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Potters Fields

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Monday 26 September 2005 9.58pm
Andrew, you're one of the most informed people on here, even though you're round the other side of the globe!

Regarding your earlier point about the UDP and open spaces, the other factor that comes into it is that in these times of manic development of all kinds, there are simply SO MANY issues like that which need local peoples' energetic input, and so few local people with the time, inclination and knowledge to get involved in things like modifying the UDP. I think that's where some of these processes of 'openness'and 'democracy' fall down - they rely on peoples' almost unsupported voluntary involvement in very demanding processes. The result is that the big organisations get their way and the little people get burn out.
Monday 26 September 2005 11.38pm
Hi Jo,

I agree with what you said about the UDP process and the fact that there are so many issues to get involved with. People do burn out, including me - I ended up with M.E. thanks in no small part to the Council's three year long refusal to accept that its Southwark Estates Initiative plans to demolish our homes were flawed and just plain wrong. There are no polite words to describe how I feel about the councillors and (some of the) officers involved in that.

Part of the solution to this has to come from Southwark Council itself. While the creation of the community councils was 'a good thing', the problem is that in some ways they still cover too large an area, and are organised along the lines of ward boundaries, not how people might experience their community interactions in real life. I tried at the time to get them to realise that the people along Tooley Street might have a more useful discussion with a community council which was centered around London Bridge than around Rotherhithe, but it was clearly a step too far for an organisation which was having to do a lot of work to get these things off the ground in the first place. Unless things have improved in the last 20 months, they're still likely to be something extra to have to go to, instead of a replacement for other issues you get involved in. On the other hand, if they are too small, they can easily fall prey to NIMBYism and an inability to see the bigger strategic picture that the Council has to keep in mind. They can also be unrepresentative and unaccountable. A bit like the failure of the Pool of London Partnership and Cross River Partnership to adequately involve representatives of community groups in their planning and decision making processes. Nobody said this was easy stuff for politicians and officers, but the next time around for creating/evolving these structures, they should try talking to activists at the grassroots level about what would be useful for them first.

The other part of the solution has to come from increasing rates of civic participation in other activities and working to ensure how those involved learn why there is a spillover of issues into the more formal political participative processes. I won't go on about this here, but probably the best thing to read is a fascinating new book called Start With People: How Community Organisations Put Citizens in the Driving Seat by Demos (who are now conveniently located at 136 Tooley Street and might be encouraged to do some action research on their own front doorstep!). You can download it for free, and I found it an easy read. Another useful Demos book is People Make Places.

One of the things it says is that funders of community work (the book is aimed at the Big Lottery Fund as well as public authorities) should recognise that some public money needs to be given to groups to enable them to hold authorities to account, and even to fund protests. Community funding should not just be about planting new shrubs in your pocket handkerchief park, and that even in the cases where that is what it does, those planting the shrubs need to realise the links between what they are doing and the more formal political and management processes and how they can participate in them. (A bit like the attempts to retain public control over the management of Potters Field Park instead of handing it over to a quango dominated by big companies and the GLA.) Acceptance of this idea, while somewhat radical for most public authorities, seems to me to be crucial if people are not to get 'consultation fatigue' and chuck in the towel.

The short answer to the UDP process might have been for Southwark to pay Planning Aid for London to assist community groups and individual concerned residents to have their say. I'm sure it would have felt slightly counter-intuitive to the planning officers involved in drawing up the UDP to have public money spent on making their work harder, but I'm also sure it would have ended up with a UDP that more people understood and felt ownership of. It is supposed to be a plan which represents how the borough wants things to go, and the borough is the people after all...
Tuesday 27 September 2005 10.52am
We have actually been very lucky here, both in the fact that Southwark's officer responsible for a lot of the UDP consultation and indeed drawing up the UDP, has been absolutely excellent , and also in having the help of the Willowbrook Centre, who work closely with Panning Aid for London, and have been taking on just the role you describe. But its still a lot of strain on residents, along with all the other stuff we have to keep an eye on.

I shall look up those two documents you suggest, they sound right up my street. Thanks.
Tuesday 27 September 2005 10.58am
Ah yes - the Willowbrook Centre. I'd forgotten about them, since I didn't get a chance to work with them before I left. Good news that they're helping you and that the relevant officer in Southwark has been helpful too. Keep up the good work!
Tuesday 27 September 2005 12.43pm
I suggest that we launch a competition to name each of the proposed towers.

How about:
'Baked Beans' - 'Tomato Soup' - 'Rice Pudding' -'Sweetcorn' -'Minced Beef' -'Rice Pudding' - 'Custard' and 'Rhubarb Fool'

A little ridicule may not be amiss.
Tuesday 27 September 2005 3.33pm
there should be a restoration style TV show where the public get to vote for what they want on the site.
Tuesday 27 September 2005 8.08pm
Nice to see that the South London Press has such a strong grasp of the geography of its coverage area. Their report on Potters Fields not only refers to Barclay Homes (sic - this was the AJ's error) but states that the Vauxhall Tower is in Blackfriars Road...

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Wednesday 28 September 2005 10.23am
What angle is the south London press takeing.

Wednesday 28 September 2005 11.47am
You can read the article here for what it is worth, but it does not say much new. What is worth noting is the fact that Jenny Jones, a member of the GLA from the Green Party says that:
"This scheme would be very bad news for the Potters' Field site, the South Bank area and London as a whole.
"The development is completely inappropriate for its location and we hope common sense prevails and it never gets off the drawing board.

"The Green Party will lobby very hard to see the back of these plans."

So... those working to stop the Berkeley Homes proposal from going ahead know who to contact when they get their next meeting planned.
Wednesday 28 September 2005 1.39pm
Thanks for that.

sound like the oposition to this is growing
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