Friends of Archbishops Park AGM

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Friday 9 June 2006 12.51am
Its that time again. Friends AGM 7.30 Tuesday 13 June at the ADI centre, 218 Lambeth Road, by the Lambeth Road entrance to the park. If you want to vote you need to join the group before the start of business. (Or PM me and I will email an application form.)

Yes, and time for Sarah2 to launch yet another Archbishops thread.

I am not obsessed: I am not obsessed: I am not obsessed...

Actually this AGM will be interesting, in that it is the first contested election the gorup has had. Nothing on Blair:Brown of course. But a bit spicey.

Lots has happended during the year. Lambeth seem to have lost any ability to communicate.

They seem to have dropped the idea of having a cafe in the park, despite the fact that this seems to be the one thing all park users want, and where a huge amount of work has been done. Needless to say those involved are still waiting for a "sorry" or "thank you". And given that as much as £1 million planning gain money may be going into the park, it would be interesting to hear why Lambeth feel new entrances are preferable. (No shelter from the rain with new entrances, nor safe toilets, or even a nice latte.)

The Founders Place saga is a whole other thread. However the Friends need to work out what they will do if the developers go to appeal...or preferably if the developers start talking about revising their plans to meet local concerns and reduce the impact on the park and conservation area.

Another big issue is Lambeth's sudden enthusiasm for tree felling. One went in the autumn which James wrote about, and I understand he is working on a new story about the outbreak of eco-terrorism in SE1. (What was he called...scrumpy, or something. Actually scrumpy might work for our home-grown eco-terrorist given the cider connections.)

I won't steal James'thunder - though suspect the questions he has fired to Lambeth's press office will have them scratching their heads for a while longer. But can't resist this quote, just in case James is unable to pin a confirmation from the Local Authority.

Trees start coming down. People are upset. One mother with her children apparently starts crying, enough to pursuade the tree-fellers (or tree-fellows to retreat to the nearest caff, most probably the Grubb Shop, for a late breakfast.) A Lambeth officer arrives and is confronted by the standard Archbishops mob. One lovely lady who has lived in the area all her life, then asks why they had to cut trees on the periphery of the playground. Surely they would not be in the way of the proposed play equipment.

"Health and safety" was the reply. Trees...funny things...children might climb them. Can't allow that...could be dangerous. (I was not there so am assuming the words used.)

Where are we, if we can't have trees in a park because of health and safety.

We need a strong and united Friends group. Your park needs you.

In reality I like and respect most of the Parks officers I know. But they so need to inform and consult. Loads of money is being spent, which is good, but not good when it is to do things like open unsupervised toilets in a central London Park that already has its share of syringes and "strange men". Or a "kiosk" when all the research suggested that a commercial cafe would not be viable, but a supported employment one, which would bring in additional income streams, would. (And given that for five years Lambeth have been unable to locate even an icecream van to visit the park.) And lots more. It makes me too depressed to even think about it.

I got a bear hug from a homeless man who overheard me explaining about the work I was doing on the legality of Lambeth felling trees without planning permission in a conservation area and on land they do not own. He pointed out the bench he normally sat on and explained why the park meant so much to him. He probably won't turn up. Nor will kids who might like to climb trees.

So come along. Meet some of the stars of the SE1 Forum. And even Scrumpy. (I like that name.)

Monday 12 June 2006 7.30am
The AGM is tomorrow. We really need as many people as possible to come along. So if you care about green space or even the ability of local people to express their priorities or concerns in an area of powerful interests, come along.

The reason we need people...

We have now heard, Thursday, that votes would only be allowed from those that have been members for three weeks. Also that proxy voting will be allowed. (The first is a bit complicated in that I had thought that there was agreement that, as was allowed in the past, people could join on the night, but now I am told that I understood wrong.)

I and the former Treasurer of the group - she was asked firmly to resign about 18 months back - had both noted that we had not received invitations to renew our membership last autumn, whilst other people had. Now it appears that other ordinary long term members are also affected. I understand that one lovely elderly man who has lived around the park all his life and who has been very active in other SE1 green space campaigns, stopped receiving anything from the group in the autumn. This may well be a clerical error, but there seems to be a problem.

On the other hand the poor man who has been asked to Chair the meeting, is apparently receiving requests for proxy votes from far and wide. (Strange when most of us only heard about
proxy votes on Thursday.)He w3as able to pull an unopened letter out of his pocket, and lo and behold it was someone from Walton on Thames, nominating a local estate agent as his proxy.

I am sure that people living in Walton on Thames are all lovely and that we should be flattered that they are taking an interest in our local park. But they should not be having more say in the future of our park that those who have grown up playing in it and who continue to use it.

Kate Hoey MP and Cllr Peter Truesdale will be at the meeting. My own view is that it will be really hard to turn people away from an Annual General Meeting of a group that purports to represent them, especially as Lambeth has now decided to focus contact with local communities via the Chairs of Friends groups. Amenity groups also have a specific status within the planning consultation process. We are told that a second meeting "Annual Public Meeting" has been set up to allow local people to hear what is going on. But by then the Committee and policies will have been decided by those nice folk from Walton on Thames, and they will have approved the both the Chair's and the Treasurers reports.

There are a lot of important issues that will come up over the next year.

1. The 650 flat, 22 storey, Founders Place planning application will either come up for appeal, or a new applicaiton will be submitted.

2. The approx £1 million S106 agreement will be confirmed and the detail agreed. Consultaiton showed that the overwhelming priority was a cafe. Yet the first draft agreement suggested the money be spent on new entrances, and then the later versions suggested the money would be spent on a new football pitch. (Here I am being told that the agreement to reduce the size of the current pitch may be being reneagued on, which means that football will continue to dominate the park. I assume such a large pitch will also need floodlights so that it can be used after work, making things difficult for people who live in the Peabody flats.) The proposal from one of the recent planning meetings is now that the spending of this money will be agreed with the Friends group. I wonder what the nice people from Walton on Thames will prefer. I hope they want a cafe.

3. There are proposals floating around in Waterloo to set up some form of Waterloo green space trust, which might pull together management of the various green spaces in Waterloo, and perhaps oversee the implementation of S106 investment. The real problem as I see it is that most of Archbishops' local users do not live in Waterloo, whilst most of the office worker users work north of Lambeth Road. This means that relative priorities of the different areas are different. Local eco-warriers will confirm, focusing consultations on things like play on Waterloo will mean that you will not have buy-in from park users as a whole. My personal concern about having the park managed by Waterloo organisations is that Archbishops, on the boundary of Waterloo and outside the Waterloo Development Framework, would come some way down the Waterloo pecking order, after Jubilee Gardens, Waterloo Millennium Green and Bernie Spain Gardens. And that evidence so far suggests that the relative cost of administration as against maintenance of the park will be high.

So lots to discuss. And lots to ask prospective Committee members. Pity that these proxy voters will not be able to attend. And important that as many people, who either use the park or who are concerned that local people should have a say in local issues, do turn up. Its free and I can promise that it will be interesting.

One thing I don't understand is the role of Waterloo Community Development Group in all of this. I have asked, but have not received an answer. Perhaps someone from the Forum can explain. The AGM seems to be being organised by WCDG, and certainly they seem to be compiling the list of proxy votes. I understand that Philip Moore, Chair of Roots and Shoots was invited by them to Chair the meeting, though he seems a little unsure why. I do know however that these decisions on the running of the AGM have not been discussed with Friends Committee as a whole, and so I assume that they are coming from WCDG.

A recent edition of South Bank News had WCDG as the contact point for people wanting to join the Friends group.

Lambeth also told me that one of the conditions of WCRT SRB funding of play equipment for the park was that the consultation on the final playground plans had to be carried out by WCDG. (The initial consultation was carried out for free with support from Kennington Sure Start, Walnut tree Walk Primary Parent Teachers Association, this web-site, physiotherapists from Fairley House School, a teachng assistant from Archbishops Sumner Primary, a parent Governor from Charlotte Sharman, and asking people in the playground itself. The response rate was really strong, despite only having a week to turn it around.) In order to get the funding, Lambeth were forced to disband the project group. (I understand that they were told specifically that thye were not to work with me, even though my remit on the play project had been agreed at the previous AGM alng with a remit to lead on the cafe project.) In fairness Lambeth were pretty unhappy, and all the more so now when they are the ones expected to justify the decisions made.

I really don't understand. WCDG is an important organisation and one that I support. (Though, in direct contrast to the Friends, I live outside their boundaries so don't think I entitled to vote for or be on their Committee.) Indeed I am involved in a funding bid with them and Riverside Community Development Trust to organise a seminar in September to enable local people to understand how to be effective within the planning process. (Given that Planning is a pretty regular theme on this forum.) Surely they can't support what seems to be going on.

Again please support. With the confusion of the Annual Public Meeting on 4 July, and the fact that the AGM is not being publicised by the group, it has been difficult to ensure people know about the meeting. Plus every time we put notices up in the Park they are taken down.

People who have been around longer than I say that this is par for the course in community politics. All I and others really want is a nice playground and a cafe. To get this we have fought for a lease on the park, prevented the Council from auctioning off the building that would make a super cafe. Raised £35,000 for a management plan that confirms the desire of park users for a cafe. Fought off proposals which would have got rid of the trees at the end of the park, leaving us with 8 storeys of balconies and terraces overlooking our children playing. And worked with partners, including a couple of good charities, to raise £7,000 to carry out an economic feasibility that showed that a cafe providing employment for young people with learning difficulties would be viable.

I understand that the new playground will have no more play equipment than the previous one, and that we are getting a kiosk rather than a cafe. (What about our safe toilets and shelter from the rain.)

I do hope these nice people in Walton on Thames will carry on the good fight and put as much effort in as we have done.

Tuesday 13 June 2006 8.17am
** Bump **

This is a bit of a Sarah only post. Maybe Sarah Mc could join in.

Anyway tonight promises to be community politics at its worst. I am feeling a long way outside my comfort zone. But we want a cafe, and we need support.

I promise to buy the first round of drinks in the pub after.

Friday 16 June 2006 6.27pm
I am surprised there has been no report of this meeting on this site. It was one of the most unpleasant local meetings I have ever been to. I don't fully understand what is really going on. But it ended in disarray as arguments raged about voting procedures: the chair recommended an EGM should be held to make the appropriate changes to the constitution (it was not clarified who would be entitled to vote at such a meeting so it could end up being equally unpleasant).

The existing officers appeared terribly beleagured as their every contribution was interrupted and disputed. Shouts of "shut up" and "sit down" were tossed to and fro as the more vocal local activists made their often slightly unhinged contributions.

It appears that a group of like-minded (and professional, prosperous and rather haughty) friends have somehow taken over the organisation and have gone out of their way to exclude Sarah O'Connell (and her more grass-root friends) from making any contribution. The invention of proxy votes and notice periods were suspected as being means for the officers to consolidate their "power" and hence caused a lot of the anger at the meeting.

Excluding Sarah seems particularly unfair considering her pivotal role in establishing the Friends and driving it forward - and her sterling work with the Founders Place development. But she has apparantly been labelled as "unreasonable" and an obsticle to anything happening. I have never worked with her so I can't judge. And I do know she has a forceful personality. But surely her undoubted strengths should somehow be harnessed. It seems particularly unfortunate that WCDG appears to be siding with one group rather than trying to ensure all "stakeholders" are involved.

I hope (rather forlornly) that sanity and harmony will prevail.
Wednesday 21 June 2006 3.42am
I suspect no one else has posted as they were too shell-shocked.

I don't think any of us really know what is going on. Things have been very strange for about two years, when people I had never met went out of their way to tell me how awful I was. Then about 18 months ago, a number of the then Committee received a letter encouraging them to stand down. So presumably we are all unreasonable.

The bizarre seating arrangements and the general confusion about who could vote and when to the focus away from the real concerns about the extent the group was meeting its remit of representing the views of park users. Concerns include:

- the new planting to the south of the park was given the go-ahead without any real consultation.

- the caf√© project was abandoned after three years work, and no real explanation other than Lambeth telling one partner ‚Äúthe Friends did not want a caf√©‚ÄĚ. Despite a feasibility study supporting a caf√© providing supported employment.

- fund-raising for the play project is on hold, even though we are some way off the total required.

- rumours that the previous compromise of a smaller but better quality football pitch may be ignored, and that the replacement may be the same size as present. Possibly with floodlighting to make it viable.

- a failure to poll members on the Founders Place planning application, or take a lead in the community objection. Instead a late campaign had to be organised without access to the resources and status of the amenity group, when it became clear that trees in the park were under threat.

Therefore a group of us, from quite diverse backgrounds, decided to stand for the Committee. A contested election is not unhealthy. And it does not matter who wins, as long as the people who use the park understand what the different groups represent and get to decide. As things stand it is difficult to see how Lambeth can continue see the group as representing local people.

I cannot summon up any enthusiasm for an Extraordinary General Meeting, which without a change in approach will simply be a rerun of the last, with restrictions on who can vote etc. Unless we go back to allowing people to join on the night, I suspect our friends in Walton on Thames will get their way.

I agree with your disappointment at the role of the Waterloo Community Development Group. WCDG is a good organisation serving the area to the north of Lambeth Road, who apparently have local regeneration funding to provide capacity support to the Friends.

It would be interesting to know whether the money was granted to support the group as a whole or simply the current Committee. If the former I do not think their approach can be justified. If the latter, I don't really understand why public funding should be given to the professional and prosperous when there are so many other uses. Either way I understand that regeneration money (SRB) should not be used for contentious purposes. And I don't think anyone at the AGM would argue that the meeting was anything other than contentious.

So what next. On one level we need to stick in there as the Founders Place S106 investment money will provide a unique opportunity to get real investment into the park. It would be great if we got our café. But I do feel as if the might of the Waterloo establishment is lined up against us. I would love to know why.

Thank you for your post. Over the past two years I have felt I am in some form of parallel universe, and so it is reassuring when others confirm that it was and is awful. Also thanks for the various PMs. Even one from Shanghai! Now that would be a proxy vote worth having.

Friday 23 June 2006 7.06am
It would be very useful, for those of us who aren't very involved but who would like the park to be both more attractively green space and better used, if someone could explain why a cafe providing supported employment and a smaller football pitch are such terrible ideas. They both sound quite attractive to me.
Friday 23 June 2006 2.10pm
i think that's the point - almost everyone thinks they're good ideas, including the people who raised funding to do the feasability study, and the people questioned (local people who actually use the park). The only people who don't, apparently, are the people in charge of the money - they think that things like new entrances are of a higher priority.
Saturday 24 June 2006 3.07am
But wouldn't it be both useful and appropriate if they chose to use this opportunity to communicate with the wider (not quite enough interest to turn up to meetings but still very concerned) community?

I expect the PM'r from Shanghai is used to opaque and dictatorial custodians of public assets but I don't think we should accept it.
Saturday 24 June 2006 10.40pm

I and others completely agree.

For five years we worked to fund and oraganise a professional management plan based on extensive consultation. We also lobbied to pursuade the Church Commisisoenrs to grant a new lease on the park. (Without tenure you cannot invest public funds.)At the back of our minds was the knowledge that when the area to the north of the partk was developed, there would be planning gain (S106) money for the park.

The consultation and management plan priorities were exactly what you would expect. Cafe, safe toilets, better planting, play provision for the over 5s, and a specifically, a smaller but better football pitch.

Then two years ago, around the time the developers started consulting on their Founders Place proposals, some very strange politics started happening which included pressure for several long-standing memebrs of the committee were encouraged out. There appears to be some other pretty heavy stuff going on affecting other groups in the area. You may be right about Shanghai - maybe that is why the bloke who PM'd is so sympathetic to our plight.

We now seem to have lost a lot of what we (eg those who took part in consultation)wanted, and seem to be getting things that we don't necessarily want, like a fortune spent on some unattractive raised beds.

After all the work on the Management Plan, Lambeth are now taking a different tack and have convened some form of steering group of people. The Chair of the Friends is there to represent local people, but only has one seat at the table. Others, though claiming to represent community interests (eg Groundwork Southwark) are led by paid workers and receive public funding, most normally from Lambeth or delivered by the South Bank Employers Group. Few of them will have direct experience of using the park for leisure and quiet recreation.

BucketofWater is wrong about people who turn up to meetings. The main problem with this meeting was an initial desire to keep it private, even though it was reporting on how the group had been representing local people. Then when people did show up, several found that they were not members when they thought they were, so could not vote. And even if they could vote the rules seemed to have been changed to allow proxy voting and at least 30 had been submitted.

In short, the Chair of the Friends group represents your interests, especially when it comes to new investment in the park. However it is likely that this Chair will be selected by people living in Walton on Thames. You may pay Council tax to Lambeth, you may vote for Lambeth Councillors, you may have taken part in one of the earlier consultation exercises, and the park may be something you use everyday. But sorry. Its new entrances, not a cafe. Enjoy.

Don't worry though, once the money is spent, I am sure both you and I will be welcome to be as involved as we want to be.

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