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

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 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