Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tidemill update: the hypocrisy of Lewisham Councillors

Update 12 November 2018: read analysis by Corporate Watch of Lewisham Councillors involved in the demolition of Tidemill Garden and Reginald House here.

Recently, Cllr Paul Bell, Lewisham's Cabinet Member for Housing, described Tidemill campaigners as "middle class anarchists who don't care about working class families in housing need".

Paul Bell's grasp of reality has been questionable ever since he rather hypocritically took up position in the Mayor's cabinet, having also stood in the Mayoral elections on a platform to get rid of the elected Mayoral system (and its unelected Cabinet)! Although all mention of this aim has been deleted from his blog, this Clarion interview with him from September 2017 spells out his previous views: "the reality is that the system of having a directly, elected executive mayor makes collective decision-making we need to fight austerity very difficult, as power is not shared between all councillors, which is why I want to abolish it." The article is worth reading in full.

Click to enlarge

Criticism of Tidemill campaigners has long been aided and abetted by another career politician, Joe Dromey – who, once re-elected in May 2018, along with his fellow re-elected councillor Brenda Dacres, couldn't wait to stand as an MP for Lewisham East when Heidi Alexander stood down. Within a few days of being re-elected!

Joe Dromey has been vigorously defending the Tidemill application on Twitter and Facebook since he spoke in favour of it at the bogus planning meeting back in September 2017, posting up the same mantra about homelessness, getting figures wrong, and refusing to listen to counter argument. His engagement on social media in defence of the scheme has been so sustained (minute-by-minute), it's a wonder he actually does any paid work, either in his day job or as a councillor.

Cllr Paul Bell's assimilation of campaigners is deeply flawed and disrespectful. For starters, some Tidemill campaigners are paid up members of the Labour Party, and some support the Greens. Nor can they all be described as middle class. If opposing a Lewisham Council plan to demolish housing and green space means you're both an anarchist and middle class, then there's thousands of anarchists in Lewisham! The fact is, while Labour won 60% of votes in the local elections, only 37% of the electorate voted. Out of a population of 306,000, less than 20% voted for the current Council. In New X Ward, the turn out was only 33% of the registered electorate, so Dromey's exorbitant claim for a Labour mandate in New Cross and Deptford is totally invalid (and also not very sincere, as he couldn't wait to jump ship!).

Perhaps Bell meant to say "artists" rather than 'anarchists'? There are certainly plenty of them in the campaign and the current occupation – painters, writers, musicians, theatre practitioners, film-makers, photographers, performance artists, sculptors, designers and architects – working collectively with people from countless other professions, jobs and walks of life, and all prepared to defend to the hilt what they believe is right.

Perhaps the only type of people missing from the campaign might be politicians. But no, in fact the campaign has received cross-party support from GLA members Len Duvall (GLA Assembly Member for Lewisham & Greenwich and Chair of London Labour), Caroline Pigeon (Lib Dem), and Caroline Russell (Green Party). The campaign has also been supported by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, London Wildlife Trust, London Play, the Alliance for Childhood and others.

Significantly, Cllr Paul Bell served on the Strategic Planning Committee when the planning application was first submitted in September 2016. Bell said at the time that there appeared to be no justification for the demolition of existing housing (Reginald House).

Because Family Mosaic were only offering 11% 'social' housing (which would in fact be 'London Affordable Rent' not real social housing), the demolition of Reginald House, the loss of green space and neighbours' loss of light could not be justified. Campaigners then pursued all the so-called democratic channels available to them to persuade the council to change their plans. In meetings held before the planning application was resubmitted in September 2017, none of the issues raised by the campaign (such as demolition of sound Council homes against the residents' wishes) were addressed – the Council only wanted to talk about the new landscaping with what they described as "the gardening group".

As previously reported planning permission was granted in September 2017 with only 37% social housing on the table. It was another six months before the the Council announced they had secured 53% social housing by pledging £4.3m of Right To Buy receipts into the plan, effectively subsidising the developer for profits lost on changing previously planned private homes to 'affordable'. 

Since the 2017 decision, campaigners had lobbied countless stitched up Council meetings and bogus Scrutiny Committee meetings – the most recent being the total lack of scrutiny of the new Mayor & Cabinet's decision to renew their contract with Peabody (formerly Family Mosaic) and Sherrygreen Homes. Campaigners saw the contract renewal as an opportunity for the Council to reconsider their plans.

But in response to the campaign group's lobbying of all Lewisham's councillors, Cllr Paul Bell put out a Briefing to the Labour Group explaining the Council's reasons for proceeding – whilst also admitting the Council would not suffer any legal consequences by not renewing the contract.

The fact that Family Mosaic (now Peabody) had spent £3m already but had nothing to show for it was due partly to not being able to get on and build at Amersham Vale (approved in 2015), to which the Tidemill plans were twinned in the Southern Housing Sites scheme, and also due to the delays caused by them not stumping up a high enough quota of affordable housing. They only have themselves to blame. Nevertheless, the Council put out a press story that they would be sued by the developer if they did not go ahead.

Confident that they had won the battle, the Council's Regeneration Team gave notice on the garden for the 'gardening group' (which by now was a full-on campaign known as Save Reginald, Save Tidemill) to hand back the keys. When they came to lock up the garden at 6am in the morning on August 29th, the campaigners were ready to occupy it. Tents and tree houses had been erected the previous night and a vocal crowd gathered outside. Council Regeneration Officers did not even attempt approaching the gates, claiming (untruly) that the protesters were violent and not even part of the campaign group.

Only two days before, the campaign had applied to the High Court for permission to mount a Judicial Review of the 2017 Planning Application, for which they had begun crowd-funding.

Three weeks later, on September 20th bailiffs served a Possession Order to 'Persons Unknown' (despite the Council knowing who the campaigners are), but this was fought off a week later in Bromley County Court and the possession order was postponed on the grounds that an application for Judicial Review was in progress, and its outcome was to be awaited.

Unfortunately the Judicial Review application was refused by a High Court judge who failed to understand the technical point on which the case was based. Undaunted, the occupation continues, whilst a further 'oral hearing' for Judicial Review is pursued. A third option is to appeal should the oral hearing fail.

In the meantime, a further eviction order has now been served by the Council.

The occupation has now been in place for 8 weeks and has generated much interest in the media, with BBC London Live, BBC Radio London and independent film-makers coming down to report. The garden has been open to the public during most of that time, with local people bringing food and supplies to the occupiers. Support has grown hugely for the campaign, whilst Lewisham Council's popularity ratings have declined considerably (except among themselves).


Update November 2018: the violent eviction of the Tidemill Garden occupation on 29 October (in which two members of the campaign were assaulted, including a grandmother) has been well documented in other places, notably here:

Other accounts can be found on YouTube – search "Tidemill Eviction".

Find the campaign at

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Tideway Tunnel upate – worst fears confimed

We fought the law, and the law won. Or rather, back in 2014, the poor people of Crossfields fought the lawyered up people of Millennium Quay over whether the monolithic Tideway Tunnel would locate a shaft on Deptford Church Street (and destroy 45 trees) or on the river at the privatised Millennium Quay.

Naive campaigners who joined Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart to stop the site at Church Street didn't even realise that the main event would be at Greenwich Pumping Station, just across Deptford Creek. All information on that site was reserved for those living in Greenwich and not open to consultation to anyone living in Lewisham. For Crossfields peeps on the border of Lewisham and Greenwich, the two were both relevant and now we're surrounded by disturbance from both.

Tideway CONsultation has been set in place with so-called regular meetings with the community, but the meetings are always centred on Greenwich and chaired by a Greenwich councillor. The Deptford site is treated as secondary – it's as though no one is actually running the site at Church Street, and therefore no one is answerable.

Yet it is Deptford Church Street which has been causing major noise since mid July. Apologies and notifications come from the Greenwich site about piling in the Creek (indeed very loud, but not continuous), but there is no news or resident notification from the Church Street site where they've been drilling two holes, one of which operations sounds like an air-raid siren stuck on a continuous note for hours at a time. The noise went on for two months. They just denied it had ever happened. The higher tones of the droning noise is lost in this YouTube video:

We now have an update from Tideway on future plans, as reported back by Crossfields TRA from a recent meeting on 2 October. The news is that the local situation is only going to get worse:

Notes from the Greenwich Pumping Station & Deptford Church Street Community Liaison Working Group (Tideway project) Meeting, Tuesday 02 October 2018 
There are three things that will happen soon and affect Crossfield residents, some more than others:
From November 2018 until 2021, the northern lane of Deptford Church Street will be closed to traffic. This is so that Tideway engineers can build an interception chamber and connecting tunnel to the original sewer, built by Joseph Bazalgette, that runs under Church Street. The southern lane will become two-way. This will cause congestion and more cars could come along Creekside, as an alternative route. 
From November 2018 for three months, the acoustic shed will be built over the shaft at the Greenwich Pumping site. The shed will be 70 meters tall. It will be closeto the DLR track and cannot be built during the daytime when the DLR is in operation, because of risk to the travelling public of falling steel girders or tools. It will be built through the night from 01:00 to 05:00, from November for 9 weeks. The engineers claim the usual level of outdoor night-time background noise is 61dB and that the level at the construction site is expected to be 67dB (the sound of a passing car, 7.6 metres or 25 feet away, travelling at 65mph). There will be light pollution. The site will be very brightly light.
Residents affected by the work can ask for support to minimise the disruption, such as black-out blinds or curtains. Do it quickly by contacting the Tideway Helpline on 08000 30 80 80 or email
The acoustic shed is designed to reduce tunnelling machinery noise. When tunnelling starts in 2019, it will happen for 24 hours a day, for two and half years. It will connect the shaft at the Greenwich Pumping Station to the one in Deptford Church Street. The tunnel will run 70 meters below Farrer House lawn. It will be 7.7 meters in diameter – as wide as the Channel Tunnel.
When the tunnelling starts the spoil will be taken away by trucks and by barges. At the Greenwich Pumping Station there will be 110 trucks a day arriving empty and leaving full via Norman Road and Greenwich High Road. The site can only accommodate 6 trucks at once. To manage the number of trucks there is a plan to have a waiting area in Greenwich High Road, similar to the one outside Frankham House in Deptford Church Street. So, even more traffic congestion in the area.
Back in 2014, campaigners predicted pollution in the area would increase dramatically with Tideway's plans to partially close Church Street whilst redevelopment at various local sites was set to increase. Yet Lewisham Council not only continue to work with developers on plans for more construction work (Sun Wharf and Creekside Village East), but are actively instigating them too (Tidemill and No.1 Creekside).

Read more about the full cumulative impact on local residents in journalist Andy Worthington's recent blogpost.


Here is Tideway's response to complaints about noise at the Deptford Church St site:

Thank you for your reply. I am sorry if you felt we had not answered all your points.
Please see our response as below. I have tried to answer all your points and I look forward to meeting with you.

Thank you for your reply of 24 August. Unfortunately, you haven’t answered all my questions. 
1. You say that the noise reports are available on your website, but there is still no published noise report on the website for Deptford Church St since April 2018 – or at least not where you’d expect to find them, e.g.
2. You did not provide me with the latest noise reports as I requested. 
3. You state that there have been no noise ‘exceedances' recorded in July and August, which I take issue with. 

Unfortunately, we do not supply noise prediction data to residents. We prepare noise predictions and associated assessments, based on planned construction activity as part of our Section 61 submission to the local authority. The Environmental Health Officer (EHO) then reviews the submission to ensure that the construction activities, and the associated noise mitigation proposed, is appropriate. Only once the EHO is satisfied that we are following Best Practicable Means (BPM) to minimise noise impacts to those living or working around our construction sites, would approval of the Section 61 be granted.   Please be assured that one of the EHO’s key roles is to ensure we are keeping noise levels as low as reasonably practicable and that as a specialist in this field, they review the predicted noise levels in the S61 submission in detail.

During construction, noise monitoring using both fixed and attended monitoring is undertaken to ensure works are in accordance with the approved S61 and any exceedances, together with an explanation of their cause, are reported to the EHO. Residents are advised of any monthly exceedances at the next Community Liaison Working group and this information is also available on the Tideway website within the CLWG presentation.

4. No doubt you are only requested to report peak occurrences (variance from agreed norms) as is the case with construction sites in general. However, the noise we are having to tolerate is a continuous drone with few peaks so is unlikely to get reported. The noise is there all the time, but is particularly accentuated by wind direction, and is notably intolerable when there is a north or north west wind. 

We monitor the equivalent ‘A weighted sound pressure level’ over standard reference periods, with the daytime period being 10hrs. This metric is used as it is most appropriate and inclusive of all sound energy during the day.

We have a management system on site to ensure that all practicable measures are implemented to ensure that thresholds agreed with the local authority are not exceeded.  Meteorological conditions, do not have great influence on sound pressure levels over relatively short distances and influence is dependent on frequency, with greater reduction experienced in higher frequencies, where some shadow regions may be produced upwind of sound source. Please see below illustration which explains the effects based on wind velocity upwind and downwind.

5. The noise started in July. That is surely significant (see point 6 below). There was minimal noise from the site in April. Now it is exceedingly loud. Is it not important that people can no longer enjoy the quietude of St Paul’s Churchyard since July?

In April, we started site installation works including; platform preparation, office installation, services connections and plant installation ahead of construction of the Diaphragm Wall. The machinery required for those works was light to medium plant.  From June, we started the bulk of the construction work. The first phase of the Diaphragm Wall works, required the use of heavy plant such as cranes, a hydrofraise, (which is a is a drilling machine), and a grab (which is a large vehicle with a hydraulic loading arm).  We expect to continue using both light and heavy machinery during the ongoing construction work.  I am sorry for any disruption caused during this time.

6. You have failed to acknowledge my request that you come and monitor noise levels at surrounding elevated sites (such as my home). I would therefore like to take up your offer to meet with you to discuss the issues. I suggest the meeting takes place at my home so that you can hear for yourself the source of our complaints. 

We currently undertake attended noise monitoring at points agreed with the local authority. We also have static noise monitoring points around the site perimeter.  Myself and a colleague would be happy to make an appointment to attend your address during the day. I would propose either:
  • 11 am on Friday 21 September or 
  • 2 pm   on Monday 1 October
Please let me know if any of these dates and times are suitable for you.


7. Thank you for the information on the Deptford site. I note there two excavations going on at two different parts of the site. You don’t mention or account for the second excavation which increases the noise levels, but only refer to the main shaft construction.

We have recently finished constructing a Diaphragm wall on both the Combined Sewer Outfall (CSO), and the shaft area.
The work consists of the following sequence:
  • Excavation using the hydrofraise for the shaft and the grab machine for the CSO.
  • Installation of reinforcement cages
  • Concreting
We are therefore excavating and pouring concrete concurrently.  We progress the two areas at the same time to concentrate the works during a reduced period, rather than consecutively.

8. I note that this information is STILL not available where you would expect to find it on your website ( Where there was absolutely no information before when I wrote to you, now there is a report about the works at Greenwich Pumping Station. This is not the information I expect to find on the Deptford Church Street page. It is not the same site, even if your engineers consider the two sites inseparable. 

There are separate Tideway web pages for both Deptford Church Street and Greenwich Pumping Station worksites. When the latest Information Sheets for each site are distributed they will also be posted on the website.

We do have a joint Greenwich Pumping Station and Deptford Church Street Site Community Liaison Working Group (CLWG).  The last presentation, which includes information about both sites, can be found  at

9. As stated previously, residents have not received any information via our letterboxes regarding the work at Deptford Church Street. We only get information about Greenwich. Re the points above, the noise from Deptford Church Street began in July and significantly affects everyone who is above ground and first floor level in surrounding ‘receptors’. The noise started without notice, warning or advance apology and there has been nothing to acknowledge that inconvenience.

The previous information sheet sent out specifically for Deptford Church Street was in May, as previously mentioned.  These are only sent out when there is a significant change in work.  A further Information Sheet for Deptford Church Street site, was sent this week and is now on the website. You can find a copy of this here .

Any Information Sheets are hand delivered to a 100m radius of each site, emailed to those who have requested to be kept updated and posted on the site notice boards.  As with all construction sites the information provided is regularly updated.

10. You have indicated that the current phase of construction works will continue until mid-October. Are you therefore able to say what comes next? Our concern is that similar noise will continue for four years; you have not addressed this.

The latest programme of work will be presented at the next Community Liaison Group (CLWG) on Tuesday 2ndOctober and posted shortly after on the websites.


11. Prior information to residents about the Greenwich site has been good, unlike at Church St (I assume the notices go to all flats on the estate?). The piling work in Deptford Creek has been intermittently loud, but this has been bearable because it is only temporary, and at the site in general the noise has so far been much less intrusive than Church St, although low frequency noise and vibration has been perceived this past week in the early hours of the morning. 

Information sheets are delivered to a radius of 100m at both Deptford Church Street and Greenwich Pumping Station. The River Times publication is hand delivered to a 250m radius. 

12. Thank you for the update on the acoustic shed at the Greenwich site. I had assumed the lower volume of noise from Greenwich was due to the shed already having been installed, but now I’m concerned that the louder work is still to come and that this will be at night (24 hours). The merits of the acoustic shed at Greenwich have yet to be tested. In my opinion, such a construction is also required at Deptford Church St. 

An acoustic enclosure will not be located at the Deptford Church Street site, nor any other Tideway site not associated with the tunnel boring operation. This approach was agreed with the Secretary of State and Local Authority.  In addition to this, unlike the Greenwich site, we are not intending on working overnight at Deptford Church Street and will be working in accordance with our consented hours (from 0800 to up to 2200 on weekdays, 0800 to 1700 on Saturdays and not on Sundays).


13. You have stated that “neither CVB Tideway nor Thames Water have been working on a Sunday, or on drains near to the Browne House and Castell House as you mentioned”. Whilst I appreciate your information, I find it strange, as the sub-contractors McAllister (01753 916339 according to their van signage) said they were working for Thames Water. 

14. We assumed it was part of the Tideway Project as the three drains in question are major connections to the storm drain on Deptford Church Street. Perhaps McAlister have been called out by Lewisham Council’s housing managers Lewisham Homes. However the three drains they have been working on are not private drains – they belong to Thames Water. I wonder if you have the capacity to investigate this strange anomaly further on our behalf with the contacts you have at TW? Meanwhile I will enquire via Lewisham Homes. 

Thank you for the updated information and for permission to pass on your details and enquiry to Thames Water, this information and request has sent to them. They are currently investigating this matter further and will reply separately.


15. You have suggested that perhaps rather than follow up with you, I should instead contact Carlo Ombello who deals with specific circumstances on a case-by-case basis. 

16. However, I believe this issue affects more than those identified by Tideway's definition of Special Cases – for instance, retirees in particular and parents with young children. They are not included. Everyone should be protected from the intolerable noise currently being created by your work, however valuable that work is.  

Individuals are entitled to apply if they consider they are being adversely affected. Each case is individually assessed by an independent panel.

17. I also note you do not comment on provisions made for other ‘receptors’ such as St Joseph’s school and Resolution House. I can see that St Joseph’s doesn’t have the promised double glazing on upper floors (especially when the noise from the site is intolerable from the elevated Deptford station platform). 

Whilst we cannot comment on individual circumstances and agreements, I can state that we remain in contact with both the school and the church. The noise mitigation measures agreed with the school have been put in place to their satisfaction.


18. I have given up going to these, they are meaningless in terms of consultation. Tideway refused to share any data on baseline noise and dust to Goldsmiths research project Citizen Sense, and that is indicative of how much information you’re prepared to share. 

I am sorry if you feel that the CLWGs are not useful for you. The Code of Construction Practice Part A (S3) outlines the requirements for meetings to be held with the residents (or their representatives), businesses and other local occupiers to keep them informed about the works and to provide a forum for them to express their views. The Terms of Reference for the Community Liaison Working Group can be found here:

19. The last meeting occurred well before this noisy work started. I still receive notifications, but I leave it to our TRA rep to attend. Any information is disseminated in minutes rather than more widely, so it is not enough for you to rely on these meetings as a form of ongoing consultation. Likewise, important information shouldn’t have to be searched for in ‘minutes of meetings’ on your website.

As previously mentioned the last CLWG was held on 8 May.  We deliver Information Sheets to addresses within a 100 metre radius and the River Times to a 250 metre radius of the sites. We also send out these updates and minutes of the meetings via email to those who wish to receive it, place information the notice boards and have a 24/7 helpdesk to answer queries and complaints.  Each email or telephone call is investigated and receives a full response.

20. I note that the September meeting was postponed till October, perhaps not down to holiday arrangements as claimed, but maybe to avoid some difficult questions about noise while that noise has been ongoing for several weeks, yet so far no one at Tideway will own up to it.

The next Community Liaison Working Group as previously stated will be held on 2 October. This postponement was requested by the Chair, Cllr Mahboob, due to his commitments.