Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Deptford High Street North consultation : Wed 3rd Feb, 3pm – 7.30pm

Lewisham Council are working in partnership with TfL to deliver improvements to the north part of Deptford High Street and are presently consulting. An exhibition of their consultant Project Centre's initial ideas are on show tomorrow at Deptford Lounge from 3pm – 7.30pm. The exhibition boards are also available to view and comment on at the Council's "consultation portal".

As the Deptford Dame has already commented, the plans appear to fall short of preventing the road being used as a rat run or being safer for pedestrians and cyclists. An early bird, she is particularly concerned about the speed and quantity of traffic in the early mornings that thunders up Giffin Street to get to Edward Street (which it uses to avoid Evelyn Street). She points out that introducing a narrow one-way entry from Evelyn Street will not stop the Edward Street rat run. And that there is already a 20mph speed limit in place but it's ignored in the early morning when there are no parked cars for speeding vehicles to negotiate (overnight parking is not permitted).

We can verify that the rat-running continues all day and is especially bad in the early evenings when the traffic is going in the opposite direction, with a different but equally detrimental effect: rather than speeding dangerously it is stationery. This is because of the TOTAL FAILURE of the new TfL 'improvements' at Deptford Broadway, where traffic light sequencing seems to favour the east/west running A2 at the expense of north/south traffic (some of which is local, but mostly it's trying to get on to the A2 and now far fewer cars are allowed to feed in each time). Despite this the A2 still backs up to New Cross just as badly or worse than it did before.

Daytime tailbacks in high street
Early evening tailbacks on Giffin St, outside Wavelengths

The Broadway scheme was introduced with the benefit of finally providing properly signalled pedestrian crossings and to introduce cycle lanes (which have reduced the space for vehicles). The result is peak-time gridlock along Deptford Church Street in the early evenings, and of course an increase in rat-running along Deptford High Street, Giffin Street and Creekside, where traffic backs up as it queues to get onto Church Street. The 47 bus might as well throw away its timetable at rush hour as it sits queuing with the cars and increased number of construction vehicles, from the Birds Nest to the Broadway, without the luxury of a dedicated bus lane. No need to labour the point about the chronic effect of stationery diesel vehicles on the health of residents living adjacent to both Church Street and the smaller roads and children attending the local schools.

We warned Thames Tideway Tunnel about the potential for gridlock and rat-running in this area in 2012 (here and here for examples) when they proposed a partial closure of Deptford Church Street to accommodate their works at Crossfields Street/St Paul's Church. Our argument was based on the occasional closure of Rotherhithe or Blackwall tunnels or accidents anywhere on the surrounding network. As we pointed out at the time, TTT's plans were backed up by out-of-date traffic data provided by TfL, but the St Paul's site got the go ahead and the partial road closures will still go ahead. Only now, thanks to TfL's appalling traffic management at the Broadway, horrendous tail backs are a daily reality and can only get worse.

Evening gridlock on Deptford Church Street due to TfL's Broadway junction light sequencing
An accident at the Broadway on 18 January: Deptford Church St north lane closed for hours

Perhaps the new sequencing is to stop traffic heading south into Lewisham via Brookmill Road where it will meet the horrendous Lewisham Gateway, but whatever the overall plan, it doesn't inspire confidence for the high street north proposals. TfL are offering £2.8m to implement the scheme; there is also £500k from section 106 funding for Convoys Wharf available purely for high street improvements (and separate from the improved Evelyn Street junction which will come later).

Meanwhile, a local business in Ffinch Street, Shultz-Wiremu, have commented that high shops near them had received a request from the Council asking for access to their basements, presumably as part of a structural survey of the above ground pavements. But the shops had no idea why their basements needed surveying and had no knowledge of the consultation on this new scheme. Shultz-Wiremu are appalled at the increased frequency of construction vehicles using the high street and, like the Deptford Dame (who reckons that none of the people devising the scheme, or those advising them, "have done their homework"), they feel the proposals emphasise trivial issues whilst not fully addressing the main problem. Hopefully the consulting team will learn something of value from the people attending the exhibition (or filling in the online survey) who actually use the street.

The intention to repeat the paving plan implemented in the south of the street (where pavements are extended into the carriageway to accommodate parking) may at least put a halt to the present congestion (as well as the usual driver fuckwittery that goes on with parking spaces) whilst it is being built, though it will be a nightmare for residents and traders. Paving works in Douglas Way and Giffin Square were swiftly followed by repaving the south end (as a result of the timing of two different funding awards), but the whole thing took so bloody long that trade as well as traffic was brought to a standstill. It is not clear whether the south street improvements have proved a success – it has very little traffic now that it is one way. It's proposed the north end will remain two-way up to Edward Street, but with some parts narrowing to slow speeds. What effect this will have on the articulated delivery vehicles visiting Poundland and Iceland is anyone's guess. The plan is dotted with trees all the way up; these would be situated in the extended paving (presumably avoiding basements and utility services) and may also prove an obstacle to impatient drivers. Or not. Local suggestions include a ban on diesel vehicles and, more radically, closing the market gates at rush hour.

But any successful reductions on the high street will just make Deptford Church Street and Creekside worse for Crossfields residents...


Road surfacing works have been taking place in Deptford Church Street. Contrary to popular belief this road is Lewisham's responsibility although it is part of TfL's Strategic Network. The work began at 11pm and went on till 4am last Thursday and since then has started as early as 9pm – and the road has been partially closed as each lane is dealt with. There is no doubt that the work is required and is being conducted fairly efficiently, but some of the machinery being used is so loud it can be heard two blocks away in people's living rooms. There was no notification to residents and no notice of road closures. God only knows who is responsible.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Smoke on the Thames Water!

Thames Water's first contribution to local community infrastructure has ignited passions locally. The smoker's den, constructed by Murphy's on Crossfields Green, seems a very unpromising start to the £4bn super sewer project, being built soon on our doorstep.  The plywood shed at the corner of Coffey Street and Crossfields Street (pictured above) seems designed to shelter the teachers of St Joseph's from the elements as they take their daily drag.  We can only hope that the tunnel itself is constructed a little better, though we know that it's of equally limited value!  For full story see here.

Monday, January 18, 2016

High street HSBC bank to close

Those with accounts based at our local branch of HSBC should by now have received a letter from the bank stating their account will be transferred to Lewisham branch*. The Deptford High Street branch is due to close in April, apparently because not enough people are using it. Of course, the increase in online banking means many current account holders may not use the bank for anything other than cashing the rare cheque or using the cash point. There are now three or four alternative free cash points they can use, and cheques can be paid in at any branch.

But many high street traders are not at all happy about the closure, as most of these small businesses can't afford to operate card transactions and rely on the bank for depositing cash takings. One cafe owner complained that he had not that long ago had to move from the Halifax (closed in 2010) to the HSBC and would now have to change to the one and only remaining bank, Barclays, which is well known for its long queues. The alternative is to spend extra time legging it over to Lewisham (and back). Another trader declared that "when a bank shuts, so does the high street".

More worrying, though, is the future of this modestly handsome old building that sits at the civic heart of the street. As with the Halifax, its planning class is A2 Professional Services (eg Financial services) and the most likely new tenant or owner could well be a betting shop or pawnbroker (who somehow fit into this category). The old Halifax (rumoured to be soon taken over by an expanding Greggs) eventually escaped becoming a Betfred because of a special condition in the building's planning permission (only discovered by Lewisham Planning after a long and concerted community campaign run by this blog and assisted by Dame Joan Ruddock in Parliament and after Betfred had already appealed against planning refusal).

Perhaps empire building pub managers Antic will step in to create a new bar instead. Or might we see another Vietnamese or Asian restaurant? Perhaps it could be turned into an Asset of Community Value or a branch of London Mutual or Lewisham Credit Plus... Either way, we can't have another a betting shop! Perhaps a change of planning class can stop this?

*They may not have a letter since the Royal Mail has been spectacularly bad recently – we've had experience of more than two letters posted in the middle of November only turning up last week!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The collapsing ceilings saga continues...

Continuing the story of total ineptitude at Farrer House that we reported in late October, when roof repairs by MITIE were left exposed and rain flooded into the flats below...
We're not sure what's happened with Vincent and his family after MITIE's gaff on the roof of Farrer that caused one of his ceilings to collapse onto his young daughter while she slept in her bed. But their flat was not the only one affected. Yesterday, one of his neighbours at the other end of the block was hit on the head by a piece of falling plaster from the ceiling in her toilet. The whole of the ceiling and wooden supports are rotten and AJ can see the loft insulation through the hole. Apparently, the flat next door is in an even worse state.

The fire officers attending the roof flood at Farrer House in the early hours of 27th October stated that all the fibreglass insulation in the exposed roof area was soaked, was unlikely to dry out properly and would probably need replacing. What has happened since?

On 3rd November, the access door to the loft was open and a worker was overheard chatting in a foreign language on his phone in the pitched roof area...was he fixing things?

The new balcony walkway surfaces were still covered in flood debris outside Vincent's place and up the other end of the walkway...

The walkway ceilings were still bulging...

And, though nothing to do with the roof, a pipe was leaking and soaking a wall...just one of the many examples of MITIE's shoddy work and Lewisham Homes' poor management.

AJ already had a hole in her kitchen ceiling from roof work that took place prior to the flood. MITIE had made an appointment to visit her flat about that damage but hadn't kept it. By 12th November, AJ's toilet ceiling was beginning to grow mould. But all that had happened after the flood was a brief visit from the MITIE site supervisor the following morning. And a letter went out to Farrer residents from MITIE, apologising for the roof leak.

By 18th November, no one from Lewisham Homes had made contact and no interior repairs had taken place.

Yet astonishingly, on 2nd December, AJ was invited (as the 'block representative') by the Lewisham Homes Major Works Project Manager to attend a walkabout on 16th December (with Lewisham Homes surveyors Baily Garner) to "sign off" – or "handover" – all of MITIE's 'completed work' on Farrer House.

How can work be signed off when ceilings are rotting?

On 7th December, when a gentle tap with a broom handle indicated her toilet ceiling was liable to collapse at any time, AJ chased the Project Manager yet again and questioned whether a "handover" was really appropriate. If anyone was going to be working up there, a misplaced foot would bring the whole lot down, she warned. She emailed again when it started falling in on her head the next day. The reply she got was even more incredible.

The Major Works Project Manager replied that MITIE had been asked to provide the reports of their "pre-condition inspections" carried out before work began, and that "it was evident from MITIE's photos that the ceilings were already in a poor state of repair". In other words, MITIE was claiming that the damage had not been caused by their failing to protect the roof repairs, and Lewisham Homes appeared to be agreeing with them. 

AJ was astonished, as her ceiling had been more or less fine before the flooding. The Project Manager continued, "Following the roof leak, MITIE submitted a report of the damage, having visited the properties in question last week". But they had made no such visit to AJ.

Not in any particular hurry, the Project Manager said she would have a look for herself when she and Baily Garner came to do the "handover" next week. She added that "Leaseholders are insured by their building insurance".

So, it was not MITIE's fault, making interior repairs was not Lewisham Homes' responsibility, and AJ would have to claim on her own insurance. The Project Manager had, as usual, preferred to believe MITIE over evidence presented by the resident – and was also entirely wrong about the insurance situation...


Over many years, AJ had made several claims on her own insurance for damage to walls and ceilings caused by water penetration. Damp was being caused by the leaking flat roof and the canopy that covers the top floor walkways which leaked where it met the walls of the flats. Only Farrer's roof is designed like this, being the last building to be constructed on Crossfields in 1949 – other top floor walkways are covered by pitched roofs. During this time, the freeholder, Lewisham Council, has only ever made temporary repairs by patching or by clearing the flat roof's drainage gullies of leaves.

Leaseholders pay a contribution in their annual service charges to a buildings insurance policy taken out by Lewisham Homes which covers damage to the overall building and its communal parts. Leaseholders must also get their own building insurance to cover any damage they might be responsible for to the flats below or above them.

But in AJ's case, the interior damage was directly attributable to the lack of maintenance of the building's common parts (ie, the flat roof and the top floor walkway canopy) and should have been covered by the freeholder's own building insurance. When AJ first realised this, Lewisham Homes had not been invented and the estate was administered by the Housing team at the Council. AJ began referring the problem to Lewisham Council's insurance team. In 2001 their broker refused to pay out and wrote to the Housing department to tell them why. Although she was not supposed to see it, AJ managed to get a copy of this internal document, which said:

"the cause of the problem – the worn out flat roof – does not seem to have been addressed.  The insurers would now regard any further damage to Ms (AJ)'s property as being inevitable due to lack of repair. Patch repairs would appear to be ineffective and a new roof is required.

"Ms (AJ) is a leaseholder and under the terms of her lease the Council is responsible for maintaining the 'reserved' premises.  By not replacing her roof you are in breach of the lease. Again insurance cannot be used to compensate for breaches of contract.''

Lots of paperwork seems to have disappeared during the Council's handover to Lewisham Homes in 2007, including repair records and details of previous Major Works to Crossfields in 1997. Nevertheless, Lewisham Homes recruited many of its staff from previous Council departments, and the Housing staff should have known the position on insurance.


The walkway side of Farrer House
A side view from Creekside shows the extent of the flat roof and tiled pitched roof
The top floor's walkway canopy
When Major Works began on Farrer last year and the roof was surveyed, AJ pointed out the problem with the walkway canopy which was sagging even then. Within days of commencing work at Farrer, MITIE painted the walkway canopy's ceiling. Water stains appeared soon after. On other blocks, the walkway ceilings were painted after "concrete repair" work had taken place – cracks were dug out around metal joists, the joists painted with anti-rust, the lot filled in and painted over. These concrete repairs were done to avoid all possibility of balcony walkways ever collapsing on people's heads.

Later on, when the subcontractor arrived on site to resurface everyone's balcony walkways, the flat part of the roof at Farrer was given a coating of the same waterproofing product.

Eventually, with all work supposedly completed, the scaffolding on the entire block was taken down. Then almost immediately and at enormous cost, scaffolding was re-erected to address the walkway canopy problem, which the surveyors Baily Garner had finally decided had to be completely demolished and rebuilt.

This work should have been anticipated at the beginning, during the surveys, or before estimates were even issued to leaseholders months earlier in May 2014. The requirement for such extensive structural repairs might have been picked up if anyone had ever actually bothered to look at the repair logs for the 8 year period since Lewisham Homes had been in charge.


So the omnishambles that is Lewisham Homes Major Works continues, despite MITIE having been given the push. 

MITIE are effectively saying most of the damage was already caused by Lewisham Homes' failure to repair, whilst seemingly failing to acknowledge it has been made significantly worse by their own neglect. Meanwhile Lewisham Homes were happy to pass to the leaseholder the responsibility for interior repairs necessitated by their own neglect to properly repair the structural fabric of the building.

When AJ mentioned legal proceedings, the Project Manager revised Lewisham Homes' position, declaring that they were responsible for repairing the roof and that they would "make an informed decision on how damage to individual property can be remedied".

No urgency, no mention of when. No word about renewing the loft insulation. In the meantime, some of the rooms in the top floor flats are almost uninhabitable. But that's OK. If someone is hurt, Lewisham Homes is liable.

Today, the second lot of scaffolding (which was erected for rebuilding the previously undiagnosed walkway canopy as well as tile repairs to the pitched roof) was being taken down.

With access to the roof now removed, it will be impossible to examine those roof repairs at the "handover" next week. It is likely that Baily Garner have already been up to have a look and signed it off anyway and the walkabout next week is just a formality, or even, as with other handovers, a bit of a sham. For AJ, there will be no reassurance that the problems have been solved.

That's why she nipped up there yesterday to have a quick look for herself before the scaffold was struck. She was worried by what she saw in a relatively small area and short space of time – blocked gullies, large poolings of water on unevenly laid waterproofed surfaces, big gaps between the pitched roof tiling and brickwork...and had the walkway canopy actually been rebuilt?

Still, when it all fails the next time, at least Lewisham Homes will not be asking her to claim on her own insurance to pay for the repairs. It only took 20 years to get that far.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Fairs this weekend...and next...

Sat 5th Dec 10.30am–4pm
Free entry
Unique handcrafted presents including ceramics, vintage clothes, classy items, jewellery, decorations, art keepsakes, Deptford 'Sunshine State' t-shirts, Deptford Is Forever anchor shirts & bags, The Lenox Project and Deptford X merchandise.
Albany Theatre, Douglas Way
SE8 4AG (Disabled access)

Thurs 3rd Dec 6-9pm
Fri–Sun 4th–6th Dec 11am-6pm 
£3 entry, FREE to Lewisham residents on Friday 4 Dec
Meet makers and buy direct from designers in their studios. Quality textiles, homewares, jewellery, chocolates, Prize Draw for handmade Xmas decorations, Hand Made Food Café.
Cockpit Arts, 18-22 Creekside 
SE8 3DZ (Disabled access)
Fri 4th Dec 6-9pm
Sat & Sun 5th & 6th Dec 1-5pm
Free entry
Original hand-made gifts: prints, ceramics, glassware, sculpture, homeware, jewellery, paintings, silk screened cards from Arthub's studio artists. Vinyl DJing, Brockley Brewery and The Cocktail Gardener on the opening night...
5-9 Creekside SE8 4SA

Fri 4th Dec 5-8pm
Sat & Sun 5 & 6th Dec 1-5pm
Free entry
Large selection of drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics and sculpture by APT members and guests. Refreshments served!
6 Creekside SE8 4SA (Disabled access) 
Sat 5th Dec 3-6pm 
Free entry
Shop for hand-made Xmas presents in the comfort of your local pub...
Birds Nest Pub, 
32 Deptford Church St SE8 4RZ
(Disabled access)

Next week...

Sat 12th Dec 11am–6pm
Free entry
Original artworks, hand-made crafts and seasonal gifts by studio artists plus flowers, resident DJ, mulled wine, soup, cakes and mince pies...
140 Lewisham Way SE14 6PD
(Disabled access)

Apologies to any other Deptford fairs we've missed out!