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History of the Bellenden Renewal Scheme
Bellenden Residents’ Group Newsletter reports on the Renewal Scheme, 2002 to 2004
Background note for the Bellenden Renewal Scheme Scrutiny
November 2004

The Renewal Scheme was declared in July 1997, began work in 1998, and held a variety of consultation processes over the following two to three years. There were 7 newsletters in the two and half years up to Spring 2000. Work was done or begun on houses, streets, shops and public spaces in that time, reflecting some of the ideas and information generated by the consultation exercises. But as time passed, people began to experience problems in the quality and management of work, and there were communication difficulties with the Renewal Team and contractors.

Then after Spring 2000, there were no more newsletters, and there was difficulty in discovering what was happening. During 2001, more local people began to share experiences and discovered similar stories. This led to the setting up of the Bellenden Residents’ Group (BRG) in January 2002 with the aims: “to give an effective voice to residents’ views about the Bellenden Renewal Scheme, and the future of the Bellenden area; and to make representations to appropriate bodies, and to take other relevant action, to safeguard and nurture the local community.”

The first BRG newsletter was produced in April 2002. There have been another six newsletters between then and October 2004, supplemented by email bulletins from time to time. The newsletters reported available news about the Renewal Scheme and on other issues of interest to the Bellenden area, such as town centre developments. The items reporting on the Renewal Scheme are extracted and copied into the attached paper, giving the story as it evolved between early 2002 and October 2004.

The main features reported were:

1. April 2002 Meeting with ward councillors to express concern over lack of information and consultation, poor quality and management of work, lack of transparency in criteria for selecting streets and public places for renovation, and for production of art works. Request to senior Council officers for figures on the Scheme’s expenditure.

2. August 2002 The original 10 year plan would have to be significantly reduced because of changes in Government grants, and almost all projects were suspended, while a mid-term review was conducted. This caused severe problems to residents who had taken promises seriously and planned accordingly. The problems caused by the disruption were severely exacerbated by the lack of information and communication for over two years by then.

3. December 2002 A meeting with ward Cllr Andy Simmons revealed that a report on costs of the Scheme was promised for early 2003, and that some work was definitely going ahead on the traffic scheme, Choumert Rd market, and 3 small streets group repair. This newsletter also reported that contrary to wide media publicity, local residents came across the public art works when they were installed and were not involved in the how, what or when.

4. September 2003 The BRG Steering Group met in March 2003 with the Renewal Team and Cllr Simmons. After continuing pressure for a newsletter for residents, a short one was produced in the summer giving an update on the Scheme, and promising the review document would be made available to residents that summer. It was said that it would contain the expenditure figures first requested the year before. The newsletter reported the continuing concerns of residents and traders about the quality of the work and poor consultation which was at odds with the continued publicity generated by the Council.

5. January 2004 The only new item to report was that the Renewal Scheme were asking for views on a Sunday Market for Bellenden Road.

6. April 2004 There had still been no information about the review report now promised for well over year. Then it was discovered that it had been presented to the Executive in October 2003, but no one had been told and was available only to those with web access.

7. October 2004 The arrangements for the Scrutiny were reported.
Bellenden Renewal Scheme
Extracts from BRG newsletters
April 2002 to October 2004

News Letter April 2002
No 1

The Bellenden Residents’ Group (BRG) was launched at the beginning of this year, and has already received a lot of feedback from the residents of the area. The concerns have been mainly to do with the consultation, management and quality of work of the Bellenden Renewal Scheme, now halfway through its ten year programme.

Meeting with Councillors
It is important that in the remaining five years residents do not suffer the poor management and lack of consultation which have sometimes offset the very real advantages the Scheme is bringing to this area. To this end, we have opened a dialogue with local councillors. We can report that they are aware of some of the problems, and have promised to take steps to rectify them.

At a meeting with Cllrs Janet Heatley, Patrick Kelly and Andy Simmons last month, we discussed the lack of a newsletter to keep residents informed and asked that, instead of getting a glossy newsletter, which was obviously expensive and time-consuming, we could at least be kept in touch with a simple newsletter on A4.

We discussed the role of the Advisory Board (originally called the Management Board) and how they operated. We pointed out that there was a complete lack of communication between them and the residents they had supposedly been elected to represent. We were told that the Board’s future was now problematic because the Area Forums were taking over. While welcoming the opportunity for residents’ input at Area Forum meetings, we said that the disadvantage was that they covered too wide an area. The Area Forum meetings are held quarterly and for Area 4, Peckham and Nunhead, are organised by Anna Henry in the Community Unit in the Town Hall. You can be put on her mailing list by sending your details to her at anna.henry@southwark.gov.uk or phone her on 020-7525-7450. It would be good if some people from this area started taking part in those.

To the complaints of unanswered letters, the councillors said that the Bellenden Renewal Team would in future be asked to reply to letters within ten days, which is required by Southwark Council of their employees. We expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in the criteria used for selecting streets and public places for renovation, and for the production of art works. We talked about the problems with the management and quality of the work in some places, affecting both houses and shops. We said we were concerned that the underlying reasons for these problems show little sign of being remedied yet. The Councillors said that they would like anyone with problems in relation to particular properties to contact them direct about them. Their emails are:

Their postal address is:
Bellenden Ward Councillor, Town Hall, Peckham Road, London SE5 8UB.

Although much remains to be done to improve matters, we were encouraged by the mainly constructive approach at the meeting, which we hope to continue with the new councillors after the local elections in May. (Cllrs Heatley and Kelly are standing down. Also, the Ward boundaries are changing and Bellenden will be in two wards – The Lane, and South Camberwell.)

Expenditure and Future Plans for the Renewal Scheme
We have written to senior management in the Council asking for details of the past expenditure in the Scheme, and the plans for future expenditure. We have had some information but it is still not adequate. We are seeking further information. It is important to get this clear as it is rumoured that there is not much money left, even though the Scheme has 5 years to run, and we need to find out the facts and how the remaining money might be allocated.

News Letter August 2002
No 2

Future of Bellenden Renewal Scheme
Many residents who were expecting Renewal Area schemes to go ahead this year will already be aware that these have been cancelled for this financial year, and any future projects are undecided. This is all part of what appears to be a revised plan of works to the Bellenden Renewal Area.

According to a letter sent to the residents affected from the Private Housing Renewal office, a mid-term review of the Bellenden Renewal Area is under way and due to report next month. Any decisions regarding future schemes will be taken after the review has finished. The budget for 2003/4 and 2004/5 is as yet undetermined. The letter states, “The likely level of resources will be a key factor in whether the Council pursues any more schemes in Bellenden.”

In a separate letter to the Bellenden Residents’ Group, Pat O’Reilly of the Private Housing Renewal office wrote: “In terms of funding for Renewal Area schemes I can confirm there are significant problems. These have been caused by a new financial regime for housing capital works that has removed the specific subsidy that used to support work on older private housing.
The effect of this is to make the schemes very much more expensive for the Council. A subsidy of 60% used to be paid to the Council so that if it spent £1 it would receive 60p back from central government. Although the new regime makes it possible for local authorities to choose how to spend their housing resources it also makes it very expensive to do so on private property. As a result some schemes are currently uneconomic and there is a major shortfall on the relevant budget. While the Council is examining options nearly all renewal area schemes are suspended. The only exceptions are the proposals for Choumert Market, the traffic management proposals and a relatively small Group Repair scheme.

“At the same time we are conducting a review of Bellenden and this review will influence future decision making. It will look at what has been achieved so far and what tasks remain outstanding. Additionally the legislation covering this whole area of work will change within the next few months and so the Council must re-examine its priorities and programmes.
However, funding is the main issue and there is unlikely to be any change before the Council receives a report on the possible options in September.”

This letter seems to indicate a going back on the original 10 year plan for the area, and a winding down of the scheme at the half way point. We were told by the Bellenden Renewal office that they had been allotted £1.2 million for this year, of which £300,000 was for the traffic calming scheme. This compares with £2.4 million of work that had been approved, much of which would now have to be cancelled.

Naturally, those who thought they were taking part in a group repair scheme, some of whom had already raised loans for their share of the costs, are disappointed and angry at this unexpected cancellation. They have not accepted that the Council will not honour its obligations, and are asking the Council to think again. Bellenden Road shopping area still needs a considerable amount of work on it, not least on the pavements, the shabby state of which is at odds with the brand new street lighting, and compares unfavourably with the appearance of the shopping area on East Dulwich Road, which is altogether more co-ordinated. There are still public spaces such as Rye Passage and Goose Green (the path across it is dangerous) which urgently need attention.

Lessons to be learnt?
There is no doubt that the appearance of parts of Bellenden have been very much improved by the Scheme, even though the quality of some of the work leaves a lot to be desired and there may be less agreement on the quality of some of the designs. But the latest upset for residents who had promises of work now cancelled without warning is just another example of the very poor communication there has been. When we met the local councillors in March we stressed that what was needed was a simple A4 newsletter at regular intervals just so that those who wished and needed to could be kept up to date with developments, ideas and information. They agreed that they had not got the communication right, but nothing has changed. A regular news sheet would have produced a much better climate for any unforeseen developments like the present budget cuts, as well as relieved the stress of residents who heard nothing for months after all kinds of promises.

Promises not kept have been a hallmark of this Scheme with a huge amount of stress for the residents affected. It is a great pity because there have been some valuable innovations in the Scheme. But we wonder if the Council is interested in seriously learning the lessons of how to plan, manage and communicate with residents. In the latest issue of the Council magazine Southwark Life there is another good PR article lauding the benefits of the Scheme and even turning the Advisory Board which has had no contacts with the local community into the ‘local tenants’ association’ which applauds the success of the Scheme and the involvement of the community! It adds insult to injury.

Good communications are vital for good decision making, and good relationships with the community. They will be a significant factor in the success or otherwise of the proposed new community councils (see below) so it is to be hoped that the Council pays special attention to this in developing the way they are going to be managed, and learns the lessons of what has and has not worked elsewhere in the borough.

Newsletter for December 2002
No 3

Response to queries on Bellenden Renewal Scheme
We had a meeting with Cllr Andy Simmons, to whom we had sent our letter asking for facts and figures on the Bellenden Renewal Scheme. He told us that a report on the costs of the scheme would be made available to all residents early next year. On the question as to whether work was coming to an end on the Renewal Scheme, he said that work was continuing on three funded projects at present. Top priority was the traffic scheme, which was the subject of so much debate last year. Work may start next Feb-March. We gather that, although it will follow the lines of the scheme which was devised finally by Southwark’s Traffic Department, there may be further modifications. Work on Choumert Road Market will be spread over two or three financial years. The Choumert Grove/Costa St/Alpha St project will also be going ahead.

We expressed our concern that the Bellenden Road shops should reflect the needs of the residents of the area. Although the streetworks were designed to attract new business, it was important to retain local shops and businesses that served our needs, rather than turn the shopping parade into a succession of restaurants and art galleries. On the question of hygiene around the market and station areas, Cllr Simmons believed the Peckham street wardens were beginning to make an impact, in terms of health and safety. One of the difficulties Southwark faced in dealing with hygiene problems was that there was a shortage of health inspectors.

Further information on the Renewal Scheme and its future will be circulated to residents by Pat O’Reilly, Private Housing Renewal Manager, in a newsletter which should be landing on your doormats in the New Year. He confirms that there have been problems with the budget. There is less money available for work on privately owned housing due to changes in the way that Councils get financial help from the Government. As a result of the changes, the money available for private housing this year was less than had been thought, and several schemes have been put on hold. Any decision as to whether or not there will be more schemes will depend on how much money is available, what the mid-term Review concludes over achievements so far, and what are the new priorities.

Public Art in Bellenden
An article in the Guardian was quoted in SAVO News, the magazine for voluntary and community action across Southwark. The article gave the impression that there had been widespread consultation about the artworks. In a letter to SAVO, we pointed out that the residents of the area have had rather less say than the article assumed: “Most of the residents come across a new piece of art work as and when it is presented to them, and have not taken part in the process of choosing how, what and when. Although we accept that Southwark’s initial intention was to consult with residents, the communication process soon broke down . . ” We suggested that the community should be involved in the projects from an early stage, which would give us a chance to reshape our environment as we would like to see it. “By joining forces between traders (who are part funding design work for the area), the artists producing the designs, the Council and us, the residents of the area, we believe that much more can be obtained from these programmes.” Please let us know what YOU think about the public art which is now in Bellenden as a result of the Renewal Scheme.

Newsletter for September 2003
No 4

BRG Meeting with with Bellenden Renewal Team & Cllr Simmons
We met officers of the Bellenden Renewal Team together with Cllr Andy Simmons earlier this year to put before them concerns about the working of the renewal scheme, to request expenditure figures and to find out to what extent work is being curtailed. We were very concerned that the officers were still refusing to release a summary of what had been spent over the five years and where. We were not able to get anything but the most global expenditure figures, but were promised that the detailed figures would be available in a Review report to be available during the summer. We did get some indication of the work that is still going ahead. From July new discretionary powers came into place, which means that group repair will survive in a different form by changing method of contributions. Money will be spread more thinly. People may use the value of their property to raise loans, or a package of assistance from the Council. Grants would be available only to the poorest. In a normal financial year, half the housing budget would go on Bellenden, half on the rest of Southwark, and this would have to change.

Group repair
Small roads Group Repair Scheme: Choumert/Alpha/McDermott/Costa/Sternhall were going ahead, as was Marsden Road. The budget for 2004-5 had not yet been agreed for Gowlett/Hinckley Roads, but was still a possibility with the new package based on new rules. Some provision for lighting & pavements was possible, prioritizing roads with worst paving and lighting, and Highways Dept was looking at condition of roads and pavements. It was stressed that this work was not definite.

Shopping areas
Choumert Market: only £500,000 was available so the Renewal Team was seeking costings for environmental improvements, i.e., new shop fronts, lighting, bollards, new permanent stalls, and environmental health improvements. We expressed doubt whether much can be achieved with such a small amount.
East Dulwich Road: treatment to pavements (for chewing gum etc)
Bellenden Road: Work was continuing on various projects, and renovations of shops.

Traffic Management
£380,000 has now been transferred from Housing to Traffic. The more controversial traffic proposals for road closures or one way systems have been abandoned. Instead there will be safety measures in specific areas. The areas of greatest concern have been identified by the Council and residents as Alpha Street (in relation to Netto), Nigel Road, Nutbrook Street, and Bellenden/Chadwick Road junction. Statutory consultations would be through announcements in the newspapers only. Trevor Wilding of the Traffic Dept was to be in charge.

Rye Passage We had heard that funds were allocated at last for improvements to Rye Passage, an ancient public path running from Nutbrook Street to Peckham Rye, and had been told there were as yet no concrete plans. We were therefore dismayed to hear that the ”improvements” the Renewal Team had in mind were to close the Passage, but delighted subsequently to discover that a different part of the Council put all the needed improvements on a list of proposals to the Community Council for funding. Local residents will be asking the Community Council to support the improvement proposals.

One result to date of commitments made at the meeting is that a short newsletter updating residents on the Renewal Area has finally been produced by the Council. We emailed residents in July, asking those who were willing to deliver the newsletter to their street to get in touch with Pat O’Reilly. However, quite a few streets have still not received the newsletter. One item in the newsletter asks for residents to complete a questionnaire on the Renewal Area – if you wish to complete one or ask for a copy of the newsletter, please contact Valencia Nichols on 020 7639 4622. Most importantly, the newsletter states that a formal review document of the Bellenden Renewal Scheme will be completed soon & a comprehensive summary of this will be available to residents for further comment, BUT ONLY IF YOU RING TO REQUEST A COPY, again contact Valencia Nicholls 020 7639 4622. If you wish to discuss things in more detail you can contact Pat O’Reilly, Private Housing Renewal Manager on 020 7525 41l0 or email pat.oreilly@southwark.gov.uk

Bellenden Public Art
An innovation of the renewal scheme was to commission local artists to design art works as street furniture. This included work by 3 internationally known artists: wall and pavement mosaics and lamp posts by Tom Phillips in Bellenden Road, bollards by Anthony Gormley scattered throughout the area, and Zandra Rhodes’s pink and black bollards and pink paving on East Dulwich Road. There have been several articles in the newspapers, praising the art works, and this is all to the good of the area. However, there is some dissension about works of arts among residents. One resident emailed with these comments: “Far too many of our streets are dark and litter-ridden. The potential of the nearby Rye and the lovely terraced houses are being degraded by lack of investment in the streets. Bellenden Renewal is wasting money with arty lights, and bollards that look like old rusty chess pieces. What we need are authentic Victorian fittings to match the house fronts.” Another suggested it would be more to the point to spend the money on the house repairs which had been promised but then cancelled. The bollards have attracted particular criticism, often being placed too close to the kerb on corners of the road. On one occasion, it is said, a coach carrying tourists specifically to see the Bellenden art works knocked over a bollard (which has not been replaced) at the junction of Adys Road with Nutbrook Street (which may be cheering news for those who want to discourage large vehicles).

Bellenden Award
The announcement that the Bellenden Renewal Team has been given an award by the London Tourism Board for the “best local tourism initiative” is good for the area. But while the outside world has been given a clear and positive message, community relations with those living and working in the area has been negative. Residents and traders have complained of lack of consultation, poor management, crossed lines, reneged promises, and in one trader’s case, at least, of having a promised grant cut by half, after the work had been agreed, and being landed with expense they could ill afford. Anyone who feels their complaint cannot be resolved through the housing dept, should contact their local councillor (phone 020-7525-5000 for their details) and Deputy Leader Caroline Pidgeon, caroline.pidgeon@southwark.gov.uk It is important that councillors know how the scheme is working on the ground so that any problems can be examined and learnt from for future projects, rather than see the same mistakes repeated.

Newsletter for January 2004
No 5

Sunday Street Market for Bellenden Road?
The Bellenden Renewal Team are considering setting up a street market in Bellenden Road on Sundays, and have asked if residents will let them have their views on whether they agree with the idea of a market and, if so, what sort of market they would like to see – whether an arts and crafts market, a general market, a farmers’ market or any other variation. The team are conducting an initial experiment for six weeks, probably around next April, and will then decide whether the demand is enough to make it a permanent feature. Naturally, a market in a residential area raises a number of questions – whether it will exacerbate the parking problem on Sundays, whether residents and traders feel an influx of shoppers into the area would be beneficial or not. Now is your chance to make your views known to the Bellenden Renewal Team as to whether you like the idea, and what sort of market you feel would be most useful for the area. When emailing your views to Roger.Young@southwark.gov.uk could you please copy your response to us as well at residents.bellenden@ntlworld.com so that we can get an indication of the enthusiasm or otherwise for this project.

Newsletter for April 2004
No 6

Bellenden Renewal Scheme Latest
We have asked the Renewal Team for information on the scheme for over a year and were always being promised it would be all made available in 'the Review Report'. We were told as recently as March that it would be ready 'soon', only to discover when Pat O'Reilly of the Renewal Team met us on 30 March that it had been available since last September on Southwark Council’s website, and no one had told us.

If you would like to see the Review, you can email everton.roberts@southwark.gov.uk
and ask for a copy of the 'Mid-term Review of Bellenden Renewal Area' which went to the Executive on 9 September 2003. You have to give these details exactly. If you haven't got email you can phone 7525 7221 for it by post. We are told that there is also a big glossy publication with photos which will be made available from the Bellenden Renewal office.

We haven't yet had time to study the Review but it does seem to raise a number of questions which we will take up with the Council. We would like to hear from anyone who gets their own copy as to their views. This is a good way for the Council to learn important lessons in spreading this kind of work to the rest of the borough, as well as for the remaining 4 years in Bellenden. (There is a neighbourhood renewal assessment being undertaken in East Peckham at present, and a report is being prepared for the Executive in September).

Reminder – Free Home Maintenance videos and advice on house repairs can be obtained from Keith Murphy of the Bellenden Team on 020 7 525 4623.
Newsletter for October 2004
No 7

1. Bellenden Renewal Scrutiny
The Bellenden Renewal Scheme is in its 7th year with 3 more years to go. At the suggestion of the Bellenden Residents' Group (BRG), the Council's Housing Scrutiny Committee has decided to examine the Scheme. The Committee wants to hear about people's experiences of the Scheme's work – the problems and difficulties with it, and the successes. The BRG is very glad to have this chance to discuss with the Council the experiences of living in the Renewal area as we feel there are important lessons to learn from it.

The Scrutiny meetings will be at Southwark Town Hall in Peckham Road. The first two meetings will be
Wednesday 10th November 2004, 7pm
Tuesday 7th December 2004, 7pm

Members of the public are very welcome. At the first meeting on 10 November the Council’s Renewal Team will be making a presentation about the Scheme, and members of the public can ask questions. At the following meeting on 7 December the Bellenden Residents’ Group (BRG) will be making its contribution, and anyone else who wants to say something will also be able to speak. Any residents or traders who want to speak but can’t get to the December meeting, will be able to speak at the November meeting. Letters from any resident or trader will be welcome and very useful whether they can get to the meetings or not.

This is a really good chance to talk about our experiences, hopefully improve things for the remaining 3 years, and help future Schemes to benefit as well. So if you have anything you want to say, make sure you get to the meeting on 7 December or, if that’s not possible, the 10 November. And if you have things to say, try to write a letter to the Committee as well. Come to both meetings if you can. The details for contacting the Committee are:

Email: carina.kane@southwark.gov.uk
Phone: 020-7525-4393 or 020-7525-7238
Post: Bellenden Renewal Scrutiny, Scrutiny Team, Town Hall, Peckham Road, London SE5 8UB

If you would like to have further information or help in preparing your contributions, please contact us by email residents.bellenden@ntlworld.com or phone 020-7639-1591. Please let us know if you send a letter.

Lists of Contents (items about Renewal Scheme in bold)

1. April 2002 Renewal Scheme – meeting with councillors, & request for information
on expenditure and future plans
Town Centre Strategy
Development of BRG

2. August 2002 Future of Renewal Scheme, Lessons to be learnt
Community Councils,
Peckham Street Wardens
Future of Choumert Grove Car Park
Peckham Rye Station
Aircraft Noise
BRG meeting

3. December 2002 BRG meeting
Response to queries on Renewal Scheme
Public Art in Bellenden
Town Centre Plans
Peckham Rye Station Area
Choumert Grove Car Park
Southern end of Rye Lane
Town Centre Environment
Jobs & Training
Peckham Rye – Underground connections
Resident feedback wanted

4. September 2003 Communicating with Bellenden Residents
BRG Meeting with Renewal Team & Cllr Simmons
Bellenden Public Art, Bellenden Award
Town Centre Developments
Cleaning Up Rye Lane: the cyber walkabout
Traffic in Rye Lane
Peckham, Rye Tube Connections
Other Bellenden News - Orange Mast campaign, Road Motorway Signs,
Four Storey Block defeated in Nutbrook St, Flowers in Bloom in
Bellenden, London Wildlife Centre, Bellenden history on new
website, Community Council meetings, Miscellany news snippets

5. January 2004 Bellenden Community Social 31 January
Sunday Street market for Bellenden Road?
Orange Mast
Local Police & Community Forum

6. April 2004 Peckham Town Centre Community Council - Strategic Planning Group
Grot Spot Improvements Peckham improvements wish list
Renewal Scheme latest Bellenden Community Social – huge success
McDermott Grove Community Gardens
Neighbourhood Watch Community Council Meetings

7. October 2004
1. Bellenden Renewal Scrutiny 9. Bellenden Traffic
2. Rye Lane & Station Action Group 10. "Fantastic Fish Found in Peckham!”
3. Action Research Training for Residents 11. Looking at Books
4. Peckham Town Centre Developments, UDP & PAAP 12. Getting an email address
5. Tube & Tram to Peckham? 13. Email bulletins
6. Peckham Rye train timetable booklet 14 Peckham Community Network
7. Peckham Rye Village? 15. Community Councils
8. Police in Peckham Town Centre