Thursday, 3 April 2014

Pothole update

We promised that we would check local roads after winter had finished.

We reported the following potholes for repair:

• On Drewstead Road – between Woodbourne Avenue and Hoadly Road

• At the junction of Broadlands Avenue and De Montfort Road

• On Conyers Road – between Fairmile Avenue and Babington Road

• Outside Whinfell Close on Riggindale Road

• At the top of Moorcroft Road

• At the junction of Woodbourne Ave and Steep Hill

• Outside 11, 55, 114 and 144 Kingscourt Road

• Along Norfolk House Road and near the junction with Streatham High Road

• Outside 102A and 153 Gleneagle Road

• Outside 16 Blakemore Road

• At the bottom of Prentis Road at the junction with Garrad’s Road

Let us know if we have missed any that need sorting!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Lambeth Council has made no statement opposing fracking - despite claims

It has emerged today that claims Lambeth Council had made a statement/ had a position that it would not allow fracking in Streatham (or anywhere else in Lambeth) are untrue.

Lambeth Council Cabinet member Imogen Walker posted this tweet in response to the petition encouraging Lambeth to become a "no fracking zone" like Brent has done (this would mean that should anyone seek permission to conduct exploratory fracking in Lambeth, the council would have established what powers it had to prevent it - such as refusal of planning permission - and would have a formal policy of opposing it).

This is what Cllr Walker said:

Further to that, an article appeared in the South London Press (we can't find it online) saying that Lambeth had said "no" to fracking.

Streatham Labour Party also said that Lambeth Council had said "no" to fracking.

However, a Freedom of Information Request by a member of the public (who is not a member of any political party as far as I am aware) has revealed that in fact Lambeth has made no public statements about fracking at all. It has taken no legal advice. It has no policy, as many residents suspected.

This is important because London Mayor Boris Johnson has made his support for fracking under London clear, the Government is offering "bribes" (in the way of business rates) to local authorities to support fracking which will seem very attractive in tight financial times, and fracking is coming ever closer to Lambeth. It can take place in urban areas and the pressure will only grow with the looming energy crisis. A licence which would permit exploratory fracking covering the south part of Streatham has already been issued and there is currently a Government consultation underway to issue a licence covering the rest of Streatham (ends 28th March).

There are two possible responses. The first is for the council to bury its head in the sand and hope no one ever applies for planning permission for exploratory fracking anywhere in Lambeth. The second is to follow the lead of other London boroughs like Brent, make its position clear, and look at what powers it might have to stop it.

Quite why Lambeth Labour has got itself into such a mess about this is still unclear and it still has a lot of questions to answer. But it should now do the right thing and make sure it gets a policy in place to deal with whatever the future may bring.

The petition for Lambeth to declare itself a "no fracking zone" is almost at 1,000 signatures.

You can see if your address is covered by a licence which would permit fracking here.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Friday Fun: An apology to Streatham Conservatives

We feel we should apologise to Streatham Conservatives, who after seeing this picture, believed that fracking had begun on Streatham Common (see this tweet).

They have been discussing it excitedly on twitter.

However we can happily confirm there is in fact no fracking rig on the Common (although we should add that it would be visible from a 4 x 4 driving along the road by the side of the Common).

It is true that a Conservative Government has issued a licence which would permit exploratory fracking in the South of Streatham. It is also true that the Government is currently consulting on a licence that would cover the rest of Streatham. We are also aware that there is significant support among Conservatives for fracking locally. However, for this to happen several consents need to be obtained, including permission from Lambeth Council (which is why we have launched this petition asking Lambeth to identify the powers that it has in order to oppose it).

The original picture is of some of us standing on Streatham Common. But as Streatham Conservatives have now astutely deduced after trawling the internet, the fracking rig isn't actually there on the Common. It was added to illustrate the potential impact on the area in the event fracking went ahead.

We should point out that no other residents have been in touch to ask where the fracking rig is. Nevertheless, we understand that the absence of an actual rig on the Common will be a disappointment to Streatham Conservatives.

To cheer them up here are some other pictures we took while we were there at the Common a few weeks ago.

(More info on fracking and a link to the petition here)


(We also stopped by the new Leisure Centre opposite the Common to highlight the low pay of employees there where we bumped into council leader Lib Peck. Sadly, she didn't stick around for a photo).

Monday, 24 February 2014

A very disappointing response about exploratory fracking in Streatham

We were hopeful that the campaign asking Lambeth to follow the example of other boroughs like Brent and Waltham Forest and declare itself a "No Fracking Zone" would be cross party. We said as much publicly. We were also very careful not to criticise the council, or the Labour Party which run it, but to encourage them to make a positive response. However, today Lambeth Labour Party put out a press release attacking Streatham Green Party.

The background to the issue can be found here. In summary, a licence has been issued by the Government which would allow exploratory fracking in the South Streatham area. The Government is also consulting on another licence covering the rest of Streatham (the consultation ends on 28th March). You can see if your home is in the area by visiting this website and entering your postcode.

No site has been identified, and consent would be required from Lambeth Council for it to go ahead, and that is why we launched a petition asking the Council to take action. The Government only issues licences on the basis that exploration will go ahead. With Government offering money to local councils, and London Mayor Boris Johnson saying he wants fracking to take place under London, we think Lambeth should rule fracking out now as other local authorities in London have done (see Brent's reasoning here which involves a commitment to look at the powers it might have to stop fracking in the future).

The petition launched a week ago has already gained a lot of local support.  Initially the signs were good that this would be a cross-party campaign. Streatham Labour party acknowledged that:

"There has rightly been growing concern amongst residents that fracking could come close to – or even effect – urban areas, including Streatham."

They rightly pointed out, as we did, that a number of criteria would need to be met for fracking to go ahead - including Local Authority consent.  They also claimed that Lambeth Council had ruled it out. Good news, we thought.  We had been straight with both the council and local people, and we hoped the Council had responded accordingly.   We asked for the source of the information - a policy paper, council decision or document, anything in fact - but nothing was forthcoming.

It was at this point that it emerged that the Council had known for months about the licence. It also emerged that no discussion had ever taken place in committee, council, or anywhere else. There was no "policy" after all.  This was a just a comment made to a journalist by a council member.  There was no official statement or other documentation.  Fracking hadn't actually ever formally been addressed.

Whether this was a source of embarrassment to Lambeth Labour Party isn't clear.  Labour Councillors may have suddenly realised that they had disclosed commercially sensitive information to their Party (that Lambeth might try to ban fracking) before any discussion in council or committee had taken place, and before any official Council statement on the subject had been made.  A political row would certainly distract from this. Or it may just be that Lambeth Labour were embarrassed by the fact that they had failed to tell local residents about something so important.  We just don't know.

Whatever the reason, many questions still remain unanswered:

1. Can Lambeth Council provide any official documents at all to show that it has assessed the possibility of fracking and its potential impact in Lambeth?

2. Has Lambeth Council made any assessment of what sites might be considered for exploratory fracking?

3. Has Lambeth Council taken any legal advice about how it might block fracking?

4. Why won't Lambeth Council follow the example of other boroughs and declare Lambeth a "Frack-Free Zone" ?

5. Why didn't Lambeth Council inform local people about the licence? Why hasn't it also, even now, told local people about the consultation concerning the new licence covering the rest of Streatham?

6. Why hasn't Lambeth Council told local people that the Government only issues licences on the basis that exploration will take place?

7. Does Lambeth Labour party no longer consider that Streatham residents are right to be concerned about the impact of fracking in Streatham?

8. Has Lambeth Council had any contact with Northdown Energy who own the licence covering the South of Streatham, or Alamo Energy their partner?

One thing is absolutely clear. The response of both Lambeth Council and Lambeth Labour Party has been a shambles, and will do nothing to reassure people in Streatham (without publication of both a proper council policy and legal advice).  Councillors should be straight, open and transparent with local people, stop playing politics with fracking and table a formal council motion to declare Lambeth a 'Frack Free Zone'.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

A solution to the Streatham Police Station standoff

If you live in Streatham you will have noticed that every now and again there’s a campaign to 'Save Streatham Police Station'.

The campaign hasn't been against Government and London Mayoral cuts to local policing. The campaign has been instead to stop Streatham's police being moved from their existing old building on Shrubbery Road to a new one in 'The Dip' on Streatham High Road (this is near the junction with Gleneagle Road opposite Sports Direct).

The actual address is 326 – 328 Streatham High Road. When questioned councillors aren't really able to give any good reason why the move shouldn't happen. This isn't about police numbers or local police services, it's about "bricks and mortar". Nevertheless the move has been opposed by Streatham's local councillors for eight years and the building has remained boarded up.

Planning permission was granted for the new base in 2006 (here), and renewed in 2012 (here). As you can see from the plans if you follow those links, the idea is to create a modern police base, which is more community focused.

There would be a more welcoming and comfortable waiting area, two new front counters for people to call in, with a back office, lockers and changing and shower areas, bike storage at the back, another larger office downstairs, a communications room, and a meeting room. There will be lifts so the whole building will be accessible for residents with disabilities.

It would occupy two floors.

This is the ground floor plan:

This is the basement plan:

The reason a new base is required, is that the police service has considered the old Edwardian police station 'unfit for purpose' for many years.

The police station is completely inaccessible to many older and disabled residents. Until recently the station even had a notice on the door telling people to go elsewhere (pictured). It was taken down after it was pointed out that this was probably illegal.

Inside the building too it is completely inaccessible due to the old design, with stairs everywhere and nowhere to put lifts. The corridors are even too narrow for lockers so portacabins are located in the car park at the back. This is where police have to change and shower.

The police station is also two thirds empty. All the cells are unused in the basement because prisoners are held in Brixton. Emergency response teams were also moved to Brixton several years ago. There is a whole floor lying empty, which was once dedicated to administration. Several sections of the police station are derelict, like the old kitchen area (shown).

So how many Streatham police are there? Streatham's dedicated police are made up of one Inspector and four ward Safer Neighbourhood Teams (that is 1 Serjeant, 1 PC and 1 Police Community Support Officer) making a total of just 13 officers. In addition there are some officers from Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs). The numbers depend on how policing is prioritised across the borough (this is based on factors like the number of crimes being reported in area and so where resources need to be deployed). So the number of Streatham police fluctuates. Having spoken to police, the number of police in Streatham tends to be just under 30 (including the 13 members of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams). They work in shifts, so aren't in the building at the same time, and the idea is to get them patrolling out in the community, not keep them shut away or stuck behind desks.

The old police station was designed a hundred years ago to accommodate 100-150 people. It occupies a site of over half an acre, including the empty car park at the back. There is around 18,000 square feet of space in the police station buildings.

It would be very hard for the old police station to be modernised and made accessible without pulling it down and starting again. The problems are fundamental and structural. It is in fact three separate buildings. There isn’t access between the buildings, so police have to go outside and then inside again, in order to get from one bit to the next. Officers are spread out between the buildings, as only some rooms are use-able because of their small size and/or condition. Even if everything was pulled down and rebuilt, it would still have a huge amount of space which simply isn't needed. Over the last eight years, as well as short-changing the police, Streatham has been deprived of much needed space. The site might be used for example for a new school, new affordable housing, new accommodation for Streatham's ageing population. There are mechanisms now to designate such sites as "community assets", but this is not a route councillors have chosen to go down.

The latest plans to move Streatham's police to the new base were set out in the MOPAC report on policing over a year ago. London Assembly member Jenny Jones has been submitting regular questions to the Mayor of London about when the new base will be ready. The latest (as of a few weeks ago) is that it will be ready in late Spring. There is a commitment from the mayor that nothing will happen to Streatham police station until another base for police in Streatham is open.

So now we come to the politics of it all. You can understand how a campaign to "save Streatham police station" is quite attractive to politicians who want a good initiative to win votes. Sadly, however, local people have not been given the facts. They have often not even been told about the new planned police base on the High Road. They have been deliberately scared with stories that Streatham will lose its police. This has been going on since 2006. In the meantime Streatham Police Station has been left to deteriorate, remained inaccessible to a large proportion of its population, and the police and local community have been very badly served.

To top it all, local politicians are now blaming the Mayor of London for wasting money on the new police base which local politicians have in fact themselves blocked since 2006, and indeed have claimed local credit for blocking! It is clearly the actions of local politicians, not successive London Mayors, which has led to the squandering of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers money.

Streatham needs a modern police base that works. There are two possible solutions:

1. Move police to the new, modern, base or another local site which is also on the High Road, with modern facilities so police can do their job properly.

2. Dispose of two thirds of the existing police station site and modernise the remaining bit. But even this is a long-shot. The Edwardian structure of the building may simply not allow it and even if it can, the cost might be prohibitive running into millions.

Either way, campaigns to "Save Streatham Police Station" are completely unrealistic. They are certainly of no benefit to Streatham's local policing, and appear to be run by politicians who are more interested in bricks and mortar and winning votes than actually understanding local policing, the needs of the police and the needs of the local community. They have a lot to answer for.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Speeding on Streatham High Road

A couple of years ago, we looked at the huge number of collisions on Streatham High Road, particularly those involving cyclists.

Sadly, no segregated cycle lanes are being put in as part of the current works on the High Road in the area up towards Streatham Hill, even though local people asked for them. Instead cyclists are being told to use new enlarged bus lanes. Nor have Transport for London agreed to a 20mph limit on the High Road, to smooth the flow of traffic, cut noise and air pollution, and generally change the stop-start nature of the road. It would of course make it much safer and change the culture of the road.

We have now received from Transport for London (via London Assembly Darren Johnson's office) the data of average speeds on the High Road. This has been put into a graph by a local Lambeth cyclists (who didn't want any credit). This is what he came up with:

There are of course no signs to indicate what the speed limit is in this section. It is in fact 30mph.

Average speeds were measured by TfL over a week, just north of Streatham Hill, on both sides (northbound and southbound). Everything above the green area is over 30mph which shows about half of vehicles are speeding.

Remember, this is data on average speeds, not top speeds. Around one in five vehicles are averaging over 35 mph. Around one in twenty is averaging 40mph. Around one in fifty is well in excess of 40mph.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Sign the petition to stop Streatham being fracked

Jean Lambert MEP came to Streatham last weekend, following the astonishing news that a license allowing exploratory fracking which covers the south of Streatham, has been issued by the Government.

The information is contained in the latest House of Commons briefing note on fracking issued in January.

The Government is also currently consulting on issuing a licence covering the rest of Streatham as part of its 14th licensing round. The consultation ends on 28th March.

The Government only issues licenses of this kind on the understanding that exploration for oil and gas goes ahead.

If you want to see whether your address is in the potential fracking area you can visit this website here and enter your postcode.

Northdown Energy, a company based in Wimbledon, has been given the UK Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) number 245, which covers the south of Streatham and an area around it. The geological area the license covers is in the north of the ‘Weald Basin’, described by Alamo Energy as “hydrocarbon prolific”.

Two other companies - Eurenergy Resource Corporation and Celtique Energie – have announced plans to drill for shale gas elsewhere in the same Basin.

Director of Northdown Energy Alexander MacDonald previously worked in the North Sea for both Conoco and Chevron. The company has formed a partnership with Alamo Energy, a US based company with several large scale fracking projects across the US.

No site has yet been identified to frack, which is why Lambeth should be declared a frack-free zone now. Planning permission would be required for the fracking to go ahead, so the local authority has the power to block it.

The pressure to frack is only going to grow. Boris Johnson said in July last year he wanted fracking to take place under London (it already takes place around cities in the US) and the Government is introducing business rate subsidies to encourage local authorities to back it.

There would be little (if any) benefit to Streatham, but potentially huge disruption and harm if fracking goes ahead.

Fracking is an industrial process requiring hundreds of lorries, millions of gallons of water and thousands of chemicals, with huge threats to air quality and water contamination. Dangerously high levels of cancer-causing benzene has been found in the air of towns in Dallas near drilling wells. An average of 400 tanker trucks are required to carry water and supplies to and from the site. Not only does this lead to a huge increase in traffic but it also causes significant damage to roads. It would also likely scupper any chance of bringing the tube to Streatham.

People have no rights to benefit financially from the hydrocarbons under their land. There is a growing consensus that it won't bring about significant cuts in energy prices either, despite all the initial hype.

Please sign the petition urging Lambeth Council to declare Lambeth a "Frack-Free Zone" here.