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.

Million-pound home sits empty as homelessness grows

Eleanor Margolies slams council inaction on Camberwell house

A four-bedroom house in Camberwell has been left unoccupied for 20 years.

Eleanor Margolies: Standing up for action on empty homesLocal resident Eleanor Margolies said, "In 2002, I contacted Southwark Council about this house. I was told that the council was “in negotiations” with the owner. It's a scandal that the house is still empty and rotting away 15 years later. This is a shocking waste when so many in Southwark are in need of a home."

Local councils can make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of unoccupied buildings. Or they can use an Empty Dwelling Management Order — they have to pay to refurbish the building but keep the rental income afterwards.

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Get trains back on track

Peckham Rye stationOur stations are dangerously overcrowded

Local people are increasingly worried about overcrowding at Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye stations. Susie Wheeldon, who lives in Peckham, says: "It’s scary to see platforms and entrances jam-packed at rush hour. And it’s unbelievable that there’s still no step-free access at Peckham Rye!"

Rail fares rose by 3.4% on 1 January — up to £150 extra per year. Fares have risen twice as much as pay in the last eight years. Shareholders made billions of pounds in profits last year, while passengers saw services delayed, disrupted and cancelled. This has to change.

We’re calling for a new exit at Denmark Hill and for lifts to be installed at Peckham Rye as a matter of urgency.

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Walworth's air is illegal

Measuring_tube.jpgWalworth’s air contains levels of a harmful pollutant which greatly exceed European and World Health Organisation standards, shows new research by Southwark Green Party.

Laboratory analysis of air samples taken by local Green parliamentary candidate John Tyson last autumn found nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels at Bricklayers Arms (where New Kent Road, Old Kent Road and Tower Bridge Road meet) were nearly double the EU limit. Studies have shown that excessive NO2 worsens shortness of breath, coughing and lung inflammation, particularly for people with asthma.

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"Opportunity for change": Opportunity for whom?

Heygate_demolition.jpegWe all know the answer to “Opportunity for Whom?” Disregard for existing communities has been the keynote of the Elephant & Castle Opportunity Area. The Mayor’s new London Plan has big ambitions, in particular the target of 65,000 new homes a year, delivered mainly through additional Opportunity Areas across the city. But they will fail unless London stops ignoring or actively displacing existing communities in so-called regenerations, and instead puts them first. A formal recognition of Existing Communities would include a Right to Community, with clear definitions of community and a set of subsidiary rights, including to clean air.

This is an opportunity for change: combining big principles, clear entitlements, and a guerilla localism to bring the benefits of development home.

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Stop the Aylesbury social cleansing

Keep the community together, say local campaigners and Green Party

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Aylesbury residents have been fighting plans from Labour-run Southwark Council to demolish their homes. The second public inquiry is due to complete in April. Across the Aylesbury, 2,700 council homes are to be destroyed. None will be built in their place. Previous experience of the Heygate demolition suggests council tenants will be rehoused in scattered locations across Southwark, losing their communities while rents may increase.

Aylesbury Estate homeowners are being hit with Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) which will force them out with payoffs much too low to buy any other property in the area or even in London. The UK Government previously recognised that Southwark’s plans breach the homeowners’ human rights.

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#SaveHarkersStudio

Harkers_cropped.jpgThe Walworth community is fighting to save one of the last surviving Victorian scene-painting studios, based at 'Flints' at the Queens Row. Harkers Studio housed a local business which served both the theatre industry and the wider arts community. Labour-run Southwark Council has granted planning permission to redevelop the building into flats and office space, without much consultation.

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Tell the Mayor we need clean air

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It’s crucial the Mayor knows that we care about breathing clean healthy air. His plans for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) leave Londoners in the outer boroughs with the weakest protections against air pollution from vehicles. And the current area proposed for the ULEZ (in red on the right - click to enlarge) doesn’t even include all of Southwark! 

The plans could make the roads around the South Circular even more polluted and congested as people try to avoid paying by skirting around the ULEZ. We are replying to the consultation on behalf of Southwark Green Party, and you can add your voice to show the Mayor that Londoners want him to take strong action on air pollution.

Please ask the Mayor to:

  1. Make the expanded ULEZ London-wide
  2. Apply the standards to all vehicles not just lorries, buses and coaches
  3. Introduce the ULEZ by 2020.

[Take the 5-min survey...] If you prefer, you can write with your comments c/o Freepost TfL Consultations. Deadline: 28 February 2018.

(Question 5 is the most important - say that the area MUST be larger. In question 6, ask that this comes in sooner.)

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John Tyson on Elephant & Castle regeneration plans: this is social cleansing

John Tyson of Southwark Green Party speaks at tonight's large community demonstration against the Elephant & Castle "regeneration" plans - outside the Southwark Council Planning Committee meeting due to decide whether or not they can go ahead.

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Aylesbury demolition - not a good deal for Southwark

Estate demolition: it’s not a good deal, it’s not a done deal

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Southwark Greens are taking a keen interest in the Aylesbury estate inquiry which opened today (Tuesday 9 January). The inquiry will hear evidence about whether Southwark Council should be allowed to make compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) for flats on the Aylesbury Estate, ‘for the purpose of redevelopment and regeneration’. The Inspector will report back to the Secretary of State  -  Sajid Javid of the recently renamed Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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High rise surprise for Camberwell and Peckham

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Many people have expressed surprise about the way that Labour councillors have slipped a new sentence into the council’s ‘Area Vision' for Camberwell, Peckham and the Old Kent Road.

The new sentence reads: ‘The Camberwell (Peckham/Old Kent Road) Area Vision will provide as many homes as possible, while respecting the local character of the area. There may be opportunities for taller buildings on key development sites in appropriate locations.’

Wells Way resident Donnachadh McCarthy said the new phrasing 'means we would have ZERO legal grounds to oppose ANY skyscraper in future in Camberwell & Peckham, no matter what the height or where the location'.

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Speed bumps too bumpy?

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Southwark Council has received funds from Transport for London to create Quietway 7 from Elephant and Castle to Dulwich. The Quietways are designed to be safe and pleasant for people aged 8-80, of all abilities, for trips to school, work and shops. No lycra required! The changes will also improve the streets for people on foot, including new crossings along the route, and wider pavements outside Brunswick Park on Benhill Road.

But contractors working for Notting Hill Housing on Edmund Street put in two new humps along the Quietway route – and made them the wrong shape!

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Southwark Green Party calls for railways to be brought into public hands as fares rise

train_leaflet_cover.jpgAs train fares go up, the Green Party is calling for railways to be brought back into public ownership. Rail fares rose by 3.4 per cent on January 1, 2018, costing many people up to an additional £150 a year.

This week, Southwark campaigners are protesting against the increases at Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye stations. They are sharing the Green Party petition to bring the railways back into public ownership and asking Southwark residents to write to Harriet Harman, Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle to find out what solutions they support.

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Elephant & Castle regeneration: These plans are not good enough

Elephant___Castle_stock_image.jpgSouthwark Council is due to decide on Tuesday 16th January on permission for demolition and redevelopment of Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, plus the London College of Communication (LCC) site. If permission is granted, property company Delancey plans to begin demolition work in September 2019.

200 objections have been lodged by the local community to Delancey’s current redevelopment plans. The Green Party’s submissions highlighted numerous features which many local people find unacceptable:

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Elephant & Castle regeneration: Vibrant local Latin community fears devastation

Adriana_with_Latin_community_members.JPGThe cluster of around 100 Latin American businesses in the Elephant & Castle area continues to fear for its future. The Latin community has been here for decades, adding hugely to local cultural and community life. There are many Latin businesses in Elephant Shopping Centre, most of them family-run.

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"Did somebody say regeneration?"

Elephant Park construction site: Photo by Guy Mannes-AbbottNorth Walworth has been subjected to years of “regeneration”, resulting in very scarce public benefits but staggering profits for Lendlease. The next phase of “regeneration” at the Shopping Centre only acknowledged the existing traders and community after the offshore developers submitted their planning application. Is there really no alternative?

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Victory Park: No repair till 2019

Peter at the Victory Park boardwalkPart of the only proper pedestrian route through Victory Community Park will remain sealed out of use until 2019, Southwark Council has admitted in an answer to Green activist Peter Baffoe.

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Tower block safety: John Tyson and Sian Berry present 100,000 signature petition to Home Office

Sian_Berry_and_John_Tyson_hand_in_petition.jpgThe Grenfell Tower disaster left the whole nation in shock, but the similarities to Southwark’s own tragic fire in 2009 at Lakanal House, Camberwell, where six died, were startling.

Green activist John Tyson and Green London Assembly member Sian Berry presented a petition with over 100,000 signatures to the Home Office calling on the Government to implement recommendations from the Lakanal inquest. Proposals such as retro-fitting sprinklers, made by the coroner in a letter sent to government ministers in 2013, were largely ignored.

The Council’s response to fire safety has been heavy handed, and caused distress to some residents. Some have raised concerns that the zero tolerance to all outside furniture is too reminiscent of what came in after Lakanal. What about reviews of compartment breaches?

John says, ‘A key lesson from Grenfell was that we need to listen to people. Residents raised concerns that weren’t heard. Our response needs to be to find fire safety measures that are practical, ensure safety, but recognise individual needs.’

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A safe, secure home is a precious thing

John_Tyson_Ledbury_Estate.jpgAs Greens we believe our homes are a fundamental basic right. Whether you own or rent, you want to know you and your loved ones have somewhere to live. And there’s no more important time than over winter.

Green activist John Tyson worked throughout the summer with the Ledbury Action Group to get the Council to commit to rehousing residents and safeguarding their estate, in Peckham. Successive councils had ignored residents’ concerns over building safety, and an engineers’ report finally commissioned this year found that the four blocks were at risk of collapse from a gas explosion.

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Chaucer ward roundup: Working to make sure everyone has a voice

Greens in Southwark campaign with businesses and communities to protect and improve

Across Southwark regeneration has brought significant change, but who really benefits? The Green Party is committed to making sure locals are given the opportunity to make their areas work for them. Local voices have an expert knowledge of their area, of what needs to be preserved, and what needs to be changed.

  • Our activists are helping traders and locals worried about the proposed demolition of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, which has been a vital community asset for decades
  • John Tyson started a petition to save bingo at the shopping centre. Older residents are being discriminated against under current regeneration plans.
  • We're supporting locals opposing proposed development on Tam Street until it's shown how it will benefit the community.
  • Whilst the Council is proposing to spend £1.2m on Dickens Square park regeneration, we’re asking why they’ve cut their parks teams from 5 to 2.
  • Southwark Greens joined local businesses in a cross-party campaign calling on TfL to add a tube station at Bricklayers roundabout to their proposed Bakerloo extension.
  • We’re engaging with the amazing Vital OKR, who are working to stop the demolition of crucial businesses and industry on the Old Kent Road.
  • Southwark Greens are helping Lokma Restaurant, who want the Council to help preserve Bermondsey Abbey ruins beneath their floor.
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Guest speaker Anna Minton on the Southwark demolitions and London's housing crisis

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Why are council estates in London being demolished at a time of housing crisis, replaced by luxury flats that most Londoners cannot afford to live in? This question is central to the work of writer Anna Minton.

Anna, whom we were delighted to welcome as guest speaker at our AGM on 9 November, is reader in architecture at the University of East London and the author of the acclaimed study Big Capital: Who Is London For?, published this year by Penguin. Speaking to an audience of Green Party members and supporters at Camberwell Library, Anna gave a powerful presentation, looking at the impact of the huge sums of money from overseas that have washed up in our city since the financial crisis. For these foreign investors, property is the commodity asset of choice, and London is, in effect, their tax haven.

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