Monday, September 03, 2007

Farewell, thank you and good luck

[Note: we have now left the neighbourhood. Thanks again one and all]

For nearly three years residents living on and around Southampton Way (North Peckham and North/Northeast Camberwell) have petitioned and pleaded on a number of issues related to improving the overall community. This blog offers insight into a lot of the issues and tactics used (note: previous posts are available via links down the right-hand side, the further back you go, the more former posts will appear), as well as information on how you can continue the push for improvements. Further, an email distribution group provided extensive updates and information on key issues and key contacts. Hopefully this blog and those emails provide you with a lot of information to carry on.

As the person who picked up from work done by others and initiated the blog and email group, I am moving out of the neighbourhood from mid-September 2007. If you have any questions on the status of particular projects, the history of our efforts or anything else, please leave them in the 'comments' section here (you can choose 'anonymous' to make it easier) and I will do my best to help out before my time runs out.

If anyone would like to take over the blog and/or the email group, please be in touch via [I can promise to those already part of the group that I will only hand off access to your data if I feel absolutely certain the person(s) interested will treat your data with the existing level of confidentiality.]

Thank you to everyone for your help and enthusiasm in improving a community we all care about. All the best in your future battles and please be in touch if you've any questions or comments.

Good luck and farewell.

Tom 'Tommy' D
[UPDATE: Results from Cross River Tram consultation are out: The majority favoured Burgess Park to Wells Way for our leg. You can read the report here. Also, sadly a murder in Burgess Park]

Friday, August 17, 2007

Borough of Camberwell

You'll have to stare and focus - but just above the entrance to the old Camberwell Library on Wells Way you can see it etched in stone: Borough of Camberwell. I'm not aware of any other place in the whole of Camberwell that still proclaims the glory days when Camberwell was its own borough before it was swallowed into the Southwark creation of 1934. Ironically, this unique site technically stands today within the borders of Walworth.
Works on the old Library and Baths are well underway and a new, gleaming compound should be unveiled sometime in early 2008. The building was designed and constructed in 1904 and did what he said on the tin - served as a bath house for many of the homes surrounding it, which included many of those razed terraced houses that once lined now (mostly) gone streets in Burgess Park, and of course the Libary, which moved to Camberwell Church Street in 1995.

Today the building houses Groundwork Southwark and Lambeth, who insisted their landlord Southwark refurbish the place before agreeing to sign a new lease. It also houses the Lynn Boxing Club - space used by a number of community groups.

Just behind is the old lime chimney - one of the few relics sitting beside the footpath that once was the Grand Surrey Canal. English Heritage have contributed to a growing pot of cash to restore the chimney (also listed).
The works involve cleaning the ornate brick work, stripping and painting the iron work, and repairing many of the windows that haven't opened properly in years. They may even clean the wonderful mosaic Camberwell Beauty - once on the side of a former factory (now South City Court flats) on Peckham Grove, it celebrates the butterfly named after Camberwell (still in existence, though not spotted in the UK for some time).

It is a significant investment in Burgess Park, which has suffered from lack of direction and funding since its creation. As stated earlier, the park was once covered in streets and terraced houses. The best map is available just outside the public toilets of Chumleigh Gardens - one of the few examples of the type of houses that used to cover the now park. The Tennis Centre improvements and football pitch at the far eastern end of the park are other improvements of late. You can still see the major plans once proposed by a coalition including The Friends of Burgess Park here. Hopes were high for European money but it didn't come to pass. The latest advocate of the park is Groundwork Southwark/Lambeth, who offer a full book on the history of the park via their website. Today all eyes are on Southwark's Executive who in October 2007, are expected to approve plans to create a Community Trust for the park. Such a mechanism will allow the local community to raise funds and make decisions on the park's future.

Many former residents of the park are still around, as most were moved to the Aylesbury Estate. It was new when they moved in and there were promises that the homes and land they vacated would be used to create a wonderful park for their leisure. Now it appears the Aylesbury will be demolished and rebuilt before Burgess Park is fully developed. The Cross River Tram is a big issue facing Burgess Park. Favoured plans had the Tram crossing the park on its route from Peckham to Elephant. Many have lobbied for an alternate route up Wells Way and there was much support for a compromise, which would send the Tram on the original route up Chandler's Way, cut through the park, and close Wells Way to traffic - thus having only one major 'cut' through the park. The long awaited public consultation ended in January 2007 and TfL haven't revealed results of the preferred route (the latest promise of August won't happen and the new promise is October-ish).
To the parks south sits other historical and modern day landmarks including the birthplace of Robert Browning (Cottage Green, now gone) and his childhood home (Southampton Way, now gone but marked with a blue plaque). St Georges' Church is still a Camberwell icon, though now flats. The new church is nearby on Coleman Road. Buster of Great Train Robbery fame lived on Rainbow Street and one of the most environmentally friendly houses in the UK is easily spotted when you see the windmill on top.

So the old Libary and baths sit in a lovely bit of South London quite rich in history, replete in broken promises and delays, but quite high on the agenda for positive change. Just recently Burgess Park played host to a number of festivals celebrating among others Asian, African and South American cultures. The Carnaval del Pueblo continues to receive the most publicity and was deserved high praise. The best part is most of the festivals list the event as 'Burgess Park in Camberwell'. While Walworth can claim technical rights, and Peckham can claim as much of its borders as anyone else, history and that wonderful 'Borough of Camberwell' etching are on the side of those who claim Burgess Park as a jewel in Camberwell's faded but elegant past, and a big part of its promising future.
UPDATE: A survey re: Burgess Park is underway, sponsored by groups looking to manage the Community Trust. Take the survey.

Friday, August 03, 2007

You couldn't make it up...

Southwark has attained special police powers during August to crack down on nuisance caused by streetdrinking, kids gathered up to no good, etc. The two orders (among other areas) include Camberwell Green and Peckham. It gets really funny (sad?) when you put the two maps together (blue shaded areas included) and note the area squeezed between not included in the orders.
Message to anti-social groups of drinkers and kids: if you are squeezed out of Central Camberwell or Peckham, please come to areas on and around Southampton Way! We're open for business!

Monday, July 30, 2007

343: Destination, rubbish

Following months, even years of begging, we finally secured a meeting between one of our star neighbours, GLA Representative Val Shawcross and a TfL representative. Subject: improving the 343. After that meeting, Val sent letters throughout the neighbourhood to canvass views. TfL also agreed to conduct an onboard survey to gather views within six weeks after that meeting. They have missed their deadline and with school holidays, we certainly need to wait to get the real picture.
In the meantime, Val Shawcross crafted the following letter to TfL:

Dear Andrew

343 Bus

I was grateful for your time in meeting me recently to discuss the performance and problems of the 343 bus route.

As you will remember from our meeting with a local resident representative, there are particular complaints about the service around Southampton Way because it is the sole service which runs close to their home. Being unable to easily access other routes they are particularly affected by overcrowding on the service.

As a consequence of the intensity of complaints about overcrowding I undertook to carry out a house to house survey in the streets around Southampton Way – although I appreciate that the bus serves a much longer route. I have also now spoken with the ward Councilors who are ALL also very anxious to see some improvement on this service.

The survey
I wrote to nearly 500 homes in the area immediately around Southampton way. 96 residents responded to the 343 bus survey which was sent as a direct mail to 484 houses on Southampton Way and the roads leading off Southampton Way. This is a 20% response rate.

96 % of responders want more buses serving the 343 bus route. (2% said no, 2% were unsure).

On a daily basis 36.8% said they were unable to get on a 343 bus because of overcrowding. 31.6% found this sometimes to be the case and 27.4% said this happened two or three times a week. Only 4.2% said that they had never found the bus to be overcrowded.

When on the bus, most people found that on a daily basis they would have to stand - 38.5%.

Most people identified the morning and evening rush hours as the busiest times.

Passengers made many heartfelt comments on the survey forms to support their accounts. Most focus on the overcrowding but you can see from those selected below that other stress points emerge – children’s behaviour, driver training and the general management of the route.

I have reported some of these below and would be grateful if you could consider these wider, quality of journey issues when carrying out your passenger loading study later in the year. It is quite probable that the pressures of passenger numbers and demand are adding to the difficulties faced by the drivers to the extent that they are behaving in a way indicative of the stress which they face.

Passenger Quotes

Mostly they come in twos and even three, four and five together. I get on at Wells Way and often have to wait for 2 or 3 buses as they are already full! Often I count 30 people standing!

They are already getting full when they reach Southampton Way. It is not unusual for the buses to not even stop as they are so overcrowded.Another complaint I have is that the bus drivers frequently change their final destination during the journey with no warning, and so often end up having to change buses at elephant and castle to get to London Bridge.

I have often waited for 20 minutes and between 8am and 9am, which is why I've given up with the service. If the bus came every 3 - 5 mins I would be much more inclined to use public transport more often and would feel safer.

There are occasions when you wait at least 20/15 minutes and then two turn up together. This will happen two or three times a week.

I live on Rainbow Street. The 343 is, as you point out, our only bus service. It's frustrating to have to change at Elephant & Castle to get to somewhere as close as Waterloo, plus Aldwych, Holborn and Tottenham Court Road, areas to which I travel frequently , as there's no direct bus to any of these places. Camberwell Green is served by several, and Elephant & Castle by more still: 1, 68, 168, 171, 188. […]
Finally, and perhaps most pressingly, from Cottage Green there is no bus to any of the supermarkets around the area. I walk to Tesco or Ada on Old Kent Road, or walk to Camberwell Green to get a bus to Sainsbury's at Denmark Hill. Obviously a taxi back is the only option. I think the solution to this is not to increase the frequency of the 343, but to instead provide a bus route that serves these places I've mentioned. It shouldn't be beyond the bounds of possibility to run a bus from here to Waterloo and to at least one supermarket in the area. One possibility would be rerouting the 171 to follow the 343 between Elephant and Peckham, which would provide the direct links to Waterloo, Aldwych and Holborn, and a direct service to New Cross . Another would be to run a bus from Old Kent Road (Tesco) along St George's Way and Wells Way, Southampton Way, Peckham Road, Camberwell ChurchStreet, Camberwell Green and (ideally) on to Denmark hill (Sainsbury's).

I am convinced that the number of school children that use the route to get to school is really causing problems. Whenever I get on the bus the top deck is 50-75% majority filled with kids.

The attitude of the drivers in general is quite appalling. There are a few nice helpful ones but most of them are rude, uninterested in your perfectly reasonable question, drive badly (fast, stopping suddenly) and have been known to miss stops (perhaps they are relief drivers and don't know the route, they are overworked and are tired, they are listening to music or are on their mobile phone). […] I don't know if the drivers get a
really bad deal but they seem to hate their job!! It is a disgrace and a good job that most of the 343 route is not by tourists.

Three of the 343 can arrive together or you can wait in the most extreme case for one hour. No timetable in my opinion is followed.

I have noticed that the drivers of the 343 are often quite abrupt drivers. Lots of speeding, dangerous breaking. I witnessed people falling over and hurting themselves. A gentler approach would be nice.

Due to redevelopment in that area maybe another bus route from Commercial Way via Southampton Way and Wells Way would be much more effective and give us a choice/ other option to use the number of people in north Peckham has increased but number of buses or frequency has not.

Ha! I often wait half an hour for a bus I can get on - the most frequently they tend to come in the morning is every 15 mins - but you can't get on it. Also whenever leaving Elephant and Castle as is always a lot of people waiting for the 343 and there is a mad rush for the bus, which often results in pushing.

I have now opted to travel with my car.

I think the bus service in London is very good, there seems to be plenty of buses and how they maneuvered the narrow streets and speed along quickly is remarkable.·

It doesn't go where many people want to go! […] there is no bus link to anywhere west of London Bridge. We need a bus that links directly to the West End.

The 343 service is an absolute disgrace. For people reliant entirely on one bus service the 343 is just not good enough. The people of Peckham are always angry and most of that anger I lay squarely at the door of the 343 service. Peckham has undergone massive redevelopment with new housing being erected seemingly every week. There has obviously been a huge increase in the number of residents in the area yet the 343 continues to operate the same frequency of bus service.

Why change drivers at Newington Causeway as opposed to London Bridge where they start/ terminate.

Even before I leave the house I start worrying about whether or not the bus will arrive and get me to Elephant & Castle early enough to catch other buses to get me into work on time.

I believe very strongly that this route need additional buses adding into the schedules, particularly at peak hours. It is a popular and useful route but it has a particular value to the Southampton way area. I would be grateful if you could let me know how you plan to respond to these concerns and what are the findings of your own passenger numbers study.

Yours sincerely
Valerie Shawcross AM
Labour Assembly Member for Lambeth & Southwark

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bricklayers tries again

Hexagon Housing Association is submitting a new set of plans for the abandoned Bricklayers Arms pub at 123-125 Southampton Way. The last set of plans were rejected, planners cited 'unacceptable height' and 'loss of commercial space' (the plans are for housing only, no commercial) as reasons for the rejection.

Recall, plans for redevelopment that called for a restaurant and housing on the upper floors were approved, but the developer sold the property and did not follow through.

The new plans still do not provide commercial space but reduce the number of flats from 13 to 11. It seems not to include a reduction in height, but that is difficult to tell.

Here are the proposed views from the front, rear and from above looking down at the ground floor/back shared gardens:

If you would like large pdf's of the complete set of plans, please be in touch via

To register your views, you should write to Southwark Planning citing plans 06-AP-2280: RESUBMISSION, 123-125 Southampton Way SE5. The address is Chiltern House, Portland Street, London SE17 2ES. You may email at

You may also contact Hexagon with any questions/comments. The contact is Dawn Gordon:

You can also click on 'comments' and share your views with others if you wish.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A picture is worth...

Fed up with a continuous stream of 'customers' (products on offer come in small bags) visiting the corner of Southampton Way and Wells Way, as well as the number of cars parked on the pavement and people sitting around drinking, smoking pot and shouting (sometimes fighting) well into the night, I armed myself with a camera. I don't advise it, one of them spotted me and wasn't happy. It was a bit frightening.

There are a few issues here. One, the cars parking on the pavement has gone on too long. Sometimes you can harldy walk amid what feels like a used car lot. TfL and the Southwark's Highway Dept say there is no problem. Besides, if cars don't block the right of way (the narrow footpath), they blame other departments or insist it is up to the private businesses. Coral betting shop claims they have no rights to stop it. They also claim no one drinks on their property. Hexagon Housing Association, which owns the abandoned Bricklayer's Arms, claims they inspect the site weekly and have 'found no instances of cars parking on the pavement'.

The photos show differently. Clearly one of the five cars snapped is on the footpath. Clearly there are cars parked in front of the Bricklayer's Arms. Clearly there are (count them) five men sitting INSIDE the window of Coral drinking.

There is also the issue of 117 Southampton Way - an unlicensed takeaway. Often there are people drinking inside and just outside the shop. It is really the 'hub' of activity on the corner. Licensing have been told repeatedly about the issue but it only gets worse.

In the last few days, Street Wardens have promised to step up patrols and the Action Team (a joint effort to target hot spots) has promised to get involved. Also, Councillor Ian Wingfield has asked and been told the parking issue will be looked at more closely.
I am aware this is the newest of many 'hot spots' along Southampton Way that make many feel unsafe. I include contacts should you have more information on this or similar situations.

David Johnson: Environment & Housing/Action team
John Wirth: Camberwell Community Wardens:
Ian Wingfield: Camberwell Community Councillor:

Friday, January 05, 2007

A hopeful 2007

The image above (you can enlarge by clicking on it) represents the many projects on and around Southampton Way already completed, well underway or in the early planning stages. Sadly, there is no plan for pulling them altogether, which would take little time and money and could see regeneration happen without huge investment (in fact the investment is already occurring).

To read more about the plans in the works, click through here. Views on the individual applications can be sent to Southwark Planning - assuming the deadline hasn't passed. Our collective views gathered through the online survey (now closed) have been sent.

To receive a copy of the survey results, a copy of the short presentation sent to various bodies calling for a regeneration plan, or to add your email address to receive regular updates, email

Community Councillors have promised each of the individual items will be brought before them for a final decision, which will allow us to input in an open forum before any decision is reached. Also, the CC has promised to pursue getting an update on the seemingly stalled Elmington Estate regeneration project at an upcoming meeting. To ensure you hear all the news, sign up to receive the email updates.