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The Greyhound

At last a planning proposal for the Greyhound – that will keep the pub. The developer has made available a photomontage of the plans and a model will shortly be available for all to see at the Kirkdale Bookshop.

On 13 August last year the Greyhound closed with the threat of demolition hanging over the pub. The Sydenham Society had been alerted just a month earlier to the imminent closure and, with the help of the Kirkdale Bookshop, was able to run a quick and vigorous campaign with press and local BBC and ITN news coverage. Within three weeks 1,500 people had signed a petition opposing demolition, indicating the strength of feeling about the potential loss of one of Sydenham’s oldest landmarks. At the same time the Society discussed with local councillors and council conservation officers ideas for a Conservation Area radiating from Cobbs Corner, and presented a fully worked-up plan with details of the local history to support the arguments. Local councillors were supportive and, in early September, the Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, took the decision to grant the area Conservation Area status. The Greyhound was also locally listed. Since the beginning of 2008 the new developers have been in discussion with Lewisham’s planning officers. In August members of the Society were invited to meet 6a Architects (the developer’s chosen architectural practice) and dp9 (the developer’s planning consultants) and were shown a model of the proposed scheme.

Our initial response was to welcome the imaginative ideas being put forward for such an important town centre site. We did make some critical comments and were advised by the architects that these would be taken into consideration before the planning application was submitted to Lewisham Council. The Society has treated the privileged information confidentially, as was requested. However, the planning application is now being formally submitted to the council and the period of public consultation is beginning. The developer has made available a photomontage of the plans and we are pleased to have been allowed to reproduce this (see below). A model of the proposed scheme will shortly be available for all to see at the Kirkdale Bookshop.

Park users prepare for new Sydenham Parks regime

There is an upsurge of grass-roots interest in how our parks are run, which co-incides well with Lewisham’s need to renegotiate its parks management contract in 2009.

Friends of Parks
Sydenham seems to be seeing an upsurge of grass-roots interest in how our parks are run, with the creation of new ‘Friends of’ parks groups playing a leading role.

For many years there has been a ‘Friends of Mayow Park’ and the Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group. This year the ‘Friends of Alexandra and Cator Park’ and ‘Friends of the River Pool Linear Park’ were also started, while a ‘Home Park Strategy Group’ has emerged from the newly established Fairlawn Park Residents’ Association’, which may well develop into a ‘friends’ group in 2009.

Friends of parks groups exist to represent the views of park users to their salaried managers, to channel voluntary efforts for improvements, and to encourage people to use the parks, sometimes arranging social events in them. With the exception of Alexandra Park, all our parks are in Lewisham, where the maintenance contract was awarded to Glendale under a Private Finance Initiative that expires in 2010. Being in Bromley, the contractors for Alexandra and Cator Park are English Landscapes under an arrangement that started this year and in which the Council takes a more direct control. FRPLP are liaising with Lewisham Council and Ward Councillors to improve access for disabled persons and helping to clean up the River Pool.

The Challenges and Rewards
As always in the voluntary sector, there are challenges as well as rewards for members of Friends groups. The challenges are balancing the need, on occasion, to keep the managers on their toes with being able to work with them to get the improvements park users want. Another challenge is sometimes to represent fairly the interests of different groups of park users. The rewards are to see the improvements that can be achieved, and the sense of engagement that comes from working with others and together getting things done. With the upcoming renegotiation of the management contract for Lewisham parks, there is a particular challenge now to help make the next contract as flexible and responsive to park user requirements as possible.

It may be easier for contractors to work to fixed schedules treating all parks in much the same way, but working out how to engage the energy of volunteers will deliver better value. We would also like to see a plan for each park, setting out not just how money will be spent on it, but also a vision of what other developments would be welcomed. If park users through their ‘Friends of’ groups can subsequently point to ways of realising these ideas, or delivering any other new and compelling vision for the park, the arrangements should be flexible enough to allow these, and so deliver best value.

  • Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group : Alma Hunt – 8291 7027
  • Friends Of Mayow Park: Hilary Jarrett – 8778 9560
  • Friends Of Alexandra and Cator Park: friends.cator-and-alexandra at live.co.uk
  • Home Park Strategy Group: anthony.scully@ukonline.co.uk
  • Friends of the River Pool Linear Park 8699 5510, frppusergroup at googlemail.com
  • Glendale: 8318 3986

Where else are Friends of Parks Needed?
There are also several smaller bits of park and open spaces that do not have their own Friends of groups (that we know of) – for example Baxter’s Field, Beaulieu Avenue Gardens. We would be interested in hearing from such groups if they exist, or sharing ideas with anyone who would like to start a group. Please contact me on 8659 6137 and I’ll try to put interested parties in touch with each other.
Tim Lund
Chair, Sydenham Society

Friends of Mayow Park
The good news on the horizon for Mayow Park, noted in my report in the Sydenham Society Autumn Newsletter, has moved closer. The proposals in the business plan for sports in the Park, produced by Peter Ranken of Envirowork, have been accepted by Lewisham’s Green Services. We hope that organised cricket, i.e, available to schools and youth clubs (and later, possibly football) will start in the not too distant future in both Mayow Park and Hilly Fields.

This still leaves the provision of accommodation for the Bowls Club to be resolved, as the original planning application has been withdrawn. Green Scene has commissioned Groundwork to plan a consultation exercise concerning the future of Mayow Park. As part of this, there will be a ‘walkabout’ in the park on November 15th from 10.00am to 12noon. Local residents and other interested parties are invited to discuss what they would like to see in the park and how it might be made a better place for the enjoyment of all. One interesting suggestion already made is to use the bowling green as a skating rink in the winter as happens elsewhere! Another welcome initiative is the Lewisham consultation concerning dog control orders in local parks and open spaces.

The Sustainable Communities Act was passed into law on 23rd October 2008 giving central government a legal duty to assist local authorities in promoting sustainable local communities. However, local authorities have to opt in to the legislation and readers may wish to lobby their local councillors on this (see www.localworks.org.uk). The Act also specifies that local authorities cannot make suggestions to central government without involving ‘local people’. With the growth of user groups involved in parks and open spaces, I hope that the new legislation will provide such groups with a say in the way parks and open spaces are managed. This is particularly relevant in that the contract for Parks and Open Spaces management is due for renewal/renegotiation in February 2010. Could it be that this time local voices will be heard? Are other models of management to be considered? Is the current emphasis on Green Flag status the best way forward for all parks and open spaces? How can local groups /volunteers be engaged in this process?
Finally, FOMP and Glendale plan a Tree Dressing to mark National Tree Week on Saturday November 29th from 11.00am to 12.30am. All are welcome.
Hilary Jarrett
Chair, Friends of Mayow Park
8778 9560

Sydenham Wells Park
Two years on and the sensory garden is still incomplete. Once it was clear that solar panels could not be made to work the water feature, a trench had to be dug to carry a cable to the nearest power supply. Now this has been connected and the base secured, so trickling water should be there for all to see and hear.
Better links between the wildlife/nature reserve and the rest of the park were recommended by the Green Flag judge and, after careful consideration, it was agreed that a wildlife corridor would be useful along part of the Longton Avenue boundary and extending further into the park. The first community working party will take place towards the end of the winter when hazel, hawthorn and other trees and shrubs will be planted. This is also the site chosen for the bird cherry (Prunus padus) to mark Pat Trembath’s 14 years as Chair of the Sydenham Society.

It is vital that all Lewisham’s parks and open spaces should be considered when the new contract begins in 2010. Ahead of borough wide consultations the Sydenham Society has convened a small preliminary group to consider what park plans should contain and to find out what local people want. Early in 2009 meetings will be arranged giving anyone who wants to become involved the opportunity to contribute their ideas and express their concerns.
Alma Hunt
Chair, Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group
8291 7027

Local Nature Reserves in Lewisham
Our nature reserves have been attracting a lot of interest lately, and two of them, Dacres Wood and Devonshire Road, are both on sites of the old Croydon Canal. The former nature reserve belongs to Lewisham, and the latter to Railtrack, who lease the site to us.

Dacres Road has not been open to the public since 2003, due to extensive fly-tipping and vandalism, but our future plans include setting up a user group for the site, and also looking at the BCTV Green Gym relocating from Creekside to the Field Study Centre Building. Creating a user group would mean that they would act as champions for the site, and could ensure greater public access; and if the relocation of BCTV is successful their officers could facilitate and supervise regular weekly openings. Since 2004 the site has a designated ‘Local Nature Reserve’ status and many school nature study visits involving hundreds of local children have taken place.

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve has been developed and managed by the Friends of the Reserve since 1998; their key objective is to ‘promote, maintain and enhance the indigenous wildlife and botanical value of the reserve and its educational use for the public.’ The reserve was awarded a Green Pennant National Green Flag this year, and was recently nominated for a Biodiversity Protection Award, but was unsuccessful – maybe next year!

A chalcidid wasp, Brachymeria tibialis, (Walker) has also been confirmed as a species new to Britain when it was discovered last year as a resident at the Grove Park Nature Reserve at Hither Green. Brownfield nature reserves are being increasingly recognised as important sites for invertebrate fauna, and we are fortunate in Lewisham to have them in the corridors provided by the local railway system. I hope this gives you a flavour of the nature reserves in the borough, and encourages you to visit them. Further details can be found on the Lewisham Council website
Cllr Susan Wise
Perry Vale Ward and Cabinet Member for Customer Services.
8699 6520
Cllr_Susan.Wise@lewisham.gov.uk

Crystal Palace Park update
The Strategic Planning Committee determining the London Development Agency’s (LDA) Masterplan for the park is postponed until 9 December (presumably Bromley Planning Department is drowning under the sea of paperwork £- 10,000 plus supporting documents!). The decision, if approved, is likely to be the subject of a call-in. It is known that English Heritage, as statutory consultees, have written an ‘almost unprecendented’ glowing endorsement of the Masterplan.

Following the May 2008 London Mayoral elections the LDA is undergoing a major ‘re-structuring’. Whereas previously there had been a firm commitment that the LDA would take a 125-year lease on the park if the Masterplan is agreed, this position cannot be confirmed at present, although Mayor Boris Johnson has committed himself to protecting green spaces generally.

Refurbishment of the National Sports Centre (NSC) is ongoing. Originally due to be re-opened in October, this date has been postponed on two occasions and the latest date being given for the re-opening is April 2009. The delay has caused major financial problems for the country’s diving team which is having to travel great distances to practice its sport.

The Modern Pentathlon Games World championships are being held in Crystal Palace Park in 2009 and, in 2010, the ‘Senior’ Modern Pentathlon Championships will also be held in the park. There is pressure from some quarters for the Olympic Modern Pentathlon Games to be wrested from the current chosen venue, Greenwich, for various reasons:

all the sports could take place on one site within the NSC (except for the cross country running which would use the whole park). Based at Greenwich the different disciplines would have to be spread as far as Stratford (swimming) and Woolwich (shooting).

the opening of the East London Line will mean that Crystal Palace Park will be within 45mins of Olympic Park and will fall within the travel boundaries set by London Olympic Games Organising Committee. Work on upgrading the East London Line at Crystal Palace Station has already begun.

over the past six months there has been a financial revue of the organisation of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Crystal Palace will have proved its worth by 2009 and 2010 with the two major international events so why not the Olympic event? If the park were to become an Olympic venue this would be very much to the Park’s benefit for future funding and refurbishment.

The Girlguide Maze centenary project is going apace. A public exhibition was held on 6 November as part of pre-application public consultation for a planning permission for the project, which is fully supported by Bromley Parks Department. The deadline remains for completion by early September next year in time for the centenary rally.

Forest Hill Pools – what next?

Little has been heard since from the Council since the listing of Lousie House, and stakeholders are not to be involved officially until sometime next year. However, we believe the council’s ring-fenced £7.5m could attract interest from architectural practices that would be happy to work in partnership with Lewisham to provide swimming and leisure facilities that we can all be proud to use in Forest Hill.

Last February, following a prolonged and intrusive survey, Lewisham Council reported that Forest Hill Pools could not be refurbished at reasonable cost and with a guaranteed reasonable shelf-life and it was announced that a new facility with a pool and a learner pool would need to be built. The Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, confirmed that a capital sum of £7.5m had been ring-fenced for new facilities and publicly committed to retaining swimming facilities at Forest Hill.

During the early summer the council’s chosen architects (HLM) worked up three “indicative” options all of which involved the demolition of Louise House and the Pools buildings. These included swimming pools, a leisure/fitness suite and housing of differing densities intended to cross-subsidise the level of facilities the local community demanded.

Despite requests to include an option that maintained the existing frontage of the pools the council pressed ahead with their basic designs and at the beginning of August (the school holidays) went out to public consultation. This consultation was poorly conducted and carried out in a particularly hit and miss way – some local residents living close to the pools only receiving their questionnaires on the morning of the first day (of two) of a public exhibition. Local councillors together with the Forest Hill and Sydenham Societies insisted there should be a public meeting as part of the consultation process and this took place on 21 August.
However on 19 August we learned that a request to English Heritage for the listing of Louise House by a local resident had been successful. Louise House was granted Grade ll status and the plans to demolish the building were scuppered.

The public meeting of 21 August was well attended and many asked that the council’s Leisure Services officers return to the drawing board and prepare a feasibility study which would also look at the possibility of retaining the Pool’s frontage block (the Superintendent’s House) in order to “Save the Face of Forest Hill” as demanded by an active and vocal group of campaigning residents, representing 2,000 petitioners.

At a full Mayor and Cabinet meeting in September the Mayor tasked the Leisure Services officers with providing a full feasibility study to include the option of retaining the existing façade, and to examine how facilities could be developed on site without using the space occupied by the newly listed Louise House. The officers are expected to report back to the Mayor by January. Both the Sydenham and Forest Hill Societies believe that the best (and fastest) route to the delivery of a good building is via an architectural competition and such a building will need to be in harmony with its existing neighbours (Holy Trinity School, Forest Hill Library and Louise House, all of which are Grade ll listed) and will need to have the approval of English Heritage before planning permission is given.

Members of the Sydenham Society will continue to attend the Council’s Stakeholder Group, which has met on three occasions this year, to discuss the future of the pools. The Society is keen to see an early resumption of swimming at Forest Hill and will work with the council and other stakeholders to try to ensure this happens. It will not be easy in the current financial climate, but we believe the council’s ring-fenced £7.5m should attract interest from architectural practices that would be happy to work in partnership with Lewisham to provide swimming and leisure facilities that we can all be proud to use in Forest Hill.

A footnote to the above. Strangely, while the Leisure Services Department was working on plans for the demolition of both Louise House and the Pools building, it became known that Conservation Officers in Lewisham’s Planning Department had commissioned a review of the Forest Hill Town Centre Conservation Area. It is understood that this review, to be published early next year, will recommend the extension of the Conservation Area to include the Pools and Louise House buildings. One may wonder, and only Lewisham Council can explain, why it is that one council department is intent on the demolition of the same two buildings that another Council department is considering including within an extended Conservation Area?

History of Forest Hill Pools

Written by Steve Grindlay

Forest Hill Pools are, almost certainly, the oldest substantially intact working baths to survive in the London area. Although they nearly didn’t make it, they have survived to celebrate their 120th anniversary this year. The Earl of Dartmouth opened them on Saturday 2nd May 1885.

The foundation stone was laid a year earlier, in a tent erected on the site. For this ceremony 1700 school children marched along Dartmouth Road to the tent, where they were each given a bun and an orange.

The pool’s origins can be traced back to 1846, when the Baths and Wash-Houses Act empowered local authorities to raise money for such buildings. The Lewisham Vestry was slow to respond, for it was not until 1882 that they decided to use these powers, and appointed seven commissioners to obtain funds and land, and to build two swimming pools with public baths. The commissioners found their two sites; one in Ladywell and one Forest Hill. From 1819 the large plot of land on which the Swimming Pools, Louise House, Forest Hill Library and Holy Trinity School now stand had been glebe land, used to provide income for the vicars of Lewisham. Fortunately, in 1882, the vicar of Lewisham was Hon Canon Augustus Legge, one of the pools commissioners, and he made part of this plot available “at a price much lower than other land about”.

The architects appointed for both the Ladywell and Forest Hill pools were Wilson and Aldwinckle. Thomas Aldwinckle (1845-1920) lived in Dacres Road (co-incidentally, on the site of Hennel Close, named after Alexander Hennell, who designed Forest Hill Library) from the mid-1880s for about twenty years. In addition to the pools Aldwinckle designed Louise House, the Boys’ Industrial Home in Perry Rise (demolished a few years ago) and the Brook Hospital and Water Tower at Shooters Hill.

Today, with Ladywell Pools derelict and Louise House empty and under threat, Forest Hill Pools takes on an added significance as the only surviving, functioning building in the borough, by this local architect.
Two men, of very different temperament, did more than any others to bring about the creation of the pools: Theophilus William Williams and Augustus Legge. Williams was of modest origins, working his way up from messenger to bank manager (of what was later Barclays, now ACTS Credit Union in Kirkdale). He then entered local politics, where again he was successful, becoming Lewisham’s first mayor in 1900. He fell from grace, committing suicide on the day he was due to face charges of fraud and embezzlement. The Hon Augustus Legge, on the other hand, was a younger son of the Earl of Dartmouth. He was vicar of St Bartholomew’s 1867-1879 then became vicar of Lewisham until 1891 when he was appointed Bishop of Litchfield. Williams or Legge was involved in almost every major local project (Mayow Park, Wells Park, Children’s Hospital, Industrial Homes, libraries) undertaken during the last quarter of the 19th century.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the pools. There were those who considered spending ratepayers’ money on such a project an unjustified extravagance. The Commissioners were keen to point out to that, at £9,000, the building was remarkable value for money. The pools were described as “the cheapest for the accommodation afforded, as well as the handsomest, in the United Kingdom” and The Builder said, “Unnecessary expense and all extraneous ornament have been most carefully avoided … the architects have succeeded very well in giving a certain degree of picturesque effect to buildings of a generally plain and practical character”. In today’s terms, the building would have cost about £600,000.

The pools provide a vivid illustration of the rigid class system in Victorian England. One of the commissioners said that the baths would promote “the comfort and health of the people” reducing “poverty, crime and many evils. The more they promoted healthy exercise the more virtuous the people would become”.

The architects’ plans show that there were two entrances to the building. To the left of the present ticket office was the entrance for “1st class males”, who had their own waiting room and their own pool (the left-hand pool). This was mirrored on the right side, where “2nd class males” had their own ticket office, waiting room and pool. Even today, filtered water, using the original filters, flows first to the left-hand pool before flowing into the right! Women seemed to have been an afterthought, not able to use the main entrance but having their own, on the right side of the building, where the “females ticket office” still survives. There was very definitely no mixed bathing; men could use the pools morning and evening, while women used them during the day. Later, Tuesdays and Fridays were set aside for women. There were also private baths (called slipper baths, for washing), 10 for 1st class customers and 20 2nd class. The 2nd class baths were in the room now used by the fitness centre.

The 1st class baths were on the left side of the entrance, and still retain a couple of the cubicles, although without the baths. Surprisingly, the private baths were not segregated. This was so that all who wanted could have a bath every day of the week.

It was intended that during the quiet winter months from November to April the pools would close for swimming. The 1st class pool would be boarded over, and used as a public hall for meetings, concerts and bazaars.

This continued until the 1950s or later. Indeed, in 1951 Clement Atlee used a political meeting at the pools to announce that Britain needed to re-arm in order to meet the threat to our way of life from the Soviet Union.

We have at least one famous swimmer associated with the pools. Linda Ludgrove, who lived in Eddisbury House, Sydenham Hill and went to Sydenham School, trained in the pools in the evenings, after they were closed to the public. She won several Commonwealth Games gold medals, and broke five world records between 1962 and 1967.

The future of the building is not secure. We have been assured that there will be a public consultation exercise in June, to find out what users and other residents would like for the pools. It is vital that all those who care about them either as a valuable resource, an important part of our townscape or even for what they tell us about the social history of the area, make their feelings known.

A renewed high street for Sydenham

Text of Sydenham Society response to Lewisham proposals, sent 29th May, 2008

I write to provide the comments of the Sydenham Society on the Council’s plans to enhance Sydenham Road and Kirkdale, as set out in its document “A renewed high street for Sydenham”.

The Society very much welcomes the Council’s scheme and we strongly support its aims of enhancing the street environment, creating a greater sense of place, and providing a more pedestrian-friendly environment. In particular we welcome the attempts to “green” the high street via the creation of pocket parks. However, we would ask the Council to look again at the possibility of “greening” the Cobbs Corner roundabout. As a reminder, the Sydenham Road proposals were worked up following the Sydenham Society’s urban design proposals dating from 2005 entitled “The Sydenham Gateway”. One of the main intentions of this proposal was to make the high street a more attractive place, and there seems to us to be no reason why this greening cannot extend to the roundabout particularly when neighbouring boroughs (eg Bromley and Southwark) have planted roundabouts and even roundabouts containing mature trees and public art.

A second, general point concerns the fact that both Sydenham Road and Cobbs Corner now fall within two recently designated conservation areas – the Cobbs Corner CA and the southern extension to the Thorpes. Within conservation areas it is usual to insist upon high quality street furniture, paving etc, and materials which complement the surrounding buildings and urban form. For this reason we would suggest that the type of paving suggested (overwhelmingly concrete) and the lampposts (a rather stark design) are replaced with styles and materials more sympathetic to the Victorian/Edwardian streetscape. We are encouraged to hear that the owners of the Greyhound are discussing with the planning officers ways to link their suggestion for a public space in front of the pub with the plans for Cobbs Corner; if this is done successfully then the Council and the developers will truly have created a fitting “Gateway for Sydenham”.

The following are our detailed comments:

The roundabout at Cobbs Corner
We do not object to the retention of a roundabout at the junction of Westwood Hill and Kirkdale. We are concerned however that the Council proposes simply to rebuild, in granite this time, the present drab and brutalist structure.

The current review of the high street provides a critical opportunity for the Council to create a roundabout which is landscaped or is in some other way transformed into an eye-catching feature, eg by the introduction of a sculpture (and the obvious candidate for this is Ernest Shackleton), which contributes to the aim of creating a “sense of place” for Sydenham. We urge the Council to consider means by which the rebuilt roundabout can function not only at a practical level but also as a landmark feature at the principal gateway to Sydenham town centre.

Pocket squares
A number of pocket squares are proposed. We welcome these although some, such as the pocket square at Queensthorpe Road – which requires the closure of the road at its junction with the high street – we recognise as being controversial. Our view is that these squares could be successful but only if the Council can ensure that they do not become areas where drinkers congregate and that they are kept litter-free. We suggest too that the Council bear in mind the possibility of traffic seeking alternative routes (because of the Quennsthorpe Road pocket) and creating potential problems in other access roads around the Thorpes.

Regarding the proposed pocket square outside the Naborhood Centre, we suggest that the square would be greatly enhanced if the frontage of the Naborhood Centre were re-decorated. At present the Centre presents a rather grim and dirty façade, which very much detracts from the street environment. We also suggest that the Centre be re-named with a recognisable spelling (in its present form the name frequently attracts the comment that the Council can’t spell!)
Trees

As far as we can see the proposed tree planting is confined principally to the pocket squares. Whilst the planting of the pocket squares is to be welcomed we would ask the Council to look again at planting on Sydenham Road (particularly in the section from Tannsfeld to Girton Road, which is currently rather stark) and Kirkdale. Trees have the potential to change the streetscape dramatically and they are of course environmentally friendly.

We are unsure why the existence of underground services prohibits the planting of trees when so many roads in the wider area, which must also have underground services, are planted. If it really is the case that species suited to the particular environment of Sydenham Road/Kirkdale cannot be identified then we suggest that the Council considers planting in containers. If new trees and additional planters are not considered suitable then we would propose hanging baskets and flower boxes at suitable sites.

Parking spaces

We accept the Council’s assurances that parking bay spaces in Sydenham Road and the side road returns ‘will remain about the same’. Whilst we think it is very important for the vitality of the high street that the overall amount of parking is not significantly reduced, we would accept that increased pedestrian safety and the aim of creating pocket parks may result in the loss of a marginal number of parking spaces.

Station Approach
We note that a scheme encompassing this road will be the subject of a later consultation and will make comments at that stage.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Lund
Chair
Sydenham Society

The Future of Forest Hill Pools

As our last newsletter went to press in mid-February there was news that the Mayor and Cabinet had taken the decision to demolish the existing buildings and build a new two-pool facility on the site of the Pools and Louise House complex, and that they had committed to consulting with local groups and residents with regard to the design. There was also a commitment to integrate some of the features of the existing pools building into the design.

Since that time there has been one “Stakeholder meeting” on 17 March at which members of the Sydenham Society were present, along with members of the Forest Hill Society, to hear Lewisham Council officers outline the schedule of redevelopment.

A further meeting is planned for 15 May, after this newsletter deadline.

The timetable includes demolition of the whole site in July, although it is admitted this date is likely to slip as a nursery, currently using part of the rear of Louise House, will need to be relocated first.

The concerns of a large number of people about retaining the Victorian streetscape, by possibly converting the existing brick built buildings into residential property, are not included in the Council’s plans, despite the statement in Lewisham’s Supplementary Planning Guidance for Forest Hill (March 2003) which says: “The Library and Pools complex need to be addressed in terms of celebrating these important buildings, creating a special place and providing improved amenity for the local community.”

English Heritage has also stated that: “They (the Pools) make a positive contribution to the streetscape and along with Holy Trinity School, Forest Hill Library and Louise House form a distinct group of buildings which reflect the Victorian enthusiasm for education and health reform.”

Members attending the recent Sydenham Society Annual General Meeting were shown ideas for two new pools, a refurbished Louise House and Superintendent’s House (the frontage block of the swimming pool), a public square and residential housing which would help cross-subsidise the pools/leisure facility. There was an overwhelming majority in favour of these ideas which have been put to the council for consideration.

The council say that they are committed to good design for the replacement of all buildings on this important town site, a focal point for Forest Hill, and have earmarked £7.5m for the redevelopment of two pools (a 25m 6-lane pool, and a learner pool), together with a fitness suite. A cross-subsidy of £2m from sale of development land does leave a question in many minds about how much £9.5m can buy in terms of quality design.

The council say that housing on this site could be of high, medium or low density, but as yet there is no indication of what this means in terms of numbers of residential properties, nor of the type of housing, ie high or low rise, also one, two or three bedroom units.

The services are currently being decommissioned and the pools are being drained. Design and feasibility work is underway and a historical survey with a view to retaining some of the original features (the keystone and the griffins) and incorporating these into the new building is also underway. A local public consultation is planned for June at Forest Hill Library. However, there will be no designs available before the planned demolition takes place, which leaves many local residents concerned about what might eventually be planned. A design competition before the pools are demolished has been ruled out as the project is deemed to be too small to justify such a venture.

The Sydenham Society will continue to campaign for the retention of the Victorian buildings which we believe are an important part of the Forest Hill streetscape and which, converted and refurbished will, we believe, provide a sustainable use for these sound structures which have played such an important part in the social history of the area for over 120 years.

Pedestrian Improvements to Sydenham Road

Plans to improve the pedestrian environment of Sydenham Road are finally emerging and the second round of public consultation has begun. There are a number of major changes which are likely to be introduced. These are:

  1. At Cobb’s Corner. A light controlled pedestrian crossing proposed for Kirkdale (replacing the existing Zebra); at Westwood Hill junction with Lawrie Park Road a signal controlled crossing with a pedestrian phase, replacing the existing Zebra. Both Westwood Hill and Kirkdale signals are intended to help provide better control/balance of traffic flow approaching Cobbs Corner from the west.
  2. Spring Hill junction with Cobbs Corner. Raised pavement across the junction – there has also been discussion between planners and developers’ architects as to how the plans for redevelopment of Greyhound site fit in with the plans for improvement of the pedestrian environment in this area.
  3. A new roundabout will be constructed!!!!
  4. In the Kirkdale Bookshop area. New (unsignalled) road islands to aid pedestrians crossing.
  5. The zebra crossing on the railway bridge will go.
  6. Venner Road. The proposals include moving the point at which Venner Road is closed at its junction with Sydenham Road in order to create a local open space with, possibly, 3-4 longer term parking spaces for businesses at the rear of this area.
  7. Station Approach. The Council is in discussion with Network Rail and TfL London Rail regarding future improvements which will be exhibited / consulted upon outside the current consultation.
  8. Sydenham Road/Silverdale/Venner Road area. An enlarged raised pavement proposed across the width of Sydenham Road as part of a signal controlled pedestrian crossing. Short-term parking will be lost in this area.
  9. Newlands Park/Sydenham Road junction. A full pedestrian phased light controlled crossing is proposed (with straight pedestrian crossings on each arm). This means traffic will stop and pedestrians can even cross the road diagonally. A box junction is also planned.
  10. Bus stops. These are proving problematic in the emerging designs. It is suggested that the one outside Boots be moved nearer to Newlands Park. The bus stop outside the Post Office remains as at present.
  11. Queensthorpe/Sydenham Road junction. A decision about the treatment of this junction has yet to be determined – it could be closed to traffic; alternatively, there could be a raised pavement across this junction.
  12. Sydenham Road/ Mayow Park junction. A full pedestrian phased light controlled crossing (with straight pedestrian crossings on each arm) is proposed. This means that pedestrians can cross this junction in “one go”, and also diagonally.
  13. Short term parking spaces. There will be a loss of some short-term parking spaces on Sydenham Road although, as we go to press, this figure has not been made available.
  14. Mayow Road to Bell Green. During 2008/09 design work is planned for the remainder of Sydenham Road down to Bell Green. This will look to address a number of issues focussing on safety, but will include some pedestrian improvements of a simpler/minor nature compared to proposals west of Mayow Road
  15. Linked traffic signals. It is proposed to link the signals from Westwood Hill/Kirkdale to Mayow Road and extending the linking to Bell Green, enabling traffic movement to be managed more effectively and producing an average 20 mph traffic speed throughout the length of Sydenham Road.
  16. DeCeaux will accept the removal of the cylindrical advertising pillar outside the Post Office, subject to its replacement with a flat faced illuminated scrolling panel at a location of equivalent value. If other illuminated street advertising hoardings are removed the council will need to find alternative advertising sites. Removal of this pillar will enable this area to be made into a more attractive public open space.
  17. The main footway paving is grey concrete standard slabs, with parking bays and raised side road entries constructed in dark grey granite.
  18. If all goes to plan work on the new scheme could start in January 2009.

Public consultation has begun and continues throughout May. The scheme will also be an item discussed at the next Sydenham Assembly on Thursday 5 June. All local residents are invited to take part in the consultation and attend one of the public meetings being held at the Naborhood Centre. Questionnaires have been delivered to all residents and should be returned by 2 June.

Update on Crystal Palace Park

The Masterplan
There is still an opportunity to comment on the Masterplan and time for local park users to send in observations to Bromley Council about the proposals, favourable or otherwise. These will form part of the report to the Planning Committee in the late Autumn. Comments should be sent to Bromley Council, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley, BR1 3UH or to planning@bromley.gov.uk quoting 07/03897/OUT.

National Sports Centre
Refurbishment works continue at the National Sports Centre (NSC). A number of new items have been discovered including additional asbestos and problems with tiles in the main pool. The cost of removing the asbestos amounts to £4.2m. These works are likely to extend the schedule a little but disruption has been minimised. Most major events planned at the NSC have been accommodated within the available facilities, or have been postponed until the building is ready. Meanwhile the relocation of the gym to another building at Crystal Palace has meant that membership of the centre has actually increased. The London Development Agency (LDA) has also made additional funds available to increase the size of the main pool to FINA Olympic standards and to carry out cosmetic work in some areas of the centre. These extra works will be completed alongside the refurbishment and are not expected to extend the schedule. The NSC is due to re-open in September.

Olympic Training Camp bid
The NSC has been included in the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games’ list of training venues for a wide variety of sports. The Pre-Games Training Camp Guide will be sent to all Olympic and Paralympic teams inviting them to base themselves at the different facilities. Sports at the NSC include: archery, athletics, swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, badminton, basketball, boxing, fencing, trampoline, handball, judo, modern pentathlon, table tennis, triathlon, indoor volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.

Events at Crystal Place Park
Despite an offer of increased grant funding from the LDA the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has decided not to proceed with a further season of concerts as they feel the financial risk for them is too great. The Norwich Union Athletics Grand Prix will go ahead as normal and the London Youth games will also take place but some events will be transferred elsewhere due to continued asbestos removal at the NSC (see above). A Pyrotechnic Spectacular, not associated with 5 November, is also planned for later in the year.

Girl Guides Public Art Project
The Girl Guide movement began in Crystal Palace Park in 1909 and to celebrate their centenary the Girl Guide movement will be applying to Bromley Council for permission to restore the Maze by re-establishing the hedging and to introduce a permanent interaction art feature within the maze. Prior to submitting the application they will be holding public workshops with the local community as part of the consultation process.

Capel Manor College
Capel Manor Farm is open to the public from 12.00 – 4.00 weekends and between 10.30 – 2.00 and 2.00 – 4.00 during the week. It is closed on Wednesdays. Capel Manor is an educational and teaching facility and teaches animal husbandry, arboriculture and horticulture to 300 students.

The Greyhound: good news

Closed on 13 August last, protected by Conservation Area status granted on 5 September and behind dreary grey hoardings for over 6 months, the Greyhound suffered what local residents had feared most – an arson attack on Christmas Eve. Five fire engines attended to put out the fire. The hoardings hindered the Fire Brigade who had to smash their way in; the Fire Brigade also had to break a number of windows in order to vent the smoke. A Building Control officer from Lewisham Council attended and reports that the fire in the cellar destroyed the ceiling and part of the floor in the bar area. However the building is reported as being structurally sound. But now there’s good news – the following was posted on Sydenham Town website on 20 February:

Dear Sydenham residents, I write to you as a director of Wealdfrost Ltd (the owner of the Greyhound pub and adjoining land). I thought that you should all be aware that we are making all efforts to try and keep the site (especially the pub) as secure as possible. We have been to the site last Friday and this Monday. We are also speaking to some security Companies re a monitoring service. I would also like to add that we are currently speaking to the council re a new scheme for the site, which includes the retention of the pub. We will keep you updated with our progress. I look forward to hearing from you and any comments that you may have.
Kind Regards
Antony Gerrard

Forest Hill Pools back on the agenda

Since the pools were closed on health and safety grounds in March 2006 there has been little information about what was happening inside. We were told that an “intrusive survey” was being carried out before the promised refurbishment, which was due to start in early 2008.

As we go to press a report by council officers about the future of Forest Hill Pools has been tabled and is due to go to the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on 13 February. The report indicates that both pools are severely cracked across their entire width and water leakage has been measured at 3627m3 per annum, equivalent to 10 times the water volume of the main pool. The implication is that the officers consider refurbishment of the existing building, to allow a reasonable lifecycle of 20 years, is not economic.

Other options have been put forward. One is to consider retaining the existing frontage and, behind the existing façade, build a new 25m pool and a learner pool together with a fitness suite. An alternative is to demolish the existing building together with Louise House and provide a complete new build leisure centre with 25m pool, learner pool and fitness suite and a “community facility”. The third choice is to demolish the whole complex and provide a “dry” leisure centre alongside an adult learning centre.

There has been virtually no opportunity for the local community to digest or respond to the officers’ report before it goes to the Mayor and Cabinet. However, the Sydenham Society has requested that the wider community be fully informed of the reasons for the report and kept involved in all processes from now on.

We believe that representatives of the community and user groups should be involved in the selection of architects and a “Planning for Real” exercise should be undertaken at the earliest stage to inform the designers of the hopes, dreams and fears of the community in regard to the development of Forest Hill Pools and Louise House. This, we believe, would help to achieve the best possible outcome for the provision of a great swimming pool facility that preserves the character of Forest Hill’s architectural heritage and includes the local community in the process.

Furthermore we think that public money (perhaps £5000 from the Localities Fund) should be used to employ the expertise of reputable conservation architects to prepare a report on how the much of the original architecture can be saved/integrated/ salvaged/for use in the proposals for a new/refurbished building on the pools and Louise House site.

Pools latest:
We have learned that the Mayor and Cabinet have taken the decision to demolish the existing buildings and build a new two-pool facility on the site of the Pools and Louise House. They have committed to consulting with local groups and residents with regard to the design and there is also a commitment to integrate some of the features of the existing pools building into the new design.

It is hoped that work will begin at the beginning of 2009, after the design and tender process, and that the new pool will be ready in the summer of 2010.