The lie of the lake

Lies

And deception and they

Knowingly fabricate and

Equivocate

That’s Lewisham Council with regard to Beckenham Place Park for you; liars. Especially about the lake (which is actually, officially, a large pond, so even that is a fabrication; but that is another story).

Compare and contrast! BPP and Bedfont.

The last Full Council at which public questions are dealt with took place on Wednesday 24th July 2019, four days after the grand opening of the “lake” and a day after it was closed again. Who would have thought we would see an air ambulance and the fire service attending a near drowning so soon after it was opened? And that was only the worst example of several incidents.

How unfair was that, nipping the crowing triumph of the executive mayors of Lewisham, Damien Egan, and London, Sadiq Khan, in the bud!

Oh dear, I can just imagine the congratulatory speech Damien was going to give at Wednesday’s Full Council about the wonderful opening the previous Saturday. Oops!

Gosh! And my question to Full Council, about the lake’s beach, submitted a couple of weeks before the grand ceremony, found its way to number 77 out of 77 and priority 12! Hardly surprising, given that there is only 30 minutes for supplementary questions and they wouldn’t want me to challenge the garbage provided in reply. Sorry, I mean equivocation.

Not that I attended anyway, I might have got myself arrested for heckling.

So, here again is the question and reply from Cllr Sophie McGeevor. (Needless to say Sophie has blocked me on Twitter.)

I asked where in the planning permission was a sandy beach approved for the lake. I know the answer, there is no permission, the sandy beach was an afterthought long after permission was granted and the officers did not reapply. Cllr McGeevor (or rather the officer that supplied the answer) has lied by omission. There is no answer given to the question asked.

The response that has been provided is unintelligible and contradictory. Or maybe it’s just me.

The lie in the reply – or maybe equivocation is a more gentler word – is “what currently looks like a sandy beach”. Erm … it looks like a sandy beach because it is a sandy beach and has been promoted by Lewisham Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Mayor of London as a sandy beach!

The fact that Cllr McGeevor says that the sandy beach is only a temporary measure is risible and a wheeze to try and get over the fact that this is a massive design, build, oversight and promotion cock up. In any case, there was still no planning permission!

She refers to the lake needing to be full – but hang on guys, you got a licence from Environment Agency to extract enough water via a borehole pump to fill the lake/pond (whatever). And that was another lie – the fact that we were told the borehole pump, to extract from the water table, was only to top up the natural springs feeding the lake. What a load of old bull, as the response from Environment Agency to my Freedom of Information request proved.

But I digress.

So, here we have another more recent information/promotion board which, admittedly, does not refer to a beach but does refer to a paddling area and illustrates a beach.

First point: any such information board presumes that people will walk up to it, read it and that all such people are capable of reading it and absorbing the information.

But, perhaps I am nit-picking.

Seems like Joe (Cllr Joe Dromey) didn’t bother reading it. LOL. The rules don’t apply to them. Nit picking again, I suppose. Was it a dive or a dive-bomb?

Secondly, even allowing for the fact that there is an independent lifeguard service, note how Lewisham Council absolves itself of all other responsibility – water quality, information and advice, no contact telephone number, just 999.

Look, also, at this Full Council response to a question about disabled swimmers – in other words, not our responsibility, guv.

Oh and look, any problems and it’s your fault if you don’t visit the website … and a Third Party one at that!

Third, there is just one orange, round rubbery thing (Lewisham Council project officer’s description) AKA a life ring. Now placed for optimum performance outside of the fencing that has just gone up (because of the accidents) and don’t you just know that no high-spirited person would ever try and breach the fencing.

Fourth, the illustration clearly shows a paddling area and implies a beach plus, most importantly, shows (with a straight line, rather than one that follows the curve of the beach) a steep slope under water from the paddling area.

And here is the steep slope (photo taken November 2018) before the bore hole pump got pumping to FILL the big pond, which then disguised the drop.

How did the Mayor of London’s office think this was safe?

I don’t know what other warnings and safety measures were put in place to delineate that sudden deep dip from the beach/paddling (whatever it is called) area into deep water, but clearly it did not work. I can’t think why an air ambulance and fire brigade would have attended otherwise.

Here we have a load of old bull from Lewisham claiming the lake is a victim of its own success. Seriously! That’s why kids have been left severely distressed and one taken to hospital, not because of any unthought out safety issue?! More deceit.

I suppose it’s appropriate that the fire service was called to the lake/pond (whatever) in view of the fact that Beckenham Place Park project officers have been fire-fighting every single issue to do with the lake, ever since someone came up with the stupid idea to build one. Such issues as:-

1. Size (plan B saw a reduction in size from plan A i.e. the original Cator lake, with a so called wet woodland substituted for part of it instead)

2. Cost (see 1 above)

3. Heritage Lottery Fund discussed with Lewisham about not having a lake

4. Further reduction in size and differing footprint because of asbestos contamination

5. Water supply and water quality

6. Conflict around its usage, with dog owners aggrieved that there is no area for them to use (despite so many assurances that the new whizzy park would be accessible to all)

7. Disappointment of many users regarding the small size, no actual “wild” swimming, charges for use, lack of supporting facilities and the usual expected infrastructure in a park e.g. small number of bins, no toilets close by, no changing or security facilities. Disappointment that has turned to outright derision on some social media sites

8. Dangerous beach, paddling and safety issues because of the need to make it inclusive.

And number 8 is the nub of the issue folks. Lewisham BPP project officers wanted a swimming lake and a wider park for their mates and peers who enjoy the activities of outdoor swimming, cycling and running.

They were never interested in just having a stylised reproduction of an 18th Century design lake, as per the Lottery Fund’s heritage ethos i.e. an ornamental (and probably fishing) lake. All other considerations than swimming were mere irritating detail to be swotted away. And that has been their downfall.

They weren’t going to have a lifeguard service (because, after all, experienced triathletes don’t usually need lifeguards and clubs using the lake would provide their own). Lifeguards for the lake/pond are a recent new player to the scene. Seems like some authority (who obviously could not be ignored) told them they had to have lifeguards, hence the charge for swimming.

The free paddling was a later introduction too – I’m guessing because some other authority, that they also could not ignore, told them the lake had to be inclusive. Doh! How annoying is that when all you want to do is get on and provide a wonderful new facility for your mates who are quite happy to pay to jump off a jetty.

How’s that deception looking now? That one where we were told at public meetings (oh, and the message reinforced by social media trolls working on behalf of Lewisham Council) that the radical changes to the park were justified because all of the parkland should be freely accessible without charge? (And we won’t even talk about the ticketed concert area!)

Isn’t the lake part of the parkland, then?

And now they are even going to charge for paddling – because of the clear and present danger presented by the sudden deep dip requiring safety measures (yet to be declared).

Now the Council is between a rock and a hard place on so many issues:-

1. Not only is it doubtful that a lake on the estate of 18th Century gentry would have been used for swimming, it also would not have been fenced off (what say the clever folks of Heritage Lottery Fund?)

2. But if you don’t properly fence off the imitation lake, how can you ensure safety?

3. This new whizzy park was supposed to be inclusive.

4. How can charges to use the lake/pond make for inclusivity?

5. The lake/pond is a purpose built imitation; not a reproduction, not a restoration. As a built structure it is subject to any rules and regulations applicable to any construction project, both permission and in respect of its usage once built. It is not a naturally occurring body of open water that just happens to be on council land.

6. Lewisham project officers and expensive design consultants have had little regard to five above. What are the consequences?

Hopefully we will find out when Lewisham Council provide a response to the Freedom of Information request about the Health and Safety assessment they carried out.

Finally, before some sanctimonious, perfect parents put comments on this blog about parental responsibility, don’t even go there. The issue is safety of children, not parental responsibility. Young kids have no control over what safeguarding is in place for them in a municipally owned, artificially constructed outdoor swimming facility and one of the safe guarders is the Council – not just the parents.

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Have a butcher’s (hook)!

At first glance it seems a bit scary, but it need not be. What’s not to like about the opportunity to exercise your public right, enshrined in law, to scrutinise local council accounts?

I’ve just advised Lewisham Council that I wish to have a select butchers – hooray!  The window of opportunity for this year runs from now until 12th July.

I know, it all sounds so very off-putting. I certainly thought it was an interesting idea when I came across the Twitter account @PeoplesAudit but I didn’t think it was for me. Nope, I’m a words person, numbers don’t rock my boat. A balance sheet is a foreign country to me!

However, there was something about the concept that kept drawing me back to the website http://www.thepeoplesaudit.info/ and I started to think it needn’t be scary. What if you just want to do a small scale investigation? The legislation allows for that.

Where does one start? Well, look at council payments made to its suppliers (see below), identify what you want to look at further i.e. the invoices, purchase orders, contracts etc and send an email (see below and screenshot above). Simples!

For example, if you are a Lewisham resident wanting to reconcile public statements from elected members about a council supplier with what’s been reported by members of the public, you could consult the monthly spreadsheets published on the council website. I was shown how to filter out results from these long, daunting spreadsheets in order to isolate and group together only the payments for which I was interested. A whole new world was opened up – one that even a numerical dummy like me could get to grips with.

By this means, I was able to satisfy my curiosity about whether, indeed, County Enforcement Group still worked for the Council – or not, as claimed by Cllr Paul Bell earlier this year. Well, here are the results for April, so it’s pretty clear that the contract is still running.

County April

If another interested person wished to check the contract e.g. maybe Paul Bell might like to ascertain for himself rather than rely on what officers tell him, they could look on the contracts register. Although, whether Lewisham have complied with their own advice that the contract is listed on the London Tenders Portal – Contract Register is another matter.

London Contracts

Certainly, one of the contracts I am interested in, id Verde, for landscape work at Beckenham Place Park was not there last time I looked (last week) although that for Ash Contracting, who are restoring buildings in the park, is listed. Hmmm.

So, here are some simple instructions for Lewisham peeps for filtering out payments to suppliers you are interested in. They will only work on a PC with Excel, not an iPad – or, at least, not mine!

Use Search on the Lewisham website and type in Council spending over £250. Then choose a financial year and monthly spreadsheet to analyse. Open the csv version of the spreadsheet, NOT the Pdf.

Note: If you are considering using any results for the People’s Audit, bear in mind that you can only choose the last financial year.

The opened spreadsheet will have five columns A-E all scrunched up and the first thing to do is expand each column. Do so by clicking the cursor at the top right hand corner of the column and drag across to make big enough to see all entries clearly. Repeat with all columns.

Expand columns

You can now identify which of the columns you wish to filter to look at what interests you. If you are interested in a particular supplier, filter on Column B.

I filter on Column C – Cost Centre Description. You can only filter via one of the columns at any one time.  The name of the columns may change slightly from month to month but the nature of the contents remains the same. For example, Column C April 2018 is described as Cost Centre Description, whereas May 2018 it is described as Service.

I do this by firstly going to the column heading clicking the cursor into cell C1. (Or you may want B1). Then take the cursor up to address bar (making sure you are on the Home browser which will be underlined top left). Then click the function top right of the address bar a couple of icons from the end which says Sort & Filter. Click that and on the drop down menu click Filter. You will then see that each of the column headings now has a small arrow at top right of each.

Filter

Return to whichever column (B or C in all probability) and click that arrow. Ignore the first few options and go down to where Select All has a tick in the box – and click to untick. All the ticks in the boxes disappear and you can now scroll down to tick the names/descriptions you are interested in.  By clicking the relevant cost centres (or suppliers, as the case may be) you get to see all the payments. You can tick as many or as few as you like (just one if you want) and then click OK.

 

You can Save the filtered result (top left on address bar) on your own computer.

There are two template emails on the Peoples Audit website which you can use to make your request. I have used the one that refers to attaching a spreadsheet with a list of suppliers and invoices paid.

Template letter

Even if you think People’s Audit is too much to take on this year, there’s always another year.  And keeping an eye on the Council spending over £250 is a good way of being informed instead of relying on what representatives of the council tell you!

Oh, by the way, I had problems with Lewisham Council’s website search engine trying to find the “Notice of public rights” for the audit.  I got there in the end via Google.  In case you can’t see the email address above clearly it’s CoreAccountingTeam@lewisham.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

Tempus Fugit

Last week I did a tour of Beckenham Place Park to take photos of the *progress* of the *regeneration*.  Looks like they are running out of time to me.

Pictures often speak louder than words, but sometimes one just feels compelled to comment!  One thing I must say is that the *regeneration* works were (erroneously) touted as opening up the park to everyone, yet prior to work starting it had never been my experience that I felt excluded from any area of the park.  Yes, out of courtesy I never walked on golf greens (except in the snow) and I also checked for golfers before crossing fairways.  Obviously I never picnicked or similar on the golf course, but there were other areas for that.  But I definitely could access every nook and cranny of the park.

For example, the area running alongside the railway line, between the railway bridge within the park to the entrance gatehouses at Beckenham Hill Road, was a favourite.  It remained a favourite when the golf course closed and hundreds of new whips were planted in that area. Subsequently those whips were buried under piles of earth excavated from the site of the fake lake; earth that had revealed asbestos contamination. This had, apparently, been hand picked to remove the contaminated particles and the soil left in one of my favourite areas, which is now rendered inaccessible.

But the park is *open* to all!

That crane hasn’t moved this year, in fact since well before Christmas.  Doesn’t look to me like this moonscape of mud is going to be dealt with anytime soon and the area restored to public use.  Yet, the park has been opened up!

Similarly, if one approached the woodland from the east of the park, crossing the railway bridge, there used to be a pleasant glade one could walk in by way of a change from sticking to the path.  Not any more.  This pile of mud has grown on that glade; it is spoil dumped before the asbestos contaminated particles were found and, one day, is supposed to form a mounded garden (to overlook the railway line!)  I wonder how long that will take?  And while we wait that is another area of the park which has been closed off.

Mound

Mound2

This is an area I don’t go close by, not that it is closed off but who wants their dog cavorting in a stagnant pond?  Another of those instances of the law of unintended consequences that the clever Lewisham Council officers didn’t factor into the equation.

Seasonal pond

Once the barriers are down I still won’t be able to access this area in the normal course of events i.e. with my dog – the so called 18th Century lake with its 21st Century yellow beach.  Dogs will be banned (assuming they can read notices) and there is uproar expressed in local doggy social media.

Lake

Still, the summer beach babies with their picnics are welcome to the attentions of geese and, no doubt in due course, gulls.

Lake geese

Then we have all the other temporary cordons restricting park users’ access …

Cordons

… unless they have collapsed of course!  According to one of those clever Lewisham Council officers, the fences are checked regularly throughout the day and re-positioned.

Where’s the salt water?  And rinse!

Maybe he meant just one day out of the whole contract? LOL.

Cordons 2

Cordons3

Strangely, although new paths are still cordoned off, some existing ones have been rendered dangerous or very muddy but are still open!

Dangerous path

Dangerous path 2

And new paths are damaged before they are even open.  A few examples:-

And then there is the path to nowhere, or rather it leads to another area that would be a Health and Safety Inspector’s nightmare.

Path to nowhere

Moving on. I’m loving the health and safety housekeeping.  Not.

A few examples:-

Yet another task started before any are finished. The carriage drive appears to have hit problems (or maybe it’s just id Verde’s tactic to keep those monthly payments rolling in; start stuff, no worries about finishing any time soon). Oh, and they cut the power cable to the mansion.

Carriage drive

Good idea to close the old car park before the new one is finished.  Maybe we should have a sweepstake on what month (and year – LOL) it will be finished and operating.  I expect the flooding problem has been sorted.

The pleasure ground has also been started.

Kids’ (unusable) play pieces have been in place for months.  Waiting for Godot …

… but I have no idea what the small arch is supposed to be.  However, I do note that nice healthy, chunky piece of timber from yet another mature tree felled to facilitate this vanity scheme.

kids play2

Meanwhile, in some parallel universe the Mayor of London dishes out an indiscriminate grant (because public money is so plentiful) to plant new trees in convenient places to replace those pesky, inconvenient healthy, mature trees.  I mean, what good are existing trees to anyone?!

new trees

According to an answer given at Full Council, Lewisham have already paid £1,926 for new park furniture and bins.  Perhaps these articles are in storage because there are no bespoke new bins or benches in evidence.  A couple of new (to the park) Lewisham blue livery metal bins may have appeared, but that’s it.  Feast your eyes on some examples of bins in the park!

Oh, and the photo bottom left is at the edge of the wetland! LOL.  And top right shows the second major building in the park (along with the mansion) which has no funding in this so called regeneration.

One thing Lewisham’s contractor id Verde is good at, though, is regenerating mud!

I haven’t been to the *regeneration* west area since these photos were taken a week ago.  The ancient woodland (accessed from Crab Hill) is starting to bloom with bluebells and the east of the park, which has no funding from the Heritage Lottery grant, looks a million times more attractive at the moment.  Not unless there has been rapid progress in the west!

Time marches on, deadlines to be met, I’m so looking forward to regaining access to the area between the railway bridge and gate houses when the grand opening takes place in July!

asbestos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A picture paints a thousand words

And so I will spare you the thousand words!

This is the end product of expensive consultants’ surveys, research and reports, together with expert project management and skilled construction methodology that is the carve up of Beckenham Place Park.  A *finished* path along the fake lake that has not yet (officially) been walked on and is still cordoned off to the public.

And it’s not an April Fool joke!

Good innit?!

BE01A342-9526-4AA7-8DB9-CDD2FE319850

Just a bit of mud, innit?!

Cor Blimey! What a day of cats and dogs bucketing it down on Friday.

I dread to think of the state of drainage of Beckenham Place Park now; it was bad enough when I had a long walk, with a companion, on Thursday.

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Apparently the lake will be finished in May and the heavy rain will have helped, being as that is one of the elements needed to fill it.  No landscaping going on, though.  In fact, no work full stop.

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In addition, Lewishambles’ Project Team are planning a grand opening of their whizzy new *regenerated* park in July.  I thought I would take some “before” photos and return for “after” photos.  July this year, that is.  I wonder what the July photos of the existing main path, damaged by construction vehicles, will reveal?

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The “muddy” look is currently in vogue in the park and just as well Lewishambles didn’t allow mountain bike racing in the woods this year because it would be even worse.  Though how you can get much worse than this is difficult to envisage.

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Indeed, Lewishambles have suddenly changed tack.  For the time being at least.  They have remembered that they are custodians of this important ecological asset and instead of seeking out mountain bike racers to ride indiscriminately over sites of bluebells, they now, rightly, want everyone to respect them.  Well, one assumes that includes cyclists!

How long will it last?

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Our walk started at the grandly named Mansion, the 18thC Manor House with the after-thought of a second hand portico stuck on it.  The building is run down and dilapidated, but Lewishambles, in their wisdom, applied for a grant to change landscape instead of bothering with the house itself.  And Wow!  Look at the muddy, rutted landscape!

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I’m not sure what these two mature trees have done to deserve getting the chop.  But never mind, Lewishambles are having a twig – I mean, whip –  planting session close to the mansion soon.  Thousands of vulnerable twigs planted since 2017 are supposed to compensate for 500 or so largely healthy mature trees that have been felled.

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This ditch is mostly dry, but does get water in it during and after heavy rain.  Drainage innit.  But further along the ditch Lewishambles have filled it in.

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This is the result. Funny how water always finds a way, but the clever officers project managing aren’t to know that!  How would they know about the law of unintended consequences?  Come on, be fair!

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And, of course, they could not block in the other end of the ditch, so this is the result, a nice muddy overflow into the fake lake.

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A beach!  Amongst an expanse of mud.  Of course, sandy beaches fringing inland lakes were all the rage in the 18thC.  I’m sure Squire Cator would be thrilled.

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The Geese love it as well.  Wait until the Seagulls get word.  Are Geese as fond of ice cream (and other goodies) as Seagulls?

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Difficult to see the degree of slopes in photos, but that beach looks quite steep to me.  Even the (now non-existent) contractors need steps (look closely to the left.)

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And here we have my most favourite part of the park.  The mound!  

946ADC43-33A0-4D97-89C8-D88FAB0B177D

Or rather, one of many mounds, but this is an extra special one!  Well, that’s if plan B is to go ahead because, of course, plan A was that this excavated earth would be used to form a flood bund wall.  Then, despite having multiple surveys by expensive consultants, Lewishambles found out that the soil was unsuitable to form a bund wall, when it was too late to include (in their Heritage Lottery Fund second round bid) costings for disposal of soil.

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Drum roll and trumpets – plan B was to form the soil into a Temple of Dirt – I mean – mounded garden; such mounds were popular in the 16thC, which has no point of reference for the 18thC scheme for the park.  Still, Lewishambles can be flexible – when it suits them. Obvs.

But if the soil was unsuitable for a bund wall, what makes it suitable for a landscaped mounded garden with public access via a path?  Or are we to have a plan C?

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The state of a lot of the paths is largely down to Lewishambles’ earth moving vehicles.

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But there are other areas of the park that have bad drainage.  I don’t suppose felling something like 500 mature, healthy trees and long established scrub has helped much. But those clever project officers must know better.  Obvs.

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Here we have an area of *parkland* at the end of a newly created path that just comes to an abrupt end.  Just like that!

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The next series of photos show the large area of the park where Asbestos Contaminated Material excavated from the fake lake is being “dealt with.”  Part of the process involved dumping huge piles of earth over whips planted to great fanfare in 2017.

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Oh, and that earth mover might just as well be an optical illusion.  Like every site I visited in the park on Thursday, there were no visible workers other than on the Homesteads.

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Great Health and Safety, eh?

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Nothing going on at the new car park.

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75826FB4-CD85-4456-A387-220B96B5F01C

And yet another mound of earth – to complement the car park!

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Water draining down the road; apparently the new car park has had a problem with flooding.

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The Homesteads – the only element of the project where workers can be seen on a daily basis and where good housekeeping makes for a tidy, well run project.

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Former tennis court, part of pleasure garden yet to be started.  But then, so many other elements have been started and ground to a halt.

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A new path that is actually 1) finished 2) open for use 3) goes somewhere – or nearly so – LOL.  Notice the trench running alongside it.

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And another trench on the bend.

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And a mini trench running across the path.  Drainage eh?

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Did I say drainage?  Trees removed = muddy puddles.

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Not too impressed with the quality of the new paths, how long before this loose surface is rutted?

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A final view of the mansion, complete with yet more mud and yet more ugly plastic fencing.

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“When I stand up, you sit down”

“When I stand up, you sit down!”  

(Wags finger at naughty children).

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It’s always been my opinion that the *regeneration* of Beckenham Place Park is a metaphor for the endemic deceit, obfuscation, manipulation and arrogance within Lewisham Council.  But not many people took much notice of such issues thrown up by this project.  

Why would they?  

It’s only a park.  

It’s only a park right on the periphery of the borough, both geographically and in the Lewisham psyche.  

It’s only a public park that used to contain a public golf course.  

Golf is boring, golf is played by middle-aged, middle-class, white men.  Obvs.  

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So why worry about the deceit, obfuscation and manipulation utilised to close the 90 acre public golf course and obtain a large grant of money for the *regeneration* of all 240 acres?

Except that not all 240 acres will benefit – the parts of the park nearest to Lewisham will not – and that’s another story!

Moving on, the attempt to compulsory purchase land crucial to the running of Millwall Football Club, both its business and community programmes, is another example of how Lewisham Council operate and, again, the wider Lewisham public weren’t too much bothered by it, for similar reasons.

It’s only football.

It’s only Millwall. No one likes them! 😂

Millwall are on the periphery of the borough.

Why be bothered?  Luckily, Millwall FC itself and their fans proved a much tougher opponent than the people who wanted fair scrutiny of the golf course issue and the CPO has gone away.  For now, at least.

But nothing escapes the Eagle Eyes of the Millwall fans!

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Now, with the advent of the new executive mayor, who has the misfortune of 1) inheriting a number of contentious issues from his predecessor (although sympathy is in short supply because he was a Cabinet Member) and the fact that 2) Mayor Egan has presided over one gaff after another since his election, lots of people in mainstream Lewisham are up in arms.  The penny has dropped in some cases and is plummeting in others.

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All is not well in the heart of Lewisham, from people worried about needless destruction of council housing, even more needless destruction of a community garden, libraries under threat, perceived social cleansing dressed up as regeneration, an out of touch and arrogant council and the mysterious departure of a new Chief Executive Officer who arrived to a great fanfare with excellent credentials, including a reputation for tackling cover ups!

I’m not going to address all those issues but the latter is very interesting, insofar as the Council’s announcement about Ian Thomas’ departure said that the Council had parted company with him because of a change of direction.  See my question to Full Council and the response below.  I’m not sure where privacy and confidentiality fit into a simple issue as a “change of direction!”

251A5941-EB74-4FA0-BE56-087D84BD9393Also of concern is that Lewisham Council really did not want the Press present at last week’s Full Council meeting.

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So, without further ado, I will just leave some more screen shots on the other issues here for you to contemplate.

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(I sympathise 👆having been one of three people *allowed* to make a 10 minute Powerpoint presentation when submitting a paper petition of 5,000 signatures to a council meeting. Councillors listened politely to our case for keeping the asset which was the public golf course, both for its value as a sport facility and its potential to grow business and earn income for the Council, with the right management.  It could offer so much more than it was delivering, in conjunction with a regeneration scheme for the park to offer so much more. But then an officer was allowed to speak for an unlimited amount of time to obscure the picture and we were not allowed to ask her questions 🤔)

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Yes, there were some members of other political parties and some single issue campaigners above, but also some people who are just fed up with how Lewisham Council operate, including some extremely upset people about the departure of the new CEO, and they are starting to see the light!  Hallelujah!

 

Naughty Environment Agency! 🤔

And so it came to pass that there will be no Flood Alleviation Scheme in Beckenham Place Park!

Gasp!  How surprised am I?  How shocked are many other people?  Not at all!

And so it came to pass that no improvements, not even some TLC, will be achieved in the east of Beckenham Place Park.

 

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And so it is coming to pass that there is feverish activity and loads of money being spent in the west of Beckenham Place Park i.e. that part of the park whose demographic is more Bromley than Lewisham.

And so it is coming to pass that in the east of the park i.e. that part whose demographic is more Lewisham than Bromley will not benefit.  Zilch, zero, nought, nil, nuffink.

And so it is that cars belonging to golfers in the west of the park have been replaced by the BMWs, four wheel drives, people carriers, sporty types etc of the new park users.

And so it is that in the east of the park there is no longer a car park after a BMX track was hastily constructed on it, because it could not be constructed anywhere because of – ahem – the ghostly Flood Alleviation Scheme.

And so it came to pass that despite four years of, apparently, liaising with Environment Agency, it was a surprise to Lewisham Council’s Beckenham Place Park project team – three officers, two of whom only work on the project – that there are no longer any plans (plans? Plans? Who makes plans? What is planning ahead?) for toilets, a kiosk, upgrades to the skate park and childrens’ play area, let alone a brand new adventure area for older youths in the east of the park.  Well, well, knock those clever officers down with a feather!

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Still, as it’s back to the drawing board to source more funding at this late, entirely predictable, stage it keeps the clever officers in employment for some time to come.  There’s always an upside.

And, of course, it is all that Naughty Environment Agency’s fault.  I mean, fancy getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and thinking that there was Heritage Lottery Funding for the east of the park.  Whatever (whoever?) gave them that idea?

 

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In other news, a lady in the park asked me the age of my dog today.  We exchanged pleasantries.  She said it was good to see work going on for *normal* people instead of golfers.  Funny that.  I could have sworn that the golfers I know are normal (whatever that may be!)

And so she strode purposefully off towards her gleaming white BMW in the car park with her Pekingese at her heels.  I’m sure that is the *normal* profile of a Lewisham resident, going about her business on a Friday morning. 🤔

Something to do with a brewery springs to mind!

Ta Da!  Big drum roll from Trolls who were nothing to do with Lewisham Council; no, nyet, non, nein, nay, most definitely not; just interested bystanders, who were super quick off the mark to congratulate Heritage Lottery Fund on awarding Lewisham Council nearly £5M of funding.  And no doubt giving themselves a big pat on the back for undermining people with valid concerns about project Beckenham Place Park.

So, what’s been achieved in the nearly two years since the award was confirmed (other than the outing of Trolls, of course, who were, funnily enough, intimately connected to Lewisham Council)?  See my blog Silly Timmy.

Let’s see now.  Well, I reckon “Other Costs” must have gone up i.e. consultants’ fees, in view of the extra archaeology investigations required on the car park, the asbestos investigations for the lake and the design for the mounded garden which was not part of the original application submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund.  And that’s only what I know about!

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But hey!  The Mayor of London recently topped up HLF grant to mitigate the extra costs.  So, that’s alright, it’s only more public money!

On the plus side, good progress is being made with the reconstruction of the burnt out Homesteads, to provide a cafe, toilets and education centre.  I think there is supposed to be a store room too for kayaks, for which Wide Horizons were fund raising in local Co-op stores.  The only problem is, Wide Horizons have now, entirely predictably, gone bust!

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Campaigners tried to alert the funders and council to the precarious nature of Wide Horizons’ finances (as early as 2015 – and as late on as January 2018 when Lewisham underwrote a loan of £700K) but always were swatted aside as being an irritating, irrelevant nuisance.

Having said that, HLF acknowledged in their Case Paper that relying on Wide Horizons was a risk – but, why let readily available evidence and common sense get in the way of making a politically correct decision?

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This also begs the question of who is going to use the education centre.  Do local schools have the resources to be able to utilise it without the input of Wide Horizons? 🤔

 

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Moving on.  Construction of the fake lake started and stopped.  It is now on its third (I think, maybe more) redesign.  It’s getting deeper!  Why?  In pursuit of an elusive water supply by any chance?  It had already reduced in size on a previous re-design, but now it has changed shape, forced by the discovery of soil contaminants, specifically asbestos.  Not that any planning notices have been displayed, but then, why would Lewisham Council comply with planning laws?  

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I suppose we should just count our lucky stars that the contractors didn’t happen upon unexploded ordnance from WW2 too!  So far (I expect the Council have got it all under control! 🤔)

 

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Construction of the daft mud mound has also come to a halt.  Redistributing contaminated soil to make a landscape feature (with no point of reference to the so-called 18th Century scheme) would not be the brightest of ideas, even for Lewisham Council!

No work seems to have been done on the new car park, either, for weeks.  What’s the reason for the delay, guys?  

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Whilst other paths in the park continue to be neglected …

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… this ugly concrete path is raising more than a few eyebrows.  It’s all so 18th Century-ish isn’t it – the idyll of the rich gentleman’s estate so coveted by HLF and Lewisham Council. 

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Funny how the goalposts keep changing – much like the removal of goalposts and all other formal sporting facilities the park once supported.

But hey!  We can now go to the park for fast food, alcohol and shopping opportunities because, of course, there’s nowhere else locally that one can do so!

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I wonder what Lewisham peeps think? 🤔

This *regeneration* is going so well guys! 🙄😂

Fake lake; real fatalities.

If only the *only* issue about the fake lake at Beckenham Place Park is the fact that it is phoney!  Lewisham Council and Heritage Lottery Fund spin this fantasy of a restoration, but if it was a restoration surely there would be a water supply to work with?  And why do they have to dig so deep, why will they use a bore and why will it have so much kit associated with it – if it’s a *restoration*?

It’s not a restoration, it’s a high tech construction and will need specialist maintenance and interventions.  This is a summary of the kit:-

 

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Here we have the lake subcontractor advertising in the park for digger and dumper drivers.

 

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Hold on to my dog, I’ll give it a go. 

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Anyway, work has temporarily ceased on the fake lake.  Maybe they can’t get cheap labour?  Or maybe the contractor awaits payment?  Except that, it seems WW2 asbestos contamination has been found – but weren’t test pits dug prior to work starting?

In any event, there’s already too much spoil for the Temple of Dirt, so Lewisham Council need to come up with another cunning plan to dispose of the lake spoil (other than the expensive one of it being taken off site.)

The amount of spoil has significantly increased because the depth of the lake has increased.  The water diviner appears to have let them down.

Funny that, I thought the occupants of the Ivory Towers knew best?!

The same as we are led to believe that a few warning notices and, what the Beckenham Place Park Project Manager refers to as orangey rubber things is all the safety measures that are required.

Whereas, at Hampstead swimming ponds they have life guards.  And even then there have been fatalities.

Lewisham are promoting wild swimming, yet they are swimming against the tide of expert opinion.  Why would a Chief Inspector of Police and an outdoor rescue specialist be wrong and the clever officers on the Beckenham Place Park project team be right?

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And then there is the issue of the outdoor organisation Wide Horizons providing kayaking on the lake.  

Outdoor education is a valuable tool if schools/parents have the budgets to access it.  Wide Horizons is a registered charity in the same way that Eton College is a registered charity.  How many *deprived* kids have they actually provided an outdoor experience to? The 2013/14 set of accounts indicated 39,000 kids had used their services, but of these only 69 benefitted from the Get Out Go Wild programme “aimed at disadvantaged city children.”  For 2014/15 it was 41,000 and up to 227 disadvantaged kids and 2015/16 47,000 and down to 166 disadvantaged kids.  Their 2016/17 accounts are over a month overdue.

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Wide Horizons are crowd funding to fight for survival let alone having the resources to provide kayaks and staff supervision at Beckenham Place Park.  Or maybe Lewisham Council will subsidise them? And yet, Wide Horizons were supposed to be the lynchpin of revenue generation in Heritage Lottery Fund’s thoroughly scrutinised 😂😂😂 whizzy plans for the new shiny regenerated park.

And to whom do Wide Horizons actually provide services in south London? Mainly Greenwich schools and parents who can afford to pay.  Surely they need a lake in Greenwich Park, then? 

Irrespective of any other considerations, Greenwich Council wouldn’t want the responsibility should a tragedy arise.  Maybe they are more sensible than Lewisham Council and listen to the people who really know – rather than the people who think they know best and think they should not be challenged! 

Well, it’s a theory!

By the way, this is the timeline for the lake works:-

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Apparently!

 

 

Bullock’s Folly #5 Temple of Dirt

Seems like Sir Mayor isn’t just keen on the idea of converting Lewisham’s largest public park into a faux 18th Century landscape laid out by a rich gentleman, he now wants to go further back in time and up his game to aspire to the landscape of 16th Century royalty.

Beckenham Place Park is to have its own mound!

The popularity of mounded gardens had died out by Squire John Cator’s time and even the most diligent of local historians won’t find evidence of one having formed part of his 18th Century estate called Beckenham Place.

But then, accuracy isn’t one of Lewisham’s strong points.

Clearly, one must have something like King Henry’s Mound, to be found in Richmond Park; so will the one to be constructed in Beckenham Place Park be called Sir Mayor’s Mound?

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Here is the top of King Henry’s Mound, affording fabulous views over the surrounding area towards London.

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Here is a plan drawing of Sir Mayor’s mound.

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And guess what the predominant view from that viewing platform will be?  The railway line!  A railway line constructed through the Cator estate in the 19th Century after the Squire’s descendants had tired of the place and let it out to tenants.

Apparently the clearing in which this folly is to be constructed is *under-used* and the:

mounded garden in this area will participate to attract visitors to this part of the park and increase the footfall between the eastern and western sides of Beckenham Place Park.”

Nope. I’ve never used it. Never been through that clearing, don’t know anyone who has. It’s all been an hullicination! 🤔🙄🤪

That phrase “under used” again!  But then, the consultant responsible for this drawing, and who made the planning application, is also the same consultant who produced a Movement and Usage Survey in 2013, at a cost to the council tax payers of £8,000, which was used by Lewisham Council to *prove* the park was underused and needed re-landscaping.

Hmm 🤔

I suppose the top platform of Sir Mayor’s Mound will appeal to train spotters.  Or maybe people keeping a lookout for the visiting occupants of the Ivory Towers of Laurence House.  There again, there will be a view to the fake lake.

Ah, yes, that ever decreasing in size fake lake.  A significantly decreased fake lake from the original drawings because of hydrology problems.  Really?  Who would have thought that?! 🤔🙄

Sir Mayor’s Mound, in fact, is to be created from the spoil from the lake.  How handy was that?  Still, at least the spoil will be accessible for when they have to fill the fake lake in again! 😂😂😂

The reality is that this Temple of Dirt is to be created because it will cost too much to dispose of the spoil off-site.  But how can that be?  Surely the grant from Heritage Lottery Fund covers the full cost of the excavation of the fake lake?  After all, it was the jewel in the application for heritage landscape crown.

One has to wonder whether, despite all the impressive looking suite of application documents and guidelines on their website, the staff and Trustees of Heritage Lottery Fund are fit for purpose.  Seems like they only went through the motions of scrutiny.

Seems like HLF and Lewisham Council project team ran out of fingers when it came to counting the costs.

I think Vivienne has got it about right!

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