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.
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.