30 September 2009

31 Homes Kept Emtpy in Lewisham

It appears that Lewisham is keeping at least 31 homes vacant at the moment - some for over 2 years. No reason is given for this. The financial cost of the lost rent is currently estimated at £50,000.

The full question and answer is repeated below:




Question by Councillor Walton
of the Cabinet Member for Customer Services


How many long term voids does Lewisham Homes have and for how long has each of the properties been left vacant? How much rent has been lost? How many of these have been squatted and how much has it cost to remove the squatters? Should Lewisham Homes decide to sell off these properties how many replacement homes would be bought?


Further to your question concerning long term voids within Lewisham Homes,
the information you have requested is detailed below:

The total number of long term void properties is 31 –

13 Lewisham Homes properties
18 ex-Dunlop Hayward properties

The average duration of a vacant property is:

Lewisham Homes Stock = 61 weeks
Ex Dunlop Hayward - LTV's Interim Managed = 135 weeks

The approximate rental loss for the period is £50,000

2 of the properties have been squatted and it costs an average of £650 per property to remove the squatters

With regard to selling the properties, as Lewisham Homes only manage the stock for the Council any decision concerning the sale of property and the assets from that sale would be with the London Borough of Lewisham.

26 September 2009

Extra Traffic for Hard Cash

Travelling to central London yesterday morning (change at London Bridge - yawn) I saw this advert on the Southeastern train.

I can't be the only one who is outraged by the idea that a major business in Lewisham's congested town centre is actively promoting itself as a commuters' car park.

I doubt there's little that can be done to curtail what I consider to be an irresponsible action that could easily increase congestion and degrade air quality. Moreover it could encourage people who currently use the train from Kent to drive into Lewisham instead.

Of course, when our station finally reopens (and I used the stairs on saturday and friday so it can't be far off) we'll have our very own commuter parking back.

25 September 2009

Cross Party Support for Defending Rail Services through Brockley

Following a good debate which was surprisingly bitter, Lewisham Council unaminously passed the following motion (see below).

I'll report back to the response from the train companies and others when we've heard what they've got to say.

I sincerely hope that we can change things and retain our vital services to London Bridge and Charing Cross.

No End In Sight??

Following my question on the Brockley Station scheme, the Deputy Mayor was unable to confirm when the works at Brockley Station will be finished. This is a shame and I am sure we all hope it will be finished very soon.

The Deputy Mayor did take issue with my comments that the 'long drawn out' nature of the scheme had left many local people distintcly unimpressd with Lewisham's performance. The Deputy Mayor was keen instead to stress that the scheme will be seen to improve the area - which is due in part to the doggedness of the local groups and people in making sure that high quality materials are used.

By way of example I noticed how attractive the paving outside the Civic Suite is following its complete replacement. Of course the Civic Suite should look welcolming - it's seen by many and will be used to judge Lewisham by many. Brockley Station fulfills a similar role of setting a tone for how visitors will feel about Brockley.

As a closing remark, you'll know what I want for Christmas...but I would expect to have it well before then.

18 September 2009

Safety Improvements for Brockley Cross Proposed

Wednesday's Mayor and Cabinet proposed saftey improvements for Brockley Cross. The report titled "LIP Funding 2010-11" contains the following proposals to Transport for London:

"First year: Design and implement safety scheme improvements at
Brockley Cross and Brockley Road between Brockley Cross and
Adelaide Avenue. Footway improvements in Coulgate Street
south of the ramp and some public realm improvement projects
along Brockley Road to enhance the local safety scheme. The
works in Coulgate Street will complement the works already
carried out as part of the Brockley Common scheme. St Asaph
Road has recently been subject to two highway schemes and
further footway improvements will integrate these works. Design
of public realm improvements to Brockley Cross will commence
for implementation in the second year.

Second year: Implement public realm improvements at Brockley
Cross and implement any station access scheme proposals,
subject to funding approval from TfL as part of the Area Based
Schemes programme."

The bid needs to be signed off by TfL - however it'l; be interesting to find out what is actually being proposed. In fact I'll think I'll ask a question about it!

16 September 2009

Decent Homes not Fewer Homes

The selling off of Council Housing has resulted in a severe shortfall in the level of social housing available - and the evidence for this is the waiting list in Lewisham. For this reason I was really concerned when I discovered that Lewisham Homes appear to be holding properties vacant, leaving them open to squatters who have been poor neighbours for other residents and resulting in a loss of possible rent. Surely there must be an answer to this. Well we'll find out soon...I have put the following question down for the next full Council.

How many long term voids does Lewisham Homes have and for how long has each of the properties been left vacant? How much rent has been lost? How many of these have been squatted and how much has it cost to remove the squatters? Should Lewisham Homes decide to sell off these properties how many replacement homes would be bought?
I believe that the reason for selling off these homes is to pay for one-off improvements to other homes. When was the last time it was sound financial advice to sell a chunk of your fixed assets to pay for overdue maintenance work?

Of course many of these issues is about perception as it is about actual policy matters. Yet, in simple terms if it appears the policy is to sell off some properties to pay for the refurbishment of others - what are the criteria being used to determine which properties are sold - what impact does that have on the social make-up of our neighbourhoods - what impact on people waiting for Council housing who feel that their hope for secure tenancy allowing them to get on with their lives is drifting away further?

Decent homes should mean just that and not fewer homes.

15 September 2009

Defending Rail Services in Lewisham

Following the recent concerns expressed about the curtailment of rail services from stations along the South London Line I have proposed the following motion to the Council on 24 September:.

"This council calls on the Mayor to write to Southern rail, Transport for London and the Secretary of State for Transport to:

• Express the council's grave concerns about Southern's plans to reduce off-peak and evening peaktime services to and from London Bridge on the Brockley/Sydenham line from six to four per hour, a reduction of one third, and to oppose these service cuts;
• Ask for an explanation for Southern's refusal to attend a recent meeting with council officials and residents to explain the planned service cuts and invite them to a further meeting, to include the Mayor himself and ward councillors from affected areas;
• Seek a full explanation of the planned service cuts and clarification on the maximum capacity of the rail line for both East London Line and London Bridge services; and
• While wholeheartedly welcoming the new East London Line service, oppose any reduction in services to London Bridge that are carried out purely for financial reasons rather than capacity reasons and lobby instead for the maximum possible services to London Bridge."

I hope that the motion can acheive support from all Parties on Lewisham Council - and if you're reading this please do encourage your local Councillors to support this motion. Find out who your local councillor is from here

9 September 2009

Off the Rails

I'm a supporter of the East London Line - but am frankly appalled at the prospect of the significant reduction of services to London Bridge for no apparent reason - other than presumably the level of funding available.

In April 2008, Network Rail published a FAQs about the South London Route Utilisation Study explaining:

"The 2010 timetable is being developed to the following weekday peak period specification (shown in trains per hour - tph)

6tph stopping services via Sydenham to London Bridge

4tph fast services from Norwood Junction to London Bridge

Up to 10tph to the East London Line

2tph stopping services from London Bridge to Victoria via Crystal Palace
Based on arrivals into London Bridge between 0800-0859 these are the changes relative to today:

New Cross Gate would maintain today’s 6tph in the high peak to London Bridge

Brockley and Honor Oak Park would each see an increase from today’s 4tph to 6tph in the high peak to London Bridge

Forest Hill and Sydenham would each see a reduction from 7tph to 6tph in the high peak to London Bridge, but see below.

Penge West and Anerley would each have 4tph to London Bridge, approximately double the service today.

Norwood Junction would have 4tph running fast to London Bridge, with an improved spread of services to today, plus the stopping services.
The slight reduction into London Bridge for Sydenham and Forest Hill is seen as unavoidable and is based on the maximum number of trains that can be fitted onto the network. Whilst this is a small overall reduction at these two stations it would be offset by:

Originating these services from much nearer to Sydenham. At present they start from places as far away as Caterham. By starting them much nearer, we expect there to be more space available on them

Diversion of an increasing level of the demand onto the East London Line services
The Sydenham line will also gain from 12-car trains to London Bridge and, from 2015 onwards, the indicative Thameslink train service proposal shown in the RUS has a 4tph all stations service from the Croydon area to the Thameslink network."

This clearly demonstrates that the line can carry both the ELL and London Bridge services. The RUS explains that in general off-peak services are a matter for the franchising arrangements.

We have already seen the cancellation of the Victoria - Bellingham services - the reduction of services to London Bridge when the ELL opens risks will inconvenience many local residents before they have time to charge up their Oyster cards.

The next full Council meeting is 24th September and I'm hoping that by then we will have a suitable consensus across all parties in Lewisham expressing our concern at this cynical move.

7 September 2009

Lewisham Country Fayre - 20 September

I'm back and blogging again! I have received notice of the third Lewisham Country Fayre - details below. I hope to go along - and if I do I'll be entering a jar of my home-made marmalade. Enjoy!

Lewisham Country Fayre: 20 September (12noon-6pm)
Lewisham’s kitschy Country Fayre is back for the third year on Sunday 20 September at the award-winning Cornmill Gardens opposite Lewisham train station.

The free retro style event will include vintage frocks, prize jams, London's meatiest sausages and the best of Lewisham’s home grown talent.
With 70s pop legends Boney M headlining, the fayre promises to be a fun day out for the whole family. The setting, in the multi-award winning Cornmill Gardens, will offer visitors a treat of open green spaces, revived railway arches and access to a scenic strip of the River Ravensbourne.

The fayre is also rousing locals to test their talents on a range of horticultural, craft and cookery competitions. Anyone with green fingers or artistic talents is invited to showcase their creative skills. Non-specialist, light-hearted categories include: best vegetable sculpture, best knitted item, best photograph of rural Lewisham, funniest shaped vegetable, and the yummiest jams and cakes.