All posts by letterbox

Opting out of council weedkilling – can we do it?

This is the text of a letter from our neighbour Christina Rogers at no 88.  Everyone in the street should have received a copy through their door this week.


19th July 2020

Dear Fellow Fawnbrakers,

Do you want to opt out of council weedkilling?

At the moment, Lambeth Council sprays glyphosate weedkiller to keep our pavements and road gutters weed-free. As you may know, over the last few years there have been health and environmental concerns about the weedkiller glyphosate. A US court has awarded large damages in a case of lymphoma in a man who sprayed it professionally. A WHO committee has said it’s ‘probably carcinogenic’. There is evidence of an effect on the soil, the water table, and bees and other pollinators, and several European countries have already banned it. Although it hasn’t yet been banned here, Lambeth plan to stop using it in October next year, and they are trying out a range of alternative ways of keeping the weeds down.

One option would be for us to weed our own road and pavements. If there were enough of us, it wouldn’t take long – all you need is gloves and a knife. According to the council webpage if roots and accumulated soil are removed in Spring it takes longer for weeds to grow back after hand-weeding than after weedkiller, so three times a year would probably be enough.

We already have 16 Fawnbrakers who are interested in helping. The more of us there are the quicker it would be for each person to do.

Tell us what you think

So, if you would like to HELP WITH WEEDING, or OBJECT to opting out of spraying, please contact me on 07952-956-551, or drop a note through the door of number 88. To join the what’s app group please give me your mobile number.

The council deadline for opting out is coming up soon so please respond before 31st July.

Christina Rogers @ no.88


 

Station Square shops – where’s the power?

If you have lived in Herne Hill for a few years, you’ll be wearily familiar with the sequence of changes that have befallen the row of shops at the start of Railton Road, on what is now called Station Square but which was originally not a pedestrianised area but just a normal road – indeed, a bus route. A much-needed redevelopment turned into a slow-moving eyesore. Even now, many of the handsomely refurbished shop units haven’t been let.

Going back in time …

It was back in 2015 that Network Rail, the then owner of these properties, started to consider an investment scheme in Railton Road. Planning consent was obtained, but then the start of the construction works for the comprehensive upgrade of the units and accompanying arch accommodation was delayed for almost a year while vacant possession of the final unit was secured.

Shops closed & relocating – 2016

 

Works finally started in January 2017 but revealed a succession of structural weaknesses that called for major remedies before work could proceed further.

Oops, we forgot about that

During the project, it was realised that the electricity power supply delivered to these units and the flats above them would not be adequate for modern use and that a new electricity substation would need to be installed nearby. The long and painful search for a suitable location triggered yet more delay: some neighbours will remember the uproar when it was proposed to demolish The Flower Lady’s shop (a former coal store) to be the new site.

Works in (slow) progress – February 2018

Cutting a long and highly technical story short, The Arch Company, new owners of the thousands of arches and other trackside real estate formerly owned by Network Rail, investigated numerous alternatives but have finally opted to install the substation inside one of the new retail units!

The planning application allowing them to pursue this rather silly solution was contested by the Herne Hill Society, by our ward councillor Becca Thackray, local traders  and other bodies. But in the end Lambeth planners have recently granted permission, though no doubt with some reluctance. Enthusiasts for the minutiae of planning applications can find the proposal and the objections still up on Lambeth’s planning website under the reference 19/03371/FUL.

Southeastern say no

Several objectors, including the Herne Hill Society, argued that a much better site was available on the station premises, in the scruffy patch which currently accommodates waste bins and parking for staff cars. Herne Hill station is owned and operated by Southeastern, the train operating company owned by Govia. But as the planning application states, ‘The proposals would have compromised the Train Operating Company’s use of the station and they were unwilling to consider releasing this site from the station lease.’ A great pity; many think that some flexibility here would have led to a good solution, rather than one which disfigures one of the nicely-refurbished new shop units. But Southeastern would not relent.

Station Square shops, July 2020- location of electricity sub-station

So there we are. The shop in question, to the immediate left of Lark’s new premises, will now house a massive piece of equipment, and the frontage will, of necessity, be an industrial-looking louvred shutter –  see the architect’s elevation drawing extracted from the planning application.

Drawing showing location of sub-station

Meanwhile there seems to be no news of tenants for the other vacant shops, and the Covid-19 pandemic, with its painful impact on retail commerce, won’t have helped at all.

Security Alert – local credit/debit card scam

A neighbour has circulated this warning:

“Last Monday, 29th June, soon after 9.am, I was tricked at Herne Hill and my debit card was stolen. Is there any way of making this scam known more widely in this area and warning other people?

It was done very cleverly.

I park in Carver Road in order to be able to take home heavy shopping from Tesco and Sainsbury at Herne Hill.

A young black man, dressed in black and wearing a blue disposable mask, came up to me and said that I need to pay to park there. I said that was not necessary because I have Southwark residence parking permit for this area. He said that there is a new rule for the Covid 19 time and that there is a small fee for parking there in connection with Sainsbury in order to stop people from taking up the space for too long. I said that there were no signs in the street about this and he said that they were being put up soon, and that if I did not get a ticket for the shopping time I could be fined £170. I would be able to see this in on the internet.

I asked him why he was telling me about the parking. He said that he was the undercover Sainsbury parking person. And he explained that I could get the temporary ticket from Sainsbury’s ATM. I thought, well I will go and look at the ATM. Of course I should have checked with Sainsbury’s staff but he kept wandering in and out of Sainsbury’s as if he was a staff member. He stood some distance away and told me how to get the ticket. I put in the card and tapped in the number. The sun was glaring onto the screen so I moved my hand to shade it in order to see the instructions and at this point the card must have been taken. I looked round and there was another man just behind me, also in black clothing and wearing a blue disposable mask. The card was no longer in the slot. I was confused because this man looked like the other man. But then I saw the other man standing near the Sainsbury’s entrance and he said “Try pressing cancel” and “Oh the machine has swallowed it”, you will have to go to report this, there have been problems with this ATM. Go to your bank branch, or go into Sainsbury’s to see if they can get it out”. I went into Sainsbury’s to tell them that the card may be stuck in the machine, but that I think that it has probably been stolen and they said that this has happened there already.

Within 15/20 minutes I had contacted the bank to cancel the card and they told me that £500 had been taken at Tesco ATM shortly after the card theft.”

Local History talks continue

The highly committed and creative team at Lambeth Archives have more lock-down talks to offer : their repertoire is not exhausted yet.

The July and August programme (above)  includes a talk about life in Lambeth during the War, a virtual history walk from Vauxhall to Camberwell, an account of the bitterly contested campaign of the 1880s  to create those free libraries in Lambeth  that we now all take for granted, and a look at the growth of the borough’s southern suburbs.

Log in details for talks will be sent out two days ahead.

Although they have not run out of topics to talk about, they are slightly changing the way they deliver them. After next week’s talk, Home Front, Lambeth in World War II, the programme will become fortnightly and will always be on a Thursday evening at 6.45 pm.

But  the programme will be put  on hold from mid-August as they switch to preparing for the Lambeth Heritage Festival, which will also be an online programme.

Finally, Jon’s talk of last week, Before and After Windrush, a history of the Black community in Lambeth, is now available to be listened to as a recording at https://www.instagram.com/tv/CB3HgWnn-O-/?hl=en

Local History in Lock-down talk on Thursday – Before & After Windrush

The next Local History in Lock-down talk will be this Thursday 18th June at 6.45 p.m. and will be given by Jon Newman.

Before and After Windrush, a history of the Black community in Lambeth,  looks at the very different experiences of Lambeth’s two Black communities: the well-documented story of the community that came to live in the borough after the voyage of the Windrush in 1948; and the much less understood history of Black people who were living in Lambeth in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The log-in details for the talk are here, or in full:  https://zoom.us/j/91540334790

If required: Meeting ID: 915 4033 4790. Password: 176800

 

Denmark Hill Station expansion

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, people used to go to work on the train, as many readers will have heard. And because they often travelled at the same times each day, trains got unpleasantly crowded. So, inevitably, did some of the stations.

Aspiring City Thameslink passengers at Herne Hill will have felt this pain.

But it was often much worse at Denmark Hill Station. No, it’s not in Herne Hill but for many commuters and other rail travellers wanting to touch down somewhere other than Victoria, or the City, Denmark Hill offered wider options, including the London Overground heading towards Clapham Junction and all points beyond, or north-east to via Peckham to Canada Water, Whitechapel, Shoreditch, Hoxton en route to Highbury & Islington. True, if you lived more towards the Brixton or Tulse Hill side of Herne Hill, it would have been something of a trek, but for those of us close to the Camberwell frontier, a brisk walk alongside or through Ruskin Park would get us there pleasantly. If you’re more central, the 68 bus may be the solution.

More important in some ways, Denmark Hill is a destination for visitors from other points in London and the South-East.  Every day, King’s College Hospital draws in thousands of staff members, out-patients and visitors. The simultaneous arrival of several train loads of alighting passengers is the main cause of the congestion.

Dangerous overcrowding

The station was redesigned and upgraded to ensure accessibility in a programme that concluded in 2013. But contrary to the hopes of many local residents and station users, the redesign left it with only one entrance/exit.

Today’s entrance/exit barriers. Windsor Walk visible across the station.

Meanwhile the number of passengers using Denmark Hill went up from 3.7 million in 2011-­12 to 5.63 million in 2014-15. Much of this increase was down to the introduction of the London Overground services in December 2013.

This surge in traffic meant that the station was operating in unsafe conditions – because its only ex it, accessed up quite long staircases, could present a lethal bottleneck if the station ever had to be rapidly evacuated. Traffic numbers have grown further – at least before the pandemic. Last year (2018-19) the figures suggest that entries and exits totalled some 6.9 million.

Herne Hill station, by comparison, had 2.9 million entries/exits and we know how unpleasant conditions could be at rush hour. As a benchmark, Clapham Junction was running at 29.5 million – but of course it is vastly bigger station, indeed one of the busiest in Europe, some say.

Pressure grew from local groups for the obvious remedy at Denmark Hill – opening a second entrance/exit on Windsor Walk, the quiet street that leads from Champion Park down past the Phoenix pub then, with a sharp right turn, runs just to the north of the platforms and alongside the station to join Grove Lane.

Various groups including the Herne Hill Society and the Dulwich Society lent their support to the Camberwell Society whose committee initiated and from 2016 onwards  have led a persistent and well-informed campaign, building a positive working relationship with Network Rail and Southwark’s planning team over several years.

It now seems to have been a success. A planning application (No 20/AP/0745, for planning addicts, or link here) has been made to Southwark Council for the construction of a new entrance to Denmark Hill Station on Windsor Walk. Listed Building Consent was granted last month, and the rest of the process seems on track for overall approval.

Site of proposed new entrance/exist on Windsor Walk

So if Herne Hillians feels like going to work again on the train, Denmark Hill might in due course be an attractive option. Covid–19 permitting, the new entrance is planned to be open by April 2021. It will have 4 gates plus 2 wide gates and will connect up with the existing modern footbridge. The current one-way system will be dispensed with. Platforms 2,3 and 4 will have extra canopies at the east to encourage people to use that end of the platforms.

New pedestrian access

Separately, Southwark Council has been awarded £1.5m by the GLA’s Good Growth Fund.  One slice of this funding will be used to create better pedestrian connections between Denmark Hill station and the hospitals and town centre. Our friends at the Camberwell Society think that the walk route to the hospitals and Camberwell will go through the Maudsley campus. There is going to be a new ward block on Windsor Walk called Douglas Bennet House, just opposite where the new station entrance will be. The plan is for this to have a walk-through route to the Maudsley garden and thence to the main road.

Dorchester Court – how will Lambeth’s planners now respond?

In response to the development proposals for Dorchester Court submitted on behalf of the owners, Heinrich Feldman and family, through their company Manaquel,  Lambeth’s planning committee now has to cope with two magisterial objections  –  on behalf of the residents themselves, and now by the Herne Hill Society on behalf of the whole community.

Dorchester Court – years of neglect

The Society’s deeply considered and detailed response to the planning application fundamentally dismantles the Manaquel proposal. It can be read on the Society’s website. Here are a few key excerpts:

  • There needs to be a legally binding agreement between Lambeth Council and Manaquel which sets out in detail the repairs Manaquel agree to carry out for the total restoration of Dorchester Court. Without it, there is no obligation on Manaquel to start, let alone complete the work. Given the historic failures of Manaquel over decades to address the repair of the building the need for this is all the greater. Neither is there any other form of legally binding undertaking that obliges Manaquel to complete the repairs before marketing the new residences.
  • There is no detailed schedule of repairs. …  Given Manaquel’s historic record in terms of maintenance of Dorchester Court, our fear is that work will start, the foundations will be found to be inadequate, the buildings will be structurally compromised and an application will then be made to demolish the buildings as there will not be enough profit from the development to repair them.
  • No details are given as to how in future Dorchester Court will be managed in a way to avoid the problems of maintenance that have plagued it for several decades and seen it placed on the Heritage at Risk Register.
  • The applications conflict with several Policies spelt out in the Lambeth Plan. Permitting these applications will not secure the long term future of Dorchester Court and will not secure benefits that outweigh the negative effect of breaching established planning policies. … Failure to classify this application as an enabling development and disregard of the Historic England policy and guidance could expose the local authority to legal challenge in its decision-making process.

Lambeth officers are now presumably trying to digest all this before briefing the members of the planning committee. As far as we know, no date has been set yet for the planning committee to meet.

Dorchester Court updates

Visitors to this blog will have seen an earlier report about the crisis affecting residents – our near neighbours – just up the hill in Dorchester Court.

In the news

Yesterday’s Mirror carried an article highlighting the residents’ deep concerns about the defective planning application submitted by the landlords. The link is here.

There was also an article dated 19 May in the  South London Press reporting the residents’ requests to the landlords for rent reductions during the pandemic.

Petition

In addition to opposing the planning application, the residents are asking as many people as possible to sign their petition to Lambeth. That petition can be accessed here.

The planning process

The Herne Hill Society have composed a powerful response to the owners’ planning application, which will be released shortly. We will post a link here as soon as it is available.

Government updates guidance on work carried out in our homes

The government recently updated their guidance on work carried out in people’s homes  –  including cleaners.

The full guidance is here and at Gov.uk  here, but the relevant extract reads:

Working in people’s homes as a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny

You are a tradesperson carrying out essential repairs and maintenance in people’s homes, or are carrying out other work in a home such as cleaning or paid-for childcare in a child’s home. You can continue work, providing that you are well and have no symptoms. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or when someone in their own household has symptoms.

Tradespeople should assess whether the visit is essential or if the work can be safely postponed. There may be alternatives to a visit, such as a phone or video call. If the visit cannot be postponed you should agree the procedures in advance.

During a visit

You should notify all clients in advance of your arrival. On entry to the home you should wash your hands using soap and water for 20 seconds. You should wash your hands regularly, particularly after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, and when leaving the property. Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used, and you should carry this with you at all times.

Make available for cleaners!

If you are a tradesperson or cleaner, you should maintain a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from any household occupants at all times, and ensure good ventilation in the area where you are working, including opening the window.

If you are a nanny, you should maintain a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from the household occupants you are not providing care for as much as possible.