Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Thames Tunnel

Last night Thames Water came to speak to the Governors of Riverside Primary School about the likely impact of the Thames Tunnel super sewer. I am the Chair of Governors at Riverside School, which has been rated the 10th best primary school in the country by the Sunday Times.

Thames Water have purchased Chambers Wharf immediately adjacent to the school for £76.6 million and it is now their preferred site for major tunnelling works during the course of the construction of the Thames Tunnel. One tunnel will bore from the site whilst two other tunnels will arrive at the site. In short this means that an area of our borough's riverside will resemble a major industrial site for 7 years, with 24 hour tunnelling works going on for at least 3 years. 90 lorries a day are expected to rumble past the school, with thousands of millions of tons of excavated material will be transported away from the site. As the Headteachers of the school have commented, there will be generations of children attending the school who will never know a primary education without the sound of major industrial works and heavy industrial traffic just feet away from their classroom.

The proposals from Thames Water are unacceptable. The site will be a blight on our borough and will jeopardise the success of Riverside and other local schools. I simply do not know how residents who live adjacent to the site, and who bought their homes believing that Chambers Wharf would be developed as housing, will cope with the massive disruption.

There are alternative solutions available. The Channel Tunnel was constructed without "stopping-off" points being constructed along the way. Hybrid boring machines exist which could do the job. Thames Water admit this, although a hybrid machine is not their preferred approach. They would prefer to blight an area, schools and residents who live next to Chambers Wharf.

There is still time to object to these proposals - please do so at

Charter School Admissions

Congratulations to local parents and campaigners for their victory in ensuring that the Charter School has to take account of safe walking routes to school in determining how close children live to the School for admissions purposes. For years the Charter have argued that Greendale is not a proper walking route to the school, which has meant that the calculated distance for children living on Champion Hill and East Dulwich Estates has been much further than the most direct route. As a result lots of children from those two parts of South Camberwell have missed out on places at the school.

The Charter School is a Southwark success story. From being an unpopular and failing school it is now regarded as one of the best state schools in our borough. So it is important that those children who actually live closest to the school should be able to benefit from and share in that success by attending Charter for their secondary education.

This is good news for South Camberwell and I have no doubt will be good news for the Charter School.

UPDATE - the route which Charter was failing to take account of was the road between Wanley Rd and Dylways. If Charter School had adopted a straight line approach to admissions - which is the method used in all local authority schools - this issue would never have arisen.

Cycling in Southwark

Over 2 months since I blogged, but a good time to talk about cycling in Southwark after the debate which we held at Council Assembly last week on the environment and transport.

Curiously the Labour Administration was accused of being anti-cyclist during the course of the debate by our Lib Dem opponents - which on the basis of the facts is simply not an accurate description. Firstly, our current target of increasing cycling from 3% of journeys to 4% across the borough is merely a continuation of the previous Administration's target. So if it wasn't good enough for the Lib Dems why didn't they do something about it during the 8 years they were in power? To my mind it is not a particularly ambitious target and I would like to see us revisit it very soon.

But I recognise that if we are going to persuade people to cycle and really increase the number of journeys made by bike, we need to make the routes for cyclists around the borough as safe as possible. That is why we met with Southwark Cyclists last week to discuss their plans for linking up parts of the borough with safe cycling routes, and why I will be meeting up with other cycling representatives in the near future to discuss their constructive proposals.

As a borough there is some good work which we are doing for cycling. As an Administration we have spent or allocated £2.677 million on cycling in the last 20 months and plan to spend nearly another £4 million on cycling infrastructure. One third of the money allocated from TfL to us gets spent on cycling and we have recently completed 100 metres more of safe cycle route on Southwark Park Road. We have installed 174 cycle lockers on housing estates and created over 1500 new spaces for on street cycle parking. A good start - but I recognise there is a lot more to do.

Cycling is a healthy and should be a safe form of transport around our capital city. My ambition is to see Southwark lead the way in delivering safe cycle routes and I look forward to working with cyclists to deliver on that ambition.