Friday, 24 February 2012

Coral-Coomes bow to pressure over flats

The Ladywell Village improvement Group’s long-running campaign to force Coral-Coomes to renovate the landmark double fronted flat above the Coral betting shop at 228-230 Algernon Rd might soon bear fruit.
Inspired by the recent Channel 4 programme – Phil Spencer’s Empty Homes Giveaway – which featured LVIG’s campaign to bring the flats back into use, Nick Long, Lewisham’s empty homes officer, has been putting pressure on Coral-Coomes to renovate the properties.
Earlier this year he applied to the residential property tribunal for an interim empty dwelling management order which could be used to force Coomes to repair and let the property.
But this week Coomes property manager Ashley Hall met Mr Long and indicated the bookmaker was now looking at improving the flats above three betting shops in the borough -  228-230 Algernon Rd,  347-349 Lee High Road, and 357 Sydenham Rd.
Mr Hall indicated Coomes would start work shortly on the six flats above their Lee High Rd shop.. Once completed, rental income from these flats will be used to renovate Corals on the corner of Algernon Rd. A builder is understood to be inspecting the long neglected flat this month.
The large flat is in a poor condition, with broken windows, peeling paint, and a deteriorating roof. It has long been seen by the local community as a sad waste of a family home at a time of acute housing shortage in London. It has been an eyesore on the high street for more than 10 years but Coral-Coomes had always refused to take responsibility for renovating the property.
But Coomes hs now told Mr Long that they have taken a strategic decision to rationalise  the ownership and control of their property portfolio across south east London to generate capital and maximise potential rental income.
 They are reducing the number of shops they own from 49 to 32 because of the tough competition they are now facing from on line betting and a growing number of high street competitors.
Mr Long said that as soon as Coomes confirm the undertakings they have given to the council and builders start work he will adjourn his case before the residential property tribunal  to give the bookmaker time to complete the projects and bring the dwellings back into occupation. 
As Mr Long said: “These are early days but it is encouraging”.
Coomes' about turn on these properties shows that determined action by the local community can force change. LVIG hopes Coomes will now move quickly in 2012 to bring this landmark property back into full and proper use. TonyM

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lewisham Mayor rules against Church Grove traveller site

In the last half hour Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, has accepted officer recommendations and decided not to pursue plans for a traveller site at Church Grove, Ladywell.  This will come as a huge relief to Church Grove residents and to many other local people who felt this was simply not a suitable site.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Mayor Bullock set to abandon Church Grove traveller site

Sir Steve Bullock, Lewisham's Mayor, is being recommended strongly by officers in a report published today (see to abandon proposals for a traveller site at the former Watergate School site and to look elsewhere for a site to meet the Council's Housing Act duties.

Officers recommend ". . . based on the outcome of the consultation and an independent Technical Report on Access, the proposals for redevelopment of the Church Grove site to meet the current accommodation needs of the gypsy and traveller community in the borough be discontinued and a new site search begun."  Paragraph 18.3 continues "The key issue of concern is access . . . Although it may be possible for some caravans to safely access [sic] the site, the revised legislation means that it would be very difficult for a caravan of the maximum permitted width to safely enter [sic] the site without potential damage to other vehicles or mounting an already narrow footway. The use of mitigation measures have been considered but it has been concluded that these are either impractical or have significant disadvantages.

Paragraph 18.6 concludes "In order to address the need to identify a site or sites to meet the needs of the traveller community, officers propose to fundamentally reconsider [sic] the existing approach to the identification of potential sites. This would involve a re-appraisal of the criteria previously used and a new site search that will take into account both Council sites and those outside of Council ownership."

Split infinitives aside, this looks like ending next week with a victory for commonsense. The arguments from residents seem to have won the day - which begs the question why wasn't there a proper exploration of the issues BEFORE the Church Grove site was put on a shortlist of one!