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Questions for Network Rail over London Bridge delays and overcrowding 18 January 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Transport.
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As travellers from Honor Oak Park (like me), Forest Hill and Sydenham will be only too painfully aware, services into London Bridge seem to have hit a new low since new year.

Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon – who chairs the London Assembly’s Transport Committee – has taken this up with Network Rail. She emailed us with this update:

Questions that Network Rail must now answer

The New Year has seen continued misery for passengers using London Bridge station.

As a passenger Caroline has had first-hand experience of the additional stress and pressure the constant overcrowding, cancellations and delays are having on commuters.

We were promised that after Christmas and the two week station closure everything would be sorted and yet the New Year has brought even more pain and fewer trains for passengers.

As Chair of the Transport Committee Caroline has written to Network Rail about this and the problems at King’s Cross, and will continue to press for improvements while these major works continue.

The London Bridge improvement works letter requests the following information and assurance to the Committee, regarding services delivered in the week commencing 4 January:

  • The number of unscheduled train cancellations on routes into and out of London Bridge Station from 4 January and the reasons for these cancellations.
  • The number of train delays of longer than 30 minutes, for services arriving and departing London Bridge.
  • Confirmation of whether the signalling problems experienced in the week commencing 4 January are linked to, or separate from, the Thameslink programme works, and what is being done to resolve these problems.
  • Further information on Network Rail’s policy for cancellation of trains with passengers on board.

The details of the correspondence can be seen here.

Dartmouth Road set to be spruced up? 11 January 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Environment, Local assembly, Streets.
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London Road - Dartmouth Road junction

London Road – Dartmouth Road junction

£600,000 of funding has been provided by Transport for London for the improvement of the ‘public realm environment’ on Dartmouth Road between Forest Hill station and the pools.

The money is being provided under TfL’s Local Implementation Plan (LIP) process. This funding – £300,000 for each of 2015-16 and 2016-17 – will be used to design, consult on and begin carrying out a programme of work. However it is expected that more money will be needed to carry out the lion’s share of the improvements in future years.

Ideas already put forward for improving this part of Forest Hill include turning the area in front of the station into a piazza, a new railway crossing between Perry Vale and Dartmouth Road, improving the pedestrian / cycle route next to the railway line, clearing away much of the ‘street clutter’ and opening up the space in front of the library and pools, maybe with greater use of public art. (Some of these were discussed at a workshop held by Forest Hill Society and SEE3 Ltd in July last year.)

“Bringing these improvements to Dartmouth Road and the station area is long overdue, said Forest Hill campaigner Alex Feakes. “These ideas are a welcome contribution to the work carried out to improve Forest Hill by local businesses, SEE3 Ltd and the Lib Dem team of Forest Hill councillors over the years. However, we could have been enjoying the benefits of these ideas for many years already if Lewisham Council had devolved real powers to local people and businesses rather than just provided talking shops.”

Fellow Lib Dem campaigner George Crozier added: “Any improvement to the town centre needs to address the junction of London Road and Dartmouth Road. We particularly need to find a way to make this junction more cyclist-friendly.”

The origins of the TfL bid lie in a report commissioned by the Forest Hill Ward Assembly under the chairmanship of Lib Dem councillor John Russell back in 2010. The report on the state of the high street and street clutter was presented to the Lewisham Mayor and Cabinet by John, along with a request from the Assembly for action to address the poor state of Dartmouth Road and London Road, including an Area Action Plan for Forest Hill Town Centre and a Local Implementation Plan bid to TfL.

John explained: “Five years ago we took our report to the Mayor and Cabinet to ask the council to back this application for funding so this is the result of our and the community’s work.

“Forest Hill will really benefit from these funds that will support all the other initiatives already in place to continue to regenerate the town centre and improve the look and feel of the place. Real change has happened in the town centre since 2010. SEE3 ‘Portas Pilot’ funds, the Forest Hill Society and the local community have all helped to transform the high street.

“Continued community involvement with the Local Implementation Plan is very important. Forest Hill still needs a new master plan from the Planning Department especially around the station!”

However it is still likely to be a while before substantial improvements actually happen. The Council told us:

“This project is in its early stages of development and the current budgets currently set aside are only provisional. The final cost of the works will only be ascertained once firm proposals have been developed and consultation has been carried out. At the present time it is not possible to give dates for the works on site as the scheme programme will be dependent on the development of proposals agreed with a number of stakeholders that may involve negotiation, possible legal agreements and also Traffic Management Orders.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on developments.

Honor Oak Road safety action 6 July 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Streets.
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This story appears in the July – August 2014 Forest Hill Focus

In a response to a petition raised by the Tewkesbury Lodge Residents’ Association in conjunction with Lib Dem campaigners Alex Feakes and Philip Peake and presented by them to Lewisham Council last year, the Council have agreed to introduce measures to make Honor Oak Road safer for pedestrians and traffic alike.

Many residents had raised concerns with Alex and Phil about the speed of traffic along the road, particularly the section between Canonbie Road and Forest Hill Road, which includes Fairlawn and Francesca Cabrini primary schools. “Action on this issue is long overdue, but it’s good news that the council is finally getting its act together,” commented Alex.

The proposed measures include extending ‘guard railing’ along the pavement to protect pedestrians, footway bollards to prevent obscurement caused by pavement parking, and reinstatement and enforcement of the ‘school zone’ markings outside Fairlawn school.

Separately, the council has added Honor Oak Road to this year’s carriageway resurfacing programme, and is also considering calls by Canonbie Road residents to reduce rat running through use of no entry signs and barriers at the junction with Honor Oak Road, though like the footway proposals this will depend upon available funding.

Wells Park Road murder – more needs to be done to tackle serious youth violence locally 6 July 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Police, Young people.
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This is an extended version of a story which appears in the July – August 2014 Forest Hill Focus

We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of James Hunter, who was murdered in Wells Park Road, Sydenham, on May 31st. Residents told us of their worries about crime in precisely this area. It is really important that these concerns are taken seriously and, now that Sydenham Police Station is closed, that there is a local and well advertised place where people can talk to the police.

Lib Dem campaigner Margot Wilson said: “I have been in contact with the local police about what plans they have to patrol the area and what early intervention projects there are. They have told me that they are currently in discussion with the council about further events around youth engagement in the area following feedback from two meetings at the TNG in the days after the murder. I am concerned that while there are projects to counteract serious youth violence in others parts of London, there appear to be none in Lewisham.”

Duwayne Brooks, Lib Dem candidate in the election for Mayor of Lewisham, described his heartache at being told of another death among our young people and offered his condolences to the families:

“For years, I have been trying to highlight the issue of serious youth violence in our borough but it has been constantly denied and I have been continuously blocked. I tried to implement an early intervention procedure to help target those nine to thirteen year olds who get caught with the wrong groups. I was told it’s not needed. Now we have another unnecessary death where a number of families will be in pain for something that was and is preventable.”

The Focus Team had contacted Lewisham Homes about the possible gating of blocks on Wells Park Road earlier in May, after the issue was raised by a local resident we called on. Lewisham Homes told us that they do not currently have funding to install door entry systems. They can only repair and maintain existing systems. However they do intend to work more closely with residents through consultation to agree improvements to estates. This plan is in the very early stages and subject to approval and funding, but if it goes ahead residents will be invited to put forward their suggestions.

The Focus Team have written to Lewisham Council requesting a 24 hour monitored CCTV camera be placed on Wells Park Road. While this would be council-controlled and funded the police would also have access to it and it would provide a valuable supplement to their patrols in the area.

The police have been working on expanding neighbourhood watch schemes generally in and around Forest Hill. If you would be interested in getting involved let us know and we can pass your details on.

Residents in the Sydenham part of the ward should be aware that the Police have drop in centres at the Sainsbury’s Savacentre, Southend Lane, Sydenham, SE26 4PU, on Wednesday 7-8pm, Thursday 7-8pm and Saturday 2-3pm. They can otherwise be contacted at Catford Hill Police Station.

Extra buses on the way 6 July 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Transport.
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This story appears in the July – August 2014 Forest Hill Focus

George Crozier at a bus stop in Forest Hill

George Crozier has welcomed TfL’s promise of extra buses at peak times

Some good news from TfL for our campaign against bus overcrowding. They are laying on four extra services a day on the 176 route at peak times.

Focus Team member George Crozier asked Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, who is Deputy Chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee, to take up overcrowding on the 176 and the 185 with TfL, and whether there is a need for additional buses at peak times. This followed a survey which identified the two routes as among the ten most overcrowded in the whole of London.

Caroline and her office energetically took up the issue and we have now been told by TfL that they will be running additional services on the 176 towards central London during the morning rush hour and in the opposite direction in the evening rush hour. Buses will now be running every seven minutes rather than every eight minutes on during these peak times.

TfL told Caroline they could not “provide a precise timescale at present, but would like to assure Mr Crozier that we are working hard to implement this proposal as quickly as possible, subject to receipt of costs from the operator and approval.”

On the 185, TfL say they are still reviewing the data, and depending on the outcome will look at undertaking additional surveys or providing extra buses if required.

We will keep you informed of developments on both routes.

Council election blunder – wrong results declared in Forest Hill 2 July 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Uncategorized.
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Lewisham Council have admitted they miscounted local election votes in Forest Hill in May, resulting in 1708 votes being counted twice and the wrong results being officially recorded.

The blunder became clear when the results were published and the number of votes cast came to more than three times the number of ballot papers issued, when three is the maximum number of legal votes anyone can cast.

Lewisham Liberal Democrats raised this with the council after it was drawn to our attention by a local resident.

At a hastily convened meeting with candidates and their agents the council’s chief executive conceded that a mistake had been made. He explained that what had happened was that two groups of counters had been working to a single tally sheet for recording the votes they counted. One group entered their data and it went to the accountants for entering in the official spreadsheet. The tally sheet was then recalled so the other group’s figures could be added. The updated totals were then given to the accountants who added them in. The first group’s totals were therefore added in twice. The result was that 1708 votes – about one in six of all votes cast – were accounted for twice.

George Crozier commented:

“It beggars belief that a basic error on this scale could take place without the Returning Officer or any of his staff spotting it. Candidates and their agents watch closely at the count to make sure votes go onto the right piles and are recorded correctly. But there is very little they can do when correctly recorded tally sheets are entered into the computer twice.

“It is very hard to change a result once it has been declared. The council could easily have faced the expense of taking themselves to an electoral court if this error had changed who was elected. As it is, because it did not change who won, we have accepted that rather than face unnecessary expense the council can let the originally declared result officially stand, even though it includes a technically impossible mismatch between ballot papers and votes. However we are pressing the council to publish the actual number of votes cast too so that the people of Forest Hill have their votes accurately recorded.”

The council chief executive has promised us that the council will put safeguards in place to ensure there can be no repetition of this error.

Margot Wilson welcomed this news:

“The council must take action to make sure a blunder like this can never happen again. A simple system of stamping tally sheets as having been entered into the computer would stop them being entered twice. A check of the number of votes cast in a ward against the number of ballot papers included in the count to make sure they are not incompatible would have shown immediately what had happened.

“It is important for the people of Lewisham to be able to have confidence in their election results and in the council’s ability to count them accurately.”


Forest Hill ward 2014 local election result

The actual number of votes cast for each candidate was as follows (official and declared total in brackets):

Hilton (Lab) 1869 (2115)

Bernards (Lab) 1718 (1945)

Upex (Lab) 1595 (1814)

Feakes (Lib Dem) 1118 (1292)

Crozier (Lib Dem) 732 (866)

Wilson (Lib Dem) 707 (839)

Taylor (Green) 693 (786)

Jones (Green) 676 (764)

Thompson (Green) 545 (615)

Ferguson (Con) 537 (622)

Squires (Con) 506 (592)

Tebble (Con) 437 (518)

Oakley (UKIP) 378 (419)

Cain (PBP) 378 (408)

Welcome to Lewisham, or Southwark? 27 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Uncategorized.
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So who put the Welcome to Lewisham sign on Lordship Lane round the wrong way, so you only see it when you’re leaving Lewisham for Southwark?

And more to the point, why, a month or more since it was reported, has nothing been done about it?

Not exactly the message of competence we want to send to travellers on one of our busiest roads!

Eliot Bank retiling work 26 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Uncategorized.
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Anyone else think the workmen redecorating Eliot Bank blocks for the council just used whichever tiles they had to hand? It’s not even as though they’ve done the same pattern (if you can call it that) in each block. Poor show.

Still they could be in a worse position. The block on Shirburn Close is still being redecorated six months after the work started. They ran out of tiles apparently. Not good. Come on Lewisham Homes – get on Breyer’s case!

More buses on the way? 14 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Transport.
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More buses on the way?

George Crozier at a bus stop in Forest Hill

George looking serious at the bus stop outside The Capitol

Some promising news from TfL for our campaign against bus overcrowding. They are ‘exploring the possibility’ of providing extra services.

As I wrote back in March, we asked Lib Dem London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, who is Deputy Chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee, to take up overcrowding on the 176 and the 185 with TfL, and whether there is a need for additional buses at peak times. This followed a survey which identified the two routes as among the ten most overcrowded in the whole of London.

Caroline and her office energetically took up the issue and, via them, we have received this reply from TfL (my bolding):

I would like to assure Mr Crozier that we regularly monitor demand on the bus network in a variety of ways, including surveys (we have conducted around 7000 in the last three years alone), use of Oyster card data, and reviews of customer and stakeholder correspondence. Although complaints about overcrowding typically comprise fewer than 5 per cent of the total comments we receive about buses, we take all such complaints seriously and address them in a variety of ways including changes to frequencies and bus sizes as well as measures to improve reliability.

We have now investigated the reports of over-crowding on routes 176 and 185, and I can confirm that both routes do look well used. We are therefore exploring the possibility of providing an additional journey or journeys on route 176, although I must emphasise that this proposal is provisional, and is subject to confirmation of costs from the operator and final approval. We are currently reviewing the existing passenger loading data for route 185 in closer detail, and depending on the outcome we will look at undertaking additional surveys or proposing a change in capacity if required. I will be happy to provide an update as soon as further information is available.

I’ve asked for clarification on likely timescale, both for the next update from TfL and for the actual provision of any additional services, and will post that here as soon as I hear anything.

Fingers crossed!

Lib Dems stand up for leaseholders and tenants of rogue landlords 14 April 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Housing, Uncategorized.
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This story appeared in the March – April 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Private tenants and leaseholders would be able to rely on Lewisham Council’s support to resolve problems with landlords and freeholders under proposals put forward by the Lewisham Liberal Democrat council group.

Rogue landlords providing sub-standard accommodation would be targeted, with the aim of improving their conduct and the quality of housing stock available.

National funds for Lewisham

Liberal Democrats in Government have made tackling rogue landlords a national priority. In addition to tough new legislation the Government has provided £6.5 million for local enforcement work. Lewisham will receive £125,000 to enable it to set up a programme to tackle rogue landlords, and employ a dedicated enforcement officer and paralegal, to increase the number of prosecutions.

“Supporting the many vulnerable tenants in private rented accommodation is an important role for the Council, ” says Lib Dem Forest Hill councillor Alex Feakes. “For years Lewisham’s Labour Council have failed to take it seriously enough. With this extra funding from national government they now have no excuse.”

Council leaseholders

Previous work on the council led by Cllr Feakes has seen a shift in Lewisham Council’s relationship with its many leaseholders, though there is still much more to do to ensure that those who own property in a block controlled by the Council are fairly treated.

“Decades of underinvestment and short-termism in repairs by the Council has left many leaseholders facing huge bills for communal works,” says Cllr Feakes. “No one disputes that leaseholders should pay their fair share, but concerns remain about quality, timeliness and payment mechanisms. There seems to be an assumption that anyone with a leasehold must be well-off and can pay any demand put to them!”

Abuses of rogue landlords

These include:
* Harassment of tenants
* Illegal evictions
* Illegal fees charged
* Overcrowding
* Boilers with no gas certificate
* Illegal electricity supplies
* Failure to make repairs
* Refusal to pay back deposits

‘Wipe out criminal landlords’ plea

Duwayne Brooks, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, has vowed to be a champion of vulnerable tenants if he is elected as the borough’s Mayor in May.

“For 40 years Labour has failed to deal with rogue landlords behaving criminally,” said Duwayne. “We need a system that protects and supports our vulnerable tenants. If elected, I will introduce a mandatory borough-wide licensing scheme, similar to the one in place in Newham, to wipe out these rogue criminal landlords.”