Friday, March 30, 2012

Zero tolerance on the high street

Although the high street was as lively as ever in the Spring sunshine yesterday, certain usually more rowdy areas were eerily quiet. Can you guess what is missing in these pictures?

The street drinkers who gather outside the betting shops and on the anchor have been "moved along". These spots are now being policed by the Safer Neighbourhood Team (or whatever they're called now). The officers first took up their posts on Wednesday and it's thought they might be around for a couple of weeks. We are unable to confirm how long this will last at time of posting, and also didn't have time to find out where the drinkers have "moved along" to.

Mostly everyone seems to welcome the arrival at last of the police presence – or rather, the absence of the street drinking crowd. Signs stating the high street is a zero tolerance zone have been up for a long time, so congratulations must go to whoever has finally decided to actually put it into practice.

UPDATE 30/03/12: 4pm

Officers were called off early for the day, as the regulars began to gather outside Ladbrokes in anticipation of their leaving. The two-week initiative is drawing on officers from all surrounding wards and several 'dispersal notices' have been issued since it started. Well-known character Errol was fined £50 for 'getting a bit too feisty', but was back in his usual spot next to Paddy Power today.

UPDATE 13/04/12

This initiative didn't seem to last for more than a week. The Deptford Dame posted on 7 April about the antisocial behaviour being tolerated by local residents, one of whom has started a petition (click to sign) and has also received a response from Mayor Steve Bullock regarding the problem.

It appears the temporary police presence was the result of the Safer Lewisham Partnership's Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) being applied. "The DPPO can now be used in tandem with Police Dispersal powers that allow Police Officers to disperse individuals causing alcohol related disorder from a particular area for up to 48 hours. If the individual returns to the area within this time they will be arrested. The enforcement of these dispersal orders will begin shortly and it’s hoped this will have a significant impact on the drinking habits of the problematic drinkers in the High Street area." Read the Mayor's letter in full on the Deptford Dame's post.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter Football Coaching on Crossfields

Leanne Taylor is a new tenant on the estate who is fantastically enthusiastic about getting young people active. So much so that she's organised a packed FREE two-week programme for the Easter holiday period, open to girls and boys aged 6 to 16 years.

Friday 30th March – Friday 13th April, 11-4pm (1pm–5pm on Sundays)
at Crossfields Estate Ball Court

But it's not just about football – the next two weeks will also include basketball, netball, rounders and cricket, with tournaments, competitions and prizes. Starting on Friday 30th, the timetable will go something like this:

Mondays FOOTBALL  • Tuesdays BASKETBALL  • Wednesdays NETBALL  
• Thursdays ROUNDERS  • Fridays FOOTBALL  
• Saturdays & Sundays MULTI SPORTS

Please note: there will be no supervision between 1pm–2pm.

Leanne is a fully qualified sports coach, and her company LMagic Youth Project employ fully trained staff (CRB checked and First Aid certificated).

Contact Leanne on 07984 362 835 or email

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Music with a message: United Vibrations

Local band United Vibrations have played at Crossfields Festival a few times. This summer they are booked into festivals all over the country. With trombone, sax, drums, bass and vocals, the genre description "jazz fusion" is apparently inadequate for this band – they prefer "Cosmodelic Afro-Punk" or "12Tone", and list Fela Kuti and Bob Marley among their inspirations.

Three of the band are brothers. The eldest, Ahmad, was born on Crossfields. Much older Crossfields residents may remember their parents Dave Dayes and Barbara Hicks, who left the estate in 1985 to take part in a council sponsored self-build home project in Honor Oak. They have been at the heart of the self build and renewable and sustainable energy movement ever since. (Read more about their latest project here).
The band say "12Tone" reflects the cultural melting pot of their surroundings and world view (although the name derives from the techniques of avant-garde composer Schoenberg). Described by some as "eco-warriors" and "philosophical poets",  they founded the record label 12 Tone Community Interest Company, which donates all its profits to "building zero waste, energy plus, carbon negative social housing".

The band's latest video "My Way" is shot in Deptford and features some well-known landmarks, as well as some fabulous dancers. It coincides with the release of their debut album "Galaxies Not Ghettos"on Kudos Records (available on Bandcamp, Juno and Amazon).

Check out this short Guardian video about DIY Britain, featuring Dave Dayes talking about self-build (skip to 5 minutes in to see Dave)...

Saturday, March 24, 2012


There are now bouquets and messages of remembrance up on the central railings at the pedestrian crossing on Deptford Church Street by Bronze Street where TJ was knocked off his bike and killed by a hit-and-run driver in an allegedly stolen car yesterday afternoon. 

The local press clearly have better things to do on a Friday afternoon than cover the news and, as yet, I've still not found any local journalist who has bothered to report it.  All I have managed to find is the traffic delay reports (oh the inconvenience!) so all I know about it is just from asking around.  Reports are that he was taken to hospital by air ambulance but died around midnight.

I'm sure Crossfields residents would wish to join me in offering our deepest sympathy to TJ's family and friends.  RIP TJ

EDIT:  According to a posted comment, the air ambulance did not take him, instead he was taken to hospital by road ambulance.

UPDATE (25/03/2012): 

The Newshopper finally got round to publishing its account this morning.  I've copied the article in full:

17-year-old cyclist killed in Deptford hit and run

POLICE are appealing for witnesses following a hit and run accident in Deptford which killed a 17-year-old cyclist.
Officers were called at around 5pm on Friday to Deptford Church Street, at the junction with Bronze Street.
A 17-year-old boy, named locally as TJ, had been knocked off of his bicycle by a silver Audi car as he was using the pedestrian crossing.
The car failed to stop and the driver continued south along Deptford Church Street, then turned around at the traffic lights before coming back to the scene.
Eventually, the driver stopped on the opposite carriageway before driving off again, turning left into Coffey Street.
The car, which had not been reported as stolen, was found abandoned in Watergate Street, Deptford, at around 7pm.
The cyclist was taken by London's Air Ambulance to King Collage Hospital with severe injuries and died there at 8.20pm.
Next of kin are aware but formal identification has yet to take place.
Inquiries are underway to trace the driver of the vehicle involved.
Anyone with information can contact the Road Death Investigation Unit at Catford Traffic Garage on 0208 285 1574 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

UPDATE (26/03/2012):
The Met Police say: "A 27-year-old man was arrested at approx 1430hrs on Saturday, 24 March, on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and failure to stop. He has been bailed to a date in May."

There is an Evening Standard article by a journalist who has actually spoken to TJ's uncle here:

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Olympic breakfast anyone?

Bikepest writes:

On Monday 23 July, early rising Crossfields residents will have the chance to glimpse from their windows the Olympic torch as it starts day 66 of its 70 day odyssey around the country.

Lewisham’s first torchbearer will leave the Laban Centre at 7.20am and take in key (!) Deptford landmarks on its way to Tooting Bec common. From the Laban, the torch heads north onto Creek Road to go west with the rush hour traffic, then turns left down the High Street and left again onto Giffin Street (and its brand new square), past the Deptford Lounge. It then turns right onto Church Street, passing the Bird’s Nest and Lewisham College before heading to the Steven Lawrence Centre and onwards to Lewisham High Street.

What’s less clear is who Deptford’s torchbearers will be. Though the names of the nominated individuals and some details are online (see the time slots are not revealed. Nor is it clear whether they are actually local residents, though all the Lewisham runners are described as living in London.

But Seb Coe can’t pull the wool over the eyes of your Crosswhatfields editorial team. Through painstaking research (OK it was just a chance discovery – ed.) we have established that at least one Lewisham torchbearer actually lives across the river in Newham. We’ve no objection to this, but clearly it would be more meaningful if torchbearers had some relationship with the community that hosts them. If you can cast any light on any of the local nominees, let us know so we can campaign for a Deptford-based torchbearer to represent us. That might, at least, make it worth getting out of bed for.

Check out the Olympic Torch Relay map online.

Olympics 2012: Blackheath Missile Crisis etc

RAF snipers will hover above Olympic sites in Lynx Mk7 helicopters

A reader reported seeing an armed military helicopter flying over our area last week. Possibly it was part of the MOD's evaluations to station Rapier surface-to-air missiles in one or more of six sites as part of the security measures for the Olympics. Two of the sites identified are on the heath itself and at Oxleas Woods (see BBC news).

The Blackheath Bugle has been closely following the story throughout March. The main concern as reported by the press is that local politicians were not consulted, but in reality the worry is that should short range missiles actually have to be deployed to bring down a hijacked aircraft, the plane(s) will fall in densely populated areas – possibly on us! Indeed, what better gift to a hijacker -on-a-suicide-mission can there be than the certain knowledge they will be shot down – after all, their target may not necessarily be the Olympic stadium.

The other concern is that official sources have stated the battery of missiles would be guarded by unarmed military personnel (thus presenting a possible target for attack themselves).

Meanwhile, during the Olympics the Royal Marines will be based on the Navy's largest vessel, HMS Ocean (a 'platform helicopter assault' ship) to be moored "just off Greenwich", and RAF heli-snipers will be deployed above East London and Greenwich, capable of "killing an enemy" more than a mile away (and over half a mile at night). Well, that'll put a stop to any rioting in Woolwich in August!

As of December 2011 the total number of armed forces expected to be involved in the security operation overall had increased to 41,700, pushing the security budget to over £1 billion (see The Telegraph). We can expect to see the armed forces patrolling in Greenwich too (7500 will be working as security guards checking visitors to Olympic venues), so...that'll be nice.

If the idea of ground-to-air missiles being stationed up the road (along with the build-up of military hardware and personnel in the area) does not phase you, and your feathers are not ruffled by the inevitable disruption to your daily transport routine, you may just find the prospect of the drone of helicopters coming and going and circling above us day and night may tip the balance. The Games are running from 27 July – 9 September, so if you don't have tickets and you aren't "getting involved" in any way, you only have around 125 days left to plan your escape.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Convoys Wharf Consultation Day - Saturday 24 March

Last week, Convoys Wharf site owners Hutchison Whampoa announced a Community Consultation event to take place on 24th March. Initially the details were vague – the poster mentioned presentations and asked people to RSVP but gave the feel of a 'drop-in' day. With such short notice and poor publicity, one might be forgiven for thinking they were not very serious about consulting the community on the future of this historic and important site.

However, an agenda for the day has now been announced that makes it imperative for locals and those concerned for Deptford's future to attend if they can, and to arrive in time for a two-hour presentation session that will include some of the community projects who have been working to influence the outcome for this site.

Visitors will also hear from Sir Terry Farrell, who has recently been appointed by the developers to 'review' the previously submitted masterplan which has raised objections from all quarters, including Lewisham planning. Deptford's MP, Dame Joan Ruddock, whose advocacy brought about the inclusion of local groups in the event, will also speak.

There will be two opportunities to tour the site (wear appropriate clothing and footwear): the first is at 11.15am before the presentations start, the second is at 2.15pm after the presentations.

The presentations start at 12.15 and will be followed by question and answer opportunities. Refreshments will be provided during the two-hour period. If you are unable to make it in time for the first site tour at 11am, but want to take a full part in these sessions, please arrive promptly at noon.

Here's the timetable:

11.00 Exhibition opens
11.15 – 12.15 Site and archaeological tour
12.15 – 14.15 Welcome from Hutchison Whampoa, followed by speeches and presentations, including Joan Ruddock MP, Sir Terry Farrell and colleagues, and local community groups (Second Wave Youth Arts, Deptford Is..., The Lenox Project, Sayes Court Gardens).
14.15 – 15.15 Site and archaeological tour
16.00 Exhibition closes

For further information and to confirm attendance please call 0845 460 6011 or email

See also Deptford Is..., Deptford Dame, Deptford Misc, Convoys Wharf

Friday, March 16, 2012

Crossfields artists on update on Tidemill...

A couple of Crossfields residents are presently showing their work in two different local spaces.

Deepa Chudasama from Holden House is one of six artists showing at APT Gallery, 6 Creekside, in a show titled Jam Tomorrow. The show runs till 1st April and is open Thurs-Sun, 12-5pm, and opens late on 30 March till 9pm for SLAM Last Friday.

Untitled and Hula by Deepa Chudasama

Stephen Mason (Wilshaw House) is showing with four others in Paraphernalia which opens tonight at the Utrophia Project Space on the high street, and runs till 28th March. Look out for the Art Dispenser from which you can buy some 'art' made by the Paraphernaliens for a quid.


The five 'Paraphernaliens' are in their final year at East London University, but three live locally. Stephen grew up in Reginald Road, attending Tidemill Primary and Deptford Green School.

Talking of Tidemill...

Last Saturday, a handful of locals picked up an invitation to an event at the old school, now being inhabited by Newbould Security. For one night only (6-8pm), with the title Project Zero: Changing of the Guards, the 'Newbould Collective' presented work about childhood, "in keeping with the former use of the school".  Says the blurb, "The presentation investigates the use of unused spaces within our communities and in transition remains sympathetic to the history and memories associated to these buildings."

The curious locals, arriving separately,  were met with varying degrees of inquisition at the security gate then ushered in to a friendly environment in one of the school's halls. There they join Newbould Collective's friends and followers, to look at art work by the six resident artists. We're told that musical entertainment commenced at 6.30, with a jolly rap artist rallying the audience for participation in a manner verging on the evangelical.

The artists and performers are living in the school (with a classroom each to work and live in) and were selected from Newbould's waiting list of creative types, who pay a 'license fee' rather than 'rent' (we wonder if they pay council tax?). It seems they were all really nice and the work wasn't bad, but the locals sensed an almost imperceptable air of a cult, as though they had walked into an Alpha course at Bear Church. One described feeling a heavy sense of betrayal, whilst being cajoled to "Smile!" by the friendly alien newcomers.

The blurb goes on, "Newbould Guardians is one of London's leading vacant property protection companies specialising in using disused buildings across the capital. We pride ourselves on the ability to create affordable living for London's artists. We believe that increasing a town's art can have an invaluable effect on an area....We believe that art builds community and we hope that these guardians will have a lasting effect on the people, culture and art within Deptford."

Cough, splutter...You might well ask, what the **** do we need more bloody artists for? Haven't we got enough already?!!! We hear that Anthony, who runs and manages the studios and spaces at the Old Police Station (and soon, Resolution Studios) had been looking at the school and its potential to house 100 artists (there is certainly room enough). Another studio manager was invited to look at the building but declined. It's not clear why they did not want the building, but it may have something to do with the temporary nature and uncertain future of the space, though that has usually not stopped artists studio groups in the past. However, it seems only a couple of people were approached, and it was certainly not made public (perhaps for fear of squatters). So instead, Lewisham Council has chosen to bring in some people from Camden and house only six artists, despite the fact that other artists groups in the area are soon to lose their work spaces which are scheduled this year to be developed.

The organisers of Deptford X (which kicks off in July), are hoping that they might be able to use the large spaces at Tidemill, since such spaces are in extremely short supply. If Newbould are able to open their doors for longer than two hours without frisking the visiting public at the gate, we'll eat our (rather cynical) hat.

Local artists searching for space must be sick as parrots. Many would say that Lewisham Council's regeneration plans in Deptford have parasitically fed on the "artistic buzz" created by the existing art community to make themselves look good and attract the developers, whilst giving very little back. Inviting Newbould to look after the school is a bewildering and hurtful step.

Meanwhile, someone has broken into the school keeper's house (between the school and Frankham House)...Nice work, Newbould Guardians!

Report on Fire Safety Meeting

A small number of residents attended the Fire Safety meeting called by Lewisham Homes on 6 March. Larger numbers were obviously anticipated since it was held in the new Studio space upstairs at Deptford Lounge.*

The meeting was convened by Malcom McBride, one of three new Fire Safety Advisors, who has previously notched up 30 years working for the London Fire Brigade. Malcolm explained that the meeting was by way of introduction to the measures Lewisham Homes was obliged, by law to implement (The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) in order to safeguard its residents.

Lewisham Homes, as the responsible body, must ensure that routes to emergency exist from premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times. We were shown six photos of various cluttered balconies on the estate, and Malcolm attempted to explain which items could be considered allowable and those which are verboten. However, we were all still rather unclear as to exactly what is allowed.

For instance, we had recently been issued by the council (not Lewisham Homes) with some handy but very large green recycling bags. Their size makes them too big to store in our tiny kitchens, so many people keep them outside. Malcolm pointed out that, filled up with paper and plastics, they were combustible and therefore a major fire hazard (thanks, Lewisham council!). Bicycles (and kids' tricycles) tied up outside homes were also considered obstructions – but where, we cried, were we supposed to put them, when LH itself was refusing to managed any of the storage areas on the estate? Malcolm was also unable to give us a maximum width and height for any plants and furniture we might be permitted to keep outside.

He told us that his fire safety team will be visiting the estate over the next couple of weeks and, where necessary, having a chat with those residents who are causing obstructions or storing combustible items. People who have installed grills at the entrance to their balcony may be asked to provide a spare key to let in the fire brigade, or asked to remove them. Parking in front of stairwells (obstructing access for the fire brigade) will also be looked at.

He also announced that Lewisham Homes will be fitting new front doors which comply with the latest fire safety standards to every home in the borough under its management. We were under the impression our front doors (relatively new) were already compliant, and it was not clear how fully this programme will be rolled out. According to guidance issued in 2011, front doors which open onto balconies which serve as the main fire escape, must be "self closing". Ours are not. In this matter (which may have cost implications for leaseholders) and all others, we await further news.

In the meantime, why not do your bit for yours and others' safety and clear your balcony of obvious trip hazards, obstructions, and inflammable materials. (Bikes, however, may remain a contentious issue).


People might remember that in January last year, LH sent a team round the estate to politely help us clear our clutter, but stuff wasn't removed without residents' approval, and the team didn't manage to get round all the blocks in the time allotted. Then in May, we got a letter threatening to remove items "stored in communal areas" within 14 days or else. By June 2011, on a walkabout on the estate with the TRA, CEO Andrew Potter declared he was considering a "zero tolerance" policy of balcony clearance in order for Lewisham Homes to comply with the law. Perhaps because this suggestion was met with complete horror by the residents present, it appears LH now seem to be pursuing the alternative, which is "managed use".

According to the guidance issued in 2011 by the Local Government Group regarding Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats, "a 'managed use' policy might permit residents to:
• place pot plants and door mats outside their front doors
• have framed pictures and notice boards on walls
• store bicycles, prams and mobility scooters in places that are out of the way and not likely to cause obstruction."

44.4 Sometimes residents see the common parts as communal amenity areas, where, for example, they can store bicycles, dry clothes and sit on furniture. Some landlords encourage this, particularly in sheltered schemes, in an effort to avoid the block having the appearance of an institution. The presence of, for example, door mats, pot plants, pictures and seating is seen as part of making the block homely for the residents.
44.5 However, many landlords battle with problems that can arise from this, particularly of residents taking matters to extremes (eg holding barbecues on access decks and escape balconies). A further problem is one of abuse, such as dumping unwanted belongings and rubbish in the common parts. Not only can this result in people potentially putting their own lives at risk, it could also endanger the lives of others.
44.6 The inappropriate actions of residents in this regard could also be exposing landlords and others who manage the common parts to liability under fire safety law.

'Managed use' involves ensuring there are clearly defined 'do's and don'ts' that residents can easily follow. However "it is more difficult for landlords to ‘police’, and for enforcing authorities and fire risk assessors to audit" and "it is likely to require more frequent inspections by landlords". But, "it should be recognised that residents may be put at significant inconvenience and resort to infringements of the policy through frustration. Consideration of the needs of residents in ways that encourage them to follow the constraints of such an approach can contribute significantly to fire safety. Providing suitable communal storage facilities...can greatly assist."

General points from the guidance that might pertain to us and which we can expect to see implemented might be:

• never allow storage of combustible material – where appropriate, make arrangements for residents to have communal facilities for storage
• never allow items to be left awaiting disposal, not even in chute rooms – even short term presence poses a risk
• only allow basic furniture and not upholstered seating
• if storage cabinets are appropriate, only permit lockable metal cabinets to be used and never timber or plastic sheds or lockers
• never allow residents to store hazardous chemicals, gas containers or flammable liquids in storage cabinets or dedicated storerooms and cupboards
• only allow scooters, bicycles, prams and so forth, if there are suitable areas, that will not pose an obstruction, where they can be kept.

The guidelines also state that a fire risk assessment need not always be carried out by specialists, such as consultants (point 33.2). Needless to say, LH have appointed some consultants (SANTIA) as well as their own Fire Team.

The guidelines also say (point 21.2) "fire exit signs might need to be displayed to assist in the use of an escape route with which people are unfamiliar. In a single stairway building, there is rarely a need for such signs. It is not usually considered necessary to signpost the route that residents normally use to gain access to their flats." Of course, Lewisham Homes, ever keen to throw money at sign-makers or spend money in the wrong places, have already seen fit to plaster the stairways with unnecessary fire exit signs. Doh!

Click here to download the Guidelines (and thanks, Bill).

*The lovely new studio space can be hired from £45 p/h. For smaller meetings, the Pink Palace is a bargain at £10 p/h.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bike Heads Spring Bash – Sunday 18 March

Union Cycle Works are hosting a day for people who love bikes and cycling:

Bike Heads Spring Bash
Sunday 18 March 2012, 10am – 3pm
121-123 Deptford High Street SE8 4NS (in the arches at the Deptford Project Yard)

10am - 1pm: Dr Bike repairs - heal your bike - get repaired & on the road
12.30pm: “Ride the Divide” film screening in the arch (popcorn provided)
2pm: Hear from Julian Sayarer - Guiness World Record Holder for cycling round the world - who will read from his book and speak about his world-touring experience
All day:
• Breakfast, bbq, cakes, cider...
• AMAZING raffle (Top prizes!)
• Silent bike auction - been looking for that perfect bike? Come and grab a deal!
• Music
• Bike beauty pageant - enter for a great prize!
Alternating every hour:
- Learn BMX tricks from Jake
- Learn basic bike maintenance skills from Jake, Edd, Jon and Nick

(Suggested donation £3-£5 – proceeds go to the Union Cycle Works Community Fund)

Union Cycle Works make bespoke bikes – find out more at their fab website or go along on Sunday and join the party!

UCW are also one of many projects in the arches who will have to move towards the end of the year, if not sooner, since their landlords, Cathedral plc have finally received planning permission (only last week) for the development of this site.

Deptford High Street update – and a new high street star!

A small exhibition has opened today at the Deptford Lounge to let folk know what Lewisham council has planned for the entire borough. Entitled Regenerating Lewisham, there are information sheets to read on all the major developments, including four pertaining to Deptford that cover Deptford Town Centre, Deptford High Street, North Deptford and Convoys Wharf.

You can also read all about it on the council's website's Regeneration pages, or pop over to the Deptford Dame's recent post about Deptford High Street improvements. Included in the plans are new paving, improved parking, and the long overdue return of a Town Centre Manager. The Dame also writes that the exhibition at the Deptford Lounge will run until 1st April, and members of the regeneration team will be on hand to answer questions on Wednesday 28th March (11am–4pm and 6.30–7.30pm).

Frankham House residents may be interested to look on the council's Regeneration pages at the plans (not included in the exhibition) for the old Tidemill School site, which involve demolishing much of Giffin Street and Reginald Road (residents will be rehoused), and building a new residential quarter on the Tidemill site including the conversion of the existing school buildings. With rumours abounding, Frankham residents may be relieved to read they are not due for demolition themselves.

Meanwhile, may we introduce you to the latest star of Deptford High Street:

Harry (or is it Harriet) Herring Gull has been entertaining the shoppers for a few weeks now. His/her favourite spot is outside "myFish", opposite Lobo Sea Food Stores and Fish Bros Pawnbrokers. The guys at myFish occasionally throw him a sprat, hence he is now a frequent (and extremely patient) visitor. Best view of this large bird's antics is with a cuppa in the front window of Bianca's caff.

Harry's mate watches and waits on the rooftop opposite...
The population of Herring gulls has declined over the past 25 years and over half of their UK breeding population is confined to fewer than ten sites. This scavenger therefore has Red Status (see the RSPB website). Birds falling into the red category are of the highest conservation priority. This may explain why Harry wears a ring on his right foot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Refund for The Wall!

Thanks to the efforts of Crossfields TRA, leaseholders in Browne, Cremer, Castell, Holden and Wilshaw will each be getting a £15 refund on their service charges.

This is because leaseholders were charged for the rebuilding of this wall below, which was damaged by a car in July 2010. Indirectly, tenants have also been charged (in their weekly rent), but it remains to be seen whether they'll notice any rent reduction.

The wall was not rebuilt for four months. The TRA was told by the Lewisham Homes rep attending a meeting in the months following, that the delay was due to Lewisham Homes pursuing an insurance claim. In August, a member of the Repairs Team turned up to rebuild the wall but was called off the job whilst there (in the presence of a TRA member). Also in August, a Quality Inspector referred in an email to the insurance claim being made to cover the damage, and assured the TRA that the rubble would be removed. A claim for the damage to a wire fence behind the wall would also form part of the claim.

The wall was finally rebuilt in November 2010. At the TRA AGM later in November, concern was expressed that the wire fencing behind the wall had still not been repaired, and the rubble not cleared. At some point later, a wooden fence was erected – with poor foundations, so that it is now falling down.

Leaseholders then got their bills in March 2011. The TRA requested an Itemised Breakdown of Repairs and discovered that five blocks had been charged for the rebuilding of the wall at a total cost of £3278.81.

Enquiries were made to find out why a charge had been passed on to leaseholders (and indirectly, to tenants too) when we had previously been told on several occasions that an insurance claim had been made.

Back came the answer:

- there was no record available of the Lewisham Homes' rep's statement that there would be an insurance claim,
- there was no record of the Repairs Team call out to repair the wall in August 2010, then being recalled (there should've been a void docket recorded),
- there was no record of the Quality Inspector's email to a TRA member which verified that an insurance claim was being made,
- there was, in fact, no record of any insurance claim.

The TRA (made up of voluntary unpaid members, mind – not staff paid to keep records of repairs and insurance claims) were then asked to put together a document detailing the evidence they held (in minutes, emails and photographs) to show that at all times during the process, they had been told that an insurance claim would be made. Confirmation that the evidence was accepted arrived last Thursday and we are told leaseholders will receive a letter about the credit to their accounts soon. It is not clear whether an insurance claim was ever made.

Apart from this all being no surprise to many that Lewisham Homes have cocked up again, this episode raises some questions:

– which office and what mechanisms are in place to check insurance claims against repairs?
– does this lack of monitoring also apply to recouping repair costs against contractor's guarantees and warranties?
– what exactly is covered by the insurance premium residents pay yearly (or included in tenants' rents)?

And, of course, with yet another display of administrative chaos, one might legitimately question the accuracy of all of our bills. With such poor record keeping and cross referencing, can they actually prove that the work they charge for was ever really done?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fire Safety Meeting reminder

Everyone should have received a letter from Ron Dixon, Head of Mechanical & Electrical at Lewisham Homes, inviting us to a meeting tomorrow.

Tuesday 6 March, 7pm-8pm at Deptford Lounge

The meeting is to "talk through what our fire policy is and what it means for residents", with an opportunity to answer any questions people may have.  

In the past, we have been requested to keep communal areas clear to minimise fire risk, and asked to "Never leave refuse sacks, bicycles, children's buggies, plant pots, washing or other obstructions in communal corridors or walkways."

One question might be: if Lewisham Homes want us to clear our balconies of obstructions to comply with fire regulations, what opportunities for outside storage can they provide?

We have recently been informed they have no plans to properly administer the existing storage areas (bike/pram sheds and "drying rooms"), so that everyone might have an opportunity to rent a space. Presently, it is a free-for-all whereby some people are paying rent on a shed whilst others are not, some have more than one shed whilst others have none, and a shed might only be acquired by breaking into one that appears not to be in use.

What are the safe and secure options for storing bikes (and indeed, pushchairs and prams) for those who have to store them outside their homes because their flats are too small, as well as, in some cases, having to carry them up five flights of stairs?

Meanwhile, many people will be strongly opposed to removing their balcony pot plants – will we be hearing alternative plans for the balcony gardens that presently, and in most cases, contribute considerably to the health and wellbeing of residents?

Another question might be: why is this meeting being held at the Lounge when we have a space of our own for such meetings?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tidemill update: Superhead resigns

Earlier today, children attending the brand new Tidemill School brought home a letter addressed to their parents and carers from Head Teacher Mark Elms – announcing his intention to retire at the end of the academic year in August 2012!

So only a few months after Mr Elms – against the preferences of both Lewisham Council and Tidemill parents – has taken the school out of local authority jurisdiction to become an Academy, and only two months after he moved the school into the new £24m building paid for by the local authority (us), he's leaving the sinking flagship!

The shock announcement comes hot on the heels of a Daily Mirror story last Saturday, reporting the GMB union's outrage that the 58 year old 'super-head' had been awarded £20k in bonuses "while his staff are being offered another pay freeze for a third year".

We wonder what Chair of Governors Keith Geary will do without his chum. When Elms worked elsewhere on a City Challenge project in Croydon, the school was awarded £120k to ensure pupils did not lose out, but Geary saw fit to award Elms 85% of the funding to his hero. Elms had previously reassured both parents and governors that he would be leading then into the future.

Picture credit: Jeff Moore for

Meanwhile, what is happening to the old school?

Lewisham Council have called in New Bould Guardians to look after it, that's what. Who are they? According to their website, they are a cheap option to paid security guards, an organisation that takes on empty buldings for a minimum of two months, placing "guardians" on the site – "real" people who have been conscientiously vetted. Examples of such folk include freelance photographer Emily, London firefighter Peter, and actor and opera singer Juan. Presumably, they get to live in the premises rent free.

Nothing wrong with that, but how much is Lewisham council paying for this service? There are already at least two artist-led organisations with established reputations for running highly successful spaces in Deptford who are facing uncertain futures with the tenures on the buildings they presently occupy about to run out in the coming months. Another successful studio group recently fell foul of Workspace's contractual shenanigans and found themselves homeless. Were these groups given any consideration, we ponder...