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.

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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A tube station at Bricklayers' Arms

Southwark Greens support the cross-party local campaign for a tube station at the Bricklayers' Arms.

At a well-supported demonstration on Saturday 4 November, Peter Wright from Living Streets demolished the claim that it would be ‘too close’ to other tube stations – it’s farther to any of the nearby stations than the average distance on the Bakerloo line. Simon Hughes pointed out that the original plans for the Jubilee line didn’t include a stop at Southwark – now a very busy station. Caroline Pidgeon pointed out that major investment and disruption are already proposed for the construction of a ventilation shaft - constructing a station would be a relatively small additional cost. And a tube station need not be a large building, since most of the business happens below ground – Bermondsey tube station is a good example of this.

Eleanor Margolies from Southwark Green Party affirmed the local party’s support for a station at Bricklayers' Arms and asked for it to be set in the context of local travel needs.

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Implement the recommendations of the Lakanal Report

lakanal_fire.jpgThe terrible loss of life in the Grenfell Tower disaster was something many people thought could never happen in Britain. But Grenfell was not an isolated tragedy. In 2009, six people died in a fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell, which highlighted issues that could have prevented Grenfell.

John Tyson, the Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, has drawn up a petition calling for the immediate implementation of the 2013 report on the Lakanal fire. The petition now has more than 80,000 signatures – you can sign it here.

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A Quietway via Camberwell Grove

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Southwark Council is consulting on the status of Camberwell Grove. The road goes over the railway via a bridge, just south of the junction with McNeil Road. This bridge has been closed to all motor traffic since October 2016, due to structural failure.

The council website says: 'Repairs to the bridge will soon be completed by Network Rail, which will allow it to be reopened for small motor vehicles (under 3 tonne) with traffic lights allowing alternate one-way flows to cater for both north and south-bound traffic'. The council wants to hear your views before taking a final decision on reopening the bridge. The consultation page is here (closing Monday 30 October).

We encourage Southwark residents to respond. Read on for our comments.

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The Green Party Autumn Conference 2017, Harrogate

Southwark Green Party at the Greens’ autumn conference in Harrogate, 7-10 October 2017

This was an occasion that injected a new spring into the steps of all those who were there, and we left with a fresh sense of purpose. Here is my personal view.

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Southwark Council is failing on social housing

Council's plans continue to push out poorest

Campaigning_for_housing_in_Elephant.jpgLondon Assembly estimates predict Southwark will lose 2,051 social rented homes as a result of current property schemes, and that across London 80% of building will only be affordable by 8% of the population. Southwark is in the bottom 3 boroughs for affordable housing.

So rather than creating a “fairer” Southwark, both current and previous councils have delivered a deal that is pushing our communities to the breaking point.

As Southwark Green Party, our candidates would call for:

  • Residents to be balloted on proposed demolition
  • Refurbishment over demolition (where it doesn’t put residents at risk)
  • Improved resident consultations, taking into account local needs
  • Supporting local community groups wishing to manage community assets
  • Supporting community land trusts wishing to build homes
  • Enforcing agreed social and affordable commitments by developers
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Helping to fix repairs

Challenging Southwark Council's repairs service

Ever needed a repair from the council? How long did you have to wait? Was it done to a decent standard?

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Following our own walkabout, we reported 11 communal repairs on the Rockingham Estate in one day. We believe our council, and their contractors, are failing to keep our homes safe and secure.

Chaucer Green candidate, John Tyson, says, “As a resident of 6 years on the Rockingham, I know first hand the terrible repairs service we have: weeks and months to get repairs done, poor quality, lack of follow up. As councillor, I’d ensure there was a thorough review, particularly focused on finding failing contractors, and reducing wait times.”

John wrote the petition with the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations that kept the telephone repair line free to call.

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Chaucer ward roundup: Working to make our neighbourhoods cleaner, safer and greener

So many residents in our communities are making a positive difference, and we’re working hard to support them. The voluntary sector adds an estimated £50bn to the UK economy a year, while unpaid carers save £60bn. We really value all that, and think you’re amazing.

John_Tyson.jpgJohn Tyson, the Green Party candidate for Chaucer Ward says: ‘So many in our community volunteer their time, through local groups, but also as parents and carers. We need to recognise, support and champion them.’

  • We’ve been helping Rocking Village plant new flower beds on Rockingham Street – reviving plant diversity and improving air quality.
  • We’ve been involved with consultations on Harper Road cycle safety and reducing traffic, working with Friends of Harper Road Triangle.
  • Green activist John Tyson is an active member of Tabard Growers, a community gardening project working with residents across Tabard Estate.
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Air pollution in Southwark is illegal

Last week, Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell delivered on our behalf our petition to the Mayor, asking for buses through Camberwell Green to be replaced with electric, hydrogen or hybrid buses. The petition got 525 signatures in total (online and on paper). Thanks to everyone who signed, tweeted and helped collect signatures - 

The South London Press also published the results of our nitrogen dioxide monitoring. Out of 20 sites, only two were within the legal limit - and one of these, Camberwell Grove, has no through traffic at the moment.

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Southwark Green Party's response to TfL's Camberwell Green proposals

Camberwell_Green_stock_image.jpgOverview: Some of the elements are genuinely useful. We support the new pedestrian crossing between Camberwell Passage and the Green, and the repositioning of the St Giles bus stop, to improve sight-lines.

But the plans offer far too little to improve safety. We cannot see that it is worthwhile doing this 'interim' work at great cost when it offers so little. We urge TfL to withdraw the plans and replace them with plans that consider Camberwell as a town centre with shops and community services, and consider how people actually need to move around it on foot or on bike. This is an essential step in tackling the current dangers of the junction as well as the wider public health emergency of air pollution.

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Thames clean up

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Photo: John Tyson

We joined Thames 21 for the Big Bottle Count on Saturday 2 September. We picked up and counted plastic bottles, clear bottles for still water, fizzy drinks bottles, and milk bottles. Then we picked up a lot of plastic, mostly brightly coloured broken fragments gleaming against the pebbles and gravel. Here's a list of some of the things we found...

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Camberwell Green Consultation Response

Caroline_R_Eleanor_pointing.jpgTransport for London has published plans for changes to the junction at Camberwell Green. Full details and drawings can be found here.

Some of the proposals are genuinely useful. Much needed changes include: a new pedestrian crossing between Camberwell Passage and the Green, and the repositioning of the St Giles bus stop, setting it a few metres back from Vicarage Grove, to improve sight-lines.

But the plans offer far too little to improve safety.

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Concerns about conditions for residents on Ledbury Estate

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Southwark Green Party has serious concerns about the escalating situation for residents on the Ledbury Estate in Peckham.

Safety issues on the estate were first raised over 30 years ago, and the blocks have since been the subject of reports by industry experts. While we recognise that control of the council has changed over the years, and mistakes made in the past are not the responsibility of the current leadership, it should not have taken the tragedy of Grenfell Tower for Council leaders to acknowledge problems on the Ledbury.

Residents have been without hot water and proper cooking facilities since 10 August. They should not have to heat water on a stove or with kettles to have a bath, or travel to a sports centre to use showers.

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Fire safety: Stop risking lives

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After the Grenfell fire, Green activist John Tyson started a petition aimed at getting the Department for Communities and Local Government to implement the findings from the Lakanal fire inquest.

Recommendations from the report include:

  • use of fire resistant materials
  • regular fire assessments
  • providing residents with full instructions about what to do in the event of a fire.

The petition has received over 104,000 signatures, from people up and down the UK. 

On 22 August, John (right) delivered the petition to the Department for Communities and Local Government, with the support of Green London Assembly member Sian Berry (centre) and Dave Lewis, of Sceaux Gardens TRA and a witness of the Lakanal House fire (left). You can still sign it to keep up the pressure. 

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