I am pleased that there is a debate at last. I am an elected member of the Friends Committee, and like others, have seen changes made to the park which I have not been aware of, and which have not always been value for money nor improvemnets.
To respond to various points.
1. The park management plan. Producing management plans for parks is policy for both Lambeth Parks and for the Lambeth Parks Forum. It is not possible to raise grant funds without being able to satisfy funders that there is a vision and that the funding will be meeting need. It would be nice if Helen Lees could compare the cost of the Archbishops Plan with those of other parks....say Jubilee Gardens
, Emma Cons Gardens
or even Millennium Green. The work included a lot of research with different groups of park users. A lot of local people put a lot of work into this plan. The idea was to ensure that the future of the park was determined by the needs of its users, not by the interests of the more powerful or more articulate. As Helen says, park users speak with different voices. Hence consultation and the attempt to have a cohesive plan.
2. The plan contained over 40 recommendations. Yes they cost £2 million, but they were then prioritised. The heavy duty items were a cafe and a new football pitch. It has always been known that if the Founders Place development were to have gone ahead on land zoned as park, there would be S106 money flowing into the park (current estimate £1 million.) Having a proper plan based on local consultation would then have unlocked further matched funding from external sources. Again I would challenge Helen Lees to campare the investment required in Archbishops to deliver a first class green space with other management plans, say in Kennington Park (which already has a cafe and pitches) or Brockwell. Or to confirm the total cost of Millennium Green.
3. I do not think that the current approach where consultation with local residents is limited to Helen Lees is sensible. A lot of money has been spent on a kiosk and changing rooms which are not open. On digging up a rose bed and replacing it with gravel, and then with "spring gardens", a promised rockery, Mosaics, all put in the park when someone gets a grant, without any sense of overarching design or balancing the needs of the different user groups. And I fear, without a proper look at long term maintenance costs. (For example the grass round the gravel pit has to be hand mown.) We are now threatened with trees on the only open grassy part of the park. Does this suit kids who dont have gardens of their own, but might like to have space to run around on or to have a casual game of, say, cricket. Have they been asked?
3. I love the idea that the Friends were instrumental in getting tree preservation orders on the trees in Archbishops Park. This one is easy to check. Just look at earlier threads. When I and others, including some from this forum, discovered how damaging the Founders Place plans were, and when it became clear that the Friends were not taking a particularly proactive role, organised a public meeting. Cllr Peter Truesdale
, Kate Hoey
MP, adn Jenny Jones from the GLA, the Chair of the NHS Foundation Trust and the developers themselves came along in order that people could be informed and make their own minds up. Helen Lees, as Chair of the Friends, was also invited to speak. Unfortunately she did not reply to the invitation. TPOs dont provide a huge amount of protection, adn the concern remaisn that the current Founders Place plans mean that the trees will not survive in the longer term. Jon R with his heritage background will know that trees in a conservation area are protected as if they were listed. The TPOs, as I discussed with the Lambeth Tree Officer, are belt and braces. But not enough. What we need is a Founders Place design that does not have south facing windows looking out directly into these trees, but instead acknowledges the trees and ensures there is no long term conflict between them and the new flats.
4. The idea that there are no suitable buidlings avaiable for a cafe is bizarre. Lambeth themselves engaged an architect to look at the feasibility of using either the park keepers lodge or the toilet block. (The latter was more expensive, but a better location.) The point of the exercise was in part to ensure safe toilets, approachable through a cafe. With Lambeth's blessing....and Lambeth's money...a feasibility study was carried out. When the feaslibility was done the charity involved, who were interested in a cafe which would provide supported employment, were then told by Lambeth that "the Friends" did not want a cafe. All I know is that I was leading on this project with a clear remit from members of the Friends and the Committee, but I was not consulted or informed about "the Friends decision" nor were other Committee members. The feasibility was on a supported employemnt cafe rather than a kiosk or commercial cafe, as previous work had determined that neither of these options were feasible.
Again this is all very strange. Helen must realise that an awful lot of people did a lot of groundwork to enable investment to flow into the park. We build good knowledge and relationships. Indeed we built a Friends group. We do not understand why good people were asked to stand down from the Committee and why Helen Lees does not invite or involve members of the elected Committee. Nor why decisions about investment in the park are now made without the benefit of an over arching plan, or public consultation.
At the end of the day Founders Place will have the biggest impact on the park, far beyond benches provided by Shell. (Perhaps Helen could give us some background about why Shell, which is a senior member of the South Bank Employers Group, is suddenly so interested in the park. Local assumption is that they are keen on a football pitch for their employees. But that does not explain why they supported the awful "improvements" to the southern end of the park through their donation.)
In all seriousness ee all need to work together on this. I know I speak for many park users when I say that it would be very very sad if the trees went and the childrens playground, like about every other playground in the area, were overlooked by high rise flats.
Things, as it is clear, have got very bad. Helen will have read the very personal emails sent out about me by Michael Ball, the Director of WCDG, who was and maybe still is, providing capacity support for the Friends. Indeed the first was distributed at the June AGM. (The second was removed from this website by James Hatts for pretty obvious reasons.)
I do not know why this is happening. I have asked a number of people and have yet to understand why Helen Lees seems to dislike the members of the original committee on such a personal level. Lets stop, sit down, pool our energy, experience and talents, and go through the various park agendas and work together to deliver to improvements that benefit all, especially the least well off.
I suspect I am the only member of the Friends Committee who has read the Founders Place plans (a big box full), the UDP the Inspectors report various PPGs etc. What I need now is to hire a tree expert to give a professional opinion about the long term impact of the development on those trees. A reputable local architect has offered to provide me with some names. It would be very nice if the Friends could agree that some of their funds, raised by the people who apparantly did so little, could be granted to me and used for this purpose.
I assume the Friends are concerned about the development.....now we have achieved this dialogue it would help everyone if we knew where the group stands.