28 May 2009

Permission for Nursery at 60 Manor Avenue Refused

Planning C refused planning permission for a 64 place nursery at 60 Manor Avenue tonight. After a full hour of evidence and debate, Cllr John Muldoon failed to get support from the other members of the committee for his proposal to accept. Following advice from officers Cllr Cathy Priddey and Cllr Sue Luxton proposed to reject the application on account of the detrimental impact of the 3m acoustic fence on neighbouring amenity and the impact on parking.

I spoke against the application citing the concerns of the fence, the loss of residential use, the impact on the contra-flow cycle lane in Ashby Road and noise. However I am not fundamentally opposed to nurseries and I also believe they can operate successfully in residential areas. But this nursery, for 64 places, would have been a particularly intensive operation in what is currently a quiet residential street. In short it appears that the commercial rationale for such a large nursery resulted in unacceptable impacts on other residents.

24 May 2009

London Loop - Source of the Ravensbourne

Inspired by a desire to find out more about surburban London and why they appeared to have voted in droves for Boris, I took the first step on the London Loop, a circular route around the edge of London.

Today's leg was from Petts Wood to Hayes - with particularly convenient transport from St Johns Station. My hope is to complete all of the route over the next year or so. All of the route is easu accessible from stations such as Hayes, Cockfosters & Hatton Cross - making it truly at the edge of London.

Highlights along the way included a stone bench as a memorial to the abolition of slavery (Pitt discussed the abolition of slavery with William Wilberforce here); an interesting selection of suburban architecture, (bungalows, Victorian terraces and sixties masionettes, and neat front gardens paved over of course with a garage adjacent to the house), the source of the Ravensbourne river (picture above) which of course comes through Lewisham and merges with the Quaggy at Lewisham Town Centre and then flows into Deptford Creek via Brockley's very own Brookmill Park.

Personally I think the source of the Ravensbourne could be much improved by finding a way to produce fresh water for visitors to drink it.

Anyway, the London Loop seems to be an excellent and green way to find out about London and it's very cheap - ideal at any time but particularly relevant in these recession-hit times.

Not sure if I'm any further to understanding why they voted for Boris Johnson in such numbers but suburban London certainly seems very different to Lewisham.

20 May 2009

Lewisham Bridge School Update

This evening's Council meeting was dominated by a debate on the future of the Council's plans for a new school at Lewisham Bridge following the listing of that school by English Heritage.

The Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the following motion (something like 50 in favour, 2 against - the others being absent for various reasons, including Cllr Phoenix and the Mayor):

“This council reaffirms its commitment to addressing the need for additional secondary school places in the North of the borough and the growing demand for primary school places boroughwide; notes that a review of the decision by English Heritage to list Lewisham Bridge Primary School has been sought by the Council; understands the concerns of parents about the impact of the current decant upon their children’s education; therefore calls upon the Mayor to review these arrangements at the earliest possible opportunity; and further calls upon the Mayor to explore all options for building an all through school at Lewisham Bridge.”

14 May 2009

Brockley Fun Run 5 July 2009

Now that the date for the Fun Run has been confirmed as 5 July 2009 I have decided to enter once again.

I'll be getting into training soon - and will post some comments on progress as the day approaches. Last time out I achieved a time of about 30mins - so lots of room for improvement there!

Do look out for the publicity, get involved and start training now.

I believe people will be able to enter online - I'll publish the link when I get it.

13 May 2009

Air Quality at Further Risk in Lewisham Town Centre?

At the last full Council I tabled a question for the Deputy Mayor about the Lewisham Gateway and the likely impact on air quality. It's question 12 - I've reproduced it below:

Question by Councillor Walton of the Deputy Mayor
What measures have been agreed as part of the Lewisham Gateway to alleviate the acknowledged decrease in air quality that will arise as a direct consequence if this scheme is built?

In terms of mitigation of construction impacts on air quality the applicant submitted a draft Construction Code of Practice (CoCP) as part of the planning submission and a condition was imposed requiring the submission and approval of a full CoCP incorporating identified measures (and others as appropriate) prior to any work commencing on site. Full details of any plant will also be required to be submitted and approved by the local planning authority prior to commencement to ensure that residual air quality impacts are acceptable. The developer would also be required to pay a sum of £50,000 towards the installation of an air quality monitoring station within the town centre to monitor air quality.

The scheme also proposes low levels of car parking, cycle parking for each unit and a restriction on future residents applying for parking permits within the Controlled Parking Zone along with the active promotion of more sustainable modes of transport to reduce reliance on private motor vehicles.

The applicant is required to submit for approval both site wide and individual travel plans to set out how this would be achieved and to monitor and review the plans.

The officers' report in 2007 was a lot more blunt than the Deputy Mayor. His report on air quality states (see para 7.6.9)

"The environmental statement states that there are no
mitigation measures available other than those already designed into the
scheme (i.e. the promotion of more sustainable modes of transport to
reduce road traffic) and as a consequence there is considered to be a major
residual adverse impact."

However what appears to have been forgotten is that under the current Mayor the expansion of the bus network in London has essentially been stopped - as was revealed by Cllr Darren Johnson in a question to the other Johnson at City Hall.

As a result of this, the Deputy Mayor is now attempting to get an answer to the question of what could happen to air quality in Lewisham should the Gateway go ahead and the buses as originally planned simply don't turn up.

My reading of the original officer's report is that this could be bad news for the future occupants of the Gateway.

12 May 2009

It's a real mess...

Following the recent debates on the effectiveness/decency of the dog stencils to control dog mess I decided to do a bit of research on how many dogs there are in the UK and whether one of the reasons for the prevalence of dog mess was due to a general increase in the numbers. My gut feeling was that dog owners, like smokers, must be aware of the issues but for some reason continue to allow their dogs to defaecate on the pavements...

My starting point, the office for national statistics led me to a blank. Digging a bit deeper (well doing a search on google) led me to DEFRA, confirmed that there are no official statistics on the numbers of dogs in the UK - why not?

Undeterred I looked up the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association who estimate that the number of dogs in 2004 was 6.8 million in 5.2 million households. The PFMA now estimate that the number of dogs in the UK is about 8million - a staggering increase of almost 20% over just a few years. What does this mean for Brockley? Well at first sight it could mean a lot. The statistics from the PFMA suggest that about a quarter of households have a dog - so in Brockley this could mean that the number of dogs could have increased from 1250 to 1500 - an increase of 250 over a 4 year period.

However, the PFMA survey suggests that London significantly bucks the trend for dog ownership per household. In London only 9% of households have a dog, nationally 23% have a dog. Meaning that in Brockley the estimate for the dog population is something more like 500 today - and was probably about 400 4 years ago.

Taken together the estimate for the increase of the dog population in Brockley is a more modest 90-100 over the 4 year period - still a lot.

From a public policy point of view - there could well be something like 90-100 households that have not previously or recently owned a dog who may need education - and overall the proportion of households that could be in need of reeducation is just under 10%.

It is truly amazing how such a relatively small number of people - the number of dog owners who do clear up after their dogs - manage to cause so much annoyance. Further it also sets out a clear challenge for us, as politicians to find effective ways of dealing with the problem.

The stencils, as indiscrimate as they are, are a serious case of being seen to do something about the problem. What we really need is a proper way of speaking to the majority of dog owners directly and thanking them for clearing up after their dogs, and tackling the minority with fines if necessary, of those who don't.

6 May 2009

Darren Johnson Elected as New Chair of London Assembly

Brockley Councillor, Darren Johnson AM, was elected as Chair of the London Assembly today.

Darren was elected 13 votes to 11. This is the picture of those voting for Darren.

Immediately following the vote set to the formal business of chairing the rest of the meeting. The meeting appeared to have finished ahead of schedule - which is perhaps a taste of Darren's style in efficiently chairing these meetings - or perhaps members were keen to have lunch.

And for those of you interested in such things, here's a close up of that chain.

5 May 2009

It's definitely not Lewisham

I had a fantastic time visiting the Steam Gala at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway this weekend. I go tthe chance to see Tornado, and see loads of fantastic scenery. I bought a souvenir fridge magnet of this sign and casually remarked to the volunteer in the shop that I was from Lewisham - which is why I was buying this particular magnet. His response was something along the lines of "you must be one of the last white people left in Lewisham" - which to say the least surprised me. I simply replied that I love the diversity of Lewisham. It transpired that the man had moved from Bromley about 20 years previously having loved spending time on the railway.

It is a bit sad that what appears to have infected his love of trains is a casual racism. Thankfully it appears to be a very unsophisticated form that simply assumes all white people share similar views - how wrong he was that day, how wrongly I believe he has misjudged the views of residents of Lewisham and how pleased I am that I had the opportunity to challenge his views.

2 May 2009

A Short Break in the North East

I've been away for a few days, staying in a cottage at a lighthouse in South Shields. The location of the lighthouse, close to the cliffs was fantastic. There is a fascinating industrial heritage to the area of Marsden/Whitburn where we were staying. Until the late sixties the whole area was home to a massive coal mine under the sea, a large village and railway sidings etc. Following the closure of the mine the railway was dismantled, the village demolished and the site has been restored as a sort of cliff-top park.

On the way up, I called in at a diesel railway gala on the Battlefield Line. I'd not been to such a gala before - and it was interesting that many of those present seemed just as thrilled at the puff of smoke produced by these locomotives as followers of steam trains. Many of the people there (including me of course) will never remember the days when steam trains were in service in Britain. The term for producing such smoke I have learnt is 'clagging'. The engine in the picture I think is a class 37.

The line is called the Battle Field line on account of its proximity to Bosworth Field...

No visit to the North East would be complete without a trip to Hadrian's Wall. Its bleak and remote location and length from Tynemouth to Carisle make the wall seem even more spectactular. The fort at Housesteads is particularly good.

And Hexham, with its abbey is well worth a visit too.

I made a brief visit to Holy Island - returning after a week long stay sometime in the early eighties. The island was a bit changed and I have changed a bit too. The Island is far more commercial and busier than I remember it previously.

...and a picture from my files.

Of course I had to make a visit to Newcastle, which I combined with meeting a school friend who I'd not seen for about 15 years. Loads of great buildings in the City and of course bridges. Thankfully there isn't a 6-lane motorway across the Tyne here - and no plans for one.

Not that I am obsessed with lighthouses, they always make a good picture. I came across this lighthouse, St Mary's, just north of Whitley Bay. A good arty shot!

And just to prove that it's not all grim up North, here's an example of the Nortumbrian Coast - truly lovely long clean and empty beaches!

These turbines were spotted at Blyth. An information plaque at the port explained that there are ambitions for industry in the North East to develop renewables - much like our call for Lewisham top open a Green Technology Park - proving that where the political will exists these things can happen.

I also called in at the 'Historic Market Town' of Alnwick - I wasn't sure that we were building new market towns. Similarly, Gravesend is described as 'Heritage Riverside Town' or similar on the signs on the A2. Perhaps I'm getting a bit old, but it seems a bit daft to me.

And this gruesome find is not what you want to stumble across whilst driving across the moors in the twilight! The gallows are at Elsdon. The wikipedia entry has a bit more information about the victim, William Winter. Let's hope that we have something less gruesome in Coulgate Street if it gets pedestrianised.

A rainy day (you get a few of these in the North East) and a visit to the 'branch' of York's National Railway Museum, called Locomotion. The museum houses amongst other things the prototype for the Deltic, the Timothy Hackworth steam engine that raced (and lost) against Stephenson's Rocket and this rather interesting gem, an electric locomotive built for North Eastern Railway (NER) No 1, LNER No 4075-6480, Ex BR number 26500. It was built in 1905 for working the Newcastle Riverside Branch. Notice the third rail collector and the pantograph. I think I'd be delighted if something with this amount of style rattled through Brockley rather than the rather boring EMUs used on the Thameslink.

The museum is at Shildon, which until 1984 was home to a massive coach building plant for British Rail Engineering Ltd employing half of the town. The decision to close the plant, presumably presented at the time as being about 'efficiency' is particularly poignant as we remember the thirty years since Thatcher came to power. Another great product of Shildon is interestingly fake fur.

Chocolate lovers will be pleased to see this shunter that worked at Fawdon, the Newcastle plant for Rowntrees.

Perhaps Boris could have made good use of this when this February?

And do you think passengers on this carriage, from the first passenger railway, the Stockton-Darlington would have suffered from the same levels of overcrowding commuters regularly experience at Brockley?

And finally the trip home, via the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge. Built in 1911 and still working. Made particularly famous by the Auf Weidersehen Pet series about its supposed dismantling and sale to the Americans - presumably a taken on the story of London Bridge. It took me a while to work out why it doesn't look as old as it is - and I think it's the paint colour. This blue is not very Edwardian - but still the structure can be seen and has an excellent form. Recommended if you're in the area.

I really enjoyed the North East and intend to go back sometime soon to spend some time on the beaches and to explore some more of the archaelogical and historic monuments of this great part of Britain.