellent Prince Regent in Herne Hill.

A magnificent but badly neglected pub, its fate is something we have agonised over, ever since Brockley Central began. Its potential, in an area starved of high-quality pubs, has always been clear. Many great pub managers have tried to raise the funds to redevelop it, but have fallen just short. Now, we are delighted to bring you this letter from Felix Pearce, new owner of The Talbot:

We have just completed on the purchase of the freehold of the Talbot today at 10am. As you can imagine, these things take time to sort out, but we can now confirm that we are the very proud new owners of the Talbot SE4.

We will be starting a complete refurb of the pub next Monday 3rd. There will be a team of builders beginning a 3 month schedule of work that will include a new layout in the bar downstairs, a new trade kitchen, new loos and opening up the upstairs room. We are planning to have the pub up and running at the beginning of November 2009.

The Talbot will be keeping its name and will remain a local pub. We aim to turn the Talbot into a pub of exceptional quality for everyone. For anyone wishing to get a feel of what the new Talbot might be like, please pop down to the Prince Regent in Herne Hill where you will be most welcome. Come in for a bite to eat, try one of our real ales, try your luck at the weekly pub quiz, bring the whole family (and the dog!) for a Sunday lunch or come and check out the rooms upstairs. Alternatively you can have a look at our website –
theprinceregent.co.uk.

It is our intention to create a pub that everyone in Brockley will be proud of and use regularly. I know that it has been a long time coming for all of you and that the three months extra wait will be like an eternity, but we hope that the wait will be worthwhile. I will update you as we go along.

Thanks for your patience.


We wish him the best of luck.

Brockley: A conspiracy of silence

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.
- The Usual Suspects

We have a friend staying with us at BCHQ, who opted to take the bus to Lewisham the other morning. Getting there was a simple matter of pointing her in the right direction on Lewisham Way and telling her to hail a bus. But getting back, she got a bit confused about which bus to take and which direction to head - no doubt, her head was still spinning from opening the box of delights that is Lewisham Shopping Centre.

She asked 6 different groups of people walking through the town centre how to get to Brockley. On a weekday morning in Lewisham, it's unlikely that any were tourists, but none of them knew where Brockley was, let alone how to get there. Defeated, she had to call us for help.

This is a conspiracy of silence that goes back generations, as Transpontine has shown. His site has evidence from the Pathe news archive, in which a 1917 film set in the heavily-built-up streets of Brockley, SE4 is attributed to Brockley, Suffolk (a tiny village, even to this day). In 1931, a "folding car" struggling up towards Telegraph Hill is attributed to Brockley, Somerset.

It's clear that by promoting Brockley, BC is messing with powers that it does not understand. We just have to figure out how all of this ties to the Knights Templar.

Brockley Station works: The end is nigh?

Local councillor Dean Walton has another update on the works to the station entrance and footbridge. The promise is now that the ramp will open by the end of next week, with the steps opening 'in the next few weeks'.

Dean makes the very good point that communication with local residents and station users about the progress of the works has been completely non-existent. It is a considerable inconvenience for some, and would have been good to see the contractors using a little bit of nous to win some brownie points with some basic information.

Can he fix it? Yes, he can ...

Fans of the Wickham Rd wall saga will be thrilled to hear that BC can bring glad tidings. As we all know, the wall comes under the auspices of Lewisham Council's housing PFI consortium. Surveyor Bill Chambers from consortium member Equipe, which is carrying out the works, has kindly answered a few of BC's questions about the project ...


Q. Obviously the initial problem with the wall was that it had partially collapsed; however the work now being undertaken seems to be considerably more significant than a simple re-build (laying foundations, etc). What was the thinking behind this?

A. It is a simple rebuild; the foundations are to ensure that the wall does not subside as before.


Q. What exactly do the current works involve, and how long are they expected to take? Do you have a planned completion date?

A. Normally for a simply rebuild no planning permission is required but for this one we were required to submit plans. This has been done and we now have permission to continue, and work will restart week commencing 27th July 2009. Work will be continuous to completion approximately 4 weeks if there are no unforeseen circumstances.


Q. What care is being taken to ensure the materials used are in keeping with the nature of the conservation area?

A. The conservation area planning officer has approve the materials being used and will be making regular visits to site.


Q. As a result of the works, the garden inside the wall has become bare earth. What condition will this area be left in once the works are complete?

A. The area will be levelled and seeded. The resulting grass will be maintained by Pinnacle grounds maintenance [part of the PFI consortium] provided that no fences are erected by residents.


Q. It has taken more than a year for this re-build to begin; can you explain or comment on why it has taken so long?

A. It was a simple matter of the funding of the project. Once this was in place work was started.


BC is thrilled to hear that the project should be finished by the end of August - the fact that it has taken around 18 months to sort out can clearly be firmly attributed to the vagaries of PFI contracting (on which BC has a fairly clear opinion, or at least this part of BC does ...). But PFI aside, this is good news at last.

The looser the waistband, the deeper the quicksand

Brockley-based Open Gym has won a social enterprise award from Cancer Research UK.

The award is funded in partnership with NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and will help to facilitate the business' expansion across the country.

Founder Jo Hill explains:

"This is a brilliant opportunity to create partnerships and that's the key for small businesses and small social enterprises because one way of creating larger social impact is to find established partners. There's no way I, as an individual, could roll out lots of open gyms around the country, but they [CRUK] could because they've got the infrastructure and the marketing machine."

Thanks to Green Ladywell for the heads-up.

The Patron Saint of Quality Footwear

The Ladywell Fields Summer Festival
11am - 5pm, August 23rd, 2009

The Lewisham Seventh-day Adventist Church is organising a community fun-day* in Ladywell Fields. They say:

"The intention is to get to know our friends and neighbours and give something back to our community.

"Can you sing, dance or play an instrument? If so come and participate in our free talent contest. Or just come along and listen to the programme of entertainment we have lined up for you, great music featuring local choirs and musicians, comedians Richard Blackwood and Slim to take away those recession blues. Alan Charles - Dub Poetry and rapping plus Alive Theatre Group will perform a puppet show on stopping gun & knife crime.

"The children will have great fun on our Bouncy Castles or they can try some arts & crafts, make a kite and then watch our Pathfinders drumming display. Activities for the under fives and parachute games.

"There is a mini football tournament, come and sign up on the day, registration is between 11am - 12pm.

"Our 'Health Expo' Tent is offering a range of free health checks. Get your cholesterol and blood pressure tested. Take our blowing test and check your peak flow, lung expansion, find out your health age. Get advice on healthy eating, diet, nutrition and exercise. Take the Harvard step test. Free Counselling.

"See a Fire Engine close up and chat to the Firemen. All this plus great vegetarian food and drinks, hot dogs, pop corn, BBQ and stalls selling cakes, clothes and bric-a-brac."

*FYI, Wikipedia says that the Church's attitude to fun and entertainment is based on the following fundamental belief:

"For the Spirit to recreate in us the character of our Lord we involve ourselves only in those things which will produce Christlike purity, health, and joy in our lives. This means that our amusement and entertainment should meet the highest standards of Christian taste and beauty. While recognizing cultural differences, our dress is to be simple, modest, and neat, befitting those whose true beauty does not consist of outward adornment but in the imperishable ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit."

These go to eleven

The anonymous poster who's been running a teaser campaign about the future of The Talbot in recent weeks has been vindicated. They promised that work would soon begin on the rennovation of The Talbot pub (the most anticipated of Brockley's many promised developments), starting with the arrival of removal men, to clear out the building in preparation for building work.

We were emailed this morning by friend of BC, Rosie, who confirmed that the removal men were at work.

We have been told by a very reliable source the identity of the new owners, experienced pub landlords, who run a successful pub in south east London. We've been in touch to ask for a quote or update on the plans and hope to be able to bring you the full details soon.

Needless to say, it's all very exciting.

None more black

Dandelion Blue has been repainted jet black this weekend. The news follows regular sightings of people working inside the Coulgate Street shop, which has been closed for several months, since the former managers moved away from the area.

The work suggests the store is due to reopen shortly, though we've not heard anything definitive and the delays in the building work directly outside won't be much of an incentive to speed up the reopening.

We look forward to finding out more soon.

The future of local news?

Brockley Nick here...

Yesterday, The Guardian ran an interview with its Editor Alan Rusbridger, in which he called for public money to safeguard local news reporting by the Press Association.

Among the comments in response to the article were a couple of posts by people who held up Brockley Central as an alternative model for the future of local reporting. That was very nice of them, though it did cause me a moment of panic as I realised that anyone seeking out Brockley Central to see what the light at the end of the tunnel looked like would be presented with a frothy piece about love in Lewisham and two articles about a reality TV show. So I quickly bashed out a piece I’d been meaning to get around to about the Rail Utilisation Strategy – much more Reithian.

It’s not the first time that I’ve seen references to this website as an example of how local news is migrating online and I’m certainly proud to see it referred to in this context. However, no-one’s ever asked me whether I agree with the suggestion that it’s a viable model for the future of local news. So, since one of the key functions of the blogosphere is to provide a vehicle for people to express views that no-one is actually interested in hearing, here is my analysis.

Are sites like Brockley Central the future of local news? Yes and no.

Some of the best reporting of local news undoubtedly comes from sites like Tory Troll and 853blog. For my part, I hope that Brockley Central does a lot of things right:

  • It corrects a market failure – there is very little coverage of Brockley provided by local commercial outlets. It’s a small place, where not a lot of what is traditionally considered “news” actually happens. But people live here and care passionately about what happens outside their front door and Brockley Central covers a lot of the things that aren’t news but which affect our daily lives nonetheless.
  • It is a product of the community, in a way that local newspapers are not. Kate, Jon and I all have homes in Brockley, which means that we can provide local insights that you couldn’t reasonably expect of a newspaper journalist. More importantly, the stories themselves are sourced from local people with whom we often have a direct relationship and who feel a sense of ownership of the site. We encourage and participate in debate on the site more than any newspaper and we editorialise because we have a personal stake in the issues. This has its drawbacks of course, which I will come on to.
  • Tonally, I think we have hit upon a formula which many people respond to. Brockley Central tries – above all – to be a constructive and positive voice in community affairs. The site is sometimes critical of the local authorities, local businesses and even local people. But we try to avoid the sensationalism that has devalued so much public debate – not everyone is “corrupt” or “meddling” or “incompetent”, not everything is a “fiasco” or a “sham” or a “disgrace”. And there is more to local life than who has been stabbed or what ribbon has been cut this week. Most of the things that are wrong in Brockley are the result of unforeseen consequences, or sins of omission, rather than commission. Brockley Central tries to give a voice to those who have a positive solution to the issues, rather than those who like a good moan. This approach has been vital, because hyper-local reporting involves talking about people’s friends and neighbours and debates could quickly become poisonous. Rusbridger's plan would ensure that the media continues to act as a safeguard against local corruption - but that is not the only role of local news - at least as important is that it should unite communties. PA won't do that.
  • For a local news blog, Brockley Central has built a critical mass of readers and commentators. This has created a virtuous circle, because returning readers are guaranteed something new every time. The trick has been regular updates and some viral marketing.

There is currently plenty of debate taking place about the future of the newspaper industry, the role of blogs in the provision of news and the viability of local news provision - I’m even helping to organise one myself, at the 2009 c&binet forum – but I don’t expect to be invited to take part in any of those discussions for one reason in particular – money.

If we want to talk seriously about building a comprehensive network of websites without the need for direct public subsidy, then they have to generate enough money to incentivise them, we cannot rely on volunteers.

A network of Brockley Centrals would require thousands of individuals with the ability and the time to run them. The daily grind of writing, moderating, researching and dealing with the occasional complaint is hard work and occasionally demoralising – relying on public spiritedness is not enough.

Sites like Brockley Central, 853blog and Greenwich Phantom have spontaneously evolved from the primordial stew of media people living in South East London – the coverage achieved in this part of the country is the exception, not the rule.

Even in cases like mine, where I am lucky to enjoy the support of an understanding employer (Edelman) and some motivated collaborators, the coverage is skewed towards my personal tastes and preferences. I try to cover a range of interests, but there are a range of subjects that matter greatly to others, which I am just not equipped to cover, such as social care provision and crime.

Without a sustainable business model, the hyper-local network will remain patchy and inadequate, with any given site vulnerable to the possibility of its writer walking in front of a bus or simply moving house.

The other big challenge to the development of the hyper-local blogosphere was pointed out by David Aaronovitch at a recent Editorial Intelligence debate: without the resources of media groups behind them, bloggers are extremely vulnerable to the legal system. Even the vague threat of legal action can be extremely stressful and enough to deter many people.

So sites like Brockley Central, in their current form, are not the complete answer and cannot replicate the service currently provided by PA.

But that does not mean that direct subsidy to journalists or media groups is the right approach either and I think sites like this do represent an opportunity.

The New Deal of the Mind is an NGO founded by the journalist Martin Bright, who researched the US government’s fiscal response to the Great Depression. He found that alongside road building programmes, there was a public programme to document the culture of the USA at that time, which left a lasting historical legacy and gave birth to a brilliant generation of writers and journalists. The New Deal of the Mind argues that new opportunities should be created in the creative industries, to give young people – facing the worst job prospects for a generation – the chance to do something socially valuable, while developing skills that will benefit them in future years.

The creation of a network of hyper-local websites would be the 21st century equivalent of the cultural record that the New Deal created. It could be facilitated in the following ways:

  • Legal support for accredited bloggers. Some bloggers could be given basic legal training and access to legal advice and – if necessary – legal fees. The fund could be public or paid for by a charity interested in safeguarding free speech.
  • A recruitment drive, co-ordinated through an organisation like New Deal of the Mind, working with local colleges and universities. People could be given simple advice on how to run a service like this for their local community. [In the early stages of the network’s creation, the writers could even be supported by a version of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, which Bright writes about today].

With a network of scale in place, a sustainable business model becomes a less remote prospect. Perhaps not one that will create full-time jobs, but one which could constitute part of a writer’s portfolio career.

With some public intervention, but without direct subsidy for failing businesses, a new model could emerge. And it could start in south east London.

The Wickham Arms garden playground

The Wickham Arms pub garden


The Wickham Arms has applied for retrospective planning permission for the children's play area they've installed in their garden.

We hope they get it, because despite the hoo-ha over the partial demolition of the garden wall that happened at the same time, the landlords have succeeded in creating a family-friendly space, which is an asset to the area.

Cllr Walton investigates

"Sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here - the Dude from Los Angeles. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude. The Dude, from Los Angeles... Sometimes there's a man, sometimes, there's a man."
- The Stranger

Councillor Dean Walton has been rifling through his old correspondence and wanted to let us know that, following a discussion on Brockley Central that we only hazily recall, he contacted the Council regeneration team about blocked gullies and got this reply in June:

Thank you for contacting us regarding the gullies at the junction of Wickham Road and Ashby Road.

I have asked our highway inspector to carry out an inspection and to arrange for any necessary cleaning to be carried out when the crew are next in that area.


It's always good to see issues getting picked up and dealt with in this way, so thanks to Dean for following this through.

TfL: Withdrawal of Bellingham-Victoria line will not cause crowding

Reader BarryLS has been exchanging letters with Joan Ruddock MP regarding TfL's decision to withdraw the Bellingham to Victoria train service, which stops at Crofton Park. He's concerned that the loss of capacity could cause crowding on trains stopping at Crofton Park and Catford and Ms Ruddock has pressed TfL for a response, on his behalf.

In a letter received earlier this month, TfL dismissed the risk, arguing that - of the two options considered in the South London Rail Utilisation Strategy required to address the withdrawal of the South London Line - the 4 trains per hour offered by the second phase of the East London Line is preferable to the 2 trains per hour the Victoria to Bellingham service would have delivered. TfL said:

"The capacity provided by Southeastern and First Capital Connect services on their corridor is considered by the DfT to be sufficient to accommodate current and future growth. TfL's own analysis also does not indicate that there would be crowding issues.

"Regarding congestion from Crofton Park and Catford, it is worth highlighting that the Victoria to Bellingham service was not proposed to address crowding on the Bellingham corridor. Bellingham was proposed as a possible location where the South London line service could be reversed once it had to be diverted away from London Bridge and because it is the nearest place to London after passing through Peckham Rye."

Boriswatch has an excellent summary of the effects of and reasons for the line's withdrawal. He points out that TfL's position is a reversal of its stated view in 2007:

The original response to the RUS from TfL is full of stuff about the deprived inner city areas of Peckham and Catford and how much better things would be for them under these enhanced service levels. Unfortunately, since Boris has come along, crapping on Peckham has been the fashionable sport at TfL so it had to go...

So, to recap. TfL gets the DfT to pay for the majority of the scheme. TfL forks out £15m of its own money, takes £20m off the DfT, keeps £5m of that, rejects £7m towards a station serving a key area but which TfL don’t now want to build and sabotages plans to retain the direct SLL link to Victoria, thus associating the Overground takeover of Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street with a less convenient service for existing users. Meanwhile it has already cancelled plans to run a tram through the same area.

Love in Lewisham

This morning, in our day job, we helped to launch the LoveGeist for our client, Match.com. A study of more than 16,000 people in the UK, among its many fascinating insights is the fact that Londoners are simultaneously the least romantic people in the country and the most keen on long-term relationships.

BC is inclined to attribute these contradictory statistics to the fact that being single in London is fairly exhausting and dating invariably involves schlepping backwards and forwards across the city. If the price of happiness is endless early-morning journeys on the northern line, perhaps we're happy to settle.

Our newly-single friend in Ladywell recently decided to bounce back from her breakup with a night out in Lewisham - with predictably disastrous results. Brockley itself is a little short of pick-up joints, despite the fact that there appears to be a large number divorcees living in the area.

So the question is - where should the single person go in search of love in south east London?

West Brockley neighbourhood watch scheme proposed

BC regular Catman writes:

Last night I received a leaflet from the Telegraph Hill Safer Neighbourhoods Team about a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. It would appear that they are 'pushing' to establish one for West Brockley, including the roads Arica, Revelon, Finland, St Asaph, Avignon encompassing all in that area.

I was hoping you could post something on your blog about this. In my view it is a perfect way to bring the community together and to get to know your neighbours.

The Meeting is scheduled for:

30th July - 19.30 - 20.00.

Sector J Community Pensioners Club, Room 29, Gately House, Coston Walk, Brockley, SE4 2JF

If anyone has any queries, they should contact the safer neighbourhoods team on 020 8721 2722 or email telegraphhill.snt@met.police.uk

The Peckham Ghost Trail, Thursday 13 August 7pm

The South East London Folklore Society is organising a free walking festival in August, called Straycation. One is setting off from Honor Oak Station.

Courtesy of the Londonist (and spotted by Cathy):

Follow the trail of the infamous Peckham Ghost with SELFS host Scott Wood, meeting other phantoms of Peckham & Nunhead on the way. Meet Honor Oak Station, walk ends Nunhead Green approx 9pm.

Local cleaner recommendations

Reader Carolyn is looking for recommendations for good cleaners working in the area:

"I was wondering if it is possible to ask people if they know of a good local cleaner? I have recently had a rather bad experience but with kids, pets and a full time job don’t want to be put off and want to find someone else – a person not a company this time!"

Please use this thread to share your thoughts.

Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum - Broc-watch

Bruce Dickinson: Guess what? I got a fever! And the only prescription.. is more cowbell!
Gene Frenkle: Thank you, Bruce. But I think if... I think if I just leave... and maybe I'll come back later, and we can lay down the cowbell. [ starts to leave the studio ]
Bruce Dickinson: Aw, come on, baby..
Eric Bloom: Gene, wait! Why don't you lay down that cowbell right now. With us. Together.

- Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult

Young, dumb and living off mum - the Brockley-set reality show - debuted tonight and was searingly accurate.

Brockley is portrayed as a sun-drenched paradise, handy for Shad Thames - a place where a night in the pub results in meeting "amazing people." The Tesco Metro on Lewisham Way was the only Brockley institution to feature.

The show is on a par with Wife Swap - that may or may not constitute a recommendation for you - but it could definitely do with more Brockley.

Young, Dumb and Living Off Mum - starts tonight

Although BBC3 targets the nation's yoof - and usually panders to their every notional whim - its fun new show Young, Dumb And Living Off Mum (Sun, 9pm, BBC3) actively mocks young aspirational adults with surprisingly refreshing viciousness.

- Charlie Brooker, The Guide

The Brockley-based reality TV show starts tonight at 9pm on BBC Three and should provide plenty of entertainment as feckless twerps get broken down and rebuilt by the stark reality of life in the conservation area.

People who've never done a day's work will be encouraged to get themselves a proper job, like abstract painting or holistic therapy.

The Brockley Mess - coming soon

Brockley Central regular PaddyOM has followed up on earlier reports that Greenwich favourite Royal Teas cafe was planning to open in Brockley, where once stood Moonbow Jakes.

Raymond, the propiertor told him:

"It is true, we hope to be opening at the beginning of August if all goes well. It won't be called Royal Teas but 'The Brockley Mess'.

"I am looking forward to meeting the good people of Brockley, I hope they will approve of the changes we have made to Moonbow Jakes."

We like the name, which as has already been pointed out, is a play on Eton Mess and continues the fine Brockley tradition of eccentric names such as Toadsmouth Too, Jam Circus and, of course, Moonbow Jakes itself.

Together with the regular signs of life inside Dandelion Blue, this is great news for Brockley.

Green Tea Architects, Brockley Cross

Lewisham Council's ambitions for Brockley have - for some time - included attracting more small businesses to the area, which is seen as vital to sustaining a vibrant community and local retail. Small businesses bring people, activity and spending to the local area during the day, when the commuter population is away.

In particular, the creative industries were identified as a key target sector. Brockley has all the right elements for a creative cluster - good transport links, a large creative community and low rents. It's a little short of appropriate spaces, although the Martins Yard redevelopment should address this problem. And of course, the Tea Factory has provided new units, including space for the Tea Leaf Arts gallery.

So that's been the theory for the last few years, but just recently, it's started turning in to practice.

Tank Gallery has opened, animators Melancholy Star have set up in Brockley, a lighting design company has moved in and the creative community has begun to coalesce through projects like Brockley MAX, Tea Leaf Arts and the Creative Mums Network.

The latest addition to Brockley's creative cluster is Green Tea Architects. A new practice, specialising in sustainable design - Green Tea Architects was founded by three Forest Hill residents and named after The Tea Factory that will house their studio when it opens on July 27th.

We spoke with one of the founding partners, Anne Dixon about their reasons for choosing Brockley:

"We're locally based and wanted to live the values we promote through our work. So we wanted somewhere local, close to public transport, but somewhere which is accessible for a range of clients. Sometimes things just fall in to place and in this case, all roads seemed to lead to Brockley Cross.

"We also like the building itself, which is a real landmark for the area, we enjoy being part of a really creative community and we have friends who are involved with Tea Leaf Arts [in fact, they helped Tea Leaf Arts with the fit-out of the gallery] and it will be great to be next door to something so new and exciting.

"The list of projects we're currently working on ranges from educational and community projects through to residential and retail developments. We design stand-alone buildings and interiors.

"We're definitely keen to make a positive contribution to the community and we hope that we'll attract new people to the area - I was at an architects party last Friday, plugging Brockley furiously.

"One of the first things we'd like to do is make some improvements to the front of our new office, discouraging cars from parking in front of the windows by softening and greening the area with some simple planting."

Green Tea Architects
The Tea Factory
104 Endwell Road
London
SE4 2LX
e: info@greenteaarchitects.com
t: 0208 469 3637

Designing out crime

"It turns out that people are many, many more times likely to be helpful in the way of giving you change for a dollar if they're somewhere where the air smells good...

"Actually what determines what people do is at least as much their circumstances as their character - perhaps surprisingly, more their circumstances than their character.

"And what that suggests... is that it's terrifically important to shape the world in the way that gives people the context in which they'll behave well."

Professor Anthony Appiah,
Analysis, Radio 4, June 29th

A few weeks ago, Radio 4 broadcast a fascinating programme, which looked at how humans make moral choices. The implication of Anthony Appiah's comments is that we can reduce crime and anti-social behaviour through environmental design.

We were reminded of these comments the other day, when walking past the bottom of Cranfield Road. A group of three lads was parked up in their car, eating their fairly-disgusting looking burgers. The one in the passenger seat, furthest from the kerb opened his window and lobbed a mass of greasy paper and food over the roof of the car, on to the pavement.

We are not particularly brave, but writing this blog means we sometimes feel an obligation to put our money where out mouth is... We picked up the rubbish and spoke to the guy through the window, asking him not to chuck stuff on the ground. People with such a strong disregard for civil behaviour are often those with the strongest sense of personal honour, so we were fairly worried about being stabbed. Instead, we just got incredulous looks: what business was it of ours and why did we care?

Anyway, it's not a new observation that environment and behaviour are strongly linked, but it further underlines the need to take design and enforcement seriously when it comes to our streets. Create the right environment and people will behave better. Allow rubbish to pile up, cars to park on pavements and shops to use security shutters and people will treat the place disrespectfully. Hem pedestrians in behind ugly fences and cars speed up.

So problems like parking enforcement in Brockley Cross and fly tipping aren't just superficial or aesthetic issues, they are fundamental to the way our local community works. Fix the pavements in Brockley Road and the rest will follow.

By the way, the rest of the Radio 4 programme went on to argue that humans have a tendency to decide what is right based on moral impulses that are hard-wired in to us courtesy of natural selection and that we try to retrofit rational argument in order to justify our instincts even when there is little rational basis for our feelings. We're sure no-one using this website would recognise that kind of behaviour.

Brockley Bites

Harold and Maude @ The Brockley Jack Film Club

On Monday 20 July, 7.30pm, The Brockley Jack Film Club will end its first season with "the dark yet very touching comedy classic Harold and Maude."

There will also be a celebratory glass of wine, a short film by Honor Oak filmmaker Julia Ford and a film quiz.

The Way We See It @ Tank Gallery

This photography exhibition opens with a private viewing on July 21st (apply by joining the Facebook group here) and then runs for 3 weeks, Wednesday - Sunday, 12pm - 6pm.

Misty Moon Art and Craft Fair @ St Hilda's Hall

The Fair is being held at St Hilda's Hall, Courtrai Road, Crofton Park, SE4 on July 25th 2009. Doors open 12pm - 5pm.

Entrance FREE, Refreshments available.

There are stalls covering handmade jewellery, cakes and chocolates,cards, bags and ceramics, hand made toys, beauty products, hand mademosiacs, two local artists, a stall with vintage clothes, a localauthor signing her book, and a photographer for your portraits.

The organisers add:

"We are taking a break during August but will be back in September at a new venue, The Honor Oak, so if anyone would like a stall please contact Stuart on 07960 993737."

Forest Hill pool rebirth

Mayor Bullock has abandoned plans to build a swimming pool on a new site in Forest Hill, choosing instead to create a new facility on the site of the existing Forest Hill Pool. The project will ensure that the historic facade is retained and that swimming facilities are restored to the area as quickly as possible.

At a meeting last night, the Mayor and cabinet considered the results of the consultation and opted for the existing site on the basis that it minimised the risk of delay and should ensure a new swimming pool by 2012.

The project will involve some death masking - retaining the frontage of the building but redeveloping the rest of the site, to create two new pools. On his website, Mayor Bullock writes:

"In the present circumstances of uncertainty about the funding of future public services across the country I was minded to take a decision that had the lowest possible level of risk attached to it. The Willow Way option was the best financially and had significant support in the consultation. However there was a greater degree of risk involved in achieving planning agreement for a development on that site as there is no previous leisure use. The Dartmouth Road site offers very few planning issues but requires an additional capital sum.

"In the interest of moving quickly and with as much certainty as possible to get swimming going again in Forest Hill in decided to increase yet again the sum allocated in order to proceed immediately with a new facility on the Dartmouth Road site."

The decision follows an extremely active campaign in the local area to save Forest Hill Pool and the result has been welcomed by the Forest Hill Society.

Slowly, but surely, Lewisham is reducing its leisure facilities deficit.

Brockley Station - more delays

A while back, we reported that Council officers were expecting a short delay in the reopening of the bridge across Brockley Station, which allows people to access it from the west side.

The bridge and much of Coulgate Street has been fenced-off for months now, while building work takes place to remodel the station and provide greater access to Brockley Common. It's a great project, which has been years in development. Unfortunately, it feels like years in construction too. The closures have added many minutes to the daily routines of commuters, make access problematic for pushchairs and wheelchairs, make east and west Brockley even more detached from one another and do businesses operating on either side of the tracks no favours. If you happen to live in Coulgate Street, it can't be much fun.

The project's problems were reportedly caused by the discovery of asbestos but the additional earthworks required were completed ages ago and work on site suggests no great sense of urgency to get the project back on track.

Cllr Dean Walton has been trying to get to the bottom of the delay and has written about it on his blog. We don't want to be accused of selectively quoting one of our local councillor's blog posts, so please go and read the whole thing for yourself here.

The upshot of his investigations is that there is no clear timetable for the project's completion or even for the reopening of the footbridge. The last response he got came yesterday from the Highways department, which simply read:

"Dear Cllr Walton We are urgently discussing progress on this scheme with the contractor. We are concerned to get the steps opened as quickly as possible. I will advise you as soon as I have firmer information."

Richard Herring: Hitler Moustache at the Amersham Arms

A couple of weeks ago we squeezed in to the Chuckle Club, Kings College, to see Stewart Lee's Edinburgh preview show. Last night, we had a chance to compare his former comedy writing partner Richard Herring, who was performing his preview at the Amersham Arms, New Cross.

Although Lee is ostensibly the more 'political' comedian, Herring's show - about trying to reclaim the "Hitler moustache" for comedy - was the more activist and had been lent extra weight by the BNP European election wins.

He enjoys setting logic traps for his audience, like the paradoxes that Joseph Heller plays with in Catch-22. By the end of one part of his act, he'd made a convincing case for why "the racist man", who dismisses much of Asia and Oceania as "Chinese" is actually more of a colour-blind idealist than woolly liberals like us.

We managed to bag a sofa right by the front of the stage, which was fantastic, but hard work. As the show was a chance to try new material and as we were in direct line-of-sight of the stand-ups, we felt obliged to show encouragement by grinning furiously, laughing on cue and, pulling a few theatrical "reaction" faces. Like a knob.

Anyway, we understand that no-one comes to Brockley Central to read our opinions about comedy, so we'll simply add that it was very funny, with more to say than his last show, 'The Headmaster's Son'.

We'd not been to the Amersham since it got taken over by the Lock Tavern team, other than to stick our head inside when it first re-opened and we can't vouch for it as a music venue, but as a comedy venue, it worked pretty well. Perhaps because it was a Monday night, the audience needed a lot of geeing up during Russell Kane's act but the dark wooden walls, the intimacy of the space and the efficiency with which drinks were served eventually helped to create an atmospheric gig.

Brockley Bees - Cross-Pollination

Following the recent article about Brockley honey (Brockley Kate's twitter feed provides a running commentary on its availability), David got in touch to ask if there are any other local beekeepers who'd be willing to be interviewed by him for a magazine article:

Hi Nick

I'm researching an article about honey for Country Kitchen magazine. I'd like to talk to a couple of local beekeepers.

Please could you post something on Brockley Central with my contact number 020 8692 2861?

New Thames crossing options reviewed

A while back, with some help from the Greens, Boris killed the Thames Gateway Bridge - the only fully-developed and costed idea on the table for solving the chronic lack of options for crossing the Thames in the east of London.

But it turns out that we do need a river crossing after all - except now we've had to go back to the drawing board and review a list of options, all of which seem considerably worse than the Gateway Bridge option and would take many more years to see the light of day.

Greenwich.co.uk has a very good summary of the TfL discussion document that sets out the main contenders. The noises coming from the Mayor suggest that he's keenest on the idea of a crossing between the Dome and Silvertown. 853blog has an excellent analysis of why this is a very bad idea - not least because it doesn't create any new crossing points from the south side, funneling traffic via the A102. It's also a more car-centric option than the Gateway Bridge was, which should please the Greens no-end.

Boris unveils new ELL trains



Transport for London today unveiled the first of the 20 new trains that will serve the East London Line when it opens next year.

The trains will be similar in design to the majority of the tube trains serving London, but will be completely walk-through and air-conditioned.

The Mayor said:

“For far too long passengers on our Overground lines have suffered from crumbling unreliable trains that were just not up to muster. Every element on these brand spanking new trains has been crafted to meet the capital’s needs and the standard of design will surprise even the most hardened traveller. Air conditioning, walk through carriages and CCTV, combined with the completion of all the East London Line work by 2012, will revolutionise the London Overground network.”

The new trains will join 34 more, which wlll serve the rest of the London Overground network, that will form an orbital service by 2012, with the further extension of the ELL to Clapham Junction.
London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, said:

“By 2011 we will be able to add a fourth carriage, increasing capacity by 50 per cent. As we roll out this new fleet, we will continue our expansion of the line and our station improvements programme, which will make the former service unrecognisable.”

The new trains, which will be three-carriages long, will be able to carry almost 500 people. When Overground platforms are extended in 2011 to cater for trains four-carriages long, the trains will be able to carry almost 700 people each.

Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You

"Well the Jerk Store called, and they're running out of you."
- George Costanza*

Time Out's Big Smoke Blog is compiling a list of new names for London's emerging agglomerations - or districts - to join the likes of Chinatown and Tin Pan Alley.

With your help, we'd like to propose one for Brockley - but what agglomerations should Brockley be most famous for?

Time Out's already assigned the title of "The Ukulele Quarter" to an area near Brick Lane - a title which Brockley has at least as much claim to, given that it's almost impossible to think of an event or venue in the area that hasn't been graced by the Brockley Ukulele Group.

So what else is there?

The Jerkstore ought to be a leading contender, given the range of Caribbean food options in the area and that Brockley can lay claim to possibly the only jerk bagel specialist store in London.

Studio City could reflect the fact that the area organises not one but two major open studio events every year, not to mention its arts and crafts fairs, community gallery, public art, The Telegraph Hill Festival, Brockley MAX and Hillaballoo.

Or, in honour of Brockley's uniquely-awful double roundabout, perhaps we could become known as Little Milton Keynes.

All contributions welcome - except for the first person to offer up Mungville.

*PS - we know we have used that quote before, but it works on so many levels...

Ladywell CPZ consultation

Cllr Sue Luxton reports that Ladywell residents will shortly receive consultation papers concerning the possible introduction of a controlled parking zone around the station.

She points out that the consultation follows requests from local residents and she comes out in favour of a CPZ for a number of reasons in relation to the area's specific parking problems. She also points out that increased revenues could benefit the borough-wide road maintenance budget:

"The more CPZs we have in the borough, the more revenue in the highways budget to sort out the appalling state of roads in this area. Boroughs such as Camden which is almost entirely CPZ, have significantly more revenue to spend on resurfacing works than Lewisham does."

Ode to a Steak and Kidney Pudding

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die

- Abdul Alhazred

We hope you wrote the recipe down, because the steak and kidney pudding gravestone has gone from Harefield Road.

The removal men visited recently and took with them one of Brockley's most curious fixtures - a gravestone in someone's front garden, semi-hidden behind bamboo, with a recipe for steak and kidney pudding engraved on it.

We wouldn't have chosen it for our front garden, but we will miss it greatly.

Building a mystery

So, something is finally happening to the decrepit Wickham Road wall which BC has been moaning about for a good year now. However it appears that in order for re-construction to take place, demolition must first occur. Hence the chaos which has been visited on what was previously a leafy garden ...


These pics were taken a week or so ago, and the situation since then has progressed a bit - concrete foundations have been laid in the trench. Clearly the council's PFI contractor Equipe, which is carrying out the work, values longevity. BC has contacted Equipe to ask them for more detail on their plans, and will keep you posted if we hear back from them.

BrocSoc meeting, July 14th

The Brockley Society is meeting on Tuesday and you are cordially invited to attend. Kate writes:

The next Brockley Society meeting is on Tuesday 14 July at 8.00 at the Brockley Social Club, corner of Brockley and Foxberry rds, behind the big hedge, ring the bell and say you're here for the Brockley Society meeting and they'll let you in.

Everyone who lives in the conservation area is automatically a member and anyone who lives anywhere in SE4 is very welcome to come along too. This is your opportunity to discuss things that you think need to be done in Brockley and to meet like minded people who might want to join you in starting a campaign to make a change. Recent projects discussed have included transition towns, tree felling on railway lines, use of mews properities and community campaigns against inappropriate developments. Come along and get involved.

Lewisham People's Day 2009

The Lewisham People's Day festival takes place today, from 12pm - 7pm, Mountsfield Park, Catford.

The organisers promise that it will "reflect the borough’s vibrant cosmopolitan community and showcase an eclectic mix of entertainment including music, dance and wonderful street theatre as well as children’s activities, sports, fashion shows and crafts."

Download the programme here.

The Big Lunch in Brockley, July 19th

Hippy - There was a lot of new energy in the room tonight and some of it was just so Rainbow Rhythms... and some of it was just so not Rainbow Rhythms.

Mark - You're talking about me, aren't you? Why don't you just say you're talking about me? I'm sorry if you assume that I eat red meat and don't necessarily think money or Tony Blair are a bad thing. But, if there isn't room here for someone who stands against everything you believe in, then what sort of a hippy free-for-all is this?

- Peep Show

Sorry we've not really been pulling our weight around here this last week - we have been consumed by a pitch process from hell, trying to construct an all-singing, all dancing PR campaign for somebody.

In fact, what we ended up proposing was not a million miles away from "The Big Lunch", which is the kind of thing which every marketing agency is trying to come up with these days. If you haven't seen it, it's a feel good, faux-grassroots campaign to get people to plan street parties next weekend. It's the sort of thing Brockley Central should like, but can't quite fully embrace.

Maybe it's the irritating ad (old people like video games!), maybe it's the zeitgeisty fusion of Jamie's Ministry of Food and Sarah Beeny's Streets Ahead. Maybe it's the sugary, Innocent-esque brand. Maybe it's the fact that it's the kind of thing we never manage to get past the pitch stage.

However, we wish the people who are actually organising events as part of The Big Lunch well and we've been meaning to get around to writing about it for some time.

The website is maddeningly unhelpful as a way of telling you what sort of parties are actually happening and while we've been contacted by a number of people who've said they're organising something, when we've written back to ask for more details, we've drawn a blank. So, we're not in the position to give you the full details, but we think that parties in Brockley will be taking place in:

Manwood/Salehurst Roads (this is a cert, as it comes from friend of BC, Patrick)
Wickham Road
Arthurdon Road (thanks to Fabhat for that tip-off)

If you're involved in the organisation of these events and want to let people know what you're planning, please feel to use this thread to post your comments and news.

East London Line Phase Two: Hope for Surrey Canal Road?

Phase One of the East London Line (which includes Brockley) is well underway, and plans for Phase Two (Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction) are firming up. The community north of New Cross Road were hoping they would be included in Phase Two, via the creation of a new station at Surrey Canal Road. Alas, the powers that be decided against this.

However there may be some small glimmer of hope. Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock has given permission for the council to campaign for the creation of the new station.

The station would provide direct access to Milwall Stadium for visiting and local footie fans, and provide transport access for people living across a swathe of Deptford, New Cross and Peckham.

Lewisham Council will now submit their case to Transport for London, and will work with local land-owners and residents to build public support.

Brockley Road girl convicted of honey trap murder

Samantha Joseph, 16, has been convicted of murder for luring a Deptford boy to his death at the hands of a south London gang. The Times reports:

Joseph, who had no previous convictions, was brought up by her hard-working mother, Sheila, the head chef at a pub in Brockley. She lived with her mother in a flat above a bookmaker’s on the busy Brockley Road in southeast London.

A total of seven people will be sentenced for the crime, which took place in Thornton Heath, last year.

The Coulgate Street Survey - Please Give Your Views

Following on from the petition in support of the part-pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street, the Brockley Cross Action Group is now asking for your views on how the project should take shape.

The Brockley Assembly recently supported a motion to carry out a scoping exercise.

To have your say, simply click here to complete a short questionnaire and then please come back to tell us what you think.

Havelock Walk Open Studios - this weekend in Forest Hill

Not that all we've got to talk about is open studios, but if you missed out on last week’s art-fest in Brockley, or have a thirst for more, it’s Forest Hill's turn this weekend, in the form of Havelock Walk Open Studios.

Things are a bit different to the Brockley setup - with it being centred around one quirky street of live/work units, there's far less walking (and possibly less nosing around getting house-envy) but the quality looks to be just as high. It'll be our first time there, so expect a follow up in the next week or two.

Brockley Open Studios Weekend

A quick reminder that this weekend is Brockley Open Studios. We've been twittering about it today and will do the same tomorrow.

This picture is reproduced courtesy of Gillian Golding, whose rabbit-gnawing-on-Parliament was one of our personal highlights today.

Worst Business Plan Ever: New Cross strip club closes

Transpontine brings us the news that the landlord of the White Hart Pub in New Cross is getting out of the strip club game after only a few months of crab-caked fun.

Market forces had the final word and it's now just a pub again.

Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander to step down

The South London Press reports that Lewisham's Deputy Mayor and Brockley walkabouter, Heidi Alexander is to step down to contest the Lewisham East seat, which is an interesting career move, at this time:

Lewisham’s Labour councillor Heidi Alexander hopes to fight the Lewisham East seat in the next General Election when MP Bridget Prentice steps down.

The cabinet member for regeneration said: “Residents in Lewisham may not have seen the last of me – though I am sure it will be a hard selection process.

“I have learnt a huge amount in my time as councillor and feel very privileged to have represented the people of Deptford.

“I have got to know lots of great people – both within the party and beyond it – and hope that I have made a genuine difference to our local community.”

Thanks to Patrick for spotting it.

Melancholy Star emerges in Brockley

Brockley's burgeoning creative industries cluster has recently been swelled by the arrival of Melancholy Star, a brand new independent animation & VFX studio.

The studio has recently appointed
Kostas Koutsoliotas, whose latest work on Flynn Productions directorial duo Karni & Saul’s music video for Flogging Molly’s latest single ‘Float’ won them the award for best Music Video at the Annecy Festival 2009:

Melancholy Star is
a Brockley-based studio and now boasts some of the hottest talent to emerge from Glasgow School of Art over the past 5 years. With the addition of Koutsoliotas to the already talented team, the company is equipped to handle almost any production scenario. The studio has a full book of work lined up and is looking to expand its portfolio of clients.

For more information, please visit the Melancholy Star website at www.melancholystar.com or contact Sam Brace (Producer) sam@melancholystar.com

Creative Mums Network in Brockley

Brockley Central is always happy to receive a guest column, even if they come from friends and family. This is from Nicola:

Are there any BC readers interested in joining a creative mums network?

I'm a TV producer and mother to 2 young children living in Brockley. After the birth of my daughter last year, I decided to give up my staff job at the BBC to go freelance, partly because I decided it would better suit family life. What I hadn't reckoned on was that, without anyone to bounce ideas off combined with the the fact that motherhood often left me feeling pretty detached from the outside world, I felt stripped of any creative urges I may have had previously.

Most creative industries strive on youth and enthusiasm and you're often left wondering where people go to once they reach 35. The truth is, it's hard to combine a creative career with motherhood; the hours can be long and the work can be physically and mentally demanding. It's easy to succumb to negative thoughts and give up and do something less challenging, without properly realising that we've still got a lot to offer, not to mention years of experience.

The idea for the network came about after discussing these points with friends in similar situations and realising that most of us had the same fears and anxieties. The support that can be gained from those who are in or have been in similar situations can be invaluable.

'Creative Mums' will offer support, advice, networking opportunities and hopefully inspiration to mothers working or involved in creative industries.I'm particularly interested in meeting with any interested local mums and this stage, while the network is beginning to take shape - if you're interested in getting involved please email me.

Alternatively, you could join my Facebook group or follow me on Twitter to keep abreast of the network as it develops.

The Big Brockley BBQ, July 3rd

Moe: Oh, boy! The deep fryer's here. I got it used from the navy. You can flash-fry a buffalo in forty seconds.
Homer: Forty seconds? But I want it now!

The Brockley Society invite you to join them for a BBQ in the Stone Circle tomorrow night.

The event is their way of thanking all the volunteers involved with making the Hilly Fields Summer Fayre happen, but everyone is welcome.

You'll need to take your own food and drink, but BrocSoc will be providing the biggest BBQ in south east London to cook on. And, of course, it will be an opportunity to find out more about their work and perhaps volunteer to help with next year's event. They write:

Big thanks to everyone who helped make the Hilly Fields Fayre on Saturday 20th June such a brilliant success and such a fantastic day for our community. The help and participation of so many, many people is what is responsible.

The large numbers of teenagers present made me proud that we were catering for everyone right across the board including toddlers, dog lovers, bargain hunters, discerning art lovers and even one or two grumpy old men and women.

To say thank you to all who helped with the Fayre: Brockley Barbecue this Friday 3 July, 7.30pm, Stone Circle on Hilly Fields.

Everyone else is also welcome - bring friends and family.

Crossrail funding fears

The Guardian is reporting that a £30 billion funding gap in Britain's transport budget could delay Crossrail:

A leaked industry memo seen by the Guardian warned of "looming spending cuts" on major transport projects after Department for Transport officials described the consequences of restoring order to public finances. There are now fears that major schemes could be delayed, reduced or scrapped in an expenditure freeze. They include the £16bn Crossrail scheme linking Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf and Essex, which could be delayed.

Although work has already begun on the project in locations including Canary Wharf and Tottenham Court Road, there have been fears for some time that the project's funding might still be reviewed; suspicions fuelled by articles such as this one by Simon Jenkins.

Crossrail will create a new interchange with the East London Line at Whitechapel, providing Brockley residents with a much faster route to west London and Heathrow than at present. More importantly, it's vital to the growth of Canary Wharf and other business districts in east London, currently constrained by the limits of the Jubilee Line. Crossrail will help to drag the centre of London's gravity eastwards and - in this respect - is important for the long-term prosperity of south east London (not to mention the fact that it will serve Woolwich and Abbey Wood).

Its delay, therefore, would constitute a serious setback for this part of the city.

[Brockley Nick here: While I hope I've done enough over the last 3 years of blogging about Brockley to demonstrate that my motives are pure and true, in the interests of transparency, I should note that the company I work for provides public relations support for a company with a commercial interest in Crossrail]

Ladywell Councillors' Loampit Vale reaction

Ladywell Councillors Sue Luxton, Ute Michel and Mike Keogh have submitted a response to the Loampit Vale proposal. Sue stresses it's not the official Green Party position.

The comments are broadly constructive and they have found much worthy of praise in the scheme, while seeking clarification on a number of issues relating to parking, traffic, healthcare facilities and the low level of social housing (though obviously the type of resident this development is aimed at - relatively affluent, young, childless people - is the same demographic which will put least strain on local healthcare services).

The response opens with an attack on the height of some of the proposed buildings, while accepting that this is a legitimate site for a high-density development. And here is the problem. If we want high-density, but place arbitrary height restrictions (based on purely subjective notions of what is 'too high') then what invariably happens is that a height reduction for the towers is matched by an increase in the height of buildings elsewhere. So rather than a few, relatively slender, elegant towers, the development becomes a monolithic slab, like Robin Hood Gardens. If you look at the early massings produced by the architect, you can see the alternative - squat and unrelenting. As for towering over Cornmill Gardens, well the juxtaposition of tall buildings with open spaces can be dramatic and beautiful - see Central Park, or more pertinently, Jubilee Park, for details. The comparison with New York might be ridiculous, but it is no more ridiculous than the regular comparisons with Croydon, which you can find on the petition against these plans.

We like their suggestions for improvements to Loampit Vale / Hill, though we don't buy the argument that a large injection of new people and shops in the area will damage the prospects of businesses located there. The new shops are unlikely to directly compete with the existing ones, and a revitalised Lewisham could benefit everyone. However, by all means drive as hard a bargain as possible with the s106.

Here's their response:

While in principle we welcome the building of a new leisure centre, new retail and housing units on this site, we have grave concerns about some aspects of the proposals. We formally object to the height of the buildings proposed.

24 storeys is too high and will tower over Cornmill Gardens and the surrounding area. The fact that there is a very ugly tower (Citibank) adjacent to the site should not act as a precedent to build more. We are supportive of high-density developments in areas with such good public transport links, but would argue that this is overdevelopment. In addition we would like to flag up other concerns about the proposed scheme, which we would like to see addressed:

1. The impact on existing services, in particular GP services: residents in our ward are concerned that the existing facilities at St John’s Medical Centre are insufficient to cope with an additional 2,000 patients. What work has been done on the impact this development will have on local health services, as well as school places?

2. The impact on neighbouring streets from increased traffic as a result of the development: a controlled parking zone is already in place in part of the surrounding area and a consultation on extending this to further parts of Ladywell is due to commence shortly. Would the stated principle that residents of the new flats will not be eligible to apply for permits for CPZs be confirmed in writing by the Council if the application was successful? What measures will be taken to prevent neighbouring streets such as Algernon Road, Ellerdale Street, Marsala Road, Sandrock Road and Undercliff Road becoming rat-runs and through routes to and from the development?

3. Low level of social housing: while we welcome the fact that a reasonable percentage of the social housing proposed comprises larger, family units, we are concerned that the overall level of homes for social rent in the development is only 19%, and affordable housing overall is only 24% including intermediate housing. This is below the borough’s stated threshold for developments of this size and does not sufficiently contribute to addressing the dire shortage of affordable housing in the borough.

4. If the committee is minded to pass the application, we would request that S106 contributions for improvements to the railway bridges and the footpath on Loampit Vale are added as a condition. We are concerned that with the new development, the existing businesses further up Loampit Vale and Loampit Hill, which are already struggling, will become even more marginalised. We would welcome efforts to improve the streetscape along the lower part of Loampit Vale, but urge that these improvements are carried out further up as well, as far as the junction with Tyrwhitt Road, to help connect the two parts of Loampit more successfully than is currently the case. We would suggest that this should include the planting of street trees, installation of cycle racks outside shops and funds for a community artwork project under the railway bridge arches, which are currently an eyesore.

5. We welcome the fact that the leisure centre will reach BREEAM excellent. We acknowledge that code for sustainable homes level 4 is better than many developments in the borough are currently reaching, but given this is such a landmark development and considering the lifetime of the building, we would like to have seen it reach level 5.

6. We welcome the CHP and the potential for this to be used in the future by the neighbouring school, but 11% on site energy generation is lower than the London Plan specifies and leaves future residents exposed to high levels of energy insecurity in a future with dwindling oil supplies and high energy prices.

7. Is there any provision for on site composting of food waste? The volume of waste generated on site will create considerable extra vehicle movements and carbon footprints if it is all to be processed remotely.

8. In the travel plan it mentions the provision of 8 spaces for car club cars – this is to be welcomed, but we would urge that at least some of these are in publicly accessible areas so the wider community can benefit, as suggested, not just in the private car park.

Brockley Open Studios, July 4th - 6th

Homer: This pea soup is as weak as the acting and nowhere near as hammy.
Lisa: Dad, that's so mean!
Homer: The other critics told me to be mean, and you should always give in to peer pressure. Lisa: But what if someone bad tells me to...
Homer: Always!


More than 40 local artists will be participating in the Brockley Open Studios, which takes place this weekend, from Saturday to Monday (click here for the times). This is the 17th annual event, which appears to go from strength-to-strength.

We know Brockley Kate bats for the Summer Fayre, but in our opinion, this is the local event of the summer.

Every year, someone with a fine art degree and a career in pen pushing emerges on to the pages of Brockley Central and declares the art on show at the Brockley Open Studios weekend to be mundane. And each year, they are wrong. Hopelessly so.

The Brockley Open Studios weekend is joyous - as memorable for the hospitality as it is for the art. There is a wide variety of work on display - some serious, some playful. The experience of exploring the neighbourhood with hundreds of other people is like a community treasure hunt, with the occasional bowl of complimentary crisps thrown in. And there are plenty of treasures to be found, if you are prepared to look.

Click here for the list of participating artists and click here for Brockley Sarah's review of last year's event.

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