Beckenham Place Park’s new wild swimming lake will be open to the public in a matter of weeks, ready for a launch event on 20 July.
The much-anticipated lake forms part of a £4.9 million project to regenerate the park – which is the largest in the borough – funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It includes a new wet woodland, play areas, BMX track, skate park, public toilets, as well as a cafe, visitor hub and education centre in the Homestead.
Lewisham Council also contributed nearly £2 million to the project, including a new bridge over the Ravensbourne River.
Cllr Sophie McGeevor, cabinet member for parks and recreation, said the park “looked amazing” and hoped the new lake and play areas would enocurage children and their families to live more active lifestyles.
“We have just got the latest health figures for Lewisham and 38 per cent of year six pupils are overweight or obese,” she said.
“It is really important to have activities to get kids outside. There has [already] been a lot of focus on sugar and healthy eating.”
Swimmers will have to book online and pay electronically when they turn up, she said.
But there will be a free section of the lake for paddling.
Hundreds of Lewisham children in care are placed in homes out of the borough, including as far away as the Isle of Anglesey and Bridgend, Wales.
Lewisham Council contracts 35 companies to house children in care.
Of the 469 children in care, 291, or 62%, are housed outside of the borough.
The majority of those are placed in nearby boroughs, notably Croydon which has 32 children aged between 10 and 19, Greenwich which was 14 children aged nine or less and 24 children aged 10 to 19, and Bromley which has 21 children aged between 10 and 19 as well as 11 children aged nine or less.
Lewisham Council director of children and young people, Sara Williams, has previously raised concerns the council was having to place children across the country, particularly those with high-end needs.
Concerns have also been raised nationally that children are being housed away from their community because of a lack of choice in provision.
A Lewisham Council spokesperson said there was a number of a reasons, including access to specialists, why a child might be housed outside of the borough.
They said the council had “robust” procedures in place to ensure a child’s safety and wellbeing once they were placed outside of the borough.
“Our priority is to always ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in our care, whose lives and support needs by definition are very complex. While we aim to place a child as close to their home as possible, it is not always appropriate or possible for a number of reasons including safeguarding concerns or the need for specialist provision to meet the child’s needs.
“We have robust processes in place to scrutinise every decision to place a child out of borough and to monitor that child to ensure their continued safety and wellbeing.”
Toughen up policies on Lewisham pub conversions - CAMRA
Lewisham Council has been urged to strengthen planning policy around pub conversions amid concerns property developers see boozers as “easy targets.”
This comes after the number of pubs in the borough has decreased by 50% since the early 2000s.
Speaking at a sustainable development committee, pub protection officer at the Campaign for Real Ale, Neil Pettigrew, said while the borough had a strong pub policy, it could be made stronger.
“We recognise Lewisham has a strong pub protection policy at the moment but we would like to see it made much stronger, particularly because property developers feel pubs are an easy target.
“An example which has cropped up recently in Forest Hill is the All In One pub.
“It is a popular pub used by the community, lots of meeting and clubs meet there.
A property developer walked in, made an offer on the premises and submitted an application,” he explained.
“What we would like to see is stronger policies to make it clear to property developers that they will not get permission to demolish pubs or to change them to residential use. That would be our main objective,” he added.
This comes after the council undertook a review of the circumstances impacting pubs.
Anyone who wishes to change a pub to any other use needs a full planning application submission.
Lewisham Council officer David Syme said there were a number of policies to protect pubs in the draft London Plan, including making sure any development in a pub does not compromise its future.
The committee will consider the recommendations made at its next meeting.
Councillors 'warned' to vote in line with recommendations
Local Democracy Reporting Service
A Lewisham councillor has claimed he and colleagues are being “warned” by council staff to vote in line with their recommendations ahead of public planning meetings.
Lewisham Council holds public meetings where decisions on planning applications are made.
Council staff prepare reports in which they set out whether an application breaches planning standards, with a recommendation on whether it should be approved.
They also attend the meetings to answer councillors’ questions about the applications.
Speaking at a full council meeting, Cllr Liam Curran, who sits on the council’s main planning committee, said councillors had been “warned” against deviating from council officer recommendations.
Mr Curran asked whether this could be looked into as part of the council’s democracy review – work a group of councillors is undertaking to enhance transparency, openness and increase public involvement in council decisions.
“This question is to highlight the key and vital role of backbench councillors on planning committees and to challenge the fact that at planning committee, councillors are warned against voting against officer recommendations on the committees,”
Cllr Curran said.
“There is no point in councillors being on the committee if they cannot adjudicate on councillor recommendations, and from time to time might find they have made mistakes.
“Planning like law can go either way and councillors can decide which way – that is their role.
“Will mayor and cabinet consider this as part of the democracy review to ensure councillors aren’t put into this position?” he asked.
Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan said councillors did not have to agree with council staff’s recommendations.
Public kicked out of council meeting in 'chaotic' scenes
Local Democracy Reporting Service
A Lewisham Council meeting descended into chaos, with all members of the public kicked out and police called.
Unsatisfied with councillor responses to questions relating to chief executive Ian Thomas, the Tidemill development and proposals to rebuild Lewisham Library, angry residents chanted “Ian Thomas”, “vote them out” and “Egan out.”
Various local groups including People Before Profit, Catford Against Social Cleansing and Save Tidemill, Save Reginald were protesting outside the council building ahead of the meeting.
Public frustrations began building when residents queuing outside the council building were told only those who had submitted a public question would be able to attend.
Once inside, sound issues plagued the meeting with those in the public gallery struggling to hear councillors.
The microphone provided to those asking questions regularly cut out, forcing some to yell across the council chamber.
Councillors also banged on tables, making it difficult for the public gallery to hear what was being said on several occasions.
Public outrage peaked when the chairwoman said she would skip a public questioner, who is visually impaired, from finishing her question when she was having trouble reading it from her notes.
Further councillor responses to public questions about the council’s approach towards serious youth violence and black students, as well as question about a document chief executive Ian Thomas may have authored before he stood down from the role on 29 October, also sparked anger in the public gallery.
But the meeting finally descended into chaos about an hour in, following chairwoman Cllr Jacq Paschoud’s announcement: “I am standing up and when I stand up everybody sits down and shuts up.”
Yelling and jeers drowned out the council PA system.
Cabinet members and councillors then began leaving their desks while there were still two public questions left on the agenda.
Security began asking members of the public to leave the gallery, with police called to remove Save Lewisham Libraries campaigner Alice Corble, who wanted to stay for the rest of the meeting.
She said: “I was here to listen, because there were a number of questions about libraries.
“No one formally announced the meeting was over so I wanted to stay and see what happened.”
She tried to explain to security that she was a member of the public who had not been yelling but wanted to hear the rest of the meeting, she said.But she finally left when police were called and she was threatened with a public disorder notice for breaching the peace, she said.
“Police came and they were going to physically carry me out.
“At no point was any public declaration made that it was over or that I wasn’t allowed to be there.
“This is an absolutely not democratic, transparent or open council,” she said.
The council meeting carried on once the public gallery was empty.Lewisham Council tweeted after the meeting: “The council meeting was adjourned for a brief time tonight because of a small number of people who were intent on disrupting the meeting and preventing others from speaking. We have always welcomed questions from residents and we will continue to do so.”
Proposals to cut 24/7 CCTV footage monitoring have been labelled as “appalling” by Lewisham councillors.
It is one of three proposed cuts to Lewisham Council’s crime, enforcement and regulation directorate, and is expected to save the council £161,000 in 2020/2021.
This comes as the council looks to cut £30m from its budget over the next two years, following reductions in Government funding.
Other cuts to the directorate include a £215,000 cut to staffing for the service team which work in licensing and trading, anti-social behaviour and nuisance service in 2019/2020, and a £40,000 reduction in funding of money allocated to medium-term crime projects.
Speaking to a safer stronger communities select committee, Cllr Joan Millbank said the proposals to cut CCTV were “appalling.”
“The focus on CCTV will be a big issue on the estates, [in monitoring] domestic abuse, Prevent (counter-terror strategy), gender-based violence – hard stuff. It is just appalling,” she said.
Cllr Sakina Sheik said she found the cuts “quite worrying. With the CCTV camera – in losing this we could be losing an essential tool in providing crime prevention,” she said.
Lewisham Council head of public protection and safety, Geeta Subramaniam-Mooney, said the proposal would not see CCTV turned off but viewed proactively for 12 hours, and recorded for 12 hours.
She said council officers had a year to establish what the options might look like.
Cllr James Rathbone said the committee would need more information about the impact of the cuts in order to comment.
The proposals will be considered by the mayor and cabinet on 21 November.
Mind the gap! A solution may be near for platform 2
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Funding to fix the platform two gap at Lewisham Station could be approved as early as 2019, a rail boss has confirmed.
Lewisham Station users have long bemoaned the large gap when alighting on platform two, with station users on Twitter describing the gap as “human-sized” and “so wide you need a running start.”
At a meeting held by Lewisham Station Users Group and attended by representatives from Lewisham Council, Network Rail, Southeastern and MPs Vicky Foxcroft and Janet Daby, the platform two gap was named as an “urgent problem.”
This was alongside gate lines, congestion and overcrowding at the station.
Alex Hellier, strategic planner for Network Rail, said the Department for Transport-owned company bid in five year blocks for funding to make improvements to its stations – with Lewisham Station a priority for the next round of funding.
“One of the things we are bidding for is the gap on platform two. The next five year period starts in the middle of 2019,” he said.
Council to make £500,000 from renting borough’s parks
Local Democracy Reporting Service
Lewisham Council plans to make £500,000 from its parks, as it faces £30m of cuts from its budget over the next two financial years.
The council is proposing to increase the number of large commercial events in Blackheath from one to two per year, and to market Beckenham Place Park to promoters as a new venue.
The council sees increasing the number of events in the borough, of which there were 499 in 2017/2018, as a means to “generate much needed additional revenue,” according to a council report.
But at a sustainable development select committee, Cllr Alan Smith questioned whether the council’s head of environment Nigel Tyrell had considered a recent court ruling against Haringey Council which ring-fenced money raised in Finsbury Park.
The ruling established that, under the Open Spaces Act 1906, money raised from the hire of Finsbury Park can only be spent on Finsbury Park.
Mr Tyrell said he was not aware of the details of the case.
Cllr James Walsh said there were a number of events taking place in parks which could be used to generate revenue.
“I currently have a lot of events happening in my local park, Ladywell Fields,” he told the committee.
“Six mornings a week there is an outside gym that’s popped up and no one’s charging for. There is a football tournament with referees which they have paid for…they are not paying for the ability to do it in the park.
“We need to be looking at this as a borough wide proposal as whole host of things. They do cause damage – the grass in Ladywell Fields is having to be resewn as they have destroyed it,” he continued.