Lewisham Mayor’s office responds about Eliot Pits

Got a very rapid response from the Mayor’s office. See below:

Dear Blackheath Bugle,

I am writing to you on behalf of Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, to acknowledge receipt of your email received 28th May 2013.

Having looked into this matter at Sir Steve’s request, the proposal for Eliot Pits to be considered as a suitable place to install children’s play facilities was first suggested at a Blackheath Ward assembly by local ward councillors as a key ward priority to meet a lack of an accessible children’s play area. By way of background, the criteria set out for the selection of sites for a children’s play space were that the site should be publically accessible and within the boundary of the Blackheath Ward. Any structures should not impact on the vista of the Heath, not be sited too close to residential properties and any facility should not have a detrimental affect on the ecology of the green space. Ward Councillors discussed various options within the Blackheath ward with parks officers, the Blackheath Society and the Local Assembly and it was decided that Eliot Pits was an option to put forward to the next stage. Options for sites on the more open sections of the Heath were rejected due to the impact on vista. I am also advised that during these meetings no suitable alternative had been suggested by members of the wider public.

That said, I would like to clarify that discussions into this suggestion are at a very early stage. The feasibility process has only recently started and nothing will be done until a phase 1 ecological survey is carried out by an independent consultant. Should the findings and recommendations in the survey conclude that the process can continue without detriment to the ecology of the area, the Council will commission landscape architects to begin the feasibility stage leading to outline design proposals. At this stage officers would carry out in-depth consultation with local residents, the Blackheath Society, the Safer Neighbourhood Team for Blackheath, the Blackheath Ward Assembly and other interested parties in addition to the relevant council officers. Following this, officers will ask the architects to complete the brief and then decide on particular proposals prior to seeking all necessary approvals and consents (Ministerial consent will be required for the permanent erection of the play equipment on the common). As part of the Ministerial consent process, there will be an opportunity for consultees to write to the Planning Inspectorate with any views on the proposal.

I trust that this is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Andy Williams
Office of Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham

Sounds like a level-headed response to me. Would be good to see the initial proposals as a public document. As a side-note, it might be worth also following David Notton who has been tweeting his ecological examinations of the pits:

I wonder whether having an active and responsive residents group in Blackheath in some way acts to the detriment of less wealthy parts of Lewisham in this instance. Because the Blackheath Society is so good at spotting potential sources of funding, it inevitably means that it will put in bids for funding more expertly than say a group based around a more deprived housing estate in another part of Lewisham. This isn’t a criticism of the Blackheath Society, just an observation.


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7 responses to “Lewisham Mayor’s office responds about Eliot Pits

  1. Anonymous

    I’m just wondering if we need to read between the lines here. The reply from the Mayor’s office doesn’t say who it was who suggested Eliot Pits as a suitable site to the Ward Councillors in the first instance- I don’t think it would be something they would have just come up by themselves. Also the future consultation process only seems to be on the outline design proposals for the playground once these have been drawn up. There doesn’t seem to be a process of consultation on the actual concept of building a playground on the Heath or- equally importantly- the chosen site at Eliot Pits.

  2. A resident

    Dear Mr Bugle It was The Lib dem councillor A. De Ryk who proposed the Pits at the Assembly, no one else.

  3. Matthew Gough

    I’m curious to know why you think a) the Blackheath society has anything to do with this; and b) why their very existence might threaten ‘less wealthy’ parts of the borough.

    • I initially wrote that I didn’t know whether the Blackheath Society had suggested Eliot Pits for a pocket park or not. Some commenters had suggested that they had. Subsequently the mayor’s response indicates that the Blackheath Society discussed the idea with local councillors. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Blackheath (depending on your point of view). Indeed, if there is a finite pot of money from Boris for a series of “pocket parks” around London, then it is great for Blackheath residents that the Blackheath Society spot this and act upon it. My point was that areas with fewer civic societies acting in their interests could miss out on this money as a result. I did not say that their existence threatens less wealthy parts of the borough. Ultimately it comes down to a question of how you believe central funding should be distributed to local areas. Should democratically appointed representatives decide? Should local societies bid for the money by demonstrating how they will use it? I don’t know, but I thought it was worth discussing.

      • Matthew Gough

        Just reread the mayor’s letter, and I think I see where the confusion has come from… According to the Blackheath Society, there was no ‘discussion’: they were told it had been suggested by the Blackheath Assembly and didn’t want to express an opinion either way until they’d done further research and garnered opinions from the community.

        I think it’s very clever mayoral spin to suggest the society was involved in the discussions as it implies an implicit support from them, but that would certainly be news to them. They certainly didn’t spot the scheme and apply: that was done by the democratically elected ward councillors, as was the suggestion of Eliot Pits as the location.

        I would suspect, now that it’s clear that there is support for a pocket park in the ward but not in that location, the society will get involved with suggesting alternatives, though obviously I can’t speak for them.

  4. The Blackheath Society welcomes the statement from the Lewisham Mayor’s office on the subject of a playspace on the Heath. The Society has not taken a view on this idea and will not do so until firm and clear proposals are available and consulted upon, which is not the case at present. We will, as always, defend the best interests of the Heath and those who use it.

    • On behalf of Pitstop, the local community group which was recently formed to oppose the building of a childrens’ playground at Eliot Pits, we would like to thank the Bugle for highlighting this issue on the blog and to also thank all those who have taken the time to post comments, both for and against. It is good that the proposal is beginning to emerge into the open and be discussed so that as many views as possible are heard.

      Like the Bugle, we too have recently written to the Mayor of Lewisham’s office requesting clarification of a number of matters, including the process used and the criteria applied in the selection of Eliot Pits as the proposed site for the playground. In the light of the statements recently posted on this site by Lewisham Council and the Blackheath Society in response to the Bugle’s query as to the origin of the suggestion of the Eliot Pits site, we would like to share Lewisham Council’s response to our question whereby we requested clarification as to “the means by which the search area for the proposed site was drawn”, as follows:-

      “ Eliot Pits was first drawn to the Ward Councillors’ attention by the Blackheath Society, not as a perfect site but as an option to consider.”

      (Councillor Susan Wise on behalf of the Mayor of Lewisham 23 May 2013)

      This would seem to be inconsistent with the Blackheath Society’s recent statement on the Bugle blog and we are surprised that the Blackheath Society appears to have conceded that in principle development can take place on the Heath and is only focused on the design aspect of any scheme.

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