Brockley Mews: Black Holes and Revelations

We keep meaning to write up our experiences at the Brockley Assembly, which will have you all on the edge of your seats. However, one particular issue was raised during the meeting, which deserves special attention.

We were part of a group which discussed how to improve the physical fabric of Brockley. One person raised the issue of the various mews in the area.

Whenever we do take a detour down one of them, we're always struck by how other-worldly they are - hidden little parallel universes of workshops, back gardens, fill-in housing and smouldering piles of embers. Despite being privately owned, they feel lawless and anarchic, which is all very thrilling for mews-tourists like us, but less fun for those who live there.

Residents of many of the area's mews have been faced with a long-running struggle to protect their streets from fly-tipping, illegal fires and other forms of anti-social behaviour. In some cases, they've tried putting gates up to reduce rubbish being dumped, but the gates are often left propped open by resident businesses, which are also believed to be the source of many of the fires.

When residents have turned to the Council for help, they've been told that as the mews are private land, there is relatively little that can be done - that the best course of action is for local residents to form local action groups, record incidences of anti-social behaviour and address their concerns directly to the owners of the offending businesses.

But the gentleman on our table gave a very convincing account of why the neighbourly approach doesn't work. Essentially, the problem is that some of the businesses don't see that they have a responsbility to maintain the mews. Industrial areas and residential areas generally operate to different standards and for the business owners, the mews are a place of work, not homes. Residents who complain are dismissed as cranky locals - it needs official intervention.

It cannot be right that the Council should turn a blind-eye to illegal refuse fires simply because the mews are private - businesses still have to conform to environmental standards and the issue is more accute precisely because of the mixed character of the mews.

The group's conclusion, recommended at the Assembly to Councillors Johnson and Walton was that the Council should write to all businesses operating in Brockley's mews to remind them of their responsibilities and warn them that they have received repeated complaints from multiple residents. From now on, there will be a zero-tolerance approach to enforcement of environmental regulations. Businesses that cannot respect or adhere to the rules risk having their license to operate withdrawn.

We hope that this is one recommendation that is treated seriously by Council officers.