Dozy me forgot to tell James in time, so missed his really useful newsletter.
Anyway the Friends of Archbishops Park are having their third AGM on 30 June in the China Walk Tenants Hall
at 7.00pm. This is the third building on your left on Lambeth Walk as you enter from Lambeth Road
. If anyone can make it we really could do with support. (Plus I would love to meet LMJJ and others - bring a horse.)
Three years ago we were nice normal people who did things like take our toddlers to parks and playgroups. Then we heard that South Bank Employers Group were proposing a private tennis centre on what is the biggest park in SE1. Priority community need, apparently. We also found out that the 100 year lease on the park had run out, and that there way supposedly heaps of Government money in the area, designed to improve the lot of the most deprived.
Three years on we are close to a lease, though I'm not sure whether I am normal anymore. But the park is still rotting, with two further bits of play equipment due to come out next week. (Indeed I have just spent the past week geting Lambeth to revise an action plan which listed 'removing the playground' as a priority item!)
Anyone living in this area will be aware of the huge amounts of money spent on new pavements and the like. Our crafty idea was to try and argue that some of this money might be spent on things like a sandpit or paddling pool - or even a cafe or trim trail. Things that ordinary people could use and which make life better even if you don't have lots of money.
Interesting theoretical idea. Have 'regeneration' influenced by residents. We are still in there and fighting. Though much of the dialogue is essentially us saying 'why not' and not getting an answer.
Some stuff is bizarre. 50% of park use is probably pedestrian. Getting to St Thomas' Hospital
, Lambeth North, Waterloo or whereever. Yet the paths are now in such a state that they are unsafe for the elderly and infirm. Money is being spent improving pedestrian access to Lambeth North, but it can't be spent in the park. Yes people use the park, but it is not an 'official pedestrian route'. We did not know it, but we are supposed to use Hercules Road
or Royal Street
Even more bizarre was writing to Cross River Partnership, with the full support of Lambeth, before the end of the financial year, saying we would be interested in them funding some of the proposed improvements that were in the management plan we had developed in partnership with Lambeth. (That cafe again!) Five months later and we are told that these proposals cannot considered as this is a community project. Hmmm.
In fairness we have got good support from a lot of good people, including a united front of local politicians. But after three years of very hard work we still have not been able to get a seat at the table when the big boys sit round and make the decisions. Amazingly I ended up knowing so much about the process that I was given a job managing a regeneration programme in a nearby borough. (Interesting output that - one long term unemployed into permanent work - hope someone counted it.) All a little extreme. We just want our paddling pool. Or something other than Redgra for our kids to play football on.
A good turnout at the AGM will help. I do think we are getting to the stage where we may get what we want simply to keep us quiet. Even if it means a bit less flashy pavement for the South Bank.
More importantly the developers who are planning a big new development to the north of the park, some of it on land zoned for park use, will be giving a presentation. Private flats, five years of building work, plus buildings up to 20 stories. The usual SE1 story. The more people who argue to minimise the impact on a pretty and historic park, the better. Plus if densities continue to increase, along the lines of Ken's London Plan, without developers being asked to support local facilities that their new residents will use, we all end up living in a less attractive area.
It will also be a chance to ask Lambeth about exciting new plans to reduce staff hours to 8am-4pm on weekdays. Given that people to use parks outside school and working hours, feel safer when staff are visible, and 'savings' are lowly paid but experienced staff losing overtime - which means they will probably go - Lambeth needs to be put on the spot.
Sorry, too long and all a bit heavy. But do come. And help get us a paddling pool.