23 October 2010

Trying to stop a garden grab at Planning

To very slightly paraphrase Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5), historic environment is central to our cultural heritage, and hence, a cultural, socio-economic and environmental (and I stress the word environmental) resource that should be sustained for the benefit of present and future generations.
Therefore, I have no hesitation whatsoever in agreeing with the Camberwell Society and local residents in asking that you refuse this application.
The design of the build is out of character and of poor quality and should be refused under policy 3.12 and 3.13 of the Southwark Plan and of course Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3) and Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5).
It is a rather low, mean and cramped scheme which does not integrate successfully into the Conservation area.
The proposal is out of place and incongruous. It will seriously harm and not preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area. As such it is contrary to policies 3.13, 3.15 and 3.16 in the Southwark plan.
The one vital feature of Grove Park, its central green square and long gardens, will be destroyed if this scheme is approved.
Southwark has adopted a Conservation Statement and nowhere in that statement is this location identified as a site appropriate for development and a change of land use.
Other sites duly identified in the plan have been developed without the overwhelming opposition of those whose direct amenity is affected.
There is little presumption that there is any appropriate development for this site in particular as it can no longer be in any way in planning law be regarded as a brownfield site.
It is green and it should stay green if we are simply to do our statutory duty to protect and enhance the historic and future amenity of Grove Park as a key element, perhaps even the very heart and green soul of the conservation area.
Comrades, Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) says any development should improve the way places look and work.
Nothing about this design improves the look of the conservation area.
Our statutory duty is to ensure all developments protect or enhance the character or appearance of this conservation area, therefore a refusal of planning permission should automatically follow from any correct interpretation of Planning Policy Guidance 15 (PPG15).
It is the approach I ask you to take today. Please protect the existing recognized and highly valued qualities of Grove Hill as are clearly set down in the Conservation Area Statement and the Camber Well that springs forth from it’s summit.

29 May 2010

Two of South Camberwell’s Councillors are Southwark Cabinet Members. Peter John is Leader of the Council and Veronica is Cabinet member for culture, leisure, sport and the Olympics. I know they will serve our Southwark with passion and excellence.

Some of the immediate challenges for the Cabinet include the terms on which Southwark enters into any deal for the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle; making every council home warm, dry and safe, and finding funding so that we can implement the pledge to introduce free healthy school meals for all primary school children in the borough.

I was elected by the Southwark Labour Group as a deputy whip and at the first full Council meeting appointed as Vice-Chair of the Planning Committee. Much of the first few weeks have been taken up with training and induction.

A number of organisations and individuals, on and off the record, have commented about how difficult it was to get a meeting with the old administration.

One essential for any elected representative is to listen and to know when to “shut up and listen”. As a community campaigner with strong views I know this will be my biggest challenge.

Southwark’s Labour administration are committed to building a fair future for all and they will be listening to what the people of Southwark have to say as we look to deliver in some key priority areas. I am very keen to see our green spaces protected and we must double recycling as an essential contribution to working for a non-carbon future. We will need to cut back on wasteful spending and protect frontline services and there will be many tough decisions ahead.

So with this in mind, we have decided to hold some Planning Committee meetings at Southwark’s Tooley Street offices rather than at the Town Hall. Many applications come from the north of the borough and it makes sense to hold meetings to deal with these applications at Tooley Street so that local residents can easily attend and take part in the process. The Planning Committee meeting scheduled for 29th June 2010 will take place at Tooley Street on the ground floor in a space that can accommodate the large numbers who turn up and are otherwise uncomfortably crammed into the traditional space at the Town Hall.

Yesterday, I attended the pre-hearing by the Inspector on Southwark’s Core Strategy. It was interesting to see so many familiar faces all keen to improve on the soundness of the Core Strategy.

Finally, it was a great joy to watch Tayo Situ installed as Mayor of Southwark. He has chosen Macmillan Cancer Support as his charity appeal

30 March 2010

Cross border and Tom

Campaigning has stepped up a gear as we fast approach both general and local elections on May 6th.  But, in a break from campaigning on Thursday night I did attend the fun packed election fundraiser for Camberwell and Peckham Constituency Labour Party.  We raised a tidy sum to top up the campaign coffers! 
The highlight of the evening was meeting, for the first time offline, Labour blogger Tom Scholes-Fogg (Here is the link to his take on the evening:(www.tomscholesfogg.com).   Significantly, the event took place in Cambwerwell just on the border between Labour run Lambeth and Lib-Dem / Tory run Southwark at the Sun and Doves  Last year at a Camberwell Community Council meeting Lambeth offered to work cross-border with Southwark to cuts costs and protect frontline services.  The Southwark Lib-Dem leader simply dismissed the offer.  So it was very good to see announced this week, as Labour victories fast approach on May 6th in both Lambeth and in Southwark, that Cllr Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council, and Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark’s Labour Councillors, have agreed to offer residents better value for money by sharing management costs and merging some services across both councils. Residents in other cross-border areas like Waterloo and Herne Hill will also benefit from more consistent services whichever side of the border they live on. 
When we win the elections on 6 May, Steve and Peter will bring senior managers from both councils together in a summit to identify where closer working will benefit residents and save money.  Savings could run into millions of pounds at a time when the government is expected to cut funding to local councils.  Lambeth and Southwark councils both provide many services that are identical, but do we really need to pay twice for separate sets of senior management and back-office support?  By merging some services we can save money to reinvest in the frontline, protecting services and helping keep council tax down. Labour is all about quality services.  In Southwark, we’ve seen the Lib Dems and Tories drive service standards down.  By working more closely with neighbouring councils like Lambeth we can guarantee better services that cost less, and that means a better deal for local local people.

25 March 2010

On Wednesday (24 March 2010) I met up with Housing Minister John Healy, MP to discuss building and improving Council homes.  John is a very likeable man and he outlined some of the changes was he due to announce on Thursday.  I was able to tell him that locally Labour has pledged to make every one of 47,000 Council homes warm, dry and safe and outlined parts of our plan for improving housing services run down under the Lib-Dems and Tories.
Nationally, the bold new deal on council housing means councils can now keep all of the proceeds of social rents and council house sales. This will give councils some leeway to invest in building, improving and acquiring properties for social use. We desperately need more good quality, well managed and maintained council homes.
John told me that is a once and for all settlement seeking to bring council house funding into the 21st century. By giving local authorities the freedom to fund and run their council homes, without central Government subsidy, not a single penny from rents or sales will go to Whitehall and not a single penny will subsidize other councils as the current system dictates. The deal will release at least ten per cent more money in every council for maintaining and managing their homes. And it will create the funding capacity to build over 10,000 new council homes a year.

16 January 2010

Connecting the whole community in an understanding of the change needed and huge challenge of creating the real opportunities of the 21st century is vital.  Speaking to residents of South Camberwell it is clear that they know their council is not doing enough to save and reuse important resources and contribute directly towards a sustainable and green future.
Last year, following up on concerns expressed by residents, I asked our Council about its plans for bulk food waste recycling.   There are no plans under the Liberal Democrats and Tories to even consider this until 2014.  Not only is this indicative of the dire state of affairs across housing, social services and elsewhere but, it shows that under the Liberal Democrats and Tories there is simply no vision, no desire to plan for the growth, sustainability and build the opportunities the vast majority of the people of Southwark are demanding.
Some 40% of household waste is food waste and this goes directly into landfill. When food breaks down in landfill sites it creates the climate changing gas methane. Southwark Council by continuing to send food waste to landfill is damaging our environment.
Together with Hillary Evans and Brendan Keown, I want to enable action by the whole community to save our planet.  Food waste should be recycled and not dumped into harmful landfill and should be reused locally including, for example, at the 32 allotments managed by the Camberwell Gardens Guild.
Any reduction in food waste sent to landfill protects our environment.
So, Southwark having thus far failed to take food waste recycling seriously, we have submitted an application to the Camberwell Community Council Cleaner Greener Fund for a pilot project to recycle the food wastes generated households in South Camberwell. This can be done by residents of an estate or a street using a “Rocket® In-Vessel Composter.” And, with the added benefit that costs would be offset up reductions in landfill tax.
The pilot could be for as few as 50 households using an A500 Rocket In-Vessel Composter or up to 750 households. We think it is time for planning and giving back to the residents of Camberwell and Peckham the options they are demanding for working towards a non-carbon future.