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New lease of life for Archbishop’s Park

Marlies Morsink

Archbishop's Park, one of the few public green spaces in north Lambeth and the largest in SE1, has been preserved for at least one more generation.

The Church Commissioners, owners of the freehold, signed a forty-year lease extension with Lambeth Council last Monday.

Andrew Brown, Chief Executive, said, "The fact the park is used is a great pleasure to us." Councillor Peter Truesdale remarked that the nineteenth century Archbishop of Canterbury, Archibald Campbell Tait, had been a true visionary when he chose to share his garden wth the community in the interests of health and well-being.

With the previous ninety-year lease coming to an end, the extension was not a foregone conclusion. Local residents, headed by Sarah O'Connell, were concerned that the land would be turned over to commercial property developers. The Friends of Archbishop's Park was set up in June 2000 to lobby for continued public access to the park. With the area along the river becoming increasingly built-up, there is ever more, not less, demand for green space and leisure and recreation facilities in the area.

The park belongs to Lambeth Palace, home to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his family. The palace gardens were formally opened to the public in 1901, and half of the twenty acres now forms Archbishop's Park. It presently has two soccer pitches; several tennis courts; netball, cricket, and athletic facilities; as well as a play area for children at the northern end.

Now the lease has been secured, final consultations can take place on the management plan for the park. The plan involves fifty proposals for improved facilities and aims to capture some of the funding available in the area. Cross River Partnership is working together with Groundwork on designs to put the plan into practice, and Lambeth Riverside SRB is providing the bulk of the funding.

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