Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Catford Bridge Tavern fire - some pictures and some speculation on what the future holds


On the evening of Sunday March 1, Catford residents started to hear via twitter that the Catford Bridge Tavern was on fire. As this pub was, for a short time, my much-loved local, I had to go down and take a look for myself. I took some photos and video, although by the time I got there the pub had been burning for around 3 hours and the flames had died down a bit. Eventually the fire was out by about 11:30, but fire fighters from all over south and east London were dousing down the flames through the night.

I cycled past the site on Monday morning on my way into work and it was looking in a sorry state. The roof was completely gone, as was most of the upper floor and the first floor also appeared damaged:


This photo taken from the edge of the police cordon shows that a lot of the back of the pub was also damaged:


London Fire Brigade are at the moment saying that the cause of the fire was not thought to be suspicious. Some on twitter suggested it might be lightning.




Others were a little more speculative based on the recent history of the pub. Briefly, in August 2012, plans were submitted to Lewisham Council to turn it into a supermarket - with a Tesco on the ground floor and housing above.

In November 2012 it briefly closed as Antic, who were running the pub at the time, were ordered out. However, Lewisham council put a temporary article 4 direction on the pub, preventing it from opening as a supermarket without planning permission being granted. This was confirmed in April 2013 and the pub went on to win SE London CAMRA pub of the year. However, at the end of 2013, Tesco threw Antic out and they went on to open the Constitutional Club, just down the road. In August 2013, Tesco sold the lease to Solitaire, who were refurbishing the pub with a view to reopening.

Before opening as the Catford Bridge Tavern in 2012, it had been the Copperfield and had numerous problems with antisocial behaviour, and was closed in December 2011.

So where are we now? Solitaire, the current holders of the lease, say they still intend to press ahead with refurbishment and reopen as a pub. They say they will be carrying on, subject to approval of their planning application for a pub and some flats above.

What protection does the article 4 direction give? Well, the direction is on the pub rather than the site.


However, since all an article 4 does is remove ‘permitted development rights’ for a property - meaning that any proposed change of use has to go through a planning committee - in reality this has no bearing on whether or not the refurbishment will go ahead. If the building is found to be unsafe and has to be demolished, building something else on the site will require full planning consent, just as change of use would do. Whilst Local Planning Authorities have the power to make and confirm their own Article 4 directions and do not require the Secretary of State's approval in this respect, the SoS does retain the power to cancel or modify Article 4 directions. So if Lewisham council refused permission to change the use of the site, the owners could appeal to the Secretary of State. This is unlikely, as Solitaire have said they intend to proceed with their application as planned, although it doesn't appear to have been submitted yet (at least I can't find it on the planning portal...)

So for the moment, we need to wait to see what the outcome of the investigations post-fire are, and whether or not the building is too badly damaged to be refurbished. This is the biggest risk to the future of the site as a pub, and in this respect the article 4 direction doesn't protect it. Watch this space.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ace's Bar applies for change of use

Ace's Bar on Verdant Lane has applied for change of use to class A4, from its current designation of A3 (takeaway) and A5 (restaurant) use. A4 use means a "drinking establishment" and would allow the bar to serve alcohol without requiring customers to also consume food. Last month the bar was ordered to operate as a restaurant by Lewisham's licensing committee after a license review following complaints from neighbours about late night noise and disturbance. Ace's can therefore currently only serve alcohol until midnight at weekends and 11pm on weeknights.

It seems pretty clear the current application is a response to this review and confirms the owners' clear intention to operate the premises as a bar and not as a restaurant. In one of the planning documents they state that they thought they already had an A4 license granted, though this does not appear to be the case from the list of planning applications associated with the bar from the council planning portal.

I've uploaded a copy of one of the supporting statements as the council website won't let me link directly to it. It can be accessed through the planning portal though.

In the supporting statements the owners say they are operating successfully as a bar at the moment and that the community are supportive of the use of the premises as a bar. This would appear to be counter to the evidence from the license review that was prompted following residents' complaints.

The owners say they want the bar to be a part of the community and be a place for local residents to socialise.

Comments on the application can be made until 10 March.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

More through trains from Catford to Kentish Town are coming!


I'm late to this, but Govia Thameslink Railway, who run the trains through Catford amongst other things, launched a consultation on their proposed timetable changes for 2015 last year, with a closing date of 30 January.

The changes proposed for Catford are minor, so minor that they aren't asking for feedback on this part of the timetable change (see page 8 of this 29 page pdf)!  

In December 2015, they are proposing that early morning and late evening services which currently operate only between London Blackfriars and Sevenoaks will be extended to and from Kentish Town. This will provide Catford with extra connections through to St Pancras and beyond.

They propose no further changes in 2015.

From 2018 they propose that trains between Sevenoaks and London Blackfriars on Saturdays are extended to and from Kentish Town providing weekend connections to and from London St Pancras. This is also obviously good news, but one might ask why we have to wait so long? Presumably it's something to do with the Thameslink Programme.

If one were feeling churlish, one might also suggest that there is potential to run more frequent services through Catford, the service frequency can be pretty woeful! Still, it gets me to the football.

(Thanks to Darryl for the tip off)




Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Update on the Safer Brownhill Road campaign





I wrote back in October about the Safer Brownhill Road campaign, set up to try to make TfL take action to improve the safety of the crossing at Stainton Road and to install a crossing at Torridon Road. Natasha, who set up the campaign, was running a petition to TfL which was presented towards the end of last year. It was presented to the chair of TfL by Len Duvall, London Assembly member for our area and in the meantime Heidi Alexander, our MP, has written to TfL. Caroline Pidgeon, a LibDem assembly member who covers transport, came to view the junction and the crossing earlier this month.

Since that visit TfL have agreed to refresh the Stainton Road zebra crossing. They say that they have inspected the road markings at this location concluded that while they were not in urgent need of refreshing and were legible, they would be happy to add a refresh onto their programme of works for 2015/16. TfL also say they are investigating the lights in the zebra crossing posts and will take necessary action to make them brighter and therefore more visible to drivers. They are also exploring the possibility of adding two advance warning signs on the posts before the crossing to warn drivers. They say that they are hopeful of having these signs installed within the next 10 to 12 weeks. Keep an eye out!
 
In addition to this, TfL have agreed to carry out a safety assessment on the junction of Brownhill Road and Torridon Road to consider installing a controlled pedestrian crossing - this assessment will be carried out before January 2016.


In TfL's letter to Heidi Alexander from October 2014, from Leon Daniels MD for surface transport at TfL, they say the review of the Brownhill/Torridon junction will happen "within the next financial year", which I guess fits with Jan 2016. However, in an email sent from his office in December to Mark Morris, LibDem senior press officer, it is made very clear that this is "subject to change". TfL also state in that same email that "there were just two collisions in 2013 at this location that resulted in injuries."

This email was followed up by Mark at the beginning of this month with further questions about both Stainton Road and Torridon Road. TfL's reply outlines their plans for the Stainton Road crossing. They say that after recent events and the petition signed by local residents they will include this location in their 2015/16 annual programme of road safety reviews. As part of this, they will review the safety record of Brownhill Road, which includes the existing zebra crossing at its junction with Stainton Road. The study will also consider the viability of introducing a controlled pedestrian crossing at the junction of Brownhill Road and Torridon Road. This review will be completed by January 2016.

Natasha plans to push for the review to happen sooner, rightly pointing out that a year is an awful long time to wait. Watch this space, and well done to Natasha for getting this on to the agenda at all!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Don't mention the prefabs - Lewisham Council plans new "pop up" housing

Lewisham Council announced last week that it plans to put "pop up housing" on the site of the former Ladywell Leisure Centre, to provide temporary homes for 24 families, plus some community facilities. The plan is that the housing would remain on the site for no longer than four years. There would be eight ground-floor non-residential units.

The council have published some details of the scheme, including the following images, which I have downloaded from their website:





The units are constructed off site, which means that the first residential units could occupied by late summer. The units can also be taken down and used elsewhere, hence the term "pop up", which I hate with a passion, by the way. You can meet the architects on January 24th, at Lewisham library between 2 and 4pm.

It might not have escaped your attention that this is essentially pre-fabricated housing. I wonder why the council have shied away from using the term prefab? Could it be because it has authorised the demolition of the Excalibur prefab estate, which provided 187 two bedroom houses on its site in Catford? These houses were intended to last 10 years, but a large number still stand today.

However, the demolition has begun and in December I took a wander round the site to see what it looks like now.

A large part is boarded up, with signs like this at the gates.


Peer through the gates and this is what now remains:
This was Mordred/Wentland/Ector Roads, which once looked like this:
It looks very eerie now, with the lampposts and telegraph poles the only hints as to what was there.


 The former prefab museum is in a sorry state after last year's fire:




Though for the moment this artwork remains next door:
In December those behind the prefab museum decided not to look for a space to reopen in one of the prefabs that's still there. I assume the money raised by the kickstarter will be used elsewhere.

Some of the prefabs still look well cared for, like this one did a couple of years ago:
but others look more like this:
 Or this:


But, never mind, shiny new pop-up housing to house less than a seventh of the families that could be housed here. Yeah! Way to go.

All my prefab pictures are on flickr. I will continue to document the estate's decline, whether the council want me to or not.










Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cleverly's Bakerloo bungle...



A bit late on this one, but it's still worth a mention. Despite the cries of joy around large parts of South East London at Boris's announcement of the proposed Bakerloo line extension, it seems there's one council that remains to be convinced - Bromley. I've been led to believe that Bromley council is refusing to get involved in discussions about the extension, possibly because of worries about losing the Hayes National Rail service. This seems to be borne out in the responses to the comments on this 853 piece about the extension.

In the meantime, James Cleverly, the London Assembly member for the area, has asked a number of questions of the mayor about the proposals, and specifically their effect on the Hayes service. What interested me most was this question:

If the Bakerloo Line Extension goes ahead, what would be the effect on journey time for those travelling from Hayes to London Bridge?

It seems to me this question was clearly designed to get the response that journey times would increase. I mean, it's obvious isn't it, the South Eastern service from Hayes often goes "fast" to London Bridge, so a tube line that stops everywhere is clearly going to be slower. Right?

This is the mayor's response:


Allowing for an average wait time of 3 minutes for a National Rail train at Hayes station, the current total journey time from Hayes to London Bridge is 41 minutes. The proposed Bakerloo line extension Option 1a via the Old Kent Road would reduce the journey time between Hayes and London Bridge to 35 minutes, delivering a journey time saving of approximately 6 minutes. Option 1b via Camberwell and Peckham Rye would reduce the journey time to 37 minutes, reducing journey times from Hayes by 4 minutes via a change at Elephant and Castle.


So, what this means in essence is that either option on the table would *reduce* journey times from Hayes to London Bridge, either by 6 minutes for option 1a and 4 minutes for option 1b, including a change at Elephant.
The mayor goes on:


This does not consider the additional benefits of enhancing the frequency of trains on the line from an average of 6 trains per hour to at least 15 trains per hour with the proposed extension. This means that Hayes station could be served by a train every 4 minutes rather than every 10 minutes, more than halving the gap between services.

So not only would journey times be faster, they would also be more frequent, jumping from 6 trains per hour to at least 15!
And of course, the extension would provide a direct link right into Oxford Circus and beyond, another benefit over the current National Rail Service.

I couldn't find Bromley's response to the consultation on their website (you try finding anything on a local government website), but I did find their response to the Mayor's Transport Strategy from 2010, which sets out their concerns about the Bakerloo line:

Whilst Bromley remains broadly supportive of this proposal in principle, we would need complete reassurance that the Hayes Line’s current connectivity to Charing Cross, Cannon Street, Waterloo East and London Bridge would in no way be lost by such a proposal, prior to committing our full support.

Surely, in the light of the response above, Bromley can see that the Hayes line would benefit from the switch over to London Underground, and that clinging to connectivity through a congested national rail link through London Bridge that struggles to cope with the number of trains it has to carry isn't benefitting anyone! Removing the Hayes trains from London Bridge and beyond would free up space for everyone else's lines, journey times from Hayes will still be quicker and Hayes would be better connected than it is now! I think that's what transport planners like to call a "no brainer".

Any Bromley residents want to follow this up with their council?

Update 18:00: Lewisham Council have published their response to the consultation, which is worth a read.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Lewisham's borough-wide 20mph plans - a good news update


Not just an excuse to use this picture again, I promise...

At next Wednesday's Mayor and Cabinet (14th Jan), a paper is being presented for a decision on the plans for implementing a borough-wide 20mph speed limit in Lewisham. This follows on from the Labour Party manifesto pre-election which made it a Mayoral commitment.

The key decision document is on the council website, and the main thing to note is that the report is seeking approval from the mayor "for the proposed approach for the implementation of a 20mph speed limit on all borough roads, and proposes a programme of work covering the planning and delivery period between 2014 and 2017."

The report says that while introducing 20mph limits on 65% of the borough's roads has helped address a number of casualty hotspots, it's now time for a new approach focussing on addressing the inequality that now remains for vulnerable road users in the remaining 35%. They point out that often the borough's most disadvantaged people live closest to main roads and therefore would benefit more from implementing 20mph borough-wide, this ought to have the knock on effect of, eventually, reducing health inequalities by, for example increasing life expectancy of the most disadvantaged borough residents by more than the rest.

It's also now possible to implement 20mph zones more cheaply, since it can be done through signage and road markings, rather than through physical measures. This would also mean that, eventually, the behaviour and attitudes of road users would change. However, the report acknowledges that signed-only areas aren't ideal where before speeds are relatively high and therefore other targeted interventions may be needed in addition in these areas, e.g. by engineering measures or by use of speed cameras.

The overall plan set out by Lewisham is as follows (copied from the report):

1. Agree overall approach, governance and funding (Dec 2014) (presumably this is now Jan 15)

2. Data collection of speeds/ analysis of data (six months from Jan 15 - June 15).

3. Consultation with key stakeholders such as the emergency services, TfL, and neighbouring authorities - Police are likely to object to the borough wide implementation initially as some roads may not be suitable without traffic calming to ensure self-enforcing compliance. We will work closely with the Met Police to work out issues and resolve them so we can deliver a joined up approach and a successful implementation process throughout the scheme. (Jan 15 - Sept 15).

4. Review policy relating to the design of 20mph areas and the programme of work for the introduction of the limit. (Sep 15 – Mar 16)

5. Complete the required programme of work for Traffic orders and implementation (April 16 - July 16). This assumes minimal work on the ground at this stage.

6. Design options (interventions) to encourage\enforce compliance (May 17 - Oct 17)

7. Arrange formal consultation on compliance measures with emergency services and buses (Sept 17 - Dec 2017).

8. Carry out a widespread ‘hearts and minds’ publicity and public information campaign as part of LB Lewisham's new Road Safety Plan Jan 2015 to March 2018.

This means implementation will start in March 2016.

Lewisham intend on doing a publicity campaign around the introduction of the limit, focussing on fairness for all road users. There will be information materials (presumably signs) at borough entry points "making drivers aware that they are entering a borough that is committed to reducing casualties and making the roads safe for all road users."

The programme has been costed at £1.23m, and will be funded from council reserves.

The estimated breakdown is as follows (taken from the report):


I'm really excited that this is finally happening, and pleased to have played a tiny part in pushing the council in the right direction. Let's hope all runs smoothly and we finally get the 20mph borough we deserve!

Update 18:15, 14th January: The Mayor approved the plans tonight, so hopefully it's all systems go!