Mountainous New BT Phone Boxes

BT have applied for 48 x 2.9m(8’8″) high advertising hoardings dressed partially as phone kiosks across Southwark. Three of these are proposed in East Dulwich.

Southwark should charge rent as they do for similar 90 such installations by JCDecaux free standing advertising hoardings and Southwark taxpayers benefit.  But only where it is safe to do so.

Ironic that we’ve spent so much time reducing street clutter for BT to propose this. Clearly their phone kiosks aren’t being used hence proposal to replace them with advertising hoardings. The idea of free phone calls from phone outdoors next to main roads is at best fanciful.

17/AP/0805 157 Lordship Lane – outside Franklins.
The new Harris East Dulwich Primary Academy, with the support of the local Police inspector, have requested that the bus stop outside its front door on Lordship Lane be swapped with the Pelican crossing nearly outside Franklins.
So this applications assumptions about the pavement are wrong and the schools/Police proposal will require the current phone box be removed. This alone should be reason enough to refuse permission.
Additionally the idea of prominent advertising being so close to a bus stop or pelican crossing is contrary to TfL guidance about the placing of advertising where extra cognitive lading occurs (tfL guidance section 2.4-2.6).

17/AP/0882 junction East Dulwich Road on Lordship Lane
This junction is notorious to local residents for crashes and fear of crashes. The reported crash data for this junction is 10 crashes for 2012-16 inclusive. i.e. 2 crashes pa. The classification of slight crashes has included a lady with multiple fractures still undergoing re constructive surgery.
Placing prominent screen advertising at this junction would make the junction more dangerous from cognitive overloading.

17/AP/0883 junction Crawthew Road on Lordship Lane – outside Foxtons.
Half the pavement width is owned by freeholders of 29-35 Lordship Lane. The current and proposed phone kiosks are reliant upon this to work. If the building is redeveloped the pavement would be blocking the pavement.
Equally the more prominent advertising hoarding proposed will distract drivers who must turn right exiting from Matham Grove onto Lordship Lane.

Generic issues for all these applications:
– these applications are being made to replace phone kiosks placed under Telecoms Apparatus applications. For telecomms apparatus the bulk of income and primary use would need be telecoms. But the vast bulk of use and revenues will be from advertising. On this basis telecoms rules and strategies should be secondary to following advertising consent rules for planning applications.
– the locations of the existing kiosks was motivated by being prominent for people to spot. But that same prominence makes these locations dangerous for much greater advertising prominence causing cognitive overload for people driving past. These advertising hoardings would be significantly safer on straight sections of roads that are not close to junctions or crossings.
– national planning policing encouraging telecomms and IT are aimed at broadband roll out, mobile mast roll-out and deploying fibre optics. These application are clearly advertising hoarding dressed as phone kiosks and these national, regional and borough strategies for telecomms/IT should not be applied to promote this advertising.
– The specs states the screens can operate from 0 to 50 degrees C. Temperatures regularly fall in winter locally below this temperature range.
Are the screens safe below their safe operating temperatures?
– poor urban design with the proposed new free standing advertising/phone kiosks being much more dominant in the street scape at 2.9m high. This is significantly higher than the 2.2 and 2.4m phone kiosks they replace.
– Protection of amenity. The free phone call offer. The applications give no details about how to ensure unrestricted free phones in the public domain won’t be abused and used to make malicious calls and how these will be stopped.
– un enclosed phones replacing enclosed phone kiosks. At all three sites these proposed free phones are overlooked by victorian flats with single glazing. What measures will be made to avoid these phones ringing and being nuisance – will BT fund double glazing for these flats? Make them outgoing only – especially to avoid use by drug dealers? Have Southwark Police been consulted about potential issues of drug dealing?
– they will bring at best only a very negligible benefit to the area far outweighed by the advertising.
Why hasn’t the applicant stated how important these phone boxes are by stating current revenue per phone box to demonstrate their importance to remain occupying such valuable public highway?
– other advertising companies pay Southwark annual rental to place such advertising hoardings on Southwark pavements.
Why are BT not required to do so?
– no detailed policy of what restrictions and controls on what would be advertised are stated. All are very close to primary and imminently secondary schools for the protection of minors.

Most New Southwark Homes Sold Overseas

Southwark Lib Dems have criticised Labour Southwark for taking no action about the selling of new Southwark homes to overseas owners.

A damning ‘Transparency International’ report revealed that 100% of the 51 apartments sold at South Gardens by the Australian property tycoon LendLease were sold to overseas investors. No locals getting to buy a local homes.

This flagship development at Elephant and Castle, replacing the now-demolished Heygate Estate, had previously been criticised for failing to provide  affordable homes demanded by the council’s own planning policy.

Southwark Labour councillors have often told us how good their relationship is with Lendlease, and claimed this allows them to get the best deal for our residents. Now that properties are being sold, it is clear that they are unable or unwilling to put any pressure on these developers.

Lendlease are building empty apartments for overseas investors, not homes for local Southwark residents. We are calling on the council to urgently investigate this and demand that homes built in Southwark are sold to UK residents first, not flogged off to overseas investors often with laundered money.

 

EU Right To Remain

On Monday the Labour party had one of its biggest meltdowns yet. Voting for, then against the amendment to protect the rights of EU citizens who already live in the UK to stay here.

Nobody knows where Labour stand on Brexit, they’re trying desperately to play both sides. Unfortunately for them people in this country are wise to it and people cannot respect a party that will not stand up for what it believes in.

The Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has pointed out that Labour had the chance to block Theresa May’s hard Brexit, but chose to sit on their hands. As Nick Clegg has pointed out there will be families fearful that they are going to be torn apart with EU citizens living here being kicked out of the UK. Many already tell me they feel no longer welcome in Britain.

In Dulwich we have 10,917 EU residents or 10% of all resident. They are a critical party of our neighbourhoods.

Shame on the government for using people as chips in a casino, and shame on Labour for letting them. EU countries will no respect a government being so very callous. It has already hardened their attitudes towards us. My day job is negotiating. This is no way to win respect or concessions from an opposite party.

Locally the NHS relies on hundreds of EU nationals, both doctors and nurses, to sure up an already underfunded service. This is a huge problem for every person in our country, and we shouldn’t let hard working EU nationals and their families be treated as second class citizens. For example at King’s College Hospital we have 282 EU doctors, 450 EU nurses and 414 other crucial staff.

As Liberal Democrats we believe in an open, tolerant and united future for our country. We want EU citizens to stay, they’re part of our country and our community. We will do all we can to fight for their rights and make them feel welcome. If you agree join us.

MPs voted down the amendment on EU nationals rights by 335 to 287, a majority of 48, with peers later accepting the decision by 274 to 135. The second amendment on whether to hold a meaningful final vote on any deal after the conclusion of Brexit talks was voted down by 331 to 286, a majority of 45, in the Commons.

St.Ives Inspiration

The residents of St.Ives have voted via a new Neighbourhood Plan require that all new build homes must be occupied as principal residents – not holiday or second homes.

In Southwark many new homes are sold to foreign residents and sit idle. It means even the low new home build numbers are diluted further by so many homes being lost in this way.

Lib Dems have asked the labour Southwark administration whether they would support such a stance by neighbourhoods. They reacted by claiming no evidence of this problem in Southwark exists. That such homes generate receipts to be used for social housing. But they have said that for example if the Bankside Neighbourhood plan can justify such a scheme with damaging scheme viability ned meeting affordable housing they could support such a proposal.

Watch this space…

Bakerloo Line Extension Short Changed

This week Transport for London have announced they are proposing two new Bakerloo Line stations in Southwark as part of extending it to the south east to Lewisham and beyond. It should drastically reduce traffic providing a much better alternative for people travelling into the centre of London.

This sounds good until you start looking into it. This part of the extension, from Elephant & Castle to New Cross Gate, will be about 4.5km long. But the existing Bakerloo Line is 23.2km long with 25 stations. So a station near enough ever kilometre on the current Bakerloo Line.

So why aren’t TfL proposing at least three stations along this section?

That would be a station every 1.125km. So a station at the Bricklayers Arms Roundabout, Burgess Park/Albany Road, Ilderton Road junction.

Come on TfL don’t short change the people of Bermondsey or Southwark. We want three stations not two.

Making Lordship Shops All Shops

20-22 Lordship Lane were originally shops with flats above them. For a very long time they’ve bene used as offices for one of Southwark’s Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT).

Since 2005 we’ve been asking what are the plans for these offices. Breaking up the line of shops with two non shops with blank frontages doesn’t help keep Lordship Lane vibrant.

I’ve now had a Freedom of Information response back. Previously I had Southwark Council officers saying they were awaiting Maudsley people to respond. I’ve Maudsley people saying thy’ve been waiting for Southwark Council officers. You could not make this up.

So I’ve now escalated this to the Chief Executive Of Southwark Council in the hope they can resolve this. If they can’t then I’ll use my last resort of a Councillor Call for Action. Yes, Minister have nothing on this!

Snail’s Pace Housing

Southwark Council needs to do much more to tackle the scandal of thousands of homes left empty in Southwark.

We face a local housing crisis with housing need rising all the time with the local population set to rise to 355,000 by 2025. The Council has sold or demolished 1,973 of its own homes but built just 65 since Labour took power in Southwark in May 2010. There are currently 13,000 people on the Council’s housing waiting list.

Southwark is reckoned to have around 2,050 empty private sector homes, including second homes and homes left empty as investment opportunities by overseas buyers. A large proportion have been left empty for more than six months.

Under powers brought in by Liberal Democrats in the last government, councils can now charge 150% council tax on any home empty for two years or more. The latest figures show that Southwark is charging just 611 of the empty homeowners in the borough.

At the last meeting of the council I urged the borough’s leaders to demand more powers to tackle empty homes. I am calling for Southwark to be able to charge at least 200% council tax on empty homes after a home is empty for a year. Scotland is allowed to do this so why not English councils. The aim would be to increase the private sector housing supply in Southwark for rent and sale.

The Council needs to do much more to bring these homes into use and make it less financially worthwhile to keep them empty. It is shameful that new homes are being built all the time but are then allowed to sit empty while overseas investors make a killing.

It is not enough to just rely on building new council homes given the snail’s pace so far. The Council needs to get tough on developers who say they cannot build the affordable homes they should. It also needs to fight for extra powers to charge more council tax on homeowners who leave their homes empty.

My Lib Dem colleagues and I will keep fighting residents’ corner and pushing the Council to increase the housing supply in Southwark.

Flawed Viability Statements

Southwark Council after resisting years of campaigning from the people at 35% and Lib Dem colleague Cllr Adele Morris have agreed a new policy of publishing viability reports about whether a developer can afford to provide 35% social housing in any proposed development, some reduced amount or none at all.

For years developers appeared to hood wink Southwark Council and the council appeared to collude by keeping everything secret. So it is a huge positive step forward to publish such statements in future.

These statements are produced as per Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors guidelines. But they’re flawed and the concept is flawed. They look at the viability of a proposed scheme but take no account of whether the developer is a UK or foreign investment company that won’t pay the same tax levels. So effectively it penalises any UK company and hugely encourages them to base themselves off shore.

What should happen is some kind of factoring to allow for whatever tax regime the developer is based in. It’s bad enough we have a global tax evasion industry but for our council to encourage it makes no sense.

It also means if people can prove a scheme un viable with social housing, social housing doesn’t proceed. It maximises the land value at the expense of providing social housing. IF developers HAD to provide 35% social housing then the value of land would fall enabling this. People wouldn’t buy land at a price they would make a loss on any development while providing 35% social housing.

So the whole concept of viability squeezes down the amount of social housing. And if we’re going to have such assessments then at least ensure they’re a level playing field for UK companies.

Free GP’s

We’ve had huge success getting new Free Schools to fix the lack of school places at both primary and secondary school levels. I’ve been involved in making five happen so far. Often despite downright opposition from Southwark Labour until we get huge numbers f parents signed up.

We clearly have work to get these schools fully up and running but largely supporting projects through to implimentation.

Another big issue that affects everyone is our local GP service. GP practices are private businesses. Most are run with real care and dedication from the partners. But not all. The service feels patchy with many deeply unsatisfied patients. I’ve received more casework today where a family are really unhappy but they feel they have no realistic alternative GP practice to move to. This is crazy.

What we need is the option for Free GP practice – run as with school on a not for profit basis – where we don’t have suitable GP alternatives. Where an area attracts sufficient support for a new Free GP practice that central NHS funds are provided to help a new Free GP practice set-up. I’m clear that were we to have this power we would create new a Free GP practice for East Dulwich.

Beauty of this would be real competition for customer service. The rival would be a community led not for profit Free GP practice. It would be run by trustees or governors like schools,

Do you think this is a good idea or a crazy idea?

Fighting Dodgy Local Employer

I’ve just had the third piece of casework about an alleged dodgy employer on Lordship Lane.

The employer apparently hates paying their staff wages. Suggestion they employ illegal immigrants, and other allegations. To ensure when leaving you get paid your wages staff book holidays and then have to fight for their holiday pay. One’s not taking this approach owed many hundred of pounds. Generally not rich teenagers being exploited. This is exactly the sort of dodgy business behaviour that gives free enterprise a bad name.

I’ve contacted the local “dodgy” business person about one case and been blanked. They’ve always been very vocal to me about issues that bother them but suddenly silent. No response. The silence feels damning.

If you find yourself in this position – tell me. If I get more casework I will feel obliged to go public.

You can also follow this step by step guide, amending things with your details, to try and resolve things if you have this problem:

Send the following letter to the employer by recorded delivery.

“Dear Ms xxx

Re: Letter before action for non payment of wages

As you are aware I was employed by yyyyyyyyyy from xx to xx.
My last working day was xx
Despite numerous efforts to converse with you I have yet to receive a response as to why you have failed to pay my outstanding wages and holiday pay as follows:

– detail wages owed
– detail holiday pay owed.

This may well be an oversight on your behalf.

Please can you pay the outstanding amounts within the next 7 days.

If you do not pay the outstanding amount within the seven days I will commence proceedings against you in the employment tribunal.

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully ”

If you get no response after seven days you need to start the employment tribunal process

Three points regarding the employment tribunals:
1. Needs to be within 3 months of the last day of employment.
2. First stage is to contact ACAS for early resolution mediation which may resolve the issue if not they will provide a certificate. Need for next stage.
3. Fees – whilst employment tribunals require a fee of £160 to lodge a claim it is possible that as a student or low wage earner you could be below the monthly income threshold and exempt from paying.

If it gets this far you may want to seek Southwark Citizens Advice Bureau help.

Either way never let a rogue business person rip you of.