Missing London Squares of Lewisham

A public outcry at the development of green spaces in London including Euston Square where local residents, the National Trust and the London Society opposed to the building a friends meeting house led to the creation of the Royal Commission on London Squares.

The Royal Commission report says that

“… The enclosures, particularly those which abut on roads and are open to the public view, are a very distinctive and attractive feature of the plan of the parts of London in which they are situate: similar open spaces are not to be found except to a very limited extent in other towns in this or other countries. It is
beyond question that the enclosures add greatly to the amenities, not only of their immediate surroundings, but of London as a whole, and the air spaces they afford are of benefit to the well-being of the community. Their loss to any extent would effect an alteration in the characteristic development of the parts of London concerned which would, in our view, be deplorable.”

The Royal Commissioners define the purpose of London Squares as

“… the enclosures should be reserved as ornamental gardens or pleasure grounds or as grounds for play, rest or recreation, and that the erection of buildings or structures, other than buildings or structures necessary or convenient for the enjoyment of the lands for those purposes, should be prohibited.”

The London Squares Preservation Act of 1931 followed. This gave statutory protection to 461 squares and other green spaces in greater London and was supported by the London County Council. It is significant to note that about one fifth were publicly owned. A contemporary account of the passage of the legislation in The Vote – the weekly publication of the Women’s Freedom League – on 4th September 1931 says: “It is the people’s and especially the electors’ duty to see that the open spaces of the land are safeguarded, and this…should have a prominent place in the programme of all candidates in the forthcoming elections.

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There are two areas specified in the legislation under Metropolitan Borough of Deptford that are within the London Borough of Lewisham currently.

The Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham has its own entry in the Schedule

London Squares in the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham – Queen’s Road circle will be the roundabout at the top of Taymount Rise in Forest Hill as this was renamed.
Listed in the second Schedule

The tensions between development, house building and the population’s need for open spaces for health and recreation and the need to put in place proper measures to mitigate climate change are today’s political issues. Particularly, those living in social housing need green, open spaces more now than ever.

Lewisham Council is still consulting on the planning policies in the Lewisham Development Plan that will used to judge and shape the borough’s future building and infrastructure for ten or more years to come.

The London Squares included in the planning policies in force now are listed below:

London Squares listed in Lewisham Council’s current planning policies

There seem to be fewer squares listed in Lewisham Council’s Development Management Local Plan now than in the enacted legislation for 1931. It would be very interesting to find out what happened to the missing London Squares?

The regeneration plans for Catford should include full protection for the current London Squares that exist along Rushey Green. However, new green and open spaces are needed to combat pollution of the busy roads – now is the time to increase the amount of green, open space and parkland across the whole of the London Borough of Lewisham and heed the advice of The Vote.

Catford Island Site Planning Consultation Launched

A leaflet and website have been published for local residents outlining the early development proposals for the Catford Island Site – this is the area in Catford where Plassy Road School once stood. Currently, there is a shopping area with a Lidl, bingo hall and some other retail outlets with a car park.

Map of the road layout showing the Catford Island Site courtesy Google

The website sponsored by the partners involved in the development is here: www.catfordisland.commonplace.is

The five page leaflet can be read below.

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You can contact the project team directly with comments by calling 0800 999 1523 or emailing hello@catfordisland.com

Lewisham Council have published a Catford Town Centre Framework planning document

Local Councillors have announced the consultation on twitter

A ten storey building at 161 Rushey Green has received planning permission on appeal. This is adjacent to this site and forms part of the Plassy Road land known as the Catford Island.

Full details in the brochure here

New MP Boundaries – What This Means For Lewisham

new parliamentary boundaries proposed for Lewisham

The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has published its initial proposals for new constituency boundaries. The public are now able to view and provide feedback on the proposed constituencies as part of an eight-week consultation process. Lewisham will see little movement except that the current Lewisham West & Penge seat will realign from a cross Borough boundary seat with Bromley to a cross boundary seat with Southwark forming a new Dulwich & Sydenham constituency.

Dulwich & Sydenham, Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham East constituencies. Green marks borough boundaries.

The current MP for Lewisham West & Penge is Labour’s Ellie Reeves, whilst Dulwich & West Norwood is represented by Helen Hayes – a Labour seat currently.

The 2023 Review of Parliamentary constituencies was formally launched in January this year. The BCE is required by law to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is more equal.

This means that the total number of parliamentary constituencies in England will increase from 533 to 543. More locally, the number of constituencies in London will increase from 73 to 75.

The Commission is undertaking an independent review of all constituency boundaries in England and will present final recommendations to Parliament by July 2023. Publication of the initial proposals on 8th June 2021 is the first time people get to see what the map of new constituencies might look like. The rules that the Commission work to are such that wide scale change is inevitable. Under the proposals announced today, just under 10% of the existing 533 English constituencies remain unchanged.

Every parliamentary constituency must contain between 69,724 and 77,062 Parliamentary electors.

The BCE is consultation allows comments and proposals to have regard to local ties, geographic factors, local government boundaries (as they were known at 1 December 2020), existing constituencies, and minimising disruption caused by proposed change.

Tim Bowden, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, said: “Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of Parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the Commission’s initial thoughts. Help us draw the line to make the number of electors in each Parliamentary constituency more equal. Each constituency we recommend is required by law to contain between 69,724 and 77,062 electors, meaning there will be significant change to current boundaries. We want to hear the views of the public to ensure that we get the new boundaries for Parliamentary constituencies right.”

View the proposals and have your say on our online www.bcereviews.org.uk

New constituency boundaries showing the local wards as they are now.
Old and new constituency boundaries


Catford Town Centre Framework – A Masterplan?

Lewisham Council has released their plans for a £500 million redevelopment of Catford and they are asking for comments and views. The aim is to inform the proposals that will be developed and any new buildings will have to conform to these plans. Hopefully, the Council will have learnt the lessons of the ill fated, 19 storey Catford Tower that caused controversy back in 2015/16. This planning committee meeting was held in the Council Chamber because of the number of objectors attending. The local newsshopper reported this.

New homes could be built along Rushey Green above the existing shops, above the Catford shopping centre, within the Plassey Road island where Lidl and McDonalds are currently.

At this stage, Lewisham Council need to decide the total amount of new housing. Their size and height and the amount of social housing, affordable and private housing needed to make sure that Catford is a mixed community. This includes the amount of play spaces for different age groups, daylight and sunlight to existing and new buildings in the area and within the site. Equally important is the servicing and other requirements of commercial and other uses to ensure a high quality living environment. How will the rubbish be collected? Where can lorries load and unload?

The document runs to over 130 pages and the public consultation is due to be completed by Friday, 5th February. Please read the full document here:

CatfordTownCentreFramework2020-4-2900121

You can write an email to Lewisham Council with your views to planning.policy@lewisham.gov.uk

Broadway Theatre joins West End going dark amid coronavirus fears

The Broadway Theatre in Catford has announced that it will close temporarily following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday 16th March that the public “should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.”

Equity the actors’ trade union reacted immediately with a statement saying: “The implication of this advice is that almost all theatres in the UK, including the West End of London, will close with immediate effect for a period to be determined.”

The Society of London Theatre and UK responded by saying: “The safety of our audience and workforce is paramount to us as we navigate this challenging time. We, therefore, regret to announce that as of this evening all SOLT and UK Theatre member venues will close this evening (including tonight’s performances) in light of the most recent official government advice. They will remain closed until further notice and will re-open as soon as possible, following government recommendations.”

“The magic of theatre lies in its live performances and it is not something that can be experienced in the same way remotely”

As the Government’s announcement stopped short of a ban or order to close, fears that the inevitable financial losses would hit the theatres sparked anger.

Many in the entertainment industry are on zero hour contracts and precarious terms and conditions.

The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications & Theatre Union, BECTU report: “Theatre workers have been dramatically affected by the government advice. At the time of the survey 36% called for Bectu to lobby the government for pay if public events are banned while 31% asked for sick pay that covers self-isolation.

These findings show that theatre workers, many of whom work on casual contracts and zero-hours contracts, had already anticipated the measures the government introduced later in the week and were aware of the precarious situation they are in.”

Doubts about whether the theatres have insurance cover have been riased. The Stage newspaper commented that the lack of clarity in the wording of the government advice “will give insurers another possible argument to avoid paying out”.

Meanwhile, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP pledged to press for an “effective package of measures” and claimed “The government has prioritised loans for business but has not secured assurances that jobs will be protected in exchange.”

 

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Cllr Alan Hall said: “Lewisham is the home of many in the creative and entertainment industries. I know we will pull together as a community but the Government need to provide the funds.

 

“It’s Time to Act – Let Lewisham Breathe” say Extinction Rebellion

High levels of air pollution in Lewisham prompted Extinction Rebellion to mount a swarm demonstration to stop the traffic on Friday, 14th June.

Eco activists, school children, their parents and supporters blocked the South Circular Road handing out a flyer apologising for the disruption but calling for action now, saying:

“Lewisham currently experiences six times the level of air pollution recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Lewisham has committed to zero Carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and road traffic is the biggest cause of greenhouse gases in the UK.

With 11 years left to phase out our reliance on fossil fuels, we must act now to persuade Lewisham Council and the UK Government to put policies in place to give  future generations hope and survival.”

 

Signs were held in memory of Ella Kissi-Debrah aged 9 who lived in Hither Green and died of a fatal asthma attack. A fresh inquest into the causes of her death was ordered by the High Court on 2nd May.

One of the grounds for calling a fresh inquest was that permitting illegal levels of air pollution was a potential breach of human rights under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – which protects the right to life. The court accepted new evidence including that based on a report by Professor Stephen Holgate that is reported to state that: ‘Unlawful levels of air pollution contributed to the cause and seriousness of Ella’s asthma in a way that greatly compromised her quality of life’.

Lewisham Council has declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ unanimously agreeing that ” We recognise that a changing climate will have severe and enduring social, economic
and environmental implications, and that tackling climate change is an issue of inequality as the greatest impact will be on the most vulnerable and those least able to protect themselves.”

At the same meeting it was reported to the Council that a community garden in Deptford, Tidemill Garden had been cleared.

 

More media coverage:

Evening Standard here

The Guardian here

i news here

Newsshopper here

ITV News here