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Forest Hill underpass – renovation at last?

Long-awaited improvements to the underpass at Forest Hill could now be within sight thanks to a decision of Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet on Wednesday 20 October.

The M&C agreed to provide up to £104,000 from money allocated to improve access to the East London Line stations in the Council’s capital programme to renovate the subway. Together with funds from Network Rail it looks at long last as if local residents may soon have a decent underpass to walk through on their way to and from Forest Hill Town Centre.

Let’s hope this long saga will soon come to an end.

Full details of the Mayor and Cabinet decision here

More trains to and from London Bridge in December

Good news for rail passengers travelling to and from London Bridge comes with the new timetable on 12th December.

Here are the main improvements:

• Two additional evening peak trains will run between London Bridge and Crystal Palace via Sydenham at 17.24 and 18.24. This will help to ease the evening rush hour services which were cut from six trains per hour to four trains in May. We are now back to five trains per hour – not ideal but we’re getting there.

• An extra Saturday late evening London Bridge to Victoria train will leave London Bridge at 23.52, getting you to Sydenham at around 8 minutes past midnight. This fills in a 30 minute gap after the 23.36 and means that there will now be six late evening trains from London Bridge after 11pm (the 23.06; 23.22; 23.36; 23.52; 00.06 and 00.36)

Meet your new neighbours!

The arrival of the new East London Line puts Sydenham for the first time within direct reach of many communities further up the line. Here we investigate some of the attractions of our new “friends in the north”

Surrey Quays Come out of the bright glass-fronted station at Surrey Quays and you are immediately confronted by the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre just across the road, which includes retailers such as Tesco, BHS, Mothercare and River Island. Just a short walk behind the Centre brings you to the wide expanse of the Greenland Dock, home of the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre, which boasts a wide range of sailing, canoeing and sailboarding activities as well as a large gym. Further along Greenland Dock, close to the river, is the Surrey Docks City Farm, open to the public Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm.

Canada Water This futuristic station with its distinctive conical-shaped glass roof is at the heart of the ELL providing an interchange with the Jubilee Line. Canada Water lies close to the massive Decathlon Sports Centre, the largest sports retail store in the UK and a must-visit for any sports, cycling or camping addict. A little further along Surrey Quays Road is the Odeon Surrey Quays, a giant multiplex cinema – and just next to it, the Hollywood Bowl, a vast ten-pin bowling alley. We’re always complaining that our part of the world has no cinema, now there’s one that can be reached by a regular 15 minute train ride followed by a 5 minute walk.

Rotherhithe is the last station on the ELL south of the river. Close to the entrance lies the Brunel Museum which hosts a fascinating exhibition about the Thames tunnel, the oldest tunnel in use on the London Underground  – and the world’s first underwater tunnel –  constructed by Mark and Isambard Brunel, and which is now used by the ELL to cross under the Thames. Close by is the historic Thames-side pub, The Mayflower, close to the spot where the Pilgrim Fathers first set sail for America in 1620. A short distance further west is another famous riverside watering hole, The Angel – famous for its view of Tower Bridge and reputedly, as a favourite spot of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon when they were courting!

Wapping with its trendy restaurants, warehouse apartments and cool parks such as the Wapping Rose Garden just opposite the station is at the heart of a regeneration which would startle those who knew this formerly run-down area twenty years ago. The riverside has three historic pubs looking across the Thames foreshore to the south bank. Best-known are The Captain Kidd and The Prospect of Whitby (with its eye-catching mock gallows close to the seating area at the back of the pub – a reminder of the former Execution Dock which once lay close by). But well worth a visit is the outwardly plain-looking Town of Ramsgate with its own historic “stair” leading down to the river.

Shadwell This tiny neighbourhood station is a brief distance from Wapping DLR station just around the corner. A short walk along Candle Street takes you into Cable Street, scene of mass battles against Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in October 1936. Look out on the far side of the road for the looming tower of St George in the East, one of Hawksmoor’s east end masterpieces. Further on is the newly refurbished Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest surviving music hall in the world which is currently running an attractive programme of music and cabaret.

Whitechapel The interchange station for the District and Hammersmith & City lines, lies directly opposite the Royal London Hospital. Walk east along Whitechapel Road and you’ll find the Blind Beggar pub, “front office” for the infamous Kray twins and scene of one of their most outrageous murders. In the opposite direction, along Whitechapel Road, is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, founded in 1570. The foundry’s output includes the famous American Liberty Bell and Big Ben, the largest bell ever cast at Whitechapel. Travelling one stop along the District Line from Whitechapel to Aldgate East brings you to the Whitechapel Art Gallery and to Petticoat Lane, a 1,000-stall market spread across Wentworth Street and Middlesex Street. Near here are the well-known gastronomic attractions of Brick Lane. You’re deep in trendy art territory here so look out for independent galleries such as Artcadia, The Spitz Gallery and NO:ID, all based along Commercial Road.

Shoreditch High Street This new dedicated station lies on the north-eastern edge of the City, just a few minutes walk from Liverpool St Station and Broadgate. North-west of the station, Curtain Road and Old Street have a large number of clubs and pubs. Dennis Severs House in Folegate Street recreates a former Hugenot silk-weavers home and traces its history, in an almost magical theatrical recreation of family life. Check whether you are trendy enough to enter Hoxton Square (down Kingsland Road and west of Shoreditch High Street) where the White Cube Gallery and bars such as Bluu, The Hoxton Apprentice and Zigfrid are located. From here, SE26 suddenly seems like a long way away.

Hoxton station is adjacent to the beautiful Geffrye Museum – you look down into the museum’s attractive herb garden from the up-platform of the station. The museum, built in a terrace of former almshouses is a sister to our local Horniman Museum, and its collection traces the history of the British home. Head a short distance south-east across Hackney Road for Columbia Road Flower Market (Sunday 8am-3pm) and a plethora of craft, furniture and deli shops. This is the Handbag Capital of the UK with more handbag shops than any sane person could surely want.

Haggerston Don’t be put off by the grim housing blocks surrounding Haggerston Station. Cross Kingsland Road into De Beauvoir Square with its beautiful early 19th century town houses; then head south down pretty Mortimer Road or De Beauvoir Road until you reach the Regent’s Canal. Walk west for three-quarters of a mile along the towpath until you reach beautiful Haggerston Park (awarded a Green Flag in 2009). Visit Hackney City Farm situated in the south of park, open Tues-Sunday 10am–4.30pm; animal feeding time is around 4pm and there’s a brilliant café. From here, it’s a short walk back along the Hackney Road to Hoxton station.

Dalston is the end of the line – for the time being, at least, until the ELL is extended as far as Highbury and Islington in May 2011. The area contains a rich mixture of culture and places of interest including Ridley Road Market, just north of the station, the Rio, London’s largest independent cinema and The Vortex jazz club in Gillett Square just off Kingsland Road. A few hundred metres north is the wonderful Arcola Theatre, one of the best small theatres in the capital.

New Sydenham Road improvement scheme starts in January

Ring-fenced capital means that the long-awaited improvements to Sydenham Road between the roundabout and Mayow Road can still go ahead. Designs are currently being finalised and work on the scheme will begin in the New Year. Fourteen trees 3m tall, with a maintenance contract, will be planted along the high street and in the planned pocket squares at Venner and Queensthorpe Roads and the ridiculed wobbly roundabout will be re-profiled to minimise its slope (and greened, we’ve been promised). The areas of the pocket squares, outside the Naborhood/Sydenham Centre and Station Approach (also in the pedestrian improvement plan) will be paved in York stone, whilst the rest of the high street will have reinforced concrete pavoirs. The area around the Post Office and the Naborhood/Sydenham Centre will also be re-modelled to sort out the changes in the various levels.
Lamp columns have been chosen and these will carry the road signs, traffic signals and other street furniture where possible and dis-used phone boxes will be removed. The large circular advertising column will go but other Deceaux advertising panels will, in some cases, be relocated but, because of a long-term contract, cannot be permanently removed.
Puffin (Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent) crossings will be installed at the Greyhound, Venner and Queensthorpe Roads. These can detect both waiting and crossing pedestrians and adjust the timing of the lights accordingly. Traffic light controlled crossings will be in operation at Newlands Park and Mayow Road, allowing a pedestrian phase on all roads. Detailed modelling of before and after traffic movements indicate, by using an adjustable linked system of traffic control, journey times on the main road will be 15% faster than currently.
Network Rail has given permission to demolish the low wall next to the estate agents office on the bridge and the toilet block will also be removed. Approaches will be made to Transport for London to see if a toilet facility can be made available within the station building. There will be an undercover bin store built for residents of the flats in Station Approach thereby removing one of the most unattractive aspects of the area greeting visitors to Sydenham.

Lewisham has made a bid to TfL for funding for Phase Two of the Sydenham Road improvements for that part of the road between Mayow Road and Bell Green. The outcome of this bid is awaited.

What’s the best train to catch late at night?

Caught in a dilemma as to whether to catch an East London line train or a train from London Bridge?

Well puzzle no more! The Sydenham Society’s quick and easy timetable showing the best late night trains has arrived!

The timetable shows the times of late evening trains from both London Bridge and Canada Water, allowing you at glance to choose the one that’s best for you.

If you’ve left it until after the witching hour, then London Bridge is your only hope – with trains at six and 36 minutes past midnight.

When will the next bus arrive?

Good news for local bus passengers.

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that two pairs of bus stops in central Sydenham will be fitted with dot matrix countdown indicators – visual displays which show how long it is before the next bus arrives. In 2011, the stops outside Boots and outside LA Fitness (plus the bus stops on the other side of the road) will be fitted with the new indicators.

Underpass at Forest Hill

Back in January 2010 the Council and Network Rail (who own the Forest Hill underpass) agreed a programme of improvements to the underpass. These included measures such as re-surfacing the floor of the underpass, an improved water-drainage system, cladding the underpass walls with easily cleaned de-mountable panels, re-painting, and improved lighting. Network Rail planned to start the works in April 2010, once the station footbridge had been installed.

In fact nothing has happened since January, despite the footbridge works having been long completed. The Sydenham Society has once again taken up matters with the Council and in July the Sydenham Society met with Councillor Alan Smith, Deputy Mayor, to press for an early start to the long promised improvements. Councillor Smith hoped that Network Rail might start the works in September and said that he would continue to press them for progress. The Society will keep a close eye on the matter.

Sydenham now a transport hub!

The arrival of the new East London Line has not quite placed Sydenham at the centre of the Universe (although we all know it is!). But it has produced many extra direct links to places resulting in quicker and easier journeys around the Capital.

The map shows all of the places which can now be reached directly from this area including important interchange stations such as Clapham Junction, West and East Croydon, London Bridge, Canada Water and Whitechapel.

From 2016, the situation will be improved even further when Sydenham joins Thameslink carrying passengers directly through London Bridge to Thameslink stations such as Blackfriars, Farringdon and King’s Cross.

Sydenham Road Pedestrian Improvements

Last December [2006] Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrian Association) conducted a series of walkabouts with local residents to pinpoint perceived problems with pedestrian movements in Sydenham Road. Some of these were easily identified by regular high street users – the dangerous crossing at Newlands Park with no pedestrian phase at the traffic lights, the unfriendly sheep pen type crossings above Newlands Park and at Mayow Road, the zebra crossing on the railway bridge.

In fact the only crossing agreed to work well is the one between the Post Office and Natwest bank, where pedestrians can cross safely in one go and drivers and pedestrians are mutually aware of each other.

Starting outside the Post Office, Living Streets opened our eyes to the amount of clutter along the pavement which impedes the views up and down the high street especially the Council’s own advertising pillars. There are railings, bollards, street lamps, telephone boxes, litter bins and other impedimenta scattered along the pavement to create chicanes for those on foot to negotiate. It was noted that many retailers who are licensed to trade outside their shops are trading beyond their permitted limits and also encroaching into pedestrian space. In short, the pavements of Sydenham Road are a mess and in need of urgent de-cluttering.

Other matters being considered are the siting of bus stops; are these in the best places and are others needed? What should happen at Cobbs Corner and to the roundabout? Photos taken in the 1960s show that it was not there, but three zebra crossings were! The ownership of Sydenham Station Approach, currently leased by Network Rail, could be taken over by Lewisham Council with urgent repairs to roadway and pavements. How much soft landscaping could be introduced along the high street to improve the overall ambience of the area?

Over the past couple of months other organisations have also been in the high street looking at the improvement of pedestrian flow. Space Syntax have been mapping how people actually use the high street, where they cross the road, which may indicate the need for better sites for crossings. Surveyors with tripods have also been seen checking the fall in levels between different parts of the high street and also mapping the road as it is currently.

The reports of Living Streets, Space Syntax and others are to be analysed together with the responses of local residents to Lewisham’s December questionnaire about how they see the best and worst of Sydenham Road. The draft report and the questionnaire results should be published about a week before the forums. A copy of these reports will be available at Sydenham Library, Kirkdale Bookshop and on the Consultation and Policy page of the council’s website.

The results will be discussed at two similar meetings on Thursday March 1 (7-9 pm) or on Saturday March 3 (2-4 pm) at the Naborhood Centre. At these forums the Design Team will be introduced and a discussion, using the collected data, will be held with residents about ways to improve Sydenham Road. The Design Team will then work up ideas for pedestrian improvements coming back to the local community for further consultation in early summer about what could be done to improve our high street environment.

Interesting times lie ahead!

New Year 2007

Enhancing Sydenham high street: Stakeholder Forum

The responses to the recent ‘Enhancing Sydenham high street’ questionnaire are currently being analysed.

The designers commissioned to develop proposals for Sydenham Road will carefully study the analysed results, along with all the comments made on the questionnaires. The introduction to the questionnaire explained that the results of the survey, together with other research conducted at the high street, would be summarised at a stakeholder forum. The forum is intended as an opportunity for us to further hear your views, feed back results of the questionnaire and other research, and introduce the designers who will develop proposals for Sydenham Road.

Forums have been scheduled for: Thursday 1st March from 7.00 to 9.00 pm and Saturday 3rd March from 2.00 to 4.00 pm at the Naborhood Centre, 44a Sydenham Road, SE26 5QX.

Both events will be run in the same manner. If you wish to attend either please choose the time/date that best suits you and RSVP. By way of introduction it is planned to begin each forum with a short summary of the questionnaire survey results, the Community Street Audit undertaken by Living Streets and other research, followed by a short presentation from the designers. The intention is that the forum will then break into smaller groups, led by professional facilitators, to allow in-depth discussion to take place.

After discussing the results of the information gathering and the implications for the design process, the forum will come back for a final plenary session where key points from the groups’ ideas, conclusions and other comments will be fed back to all the participants.

The ‘next steps’ in the design process will be explained. A detailed Note of Proceedings will also be prepared and sent out to everyone who wants a copy.
Considerable interest has been expressed in the forums. It is hoped that all those wishing to attend can be accommodated. However, if you wish to attend it would aid management of the forums considerably if you would RSVP to Rachel Crozier at CAG Consultants. You can RSVP in three ways:

  • By email:
  • By freephone: 0800 389 4276 (calls are free if made from a landline)
  • By post to: Rachel Crozier, CAG Consultants 81 Bradley Crescent Shirehampton Bristol BS11 9SR

If it does not prove possible to fit everyone into the venue on the two dates, a further meeting will be arranged. The results of the questionnaire survey, the draft Community Street Audit report and reports on some of the other information gathering, will be placed in Sydenham Library, Kirkdale Bookshop and on the Council website Transport and Streets, Consultation and
Policy page ( a few days prior to the forum events. They will remain available in the weeks after the forum.
If you completed a questionnaire I would like to thank you and look forward to meeting you at the forum.

Ian Plowright
Transport Strategy Manager
London Borough of Lewisham