Monday 31 October 2005 9.21am
Not my battle, as I have been told that I am no longer welcome at Friends of Archbishops Park Committee meetings...... but apparently Lambeth have bulldozed part of the park, dug up a number of rose bushes, two of which were only planted a few month's ago in memory of an old lady and her old dog who were pretty permanent fixtures in the park, and felled a mature and fruiting apple tree.
The replacement planting is apparently modern and includes wide pavements and walls. In a park which English Heritage confirm is of local historic interest, and should be protected. The area is also right next to the lovely Lambeth Palace
Anyway, Kate Hoey
MP is meeting local residents and the South London Press in the Park at 3.00pm. If any of the apple brigade are free and want to do a bit of protesting now is your chance. Get painting your bbanners.
Longer standing forum members will know that I have had a pretty miserable year. None of the founding members of the Friends are still with the group as we have effectively been asked or told to stand down. Most of the current Committee have been members for less than 18 months. And as anyone who attended the AGM this year, the elections were pretty tightly controlled, and held right at the end when people were starting to leave. The clear wish of members that I should continue to have a role with the play equipment project has not been respected.
The Friends should represent park users. Yet there was no public consultation on this replanting, bar an early questionaire at a consultation event more than 18 months ago where park users ticked the box which said that they would like to see better planting. (Rabbie and other SE1ers helped out.) True enough. But they then needed to be asked whether proposed designs met the criteria of 'better planting'.
Lots of what is happening is depressing. In the summer I organised a consultation on a new play-ground. (Really needed.) We got it is schools, and in the park and the local Sure Start group, and had a really good response. The next step was to get the final draft out to ensure that this was what people wanted. But just before I was to discuss this draft and the consulation with Lambeth, Lambeth were told not to meet me. (which meant I had a wasted trip to Brixton which came out of my annual leave.) As far as I know no one other than the Friends Committee has seen the final plans. I certainly have not, and nor have people who put real time and effort into the initial consultation.
Similarly I worked with a number of good organisations, including RCDT, Lambeth Social Services and the Camden Society, to look at the feasibility of turning the park keepers house into a supported employment cafe. Not only were Lambeth fully aware of the project, but they gave us the £8,000 for the feasibility. The feasibility was very positive, presumably because there are very few local alternatives. And all the surveys carried out in the park say that a cafe and safe toilets are top priorities. Now I hear informally that the tiny booking office will be transformed into a kiosk, yet I am not aware that anyone has looked at whether this is economically feasible, and judging for work that I have been involved with in the past it probably is not. No one has bothered to explain what is going on to me or to RCDT, and I presume the other partners in the project.
Lets hope that the apple tree protest will have the additional effect of persuading 'the stakeholder group' that they should not assume that they speak on behalf of park users. Their job is to articulate the views of park users. There is a difference.
Gosh, the sour grapes are leaving a nasty taste in my mouth....