Blackheath Assembly

The Blackheath assembly meeting took place tonight.

Age Exchange and the Library

First up was Sir Ian Mills, asking everyone to please use the Bakehouse Library. Apparently it has lots of kids using it, but not enough adults. £800,000 of development work is due to take place by 2015, including grand plans to turn the two upper floors of the Reminisence Centre into a kind of community centre. The Bugle sat on his hands and didn’t ask anything impertinent about local council’s obligations being overtaken by charities – I hear it’s all the vogue these days.

One of the questions – why isn’t there a big notice in the window of the centre, encouraging people to please use the tiny library out the back for god’s sake? (I may be paraphrasing)…

Olympics Transport Issues

Then onto Olympics, where a nice lady called Emma told us that we would all be consulted, and that our feedback was essential, but that she couldn’t really confirm anything very much, as she wasn’t a technician, and that all the important people were at Greenwich council for a planning meeting that was unfortunately scheduled to coincide with the assembly.

Lots of questions about parking and permits during the Olympics – many from Kevin Bonavia, who made sure to turn to the audience whenever asking a question… He’ll go far I’m sure. Emma smiled, nodded, and apologised through them all. She couldn’t specify a month by when we could be certain about the parking situation.

There will be bus stop closures on Ha Ha Road.

“Will there be parking on the heath?”. Yes there will, but only on one day (July 30th), and only by coaches picking up olympic believers from Blue Water, and depositing them on Prince Charles Road. But the coaches will be on matting, so the grass will be ok.

Originally LOCOG had promised that there would be no parking at all on the heath.

There will also be a bike rack and taxi rank in Talbot Place.

A question about this: “If I’m a resident, can I still park outside my house?”. No blooming idea. Come along to the informal chit chat at the Clarendon Hotel on 3rd & 4th February, where all will be revealed.

One Talbot Place resident was particularly cross about the impact that the taxi rank and bike racks would have on disabled people in the area. “I’ll feed that back”.

“What will happen to the DLR? Will it be able to cope?” “TfL have done lots of lovely modelling. There are some very colourful models on their website”.

Blackheath Live Site

Then it was Liz Dart – Community Engagement officer from Lewisham Council, who was up to talk about the plans for the Olympics Live Site (the big screen planned to go in front of Taste of Rat).

Liz last addressed the Assembly back when Blackheath still had a proper library, but I digress… We were about to be PowerPointed, but Lewisham council make all their staff use secure USB sticks, which never work, as anyone who has attempted to use one in a Windows machine can attest.

She went through the plans, which looked the same as the ones which have been highlighted previously on this site. She mentioned some of the activities that will take place – tea dances, comedy nights, sports films. Some of these will be ticketed, and some will be free.

Zone 3 will contain a climbing wall, and a roller skating rink which sounds rather fun. It will be run by a company with an amusing name which sounded a lot like Bottom, but I’m sure it wasn’t. It wont’ be a fairground – there won’t be loud music, and no “callers” (not sure what they are).

The staff & contractors used will be the same teams that are used for Fireworks night.

Emergency services will be the same teams as usual, except for the police, who will be all centrally controlled from the Met, due to the Olympics.

Lot of questions about noise from the big screen. One very annoyed man pointed out that whilst the screen is facing away from the nearby homes, this means that the cheers from the crowds will be projected towards the homes. Also pointed out that it’s near a busy road.

The location was determined by the Locog events nearby. They don’t expect 5,000 people for the majority of the time. The deciding factor will be the weather, and how well Britain is doing in the Olympics.

“Will it be ticketed – isn’t it too many people?”. Fireworks attracts 100,000. It won’t be ticketed.

“What about the grass?”. It will be maintained by Glendale as usual.

Question about screen times, and adoloescents loitering, upsetting young families. Answer: 8am-11pm but only if there is interest. Alcohol won’t be served throughout these hours, but will probably be available from midday at weekends for example.

“What about seating? Can we bring our own?” No fixed seating will be provided at the site. There may be hay bales, or something of that nature. You can bring your own seat.

Apparently there will be a firework display this year, touch wood. The live site event isn’t expected to make a profit, and there are strict rules about commercial activity so close to an Olympic venue. Initially a school dinner provider wanted to try and break a world record at the site (for the most dinners served? Largest omellette? Can’t remember), but this level of sponsorship wouldn’t have been allowed.

The overall cost is thought to be around £150,000, but some income will be derived from attractions, partnerships, etc.

The licence decision for the live site is due to be decided at a council comittee next week. i got the feeling that they’re pretty sure it will be approved.

Localism – Pickles’ Grand Idea

Then it was onto Heidi Alexander talking about the Localism Bill.

I’m not going to even attempt to explain it all here. It looks bloody confusing to me, although she spoke well. Interesting points:

* Groups of 21 or more can form local forums, subject to local council approval
* These forums can declare “local assets”, such as pubs, churches, etc to be added to a special List.
* Anything on this list cannot be quickly sold or got rid of by the owner. They have additional obligations to discuss any sale with the council. Either an extra 6 weeks or 6 months delay is added, to prevent quick sales of local assets.

So this raises interesting questions: Who can form a Forum? Are there concerns about groups forming forums specifically to exclude other groups? The legal status of these forums appears murky as the legislation currently stands. Should the Blackheath Society form a forum? Should the Blackheath Assembly be a vehicle for a forum?

What would you like to see on a list of Blackheath Assets? One suggestion was that the station car park could be added to such a list, to prevent National Rail from screwing with it.

UPDATE: See the petition about the station car park.


Filed under blackheath, events, greenwich, lewisham, Olympics, parking, planning

26 responses to “Blackheath Assembly

  1. Taste of Rat? Thought their food was quite nice! Hehe

  2. Dan

    Always saying to my self… Read before pressing submit or send!

    Anyone else spot it???

    Madee chuckle at midnight.

  3. Dontcha just love the nimbys.

    How terrible will it be if I see a bike rack or hear somebody cheering.

    The idea of the Blackheath Society forming a forum because they know best about what is best for people in the area fills me with dread.

  4. creepylesbo

    I suspect they intended the forums to protect local landmarks so Tesco couldn’t rush in and buy the church/Clarendon Hotel/whole row of shops on Royal Parade for example but I like the idea of a group sponsoring a random area. The dogging car park must surely be another coveted spot, and will these forums be able to adopt the Heath itself and prevent the council ‘leasing’ it without paperwork to random organisations?

  5. Maisie

    Taste of Rat?!? Not a fan of that particular Indian? :)

  6. anonymous123

    The powers that be really don’t know what they are doing – their attitude is “the computer says yes”! In Dorset, where the sailing is to take place, they keep saying it is in Weymouth when in fact, it is on Portland which is seven miles further on, across a causeway.

    At a meeting, the Know All from London said that more trains would be put on from London to Weymouth. He didn’t even know that part of the line is SINGLE TRACK and trains have to wait to pass! He then said, o.k. we’ll add extra carriages. He didn’t know that the platforms ONLY TAKE FIVE CARRIAGES!

    But the computer said YES!

    He then told everyone that road traffic was guaranteed to get ‘The Olympic Family’ from Heathrow to Weymouth (note: not Portland!) in two and a half hours. At this, everyone fell off their chairs laughing! A holiday route (single carriageway from soon after Bournemouth!), in the height of summer, and above all – HARVEST TIME! As someone said, farmers will not take kindly to being told they couldn’t drive their tractors at harvest time along the route at their maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.

    But the computer said YES!

    So Blackheath – have fun!

  7. scared of chives

    £150,000 eh?

    As the vomit-inducing ‘Lord’ Coe would say: ‘It’s on time and on budget, well kind of, apart from the extra £300,000 we’ll have to find.’

  8. “Vomit inducing…..” Yeah, I like it.

    Did no-one specifically ask about the controversial lease which could lead to the Cater Estate being transplanted onto Circus Field?

    Also, callers are the chaps who cry out, “Roll up, roll up! Pay a quid for 20 pence worth of crap,” and the like…..

  9. PS – Thanks for the report.

  10. Gina Raggett

    Isn’t it about time Sir Ian Mills, Kevin Bonavia et al finally admitted that the library at Age Exchange has been a catastrophic failure on all levels? As bluntly stated in The Bookseller (“The Organ of the Book Trade” for those not in the know), Lewisham council has effectively destroyed library provision in Blackheath. Official council figures show that AE is the worst performing of LBL’s so-called community libraries, with book issues and visits down by almost 90%. As no increase in book stocks is proposed when the library moves into its permanent basement home, it is hard to see how the situation can ever improve.

    I don’t know what constitutes “a lot of children” in Ian Mills’ view, but Lewisham has just released figures for the Summer Reading Challenge in Blackheath for the past two years.. They show a drop from 164 in 2010 to just 14 – that’s fourteen – in 2011. If that isn’t enough to make AE think again then nothing ever will.

    None of this is the fault of the volunteers who are always eager, indeed desperate, to help the few visitors who wander in, gasp at the lack of books and quickly leave. Right now, access to the library is only possible via a courtyard in the throes of major building works, on top of which the Bakehouse is being used as a cafe until the end of 2012. Far from book orders being filled within 24 hours, as repeatedly and erroneously claimed by AE, there are tales of borrowers waiting over 3 months. And for this Lewisham ratepayers coughed up £200K.

    Blackheath has lost its library, end of. Heath House Prep school has taken over the old library building and is undertaking conversions as we speak. There is however no reason why AE can’t do the decent thing and set their minds and some of that fabled £800K towards developing a dedicated children’s library, either in the Bakehouse or on one of their building’s upper floors. It’s time AE, the Blackheath Society, the Blackheath Village Residents Group and others stopped pretending that what we have at AE is remotely adequate for local needs and started working towards ways of putting things right.

    • Kevin Bonavia

      Thanks also for the report BB.

      Gina, it is not the “end of” the Blackheath Library. A lot of work has been, and is still, going on. The most difficult period was immediately after closure of the old site at the end of last May, when the temporary library had to start in the back of the Reminiscence Centre, which was bound to have an adverse impact on usage. There is far more to attract visitors in the larger current temporary library in the Bakehouse. And I think the cafe is a good thing, because modern libraries can’t just be books on shelves – they also need to be welcoming public spaces in which people are happy to spend time to get information from books, papers, periodicals and the Internet.

      No less important is the service that a library can provide for local children. Currently there is a “Rhyme Time” class every Friday morning. On 3 mornings last week, classes from John Ball School came to do “Book Time” classes, and plans are being discussed with the school for a year-long programme of class visits to work on a project called “Our London”. A Maths Clinic is due to start soon, and there are plans to run English and Reading Clinics as well. An employed library co-ordinator with a specialism in working with children and people with special needs will shortly start work, and she is already liaising with Lewisham Library service about doing more for local children.

      As the permanent new library gets fitted out, more needs to be done to let local people know about the Bakehouse library (a point repeatedly made last night). I will be joining local volunteers this Saturday morning to help distribute information leaflets to residents and businesses. If anyone would like to join us, we’ll be meeting outside the Bakehouse (off Bennett Park) at 10 am.

      • Gina Raggett

        Kevin: You say:”No less important is the service that a library can provide for local children.” I have obviously failed to express myself clearly in this blog, in the local press and in emails to you and others at LBL, but it’s AE’s lack of provision for children – and particularly pre-school children – that most concerns me.

        It goes without saying that any book-oriented activities that involve local schoolchildren are to be welcomed and encouraged, though there is still a question mark about whether Heath House Prep school will be taking over this role at some stage. I just hope all your “plans” and “wills” and “liaisings” amount to something concrete.

        Where AE is falling very, very short is in the provision of both welcoming space and adequate book stocks for pre-school children and their parents/carers. This, as per my previous email, could easily be remedied by the establishment of a proper children’s library where babies and toddlers can learn to handle and enjoy books, where exhausted mums can drop in for story-time sessions, where there is space for buggy-parking, where children’s authors can be invited to read and discuss their works.

        However well-intentioned, handing out leaflets advertising AE’s cafe isn’t going to help improve London’s dire literacy standards, or compensate for the loss of the Village library. Children need to get the book bug way before they start school. So why won’t you even consider the possibility of a children’s library in Blackheath? AE has the space, it apparently has the money. What is stopping you?

  11. Nic

    Thanks for the report. I think everyone needs to remember we live in a city and not in the countryside where some of the concerns would be valid

  12. Michelle O'Brien

    As far as I’m concerned I most emphatically don’t live in a city. And I don’t want to live in one.

    I live in a busy village in north Kent which for a large part of its perimeter is bordered by glorious open heathland, and long may it continue like that.

    The more that people insist that Blackheath is just another part of London the more Blackheath will become just that – just another part of the grim, ugly southeast London urban sprawl.

    • Dan

      I see your point and mostly agree although some may say SE3 stands for South East of London 3 and there are in fact a fair few post codes inbetween us and Kent. I fear our voices are quite small… Almost a whisper!!

    • Maisie

      Are you related to Richard Bacon? ;)

      You live in Lewisham/Greewich. Yes it’s a green oasis in SE London. But look down the hill – Lewisham, inner London!

      It hasn’t been a village since Wat Tyler came for a visit…

    • scared of chives

      Hang on, Michelle – are you really Richard Bacon…?

  13. EnglishRose

    I imagine that the fact the library isn’t open on Saturdays does little to help visitor numbers….

    Does anyone know why – is it due to a shortage of volunteers or council restrictions?

  14. Otter

    “The Administrative County includes so little of psychological London. Chislehurst, for instance, psychologically considered, is London; so, in their own ways are Brighton, Hastings, Southend-on-Sea, parts of the Riviera, and half of the Essex flats.”
    Ford Maddox Ford “The Soul of London” 1906

  15. As I’ve said before on this blog, the AE Library has failed me twice recently: (1) trying to order a book and (2) trying to renew a book. That’s despite very willing volunteers. Both times it seemed to be a problem with the computer system/online catalogue. I might give them another try next time I need to order or renew a book, but I must admit I feel more inclined to use Manor House Library.

    • Anonymous

      I thought the computer system was knackered [again] when I could not log in. A trip to the main library revealed that my card had been disabled. No-one knew why, other than to suggest that cards are cancelled if unused for a long time. About six months does not seem very long. What is the cut-off? No-one knew. Why not issue a warning? No-one knew.
      Never happened before; library transfer; card cancelled.
      Back to village branch with a new card to access one of the free “virtual services” – Ancestry – for a little historic research. No access. Round and round telephone “help” desks ending with the email address of “someone who will know”.
      Ermmm…”Ancestry is only licenced for use through Lewisham council run libraries. Blackheath Village library, and the other community libraries, are now no longer covered by the licencing arrangement”
      Well, well. That wasn’t mentioned in the Great Library Transfer Consultation. I wonder what else has been cancelled?

  16. You might be interested in the posting I just did on Sydenham Town Forum

    quoting from this post, and including a link to download the report of the meeting for Local Assembly Ward co-ordinators held Oct 24th last year

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