Consultation round-up

Big Budget Challenge (until 22 Oct 2014)

There’s one big consultation central to the next four years of life in Lewisham borough, and that’s the council’s Big Budget Challenge – a chance to influence decision-making around cuts by actually trying things out in an interactive tool and seeing what the effect is on the council’s budget – and its services.

It’s not unique to Lewisham – for instance, here’s Bexley’s (recently ended) – but the figures here are particularly eye-watering. According to the tool, government cuts in council funding are such that to keep spending at current levels, Council Tax would have to rise next year by 103% – and that’s 103 percentage points more than were pledged in Steve Bullock’s manifesto, not to mention 101.1 percentage points more than the maximum legally permissible rise without an expensive referendum that no council has yet dared trigger.

The council will combine feedback from this tool with feedback gathered from residents at local assemblies (Lewisham Central’s is on 2 October) to determine how best to swing the axe so kindly delegated to councils by the government. Have a go now, if you can face it.

Brockley Corridor, Crofton Park etc (until 3 Oct 2014)

Straying a little from my Lewisham patch, but hey, can anyone think of any Brockley blogs? (Yes, I do know really.) The so-called “Brockley Corridor” is best thought of (to my bus-oriented mind, at least) as the bit of the 171 and 172 bus routes after they leave New Cross heading south.

Lewisham Council have obtained funding from TfL to make various ‘public realm’ improvements along this route, and we’re all invited to peruse a 9MB PDF and then answer a survey about it.

I don’t know the area that well myself but the principles of the plans look pretty reasonable on first skim – wider pavements, simpler crossings etc. should all help move the balance towards a better environment for pedestrians, hopefully!

East London river crossings (until 18 Sep 2014)

Finally, and most urgently, TfL’s mammoth consultation about river crossings from Woolwich to Belvedere shuts in two days. Again, not immediately in Lewisham, but anyone who’s tried to catch a bus through Lewisham town centre on a busy day during the Gateway roadworks will appreciate that the last thing we should be doing is trying to encourage more people into their cars, anywhere in the city, and certainly not in our south-eastern corner.

Also, TfL appear worryingly keen to scrap the free Woolwich Ferry, a lovely SE London institution – don’t miss your chance to object to this!

The No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign has written an excellent guide to responding to this consultation, so rather than repeat their advice here I shall just encourage you to follow this, and to do so quickly as you’ve only got two days left!

P.S. Barking to Thamesmead Overground extension: a river crossing to get behind? (until 19 Oct 2014)

As an addendum to the final consultation above, this petition sprang up today and makes a lot of sense.

TfL are currently consulting on the extension of the Overground’s Gospel Oak to Barking line to Barking Riverside, but why stop there? With all the talk in the previously mentioned consultation of the supposed need for river crossings joining east and south-east London, why not continue this line over (or under) the river and provide Thamesmead with a railway link?

If you agree, sign the petition and why not feed into the consultation as well?

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Lewisham Gateway: met the contractors

On Thursday, I dropped into the foyer of Glass Mill and met various people at the Lewisham Gateway ‘meet the contractors’ event there.

It was pleasantly surprising that I think everyone I spoke to was aware of my blog! Likewise, there was a fair bit of holding up of hands and acknowledgement that things could be much improved on the communications front, which was encouraging to hear.

Perhaps because of my own transport bias, my most interesting chat was with a representative from Transport for London. He’s going to feed back that their communications of bus stop changes in Lewisham have simply not been good enough so far – as I said to him, I’ve heard more about the closure of Putney Bridge than of nearly all the main bus stops in my own town centre, and I’ve never been to Putney.

I also took the opportunity to raise with him the apparent trolling of Hither Green residents in the planned final Lewisham Gateway bus stop arrangements (see end of that post), whereby the 181 and 225 buses will continue to stop at entirely separate stops with another between them, as had long been the case before the Gateway works began, despite both heading next to Hither Green. He’s taking this back to TfL and our conversation left me optimistic that this may well be able to be resolved now it’s been flagged up (no bus stop pun intended).

On a less optimistic note, I also tried to clarify stopping arrangements for all the buses formerly terminating at Lewisham Station. These were all curtailed to stop E opposite the Police Station, but this is now closed itself and most of these buses now set down at Stop F outside Glass Mill, on their way to the bus stand on Thurston Road. This was previously ruled out by TfL for reasons given to me in response to a Freedom of Information request a few months ago. Accordingly, TfL’s thinking on this is all a bit unclear at the moment – indeed the TfL rep hadn’t been able to pin down an exact list of which buses were officially dropping off there now in time to bring it along with him to this event.

It seems TfL are still not keen on using stop F due to the potential congestion, but were left with little choice but to give it a go while stop E is closed. I hope they’re monitoring how much of the theoretical congestion manifests itself in reality during stop E’s closure and will review their decision not to use stop F going forward accordingly, but I fear it’s more likely they’ll simply revert to stop E when it reopens later this autumn without any review. Keep your fingers crossed, station-bound bus users!

I chatted too with a council officer, and with Lewisham Gateway’s communications person, the latter of whom said he’d look again at the inadequate information provided on the project’s news page. The TfL bus stop closures link they currently give provides no information at all about alternative stopping arrangements – I suggested that for as long as TfL’s communications are that poor, just linking to them was inadequate and they should instead be plugging the gap themselves.

It looked like there’d been a steady flow of visitors seeking information about the project, so hopefully these drop-in sessions will be a regular occurrence over the coming months as Lewisham Gateway progresses.

And there was one thing that everyone I asked completely agreed on: whether they had any meaningful influence whatsoever over Southeastern, the private railway company (renowned for its complete lack of interest in customer service in the London ‘Metro’ area) whose franchise has just been extended by the government for several years without competition or consultation. I knew the answer before I asked, but asked anyway, and sure enough, it’s a ‘no’. So don’t hold your breath for that Platform 4 gate at London’s tenth-busiest non-terminus railway station to be opened any time soon.

Meet the Lewisham Gateway contractors, Thursday 11 September – plus webcam!

Over a week after my last post, Lewisham Gateway’s official News page has had a minor update, providing a somewhat useful map of suspended bus stops and a link to the shorter version of the inadequate information about this on the Transport for London web site.

More excitingly, they also announced a drop-in “meet the contractors” event (not mentioned on their News page, though!) taking place in the foyer of Glass Mill leisure centre on Loampit Vale (SE13 7FT) tomorrow, Thursday 11 September, between 16.00 and 19.30. This should be well worth dropping in on if you’d like to find out more about progress. I certainly would so I’m hoping to make it along!

Latest Lewisham Gateway webcam image

And the most exciting new online development is a webcam overlooking the whole Lewisham Gateway site, from the top of the old Citibank tower above the shopping centre. A glorious view (including my own block of flats) and I look forward to watching whatever timelapse video they make with the pictures they record over the next couple of years!