Canada Water Library has received two prestigious awards in the space of a month: a 2013 EDGE Award in the physical category and a Civic Trust Award.

“We are thrilled to have won two notable awards,” said Cllr Veronica Ward, cabinet member for culture, leisure, sport, the Olympic Legacy and volunteering.

“The iconic building has been a resounding success and has helped renew excitement about libraries. The library has been seen over half a million visitors since opening, and is on course to hit the one million mark later on this year.”

“As well as being a stunning piece of architecture the library is also a great community asset, as these awards show. We plan to build on our successes and continue to deliver a library service in line with the needs of the local community.”

At this weekend’s Civic Trust Awards the library received the Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design.

The citation said:

This Civic Trust Award winning building is incredibly successful, managing to redefine the function of a traditional library into that of a hub which offers a multitude of services to the whole community. All facilities are thoughtfully designed and clever environmental systems have produced an environment that is imaginative, elegant and beautifully lit. Inventive approaches to providing universal accessibility have created a library, coffee bar, theatre, learning, study and administrative areas that have excellent functionality. The enthusiasm of the staff for their building and the users of all ages coexisting comfortably, show the effort made by the client to involve all groups in the brief. This has resulted in a welcoming civic facility that is clearly enjoyed and well used by all. Canada Water Library brings to the East End of London an iconic community asset that is an exemplar of Universal Design.

Canada Water Library is currently Southwark’s library of the month and is hosting a special programme of events during March.

At the Civic Trust Awards the Dilston Grove gallery in Southwark Park also received a commendation from the judges.

Diane Gorvin, the artist behind the original Dr Salter’s Daydream sculptures, has produced ideas for a new commission which will not only replace the stolen statue of Dr Alfred Salter but also include a new sculpture of his wife Ada.

The complete work will include the sculptures of their daughter Joyce and her cat which were placed in storage after the theft of the Dr Salter statue from the Thames Path in November 2011.

The Salter Statues Campaign has raised more than £10,000 so far. Treasurer Catherine Dale said: “It was devastating when the statue of Dr Salter was stolen but we are making the most of a bad situation by aiming to raise enough money to commemorate Ada Salter as well.”

Cllr Veronica Ward,  Southwark’s cabinet member for culture, said: “We were very much saddened when Dr Alfred Salter’s statue was stolen in 2011.

“Our artworks are celebrated by our residents and play an important part in the lives of our local community. It is because of this that we have supported the Salter Statues group and have pledged to match the funding they raise to take steps to permanently replace the statues plus necessary security works.”

Artist Diane Gorvin said of her drawings: “Dr Salter’s Daydream 2013 will be expanded by the welcome addition of Ada, a remarkable woman who deserves recognition for her many good works to benefit the people of Bermondsey.

“Alfred and Ada Salter worked so hard that they did not have much time to relax, but after the birth of Joyce they made a garden at their home, a ‘green parlour’ where their ‘sunshine’ could play. This is the memory I wish to evoke for Dr Salter.”

Diane welcomes additional photographs of Alfred and Ada Salter to ensure their likenesses are as accurate as possible.   Any photos or contributions should be sent to [email protected]

Under the Localism Act people can petition a council to designate a building as an asset of community value (ACV).

Buildings that are successfully listed cannot be sold without first giving community groups the right to bid for them in order to use them for community benefit.

Someone has applied to have Rotherhithe Police Station – which is intended for closure and sale – designated as such an asset.

The council has said ‘no’.

It’s only the second time the ACV procedure has been used in Southwark. Last autumn the Ivy House pub in Nunhead was granted ACV status by the council.

Last week Southwark borough commander John Sutherland told Bermondsey & Rotherhithe Community Council that the Met is “actively seeking” a suitable location for a contact point (or ‘front counter’) in SE16 but that there are “no guarantees” that such a facility will be provided.

 

Famous by-election opponents Simon Hughes MP and Peter Tatchell praised each other for achievements over three decades as they faced each other before an audience at Sands Films.

Rotherhithe & Bermondsey Local History Group staged the discussion last Wednesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bermondsey by-election which attracted 15 contestants. After a turbulant campaign, during which the Labour’s Peter Tatchell was briefly disowned by the party leader and then suffered serious homophobic attacks, a safe Labour seat went Liberal in the biggest by-election swing in British political history.

“I hope in the years from then I have tried to heal some of the wounds,” said Liberal winner Simon Hughes who still holds the seat. “Peter has been very generous to me over the years. I pay tribute to him again as I have done privately and publicly. I apologise to him privately and publicly for what happened. Many of the things which happened to him were completely unacceptable.”

He added: “I pay tribute above all to your human rights campaigning abroad as well as at home.” In his main address Peter Tatchell, turning to Simon Hughes, said: “I don’t personally blame him. I don’t frankly know what he knew and didn’t know. I suspect he did not know. But undoubtedly some members of the Liberal Party did pitch for the homophobic vote.”

Investigations into who or which party published the most notorious ‘Which Queen will you vote for?’ leaflet had, he said, never been conclusive.

Tatchell praised Simon Hughes for support he had received from him shortly after the election when organising the world’s first Aids and Human Rights Conference.

Student journalist Fern Tomlinson, chairing the discussion, first recalled the “turbulent” political state of Britain in the early 1980s. She recalled that the Labour Party was at a low ebb and about to lose the post Falklands general election. But first there was the historic Bermondsey by-election on 24 February 1983.

Ms Tomlinson said that the two guests were the key players but council leader John O’Grady, standing as Real Bermondsey Labour and backed by Bermondsey’s former MP Bob Mellish, was also a significant candidate. O’Grady had been considered a possible winner until the last few days when anti-Tatchell support switched to the Liberal candidate.

Simon Hughes said that he joined Bermondsey Liberal Party as member number six at the invitation of Stan Hardy who heard that the recently graduated Liberal student had not, after several letters, had a reply from Peckham Liberals. Mr Hughes was soon the failed GLC candidate for Bermondsey.

He described the local Labour Party run by O’Grady in the 1970s as an ‘Irish mafia’. Peter Tatchell recalled it as a ‘corrupt and moribund party’. Change came when he and friends managed to recruit 800 new members in one year.

“I stood on policies I still stand by today which now of course are the mainstream although at the time I was vilified as an extremist,” said Peter who listed the minimum wage, equality laws and a negotiated settlement in Ireland.

He detailed verbal attacks, street incidents and death threats which led to his home having to be boarded up. He admitted he was terrified. He had support but was refused police protection. He confessed to one of the darkest periods of this life as he suffered post traumatic stress after the contest.

He claimed that the public revulsion afterwards quickly led to gay and lesbian candidates being able to fight elections without suffering attacks.

Both ex-candidates spoke candidly when asked by today’s Bermondsey Labour Party secretary Sheila Taylor what they regretted most.

“I wish I had been brave enough to say ‘can we call a halt to personal abuse?’,” reflected Simon Hughes. “Sometimes people have to step out of their political corner.” He explained that as a young candidate he was on the campaign trail not always knowing what was happening in the HQ.

Peter Tatchell also spoke of a sense of powerlessness and wished he had been able to persuade MPs to come and help him. Labour’s stars failed to make the short journey from Westminster to join in the campaign.

The two rivals, who had operated without modern speedy communication, were asked to provide a Tweet for Thursday 24 February 1983. “My policies are motivated by love and not hate” said Peter who explained he wanted to be positive.

Simon said: “Tomorrow first vote. If you want someone to take on Mrs Thatcher and the failing Labour Council…” Both ran out of characters for their imaginary tweets but agreed that housing was a central issue in 1973 just as in 2013.

Local history group chairman Michael Daniels said: “The evening was a sell-out and had become the ‘talk of the Blue’, as well as the local pubs!

“I found it both enlightening and humbling to hear Simon and Peter give such honest and open accounts, and fascinating to witness the degree to which many of their views converge.”

The group’s next meeting is on Wednesday 27 February when the speaker will be transport writer Christian Wolmar.

Canada Water Library may have been a critical and popular success, but plans to recoup some of the running costs from hiring out meeting rooms and the culture space have run into trouble.

This is from the council’s budget papers for next year:

There is pressure on income achievement at Canada Water Library. Whilst the income target for the library is £160k, the forecast after 9 months of the year is for actual annual income achievement to be only about £85k.

Last month Southwark Council’s cabinet agreed to the next stage of work towards the rejuvenation of Albion Street.

The council says it will work with local residents on the Albion Street Regeneration Framework which will have four main strands.

The next stages include proposals to expand Albion Primary School, further consultation with residents on the Albion Estate to see how they can benefit from wider regeneration, ensuring that the redevelopment of the former Rotherhithe Library on Albion Street supports the hopes of local people and enhancing public spaces in the area.

Cllr Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration and corporate strategy said: “Albion Street was once a lively and successful area – home to a popular street market and at the heart of the Rotherhithe community.

“Despite the tremendous changes we have seen in the Rotherhithe and Canada Water area, Albion Street area has not really felt the benefits.

“We are fortunate that there is a lot of enthusiasm and many great ideas coming forward from local tenants, residents, councillors, businesses and groups such as the Scandinavian churches. We want to make sure that there is a role for all local representatives to get involved in improving the area.”

Three mature plane trees on Rotherhithe New Road are likely to be felled, says Southwark Council.

The trees, which the council says are encroaching on the pedestrian space on the public highway, could be felled after adjacent landowners refused to sell the council a small plot of land to enable the pavement to be widened.

“I am extremely disappointed that the only course of action available to the council is to remove these trees from the local community,” said Cllr Peter John, leader of the council.

“Not only are they great for the environment but they add a unique vibrancy.  We would not normally fell healthy trees of this age but in this case we have no option. Sadly the landowners have refused to cooperate in helping us to resolve the situation so our hands are tied.”

Whilst the council has pointed the finger at the Residential Management Group, the firm has responded on Twitter:

Three replacement new trees will be planted in a nearby location.

Lib Dem councillor Graham Neale said: “I have suggested that the pavement is built out into the road to make room for the trees rather than removing the wall, which could save the trees from the chop and improve the road at the same time.

“The pavement opposite is more than wide enough to provide a ‘chicane’ traffic calming system. This is a chance to start managing roads in a way that puts pedestrians and cyclists at the front of road management in our borough.

“Instead of listening to alternatives, Labour have decided to chainsaw the trees which date back to Dr Salter. After all the warm words and phoney consultation we’re back to Plan A, which is to take the easy option and get rid of the trees. How many times must we listen to hollow promises?

“Residents and campaigners have spent a lot of time and effort trying to save these trees. It’s a waste of our time, and a waste of a great opportunity, but I’m afraid that’s the way Labour are running Southwark.”

 

The new ‘My Southwark’ office has opened in the Market Place at the Blue, replacing the former Bermondsey One Stop Shop in Spa Road.

“It is our mission statement as a council to treat every resident as if they were a member of our own family, and that starts with the council’s customer service, which has needed improving,” said council leader Cllr Peter John.

“The new customer service point at The Blue is great because it is right in the heart of Bermondsey and provides a focal point for local residents to come and carry out a whole range of services – from paying council tax to dealing with rent account queries.

“It will give people the freedom to choose when they access a particular service and will let them choose between talking to an advisor and accessing their own online account.

“I want this to be the blue print for the delivery of much improved customer services from the council across the whole of Southwark.”

For further information visit: www.southwark.gov.uk/servicepoints

Simon Hughes MP has written to the Mayor of London to raise residents’ concerns about slow broadband speeds in Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks.

The Mayor of London is responsible for distributing the government’s £25 million Urban Broadband Fund.

Following several complaints from residents in Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks, earlier this year Simon Hughes MP raised the issue with BT, internet service providers and the culture secretary Maria Miller MP.

Despite Ofcom’s recent report that the average broadband speed in the UK is 9Mbps, with some internet service providers advertising considerably higher speeds, Rotherhithe residents have reported speeds which struggle to reach 2Mbps.

“I am very concerned that people in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe are experiencing unacceptably low broadband speeds,” said Simon Hughes.

“Not only is this incredibly frustrating for people using internet in their homes, it is also harmful for businesses in the area. It is unbelievable that people living and working in between the major hubs of London Bridge and Docklands have such poor download speeds.

“Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of passing the buck on this issue between BT, internet service providers and the government. I am urging the Mayor of London to use the extra government funding to improve broadband connections for residents and businesses in Rotherhithe and I will continue to do all I can to make sure my constituents enjoy broadband speeds which you would expect from a global city in the 21st century.”

However, according to a recent written answer to Lib Dem London Assembly member Stephen Knight, there is little hope of the £25 million allocated by the Mayor being used to help SE16 residents and businesses.

Boris Johnson says that the cash will be spent on four projects including fibre broadband in ‘Tech City’, wireless provision along the Docklands Light Railway, gigabit internet for the Royal Docks area and ultrafast broadband for high-density social housing estates.

Simon Hughes MP yesterday asked this question of the culture secretary:

There is often lots of conversation about the difficulties of broadband access in rural areas. What can Ministers do to help people in urban areas such as mine, where in Rotherhithe, for example, people are not near the telephone exchange and broadband is therefore very poor indeed?

Maria Miller replied:

The right hon. Gentleman raises an issue with which many people in the Chamber will identify. Urban areas by no means always receive the sort of connectivity that our constituents want. That is why it is important that we have put in place not only the rural broadband programme to deliver better connectivity in rural areas but the urban broadband fund for our urban areas, which will ensure that London has some £25 million to achieve the improvements that he talks about.