Councillor for Blackheath
After the 2010 General Election I came back home and began my new role as Labour Councillor for Blackheath Ward in the London Borough of Lewisham. In 2014, I was re-elected this time alongside my Labour colleagues Amanda de Ryk and Gareth Siddorn.
It has been a great honour to represent an area I’ve known since childhood. Blackheath has a proud history of many great public events and popular uprisings ever since at least the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Today we are lucky to have one of the best open green spaces in London and even luckier to have a strong community that does so much to make our area such a lovely place to live.
Here are a few local issues in Blackheath:
Southeastern Train Franchise Consultation
Blackheath and Lewisham Stations are currently used by the Southeastern rail company, but its franchise is due to expire in 2018. The Government is currently consulting on the terms of the future franchise. The consultation document is here.
I have strong concerns in particular about question 17, which suggests as an example of ending direct services on the Bexleyheath line to Charing Cross and Victoria. Not only will this lengthen individual journey times, Lewisham Station already cannot cope well as an interchange station at present. Our MP Heidi Alexander has published her full response here.
Blackheath Village Library
Faced with £80 million cuts from the Coalition Government over 4 years (now even more), back in 2010 Lewisham Council planned to close 5 of its 12 libraries, including Blackheath Village Library in my ward. I presented a petition of over 6,000 signatures to the Council calling on it to keep a library service in Blackheath. The closures were then delayed, while I worked with local residents to come up with a solution, which became a new community library in the Age Exchange charity’s centre in Blackheath.
When plans were announced to place an anti-aircraft missile battery in Blackheath over the Olympics as well as an open-air festival around a giant TV, many residents were understandably concerned. I organised consultations on both events with the result that some changes were made and the whole period passed off as a great success.
The annual fireworks on Blackheath is London’s biggest free public display with about 100,000 visitors each year. When Greenwich Council decided to stop funding its share of the cost, I called on Lewisham Council to keep it going as a safe way to enjoy fireworks and to meet the funding shortfall by raising sponsorship and donations. This year’s display is due to take place on Saturday, 4 November 2017.
Blackheath Village Day
Blackheath residents meet four times a year at the Blackheath Assembly as provided by Lewisham Council. In 2014, residents voted public funds to restore Blackheath Village Christmas lights and have them switched on as part of Blackheath Village Day – a series of activities and entertainment to celebrate the life of Blackheath Village and support our local businesses. My colleague Amanda de Ryk has co-ordinated various local organizations, including Age Exchange, Blackheath Halls, the Blackheath Society and other volunteers and local businesses to make it a great day for thousands of local people.