Cleggmania hits Lewisham

Bigger than Beatles thanks to his largely competent performances in the televised election debates, Nick Clegg is hitting Blackheath on Monday.

Prospective Councillor Max Calo reports that he'll be hitting Montpelier Vale on Monday 3rd May at 10am, Blackheath, Lewisham, SE3 0TJ.

Meanwhile, Max and Joan Ruddock have been having a frank exchange of views about the Iraq War on the Guardian's Comment is free website. Read Max's original article here and Joan's reply here.

Gordonbrock head to leave in the summer

The Head of Gordonbrock School in Ladywell, Sue Blyth, has announced her departure in today's school newsletter. She says:

At the end of the summer term I shall be saying goodbye to Gordonbrock as I have been appointed to a Head’s job in another school. I shall really miss your lovely children and all the hardworking, dedicated staff who have worked at Gordonbrock over the years.

Having worked on the rebuild of the school in one form or other over the last seven years I am very clear that the children and the staff deserve a building that meets their educational needs, and I really hope that this takes place soon.


The news comes ahead of the Brockley Society's meeting to present their alternative vision for the school's future development on May 4th.

The Wickham Arms, Upper Brockley Road

The Wickham Arms
69 Upper Brockley Road
SE4 1TF
Tel: 020 8692 8686





The Wickham Arms new Soul nights start tonight and to mark the occasion, we interviewed the Wickham team about their plans for the future. They involve music, wifi and hog roast. Enjoy.

How would you describe the Wickham Arms?

A rough diamond of a pub with lots of history and character. A friendly & jovial atmosphere awaits all customers; from builders to poets & students, you’ll find all sorts propping up the bar here.

What changes will you be making in the coming months?


We’ve already done up the ladies loos and the kitchen is in the process of being gutted in time for Summer. Many a BBQ & Hog Roast are on the cards – weather permitting. Hopefully we will have a good few months and be able to look at bigger upgrades in the Autumn like opening up the windows - i know a lot of patrons are keen to see that.Thanks to the help of my daughter we’re also starting to embrace the digital age, with the design of a new website underway. We even have a Facebook group now! We have such amazing live music here (Thurs, Sat & Sun) that it was imperative we found a platform to let people know what’s coming up.We’ll also be introducing free WIFI, teas & coffees & a new Wine List over the next few weeks in an attempt to broaden our reach.What mix of customers are you trying to achieve?Anyone who likes a good craic! We’re conscious that many local families, students & residents don’t even know we’re here, or that we offer such diverse live music nights. Hopefully with the advent of the new website and some more active promotion we can arouse people’s curiosity enough for them to come and check us out for themselves. Gone are the days of the dated Friday karaoke – instead we’ll be indulging in a bit of Northern Soul, Ska, Rare Groove, Disco, Motown and whatever else takes our fancy. In fact we’re launching our new night of ‘Brockley Soul’ this Friday 30th with a late license until 2am, so feel free to pop down if you’re in the area.

Do you think Brockley is changing and has that prompted these planned changes to the Wickham?

I do think that over the past few years more people seem to be investing in Brockley. I have noticed a refurbishment of both residential and commercial property, which is great for the community. The Wickham must change with the times too in order to encourage new customers. Times are tough in the pub game so we’re upping our game. We are conscious of not changing too much though, we will always be your local boozer as opposed to gastro pub!

Balancing the wishes of regulars with the need to attract new customers is always a tough challenge, how do you plan to get that right?

I’m sure that the regular customers would welcome new people to banter with, with open arms! There’s no pretences here, we simply enjoy good music, good company & good times (and the occasional late drink!)

In the summer, you fling the doors open, but the rest of the year, the windows make it hard for people to see inside, do you think that puts people off trying the pub out?


It has come to our attention that people may find this off putting, and that’s the last thing we want. As a result we are aiming to install clear glass, but as usual, such things prove quite costly so fingers crossed for a prosperous Summer.

How do you think the community and local business can work together to encourage more people to support their local pubs and bars?


Events like the Brockley Max festival, which we are heavily involved in, are great for bringing members of the community together. It’s a real highlight in our annual calendar. Community wise, we’re open to getting as involved as we can. The pub space and garden is always available to local groups should they wish to use it, and any aspiring artists/students are more than welcome to display their work in the pub. Talking of which we also offering students & teachers 10% off.

How important will music be to the life of the Wickham Arms?


It’s the heart and soul! It’s what we’re renowned for amongst our regulars – and with the help of a newly appointed promotions team, hopefully word will spread to a wider audience. Great bands, crossing a variety of genres, perform at the pub every week. The members of which are extremely modest. If we had our way we’d be shouting about their associations with the all time greats from the rooftops but you’ll have to come down and do some homework to find out exactly who i’m talking about.

Will you be taking part in this year's Brockley Max?

Of course! We love Brockley Max. It’s a great opportunity to showcase what we do best in terms of live entertainment, whilst engaging with members of the local community. Last year we everything from Morris dancers to bands jumping off furniture and attempting to crowd surf!

Are you a sport pub and what will you be doing for the World Cup this year?

We are a Sporty pub, and show anything people want to watch – mainly the horse racing and the football. If something’s on you want to see that hasn’t been advertised feel free to ask the barmaid to switch it on. We have a pool table too. We are very much looking forward to the World Cup. All games will be supported by a BBQ/Hog Roast where possible, along with drinks promotions etc. If the weather holds up we’ll endeavour to show it on the big screen in the garden.

Click for our interviews with:

The Lewisham Elections. Well?

Zapp: I come swinging the olive branch of peace
Neutral President's Aide: Should we trust him, Your Neutralness?
Neutral President: All I know is my gut says maybe
- Futurama

After four text-heavy days, the Brockley Central virtual hustings are at an end. Although the Q&A's featured some stock answers, there were also many that had plenty of thought put in to them and there were some answers that surprised us.

At the Mayoral level, we'll be voting for the individual, not the party and at the parliamentary level, we'll be voting tactically.

We've promised to be neutral ahead of the elections, but you don't have to be, so how did you think the candidates compared and who (including those who didn't participate) will you be voting for?

Lewisham Deptford

Tam Langley
Darren Johnson
Joan Ruddock
Gemma Townsend

Mayor of Lewisham

Dean Walton
Sir Steve Bullock
Simon Nundy
Chris Maines

Some of you will be relieved to hear that there's a story about a pub coming along in a minute.

Wheelie useful?

The bin farm - they all fitted fine beforeWe recently had our wheelie bins swapped around, as per Lewisham Council's new drive to get residents to recycle more and throw away less. There's more information on the Recycle for Lewisham blog. [Brockley Nick adds - or read Nigel Tyrell's excellent explanation of the Council's approach here]

We're glad to be getting more recycling bins - our old one was always full. Only thing is, our house (consisting of 6 flats) now has far too many bins. It seems like we've had a net gain in bin capacity, and it's looking a bit unsightly.

We wondered if any readers had similar experiences, and what your thoughts are on the new bin replacement strategy?

The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Chris Maines

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. The Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor, Cllr Chris Maines, answers our questions. Click for answers from Cllr Dean Walton, Sir Steve Bullock and Simon Nundy.

1. How will you improve Lewisham's local high streets – in particular, Brockley Cross, Lewisham Way, Brockley Road and Ladywell Road?

The new Mayor needs to work with local communities to produce a vision for Lewisham over the next 15/20 years, part of that will be how we think neighbourhoods will develop and how we protect them against both external and local pressures. Lewisham has weak planning guidance. I would like to see planning framework that defines the key elements of local high streets and that can be used to block change of use applications, if there is a resulting loss.

I have campaigned to retain sub post offices around Lewisham, as I see them as anchors to many local parades.

By devolving budgets to strengthen ward assemblies, the local community can explore ways of improving their own shopping areas – environmental improvements, changing parking restrictions, local promotions etc.

2. Will you ensure that plans for the part-pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street happen and in what time frame?

I do not agree with the system of elected mayor and would want to devolve many responsibilities (such as the traffic improvements and traffic management schemes) to strengthened ward assemblies. I would want to be assured that a proposal had been widely consulted on, received community approval and dealt with issues such as parking displacement, drop off facilities for station users etc.

3. There have been a number of problems with Lewisham Council contractors employed to maintain our streets and other public spaces (notably works to Brockley Common), including delays, poor quality work and poor quality materials being used. What will you do to improve performance?

Lewisham is poor at monitoring contractors and contracts. This is an area in need of strengthening the recently introduced London Permits scheme should give the Council greater powers to enforce the utilities to work more efficiently and the Council needs to enforce similar constraints on our own contractors.

4. The Council has created a new Conservation Area in Ladywell. How can the Council better enforce the rules in Lewisham's conservation areas, including the high street businesses that ignore current guidelines on shop fronts?

This is another example of Lewisham Council being weak on enforcement. – everything currently is reactive. We need a regime that is proactive in promoting the rules and working with local businesses to conform. This is an issue that strengthened ward assemblies with devolved budgets can tackle more effectively than the Town Hall.

5. Do you support the current plans for the redevelopment of Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf and - if so - what will you do to ensure that the projects are delivered as soon as possible?

No. The Council has failed in the past to produce full planning briefs for any major developments within the borough, these should be based on a full community consultation and be the vision document for anybody submitting a planning application on a major site. It will be necessary to review what consents have lapsed for the Gateway and negotiate with the current owners of Convoys about the way forward now there is a changed economic environment.

6. Does Lewisham Council need to make budget cuts in the next two years and - if so - how much needs to be cut and what specific cuts would you make?

There are many areas of inefficiency currently within Lewisham Council, regardless of the future financial constraints, this is inevitable after 40 years of one party rule and one reason why change is needed locally. There is duplication between many management functions within the council and with partner organisations – i.e. the PCT, Glendale etc.

I want to explore more income generation and improved use of existing resources. The Council currently has an excessive communications budget and poor recruitment policies has led to a reliance on agency staff at all levels within the organisation.

7. How can Lewisham Council increase the number of places at secondary school level and reduce the number of children having to leave the borough to get an education?

I support the building of a new secondary school and will push for its early completion. We will reduce the number of children that go out of Lewisham by improving standards in our schools, smaller class sizes and well resourced facilities are key to that. The admissions policies need reviewing to ensure they are fair to all families and will work with all Lewisham schools to get agreement.

Many of the children that leave Lewisham go to selective schools (grammar schools) elsewhere in London – I believe in all-ability comprehensive schools and will not change current policy, so will have to accept that some parents choose to send their children elsewhere.

8. What should happen to Gordonbrock School now that the decant and rebuild has been delayed by at least 6 months?

I was disappointed by the delay – I do not think children should have to learn in an Edwardian/Victorian environment and deserve modern facilities. I will work to get the expansion completed as quickly as possible. We need an action plan to extend primary school places to meet the current bulge – the result of poor planning by Lewisham.

9. How will you reduce crime and anti-social behaviour (including littering, flytipping and dog-fouling) in the borough?

I would strengthen ward police teams, with enforcement officers from the Council. Bring together all the people involved in fighting anti-social behaviour should make it more effective. Currently the Council has been weak on proactive enforcement work and this needs to be addressed.

Over the past few months there has been an increase in knife crimes within Lewisham. We need to protect young people from this – I want to see a zero tolerance of knives being carried and will introduce random knife arches and searches, until the message is understood that knives are not to be carried on the streets in Lewisham.

10. As a result of various stock transfers, an ALMO and a PFI contract, Lewisham's social housing is fragmented between a lot of different landlords. This places a massive burden on the council in terms of ensuring consistent service provision and neighbourhood engagement. What will you do as Mayor to deliver on this?'

We are stuck with the variety of housing providers because that was the decision taken by the previous administration. I do not think it necessarily leads to problems suggested in the question – one boroughwide provider delivering a poor service was far worse than now where some provision is very good in parts of Lewisham. I believe in local solutions and do not think boroughwide neighbour engagement is better than trying to ensure that people are involved with the decisions that affect them and their immediate area. Ensuring a consistent service across the borough is not just a housing issue – inspection and monitoring is a area needing improvement by Lewisham Council.

The Lewisham Deptford Elections: Gemma Townsend

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Gemma Townsend, the Conservative Party candidate for Lewisham Deptford, answers our questions. Click for Tam Langley, Darren Johnson and Joan Ruddock's answers.

1. Outside of morning peak time, overland services to London Bridge have been cut from 6 trains per hour to four trains per hour. What will you do to restore the levels of service, which were promised until last year?

I’ve already met with Conservative Assembly Members on the London Assembly and other Conservative candidates in SE London to discuss the problems, identify other services being effected and consider solutions. I will also be raising the issue with the Party’s Shadow Minister for London when she comes to visit the constituency later this week.

If elected I’ll take two clear steps. Firstly meet with Teressa Villiers and Stephen Hammond (Shadow Transport Secretary and Minister), to highlight the local impact of cuts. Secondly, I would work with others set up a cross party working group of elected representatives from across SE London to agree clear priorities for transport in SE London and a clear plan for lobbying on these issues.

2. Do you support the local campaign to revive plans for the South London Loop service to Crofton Park?

I live one minute walk from the station and sadly rarely find the service of any use, meaning Brockley is my local station. It’s vital we get a decent service running through the station if we want more small businesses to continue investing in Crofton Park. It’s also vital that the area as a whole has proper transport links with SW and central London.

I’ve discussed this with Conservative Assembly Members and they and the Mayor have been clear from the start, the Department for Transport must fund these plans. The Mayor has asked TfL to conduct a study with London TravelWatch to consider the options. The report is due next month, by which point we will have a clearer idea of the situation and what the next steps may be.

3. What, specifically, will you do to ensure that the Surrey Canal Station gets built during the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction?

The Government promised us that if Boris (through TfL) and Lewisham Council could find £3m of the £10m needed to build the Surrey Canal Road Station, then the Government would fund the remaining £7m. Boris and Lewisham worked hard to fund their side of the deal. The Government has failed to deliver on this promise. My first step would be to meet with Teressa Villiers and Stephen Hammond to discuss the proposals. Secondly, I’d work with the Mayor and Conservative Assembly Members to put more pressure on the Government. I’d also want to explore what other options are available.

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

Education. I want parents to stay in Lewisham as their family grows and not feel that moving is the only option for decent secondary education. A Conservative Government will restore discipline in the classroom, raise standards by raising the bar for trainee teachers and give heads more power. We want to make it much easier for educational charities, or groups of parents and teachers cooperatives to start up Academies, like the successful Haberdashers Aske Federation.

I’ve worked for Ofsted and I’m currently on the management board at Abbey Manor College in Lewisham. In my professional opinion all schools benefit from sharing good practise. I would encourage the council to establish more formal links between schools to share best practise on tackling specific issues.

5. How will you reduce crime and improve policing in Lewisham Deptford?

I work developing policing and crime policies for the Mayor of London. I speak to police officers every day and they tell me form filling is completely out of hand. Conservative’s will let the police do their job with less form filling, they will completely scrap the ‘stop’ form and restore discretion to police officers, so they can respond quickly and easily to minor misdemeanours.

Locally I’d promote better communication after serious incidents occur, like the Brockley shootings. This could be as simple as having local police notice boards to communicate the facts and regular updates. It’s particularly important that locally we find better ways to communicate the facts to groups that don’t always access to the internet, like pensioners.

6. How can national government help Lewisham Council improve its performance and achieve its aims?

Of the councils with the top 20 highest ‘overall satisfaction’ ratings by their residents in the country, 16 are Conservative. They also provide better value for money, in London Conservative’s charge £38 a year less than Labour on Council Tax and £307 a year less than the Liberal democrats. As a priority the Government must do more to share existing good practise to help councils like Lewisham.

A Conservative Government will allow councils to return to the committee system of local government, promote ward budgets for councillors and scrap flawed predetermination budgets rules which hinder councillors from championing the interests of local residents. Local residents will also be able to petition to hold a referendum on any local issue.

7. What is the one policy you support that you would most like Brockley Central readers to know about?

As crime is such a concern locally, I want readers to know about our plans to help people exit crime. Currently over half of offenders re-offend within a year.

Conservatives want to see a rehabilitation revolution, with post rehabilitation service providers paid by results. It means the company or charity commissioned to deliver the service has to think long and hard about the individual needs, and if they get it wrong, they don’t get paid! This is what the Mayor has done in Feltham, a Young Offenders Institute, so far there have been amazing results. The Conservatives will also try out a new scheme to create Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts, which would mean the right support could continue after prison.

8. Name one thing in the party manifesto with which you personally disagree?

I personally would like to have seen some specific focus on tackling emerging crimes like the use of dangerous dogs in London. It comes up a lot in certain parts of the constituency and it’s a real problem for London as a whole.

The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Simon Nundy

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. The Conservative Party candidate for Mayor, Simon Nundy, answers our questions. Click for answers from Cllr Dean Walton and Sir Steve Bullock.

1.How will you improve Lewisham's local high streets – in particular, Brockley Cross, Lewisham Way, Brockley Road and Ladywell Road?

I have proposed a package of measures designed to give local businesses the support they deserve and also encourage investment into the borough from people looking to set up or expand. This will not only provide much needed local employment but also better services and greater community cohesion.

Part of this strategy is a programme of low cost improvements to Lewisham’s streets and public spaces to create a safer and more attractive environment for those that live and work in the borough.

2. Will you ensure that plans for the part-pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street happen and in what time frame?

This is just the sort of initiative I had in mind in my first answer and whilst there is obviously a need to plan and consult further this seems one of those rare situations where there need not be any losers. I would be happy to support this proposal and provide the political backing required to push past all the usual bureaucratic obstacles.

3. There have been a number of problems with Lewisham Council contractors employed to maintain our streets and other public spaces (notably works to Brockley Common), including delays, poor quality work and poor quality materials being used. What will you do to improve performance?

I intend to review all current procurement procedures to ensure that we not only get value for money but also monitor standards and keep disruption to a minimum. I have already consulted with Wandsworth Council on this and was impressed with the way they deal with external contractors and the way in which they consult widely with local businesses and community leaders.

4. The Council has created a new Conservation Area in Ladywell. How can the Council better enforce the rules in Lewisham's conservation areas, including the high street businesses that ignore current guidelines on shop fronts?

Guidelines on shop fronts are just the sort of thing that help change the feel and mood of a street and, whilst I can understand a degree of resistance from the local businesses that have to pay for them, it is nevertheless necessary to enforce these rules fairly and consistently if they are to make an impact.

5. Do you support the current plans for the redevelopment of Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf and - if so - what will you do to ensure that the projects are delivered as soon as possible?

I have greater misgivings about Lewisham Gateway than I do Convoys Wharf but in both cases I would need to establish what my legal options were before looking at any possible changes to the current plans. I am not convinced that the height and density of Lewisham Gateway is appropriate and I am sure that the implications for traffic flow have been conveniently ignored. I suspect that Lewisham Gateway will probably stall at some point, meaning we’ll need a plan B.

Generally I tend towards low rise mixed development and am concerned that there has not been sufficient work done on the implications of both schemes for local infrastructure – both transport links and public services such as schools and hospitals.

6. Does Lewisham Council need to make budget cuts in the next two years and - if so - how much needs to be cut and what specific cuts would you make?

I’ve had as good a look at the books as is possible from the outside and am convinced there are millions to be saved without effecting front line services. Having consulted more efficiently run councils like Wandsworth and Bromley I believe it possible to cut council tax by 5% and still pay off debt and improve services. Less than 10% of expenditure is covered by council tax so a 1% efficiency saving goes a long way. Lewisham fails to collect £6.5 million in council tax each year, spends £27 million a year on agency staff, spends 25% of the education budget on admin and pays over £28 million in interest every year. I’m sure that those examples are only the tip of the iceberg.

7. How can Lewisham Council increase the number of places at secondary school level and reduce the number of children having to leave the borough to get an education?

At primary school level we need more places urgently including additional special needs places. I would make this a priority and also take advantage of the necessary expansion to provide more special needs places in the borough. At secondary level the problem is more a lack of quality places. I intend to work closely with school Governors to make sure failing schools get the leadership they need whilst giving greater autonomy and control of budgets to those that know what they are doing.

8. What should happen to Gordonbrock School now that the decant and rebuild has been delayed by at least 6 months?

As with Lewisham Gateway I would need to check the legal position but I am told that the objection was a technical one and that funding will still be available. Whilst I have some sympathy with the Brockley Society objections I believe that the education of the pupils at Gordonbrock is paramount and that a quick solution is required which may mean going ahead with the original rebuild as soon as legally possible.

9. How will you reduce crime and anti-social behaviour (including littering, flytipping and dog-fouling) in the borough?

I have proposed a Mayoral Crime Liaison Office that answers directly to the Mayor and is responsible for ensuring maximum co-operation between police, estate managers, schools, and other relevant bodies. This would include looking at schemes such as neighbourhood watch and other community initiatives.

I also believe that my plans to tackle truancy and illiteracy early will have a knock on effect over time as we see a reduction in the number of children dropping out of the system at a young age and drifting into crime.

10. As a result of various stock transfers, an ALMO and a PFI contract, Lewisham's social housing is fragmented between a lot of different landlords. This places a massive burden on the council in terms of ensuring consistent service provision and neighbourhood engagement. What will you do as Mayor to deliver on this?'

First of all we need to address the chronic state of those properties still under direct control of the borough through Lewisham Homes.

Secondly we need to monitor the standards of the myriad of ALMO’s and housing associations, although to be fair they are doing a much better job than the council have done in the past and should be congratulated on their progress so far.

We also need to tackle issues such as empty properties and sub letting and ensure that estates are cleaner and more pleasant places to live which will in turn help reduce anti-social behaviour, vandalism and crime.

Read more about our positive plans for change in The Lewisham Gazette or visit:
www.nundy4mayor.com

The Lewisham Deptford Elections: Joan Ruddock

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Joan Ruddock, the incumbent Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, answers our questions. Click for Tam Langley and Darren Johnson's answers.


1. Outside of morning peak time, overland services to London Bridge have been cut from 6 trains per hour to four trains per hour. What will you do to restore the levels of service which were promised until last year?

I have met with the train operator about time table changes and reductions in service. They argue that there are technical limitations at London Bridge that cannot be overcome. I have pressed the case and they have agreed to meet with me again in July to review the effects and discuss possible compromises. Thanks to unprecedented levels of investment by Labour many commuters are benefitting from new lines and new trains and in future more carriages to reduce overcrowding, but I’m determined to pursue this vital local issue. I’m delighted that pressure from local Labour MPs like myself secured the East London Line extension due to open in May.

2. Do you support the local campaign to revive plans for the south London Loops service to Crofton Park?

Yes. I’m aware of the difficulties arising from the planned rebuilding of London bridge station and the proposal to close the line in 2012. The Save the London Line campaign has been chaired by my colleague Val Shawcross, Labour candidate for Bermondsey & Southwark and I very much support the alternative service running from Victoria through Crofton Park to Bellingham.

3. What, specifically, will you do to ensure that the Surrey Canal Station gets built during the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction?

I have argued the case for the Surrey Canal Road Station ever since the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction was proposed. I obtained a promise from the Department of Transport to provide £7m for the new station on the basis of a value for money assessment after Boris Johnson refused to fund it. Since then I have actively campaigned and intervened with both DfT and TfL as negotiations have stalled. The cost estimate of the station left a £3m ‘gap’ which Lewisham Council have offered to fill. I will continue to strongly argue for the station and if re-elected will meet with ministers again immediately after the election.

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

I have many local priorities for the different areas in the constituency ranging from the improvements to Brockley Station and Brockley Common (I chair the local stakeholders group) to Deptford Station redevelopment (I initiated and chair the group) to redevelopment at New Cross Gate Station and the Sainsbury’s site (another of my stakeholder groups). I will continue to press for improvements in existing homes, including greater energy efficiency and for more affordable homes to be built with on-site energy generation to enable people to benefit from the clean energy payback scheme introduced by the government. My overall priority is to support the economic recovery by getting Labour re-elected to government.

5. How will you reduce crime and improve policing in Lewisham Deptford?

Crime has reduced dramatically as a result of Labour policies on neighbourhood policing and better detection methods. However violence amongst young people is a huge problem which despite all our efforts continues to be completely unacceptable. I will guarantee that we will keep up police numbers. I will press for maximum police time on the streets, close contact with communities, engaging parents and supporting diversionary activities for young people.

6. How can national government help Lewisham Council improve its performance and achieve its aims?

The Labour government introduced a reporting framework of indicators and targets for local government. This has led to considerable improvement and efficiencies including boosting recycling rates and the use of green energy. National government also provides for the decent homes standard that has improved 5000 Lewisham properties in the social housing sector with many more in the pipeline.

7. What is the one policy you support that you would most like Brockley Central readers to know about?

As Minister for Energy and Climate Change, I have helped develop and execute the Labour government’s policies on energy efficiency and climate change. I am proud of our record – we are the first government in the world to bring into law absolute limits on greenhouse gases. Every government department now has a carbon budget and we have nearly doubled our achievement of the Kyoto target. We will provide 30% of our electricity from renewable energy by 2020. Our home energy efficiency programme will result in all cavity walls and lofts being filled by 2015; more complex eco-upgrades for 7 million homes and a ‘pay as you save’ scheme to enable home owners to meet the costs of installing green measures.

8. Name one thing in the party manifesto with which you personally disagree?

I voted against the renewal of Trident when it was debated in 2007 – I continue to oppose all nuclear weapons while supporting the government’s efforts on the non-proliferation treaty.

East London Line - your reactions

The East London Line opened today with a limited service ahead of going fully operational on May 23rd. Here's some of the initial feedback from BC readers:

Paul said:

Just got the ELL from nxg to shoreditch high street. It took 15 mins. A couple of early observations for what they're worth. The trains feel very spacious, wider than a tube train inside but with the unmistakable feel of a tube. Canada water felt ridiculously close, we'd barely got going and we were there. Shoreditch felt ridiculously close. This is now brockleys back yard. If i worked in in city i'd be rubbing my hands in glee. That is now one seriously easy commute. For the record the last time i got a bus from "ondon bridge to liverpool street it took 35 minutes because of the traffic. The other thing that struck me was how other Londoners will end up coming across the ELL because they'll not be able to ignore it. The station at shoreditch is huge, and in giant letters spell out shoreditch high street. I don't know of another station in london quite as well advertised. For those who want brockley to get noticed, i think it's a certainty. People with see the new stations, the roundels (that look like tube roundels), and they be accepted as part of the network. I was very impressed.

Node said:

I was on the first train to leave NXG today and I was impressed. Like the above post, the trains are very spacious and do not feel like four carriages. The colour scheme of orange and brown is a nice mix of retro and modern and not too garish.The advertising inside is actually fairly muted compared to the normal tubes. The floor being a light grey picks up marks very easily and on my return was already looking fairly used, so it'll be interesting to see how this ages.The train doesn't actually seem to go that fast, I guess doing 10 stops in 20 minutes means there's no real stretch to speed up. The change onto the Jubilee line at Canada Water is literally 30 seconds. I've heard that from the 15th of May there will be a weekend service too. It does feel like a tube and not a train so even if it's not official people will still think of it as one, most people call it the East London Line still rather than the Overground, and hopefully the mixed branding might deter and confuse some from wanting to buy up half the area.

And here are some comments from Twitter:

StellaMagazine Just tried the ELL exciting! Dalston&Crystal Palace awaiting exploration. Nice orange/brown graphic upholstery too.

pradprathivi: Rotherhithe to Shoreditch in 8 MINUTES! Gawd Bless the ELL.

binny_uk: Stations are all very light and airy http://yfrog.com/jkw01wj

mpk: eh, this is some kind of n00b gentrified ELL. I used to ride the real deal - A stock, Shoreditch and all. Kids today

DaveHollander: Sitting on a spanking new ELL train -live tests started today!

kylife: ELL saving my social life!

ianvisits: The train is packed for its first run through.

The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Sir Steve Bullock

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. The Labour Party's Sir Steve Bullock, the incumbent Mayor, answers our questions. Click for Cllr Dean Walton's answers.

1. How will you improve Lewisham's local high streets - in particular, Brockley Cross, Lewisham Way, Brockley Road and Ladywell Road?

Maintaining and improving these areas – and providing assistance to local businesses – is a key objective for me. One effective way of achieving this has been through our Town Centre Managers (TCM) and I will continue to ensure that the invaluable work done – in partnership with local business, traders and residents – continues over the next couple of years. From tackling vacant properties, to setting up outdoor markets, to working with the Brockley Cross Action Group and the local artist to extend the art mural, the Council and TCMs have built on the great community spirit in the area to make things happen in terms of local high streets, and across the community more generally.

2. Will you ensure that plans for the part-pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street happen and in what time frame?

Following the reference from the Brockley Assembly I considered a report at Mayor & Cabinet on 3 March and asked Council officials to prepare a further report on this proposal for action after the election. Finding the funding will be critical and the scheme would be eligible for funds from Transport for London (TfL). I’m committed to action on Coulgate Street and while a recent bid extra TfL funding was not successful I will continue to pursue this and hope that design work can be started in the next financial year with the scheme implemented in 2012-13.

3. There have been a number of problems with Lewisham Council contractors employed to maintain our streets and other public spaces (notably works to Brockley Common), including delays, poor quality work and poor quality materials being used. What will you do to improve performance?

The Council must supervise contractors closely. While on occasions we do have issues with their work as referred to above performance has generally been satisfactory. In terms of delays, these can be due to factors outside their control, including the lead-time for delivery of materials and the volume of work they are allocated at different times of the year. I will ensure that officers continue to monitor performance rigorously – if contractors come up short, we will act. I will also discuss with other councillors whether this would be a suitable subject for a Scrutiny investigation.

4. The Council has created a new Conversation Area in Ladywell. How can the Council better enforce the rules in Lewisham’s conservation areas, including the high street businesses that ignore current guidelines on shop fronts?

The Council regularly uses its planning enforcement powers in relation to this issue. If unauthorised works to shop fronts in high streets take place in conservation areas without planning permission, action must be taken. If residents suspect that the rules are being flouted I would urge them to call 020 8314 7400 or email planning@lewisham.gov.uk with the details so the problem can be investigated. In order to reduce the amount of unauthorised work happening in the first place, the Council has produced a shop front design guide to advise business owners of the need to obtain planning permission for new shop fronts, and to provide advice on good shop front design.

5. Do you support the current plans for the redevelopment of Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf and - if so - what will you do to ensure that the projects are delivered as soon as possible?

I do support the current plans and have been actively pursuing these schemes. Inevitably the recession has had an impact but we have continued to work closely with the developers of both schemes. In the case of Lewisham Gateway I believe that any delays are entirely caused by the recession and a recovery will enable progress to be made. In the meantime I have authorised interim measures such as tidying up the Odeon site. I am concerned that the developer of Convoys Wharf is reluctant to submit a new application rather than amend the existing one which may risk potential difficulties in getting the necessary agreements through the GLA.

6. Does Lewisham Council need to make budget cuts in the next two years and - if so - how much needs to be cut and what specific cuts would you make?

All three major Parties have made clear that there will be a severe squeeze on public spending – they only differ on when and by how much this will be done. None of us can know until after the General election how much is needed but a 10% real terms reduction is likely to be the least that is required. When we face hard choices, we must make sure those people who have the greatest needs – whether through age, infirmity or accident of fate – are protected. That means those of us who are more fortunate will shoulder a greater burden and I neither shirk from that responsibility nor seek to obscure it. It is the very basis of a just and caring community.

7. How can Lewisham Council increase the number of places at secondary school level and reduce the number of children having to leave the borough to get an education?

Children have been leaving the borough not just because of a shortage of places but because of past poor performance by some schools. I have overseen major investment in the physical infrastructure but also seen many schools improve dramatically. Our best schools like Haberdashers Askes’ and Prendergast are now involved more widely through Federations and Academies that have raised standards. The building of a new school has been actively opposed by a minority of people causing delays despite the virtually unanimous agreement of the different parties son the right site for it and the bizarre intervention of English Heritage. The new school must go ahead and any doubts about the need for it have been removed with the increase in numbers lower down the age range.

8. What should happen to Gordonbrock School now that the decant and rebuild has been delayed by at least 6 months?

The proposals for the rebuild of Gordonbrock School were worked up the school some years ago and when it became necessary to drop that school from the programme because the available funding was insufficient I promised the school I would do everything I could to make it at happen in the future. I have made it clear that I am determined to make good that promise and instructed Council officials to take whatever action is necessary to get the scheme going again. I expect there to be a delay of about 6 months unless the legal objections are dropped and even at this late stage would urge the Brockley Society to do so.

9. How will you reduce crime and anti-social behaviour (including littering, flytipping and dog-fouling) in the borough?

There are two issues here. Reducing Crime is a priority for me and both Council and police have a role to play. Crime statistics are monitored and action taken for example a major initiative on Domestic Violence over the last year is showing promising results. Serious Youth violence remains the greatest concern and must be addressed by elected politicians, the police and the whole community. Anti-social behaviour of the kind referred to is perpetrated by far too many people – apparently normal citizens who think that dropping litter or dumping settees is OK. The council must clear up the mess but we must make clear to our fellow citizens that their behaviour is unacceptable.

10. As a result of various stock transfers, an ALMO and a PFI contract, Lewisham's social housing is fragmented between a lot of different landlords. This places a massive burden on the council in terms of ensuring consistent service provision and neighbourhood engagement. What will you do as Mayor to deliver on this?

The Council’s track record of doing this itself was a poor one and some of the landlords are now doing it very much better. For example the tenant owned Phoenix Housing Association. The Council needs to become more a regulator in the future in this context and set standards that the different providers meet. Dealing with complaints about social housing has always been a staple of ward councillors casework and the council will need to help those councillors do this effectively through good systems and support. More information on my approach to many of these issues can be found at http://www.votesteve2010.co.uk/

The pet-snatcher of Wickham Road

BC spotted this sign pinned to a tree towards the north end of Wickham Road. Is this a real problem in the area? Does Cruella De Vil stalk Brockley? Wickham Rd residents, your views please ...


The Lewisham Deptford Elections: Darren Johnson

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Darren Johnson, The Green Party Prospective MP for Lewisham Deptford, answers our questions. Click for Tam Langley's answers.

1. Outside of morning peak time, overland services to London Bridge have been cut from 6 trains per hour to four trains per hour. What will you to restore the levels of service, which were promised until last year?

As your MP I will be fighting hard to restore these services, just as Greens on Lewisham Council and Greens at the London Assembly have. Whoever forms the next Government I will be pressing them to intervene. But I will be also making the case for our railways to be brought back under public control. The privatised rail companies have not been accountable to passengers and we need to end the disaster of rail privatisation.

2. Do you support the local campaign to revive plans for the South London Loop service to Crofton Park?

Very much so. Greens at the London Assembly have regularly lambasted Mayor Boris Johnson for his failures on this. We are particularly dismayed that the proposed Victoria to Bellingham service, which was to come in when the East London line started up, has now been abandoned. Both the Labour Government and the Conservative Mayor of London have failed and I will make it a key priority to revive these plans. It’s great that the East London Line is finally opening but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for cutting investment in other areas.

3. What, specifically, will you do to ensure that the Surrey Canal Station gets built during the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction?

It would be ridiculous for Phase 2 of the East London Line extension to go ahead without this station being built and the government is penny pinching over just a few million pound extra. Green Plans to scrap the £30 billion road building budget and put the money into public transport instead would mean there was plenty of money to fund this and many, many other rail improvements. The sitting MP’s polite diplomacy in trying to woo Government funding does not seem to be working and residents are rightly getting angry. I will stand firm with New Cross residents and make clear we will not take no for an answer.

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

I do want to ensure every home In Lewisham Deptford that needs it is given free insulation. Green councillors in (Kirklees) Huddersfield succeeded in getting a scheme like this off the ground. The Kirklees scheme is now widely recognised as being the most effective model for getting homes up to energy efficient standards. Not only would this help slash emissions, it would knock around £150 a year on household fuel bills, cur winter deaths because pensioners can’t afford to heat their homes and create many new jobs.

5. How will you reduce crime and improve policing in Lewisham Deptford?

Community Safer Neighbourhoods teams were definitely the way to go on policing. But we need to expand them so that we have officers visible throughout the day. We also need to give our young people more to do so they are not dragged into crime trough boredom. That is why in our fully-costed manifesto we are putting forward plans to double investment on youth activities. We could easily afford to do both of these things if we were not wasting money on ID cards. Academic evidence points to crime being more of a problem in those countries with the largest gap between rich and poor. That is why we are absolutely committed to a fairer and more equal society.

6. How can national government help Lewisham Council improve its performance and achieve its aims?

Firstly, national government could do Lewisham a huge favour by stopping treating direct provision of council services like a dirty word. Labour has been obsessed with offloading and outsourcing public services – whether it’s housing PFI schemes, academy schools or a myriad other functions which undermine local democracy for no real benefit. Secondly, we need to end the obsession with national targets and centrally imposed objectives and allow local government to have much more of a say in determining local priorities. Thirdly, we need to ensure local government is not devastated by a round of savage cuts that would simply worsen the impact of the recession, create more unemployment and store up far more social and environmental problems for the future.

7. What is the one policy you support that you would most like Brockley Central readers to know about?

I really want Brockley Central readers to know about our plans for tackling inequality and reducing he gap between rich and poor. Evidence shows that the most unequal societies tend to be the ones with the most problems – whether it’s ill-health, crime, lack of democratic participation or environmental problems. That is why we are commited to raising the minimum wage, ensuring pensioners have a guaranteed non-means tested weekly pension of £170 and creating a million new jobs in a way that will tackle some of our biggest environmental problems and our biggest social problems. It’s all there in our manifesto “Fair is worth fighting for” at www.greenparty.org.uk so do look at it.

8. Name one thing in the party manifesto with which you personally disagree?

I think our manifesto is wrong to rule out membership of the euro. I think the UK should keep its options open about whether to join at a future date. That’s a personal view but one of the great things about being a Green Party politician is that you are treated like an adult and not expected to slavishly toe the party line and vote for things you don’t agree with. Other than that, I think our manifesto is great and I’m very proud of what we are putting forward. I’m not pretending we are about to form the next Government but we can get a Green MP elected here and I can play an influential role in parliament.

BrocSoc presents its plans for Gordonbrock

Tuesday 4 May, 8pm-9.30pm
Crofton Park Baptist Church
Brockley Grove, SE4 1EA

The Brockley Society is holding an open meeting to present its alternative proposals to those of Lewisham council for the modernisation of Gordonbrock School. They say:

Working with a number of Gordonbrock parents and our architect, we have sought to demonstrate that there are alternatives to demolition and rebuilding, still achieving all of the goals for the school, and within budget. We will explain why we intervened, and why so late. There will also be an opportunity for all interested parties to express their views and ask questions. All welcome.

East London Line definitely starts tomorrow

Yes, definitely.

The politicians have settled their differences to allow us all to start using our £1.5 billion tube train set, from tomorrow morning.

Until it opens properly on May 23rd, it's only a limited service between New Cross and Dalston, but it's a start.

Tory Troll says:

Boris Johnson will officially open the line at 9.45 tomorrow morning in Dalston Junction station.

Opposition leaders on the London Assembly have been invited, but are unlikely to attend due to
concerns that Boris will turn it into a campaign event.

Transport for London have denied this and insist that the Mayor's attendance will help publicise the line and increase their revenue.

Thanks to Andy for confirming the story.

The Lewisham Mayoral Elections: Dean Walton

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Cllr Dean Walton, Green Party Prospective Mayor for Lewisham answers our questions:

1. How will you improve Lewisham's local high streets – in particular, Brockley Cross, Lewisham Way, Brockley Road and Ladywell Road?

An excellent local example of small-scale improvements is at the foot of Tanners Hill in Deptford. I want to emulate the success of this scheme by creating a borough-wide area improvement project whose aim would be to transform key areas of our borough into stunning examples of the value of investing in our public spaces. I would propose more protection for the smaller parades of shops and high streets in the planning policies to prevent unwanted development and conversion. I would introduce a Lewisham-wide style guide to standardise the mish-mash of street signs and street furniture used in Lewisham. When people arrive in Lewisham I want them to know simply by looking around.

2. Will you ensure that plans for the part-pedestrianisation of Coulgate Street happen and in what time frame?

As Chair of the Brockley Assembly I worked with the community to make this a key priority of Assembly and have called for further work to be done into the scheme by Council officers. On being elected I will draw up more detailed plans for the areal plans with the help of local groups for formal consultation with residents and businesses soon after being elected. This stage should be completed fairly soon after the election. As part of that process a formal timescale for the agreement and implementation of any agreed plans would need to be drawn up which would identify funding.

3. There have been a number of problems with Lewisham Council contractors employed to maintain our streets and other public spaces (notably works to Brockley Common), including delays, poor quality work and poor quality materials being used. What will you do to improve performance?

Any work that is below standard carried out by our contractors should be rectified at their expense. I would take performance of existing contractors into account when considering bids for new highways maintenance contracts. We need to also review the quality of materials used – poor quality materials means a poor quality finish and a shorter life which means it can be more expensive in the long run.

In addition I would give serious consideration to bringing much of the work 'in-house' to create a more accountable and adaptable service – but also a significant workforce that can be re-deployed to other tasks such as keeping a far greater proportion of our pavements clear during the winter.

4. The Council has created a new Conservation Area in Ladywell. How can the Council better enforce the rules in Lewisham's conservation areas, including the high street businesses that ignore current guidelines on shop fronts?

I will ensure that we have an appropriate number of enforcement officers to adequately 'police' the Conservation Areas. I would ask our Town Centre Managers to work with Enforcement Officers to identify the 'worst offenders' in terms of shop fronts. However we also need to understand and reassure businesses that there are other types of shutters and grilles that satisfy their security needs without spoiling the look and feel of the area.

5. Do you support the current plans for the redevelopment of Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf and - if so - what will you do to ensure that the projects are delivered as soon as possible?

The plans for Lewisham Gateway will: lower air quality; provide no affordable housing; provide 500 car parking places in an area which must have best public transport connections in the borough; fail present policy on sustainability; provide 7 jobs for each of the wards in the Lewisham Deptford Constituency; take years to build resulting in long-term serious disruption in the town centre. The road layout will make conditions for cyclists worse and increase journey times for motorists. The current plans are a significant barrier to improving Lewisham Town Centre as they are not financially viable.

Convoys Wharf is an excellent opportunity for building new homes and a community but I remain unconvinced that the current scheme is the best.

6. Does Lewisham Council need to make budget cuts in the next two years and - if so - how much needs to be cut and what specific cuts would you make?

The 2010/11 budget has already been agreed and I will not be making cuts to that.

Last year the Mayor called for £8.8m of savings but only produced about £2.5m. I believe that there remain significant savings such as energy efficiency measures that can be made without major impacts on services.

I would not rule out increasing the increasing the Council Tax raised over and above the rate of inflation but would link this to a package to protect Lewisham's services. I will propose a pensioners' discount on their Council Tax.

If I need to make any cutbacks I will protect those budgets which vulnerable members of the community rely on and those which are needed to deliver sustainability measures.

7. How can Lewisham Council increase the number of places at secondary school level and reduce the number of children having to leave the borough to get an education?

With question marks over Council's current plans for Lewisham Bridge we need to look at the options in order to get a high quality new school built as quickly as possible.

8. What should happen to Gordonbrock School now that the decant and rebuild has been delayed by at least 6 months?

Plans for the redevelopment of the school need to be finalised quickly and before the end of March 2011 to ensure that the funding for the school is not lost. There was room for improvement in the original plans but the main priority now is to provide a much improved learning environment for the current children and future generations of children. I believe that there is time to provide such a school that meets the needs of these children, their parents and others before the funding runs out and I will make this a priority.

9. How will you reduce crime and anti-social behaviour (including littering, flytipping and dog-fouling) in the borough?

Levels of crime are linked to the levels of inequality and reducing this is at the heart of many of our policies.

I would increase the opening hours of the safer neighbourhood teams and improve communications with residents about crimes committed in their areas that are timely and provide genuine reassurance.

I would introduce a borough-wide scheme for tackling fly-tipping that would provide community skips, bulky waste collections, grants for furniture reuse charities, designing out fly-tipping hotspots and provide information for residents on avoiding unlicensed waste carriers.

I would continue the use of fixed penalty notices for littering and dog-fouling but this must run in conjunction with good street cleaning services where this fails to properly address the issue.

10. As a result of various stock transfers, an ALMO and a PFI contract, Lewisham's social housing is fragmented between a lot of different landlords. This places a massive burden on the council in terms of ensuring consistent service provision and neighbourhood engagement. What will you do as Mayor to deliver on this?

The PFI is not a cost-effective way to deliver improvements to services but we are stuck with these contracts. Sadly it will be necessary to strengthen the monitoring of these contracts.

Generally, the tenants and residents are the best judges as to whether service provision is satisfactory. Tenant engagement in Lewisham is in a poor state. Many people living in social housing estates in Lewisham do not belong to a functioning Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) – which means that problems are ignored and tenants have no way of shaping how their estates are run. I would give more support to TRAs. This would allow tenants to be involved but not overwhelmed by the bureaucratic hurdles of running the TRA.

The Lewisham Deptford Elections: Tam Langley

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Tam Langley, Liberal Democrat Prospective MP for Lewisham Deptford answers our questions:

1. Outside of morning peak time, overland services to London Bridge have been cut from 6 trains per hour to four trains per hour. What will you do to restore the levels of service, which were promised until last year?

I have been working with my colleagues - the three Forest Hill Lib Dem councillors (Alex Feakes, Philip Peake & John Russell) - to campaign hard against these cuts, working closely with the local societies. The key point we will continue to make is that train services in our part of London are some of the most overcrowded in the capital. Even with the East London line extension, it makes no sense at all to cut back existing services.

2. Do you support the local campaign to revive plans for the South London Loop service to Crofton Park?

As many Brockley Central readers will know, the Liberal Democrats in Lewisham and at the Greater London Assembly have been running a campaign on the Crofton Park - Victoria service ever since it was secretly shelved.

Our campaign has included:

  • Directly asking Boris Johnson to reinstate the plans at People's Question Time
  • Gathering almost 500 signatures on our petition for the line
  • Repeatedly meeting and lobbying Transport for London
The good news is that we have got the line onto the shortlist of options being considered in more depth. The bad news is that they have no funding allocated yet and have delayed their report.Sign our petition at: campaigns.libdems.org.uk/savecroftonparktrains

3. What, specifically, will you do to ensure that the Surrey Canal Station gets built during the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction?

It seems to me that there are two obstacles to getting the station built. The political establishment haven't got the will to make it happen and funding is going to be tight for the next few years.

There's a Lib Dem policy that could make quite a difference in this situation. Usually when new train and tube lines are built, commercial property owners make millions of pounds from the increase in their property values. In the case of the Jubilee line the gain was billions of pounds. So I have met businessmen who would happily contribute millions to have a new station near their properties, and indeed have tried to negotiate with government to do so.

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

Take action to cut crime. It is wrong to scaremonger on crime. But equally it would be deeply irresponsible to ignore the far too common sad instances of stabbings and shootings on our streets. On Gilmore road in central Lewisham a few weeks ago, I knocked on the door of a woman who told me that just the day before an 18 year old had been stabbed on her street. She was understandably horrified, and worried for her teenage children. Teenagers in Brockley have told me about their fear of being caught up in a stabbing, and their experiences of being mugged or threatened on the streets.

5. How will you reduce crime and improve policing in Lewisham Deptford?

Liberal Democrat policies that would help cut crime in Lewisham include:

  • 3,000 more police on the streets nationally, paid for by scrapping ID cards
  • Cutting police bureaucracy so that more police are solving crimes rather than filling in forms
  • Giving people a direct say in how to punish petty criminals and anti social behaviour through Neighbourhood Justice Panels
  • Targeting gun and knife crime by getting Lewisham hospital to share information with the police on the time and location of stabbings - where this has been done (in Cardiff) knife crime has fallen up to 40%
  • Using rigourously enforced community sentences for minor offences instead of short prison sentences, because they are better at preventing reoffending.
6. How can national government help Lewisham Council improve its performance and achieve its aims?

By making national rules fairer and addressing the growing gap between rich and poor:
  • A fairer tax policy which no longer has the poorest people paying a greater share of their income in tax than the richest people
  • Better local schools - through increased spending in education and our 'pupil premium' that would target kids from the poorest areas and those most in need of one-to-one tuition
  • Local jobs - by supporting green industries like renewable energy and public transport
  • Giving local people more of a say in their public services - elected police authorities and health boards and the power to sack their MP
7. What is the one policy you support that you would most like Brockley Central readers to know about?

The first £10,000 pounds you earn will be free of tax, a tax cut of £700 for most people, of particular value to people on low incomes.

8. Name one thing in the party manifesto with which you personally disagree?

I agree with the Liberal Democrat policy that the House of Lords should be elected. But it would be a pity to lose experts such as Lord Joel Joffe, a great champion of charities like Oxfam and of human rights, he was the lawyer who represented Nelson Mandela at his trial in 1963.

Plans released for Lethbridge and Heathside Estates

The new-look estates. Copyright: PRP Architects.


Architecture site Skyscrapernews.com reports that the plans to rebuild the Heathside and Lethbridge Estates have been released by PRP Architects:

The developer, Family Mosiac, plans to contruct 1,201 new homes (compared with 565 currently on the site) including two seventeen storey towers located near the centre of the site and a number of other buildings ranging from 14 to 3 storeys, 512 square metres of retail space and 768 metres of floorspace for community uses.

The estates, which are located between Blackheath and Deptford Bridge, running along the A2, are some of the borough's shabbiest.

The Brockley Central virtual hustings - all this week

Larry: I wanted to talk to you about an issue that doesn't really get a lot of play in the papers.
Senator: Well tell me because I like new issues.
Larry: OK. I'm talking about what's going on at the dry cleaners.
Senator: What's going on at the dry cleaners Larry?
Larry: Well what happens is, sometimes they'll give your item to someone else and then that person owns it and walks around in it and you have no recourse. And there's no oversight, it's just complete chaos in the dry cleaning industry as I see it.
Senator: Larry the thing about it is that sometimes you get an item that isn't yours and sometimes you lose an item, so at the end of the day, it balances out.
Larry: Yeah, well it's not balancing out for me senator. I never get an item. And you know what, if I got an item I would return it, because I think the whole system's flawed.
- Curb your enthusiasm

The Brockley Central virtual hustings start today and will run from Monday to Thursday. There'll be a new Q&A with one of the MP candidates every morning and one with one of the Mayoral candidates every afternoon.

The Q&As are based on the questions you suggested on this thread and were sent to each of the leading candidates - from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Green parties for each election. The questions were open, to encourage candidates to give detailed and specific answers. Answers will be published in the order they were received.

On Friday, we'll create an open thread for people to compare the candidates' responses and discuss how you plan to vote. You can of course use the comment function to discuss any individual's answers, but please observe the code of conduct.

And a quick note to political campaigners: In the past, election threads on Brockley Central have been used by parties to accuse rivals of misrepresenting them on the doorstep. Please don't do that this time around, stick to policy. Thanks.

The Orchard update

Ed from The Orchard has been in touch to let people know that they will be closing briefly this week to carry out some minor refurbishments.

The Orchard and will be closed all day and evening on Tuesday 27th and during the day, opening at 6pm on Wed 28th.

So if you see it closed this week, nobody panic.

Mixed use development proposed for Malpas Road


A new application has been made to knock down the Ajax Flooring Company building on Malpas Road, rebuilding it as a mixed use development, including seven flats. No documents are currently available online, but here is the summary:

The demolition of existing buildings on the site of 230-232 Malpas Road SE4 and the construction of a two storey building plus basement and roof space fronting Malpas Road and 2 two storey plus roof space terraces, comprising offices (Use Class B1), 2 two bedroom and 4 three bedroom and 1 four bedroom self-contained residential units, together with associated landscaping, provision of bicycle stores and 10 car parking spaces, with access onto Malpas Road.

Similar applications have been made previously and rejected on the basis that the buildings would have been too large.

Let sunshine win the day

Brockley Central has beaten the volcano and made it back from holiday alive and slightly more tanned than our original schedule would have allowed. Still, you were enjoying contrail-free skies, so that's the main thing.

As we left, people were shooting eachother. Now we're back, Brockley is in bloom and looked astonishingly beautiful as we walked through it in the sunshine this morning. Obviously, we should go away and leave you to it more often. Speaking of which...

In our absence, the politicians have been beavering away and we are now ready to start the virtual hustings on Monday, with Q&As from the Mayoral and Lewisham Deptford candidates for the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green parties.

We've also got three teams for the Royal Albert pub quiz on Sunday night. Let us know if you'd like to join one of the tables.

Application to develop Breakspears Mews workshops

As if to underline the need for a coherent strategy for the development of Brockley's mews, a proposal has been submitted to create five new work units on a vacant site behind 38 Breakspears Mews.

Currently occupied by some garage buildings, the developer wants to build "five work units for light manufacturing, printing and art studios and storages [sic]... This proposed development will also allow the possibility of further redevelopment of other vacant building [sic] with Breakspear [sic] Mews and the renovation and use of the existing derelict garages for secure rental use to other members of the public."

The future of Prendergast

Homer: Oh, Lisa, you saved me! And after all the bad things I said about you.
Lisa: What bad things? Why?
Homer: Oh, Lisa, the important thing is I didn't get my comeuppance, and I never will.
- The Simpsons, Guess Who's Coming to Criticise Dinner?

Prendergast Hily Fields College is tempting fate by trying to do what other Lewisham schools have tried and failed to achieve: an upgrade of their facilities without pesky local objectors ruining their plans.

The final public consultation is on April 24th between 10am and 1pm at the Adelaide Avenue Exam Hall.

The school says:

Prendergast Hilly Fields College is due to undergo a multi million pound transformation as part of the London Borough of Lewisham’s Building Schools for the Future programme. The new school will be a fantastic 21st Century learning environment, with state-of-the-art community facilities and leading edge Information technology throughout.

Brockley Central understands that the rebuild will involve some decanting in to temporary classrooms located on Hilly Fields itself.

The Brockley MAX, May 28th - June 5th 2010


The Brockley MAX is back. The community arts festival will be taking place from May 28th to June 5th, drawing on the wealth of local talent that the area has to offer to create a programme of events - big and small -hosted by many of the area's leading venues.

This year's MAX will feature musicians, painters, poets, designers, dancers and more, staging a range of events across Brockley and Ladywell, kicking-off with a concert at Brockley Station.

Festival organiser Moira Tait says:

“We have some really interesting and exciting events and performers confirmed such as Billy Jenkins, Sarah Gillespie, Montage Theatre, Felix School of Rock as well as an open-air film night at Hilly Fields.

"Once again there will be the ever-popular children’s Art In The Park, and this year a craft market at Hilly Fields that will give local craftspeople and designers the opportunity to showcase their wares. We’ll be adding more events in the coming days so please regularly check the festival website for updates or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.”

Visit http://www.brockleymax.co.uk/ to find out more.

Brockley Central will be providing full coverage of this year's MAX and will be organising its own contribution to this year's festival with a free night of live music at the Ladywell Tavern on June 3rd. More about that soon.

The festival is a community event, run by local residents on a non-profit basis. Most of the events are FREE.

Plus de pubs, moins de tubes - Brockley

Jez: People like lager and nuts.
Super Hans: People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis. You can't trust people, Jeremy.
- Peep Show


Bob has alerted us to the fact that the South East London CAMRA branch is organising a Brockley pub crawl on April 27th, to which all real ale lovers are welcome. Since every article about pubs on BC descends (or ascends, depending on your point of view) into a discussion of ales, we guess there may be a few takers. Here are the details:

  • Brockley Jack 8pm
  • Jam Circus 8.30pm
  • Brockley Barge 9.15pm
  • The Wickham Arms 10pm
And while we're on the subject of pubs - two Brockley Central nights for your diary:

April 25th

Brockley Central is going to be at the Royal Albert charity quiz night this Sunday. Hope to see you there.

June 3rd

As part of this year's Brockley MAX, we'll be organising another night of live music at the Ladywell Tavern. Last year was amazing, this year should be too. Brockley Jon has already sorted out most of the acts, but if you're in a band and would like to take part, please let us know.

Crofton Park mini mart sold

The former Thai Mini Market at 396 Brockley Road, Crofton Park, has been sold, according to friend of BC, Cathy. That's all we've got. Let us know if you know more.

Brockley hustings

St Peter's Church
Wickham Road
7.30 - 9.00pm, April 26th, 2010


The Brockley Cross Action Group has organised a hustings for the Lewisham Mayoral and Brockley ward candidates. Candidates from all the parties have been invited.

The Brockley Central virtual hustings will begin shortly, as soon as we have all of the candidates' responses.

Crofton Park Ward

As passionate advocates of the Greater Brockley theory of local diplomacy, we consider it our mission to break down the artificial boundaries, imposed on us by “the man" to keep us down. SE4 is a small green planet drifting in the cold, uncaring universe of Greater London. We must stick together.

So when we read a discussion between readers about the Crofton Park assembly rejecting a funding application for the Brockley MAX on the basis that it was a Brockley event, rather than a Crofton Park event, we realised we’d ignored Crofton Park politics for too long. Happily, local Councillor Jackie Addison (Lab) agreed to an interview about the ward. For the record, it should be noted that this interview took place some time before the election was called. It's only our own sloppiness that's caused the delay.

What is the biggest challenge facing the ward?

Social cohesion. We lack a sense of identity as a ward. We cover a few different areas and straddle both SE4 and SE23. The local Assembly has been a great way to build a collective identity, not just through the debates, but as a way to link local groups that didn’t talk before. Here’s an example: there’s now a youth club that will rotate between local venues, including St Hilda’s and The Pen, starting in the autumn and running every fortnight. That kind of co-operation didn’t happen before.

And what’s the best thing about Crofton Park?

There are lots of homes with gardens and no large estates, which has helped to create a good racial and class mix. It’s also the safest ward in Lewisham and there were no burglaries at all this January. We have a very active Safer Neighbourhoods team, who’ve played an important part in that story.

Crofton Park Ward has arguably the two most successful high streets in the borough in the shape of the Crofton Park and Honor Oak Park parades. What’s their secret?

Honor Oak Park has not always been so successful. There is a new landlord, London and District Housing that is more progressive. The Forest Hill Centre manager has been working hard to improve things too. The changes to parking rules (more short-term parking) have certainly been important and we’re going to extend the zone to include the stretch by the Chandos.

In both parades, the flower baskets and planters have proved very popular and we’re improving recycling to cut the amount of rubbish left out on the street. I’ve been campaigning to stop the Co-Op leaving its trolleys out on the street, which has now finally happened.

Going forward, I hope that we will be able to raise more sponsorship of the planting schemes by local businesses, who recognise the advantages it brings them. I also want to encourage more businesses to become fully accessible.

What ideas do you have for improving local transport?

Of course, I would like to see more trains to Crofton Park. I supported the increase that the Catford Loop would have brought, but unfortunately we were never given a firm commitment to that service.

One of my priorities is local accessibility and I want to see disabled access at Crofton Park Station and lift access at Honor Oak Station.

I’ve set up a bus and train user group which meets regularly and allows me to feed back to the Council based on the experiences of daily users – as I work locally.

Some people have suggested Crofton Park should create a conservation area, like Brockley and now Ladywell. What do you think?

Generally, I think conservation areas are good things. When I lived in Perry Hill, some of the houses had been ruined and I joined a local residents group to protect the housing stock. If someone came to the Crofton Park Ward Assembly with a proposal, we’d look at it. The ‘ladder roads’ – as I call them – between the Brockley Jack and Honor Oak Park might be appropriate.

Do you think the Crofton Park Assembly should support the Brockley MAX festival?

This year, the Councillors’ concern was that too few of the Brockley MAX venues were in the ward and too many were licensed premises. We opted to support the Blythe Hill Festival and a range of other worthy projects. However, I will go this year and I’m sure we’ll consider it for funding in future.

What else should local people know about their ward?

The work of the Crofton Park Safer Neighbourhood Ward Panel is very important and we have a new, award-winning police sergeant, Mark Deacon, who I think will make a big difference. I’d urge people to get in touch with me if they want to be involved in that project.

Nightwatch

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!


Green Ladywell reports that the long-dormant Nightwatch shop on Ladywell High Street has been sold and will be redeveloped:

The new owners are very keen to crack on and renovate the whole building, with a view to letting the upstairs out as flats and the downstairs as a retail unit. Their architect came today and made some preliminary sketches. We talked about local residents being keen to see a good quality shop front, and an A1 retail use, rather than yet another take-away or betting shop.

More here.

Our Future's Orange: Forest Hill

This is part five of our regular series looking at stops along the new East London Line. Sure, Forest Hill was never difficult to get to from Brockley pre-ELL, but it's a good excuse to do a round-up of what's going on just down the track.

Forest Hill was originally the name given to an area of forest on top of Sydenham Hill, part of the Great North Woods. Initial development took place in the early to mid 1800s, close to the railway station (originally named Dartmouth Arms after the pub there, still open today). Over the years it has sprawled, merging with East Dulwich to the west, Honor Oak Park to the north, and Sydenham & Catford to the south east. Politically, Forest Hill ward is exclusively Lib Dem, and the Perry Vale ward to the south east side of the station is Labour.

Transport-wise, the station is served by the same trains as Brockley, but also hosts the odd fast train into London Bridge, and has the distinct advantage that being two stops further out in the morning rush hour can sometimes secure you a seat. Yes, a seat.

Forest Hill station and the footbridgeImprovements under Transport For London have included the obligatory plastic hanging baskets, but also a brand new footbridge - the structure for which appeared almost overnight sometime last year, but was only completed last week.

The area boasts a well developed 'high street', even if it does quite literally revolve around the ever-busy A205 South Circular. The shops include chains such as Boots, WH Smith and of course Sainsbury's, plus a couple of independent places like popular gift shop & boutique Bunka. There are several restaurants, and a couple of key pubs help to provide more decent eateries, the Dartmouth Arms and the All Inn One Foresters. The Dartmouth Arms is the more adventurous of the two for food, but both serve as greet gastro boozers in their own right.

The Hob pub, opposite the station, is probably the closest thing to an evening 'destination', regularly hosting music and comedy nights, along with a well-organised 'celebrity' pub quiz every week. That's not a quiz about celebs, but rather a quiz hosted by one!

The recession has taken its toll on Forest Hill, and sadly a number of shops and restaurants have closed in the last year or so. Lewisham Council have recognised something needs to be done to encourage new businesses, and have negotiated longer free parking in the car park to the back of Sainsbury's (from half an hour to two hours). They are also working closely with shop-keepers to enhance the appearance of the shopping parades, with one idea being to install artwork in empty shop windows suggestive of what the shop might become.

There are already two glimmers of hope. An old shop opposite the station recently re-opened as From The Forest, a small but stylish cafe. We spoke to the owner, Kollier, about his plans. He was inspired by the 'cooler' coffee houses in East London, and wanted to create a place where people would feel comfortable spending time. Hence, coffee is only a small part of Kollier's plan. He's already serving fresh breads and pastries from Flour Power at Borough Market, along with locally supplied cakes. There are plans to stock other ranges in the future, and he's hinted at organic wines and beers.

Kollier at From The Forest
Kollier, manager of From The Forest, with his preferred method of transport, a 3G Stepper

From The Forest will soon have a new competitor on London Road. Called The Teapot, the poster in the window promises a cafe and, you guessed it, deli - something curiously lacking in Forest Hill, considering Brockley's relative abundance of them. We wish them good luck.

Up the hill, towards East Dulwich, sits the Horniman Museum, tea merchant Frederick John Horniman's gift to the area in 1901, built on the plot where his own house once stood. Aside from operating as a brilliant museum, it plays a key role in the community, hosting regular public events in the gardens, school holiday activities for the kids and evening classes for adults.

The Horniman collection is soon to be commemorated in a wall mural by Artmongers (they of Feed the Cows and Brockley Key fame). Funded by Sainsbury's, as agreed with the council as part of their planning consent, it will celebrate the Horniman's cultural artifacts collection and should cheer up a pretty dreary alleyway between the supermarket car park and London Road.

Not far from the Horniman sits a plot that we can't talk about Forest Hill without mentioning. Two once stunning and now derelict houses at 15 & 17A Tyson Road provide the gateway to a largely untouched meadow which developer Loromah Estate propose to turn into 9 blocks of luxury flats. It's an ongoing saga, and the results of an appeal are due any time now. The brilliant Forest Hill Society blog has all the recent news, and you can read more on the inquiry at the Lib Dem blog Up In Forest Hill.

Forest Hill PoolsPossibly the second most talked about development in the area is London's oldest swimming pool, Forest Hill Pools, a grand Victorian bath that for years has had an uncertain future, not unlike Ladywell Pools. Happily, plans to renovate and extend the pools have been preliminarily approved and are under public consultation. The plans keep the grand exterior, with a large modern extension to the right-hand side. We'll bring you updates on this project, and other changes happening in Forest Hill, as and when we hear about them.


More East London Line destinations:

Crystal Palace
Dalston
Rotherhithe, Canada Water, Surrey Quays
Shoreditch High Street

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