News and Views

Select a topic from the menu(s) above, or keep reading for all our latest news and views. You can also download copies of our community newsletters, or read A Green Voice For Southwark, our blog about Southwark news and local issues, with a focus on Camberwell and Peckham.

Call in the Elephant decision, says Sian Berry

Green London Assembly Member Sian Berry has written to Sadiq Khan about the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre and London College of Communication. She draws the Mayor's attention to serious failings in the developer's plan, including the lack of affordable housing, the loss of space for small businesses and the loss of affordable cultural and leisure space - and the serious implications for protected groups of each of these failings. These failings have been raised by local residents in campaigning and through the planning process.

She writes:

I urge you to take over the application and act as the Local Planning Authority. There is a very strong case for considering this scheme as a strategic and important development with London-wide significance on a number of grounds.
These include issues with compliance with affordable housing policies (where you have recently called in or directed refusal on a number of other schemes to ensure compliance) and also, the fact that the current shopping centre and surrounding places have a London-wide importance for the Latin community, as shown by compelling evidence provided by the Latin Elephant initiative.

Alternatively, your Stage 2 decision could also be to direct the Local Planning Authority, Southwark Council, to refuse the application due to a number of failings, including:

1. The application is not compliant with London Plan or Local Development Plan policies for affordable housing in either the number of homes or tenure split. In addition, the assumption that the scheme would receive over £11 million in GLA housing grant, which was added to the latest viability estimates, appears only to have served to increase the developer’s profit not the provision of affordable homes. The grant itself also has a number of hurdles still to clear before it is confirmed, as shown by the attached letter of clarification sent to me by David Lunts from the GLA.

2. The loss of space for small businesses, broken obligations for the use of the market square and other space nearby as replacement space, and the inadequacy of proposed relocation funds.


3. The loss of affordable cultural and leisure space, which particularly now provides for a number of protected groups including the Latin and other BAME communities, young people and older Londoners.

We are very grateful to Sian for taking up the cause of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre with the Mayor and for the Green Assembly members' long-standing support of grassroots community groups campaigning for a diverse, inclusive Elephant.

 

Below: Greens Shahrar Ali, Sian Berry, Rashid Nix, Liba Hoskin and Caroline Russell on a trip to meet members of the Latin American business community and Elephant Action Network in April 2016.

 

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No Heathrow Expansion

The decision of two out of Southwark's three Labour MPs to vote in favour of building a third runway at Heathrow airport is bitterly disappointing.
Neil Coyle (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) and Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) have failed to protect their constituents from increased plane noise and air pollution. Worse still, they have increased the chances of catastrophic global warming in years to come, because an expanded Heathrow will stop the UK from meeting its legally binding targets to avert climate change. 
We congratulate Helen Hayes (MP for Dulwich and West Norwood) on taking a principled and far-sighted stand. But our other elected representatives cannot defend their support for this disastrous project.
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Elephant and Castle planning update

Southwark Green Party pay tribute to the many campaign groups and individuals who have managed to get important concessions in the Elephant & Castle development plan. Residents, traders, students, housing activists and support groups have worked tirelessly and deserve everyone’s thanks.


However, the concessions did not include suitable protections for existing traders, nor is there enough truly affordable housing. As such, we were dismayed to see it voted through.

We firmly believe that those who voted in favour have not paid 'due regard' to the equality impact. The Latin American community, who have made the Elephant a vibrant, welcoming home, will be massively affected. Many small business owners fear they will never recover.

The loss of the Coronet, which brings huge diversity of music to the area, and the inadequate plans to temporarily rehome the bingo hall and bowling alley will contribute to the social cleansing of our BAME communities and loss of facilities for older people.


We will be supporting any legal effort made to address these equality concerns, and urge the Mayor to use his powers to improve both the amount of social housing and the mix of affordable housing. 35%, with at least half social, should be a minimum standard, not a maximum.

Finally, in light of Islington Council successful legal challenge on viability, we call for a wholesale change of approach within Southwark Council to the issue of viability. Developers can no longer claim that a scheme is 'unviable' when they have overpaid for land. There needs to be a clear statement – if your current plan can not provide policy compliant housing, then you need a better plan.


The fight for a fair deal for traders and residents will continue, and we will be standing alongside all those who work to achieve this.

 

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Legal action

Who says you can’t deal with climate change in court?

Jonathan Crow QC, Attorney General to HRH Prince of Wales, is one of the lawyers representing Plan B - a charitable organisation - and 11 citizens ranging in age from 9 to 79. They are challenging the UK government over its inaction on climate change. The legal challenge is supported by the Green Party. 

Plan B and others v the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy will use the successful Dutch case Urgenda Foundation v. The State of the Netherlands as legal precedent. In what was the first climate liability of its kind, the Dutch court ruled that climate change was a serious threat to life, that the Government had a duty of care to protect its citizens, and that its inadequate policies on climate change breached that duty.

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, has said that Plan B's court case could have 'a big impact on the whole global situation'.  

Supporters are welcome to attend at the Royal Courts of Justice, Court 76 from Wednesday 4 July 2018, 9.00 a.m. onwards   

www.planb.earth

A flooded street in Thailand, 2011

 

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Inspiring streets

Left to right: Barbara Pattinson (SE5 Forum), Eleanor Margolies (Southwark Green Party), Magda Devas (Women's Equality Party, Lambeth), Becca Thackray (Green councillor, Herne Hill ward, Lambeth), Jemima Hartshorn (Mums for Lungs)

Eleanor Margolies and Phil Vabulas from Southwark Green Party were delighted to join a study trip to Walthamstow - to walk around the streets that have been transformed by reducing through motor traffic. The walking tour was led by Paul Gasson of Walthamstow Village Residents' Association, and Dan Kelly, a parent and school governor.

The walk took in streets alongside a primary school where children are now able to walk, scoot and play without fear of constant passing traffic, the largest street market in Europe, new squares for community use and thriving parades of small shops.

One of five newly elected Green councillors in Lambeth, Becca Thackray said the visit was: 'A breath of fresh air to see just what can be achieved, in terms of traffic calming, pollution-lowering, urban greening and improving physical, mental and community health'.

More information from Waltham Forest Council here. The Evening Standard reports here on how traffic has fallen by half as a result of the measures.
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Southwark Council election results

In the Southwark Council elections on 3rd May 2018, Southwark Green Party's lead candidate Eleanor Margolies achieved 31% of the vote in St Giles ward. Her tally of 1,420 votes - a 13.8% swing to the Greens since the 2014 election in this ward - fell just under 700 votes short of the 2,118 votes which elected the third of the three Labour councillors in the ward. [Full St Giles result...]

Southwark Labour increased their majority on the council even further, winning 49 of the 60 seats declared so far (with the election for the final three seats delayed). Southwark Lib Dems have won 11 seats, while Southwark Conservatives have lost their only two seats on the council. 

The Green Party is now in second place in 10 out of the 23 wards in Southwark, taking 13.4% of the vote across the borough and cementing their place as Southwark's third party.

Borough-wide vote shares (with 22 of 23 wards declared):

Party

%

+/- since 2014

Seats won

Gains/losses

Labour 52.0% +8.0% 49 +2
Liberal Democrat 21.3% +2.0% 11  
Green 13.4% -1.5% 0  
Conservative 10.5% -2.1% 0 -2
Women's Equality Party 1.6% +1.6% 0  
Independent 0.8% +0.8% 0  
UKIP 0.2% -5.8% 0  
Christian People's Party 0.1% +0.1% 0  
TUSC 0.1% -0.8% 0  


Ward-by-ward Green vote share

[Read more...]
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Key info for election day

Today, Thursday 3rd May, there is a Southwark Council election. You will choose two or three councillors to serve you for four years.

Who to vote for is an important decision. Here is some useful information before voting.

When you vote, you will be given one ballot paper and told how many votes you have (three in most wards, two in a handful of smaller wards). Mark your preferred candidates. You can vote for all three (or two) candidates from one party or for a mixture of parties.

Southwark Council is currently run by Southwark Labour, with a huge majority of 48 out of 63 councillors. Labour will probably run Southwark Council again in 2018. 

This election is not for an MP, or about the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. This is to choose local councillors to work hard and speak up for you on Southwark Council.

Councils dominated by one party, no matter which party it is, provide worse value for money for taxpayers. If people here choose to elect Green Party councillors, it will ensure balance and scrutiny.

Council elections are also about choosing people who will work hard to make the area better. Green Party councillors will:

  • defend and improve council homes
  • work for more truly affordable, secure housing
  • protect local businesses, parks and trees
  • make streets safe for walking and cycling
  • clean up the air we breathe.

Last time around, in the 2014 council elections, the Green Party came second in one-third of Southwark wards: Camberwell Green, Champion Hill, Faraday, Nunhead & Queen's Road, Peckham, Peckham Rye, Rye Lane and St Giles

You can vote if you’re on the register (and over 18). In these council elections, qualifying Commonwealth citizens and EU citizens resident in the UK can vote.

Polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm.

Find your polling station: wheredoivote.co.uk

You don’t need your polling card to vote.

Live in St Giles ward, Camberwell? Extra local info

In Camberwell's St Giles ward you have three votes.

This is the Southwark ward where Green candidates have the best chance of getting elected. You can use your vote to add to Southwark Labour's majority on the council, or you can elect three independent, hard-working Green women: Eleanor Margolies, Paula Orr and Susie Wheeldon.

At the last election in 2014, St Giles elected Labour Party councillors. The Green Party was in second place. Votes for other parties are very unlikely to decide the winner.

People in St Giles have the power to put a Green voice on to Southwark Council for the first time since 2010. If you choose to give just one vote to the Green Party, it is the "lead Green Party candidate" Eleanor Margolies who has the best chance of being elected.

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Justice for Aylesbury Estate tenants and leaseholders

Aylesbury Estate demolition underwayBuild more council housing - not unaffordable luxury flats

Temporary tenants need to be able to obtain secure tenancies rather than being shuffled about from one address to another, and so relieving Southwark Council from providing secure tenancies. Secure tenants need to be able to retain their secure tenancies, rather than losing them by being forced to change to a housing association lease.

Leaseholders demand like-for-like replacements for their flats, in the local area – so they can remain with their community, and have no increase in commute to work. They reject any invasion of their privacy with financial assessments, and financial restrictions like the £16k rule. They demand the right to transfer any mortgages at the same repayment level. They should be able to pass on their homes to their children, make alterations, and let out the property if they so wish.

[Read more...]
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We stand against the Aylesbury social cleansing

Labour claim they have built 535 new council homes, while on the Heygate Estate they have already destroyed 941 council homes and they are in the process of destroying 778 council homes on the Aylesbury Estatea total loss of 1,719 council homes. Architect Liam Hennessy says: “When it comes to social housing Southwark Labour is a total loss. The right to return’ on the Aylesbury cannot be taken seriously because the number of council homes to be demolished is 778 greater than being provided on the ‘regenerated’ estate.”

According to the most recent independent monitoring of Southwark Labour Council’s record on council homes, they built a grand total of 13 council homes in the three years 2014, 2015, 2016! (London Plan Annual Monitoring Report 2015-2016, pages 108-109)

Southwark Labour claim they will build 11,000 new council homes by 2043. At the rate of 4.33 council homes per year – from the most recent independent audit of new council homes - it will take Southwark Labour 2,540 years to build their target of 11,000 council homes!

[Read more...]
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Liveable London

We support the Liveable London campaign and are pleased to see the London Cycling Campaign and Living Streets working together, showing that we have common interests as people who want safer, more pleasant streets, whether on foot or on cycle.

If elected as councillors, we will do everything we can to implement policies to make it easier and safer to walk and cycle.

Southwark Greens have been working for more action on air pollution in Southwark since 2011. Our actions include:
• triggering the first full council debate on air pollution
• putting up nitrogen dioxide pollution monitors near schools in Peckham, Camberwell and Dulwich
• taking a 500+ signature petition to the Mayor for cleaner buses through our area
• running a free Travel Clinic at Brunswick Park summer fete to help people work out how much they could save by giving up a private car
• planting a pollution screen round Goose Green Primary school playground

More details here.

Southwark Greens have opposed Southwark Council’s plans to demolish Peckham Arch and asked the Mayor to look at how these plans fail to take into account TfL’s identification of a high potential for walking and cycling in Peckham.

We support CS4 - a cycle route going between Tower Bridge and Greenwich - and would like Southwark Council and TfL to work together to fill in the missing pieces. We support the idea of a new bridge across the river for pedestrians and cyclists - the Brunel Bridge. 

[Read more...]
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Helpline no help

Left out in the cold by Southwark Council

Homes on the D’Eynsford Estate in Camberwell were left without any heating for days in freezing weather earlier this year. What really upset residents was that no one answered the emergency helpline at Southwark Council. One resident reported that it was only when they took to Twitter that they got a response from councillors - and then from Southwark Council. A heater was produced for them - but nothing for those who weren't so active on social media. The council demonstrated little care for the many elderly people living on the D'Eynsford on their own.

Reassurance, information about the repair schedule, and practical action like the loan of a portable heater is the minimum tenants should expect. The council’s communication with Southwark residents must improve.

[Read more...]
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Southwark's consultation sham

Why do councillors ignore residents' views?

Last year, Southwark Council ran a consultation on its proposed 'Southwark Spine' cycle route. Local people and road safety experts said the designs would make cycling more dangerous, especially around Bellenden Road. In fact, 63% of people who replied opposed it.

But just before the election was called, one of the Labour councillors for this area, Ian Wingfield, signed off the scheme.

Eleanor Margolies says: "This makes a mockery of the idea of consultation. The Southwark Spine was meant to make cycling safe for all ages, from 8-80. Hundreds of people took the time to write in with their concerns. I can’t believe Cllr Wingfield has ignored us all. I will listen to residents and fight for a better scheme that reduces motor traffic and is safer for everyone."

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The Freedom of Camberwell

Southwark Green Party congratulates local community activist Mark Webb on his recently awarded 'Freedom of the Borough of Camberwell', awarded by Southwark Council.

Mark is chair of the Camberwell Green Safer Neighbourhood Team ward panel. He's well known locally, often seen staffing the SE5 Forum stall at Camberwell Farmer's Market on a Sunday morning. He has recently been involved in tackling knife crime through leafletting and working with the police to sweep the neighbourhood for concealed weapons.

Last year, Mark was nominated for the Metropolitan Police 'Citizen of the Year' and was a finalist at the ceremony at the Park Lane Hotel.

Congratulations Mark - we look forward to seeing you herding sheep on Camberwell Green (or whatever it is your new Freedom of the Borough entitles you to do!)

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A better deal for residents

There are 63 councillors in Southwark Council. Of these, the Labour party currently has 48 councillors, the Liberal Democrat party  has 13 and the Conservative party has two. At the moment, there are no Greens on Southwark Council.

Next door, Lambeth and Lewisham have Green councillors – so why not us? Residents get a better deal when councils include different voices. The Electoral Reform Society has shown that people living in areas ruled by ‘one-party councils’ miss out on savings of around £2.6 billion a year! In Lambeth, Green counillor Scott Ainslie has supported the work of the independent 'People's Audit' which has identified errors and potential savings in the Lambeth Council accounts. Across the country, elected Greens scrutinise council contracts and accounts to make sure that councils are fair, transparent and getting a good deal for residents.

Southwark Council suffers from a lack of opposition. Labour Party councillors have pushed through the demolition of hundreds of council homes on the Heygate and Aylesbury estates, selling the land to private developers. The Green Party opposes the sale of public property for private gain. We will protect council homes and invest in building genuinely affordable homes.

And Southwark people are suffering from a lack of vision on public health. Labour have taken almost no action on air pollution. Green activists have paid for and carried out our own air pollution monitoring - with diffusion tubes supplied and analysed by the same company that is used by Southwark Council. They revealed levels of NO2 pollution more than TWICE the legal limit on busy pavements on Denmark Hill.

  • We've lobbied the Mayor to clean up dirty diesel buses.
  • We've run a free 'Travel Clinic' to help people find out the money they could save by choosing not to use a private car.
  • We've taken part in 'anti-idling' sessions run by Idling Action.
  • We've planted living screens around a school playground to shield children from air and noise pollution. 

In Southwark, the Green Party is the real alternative. We took 2nd place in one third of Southwark wards in the local elections in 2014. If you think having a Green voice on Southwark Council would be a good idea, please make us your first choice in 2018.

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Put an end to Southwark councillors' conflicts of interest

Thumbnail image of and link to scanned version of Private Eye \Nearly 20% of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists, found 2013 research by journalist Anna Minton.

One of these is East Walworth Labour councillor Rebecca Lury, who works as a managing director for public relations (PR) firm GK Strategy. Her firm has a specialism in advising development corporations seeking contentious planning permission from local councils. Councillor Lury volunteered support for planning permission for Trafalgar Place (Elephant Park phase 1) with social housing quotas slashed in favour of fat profits.

Two former leaders of Southwark Council, Jeremy Fraser (Labour) and Nick Stanton (Lib Dem) went on to similar lobbying/PR careers. Independent local campaign group The 35% Campaign has collated numerous similar examples at 35percent.org/revolving-doors.

Private Eye magazine reported that many companies have wined and dined Peter John, current Labour leader of Southwark Council. Freebies accepted from developers Lend Lease include two £1,600 tickets to the London Olympics opening ceremony, and an expenses-paid trip to Cannes for a property show. Lend Lease are building £2.5m penthouses on the site of the demolished Heygate Estate.

[Read more...]
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Elephant & Castle: Latin American community still not getting proper answers

Following ongoing community pressure, the planning application to demolish Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and London College of Communication will now not be reconsidered by councillors until after the local election on 3rd May.

Southwark Labour pushed through the previous controversial demolition of the Heygate Estate two months after winning a council election.

Latin American community newspaper editor Lina Usma said:

[Read more...]
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We need a Green Economic Zone

Southwark Council leader Peter John stated there was “no alternative” to displacing existing communities and building only 3% social rented units throughout the Elephant & Castle Opportunity Area (OA). He was wrong in principle and in fact.

I would counter this regressive OA model with a Green Economic Zone. “We need local economies that put communities first, and provide opportunity, dignity and well-being. Whole rivers of wealth run through local places. We need to capture it, because it already belongs to us,” say progressive economic thinkers CLES.

[Read more...]
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The Big Spring Dance

A massive thank you to our co-hosts the Friends of Brunswick Park and wonderful band Ceilidh Tree for making our Big Spring Dance such a fab evening. Guests of all ages from across our community were instructed in the art of the do-si-do and the right-hand star, and a good time was had by all. There have already been several requests to do it all over again! Thank you too to Father Nick and Fatima at St Giles church for use of the splendid parish hall, and to the Kernel Brewery, Bermondsey, and the Hill Bakery, Camberwell, for supplies of excellent beer, wine, bread and cheese.

[Read more...]
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Starting small, buying in bulk

Making an impact at the neighbourhood level

image1.jpg

A few months ago, a group of neighbours in Nunhead met up to see how we we might act collectively encourage environmentally friendly initiatives. I took responsibility for setting up a bulk buying scheme. We wanted to see how small initiatives such as this could deliver a reduction in waste including fuel and single-use plastic plus encourage positive community action on a neighbourhood level. In addition, it would also make buying ecologically friendly products easier and more affordable than would be the case individually.

The first task was to gauge interest via an online poll on the community’s social media page. Fifteen neighbours expressed an interest and a week or so later we placed the first order for the most popular items (washing up liquid, laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets, handwash and shower gel). The weekend after delivery from a single ethical online retailer we ‘set up shop’ and neighbours called by to collect their choice of products. 

 

[Read more...]
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"Affordable" housing is not affordable

Betiel Mahari campaigning in the streets with her \Betiel Mehari is a single mother who became a housing activist to try to save her own home.

Betiel works in retail on a zero-hours contract. She lived on the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton for 11 years, until her family lost their home when the estate was completely demolished by housing association Guinness Partnership in a £75m "regeneration" scheme. She was forced to leave Brixton, losing her much valued local community, with huge disruption to her family. ("That's what regeneration does," she says.) Rehoused in a smaller flat in Newington with no balcony, her two children (aged 11 and 10) are now commuting the lengthy distance from Newington to Brixton in order to maintain their educational stability and friends.

Furthermore, Guinness whacked up the rent in the family's new flat, from a "social rent" of £109 per week to a so-called "affordable rent" of £265 per week. Although Betiel had been a Guinness tenant for 11 years, Guinness claimed that demolishing her flat and rehousing her had created "a new tenancy".

Betiel says: "'Affordable' rent is a con. You'd assume it's based on wages, but it's not. It's set at 80% of market rents, not according to any measure of actual affordability. With two kids it requires an income of £35,000, which is higher than the national average. This measure puts us at the mercy of the housing market - it's absolute madness."

[Read more...]
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