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Long and Winding Road

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Wednesday 25 June 2003 6.10am
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.
Thursday 26 June 2003 3.50pm
I feel so sorry for you being a Lambeth resident.
Next door in Southwark it seems that pretty much all of the parks are getting investment - starting in "jail park" a few yrs ago (750,000 spent) to Mint st park, Guy's park, Bermonsey Park (looks fab after a major spending spree), burgess park is really coming on with all the tree planting going on there,
Peckham Rye park is also being redeveloped (another successful lottery bid......) and
Tabard gardens - currently being re-furbed....and
Little Dorrit park.... the list goes on...............
It seems that your big problem is Lambeth council - the money does seem to be out there if you only tap into it. It seems that Lambeth is just noy pro-active about this.
Glad my council tax is not going to them!
Good luck - have you considered a bid to the National Lottery???
Friday 27 June 2003 5.14am
In fairness Lambeth are trying a lot harder now. Despite all the money that was out there, Lambeth had not got any major investment in any of its parks for, probably, decades. Other groups centred around Kennington, Brockwell and other parks had got to where we are. Eg with a proper plan and proposals. But the bid writing for major funding is a big job.

There are some good people in Lambeth right now but they are overwhelmed. And the idea is to help them not cause them to go running for the door. (We have seen five people manage Lambeth parks in three years.)

We (Lambeth and ourselves) are currently seeking 10,000 to get someone in to write bids to people like lottery and all. (These are complicated and you do need expertise.) Plus to do a final consultation on our plan and work the plan in the form where we could tender for phased implementation. As you point out, Lambeth has not got a lot of experience, and to suceed this part has to be done well - though there should be the basis for some good bids. (The area to the south of the park is very deprived with few alternative amenities.) The idea is to get someone in who can also give Lambeth the experience and thus build their capacity.

The local community money is more focussed on building community
capacity rather than Lambeth's. So we are being encouraged to apply for money for 'babysitting' in order that we can find the time to take on more. The trouble is that I work, do this and curiously, enjoy being with my kids, and my friends feel the same. I am waiting to hear whether one of the bids we have in has suceeded, otherwise it does look as if we will have the choice of our plan staying in a drawer and the park rotting, or doing it ourselves, with whatever capacity Lambeth can offer. If we go down the latter route we are going to need some pretty heavy mentoring. (We have had some really good help from a number of good and interesting people in the past at a stage when Lambeth was actively opposing us - quite possibly because they did not mind
losing the park.) So if anyone is out there who has the skills and would like to help us, the returns in what a sucessful project will do, both for this area, and for Lambeth Parks more generally, are huge.

It is weird. The money is there. But it is really very complicated to get hold of it. Particularly if you start from the position of just ordinary people who want to see a sandpits and paddling pool, or even football for the kids, rather than from the view point of a 'stakeholder' interested in piers pavements and bridges.

The tactic is to be an immovable object so in the end it is easier to give us what we want. I know we do have good local support for investment in the park. But we do need people to turn up to the AGM and show their interest.

And its not only Southwark. Westminster and Wandsworth have also managed to secure regular pots of funnding to do up their green spaces one by one. Parks are cost effective and mean a lot to people who can't afford much else.
Friday 27 June 2003 6.39am
I understand that the improvements for the park in Bermondsey have been funded in a large part by the building firms who were 'asked' to 'donate' money. I assume this may have helped them get quicker planning permissions and what have you not. Jolly clever really.

Sarah, if you guys have a charity set up for this work that you're doing, I'll be happy to make a small donation. Post details (if allowed) and I'll send a carrier pigeon over with a brown envelope.

Sunday 29 June 2003 6.59pm
That is really kind.

Part of what we are after is what you are referring to. Called Section 106, or planning gain money. Essentially there is a big development planned immediately to the north of the park. This means 4-8 storeys of private flats immediately by our park, rising to about 20 as you get up to Westminster Bridge Roundabout. They haven't applied for planning permission yet. But there is a principle that residents should not lose out when the area is developed. We will point out that our park will be less of a green oasis if overshadowed by rich people looking down on us -especially if the flats kill the trees. Plus you can't build, say, another 1000 units - on top of what is already going up in the area, without putting any investment into public facilities. And the building work is expected to take five years. Five years of mums trying to push buggies down Carlisle Lane with huge cranes in the way, plus dust and noise. Hmmm. The developers obviously are hoping to get away without paying. Lets hope Lambeth will stay on the ball.

At the moment we are seeking four different kinds of money.

1. Members and donations. The money here will cover things like easter egg hunts, where the Cadburys Eggs for 90 children cost 30, but the event insurance Lambeth forces us to have costs 150. Really anything from 50p to 50 is welcome. The great thing about this money is that it is not tied so we can use it for what we need - and match it with other funding streams.

2. Money for sports. We have football going for 90 kids for two hours each Saturday morning, using Fulham Football in the Community coaches. It is great. Real inner city ethnic mix. The teenagers now have a team and are looking for kit. They won a tournament in Brixton two weeks back. (They call themsleves AC Archbishops.) They say they are happy to front any application and talk to funders. The footie cost 6,000 pa. If anyone knows of a local firm who would like to be seen doing this sort of thing, well its here.

3. Capacity money. About 10,000. Or perhaps some pro-bono work from people with funding and project background. It looks like we will have a lease. (Thats the big one - the land must be worth 200 million, since it is 10 acres of prime South Bank.) We have a management plan but held back on final consultation till the tenure was sorted. (The plan in a sense was our lever.) We now need someone to finalise the plan plus organise a series of bids to different bodies like Heritage Lottery, Sports Lottery (fancy some Astroturf rather than Redgra - the schools certainly do) and various other fudning streams including SRB. These are genuinely complicated. Over half the park use is communters wanting to see some green rather than streets so we will be looking at the various pots of transport money, and so on. Plus planning gain money - since Lambeth now agree that it should be spent in the area rather than be transported south to Brixton, as has happened in the past. (Or not collected at all - about which there are one or two stories - probably not for a web-site.) Plus to draw up a project plan allowing for phased implementation (cos the money will come through in stages) and the appropriate tender documents.

4. Implementation money. Here a football pitch with lighting comes out at 500,000, paths 300,000, cafe ???, Playground ??? A lot. There has been no real investment for decades. The money is out there. Lambeth are now on side and very supportive, though the new people they have brought in are being hit with a huge outstanding workload from all over the borough. (Not a job I would have taken, so I and others are sympathetic.) St Thomas' is building a 9 storey children's hospital opposite, and there are lots of depressing deprivation statistics (health, single mums, and so on) to support any bid. Plus as everyone knows there is precious little green space in SE1 - and this is the biggest area. But we are still not in the inner circle when the Government money designed to help this area is being dished out. (It still goes on pavements rather than parks and 'social inclusion' objectives seem to be pursued by employing more community workers rather than actually giving something to those with least. )

Bit of a rant.....again. But if you are willing to give us something either email me at [email protected] or get your pidgeon over to 5 Pratt Walk, SE11. No charity status, but we have a constitution with a charitable intent. Plus a bank account which requires 2 signatories - not mine (accounts available on request.) . We really are still local mums, nothing grander than that. But no reason why we should not have a playground for our kids and facilities for others. The bigger sums would be for Lambeth to manage within the partnership framework we have already agreed with them.

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