Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Thames Tunnel

On Monday the 'Save Your Riverside Campaign' will be holding a public meeting at City Hall to discuss how to take forward the campaign to save Chambers Wharf, a site which Thames Water has continued to identify as a tunnelling site for the Thames Tunnel Supersewer.  Thames Water's preference for the site means that local residents and schools face the prospect of at least 7 years of 24 hour a day drilling and tunnelling works on a site just yards from their homes and schools.  Some have likened the proposed works as similar to having the Channel Tunnel main site outside their bedroom windows.

Thames Water had previously undertaken a consultation with regard to their proposed use of Chambers Wharf which had been met with a really cogent and well reasoned campaign.  It was incredibly disappointing that Thames Water appeared to pay absolutely no attention to that campaign or modify their proposals in any way.  Whilst the Tunnel is probably a necessity, it is certainly not necessary to blight peoples homes and lives for such an extensive period.  Other possibilities exist which mean that Chambers Wharf would either not have to be used at all or certainly not as a main drilling site.

Hopefully the public meeting can continue to concentrate the minds of Thames Water's bosses on finding a solution to this problem which at least demonstrates a spirit of compromise.  It is unacceptable for a publicly funded monopoly to act in a way which appears to take absolutely no account of the views of the people who they purport to serve.

A New Chief Executive for Southwark

In two weeks time Southwark's Council Assembly will have the opportunity to approve the appointment of Eleanor Kelly as the new Chief Executive of the Council.  Eleanor has been the Acting Chief Executive for the last 5 months and has been the Deputy Chief Executive at the Council since 2008 - an appointment by the previous council administration.

Eleanor brings real experience and knowledge to the role, with recent experience leading for the Council on some of our most important regeneration projects at the Elephant & Castle and the Aylesbury.  She will continue to have responsibility for regeneration in her new role.

What is most important is that Eleanor's appointment will be good news for the people of Southwark.  She has a passion and commitment for our borough which will mean that she will always go that extra mile to get the best deal and provide the best service for the borough's residents.  She will be a great appointment.

A Development Partner for the Aylesbury

Yesterday evening we launched our search for a development partner for the Aylesbury Estate.  For a project which is due to last over 20 years, with 4,200 homes to be built - 50% of which will be affordable housing - it is crucial that we have a strong partnership which can endure and create a new and exciting part of Walworth to replace the current Aylesbury Estate.

At the time it was built in the 1960's the Aylesbury was seen as the answer to many of the problems which existed in poor quality housing in the area.  Inside toilets and bathrooms were fairly revolutionary for the new residents of the estate, and the generous room sizes were in sharp contrast to the often cramped conditions in the houses that the blocks replaced.  But the answers which the Aylesbury provided were soon overshadowed by the problems which were inherent in the design of the huge monolithic and brutalist blocks.  The previous street pattern was replaced by long corridors and above-ground walkways, which paid little regard to the human desire to travel at ground level and have neighbours and communities within easy reach.

Since the mid-1990's the Council has sought to find a way of regenerating the Aylesbury to overcome those problems and its' negative image as a problematic crime-ridden estate.

Some of the early housing which has been built on the fringes of the Aylesbury has already begun to demonstrate how this part of Southwark can be transformed.  With so many developers and Registered Social Landlords interested in joining with us I hope that we will have a strong and competitive process over the next 18 months to find a partnership which will deliver a genuinely new sense of place and community.  With new outstanding schools already in the area, and with the massive investment in Burgess Park, which is due to reopen next month, I am confident that the best is definitely yet to come for the Aylesbury.