Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Is Ferrier Estate demolition a "charade" to secure funding?

Ferrier Estate residents are being evicted, and their homes being partially demolished, despite no apparent development taking place, Greenwich Conservatives have claimed:

Slab blocks on the Ferrier Estate partially demolished earlier this year
Beyond the large green hoardings little work appears to be taking place

As documented by this site, large sections of the Ferrier were left as partial ruins earlier this year with little apparent rebuilding taking place since.

The council admit that they will lose £21 million in government funding if residents are not evicted and development has not begun by March next year.

However, the leader of Greenwich Conservatives Spencer Drury claims that these partial demolitions are merely a "charade" to suggest that work is taking place where it is not:

"The Labour Council is now so far behind schedule it is hurrying through the eviction of tenants before the end of the financial year to ensure government funding remains in place. Labour has mishandled this process from the very beginning and now we find that the demolition appears to be simply a charade to suggest work has started when in fact no rebuilding is taking place."

While little building appears to be underway on the actual Ferrier Estate, land adjacent to Sutcliffe Park has been developed including these new houses by Eltham Green:

This land was previously used for football, causing the Conservatives to claim that while "Labour seem able to concrete over football pitches, basketball courts and other open spaces [they] cannot manage a properly organised regeneration in Greenwich.”

The remaining residents on the Ferrier Estate have also hit out at Greenwich Council, saying that they are receiving eviction notices despite no alternative accommodation being in place.

-Update- Responding to these claims Deputy Leader of Greenwich Council Cllr Peter Brooks said:

"I would urge Cllr Drury to visit the site and see the excellent new homes that are being built. Not only are many of them completed but residents have already moved in and are delighted with their new homes. 
"The Council has given planning approval for the next phases of development , and we are well advanced with rehousing the remaining residents so that the next phases of construction can get underway soon.
"We have had a specific deadline imposed on us by the Government to start work on an extra care scheme that will provide housing and support for 170 households aged 55 and over. The Government has threatened to withdraw a £21m grant for this scheme if work does not begin by the end of March 2011. As a result of the Government's refusal to roll this grant into next year, we have had to issue legal Notices to a number of remaining tenants. Every tenant will be given at least two offers suitable for their needs - with repossession only to be used as a very last resort."

Are you still living on the Ferrier Estate? If so, please leave your thoughts in the comments or email us via this address.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Ristorante Carola, Lee Green: restaurant review

Just down the road from Kidbrooke is Lee Green, centred on the crossroads. Blighted by cross-channel traffic, the 1960s-era Leegate shopping centre and a poorly-positioned Sainsbury’s, it will never match the village ambience of neighbouring Blackheath but does have a number of attractive restaurants worth visiting.

The most popular of these is Villa Moura, a Portuguese restaurant that serves hearty fish dishes in a friendly, homely atmosphere. Nearby is a rather excellent Thai - Ratchada, a long-serving Greek Restaurant- and the new arrival, Ristorante Carola.

I went to Carola for the first time last week in the hope that it can match the standard set by its near-neighbours. The new restaurant has turned what was the rather bleak closed-down post office building into a bright, bustling space. 

So it was with hope and expectation that I went in. It was a Saturday night and full. A mixed crowd: someone celebrating their 50th, an older couple, a pair of young blokes on their way through to something more exciting.

A local Italian restaurant should do a number of things well – it should be friendly and noisy, while the food should be tasty and straightforward. Carola’s canteen-style restaurant space, combined with an open-plan kitchen, means it had a welcome buzz, and the service was attentive but not excessive. The house red was excellent, and the starter - a cheesy garlic bread - was the best I’ve had for some time.

Onto the mains, I went slightly off-piste and ordered a paella. It was good but not great. My dining partner went even further off-piste and ordered an Asian-style seafood course. This was less of a success, and carried an all-pervasive taste of Worcestershire sauce, while the tomato sauce seemed to be just a few chopped tomatoes. 

Fortunately, they knew how to serve a big cheesecake, and were more than happy to offer to take the offending main course off our bill. Overall I left impressed with our new local, and pleased we only had a short walk to get home.

Ristorante Carola, 151 - 157 Lee Road, Lee Green SE3 9DJ (Bus route 178 from Kidbrooke Station) Phone: 0208 617 3544

Tom is a journalist who's lived in south-east London for most of the last decade.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Blackheath Fireworks: Lewisham Council needs you!

I know times are hard but I was a little surprised to see this begging bucket tied to the bar of the Hare and Billet pub in Blackheath last night:

BLACKHEATH Fireworks needs YOU! reads the sign although a little symbol hidden around the side revealed that it's actually LEWISHAM COUNCIL that needs YOU!

I was aware that Greenwich had pulled their share of funding for the event, and that Lewisham were now asking for donations and selling VIP tickets to pay for theirs.

But to actually dish out what looks like charity buckets is going just a step too far in my opinion.

Personally I think the fireworks display is a great event that brings masses of people out onto the heath and boosts trade.

But either Lewisham think they should be funding it out of council tax or they don't.

And if they don't then they should just be honest about it rather than pretending that a few tossed pennies in the Hare and Billet will foot the bill.

Of course they could always go down the Boris Johnson route:

"This year, Mr Johnson has also decided to make savings on the New Year fireworks display.

The display has been reduced from 10 minutes to seven and a half minutes, costing £325,000 instead of the £500,000 of last year.

City Hall is also considering moving it to the Olympic Park in east London because security would be cheaper than in the centre of the capital."

Or they could just put their hands in their pockets and stump up the cash. Choices, choices...

Out of interest I had a little shake of the bucket before I left the pub last night. I reckon there was about half a dozen coins in there.

I don't think next year's will be much of a display.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Kidbrooke's lost brooks: The Middle Kid Brook

After finding what I believe may be the only visible part of the lost Lower Kid Brook I went down to the Ferrier Library to see if I could find any information about the other two branches:

And amidst the local history books I found a short passage locating the Middle Kid Brook as still running openly through Thomas Tallis school.

I wasn't aware of this so went down to take a look. And here it is running East to West from Kidbrooke Park Road:

The construction work you can see in the background is part of the now-aborted Building Schools for the Future Programme.

Several other schools in the area were due to be rebuilt but a combination of council dithering and Government austerity now means that most won't.

However as you can see the new building lies very close to the brook which apparently leaves it at significant risk of a (once in a 100 years flood).

In order to counter this the developers will have to build a "flood storage area" whatever that is.

It all seems a bit over-cautious for what appears to be little more than a soggy ditch right but I guess freak events do happen

Still I'm glad to see that the Middle Kid Brook is being maintained and will still run openly through at least some of the area.

In the coming weeks I'll be trying to track down the other lost remains of the Kid Brooks. All help still gratefully received.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Plans for the Coronet Cinema Eltham revealed

Plans to redevelop the derelict Coronet Cinema in Eltham have been revealed in full to the Kidbrooke Kite.

The listed site which has been empty since 2000 will be converted into a "mixed use" development comprising new shops, a restaurant, affordable housing (and here's the good news) a new cinema.

The project is being constructed in three phases and should be completed by December 2011.

Twenty-two new flats and a small Tescos are already being constructed in the land adjoining the cinema on Well Hall road and should be completed by June next year.

The second phase will involve demolishing the shops immediately adjacent to the cinema in order to build even more flats and shops.

The old cinema auditorium and foyer will also be demolished although the external shell will remain.

Once all that has been completed a new restaurant and small cinema will be built within the remaining shell.

The precise locations of these has not yet been agreed although the developers are currently considering housing the cinema in what is now the foyer.

The derelict cinema auditorium is to be demolished
The derelict cinema foyer. More pictures here and here

Plans to lease the cinema to Greenwich University are also under discussion but I understand that whatever happens it will be open to the public for at least part of the week.

The news brings to an end a decade of speculation about the site which has seen reported plans for a bowling alley and children's centre all fall by the wayside.

In fact speculation became so intense that 1,387 people have so far been fooled into joining the "petition against turning the coronet cinema, eltham, into a mosque" Facebook group.

No such plans have ever existed.

Updates on the project should hopefully be posted to the Coronet Cinema website in the coming year, and we'll be keeping a close eye on it here at the Kite.

So what do you think? Are you pleased that a new cinema is finally coming to Eltham / Kidbrooke or do the plans fail to live up to your hopes for the site?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Kidbrooke to London - the cycle (not so) superhighway

This is a tough time of year for bike commuters. Mornings and evenings are dark and cold, and when it rains (or snows) the journey can seem unending:

However, for those of us that bike regularly, switching to the train often seems the worse option – standing on cold platforms to battle for a tiny space on a regularly delayed train is hardly an attractive prospect.

The transport authorities agree and are spending tens of millions of pounds on schemes to encourage you, dear commuter, to jump on your bike. So, what are your options?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Dogwatch Van: Greenwich Council bites back

A couple of weeks ago I posted on this Greenwich Council "dog watch" van I'd spotted loitering around Kidbrooke Green:

Inspired by this one reader submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Council asking:

  • The rationale/decision-making process behind this initiative
  • Its timescale - length of the operation and its operational hours
  • The locations of the van, past and future
  • Cost of the operation
  • Success metrics - ie penalty notices issued
  • Income generated

Here's the response they received:

"The Council is unable to provide the documentation you requested as there is no initiative involving a dog watch van."


"The vehicle in the picture you provided was previously the Council Dog Warden Vehicle and was used by the Dog Warden to fulfil the Council's statutory obligation of collecting stray dogs. Due to changes in service provision the vehicle is no longer used for this purpose."

Right, so it's no longer used for collecting stray dogs. What about enforcing the dog control notices they've plastered across the borough?

"The Dog Warden Service has never had any enforcement role in relation to the Dog Control Orders in force within Greenwich. However during 2009 it was considered acceptable that the vehicle displayed signage informing the public of the Orders as a method of promoting responsible dog ownership. 
The vehicle is still periodically used at dog promotion events and is still equipped to carry dogs; however as previously stated it does not have a role in the enforcement of Greenwich Council's Dog Control Orders."

So it was once a dog warden vehicle but now it's not? And it carries dog control order notices but the officers have absolutely no powers to enforce them?

So what exactly is the point of this van and what are these "dog promotion events" they've been attending to on Kidbrooke Green?

I'm afraid this hasn't really cleared up an awful lot:

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Holding out in Telemann Square

I spotted this heavily fortified shop on the Ferrier Estate today:

What will happen to the Ferrier Library?

Plans across SE London to shut down libraries and cut their services have caused campaign groups to be formed and protests to be held.

However here in Kidbrooke our local library is set to close without so much as a whisper.

The Ferrier Library will be demolished as part of the Kidbrooke regeneration and so far no announcement has been made about a replacement.

So while plans for a new station, supermarket and health centre have been confirmed, the library remains totally in limbo.

I went down to talk to the staff there and they told me that while they're optimistic that a replacement library will be built, "nothing is set in stone."

Hoping for some clarity I contacted Greenwich Council to ask what their plans were and I was told simply that: "no decisions have been taken in respect of the Ferrier Library."

Pushing them further, as to when those decisions would be made, I was told that there was "no specific decision timetable as yet."

So will Kidbrooke lose it's only library at the same time as thousands more families move into the area?

Unfortunately Greenwich Council aren't willing to say.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Is this the source of Kidbrooke's lost brook?

Following on from Diamond Geezer's fascinating lost rivers of London series I'm setting out to trace the sources and routes of Kidbrooke's own three lost waterways: the Lower, Middle and Upper Kid Brooks.

These tributaries to the River Quaggy were largely buried underground when Kidbrooke was developed in the 1930s and their precise locations are no longer noted on modern maps.

However, at the eastern end of Broad Walk, just by Greenwich Cemetery lies a short stretch of running water beside a willow tree.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Courtlands residents fight back against lease costs

On the south west border of Kidbrooke lies the Courtlands Estate, a few hundred maisonettes built on sports fields at the tail-end of the 1950s. It’s a pretty quiet kind of place, its tree-lined roads insulated from the noisier, busier, roads that race past to the south and east:

Most issues on the estate are fairly predictable - a little low-level crime, a bit of fly-tipping and an excess of wheelie bins – but in recent years a growing number of residents have been hit by massive and unexpected bills to extend their leases.

In response, last year a group of residents came together and formed the ‘Mosquito Group’ to help educate other residents of their rights, and to try to push back against the increasing costs of lease extensions.
The cost of extensions has gone up partly because freeholders - who leaseholders must pay to extend their lease - have won a number of legal cases about how the price is calculated. But if leaseholders choose not to extend, or cannot afford to, they risk being stuck in a property rapidly shrinking in value, or face having to pay a far higher price to extend the lease at a later date.

Costs rise more rapidly when a lease is less than 80 years, because then the leaseholder has to pay a share of the “marriage value”, a form of compensation to the freeholder.

On the Courtlands Estate the original leases were of 99 years, meaning many properties today have leases of just 49 or 50 years. As the lease gets shorter, so the cost of extending it rises. Today, the cost of extending a lease on the Courtlands is around £25,000; 10 years ago it may have been half that figure.

Spurred on by the Mosquito Group, many Courtlands residents are now in the process of extending their leases. By acting together, using the same valuers and solicitors, and sharing information and expertise, they have successfully presented a united front to the freeholder’s agents, who they must negotiate with.

But not everyone has tens of thousands of pounds to extend their lease. Many residents - some of whom have lived on her estate since it was built 50 years ago - are at risk of being stuck in an unsellable property. The price of an extension will continue to rise as leases get shorter, and so the value of the properties with a short lease will continue to decline. Local estate agents say flats on the estate have been changing hands at around £190,000 with leases of 90 years or more, but at less than £140,000 with the 50-year leases many now have.

Part of the reason for this difference is that mortgage lenders are very reluctant to extend good terms to properties with short leases, and will usually limit the amount that can be borrowed, and restrict mortgages to interest-only rather than capital repayment.

Further hurdles remain. Leaseholders that can afford to extend their lease can find themselves at the mercy of freeholders, who have a strong interest in throwing up obstacles, to delay the process, and so push up the price of the lease extension. Freeholders can also try to profit from overcharging for legal and valuation fees, which leaseholders must pay.

One leaseholder on the Courtlands Estate took more than two years to agree a price for her extension, but she had to pay the freeholders’ agents thousands of pounds in fees on top of the £26,000 cost of the extension. She was particularly angered by having to pay the agents for the same survey to be conducted twice - at a cost of more than £1,000, as well as £400 ‘travel fees’ to south-east London from Chelsea.

Such behaviour comes as little surprise to Nigel Wilkins, who runs campaign group, CARL, pushing for reform of the leasehold system. Wilkins says that leaseholders can appeal to a tribunal, but the odds are often stacked in favour of the freeholder. He adds:

“Anyone wanting to sell in a reasonable time would not be able to go through the tribunal procedure, which is costly anyway. They are therefore thrown at the mercy of the landlord, and end up paying far more.”

If anyone on the Courtlands Estate wishes to contact the Mosquito Group for more information about lease extensions, please contact this blog and we’ll pass on the details.

Tom is a journalist who's lived in south-east London for most of the last decade.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Ferrier Estate: October 2010

Yes it's still there. Crumbling, largely forgotten but still hopelessly clinging on:

Crows circle it's sun-bleached buttresses as the roaches march onwards from flat to flat:

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Waiting for Southeastern at Kidbrooke Station

I've just been down at Kidbrooke Station talking to the owner of the new(ish) coffee kiosk on platform one.

The kiosk is a great addition, which makes the station feel like a much friendlier place, but the Kite can reveal that it almost didn't come to Kidbrooke at all.

In fact the owner Niall only moved into the station in April after waiting a staggering four years to get permission from Southeastern.

The main sticking point was his wish to buy a kiosk from his own preferred supplier rather than the one preferred by the train operators.

This was a point he eventually won, but only after four years in which he had to start and re-start his application several times over as five separate management agents left the job.

He was eventually allowed onto the platform, but it does seem amazing that Southeastern would make life so difficult for somebody who they should have been giving the red carpet treatment to.

While we were talking a camera-wielding representative from Berkeley Homes, who are rebuilding the area, came over and asked if Niall could help them get in touch with the station manager.

It seems that communication with Southeastern, even for somebody rebuilding one of their stations, is not a simple task.

The man from Berekley Homes told me that before the new Kidbrooke Square is built, the station approach is going to undergo an interim "smartening up" with new retail outlets being put in.

The motivation it seems is to get a lick of paint on quickly before potential buyers are put off of moving into the area altogether:

It's a laudable aim, but something tells me it's going to take more than a lick of paint to persuade many to use the truly bleak area around the station once again:

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kidbrooke Comprehensive - a lesson from history

Top South East London blog Transpontine has posted a fascinating (and topical) history of the tensions surrounding the creation of Kidbrooke school, London's first ever comprehensive.

-Update- Cllr Mary Mills has just added her own take on this story:

I'm looking to post more on Kidbrooke's history in the coming weeks.

Stories I'm interested in include:

  • The history and route of the Kid Brooks.
  • Rochester Way and the building of modern Kidbrooke.
  • Kidbrooke Green and the Nature Reserve.
  • The RAF base and balloon barrage.

So if anybody has an interesting angle on these or any other part of our history that they'd like to contribute to the Kite, then please do get in touch.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Can Kidbrooke cope with an extra 2500 homes?

When the Ferrier Estate is finally demolished it will be replaced by over twice as many homes as currently stand there.

1900 old homes will be replaced by 4400 new homes. A huge increase.

In order to do this, a significant amount of Metropolitan Open Land will be concreted over and many new residents will have to live in far closer proximity than the old ones did.

New commercial sites are also proposed including a new supermarket and other shops by Kidbrooke station.

This will all put huge strains on an already crowded public transport network and has caused a lot of objections to the project.

To counter this a new train and bus station is planned at Kidbrooke as part of the development.

However, amidst the evidence submitted to the council, I found this neat summary of the deficiencies of our existing "transport hub"

  • “Poor” to “moderate” public transport accessibility
  • Poor permeability of the CPO Area, particularly for people with mobility impairments or prams
  • A lack of natural surveillance, where pedestrians may experience concern for their personal security and a fear of crime
  • A limited cycle network
  • Circuitous bus routes through the Ferrier Estate
  • Poor pedestrian access to bus stops and a lack of bus stop facilities
  • The unattractive Henley Cross bus turnaround area and its poor standard of integration with the railway station
  • Deficiencies identified by the Network Rail / London Borough of Greenwich Kidbrooke Station Capacity Study Draft Report (August 2006), including a lack of ticket gates and a narrow footbridge

So pretty dire then.

However, the plans for a new station could solve many of these problems.

Under the plans Henley's Cross bus exchange will be shifted south of the railway line and integrated both into the station and the estate.

There will be a new ticket office and the whole area will be raised to the same level to form a new "Kidbrooke Square"

Housing will surround both sides of the station, and the whole area should lose the intimidating ghost town feel it currently has.

But even if all of that is successful that still leaves an extra 2500 households using the same roads, and the same station on the same line, with the same number of trains.

So can Kidbrooke cope with such rapid growth over such a short period?

Please let me know what you think in the comments or get in touch.