Join our meeting on improving the private rented sector in West Norwood

House prices are putting homeownership out of reach and by the end of 2021 it is predicted that almost one in four households will be renting privately.

Nowhere is this more acute than in London. In 2011-12 the proportion of private tenants in London rose above the proportion of social rented tenants for the first time since the mid-1960s, and this number continues to rise. A growing number of our residents in Thurlow Park, and across West Norwood and Herne Hill, rent privately.

Most private landlords want to ‘do the right thing’ by their tenants but they often lack the knowledge or support to get this right. Other landlords make the most of the unregulated nature of the private rented market. We know from our own experiences of renting locally, that the sector needs to improve. Too often at our advice surgeries hear stories from residents with issues ranging from damp and mismanagement, to excessive lettings agent fees and unfair evictions.

A third of private rented homes fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard and stagnant wages cannot keep pace with spiralling rents. The housing benefit freeze mean many in the private rented sector now face a substantial monthly shortfall between the housing benefit they receive and even the cheapest rents.

We believe the private rented sector must improve – so we are setting up a new group for private renters in West Norwood so that we can campaign for change. By coming together, we can share our experiences, support each other, and have a louder voice.

Please join our first meeting on 25th January to talk about how we can work together locally to improve the private rented sector. We have booked a space at Knowles of Norwood, 294-296 Norwood Road, from 7pm, and will be joined by a speaker from Generation Rent. Let us know you’re coming on Facebook.

If you can’t make it, we still want to hear about your experiences – positive and negative – and your ideas to improve private renting for everyone. Please fill in our survey and let us know your views.

Our South Circular safety campaign

Earlier this year, one of our local residents, Jaz, was tragically killed crossing Thurlow Park Road on the zebra crossing at the bottom of Birkbeck Hill. This is not the first accident on the South Circular, but we want to work with Transport for London and local residents to make it the last.

This crossing is particularly dangerous – vehicles speed  from the lights by the gyratory, the road narrows from two lanes to one, and the crossing is obscured by the hill and the railway bridge.

Together with local residents, we would like to find a way to improve safety at this dangerous crossing and across the South Circular, so hopefully further loss of life can be avoided.

Please join us, Jaz’s friends and neighbours, local residents and parents, TfL officers and our local Assembly Member Flo Eshalomi on 21st March for a walkabout to show the problems of the unsafe crossing and speeding on the South Circular, and then a meeting to discuss potential solutions and campaigns.

Everyone is welcome – you can let us know you’re attending here southcircularwalkabout.eventbrite.co.uk

Join our campaign against business rates hikes

Lambeth council and local businesses are working in partnership to campaign against the Government’s impending huge rise in rates. The business rate revaluation, which is due to come into force from 1 April next year, will see some businesses pay 45% more in rates.

This hike in rates could prove crippling to some businesses, especially those with 5 or fewer staff. West Norwood and Herne Hill, each with a high proportion of SME businesses, will be very hard hit.

Lambeth has written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking for measures to be put in place to support businesses through any rates rise and a longer term review of the effectiveness of business rates as a method of taxation.

A London-wide campaign is also underway, supported by Lambeth council and backed by the capital’s Mayor Sadiq Khan along with London Councils, London First, London Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses London and New West End Company, with 37 additional groups including 32 London BIDS

London businesses overall will pay an additional £855 million in business rates every year, while businesses in much of the rest of the country will see rates decrease in real terms.

Support Lambeth’s businesses – sign our petition.

Some success in our campaign to end bridge strikes – a south circular technology upgrade

Many of you will be familiar with the regular delay and disruption caused by bridge strikes to the railway bridge over the South Circular in Tulse Hill. It is the most regular hit bridge in the UK – the regular collisions have caused over 200 hours of delay to Southern and Thameslink passengers in the past 12 months.

The impact of a bridge strike is incredibly disruptive – the roads are blocked, the trains are delayed and traffic is routed down residential streets. After years of inaction from TfL and Network Rail, we have been working hard to raise the profile of the problem and get some investment in solving it. We have been working with local residents, TfL officers, our MP and the London Assembly member, Flo Eshalomi AM.

The bridge’s location, near to the Tulse Hill station platforms, means it isn’t possible to raise the level, so we are petitioning for long term investment to instead lower the road in order to ensure all vehicles can fit underneath without any collision. This is a significant engineering challenge and will require substantial investment.

In the meantime, we have successfully lobbied for better technology and signage to prevent oversized lorries from attempting to go under the bridge. A detector system has been installed which is triggered by overheight vehicles. This will set off an alert to drivers that they need to stop or turn off the road before the bridge. We have had additional signage installed on the bridge, steel beams to protect it and engineers based nearby at peak hours to inspect the bridge quickly if needed, to minimise delays to train services. We have also successfully pushed for CCTV to be installed.

The cost of installation and future maintenance has been shared by TfL and Network Rail, and the systems are linked to TfL’s London Streets and Traffic Control Centre. That means the condition of the system can be monitored remotely and if a fault occurs it can be dealt with immediately. The LED signs are low energy.

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