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Council Consultation on St Mary Magdalen Churchyard

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Sunday 20 September 2009 7.04pm
At the Bermondsey Street Festival on Saturday, the council was present in the guise of continuing their consultation on improvements to St Mary Magdalen Churchyard.

There is a major anti-social issue in the churchyard, namely the use of hidden and dark areas at the back of the church and behind tombs for defecation, drug taking and drinking. This was clearly raised with the July consultation with comments such as "Dark corner at the back of the site - haven for drugs drinking and toilet". Of 41 responders, 14 wanted "More lighting - safety and feature".

On Saturday we were invited to allocate the available money to ten options but I was most surprised to discover that exactly NONE involved any changes to the lighting in the churchyard. I was told that the council consider that lighting will disrupt wildlife, attract unruly elements and be expensive to maintain, yet on the point of security they also have no desire to lock the churchyard at night.

It seems to be a consultation in name but where the Council, just like Derren Brown, ensures that their desired answer is chosen!

Am I the only person who thinks that if the improvements proposed by the council do not address the issue of the anti-social behaviour in the dark corners around the church then the entire scheme is utterly pointless? The churchyard is a no-go area at night to any sane non-criminal and yet it appears that they intend to do nothing at all about it.
Monday 21 September 2009 10.54am
I'm sorry to hear this. I agree that the anti-social behaviours you list are a problem as is drug dealing.
Monday 21 September 2009 7.50pm
I didn't list drug dealing as I have no evidence of that, whereas I do have personal experience there of the residue of the other matters I mentioned. There is a constant danger with syringes, and the human excrement is, well, excrement.
Tuesday 22 September 2009 5.43pm
I felt the same, and Southwark said...

Lighting was indeed highlighted by a good number of people in the first round of consultation both for safety and aesthetic purposes. At the time (well in the site
walk over) I mentioned that Parks weren't always in favour of this approach and that there was a lot of debate about how effective lighting is in making parks safe.

Since that walk over, Parks have made available a draft policy where Parks do not want to install lighting if the following situations are relevant

1. there is the possibility that wildlife and insect life could be affected - in fact we would have to undertake a bat survey to insure there were no bats living around the park (approx cost of 2000) if we were going to install any lighting - Fines and court action if you don't!
2. there is a well lit street alternative that does not lengthen the walk time by more than 5-10 mins - Abbey St and Tower Bridge
3. there will be ongoing maintenance and management costs with no budget.

- it is therefore understood that Parks would oppose lighting along the path in St Mary Magdalen

I purposely left lighting out of the voting buckets as I did not want to raise expectations when it is highly unlikely that we would be able to ever install lighting.

The discussion about feature lighting is still going on however there are still the same issues regarding ongoing management and maintenance and the debate about encouraging people into the park when it may not be safe - also to get the most visual benefit aesthetic lighting would need to be around the periphery of the site which to me wasn't what people really talked about in the first round of consultation.

At the display on Sat In the information summarising the last round of consultation I stated that lighting was raised and also included a statement to the above effect. I was told yesterday that Parks are about to discuss with Councillors and will update us in due course.
Saturday 26 September 2009 4.37pm
I can see that the Council's Parks department may think that lighting is not helpful, but I still consider that for the Council as a whole to spend lots of PUBLIC money on the churchyard without considering the wider social aspects is a total waste of OUR money.

I am not suggesting that there should be lots of lighting to permit legal use of the park for 24 hours per day, just something to deter miscreants such as some motion activated security lighting. Just enough to deter anyone wanting to find a dark corner for their fix, or to drop their trousers - or does the Council really think that this is not a problem?
Monday 28 September 2009 8.20am
Why does southwark not re-open the toilets in tower bridge road? they are still marked up for rental use as a cafe, as southwark has enough cafe's in tower bridge road and NO toilets...even drug addicts need lavatories..alternatively why not build some actually at the back of the churchyard as thats where it seems from this posting they congregate?
Far better than someone stepping in a pile of faeces.
Better still why not have somewhere they can legally take them with washing and toilet facilities.
Saturday 3 October 2009 6.34pm
Feedback from the most recent consultation has now been published by the council:

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Sunday 4 October 2009 1.56pm
An observation from Southwark Council's own Consultation document, helpfully posted above by James Hatts :

Of the 46 Comments listed, not a single one voices support for a "Natural Play and Exploration Area" in St Mary Magdalen Churchyard(indeed, one Comment is specifically opposed to such a development) - so how does that option come third in the "vote" ?

Rather like Tanner Street's Council Plans - in which all three options contain a "Natural Play and Exploration Area" or similar. You can "vote" for any option, but if they all have a single proposal in common, that is not really a genuine choice (see the Derren Brown comment by Possel).

In my view, both Parks already represent a "Natural Play and Exploration Area" - and Tanner Street already has a dedicated children's play area.

C'mon, Southwark, stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes !

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