25 April 2010

Things l learnt about running the London marathon today

Having had the chance to think about by experience today I'd like to share a few things I learnt with others thinking of participating in the marathon in the future:

* It is far more of an amazing spectacle than I ever thought it would be - crowds lined the 26m395yd route all the way - and the crowds cheering are great encouragement
* crowds near pubs cheer the loudest
* The music along the route is a tremendous boost - offering a couple of minutes respite from the physical toll of the running
* Lucozade Sport is not very nice - it's sweet and sickly and certainly does not quench your thirst - judging by the relatively full bottles discarded on the course others agree (I did not even think about trying Lucozade gel - it's here at home) - I was annoyed at having drunk this stuff as I had to wait about 10 minutes to get some water to get the nasty taste out of my mouth
* I prefer the sweets, biscuits, fruit provided by the people along the route to the 'technical' stuff offered by sponsors of the event - these sweets taste nice and appear to do some good!
* The first half of the race is very different to the second half
* The last 2 miles pass very quickly and the the last 800m even more so
* Having your name printed on your t-shirt means more cheers!
* Training helps
* The baggage deposit and retrieval system appears very efficient - do not worry about using it if you run in future marathons
* there is an enormous amount of waste from bottles - it would good if we could think about finding a way of reducing this.
* Your legs are still tired and achy after a few pints down the pub

5h 08mins...and now back to the campaign proper

Today I completed my first London Marathon in 5h and 8mins - something that I've been waiting do for a few years. I won a place in the ballot last year but had to pull out because of injury - but today had no such excuses...a fantastic experience - but not sure whether I'd want to repeat - certainly not in an election year!

After a day off of sorts it's now back to the election campaign and looking forward to the Councillor and Mayoral Hustings tomorrow night.

18 April 2010

London's Skies

A friend of mine is stuck in Naples following the closure of UK airspace after the Icelandic volcano eruption - she's found space on a sleeper service from Zurich to Amsterdam and I spent the best part of an hour finding out whether she could get a reasonably-priced train from Cologne to London via Brussels. However it appears that Eurostar is clearly trying to make up for the losses it made just before Christmas and is charging silly prices for its trains from Brussels - something like £600. Stena Line meanwhile provided a single ticket for two from Hook of Holland to London Liverpool Street of 110 Euros. Their 'Dutch Flyer' is well worth looking into if you want to go to Amsterdam or easy connections from the Hook of Holland to other places in mainland Europe (but that's another story and the Man in Seat 61 covers that far better than me). Whilst I was sorting this friend out, another asked me how her partner should get back from Copenhagen - I suggested ferry from Esjberg to Harwich. The reason for mentioning this is that I am all too aware of the hassle that has been caused to thousands of British people by this abrupt and totally unplanned shutting of UK airspace.

This morning I went for a long run along the Thames from Greenwich to Crossness and back - my final long run before the marathon on Sunday - and it was absolutely lovely. The sky was clear, the sun was warm, it was very quiet, the tide was just turning and there were no boats meaning the river was very flat. But for the third day running I couldn't help but notice how quiet it was without the planes and that there were no condensation trails criss-crossing the sky. I'd noticed the same the previous two nights and the times I'd been outside in the garden. The peace and quiet was noted in areas around Heathrow as this article on the BBC websites shows

14 April 2010

Message from the Metropolitan Police

In response to questions raised by the recent incidents in Brockley, the Metropolitan Police have issued the following statement.

Superintendent Lisa Crook said: "We understand the community are anxious about recent incidents of violence in Brockley and share these concerns. Our officers take this very seriously and are committed to putting a stop to violence on our streets. Officers from Trident are investigating these matters and urge anyone with information to contact them."

"Members of Brockley Safer Neighbourhoods team are patrolling the ward to reassure local people, and if you need to discuss any concerns please contact the team."

Anyone with information should contact Trident on 020 8785 8580

13 April 2010

Another incident in Brockley (updated)

I have just returned from Brockley Station and seen that Coulgate Street and Foxberry Road are zoned off with blue and white Police tape.


I genuinely hope that the short time between this incident and the shooting last week have arisen by chance rather than indications of a larger problem that has until now been below the radar of most people's experience. However the sight of blue and white tape and diversions on the way home tonight will cause concern to many and particularly when this has come so soon after the shooting incident in Brockley Cross.

I have asked for information and a response from Lewisham's officers and will let you know when I have this.

UPDATE 18:05
I spoke earlier with one of the senior police officers at Lewisham. He confirmed that (thankfully) the injuries sustained by the victim were 'not life-threatening or life-changing' - and I have taken that to mean that the victim will survive.

I expect to speak with the Brockley Safer Neighbourhood Team Police Sergeant tomorrow morning to learn about the plans for explaining the incidents to members of the local community and how the Police and Lewisham intend to respond to these incidents.

Quite rightly the local people need reassurance that they remain safe - but very visible and unsettling events like these can damage their sense of safety.

UPDATE 13:00 14 April 2010
I have spoken with the Police Sergeant at the Safer Neighbourhood Team and confirmed that the incident was in fact another shooting incident.

The Safer Neighbourhood Team will be conducting additional patrols in the area. Depending on how the investigation proceeds and whether there is a need to provide greater reassurance the Police may take some further actions.

9 April 2010

Official List of Lewisham Candidates Now Available

Lewisham has posted the 'Statements of Persons Nominated' on the website here. The statement for Brockley and that for the Mayor are here.

As stated previously the Greens are standing a full slate of candidates - don't believe anyone who says otherwise and question why they might be saying if it they are!

8 April 2010

Still a Chance for Deptford Green School to be Outstanding

Tonight's Strategic Planning Committee considered the plans for the rebuilding of Deptford Green School. The plans set out committed the school to reaching 'Excellent' in the BREEAM rating for sustainable construction - rather than the highest level 'Outstanding'. This is a bit of a let down - but it was explained away by the fact that going for 'Outstanding' could cost more. However what was more of a concern was that the architects who presented the scheme sprung a proposal to downgrade the sustainability rating to 'Very Good' - the applicants had given no advance warning of this to the planning officers or the committee members. The applicants provided no evidence as to why they might not be able to afford the 'Outstanding' rating that they had prepared.

Deptford Green is a major public redevelopment - Lewisham should be trailblazing sustainable construction and development - not reluctantly complying with the very minimal planning policies and then trying to wriggle out of those by trying to change a complicated scheme at committee.

So, the end of term report for this might read "Deptford Green missed the chance to be outstanding, did some good work to show how it could be excellent but rather blotted their copy book with a bit of a cheeky bid to be only 'very good' at the final stage."

The new buildings, bringing about a school on one site and a new small open space to compensate for grabbing a bit of Fordham Park should be a major and immediate improvement in this area. It is to be hoped that as the plans work their way into being actually built the emphasis is on moving closer to 'Outstanding' rather than 'Very Good' over this period.

The Planning Inspector's Report

It's unusual for me to refer to the 'Town Planning Appeal Decisions' that come before my Committee. The paper I am referring to is available from here.

The first item I'm interested in is 32 Arbuthnot Road, DC/08/69828. This was turned down by my committee last year. One of the grounds that we referred to was

"the adequacy of the garden area for future occupiers"

I recall at the meeting that we were quite clear that the garden was small and was inconsistent with planning policy. It is chilling therefore to hear what the Planning Inspector thought:

"He found no evidence that existing residential amenities would be compromised and whilst acknowledging that the garden area set aside for the future occupiers of the development was limited, he considered that the prospective residents would best be able to make their own decision as to whether this would be sufficient for their needs."

Lewisham's planning policies look at a whole range of issues dealing with the residential amenity of future occupiers with the aim that we don't repeat the errors of the past - building homes that are too small, where people don't have easy access to good outdoor space, homes that people can live in throughout their lives (so-called lifetime homes) - so I find it depressing that this planning inspector has sought to ride roughshod over the views of the committee and our belief that the standards set in our planning policies represent good standards for future residents of Lewisham. I guess he's not a local!

The other decision in this report is one that will of interest to Brockley's residents - it's the dismissal of the appeal against the nursery at 60 Manor Avenue. This planning inspector upheld the decision of that Planning Committee - so perhaps they're not all bad! The inspector's comments should influence any future proposals for that site and ensure that its change from the current social club use to something else will have the support of local residents.

6 April 2010

The Other Elections

The General Election is expected to be called this morning - but I want to remind everyone that the elections to Lewisham Council will be taking place on 6th May alongside the General Election.

We'll be contesting every seat on the Council plus the Mayor giving every voter in Lewisham the chance to vote Green.

5 April 2010

We've missed a neat trick...

One of the defining features of London as compared with my home city of Hull , was the inclusion of part of the postcode on the street signs. However it goes a bit further than that - the street signs as a simple black writing on white background with red for the postcode are something of a design classic. That the design is adopted across various parts of London works on a higher level too - it unifies the area into being 'part of London' - it is both neat and tidy.

However I have no idea what's happened here in Lewisham. I noticed something like five different designs of signs on the junction of Manor Avenue/Ashby Road alone - in varying states of repair. And why is this a bit of mess - well we can just compare with neighbouring Bromley. When you cross the boundary you see instantly that the street signs have changed to white lettering on green...and it's consistent throughout the Borough. You know you're in Bromley - because of the signs.

It is pretty odd that Lewisham has a media team, corporate identity and the like that we spend good money on promoting and protecting but so little thought has been given to the very solid and permanent reminders to the the population that are placed on every street corner. The only common item on the streets that remind people they are in Lewisham are the bins.

I know it seems a tall order..but a simple and common street identity - rather like the one that Bromley appears to have developed - is a very simple and relatively cheap way of reminding people whether they are in Downham, Blackheath, Brockley or New Cross that they are in Lewisham. Certainly as Mayor I would insist on common standards for signs and street furniture - at the time they are renewed so it would not require us to waste good money.

1 April 2010

A Future Use for Ladywell Pool

Ladywell Pool was at the centre of the last local elections and rightly so. However if all goes to plan then it seems quite right that we start thinking carefully about future plans for this site. An orchard is taking shape on Breakspears Road and others are planned, but whilst many enjoy a vegetarian diet some like fish. Only a mad person would suggest using the old pools at Ladywell as a fish farm, which is why I am suggesting a far more practical use - for crayfish. Removing the tiles and introducing reed beds would allow for a series of natural seeming pools and an innovative environment perfectly suited for the growing the cuddly crustacea. If we chose to farm the native species, the white-clawed crayfish, we could be supporting the re-establishment of this species in areas currently afflicted by the rampant expansion of the freshwater equivalent of the grey squirrel, the American crayfish introduced in the 1970s (Pacifastacus leniusculus) with disastrous results. However this would not provide much in the way of locally-produced food.

Lewisham, by virtue of being within an area with extensive populations of signal crayfish, would not require a licence to farm biggger American signal crayfish and this could provide a good source of locally produced food. The signal crayfish that can crawl overland would be in a suitably enclosed space and retaining the outdoor waterslide could provide a useful distraction for the animals combating the boredom observed in some captive animals. The flowing hard water for the farm could be provided by one of the naturally occurring springs found in the local area.

By bringing fresh crayfish back to the heart of city life and marketing them under the 'Produce of Lewisham' brand they could be used as a healthy addition to the menu in local schools - supplemented with wild rocket grown on Hilly Fields or fresh watercress from the Ravensbourne in Ladywell Fields, it would make the basis of a truly wonderful locally sourced sandwich and could be a useful weapon in combating the high levels of childhood obesity in Lewisham.

The scheme would literally put Lewisham on the map as I am sure there would be many restaurants across London willing to put the fishy delights from Ladywell on their menus emphasising the locally-sourced credentials and low-impact living.

In practical terms the Mayor could support such a venture not only by finding sources of funding or providing the land and buildings for free but also by working with our partners to introduce relevant training courses at Lewisham College and also to make proposals in the Local Development Framework that introduce a fish-farming zone in the Ladywell area thereby securing this as a food production area with the same level of protections as allottments and metropolitan open land.

By installing suitable solar panels and other low-carbon technologies I believe we could make the farm carbon-neutral too. A real first in London.