Friends of Archbishops Park AGM

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Tuesday 7 November 2006 7.54am
I understand that the Friends of Archbishops Park have organised and AGM. Or rather, like last time, the Waterloo Community Development Group have organised it for them.

For students of Waterloo community politics this should be a corker. The last round ended in a bun fight as people present questioned the sudden appearance of a load of proxy votes signed by people living in places like Walton on Thames. This was followed up by an amazing email from WCDG, apparantly on the Friends behalf, and circulated to a large number of people including a number of Lambeth officers, which claimed that I was pernicious liar. And some very vicious things about a genuine park user, who it was said has a criminal record. (The copy posted to this site was quickly withdrawn by James - I assume because he was worried about potential libel.) Nasty, though I will not be the first or last to receive this type of treatment in the small world of Waterloo.

Cant tell you when the AGM is as I have not received the notice. But understand that it will be held some distance from the large estates whose residents rely on the park for leisure and recreation. I also understand that there is still no agreement on proxy votes. So all set for another fun evening out.

Strange thing is that the announcement of the AGM co-incides directly with the notice by the Founders Place developers to appeal. The Friends line on this developemnt is fairly obscure. Indeed they were not even represented at the decisive planning meeting. Whilst WCDG interventions seemed focussed on maximising the level of S106 monies to be paid by the developers.

What most people want is green and trees, and to limit the impact of development on SE1s largest park. Lambeth Planning supported this view. I do hope both groups will come to their senses.
Wednesday 8 November 2006 6.24am
Egg on face time.

I have now received an invitation.

The AGM will be held on 27 November at 7.30pm at the Waterloo Action Centre, 14 Baylis Road, SE1 (sort of opposite the Cubana restuarant just off Lower Marsh, where WCDG offices are).

Interestingly it will be Chaired by Cllr Peter Truesdale, although the Chair of the group is apparently still Helen Lees.

So far, OK though there have to be question marks about why it is being held so far from the park, with no map provided to aid those who not normally go into Waterloo. It also appear s that proxy voting, one of the issues that halted the last AGM is still in place, which presumably means that those new members who appeared from Walton on Thames may well have a casting vote. Nominations are either for Chair or Committee Member. You cannot be considered for both.

Also, though the lovely Natalie Bell (I am a real fan of the work she has done elsewhere in SE1)who appears to be organising the meeting on behalf of WCDG says that the meeting has to be held in Waterloo as she has not been able to find anything closer to the park, the Group then, less than a week later, propose a Christmas Party in the ADI centre on Lambeth Road hjust by the entrance to the park.

The group needs to be effective in representing park user interests, as there are some very major issues affecting the park. To do this we need to be united. To be united we need to have an AGM which provides a proper opportunity for those users to select their committee, and this needs to be seen to be done. The best way to do this would be for current elected members, which includes me, to sit down with the person who will acting as Chair of the group on the night, and work out how to proceed in a way that allows local members, not individuals or organisations to believe that they control the group.
Tuesday 14 November 2006 11.09pm
This is becoming a bit of a one person post, though I am grateful for the private messages.

One of the issues about this AGM has been that people need to post their nominations for the Committee almost as soon as they received the notice of the AGM in order to meet the deadline.

I now hear that the Committee have recognised this and are allowing people to submit applications after the official deadline. (The sound of me eating more humble pie.) I understand this is to help ensure that the Committee is diverse and better reflects to people it represents.

Being involved in this group is worthwhile. There are some very large threats facing the park and unless we stand together, we are going to end up with a park which is overlooked by a very large building where residents will be able to sit at home and watch our children play.

I am trying to confirm the new deadline for nominations. Once this is clear I will post again. In the meantime if anyone is interested in standing I would be happy to pass your nomination on to the secretary.
Wednesday 15 November 2006 8.45am
Sarah,

I have submitted a form, and hope that I can add value to the committee if elected.

Regards,

Loafer
Saturday 18 November 2006 10.43am
Given the interesting other thread started by Fred, I thought I should ^bump^ this one.
Tuesday 21 November 2006 5.24am
Rabbie and Loafer, thanks.

The sudden change of rules regarding the deadline for nominations was interesting. Loafer, I understand you were one of the lucky ones who were phoned up and invited to submit a late application.

The fact is that with a meeting held some distance from the park, and given the traditional membership is the young and old, it will be easier for people who live in Waterloo to attend than it will be for those in Kennington.

Plus with the sudden introduction of proxy votes before the last, shambolic, AGM it is unlikley that park users will have much say. I was certainly told that many of the proxy voters lived some distance from the park. Indeed the one I was shown, and the envelope was opened in front of me, was from someone in Walton on Thames.

None of this matters. The real issue is the Founders Place appeal. The current Friends have shown very little interest in the process so far. I have not seen the current Chair at either site visit, and at only one of the three planning meetings. Indeed none of the Committee attended the last planning meeting. And I did not get a response when I invited her to speak at the Founders Place meeting last year, a recent meeting with local Councillor and MP, and a request to meet last week.

The latter followed a bizarre phone call from a Friends Committee member last week who apparently has been delegated to liaise with those of us working on the Founders Place appeal. It involved me being asked to keep up the good, and hard, work, but with no offer of help or funding from the Friends.

A sort of no win. I bust a gut. (Though with good help from people like Loafer.) The Friends keep the healthy bank balance raised by me and others. Then the Friends newspaper can continue to boast of "saving" the trees, and the Freds of this world can take real satisfaction in how much better things are without the likes of me.

We need to work together on the Founders Place appeal. There is no way that, with the current south facing design, the avenue of mature trees in Archbishops Park will survive into the logs term. The new residents will lobby for pollarding. The trees themselves, only the statutory minimum from the buildings, will not be able to take the stress from the change in micro-climate, and the glare from the south facing windows.

If there were any time that this group needed to be open transparent and inclusive, it is now. The only hope is that new committee members, who I hope include Loafer, work towards getting the group back on track to achieve the basis aim of communicating with and representing the needs of park users.
Tuesday 21 November 2006 10.14pm
Why shouldn't a member of the Friends of Archbishop's Park who lives in Walton in Thames be allowed to vote at the AGM? Maybe s/he works in St Thomas' Hospital. During the week many users of the park work in, but do not live in, the locality. Providing s/he is a FoAP member surely s/he should have the right to vote by proxy. The argument against proxy voting sounds mean-spirited when it seeks to disenfranchise those who do not live near the Park.

Another reason for allowing proxy votes is that some members have evening commitments (work & children etc) and others are elderly or disabled etc. It would be equally inappropriate to disenfranchise them from the FoAP voting process.

Few organisations require a personal attendance at the ballot box because democracy is generally seen to work best when it facilitates participation.

The proxy voting system is being overseen independently of FoAP. The criticisms levelled at the proxy voting system seem motivated by a desire (a) to ensure that only the ‘right' members get the vote, and (b) to derail the AGM, as happened in June.

As to the criticism that has been raised about the location of the AGM, the Waterloo Action Centre, is well known and seems ideal. It is 600 metres from the Park, is well lit, close to a tube and is on many bus routes.

Fred

PS I do not live in Walton on Thames and will be attending the AGM on Monday in the hope that the interests of all park users will prevail.
Wednesday 22 November 2006 1.54pm
I am writing for the first time as a new member to SE1 and I was surprised by the amount of ill feeling towards the 'friends group' of Archbishops Park.
I spend a significant amount of time walking through the park and have never seen it look better. Any group that is so clearly interested in their local open space seem more than able to fight for trees/play grounds/new planting etc.
What axe do you have to grind sarah2? Why would you not want members (I dont live in the area but will certainly become a member) to have a vote if unable to attend?
I will endeavour to come to your meeting.
Sunday 26 November 2006 2.09am
Medic,

You mentioned on the other lively thread that I had not replied to your post on proxy voting. My best excuse is the awful service provided by Talk Talk.

Hoever both you and Fred seem to be relatively new to the park and its politics so I may as well explain. The point of posting on the forum over the past six years has been my desire to be open and transparent. So this is a bit long, but I hope helps reassure you that I am trying to be constructive.

The early history of the Friends was simple. A group of mums from a local play group plus anyone else who was willing to get involved. Open AGMs, no proxy votes or secret ballots. Much like any other small community group. We were reasonably effective and got the lease and wrote the management plan which enabled curent investment to flow into the park.

I have no idea why there is this sudden interest in the park, particularly from Waterloo interests. Its been going on for about 30 month now and has, as you will have noted from the posts, been pretty ferocious.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that the park lies on the border of SE1 between Waterloo and Kennington. The Friends tried hard to insist that the project group putting together the management plan, the later prioritisation of recommendaitons and the other preparation work for the current investment phase, had a good balance between Waterloo and Kennington interests, and that the focus was the needs of the park user and potential user.

Put simply Kennington is more residential, and the areas near the park include large tracts of often poor quality social housing. Waterloo is less residential but has more day time visitors. Any vision for the park has to allow for different users at different time, to avoid conflict and to ensure different needs are met. However unless effort is made to hear weaker voices, the stronger ones will drown them out

One real problem with Waterloo, most recently touched on in a Lang Rabbie thread about whether Coin Street had lost their vision, is that Waterloo interests are very intertwined. My understanding is that Lambeth makes decisions on the future of the park by consulting a group which includes SBEG, SAZ, WCDG, Groundwork Southwark, and the Chair of the Friends.

However SBEG deliver SAZ. Groundwork South and SBEG are both members of CRP. The Chair of the Friends is a senior executive with one constituent firms within SBEG (Shell). WCDG has received a large amount of funding from WCRT which is again delivered by SBEG. The Friends have hired WCDG to provide capacity support, whilst Groundwork Southwark are providing paid support to Lambeth on the project. SBEG, WCRT, and WCDG have set areas of interest which end at Lambeth Road. They rightly have to focus on their own agendas and deliver to their members or their boards.

Of the group who attend these meetings, probably only the Chair fo the Friends lives close to the park.

Once you unravel the alphabet soup there are two problems.

Founders Place, and the associated S106.

The Hospital, whose Foundation Charity Trust or whatever is proposing Founders Place, is probably a member of SBEG or works closely with them. They were certainly represented on WPB, which was delivered by SBEG and which oversees WCRT. They may well be on CRP. Consultation on Founders Place was very focussed on the South Bank Forum (organised by SBEG and limited to the SBEG area) and WCDG. Other than the Friends who invited them, I am not aware of any presentations to any of the Kennington fora. (Anecdotally it is suggested that the developers were completely gob-smacked by the late opposition to their plans. Perhaps because most people did not understand the likely impact until the first site visit.)

For complex planning reasons any development to the north of the park is likely to have to pay substancial compensation in the form of S106 investment in the park. This is likely to be in the region of £1 million.(Ironically my determined lobbying for good language through the four years of producing Lambeth's Unitary Development Plan may have help achieve this. I note in the latest consultation document the language is stronger still!)

SBEGs interest in green space appears mainly focussed on increasing sports provision. (The Friends started in the first place to oppose SBEG proposals for a private tennis centre to be built on the park.) This is what workers want. Plus most SBEEG members includign Shell are some distance from the park. Their workers will not use it at lunchtime but might use it for after work football.

My view is that this one off sum should be used to make a big capital investment, for example convert either the Park keepers lodge or the toilet block into a proper cafe with safe toilets. All the consultation to date has shown this as a top priority, and a lot of work
has been done on feasibility (a kiosk was not thougth to be feasible, and does not provide the shelter of toilets, but a supported employment cafe would.)

Instead it looks as if the proposal is for football provision and a new entrance on Lambeth Palace Road, though it's quite hard to find out. Lambeth tell me that they have agreed with the Chair of the Friends that she will be their only point of contact with the local community on plans for the park. (I am just relying on what Lambeth Planners said at a planning meeting.) Lots of questions though. How big? How affordable? Floodlighting?

The Waterloo puzzle continues. WCRT, run by SBEG, apparently insisted that WCDG "deliver" the playground project. I dont know much more than what Lambeth told me when we were close to finalising the plans. Essentially they wewre told that WCDG had "taken over" though Lambeth continued to carry on with the project as before. I understand that WCDG are also keen to deliver S106 funded work. It will certainly help fill the funding gap caused by the end of SRB.

So why the concern about the proxy votes and a meeting held in Waterloo in the same building as WCDG.

Simple really. A change from usual procedures to proxy votes seems to have been decided by part but not all of the committee. In June this was just one of a host of other changes, including a need to be a member for a set period, the AGM limited to members and more. (The latter was interesting given I and others had not been invitede to renew our memberships the previous autumn.)Given that we had already had a period when there was a fairly determined clear out of elected Committee members, it did not do much to inspire trust and the June AGM ended up as a complete and unacceptable shambles.

Proxy voting is not necessarily right or wrong. But the implications need to be discussed. For example with membership at £1 a time, is there a danger that a group with a particular interest could join and dominate the proceedings. Also do all candidates have equal access to potential proxy voters. For example Helen Lees claims that she "saved" the trees in the park. I feel I have done my best to save them but that they are not safe yet. This debate will happen at an AGM, but proxy voters only have access to what the Chair of the group sends out.

Interestingly WCDG do not allow proxy votes and limit their candidates to people who live within their strictly defined area. I think they would be horrified at the idea that people from Walton on Thames, who worked in the area and maintained a keen interest in the area, were able to decide group policy.

Where the meeting is held will affect who will turn up. Particularly with parks. Many frequent park users are elderly or have young children. People do care and attendence has usually been good. But if you want to encourage people who rely on the park, and whose voices are less easily heard, you need to hold the meeting close to Kennington's big estates. And you ensure that it is well advertised within those estates.

So Medic, good you are taking an interest. But I hope you can see why I am concerned. The role of the group should be to help articulate the needs of park users especially the least articulate. It should be a group for people who care about the park, which can include people working in the area. But employee interests are already well represented through SBEG and SAZ. The Friends need to ensure that they stand apart from the inwardness of Waterloo, and act and are seen to act independently in the best interests of members.

I say all of this, but I understand that the number of proxy votes is such that it will make not a blind bit of difference who turns up on the night. The result is already decided.

The best we can hope for is a clear committment by the Friends to support a group of us in ensuring that the design of Founders Place is sympathetic to the setting of the park.

And next time there is a thread about kids hanging round doing nothing, please allow me to let off steam. Here is a wonderful opportunity to improve the facilities available to people who do not have much. But they seem to be at the bottom of the agenda.

Sarah
Sunday 26 November 2006 7.13pm
<BUMP>

The AGM is on Monday 27 November at 7.30pm.

Details here

My apologies that I can't be there, as I will be at another meeting that (hopefully) will be signing off the draft Vision Statement for another Lambeth open space - one that has only taken ten years to agree.
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