Founders Place - Next Steps

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Monday 15 May 2006 9.36am
I thought it was time for a new thread.

With the last application rejected, it all seems to start again.

The developers will need to decide whether to appeal or submit new plans. They are suggesting that they may simply sell the land, though it is more likely that they will appeal. This would then lead to some sort of review led by a planning inspector, in about 6 - 8 months.

For anyone who is interested in helping, the immediate priority will be to ensure, at the AGM of the Friends of Archbishops Park, that through adopting 2 or 3 key resolutions, the group has a clear remit to collect, coordinate and articulate community concerns through the rest of the planning process.

The AGM will be held on 13 June. The constitution, oddly, seems only to require the Chair or Secretary of the group to give three weeks notice to members of when the meeting will be, but not where or at what time. I am sure we will find out. Equally oddly they are stipulating that people need to be members at least three weeks prior to the meeting in order to vote, though I and others have been unable to find this in the Constitution. Again I think this can be resolved and the normal community practice of allowing people to join on the night before the meeting starts will be resumed.

If anyone enjoys this sort of game it does look as 13 June will be a key diary date. (Thus allowing others to sit at the back and simply focus on the aims of the group which are about protecting and preserving the park and associated conservation area.) Better still if you are a lawyer and prepared to have a look at the, pretty standard, constitution, that would be great. The current Committee appear to have more lawyers than a judicial review, yet a few of us have sat down and tried to make sense of what is happening and feel we are reading a different set of rules.

More importantly it would be great if anyone who is concerned about this development...or, equally, would like to see any investment money put into a cafe. It might also be prudent to join the group before 30 May, so you can vote to support some basic resolutions. I am happy to email the membership form.

We would also like to find people willing to stand for the Committee. For five years the group was pretty low key and good natured and we got a lot done. However all the founder members have now been invited to stand down or are simply not invited to meetings, and it really is not much fun. The only qualifications are to be a member of the group, and to be nominated two weeks in advance. Ideally Committee members would be regular users of the park and be reasonably sensible. Again if you are interested do let me know. Arguing the case for conservation and green against unrestrained development over the next year should be quite interesting.

On the Founders Place application itself, I think the whole thing would not have ended up like this if only the developers had properly consulted and listened. Most of the issues could and should have been resolved years ago.

They are:

- the fate of the long-term tenants, who were moved into their flats in 1951 after their homes were demolished to make way for St Thomas' Hospital. Not a planning issue, but local elected representives would were clearly unhappy that the future of a reasonably vulnerable group still appeared up in the air.

- tree issues. Goodness knows why the application when first submitted involved building effectively into a magnificent row of 100 year old trees in one of Lambeth's nicest parks. Given the south facing windows on the proposed buildings will essentially touch the trees there is still every chance that come the first sunny spring day the reflection from the windows will scorch new shoots and leaves. Plus new residents are bound to lobby for sunlight and views.

- conservation issues. Half the site is conservation area yet the proposals include demolishing the two old buildings on the site as well as felling most if not all the trees. Giving rise to the question of whether there is anything left to conserve. This is probably the crunch item in that Ken's London Plan envisages higher density, especially in the Waterloo area, yet calls for conservation, biodiversity and green. Given the huge and high buildings planning for both the South Bank and Vauxhall, there is a case for having a sort of mini green/historic belt (the Lambeth Palace conservation area) in between. Current planning policies seem to agree, with the conservation guidence accepting some new development by saying it must be sympathetic to the conservation area aims of protecting the setting of the Park.

- build issues. The Planning Applications Committee were clearly concerned about the density of the buildings and how close they were to each other. This again is a subject where Planning Committees will need to balance London Plan density aspirations with genuine concerns about what the buildings will be like to live in.

- Planning Gain/Section 106. The outstanding issue was that amount that would go into the Park and how it would be spent. I am not sure if I really understand why there is a problem here. We have spent the last few years drawing up a management plan based on wide community consultation, in part because we knew this development was coming up. Most people want a cafe with safe toilets, and last year 7,000 was raised to look at the feasibility of running a cafe providing supported employment to young people with learning difficulties, on one of three possible brownfield sites. But, though the money is supposed to benefit users of the park and compensate for the loss of park expansion, it looks as if the developers want to control the spending of this money. So no cafe, but instead new entrances, a (expensive to hire?) football pitch and maybe even a second pitch.

Thank you to everyone who has helped so far.
Monday 15 May 2006 2.42pm
Our building borders Archbishops Park along half of the southern side and we have been following this debate. Can someone please advise us when , where and what time the AGM will be held as we would like to attend to see what is really going on.

Thanks

Ian Spence
The Marine Society & Sea Cadets
Tuesday 16 May 2006 12.26pm
Oh dear what an uphill struggle, all power to you Sarah that you hang in there...it's the ONLY way. I simply cannot understand why EVERY effort is not made to compensate the public for a reduction of park space by putting in, for example, the cafe and indeed any other community facility, one oclock club etc., instead of fancy entrances...how ridiculous. All show and no benefit. Sorry I wont be around on 13th June, but I know how wearying it is fighting developers with unlimited money who can wheel out hot shot lawyers at a million pounds a minute and no one else has the cash to fight this over and over again. Somehow, there is a basic flaw in the whole planning process, because it should NOT be a question of money muscle and I"m afraid it is.
Wednesday 17 May 2006 8.37am
Sorry Ian,

Can't help. Its difficult. The constitution requires that a date for the AGM is set three weeks in advance but does not say that a time or place is given.Yet the group's Secretary is saying that only people who have been members for three weeks, and have properly renewed their membership, can vote. Hence the need to publicise the need for people to ensure their membership is up to date, so that when the time and place are announced people can attend. (Not least so we can try to ensure that things are more open and strightforward in future.)

I understand that the idea is to have a small AGM meeting which presumably should confirm the current Committee and policies, then a larger public meeting on July 4 which would include a speaker from Lambeth Parks. Trouble is that a couple of policies should be up for debate, including the group's approach to the continuing Founders Place planning process, and that it is difficult for many of the people who rely on the park, say those with young children and the elderly, and so it is a bit unfair to require them to turn up twice.

As Jackie suggests, the big issue is the cafe. If there is going to be real money to invest in the park, the cafe should be at the top of the list. We did huge consulation two/three years back, and the cafe was by far the top priority for park users. Indeed a consultation last year around the playground had a huge proportion of the mothers confirming that the cafe was thier frist priority - and we were only asking about play equipment.

This should not be a surprise. Cafes are on the top of the list in most park consultations, and add to the appreciation of parks like Brockwell and Kennington.

The park serves people living within about a 20 minute walk. A long way if you are pushing a double buggy. At the moment there is no proper shelter, no place to buy a drink, and no safe toilets. (Toilets are really only safe if within a cafe or if they are staffed.) With a cafe people would come to the park more often and stay longer. Plus it would serve as a facility for office and hospital workers and patients. (And give them alternative seating. Presently they use the play equipment.) It will also make the park feel safer, espcially now there is no staffing at weekends, plus would allow on-site management of the sports facilities. .

We did so much work. Not just getting a lease and putting together a management plan, but also preventing Lambeth from selling off the park-keepers lodge, which had been squatted for 14 years. (Literally five days before the auction.) We also looked hard at commercial options with help from cafe owners and suppliers, and when that looked as if it would not be an option (there have been several attempts over the years to get some form of mobile kiosk including from a well known bagel firm which lasted ten days) we worked with partners to look at the supported employment option. Throughout the process we had political support from Lambeth and worked closely with officers. Until the feasibility study came in, when conversation seems to have stopped.

So we have a couple of alternative sites, clear public support, proven economic feasibility, real health and social priorities, an interested supplier, and the funding. This sounds like an opportunity.

But Lambeth is now saying that it will not talk to the project partners, only the Chair of the Friends group. And have not acknowledeged the hard work that went in. The Charity involved, who provide supported employment cafes, wrote to Lambeth's Director of Environment to complain about the waste of their scarce resources months ago, but did not get a reply.

The solution will be to ensure that the Friends group takes this further. If we can find out when the AGM is and if sufficient people join the group before Monday.

(Too late to visit the cafe with toddlers, but maybe I can hold court when I retire.)
Thursday 18 May 2006 8.53am
Clarification.

The Friends AGM will be on 13 June at 7.30 at the ADI building on Lambeth Road. I am not sure of the address of the ADI but it is next to the Lambeth Road entrance to the park. I will look when I next go past.

A couple of problems remain. First some of the Committee have decided that people need to have been members for three weeks in order to vote, though this is not a requirement in the Constitution. More worrying is a decision that postal votes will be allowed. Given that this too is not in the Constitution so there are no safeguards to ensure that it is properly conducted, it means that the AGM decisions may be made before we get there.

The good news is that the meeting will now be chaired by the Chairman of Roots and Shoots.

I only heard about the postal voting proposal yesterday. If the elecction is to be conducted this way people who care about the park only have till Monday to join the group. Do PM me if you are one of them. It makes a complete mockery of the Constitutional requirement to give three weeks notice of an AGM. Particularly when I and others were not sent membership renewal forms last year when others were. (And obviously it is difficult to know who was invited and who needs to request such a form!)

I have no idea what this is all about. Parks: safe, clean and green, are pretty straightforward agendas. It is important, particularly if Founders Place goes to appeal, that the amenity group has a line, as this will count more than those of individuals. So the AGM needs to be open and democratic and people should be encouraged to take part.
Wednesday 24 May 2006 7.12am
Things are sorting themselves out.

I understand, albeit second-hand, that anyone interested in the park will be welcome to attend the Friends of Archbishops Park AGM (218 Lambeth Road at 7.30 on Tuesday 13 June.) And people will be able to join on the day and participate.

I have not heard anything more about the proposed postal vote, though know that other members of the Committee were unhappy not to have been consulted. I assume the idea has been dropped.

This should mean that the meeting can now focus on the real issues facing the park, including the line the group might take on Fonders Place, and how community priorities can inform the subsequent S106 investment.

In short, come along to help ensure that the conservation area is respected, and, which has been on the agenda from the vary start,....that we get our cafe.

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