Thursday, February 24, 2011

South London Art Map (SLAM) Launch - Friday 25th February

For the past year or so, every last Friday in the month has been Deptford Last Fridays – when most if not all the art venues in Deptford are open late (6.30-8pm), showing art and serving beer and wine. It complemented the East End's own First Thursdays.

The idea was initiated by Bearspace Gallery's Julia Alvarez, and along with Last Fridays came the Deptford Art Map, detailing events and shows in the neighbourhood.

Now Last Fridays has spread out to cover the whole of South London and the South Bank (including Tate Modern), with a corresponding South London Art Map. Julia is now director of SLAM and the website ( has details of all participating galleries (over 90), an online magazine, and exhibition listings. Like Deptford Last Fridays there will also be Art Tours, and the area has been divided into three 'hubs' — Deptford, Peckham and Bankside, to include everything going on from Vauxhall to Greenwich and Brixton to Brockley.

A special badge has been designed by artist Hew Locke for the launch tomorrow evening, which can be collected from participating galleries – the first 30 people through any gallery door can collect one while stocks last...

To see who's participating locally in tomorrow's launch, see Last Fridays. Right on Crossfields' doorstep are APT Gallery, Core Gallery and Hatch Space. ArtHub (and possibly Creekside Artists) will be open (badges available), and a quick walk away are Arch and Bearspace. Walk a bit further (or get on yer bike) and there's Lewisham Arthouse, The Old Police Station, Utrophia, Tea Leaf Arts, The Agency, cueB...Or take a look at the map and venture further west to the next village.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Objection to Betfred Planning Application (3) Children & vulnerable persons

Only 6 days to go. Objections to Betfred's Planning Application must be in by 2nd March (

Here is some more ammo for your objection. This time it's about Deprivation, Child Poverty and Vulnerable People...
Good information is hard to find and a lot of the following information isn't up-to-date, even though it's obvious to most of us that things have only got worse. If anyone can update and expand on the information below, please contact us.

Postscript: Since posting, Save the Children Fund have hit the news with some frightening statistics. As the Londonist reports: "the proposed changes to benefits and continued high rate of unemployment will tip more families into poverty". According to the statistics, 20% of Lewisham's kids are living in poverty. The Guardian has mapped the data.
The betting industry seems to keep targeting deprived and poor areas. Why? 

End Child Poverty reported in 2008 that Lewisham has one of the highest rates of child poverty in London and is the 11th most deprived borough out of the 32 boroughs in the capital. 

• Particular issues that Lewisham faces include high levels of unemployment, disadvantage in income, health and crime, low levels of educational attainment and a poor natural environment
(The State of the Borough, An Economic Social and Environmental Profile, 2007, The local futures group)

55% of Lewisham’s children are from low income families, and 35% of adults in those families are out of work.  Source: HM Revenue and Customs (2006: please update). Provided by the Child Poverty Toolkit

The problem affecting local children living in poverty because of gambling addiction:  
- when their father or mother spends uncontrollably,
- spends significant amounts of time not at home, conceals or lies about their gambling behaviour
- has no interest in spending time with them
- doesn't attend parent evenings or help with school work
- cannot keep a job, cannot pay the bills and cannot feed them.

• The site at 93-95 is extremely close to Tidemill Primary School. Even when the school moves to its new site, it will still be extremely close. Older children from Addey & Stanhope and St Joseph's also use the high street at lunch time and at the end of the school day around 3.30-4pm. Greggs the bakers at no. 91 (next door to the proposed premises) is a particular favourite for these kids. It is also a favourite with everyone, old and young, including mums with toddlers.

• The staff at Greggs have been told by their Head Office to ignore the shop lifting drug addicts who occasionally barge in to steal a sandwich. This is possibly to avoid the disruption caused by calling the police, so that the store may continue to run happily and productively without interruption.  Staff at Greggs were horrified to hear there is likely to be another betting office right next door, when there is already a problematic betting shop right opposite.

• Operators like to think they are successfully operating a "Think 21" policy. But last year, a gambling commission investigation uncovered that 98% of bookmakers allowed under-age gambling. It is estimated that 127,000 young people in the UK aged under 24 have a gambling addiction.

Gamcare reports that 2% of their calls in 2009/10 were from under 18s, with an increase of 22% from those aged 18-25. Most of the ‘under 18s’ who called the confidential helpline reported gambling in ‘arcades’ and ‘betting shops’.

• The rate of problem gambling is over three times higher in young people as it is in adults according to the Journal of Child Adolescent Substance Abuse, 8, 55-68 (or see page 7 of Gambling Addiction and its treatment within the NHS download here).

• If a young person under 18 or 21 is to understand that a betting premises, like a pub, is an establishment they are not permitted to enter,  it may be observed that with the clustering of betting establishments currently in the high street, an entire stretch of the road has become out of bounds to young people and children.

• It has been suggested that first generation migrants may not be sufficiently socially, culturally or even financially adapted to their new environment to protect them from the potential risks of excessive gambling. Many are therefore vulnerable to the development of problems. This highlights the need for healthcare professionals to be aware of specific groups — increasingly, women and new migrants, as well as young males and adolescents — who may present with gambling problems... BMA Board of Science

• The types of games played also impacted on the development of gambling problems, the BMA report found. Problem games have a high event frequency (fast and allow for continual staking), played mostly by single unemployed males under 30, followed by older males over 40 often of Chinese ethnicity, and adolescent males. BMA Board of Science

• One of the most recent and prominent beggars on Deptford High Street is now a young Chinese man (at least that is how he is perceived and is described by the Safer Neighbourhood Team) which goes against the findings of a 2010 report How Fair Is Britain (by the Equality and Human Rights Commission) in which young Chinese were perceived to be above black and other racial groups in educational achievement. He was such a nuisance that the SNT tried to get him on an ASBO but it didn't stick, he's out there begging right next to BetterBet.

• Shockingly, the same report said "While disabilities often mean lower income levels and life expectancy, the commission found that being black and male appears to have a greater impact on levels of numeracy than being learning disabled". Oddly enough, there are black males in bettting shops who must surely be numerate, just not very lucky.

Next topic: Gambling Addiction and Anti-social behaviour

Meanwhile see the Deptford Dame's post on objecting to Betfred.

Objection to Betfred Planning Application (2) - Template

Only 6 days to go. Objections to Betfred's Planning Application must be in by 2nd March (

Here is a template letter written by a fellow objector that you may adapt for your own use, relating to the planning requirements of Lewisham's own Unitary Development Plan with special reference to Shopping (see previous post and Deptford Dame for more info).

Please adapt to your own use regarding your relationship to the high street and don't forget your name and address. If you duplicate the letter exactly it will be recognised as one objection with the original, so please be a little bit creative.

We'll also be posting more shortly with other clues for objections...


Dear Sir or Madam,

Reference planning application DC/11/76362/X

I wish to register my objection to the above planning application, relating to the proposed change of use of 93-95 Deptford High Street.

I am a local resident and regular user of the high street, and I am objecting to the application as I believe it is contrary to a number of policies contained in the council’s Unitary Development Plan relating to shopping areas.

I strongly reject the applicant’s contention that granting the change of use, in order to allow another betting shop to be established on this premises, will ‘enhance the vitality and viability’ of the existing shopping area, and likewise that it will ‘promote a diversity of uses’. 

Within the UDP, Deptford High Street is classified as a District Town Centre, and the unit in question, 93-95 Deptford High Street, falls within the core area of this classification.

I draw your attention in particular to policies STC1 and STC4 in the UDP:

The council will seek to maintain, and where necessary improve, the function, character, vitality and viability of the established shopping hierarchy … by sustaining and encouraging through a balance of development, regeneration and conservation a diversity of uses appropriate to their function and location and retaining and enhancing each centre as a focus for retail activity.

STC 4 major and district centres - core shopping areas
Within the core shopping areas….the council will strongly resist any change of use involving the loss at ground floor level of Class A1 shops. The following factors will be taken into account when considering exceptions:
(a) whether the proposal harms the overwhelming retail appearance of the shopping frontage, with an over-concentration of non-retail uses (normally 3 non A1 uses together and 70% maintained in A1 use);
(b) whether the proposal will generate a significant number of pedestrian visits; and
(c) whether the proposal uses vacant units (having regard both to their number within the shopping centre as a whole and the core area and the length of time they have been vacant).

The basis for these policies includes the following reasoning:

The major and district shopping centres are the largest established concentrations of retail activity in the borough. Although a wide range of town centre uses are located in them shopping is considered to be their primary function. Hence a change of use to another function, even another service use, must be carefully monitored and controlled. The preservation of the primary retail function within core areas is a major planning objective as this is considered the best way to protect the character and role of the centres.

The core area of Deptford Town Centre, as defined in the UDP, already has five betting shops – if this application was granted, the total would be six. Moreover, the non-core area of Deptford Town Centre contains a further two betting shops, and the Evelyn Triangle shopping area, which is classified as a local shopping parade and is within half a mile of the core area, contains an additional three betting shops.

Any claim that another betting shop would promote diversity, given the existing number of similar businesses in the area, is clearly nonsense.

What’s more, the unit in question has only been empty for a short time since the previous occupier vacated the premises, and there is no evidence to suggest that it would remain vacant for a long time should this change of use be refused.

Yours sincerely


Objections to Betfred's Planning Application (1)

Objections to Betfred's Planning Application must be in by 2nd March (

We promised a template that you may adapt for your own use. Please visit the next post to read an objection to Betfred which relates to the planning requirements of Lewisham's own Unitary Development Plan with special reference to Shopping, as advised by the Planning Officer. 

We shall also be posting as much detail as we can find regarding all the social and community reasons for opposing a new betting shop asap (as if you didn't know what they were).

Since Lewisham's full website still appears as a temporary site despite a still stated promise that it would be back to normal at 8am Monday morning, here also is a direct link to Betfred's Planning Application Ref 11/76362.

Meanwhile, here is a synopsis of that application that may inform the template letter that follows in the next post...

Financial Service or Retail Outlet – make up your minds!

If you click on the Planning Support Statement you can read that Betfred think they are "one of the UK's biggest privately owned retail outlets" and that "licensed betting shops are regarded as being key town centre uses and are seen to maintain the vitality and viablity of town and city centres. "

Betfred recite the National Planning Policy and pick out a number of salient points from it. For instance, planning should:

• Contribute to sustainable economic development
• Protect and enhance the natural and historic environment, the quality and character of the countryside and existing communities
• Ensure development supports existing communities and contributes to the creation of safe, sustainable, liveable and mixed communities with good access to jobs and key services for all members of the community
• Promote personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion and create equal opportunity for all citizens

Etc. All good stuff. Betfred's only claim is that the proposed occupation of 93-95 Deptford High Street "will contribute to the local economy and create jobs", in accordance with the aims of National Planning Policy to promote strong, stable and productive economies that aim to bring jobs and prosperity to all.

Hurrah! Any shop on this site is going to employ people so BIG DEAL! It is such a good site, it could not stay empty for long. For those who fear yet another grocer-meat-phone shop, may you save your complaints for another time—a much worse fate awaits.

Betfred then quote national policy regarding economic growth and note that the government requires:

• New economic growth...with the aim of offering a wide range of services to communities in an attractive and safe environment and remedying deficiencies in provision in areas with poor access to facilities
• Competition between retailers and enhanced consumer choice...which allow genuine choice to meet the needs of the entire community (particularly socially excuded groups)
• The historic, archaeological and architectural heritage of centres to be conserved and, where appropriate enhanced, to provide a sense of place and a focus for the community and for civic activity.

Betfred's only claim here is that that the change of use from Building Society to Betting Shop will promote a diversity of uses and choice for consumers. There is a contradiction in the policy to be exploited by them here in that while there is no way Betfred will remedy deficiencies in provision by becoming the 6th betting shop within 150 metres, they may still yet offer enhanced consumer choice.

However, this so-called consumer choice is exclusive within the competitive trade of other gambling establishments. They indeed may offer much better or worse odds than the betting shop opposite, and two doors down, whilst the best odds may come from 150 metres away in BetterBet. Much like the inside track on Epsom Downs, but not much to do with racing, since the main earner for all these betting shops are the slot machines, the Fixed Odd Betting Terminals from which they earn over 70% of their takings, and which are designed for punters to lose. A bit different from which shop sells the cheapest bananas.

Then Betfred looks at Lewisham's Unitary Development Plan (UDP), developed in 2004 (see here) which identifies the old Halifax site as falling within the Core Shopping Area. The plan states that the council will strongly resist any change of use involving the loss at ground floor of Class A1 shops (Retail).

• Betfred contend that since the site had been exceptionally allowed to be A2 (with the condition that this was only as a Building Society), if the A2 use was expanded to include betting shops (which A2 use inexplicably usually does), there will be no loss of an A1 unit since it hasn't been a retail shop there for ages (they later go on to add that their service is more akin to retail anyway).

• Since its neighbours are A1 retail (Greggs the bakers and the wig/cosmetics/phone shop), there will not be three non-retail uses together, so not contrary to policy.

• They promise that like other A2 uses (like banks and building societies), the betting shop will attract footfall throughout the day as well as evenings and weekends. Residents in the high street will surely have something to say about that.

• Not only that, but it's a positive thing that the building is not to be left boarded up for a long time since Betfred have jumped in and bought the place up (in reality, no one else had a chance since they were gagging to get hold of it).

• On the other hand, they also state that they will operate like other A1 retailers and will not harm the adjoining occupiers as there will be no noise and disturbance, smell, litter or incompatible opening hours. So there will be no punters hanging about outside smoking and drinking and blocking the pavement for the children, young people, mothers, high street workers, locals and visitors who come to get their bread, lunch and pastries from the bakery next door?

• They say their window displays would not be dissimilar to the window displays of the Halifax. So shall they be completely see-through, unlike other betting shops, so that we can see the Betfred punters staring glassy-eyed at the TV monitors, where we used to see the Halifax customers queuing up to safely deposit or withdraw their earnings or benefits?

• Their premises will have disabled access (not difficult on the ground floor)

In conclusion they reckon that if the condition of only allowing A2 use to a Building Society were removed, Deptford High Street would benefit from an A2 (Financial Services etc) use that is also masquerading as a A1 (Retail) use, should Lewisham Planners wish to revert planning use from A2 back to A1 in deference to their own Unitary Development Plan.

Betfred really isn't sure if it is a Financial Service (which it isn't, since it's not regulated by the FSA) or a Retail Outlet. That is because IT IS NEITHER. Surely the latter is when it is almost certain that if you pay for something on that premises, you will leave it with SOMETHING—usually to eat, wear or use. That has never been a guarantee in a betting shop—not even a promise—merely and simply a possibility.

Betfred's claim to be one of the UK's biggest retail outlets is an insult to retailing and consumers alike.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Local cleaning job available at Creekside Centre

Creekside Centre have recently lost their cleaner so are looking for another. Crosswhatfields is not running an employment agency, but thought this might be ideal for anyone on Crossfields looking for a little local cleaning work. The job has not yet been advertised so get in quick.

Presently it's just 3 hours per week, but may expand to twice a week when the centre gets busier in the coming months. Pay is £10 p/h.

Please ring Karen on 020 8692 9922 (Tuesday or Wednesday) or email

Betfred update + only the Green Party speaks out

Betfred Planning Objection

Since we posted about the deadline to 'comment' (2nd March) on Betfred's Planning Application, the Lewisham website has been out of action. A temporary site informs us that this is "part of a data centre move that will save £250,000 a year" but that it will be up and running tomorrow morning. This has also meant that anyone wishing to view Lewisham Planning's documents on their strategies for retail in the borough will have found nothing, or if they've emailed their comments about the eleventh bookies in Deptford to, their email will have bounced back.

We urge you to make your objections known (only 10 days left to act)

Individual letters of objection are the best way to fight this. Unlike Betfred's application for a Gambling Licence, objections to Planning Applications are not bound by the limitations of the 2005 Gambling Act which disallowed comments about the number of bookies and observations on antisocial behaviour, or the effect on children and vulnerable people, or the clustering of bookies in one place etc. Feel free to 'comment' on all of those this time round! 

In a couple of day's time, we will post a template for an objection letter that you can use to email your objection to Planning, by which time, hopefully Lewisham council's internet services will be back to normal. So pop back soon, if you want some help writing your objection.

There is also a NEW petition on the high street at Deptford Project, Albany, Sight Centre, Kim's newsagents, Deptford Deli and Let's All Hang Together (on New X Road opposite The Albert). This is different to the one you may already have signed in objection to Betfred's License application. Meanwhile, the online petition (right) has been reworded, so if you have already signed it, please do not duplicate your signature! Please tell friends who are not online to find the paper petition in the high street.

Please also note that the right to object is not restricted to only those living on the high street.


Councils need more powers over betting shops, say Lewisham Greens

Those who took the trouble to object to the Betfred Licence application last month also copied their emails to local councillors and Joan Ruddock MP. As far as we know, not one of them has bothered to reply, except in one case where Cllr Maslin has promised to discuss the issue with Steve Bullock. Mayor Steve's office replied to some objectors about the difficulties faced by local authorities regarding the 2005 Gambling Act, and referred to the council's request in 2009 under the Sustainable Communities Act to change the law. As we have previously posted, this was a Lewisham Green Party initiative, and Lewisham Greens have since released a statement about the government's refusal to consider a change in the gambling law. Read it in full on their website.

Ute Michel, campaigner and spokeswoman for Lewisham Green Party, said:

"The response from the government to our proposal beggars belief. The situation was bad enough a few years ago when we were opposing the first application under the new law for a bookie's on Brockley Road, but it has only got worse since.

"We respect people's right to bet, so this never was a finger-wagging campaign against gambling.

"It is about the devastating effect on the economic health of local shopping parades and neighbourhoods when bookie after bookie lines a street, crowding out other goods and services and eroding the sense of place and community and we simply wanted to be able to say 'enough is enough'." 

Although Labour councillors (and one Conservative) on the Licensing Committee expressed their concerns to objectors after they were obliged to grant a licence to Betfred, New Cross and Evelyn ward councillors, Lewisham leaders and Deptford's MP remain conspicuously silent. This is extraordinary, considering the groundswell of opinion from the local community.

Carnival of Cuts round-up & March for the Alternative

After yesterday's Lewisham Carnival of Cuts there are reports at East London Lines, in Newshopper, at Green Ladywell and Transpontine, and a very interesting debate at Brockley Central, where a post has garnered over 90 comments.

Meanwhile, the TUC is organising a national march and rally on 26 March 2011, in response to the government's programme of fast and deep public spending cuts. More info at March For The Alternative website.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Free tickets to the Laban for residents

St Paul's spire reflected by the Laban
There are a limited number of free tickets for local residents to see some contemporary dance at the Laban.  Details below:

Get Free Tickets to see Stephanie Schober and Dance Company at Laban Theatre
Exclusive Deal for Residents of Lewisham, Greenwich, Southwark and Tower Hamlets

Be the first to see the world premiere of striking music and dance piece Traffic by Stephanie Schober and Dance Company. The virtuosic performances are on 16 and 17 March 2011 at Laban Theatre (19.30h). A limited number of free tickets to the 17 March performance are exclusively available for residents in the boroughs of Lewisham, Greenwich, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, and can be reserved by emailing postal details to or calling Mark Bromley on 020 8469 9525.

Traffic features live music created and performed by Norwegian accordionist Camilla Barratt-Due. Dancers Keir Patrick and Lise Manavit join her on stage for an intensely physical performance that explores the expressive potential of the body, its movement and sound, in truly unconventional ways.

Inspired by the composition Abundant Numbers by numerical composer Tom Johnson, the choreography uses music combined with intuitive selection to evoke a constant spontaneity. The composition provides a choreographic framework, in which the two dancers and musician freely create their own sound and movement with three accordions, chairs and a sheet of glass whilst spontaneously interacting with each other. Expect to be surprised by a playful and sophisticated performance that explores new audio-visual connections and captures the individuality of each performer. The work was commissioned by Laban Theatre and the Garrick Charitable Trust and is funded by Arts Council England.

The dance company was founded in 2002 and has since produced several major productions at Laban which have been performed across Europe. Stephanie’s choreography is often inspired by structures found in visual art, music, science and landscapes. She investigates how logical structures can lead to a myriad of theatrical expressions, sometimes even resulting in chaos. She uses her choreographic instinct to reassemble the fragmented parts to find a unique rhythm and form for each work.

Ballet Magazine describes Stephanie as a “dance maker exploring a style that is clearly recognisable as her own.”

Tickets are £12 (£8 concessions) and can be booked by calling the Laban Theatre box office on 020 8469 9500 or by visiting: Free tickets for residents in specified London boroughs are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. For more information on all Trinity Laban events please visit:
photo courtesy of Zoe Plummer

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tidemill School: Public meeting Thursday 24 February

The seemingly almost one-woman campaign against Tidemill Primary School gaining Academy status that ran for last few months of 2010 ended in success early this year on January 15th (When Academies don't add up). The school backed down and withdrew their application, threatened with a judicial review suggesting it could be proved in court that they (the head and school governors) had completely misrepresented (lied about) their case to the parents and the local community. More here from

Now the school intends to start its application again, this time with REAL financial figures and fuller compliance—but not necessarily in full consultation with its parents and community (yet again).

For those interested in the future of our local primary school (and/or a dislike of this government's  masterplan to privatise education), there's a public meeting on Thursday 24 February, 7pm at The Albany

The Deptford political agenda is getting quite congested (see previous post) with local people trying to defend your local environment from the powers-that-be who don't seem to have local people in mind when they make decisions that affect us all but end up benefiting only the rich (who bank offshore and don't pay taxes).

Hopefully you'll find the time to show your support, one way or another along the way...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Betfred Planning Application - DEADLINE FOR OBJECTIONS 2nd March

The expected planning notices are up on the Halifax window – two Planning Applications...They are dated 9 February but it appears they only went up today or overnight.

Ref: DC/11/76362
Application to get the present Building Society Only use changed "in order to allow other uses within use class A2", eg to include a Betting Shop, the only thing standing in Betfred's way.
See it online where it is known as DC/11/76362/X

Ref: DC/11/76363
To make alterations to the rear of the building (plans viewable in Lewisham Reference Library)
See it online where it is known as DC/11/76363/FT

The deadline given on the window notice for 'comments' is 2 March 2011. There is presently no deadline given on the Lewisham website, but the 'Press Date' (when it is to be publicly posted) is 16th February. Hmm. The consultation start date is given online as 8th Feb. So that's a whole week LOST in "consultation" already. You might be forgiven for thinking Lewisham actually want this, they are so slow to act, and there are only TWO WEEKS to 'comment'.

Comments must go to:
Russell Penn, Planning Service, Laurence House, 1 Catford Road SE6 4RU.
020 8314 8443
Comments must include the Application number, your name, address, comment and reason for interest.

It would appear the most important thing to 'comment' about is the first one – the change of use. We shall post in due course about the process so that no one wastes their time, so watch this space. On the other hand, don't wait, just do it.

Interested parties (agents on behalf of the betting industry) are watching too, so listen and look out for alternative communications if you want to stop this.

For those of you who signed the petition, either online or on paper, we are hoping your signature has not been in vain. It presently stands at almost 800...

Convoy's Wharf developer backs Burmese junta

Lewisham council is about to decide on the development plans for Convoy's Wharf as drawn up by the developer Hutchison Whampoa. For more information on the revised plans see the Deptford Dame's post from July 2010. However, since then they have been submitted to Planning and are available to view on the developer's website.

It's the largest development in the area outside the Olympics, 40 acres that will include three tower blocks, the highest of which will be 46 storeys – 20 more than the Seager Distillery tower presently going up on Deptford Broadway, 17 more than the Z building (aka Aragon Tower) and twice the height of Eddystone Tower on Pepys, as tall as the Nat West Tower and a bit shorter than Canary Wharf. Only 25% of the 3,500 residential properties will be so-called 'affordable'. The luxury housing will be gated and there will be 2,300 parking spaces for visitors to the numerous retail and bar outlets. How on earth these cars will find their way down Evelyn Street and Creek Road in rush hour is anybody's guess.

The development will take over ten years to build, and whilst plans for office space have been scaled back, there will now be a hotel, and in the middle of all this, a new primary school.

There are issues around the archaeological and heritage value of the site, and local objectors have proposed alternatives as to how the site might be developed that would serve the community better in terms of employment and educational opportunities, which presently appear to be tiny in terms of skills development for the local population. Some objectors also believe that lip service has been paid to recent archaeological investigations that are nothing short of bogus. It would appear that the Museum of London have been surveying and digging holes in the wrong places.

Hutchison Whampoa, based in Hong Kong, has long been investing in Burma as Hutchison Port Holdings, operating the port terminal at Thilawa, and assisting in the transport of weapons from North Korea to the Burmese military dictatorship. The population live in poverty, thousands of ethnic minorities are persecuted and displaced, and campaigners are jailed as political prisoners (currently 2000+). Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was only recently released in November 2010 after 15 years of house arrest.

Owned overall by the Cheung Kong Group and part of Hong Kong multibillionaire Li Ka-shing's empire, Hutchison Whampoa also own Superdrug, are majority shareholders in the '3' mobile network and have three major UK ports (Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport), plus luxury developments in London. They bought the site from News International, but it is believed Mr Murdoch has still got his finger in the pie with a profit share in the finished product (eg, a percentage on the sale of residential units). The plans have not changed that much since Murdoch's Richard Roger's designs were first submitted in outline planning stage to Lewisham.

So anyway, business as usual...after all, our own government was best pals with Mubarak, so Lewisham's unholy partnership with one of the backers of the Burmese junta would appear par for the course.

Lewisham People Before Profit will be protesting against the Convoys Wharf development plans on Saturday 19 February at 11am, between Leeway and Grove Street Deptford, as part of their Carnival Against Cuts. (Crossfields residents will have heard the clarion call via leaflets through their doors). Protests at various venues all over the borough happening at the same time aim to meet up at Catford Town Hall at around 1pm to set off on a march to Lewisham town centre.

If you're not all about marching and banging pots and pans in the street, or are just busy this weekend, but want to know more about this monstrous new town without a heart you might be interested in attending Deptford Community Forum's AGM on Tuesday 22nd February, 6pm, at the Laban, where the subject will surely get an airing. If you're working, email us for more information.

We quite like the idea of the DCF being renamed "The Deptford Society"—if only for a laugh—to be part of the Big Society, like the Blackheath Society. Wine and cheese will be available, naturellement (it's at the Laban, darling) and everyone is welcome...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's day weather?

Given that it's dry at the moment, I can only think that the BBC's weather forecasters are being a bit romantic...

Happy Valentine's day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Betfred Licensing Hearing decision

Inevitably, Lewisham Licensing Committee were obliged to grant Betfred their Betting Licence yesterday evening, due to the restrictions imposed on them by the Gambling Law 2005.

Three people spoke on behalf of the people of Deptford in objection, one of whom runs a business on the high street who spoke passionately on behalf of businesses in the immediate vicinity who are opposed to the new betting shop.

The committee posed a few questions to the Betfred representative related to children and to problem gambling. Since the law as it stands discounts the effect on children of the prevalence of bookmakers in the area so long as they are not allowed on the premises, all arguments about the proximity of the proposed premises to primary schools and community resources could not be considered.

Regarding the question of problem gambling, the response of Betfred was laughable, but still within the law, since it is an irrelevancy under the current Act.

The hearing ended with an afterword from the Licencing Team officer, who said we would be sent papers about how we could appeal quite soon against this decision (in Bromley), and also that the applicant would be obliged to submit to a Planning stage in due course.

We'd assumed there would be very little happening at Planning stage, since the premises has A2 use already, but it appears it has exclusive use as a "Building Society" and nothing else, a rather bizarre twist in the story....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Betfred Brief Update

We were heartened today to read that the people of Haringey have been fighting the betting shops and, in December 2010, actually won! What an historic moment that must have been.

Paddy Power denied appeal to take over Tottenham music shop

"A community is celebrating its big win after an appeal to open a gambling shop in an iconic Tottenham music shop was thrown out last week.

"Bookmaker giant Paddy Power had hoped the Planning Inspectorate would overturn Haringey Council's decision and give them the green light to open a new store at the current home of Every Bodies Music.

But instead the Government's inspector agreed that if a betting shop was to open it "would have an adverse effect on the vitality, viability and predominantly retail function of the centre due to the loss of a retail spot in a prominent location".

"The inspector also highlighted allowing the appeal to stand would be in conflict with the council's planning policies laid out in its Unitary Development Plan (UDP) and would damage the area's potential to grow into a vibrant shopping centre...."

The week after, the north London campaigners were at it again...

Anti-betting shop campaigners protest in Wood Green (see NewsShopper here)

We're trying to make contact with the Find Your Voice Pressure Group who have been campaigning so hard to change things – and we'd love to know how Haringey had the balls to stand up to the bullies.

Creekside Urban Park meeting Wednesday 9th Feb 7pm

From Lewisham Homes Community Officer, Will Sharpe:

I'm writing to invite you to a meeting to discuss the next steps for the Creekside Urban Park. As you may be aware there was a significant drop in the funding and as a result, the works have been altered to take account of the changes. We would now like the views of the Crossfields Green Spaces group and I'd like to invite you to a meeting to discuss this. Please see the details below:

Date:   9 February 2011
Time:   7pm to 8pm
Venue:  The Pink Palace, Frankham Street, London, SE8

Apologies for the short notice of this meeting. As you can appreciate we need to move quickly in order to be able to complete the works before the end of March 2011.

1000-1 on People of Deptford winning against Betfred

A big thanks to the 684 (and counting) people who have signed the petition against Betfred in the high street. 

Let's hope someone listens. Unfortunately it won't be the Licensing Committee at Lewisham Council.

We had been led to believe that the petition could be included in our objections at the Licensing Committee's hearing of Betfred's application at the Civic Suite this Wednesday (9th Feb, 7.15pm), submitted as supplementary material.

However, we were told today that whilst we are allowed to submit additional information in support of our objection,  a 'petition' is counted as 'representation' rather than 'additional information', and therefore cannot be accepted outside of the 28 day application period that began on 24th December.


The people of Deptford have spoken.

Brilliant timing, eh? While everyone was doing Christmas and New Year, Betfred snuck in their application, so it wasn't noticed by locals until at least a week later. Not that it would make any difference who noticed. The various official bodies that were alerted on 24th December have failed to register any objections to the Licence, much to Betfred's obvious glee and satisfaction (or rather, business as usual).

They are: Met Police Licensing at Catford, London Fire & Emergency, Environmental Health, Planning & Development Control, Children's Services, Gambling Commission, HM Revenue & Customs. The most concerning ones are the Met Police and Children's Services. We called the Met Licensing Officer, who was amenable. It was an eye opener.

May we ask why you didn't object?
Because we have no evidence that Betfred are linked to serious organised crime.
Whhhoa! Er..what about 'disorder' as in 'Crime & Disorder' (linking gambling as a grounds for objection)?
Nope, that neither.
So what the Met normally consider Crime, eg criminal damage, shoplifting and drug offences, they don't count?
And Antisocial Behavour, eg Street Drinking, Begging, Harrassment...doesn't that count as Disorder?
No, fraid not. Disorder has been defined under the Gambling Act as something much more severe.
What, a riot? GBH? Assault? Violent Crime?
It's hard to explain, but it's the Gambling Law. It doesn't really include Anti-Social Behaviour.
So basically you're saying there's no point in objecting unless you can link Betfred with the Mafia?
I'm not saying that. 
Would you agree that Lewisham may have directed you all to do nothing because if an objection were to succeed it would land them with a hefty legal bill when Betfred appeal?
I couldn't possibly comment. We really are obliged to comply with the law in these matters.

Sorry, did you say something? No I never...alright move along...

The eye-opener is Section 153 of the Gambling Act which says "Local authorities should note that in the case of gambling premises licences, disorder is intended to mean activity that is more serious and disruptive than mere nuisance." 

No one at Licensing told us this. We built a petition around it. One could say they set us up to fail, though of course they knew any objections on the part of residents would fail anyway.

And they know what our objection is really about: we already have enough betting shops, we don't want another. Not grounds for objection under the current law, of course. We only knew what grounds to object on because of what the Licensing Team told us. They do have a link to the Gambling Act on their webpage. Of course we never bloody read it, thinking it would be a hundred pages long.

However, we might have been given the kind but fruitless advice that is available on Haringey Council's website:

Residents will not be in a position to give any supporting evidence to the first 2 objectives, i.e. ensuring gambling is kept free from crime and ensuring gambling is conducted in a fair and open way. These objectives are really matters that the Gambling Commission are best placed to deal with.

The Guidance issued to the Police advises them that they are able to refer to the following, but even in that guidance it uses the word ‘may be relevant’

‘Other gambling premises in the area are routinely used for illegal activities such as drug-dealing’
‘The existence of other similar premises in the area has been found to have contributed towards local disorder’
‘Other premises owned by this operator in the area have been known to have major problems with underage gambling’

The 3rd objective of protecting children and the vulnerable is also hard to evidence as the law already dictates that only persons aged 18 or over are allowed on betting premises.
It will not be relevant to state that because children are walking by a betting shop on their daily journey maybe to and from school that they will be harmed by this."

So, it seems, the Met Licensing Officer in Catford could've at least submitted the "maybe relevant" info about the drug dealing and local disorder. But pointless coming from us, THE PEOPLE, who have to use the street.

Lewisham has misled almost 700 people that there may be some democratic process they can take part in and influence. But there's no such thing. There have already been THREE protests about high street bookies in the past two years and you can't even be bothered to tell us to stop wasting our time.

Move along there, but stop, a word for our local police team...

Later, Sgt Alger from New Cross SNT finally returned our call, after we'd been trying to contact him all last week during the Met's website launch and reorganisation of Safer Neighbourhood Teams nationwide, that seemed to have made the Met totally disfunctional and incommunicado for the entire week. Before the sergeant called, Crosswhatfields had been nattering in the high street to a couple of mates. Whilst we'd been chatting outside Barclays, we'd been approached by two different guys begging. When the sergeant called, we were down near Tesco's and while we talked to him about how the problems on the high street stemmed from the betting shops or certainly weren't helped by them, another beggar aggressively demanded five quid from our companion.

Hearing this exchange, the sergeant asked where we were and it turned out his PCs were in the area (in fact they were in Tescos) so he asked us to tell them to check the guy out and they later had a chat with the big guy in the white and red leather jacket (with "Racing" emblazoned on it) who was by now down by the anchor after standing outside BetterBet for a while (with empty pockets). Walking back later, we saw the PCs were outside Coral's 'chatting' to a skinny black guy, then a black woman hurried past and cried urgently, "The guy with the rucksack at the bank – he's just said he was going to shoot up the bank" (even though the bank was shut and it was night-time).

One of the PCs hurried up the street, but the woman didn't come with him to show him which guy or which bank, so he wasn't sure who he was after, especially as it was really quite dark and the street lighting is rather poor and most shops, not being Paddy Power with tons of money to spend, do not have illuminated signs. There was a guy with a rucksack looking completely normal at the HSBC cashpoint, but the PC came upon the other bloke who'd been begging all day and was still begging now between the HSBC, Barclays and Housewives Cash n' Carry (the black guy with the obvious mental health problems who sometimes sells the Big Issue and can sometimes look dementedly threatening). Meanwhile, rucksack man (who had frightened the black woman) may have just been having a really bad day, or maybe the 'frightened black woman' was a mate of the black guy that the PCs were talking to at Coral, and she had created a diversion that split up the two-man police team to let her man get away.

You really do not want to know. But rest assured, none of the crime on the High Street is really Crime (it wasn't organised) and nor is it Disorder, as defined by the 2005 Gambling Act. Of course it was both, but it happened outside a bookies and not inside, so of course they're not responsible.

We left the scene...All that before 6pm.

Sgt Alger agreed with us that the last thing his team needed was another betting shop. They didn't need the ones we've got already either. He had been given notice of the new one but felt there was little he could do. His superiors were aware of his concerns. By all means, I could quote him, but there would be little point in him putting pen to paper for the sake of the License Hearing since it would make no difference. By then we knew there was a fait accompli about the granting of the Betfred licence, so we didn't press him. (Besides which the conversation was extremely difficult because we had his PCs' attention by then and had to grass up 'Racing' man in full view of the Anchor Alchies who are pretty hardcore).

He seemed genuinely concerned and similarly frustrated at his lack of powers. They had managed to get an ASBO going through on the Chinese guy who has been hassling people all last week. (He's the one who comes up to you and stands in your face pointing at his round open mouth whilst managing to say 'Food' – it's quite a sad encounter). Apparently lots of people had complained, although, Sgt Alger pointed out, very few are willing to come forward with statements, which are necessary for the present  ASBO law to work (if it's anything like Lewisham Homes' application of the law, ahem, it's absolutely useless). We didn't have time to discuss whether Cameron's new ASBO would be any better – or worse, depending where you stand.

Strangely he knew nothing of the elderly black woman who has been standing outside Kim's for the past year making a nuisance of herself. Everybody who works in the market knows her, although she's been absent recently. She is definitely one poor old lady who will take a gratefully received donation straight over to the betting shop. Perhaps she's had her last bet.

Move along there, capitalism is in town...

So, anyway, it appears that when it comes to betting shops, Lewisham (like Hackney, Haringey, Tottenham, Islington, Ealing and even Chinatown plus all over the UK) just take it lying down now, not even the hint of an objection.

Nearly 700 signatures (collected in the space of two weeks) will make no difference to this particular outcome. If you signed the petition, please take a look at what the insufferable Betfred have prepared in repost to our objections, to see how Lewisham take it lying down.

Watch while the Tories (it could have been Labour) allow the Tote to establish their banking offshore before they sell it off to the highest bidder (Betfred and Coral being hotly tipped), and if you wondered why half the proceeds will go to the racing industry, that will be because they're desperate to abolish the Levy, a tax the bookmakers can't wait to be rid of because the betting industry doesn't give a fuck about racing, which it has been paying for for half a century or more via the Levy. The bookies now just want you to play those machines in their shops which makes them so-o-o-o much money they don't worry about paying UK tax, or make silly bets online about football and Whooohoo-just-get-the-i-phone-App and take a bet on anything, for which they'll pay no tax at all.

Move along there, with your morals an' all...

A big fat nothing is what the betting industry gives the communities it feeds on – but that is no grounds for objection. Communities mean nothing to the betting industry, who would laugh in your face and all the way to the bank if you start talking about morals. If you object to a betting shop on religious grounds, you're probably Muslim – the industry doesn't even recognise the sensitivities and beliefs of those in the Church of England, let alone those of other faiths living in the areas where they love to prey. Morals mean nothing to this money grabbing bunch of opportunists who can't wait to get their hands on your dole money, your weekly play, your rent money, your mortgage money, your holiday money, your savings, your piggy bank, whilst justifying their human rights to 'simply display normal market behaviour in the same way that fast food takeaways, estate agents, car dealers or pubs and bars seek to compete against one another in convenient locations where there is a strong demand for their facilities'.

What complete and utter bollocks. You don't go into a takeway, give them money and come out with nothing to eat. You don't go in any other shop, hand over money and come out with nothing. If you come out with total shite, you have rights. If you don't like what you bought you can usually get a refund. Gambling is completely different from almost every retail model except perhaps a bar, where you come out with nothing except drunk and maybe a potential shag. Mobile phones and broadband are perhaps the nearest comparison after that  – another black hole in dire need of regulation...

No point in studying the form of the People of Deptford. We are always the losers. Whilst most people seem to think Lewisham is 'throwing the fight', it seems from all evidence in other boroughs, towns and cities that they are not, unless you think that every borough, town and city in the country has got corrupt officials, or completely useless lawyers working for them that can't fight off the tenacious bookies that go to appeal. Not one borough has been able to stop this, yet. Let's not pay the lawyers any more, they're as rich as bankers. Change the law instead.

Wouldn't it be great if Lewisham bet on themselves at the Betfred hearing on Wednesday and then backed out of the deal that makes them lie down. At the present odds, if every Lewisham citizen put a tenner on the People of Deptford to win and the council bet the Mayor and Barry Quirk's salary, and then the Licensing Committee said NO TO BETFRED, we'd all win enough to see Betfred out of town.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Creek Walks 2011

The next Creek Walk takes place on Saturday 12th February at 11am.
Booking is essential so email or call 020 8692 9922.

A walk up the Creek is a unique and fascinating experience. At high tide up to 7 metres of water floods the Creek; as the tide retreats London’s “Grand Canyon” is revealed and the walks are led along this gorge on the stony river bottom.

Deptford Creek is one of the capital’s unexpected and hidden green gems, providing an unmatched opportunity for adventure and discovery not found elsewhere in London. A haven for hundreds of fresh and saltwater plants and animals. One of London’s most historic waterways, where the past flows into the present.

Discoverers are supplied with thigh length waders and sticks to help keep balance. They are guided by people passionate about the Creek and its history and wildlife. Walks last about two and a half hours from booting up to returning to the streets of London.

Click on the picture above to see the schedule for February–June 2011.

The Sustainable Communities Act and Betting Shops

In a previous post, we attempted to explain the position of the local authority under the 2005 Gambling Act and reported that in 2009 Lewisham had put forward requests under the Sustainable Communities Act (SCA) to amend the gambling act to give local authorities more freedom to limit the number of betting shops in an area. 

Under the SCA, several local authorities around the country put forward various requests to change various things (see here). We didn't realise that Lewisham's proposal was an initiative of Ladywell's Green councillors. Sue Luxton over at Green Ladywell posted yesterday to say that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has finally responded to all the requests. 
See Sue's post here.

If you didn't know what the Sustainable Communities Act was, here's what the DCLG via Greg Clark MP says it is: "The Government is totally committed to devolving power to local councils, local communities and local citizens. It believes that by giving people more power and control over the services that are delivered in their areas, a new spirit of civic pride in communities can be inspired. It gives people a voice to tell their local council something needs to change – and gives local communities the chance to ask Government to give them the power to make it happen."

However, with regard to betting shops, it still appears to make not a blind bit of difference to the government what local communities think, and the DCLG still seem to think that councils already have the necessary powers to control the betting shop situation.

They list various ways Lewisham might employ the powers they already have to control the number and location of betting shops, but Mayor Jules Pipe in a letter to John Penrose (Department of Culture, Media & Sport) in December 2010, points out that Hackney (and other councils) have already considered fully and taken advice on all of the possible ways it could utilise its present powers, including the practicalities and risks of attempting to implement special, local planning restrictions. 

The DCLG suggest using 'Article 4' powers but Mayor Jules says that this would involve considerable public consultation and significant resources, and would have to be approved by the Secretary of State who already concluded in 2007 that it was not considered an appropriate mechanism to control betting shop numbers. It would also attract and focus opposition from the betting industry and expose the Council to the potential for compensation claims and costs.

What is needed, says Mayor Jules, is to re-establish a specific class for betting shops, that would "provide local authorities with the clear power to have deliberate, purposeful and unambiguous control over the creation of new betting shops."

We find it odd that betting shops (along with estate agents) are classed for planning purposes as A2  and defined as Financial Services. They are hardly the same thing – and gambling is regulated by the Gambling Commission, not the Financial Services Authority (FSA). They are, quite simply, not providing financial services.

Meanwhile, we wonder if the DCLG are living on the same planet.

In their report, they say: "There is a lack of data on the numbers and concentrations of betting shops pre September 2007, as there was no central collection of figures before the introduction of the Gambling Act. DCMS know the total number of betting shops has remained constant or declined in recent years and is working with the Gambling Commission to identify better data on the numbers and locations. But it will be difficult to assess how this may have changed since the Gambling Act came into force in September 2007."

In his paper Better Odds for London's High Street * Ken Livingstone says "Since legislation governing the criteria to obtain a gambling license was relaxed by the 2005 Gambling Act, many parts of London have seen an explosion in the number of betting shops. The capital now has over 2,100 betting shops, up from 1,700 ten years ago and that number is set to continue to rise. More often than not, these new premises have tended to open up in the less affluent parts of the capital, and here, they have used comparatively lower rents to saturate high streets with their presence. Tottenham High Road has over 15 betting shops, Mare Street in Hackney now has 9, and Noel Park Ward in Haringey has 16."

East London Lines reported in September 2010 when Mayor Jules Pipe and Ken Livingstone stood outside the new Paddy Power in Mare Street calling to limit the number of betting shops:
"Paddy Power says that, in fact, there are fewer betting shops in Hackney overall than prior to the 2005 Act. Patrick Nixon, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers concurs, saying that there has been a slight decline in the number of bookmakers operating within the M25 area since the Act came into force in 2007, possibly because of the rise in online gaming. These figures are disputed by Ken Livingstone, who cites Home Office and Gambling Commission figures which show that there were 2,095 gambling licenses in operation in London’s 33 boroughs in 2009, up from 1,721 in 2003."

So the DCLG haven't even bothered to consult the Home Office or the Gambling Commission. You don't have to 'google' far to find more evidence to back this. reported that: 

"The Ladbrokes and William Hills of this world are facing increased competition on the High Street, following the lifting of the "demand test" as part of the 2005 Gambling Act.

"Rival firms, such as Betterbet, Paddy Power, Betfred and Pagebet are unveiling for a plethora of new shop openings. Pagebet Ltd, which currently has 26 shops in the North-East and the Midlands, wants to have a 100-plus estate within three years. Betterbet, which currently has 25 shops around London, wants to increase its estate to 200 shops over the next couple of years.

"Betfred, the biggest of the independent operators, will open a further 80 shops this year alone, whilst Ireland's Paddy Power, which already has more than 60 shops in London, will be announcing plans to expand across the whole of the UK later this year. Sources suggest that the company has its sight set on opening 250 new shops within the next three years."

No sign, then, that the total number of betting shops has remained constant or declined.

Meanwhile, the DCLG acknowledge there are "Concerns about betting shops and problem gambling (relating) to their higher stake/higher prize gaming machines. We think this is a main cause of local concerns. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, which advises the Gambling Commission and the Government on research, education and treatment, has prioritised the development of a programme of work into the risks relating to higher prize gaming machines."

Yes, about time, but this work should have already been started, if not done. reported in relation to Fixed Odd Betting Terminals that the government had asked the Gambling Commission to look into whether gambling machines were contributing to problem gambling back in 2008

Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe promised to take tough stance. "I'm concerned about the longer-term impact of the growing popularity of FOBTs (fixed-odds betting terminals) and have asked the Gambling Commission to give particular priority to work on the risks associated with high-stakes machines.....We have always said if any evidence emerges that they (FOBTs) are causing harm, then we are prepared to take action and we have the power to take action." commented, "Some conclude that the result is a foregone conclusion, not least, when one considers that the British Gambling Prevalance Survey of 2007 found that "among those who had gambled in the past year, problem gambling prevalence ranged from 1.0% for the National Lottery Draw to 14.7% for spread betting. The next highest prevalence was 11.2% for fixed odds betting terminals, followed by betting exchanges (9.8%), online gambling (7.4%) and online betting (6.0%)."

In addition, even at the state-owned Tote, (currently being sold off to the highest bidder), fixed odds betting terminals now account for 56% of turnover; with annual turnover now close to £1.4 billion (it is probably more now). reported, "The tote is looking for further additional growth utilising a new generation of FOBTs, maximising machine density and capturing the best market share in areas with significant local competition." 
In a recent House of Lords debate, Lord James of Blackheath, asserted that there was a rapid and tangible drift to the conversion by bookmakers of their 10,000 or so betting shops into mini-casinos.

He noted the comments of a senior bookmaker who had recently said to him, "Do you know, our betting shops are empty in the afternoon now; there’s nobody there”. 

“Why is that?” asked Lord James.

The bookie replied, “Because our machines are so efficient that we have stripped all the money out by lunchtime and everybody’s had to go home. There’s no money left in anybody’s pocket."

*You can download Ken Livingstone's paper from his website.

Postscript: Lord James, by all accounts, is a bit bonkers, but the story was worth repeating...In reality, there are never afternoons when all the five bookies in the south of Deptford High Street are empty, and on any day, morning, noon and night, one may be fuller than another.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Deptford Leave Me Alone Awards

I had thought this award was destined to go to TalkTalk but the latest chronicle about contacting the police must surely be odds on favourite to win the Golden Leave Me Alone Box.

Move along there - Police notebook - Betfred update

This week, Crosswhatfields was contacted by a Reuter's UK Equities editor for our view on the betting shop situation. This suggests there may be concern among the many investors in the area about the direction our high street is taking with the advent of yet another betting shop.

Whilst some may scorn the arrival of the developers, perhaps they may prove influential in halting the decline. And pigs may fly.

New people are moving into Greenwich SE8 (ha, ha) and finding not much to do locally without fear of being mugged and the value of their property plummeting. Although Lewisham planners are going large on regenerating the business heart of Lewisham town centre with their massive development on Lewisham Vale, it has always seemed that in Deptford they were merely building a dormitory from which city workers would be able escape on the DLR every day and not come home till they were ready for bed.

Meanwhile, look away now if you are of a nervous disposition or are about to renew your insurance premiums. We've been on the website looking at the Deptford crime map...It's December 2010 and it's not looking good for Creekside or the High Street.

On the No To Betfred campaign trail, we tried to get in touch with our local neighbourhood police, since one of the grounds for objecting to a Betting Licence application is to link gambling with crime and disorder.

Surely they would be able to confirm that the high street was getting a bit messy with an increase in begging, petty theft, street drinking, drug dealing and antisocial behaviour mainly outside betting shops, and this was increasing their workload unnecessarily? I mean, we don't want to exaggerate the crime in the area because it makes residents fearful and businesses suffer, but honestly, it is getting worse, isn't it, and don't you feel frustrated that the law in its present form that allows betting shops to open up whereever whenever makes it harder for you to do your job?

Oh, and by the way, how is it you were up on Ha'Penny Hatch three days running but not when someone got mugged (but that's another story)....

Notice in the following maps, if you dare, that there's a lot of stuff going on in side streets, ie just off the high street, in the dark, round the corner from a bookies.

14th January:
Three weeks ago, we emailed the New Cross Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) to ask if they could provide us with any statistics of incidents that related directly or indirectly to betting shops, since shopkeepers, traders and the local community were witnessing an increase in crime that they perceive is related to betting shops.

We asked that they treat our enquiry with some urgency since we hoped to include any information they could provide in an objection to the latest Betting Licence application by Betfred that had to be in by January 19th.

We also noted that many petty thefts were not reported by local shopkeepers because of the disruption in business that was caused. For instance staff in Greggs the bakers had been told by head office not to confront the daily shoplifting by junkies barging through the lunchtime queue (full of local schoolkids) to the cold cabinet to steal sandwiches. Other shops sometimes catch a thief red-handed only to end up in a totally embarrassing scene fighting outside their premises with their thief. Many shopkeepers quietly watch a shoplifter take a small item and go straight to the bookies opposite.

The shopkeeper inevitably finds another way to compensate for the loss, and suddenly something that was £1.99 is £2.10. Of course in the present climate, no one is surprised to see the 99p shop selling items at £1.20. In the present climate, the dry cleaner is paying 4 times as much for his dry cleaning fluid as he did last year, but cannot increase his prices without losing customers. He's never had a competitor because up till now Deptford folk can't afford to dry clean that often. God forbid there might be people who want it all the time, because if word gets out and with Lewisham Planning in (read: out of) control, before long there could be wall-to-wall dry cleaners. Or not. That's his fear and his fantasy and his dread. His offering of sewing and mending could keep him unique, but...

Meanwhile, amidst the downturn, a high street selling it cheap might do better where bargains are to be had. That has always been Deptford's secret. But new shoppers and visitors are unlikely to return and loyal shoppers unlikely to report to the police the number of times they have been asked for money by numerous beggars, and how they found it unpleasant. The more well travelled the resident or visitor, perhaps the more compartmentalised they may treat their visit to the high street, they'll be used to the begging in third world countries, but they may find it rather shocking that it is a young Chinese or Vietnamese boy poking them and then pointing to his mouth to be fed. They may even think it funny to be offered a stolen jar of coffee by a white geezer who looks like something out of Fools & Horses.

For the local community it is an enormous source of shame and it makes everyone who works there feel dirty. It's completely unsuitable for children.

But perhaps the Wire-style drug dealing outside betting shops (complete with overgrown boys on tiny bikes) hasn't quite got to the trendy levels it needs to get to achieve Brixton-like status yet...perhaps we need even more open drug dealing to make newcomers feel like they've found a funky new groove... 

Ten days later: 24th January:
We received a response from the "Business Support Unit". "Apologies for the late response...due to you sending this direct to the SNT mailbox".  (Er...that's the email address you give out on the Lewisham Met website). It then twittered: "Unfortunately we are unable to issue the information you requested."

We asked why this information wasn't available. The Haiku/Twitter answer: "Because you do not hold an Information Sharing Protocol with us."

We asked if it would be available to a Councillor, or a member of the Community Police Consultative Group? Could they point us in the right direction? No answer.

25th January:
We got a surprise email from the office of Freedom of Information Quality, Assurance and Compliance Team | Security Standards and Architecture | Directorate of Information | Public Access Office | Metropolitan Police Service (based in SW6).

It was a seemingly helpful email which said we'd been given the wrong information by the 'Business Support Unit' and that the Freedom of Information Act allows a right to request the information we had asked for, and if the question was framed in a different way, it may or may not be answered within 20 days. We were advised how to ask our question and to provide a list of the betting shops in question. We were also pointed to the Met Crime map ( which we already knew about, the London pre-trial to this week's new

We followed his advice and got an acknowledgement the next day which confirmed we might not get the info we wanted, nor in 20 days.

It was already too late anyway. If someone had replied when our first email went to New Cross SNT, we might have had an answer in time for the hearing on 9th Feb, but we were already in the middle of a Kafkaesque nightmare just by choosing to object. Nothing was made easy by any authority we had to deal with including Lewisham Licensing, Lewisham councillors, Lewisham Council, let alone the police. Faced with such fuckwittery it could only get better.

The only good news was finding out what other boroughs in north London are doing to combat the problem, more in another post. Locally it got worse. It was possibly the worst week to try and get information out of the police when they were too busy giving information out.

26th January:
We had also been advised by the FOI chap that we might contact our local SNTs via Lewisham Police station and were given a special email address, which we duly followed up. The Information & IT Support Manager at Lewisham Police Station replied: "The contact for the local SNT Teams can be found on the Lewisham page of the MPS website." (Yes, we tried that 2 weeks ago, we've been in a complete circle, mate)..."I have copied your emails to the two police sergeants for New Cross and Evelyn Wards."
(Ta ra-a-a!)

27th January:
The sergeant at Evelyn SNT replied that he'd be happy to meet or talk over the phone. We arranged to meet at his convenience on 31st January at the Evelyn SNT office. Nothing from New Cross SNT.

31st January:
The sergeant was friendly but more than a little distracted by the ongoing walkie-talkie conversations of his PCSOs who had just gone out on a recce. He was rather noncommittal about crime on the high street and how it related to betting shops on his beat, which are the north of the high street and in the Evelyn triangle plus one nearer Surrey Quays (6 in all but spread out). We pointed out that with reference to the Met's crime map, crime had risen in the north of the high street in December. He said that it was a 'spike' and that when they got the perpetrators who were usually the same well known faces and put them away, crime went down. Then when these people got out of jail after a short sentence, crime would spike again. He would say nothing about the south of the high street (even though we have seen him patrol it).

"What group do you represent?" asked the sergeant. Er, the high street and everyone who uses it? The PC with us during the conversation gave us a fridge magnet with their phone number on it. The number is 020 7161 9390.

Funnily enough it is the same number as the Lewisham Met website gives out for New Cross SNT. We called it later. It rang for a long time and no one answered. The same website gives a mobile number to ring (07843 065920). A ringing tone ended in disconnection.

1st February:
We rang the New Cross SNT number again (which is also the number given to us by Evelyn SNT). Finally came the answer, "Hello, Casualty Bureau, Hendon".

Sorry, wrong number, dial again. The same cheerful Geordie we now know as Dexie at Hendon Met Casualty said he'd been having a lot of misdirected calls.

Since the new Crime Mapping site had just gone online and crashed, it didn't seem surprising that other Met communications were fucking up.

Back to the Lewisham Met website page. According to the website, the New Cross team would be having a "Drop in Surgery" at DAGE in Deptford High Street between 10 and 11am the next day. We couldn't make that so we thought we'd go to their next surgery at Sainsbury's in New Cross 1-2pm the same day.

We emailed the New Cross team copying in the sergeant at Evelyn, saying we'd try and catch the New Cross sergeant at Sainsbury's the next day at their "drop in surgery" and if the New Cross sergeant wasn't going to be there could he please email back.

2nd February:
Nothing from the New Cross sergeant. We went down at 1.30pm to Sainsbury's. No one there. Sainsbury's Customer Services had FUCK ALL in their diary to do with the Safer Neighbourhood Team, they knew nothing about it. The car park was devoid of any signs or police officers.

Luckily it was not a wasted journey since before venturing out we had thought to empty the 2 year piggy bank savings of 1p and 2p pieces and deposit them in the coin exchange machine onsite. It was eerily similar to the sound of a gambling slot machine as the coins clattered in and began registering not just the estimated £5, but maybe £7, and then we passed £10 to get to the grand total of £14.98.

The machine takes 9p in every £1, so it's probably not the best way of saving, but you don't have to bag it up like you'd have to at your bank. Despite the shocking rate of interest it was a bonus, and there was enormously enjoyable irony in this particular exchange: we came to find coppers and found none, but we brought some with us and turned them into fifteen quid.

Back in Deptford we had to go and put a petition in The Albany. A week before, the marketing officer there had refused to have it. "If we take your petition, we'll have to take everyone's" was the line at the time. Now their position had changed, thanks to the intervention of someone more senior.

On the way, in the Douglas Way market, we spotted a couple of bobbies. Sorry, I mean New Cross SNT PCs. We pounced. "We've just been up at Sainsbury's looking for you and you weren't there!". Yes we were, they said. No you weren't, we said, we've just been there. "We were there from midday till 1pm". Er, that's not what it says on the Lewisham SNT website, we pointed out, but no matter, we have you now! "What did you want to see us about?" asked the PC who is like Dixon of Dock Green to Deptford High Street, everyone knows him.

We wanted to ask your sergeant to make a statement about how all the stuff that's going on now in the high street is linked to the betting shops. "Oh yes," both PCs nodded, "it's a problem, but why did you want a statement?"....because we've put in an objection to the new Betfred and we need back up from you guys..."Oh yes," they nodded, "we don't want that, last year we all of us made statements against the betting shop at the Deptford Arms, each one of us"...

WHAT??!!! Oh, so d'you think if we ring your sergeant he'll be able to have you do the same thing again? "Well you can try, give him a ring on...020 7161 9390"

No man, that number's fucked. "No, it's the right number, really, here's a card"...and he gives me a postcard with the number clearly printed on it.

OK, now we've been getting Hendon Casualty all week on that number, we're practically going out with Dexie now, we've had more conversations than most people have on any online dating service before they get married. Not that we don't want to talk to Dexie, but maybe the Met has sorted the exchange problems and we can talk to the sergeant at New Cross SNT now?

During and after another meeting (a living must be earned), we ring 020 7161 9390. No answer. And then Hello, Casualty Hendon. Dexie again. We promise not to ring him again, nothing personal.

He gives us another number. He's reported the problem and he's been given the number of Brockley SNT. We ring the number 020 8649 3599. It goes dead. 

Later on we try to find out how much the council gets paid from Betting Licences, based on a casual comment from Evelyn Ward SNT. We make online contact with Cllr Bell, hoping for a sane voice. We end up gravely insulting Cllr Bell over a completely unrelated but equally blood boiling matter.

3rd February:
Fuck'em all. Who's in charge? A load of fuckwits. Spend the day with people who agree with this general theme.

4th February:
We look at Lewisham Met website again. See a general number 0300 123 1212 that you must call if you don't want to call 999. Trust the connection will be to a central London Met exchange, so must be good enough even if we get sent round the houses.

Whoah! 0300 123 1212 gets straight through to New Cross SNT, how can I help you? though it's more like "Yeah, what do you want? You're getting in my face."

Well actually, can you ask Sergeant Mark Alger to answer his email, it's now become quite urgent. The situation was explained to the PCSO. He'll call you back, he'll answer his email when he's not busy, she said.

He didn't. Bad timing yet again. A big fire at Marine Tower, two dead, as we later found out.

Later. Looked at the spanking all new and see that the 0300 123 1212 number is quoted as the number to ring for New Cross SNT. All the numbers we've been given all week by team members are completely redundant. They don't even know themselves about this number. It's not on any fridge magnet.

Heard the sirens and saw ambulances earlier when trying to cross Deptford Church Street on way to Creek Road. Now Lewisham Homes will be in trauma as well as the Met, since it could've been a gas explosion?

Apologised for being rude to local councillor who has found out for us that Lewisham presently charge £2400 per application and a measly £480 annual fee.

Received details and papers from the Hearing Officer re Hearing for Betfred on Wednesday 9th Feb.
Includes Betfred's response to seven people's objections. Betfred have countered every objection rather predictably on the grounds that if there is antisocial behaviour, crime or whatever on the street related to other betting shops it's because the other firms aren't running a clean shop.

They on the other hand are going to run the cleanest shop ever. Nothing is going to go wrong INSIDE their shop. Anything that goes on outside is not their problem.

They fail to acknowledge who their potential customers are. And that is surely going to be a share of the clientele already using the other betting shops who supposedly manage things so badly.

Hanging out on the street annoying other people is what their potential customers do now. Why would they change their behaviour when they go into a Betfred?

Betfred can certainly blame other bookies for the present sorry state of affairs, however. When Paddy Power took over the Deptford Arms there ceased to be a place on the high street for Betfred's potential punters to go and spend time in a 'supervised and appropriate' environment. The only pubs left are now on the main road away from the more mainstream life of the high street that allowed more integration for a wider range of folk from all walks of life which to a certain extent curbed excesses. And those main road pubs are even further from the centre of the high street, so it can be assumed that with no pubs in sight that street drinking will prevail even more so around Betfred. And what can we expect at night? A return to mugging alley that the corner of HSBC used to be?

The agenda for the Licensing Committee on Wednesday 9th to also include putting up the Licensing Fee to maximum allowed by law to £3000 application and £600 annual fee. It's all chicken feed to the betting companies. We note that Lewisham think it worth noting that increasing the fee brings in extra £14000. Pathetic. That's half a holiday for Barry Quirk. But maybe enough to fight the next betting shop in court.

In desperation at not hearing from the New Cross SNT, we rang the New Cross Ward councillors, Padmore, Maslin and Long. All absent and useless as usual, except Padmore who was quick to recommend the others.

Noted that Betfred says in its application that out of all the bodies initially informed of their request for a licence (not the public) ABSOLUTELY NO ONE OBJECTED INCLUDING METROPOLITAN LICENSING.
Helpful Cllr Bell, despite not being at all well, suggested calling Lewisham Met Licensing to find out why they didn't object to the application. He's been told SNTs can only be 'consulted' but Met Licensing can 'object'. We conclude phone call at 4.45pm. Called Met Licensing but got ansaphone cos their office closed at 4pm.

Noted that only other case to be heard at same hearing on Wednesday 9th Feb is Sydenham supermarket trying to get 24hr booze licence and that only objection is from Safer Neighbourhood Team with 10-page report on crime and antisocial behaviour stats for the area.
Cllr Bell said liquor licence is different. Police are allowed more powers to intervene. The Gambling Law has to change.

Question: Who are the magistrates that preside over appeals?
Question: Why are there so many players (including some friends and politicians who refuse to sign petition) in this ridiculous charade?
Question: Why is this Human Rights clause included in the "Mandatory conditions forming part of the licence" when it is surely meaningless:

4. Legal and Human Rights implications

4.1 Licensing Authorities as defined by the Gambling Act 2005 section 1
(a) are public authorities for the purposes of the Human Rights Act
1998. Accordingly, they are under a duty to act compatibly with
convention rights in the exercise of their functions.

4.2 Article 6(1) of the Convention provides that everyone is entitled to a fair
and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and
impartial hearing established by law.

4.3 The right to apply for a licence falls within the scope of civil rights and
obligations in Article 6 (1) because it relates to the applicants’ right to
make a living and pursue commercial activity. Therefore, an applicant
for such a licence has the right to have the application determined fairly
in accordance with the guarantees contained within Article 6(1). Thus a
licence is considered to be a possession for the purposes of the
Human Rights Act 1998.

4.4 However, the right to hold a such licence is not absolute. It is a
“qualified right”. So, where the grant of a licence may affect the
interests of local residents or others, in a significant way, then article 6
(1) will be engaged. The right to hold a licence may be lawfully
interfered with where, for instance, it is in the interests of wider society
to do so.

4.5 Objectors’ rights under article 6(1) will not automatically be triggered
merely because they wish to object. The question of whether they have
a sufficient interest to engage is ultimately a question of fact.

4.6 The grant or refusal of a licence may also raise issues under article 8,
right to private and family life, article 10, freedom of expression, or
article 1 of Protocol 1 , right to peaceful enjoyment of possession. The
rights guaranteed by articles 8-11 of the Convention, are not absolute
rights. In the same way as the right to a licence is a qualified right, so
are these other rights referred to above.

4.7 Qualified rights may therefore be interfered with, provided the
interference is justified according to the conditions set out within each
article. So such interference must be legal, necessary in a democratic
society and there must be a reasonable relationship of “proportionality
between the means employed and the aim pursued”. The principle of
proportionality involves the striking of a fair balance between the
demands of the general interest of the community and the
requirements of the protection of the individual’s fundamental rights.