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Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 01:24 pm:   

(Sorry to start a new tread on Bell Green, but I hope this will incorporate more than just Bell Green)

I am not sure where the reality rests between the debate on the development of Forest Hill, Sydenham etc... So far comments on Bell Green here and on have been sided very much against the development. That is fine, it is an opinion. But since there are three sides to an argument--mine, yours and the truth--where is the truth about Forest Hill town centre and Bell Green.


The Bell Green retail park is expected to take £3 million in business from Forest Hill and Sydenham.

1.Where does this figure come from? How was it calculated?

From what I've read, the park will contain a Homebase, a drive-thru resturant (??McDonalds??) housing and parking.

2.Which businesses in Forest Hill (I don't know that much about Sydenham) are expected to be effected?--Is Bell Green going to incorporate a giant hairdresser or pizza takeaway place, will it have row apoon row of boarded up shops? (sorry to be flippant)

3.If investment in the high street should be more important--what should be done?

4.If Forest Hill shops complain that they can't sustain businesses because the red-route, South Circular runs through the centre of town, isn't it wise to move retail establishments to where there is parking?

5. What is wrong with extra free parking?

6. Are extra jobs needed in the borough?

7. Why is public opinion against Bell Green, but for the Sainsbury's expansion?

8. It is nice to believe that everyone wants to buy their organic produce from a corner market that's been in same family for 80 years--but we don't live in that world anymore. I bought my garden shed from Wicks, not Sam-Bri (they don't even sell sheds or weather stripping, but that's another story) Why did the farmers' market stop making a stop in Forest Hill--did they have too many customers or too few?

9. Is the council considering improving public transport to Bell Green to help with traffic problems--such as run the 356 bus more often than every 20 min.?

Sorry to be so long. I would just like to hear more information that just "we have to fight Bell Green!"

10. Why should we fight?

11. Can we have Bell Green AND an improved Forest Hill and Sydenham?

For my part, I am not sure if I am for or against Bell Green. I can't see why a Homebase would be so terrible. But I hate seeing Forest Hill centre neglected.

Please just debate this issue and do not attack me personally. I haven't attacked anyone personally.

Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 02:29 pm:   

Elizabeth, does not have a view on the BG development. It is independent in this issue, party political stuff and tries to be fair and involve all sides of anything controversial.

I tried to report last night's events skeptically but impartially. I would be interested to read where you feel it was biased so I can review and correct if necessary.

I welcome articles which take any well argued view of the BG development. I hope you will contribute.

Please accept my assurance that there is no agenda other than to report & inform as fairly as possible.
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 02:52 pm:   

If was just some of language and phrases used seamed to me to betray a preference against the Bell Green development.

The following paragraph comcerned me:

"They pressed their case on the grounds of creating 500 new jobs and that Lewisham was 'undershopped'. This latter point was based on studies which showed that most residents earned their money 'out of borough' and spent it 'out of borough'. Only 34% of retail spend was made in borough and this was related to the lack of retail parks. Lewisham had only half that of Bromley or Croydon and a quarter that of Greenwich.

This, they claimed, needed to be ameliorated. They didn't say why."

Specifically these three phrases-
"They pressed their case..."
"...they claimed..."
"They didn't say why."

I'm sorry, I'm a journalist. If I was editing this I would take out "They pressed their case..." the language is biased. Using a word like "stated" instead of "pressed" would have been a bit more objective.

Also using a word like "claimed" is a bit difficult. It means to assert or to take or posses. When used in place of "said" it puts doubt on the speaker. Like, for example, he "claimed" to have been abducted by aliens. It would be have been better to have used "said".

Also the phrase "They didn't say why" at the end. If the council is saying that money is leaving the borough and a retail park should be built so money stays in the borough--isn't that the reason? Also That phrase seamed a bit spitefull, like the council refused to say anything more. It would have been more objective to say--"the council did not elaborate further on this issue"

I hope that is clear.
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 03:49 pm:   

Thanks Elizabeth for your response. I am not a journalist as my spelling/grammar well demonstrates ;-)

I used the word 'pressed' deliberately. To report a 30 minute presentation in two paragraphs implies I can only select that which I understood Castlemore considered the crucial decision points. These were the points Castlemore emphasised (pressed) rather than those just stated. I was trying to be fair to them.

The 'out of borough' spend issue was, I thought, of particular interest to those who favour the BG development. It appeared that the figure of around 66% was accepted by all. The case they did not make was why this is bad/needs to be increased. This made this crucial decision point incomplete. Not right, not wrong - just incomplete.

It is hard in the middle of the night after a heavy day's work to get everything as clear and concise as I would wish. Would somebody like to make it my 'day' job? Nevertheless I feel a speedy report is better than a perfect report.

It may be my fault that you misunderstood my use of English and for that I apologise. But as a journalist surely it is incorrect to use nuance of language to make a definitive charge of bias?

Actually when it comes to the issue itself I doubt we are that far apart in accepting the good solid reasons to approve and those to reject the BG plan. I seek to dig these out, question them (when I can) and make them public.

How individuals balance them out to decide to approve/oppose is up to them. I hope they are as skeptical of my language as I am of the evidence.

Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 05:45 pm:   


I support your double edged view - as much as I support Forest Hill centre, there is generally insufficient business during the day to sustain a large number of shops, and the A205 is likely to get busier. It's not a area that anyone will want to spend time unless something radical is done. Like the redevelopment of the station area, to use another old chestnut.

Latitude resto was exactly what everyone has been going on about needing, but it looks on its last legs and is often empty...
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 05:49 pm:   

... I'm not defeatist about this, but we need to be realistic about what the town centre can offer. The shops that survive will need to be flexible and offer something special...
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Friday, 17 June, 2005 - 05:52 pm:   

... not try to compete with Homebase. Shannon's is doing this very effectively in my view.

Joined 09-06-2005
Posted on Saturday, 18 June, 2005 - 12:24 am:   

Les - I don't agree with your view that Forest Hill as a shopping centre really doesn't stand much chance of radical revival - and that the busy South Circular makes it almost impossible to make any meaningful improvements.

Take a look at what has happened to two other local shopping streets in the last ten years - Lordship Lane and the Crystal Palace "triangle". Both were thought to be beyond hope and yet they now both have a vibrant retail scene containing some excellent shops and restaurants. Both of them lie on busy streets (remember Crystal Palace revived at a time before the new one way system when traffic was practically at a standstill throughout much of the day). Routes clogged with traffic are not the determining factor in why an area has good shops - if it was, Knightsbridge wouldn't have any shops at all!
Clearly socio-economic factors are one major reason for revival(C Palace and the area around Lordship Lane are very much more wealthy than they were ten years ago). There is every reason to believe that Forest Hill could enjoy the same success. But while you have a local authority who are not willing to support Forest Hill and are slowly erecting the largest retail park in the borough just down the road, you have a very much reduced chance of such a revival.
Have faith - if you believe in a strong local community and want to build it, support the redevelopment of your local area. What the Bell Green development represents is an atomised, individualistic world which is strongly anti-community. That's why I'm opposed to it.
Joined 14-01-2005
Posted on Saturday, 18 June, 2005 - 06:56 pm:   

I have been slightly baffled by the strength of feeling against the bell green development. You would think that they are planning on knocking down a Grade 1 listed building to build an open sewage works. Fact is that the place is an eyesore and needs redevelopment, if its not for retail use it would be flats – same problems would occur with increased traffic.

Forest Hill town centre is already getting some investment with the building of a large new Sainsbury’s (who incidentally clearly don’t see the far larger store at Bell Green as a threat to its existence), but the rest of the shops will have to and are adapting to essential goods and services for a local clientele. Who really does, or could do all off their shopping in the town centre? Homebase simply aren’t going to branch out and take on the numerous Estate Agents, Hairdressers and Pubs in Forest Hill.

Instead of just saying no, no, no – how about some constructive, realistic ideas as to what could be there instead. Personally I would prefer a few more retail ‘sheds’ than a desolate, rusty disused gas works.
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Saturday, 18 June, 2005 - 11:28 pm:   

I think Sainsburys own Homebase. So there is no competition from it. But there is a Homebase in Bromley Road. Is there enough business for another one so close?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Sunday, 19 June, 2005 - 10:07 am:   

There is also another Homebase in Penge- even closer.

I do think the priority should be to addrees the issues of Forest Hill town centre before approving the new Bell Green development. Someone has mentioned Crystal Palace and Lordship Lane- both parking nightmares, but these are where we go if we want a nice meal locally- there is enough of a significant cluster to make a trip worthwhile. I do not see why Forest Hill could not be similar, provided there are some quality restaurants. I do think the economic spending power of Forest Hill residents is not at strong as Upper Norwood or around East Dulwich, where properties are more expensive. Forest Hill suffers from an image problem. A few years ago East Dulwich was a dump. Lets see if we can turn it around, however the Council need to be on side.
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 22 June, 2005 - 12:06 pm:   

An alternate report on the 'shambolic' planning committee meeting can be read here:
Joined 09-06-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 22 June, 2005 - 11:02 pm:   

Hi Nate
Just to let you know that the Sydenham Society and the local residents who objected at last week's planning meeting are not against everything that is proposed for the the Bell Green site - we are all in favour of housing and employment, but what we don't want is an expanded retail park that will take trade from Forest Hill, Sydenham and Catford, gridlock on our roads and a drive-in fast-food restaurant. At the public inquiry into the phase 3 site in 2003 we argued long and hard for the site to be used partly for employment; and recently, with advances in building technology, we have advocated ways of putting eco-friendly housing there (we are all inspired by the BedZed development at Sutton). Love them or loathe them, there are no plans to demolish the gas-holders as they are currently in use by British Gas. The kind of 'big-box' development promoted by Lewisham as the solution to the Bell Green site is, we believe, an anachronism - as one of the councillors said last week, it would not have been out of place in 1985. Surely Lewisham's planners can come up with something more imaginative - and which has sustainability at its heart?
Joined 03-06-2005
Posted on Thursday, 23 June, 2005 - 10:32 am:   

Can I take issue with Nate who argues that houses or flats built at Bell Green are just the same as retail sheds, particularly since they also produce extra traffic. It's certainly true that extra households mean some extra traffic overall but places like Savacentre and Homebase encourage many extra car journeys compared to residential streets. Five minutes spent in the Savacentre Car Park compared to a local street would surely show this. The other reason that we should support residential over retail sheds is that our community desperately needs extra places for people to live (particularly the type of low-cost housing for key employees encouraged by the proposal at Bell Green). We have a choice - either extra housing is built on green field sites all over southern England or we make use of brown field sites such as Bell Green. I know which I would choose. Give me housing rather than retail sheds every time. And the local residents from Perry Rise and Selworthy Road who spoke at the planning meeting on Thursday fully endorsed this view.
Joined 18-04-2005
Posted on Thursday, 23 June, 2005 - 01:50 pm:   

I agree that Bell Green retail would probably be a total disaster for other business's although also I agree with Elizabeth's current view of SE 23 retail scene.
I would support decent shops in SE 23 ( infact regular supporter of well known chemist and health food shops in Dartmouth Rd ).
I know we lost an excellent Optician recently in Dartmouth Road because , they claimed the landlord was wanting a huge increase. So now the shop is empty.
We want good local shops which people can WALK to not huge retail parks. I am a car driver but never use the car for journeys under 2 miles or so.All able bodied locals should do the same.
Joined 14-01-2005
Posted on Thursday, 23 June, 2005 - 08:27 pm:   

Personally, I would like to see investment into Forest Hill town centre as a priority, and actively support local shops, bars etc as far as possible. The thought of a massive homebase hardly excites me, but I'm just not convinced that a range of cheap garden sheds is the final nail in the coffin for Forest Hill town centre. Why are Sainsbury's expanding in the centre of town despite their store at Bell Green not to mention Stanstead road, East Dulwich etc. Neither am I convinced that there would be a huge increase in traffic. Several people have pointed out the number of other homebase stores in the area – people from outside the immediate vicinity are not going to make a day trip of visiting this one.

Bottom line is the site needs developing and unless a huge government grant appears no one is going to come along and build an entire site of sociable housing there – the developer will rightly want their profit. Even if a developer made say 20% of flats for affordable housing, who on earth is going to pay market rate for a flat on a disused gas site overlooking a huge Sainsbury’s and its car park - each to their own I suppose.

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