Council housing and the Sydenham Society

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TredownMan
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Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by TredownMan » 20 Jan 2018 14:42

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Last edited by TredownMan on 27 Jul 2018 10:01, edited 2 times in total.

stuart
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by stuart » 20 Jan 2018 16:03

First - I want to say what a valuable job SydSoc does in scrutinising enormous amounts of documentation. A lot of good people giving freely of their time for what they view as the good of the community. I don't think we would be looking forward to the re-opening of the Greyhound without them. I've seen them at work and and the good they can do.

But I resigned from the Society precisely over representations like this. Made in our name without any consultation within the Society or without. Plus not in conformance with any agreed policy but solely on the particular subjective worldview of the few individuals concerned.

I continue to hope, like you, that SydSoc does become more transparent and inclusive in their decision making. I really would want to re-join if I felt it was doing so. I think they are well aware of my viewpoint.

Stuart

JamesS
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by JamesS » 20 Jan 2018 16:09

Couldn't agree more. Sydenham Society seems to represent only one minority demographic yet seems to have a disproportionately significant influence over local decisions, and planning decisions especially.

A large part of that of course will be because they put the effort in, rather than anything underhand. They are engaged with local politics, understand the system and take the time to make representations (which are well argued even if only from their POV.) So I suppose the question really should be whether another voluntary group should be formed that can perform a similar role as the Society but hopefully with a more representative set of views. This forum has been very good at identifying opportunities for and encouraging engagement in the local decision making process (e.g. Nandos and the yoga business). Making we could seek to put that on a standing footing?

TredownMan
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by TredownMan » 20 Jan 2018 16:36

JamesS wrote:Couldn't agree more. Sydenham Society seems to represent only one minority demographic yet seems to have a disproportionately significant influence over local decisions, and planning decisions especially.

A large part of that of course will be because they put the effort in, rather than anything underhand. They are engaged with local politics, understand the system and take the time to make representations (which are well argued even if only from their POV.) So I suppose the question really should be whether another voluntary group should be formed that can perform a similar role as the Society but hopefully with a more representative set of views. This forum has been very good at identifying opportunities for and encouraging engagement in the local decision making process (e.g. Nandos and the yoga business). Making we could seek to put that on a standing footing?
That's a very interesting idea. So often the long-standing anti- voices are heard (who are perfectly entitled to their views) but people who'd welcome more housing, more shops and restaurants and new neighbours don't speak out so things don't happen.

There's a growing 'Yimby' movement in Southwark and Hackney who let their councils know when projects ARE welcome and encourage them to give the green light. Perhaps we should do the same here?

Pally
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Pally » 20 Jan 2018 22:04

It is pretty shocking that the social housing is being disputed when there is such a need ...and a perfectly feasible development too.

Rachael
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Rachael » 20 Jan 2018 23:26

Or, everyone join Syd Soc to make their membership more representative and provide strength in numbers to overhaul their constitution (or enforce it if it is being flouted) and make sure representations in the society’s name are not made arbitrarily by a few members.

stuart
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by stuart » 21 Jan 2018 13:01

Rachael,

The problem is not numbers or the range of views. I was one of 1100 members with many like minded ones. I presume its still around that number today. The problem is how the 1,000 or so are integrated into the decision making process. A particular difficulty is that most probably cannot spend anything like the amount of time the Exec Council can do. And a feeling of 'we do the work, we understand the system best, so our view counts more' is a logical and not unexpected outcome anywhere.

Bottom-up revolutions tend to be bloody and generally fail. I think most of us have better things to do with our precious time. Hence, change, if change is needed really ought to come from the top. Ceding power is always hard. I really don't think ceding power to people like me looks particulary attractive to them (hence I wouldn't get involved unless invited). But if they don't do it the disconnect with parts of the community will just grow with everybody just bad-mouthing each other.

I've had enough of that.

This we surely don't want. Hence if you are frustrated with SydSoc then instead of fighting them - is it not best to look for what they are NOT doing - and do it! You may even get their support. Nothing breeds success like success so focus on something specific and achievable and do it as an action group.

That's my tuppence worth.

Stuart

PS It should be noted that the planning proposal was approved despite SydSoc's deeply disturbing objection which is good news for those in desperate need of social housing. But a lot, lot more is needed and the good burghers of Sydenham should surely be happy to be part of the solution?

Sydenham
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Sydenham » 21 Jan 2018 14:37

It should be noted (in the interests of fairness) that two councillors also spoke out against aspects of the detailed development proposals and one on the planning committee also voted against the details. So not just the Sydenham Society objecting. Quite interesting reading the reports - thanks for posting the links.

Also that the objection by Sydenham Society was not to any development per se but only to specific details of the scheme and that the planning committee agreed to put further conditions on the plans accepted in response to concerns raised. I'd hate for people reading this thread to get the impression that the Sydenham Society objects to social housing - certainly this report doesn't suggest that.

So all in all it seems that the process by which these things are agreed worked as intended - plans were proposed; objections and suggestions were considered; plans updated to reflect and the development moved on.

So good compromises all around and a demonstration of how local input is considered.

TredownMan
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by TredownMan » 21 Jan 2018 14:58

Sydenham wrote:Also that the objection by Sydenham Society was not to any development per se but only to specific details of the scheme and that the planning committee agreed to put further conditions on the plans accepted in response to concerns raised. I'd hate for people reading this thread to get the impression that the Sydenham Society objects to social housing - certainly this report doesn't suggest that.
So often the way.

Everyone supports "more housing" in theory. But this development will cause traffic. Or that development will be near my garden. Or this plan will allow social tenants to “overlook" children in the playground...(?).

The truth is there is a housing crisis, which is disastrous for very poor people but is hitting the young workers with good incomes too, and the planning process allows for binary inputs: as a homeowner, can either get behind schemes in your own neighbourhood that will increase house supply for other people, or you can bombard the council with objections that gums up the process, sees schemes cut back, or if you drive the costs up enough, abandoned altogether.

Either way, surely this sort of misunderstanding is an excellent reason why the Sydenham Society should open up its decision making for public scrutiny.

stuart
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by stuart » 21 Jan 2018 15:33

Sydenham wrote:I... that the planning committee agreed to put further conditions on the plans accepted in response to concerns raised.
Including the objection based the overseeing of a playground?

Is SydSoc aware that there does not appear to be a problem elsewhere in Sydenham where four storey council housing (right) is in even closer proximity with a primary school play area (left)? Is not proximity a real boon to the parents and kids who can walk not drive to school? What exactly is the problem at Adamsrill? Did the SydSoc objector realise his words were open to a range of unfortuneate interpretations?

And who is paying for the imposition of the screening condition? Council taxpayers and/or tenants? Will this make the kids or resident's outlook more or less attractive?

Image

bensonby
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by bensonby » 22 Jan 2018 18:52

Why did it close down in the first place? I thought we had an ageing population and that sheltered accommodation is in demand?

I did pass it on Saturday and it did appear to be an eyesore and a waste of space.

TredownMan
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by TredownMan » 22 Jan 2018 20:57

bensonby wrote:Why did it close down in the first place? I thought we had an ageing population and that sheltered accommodation is in demand?

I did pass it on Saturday and it did appear to be an eyesore and a waste of space.
According to the council it was found no longer fit for purpose - too small for wheelchairs, shared bathrooms and so on. Folk were moved to other homes in the borough.

While we're on the subject of elderly provision though - turns out that faces the gauntlet too. There was a proposed, recently rejected to allow Abbeyfield the old people's charity to knock down a 3-storey 1980s extension up on Sydenham Hill and build a new 5-storey wing for 40 flats for dementia patients. But it fell foul of the SydSoc and other neighbours.

"Whilst the Sydenham Society acknowledges the need for the specialist accommodation provided by Abbeyfield, in our view the development proposed is totally inappropriate in respect of its height, bulk, scale and massing and will not enhance the setting of the locally listed Highfield House... The proposed new development, if permitted, will be overbearing and unneighbourly, will lead to a sense of enclosure and will adversely reduce the light and views currently enjoyed by all residents." And so on and so forth...

Beninahurry
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Beninahurry » 23 Jan 2018 18:02

Evening everyone
It's a real shame of the negative view some people have on the involvement of the Sydenham Society, but it's good that views are aired so they can be considered and improvements made.

As some of you know, I work alongside other volunteers on the Sydenham Society although my time is sparse sadly due to other commitments. I am not involved in planning or can comment on your posts though!

There is a definite need for social housing in our area and the Society have mentioned this to our local MP who raised the issue today at parliament (you can read more on Ellie's Twitter account). You'll also note the objection to Bell Green which was made as there are other options including social housing which would be preferable to another supermarket.

In regards to new housing and development in Sydenham, there is a consultation event at the Lovely Gallery, 140 Sydenham Rd, this Thursday to hear residents' views on the planning application at 154-158 Sydenham Rd. Please come along to see the plans, ask questions and have your voice heard. You can see more details on the Society Facebook and Twitter feed.

I'd also encourage you all to email chair@ Sydenham Society with your opinions and views and suggestions for how things can be improved. Equally, if you would like to volunteer time and assistance to improving our local area then the Society would love to hear from you. Everyone in Sydenham ultimately wants the same thing which is an improved neighbourhood for everybody.

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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by stuart » 23 Jan 2018 19:09

Beninahurry wrote:It's a real shame of the negative view some people have on the involvement of the Sydenham Society, but it's good that views are aired so they can be considered and improvements made.
Hi - I don't know if you are labelling my views as negative. If you did - that would be a shame. Critical - yes - but as a critical friend. That's the nub, how does SydSoc handle criticism or a diversity of views from a mixed community?

Not very well is the honest message. I think a fair number of folks within the Society suspect as much. Is there a better way? I hope so - a civic society that doesn't represent the community is in danger of not achieving what it might. So I would have thought reform is in the Society's best interest. So its over to you tom show that in some way.

You have a lot of potential friends. Thinking them enemies is not helpful.

Stuart

Pally
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Pally » 23 Jan 2018 19:25

Stuart, I thought your first post explaining why you left the society whilst also acknowledging the good work that is done was measured, balanced and fair. Your reply to Ben is the same.

It is true that on this forum some criticism is not so well expressed but if the phraseology is bypassed and the message heard, there really is a genuine keenness to move forward but also a real sense that the SS is not representative of local views and an apparent lack of trust towards the key players within the Society. That may not be fair, but it does clearly suggest that something is going wrong in the SS engagement with the community...yes there is a newsletter etc which is great ...but ...?? Also it is wonderful that individuals are willing to give up their time...but the fact that time is given voluntarily can so easily become a means of responding with a "barbed" tone, to others who may not, for whatever reason, be able to volunteer but who are nevertheless genuinely interested

Ben - it is really good that you try to engage with the Forum on behalf of the SS in a positive way ...do you think that Stuart's message about a consideration of what seems to arise as an issue pretty regularly, might be considered in a constructive way?

TredownMan
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by TredownMan » 23 Jan 2018 20:37

Thanks for your message Ben

I have one really simple proposal: the Sydenham Soc should publish its submissions to planning applications on its website.

The SydSoc has a privileged role in the planning process which no private resident enjoys - it has early access to proposals and its views are given weight by the council that other complainants do not receive.

But how can the body claim to be the "voice" of the community, if the community doesn't know what is being said in its name? Or has little chance to give its view?

It's not just these big developments - the Abbeyfield home, the Windmill and social housing which affect everyone. Is it right (as we know is the case) that the Syd Society lodges objections to halt people's applications for kitchen extensions or basements on purely aesthetic grounds with no transparency around the process? How can it be right that we only find out about this by reading council minutes?

A good start would be to reveal what the SydSoc's submission to the 154 Sydenham Road application is going to be.

Beninahurry
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Beninahurry » 24 Jan 2018 09:02

Morning all
Thanks for the replies!
The feedback can certainly be taken constructively and there are some good suggestions for how things can improve. I for one do not think anyone on here as an enemy! It's great you're expressing your views and suggesting ways for improvement. It's much better to pipe up than just put up with something if you're unhappy! My thoughts are the Society could set a framework which is shared and explains the focus and priority in the local area. I think there are some other initiatives like people suggest which can be considered too.

My replies here are my personal ones rather than speaking on behalf of the Society, but I am relaying the suggestions and my thoughts for improvement. I do encourage you to email the society direct with your recommendations too please. Oh and please don't email them as the SS! :lol:
Have a great day
Ben

Pally
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Pally » 24 Jan 2018 14:43

Beninahurry wrote:Morning all
Thanks for the replies!
......Oh and please don't email them as the SS! :lol:
Have a great day
Ben
Oops! Good point! :D :lol:

TredownMan
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by TredownMan » 27 Jan 2018 09:40

Beninahurry wrote:My thoughts are the Society could set a framework which is shared and explains the focus and priority in the local area. I think there are some other initiatives like people suggest which can be considered too.

Ben - I have one further suggestion that I wonder if you might consider.

As well as needing more transparency/consultation generally on development, and a clear framework and criteria by which planning submissions are made, it strikes me that it’s really essential that the Syd Soc has a clear public framework for how it handles planning applications by local people, particularly when they themselves may be a member of the society.

We know for example that Syd Soc frequently objects to people wishing to extend their kitchens or convert a basement. No small deal when you consider how big an investment that can be.

But this is a small community - so what are the internal rules for determining how to handle a case if the planning applicant is a general member of the Syd Soc, or is a friend of the committee, or as is sometimes the case is a member of the Society’s committees themselves? And what is the formal process for dialogue with the applicant and ensuring there are no conflicts of interest or subjective factors coming into play when assessing such applications?

I’m sure such rules of procedure exist but it would be good for them to be public.
Thanks!

Sydenham
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Re: Council housing and the Sydenham Society

Post by Sydenham » 29 Jan 2018 16:50

Forum messages are sometimes taken to mean something different to what the original poster intended (either by accident, or to 'push a point'). This is the nature of one way communication - when you can't hear / see the other parties in the discussion.

It's also the same with the process and nature of planning applications. Raising objections to a submitted planning proposal does not necessarily mean that you do not want the scheme in principle to go ahead - only that there are some points of it that you 'object' to.

Unfortunately this language has a negative effect as it means one has to talk (for example) about person 'x' objecting to person 'y's plans. This objection can range from one where there is a fundamental objection to the proposal in principle to, at the other extreme, querying the type / colour tile on an extension roof. They are all classed as objections. This sometimes doesn't help mature conversation between neighbours and those with differing views, but it is the system we have today as far as planning is concerned so we're stuck with it - the planning committee has to work its way through the varying points of view.

So when discussing planning there are at least two potential points that can create misunderstanding between those involved. It's something to bear in mind when talking about this subject on a forum such as this.

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