Brockley Bites - Planning Special

We have a round-up of local planning stories for you now, all of which are sourced from our readers, including one we almost plagiarised from a forum without knowing that the author was actually a BC regular...

Unit 5 - Ashby Mews

The building was demolished by the Council as a dangerous structure following the recent fire - it is now a charred heap. The owners, St Aidan Commercial Ltd, will be billed for this work. Lewisham Council will also be writing to them requesting clearance of the site and the erection of a hoarding to screen the vacant site and prevent dumping. They will be given a reasonable period of time to do this work.

United Services Club - Manor Avenue

This building will no longer be used as a club. Planning permission is needed for any other use. Lewisham Council will encourage the owners to restore it for residential use, rather than allow it to be converted to a church - a use that has been proposed but which is not considered suitable.

1-3 Ashby Road

Developers Ashby Healthcare had their appeals rejected for this site. They had wanted to convert the building in to a "care home" and had been refused permission.

Both appeals (Conservation Area Consent and Planning Permission) were dismissed. The main reason was the size and appearance of the building and its impact on the street scene in Ashby Road.

This will probably mean that a care home development, which according to the developer, was always dependent on scale, would not be viable and it is unlikely that we will see another application.

For those who say the planning system is prone to caving in the face of a persistent developer, this should be a satisfactory result.

The Seager Distillery, Deptford

The residential development plans, which include an 82 metre tower, have been re-submitted for planning approval to Lewisham Council. A revised application was already rejected last year but developers Galliard are back for another go, trying to squeeze more flats in to the low-rise portion.

It's been suggested by some local residents that this is not a suitable site for a "tall" building, which seems odd, given that this site is surrounded by fairly tall commercial and residential buildings and neighbours a high-level DLR crossing and a very wide road. Nonetheless, standing more than 20-storeys high, this will be considerably taller than anything else in the area.

The site has been cleared, ready for construction to begin.


Thanks to JPM and Bolted.

Lewisham 2012

On Sunday, Lewisham celebrated London becoming the official Olympic Games Host City.

The London Olympic Handover Flag was raised by Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, and Lewisham's prospective Paralympian Rebecca Harding, in Cornmill Gardens at exactly 2.30pm along with other London boroughs and regions around the UK.

Sir Steve said: “What a fantastic day and what a fantastic beginning to what promises to be a very exciting and challenging next 4 years.

“Britain has done brilliantly in this year’s Olympics in Beijing and I’m proud to say that Lewisham has made a valuable contribution to the winning team by way of Tasha Danvers who won a Bronze Medal in the 400 metre hurdles. Today we’re flying the flag not only for London but for Lewisham too!"

Lewisham is one of the five "Gateway Boroughs", which are those near the Olympic park, but not actually staging any events. This means that we're lumped together with Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Havering and Redbridge as boroughs trying to market themselves as handy stopovers for international athletes.

The vision document produced by these Boroughs in 2006 is called "Next Stop 2012" and is a slightly odd mixture of inward-investment marketing pitch, training camp prospectus and feelgood exercise for local residents.

The Lewisham website also lists five key projects that are part of the Borough's preparations:
Of these, there is seemingly no chance that Convoy's Wharf will be complete, while Lewisham Gateway looks like an increasingly remote prospect.

But the list ignores some of the developments that are guaranteed, including the re-opening of Wavelengths pool in Deptford (officially due this month), an increase in capacity on the DLR (lengthening trains to Lewisham from two to three carriages by 2010) and of course the East London Line, due 2010.

Sir Steve continued:

“I hope that everyone in the borough will enter into the full spirit of the Olympics and set themselves a goal to exercise more. Exercise has so many benefits and can really improve the quality of life. In Lewisham we’re working towards developing some excellent sport and leisure facilities for everyone to enjoy and I hope people will take full advantage of them.”

“In particular, my goal is to help Lewisham’s young people achieve their own goals and levels of sporting excellence. Of course, the majority will not go on to reach Olympic status but participating in sport can have great benefits in boosting personal confidence. This in itself helps them in so many other ways and improves their work and life chances.”

2012 is a long way away - so far, in fact, that one of our friends who works for LOCOG just handed in his notice because he realised he had relatively little to do and no chance of promotion for about four years. But nevertheless, the road to Lea Valley starts here! This begs the following questions:

1. What should Brockley do for 2012?

2. What will you be doing to mark the occasion?

Snake's on a train?

There are so many "cat missing" signs adorning Brockley lamp-posts that we've always been surprised no-one's ever sent us a request to help find their lost pets. Until now.

Friend of BC, Muireann writes:

One of my neighbours (near Crofton Park station, flats above shop parade on west side of Brockley road opposite Mr Lawrence) has lost his pet snake! 'Flea' escaped in the early hours of Tuesday through the front flat window and hopefully has not strayed too far. My neighbour stresses that while quite large, Flea is harmless and has no fangs, venom or anything dangerous to be afraid of. The council and the RSPCA have been informed, but if anyone sees Flea please call 07745 215457.

Whether the missing snake and the slew of missing cats are connected is not clear.

Brockley Central salutes: Greenwich

What would we do without our tourist-friendly neighbour?

Greenwich town centre itself has changed in recent years, selling some of its soul and caving in to chain bars and restaurants, pushing out our pie shops, but there is still much to be thankful for. When you’ve exhausted Brockley’s limited supply of restaurants, or you want something just that little bit more grown-up; when you fancy a spot of retail therapy but don’t want to get on a train, or want something a little more unique - there is always Greenwich. An abundance of facilities that we often long for in Brockley, and all only a brisk stroll away.

There is one part of Greenwich especially that makes us happy: Royal Hill. Still seemingly untouched by the commercial heart of Greenwich, a road that packs in pretty much every lazy weekend destination we could hope for. A decent café or two, numerous pubs including a great microbrewery, a butchers, a deli, even a cheese shop. All shamelessly middle class, perhaps, but so are Brockley’s latest additions.

At the weekend, we got to sample this side of Greenwich at its best. Without even touching the main market square, and hence avoiding the crowds, we managed to enjoy a cracking meal at our new favourite gastropub The Hill, and then take in Batman at the Picturehouse - a cinema where the staff are all enthusiastic about the films, the seats lean back properly, and you can take your drinks in from the bar. Perfect.

What are your favourite bits of Greenwich?

Crime in Brockley: Completely average

Via the Blackheath Bugle, BC has been checking out the Metropolitan Police's swanky new crime maps. (Follow the link, then put your postcode in to see the results for Brockley - sorry, we can't find a way of linking directly to the local map).

The vast swathes of yellow you'll see indicate that most of the area is totally and utterly average in its crime statistics. There's a spike in activity around Lewisham town centre, which is fairly predictable, and several parts of central Peckham are also 'red' zones. St Johns is apparently a low-crime area, as is Honour Oak Park, while the western side of Telegraph Hill, around Nunhead, is higher than average.

What do BC readers think - does this reflect your experience of crime in south-east London?

I spy ...

BC loves spotting little oddities when out and about locally, and we thought we'd share a few with you. To start with - who can guess where this is?

(No prize for the first correct answer unfortunately, other than the smug satisfaction of knowing you're right ...)

Hilly Fields Fun Fair this weekend

From Friday through to Sunday this weekend, Hilly Fields will be home to a small Fun Fair - the kind with bumper cars.

The fair will be open from 12pm to 7pm daily.

Train operators vie for Brockley services

The Times is among the papers reporting that:

"National Express, Stagecoach, Govia and Ned Railways will fight for the new South Central franchise.

"The eventual winner will have to increase capacity by around 10 per cent overall. They will also help facilitate the East London Line Extension from 2010 and the £5.5 billion Thameslink Programme.

"Other improvements that the DfT wants to see delivered from the new franchise include smartcards — like the capital's Oyster card — rolled out throughout the franchise area. It also wants to see improvements to stations to make them safer, later running services, improved reliability and better environmental performance.

"The successful bidder is expected to be announced in early summer 2009 and the franchise will operate from September 2009 until July 2015."

Six degrees of Brockley

Homer: Hello? Why am I Mr. Sparkle?
Worker: You like Mister Sparkle?
Homer: Well, I am Mr. Sparkle.
Worker: You have many question, Mr. Sparkle. I send you premium answer question, hundred percent!

Despite living in South East London for nearly thirty years, Brockley had barely registered on our consciousness before we stumbled upon it in an increasingly desperate house hunt, about three years ago.

But since moving here, we find ourselves barely able to move without bumping in to old schoolmates at church fetes, ex-girlfriends in health food shops and the person who beat us to the role of "seven year old child" in a Greenwich Theatre production, nosing around the Co-Op.

Not only is our former life catching up with us in SE4, but Brockley's tentacles are reaching further and further in to the wider world. This weekend, we took shelter from the wind and rain on Southwold Pier in a little Heath Robinson arcade. It was filled with eccentric, hand-built machines which did everything from predicting your future to washing your brain.

We opted for a go on the Mobility Masterclass - a machine which trains you for a future of arthritic frustration by forcing you to cross a motorway with a Zimmer frame. We successfully avoided death only to find that our reward was a party at the Rivoli Ballroom.

What was a replica of the Rivoli Ballroom doing here? Was the fact that Gordon Brown chose to visit both Brockley and Southwold connected? Was it just coincidence that both places are filled with the angsty, middle-class artist-types?

The artist who created the game explains:

"The ballroom was the greatest challenge (it had to be a ballroom as I wanted the Zimmer to start dancing as the payoff for a successful crossing). I had a vague memory of an ornate ballroom in Blackpool and assumed there must be others, but no one seemed to know of any. Eventually I rang a magazine called Dancing Times who rather doubtfully suggested The Rivoli Ballroom in South East London. Still not knowing what it looked like, I persuaded the reluctant manageress to let me visit and take some photos. It was fabulous and spookily, exactly what I’d had in my mind. Not only were the ballroom and foyer perfect, but so was the exterior, which was almost identical to the one I’d drawn. Billy, the owner, and Charles, his barman, were great characters and I stayed chatting for hours."

So there's your answer, Fish bulb! If you've discovered any curious Brockley connections, please post them here.

Crofton Park: Major new development planned opposite the Brockley Jack

Lewisham Council has received a planning application for:

"The alteration, extension and reconfiguration of the existing commercial units and flats above at 437-439 Brockley Road SE4, together with the construction of a part three/part four storey building incorporating balconies and terraces comprising,1 office unit, 2 artist studios, 4, one-bedroom, 4 two-bedroom and 1 three-bedroom self-contained flats, together with the provision of 12 bicycle spaces, bin store and associated landscaping."

Though the plans are yet to be published, they are rumoured to be fairly ambitious and visually striking. The architects, MKA, at least have some form in producing interesting work.

We hope to be able to publish more detail about the plans soon.

Thanks to Patrick.

Rightmove's "East London Line effect"

The Rightmove House Price Index was widely reported yesterday, with the coverage suggesting that the effect of the East London Line would insulate homeowners from the worst effects of the price drops across London.

This claim seems to have been made on the basis that Hackney, Islington and Southwark(?) are among the least-worst performing Boroughs in London. But while the ELL will bring major benefits to Hackney, it seems doubtful that the ELL could have any significant impact on house prices across Islington; a large borough with plenty of connections already. Likewise, Lewisham (-5.2%) and Croydon (-5.3%) both recorded falls in line with the London-wide average.

So, it seems doubtful that the ELL is currently having any great effect on local houseprices, which is hardly surprising given that house price movements are being driven by an implosion in the mortgage market. Rightmove, nonetheless, said that:

"Areas with Olympic-linked pending transport links are forecast to be the best hedge against price falls."

Another shop lost on Lewisham Way?

(quite when it was last used as a shop, however, we couldn't say!)

An application has been made to convert a shop at number 243 Lewisham Way into flats. The property sits two doors up from Meze Mangal, and next door to the much hyped and anticipated Turkish Bakery (although currently better known as 'the sea container').

The block is currently entirely boarded up with a makeshift car park to the front. It has been this way for as long as Brockley Central can care to remember - a sign suggests that it might have once been a cafe, but then perhaps that was nextdoor. Anyone care to inform us what it once was?

The application reads:

"The change of use, alteration and conversion of 243 Lewisham Way SE4, construction of an extension to the rear at first floor level and alterations to the front elevation, to provide 6, one bedroom and 1, two bedroom, self-contained flats."

Were the bakery in place, or at least looking anywhere near completion, one might argue that this empty shop would make a prime position for a coffee shop or *gasp* a Lewisham Way deli. However, lets not get carried away. One less eyesore on Lewisham Way, whether flats or not, is a small victory to getting the road in shape, and the plans seem sympathetic. Good or bad, you decide.

You can see the application here. If anyone has any further information, let us know.

The Talbot - slow and steady

Reporting on the progress of the Gallery and The Talbot's restoration is a test of a blogger's endurance, but both projects are gradually being realised.

As we busy ourselves about our various concerns with infinite complacency, intellects vast and cool slowly and surely draw their plans for us.

So, having gone dark for a while, Jamie from The Talbot has popped up to tell us that The Talbot will be closing on Saturday 30th August to allow refurbishment to begin with a view to re-opening early December. We hope to have some of the designs to show you shortly.

Little treasures: #2 Moore Grocers

Looking more like a piece of installation art than a functioning shop, Moore Grocers is the last survivor from the days when Upper Brockley Road was a bustling commercial thoroughfare. It gives the impression that it still accepts ration books. Neighbouring shops have been converted to flats, but Moore's endures.

The Tea Factory Gallery moves ahead

The last time we wrote about the gallery, the negotations that between Tea Leaf Arts (the community gallery enterprise), Lewisham Council (which drew up the S106 agreement which paved the way for the gallery) and the developer DPS, revolved around the developer being refused permission for the building to be occupied until one of three options to make the gallery viable was agreed:

1) An extension to the rent-free period by a minimum of 6 months
2) The payment by DPS to Tea Leaf Arts of the money needed to fit the unit out
3) The unit to be fitted out by DPS prior to occupancy

Of these, option 3 seemed the most sensible and the most likely to enable the gallery to open as soon as possible. We're pleased to be able to report that it's the option that's been agreed. During the recent Brockley Cross walkabout, Cllr Alexander agreed to find out what was going on with the gallery and here's the correspondence we received as a result:

"There have been ongoing discussions with the developer, Tea Leaf Arts (the 'Nominated Occupier') and the Council for some time now regarding the gallery space at 100-104 Endwell Road (also known as the TeaFactory). The Council has written to the developer confirming our position that until the unit is provided in a 'reasonable state' for occupation and the lease has been signed, the residential units within the scheme should not be occupied.

"The Developer has recently confirmed that they are willing to undertake a number of improvements to the existing shell that would enable Tea Leaf Arts to occupy and commence trading from the gallery unit. Tea Leaf Arts have been provided with a copy of the final lease and a request to sign the lease and send it back as soon as possible."

The Montague Arms: The secret's out!

It's shaping up to be a bit of a pubs month on Brockley Central. The soon-to-be-released Rough Pub Guide, billed as a celebration of the great British boozer, features completely barmy New Cross gem The Montague Arms as its number 1 pub. We won't go on about it here, since many of you will have read about it tonight in the London Paper.

Brockley Central has been a fan for some time now, but we wonder what will happen to the Montague as a result of its new found fame. Perhaps they need to adjust their well-loved 'Coach Parties Welcome' sign to 'Coach Parties Likely'?

Honestly, who throws a shoe?

As we've mentioned before, BCHQ suffers from squally winds which blow quite a lot of rubbish off the street and in to our front garden. So it was that this weekend, under darkening skies, we were enjoying our usual Sunday morning clean-up, when we discovered an old pair of women's shoes. The shoes can only have been lobbed over our wall, at the cost of some effort from their former owner.

At moments like that, we try to remember the good things about life in Brockley. Like the fact that the other day we were given free baguettes by the baker who was shutting up shop while she went on holiday or when our neighbour gave us a present following the birth of our child.

On balance, do you find the people of Brockley to be altruistic bread-sharers or shoe-throwing nobheads?

The Rosemary Branch, 44 Lewisham Way

BC review to follow, please post your comments and reviews here.

100 days of vicissitude

We read this paean to Boris Johnson's leadership as Mayor of London over the weekend. What we found most striking was that at almost no point did the initial article or any of the gushing responses mention anything that he's actually done during his tenure. So here is our list of his more eye-catching moves - have you noticed any changes, good people of Brockley?

· Scrapped C02 charge - the £25 charge for gas guzzlers using central London

· Hired and fired Ray Lewis

· Hired and fired James McGrath

· Appointed Kulveer Ranger as transport adviser. Ranger promptly signaled that pedestrians, cyclists and buses will no longer be given priority over cars in London planning issues

· Scrapped the plan to pedestrianise Westminster Square (a world heritage site) and create a major new public space, preferring to keep it as a traffic roundabout. A plan to create a new boulevard along Victoria Embankment is also set to be dropped

· Appointed an advisor to find out which football club wants to move in to the Olympic Stadium (the answer, as has been known for months, is none) and discovered the answer is none

· Acknowledged that the modern Routemaster design he was so fond of during his campaign was little more than a napkin scribble, by announcing a competition to design... a modern Routemaster

· Banned alcohol on the tube, bringing a notional end to drunks on the underground

· Merged Design for London in to the LDA, with the result that Peter Bishop, DfL Director, said that he expected most DfL projects to continue but some small schemes may be “shed or wound up”. Design for London was a key source of potential funding for projects like the improvement of Brockley Cross, Brockley Road, Ladywell Village and Lewisham Way

Blackfriars: You're still thinking about the bad news, aren't you?

The planned new Blackfriars Station interior

Never a paper to look on the bright side, The Evening Standard reports that:

"Blackfriars Tube station is to close for two and a half years in one of the longest closures of a central London station. Rail chiefs said today the Square Mile station would shut in March next year and not reopen until late in 2011.

"More than 44,000 daily users of the station face long delays getting to and from work and will be forced to use other stations, lines or the bus. Circle and District line services will continue to run through the station but without stopping.

"It is promised the first phase of the Thameslink programme, which will virtually treble passenger capacity from the current 4,500 an hour to 12,000, will be completed for the 2012 Olympics... Blackfriars mainline improvement will include covered platforms stretching across the Thames rail bridge with the station the first to have entrances north and south of the river.

"By early 2012 Thameslink services will be lengthened from eight carriages to 12 between Bedford and central London and services doubled from eight to 16 per hour through central London."

Temple and Mansion House tube stations are both within a few hundred metres walk of Blackfriars

The good news for commuters from Crofton Park is that they can look forward to an additional 2 trains per hour during peak times.

Reader Ed sent us a copy of a letter from Malcolm Smith, Lewisham Council's Executive Director for Regeneration, which confirms that:

"The South London Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) was published by Network Rail in March 2008 and submitted to the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR). It will become established 60 days after publication, unless the ORR issues a notice of objection. The recommendations of a RUS and the evidence contained within it, form an input in to decisions made by the Government and the railway industry. In terms of the Catford Loop Line, the following is proposed :

"From March 2009 services on this route will be extended to run north of Blackfriars, providing new journey opportunities. The Victoria Eastern to Bellingham service, which is recommended for introduction by December 2011, would provide an additional 2 in the peak and provide further new journey opportunities, and an increase in peak service frequencies on the route .

"Some working assumptions have also been made in relation to potential Thameslink services in 2015, although it should be emphasised that no detailed timetabling work has been undertaken and this proposes 4 stopping Thameslink services on this line."

This place is dead anyway

Friend of Brockley Central, Steve, writes:

"I've heard from friends that the premises for Cafe Neu may become another funeral parlour. Is this true? It seems that areas near to the stations eg Brockley, Crofton Park and Honor Oak have improved over the years but the in-between parades eg the Cafe Neu and the Homeview areas continue to struggle.

"The sombre appearance of another funeral parlour will contrast well with the betting shops which have also set up business here. Perhaps there's some sort business connection?"

We've not heard anything about this - can you help Steve?

The BXAG reaction to the Brockley Cross tour

One quick follow-up to our report of the tour of Brockley Cross with Cllr Alexander. Des Kirkland, of the Brockley Cross Action Group (BXAG) wrote to us with his verdict:

"From the perspective of the Brockley Cross Action Group the visit by the Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander is an indication that the council is taking seriously the concerns of the local community that Brockley has a range of issues which require resolution. These include public safety and traffic regulation.

"Heidi appeared genuinely interested in the points raised during the walkabout and the unfortunate accident of one of her officers brought home clearly the problems we had raised about poor pavements. We reiterated outstanding concerns that Heidi was already aware of, like shop signage, Speedicars is a case in point. The longstanding safety concerns with the double roundabout at the Cross. Improving the area around the station, both in terms of public safety and the traffic issue.

"We also flagged up issues that the BXAG and local residents are familiar with but she would not necessarily have been previously aware of, like the wish to improve the range of retail outlets in the locality, a clampdown on illegal and anti-social activities including drug dealing. It was made very clear to Heidi that the both residents and groups like the BXAG are committed to the long term improvement of Brockley and with the coming of the East London line this is the best area of the Borough for the council to invest in."

Ashby Mews fire

Earlier this week, fire destroyed 5 Ashby Mews.

The building was already the subject of a planning application, which would have involved demolishing 2-5 Ashby Mews and the "construction of a part one/part two storey block comprising of 5 commercial units, together with the provision of 3 car parking spaces, 13 internal bicycle spaces and refuse storage area."

The fire did not spread to the other units, but number 5 has now been knocked down.

With thanks to JPM.

Update - also thanks to Nina for the pic:

Ashby Mews fire

Calling all code monkeys

We're always looking for opportunities to improve this site, and we have a few ideas that could do with some slave labour IT talent to help get that ball rolling.

We've had a few offers in the past - much obliged - but this time we're after something quite specific. So, apologies for going techie... We're looking for a web developer with PHP coding skills, and preferably experience of Apache server configuration and managing a MySQL database. You basically shouldn't mind fixing stuff when we break it. You'll also need enthusiasm, optimism, and should share our common love of Brockley.

If that sounds like your bag, then we'd love to hear from you. Time-wise, we're talking probably a few hours a week, maximum. Those interested should start off by emailing We'll then continue the conversation down the Wickham.

Details of improvements to the site will come in due course.

The Brockley Central Interview: Richard Salthouse, Jam Circus

We can think of no better example of how local businesses can engage the local community than Jam Circus. Richard Salthouse, the manager, is a regular reader and contributor to the blog - responding to people's comments, promoting events and innovations at the bar and championing all that Brockley has to offer. So, we decided it was about time we interviewed him. In typically enthusiastic form, his answers are long, but very interesting reading. We hope you like it.

How long have you worked at Jam Circus?

Almost 2 years, I've now been the manager for 6 months, and was previously the assistant manager for a little over a year.

Your group also runs the Royal Albert, which is another local favourite, how would you characterise the differences between the two places and what is the secret to running a successful pub?

My previous manager actually used to run both pubs so I really got to know RA quite well. The main differences come down to the respective areas - we seemore families, whereas Royal Albert taps into the local student crowd. Importantly though, I don't think either pub has pigeon-holed it's clientele and has a nice cross-section of the New Cross & Brockley communities, be they young professionals, families or your local bricky. Royal Albert looks more like a smart traditional boozer - dark leather sofas, a few real ales, etc,whereas Jam Circus is more open with soft furnishings, floor-to-ceiling windows, coffee machine on the bar, etc. When it comes down to it both are first and foremost pubs with decent drinks and homemade food. Both have fantastic, hard-working chefs and although JC is probably more food-orientated, Kevin, the chef in RA is lucky enough to have Deptford market, allowing for amore flexible menu (he does fantastic daily fish specials).

Running a successful pub - I'm learning! Essentially you have to give customerswhat they want and be friendly while doing it. Michelin-starred food & disinterested staff will get you nowhere if all somebody wants is a burger and a smile. I'm lucky enough to have a great team of staff who take care to lookafter & get to know our customers. Word of mouth is invaluable and the first thing we all mention to our friends is service. Of course, product is important - we've worked hard at our food menus and recently introduced draught real ale & a cocktail list, as these were in demand. But, quality must beconsistent otherwise you will only flatter to deceive and that all-important word of mouth will start to go against you.

What do you think of the White Hart's plans to introduce strippers? Are you sympathetic to pubs that are struggling financially?

I read a little of this on BC and the front page of one of the local papers and while I can sympathise with struggling pubs I don't think strippers should or can be the answer. When an industry begins to struggle there are plenty of losers, but the winners are those who knuckle down and do everything to be thebest around - and the best pubs don't have strippers! This won't attract groups of friends spending cash, instead there will be seedy men sitting alone nursing a pint for 2 hours. Again, it's about being friendly, clean & welcoming. These things aren't costly.

What has been the effect of the smoking ban for you?

We're unfortuntate to not have a proper garden, but overall I think the effect was near-negligible. The ban was introduced at the right time - food has become more important to pub-goers, many of whom are now families with children in tow. Also, being introduced in July most people were happy to sit outside withtheir cigarette, allowing a soft landing.

Crofton Park seems to be undergoing a lot of change lately, do you thinkit's on the up?

Crofton Park is definitely improving - we've had the Co-op refit, Jays Costcutter is now a nice Budgens and a few local businesses have given their shopfronts a lick of paint. I can only imagine further improvements when the ELL arrives - Brockley will be in demand but I think Crofton Park will be the affordable option for some, with its own train station and only 10min walk from 2 tube stations, plus 5 minutes from Hilly Fields and with a good selection of places to eat and drink. I'm sure we'll see a one or two cafés, delis, etcpopping up over the next 2 years.

How do you feel about the revamped Brockley Jack - is it a threat or healthy competition?

I think until an area reaches saturation point competition is always healthy. We need to keep local residents in the area when they look for somewhere to eat & drink, rather than losing them to Blackheath, Dulwich, etc. The Brockley Jack is vastly-improved, but I think what we offer is different enough to notthreaten each other. Of course the theatre should do wonders for the BrockleyJack and thankfully it seems they are back in full swing with new plays and film nights.

Would you ever consider opening a place near Brockley Cross?

Personally, definitely. Speaking for my company though - no. It would be too close to Jam Circus and Royal Albert - there could be an Antic-saturation! Brockley Cross is crying out for an Antic-style pub, though - decent ales & homemade food in a comfortable, friendly, clean local is a no-brainer for thearea, but where?

What have you got planned for the future of Jam Circus?

I think our biggest battleis to distance ourselves from the past - there was at least a year or so when the pub was unfortunately mismanaged. We need to re-introduce some people to what is now once again a lovely pub. I also plan to win some hearts in BrockleyCross - we're really not that far from Brockley Station (10min walk at most) and yet I think there are many who think we're in another area entirely! Lookout for us flyering Brockley Station in the future.We actually have plans for an end of summer party, pencilled in for Saturday27th September. The idea is to thank customers for their support and toencourage others to try us for the first time. There would be food samples andour local cake-lady, Lorna, is even considering having burlesque girls hand out cupcakes!

There's a great local band called Lyrebird ( its infancy who have promised to play that night and they'd probably befollowed by a DJ. More details to come!I think we have built something fantastic & consolidated it over the past 6months and now is the time for small improvements here and there - we're goingto trial including game on our Sunday roast menu, starting with pigeon. PeterJames the butcher catches his own rabbits in the winter, so that is definitelysomething I'm keen to get on plates of a Sunday!Recently we have been more involved locally and we'll look to build on this.

I have built a Jam Circus blog ( that is yet to be officially launched, but I would love to kick-start it by directing BC readersthere to see what they think and to contribute. We will use it to updatecustomers and to respond to feedback, but I wouldn't want it to be pure JC - itshould champion local businesses such as Peter James, offer exposure to local artists perhaps, and direct more people to valuable local sites such as BC,Broc Soc, etc. We also have a big new local noticeboard opposite the bar foranybody to drop in and stick to it what they wish.

Lastly, I'm thinking of having a children & parents only morning on Thursdays.We usually open at noon but if there is enough interest (perhaps a localparents group) we could open at say 10.30 and let the kids have the run on theplace. We would put on a DVD, provide books & toys and make sure there areplenty of cakes & muffins on the bar for grown-ups! Let me know what you think.

JC was heavily involved with this year's MAX. What did you think of the event and would you like to be involved again? How did your involvement come about?

I think everybody knows there were publicity problems, but first of all I would thank the guys who put absolutely everything into ensuring the festival continued after Moira stopped. They had some major issues with Newsshopper, who were to distribute their flyers and I'm sure they would do a few thingsdifferently next time. Nonetheless, the event was a great week for us and we'd definitely like to be involved again - we had a big jam night, an evening with local artists, a jazzevening and of course we were lucky enough to hold the finale, when Joel Pott of Athlete filled Jam Circus and went down a storm.

BMax is great for Brockley and it's important it continues next year. As an event it introduces people totheir own area and to local artists, musicians and businesses. More thananything it's a lot of fun!We already had a few things in place this year when the organisers came to seeme, and it was because of them that we had such a great closing night - theyorganised absolutely everything and we were honoured to be asked to host it.

Do you have a final word for Brockley?

This is going to sound like an old record - we must support local businesses. Brockley isn't exactly teeming with bars & shops like Lordship Lane, but there are plenty of gems. Many of these places aren't lucky enough to have a group such as Antic behind them and a few tough months can quickly become a serious problem. Even spending a few pounds in the places you know and trying out theones you don't can get the ball rolling - personally I think Dandelion Blue, Degustation and Shop on the Hill are doing great things in Brockley Cross; Moonbows is as reliable as ever, and down this end we are blessed to have Mr Lawrence's wine bar & off-license. Le Querce and Babur (not quite SE4) offer food as good as anywhere in London (Le Querce in particular is extraordinary) and The Honor Oak (definitely not Brockley now) has truly established itselfand shares much of its philosophy with Jam Circus.Our website is

How to lose friends and alienate people

The world will look up and shout "Save us!"... And I'll whisper "No."

One side note to yesterday's article. Before the group set off, I asked Cllr Alexander if she'd read the comments on the site about the tour. She said:

"Yes, and I got quite depressed! There were people saying that I shouldn't be wasting my time, that it was just a PR stunt."

This underlines that people read what you write and are affected by it.

With that in mind, we just want to take issue with a particular meme that has gripped some contributors to this site. The argument goes:

a) The Council don't do anything for me
b) There's nothing I can do to force them to do what I want
c) They're all useless

If a and b are true, then continually expressing view c is surely not the way to convince anyone to change. If you want things to improve, you have to work with people and employ a little empathy and courtesy.

There are those who will answer that they shouldn't have to be nice, they pay their taxes and the Council should just do a better job. Which, of course, is no answer at all.

Brockley Cross

On Friday, July 25th, Brockley Central and a handful of readers met with Cllr Heidi Alexander and a phalanx of Council officers, to walk Brockley Cross and discuss some of the challenges the area faces. To underline just how joined-up Brockley's community forces are, both BrocSoc and the BXAG were represented in the form of one local superconnector, Des Kirkland.

We should begin by saying that walking and writing at the same time is not something we do well, so apologies to those who attended and whose names we've omitted. You know you were there.

In our original interview, Cllr Alexander said that the key to getting things done was for the community to highlight the problems and keep nagging until something happened [we paraphrase]. This was the highlighting stage. The nagging will follow.

Schools, leisure facilities, businesses - all worthy issues - were not on the agenda that day. The day was about pointing at things and saying "look, if you fixed that, imagine how much better it would be - imagine how grateful we'd be to you, our Council."

Our pitch to Cllr Alexander was that Brockley is an area with huge potential. With a small investment of time and money, really impressive change could be achieved.

Brockley is home to people who genuinely love and care about their area. People who've been working to make things better in small ways for many years and people who've recently arrived, full of excitement about Brockley's potential as a place to live. While the Council rightly wrestle with the problems of Lewisham and Catford, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to capitalise on the arrival of the East London Line is in danger of being missed. If the Council wants to be able to show that things can and do get better, Brockley is the place to prove it. The return on investment would be huge and they would have the support of the people every step of the way.

In our view, the tour was very constructive and - crucially - proposed some positive and realistic steps that could be taken to change things. We're thankful to Cllr Alexander and her team, who were there to help, not to deflect criticism.

We've already highlighted the discussions about Brockley Station, here are the main areas we discussed:

Coulgate Street

The officers were shocked by the parking in Coulgate Street, agreeing that it spoiled the look of the street, made it dangerous for commuters and probably brought little benefit to local traders, as the cars almost certainly belong to commuters, meaning that shoppers have nowhere to park anyway.

With a 300% increase in commuter traffic forecast, it was felt that action was justified to clear the road around Platform 2.

People worried about the prospects of CPZs can sleep easy - nothing so drastic would be considered [a CPZ would need to extend far beyond Coulgate Street]. We're also unlikely to see full pedestrianisation [sorry, Brockley Fox], but anything to make the streets more pedestrian friendly will be a huge step forward. The group made it clear that they would be happiest with a system which permitted limited short-term parking for customers of the local shops and cafes.
Cllr Alexander has since confirmed that they are now looking at options for appropriate parking controls.

Brockley Road

A common theme of the tour was the generally poor state of the streets - tatty street furniture, poor shop fronts and cracked and uneven pavements. The last of these points was dramatised when one of the group tripped and fell, quite spectacularly, on the uneven surface at the top of Brockley Cross.

The railings between Cranfield and Harefield, opposite the Barge, were a source of particular horror. The officers said that if the area was being planned today, the railings would not have been installed at all, but that people were very reluctant to remove railings because no one wants to be the person who takes away railings, only for a pedestrian to be mown down later on. However, there was no doubt that they are twisted out of shape and ugly. It may be possible to remove them (though not without a traffic study), but an alternative option could be to replace them with something less visually offensive. The Council agreed to look at the options and report back.

The wider issue of the poor condition of this stretch of Brockley Road was discussed and the Council agreed that they'd welcome further discussion of how to improve it. One of the key challenges is that the Council appears not to have any money to make any physical improvements. PFIs and grants from other sources are our only hope in terms of raising money to invest in our streets.

Enforcement of planning regulations has been a long-running problem, with high turnover of staff in this department, but they agreed that greater priority needed to be given to making sure that shopkeepers don't continue to flout the rules.

Brockley Cross Roundabout

The roundabout is obviously the biggest and most intractable issue that the group discussed.

Although there have been many options considered in the past, nothing will happen without a full traffic study, which measures traffic flow in a much wider area, to model how changes to the roundabout would impact on traffic elsewhere. Of course, that needs money and there's none available.

The best bet for securing funding would be if there was evidence that the roundabout is unsafe. Despite all the residents (including us) expressing the belief that it is indeed an accident black spot, the figures haven't shown this in the past, perhaps because there have been no fatalities.

Everyone agreed that the roundabout is ghastly for residents and detrimental to local businesses. There was agreement that it would be much easier to find people willing to invest in the regeneration of the timber yard if the road layout was improved, but that we are in a bit of a Catch 22 situation for the time being.

But this tour was about identifying what can be achieved in the short term, as well as worrying about the big long-term challenges. So our attention turned to the scoop of road that leads on to the roundabout from the east. It's circled in the image below and serves no useful purpose other than to provide somewhere for people to double and triple park during the working day and to hang out, shouting at one another from their cars at night. It does nothing for local business and looks like an accident of planning, so that, to people approaching Brockley Cross from Geoffrey Road, the road looks like a six-lane motorway.

We asked why the kerbs couldn't be joined up and the parking space turned in to a little park.

No one could think of a good reason why it couldn't and Cllr Alexander and her advisers seemed to get quite excited by the idea. We've since had an email from her explaining that they are investigating what could be done.

Other stuff we talked about

  • On the west side, The Glasshouse needs to be completed before work can begin on the building opposite, due to the physical restrictions of the sites and the necessity to keep the road open. After a few hitches, construction is due to get underway shortly
  • No one was quite sure what happened to Eternal Jerk, but it was pointed out that the contractors who occupied its old site are a major company, so it is likely that they were carrying out rail maintenance work
  • There was general irritation that the good work done to the flower beds by platform 2 was undermined by the concrete base for a non-existent ticket machine, which had been plonked down on one side of the bed and then taped off, for maximum uglification
  • Cllr Alexander was surprised to hear that the Community Art Gallery issue had not yet been resolved and pledged to investigate what was being done at Council level to ensure we actually get the gallery we have been promised

We will keep nagging Cllr Alexander about the issues above and let you know what progress is made. A lot of other points were discussed during the tour and we hope that others who took part will add their thoughts in the comments below.

Coulgate Street: The Future is Now

New arrival "The Brockley Fox" has been inspired by the discussions about Coulgate Street to create some renderings of what could be, drawing on his Cornish heritage to create a new cafe on the site that was once occupied by Speedicars. He's posted them on the Flickr page which we link to, but they deserve their own thread.

It's fantastic work and shows how dramatically an area can be transformed with only a few minor changes. They are not as far-fetched as they might look given where we are today...

We still owe you a write up of the Brockley Cross walkabout, which discussed the changes that could be made to the area, to create this kind of "step-change" which Des Kirkland from the BXAG argued passionately for on the day.