Thursday, June 24, 2010

Signs of the times?

Lewisham Homes spent more than £280,000 on estate signs in the last two years - no surprise when you look around at the sheer number of them. Depressingly most of them tell us not to do things. Yet our landlord freely admits that no action has ever been taken against anyone at all for breaching the rules plastered all over Crossfields.

I've posted the letter I wrote to Andrew Potter, Chief Executive of Lewisham Homes, on this subject below. Though he's not agreed to stop this programme - in fact the Head of Estate Services says that their signs are legally required - they have offered talks. Let me know what you think before we take up the offer.

Dear Andrew,

I’ve just about had it with the outbreak of blue and yellow signs that has settled all over our estate like an unhealthy rash. Last week it was slippery floor warnings everywhere, bringing the total number of signs and notices on Farrer House to 46 – that’s more than one for every flat.

At first I’d simply put this down to the troubled birth of Lewisham Homes, intent on stamping your brand on our homes to distinguish yourselves from the Council. But as successive waves of new signs have swept through Crossfields, I’ve begun to lose what little sympathy I had.

It’s not just the huge cost or sloppy way it’s been done, that I object to, though it is worth pausing to consider. I recently asked to be told the costs via an FOI enquiry, but some 30 days later I’ve heard nothing. But say that each sign cost £25 a time to design, manufacture and erect, the cost would be well over £1000 on Farrer House alone or almost £30 per flat. The fact that some have simply been slapped over earlier signs, in some cases with the old ones still showing, is testament to the casual implementation and questionable value.

Nor is it really the pointlessness of it all that annoys me. Even the most laudable are laughable in reality since there is no real prospect of enforcing them or taking action against transgressors.

No, it’s the overwhelming negativity of it all that is so dispiriting. Don’t do this; don’t do that; no parking, no rubbish, no ball games, no children over 10 in the play area (yes really!) and walk no more than four dogs at a time (why?!) You would never see this kind of signage on a private estate, where any problems are generally much more intensively managed.

These unsightly messages stigmatise us all. They are intrusive and massively oppressive. They make it clear that we all live in social housing and imply that we can’t be trusted to behave sensibly or have respect for each other without recourse to the rule book. They clearly differentiate Council properties as second class, characterise residents as a nuisance and mask poor or certainly unimaginative housing management.

What I love about Crossfields are the other signs – what I call the signs of life: the mosaics, paintings and art that makes our homes so special. I’d be happy to have more of these and equally happy to have fewer commands from our landlords. If Lewisham Homes encouraged this it could be something that would involve and engage residents and perhaps change behaviour rather than lecture and patronise us. It might even impress the Audit Commission and be an antidote to the joyless authoritarianism that characterises so much social housing.

Can I ask for an urgent review of your signage policy and a halt on any more, before we are all swamped?

Yours faithfully



  1. Hi there, bikepest. Thanks for posting - I didn't get the notification that the post had gone up and just posted the Greenwich Nonsultation one, so it was immediately pushed into 2nd place.

    To give it a better chance of being read I'll put the pic on the side bar and see whether I can link it back from the photos page.

  2. I totally agree. Over in Evelyn estate we have silly signs such as 'No rollerskating' and 'No skateboarding' on the landings, where no roller skating or skateboarding has ever taken place, to my knowledge, as well as a myriad of other, pointless signs, many of them very negative as you have pointed out. Well done for having the energy to write to Lewisham Homes about it - I admit I lose the will to live just trying to get minor improvements such as new bins or better standard of caretaking.