Our horizons are changing

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For those of us who live on the North/North-West side of Herne Hill, and for the many more who use Herne Hill Station, the familiar close horizon has been brutally and unexpectedly disturbed by a huge and intrusive new housing development.

For many years – probably for ever, in fact – we have enjoyed fairly open skies. With the exception of the two post-war tower blocks facing Brockwell Park, there have been no very tall buildings either in Herne Hill itself or on the horizon, until the eye reaches the distant new towers of Vauxhall, Blackfriars and The Shard, and the City. As we wandered down Kestrel Avenue from Herne Hill, the tallest object we could see on the skyline was Battersea Power Station with its iconic white chimneys.

That is so last year! Battersea Power Station has been blotted out. Now, anyone walking down Kestrel Avenue is assaulted by a massive new apartment block. It crouches just over the Herne Hill border, neighbouring the Ark Evelyn Grace Academy and sandwiched between Shakespeare Road, Loughborough Park and the Thameslink railway track. But its presence now dominates the whole horizon in that direction.

What is it? Loughborough Park, once a prewar and relatively un-dense social housing estate managed by the Guinness Trust, has been in the throes of redevelopment for some years, at the behest of Lambeth Council. Controversially, the old tenants were “persuaded” to vacate their properties to allow redevelopment: Brixton Buzz had a typically partisan but probably accurate account of the process in 2015.

The Loughborough Park development, being carried out and managed by Guinness Homes Ltd, is an ambitious one. It will provide 487 new apartments, accessed on a social rent, “affordable” rent or shared ownership basis. Some of the blocks, visible from the train, are already in occupation: the whole thing is due for completion by 2019. The 133 apartments offering shared ownership are being marketed under the apparently enticing strapline “Electric Quarter”. The others seem to have no such fancy label. The huge block that now looms on our horizon appears to be one of those.

The need for new housing in London is undeniable. Our city’s population is expected to reach more than nine million by 2020 – an increase of 14 per cent in a decade – pushed up by immigration and rising birth rates. And in a further decade London will be home to more than 10 million people as it continues to draw in migrants and generate young families.

So we must resign ourselves, here in Herne Hill, to a blighted horizon and, once this giant block is occupied, by significant nighttime light pollution. But one weeps especially for the residents of the northern segments of Shakespeare Road and Mayall Road, whose rear-facing outlooks must now be ruined forever by these huge blocks.

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GANG ATTACKS IN & AROUND BROCKWELL PARK

We’ve heard that last week a neighbour’s son was attacked by a group of balaclava-wearing young men inside the main entrance of Brockwell Park. They hit him over the head from behind but didn’t steal anything. It was around 7pm. The gang was spotted elsewhere in Herne Hill the same evening.

Please be alert, and contact the police if you encounter or suspect problems of this sort.

ANOTHER DEMO VOICES ANGER AT LAMBETH’S LIBRARY CLOSURES

At a well-attended and angry demo this morning in front of Herne Hill station, residents, voters and library supporters from across London voiced their support for the Carnegie sit-in and furiously lambasted Lambeth Labour’s refusal to listen to residents as Cllr Jane Edbrooke and her colleagues persist in the closure of the Carnegie and other Lambeth libraries and the dodgy involvement of gym-supporting Greenwich Leisure.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO NETWORK RAIL’S SHOPS?

The terrace of 19th century shops at the end of Railton Road (otherwise known as Station Square) in the centre of Herne Hill is looking a bit sad these days (see photo below).

As planned, the premises are being closed prior to extensive refurbishment by their owners, Network Rail. With the assistance of Network Rail, two of the tenants have found alternative premises in the previously refurbished railway arches on Milkwood Road. The vintage furniture shop is still trading, from premises on Dulwich Road. All the shops are boarded up pending the start of the rebuilding programme.

All except one: the Best Kebab shop, which defiantly continues trading.

We are guessing that all of the work can start until these tenants finally depart. Presumably they are exercising their right to trade until the end of their lease.

Hopefully Network Rail can shed some light on this situation.

Network Rail Shops Herne Hill SE24

WATCH OUT, LAMBETH MPS AND LABOUR COUNCILLORS!

The Times today (Thursday 19 February) prints this report from Lucy Fisher, Senior Political Correspondent

Lambeth Momentum leak suggests takeover bid In Lambeth Labour movement

Momentum, the hard-left network of Corbynistas, wants to replace Labour party branches, according to a leaked proposal raised by a leading local group.

Last week the steering committee of Lambeth Momentum, which has been among the most militant branches of the controversial group, denounced the area’s Labour party as ineffective.

In an email to members before a meeting last night it suggested that Momentum should become a “replacement space” for political activism. The revelation is likely to foment fears among moderate Labour MPs that Momentum is plotting an insurgent far-left takeover of Labour, in echoes of Militant Tendency in the 1980s. Momentum has repeatedly denied the charge.

The leaked missive from the working group of six people, intended to update the local membership on what the branch’s working group had done since its last meeting, said: “We note that there was some disagreement about passing resolutions at the meetings.

“Some felt this was an effective way to encourage political discussion, others felt it was a redundant process suited better to party politics. However we all agreed that LP [Labour party] branches aren’t effective political spaces any more and Momentum must be the replacement space until the LP is politicised.”

A spokesman for Momentum said: “Momentum does not wish to replace Labour but strengthen it by making it a more participatory, democratic and campaigning party.”

Comment

It was news to me that the Lambeth Labour Party was not, as the Momentum comrades say, adequately “politicised”. So If I was a Labour party local councillor or MP, I would be watching my back even more than usual these days.

A LAST GLIMPSE OF SOME FAMILIAR SHOPS  –  AND CONCERN ABOUT WHAT FOLLOWS

First posted 24 December, updated 12 January

We will soon notice that the Herne Hill shopping scene is witnessing a big change.

Even if you’ve been shopping there in recent days, you may not have realised that some of the familiar shops in Railton Road are about to disappear for good.

Shops about to disappear
Shops about to disappear

Owners Network Rail (NW) have been granted planning permission to refurbish seven of the retail units that back on to the railway viaduct.This group of shops runs from the Laundrette to the vintage furniture shop Bleu.

The work is planned to start this spring. The upper floors, currently derelict or used for  storage or offices, will be turned into flats.  A change of use has also been granted for some of the premises, from Retail to Restaurant/Café.

Two of the present shops have accepted NW’s offer to transfer (at a higher rent, inevitably) to the modernised arches just round the corner on Milkwood Road. Ye Olde Bakery and greengrocers The Fruit Garden will be re-opening there in the coming days. Bleu has occupied a vacant shop on Dulwich Road, a few steps away from The Florence. However, Walters Butchers have declined and, sadly, will close for good this coming Saturday.

Details of the Network Rail plans, and of the Herne Hill Society’s comments on the scheme, can be found in the Winter edition of Herne Hill magazine, just published.

Starbucks next ? or McDonalds?

The big risk for Herne Hill is that some of the refurbished units are intended for large restaurant tenants  –   businesses that can afford the higher rents.  This probably rules out the sort of local, family-run businesses that have served and supported our community for so many years.  There is talk that Starbucks and McDonalds, those generous contributors to HMRC’s income, have expressed interest.

I guess we are all really thrilled about that …