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.

London Bridge Station – missed opportunity

I can’t express how disappointed I am that the new London Bridge station re built platforms are just as low as the previous ones. The very large gap between platforms and trains still remains on terminating platforms that are straight. Network Rail don’t even have the excuse of curved platforms on the terminating platforms.

This is so weird. It costs almost exactly the same whatever the platform height.

Campaigners have been told by Network Rail that they couldn’t get a straight answer from the Dept. of Transport to make a decision to have level platform. So they erred on caution in their opinion and replaced like with like platforms of the same low height.

Why is this so important?

Level access to trains means people in wheelchairs, with pushchairs or just a bit less able can easily use our local train services. It means staff don’t have to be assigned to placing mobile ramps and helping people get on and off trains. It also means the speed at which trains can be turned around is greater. Able bodied people can get on and off of trains much more quickly.


Haberdasher’s Comes to Southwark

I am delighted that Haberdasher’s Aske’s have applied to open a new co-ed secondary school in Southwark SE1.

When their application to open a school fell through in East Dulwich I helped introduce Haberdasher’s to the parents in SE1. They’d approached me for advice about making a secondary level free school happen. So I’ve now been involved in making five free schools happen.

Haberdasher’s have the highest ambitions for our Southwark children. Exactly the type of school provider we wish to add to all our other excellent school providers in Southwark.


Selling School Land

Southwark Council is twisting the arms of Albion Primary School to sell a significant part of its site. With that money the school will be rebuilt. The rebuild will I’m sure be lovely. But the principle is alarming. At the same time Southwark Council is spending millions on expanding schools that could be fully funded via the free school route.

The school governors and management appear positive and happy about these plans. And I wholly agree with single form entry schools becoming two form entry schools. Two form entry schools are more viable. Although already an Ofsted outstanding school with it’s extra size it will have the ability for more teacher specialisation.

But if this school was any where but inner London and Southwark the idea of halving the site would be ridiculous. The idea that a Southwark Council primary school would need to sell so much land to have decent new buildings would be anathema to the school and parents.

Which state school will be next for this treatment?


New East dulwich Primary School – Planning Permission

Next Tuesday 14 July the Planning Committee will decide whether to grant planning permission for a new Harris East Dulwich Primary School.

I hope they do. The council planning officers recommendation is to grant permission. You can see the full report here.

I have written in support of the scheme. But I have asked for the Planning Committee to leave the proposed kerb buildout on Handcraft Road for the Dulwich Community Council to decide. Council officers have asked for the kerb to be increased from 2.1m wide to 3.5m and for 55m. This is clearly ridiculous and no other local school has such a vast area outside one of its entrances.

A separate application to demolish the current structure has also been submitted. They plan to start demolition on Wednesday 5 August.

Fingers crossed for next Tuesday.

Lordship Lane Post Office – Modernisation Approved

For decades the Post Office network had been shrinking. Under Labour and Conservatives governments a number of local and many Post Offices nationally were closed. Between 1960-2010 the network plummeted from 25,000 to 11,500 Post Offices. As part of the coalition lib Dems ensured an investment fund was created to stop this rot continuing.

A key Lib Dem achievement in the Coalition was securing the future of Britain’s post office network. Business Secretary, Vince Cable, working with Postal Affairs Minister, Edward Davey, and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, secured £1.34 billion of funding for Britain’s post offices and a Government commitment that there will be no programme of post office closures under the Coalition.

So I’m chuffed to announce that some of that money is being used to completely modernise our Crown Post Office on Lordship Lane. Planning Permission for this has just been granted. It will have self-service, better counters. The next challenge is getting more modern opening hours…


Labour Bakerloo Line Extension Sell-Out

Today’s Southwark News carries a depressing story where Labour GLA Assembly Member Val Shawcross states about the Bakerloo line having two seperate routes from Elephant&Castle “Realistically, only one option will be taken forward.”

Up until the general election one month ago Simon Hughes had been campaigning for the Bakerloo Line to be extended and Lib Dems suggested two separate routes. Labour told everyone it was there idea. Now the election has gone they say two routes was never feasible.

And we wonder why people are cynical about politicians.

Come on Labour if two routes for the Bakerloo line was good enough for your election campaign – one via Camberwell the other via the Old Kent Road – why isn’t it good enough for the residents of Lambeth & Southwark now?

It certainly makes sense about why Southwark Labour have been promoting a Thameslink station at Camberwell when this station originally closed from competition from a mass transit tram system. It really doesn’t look like they were serious about a Camberwell route for the Bakerloo line as well as an Old Kent Road route.

It isn’t too late to sign the petition to extend the Bakerloo Line via Camberwell AND the Old Kent Road.

Cycle Parking Limit The Cycle Revolution

Cycling in London has dramatically increased for London residents commuting into central London. In 2011 London 8.3% of such commuters cycle – it feels much higher now.

Apart from safer routes to encourage more people to cycle, and they appear to be on the way now, people cycling have to have somewhere to park their bicycles – at both ends. Without such parking the Cycling Revolution will stall.

We need a step increase in cycling to improve public heath helping the NHS cope with its financial pressures, longevity, better mental health, fitter citizens, less social exclusion. Cycling has a strategic imperative for our society.

Home Cycle Parking – Most cyclists have to parking their bikes in hallways, outside homes insecurely, blocks of flats basements – often behind many doors. We will never have a cycling revolution with such crap cycle parking. In East Dulwich we’ve been supporting new Bikehangars which are a start. We’ll need 200 for East Dulwich alone to support half of the 25% cycling levels we could reach within the next 10 years. So far we have 4 on order!

Our planning rules must change to ensure cycle parking is really accessible to all new homes – not hidden away in marginal spaces. New houses in London only have to have 1 or 2 cycle parking spaces but in Holland it would be 5 in a proper 4m2 shed. Flats 1 o2 in London, 2-5 in Holland and easily accessible.

Destination Cycle Parking – We currently rely upon ‘free’ cycle parking – locking bikes to lamp posts, railings and the like which only gets you so far. For a step increase in cycling you must have proper cycle parking and lots of it. In London secondary schools are supposed to have 1 cycle parking space for every 8 pupils or staff or 12.5%. Dutch schools have 50-100%. London offices have 1 space for every 90m2, Dutch offices 1.7/100m2. At my workplace – a modern building – the cycle parking is so obscurely placed in the basement that I ‘free’ park outside. So we must not just box tick that parking has been provided for people cycling but that it easily accessible.

If we get cycle parking fixed at both end we will see a cycling revolution.

Are you going to be part of it?