30 November 2005

02 December 2005

Mother warns of costly loan plans

A SINGLE mum is warning hard-up families not to get "ripped-off" by doorstep lenders this Christmas.

Jackie Murray, 34, claims she was "conned" into taking out a £500 cash loan just before Christmas, in 2003.

The mother-of-two, who already had a £9,000 debt, did not realise she would be paying back a total of £970 over the space of a year.

This meant she had to repay almost twice the amount she borrowed.

Having learnt her lesson, she is now warning other families living on the breadline not to give in to home credit firms.

And she welcomes an investigation being carried out by the Competition Commission into the ways companies such as Provident and Shopacheck operate.

The inquiry into the £2billion-a-year home credit industry was set up in December 2004 following a complaint from the National Consumer Council (NCC).

The commission has been investigating whether the home credit market prevents or distorts competition to the detriment to customers.

It will publish a report on its provisional findings next year.

Mrs Murray, of Taylors Lane, Sydenham, said: "The sooner people find out what these companies are up to the better.

"I was naive when I took the loan out. I thought the extra money just before Christmas would come in handy.

"It is the worse mistake I could have made and I would advise anyone to stay clear of any dodgy doorstep lender, especially at this time of year."

Gary Ellison, 38, of Manciple Street, London, who used to work for Provident as a doorstep lender in New Cross, said: "I feel guilty when I think about how I used to get money from people, who were mostly single-parent families.

"They were the easiest targets to get money from as they would want to buy presents for their kids from our catalogues. It was our way of keeping them on our books.

"This time of year just before Christmas was one of the best time to earn hundreds of pounds."

Mum’s ashes left on shelf for 9 years

A DISTRESSED son has slammed a funeral firm after it emerged his mother's ashes were still in storage nine years after her death.

Since 1996, Eddie Lengthorn has made weekly visits to Lewisham Crematorium believing his mum's ashes were scattered there.

He and other family members put up a memorial plaque in the grounds and have spent hours paying their respects.

But the taxi driver was left stunned earlier this month when he received a letter from Funeralcare asking what to do with his mother Iris' ashes.

The firm had been charged with the 56-year-old's funeral after she died of bowel cancer in November 1996.

In the letter, the company asked Mr Lengthorn what it should do with the remains which had been kept in a chapel at its base in Rushey Green, Catford, since the funeral.

Mr Lengthorn, who is the oldest of seven children, says he had a verbal agreement with staff the ashes would be scattered across the crematorium grounds in Verdant Lane, Hither Green.

The father-of-three said: "It feels like everything has been wasted. We believed her ashes had been scattered and we took comfort because she was all around us.

"The money spent on flowers over the years can be quantified but what about the tears and grief? You can't measure those."

The 41-year-old is also upset because it took nearly a decade for the funeral arrangers to get in touch with him.

Mr Lengthorn, of Towncourt Crescent, Petts Wood, says when he complained to Funeralcare, he was promised £2,000 compensation.

He was planning to donate the cash to St Christopher's Hospice, Lawrie Park Road, Sydenham, where Mrs Lengthorn died.

But Funeralcare, which is part of the Co-operative group, denies this and does not accept responsibility because it does not have written permission to scatter the ashes.

A spokesman says it is standard for remains to be left with the company for long periods of time.

He said: "We are sorry to learn of Mr Lengthorn's distress over his late mother's ashes, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have offered him any reasonable assistance in scattering his late mother's ashes, such as the provision of a funeral vehicle."

Mr Lengthorn now has his mother's remains and is considering where to spread them.

He said: "We may scatter them at her home in Catford or we may scatter them at the crematorium where we have been paying our respects all these years.

"Then we'll have closure."

30 November 2005

Preying in cemetery

A POWERFUL bird of prey has escaped from its handler and made itself at home in a cemetery.

The Harris hawk, a native of the US, has been spotted in a number of cemeteries over the past three months, prompting fears for local wildlife.

In the past few weeks, the raptor, which has a four-foot wingspan, has taken up residence in Verdant Lane Cemetery, Catford.

John McDaid, of George Street, Lewisham, was visiting a relative's grave when he heard a "tinkling" overhead.

Mr McDaid said: "It had a bell and a piece of leather attached to its foot. I called it and it looked down at me."
He quipped: "I'd better leave my toupee behind next time."

Harris hawks were brought to this country in the last century as hunting birds and live on creatures up to the size of ducks, owls and rabbits.

In the UK they are all kept in captivity. Neal Fowler, of the Independent Bird Register, said: "We have someone in Catford trying to catch this bird but we don't know who it belongs to.

"It is probably in the cemetery because it's quiet, and there is plenty to feed on, like squirrels and pigeons."

Keith Noble, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "It's bigger and more powerful than the sparrowhawks and kestrels you normally see around Lewisham."

Mr Noble added that while the bird would not "devastate" local wildlife there was always a problem with escapees because they did not fit in with native species.

Anyone who sees the bird should call the Independent Bird Register on 0870 6088500.

Advice to help elderly

OLDER people from ethnic minorities can benefit from a new advice service.

Age Concern Lewi-sham launches its new initiative today, aimed exclusively at the borough's black and ethnic minority community.

Three drop-in advice centres have already been established at the Turkish Elders Club, St Laurence Church Hall, Catford, the Calabash Day Centre, Catford, and at Cinnamon Court, Deptford.

Age Concern hopes the new service will complement these and provide "timely, effective and appropriate advice" for the elderly.

Advice co-ordinator Jeanne Wilson added: "We hope this service will reach even more isolated elders.

"Age Concern is aiming to offer them access to our high-quality advice service."

The new service is being funded by £48,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions.

To make an appointment call 020 8690 9050.

Olympic hopeful feared police would end dream

AN INTERNATIONAL sprinter who was mistaken for an armed robber feared heavy-handed police tactics would end his Olympic dream.

Great Britain 100m runner James Ellington was dragged from his car and tied up by armed police in Bellingham because they thought he was a suspect.

Now the 20-year-old has told how he feared his career could have been at risk due to the "excessive force" used by the police officers.

Mr Ellington was on his way home from visiting a friend, in Bromley Road, Catford, when he saw five police cars on his tail.

The cars surrounded him as he got to the Beckenham Hill estate, ordering him to pull over.

The promising sprinter, who finished fifth in last year's European under-23 championships, was dragged from his car.

He claims he was then thrown to the ground and kneed in the back before having his hands tied.

Mr Ellington, who harbours ambitions of competing in the 2008 Olympics, suffered knee and back injuries.

He said: "It was horrible. I was thinking my career could be in danger.

"I have never been in trouble with the police in my life. I don't know why they went after me."

After his 20-minute ordeal on November 22, police realised they had the wrong man and released Mr Ellington.

The Bellingham resident claims the officers apologised and said they were "only doing their job" but he was not offered any first-aid care.

Mr Ellington, who has now made a formal complaint against the police, added: "I accept they have a job to do but they don't need to use excessive force.

"If they are not 100 per cent sure they shouldn't be dragging people from cars."

Scotland Yard say they will investigate any complaint received.

Council ‘hid’ its housing report

AN OPPOSITION leader has criticised Lewisham Council for "hiding" an independent report which criticised its housing repair services.

The Audit Commission findings criticise Lewisham's maintenance standards and says the council will struggle to achieve its Decent Homes target by 2010.

Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Mark Morris is unhappy councillors have not had a chance to quiz council chiefs on the report, six months since it entered the public domain.

Published in April, the report makes a number of damning conclusions.

It says the council:

Cannot demonstrate it achieves value for money in its repairs and maintenance service;

Has no consistent track record of delivering service improvement;

Does not always comply with its own policies and procedures;

May not achieve the Decent Homes target by 2010.

Morris, who represents Downham ward, believes members should have had greater access to the report.

He said: "The council is always willing to boast about complimentary reports but it seems coy about releasing this information.

"It is appalling this has been hidden from us and not been properly discussed by full council."

The report also says the council's gas repair service is "weak" and almost five per cent of tenants remain at "unnecessary risk".

Cllr Morris added: "This report just confirms what I hear from people during my surgeries every week.

"I have known people who have had to wait for more than a week for heating and gas repairs."

The report concludes by saying Lewisham provides a "fair service which has uncertain prospects for improvement".

Lewisham Council says the report's recommendations "are being addressed".

A spokesman said: "We feel the report did not put into context the challenges faced by an inner-city borough or recognise plans already in place to improve services.

"The report was published on the Audit Commission's website and was circulated and discussed with our tenants' representatives."

The Audit Commission is an independent body charged with making sure taxpayers receive value for money.

28 November 2005

28 November 2005

Pools to be saved on film

A FILM-MAKER is to shoot footage of the pump rooms underneath a Victorian swimming baths threatened with destruction.

Once James Melloy has completed his film at Forest Hill Pools he intends to give it to the Sydenham Society and the Friends of Forest Hill Pools for posterity. Both groups are fighting to save the two 120-year-old baths from being knocked down and replaced with one modern swimming pool.

Lewisham council has been consulting the public over whether to proceed with this option or carry out a refurbishment of the existing facility.

James's film will include footage of the 1920s washing machines, spinners and drying systems that were used for towels; the area where coal to heat the water used to be stored; and the filtration system which is still used today.

James, of Sydenham Park, had a tour of the Dartmouth Road facility on Thursday last week and hopes to make the film in the next couple of weeks.

He said: "I hope the pump rooms can be listed. What amazed me is that they are still used. It's almost like a living museum.

"It all looks relatively good for the age that it is. Certainly a lot of the pipework has been painted and looks good.

"There are other bits that are old and knackered and unused."

He said Lewisham council needed to have a "sympathetic and imaginative" approach to the equipment's future.

One idea, he suggested, would be to get the rooms on a list of film locations, which would generate income from television and film companies.

The rooms could also be opened up each September for the annual Open House weekend, he said.

24 Hour Pubs?

DRINKERS looking for 24-hour boozing will be disappointed after very few premises applied for all-day licences.

In Southwark, the Ministry of Sound nightclub is the only venue that has applied to be open all hours.

But the council has received 320 applications to extend opening hours out of a total of more than 1,000 establishments. The rest want to keep the same hours they had before the new law came in.

The Licensing Act 2003 came into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

In Lewisham, Stonewalls bar in the high street has been given a 24-hour licence.
And eight off-licences have also been granted permission to be open all the time.

A total of 141 of the 653 premiseslicences granted have also been given the go-ahead to open after midnight.

Lambeth council received no applications to be open for 24-hour trading.

But 200 premises have applied to vary their licences. All those applications have been approved but with some changes.

Joan Ruddock, MP for Lewisham Deptford, said the new laws would help the police tackle problem bars and problem drinkers.

She said: "I voted for the new Licensing Act because my priority is to combat antisocial behaviour and protect residents.

"Local licensing committees can punish venues by reducing opening hours, imposing strict conditions, suspending their licence, replacing the management or even taking the licence away completely."

Retrial ordered over DJ 'killing'

A MAN accused of murdering his flat-mate then torching the body will stand trial again in April.

Michael Rogers-Wilson, 28, is said to have beaten Brett Youngs to death with a baseball bat after a row.

He then allegedly set fire to the body of the 30-year-old web designer and DJ, before fleeing the squat they shared in Northbrook Road, Lewisham.

Rogers-Wilson was arrested after Mr Youngs's death on May 27, 2003, and stood trial at the Old Bailey last month for murder and arson.

But earlier this month the jury was discharged after failing to reach verdicts following more than 29 hours of deliberations.

On Tuesday, Rogers-Wilson appeared in court again by video link from jail, dressed in a brown jumper and blue jeans.

Judge Peter Rook ordered that he stand trial again on April 10 and remanded him in custody.

Rogers-Wilson, of Little Heath Farm, Little Heath Lane, Oxshott, Surrey, denies murder and arson.

Time to sort out pigeon poo problem at bridge

AN ANGRY mum is concerned about bird poo rather than bird flu after her daughter injured herself slipping on pigeon droppings.

Joanne Hall claims transport bosses have ignored her pleas to clean a poo-strewn railway bridge in Burnt Ash Hill, Lee, for the past two years.

Now Mrs Hall is livid after her 10-year-old daughter slipped on a "skating rink" of pigeon excrement while trying to avoid the poop raining down from above.

Mrs Hall, of Wellmeadow Road, Lee, says she has written 10 letters to Network Rail and Transport for London since August 2003.

She has also contacted Lewisham Council and Lewisham East MP Bridget Prentice to demand the dirty bridge is cleaned up.

But she claims nothing was done and last week matters came to a messy head when her daughter Ellie took a tumble.

Mrs Hall, 44, said: "These pigeons are causing a health risk and an environmental risk.

"When it is frosty the poo on the pavement becomes quite slippery in patches.

"Sometimes it is so thick it is like a skating rink.

"If they can clear the pigeons from Trafalgar Square, why not a railway bridge?"

Ellie, who attends Colfe's School, Horn Park Lane, Lee, walks to school every day but runs under the bridge with a school bag over her head for protection.

She grazed her elbows and knees and ended up with droppings on her bag and clothes after the tumble.

Catering company manager Mrs Hall added: "I have a strong stomach but seeing that made me feel ill.

"Most people encourage their children to walk to school but I want my daughter to walk in a pleasant environment."

Mrs Hall now wants to see the bridge jet-washed, along with another in St Mildreds Road, Hither Green.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "If residents have concerns about pigeons at bridges we urge them to raise the issue with the council."

Lewisham Council says it is happy to pass on "any concerns residents have about bird excrement" to Network Rail.

Car park housing furore

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build high-density housing on a railway station car park have met with fierce opposition from traders.

Lewisham council is consulting over possible uses for sites around the borough.

A consultation document says Network Rail is proposing high-density homes on Blackheath station car park.

It also wants "decked car parking" for the station - cars on different levels.

Lewisham council's member for the environment, Councillor Andrew Brown, believes the plans are unsuitable for the area and will be opposed by the council and residents.

"I honestly can't see how the proposal would meet with any success.

"The plans are very sketchy and, even if a proper planning application is made, I don't think it will get past the planning committee," he said.

Blackheath Traders' Association chairman Chris Ball said businesses would suffer if plans went ahead.

He said: "I am totally against this. It is essential for our customers to have access to parking and the loss of at least 200 parking spaces would have a huge impact on Blackheath."

Traders in the area fear customers will go elsewhere if they are deprived of adequate parking facilities.

Evelyn Blackman, who runs the Good Looks hairdresser's in Blackheath Village, said: "People need somewhere to park and this will just ruin the village."

Blackheath Residents' Association representative David Walker said the site was unsuitable for high-density housing.

He said: "Flats built along railway lines are usually at right angles to minimise noise but it's impossible to do that here.

"Besides, the car park is a valuable amenity that represents 30-50 per cent of paid car park space in the area."

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We take on board the council's comments and will consider them as we develop our plans."

Do you agree a high-density housing development would ruin Blackheath Village?

Write to South London Press, 2-4 Leigham Court Road, Streatham, SW16 2PD or email letters@slp.co.uk

22 November 2005

22 November 2005

Lewisham College gets beacon award

The award for College Engagement with Employers from the Department for Employment and Learning went to the Upper Bann Institute, with Fermanagh College picking up Highly Commended. The Protocol Professional Award for Art and Design was given to the Cleveland College of Art and Design. Lewisham College was another to enjoy multiple successes, winning the OCR Award for Partnerships in Basic Skills and being Highly Commended for the NEBOSH Award for Teaching Programmes in Occupational Health, Safety and Environmental Management (won by Deeside College). The Edexcel Award for Lifelong Learning was awarded to Hull College, with Telford College of Arts and Technology Highly Commended. Full article here.

Lewisham reach e-gov top performers
For 100% of transactions with Newcastle and Birmingham City Councils, Tameside Borough Council and Surrey County Council and like paying rents and council tax, booking venues, applying for licences or complying with regulations and getting information from the council, citizens have the option of completing the transaction electronically. For 13 other councils:- Newham, Lewisham, Halton, Sheffield, Durham, Sunderland, Kingston upon Thames, Darlington, South Gloucestershire, Stockton on Tees, East Riding of Yorkshire, Greenwich and Medway the transactions enabled for electronic delivery was over 90%.

By comparison citizens in North Yorkshire had that option for only 16% of transactions when they last reported to the Audit Commission for 2003/4. The figures for those below 40% were Isle of Wight23.5%, Barnsley24.5%, Wiltshire 28%, York29% Windsorand Maidenhead 32%, Brightonand Hove33.4%, Cumbria35% and Harrow39% All other councils in the region were between 40% and 90%. Full article here.

Marchers remember Rochelle

A HUNDRED youngsters took to the streets in memory of murdered schoolgirl Rochelle Holness.

They held a peaceful march on Sunday to campaign for better protection for young people.

Following the 15-year-old's murder in September, the marchers are calling for more CCTV cameras and more foot police.

They walked from Catford town centre to Lewisham Hospital where they held a minute's silence.

Rochelle was murdered in September. Her dismembered body was found dumped in four bin bags outside Milford Towers Estate in Catford.

Her family are still waiting for the remains to be released so they can hold her funeral.

The aim of the march was to inform youngsters about the dangers, which exist within society and how to keep themselves safe.

March organiser Fiona James, who used to be Rochelle's mentor, said: "They need to be aware about what's going on in the community, and be safe.

"They enjoyed the march and felt they had done something meaningful."

Rochelle's mother Jennifer Bennett, 38, said: "It was good to know how many people there are supporting me. I really appreciate it."

Black comics honoured at Catford

Some of the most established names on the black comedy circuit have been honoured at the Black Entertainment Comedy Awards.

Koyo was named best male comedian while Gina Yashere took home best female.

Other winners included Quincy, for most improved comedian, Angie Le Mar for outstanding contribution and Tony Hendricks for best international (Caribbean) comedian.

Quincy's agent Delphine Manley said: 'This award reflects the progress Quincy has made from being a favourite on the black comedy circuit to doing weekends at London's Comedy Store.'

The lifetime achievement award went to Don Warrington, the Trinidad-born actor who achieved fame as Philip in Rising Damp, and more recently appeared in BBC One’s The Crouches.

Richard Blackwood presented the awards, that were held at the Broadway Theatre in Catford, South London.

The full list of winners is:

Best newcomer: Babatunde
Best male comedian: Kojo
Best female Ccomedan: Gina Yashere
Most improved comedian: Quincy
Outstanding contribution to production plays: Blue Mountain Theatre
Best international (Caribbean) comedian: Tony Hendriks
Best international (USA) comedian: Bill Bellamy
Special achievement to the comedy industry: Jefferson & Whitfield
Outstanding contribution to comedy: Angie Le Mar
Lifetime achievement award: Don Warrington

The awards were set up in 1999 ‘to support black UK comedians and encourage the practice of this craft through public acknowledgement’.

Meanwhile, Jamaican comedian Oliver Samuels has also been honoured with a bash at the Jamaican High Commission in London to mark his 35 years as an entertainer.

High Commissioner Gail Mathurin said: 'The name Oliver Samuels has become synonymous with Jamaica and Jamaican humour.'

Samuels now works with Bristol-based Blue Mountain Theatre, one of the winners in theBlack Entertainment Comedy Awards.

Business Telegraph recognises Lewisham job

Job title Extended services collaborative co-ordinators.

The Employer London Borough of Lewisham.

Salary range £29,718 to £32,016.

Who dreams up these weird job titles and why?

It is a fair question. Local authorities, certainly, and also other public sector organisations have developed a fetish for dreaming up obscure labels for the jobs they advertise.

Ordinary members of the public can be forgiven for suspecting this obtuseness conceals a vagueness about the job specification. That leaves us all wondering whether our society could manage quite well without them.

Why does Lewisham want extended services collaborative co-ordinators?
The idea is to extend the use of school sites for other activities, such as evening classes or sports activities.

This may involve something of a revolution in the attitudes of those already involved in running schools. Naturally such major cultural changes must have "change managers" to oil the wheels of change.

What will the extended services collaborative co-ordinators be doing?

They will not actually be running anything. So Lewisham's council tax payers will be relieved to learn they won't be around for ever.

Theirs will be fixed-term contracts expiring in March 2008 when, presumably, this cultural revolution will have been completed.

Some may think it could be completed without them even though they are expected to be adaptive and innovative and to possess good project management skills.

Still, Lewisham needs to create jobs. Latest figures indicate an unemployment rate of 14 per cent.

How does one co-ordinate collaboratively or, if you prefer, collaborate co-ordinatively?

It is a fair question, but I am not sure if anyone in Lewisham has the answer.

Common sense suggests that any form of collaboration implies a certain about of co-ordination. And indeed, the idea of co-ordination also implicitly suggests some form of collaboration, unless you are co-ordinating and collaborating with yourself and surely only people with split personalities need to do that.

Is Lewisham going to the dogs, then?

Not necessarily. But according to council officials transport links to Lewisham Town Centre have recently made "a quantum leap" as the Docklands Light Railway has been extended to Lewisham from … wait for it… the Isle of Dogs.

Nonjob suggestions to: nonjob@telegraph.co.uk

21 November 2005

21 November 2005

Apologies for the downtime - family business etc etc. Without further delay!....

ELEVEN Labour councillors to stand down

ELEVEN Labour councillors will stand down at next year's elections, with two more high-profile members set to be parachuted into other wards.

Those leaving the council chamber include cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Katy Donnelly.

Others standing down include Lee Green ward councillor Simeon Baker, Lewisham Central member Heidi Nash and Les Eytle from Whitefoot.

Deputy Labour group leader Madeliene Long will stand in New Cross after 20 years serving Lee Green.

Cabinet member for housing Susan Wise is also on the move from Forest Hill to Perry Vale.

The full list of candidates for the elections, which take place next May, is expected to be announced next week.

Parking fine appeals increase across city

THE number of parking ticket appeals has increased by nearly a quarter across London.

Figures show more than 54,000 drivers challenged parking fines in the 12 months to March, compared to more than 44,000 in the previous year.

And 63 per cent of appeals to the London Traffic and Parking Appeals Service were successful.

Motorists are believed to be turning to independent adjudicators because they do not trust councils to sort out their problems.

The Association of London Government figures show 52 per cent of 437 appeals in Bexley were won by motorists.

More than 40 per cent of parking fines were overturned in Lewisham and in Bromley, while 39 per cent of 578 appeals were won in Greenwich.

Barrie Segal, founder of the website AppealNow.Com said: "People don't have any faith in the system and believe it's only there to raise money.

"They believe they can't take the council on because it has technical skills and vast financial resources and decide to just pay up.

"They shouldn't do that if the ticket is wrong."

Calm magnet for the young and fashionable

Anyone who visits Blackheath or Greenwich by car needs patience, determination and a large map.
If you go there at weekends, set off early as its roads get clogged by drivers seeking the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum and, of course, the Cutty Sark.

It's precisely because it is so unstreetwise that this unspoilt part of south-east London has so much charm. Stroll down its side roads and alleyways and you end up in Fifties-style villages with specialist shops and curiosities - such as the fan museum in Greenwich's Crooms Hill which has 3,500 varieties of every shape, size and colour including a hand-painted version by Victorian watercolourist Walter Sickert.

Blackheath was the birthplace of Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, home of the diarist Samuel Pepys and one of Charles Dickens's regular drinking haunts. It also has some of Britain's finest 17th-century architecture, including Sir Christopher Wren's baroque-style Old Royal Naval College, Inigo Jones's Queen's House, which was the model for the White House in Washington, and Vanbrugh Castle, former home of the architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh.

Little surprise then that it's become a favourite spot for the young City set who can hop on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and reach Canary Wharf or the Square Mile in less than 20 minutes.

You can buy a one-bedroom apartment in a Victorian conversion in Blackheath for between £150,000 and £190,000 and a two-bedder for just under £250,000, thus neatly avoiding 3 per cent stamp duty. 'They're a little cheaper and a lot less bland than apartments in Canary Wharf. Instead of waking and looking out on a cluster of dull grey towers you are surrounded by the thin, elegant spires and turrets of 17th- and 18th-century churches and manor houses,' says Rita Tinney of estate agents Felicity J Lord.

Living in London SE10 or SE3 also means that, instead of dashing out to the local deli or mega-metro store to buy your groceries, you can stroll across Blackheath's famous green patch to the local butcher, greengrocer and village shop, dropping in to the 400-year-old Hare and Billet pub for a civilised drink on the way home. Continued...

Hospital 'hit by TV trouble'

SERIOUSLY ill patients are being left bored and demoralised by broken television sets, according to a health-care assistant.

Beds in Lewisham Hospital have a TV set at the end but many of them are said to be out of order.

The sets are supplied and maintained by a firm called Patientline.

The healthcare assistant, who did not want to be named, said relatives and patients were frustrated by the problems, with nearly half the TVs not working at one point.

He said: "I care about patients and like to see them happy, but half of them are bored stiff. They are getting an appalling service.

"One particular TV has been out of action for three weeks. They are not getting repaired."

He said the system was put in this year and costs patients £3.50 a day, or £1.70 for the over-60s.

The man added: "If a TV goes wrong at the weekend no engineer can be called out."

A spokesman for Patientline said: "Our team of on-site staff at Lewisham regularly check to ensure our units are working properly and we are not aware of any significant problems at the hospital.

"However, we know many patients rely on our service and we will ensure a full check is carried out immediate-ly.

"Our units are extremely reliable. However, if any problems do exist we apologise for any inconvenience."

16 November 2005

16 November 2005

£4m for 'glass' railway station

A SUM of £4million has been accepted by Lewisham council for the development of Deptford railway station and the surrounding area.

The money came from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), which also gave £600,000 in 2004 to buy land needed for the scheme.

It was officially accepted by the Lewisham Mayor and cabinet committee last Wednesday. The station will be glass with a metal roof and there will be a public square and new shops alongside it.

A building containing more than 100 flats is to be built next door in Octavius Street on the site of the car park and Rose Apple day centre.

Not amused

ELEVEN businesses and organisations are opposing an application for another amusement arcade in Lewisham High Street.

Ablethird Ltd wants to convert the ground floor of premises at 97-99 and install amusement machines that give cash prizes.

Ablethird, which already operates around 50 similar centres in the south-east, says the premises will be carpeted throughout and fitted with sound-proofed ceilings and CCTV security cameras. Lewisham council's licensing committee is to look at the application tomorrow.

Businesses in the High Street are concerned because there are already two other amusement arcades nearby - an existing Ablethird amusement centre at number 165 and another one, owned by Blackheath Leisure (Carousel) Ltd, at number 96.

Lynsey Walker, supervisor at Shoe Zone Ltd, which would be opposite the proposed amusement centre, said: "This company already has one arcade in Lewisham High Street - why do they need a second?

"We would prefer the premises to be another shop or a financial institution."

Nobody from Ablethird Ltd was available for comment.

Lewisham business awards launch

Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock, donned an apron and served customers at a local café as he launched the 2006 Lewisham Business Awards.

Steve served customers at Irie Jamaican Café in New Cross Gate, which won last years Best New Business award.

The Lewisham awards recognise achievement in areas such as innovation, customer service, creativity and social enterprise, and not just turnover or profit.

Steve praised local businesses in the Lewisham area: “The success of last year's awards shows that the Lewisham Business Awards are a great initiative and well wroth taking part in. I urge all Lewisham business people to give it a go!”

The awards are open to all businesses in Lewisham borough, and businesses themselves choose which category they would like to enter.

The awards are supported by the well known local comedian and DJ, Angie Le Mar: "As a resident and business woman I know the huge contribution local businesses make to the borough of Lewisham. They drive its economy and represent the fantastic diversity of the area. The Lewisham Business Awards recognise and celebrate that contribution so I'm very pleased to be involved."

Owner of Irie Jamaican Café, Janet McGowan said: “We were so excited when we won the Best New Business Award. Since then we have really seen the benefits to our business of being involved.”

There are eleven categories businesses can enter, each with a different sponsor:

Company of the Year
Best new company
Growth business of the year
Best use of innovation
Best customer care
Mayor’s award for corporate responsibility
Best social enterprise
Safety award
Creative business of the year
Environmental excellence award
Most popular retailer in Lewisham town centre

Entry Form? Click.

15 November 2005

15 November 2005

Manifesto aims for grey power

PENSIONERS are hoping grey power will force decision- makers to give elderly people a better deal.

The Lewisham Pensioners' Forum has published its first-ever Pensioners' Manifesto, which sets out a list of proposals designed to improve the lives of older people.

Those responsible for drawing up the report hope it will help achieve "official recognition" for the contribution the elderly make to society.

The manifesto, which addresses both local and national issues, includes a 13-point plan for change.

Among these is a call for more older people to be included on policy and decision- making bodies.

The report also demands better access to new technologies for pensioners and an improvement in home care services.

Pensioners' forum chairman Doris Smith says the manifesto will give the elderly in Lewisham "a voice" and act as "impetus" for change.

She said: "We are not plucking things out of the air.

"These are issues which truly affect older people.

"This is about putting real pressure on those in power to change things.

"It will give us official support and recognition."

Last month, News Shopper reported how Lewisham Age Concern was forced to close its drop-in advice centre due to a lack of funding.

Mrs Smith says service cuts such as this and the controversy surrounding pensions means it is more important than ever for the elderly to have their say.

She added: "Pensioners in Lewisham play a terrific role.

"We are taxpayers and contribute to the borough, so we deserve to have more attention paid to our needs."

Lewisham Council says it welcomes the manifesto.

Cabinet member for social inclusion Councillor Chris Best said: "We will coninue working closely with the excellent pensioners' groups to address the issues they highlight."

Mayor criticised over school plan

MISTAKES have led to the mayor being accused of "incompetence".

Mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock has acknowledged blunders were made while planning a new school at Ladywell.

He told a meeting of Lewisham Council's overview and scrutiny committee last week there were mistakes when trying to choose a site for the new school.

The mayor also admitted a formal notice issued in February, saying the new school would be temporarily located in Leahurst Road, was flawed.

In January the same site had been approved for the expansion of Northbrook School as part of a £150m plan to renovate every secondary in the borough.

Then less than eight weeks later the Government told Lewisham Council it was at risk of losing the money if it used the temporary site for the new Ladywell school.

This resulted in a two-year delay to the new four form school, which will now open on the Ladywell Leisure Centre site in 2009.

At the meeting Mr Bullock was questioned over why plans to use land at the former Ladywell police station, originally earmarked for the new school, fell through.

He admitted relying on the willingness of the police to sell the site to the council, despite the Metropolitan Police Authority never returning its letters.

Mr Bullock also announced his decisions were always based on advice from officers.

He said: "Unless there is a very powerful reason, I shall not substitute my personal prejudices for the professional advice of council officers."

Lib Dem councillor Julia Fletcher said: "I find it unbelievable the Lewisham Mayor believes he has no role in decision making and expects to rubber stamp everything put before him by officers.

"It just shows once again how out of touch he is with the wishes of the people in the borough.

"The whole decision-making process is a mixture of incompetence and unrealism."

Save Ladywell Pool campaign's Max Calo said: "Steve Bullock is a politician who is writing his own epitaph, so complacent, not driving along the political process to make a proper decision."

Home work set to start next year

WORK to improve more than 8,000 homes in Lewisham is set to begin in just over a year.

A timetable has been set for the homes to be transferred to new ownership under the Decent Homes programme.

Decent Homes is a national target set by the Government, which says all homes must be improved to a certain quality standard by 2010.

The Lewisham plan will see residents on seven estates balloted to see who they want to take control of their homes.

A report presented to Lewisham's mayor and cabinet committee last week says the ballots will take place in July next year.

Work to improve the homes a total investment of more than £100m will then begin in March 2007.

The Excalibur prefab estate, Downham, is one of the housing sets affected by the programme.

Residents have argued the estate should remain under their control but the council looks set to demolish the existing prefab houses.

The report says: "Only demolition and redevelopment provides a viable solution to achieving decent homes in the area."

Last year a consultant's report revealed 61 per cent of Lewisham's housing stock does not currently meet the Decent Homes standard.

Task force finds 1,000 cannabis plants during raid

OFFICERS have closed down a cannabis factory in Catford.

Lewisham's Crime Task Force searched the premises at Ardgowan Road on Monday at 11.30am.

The police discovered around 1,000 cannabis plants and hydroponics equipment.

A man has been arrested but no details have yet been disclosed.

Priority Crime Task Force head, Detective Inspector Andy Wilkins, said: "Lewisham police will continue to close down factories set up to produce, cultivate and distribute cannabis."

He added: "I hope the closure of any cannabis factory continues to send out a strong warning to others who may be involved in the production or selling of drugs. You will be caught and the drugs will be seized."

Anyone who has information about the production or selling of drugs in Lewisham should call 020 8284 5101.

Blitz horror at hospital

A WARTIME nurse who was killed by a bomb while she worked has been commemorated by former colleagues.

In the early hours of July 26, 1944, in one of the worst raids suffered by South London during the Blitz, Lewisham Hospital sustained a direct hit.

A doodlebug, the dreaded German flying bomb, destroyed two wards, the registrar's office and the hospital's library.

It killed nurse Eileen Crouch, 21, from Ashford, Kent. Seventy patients and staff were injured.

According to documents in local history libraries, three other people are believed to have later died.

On Thursday, former colleagues of the young nurse joined hospital staff for a service to remember and pay tribute to those who worked there during the two world wars.

Kathleen Hallett, a friend and colleague of the late nurse, recalled: "I was just starting my shift at about five in the morning.

"We had just had our morning cup of tea in the ward kitchen.
"I turned back to Eileen and asked if she wanted some help washing up.

"She said, 'no', and at that very moment, the bomb dropped. She was killed immediately."

Mrs Hallett added: "Eileen died but I have had a further 61 years of life."

Former staff member Joyce Woodbridge described arriving for work that morning: "It was all rubble everywhere and there were ambulances and fire engines all over the hospital. I didn't know what was going on."

At the service, hospital chief executive Claire Perry said: "Nothing symbolises the great courage and dedication of our staff throughout our history as much as that shown on that dreadful day in 1944."

Exploding the myths of ‘segregated Britain’

Far from heading towards deeper segregation, Britain is becoming increasingly racially and ethnically mixed, according to a new study released this week.

The analysis by Dr Ludi Simpson of Manchester University is based on the 2001 census. It flies in the face of claims by many politicians and commentators that Britain is “sleepwalking” towards greater segregation, as the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, said this summer.

Phillips claimed, “Residentially, some districts are on their way to becoming fully fledged ghettos — black holes into which no one goes without fear and trepidation, and from which no one ever escapes undamaged.”

But Simpson’s study found that “the number of mixed neighbourhoods (electoral wards) increased from 964 to 1,070 in the ten years between the last two censuses of 1991 and 2001. There will be at least 1,300 mixed neighbourhoods by 2011 — one in five throughout England.” Click link for whole article.

14 November 2005

14 November 2005

At the moment the Venue is looking a little naked compared to normal. Makes it easier to remember what a grand old lady she is under the make up.

South East London Gangsters (Click this for full article)

It's difficult to imagine that this softly spoken, polite man, with a dignified air and direct gaze, served 23 years of his life as a double-category-A prisoner in high-security jails. He spent time in Durham's E Wing, "the Bastille of the British prison system", where Ian Brady, the Moors murderer, was also locked up. Richardson was sentenced to ten years at the Torture Trial, in which, as well as the pliers incident, it was alleged that his brother Charlie had a black box that he would use to direct electricity through a victim's genitals. The sentence was added to the five years Richardson received for affray, after a man was shot dead and several others badly injured in a gangland battle at a Catford nightclub in 1966, when he was also wounded. Richardson served 11 years, many of them in solitary confinement. After his release, he went back into business - scrap metal and pornography - and was convicted for conspiring to import drugs. He got another 25 years. He served a 12-year stretch before being released on parole in 2001. Today, he is a free man. "I was a very naughty boy, a real bad lot," admits Richardson. "Macho man, that was me."

13 November 2005

13 November 2005

Police hunting for yobs after mobile phone theft

POLICE need public help to shop the yobs who punched a man three times in the face and stole his mobile phone.

The attackers spoke to the victim at Brockley train station, Coulgate Street, Brockley, and asked to see his mobile but he denied having one.

They pushed him to the ground, punching him three times in the face before taking his phone.

The first suspect is black, heavily built and with short dark hair.

He was wearing a black sleeveless jacket with the word Nike printed in red on the front over a white T-shirt.

The second man is black with a slim build and short afro hair.

He was wearing a shirt and a denim jacket buttoned to the neck.

Anyone who witnessed the robbery on September 17 betwwn 9.20am and 10am should call British Transport Police London South Intelligence Unit on 020 7922 6213, quoting reference number LS34888.

11 November 2005

11 November 2005

Pastors on patrol to stop violence

Uniformed Christian volunteers have taken to the streets across the country in a bid to stop inner-city crime. Reporter SAMANTHA PAYNE spent a night in Lewisham to see the scheme in action ...

When I was asked to help patrol the streets of New Cross and Sydenham late on a Friday night I was a little dubious.

With only an oversized blue Street Pastor jacket and a baseball cap for protection I didn't feel ready to take on Lewisham's rogues.



A LABOUR MP yesterday demanded an inquiry following his heated confrontation with a backbench colleague who has opposed the Terrorism Bill.

Jim Dowd, who admitted he "seized the lapel" of Bob Marshall-Andrews, has filed a complaint against the member for Medway under the party's code of conduct.

The MP for Lewisham West wants chief whip Hilary Armstrong to investigate.

He claims to have been angered by a "fairly vile and offensive" remark directed at him by Marshall-Andrews in the Commons' Members' Lobby.

Dowd said he had tried to speak to a colleague who was with Marshall-Andrews' group when the barrister "gratuitously" insulted him at around 9.30pm on Tuesday.

But he insisted: "There were no blows exchanged."

Marshall-Andrews has declined to comment.

10 November 2005

10 November 2005

Leisure centre axeing - mayor passes buck

THE inquiry into a doomed leisure centre heard evidence from a mayor - who passed responsibility for the decision to axe it to council officers.

Lewisham council's controversial decision to shut Ladywell Leisure Centre, in Lewisham High Street, in 2007 and replace it with a new secondary school in 2009 has been closely examined by councillors from all parties.

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock submitted an 11-line report to the scrutiny sub-committee which was due to meet in Catford's Civic Suite yesterday.

In the submission, he said he made his decisions based on the advice given to him by council officers.

He stated: "It is not my role to substitute my own lay opinion for that of professional officers who advise me."

And in his own report, the council's chief executive, Barry Quirk, reminded councillors funding for the new school was not yet "settled".

He said the council did have some money but a "significant gap in the funding for the school" remained.

This was the reason it had been brought into the Government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which will see five other schools in the borough refurbished and one rebuilt from scratch.

The next stage in the BSF scheme is to invite companies to tender for the building work.

Changes will lead to cuts in places

COLLEGES are protesting over changes which could see thousands of places cut.

Government plans could see up to 200,000 further education places slashed and subsidies cut to those remaining.

Now Lewisham and Greenwich colleges are joining forces with hundreds of others across the country to present a 60,000-strong petition to try to stop the plans.

The cuts to places will affect adult learners who want to study for professional qualifications to improve their career prospects.

And students who do manage to get a college place will have to pay more towards the cost.

This is because the Government is focusing its college funding on 16 to 18-year-old students and adults without basic spelling and maths skills.

Ruth Silver, principal of Lewisham College, Lewisham Way, said: "We are extremely happy so many of our staff and students, and members of our community, have demonstrated their support for their college and for further education in general by signing this important petition."

Bosses at Greenwich Community College, Plumstead Road, also confirmed its support.

Principal Geoff Pine said: "The college is very proud of the role it plays in providing education to the community in the borough and we are always ready to campaign on behalf of all our learners."

A college spokesman said: "We will not be cutting any of our level three or A-level courses.

"But we will have to raise our fees. It is not something we want to do but we have no other option if the Government no longer subsidises our adult courses."

The Association of Colleges (AoC) petition was presented to Downing Street on November 1.

AoC chief executive Dr John Brennan said: "The petition shows how strongly people feel about their local college.

"It is compelling evidence the Government should think again about reducing learning opportunities for adults wanting to improve their career chances and personal development."

Rumpus over hospital work

A £20,000 fine could be levied on a private hospital after noisy air conditioning upset neighbouring residents.

Blackheath Hospital has allegedly breached conditions imposed on it by Lewisham council's planning committee, which gave permission on September 15 for a small building to be added to the site.

The conditions were work should not take place beyond 8am-6pm on weekdays and Saturday mornings, and that noise was to be kept down.

But residents complained about the noise from the air conditioning and builders allegedly working unauthorised hours.

An enforcement notice was issued on October 27. If the hospital does not act on it, the battle could go to court and result in a £20,000 fine.

Blackheath ward councillor Andrew Brown said: "The noise is driving residents up the wall."

Deputy mayor Gavin Moore added: "The planning process is sacrosanct and we have no confidence Blackheath Hospital is respecting that."

A hospital spokeswoman said the chiller equipment making the noise was "essential to avoid damage to the MRI machine" in the new diagnostic suite.

She said an acoustic screen had been put in to reduce noise.

"We accept preliminary work started before planning consent and have apologised," added the spokeswoman.

She said work outside hours was not related to the project.

Asbo tearaways get £300k to keep them from crime

GROUPS working with antisocial young people have been given extra cash.

The Lewisham Youth Offending Team (YOT) was awarded £311,000 to help stop youngsters from offending.

The money could be used to give individual support to young people on antisocial behaviour orders.

Ann McDermott, YOT manager, said: "This is a great opportunity to expand the initiatives we have in Lewisham to divert young people away from crime, support parents in their responsibilities and tackle antisocial behaviour."

The money has come from the Youth Justice Board, which has just given out £45million to projects across the country to be spent over the next three years.

Councillor Crada Onuegbu, Lewisham cabinet member for community safety, said: "The money will allow us to expand our youth inclusion and support panels working with eight- to 17-year-olds, which improve the chances of young people reaching their potential and help parents and carers struggling with out-of-control teenagers."

The cash would also help build links with the police, probation service and primary care trust.

Grieving mum sent lifeline

THE MOTHER of a 19-year-old knifed to death has thrown a lifeline of support to the family of murdered schoolgirl Rochelle Holness.

Lynne Booker has set up a self-support group for mothers whose children have died in traumatic circumstances.

Now she is offering help to Jennifer Bennett after her 15-year-old daughter's remains were found dumped in rubbish bags near the Milford Towers estate in Catford on September 28.

Mrs Booker can relate to her pain after her only son, Terry, 19, died on November 14, 2000, in Plumstead, after being attacked by a 16-year-old with a kitchen knife.

But five years later, thanks to the support of loved ones and friends, his mother says the pieces of her life have slowly come together.

Now the 51-year-old has set up the Terry Booker Foundation group to help mothers such as Mrs Bennett who have lost children through tragic circumstances.

It will meet fortnightly at the Greenwich Women's Centre, in Hare Street, Greenwich, and will also act as a drop-in centre for women on alternate weeks. Thirteen women turned up at the first meeting on October 26.

Rochelle's mother, who lives in Nelgarde Road, Catford, says she is looking forward to getting in touch with the Terry Booker Foundation Group.

The 38-year-old mother-of-three said: "I really welcome this group. I'm at a low point in my life where I only want to stay indoors. It's not fair that I have been made to feel like the criminal with no support from anyone except from my friends because my daughter was murdered."

Mrs Booker, a grandmother-of-three, from Plumstead, said: "I want her to give me a ring.

"This group is open to all mums whose sons and daughters have died from manslaughter, murder, miscarriage and still birth.

"I will provide a great service based on the principle of helping women come out of the darkness into the light.

"I know I wouldn't have been able to come out of this dark time without the support of my family, friends and the women's centre."

A still grieving Mrs Booker, who also has two daughters, Debbie, 34 and Lisa, 28, added: "It'll be the fifth anniversary since my son's death next week. The day when Plumstead stood still.

"I still can't get my head around it. I live day to day. Nothing ever surprises me and nothing will come as close to the shock I felt when I heard about my son's death.

"I want to encourage women who may be suffering to not stay indoors but to pick up the phone and ring me. My group is there to support them."

For more details on the Terry Booker Foundation group, call 07768 373420.

Man attacked after pub row - Blackheath link?

A MAN was punched in the eye in the street.

Police are seeking witnesses to the attack.

The 21-year-old may have permanent damage to his sight after the incident in Greenwich town centre at around 11.20pm on Wednesday, October 19.

The man was approached by two men and a woman as he walked past the Beachcomber Restaurant in Greenwich Church Street. One of the men punched him.

The victim had been drinking with friends at the Admiral Hardy pub. He left at around 11.15pm and went to get his bicycle, which he had parked behind the covered market.

After the assault the trio fled and the victim rang a friend who took him to St Thomas' Hospital, where he was treated for a serious injury to his right eye.

One of the suspects is described as a white man, aged around 30, thinly built and about 5ft 10ins tall.

He had short, cropped brown hair and wore rimless, rectangular spectacles, a leather jacket and jeans. It is possible his first name is Ben and he may be from the Blackheath area.

Detective Sergeant Dave Cooper, of Plumstead CID, said: "The victim is a young man, who because of this senseless attack, could well have lasting problems with his sight in one eye.

"I am appealing for any information about this attack. There was a brief altercation inside the pub that evening. It is possible that the attacker was in the pub and involved in that altercation."

Call 020 8284 9413, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to remain anonymous.

09 November 2005

09 November 2005

Major revamp for ‘neglected’ area

ONE of the borough's "most neglected areas" is set to undergo a major revamp.

Hither Green could soon be home to a sea of plush cafes, bars and tree-lined roads thanks to a new regeneration project.

The plans, currently the subject of a six-month public consultation exercise, could also see the east Lewisham outpost get its own New York-style plaza.

The Hither Green Urban Design and Development Strategy has been developed by the council, businesses and residents.

Lewisham Council says its aim is to "promote positive change" by encouraging development and private investment in the area.

The strategy includes a public consultation process, with regular meetings between residents, traders and councillors.

Ideas discussed so far include plans for the area next to Hither Green Station, Staplehurst Road, to be transformed into a public square.

This would include a host of new cafes and bars complete with outdoor seating areas.

The pavements on Hither Green Lane could also be widened to allow space for extra trees.

Lewisham Central councillor Andrew Milton attended the last meeting and says the plans are "very positive".

He said: "For many years Hither Green has been a neglected area of Lewisham and does not receive as much funding as other places.

"The square is a great idea. At the moment dining here is a bit like a smash-and-grab exercise."

Cllr Milton added: "We need somewhere for people to linger and enjoy a coffee."

Earlier this year residents in Staplehurst Road scooped a top prize in the London in Bloom contest for their efforts to make their street greener.

Lewisham deputy mayor Councillor Gavin Moore says the urban design framework will "build on this success".

He added: "The development strategy will help attract private investment to bring about wider improvements in Hither Green."

The consultation process ends on December 30.

Consultants will then produce a report, outlining their vision for the future.

Retrial for arson murder suspect

A MAN accused of murdering his flatmate then torching the body faces a retrial.

Michael Rogers-Wilson, 28, is said to have beaten Brett Youngs to death with a baseball bat after a row.

He then allegedly set fire to the body of the 30-year-old web designer and DJ, before fleeing the squat they shared in Northbrook Road, Lewisham.

Rogers-Wilson was arrested after Mr Youngs's death on May 27, 2003, and stood trial at the Old Bailey last month for murder and arson.

But on Friday the jury of six men and six women was discharged after failing to reach verdicts following 29 hours and 39 minutes of deliberations.

Judge Peter Rook remanded Rogers-Wilson in custody and ordered he should return to court on Friday when the date of his retrial will be fixed.

Dressed in a grey suit, Rogers-Wilson blew kisses to family members as he was led back to the cells. Rogers-Wilson, of Little Heath Farm, Little Heath Lane, Oxshott, Surrey, denies murder and arson.

Pirate radio off air for final time

RAIDS on pirate radio stations have led to nearly 50 illegal broadcasters in London being taken off air.

In a joint operation, the Metropolitan Police and the Office of Communications (Ofcom) swooped on stations in the Greater London area on October 29.

During the raids, transmitters were seized from Baseline FM in Lewisham and Wax FM in Plumstead and one transmitter was disconnected at Fresh FM in Erith.

The raid also saw one transmitter seized and one disconnected from Naija FM in Plumstead and Wapping.

Illegal broadcasting, which covers any form of broadcasting without a legitimate licence, has been linked to serious crime and drugs.

According to Ofcom, past raids have uncovered a range of illegal weapons and substances and there is evidence pirate broadcasters send coded messages to dealers and users by playing particular songs to indicate drugs are ready for collection.

Ofcom's head of field operations Robert Thelen-Bartholomew said: "Illegal broadcasting affects emergency services and has links with serious crime.

"Ofcom will continue to pursue and prosecute those involved in this criminal activity."

Ofcom has a 100-per-cent successful conviction rate for their prosecution of people broadcasting illegally.

Coulgate Street

Coulgate Street 3
Originally uploaded by thisismoe.
If you're ever near Brockley Station and wander onto Coulgate Street - head toward the Wetherspoons pub and turn around once you've crossed the road safely. Having already been stunned by the neon graf facing the station you'll then be greeted with three walls showing Bob Marley, Maya Angelou and Jimi Hendrix.

I'd like to see blank wall space used like this more in the borough.

More pictures of Coulgate Street here

08 November 2005

08 November 2005

Tesco tells MPs of aim to double small stores

TESCO, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, has told an inquiry by MPs into the state of the high street that it wants at least to double its number of small shops in the next ten years and has argued that its move into convenience stores had been good for shoppers.

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, the corporate and legal affairs director for Tesco, told a committee chaired by Jim Dowd, Labour MP for Lewisham West, that Tesco had been able to expand over the past ten years because it had “helped transform the lives of ordinary people by taking prices down and improving quality and range (of goods)”.


Cannabis factory: Man is arrested

ONE thousand cannabis plants and specialist growing equipment were seized by police yesterday morning.

A man was arrested at the house in Ardgowan Road, Catford, by officers from Lewisham's priority crime task force.

Detective Inspector Andy Wilkins, said: "The closure of any cannabis factory will no doubt impact on those who profit from this type of illegal activity and I hope this continues to send out a strong warning to others who may be involved in the production or selling of drugs that you will be caught and the drugs will be seized."

07 November 2005

07 November 2005

Produce better value at farmers' markets than superstores

Shoppers who buy their fruit and vegetables from markets get better value for money and access to "affordable, fresh food" than those who go to supermarkets, according to research.

A survey of markets in London found that fresh produce can be up to a third cheaper than at local supermarkets.

The research, for the Mayor's London Food board, found that street markets in the capital were significantly cheaper than neighbouring supermarkets, while farmers' markets offered fresher, more locally sourced food than many supermarkets and were competitive on price.

The markets also improved custom for local shops, including grocery stores, and could boost local employment.

The research found that most shoppers who bought their food at farmers' markets did so "because of the quality and a desire to support farmers". But it also found that farmers' markets, where growers and small traders bring their produce into London for sale once a week, were competing with supermarkets on price.

A basket of goods at Marylebone farmers' market cost £7.90, compared with £8.90 at a local supermarket, while in Ealing the farmers'-market basket cost £6.90, compared with £5.81.

"Farmers' markets are also more price competitive than is often presumed, and as the price analysis demonstrates can compete effectively with supermarkets," says the report, Trading Places. "Both street markets and farmers' markets provide destinations for customers and encourage people to shop in the areas in which they are based."

The report, funded by the London Development Agency, found that at Lewisham street market produce was 34 per cent cheaper than at the local supermarket; at Walthamstow market it was 29 per cent cheaper.

Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the London Assembly and chair of London Food, said: "As well as the good value and freshness of the produce, people go to street and farmers' markets because they have interaction with people that you don't get in supermarkets. They like the social contact."

Farmers' markets, which often stock organic produce, are growing in popularity among Londoners. But the survey found that despite their positive impact on local economies, street markets are struggling.

"Prices at farmers' markets can be either greater or less than supermarket prices, but the difference is relatively small," the report said.

06 November 2005

06 November 2005

Hospital noise is so unf-air

A PRIVATE hospital could be fined up to £20,000 for disturbing its neighbours with noisy air conditioning.

Blackheath Hospital has allegedly breached two of the conditions imposed on it by Lewisham council's planning committee, which gave permission on September 15 for a small building to be added to the hospital.

The conditions were that work should not take place beyond 8am-6pm on weekdays and Saturday mornings, and that noise levels were kept down.

But residents have complained to councillors about the ongoing racket from the air conditioning and builders working unauthorised hours.

An enforcement notice was issued on Thursday last week and if the hospital does not act on it, the battle could go to court and result in a £20,000 fine.

Blackheath ward councillor Andrew Brown said: "The noise is driving residents up the wall." Read in depth details from Andrew by clicking.

The hospital has 69 en-suite rooms and three operating theatres.

Blackheath councillor and deputy mayor Gavin Moore said: "The planning process is sacrosanct and we have no confidence that Blackheath Hospital is respecting the process properly."

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the chiller equipment making the noise was "essential to avoid damage to the MRI machine" in the new diagnostic suite.

She added an acoustic screen had been installed to minimise sound.

"We accept preliminary work started before planning consent and have apologised," said the spokeswoman.

She added work or visits outside of hours were not related to this project.

05 November 2005

05 November 2005

Thirty Eight years ago today...

1967: Forty die in Hither Green rail crash

At least 40 rail passengers have died and 80 more have been wounded after a commuter train derailed in south-east London. The 19:43 express train was travelling from Hastings to Charing Cross when at 21:16 it crashed off the rails between Hither Green and Grove Park stations near the Southern Region Continental goods depot.

It happened just over a mile from the scene of the Lewisham train crash in 1957 in which 90 people were killed and 175 were injured.

Only the first two of the train's 12 coaches remained on the rails. One overturned completely and the next two jack-knifed onto their sides.

Tonight, rescuers working under floodlights are trying to free those still trapped in them. Driving rain and the position of some of the overturned coaches has made the rescue operation especially difficult.

'Terrible screams'

Firemen are using special equipment to cut through many coaches to release passengers.

Hospital medical teams and ambulances are at the crash site and doctors have had to crawl through twisted wreckage to treat survivors and give them painkilling injections.

Most of the survivors were taken to Lewisham hospital, praised for its work after the Lewisham train disaster ten years ago.

The driver and guard escaped unharmed but remain in a state of shock.

Eyewitnesses have been describing the accident to journalists.

Shirley Ward, a 21-year-old secretary from Broadstairs in Kent who emerged unharmed from the wreckage, told the Times newspaper: "The lights went out before we turned over. We felt ourselves travelling along on the carriage's side. Everyone was clutching on to one another. There were some terrible screams."

Another survivor, 19-year-old medical student Ray Moore from Hastings, said: "Stones came chipping up from the track as we went along this stretch which is usually a pretty fast one.

"Then it rocked and swayed and went over on its side. At least three people in my compartment were killed."

A spokesman for the British Railways Board said it was not know what caused the derailment. He said: "It is wide open what could have happened. [The train] could have crossed points or hit an obstruction."

Altogether, 49 people were killed and 78 injured in what was one of Britain's worst rail crashes.

One of the survivors was Robin Gibb of the pop group The Bee Gees and his first wife, Molly.

An investigation into the disaster found it was caused by a rail that had fractured at its weakest point, the bolt-holes at the join.

After the accident rails were made to a new specification.

04 November 2005

04 November 2005

Remember Rochelle

THE mother of murdered schoolgirl Rochelle Holness hopes to see her daughter remembered in a parkland memorial.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the 15-year-old's body was found, Jennifer Bennett says her life has become a "living hell".

The last time she saw Rochelle was on September 25 after she left her home in Nelgarde Road, Catford, to make a phone call to her boyfriend.

Four days later her daughter's remains were found dumped in four bags near rubbish chutes on the Milford Towers estate in Catford.

Now the former social services worker has admitted she is hurt her daughter has been ignored by the media, which gave so much coverage to Croydon model Sally-Ann Bowman, who was murdered in the same week as the Sedgehill School pupil.

The 38-year-old mother-of-three said: "My daughter is somebody too and deserved just as much recognition and publicity. We as a family felt completely shut off."

She added: "If I didn't have my boys, Michael and Richard, I don't know what I would do. They are keeping me strong and my friends around me."

But through her grief Ms Bennett is planning something extraordinary in her daughter's memory.

Her family and close friends have organised a public march for November 13.

They plan to walk through the streets of Lewisham and Greenwich campaigning for better protection for young people in the borough and to raise awareness of the lack of support for youngsters within the community.

Mrs Bennett added: "I fear for the coming generations. Kids have a right to be able to go to the shops without the fear of being lured away.

"We need to do something before the situation gets worse. We are living in hell at the moment."

Mrs Bennett also wants council help to build a memorial garden for Rochelle in Ladywell Park.

She added: "We want to put a chair in memory of Rochelle and create an area where people can come and plant flowers and think of her."

Family friend Fiona James, 40, added: "Rochelle was a wonderful being. I was absolutely devastated by her death.

"She was a bright and intelligent young woman who had a heart for young people."

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock said: "As a community we must make sure Rochelle is remembered not for her tragic death but for the positive difference she made to her family and friends during her short life.

"If I can help achieve this in any way, I will."

The march will start from Tesco, Catford, at noon on November 13.

John Joseph McGrady, aged 47, of Milford Towers, Catford, has been charged with Rochelle's murder and is expected to appear at the Old Bailey in January.

Avoid roads around heath

MOTORISTS are being warned to avoid Blackheath on Saturday night as its annual fireworks display takes place.

Blackheath Village will be closed to traffic from 6.30pm, along with other surrounding roads including Charlton Way, Maze Hill and Montpellier Row.

Visitors to the fireworks display are advised to use public transport or walk as no parking will be provided on roads around the heath.

The Blackheath display, which this year marks the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes' Gunpowder Plot, is free and starts at 8pm.

For further information on the display and road closures, call the Blackheath Fireworks Information Line on 0871 700 0685.

Yob is jailed for racist attack

A VIOLENT trio has been punished for an unprovoked racist attack on a Chinese couple.

Pamela Lawson, aged 18, and Sophie Atkinson, aged 17, repeatedly kicked and punched Jessica Cao in Lewisham High Street on November 30 last year.

A court heard how the pair kicked Miss Coa's head "like a football" as a third yob, 22-year-old Neil Atkinson, attacked her boyfriend Michael Zheng.

The attack took place after the two girls repeatedly shouted racial abuse at the couple.

Neil Atkinson, of St Germains Road, Forest Hill, admitted racially-aggravated assault.

He was jailed for 18 months at Blackfrairs Crown Court on October 27.

His sister Sophie, of the same address, pleaded guilty to racially-aggravated assault and was handed a six-month detention and training order.

Lawton, of Waters Road, Catford, also admitted the same charge.

She was given an 18-month rehabilitation order and told to observe a curfew between 7pm and 7am.

Out to clean up town

OFFICE workers took time away from their desks to help keep their town tidy.

Council officers, business people, councillors and street wardens mucked in during the first-ever Catford clean-up.

Volunteers helped clear litter, abandoned trolleys and graffiti from streets in and around the town centre.

The clean-up was organised to coincide with the appointment of Catford's new town centre manager, Petra Smith.

She said: "There is obviously a lot of hard work to do but judging by the amount of support I've had from the community I'm really excited by the town centre's potential."

Cabinet member Councillor Andrew Brown, who also took part in the clean-up, said: "I'm really impressed with the enthusiasm people are showing. We can only make a true difference to the environment with a team effort."

Loss of paperwork is not acceptable

COUNCIL bosses admit they have lost key documents used as a basis for the decision to close Ladywell Pool.

Lewisham Council says it no longer has access to a selection of papers relating to a public consultation carried out five years ago on the future of the centre.

It has already claimed it used the missing consultation results to decide the Ladywell Leisure Centre should be moved into Lewisham town centre.

The Save Ladywell Pool group has accused the council of failing to justify its decision to close the pool.

In October last year, the council said it had decided to relocate the Ladywell centre following a consultation in late 1999 or 2000.

Save Ladywell Pool campaign chairman Max Calo asked it to provide him with papers relating to the consultation through the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Calo received some documents but was told "some of the papers requested" were no longer in the public domain.

And in a written response to last Wednesday's council meeting, he was informed the council has supplied all of the papers in its possession.

Mr Calo said: "It is completely unacceptable they cannot find these papers to back up their answers.

"One of the key activities of a council is to supply people with information to justify decisions it makes. It is misleading people. It seems like it has based its decision on papers it could not have even seen."

The date of the consultation has also been called into question.

In October last year the council said a public meeting took place in late 1999 but in last Wednesday's answer, it said the meeting was held on March 13, 2000.

Mr Calo says he has not received any documents which provide a record of what happened at this meeting.

He claims to have only been sent papers from later meetings held in 2002 and 2003, after the consultation was finished.

A council spokesman said: "The consultation report provides a summary of information gained from the questionnaire.

"As it is the function of this type of report to summarise the information gained during a consultation, the report on the Ladywell Leisure Centre was one of the tools used in deciding the type of centre to be built when moving the pool to a new site."

Ladywell Leisure Centre, in Lewisham High Street, is due to be demolished in 2007 to make way for a new secondary school.

02 November 2005

02 November 2005

Foretelling bright future for borough

You may not have noticed but Lewisham is in the midst of a transformation and very soon parts of it will be unrecognisable. Reporter GLENN EBREY asks Mayor Steve Bullock to gaze into his crystal ball and predict what the borough will look like in 2015 ...

Imagine waking up in the morning in a new flat which provides stunning views of the London skyline and overlooks the River Thames.

Then imagine dropping your child off at a brand new school, before taking a trip on a clean, efficient train service to a top-class shopping centre.

Sounds a bit far-fetched but if you live in Lewisham in 2015 this could be just what life will be like.

The borough is currently the subject of an unprecedented programme of investment led by the £250m regeneration of the town centre.

This development will include new shops, bars, restaurants, business spaces and a multiplex cinema.

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock says the town-centre plans will act as the "driver" for improvement throughout the borough.

He said: "This is the single biggest thing to happen to Lewisham in a long time. The whole of central Lewisham will be transformed in the next 10 years.

"The way London has developed means Lewisham is now a lot closer to Docklands, the real hub of the city.

"This will be an area where people will want to live because of the quality of the shopping, the quality of the homes and the quality of transport links."

The transformation of central Lewisham is being mirrored throughout the borough.

In Deptford, the £168m Convoy's Wharf redevelopment will bring 3,500 new homes and a host of cultural and community facilities.

Transport links will also be improved with the extension of the East London Line through Honor Oak, Brockley and Sydenham, the DLR extension to London City Airport and the refurbishment of the Deptford station area.

The Mayor says the East London Line extension mean "a part of the borough which has been relatively neglected in terms of transport links will now be connected to the Tube network".

And every secondary school will either be refurbished or rebuilt in the next decade, thanks to the £150m Building Schools for the Future programme.

This all promises a very different Lewisham in 10 years' time but the mayor has his eyes on an earlier date - the 2012 Olympics.

Mr Bullock said: "The timing for this investment is right when you consider the Olympic factor.

"We are not an Olympic borough but there will still be a lot of exciting opportunities in terms of businesses and tourism."

However the Mayor is keen to ensure mass investment does not lead the borough's town centres to fall into the trap of becoming identikit high streets.

He added: "We do not want chain stores to come into our streets and make them just like any other. Places like Deptford have a unique appeal which we want to retain."

Mr Bullock is clearly excited about the future. So what exactly does he think the borough will look like in 2015?

He said: "Lewisham in 10 years' time will be more of a destination for people who do not live here than it is today.

"It will be a place where Londoners want to come because of its shopping, leisure facilities, schools and transport. It is a truly exciting prospect."

When will you be able to see the changes?

A host of major developments will be completed in Lewisham over the next decade at a total cost of more than £600m:

2006: Start of Lewisham Gateway town-centre development.

2007: Rebuild of Deptford Station completed.

2010: Estimated finish of the Convoy's Wharf development.

2011: New homes and a leisure centre on the Sundermead Estate, Lewisham. All Lewisham secondary schools improved under BSF.

2012: Lewisham Gateway completed.

Veterans honour long-lost hero

A COMMEMORATIVE service for a First World War hero was held after 18 years of searching for his grave.

The Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the British Army Association, were among the hundreds of representatives who paid tribute to Commander Archibald Walter Buckle at Brockley Cemetery on Sunday.

Tony Green, vice-chairman of the Royal British Legion Club in Brockley, and ex-serviceman Sergeant Jim Bassom, 82, discovered the commander's lost headstone under brambles at Brockley Cemetery two months ago.

Mr Green said: "It's an absolute privilege to have found this hero's grave and to give him a proper memorial."

Commander Buckle, who lived in Crescent Way, Brockley, commanded the Anson Battalion during the First World War and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and three bars.

He was also recommended for the Victoria Cross in 1918 and died in 1927 at the age of 38.

01 November 2005

01 November 2005

View from Blackheath Park?

Views of some of London's most historic buildings could be threatened by new planning guidelines, it is claimed.
Westminster and City of London planners have raised concerns about the mayor's draft London View Management Framework.

Guidelines currently favour wide unobstructed views of buildings like St Paul's Cathedral and Parliament.

But a Westminster Council spokesman said views of key landmarks would be a lot narrower and skyscrapers could be built behind them, ruining the view.

"The general feeling is that this is an attempt by the mayor to change planning policies in such a way as to make it a lot easier to develop very, very tall buildings," he told the BBC News website.

Peter Rees, the City planning officer, said mayor Ken Livingstone wanted to narrow long-distance views of St Paul's from places like Hampstead Heath, Parliament Hill fields and Blackheath park.

"It would be a bit like seeing it through a gap in a fence," he said.

"Those views would all be reduced to the point where they really aren't worth having."

But the mayor's office said its plans would be modified after public consultation.