Beckenham Place Park – New Plans Published

Long awaited plans for the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park have been published by Lewisham Council. A full planning application is open for consultation and comment until 2nd February 2022.

The improvement of the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park was to be delivered as part of a flood alleviation scheme in partnership with the Enivornment Agency.

The major flood plans included a 10 site flood alleviation scheme which sought to protect Lewisham and Catford town centres from river or fluvial flooding. Beckenham Place Park was to be the holding reservoir for flood waters in times of exceptionally high flow. However, in summer of 2018 the EA concluded that the cost of the scheme they had designed had risen too significantly from initial cost estimates to be cost effective or deliverable within the government funding protocols they must work within. As a result, the scheme was cancelled. Lewisham Council had committed up to £2million for this.

Also, the Heritage Lottery Fund had expected that the whole of the park would be restored, and the funding bid to the HLF was made on that basis, however none of the HLF project budget was committed to the eastern side of the park.

Beckenham-Place-Park-East-Proposals-2022-DC_21_124643-ILLUSTRATIVE_MASTERPLAN-1050892

“Beckenham Place Park is Lewisham’s largest park by far; indeed it is the one
of the largest parks in London, and South east London’s biggest open space.
At 95 hectares it is 30% bigger than Greenwich Park. It boasts ancient
woodland, meadow, parkland, a river and several historic buildings. It was
originally acquired by the London County Council to be the key amenity space
for the new estates of Bellingham and Downham”
– Lewisham Council Sustainable Development Committee report April 2017

Beckenham Place Park is full of history. There are listed buildings including the Mansion House built about 1773 for John Cator (1728-1806) . Cllr Alan Hall has called for a ‘root and branch‘ review of of the park’s financing in the past.

Funding for the restoration of the Grade II* Mansion House remains to be secured.

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Please take time to examine the planning application and write to planning@lewisham.gov.uk with any comments.

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.

Fight Secrecy! Say Campaigners

Cllr Alan Hall has joined bloggers, campaigners and other journalists supporting the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s crowdfunding initiative to close a funding shortfall.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information played a key part in persuading the Labour government headed by Tony Blair to make and then honour a manifesto commitment to introduce the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2000 and in improving what started out as an extremely weak bill.

However, in his 2010 memoirs Blair took the diametrically opposite view, declaring his earlier support to be that of an “idiot” and a “naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop”. The legislation has faced attempts to weaken it by Governments ever since.

Indeed, Freedom of Information and transparency has hit headlines recently as the tory Government has proposed that the new Health and Care Bill that will establish a Health Services Safety Investigations Body to investigate medical scandals will be exempt from the Freedom of Information legislation.

Campaign for FOI assessment of current threats include:

  • The Health Service Safety Investigations Body is being set up to investigate and help prevent serious patient safety incidents but would be banned from disclosing information under the FOI Act or passing information to a Parliamentary select committee. It would be a criminal offence for a whistleblower to disclose information about its work. Read our briefing for MPs.
  • A new funding body to promote ‘high risk, high reward’ research, with a budget of £800m over four years, will be excluded from FOI altogether under the Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill. Read about our campaign here.
  • Home Office proposals to revise the Official Secrets Act will make it easier to convict those who disclose information without authority and substantially increase prison sentences for convicted whistleblowers or journalists. Astonishingly, it says the maximum penalty for leaking, currently 2 years imprisonment, should be the same as that for espionage – 14 years. 

The CFOI are also working to:

  • Close the FOI loophole that prevents the public finding out about public services delivered by contractors. So if, for example, an NHS body uses a private contractor to provide ambulances the public’s right to know how well the service operates will be severely undermined.
  • Ensure that time limits for responding to FOI requests are rigorously enforced.

The Freedom of Information Act gives individuals the right to ask for any recorded information held by a government department, local council, NHS trust, police force or other public body. 

Together with the Environmental Information Regulations these form part of the crucial rights to have access to information from Government bodies.

The United Nations states that work to enhance freedom of information, thereby supporting transparent and accountable institutions, is also important to the rule of law.

It should be remembered that the Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on signatory countries including the UK and public authorities, obligations regarding access to information and public participation. It backs up these rights with access to justice provisions that go some way towards putting teeth into the Convention. In fact, the preamble directly links environmental protection to human rights norms and expressly recognises that every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being. The EU has based legislation on the Aarhus Convention however, the responsibility to implement the various provisions remain in the UK unless the Government propose to leave.

“The Aarhus Convention’s twin protections for environmental and human rights, and its focus on involving the public, provide a mechanism for holding governments to account in their efforts to address the multi-dimensional challenges facing our world today, including climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty reduction, increasing energy demands, rapid urbanization, and air and water pollution” – Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Local Authorities are subject to the Aarhus Convention. Cllr Alan Hall asked a Member Question to the newly elected Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan who had taken personal responsibility for the planning portfolio at a full Lewisham Council meeting in July 2018.

The first question posed to Mayor Damien Egan at a full Council meeting in July 2018
Basis for public participation in environmental including planning matters

During the Covid-19 pandemic the Campaign for Freedom of Information has said that there is a severe backlog of FOI requests in some areas. Complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can take a year before it starts investigating some freedom of information complaints.

“Unless the backlog is reduced quickly, both the operation of the Act and the public’s confidence in it will be severely damaged. Regular reporting on the real size of the problem and the time it is taking to carry out substantive investigations is essential to an effective right to know.” – Campaign for Freedom of Information

New challenges face public scrutiny of decision makers with the use of private emails and messaging services like whatsapp. Elizabeth Denham CBE the Information Commissioner wrote in the Municipal Journal that the five key recommendations that anyone handling FoI requests within a public authority needs to bear in mind:

1) Make sure your staff, relevant public officials and elected representatives understand how they can securely access official IT systems and equipment. This should minimise the need to use private correspondence channels.

2) Train staff to recognise which communications relate to official business and which relate to non-official information, across all channels. In the context of local government, you should have a way of distinguishing between official business and an elected official’s work on behalf of their constituents.

3) Review and communicate your records management policy. You should regularly tell staff what they need to do to ensure information related to public authority business is transferred to official systems as soon as possible.

4) When handling FoI requests make sure you consider whether communications held on private correspondence channels, such as WhatsApp, may be relevant to the request.

5) Ensure staff correctly adhere to the relevant policies and procedures and regularly review them to ensure staff knowledge remains up to date. Remember, erasing, destroying or concealing information with the intention of preventing disclosure after a request is received is a criminal offence.

To support the Campaign for Freedom of Information with their crowdfunding please click here.

At the full Lewisham Council meeting on Wednesday, 24th November, new figures on the response rate to Freedom of Information requests were announced.

Lewisham Council figures for FOI and EIR responses released on 24th November 2021

Cllr Alan Hall asked a supplementary question to find out how the declining trend over the last four years would be reversed – he was told that Lewisham Council had risen in a league table of London Authorities from near the bottom to average. The full exchange can be viewed at 1h 50 minutes on the webcast here

According to the Campaign for Freedom of Information the ICO’s target for public authorities is to meet the FOIA/EIR time limits in at least 90% of all requests.

Campaigners Say ‘Fund the Fight’ To End HIV

Cllr Alan Hall has joined campaigners calling for government action to end new cases of HIV in the UK by 2030. Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the country.

HIV charities and organisations formed a HIV Commission in 2020 and published a report on the 1st December 2020 which is World AIDS Day. The report found that HIV testing is crucial to ending new HIV transmissions in England by 2030.

“By increasing testing, we can stop HIV in its tracks and make sure more people can access life-saving HIV treatment. Yet, despite testing being cost effective and taking just minutes to do, access remains inconsistent.” – HIV Commissioners

In 2019, there were nearly 550,000 missed opportunities to test for HIV in specialist sexual health services, with over 252,000 incidents of an HIV test not even being offered.

“Every missed opportunity to test someone for HIV is a failure to them, and to the goal of ending new transmissions. Stigma is often a key factor in declining an HIV test, this is well documented, particularly for Black African communities,” the report’s authors said.

Russell T Davies, Olly Alexander and Callum Scott Howells from hit Channel 4 drama It’s A Sin have joined forces with long-time campaigner Sir Elton John have made a new film demanding that the UK Government ‘fund the fight’ to ensure its goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030 is achieved.

Russell T Davies, creator of It’s A Sin, said: ‘The show has had a bigger impact than we ever dared hope. My initial motivation was to tell stories of love and loss that had gone untold for far too long. But it’s clear how much has still to be done in 2021.

‘The response to what we created has been overwhelming, but too many people’s views and knowledge of HIV are still firmly rooted in the 1980s. If we can play even a tiny part in helping to change that while supporting the work of charities and activists to end new HIV cases in this country by 2030, then what a wonderful legacy that would be.’

Florence Obadeyi, who is living with HIV, said: ‘Getting tested for HIV while pregnant was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It meant my child was born without HIV because of interventions they can make prior to birth and means I was able to access the medication and support I needed to keep me well.

‘If I hadn’t decided to have a baby and been testing during standard prenatal checks, I don’t know how long it would have been before I received my diagnosis. That’s exactly why we need to see HIV testing happening across healthcare.’

Campaigners say that the funding should be included in the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday 27 October where public spending will be allocated for the next three years.

Local Councils fund HIV work through their public health departments. The local NHS deliver much of this work.

Dear Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid,

Fund the fight to end new cases of HIV by 2030

Lewisham has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in Europe.

Every week 80 lives in the UK are changed forever because they are diagnosed with HIV. 

It has now been 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported and, despite huge medical advances which mean HIV is thankfully no longer a death sentence, preventable cases of HIV are still happening. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. The government has the power to change this in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review – you can help to end the HIV epidemic in the UK. It has been nearly 1,000 days since Department for Health and Social Care Ministers committed to doing this by 2030. The clock is now ticking.

Millions of people in the UK watched Channel 4’s drama It’s A Sin, seeing the agonising destruction HIV/AIDS caused so many lives in the early days of the epidemic. This show galvanised thousands of people to test for HIV – many for the first time.

Now the government needs to play its part. That’s why I’m writing to you both to ask that you seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to change countless lives.

Across the UK, there are at least 6,600 people who are living with HIV but are not diagnosed. There are still over half a million people who leave a sexual health clinic but don’t test for HIV. And there are still people who are being diagnosed so late that their health is irreversibly impacted. 

At the Dispatch Box on World AIDS Day 2020, the Chancellor underlined the government’s commitment to ending the domestic HIV epidemic within the decade:

‘As we remember those we have lost to HIV and AIDS, we also remind ourselves of the need for further action. I am proud that this Conservative Government’s policy is to end new HIV transmission by 2030—a commitment reaffirmed today at the launch of the HIV Commission.’

Now I ask you both to turn these words into action.

We need the government to fully fund its new HIV Action Plan as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The government promised to ‘build back better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic; now is the time to do this in the fight to end HIV. 

Here’s what must happen: 

  1. Expand HIV testing. Everyone needs to know their HIV status be able to get HIV treatment if needed. Free at-home testing all year round and tests in hospitals and GPs in areas of high rates of HIV in England.
  2. Greater support for people living with HIV. Regardless of where someone lives in the country, they should have access to life-saving treatment, mental health, and support services, so they can enjoy healthier lives.
  3. Increased funding for HIV prevention. More people need to be aware of and have access to the HIV prevention drug PrEP. 
  4. New national HIV prevention programmes and campaigns. These must inform and educate people about the realities of HIV in 2021, stopping HIV stigma including Undetectable=Untransmittable messaging.

Action now will have huge impact and put the country on course to end transmissions by the end of the decade. History will look kindly on the leadership and financial commitment that was made to fight to end new cases in this way.

I urge the government not to miss this opportunity. Fund the fight and take the decisions required to end new cases of HIV by 2030. We need action now.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Alan Hall

London Borough of Lewisham

 

Fund the HIV Action Plan

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.

Catford-Island-Consultation-1-leaflet-plassy-road-111021

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

Cllr Alan Hall Response to Lewisham Council’s Local Plan

The Local Plan helps to ensure that planning decisions are made in the best interests of our neighbourhoods and communities. It provides a strategy for the Council and its partners to direct investment across Lewisham, recognising it is an integral part of London. It includes policies and guidelines that are used to determine planning applications.

Lewisham Council says:

“The Local Plan sets out a shared vision for the future of Lewisham along with the planning and delivery framework to achieve this vision.

The Local Plan helps to ensure that planning decisions are made in the best interests of our neighbourhoods and communities. It provides:

A strategy for the Council and its partners to direct investment across Lewisham, recognising it is an integral part of London. Policies and guidelines used to determine planning applications.”

The formal consultation process ran from 15th January 2021 to 11th April 2021 and Cllr Alan Hall has asked what are the next steps in the process to take the public’s views into full consideration.

Cllr Alan Hall made a formal response mentioning the need for more green space and the expansion of the River Pool Linear Park. He said: “I would like to see the biodiversity and green space commitments explicitly included in this Local Plan and at the sites mentioned above. In Bell Green, a community masterplanning approach should be undertaken and the proposals as they stand are unacceptable. The heritage assets of the Livesey Hall, War Memorial and Grounds needs to be fully recognised in any plan for Bell Green.”

On social housing, Cllr Alan Hall has called for a clear and strong statement in the Local Plan, saying: “A target of 50% of all new homes built to be ‘genuinely affordable’, which is defined as housing at social rent levels (which is set on the basis of local income levels); this means that intermediate and market housing products would not be considered as genuinely affordable.”

London Affordable Rent is classified as an intermediate rent product by most housing experts as it is more expensive than social rent.

Bellingham Estate to be Area of Special Local Character

Full response to the London Borough of Lewisham Local Plan:

The Integrated Impact Assessment on the Local Plan published November 2020 states:

“There will also be a need to consider in-combination issues and opportunities associated with redevelopment at both Bell Green Retail Park, as the southern extent of the Pool River Linear Park, and two sites at the northern extent, namely Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road and Pool Court (proposed as a gypsy and traveller site; currently comprises a Site of Importunate for Nature Conservation, SINC).

There could feasibly be an opportunity to extend the Linear Park into one or both of the larger development sites, and it is recommended that this option is explored, with a view to an overall biodiversity net gain, as measured/calculated at an appropriate functional scale. Extending the Linear Park would also be in line with open space objectives, noting the key finding of the Lewisham Open Spaces Assessment (2019), which is that a significant amount of additional provision will be required to maintain standards (of access to open space) over the long-term. However, it is recognised that there is a need to balance wide ranging objectives when considering how best to redevelop these sites.

I support the expansion of the Linear Park.

Site specific policy currently states:

• Bell Green Retail Park – “Development proposals must protect and seek to enhance green infrastructure, including SINC, green corridor, Metropolitan Open Land and the Pool River.”

• Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road – “Development should maximise opportunities to enhance the ecological quality and amenity provided by the River Ravensbourne, including by revealing the river through decluverting, repairing gaps in Waterlink Way and improving public access to it.” This site specific policy is broadly in accordance with the Site Specific Design and Development Guidelines set for Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road within the adopted River Corridor Improvement Plan SPD (2015). Figure 9.1 shows one of the figures from the SPD, showing the location of the Pool River Linear Park between BGLS and Catford, also highlighting proximity of Beckenham Palace Park.

• Pool Court – the site specific policy does not reference biodiversity constraints or opportunities; however, it explains: “Applicants should consult with Network Rail and Transport for London on design and development options.”

I would like to see the biodiversity and green space commitments explicitly included in this Local Plan and at the sites mentioned above. In Bell Green, a community masterplanning approach should be undertaken and the proposals as they stand are unacceptable. The heritage assets of the Livesey Hall, War Memorial and Grounds needs to be fully recognised in any plan for Bell Green.

On the proposed Gypsy and Travellers Site the document makes the specific comments:

“9.7.5 Finally, there is a need to consider the proposed strategy in respect of meeting gypsy and traveller accommodation needs.

The background is as follows: The Lewisham Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (2015 and amended 2016) identifies a minimum need for six pitches within the plan period, arising from people currently living in bricks and mortar homes, teenage children and household formation. Having regard to this assessment, the Council commenced preparation of a Gypsy and Traveller Site Local Plan. This set out the approach to meeting identified local need for this group, including through site allocation policies.

A Preferred Site Consultation was then over six weeks in 2018. Consultation responses have been considered and negotiations with landowners are progressing. This is particularly to ensure that any future proposed site is deliverable for the intended use, and that feedback from the wider public is appropriately addressed.

9.7.6 In light of the above, the Draft Local Plan proposes an allocation at Pool Court, which is a 0.3 ha site located to just to the southwest of the Catford Masterplan area; specifically, to the south of the large proposed allocation at Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road. The site comprises a ‘left over’ triangle of land at the point where the two railways south of Catford cross-over one another. The River Ravensbourne borders the site, and the confluence of the rivers Ravensbourne and Pool is near adjacent to the west of the site (separated by the railway); however, the site is shown intersect flood zone 2 (as opposed to flood zone 3, which constrains Wickes and Halfords, Catford Road), presumably because the river is effectively channelled or culverted at this point.

A related constraint is the on-site local nature conservation (SINC) designation, and it is important to consider the biodiversity value of this site not only isolation, but as one element of the ecological network associated with the Ravensbourne and Pool river valleys (see discussion of the Wickes and Halfords site above, under ‘Biodiversity’). Whilst it is recognised that this site has been identified following a site selection process undertaken over a number of years, given the onsite constraints, it is recommended that further detailed assessments of biodiversity and flood risk are undertaken, with additional requirements/guidance included within the site allocation, as appropriate; the council should also continue to explore other opportunities to meet the housing needs of this group.”

I support the need for further detailed consideration of the negative impact to biodiversity and the SINC.

Not only this, I believe that this site is insufficient to meet the needs of the Traveller community and that as a stand alone policy is insufficient to comply with the London Plan.

Genuinely Affordable Housing

If delivery of genuinely affordable housing is a clear corporate priority for Lewisham Council then The Local Plan needs to set a strategic target for 50 per cent of all new homes delivered in the Borough to be locally defined as housing at social rent levels, below the GLA’s London Affordable Rent level. This would recognise the distinctive characteristics of the local housing market and the relative affordability of different types of provision to the resident population.

All other housing products below market levels, whether for sale or rent, are defined as intermediate housing, and should not be conflated with genuinely affordable housing.

To be clear, a target of 50% of all new homes built to be ‘genuinely affordable’, which is defined as housing at social rent levels (which is set on the basis of local income levels); this means that intermediate and market housing products would not be considered as genuinely affordable.

I support the designation of the Bellingham Estate as an Area of Special Local Character and we support further consideration to making this a Conservation Area.

The Industrial Estate in Bellingham is a successful employment zone. The designation needs to be reinforced.

Local Green Space and Metropolitan Open Land needs to be designated at Coutrai Road in Crofton Park and along the railway cuttings from Forest Hill, Honor Oak Park through to New Cross Gate.

Finally, the fact that this consultation has taken place during a pandemic and at a time of limited communication including an election period needs to be acknowledged. Further formal consultation is required to achieve a common understanding of the plans and therefore, this consultation is inadequate.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Hall

Cllr Alan Hall – Bellingham

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


Reverse The End Of Remote Meetings

The Minister for Local Government, Luke Hall MP has written to Local Authorities confirming that the Government intends to end the remote meetings by not renewing the emergency legislation that allowed them.

The letter explains that extending the regulations to allow virtual meetings beyond May 7th would require primary legislation.

Interestingly, in the letter the Minister mentions the Covid-19 vaccination programme. He states: “The reduction in cases of Covid-19 should result in a significant reduction in risk for local authority members meeting in person from May 7, as reflected in the Government’s plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions over the coming months.
I recognise there may be concerns about holding face-to-face meetings. Ultimately it is for local authorities to apply the Covid-19 guidance to ensure meetings take place safely, but we have updated our guidance on the safe use of council buildings to highlight ways in which you can, if necessary, minimise the risk of face-to-face meetings, and we will work with sector representative bodies to ensure that local authorities understand the guidance and are aware of the full range of options available to them.”

This is interesting because it optimistically assumes that the threat of Covid-19 and a potential third wave has been discounted by the Government.

Channel Four News reports that as the third wave hits Europe, more than thirty million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine. In Europe around twenty thousand people a week are dying with Covid-19 – and rates in central Europe are now among the highest in the world.

Graph shows Covid-19 cases in Europe – 28.03.21

The question that remains to be answered is, will the UK stave off a third wave? As the graph shows the now familiar pattern of rising rates in Europe with the UK some weeks behind.

It should be remembered that rates of vaccination in the UK are not uniform. London has a significant variation within the city and Lewisham has a variable vaccination rate within the borough.

The Minister’s letter rightly points out that Councils will have to assess the risks themselves and apply measures to mitigate this.

One measure suggested is moving the largest meeting of the municipal year, the Annual Meeting – or Mayor making. For Lewisham Council this would mean to consider conducting the annual meeting prior to 7th May, and hold the meeting remotely while the express provision in current regulations apply. This would mitigate the risks.

Cllr Alan Hall has written to Kim Wright, Lewisham Council’s Chief Executive to ask her to clarify the Council’s intentions regarding the Ministerial Letter.

remote_meetings-Letters-to-Council-Leaders-250321-covid

In response, the Local Government Association said:

“This decision is extremely disappointing. The Government’s own roadmap out of lockdown states that indoor gatherings or events – organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation – cannot be organised until May 17 at the earliest. Yet councils will be unable to hold remote meetings from May 7. MPs will retain the right to participate remotely until at least June 21 but the powers-that-be in the House of Commons will not make time available to legislate for councillors to do the same.

“The case is clear for the ability for councils to continue to be able to hold meetings flexibly. We urge the Government to reverse this decision and not force councils to have to hold COVID-19 secure face-to-face council meetings until all restrictions are lifted.

“Holding face to face council meetings, with supporting staff, could easily involve up to 200 people in one room even before adding in members of the public and reporters. This is likely to be a significant challenge with councils, for example, having to source larger venues in order to be able to host meetings with social distancing measures in place, such as full council meetings which will need to be held following the May local elections.

“This also risks damaging the gains seen in public participation in remote council meetings during the pandemic and our vital local democratic process.”

Lawyers in Local Government have issued a legal challenge and they have commented: “Councils are already actively considering the options the minister has suggested, including looking at alternative larger meeting venues at significant extra cost. The proposal to delegate significant decisions to officers is likely to be viewed as undermining democratic accountability due to the fact that such decisions are not subject to direct member involvement. Given the circumstances authorities find themselves in due to the imminent loss of virtual meeting provision, they now face unpalatable decisions, which include restricting member attendance and a reduction in members roles in decision making, whilst attempting to keep the machinery of local government moving. We remain fully committed to presenting our case at the High Court Hearing timetabled to be heard before the end of April 2021.”

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