Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Update on Catford Town Centre Plan and the Catford Bridge Tavern

It's a full Lewisham council meeting tonight - the first since February where the public have been able to ask questions. That's democracy in action for you. But anyway, that aside, it's a good opportunity to find out what the council have been up to on a whole range of issues. I asked a few questions, and have received written responses ahead of the meeting, which is nice and efficient and allows for planning of any supplementary questions I might want to ask. Unfortunately I can't attend the meeting, but that's another issue entirely.

I asked for an update on the plans for implementation of the borough-wide 20mph zone, and was told that detailed plans and a timetable will be submitted to mayor and cabinet in November. Watch this space.

Helpfully, the council also provide everyone else's questions and answers in one big document so I've been able to scan through those too. There were a lot of questions on the Leegate development and it seems the council plan to tackle these at a separate meeting, otherwise they'd never get through the rest of business tonight.


But, onto the main purpose of this post. I asked a question about what is happening to the Catford town centre plan (CTCLP) and how this plan relates to TfL's inner ring road plans or plans to put the south circular in a tunnel. Another questioner also asked about the Catford plan, and when it might be implemented (it was put on hold because of TfL's Roads Task Force (RTF) report). 

The council had decided that TfL's long-held plans to relocate the South Circular behind Laurence House were unlikely to proceed and so set out a new policy that committed the Council to work on the Catford plan on the basis that this wouldn't happen. However, the July 2013 RTF report appeared to put these proposals back on the table, thus jeopardising the Catford plan. The council say that as a result of the Mayor of London’s request it was concluded that there was merit in re-examining the original TfL A205 road improvement proposals and TfL agreed to undertake a study to investigate.  If, as a result of the study, TfL continued to support their original proposals or some other third way then significant modification of the CTCLP would be required. As the report was not expected until summer 2014 and then would need discussion and consideration, the Council concluded that the best option would be to withdraw the CTCLP from Examination.

An initial concept report has recently been received in draft from TfL which outlines the proposal. Lewisham Officers are currently reviewing the report and raising a number of queries and are seeking a meeting during September with TfL to receive further information to assist full consideration. The proposal focuses on Catford rather than the wider south circular, and the Council is not aware of any current work into the idea of running the south circular in a tunnel.

Work on the CTCLP is expected to resume with further work carried out once the results of the TfL review are evolved and worked through. Once the TfL review is worked through and work on the CTCLP resumes, the web pages will be updated with any new information and timeframes.

Another one to watch at this stage I think.



Another questioner asked about the Catford Bridge Tavern: "Will the Council use the full range of its formal powers and informal persuasion to ensure that the freeholders and leaseholders of the Catford Bridge Tavern restore the property to its use as a pub without further delay?"

This was their answer: The Council has already used its planning powers to put in place policy to protect viable local pubs. This is set out in the Development Management local plan. Government legislation on ‘permitted development’ means that a pub use can change to other town centre uses such as a shop, a bank, or a restaurant without the need to obtain planning permission. These details are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) and The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended).The Council has a planning power known as an ‘Article 4 Direction’ that it can put in place with the Secretary of State’s agreement to remove the permitted development right. In the case of the Catford Bridge Tavern the Council has already placed an Article 4 Direction on the property so the owners cannot change the use to a shop or other use without first applying to the Council and obtaining planning permission.

In terms of informal persuasion the planning service encourages owners and developers to engage in pre application discussion on any proposals. To a large extent this relies on the owner or developer making contact but if the Council is advised of any proposal it will initiate its own contact. The Planning Service is preparing a questionnaire on community uses within pubs in Lewisham and as part of this work it proposes to contact the owners of the Catford Bridge Tavern to enquire about the latest situation and encourage the reuse as a pub.

Not exactly encouraging.... I personally feel that the council ought to be being much more pro-active in contacting people who might be interested in making this into a viable pub. I believe that Tesco are the owners. More pressure needs to be put on them to find a tenant to take this on. Given the current situation at the Catford Constitutional Club, maybe Antic would be interested. Although I think that, particularly as the dog track development starts in earnest, the town centre can easily support two high quality pubs! Seeing the CBT sitting empty does no good for anyone.

Want to find out more about what the council are up to for yourself? Ask a question or get to a meeting. They're going to be out and about around the borough so should be coming soon to a venue near you...

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Lewisham's 10 worst roads


Ever wondered which are the worst road surfaces in Lewisham?

Me too, especially since I've been cycling around on them more and more. Those potholes and generally poor quality, patched-up road surfaces don't make for a particularly pleasant experience sometimes.

Recently, after a particularly unpleasant cycle down Bellingham Road I decided to ask where in the council's priorities for resurfacing it was. Surely it must be pretty high up, after all the surface is dreadful. I was vaguely aware of the existence of a list of roads in the borough with their priority order so I decided to ask my local councillor, Alan Smith, where Bellingham Road was on that list. He replied almost immediately to say he'd check and got back to me with the answer the next day:



Oh dear...

Still, my interest was piqued. I wanted this list for myself. And thanks to the Freedom of Information Act I now have it, together with comments from the inspectors. It's not a completely straightforward list, as priorities do change, but it makes interesting reading. The council say they think they can do 60 roads in this financial year, but which ones make it will depend on the results of inspections, what's already been done and so on, and repairs are identified on an ongoing basis.

But, accepting all that, here are the top 10 worst roads in Lewisham and the ward they are in...

1. Grove Street (Evelyn)

2. Whitefoot Lane (Whitefoot)

3. Burnt Ash Hill (Westhorne Ave to Somertrees Ave) (Grove Park)

4. Birkhall Road (Catford South)

5. Downham Way (Old Bromley Road to Bromley Road) (Downham)

6. St Norbert Road (Telegraph Hill)

7. Blythe Hill (Crofton Park/Rushey Green)

8. Lewis Grove (inspectors' note says this might not need to be done...) (Lewisham Central)

9. Ryculff Square (Blackheath)

10. Brockley View (Crofton Park)

So, what do you think? Is your road worse than these?

Friday, July 11, 2014

The worst thing about cycling in London is....?

Over the last week or so there have been a couple of articles published by the Guardian on "the worst thing about cycling..." The first claims that the worst thing is other cyclists - they're inconsiderate, jump red lights and generally give other cyclists a bad name. The second is a response to that piece pointing out that's nonsense and over-simplistic.

Obviously, as I've now been commuting by bike into central London for just over a year, I feel that I am completely qualified to give my own opinion on the absolute worst thing about cycling in London (or anywhere else for that matter).

I started a year ago on my trusty pink hybrid:


Then this year, for various reasons I've ended up with a road bike:


Anyway, I digress. Another reason I've been thinking about what the worst thing about cycling in London is because TfL earlier this week published plans for cycle superhighway 5 from Pimlico to Oval. It's been eagerly awaited and some bits of it are good but I think it falls down because it doesn't address the worst thing about cycling in London.

So what is it? Well, I think the worst thing about cycling in London is conflict. It's really as simple as that. The best bits of my 45-minute long journey into work can be in parks, on separate cycle paths or on the road and the reason they are the best bits is that they don't require me to come into conflict with other road or pavement users. The worst bits of the journey are those where, by poor design of the cycle infrastructure (or even perhaps the complete lack of infrastructure), I come into conflict with pedestrians on shared space, or with cars at badly designed junctions or on narrow roads with lots of parked cars.

The reason I was disappointed by the CS5 designs is because they don't address this. For example:


Lovely segregated track, ends with having to share the crossing with pedestrians. Instant conflict.

And what about conflict with cars? Well, here are a couple of junctions on CS8 where riders are forced to share space with cars:



Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think that's what's going to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get on their bikes. Interestingly that green track on the left of the second picture is NCN4, the cycle path there is off the road, when CS8, along the same route here, puts bikes on to the road. Sadly the NCN4 path just ends at the junction, and on the other side there's no segregation at all. Hopeless.


Still, we can always cycle in parks, right?


Oh.

So there you have it. That's what I think is the worst thing about cycling in London. Conflict. Apart from that, it's great.

Monday, July 07, 2014

What's happening with Mountsfield Park now?


You may have heard on the grapevine that the proposed new cafe in Mountsfield Park got planning permission last week. This is good news, especially as there had been a few objections based on the materials proposed for the building.

However, what you may not know is that since then it has come to light that the cafe can't now be afforded within the budget the council has for the park. This is because of the rise in contractors costs since the original plans were developed, as I understand it. The overall budget is £525,000, although some of that will already have been spent on tree clearance, surveys, design and procurement fees. Lewisham Council says there’s not enough money to pay for all of the agreed improvements, which includes the improved play area, 90 sq/m cafe building and new community garden. You'll know that over 80% of respondents to a survey on improvements to the park rated a cafe as their number one priority and so this is really disappointing for a lot of park users.

The Council have invited the Friends of Mountsfield Park to meet with them to discuss the situation at an open meeting to be held at the Civic Suite in the Town Hall on Wednesday 9 July at 6.30pm. Unfortunately I can't attend, but I know that the Friends will keep their website updated with the outcome of the meeting. Do get along if you can. The Friends also have a stall at People's Day on 12 July in the park itself, so you can pop along then to find out more.

Update 9 July, 9:30am Link to the agenda: http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=519a3432d49ce42fa47fc0be3&id=851855a78b&e=09e2bffcf5

Update 10 July, 11:30am http://mountsfieldpark.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/local-residents-give-go-ahead-for-council-to-proceed-with-mountsfield-park-improvements-despite-bdp-managed-scheme-up-to-50-over-budget/ confirmation that the cafe will be dropped from phase 1 and the project is 50% over budget. Community Garden and playground refurb will be in phase 1.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Lewisham Council's official response to 20mph petition

107/365 20s Plenty for Lewisham

I set up a petition a while back asking Lewisham Council to commit to making the whole of the borough a 20mph zone, something which they voted against doing at a full council meeting in November last year.

Before the election Lewisham Labour party included a commitment to making the whole borough 20mph in its manifesto (see page 18).

Now the election is over, and Sir Steve has been resoundingly reelected, I trust the council and its 53 of 54 Labour members will deliver on this pledge. In the meantime, I have had a response from the council which I reproduce below in its entirety:

Dear Clare Griffiths
 
I write further to the petition that was forwarded on your behalf by Cllr Darren Johnson for consideration of the newly elected Mayor of Lewisham (attached for ease). You may by now be aware that Sir Steve Bullock was re-elected Mayor of Lewisham Council.  I have been asked to respond on the Mayor's behalf.  
 
Thank your for raising residents' concerns about the speed of road traffic across the borough with us. I have liaised with our Transport division and can now respond.
 
The Council supports the principle of 20mph zones in residential areas in order to reduce speeds and reduce injuries from road traffic collisions.
 
Over recent years, the Council has embarked on a programme of new 20mph zones and 66% of the borough's roads now have a 20mph speed restriction.
 
The programme to date has been implemented in a measured way, and generally new 20mph limits are only introduced where they are supported by the physical measures that are necessary to make the limits self-enforcing.
 
Signed-only 20mph zones are not practicably enforceable, and the Police do not support their introduction unless appropriate physical measures are in place. Signed-only zones are therefore often ineffective at reducing speeds, creating an unrealistic expectation for enforcement by the Police and the Council.
 
The Council is committed to reducing accidents in the borough.   In Lewisham the vast majority of traffic collisions resulting in injuries occur on the Transport for London Road Network.  The Council plays a very active role in supporting TfL's road safety strategy, and works collaboratively with TfL to deliver a programme of road safety, education and publicity throughout the Borough, working towards London Road Safety Targets and performance indicators to reduce the number of casualties on the roads in Lewisham.
 
I hope this is of assistance to you.
 
Kind regards

Now, this doesn't look very promising to me. I hope it's just a mismatch between what is current council policy and what is likely to be introduced in the coming months. I will be keeping a very close eye on this though, and will be asking about it at the next full council meeting (which incidentally I am told will not be until September!)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lewisham Council Election Results 2014 - the detail

Detail on the mayoral election can be found on the council's website and Alternative SE4 has a nice view of how the council chamber will look.

Below is a bar chart of the number and share of the vote in the mayoral election:


This post is about the detail of the elections for the 54 council seats. The council as yet have only published the detail of these as one huge pdf file, which is pretty hard to visualise, but thankfully Lewisham Green Party have taken the time to painstakingly transcribe the results and put them on google drive, which they were kind enough to share with me.

I've been through these and made some simple bar charts of the counts in each ward. I've done nothing more sophisticated than that, but I think they tell a story by themselves. Throughout the post the parties are denoted by their usual colours with People Before Profit denoted by a light purple and UKIP by a dark purple. The Socialist/TUSC party are denoted by pink.

Obviously Labour had the largest share of the vote and won the most seats in every ward, with only the Greens managing to hold onto a single seat in Brockley. The graphs below show what has happened to share of the vote and number of councillors between 2002 and 2014, over 4 elections.



Labour's dominance shows through clearly, but look at the Lib Dem collapse in voting share in 2014. The Tories actually increased their share of the vote between 2010 and 2014, as did the Greens, but the total collapse of the Lib Dem vote, with most of those votes going to Labour, had the knock on effect of ensuring that the Tories lost their single seat and the Greens didn't manage to make their increased voter share count. The Greens got 16% of the vote in both 2006 and 2014, but in 2006 they had 6 councillors.

But what of the individual wards? I've divided these into types depending on who was the second (and/or third) party to see what patterns start to emerge.

First up, wards where the Greens were clearly the main challengers to Labour:











Clearly the Greens have done well in the areas they previously had councillors - Brockley and Ladywell - and they are obviously now the second party in neighbouring Crofton Park. The picture is less clear cut in Lewisham Central and Perry Vale, but I think they will have been pleased to do so well here.

How about areas where the Lib Dems were the second party? Yes, they do exist...







The Lib Dems hung onto second place in their former strongholds of Forest Hill, Lee Green and Downham, where Duwayne Brooks was only 64 votes away from retaining his seat. The Downham result shows an unwelcome phenomenon - the rise of UKIP. Mercifully, through most of Lewisham UKIP either didn't stand or polled poorly, but in some wards in Lewisham they did well and in Whitefoot they were the second party.



This repeats a pattern, that UKIP have done well in areas to the south and east of the borough, as you approach suburbia. This warrants further analysis and comparison with wards in neighbouring boroughs, which I hope to tackle in a future piece of work.

Back to the slightly less nasty party, the Tories came second in Grove Park and Sydenham, on the borders with leafy Bromley and not unexpected. They're also back on the rise in wealthy Blackheath, with the dramatic drop in the LibDem vote there. That said, Labour won the seats comfortably, in contrast to neighbouring Blackheath Westcombe ward in Greenwich, where the third spot was taken by the Tories.







And last, but my no means least, the phenomenon that is Lewisham People Before Profit (PB4P). PB4P stood at least one candidate in every ward, some faring better than others, but in Evelyn (Deptford) and New Cross in the north of the borough, they stood three candidates and managed to come second, with Ray Woolford, political chameleon, scoring particularly well in New Cross.





Telegraph Hill ward was a mixed bag, in the past seats here have been taken by the socialist party (currently TUSC) and this was a keenly fought contest, with the TUSC and PB4P's mayoral candidates, Chris Flood and John Hamilton, also standing here.



Hamilton was the victor in that particular battle, but the large number of candidates on the left of the political spectrum can only have helped Labour. The poor old LibDems did about as badly here as they could possibly manage.

It only remains for me to talk about my own stamping ground of Catford, covered by three wards in the borough - Catford South, Bellingham and Rushey Green.







People Before Profit came second in all three of these wards, with a mixture of Conservatives and Greens bringing up third place. I wonder what Catford's current housing boom will do for the political make up of the area in 2018 - will the Greens fancy their chances or can we expect a resurgence of Tories? In the meantime, despite the Conservative Club being wiped out in the 1990s and currently being occupied by the Catford Constitutional Club, the Tories polled a lot better here than I might have expected. I was glad to see no UKIP candidates bothered to stand in Catford. Hopefully, they'd have been given short shrift.

I guess despite all of that detail of the second and third places, which is where arguably some of the interesting stories of Lewisham 2014 lie, if you're a Labour supporter you have to be pretty happy at the sight of all those red bars. How good it will be for the future of the borough remains to be seen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why I hate 3D pie charts - the case for PR

Consider these two images:



They both show the same problem - the lack of representation of all the votes in the council elections in the number of seats allocated to each party. But the second chart, with the bars, allows you to immediately see the vote share for each party. The first, with 3D pies, exaggerates the size of the pies at the front, and makes it impossible to see the distribution of the smaller parties without referring to all the detail in the key. In the second you can see at a glance the ordering and size of the parties. (The pie chart is also technically not correct, as it forces the 7 parties' share to add up to 100%, which of course they don't, because there were other candidates standing, plus spoiled papers and so on. The bar chart doesn't force this.)

The case seems pretty clear to me - a party that obtained around half the available votes was rewarded with all but one of the available seats. And the LibDem electoral meltdown involved them obtaining around 9% of the votes. The Tories got about 12% and also obtained no seats. Poor old People Before Profit, with almost 13,000 votes, about 7% of the voting share, also came away with nothing to show for it. Clearly Labour are the dominant party, however you look at it, but I argue that a balanced council is much better for scrutiny than one with only a single opposition councillor. And as for bloggers providing that scrutiny, when the council were asked when the next public questions (and chance for us to scrutinise) would be, we were told September. Bearing in mind the last full council meeting was in February, that's 7 months where we can't scrutinise the council in public. Hopeless.

And what about the celebration of the single Green councillor that we've seen all about the place? The Green share of the vote in Lewisham in 2006, when they had 6 councillors, was 16%. It's now also 16%, but they have 1 councillor. I'm not sure that's a great cause for celebration.

{ETA: thanks to Lewisham Green Party for typing in all the data from the pdf files the council put online with the results, modern government eh? And also thanks for producing the charts from the data!}