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Letters of the week (18/02/2016)

“Make the Elephant & Castle safe”

Our MP, Neil Coyle’s, call for an urgent safety review of the traffic arrangements at the Elephant after the tragic accident on 5th February should be given the highest priority.

But the way in which the works have been carried out and the monitoring by Transport for London (TfL) also needs to be examined.

Before Christmas I informed TfL that many street-lights in the roadworks weren’t working and the temporary lighting installed by the contractors was around their equipment and materials and not for pedestrians. Fencing around parts of the roadworks ha also collapsed and road barriers had fallen into the road.

TfL said that inspections would take place but some of these lights still weren’t working last week.

Any investigation should take into account the construction as well as the final layout and timings of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.

The Mayor and TfL should forward all their inspection reports to the police and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that all factors can be taken into account by the investigators.

Mick Larkin, Walworth



“No shared vision at Canada Water”

The exhibition of the Canada Water Masterplan has confirmed local residents’ worst fears.

The Rotherhithe we know will be lost, and following fifteen years of disruptive upheaval, in its place we will have a high-rise, densely-packed urban landscape with all the pressures on transport and amenities that plague most other parts of inner London.  This over-development is entirely out of keeping with the area and is in direct contradiction to the feedback that local residents provided in previous consultations.

We appreciate that Rotherhithe has to play its part in providing homes for Londoners, but this development does not seem to provide any social housing, and only 22% may be “affordable”, well below the council’s 35% target minimum.

The knock-on effects of this development have also been ignored.  No evidence is provided that our already stretched roads and public transport will cope, or our schools and health services.

For such a vast development, little public space is provided (just one “pocket park”), and if the council have their way, what little local woodland we have will be bulldozed to make way for the leisure centre that they failed to include elsewhere in the plan.

Southwark Council own this land, but yet again seem to be failing to represent the people of Southwark – instead developers are being allowed once more to maximise profit at the expense of communities and the environment.  We urge Southwark Council and British Land to work with local residents and businesses to agree a shared vision for Canada Water that includes new social housing, improved transport and high-quality public-space.

Colin Boyle, Chair, Southwark Green Party;  Jerry Hewitt, Rotherhithe; Andie Byrnes , Rotherhithe

“Mental Health crisis worsens”

The latest NHS reports have stated that the number arriving at accident and emergency departments with psychiatric conditions has risen to 20, 000 a year!

This is more than double the number of four years ago!

What is really disturbing is that a quarter of victims of suicide had seen a health professional in the week before they died!

I need to point out that South London and Maudsley Trust re the paper they have sent to Southwark Health Scrutiny Sub Committee, added it as a late and urgent item.

Before going on, I need to point out that at SPAG we only say things that are facts and not hearsay.

So in the fifteen years I have been involved with SPAG, I challenge anyone to say I have said things that are untrue! What SLAM have written to the committee is their proposal to end all detentions under section 136 in police custody of the mental health act. But how long have I been saying this is not right. They also say that during the period January 16 to August 16, the trust was unable to provide any place of safety to the police on 40 occasions! They say when this happens, it may result in long delays in police vehicles or ambulances. How wrong is this!

They also state it is widely acknowledged that people in crisis are best supported in a health based facility to minimise their distress. At last – we at SPAG have been telling them this for yonks!

We welcome the hope to improve things in the near future, but this is only about people who have been sectioned under 136. What about the people who are in crisis but have not been sectioned? Surely reopening the Maudsley A&E is the right thing to do, and take the strain off King’s A&E, who are just not coping with what the Maudsley Trust should be doing.

Tom White, SPAG

“More Nunhead trains”

It’s disappointing not to see more about Nunhead’s trains in this week’s paper.

Former councillor Chris Brown is totally right (Letters, 21 January) in his comments about the service. He’s lost none of his campaigning fire – the News should give him its full support in bringing more trains to Nunhead.

Commuter numbers mean we need more trains and more platforms as well – so we can have trains to Victoria and Waterloo not just Blackfriars.

Let’s get Nunhead on the transport map – it’s about time.

Peter Williams, Nunhead

“Too much spent on Town Hall already”

I comment as non-Londoner, ex-Local Authority employee and civil engineer.

The costs of reinstatement of the old Town Hall are really beyond reason. Whilst the building has some merit and did form an important part of a legacy of an area decimated by World War Two there are limits to what it is reasonable to spend on reinstatement.

The news on the dry rot is really the final straw.

For me an important questions is ‘Had the fire been worse and the building been totally destroyed would we have sought to completely and accurately reinstate it to its former dimension and layout?”.

I believe that the answer would be NO, we would not just as we did not replicate the general re-build of London after the Second World War.

It is unfortunate and regrettable but common sense should prevail here. Money is tight for many essential things that Southwark wish to do and fundamental services are being cut, so please don’t waste public money on a building that was ravaged by fire and then ravaged by water to stop the fire and, whilst still standing, has a multitude of structural defects in the remaining fabric of the building.

The building has also been ravaged by the vagaries of Local Authority due process. The building had to be made safe at great expense, it had to be sympathetically assessed after the fire at some cost, no doubt there were extensive meetings held to discuss the ‘way forward’ involving a plethora of staff and significant costs were incurred trying to minimise subsequent weather damage at vast expense.

In a commercial world these decisions would have been made much faster and costs minimised. I accept that public accountability does tie the hands of local authority staff and councillors alike so three years after the event and following the inevitable continued deterioration of the whole building the common sense call is to more objectively assess the future of the building.

Perhaps retain the facade if necessary but release the site for private re-development with as wide a scope for a new development as possible.

Give the area a boost with both short term and longer term employment and minimise the losses to the public purse.

It is my understanding that the building had not been ideal for purpose. A  new building built to modern standards and fit for modern purpose would be a much better investment.

If an experienced developer redeveloped the site but retained the outer facade the building and its street impact could be retained, a new and beneficial facility could be provided in Southwark and the Council could get a much better building fit for its needs and at a much lower cost on another site.

This is not meant to criticise any of the authorities or agencies involved in the post fire work, but it is meant as a wake up call given the realities of 2016 and the longer term future of the Elephant and Castle.

Dave Hill, via email




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