Our horizons are changing

1_DSCF3002

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.

Advertisements

A NEW YEAR’S GIFT FOR FAWNBRAKE AVENUE?

Dear Neighbours

You should by now have received a leaflet from two of our fellow Fawnbrake residents, announcing a very welcome initiative to add to the endangered tree stock of Fawnbrake Avenue.

Even in winter, our trees add dimension and texture to our streetscape with the age-old pattern of their boughs, and in spring, summer and autumn their buds and colour-shifting leaves bring the street alive.  It would be a shame, for us and future generations, if we let them disappear.

Fawnbrake Trees Winter_B&W
Even in winter, trees enhance our street view

For the record, and in case the dog ate it or the builders threw it away, here’s what the leaflet says:

“Many of us in Fawnbrake Avenue enjoy its tree-lined character but it’s suffered badly in recent years as older trees have been removed and have not replaced. Others were replaced with specimens inappropriate for the location. A number of us have decided to do something about it and hope you will want to too. A survey by the Herne Hill Society established that some 24 trees are missing in Fawnbrake Avenue. That includes empty pits, ‘capped’ pits and three unsuitable Tamarix ‘shrubs’ (near numbers 90–100).

Because of cuts, Lambeth have for the last three years had a policy of not replacing trees. However, we have recently talked to Dave Paul, the officer responsible for trees in Lambeth, and currently some trees are available for street planting. Lambeth can provide three trees for our street. What’s more, Mr Paul tells us that if residents themselves can raise funds for more trees, Lambeth will match the same number. So if we can fund, say, ten trees Lambeth will provide ten more. On our recent inspection of the street Mr Paul marked with a green ‘T’ places where a tree could be suitably planted. This is not to say a tree will definitely be planted there. They’re simply suggestions. If someone is strongly against a tree being planted near their house, Lambeth will take account of their views.

Planting new trees is not cheap. The cost is £450 per tree, but this includes insurance and a three-year maintenance programme. This means that if the tree fails within three years it will be replaced free of charge.

The cost of ten trees would be £4500. Split between an estimated 140 or so households that’s around £30 each; not a vast amount considering the value ‘added’ to Fawnbrake Avenue as a whole – and, as any estate agent will tell you, a tree-lined street is good for the value of your home! There has been a similar successful scheme in Rollscourt and Cosbycote Avenues, where donations ranged from £20 to £450. Now we need to get an idea of how much Fawnbrake residents would be willing to contribute. We are not asking for money to be paid now, but we’d like an indication of what you feel you could pledge. And if you feel there are other ways in which you could help with this project do let us know.

The Herne Hill Society, a registered charity, supports this project and is willing to make its bank account available to receive donations. These would be ring fenced for the project. A cheque would then be paid directly to Lambeth, once they are in a position to commission the work. It would be great if we could make use of the current planting season. This means, ideally, planting by the end of March. There’s no time to be lost, so please respond by 15 January 2016.

Please email laurence@marsh62.co.uk stating your name and house number, or contact us at our addresses at 62 and 80 Fawnbrake Avenue and saying how much you would be prepared to pledge. We’ll add up the pledges, establish how many trees that would provide and start liaising with Lambeth. We look forward to getting back in touch as soon as possible with more information on how we can restore Fawnbrake Avenue to its former tree-lined glory.”

David Williams – 80 Fawnbrake Avenue

Laurence Marsh – 62 Fawnbrake Avenue

2015_1216_01281200

 

SCAM IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

A neighbour has reported what may be a door-to-door scam, so please be on your guard.

A very friendly young black man has been calling on doors in Fawnbrake Avenue.  He introduces himself as from the Football Club in Brockwell Park. He had a clipboard in his hand. On introducing himself by his first name he offers a handshake. His initial pitch is to ask if there are any kids in the house who are interested in football. If you bite he asks for money. He is very plausible. Several residents have been stung. If you show no interest he does not hang about.

We have checked with Ann Kingsbury (ex-Lambeth Councillor) now with the Brockwell Park Trust and she checked with the St Matthew’s Football club who use the park. They state by email that they have no knowledge of this gentleman and it is not the sort of thing a reputable club would do. They suspect a scam.

PARKING PERMITS – RENEWAL TIME ALREADY

If, like many on the street, you bought your annual CPZ permit last spring, it’ll very soon be time to renew it.

There have been reports on a Brixton blog that some permit holders in that part of the borough didn’t receive reminders. They consequently found themselves with expired parking permits, rewarded by a parking ticket on the windscreen.

This was remedied after appeal, but it shouldn’t have happened, obviously.

The letter that came with the annual permit last April stated:

“Shortly before your permit expires, we will write to the address that your permit is registered to and provide you with all the information you need to know about how to renew your permit.”

We recommend keeping an eye open for the letter, and taking action if it fails to appear before the current permit expires  –  which in our case is 13 April.

 

Postscript / Further warning:

A neighbour reports a correspondence with some Council jobsworths, mediated via Cllr Jim Dickson, which contains the following immortal words:

“I’m afraid there is no statutory obligation on part of the Council to send [reminders] out, but it is done as a matter of courtesy. Essentially, it is the permit holder’s responsibility as the resident to renew the permit before the date expires.

Although the council is not obligated to send out reminder notices, we understand that the reminder service is extremely useful to residents. Subsequently, we’re upgrading the current permit reminder service and will be bringing in email and letter reminders very shortly.”

 

 

SO IS THE CPZ NEARLY HERE?

We are told that it will start for real on 14 April. Hard to believe: with just 9 working days to go, there’s a lot to be done here on the ground to put everything in place. Nevertheless, I have bought my permit. I am a trusting soul, yes?

 

Buying the permit is a slightly odd experience. It almost works as it should!

 

But not quite. If you apply on-line (as I imagine most of us will do: the thought of queuing up at a customer service centre is tantamount to a death wish…), it’s advisable to register first.

 

Then as you proceed through the successive screens you are met with a map showing the bit of the overall Herne Hill CPZ you think you are applying for, as indicated by your address and postcode. However, it’s the WRONG MAP,  it shows a different part of the whole Herne Hill CPZ zone.

 

But … IGNORE THIS, and proceed as if it were correct. That’s what I was told by a helpful guy at the town hall, and it seems to have worked. IGNORE THE MAP.

Finally you pay and can download a temporary permit. (They know the system shows the wrong map; they are trying to fix this…. Amazon it’s not….)

Separately I had to scan and upload some identity proof documents: tiresome, but straightforward. I did this a day later. In due course the permit will arrive in the post, they say.

I thought I would share this by way of encouragement. Feel free to blame Lambeth, not me,  however, if implementation is delayed.

 

UPDATE Sunday 6 April:

The white lines are going down.  No signage up yet, nor meters.  People’s cross-over access being absurdly over-protected, with yellow lines extending beyond their properties’ frontage and into their neighbours’ (see picture).

Yellow line protecting cross-over invades neighbours' frontage & eats up usable parking space.
Yellow line protecting cross-over invades neighbours’ frontage & eats up usable parking space.

THE CPZ PARKING METER SCANDAL

It has come to light that the parking meters in the ‘existing’ CPZ are playing funny tricks on visitors who try to buy a parking ticket for the two hours 12:00 – 14:00. Nominally @ £3 per hour = £6.

Ah but there’s a trick:

You can either ….

Pay £6 at mid-day and only get a printed ticket showing an hours’ worth of parking.Requiring another visit and another £3 to avoid a ticket.

Or you can …

Pay £3 at mid-day and get an hour of parking requiring a return visit an hour later to pay a further £3 for the next hour.

Crazy nonsense. The sort of thing you’d expect in a third-world country … or Lambeth, of course.

Truly, we are ruled by idiots and scoundrels.

CPZ UPDATE

The long-running farce that is Lambeth’s implementation of the Herne Hill CPZ continues to entertain those of us who have sight of the Council’s regular communications on the subject.

In the coming days we can expect the minutes of the meeting that Council officers and ward councillors held with residents on 4 February. Some brave neighbours attended, most of us saw little point. We will share these minutes when received.

As to enforcement of the recently extended parts of the Zone – the streets including Rollscourt Avenue and Shardcroft Avenue for instance  –   the Council suggested that 6th January was the enforcement start date. But that did not happen uniformly.  So the current state is that no-one appears to know whether and where the recently extended Zone is legally enforceable or not. The Council claims that it is being enforced, but there are several areas inside the Zone where bays are unclearly marked and designated, or not marked at all, so no-one can tell what rules apply in these sections.

This is angering residents who in good faith bought parking permits only to see their streets once again invaded by commuters parking for free.

To cap it all, we now learn that the Council have just got round to ordering the necessary missing signage from their contractors  –  many weeks after the Zone was supposed to start before Christmas!

Meanwhile those of us in those streets which recently voted to be included in the Zone wait to hear when we might expect this to happen. The legal consultation period closed a couple of weeks ago.