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Council’s last chance to save Honor Oak woodlands 8 August 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Environment.
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This is an update to this posting two weeks ago, based on this press statement from Southwark Lib Dems 

Southwark’s Labour council has been offered a final chance to halt the felling of 60 trees and digging up of 60 graves as part of its plans for new burial space in two local cemeteries which form part of the Green Chain Walk close to Honor Oak and Forest Hill. 

At the last meeting of the council, Southwark Liberal Democrat councillors tabled a motion calling on the ruling Labour administration to carry out a new consultation exercise on where new burial space for Southwark residents is located.  Labour refused to support the proposal.

Following the council meeting, Liberal Democrat councillors have written to the Chair of the Council’s main scrutiny committee asking for the cemeteries strategy and proposals for Southwark Woods to be looked at in more detail with a proper analysis of costs, alternatives and environmental impact.

Southwark Liberal Democrat Leader, Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, said:

“The strength of feeling locally about the Labour council’s plans for Southwark Woods is clear with over 8,000 people signing the petition to save the trees, woodland and old graves. Yet again though, Labour councillors refused to listen to local residents and call a halt to their plans. 

“There are alternatives that would allow Southwark residents to still be buried in the borough that should be looked at properly… I hope that Labour councillors will now listen at the last minute and agree that the plans should be put on hold to look at the issues in more detail.  This is the Labour administration’s last chance to change their minds and save the woods for future generations.”

Forest Hill Lib Dems are strongly supporting the efforts of our Southwark colleagues to save these valuable local woodlands.

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Fury at Conservative Government’s dismantling of environmental policies 8 August 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Environment.
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Forest Hill Liberal Democrats have joined a chorus of anger over the new majority Conservative Government’s abandonment of environmental policies introduced and promoted by the previous Coalition Government.

In just three months since the general election the Conservatives have:

  • Scrapped subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar – the two cheapest forms of clean energy
  • Slashed the energy efficiency budget and scrapped the Green Deal – a programme set up by the Liberal Democrats in Coalition to help people make their homes more energy efficient
  • Ended the tax break for clean cars
  • Abolished rules on zero carbon housing
  • Lowered taxes on polluting firms
  • Announced the part-privatisation of the Green Investment Bank
  • Scrapped the exemption from the Climate Change Levy for renewable energy (described by Friends of the Earth as like putting an alcohol tax on apple juice!)

They have also:

  • Lifted a ban on bee-slaying neonicotinoid pesticides
  • Reversed a pledge to keep fracking out of nationally important nature sites
  • Announced support for a ‘review’ of two key European wildlife laws, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive

The Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth has called it “a grotesque 90 days of ideological enviro-bashing”, observing “David Cameron’s Conservative Government took aim at anything green and shot to kill”. (You can read his full article here – he pulls no punches.)

The heads of 10 of Britain’s leading green groups, including National Trust, Greenpeace and the RSPB, have written to David Cameron calling the cutting or watering-down of 10 key environmental policies woeful and shocking.

Back in April we highlighted the success of the Lib Dems in delivering on environmental policies in the Coalition Government despite opposition from the Conservatives. With the Lib Dems in Government, investment in renewable energy was more than double that under the previous Labour administration, and for the past three years was the highest of any country in Europe. The amount of renewable energy being generated also more than doubled.

Forest Hill Lib Dem campaigner Margot Wilson said: “It is desperately sad to see the strong environmental policies and achievements of the Coalition Government, such as support for renewables and zero carbon housing, being dismantled by the Conservatives now that they are in government on their own.

“Perhaps the loopiest change of all is extending the Climate Change Levy – a tax specifically created to penalise and so reduce carbon pollution – to low and zero-carbon renewable energy, totally undermining its purpose. What was a green tax is being turned into a tax on all energy, dirty or clean.”

The green economy has been a British success story in recent years – it grew 5% a year during the recession – but these changes will undermine it and make businesses less likely to invest in green projects going forward.

For example, waste management firm Veolia invested £10m in a project which draws gas out of landfill sites – on the promise that they’d be getting a subsidy until 2023. But the incentives are to be cancelled eight years early. A company spokesman told the BBC: “We’re very angry that the Government have made a complete U-turn on subsidies that were agreed until 2023 with only 1 month’s notice. This isn’t the way to run a government and give business the confidence to invest.”

Swedish energy company Vattenfall has said it is scrapping a planned windfarm in Lincolnshire, blaming the government’s changes to planning laws for increasing risk to the project.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “For five years we fought sceptical Tories to ensure we were the greenest Government ever by investing billions in renewables and setting out ambitious climate change targets. By quietly dumping the Green Deal, David Cameron has yet again shown how little he cares about the future of the planet.

“The Prime Minister has not so much hugged a husky as led it behind the coal shed, shot it in the head and told his Energy Secretary it has gone to live on a farm in the country.”

Former Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper has commented: “the last few months mark the worst period for environmental policy that I have seen in my 30 years’ work in this field.” He attributes it to “an anti-environment ideology based on the view that ecological goals interfere with the market, increase costs and are against the interests of people”.

Honor Oak woodlands under threat from council bulldozers 24 July 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Environment.
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Camberwell Old Cemetery Plans

Camberwell Old Cemetery Plans – before and after

Plans to chop down hundreds of trees in two local cemeteries which form part of the Green Chain Walk close to Honor Oak and Forest Hill have provoked outrage in the community. But despite massive opposition and the signatures of more than 8,500 local residents, Labour-run Southwark Council are insisting that the plans must go ahead.

The two affected sites are on the boundary between Southwark and Lewisham boroughs at Camberwell Old Cemetery next to Wood Vale and Camberwell New Cemetery on One Tree Hill. The Council’s plans include the felling of over 30 mature trees and the destruction of a protected grade 1 site of borough importance for nature conservation to make way for a modern sterile cemetery.

Liberal Democrats have met with local residents and campaigners against the Council’s proposals on-site to see first-hand the impact the plans to build new graves would have on the woodlands, but you don’t have to walk through the woodland to feel the benefits and impact such woodlands have.

Local air quality is very poor and the importance of green spaces and trees on the environment is well known. Its destruction will affect everyone young and old.

An attempt by Lib Dem councillors in Southwark to stop the destruction of the woodlands was rejected by Labour councillors at a meeting on July 8th.

Southwark Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Councillor Anood Al-Samerai said:

“The Camberwell Old Cemetery woodland is a Grade 1 site of Borough Importance for Nature Conservation and councillors have a duty to protect to protect heritage and nature for future generations. Labour councillors should not be bulldozing through their plans for 2,000 new graves without a thought for the local environment.”

Southwark Liberal Democrat councillors have criticised the council’s 2011 consultation on its new burial strategy for a number of failings, including that it did not mention the impact on local woodlands and trees. They have suggested alternatives to Labour’s proposed strategy.

Lewisham Lib Dems, including the Forest Hill Focus Team, are strongly backing the efforts of our Southwark colleagues as well as the non-partisan community campaign, ‘Save Southwark Woods’, which is pursuing every avenue in an effort to persuade the council to back down.  We enjoy walking through these woods and know many other local residents do too.

The council appear determined to go ahead with the plans but we hope, even at this late stage, they’ll listen. Help us today, sign the petition online and tell the council they cannot destroy our precious local woodlands. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-southwark-woods

Some other helpful links:

Southwark Council’s plans

Save Southwark Woods campaign

Greenest Government Ever – thanks to Lib Dems 6 April 2015

Posted by George Crozier in Environment, Uncategorized.
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IoS ragout boxThe Liberal Democrats have won praise for delivering on environmental policies in government in the face of opposition from the Conservatives.

The Independent on Sunday newspaper, which has a strong record of campaigning on green issues, agreed with Edward Davey – the minister in charge of the Government’s policies to tackle climate change – that the Lib Dems have made this Government greener than its Labour predecessor.

With the Lib Dems in Government, investment in renewable energy has been more than double that under Labour, and for the past three years the highest of any country in Europe. The amount of renewable energy being generated has also more than doubled.

OffShoreWind-1The Independent on Sunday gave its verdict on the parties’ green policies. The Conservatives deserve “discredit for going back on their ‘vote blue, go green’ promise”, Labour “have downplayed greenery” while the Green Party “urgently needs to sort itself out”. The Lib Dems, by contrast, deserve credit for “keeping the low-carbon show on the road”.

Alex Feakes, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Lewisham West & Penge, said: “Environmentalism has been at the core of our party’s DNA long before it fell in and out of fashion with other parties. We promised in 2010 to make the environment a priority and that is what we have done.”


Did you know?

  • Britain is now the world leader in offshore wind and tidal power (including the world’s 2 largest offshore windfarms)
  • Solar energy generation increased by 60% last year
  • Funding for cycling projects has been doubled since 2010
  • A million trees have been planted
  • A 5p charge to deter use of throwaway plastic bags comes in in October
  • The Government has beaten its target of getting a million homes more energy efficient in the past two years

GreenLawsFind out more about the Zero Waste Bill and other Lib Dem green policies for the next Parliament at: http://www.libdems.org.uk/environment

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.

Recycling – must do better 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Environment, Recycling & rubbish.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Lib Dems are calling on Lewisham’s Labour Mayor to act after figures showing the council is bottom of London’s recycling league table for a second year in a row.

In 2012-13 just 20% of household waste was recycled in Lewisham, less than half as much as in most neighbouring boroughs (see map, right).

Duwayne Brooks, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Lewisham, said: “Over the last five years most London boroughs have increased their recycling rates, but in Lewisham they have fallen.

“Of course we all have a responsibility to recycle all we can. Everyone should take five minutes to ensure our empty bottles, plastics, cardboards and so on do not get thrown out with the general waste.

“But the main responsibility for Lewisham’s dreadful recycling rate rests with the Mayor and council. They make it too difficult for people to recycle some waste, and do not do enough to publicise what can be recycled.”

A recent survey by Lib Dems in Forest Hill found more than 90% of local residents want the council to do more to reduce and reuse food waste. Margot Wilson said: “Other boroughs such as Southwark collect food and garden waste every week. Why can’t we?”

Recycling rates by borough
Percentages of household waste recycled in Lewisham and neighbouring boroughs in 2012-13

Air quality – call for action 22 March 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Environment.
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This story appeared in the February – March 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Liberal Democrats are pressing for urgent action to tackle air quality in Lewisham after a study found it frequently ranked as one of the worst three London boroughs for air pollution-related deaths.

Forest Hill councillor Alex Feakes said: “Last summer Lewisham council agreed to set up an air quality management area including Honor Oak, after studies showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide (primarily from vehicle exhausts) in the area. However they are not even publishing an action plan until the second half of this year. We need greater urgency.”

The Lib Dems want to tackle air pollution by helping people fit better filters to vehicles and by considering banning very old diesel engines altogether. Our survey of Forest Hill residents found strong support for this.

London Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford is a leading campaigner for action against air pollution. She is pressing for the fast implementation of tougher EU car emission standards and for ‘tailpipe testing’ of lorries to check if diesel particulate filters have been illegally removed.

Lib Dems are also pushing pro-air quality measures inside the coalition government, including ways of increasing numbers of electric vehicles.

FH Assembly boost for youngsters, traders and nature reserve 4 January 2014

Posted by George Crozier in Community, Environment, Local assembly, Uncategorized, Young people.
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This article appears in the December 2013 / January 2014 Forest Hill Focus

Local residents who attended October’s meeting of the Forest Hill Assembly decided the allocation of the £12,500 Assembly Fund for the year ahead. Seven of the ten organisations that put in a bid were awarded funding.

The successful projects are:

Garden Power Supply – Friends of Devonshire Road Nature Reserve

£1,600 was awarded to lay a fixed electricity supply from the existing visitor centre to the two volunteer built green oak buildings in the garden

Planting in Forest Hill Town Centre – Forest Hill Society

£280 for replacement of plants at Forest Hill station (forecourt and platform planters) and beneath the trees at the Job Centre

Re-Connect @ Platform 1

£3,000 for a youth project including drama and music workshops targeted at 8-13 year olds

Garden project – Rockbourne Youth Club

£1,987.75 to build a garden space accessible to schools, nurseries and community groups, and to buy tools to maintain it

Forest Hill’s map of hidden treasure – Forest Hill Traders Association

£2,500 for a ‘graffiti’ style map of London Road, Dartmouth Road and Perry Vale to be located by Welsh Smiths’

Kelvin Grove Activities – Kelvin Grove Primary School

£2,250 for a project to help raise aspirations and change behaviour among a targeted group of 10-11 year olds

The remaining £882 is being offered to the next placed project which was SFH (Sydenham Forest Hill) Performing Arts Academy, involving dance, drama, music and sport workshops for 9-12 year olds at Sydenham School.

Councillor Alex Feakes, chair of the Forest Hill Assembly, commented: “I am delighted that local people have once again voted to support some really worthwhile projects, which will make our area greener, more attractive to shoppers and other visitors, and will help local youngsters.”

Paving over front gardens – Lewisham Council report back for @D_J_Greenwood 19 September 2013

Posted by Alex Feakes in Environment, Forest Hill, Lewisham Council, Planning.
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Question: What is the Council’s policy with regard to the paving over of front gardens and the consequent effect that the loss of green space has on amenity and local economy? (Thank you to @D_J_Greenwood for suggestion)

Answer: The Council’s ability to influence the paving over of front gardens is relatively limited. The paving over of front gardens of houses does not usually require planning permission. However, permission is required where the property is a flat or maisonette or where the “permitted development” right has been removed through what is termed an “article 4” direction.

For paving over of a front garden to a permeable (or porous) surfacing which allows water to drain through, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt, or if the rainwater is directed to a lawn to drain naturally, planning permission is not required. However, where the surface to be covered is more then five square metres planning permission will co be needed for laying traditional, impermeable driveways that do not provide for the water to run to a permeable area.

Where planning permission is required, the main area of control would be within Conservation Areas where policy 36 of the Development Management Local Plan (Proposed Submission Version August 2013) applies. This states that the Council will encourage the reinstatement or require the retention of architectural and landscaping features such as front gardens.

Southwark Council consultation on increasing cemetery space #ForestHill #HonorOak #se23 31 January 2012

Posted by Alex Feakes in Community, Environment, Forest Hill.
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Fresh on the back of Southwark Council’s proposal to expand its cemeteries on to recreation grounds in Honor Oak, they are now consulting on plans to increase the capacity of Camberwell Old Cemetery. This burial ground is bounded by Forest Hill Road, Wood Vale and Underhill Road, and is very nearly full to the brim.

Southwark’s proposal is to increase capacity by adding a metre of topsoil to an area of land adjacent to Wood Vale. This would require the felling of 34 trees, replaced by 97 new ones.

If you would like to find out more, or to voice your opinion on the proposal, email parks.

More about Camberwell Old Cemetery can be found here: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/info/200032/deaths_funerals_and_cremations/185/cemeteries/2