The Brockley Society

Brockley Central attended a recent meeting of the Brockley Society, to get a better insight in to the organisation’s work and its priorities, going forward. We hope to bring you a full interview with 'BrocSoc' very soon, but in the meantime, here’s a summary of what happened at the meeting, from Brockley Jon:

We couldn't help but get a sense of the surreal , as we supped our heavily subsidised pint and sat in front of the glitzy stage of the Rivoli. For much of the crowd, the draw was surely the chance tomarvel at the ballroom in all its glory, especially considering recent events. However, there was serious business on the agenda.

John Stewart, of Heathrow expansion opposition group HACAN Clear Skies, gave an engaging talk on the future of Brockley's skies. John stood bolt upright behind the Rivoli turntables and, with a shimmering wall of tinsel behind him, it looked almost biblical - somewhat fitting for the sermon he was about to deliver. According to HACAN, the Heathrow expansion will be bad news for South East London, as well as West London. If a third runway gets the go-ahead, and Terminal Six is built (although they'vegot to sort T5 out first), the near constant 'line up' of planes across the skies of Brockley is set to double, into two 'streams', turning over Woolwich and descending slowly over our heads.

Anyone living in the north end of Brockley knows that there are already quite enough planes disturbing our peace, so John urged us to make our thoughts known to our local MPs. The good news is that the current legal limit on the number of night flights will not change.

Stuart Woodin of the Brockley Cross Action Group gave an informative talk about Brockley Common, bringing us bang-up-to-date with the project's progression. There's little to add that hasn't already been covered on this blog, but hearing about the trials and tribulations from someone who is obviously passionate about the project made for interesting listening.

Considering the location, it was fitting that Gillian Heywood from the Brockley Society obliged with a short talk through the history of the Rivoli, drawing upon research from English Heritage already posted on the blog here. After this came a call for ideas as to what use the ballroom could play in the community. Then finally, a Q&A session, with topics ranging from Hilly Fields Fayre to the future of Brockley Police Station.

In reality, the Brockley Society is the Brockley Conservation Area Society, with a clearly defined remit to represent the interests of those who live within it (who have automatic membership).

There’s no doubt that BrocSoc did a great job in protecting the Conservation Area from redevelopment since its formation in the 1970s. It’s also clear that it has begun to address planning issues with renewed vigour in recent months. Meanwhile, the Summer Fayre is a local highlight, for which we all owe BrocSoc a debt of thanks.

However, it’s also clear that BrocSoc is at a crossroads. Brockley is changing and the BrocSoc needs to change too. At present, it lacks a long-term vision for the area – what kind of place do we want it to be? What initiatives can we organise to make things better? Defending the status quo is great up to a point, but it is also a wasted opportunity. BrocSoc has official status in local planning discussions, a newsletter and volunteers with a great knowledge of local issues – it could be doing so much more than it does at present.

What Brockley Central would like to see BrocSoc focus on is Brockley Road. Our high-street has been woefully neglected by Council and BrocSoc alike. Planning regulations are routinely ignored and there is no plan to improve it. Its fate is key to the fate of Brockley and as it’s part of the conservation area, it’s entirely appropriate that they should take a lead on its future, just as the BXAG has for Brockley Cross.

We’d also like to hear more from BrocSoc about their views on some of the big planning issues facing the Conservation area, such as the proposed redevelopment of the garage on Geoffrey Road and the mental health unit appeal on Ashby Road. And, who better to play an active lead on issues such as street trees and police signs than a proactive BrocSoc?

The impression we get is that BrocSoc members understand this and are committed to encouraging new members. As with many other local groups, they have too few volunteers and are keen for more to come forward. They also recognise their responsibility to drive recruitment and communicate more effectively with residents. The newsletter, while well-produced, is too irregular to be an effective tool for lobbying, when local opinion often needs to be mobilised much more quickly. They are planning to improve their website and keen to contribute to Brockley Central, which is all to the good.

If you’re interested in volunteering for BrocSoc, please email Brockley Central at the usual address and we will pass on your details.