#Lewisham 2014: The issues that do matter

Here are the issues that we think ought to define tomorrow's Lewisham elections and the years that follow. Please let us know what you think.


Prices and rents are rising faster in Lewisham than the London average, causing enormous problems for residents and changing the make-up of the area.

Like jobs, housing is a London-wide challenge. So why dismiss the former issue and prioritise the latter? Because unlike the jobs market, Lewisham has a major role to play in meeting London's growing demand for housing. Everywhere you look, major new buildings are at last appearing. But the housing challenge presents a number of questions that ultimately come back to the vision for Lewisham. These are:

- What balance do we want to strike in terms of "affordable" housing?
- Where should development be focused?
- What kind of developments do we admire?
- How much should housing needs take priority over all other considerations?

The Lewisham Plan contains a lot of answers, but our politicians should be campaigning on these fundamental questions. An example of the problem can be found on the Lewisham Labour website. First story "Lewisham Labour make housing top priority in local elections", second story "Boris lets Deptford down at Convoys Wharf [by steamrollering the proposal through without giving due consideration to heritage, transport and affordable housing]."

If Lewisham had articulated a clear vision for Deptford, explaining how its maritime heritage would be incorporated into a wider development strategy, then the years of delays to this major housing scheme would make sense. Without such a vision, holding up vital housing [their top priority] in the name of a completely unfunded 'Build the Lenox' scheme seems, at best, incoherent.

"Secondary schools"

There aren't enough good ones in Lewisham. Great strides have been made in improving and expanding local primary schools to accommodate a growing population and a a growing number of young families who want to stay in the area rather than decamp to the suburbs. Little progress has been made in terms of our secondary schools. If we want to reduce unemployment in Lewisham, we need to invest in secondary and vocational education to improve employability.

We need a detailed plan for new schools, expanded schools and improved schools now.


Improve public transport and so much else falls in to place. The Bakerloo Line through New Cross and Lewisham town centre would attract hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and thousands of jobs to this borough, while encouraging house builders to get cracking with dormant projects. It is a long-term vision, but also a realistic prospect and momentum is building. A DLR extension south from Lewisham is fraught with technical challenges but also a possibility. Quicker wins would include a later-running service for the East London Line.

Of course, all this is outside Lewisham's direct control and any party that suggested otherwise could be accused of dishonesty - but we need our leaders to make the case during and beyond the election. In part, that means Lewisham explaining what developments and improvements could be unlocked by these projects.

Beyond the major infrastructure projects, we'd like to hear more about Lewisham's roads. Are we serious about 20mph an hour limits or not? How are we going to encourage cycling and capitalise on the new "superhighway" due to pass through New Cross. When Lewisham Gateway and Convoys Wharf finally materialise, how should local transport cope?

"The night-time economy"

If you really want to help the local economy and improve quality of life for many residents, encourage more night-life. In an area like Lewisham, where most adults work elsewhere during the day, catering for drinkers, diners and people who want a hair cut, a facial or a workout after work is key to developing successful high streets.

We recently asked Deputy Mayor Alan Smith how we could create more space for restaurants, cafes and bars in Brockley, we were told that any new restaurant space would ultimately be turned into takeaways, so we may as well not bother. We asked what his solution was and the conversation ended there. This is another example of how a lack of vision translates into inertia and missed opportunities. Does Lewisham want to help high streets or not? If so, it needs to get serious about creating high streets that people want to use. That means a proper strategy for the night-time economy.


Clare said...

It's not true to say that little progress has been made with secondary schools. They've all been pretty much rebuilt and they mostly have good or better Ofsteds. The results at primary level won't filter through to secondary results until a) these children are old enough to be doing GCSEs, b) Lewisham parents stop sending their children out of borough because of some fear of what Lewisham secondary schools are like. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy otherwise.
And I think you're misrepresenting what Cllr Smith said, which was just that a fancy brasserie and a fried chicken shop have the same status in planning which makes it hard to prioritise one over the other.
And it's the Lenox, not the Lennox.
And before I start sounding like a massive apologist for Labour, they could do a lot more on cycling and I for one will be watching them like a hawk on 20mph.

Brockley Nick said...

Planning law is obviously a problem and I support Lewisham Council's work to try and reform the rules around betting shops. But somehow, other parts of London manage to pull off the trick of creating restaurants, bars and cafes without every one of them becoming a Morley's. So it can be done - I want my politicians to tell us how - or at least stop telling the rest of us it can't be done.

Clare said...

Is it a massive problem in Brockley then? Surely we need a mix of chicken shops and brasseries? I had a lovely drink in the Gantry the other day without being too worried about the Morley's over the road. (is it a Morley's?)

Brockley Nick said...

"Is it a massive problem in Brockley then?"

No, but as I say, life and politics shouldn't all be about "massive problems" - it should be about the positive stuff. Do we want to improve quality of life? If yes, then high streets are important. Good high streets need good nightlife. Brockley has better options than much of Lewisham, but it could and should be better here and elsewhere. Take Lewisham town centre - hopeless at night. Take Hither Green - a virtual desert.

"Surely we need a mix of chicken shops and brasseries?"

Agreed - I even pointed out to him that I didn't necessarily have a problem with takeaways (and there are lots of different types of takeaways). It's always about balance. I suspect his analysis of the local market is wrong - we're probably saturated with takeaways, but a good restaurant would make a killing.

"I had a lovely drink in the Gantry the other day without being too worried about the Morley's over the road. (is it a Morley's?)"

As I say, no problem.

I've tried to write an article about Lewisham, not Brockley. Blackheath has lots of nightlife, Lewisham town centre has pitiful amounts. If we want to regenerate Lewisham town centre, we need some better nightlife.

Clare said...

I tell you what though, I'd much rather go for a drink in the Ravensbourne Arms than any pub in Blackheath...

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, but lots of people make a special trip to Blackheath. Ladywell, not so much. Therein lies the problem.

max doom! said...

i hate blackheath for a drink. thats right, hate. ravensbourne i can take or leave. the talbot on tyrwhitt rd apparently doesn't do much trade either, although every time ive been its been busy. if they (dunno, thatcher?) want to make lewisham town centre a viable evening option for cavorting the stretch from the station to where the market is needs to be nicer. maybe thats whats in the new plan thing. i dont think there's really that much will to turn the town centre into a 'destination' though. bucketmouth is a fine addition though.

Guest said...

The battle between old Lewisham vs new Lewisham. Smith has reached the age of disillusionment, you can't ask him to see the future with your eyes.

AliAfro said...

Fingers crossed those Dalston hipsters will give us a Lewisham venue to make the effort for.

AliAfro said...

Is there a central repository of what each prospective councillor's policies actually are?

Tim Lund said...

Thanks for putting this up Nick, and sorry we've not kept any serious focus on this in Sydenham. I think you make a good point about the incoherence of delaying the Convoy's Wharf development, although I've not followed that more than peripherally. I think it's quite right for Labour to lead on housing, which is why in 2014 Steve Bullock will have my very buoyant vote. But going on to the questions the housing challenge presents for you, here are my responses:

1. What balance do we want to strike in terms of "affordable" housing?

I feel very uncomfortable with the quotes round "affordable"; it can mean up to 80% of market rents, and that is not affordable. It also reinforces the institutionalisation of a split between the private and social rented sector, when the long term requirement is just to get more homes available for rent which do not take nearly 50% of young people's income. I think planning should be about the physical characteristics of housing, since this is what will matter most in the long run, not the immediate tenure type. Apart from thermal efficiency and all the things which should be covered by building regs (but of which enforcement is often poor), I would stress flexibility as a key physical characteristic for any housing. This is because it is impossible to say how demand will vary over the long run between 1, 2, 3 or more bed room houses, or for houses vs. business premises. Focusing on building 3 & 4 bedroom houses, which is all Simon Nundy has to say on housing, is absurdly restrictive, and I think is a sort of code for saying 'we prefer the normal, conventional family of advertisers' dreams round here, and not weird metropolitan incomers'. So, as long as it can be done well, I think objections to converting larger houses into smaller units should be dropped.

2. Where should development be focused?

Throughout the borough, although concentrating where public transport provision is better. The current policy of focusing new housing in a few locations is divisive, and will reinforce the interest of householders in relatively protected areas to maintain their level of exclusivity. I would prefer housing more widely rising to 3 or 4 storeys - which was the norm before widespread access to the development of suburbia.

3. What kind of developments do we admire?

Ones which encourage people to get out and socialise, and enjoy their neighbourhoods.

4. How much should housing needs take priority over all other considerations?

What other considerations? With most, it will be correlated, e.g. the need for schools, transport, other infrastructure; housing development is what can fund this, directly, or indirectly by making such new infrastructure (Bakerloo line extension?) more economically viable.

However, I think there is a view that housing competes with the development of business areas - this is implicit in the designation of certain areas as employment zones. I am sceptical about this; I think it fails to take account of (1) Lewisham being just part of the wider London economy, with good transport links to areas where employment growth happens more easily, thanks to the supply of older warehouse buildings; (2) fails to take account of the greater ease of setting up offices almost anywhere with modern IT; and (3) fails to consider the possibility of designing or allowing larger buildings to move from office to residential, or maybe one say the other way.

Tim said...

I want to care about local politics and then I read about Abu Hamza's family living on benefits in a £1.25mln house. Then I think about my brother, in the RAF, who has bought one for £110k. Then I want to vote UKIP because even though I think they're all weirdos, a vote for UKIP is a voted for change.

Monkeyboy said...

Or in summary every Daily Express editorial ever.

Max Calò said...

This is just pure electoral trolling, isn't it? I bet you don't even have a brother. Loonies and fruitcakes!

Anon said...

In the centre of Lewisham much office/retail space is being converted into residential use, there is application after application to convert upper floors to residential use.

Citibank has yet again crapped on Lewisham firstly with Citi tower which is now empty and only to be used in an emergency, then there was the data bank on Molesworth street. Now they have vacated Riverdale House to have it converted not into flats not even studio flats but instead 'micro' units.

The previous government introduced what it called a once in a lifetime opportunity the 'Decent Homes Scheme' to upgrade existing social housing along with that the management and ownership of much of Lewisham's social housing was passed by the Mayor to housing associations. An arms length organisation 'Lewisham Homes' was set up but it and the council failed to obtain the 2 stars to qualify for Decent Homes funding for 8 years.

And despite the Mayor & Councillors guarantees the 2 stars would automatically unlock the Decent Homes funding the previous government put a hold on the funding till after the 2010 election and a treasury review. A new government gets elected and they are presented as being mean for not fully funding the decent homes scheme in Lewisham yet any government in 2010 would have reduced the funding.

In 2006 when the country was awash with money our local elected Mayor decided to reduce council funding of Lewisham Homes which provoked a letter from the chair of Lewisham Homes pointing out the problems it would create for those in social housing,

Tim Lund said...

"they have vacated Riverdale House to have it converted not into flats not even studio flats but instead 'micro' units."

and from Galliard Homes - http://www.galliardhomes.com/Riverdale-House


The pre-release of 33 sophisticated studio apartments within a luxury forthcoming Galliard development located in the heart of one of London’s major centres – Lewisham. The first phase of Riverdale House will offer an exclusive choice of two studio styles,"

What am I missing?

Are you objecting to unoccupied offices being converted to residential? What do you mean by micro units?

Tim said...

It's all true. Which part of that is not a legitimate concern and statement! Why is it trolling?

I don't read the Express.

I think you've quite succinctly demonstrated why UKIP have been able to develop a power base.

Anon said...

You are missing documents from the planning application "Conversion - microflats..."

The original application was for 99 units that changed to 137 the size of the building has not been changed.

What you are also missing is the difference between the truth and sales talk?

Why ask me what I mean by 'micro' it's what the developers have in their application.


Monkeyboy said...

Leaving aside the bigotry, racism and ingnorance of UKIP for a moment. On housing, they are a libertarian, free market minimal state organisation. They won't be helping hook handed jihadis and won't be helping those on low income get a flat. They will leave it to the market, your brother will have to deal with his own problems.

You really ought to get the Express, it seems to represent our views quiet nicely

Economic Migrant said...

Loonies and fruitcakes could be applied to the majority of parties running candidates in these elections. UKIP, Greens, People Before Profit etc are all distasteful and bonkers in equal measure.

Tim Lund said...

Thanks. It's the sort of thing which happens when we fail to build enough houses elsewhere.

What would your preferred use for the building have been?

Brockley Nick said...

Not in equal measure. See top story...

Max Calò said...

Yes, UKIP is doing well because of because of things like these. Your story, who I believe is a complete fabrication for polling day trolling, in only a few words paints "the English" as a "brother" victim of 'the foreigner' and its traitor 'enemy within' who has betrayed the national cause. But not just, the brother has served Queen and Country only to be let down. Wartime nationalistic rethoric. That's why UKIP is doing well. Because stirring hate (or "unease" as Mr Farage puts it so much more politely) against foreigners works.

Economic Migrant said...

It could also be because voters are not stupid and have worked out that there is no good reason to continue our membership of the EU? The recent nastier approach is to woo Labour's core vote no?

Headhunter said...

I completely agree... Current policy in Lewisham very much tends to focus on the "old" Lewisham and there seems very little attempt to regenerate the local economy for up and coming spots like Brockley and Ladywell... This assumption from Cllr Smith that any empty space will inevitably become a takeaway is very telling... When I visit areas in Southwark they really seem to have made attempt to lift some spots up and aid in their development beyond betting shops and fried chicken....

Max Calò said...

Arguments on European membership are one thing, the rise of UKIP is another. One can dislike aspects of European membership and approve of others. The European Union, just like anything else, needs to reform to be relevant and positive. It's been a good thing and it could still be.

Tim said...

That was my point. I do leave the bigotry, racism and ignorance aside. I want to vote for change. When the mainstream parties offer it to me, I will vote for them. If they won't offer it, they need to be forced.

Yes, free market good. My brother is happy to deal with his own problems. It's giving £1.25mln houses to unemployed people with no intention of working that he and I have a problem with.

You are rather narrow minded if you think one should read newspapers that reflect one's views. Try reading a range of literature.

Tim said...

Dude, why would I make up having a brother that's buying a house?

And what are you banging on about: "enemy within", "Queen and Country", "wartime national rethoric"

UKIP may be fruitcakes, but I think I've found another one.

Max Calò said...

Because your post is a little poem filled with rethoric around those themes and it looks made up for trolling on polling day.

Monkeyboy said...

Well cheers for clearing that up. So it's all families with children who do not deserve help, not just them foreign ones. I thought you bringing up best tabloid bogey man ever was to suggest that.

It's weird, the free market libertarian party is very protective when it comes to trade Presumably they will resist the free movement of goods and services within Europe It's almost as if they are pandering to bigotry to grab some cheap votes. Well done you.

(No really, the express is right up your ally)

Damian said...

Great article Nick, fantastic stuff. I'm usually quite apathetic when local elections come around but this has definitely got me voting.
Most of the issues feel like the underlying problem from the council's perspective is complacency ("what's the point it'll just be a chicken shop" etc). Tired of seeing empty units then new, poor, commercial space being built next door, waste of resources. The council should be focused on basics, housing, education, transport and streetscapes (why do southwark/Lambeth have much better paving/fewer cracks, or nicer street furniture?). If these were sorted I'd guess private sector investment would follow soon after.

Tim said...

A free market libertarian world would not need the EU as there would be free movement of goods and services EVERYWHERE.

Tim said...

Poem? What on earth are you babbling in about.

And why is it trolling?

Monkeyboy said...

Free movement of goods and services in its purest form means free movement of people. UKIP do not like foreigners, especially the brown ones. If they were truly economically liberal they would welcome young migrants who could undercut wages. If you vote for them, you are supporting their bigoted philosophy. Simple.

Max Calò said...

Because not taking your post at face value is a tribute to your intelligence.

You wrote that although you would like to engage with local politics issues you find yourself unable to think of anything else than Abu Hamza's family's accomodation and therefore you'll vote UKIP because they represent a change even if you know they are a bunch of wierdos.

Do you see why I'd rather think you've concocted a story to support UKIP on election day?

Economic Migrant said...

The muted plan to form a truely liberal party that would probably form an alliance with the Tories at the national level would certainly have its merits. It may also be a force for change in local politics especially given the social and economic attitudes of generation Y? A bit like the FDP in Germany but with hopefully more success.

Tim said...

Nope. I voted for them because I want to give mainstream politicians a jolt. I do welcome all hard working migrants and indeed wish I could sling out many lazy Brits.

Tim said...

No, I do not see why you would think I would make something up.

And it's totally topical. Abu Hamza's domestic arrangements were in the news and my brother is buying a house. That's why I said it.

Is an apology in order?

Monkeyboy said...

Oh, well thats all OK then.

Max Calò said...

For what? It's you working hard to impose tax-funded loony and fruitcakes on us all.

terrencetrentderby said...

Technically you were the one to start trolling. All he did was air his political views which obviously are not the same as yours. The Greens come on here all the time and the streets have been full of annoying TUSC campaigners.

UKIP are doing well precisely because people have had enough of the big three parties, their tired policies and their constant mud slinging.

And no I don't vote for them but I wish all the fringe parties the very best of luck.

Monkeyboy said...

UKIPs bigotry and racism is as old as the hills, in fact it's probably the oldest political game in the book. Nothing radical or new about it. It's deadly dull

terrencetrentderby said...

I don't think most of the people who vote UKIP are bigoted or racist, despite the behaviour of UKIP politicians. Clearly their anti-EU and anti immigration message is resonating with the public.

I believe Farage is a third rate Tory and I don't support UKIP but is it racist to be concerned about immigration and EU power?

Max Calò said...

Nigel feels uneasy around people speaking foreign and I feel uneasy around people speaking Nigel. That's fair enough isn't it?

Until recently I didn't have a specific problem with UKIP. Loonies and fruitcakes, yes, but harmless. Don't like Europe, don't like this level of immigration? Fair enough, your opinion and I respect it. It may even be that they're right and I'm wrong.

But recently I've taken a sterner attitude against Nigel, it happened on the day he said that he didn't hear English spoken on the train between London Bridge and Hither Green and it made him feel uneasy, an obvious lie for all those familiar with that train and this means that he's not shy of encouraging xenophobic feelings to grab a few more votes.

Since then I've become really touchy about UKIP's combination of emotive arguments and lack of details, hence my response.

But after this day of discussion I must admit that I probably misjudged Tim, I disagree with him on quite a lot of stuff but if he feels what he says he feels then good luck to him (and his brother) and let's hope that not too many people voted UKIP in the full knowledge of them been a bunch of wierdos on top of those that voted UKIP because they really like Nigel and what he says (and on top of a further lot that would have voted UKIP because this time there's no BNP on the ballotbox).

Max Calò said...

Where is he buying for £110K?

Ok, listen, maybe you really feel about Abu Hamza and your brother who was in the RAF is buying for £110k so sorry for calling you a troll.

It was because you wrote an emotive short poem instead of something on topic and I really dislike this kind of emotive arguments.

Monkeyboy said...

Well its a matter of degree, no I don't think they wear a white hood and carry a length of rope in the back of the Rover just in case "because you know..." But blaming every misfortune, every job lost and crime co kited on the malign effects of immigration is cheap, nasty and dangerous. Effective though, I'll give it that. The EU is dull, all those treaties about trade and subtleties of converging economic models, so much harder to campaign on that but that is where the effect of the EU is. Blame the brown fellas babbling in their funny language, make it the norm to be be suspicious, legitimise all that? Makes me depressed but hopefully they will be rumbled.

terrencetrentderby said...

Why is it racist to be against mass immigration? Traditional Labout heartlands up north have awarded massive gains to UKIP, since I doubt they are voting for UKIP's obscure and unknown right wing economic policies then it is clear what they all all concerned about and clear they have no faith in the main parties.

Monkeyboy said...

So were agreed that UKIP is first and foremost an anti immigration party. A single issue organisation. Especially specific groups, like Romanians. That's playing the race card, it's original euro sceptic stance is a side show. Racist to fear foreigners and blame them for all that's bad in the country? Yes a bit.

terrencetrentderby said...

Of course UKIP are a one trick pony but Labour cant pretend mass immigration over the last 10 years hasn't affected communities, especially poorer working class ones that used to vote Labour.

Anon said...

53 out of 54 councillors now from just one party and the Mayor of the same party, a return to the dark days of the 2002 era is bound to happen. An era when reports on housing were pushed under the carpet. An era when the Mayor would have a letter in his pocket that was at odds with what he was saying publicly. An era when the council ignored the audit commission and refused to make public a report in to poor housing services in Lewisham.

One of the worst aspects of the results is to see names of councillors from the 2002-2006 period who lost their voice in the council chamber who feel the 'party' is far more important than their constituents. Councillors who will serve the interest of their party rather than the interests of Lewisham.

People who I would not want as a councillor...

Jacq Paschoud​
Skip Amrani​
Alan Smith​
Pauline Susan Morrison​
Carl Richard Handley​
Jim Mallory​
Damien James Egan​
John Paschoud​
Susan Wise​

Is the Joe Dromey elected in New Cross the son of Harriet Harman?

Woman of Brockley said...

Yes, he is. Google suggests he is hoping to get the nomination for the Lewisham Deptford constituency so this is obviously a stepping stone on the way. How nice.

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