Archbishop's Park

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Friday 17 November 2006 11.44pm
As a regular user of Archbishop's Park I am struck by the significant improvements it has undergone over the last 18 months or so. The landscaped area in the south is interesting, the exercise equipment is useful, the new children's play area is great and the planted areas in the north look good.

I'm sure that those of us who use the park are grateful for the efforts of those responsible for these improvements. Yet on this discussion forum there are numerous messages, nearly all from the same person, in which all the positive developments of the last 18 months are ignored.

I doubt if anyone with an open mind could walk through Archbishop's Park today and not be impressed with the improvements that have taken place over the last 18 months or so. Serial complainers need not respond.
Saturday 18 November 2006 12.23am
The second paragraph of the message above has been amended at the request of 'Fred'.

(Saturday 11am)

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Saturday 18 November 2006 11.05am
Might the delivery of improvements to the Park over the last two years have little to do with the effectiveness of the Friends under current or previous committes, and rather more to do with:

(a) Lambeth Parks Department finally having some continuity of staffing in its senior management team - finally there are people in post with some idea of project management and contract managemen (although they do have a bit of a one size fits all mentality on procurement -oops, mustn't be a "serial complainer"!).

(b) The actions of the Council's previous Lib Dem-Tory administration:
(i) The Council finally reinstated a budget for planned maintenance in the Parks Department after years of cuts; and
(ii) Specific capital funds were made available through the "Lambeth Opportunities Fund" administered by each Area Committee. IIRC this funded 20k towards the trim trail.
Depending on your political affiliation, this fund was either a bold attempt to address years of underinvestment in the local environment; "bread and circuses" populism to win votes; or some combination of the two.
Sunday 19 November 2006 6.30pm
Lang Rabbie is correct to draw attention to the central role played by Lambeth Council in the upkeep and development of Archbishops Park. However, the Friends of Archbishops Park (FoAP) has played an important role in securing additional funding, representing park users and working with the community. Given the number of negative messages that have been posted on the discussion forum about FoAP over the last year or so I will give a few positive examples of what the Friends has achieved.

1. The recently installed children's play area is very popular and although substantially funded by Lambeth Council the Friends was able, in conjunction with Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG), to obtain 50K from SRB and just over 22K from the Western Riverside Environment Fund. The Friends was also able to liaise with the Council and architects (Cracknell Ferns) over the design of the area and the selection of play equipment.

2. The Friends has also secured funding from:
a) a local employer (Shell) for three bench seats (2K),
b) the South East London Community Fund for four Grey Poplars (1K).

3. Ongoing projects include:
a) a Lottery application for a grant for additional equipment & seating for the play area (60K, we've already got through the first round),
b) an application for funding to restore both shelters (over 20K), and
c) working with Camberwell School of Art to restore the granite fountain, which was removed many years ago.

4. The Friends is keen to work with community groups and to this end it has:
a) completed a mosaic under the guidance of Southbank Mosaics, which the children from school clubs at ADI and Coin Street and the Archbishop of Canterbury have helped to build (installation in 2007), and
b) worked with Putting Down Roots to build a new spring garden, an area which was overgrown and had attracted anti-social behaviour (funding from the Waterloo Community Regeneration Trust),
c) Used a community grant (Shell) to fund children's tennis run by Your Story over the summer.

5. The Friends is holding its first Christmas Party with music and singing around the Park (weather permitting) in December.

We are keen to build our membership, which has more than quadrupled since June 2005. Anybody who wants to become a member is welcome to email me.

Helen Lees

Chair of Friends of Archbishops Park
Sunday 19 November 2006 11.14pm
Helen Lees wrote:
Given the number of negative messages that have been posted on the discussion forum about FoAP over the last year or so I will give a few positive examples of what the Friends has achieved.

Congratulations on everything you have achieved in the past few months.

Personally, I'd be interested to see your responses to the "negative messages" you mention.

Most of the critisms posted here have been very specific, so maybe you could respond to them in the specific threads?
Monday 20 November 2006 3.45pm
Helen, you and the people you represent may have done well, but i see there nothing that, apparently, corresponds with 'what people want'.

If we're to believe what other people have said, then a lot of money was spent on asking local park users what they thought was needed, and doing a feasability study to see if that was possible, and by all acounts, it was.

So where are these things?

A cafe?
safe toilets?

and....

... not planning on building huge blocks of flats too close to some very nice trees.
Monday 20 November 2006 7.24pm
JonR,

I was under the impression that the Tree Officer had confirmed via trial pits that the trees would not be damaged - do you have some information that FoAP doesn't.

It would be great to have decent toilets and a cafe, but I suppose the question is, are they viable? I am not sure whether there is sufficient users to make either viable - do you think there is?

Regards,

Loafer
Tuesday 21 November 2006 6.15am
Fred,
I think it is great that you are using James' site to engage in debate.

I assume you are new to the Forum, and perhasp the area. The Friends of Archbishops Park has been Gong for 6 years. During that time the group has opposed the buiding of a private tennis centre on the park (no kidding I have the picture) worked towards getting a new lease, made sure the park keepers house was not sold off, written a management plan fro the park based on extensive public consultation, and then done some preliminary fundraising which included the trim trail, the cricket mats, and the first piece of play equipment.

I and others worked with support of this site, worked with Lambeth to appoint designers for the playground, and carried out the original consultation. James very kindly posted the consultation document on the website, and others including the local Sure Start and several local schools supported the process. I remember distinctly - they were very long - filling out the first draft of both the WCRT adn WREF funding bids. I am sure that others including WCDG and the Coin Street Children's Centre have also helped and it is right that they should be credited. But things do not happen over-night, certainly not in Lambeth, and without a lease, indeed without a park, there would be no new playground.

(I exagerate, but the tennis centre proposals would have had the park cut back to where the playground is, which would have meant no scope for expanding the play area.)

I should also say here, that after working with him for much of the past six years, the Lambeth officer who has responsibility for playgrounds is completely dedicated and utterly professional. Happy to include his name but might spare his blushes.

And Rabbie is right. A fair amount of credit is due to Cllr Clare Whelan who, during the LIb-Cons regime, worked very hard to reverse the neglect of Lambeth's Parks. Rabbie is right to be cynical but in this case I would argue that to no small extent Clare's efforts came from a desire to make a difference in what was likely to be her only crack at being in power.

Sorry Loafer, I agree with Jon R on the trees. The test pits etc make it probable that the trees will survive the construction phase. The first proposals, which failed to meet the current British standard, would have killed them at this point. (Nice as it is that the developers tell us they moved the building back as a response to local lobbying - but it is not the case. The British Standards changed.) This is as far as Lambeth's tree officer can go.

The proposals still have eight storeys of private flats with south facing windows. The first design, which included south facing balconies, appeared to assume a view of the park. Despite moving the flats back, and adding an extra couple of storeys to the flats at the rear of the plot, the design remains the same.

I really do not see people moving into new and expensive flats with south facing windows, where they having nothing but a view of dense trees, and light levels which are only adequate, doing anything but lobby for these trees to be felled or pollarded. There is a real question mark about whether mature trees, which are mote likely to suffer stress than young ones, will be able to cope with "minimum standards".

I noted that the Friends group formally aim to protect the conservation area. Yet, despite Loafer's comment, it has been very difficult to meet with the Friends group to share information and concerns on Founders Place. The group seems entirely sanguine (happy for Helen Lees to correct me if that is not the case) about the loss of every buildng, and as I understand it, every tree on the part of the conservation area that forms the Founders Place site. In contrast the well attended public meeting on Founders Place a year ago, confirmed public support for protecting the Victorian School building that houses the Buddhist temple.

In terms of the other "improvements" Fred has me confused. I am not sure how much the gravel pit at the Southern end of the park cost, though I hear it was significantly more than 100,000. (I understand it was NRF education money.) I think it is horrid, and I know I am not alone. A really strong argument for any group claiming to represent local people to make sure that plans are seen and approved by people before they go ahead. I am also bemused by the kiosk which is not open (loads of work there which suggests that the only viable option was to convert the park keepers house or toilet block) into a cafe providing supported employment. And by the changing rooms that are also locked. (Again a cafe would have provided staffing which would have enabled the changing rooms to be open.)

What concerns me most though is the loss of vision. Rather than an overall management plan, the park seems to be a sort of allotment for people with access to grants. So we get a spring garden because money is available, a mosaic, and now perhaps a rockery. I also hear that we will be getting trees on the lawn area, where kids play informal ball games, and people picnic.

Fred, I hope that clarifies things and is useful. A lot of people have put in a lot of effort over a long period. I do not think it useful to squabble over who did what. It would be far more useful if we could all sit down and discuss how best to use community interest and energy. I for one would be more than happy to start fund-raising for the remainder of the play equipment. Then we all benefit.
Thursday 23 November 2006 10.44pm
JonR states that ‘a lot of money was spent on asking local park users what they thought was needed'. He is correct: about 35,000 was spent in 2002 (before I was FoAP Chair) in producing a lengthy report (about half a ream of A4 paper) with dozens of recommendations that would cost over 2million to implement.

It was clearly not possible for Lambeth to spend this sort of money on the Park so in 2005 it produced an Action Plan based on the original lengthy report. It included most of the improvements that have happened over the last year or so such as the southern area nature zone, the trim trail and the expansion of the children's play area. So it is a little unfair of JonR to suggest that FoAP has done nothing that corresponds with 'what people want'.

JonR is also correct to say that the lengthy report also mentioned the desirability of improving and reopening the toilet block and opening a café although it should be pointed out that these were just two of over 40 recommendations.

As to the toilets these have been refurbished. I understand the Council has decided to limit their opening times because of the anti-social behaviour that they tend to attract. As to the café the Council has confirmed that there are no suitable buildings available but it is currently considering a kiosk.

JonR criticises FoAP for not providing ‘what people want'. But since the lengthy report was produced in 2002 FoAP members have voiced differing views about some Park facilities. For example, some have doubted the commercial viability of a café in a small park (particularly in the winter) and they are concerned about litter, whilst others emphasise the importance of having drinks available, particularly for their children.

Regular readers of this discussion forum could be forgiven for thinking that ‘park users' all speak with one united voice on an agreed set of priorities. But as FoAP Chair I know that this is not the case. Given the diversity of views that park users hold it would be counterproductive if I, as Chair, engaged in too much tub-thumping in the name of the sometimes illusive notion of ‘what people want'.

I would welcome further constructive contributions on this subject (such as those made by Lang Rabbie, The Lady Miss Jo Jo, JonR and Loafer) and hope that this spirit of friendly debate can be carried forward into FoAP's AGM on Monday.

PS
To FoAP's list of achievements over the last year I should add one of our most important: we were involved in getting the Council to put Tree Preservation Orders on some Plane trees.
Friday 24 November 2006 7.43am
Hmm.

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.

Sarah
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