I was delighted to see last week that Severndroog Castle on Shooters Hill has received Lottery Funding towards its long-awaited restoration. I have been a supporter of the project and the Preservation Trust's work since I fought my ill-fated by-election campaign in Shooters Hill ward in 2004. I still remember when, shortly after moving to the area, I stumbled across the Castle, having had no idea it was there.
Since then there has been the "Restoration" TV programme which raised awareness of Severndroog's plight, more funding bids, and now finally it looks like the plans will become a reality. It is truly a hidden gem which deserves to be fully enjoyed by local people, and if you've ever been there on one of the Trust's open days when it is open to visitors, the queues are testament to it's popularity. The views from the roof are stunning, even for someone like me who isn't good with heights!
Simon Emmett, one of the Conservative candidates in Shooters Hill, along with Maureen Burgess and Richard Chandler, have been been supportive of the campaign to get the Castle restored, and have highlighted the sad fact that it was the Labour Council who allowed it to fall into disrepair in the first place. In Eltham North we have a particularly personal link with its history, as my colleague Cllr. Dermot Poston used to work there during the school holidays when he was young, with duties including raising the flag in the mornings!
The Trust still need to raise the remaining funding, and I urge people to help out the "sponsor a brick" campaign.
Nigel Fletcher - Dale & Co.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Oh No! Coe and NoGOE go toe to toe
Sorry, couldn't resist that headline. Last night's meeting of the Planning Board, to consider the application to use Greenwich Park for the London 2012 Olympics, was always going to be a big event. There were protesters from the NoGOE group outside, singing "we shall not be moved", and hundreds of people crowded into the Public Hall, where the meeting was held. It was a marathon, rather than a sprint - running from 6.30pm until well after 11pm, starting with a presentation from officers, then time for members of the public and relevant groups to speak either in favour or against the application, and finally a presentation by the Olympics team, led by Lord Coe himself.
I personally spoke in favour of the application, noting that although there are some concerns which I share, LOCOG have gone a long way to meeting them, and the support of English Heritage, the Royal Parks Agency and the National Maritime Museum makes clear those agencies are satisfied it will not lead to lasting damage of the Park. I pointed out the strict planning condition which were being attached to deal with the issue of access, damage, legacy and so on, and urged the Board therefore to give their (conditional) consent.
The Board eventually gave their support by 10 votes to 2, and so the onus is now on LOCOG to live up to the promises they made. Lord Coe began his presentation by asking the Council to "trust us". People will rightly be looking for that trust to be repaid. I have set out Greenwich Conservatives' position in a statement today:
“Whatever your view of the plans, it was right that the views of residents were properly heard by Lord Coe and his team, and by the Council. I want to see that public engagement continuing now that the application has been approved, including as many residents as possible. After last night there can be no doubt how much people love the Park. We will continue doing everything we can to ensure there is no damage to it as a result of LOCOG’s plans, and to ensure the Games are good for Greenwich.”
As I say, I believe there needs to be greater public involvement in the detailed preparations, and I'll be pressing that point at the full Council meeting tonight. But overall, I remain pleased that we are hosting the Games, and lending our beautiful park to the world, as someone put it last night. As long as the Council, LOCOG, and residents all play their part, I am sure we can make a great success of it.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Knees-up in a brewery
I was delighted to attend the official opening last night of the 'Discover Greenwich' visitor centre at the Old Royal Naval College, which has been renovated and improved in a multi-million pound project. It includes a new micro-brewery, echoing the one that existed on the site hundreds of years ago for residents of the Naval Hospital. Mayor of London Boris Johnson did the honours, announcing that it was, of course, proof that people can still organise a knees-up in a brewery. He then dutifully pulled a pint or two for the cameras. The centre is a big improvement on what was there before, with exhibits interpretting the rich history of the world heritage site. I can't do it justice on here, but the 853 blog has some great pictures.
On the campaign trail
Although Gordon Brown has yet officially to declare it, the election campaign is to all intents and purposes underway already. Having fixed the blogging function on my phone, I can report that in Eltham our activity is well advanced and we've stepped up the pace since the New Year. On Saturday in Eltham North our Parliamentary candidate David Gold and I were joined by London Assembly member James Cleverly and many other activists for some canvassing in the pouring rain (or, as I inadvertently but aptly put on Twitter, 'canvassinging in the rain...'). It's a cliche to say we're getting a good response on the doorstep, but it is true. Many people feel very let down by politics in general though, and we all have our work cut out to convince them to give the Conservatives the chance to make the changes the country and our Borough needs.
Learning the lessons of history
On a Friday earlier this month I went on a trip to Medway with Cllr Harry Singh (Chairman of Sustainable Communities scrutiny panel) and Cllr Mary Mills, who is working with me on a scrutiny review of the Borough's heritage. We had a really interesting, if busy, day- meeting with Medway's council officers to discuss how they manage and promote their heritage, then were taken on a whistle-stop tour of the museum in Rochester and then Chatham dockyard, which I've wanted to visit for a long time. We got lots of ideas and will now have to get on with writing our report before we run out of time and the election is upon us. With so much party politics inevitably around now, it was good to take some time out for some cross-party work on a subject that is so important for us in Greenwich. And it's always enjoyable hearing Mary, who is of course a noted local historian, telling the experts things they didn't know!