Monday, 24 February 2014

A very disappointing response about exploratory fracking in Streatham

We were hopeful that the campaign asking Lambeth to follow the example of other boroughs like Brent and Waltham Forest and declare itself a "No Fracking Zone" would be cross party. We said as much publicly. We were also very careful not to criticise the council, or the Labour Party which run it, but to encourage them to make a positive response. However, today Lambeth Labour Party put out a press release attacking Streatham Green Party.

The background to the issue can be found here. In summary, a licence has been issued by the Government which would allow exploratory fracking in the South Streatham area. The Government is also consulting on another licence covering the rest of Streatham (the consultation ends on 28th March). You can see if your home is in the area by visiting this website and entering your postcode.

No site has been identified, and consent would be required from Lambeth Council for it to go ahead, and that is why we launched a petition asking the Council to take action. The Government only issues licences on the basis that exploration will go ahead. With Government offering money to local councils, and London Mayor Boris Johnson saying he wants fracking to take place under London, we think Lambeth should rule fracking out now as other local authorities in London have done (see Brent's reasoning here which involves a commitment to look at the powers it might have to stop fracking in the future).

The petition launched a week ago has already gained a lot of local support.  Initially the signs were good that this would be a cross-party campaign. Streatham Labour party acknowledged that:

"There has rightly been growing concern amongst residents that fracking could come close to – or even effect – urban areas, including Streatham."

They rightly pointed out, as we did, that a number of criteria would need to be met for fracking to go ahead - including Local Authority consent.  They also claimed that Lambeth Council had ruled it out. Good news, we thought.  We had been straight with both the council and local people, and we hoped the Council had responded accordingly.   We asked for the source of the information - a policy paper, council decision or document, anything in fact - but nothing was forthcoming.

It was at this point that it emerged that the Council had known for months about the licence. It also emerged that no discussion had ever taken place in committee, council, or anywhere else. There was no "policy" after all.  This was a just a comment made to a journalist by a council member.  There was no official statement or other documentation.  Fracking hadn't actually ever formally been addressed.

Whether this was a source of embarrassment to Lambeth Labour Party isn't clear.  Labour Councillors may have suddenly realised that they had disclosed commercially sensitive information to their Party (that Lambeth might try to ban fracking) before any discussion in council or committee had taken place, and before any official Council statement on the subject had been made.  A political row would certainly distract from this. Or it may just be that Lambeth Labour were embarrassed by the fact that they had failed to tell local residents about something so important.  We just don't know.

Whatever the reason, many questions still remain unanswered:

1. Can Lambeth Council provide any official documents at all to show that it has assessed the possibility of fracking and its potential impact in Lambeth?

2. Has Lambeth Council made any assessment of what sites might be considered for exploratory fracking?

3. Has Lambeth Council taken any legal advice about how it might block fracking?

4. Why won't Lambeth Council follow the example of other boroughs and declare Lambeth a "Frack-Free Zone" ?

5. Why didn't Lambeth Council inform local people about the licence? Why hasn't it also, even now, told local people about the consultation concerning the new licence covering the rest of Streatham?

6. Why hasn't Lambeth Council told local people that the Government only issues licences on the basis that exploration will take place?

7. Does Lambeth Labour party no longer consider that Streatham residents are right to be concerned about the impact of fracking in Streatham?

8. Has Lambeth Council had any contact with Northdown Energy who own the licence covering the South of Streatham, or Alamo Energy their partner?

One thing is absolutely clear. The response of both Lambeth Council and Lambeth Labour Party has been a shambles, and will do nothing to reassure people in Streatham (without publication of both a proper council policy and legal advice).  Councillors should be straight, open and transparent with local people, stop playing politics with fracking and table a formal council motion to declare Lambeth a 'Frack Free Zone'.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Speeding on Streatham High Road

A couple of years ago, we looked at the huge number of collisions on Streatham High Road, particularly those involving cyclists.

Sadly, no segregated cycle lanes are being put in as part of the current works on the High Road in the area up towards Streatham Hill, even though local people asked for them. Instead cyclists are being told to use new enlarged bus lanes. Nor have Transport for London agreed to a 20mph limit on the High Road, to smooth the flow of traffic, cut noise and air pollution, and generally change the stop-start nature of the road. It would of course make it much safer and change the culture of the road.

We have now received from Transport for London (via London Assembly Darren Johnson's office) the data of average speeds on the High Road. This has been put into a graph by a local Lambeth cyclists (who didn't want any credit). This is what he came up with:

There are of course no signs to indicate what the speed limit is in this section. It is in fact 30mph.

Average speeds were measured by TfL over a week, just north of Streatham Hill, on both sides (northbound and southbound). Everything above the green area is over 30mph which shows about half of vehicles are speeding.

Remember, this is data on average speeds, not top speeds. Around one in five vehicles are averaging over 35 mph. Around one in twenty is averaging 40mph. Around one in fifty is well in excess of 40mph.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Sign the petition to stop Streatham being fracked

Jean Lambert MEP came to Streatham last weekend, following the astonishing news that a license allowing exploratory fracking which covers the south of Streatham, has been issued by the Government.

The information is contained in the latest House of Commons briefing note on fracking issued in January.

The Government is also currently consulting on issuing a licence covering the rest of Streatham as part of its 14th licensing round. The consultation ends on 28th March.

The Government only issues licenses of this kind on the understanding that exploration for oil and gas goes ahead.

If you want to see whether your address is in the potential fracking area you can visit this website here and enter your postcode.

Northdown Energy, a company based in Wimbledon, has been given the UK Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) number 245, which covers the south of Streatham and an area around it. The geological area the license covers is in the north of the ‘Weald Basin’, described by Alamo Energy as “hydrocarbon prolific”.

Two other companies - Eurenergy Resource Corporation and Celtique Energie – have announced plans to drill for shale gas elsewhere in the same Basin.

Director of Northdown Energy Alexander MacDonald previously worked in the North Sea for both Conoco and Chevron. The company has formed a partnership with Alamo Energy, a US based company with several large scale fracking projects across the US.

No site has yet been identified to frack, which is why Lambeth should be declared a frack-free zone now. Planning permission would be required for the fracking to go ahead, so the local authority has the power to block it.

The pressure to frack is only going to grow. Boris Johnson said in July last year he wanted fracking to take place under London (it already takes place around cities in the US) and the Government is introducing business rate subsidies to encourage local authorities to back it.

There would be little (if any) benefit to Streatham, but potentially huge disruption and harm if fracking goes ahead.

Fracking is an industrial process requiring hundreds of lorries, millions of gallons of water and thousands of chemicals, with huge threats to air quality and water contamination. Dangerously high levels of cancer-causing benzene has been found in the air of towns in Dallas near drilling wells. An average of 400 tanker trucks are required to carry water and supplies to and from the site. Not only does this lead to a huge increase in traffic but it also causes significant damage to roads. It would also likely scupper any chance of bringing the tube to Streatham.

People have no rights to benefit financially from the hydrocarbons under their land. There is a growing consensus that it won't bring about significant cuts in energy prices either, despite all the initial hype.

Please sign the petition urging Lambeth Council to declare Lambeth a "Frack-Free Zone" here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

New sign for Woodbourne Avenue

There was a missing Street sign at the corner of Woodbourne Avenue and Garrad's Road, so we got onto the council last year and asked if they would replace it.

They have just done so...

Monday, 10 February 2014

Potholes on Norfolk House Road and Kingscourt Road

We have been reporting and getting numerous potholes fixed along both Kingscourt Road and Norfolk House Road over the last couple of years. Both have now been added to the Council's resurfacing list (see here for more info).

The resurfacing is unlikely to take place until the next financial year (at the earliest). In the meantime Lambeth Council continue to be very slow to get them fixed. We reported several like the one pictured left on Norfolk House Road near Streatham High Road, and despite their size, they are taking weeks to get sorted out. The same is true on Kingscourt Road.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

No Junk Mail Stickers

A couple of weeks ago, we distributed about 4,000 'No Junk Mail' stickers to local residents, along with a flyer giving some tips on how to cut down on junk mail from various sources including Royal Mail. There is a good website which lists some of the ways you can do it here.

We have been back to see what the take up has been, and it seems that around a third of residents we gave them too are now displaying the stickers, which is a very good take up rate. In some flats (see the picture to the left) almost every resident has put them up on their post boxes.

We realise that they don't completely stop junk mail, but they do make a difference, particularly when used on conjunction with other ways of cutting out unwanted mail. (Incidentally, we also asked residents if they would prefer not to receive our literature through their doors. We are happy to report that no one asked not to receive our mailings!)

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Response from TfL about St Leonard's junction

We have received the following, very disappointing response, from Transport for London following its review of the St Leonard's junction. It seems to focus on efficiency and cost, rather than on making it safer.

"We have recently completed a study looking into the layout of the St Leonards junction to see if it may be feasible to improve its efficiency. This covered road users of all modes using the junction, including general vehicles, buses and other HGVs, cyclists, and pedestrians. Our study found that there are no easy options to make physical improvements. This junction is bounded by two historic churches and many shops, as well as being on a steep hill. These factors make infrastructure changes, such as widening the footways and carriageways or providing additional lanes, very challenging and expensive, and could not be justified under our current policies.

"The study also considered management of the existing space at the junction, by looking at lane markings and traffic signal timings. The existing high traffic flows at the peak hours use most of the available junction capacity and there is regular queuing. Therefore, options to improve matters are limited and would require allocation in favour of one particular set of users which would mean that conditions are far worse for the others. For example, increasing green light times for vehicles would lead to increased waiting times for pedestrians who are crossing, and could therefore not be justified when looking at the needs of all users in the round, rather than one particular group.

"However, there is a new timing review underway which is due to finish by March 2014. I hope the review will lead to some improvements in journey times for all users but regret that the options for large scale improvements appear limited at this location."

Monday, 3 February 2014

Blocked drains on Riggindale Road (and elsewhere)

With all the rain, its not surprising that there are quite a few blocked drains around, creating a lot of surface water which is causing a hazard for pedestrians and damaging local pavements and roads.

We have been going around identifying and reporting them. This picture was one of the most major we found, on Riggindale Road near the junction with Mitcham Lane, with water covering most of the pavement and a large part of the road.

This has been reported to Lambeth Council (not Thames Water as drains in the gutters are the Council's responsibility).