New Grove Vale library

I’m delighted to report that last night my ward colleagues Cllr Richard Thomas, Cllr Jonathan Mitchell and I supported a new community library at 18-22 Grove Vale. The library component is something I proposed to the developer two years ago. Last night Southwark Council’s main Planning Council GRANTED planning permission for a new Community Library at 18-22 Grove Vale replacing the current Grove Vale Library. The scheme will include 22 flats, 25% renewable energy, green roofs. The new library will have twice the current floor space for users. This will enable school classes to visit, adult education and increasing the number of days and hours of opening. The new site being next to East Dulwich station will have significantly more footfall. The current library has just over 100,000 visits per year. I’m expecting this to increase by at least 50%. Local businesses in Grove Vale and the surrounding area should benefit from this new magnet for visitors.

The Planning Committee voted: James Gurling, Eliza Mann (reserve), Gordon Nardell, Althea Smith and Aubyn Graham for the scheme, with Robin Crookshank-Hilton voting against the scheme.

The expectation is that six months of finalising planning conditions. Then 18 months to complete the build.

Getting to this position would not have been possible without the developer and agents St.Aidan’s and many council officers, council departments and councillors sharing my vision and overcoming considerable hurdles.

Many thanks for all their hard work. What stars. A really great result for the residents East Dulwich and South Camberwell. 

Digital TV Tax – part II

Some time ago I highlighted my annoyance at the Labour Governments Digital TV tax – all the TV’s, video machines, etc have to be replaced at a huge cost to individuals so that the government can sell TV analogue UHF channels. That this will disproportionately affect the poor.

The UK auctions start this year.

We’re now getting an idea of what those UHF channels will be used for – new technology mobile phones and wireless broadband gadgets. Digital TV signals are weak low powered signals but mobile gadgets high powered. Without extraordinary care the mobile high powered gadgets will drown out digital TV signals. Now I watch more TV than is good for me but I hadn’t thought the government was planning a TV starvation diet for me.

The US National Association of Broadcasters has accused Microsft and Google who plan to bid for US channels of “playing Russian roulette” with digital TV quality. The European Broadcasters Union testing has shown that some of the types of wireless gadgets planned destroy digital TV pictures and sounds. 

Considering the fiasco the Labour Government has made of other high tech projects expect to have no TV in East Dulwich for 2012. Ironically one of the few TV services that probably will be o.k. will be TV on mobile phones. But do we want a whole new raft of mobile oerator masts.

Perhaps we all need to be prepared to fill our evening and make sure you have a Southwark Library card!

Planning applications go on-line

This Thursday 10 January new Planning Application will go on-line. During the following six months the existing planning applications since 2003 will be data captured and added to the on-line system.

Considering that currently people who want to view a planning application have to make a special trip to the Planning Department offices at Chiltern House, Portland Street, SE17 this new on-line capability will be a real benefit. It will enable anyone to view a scheme remotely from the Planning Department from the comfort of their office, own home or local library.

I suspect many people will feel relieved to see plans for proposals and that fears they have are often not necessary. For many others, especially campaigning groups, it will give them a capability to get involved that practically they didn’t have before without taking time away from work, family or studies. Before becoming a councillor I spent many a lunch time dashing to Chiltern House to view a scheme and dash back to the office having viewed a planning application. Not something I could do more than very occassionally.

Well done to the Planning Department and the various IT suppliers for making this possible. Good luck for Thursday. Hope it all works!

176 bus route

Transport for London has asked for feedback regarding renewing the 176 bus route contract.

If you have any thoughts tell me.

The feedback the East Dulwich Liberal Democrat Councillors Jonathan Mitchell, Richard Thomas and myself have given so far is that it has to be one of the slowest bus routes around. Those sections where it runs in parallel to other bus routes such as the no.68 the 176 appears pedestrian and very slow. The other issue is that all the 176 bus stops need to have the Countdown system so passengers know how long they’ll have to wait.

What do you think?

New Grove Vale library – Dulwich Garden Centre

Southwark Council Planning Officers are currently preparing a report on this scheme. They will decide early next week whether to recommend this planning application be Granted or Refused. Since 19 November, when I last posted about this new Grove Vale library, the scheme has been revised. Unfortunately the library height proposed has been reduced. The top floor is now proposed to be set back and overall the building will appear less bulky. It also has lost much of its copper banding and wont be as striking. Shame.

If you want more details, want to support or oppose the scheme, then please get in touch with me.

The final decision by the full Planning Committee is expected to be taken 7pm 22 January at the Town Hall. These meeting have very long agendas so be prepared to wait some time and bring a book, snack, drink.

Graffiti at height

Southwark Council graffiti removals service is second to none. 24hours removal once the site owner has agreed and no charge even for businesses. Just one small caveat. Although five of the officers are trained to work at heights they don’t have a vehicle with a crane or cage to support this. Colleagues in other departments, such as street lighting, have such vehicles but due to government best value rules they have to cross charge to hire these between departments. How complicated. Also, to park such vehicles they need to officially close road lanes unless an emergency. Failed street lighting is currently considered to meet this criteria but removing graffiti isn’t. Currently another Southwark Council department Highways require 6 weeks notice and an expensive traffic management order to close a lane of traffic. Hence such graffiti at height stays around for a very long time.

Now the Executive Councillor Paul Noblet, accountable for all these departments, knows how disjointed this is it shouldn’t take long to fix.

New Grove Vale library….

Eighteen months ago I approached developer St.Aidan’s who’d applied for planning permission to redevelope the Dulwich Garden Centre, 18-22 Grove Vale. Personally it’s sad to see the demise of a a garden centre – that’s where we buy our plants from for our garden. But if it is going to be redeveloped then I wanted to ensure that any scheme benefited the local community in East Dulwich.  So I proposed the current charming but pokey Grove Vale library be moved to a proposed new development across the road on a peppercorn rent. I attended the previous schemes planning appeal in January’07 to help ensure it didn’t proceed as it was an ugly pastiche with no community benefit.

The new scheme, progressing through the planning process, includes 24 flats and a new 230m2 Grove Vale community library. The current Grove Vale library is only 144m2. So the new library would be big enough for school classes from Dog Kennel Hill, Goose Green and other local schools to visit, hold adult education, have lots more study desks and computers and be a much bigger asset to the community. If approved it would be on a peppercorn rent for circa 125 years. The would release money that would enable it to be open much more than the current four days per week.

My calculations show this as having a potential net present value of £2,000,000 for East Dulwich.

Still quite a few issues to work through but I’m really excited by how Southwark Council Officers have been able, working with a developer, to get this scheme submitted. Hopefully it will be approved in December or January.

Watch this space for updates.

Dulwich Library – open 20% more often

Dulwich Libary is the most popular library in Southwark. It’s located a few feet from the boundary of East Dulwich ward and an incredibly useful resource for the area. I’ve often visited and had to wait some time before I could find a desk position to work from.

Starting this week Dulwich Library is now open EVERY Wednesday from 9am to 8pm. This means Dulwich Library is now open 7 days a week. The number of hours this library is open has increased from 55 to 66 hours per week. Additionally the very large meeting room opposite the study area, when not booked for events, will be set up for students to study. Each of these improvement is a step increase in facilities for library users and students studying at this library.

The new arrangements follow a pre-election promise from all three Liberal Democrat East Dulwich councillors Richard Thomas, Jonathan Mitchell and myself to get longer opening hours for local libraries.

This has all been possible by reaarnging staff time and at no extra cost to tax payers. So a big thank you to all the staff and union representatives who have made this possible – thank you.