Letters of the week (25/02/2016)

(25 February, 2016)

Have your say by emailing letters@www.newsatden.co.uk or sending a letter to our office at Southwark News, Unit A302, Tower Bridge Business Complex, Clement's Road, SE16 4DG

“Mock funeral was in bad taste”

I write as a veteran eco-campaigner and one of the usual suspects when it comes to orchestrating a rowdy public gallery at council meetings.

Even I, however, raise an eyebrow at Save Southwark Woods (SSW)?mock funeral, complete with Grim Reaper, in a real cemetery – a place where the bereaved and traumatised have every right to remember their loved ones in quiet and dignity.

Most of those who took part were doubtless genuine in their belief that Southwark is poised to fell ten acres of beautiful woodland, a claim which has attracted much support from public and celebrities.

But, is this claim true? It’s easy to believe that Southwark is lying after its appalling mishandling of public consultation. However, Southwark’s real plan (which does need to be re-thought) is a have-its-cake-and eat-it-too scheme to continue burials under the tree canopy, with opening of paths and glades – burials with biodiversity.

Readers should contact Southwark themselves and demand copies of these plans. Some worrying inaccuracies have been flagged up, but not clear felling.

SSW is as much a promotion for its leaders as a green campaign. Shouting and meeting disruption are its tools for preventing rational debate, as I discovered when I invited one of the leaders of SSW to speak at Southwark’s June 6, 2015 conference for friends of green space. I ended my own presentation by asking Southwark to change its plans. The SSW invitee, then demolished all support with behaviour that eye witnesses described as “abusive,” “aggressive and scary.” He demanded to know if the meeting’s chair was standing because he wanted to hit him. Nobody had made a move to do so, but this could have sounded otherwise on an audio recording.

If we are to deflect Southwark’s plans we need to address the facts behind the smoke-screen and hyperbole.

On the other hand, I have enormous sympathy with the many thousands of residents who love their local woodlands and who have, encouraged by SSW, expressed deep concerns about Southwark’s inroads into them.

Southwark must begin to take notice of them and create a proper public forum

Dr. Martin Heath (c/o friendsofbelairpark@hotmail.co.uk).

“Locals’ views not heard in Rotherhithe”

Thank you to all the Rotherhithe residents who have been in touch with Liberal Democrat Councillors about the developments around Canada Water.

While we all support new homes and jobs, the Liberal Democrats have always argued that development must be done ‘with’ local residents, and not ‘to’ them.

The Lib Dems recently won a cross party investigation into why the location of the new Canada Water leisure centre seems to be being chosen by developers and not the community. And we have argued that the new Southwark Plan should not allow tall buildings everywhere, unless the community is supportive and the buildings are delivering genuinely affordable homes.

The over-riding concern which our council group and local residents have, is that these decisions are not being made as a result of what local people say. People are told they are being consulted, but they don’t feel like their views are being heard or are changing any plans. That is why Liberal Democrat Councillors across the borough, from Surrey Docks to Bankside to Dulwich, continue to fight the corner of local residents.

Councillor Anood Al-Samerai, Leader, Southwark Liberal Democrat Council Group

“Fight flogging off council housing”

You are absolutely right when your editorial condemns the government’s plans to ‘flog off our council housing stock or make it unaffordable for hard working families’ (Southwark News 4 February 2016).

But it is not too late to get the government to think again. Opposition to their outrageous Housing and Planning Bill is developing across the country and receiving lots of media attention.

Your readers can sign the petition to demand the government scrap the Bill and

  1. Stop forcing councils to sell much needed social homes
  2. Drop plans to charge higher rent to households with incomes over £40k in London
  3. Retain secure tenancies rather than making all future council tenancies last no more than five years
  4. Scrap moves to make it easier to evict private renters, reintroduce rent controls and
  5. Invest in social housing so that councils can build truly affordable homes

The petition is at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-housing-bill

They can also join in  the national demonstration to ‘Kill the Housing Bill’ assembling at 12 noon in Lincoln’s Inn Fields on Sunday 13 March.

For more information contact us on 020 7622 7201.

As you say, ‘council housing is there to make sure we don’t return to a Dickensian London, with some living in palatial grandeur while others die young in the squalor of slum dwellings’. Let’s make sure we keep it for future generations.

George Grime, Southwark Defend Council Housing


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