Many thanks for your comment.
You are quite right that it is about 'local ownership' in 1990 no-one absolutely no-one would walk through Leathermarket Gardens
due to the drunks, broken bottles, and threat of being mugged. Reclaiming that area was a major prioirty during my time at BVH, but at each step of the way it was impossible to get a response from LBS. It took two years to get light bulbs in the streetlamps, I was threatened with the sack for causing a local outcry over the playground, and the only work undertaken to manage and maintain the park was done by the Inner London Probation Service Community Service Offenders that BVH got onboard. The only reason it is now kept to a reasonable (and I believe it is only a reasonable condition) is that we constantly harrassed the Leisure Dept for so many years that we got them to change their mindset - 'busybody' I'm your biggest one! Unfortunately some local activists didn't feel the sameway at the time because of their political allegiances and sat on the fence.
I welcome any current refurbishments of the local parks and playgrounds, unfortunately it is the long-term viability that worries me.
Firstly, that mechanisms are in place to ensure the areas are monitored, either by locals or by the highly ineffective park rangers who for the life of me I can't understand haven't been relocated and defined as on-site park wardens (perhaps they prefer to be based at Chumleigh Gardens which is worth a visit just to see the state of their park area in front of their offices - if only your local parks could look like that).
Secondly, that when vandalism occurs equipment is replaced and not taken away which is the usual practice of LBS (swings are always the first to go and not replaced), and
Finally, that a few local parents who get the initial improvements through aren't left holding the baby - that would be a naive approach to managing a park. People leave the area, their kids grow up, and a large open space becomes to big a burden to manage for a few willing volunteers. Afterall local TRA's must take some of the blame for letting the parks deteriorate in the first place, if they couldn't complain or get things sorted out when there was nothing there - how can you be sure they will effective and responsible in the future.
If you want to see the best exemplar of a community led and long-term viable project go and visit the Calthorpe Project in Kings Cross, that was always our aim for Leathermarket Gardens
and LBS know that.
We costed out that the income produced by tennis courts and the grounds maintenance contract, could about employ two local retired people through the summer season, and one in the winter (with additional support from ILPS) if LBS simply had been bright enough to allow us to take on the management of the five parks (Guy Street
, Leathermarket, Tanner St, the Quakers Graveyard and Bermondsey St pocket park) you would have got a sustainable programme for open spaces.
It is no good anyone saying to me things are better now because the council are investing large amounts of money most of which is planning gain and rightfully Bermondsey peoples own money which has been sitting in bank accounts for years. They have already invested £126,000 in Leathermarket playground and done nothing to maintain or manage it since. My parting request to LBS was that they simply painted the playground equipment and maintained the mural every year, the parks manager promised me that he would do this, since then I have written or spoken to all four Leaders and the saintly MP but still it has been left to rot and children have suffered because of it. As far as I am aware, local children in Tyers can't even gain access to the new kickabout area in Leathermarket it's locked up.
I can assure you that when I am next down in the area there will be faults, and I bet that in three years time things will have gone wrong unless there is a concerted effort now to put the right policies in place. If anyone can tell me about the intended contract for Guy Street
park I would be most pleased to hear from you. Does it state who will monitor the park and how they will address any problems? timeframes for replacing damage? what budget allocations have been made for maintenance in years 2,3,4, and 5? and how it will all work in relation to the four other parks? Answers on a postcard.