Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Pilgrim Pub, 247 Kennington Lane (next to Tesco) extension to opening hours

I do not have good internet access over the Christmas period, hence posting frequency has been (and will be) down somewhat.  Needless to say, I'm keeping an eye on local goings on. 

One "naughty" licensing application eg. submitted over the Christmas period, pertains to The Pilgrim pub at 247 Kennington Lane.  Due to the fact that these are not normal "planning" applications, they're not picked up by the ordinary "alert" processes.

The Pilgrim have requested an extension in opening hours until 1am every day.  See here.  To approve or object to this extension, you'll need to contact one of the councillors in Oval ward.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Extension of London Cycle Hire (Boris Bike) docks at Vauxhall and Lambeth North

Just noticed that Lambeth have applied for planning permission to extend the London Cycle hire docks at Lambeth North and Vauxhall Station.

In Baylis Road (SE1), there are plans for an additional 46 docking points and another terminal: 10/04029/RG4 (is there room?) adjacent to Lambeth North tube station.

In Vauxhall (SE11), under the railway bridge that contains the existing bikes, permission has been requested for an additional 20 docking points and a new terminal:  10/03938/RG4

It sounds like good news, but I doubt that this will be sufficient to meet the demand at Vauxhall Station.  One step at a time though...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

(Good?) news from the Triangle Playground & community news from Archbishop Tenison

I've been informed that Archbishop Tension School have published their first ever community news sheet.  On account of the fact that we're a caring, sharing blog that always represents two sides of any argument, I'll let you take a look:
I don't recall ever seeing an Archbishop Tension School community newsletter before, but perhaps I'm wrong and an eagle eyed reader will inform me that this is part of a long tradition.  My guess is that the letter was released because the Triangle Association have strengthened their campaign.

Now, whilst I'd acknowledge that there might be no current plans for Archbishop Tension School to take over the Triangle Adventure Playground and replace it with a car park, I simply cannot agree with their line (p1) "neither the school or Lambeth Council has ever had any plans for a car park on this site".  I make no comment other than to point you to the architectural plan 6 (the one Lambeth Council chose), which clearly shows that one corner of the space occupied by The Triangle is marked as "parking".  Also, I've still not had any good answer from the Council on the question of why plan 6 was chosen?  There are 5 other architectural plans which don't require the use of the Triangle's land for the expansion of Archbishop Tension School, and the Council chose the only one that required land from The Triangle.  Why?

In an attempt to be generous, the school acknowledge that they "desperately need more space for play..." and "want our school facilities to also be used by local residents".  But since the land is not theirs, why is the question posed in this manner?  Why do the school not graciously request permission of the Triangle Association to use the Triangle Playground, instead of attempting a take over and then "permitting" community use?  Also, the school argue that they have "strong links with the community in Oval".  Please could somebody comment on this point?  Mention of "community youth groups" is made, so it would be useful to hear which groups currently use the school site.  Also, I'd like to see a breakdown of the number of local people who attended IT training sessions at the school who were not already affiliated as parents.  Has anybody attended one of the school's IT sessions that could comment further on this?

Anyhow... The leaflet above seems to affirm that the school expansion will not take place (the BSF plans have been shelved by the Con Dems), but still states, "Once there is a clearer picture about the future refurbishment of the school we will discuss the possibilities.  The school desperately needs more space for play..."  This suggests, does it not, that the school intends to continue its attempts to get its hands on the Triangle.  It seems likely that the school is going to continue to insist that the Triangle be given to it on the grounds that the plans belatedly developed for the site under BSF represent the best use for the land and will provide a play facility for the local community adequate to replace the Triangle.  The point is though, that the Triangle Playground should not be "up gor grabs".   Founded by Marjorie Porter MBE in 1957, it is the oldest Adventure Playground in London.  She remained active on its committee up to the age of 97 and thought of the playground as one of her "greatest achievements".

There is a strong argument to be made, I think, in separating play institutions from educational institutions.  The organisation Fair Play for Children was brought into being, in part, through a letter to The Times from Bishop Trevor Huddleston, who stated in 1972:

"Since the Plowden Report it has been recognized that there must be Educational Priority Areas involving more generous financal provision from the state.  But, as the recent National Child Development Study From Birth to Seven makes clear... "equality of educational opportunity cannot be achieve solely by improving our educational institutions"... It is the total environment that must be be changed.  The local authority, the local community and many voluntary agencies in East London are doing their best to provide recreational facilities and opportunities during the school holidays.  But they are up against vast environmental difficulities in terms of disued canals, dangerous motorways and, above all, lack of open space."  Read the rest of the letter here (bold emphasis mine).

In my view, the school should be permitted to use the Triangle playground land, but it should not be handed over to them.  Play should be safeguarded alongside, but separate from education.  It's too easy to put up temporary classrooms in playground areas when schools become overcrowded, and a separate organisation can guard against this tendency more adequately.  There is an excellent Association that runs the Triangle playground for the good of all local children, and it would be a shame, in these days of an apparently resurgent co-operative movement, to abandon this good will.

But in the meantime, there's some good news... Cllr Robbins has advised the Triangle Association that it is his intention not to close the playground. However, the Triangle Association have requested a meaningful lease from the council in order to enable them to raise funds, and have requested that the council withdraw its proceedings agaisnt the Triangle's voluntary trustees.  The Triangle Association also wish to discuss the option for pupils at the Archbishop Tension School to use the playground at break times (geat idea).

Also, it has been suggested to me that there's an alternative option for expansion of the Archbishop Tension School, and for releasing more place space for them.  The car park on the school site could be immediately converted into playground space, and the school could take up an offer (from the Metropolitan Housing Trust) of one of the secure underground car-parks on the Ashmole Estate.  This would immediately release approx. 600m2 of playground space.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Woman stabbed at Hurley House, Cotton Gardens Estate last night

Residents reported a disturbance at Hurley House (part of the Cotton Gardens Estate) on Kennington Lane at about 7pm last night.  Police arrived at the Kennington tower, and sealed off the property, denying residents entry to and exit from their homes in Ebenezer, Fairford and Hurley House.  According to an eye witness, the incident lasted about three hours.  Large numbers of police were drafted in to guard the entrances to the building.  A helicopter and armed reinforcements were brought in as backup.

The South London Press has confirmed that a woman in her 30s was stabbed but is in a stable condition. One commentator (see below) noted that a female suffered multiple stab wounds.  I'll update this entry once further information becomes available.

Last year, in May, a 22 year old male was stabbed at Fairford House on the same estate..

Friday, 3 December 2010

What is the Vauxhall Business Improvement District and why is Kennington excluded? - KOV meeting writeup - Part 4

Continuing our series of "unofficial minutes" from Kennington Oval Vauxhall Forum (KOV) meeting (last month), today's write-up concerns the Vauxhall Business Improvement District (BID). The Means regeneration agency spent a spokeman, Mr Giles Semper to inform us of the proposed Vauxhall BID.  The Means promotes itself as "a regeneration and 'smarter travel' consultancy" and they like to think they're "good at making town and city centre areas better places to live in, work in and move around".  So, it's official... If the announcement of the rather expensive and ludicrously tall St George Tower hasn't regenerated the area and turned it into Voho, then we will be VoHo by the time we've been "improved".  This, of course, might not be such a bad thing.  Vauxhall is clearly the naughty school boy of the Thames who needs extra tuition and a good caning to show improvement and it does look a little rough around the edges at times (I blame the interchange), but couldn't the wider Kennington area benefit from this initiative?

I wondered from whence this sudden Business Improvement District enthusiasm in Vauxhall had emerged.  It seems that it's a Lambeth Council initiative, and Lambeth Council commissioned The Means to run a feasibility study on the matter. Anyhow, Giles Semper has a lengthy history working in the area (from 1997 - 1999), first co-ordinating the Vauxhall Employer's Group and working to regenerate St Peter's Church/Heritage Centre, which then hosted "Vision for Vauxhall" meetings.  The Means might be set to benefit from such an enterprise because they currently run the Better Bankside BID in London Bridge/Blackfriars.

On the face of it, a Business Improvement District sounds like a great idea.  Kennington Association, some months ago, tried to put Kennington businesses in touch with one another in a network, to keep in touch with the Council etc and to encourage a greater degree of co-operation. So, Lambeth Council's foray into this area should be encouraged, surely?  Maybe.  For local businesses, this promises to be a relatively mixed blessing (there's a question of cost versus benefit).  My concern is that the entire endeavour appears to be rather partisan, and biased in favour of regeneration of the Thames (favouring visitors rather than residents), rather than improvement of the area overall.

The problem is that the area which has been chosen for the BID is rather exclusive, and drawn up so as to include certain businesses that would be capable of large contributions.  Notice how the map that The Means have drawn up for the Council (marked by the orange line) stretches itself to include the Oval and Tesco, but fails to include any of the blue lines (drawn on by me) which are local and much valued shops used by local (and much valued) people.

The very long blue line, drawn at the top of the map, represents Lambeth Walk, a street that cis sadly neglected, but would be a fantastic place (especially the south end) to develop a joined up strategy for improvement.  The blue T-shape in the middle of my map indicates Vauxhall Street and Jonathan Street, that contains the Post Office which our community successfuly retained.  On those streets exists a mini cab firm, a hairdresser, a convenience store, and indeed, our very own butcher (P J Frankland) as well as other shops!  The lowest blue line on the map includes all of the busineses on Kennington Road (many estate agents and restaurants), and heads downwards to include Kennington Road post office, Barclays Bank, a funeral parlor, barber, insurance broker, a solicitor, a betting shop and several convenience stores.  Why are we not able to look at a business "improvement" district that includes Kennington?  The Oval is the Kennington Oval, not the Vauxhall Oval, and if the thing is going to extend down Kennington Lane to encompass Tesco, why wouldn't it go any further down?  Finally, the line at the bottom of the map shows where Kennington Park Road lines up with Clapham Road, and illustrates another parade of shops containing, amongst other, The Oval Lounge.  Why is the Oval cricket ground included when those businesses are not?  Essentially, because it would pay for the BID.  But the Oval's inclusion in a Vauxhall BID potentially excludes the possibility of its inclusion in a Kennington one, and thus the money is all directed at the Thames.

The following is a shortened version of what Giles Semper had to say:
"A BID is a company owned and led by businesses in a specific area, and it tries to improve that place as a commercial location.  A BID can only be set up if all businesses in the area vote in favour of it at a referendum. The organisation is funded by a tax which the businesses impose on themselves, which is a compulsory payment after a successful ballot.  Everything that the BID company does has to be extra to services provided by statutory providers such as police and council.  There are successful examples of BIDs down the South Bank; Team London Bridge, Better Bankside, Waterloo Quarter Business Improvement District; covers The Cut, Lower Marsh etc."
"The Means have spoken to 85 businesses (day and nigh time economy) in Vauxhall to discover the key issues in the area. The issues are similar with the night time businesses having additional issues to contend with.  4 key issues have been identified in the area:

1.  Protecting the area (fear of crime, environmental problems).
2. Engaging Vauxhall (bringing businesses together with residents around common themes, perhaps creating new opportunities for children and young people).  The businesses are keen to engage residents.
3.  Promoting the area as a visitor destination.  Historically, Vauxhall has been cut off from the rest of the South Bank.
4.  Transforming Vauxhall:  The traffic interchange and the environment around it.  The businesses are keen to work with other partners to see a better environment in Vauxhall."
"The tax on the business is based on the rateable value of individual commercial properties.  It's usually a percentage (1% or 1.5%).  The Means think that 250 of the largest businesses in Vauxhall could generate about £600k - £700k per year of investment, or £2.5 million to £3 million over the 5 year life of the BID."
"The Means have learned through experience at Baknside that any BID which thinks it can be parachuted in without reference to the residents has got a nasty shock coming. There are two resident board members in Bankside and desk space is gievn to the Bankside residents' forum.  The residents sit on all of the "theme groups" and the businesses are very active in a range of community engangement projects, some of which are very successful."
Tbere then followed an extended period of time for questions:
Q: Could you describe something that has been achieved in another area by a BID?

Giles Semper : 'There are 105 BIDs in UK and 25 in London and they're all different.  Most  BIDs tend to start with cleaning, greening and safety.  In Bankside, a team of dedicated cleaners have been put in place (seen in pink vehicles).  The cleaners tackle the kinds of problems that the Council's cleaners don't tackle eg. cobbled streets, tree pits, gum and jet washing.  Many BIDs operate some kind of uniformed service on the streets eg. rangers or wardens.  In Bankside, we have 7 wardens who operate 12 hours per day.  In Bankside, our best known project is the Bankside urban forest which is a design framework for the public realm between Bankside and the Elephant & Castle.  It's a partnership between the Council, the BID, Tate and some of the land owners, and challenges anybody that wants to develop to improve the standards of the public realm and develop to a high quality.'

Q: If a BID is set up, and is succesful in years 1 to 3, and businesses think it's great, but in the latter years, the businesses don't think it's good value for money.  What mechanism is there for them to end the agreement? 

Giles Semper: "The renewal ballot has to happen after 5 years.  The maximum term for any business on one ballot is 5 years.  Then follows a renweal ballot. The lesson from the US where these things were dreamed up is that they're usually more popular than less popular on renewal (and there hasn't been an unsuccessful renewal ballot in the UK yet)."

Q: Does it include Kennington businesses?

Giles Semper: "We haven't yet talked to the Kennington businesses to find out whether we should be one big thing, rather than two smaller ones."

Q: It's great that you consulted 85 businesses, with their different priorities.  At least some of the businesses want to get rid of homeless people and beggars, but the centre of Vauxhall is the centre of some major homelessness charities.  How will you link with those, rather than having the BID be a way of cleansing the area of people who live there?

Giles Semper: "The Bondway, Big Issue and other homelessness providers would be members of the Business Improvement District.  They would have as loud a say as any other party.  Our experience on the issue of homelessness in Bankside is that residents sharing their specific view that they don't want the homeless purged from the streets.  In that case, we work very closely with the Council's street population outreach team, and the approach is about housing people, and helping people, and not about kicking people out.  I do take your point though, because that's an endemic issue for Vauxhall.  The Chief Executive of the Big Issue did say to us, "do we not risk being the problem, rather than part of the solution?"  Those issues are on the table."

Q: I live quite close to Thames Reach.  I see homeless people who defecate in the corners of our parks.  I can't understand the idea of /not/ wanting to purge the streets of homelessness.

Giles Semper: "There are people who can address this issue with more knowledge than I can.  The Mayor has been trying to address the issue of homelessness pan-London."

Val Shawcross:  "One of the biggest problems we've got is that the E10 accession nationals; Eastern European workers who came to Britain to work, are not entitled to public funds or help.  So, when they fall homeless, they are not entitled to be given public housing, support or social security.  Lambeth has a contract with Thames Reach, Southwark with St Mungos, and there is some good professional work trying to outreach to Eastern European nationals, and where possible, to give them proper support to be repatriated and get into work, and deal with their problems.  People do not want to be living like that.  It's not just a housing issue, but an economic crisis."

Q: If new companies started in the Vauxhall area, would they have to sign up to being part of the BID, and are costs dependent on size of the business?

Giles Semper: "They would be brought in automatically. The businesses with bigger premises pay more than those with smaller premises.  A shop on Kennington Lane would pay £300 - £400 per year to the BID.  The police, the biggest employer in Vauxhall, would pay £80,000 - £90,000 per year.  Our largest payer in Bankside is Royal Bank of Scotland, who pay about £90,000."

Q: Would the developers building the big towers be contributing to the pot of money? 

Giles Semper: "It's currently the occupants, rather than owners who pay.  It's the other way around in the States...  The legislation to create land owner BIDS is being consulted on, and the mechnaism to tax owners, rather than occupiers may soon be available.  It would be a good one for Vauxhall!"

Q: Do you get more votes in the ballot if you have a larger rateable value?  If you're Tesco, do you get more votes? 

Giles Semper: "You have to win the BID ballot on two counts.  It's all on turnout, rather than constituency.  you need 51% of turnout by number and by aggregate rateable value.  So you add the rateable values together, and you need to get 51%.  So, the larger occupiers will have more influence on that part of the vote."

David Boardman (Kennington Association Planning Forum Chair) made a few comments and asked some questions: 

"1.  Is there any prospect of raising additional moeny for the BID in the Vauxhall area?  Is it amenable to Section 106? 

2.  People are clearly worried about crime in the area.  If I were the businesses, I'd be talking to the Borough Commander to say "put your resources where the crime is", and I wouldn't need to pay for extra wardens.  When the Council has had money in the past for Park Rangers, they've decided to give the money back to the police because they provided a better service for security.  Wouldn't it be better to pay for your own police, rather than wardens? 

3.  Kennington has its own Business Network so one doesn't need to have to have a BID to get businesses to talk. I'm not clear that the benefits of a BID are significant, from the 1%-1.5% raised, without drawing in extra funds. 

4. The main problem of Vauxhall is the gyratory.  Interesting that TfL will talk to businesses, but doesn't have the bottle to come and talk to the people.  We are concerned that TfL won't speak to the people who have the problem with it.  It should come to this forum for the community's views. 

5.  I have some reservations about the geographical coverage.  Why is the Oval inside, save for rateable value?"
Unfortunately, the Chair noted that there was no time to answer those questions (it was a very full agenda), but I'd be happy for anybody with knowledge about the proposal to add some comments to this post.  So, there we have it.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

"Reclaimed" Art Exhibition: David Taborn exhibits at Lassco

Last time I visited Lassco/Brunswick House (the big house in the middle of the Vauxhall gyratory), I reported that they'd opened a new cafe.  Lassco is an antique salvage company where you can browse through any number of old artefacts (everything from old prints to refurbished bath tubs). One of the great joys of the cafe is the option to buy all of the furniture on display!  If you weren't tempted by my review, you might be tempted by the knowledge that those who run the cafe belong to the Di Lieto family, who run a very good delicatessen in the nearby Bonnington Square.

In the meantime, Lasso applied for a musical and alcohol licence.  I've no idea whether it was approved, but the venue has started hosting local events and is gaining in popularity... The first ever art exhibition to feature in the space is "Reclaimed", a sprawling show of over 30 wall-panels and watercolours by David Taborn, which will fill every room of Brunswick House.  This is a very exciting development because it builds on the foundation of a strong arts community in SE11 (there are 5 art galleries in our tiny postcode). 

At Reclaimed, the wall-pieces will contain 3D elements as the frames of each exhibit create a membrane allowing two worlds to suck or seep into each other.  View intriguing works such as a musical typewriter set in a mirror, snooker balls pouring through a 2-dimensional harp, melting Wagner records and a swatch of Freud's sofa.  The ingredients of David's weird and intriguging works are objects and materials 'that have had a former life'.

David Taborn is a NESTA Fellow and has exhibited in the UK, New York, Brazil, Belgium and Germany. His work is in collections including the Courtauld Institute, Djanogly Art Gallery, Government Art Collection and NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts).

Exhibition: 2-21 December, Lassco, Brunswick House, Vauxhall
Open: Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 11am-5pm
Late openings: Thursday 9th December and Thursday 16th December 2010 to 9pm

Info and images also available on Lassco website.

Pedal Power review of Cycle Hire and superhighways from London Assembly Transport Committee

The  London Assembly Transport Committee has released its report, Pedal Power and an accompanying set of survey highlights, on the topic of TFL's Cycle hire (aka Boris/Ken bikes) and the TFL superhighways.

Kennington gets a mention under the "initial issues" of the Cycle hire section on p18:Hopefully we should see improved service in Kennington if Lambeth Council are successfully granted planning permission for the new docks around Albert Embankment, Cleaver Square and Kennington and Oval tube stations etc.  Thanks to Prince's Ward Councillors, who've provided full feedback from Dawn Rahman and a comprehensive review of the suggested docks in the area, and comments upon whose suggestions were taken forward.  Unfortunately, a number of suggested docks were outside of the current zone (although it's unclear where the boundaries lie).  Considering the lack of tubes further south in London, I hope we'll see the scheme extended in the future. Oval/Vauxhall seems an arbitrary cut off and demonstrates a lack of interest by the Mayor in South London infrastructure.

The Pedal Power report, also reviewed the Cycle Superhighways (CS7 runs through Kennington/Oval), and rather alarmingly states:
"Although the cycle superhighways are designed to provide safer cycling routes, it is not clear the pilot routes are achieving this." p27
"Whilst in some places there are full advance stop lines of 5 metres depth and mandatory cycle lanes of 2 metres width, elsewhere there are just narrow ‘ghost’ lanes (sections of blue paint without any legal status). However, it is most concerned that there are virtually no measures to reduce motor traffic volumes or speeds." p27
I was very excited about the announcement of the Cycle Superhighways, but despite my initial enthusiasm, back in May 2010, I noted that "the Superhighways are rather rash ideas when they do not give cyclists the room they need to co-exist with buses and cars on trunk routes".

And indeed, on p28, Sustran conclude of the two initial pilot superhighways (CS7 and CS3), "the greatest barrier to Londoners cycling, or cycling more, is fear of traffic yet the cycle superhighways generally follow busy arterial roads and provide no or minimal segregation from traffic. It therefore concludes that in their current form the cycle superhighways have limited scope to facilitate an uptake in cycling, particularly by new cyclists."
"There has been a lack of bikes and available docking points in certain areas, particularly at peak periods. The Committee’s survey revealed [ac lack of bikes and was a particular problem in Covent Garden, Holborn, Kennington, Westminster and Waterloo. One respondent commented: "There is a shocking lack of available docking points in Vauxhall and Kennington. Twice I had to cycle further than I had to travel from where I picked the bike up. Once I was told to take the bike home. Not fun to carry up 4 flights of stairs. I was charged £50…and told to wait 5 days for a refund.""

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

"Unfair dismissal" case launched by ex-head of Henry Fawcett School

The ex-head teacher of Henry Fawcett Primary School, James Walker, has launched a constructive unfair dismissal case against Lambeth Council and the school's executive board. 

Mr Walker was in charge of the Henry Fawcett school from September '99 until February '08, when he was diagnosed with cancer and underwent two operations.  Seven months later, (September '08), he returned to work, only to be suspended in November '08 due to an allegation made by a staff member (which was unrelated to the school's educational standards or financial management).  Following the suspension, he submitted a disability discrimination claim against Lambeth Council.

During his suspension, in July '09, Lambeth Council dismissed 12 governors from Henry Fawcett.  Kate Hoey said to the Evening Standard at the time, "I feel that [Mr Walker] has not been treated in a way that would generally be considered to be justified and when the governors supported him, they got rid of them."

In September '09, whilst Mr Walker had been absent from the school, an Ofsted inspection was undertaken, and the school was considered to be failing.  Henry Fawcett was immediately placed in special measures (but has more recently had these removed).

Mr Walker claimed to have "management concerns" in the school, prior to his sick-leave which were "dismissed", but these were later raised with him upon his return to work.  He resigned recently (September '10), but has now launched a constructive unfair dismissal claim which means that a resignation has occured because an employment contract has theoretically been substantially breached

It would be useful to have a little more insider information on this matter.  It is, however, worth noting, that Kate Hoey MP has backed James Walker, which potentially demonstrates the existence of an injustice at some stage.

Another attempt to blow up the spooks, or, err, somebody leaving their bicycle behind...

The Daily Mail is reporting another attempt to blow up the spooks at MI6.  This follows the last genuine attempt back in August 2008.  Unfortunately, this is a piece of rather sensationalised reporting because, after a controlled explosion was carried out, the "package" was deemed to be harmless.  Indeed, according to Londonist, the package turned out to be a bicycle!

That didn't stop the authorities closing Vauxhall Station and the Albert Embankment at about 1:30pm, and bringing out yellow tape, police dogs, fire engines, police cars and... a robot to destroy the bicycle!  A considerable number of local employees were locked into their offices for their own safety. 

Hopefully, it wasn't a stray Boris Bike!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Ongoing adventures of the Triangle Adventure Playground... (Lambeth Council still seeking to evict)

I received a highly informative poster from the Triangle Association last week, updating us with the current status of the Triangle Adventure Playground.  Unfortunately, Lambeth Council are still seeking to evict them, but the case has been adjourned until February 2011 (great news).

This little thorn in the flesh has the potential to become quite embarrassing for the Council because, as you might have noticed, Cllr Edbrooke name checked the Triangle Adventure Playground as being a "well run" example of a co-op style project at the last Kennington Oval and Vauxhall forum meeting.  This is great (I think) because it demonstrates that she has the guts to resist the Council's line on the matter.  Consequently, the Playground is now /finally/ receiving support from the three Councillors of Oval Ward; Jane Edbrooke (Lab), Jack Hopkins (Lab) and Ishbel Brown (Lib Dem) and I'm hoping that they're making strong representations to Cllr Robbins against closing it down (see below).  In addition, they've promised to fund the playground from the Oval Ward purse.  Now that's fighting talk, and it's a demonstration of the resistance that might be needed in the up and coming months....

There's other good news in the pipeline...

The Triangle Association committee have found a fund which might match funding from the Ward Purse, and would potentially pay for a solar power electricity system.  Heads up to the Triangle Association for their pioneering (and green) co-operative work!  Unfortunately, the solar power system requires a minimum lease of 10 years, so Lambeth Council will have to agree to cease eviction proceedings.  In addition, the Triangle have gained potential access to further funds for the next 18 months, but they'll need a longer lease.  I hope the Council do the right thing...

Nine Elms Sainsbury's Towers Exhibition Debrief - photos, diagrams and comments

Righty ho.  Here's what you've all been waiting for...  The Sainsbury's Towers exhibition was held quite prominently in the car park, and I've had a look at their plans, and am quite keen on the proposals (except for  the probably inevitable high rise towers).

The plan is to demolish the current (rather ugly) Sainsburys, so that instead of floating in the middle of nowhere, it will front on to the Wandsworth Road.  The new building will be glass fronted and the size of the floor plan will be increased so that it will be the largest Sainsbury's in London, at 80,000 square feet (from its current 45,000 square feet).  The store will presumably become an uber-large Sainsbury's Extra Extra and will thus be able to stock a wider range of goods.

This is part of a project that would see the creation of 800 new flats that would be developed on top of the new Sainsbury's building and across the entire site, with three tall towers (18 metres, 25 metres and 35 metres) on the triangular corners of the edges.

In the meantime, whilst the demolition is undertaken, a temporary store will be erected upon the site of the petrol station.  Oval News have quoted this as being 15,000 square feet, but I was told that the temporary store would be 20,000 feet.  Whilst it won't be tiny, it's only going to be about a third of the size of the existing store.  If you don't do your shopping online, now is the time to start!  (Unless, of course, you wish to subject yourself to the dire Kennington Tesco.)  It's alleged to have been improved, but, well, never mind.  I'm getting off topic.

The petrol station will no longer be on site, but Sainsbury's are hoping to house it in the now disused Esso station at 54 Wandsworth Road.

At present, there is a 300 space car park on site, but the new Sainsburys should have approx. 400 spaces (all subject to agreement with Lambeth etc.) because of the increased capacity of the store.  The car park will go underground (a great idea, since it's a waste of land), and there will be some bike parking too (numbers of bike stands unknown).  At least, that's what I was told.  The Sainsbury's website states that there are currently 450 car parking spaces on site and since the chaps definitely hoped to increase the size of the car park, I can only think a mistake has been made somewhere!

Sainsbury's hope to submit their planning application to Lambeth in March 2011, with the completed store (if application is accepted) to be opened by 2014.  The residential property (all to be built on top of the new store) will follow on in the five years after 2014.  The Sainsbury's redevelopment is /not/ dependent on the new Nine Elms tube eg. there's thought to still be capacity at Vauxhall, despite the size of this development.

The exhibition comprised the following 7 boards:

The "out of town" style Nine Elms Sainsbury's will be modified and other shops and businesses will share the site:

Additional retail space will create 150 new jobs.  On the top left of this board, you can see the proposed Nine Elms tube station.  Also, this site will open up Wandsworth Road as far back as the railway arch, and make it easier for pedestrians to access the river.  This would be a considerable improvement, since currently, the Sainsbury's just appears to float in the middle of a piece of wasteland.  It seems likely that the footpaths will be improved to access New Covent Garden market, although the boards don't quite go that far.

The proposal for an "explore learning" centre for the use of children, over and above school education, is imaginative, although I did hear one older person complaining that nothing is put in place for older people in the borough.

Sainsbury's say that they are "open" to having the "Nine Elms" tube station placed on their land (ambitious, considering the £280 million funding shortfall for the Northern line extension), but will only allow this if their redevelopment plans are approved by Lambeth.  Considering the redevelopment to take place in the rest of the area, I can't quite see why this aggressive stance needs to be taken.  The Sainsbury's plans would actually help link retail, small businesses and residential land, whilst considerably opening up the area for pedestrians:

This board might be a subtle way of hinting  that, despite the creation of a new public square, the new flats will not have any green space except for huge roof gardens above the store (about 6 storeys up).  I wondered whether these would be suitable for children, but I was told that the edges would be protected.  I'm not too sure what the large purple blobs on the upper right diagram here represent, so would be delighted to hear from anybody that asked:

The new Sainsbury's store itself will mostly be on the first floor, so that the ground floor is opened for new businesses.  There will also be a mezzanine level which will contain a cafe and non-food items.  I actually think that the proposed mockup of the store here is inoffensive, but rather bland and non-descript.  I'm told that these are the initial drawings, and that further detail will be available at the time of a second consultation in February 2011 (or thereabouts).  I hope that the next drawings might be a little more imaginative than to depict a large glass front with giant grey boxes on the top!  Still, nearly anything would be an improvement on the current design!:

750 - 800 new flats will be constructed, ranging from 1 bedroom to 3 bedroom properties.  The amount of affordable housing has still to be negotiated with Lambeth Council who will set targets.  I asked whether that info. would be available by the second consultation, but apparently, that bit comes much later.  The number of affordable flats are only specified once the Council have analysed the plans and calculated the square footage/value of the properties.  Once that has happened, a formula is followed which tells the developers the targets they have to meet and once the targets have been given, the negotiation takes place:  

On this diagram, I've zoomed in to one of the boards and drawn on the heights of the proposed buildings (which are still, in the eloquent words of the PR company, "up for grabs") and also shown Vauxhall Sky Gardens in the bottom right corner:

I like this board.  I think it might be my favourite planning board of all time.  Here we see that Sainsbury's really don't want to build very high, but are merely following the will of Lambeth council and the GLA, who have requested "intensification".  Lambeth, we're told, simply wouldn't support the development if Sainsbury's didn't propose building really really high!  Ha!  Consequently, the tallest Sainsbury's tower comes in at only 35 floors, whereas Vauxhall Sky Gardens (permission already granted by Lambeth) is a whopping one floor higher (36 floors).  I'm not sure that suggesting it will be shorter than Vauxhall Sky Gardens is any great boast!  By comparison, Strata (Elephant and Castle) is 43 storeys:

This board is a summary of the above:

You can submit your comments by email to or telephone 0870 066 8734 or just visit their website and submit the form on this page.  The Sainsbury's Nine Elms website is now live and displays some of the diagrams from the boards above.

Other than the 35 storey tower, which I'm not impressed by (you all know that I dislike tall buildings), I think the Sainsbury's plan is exciting.  I like the idea of developing the site so that there's space for additional retail units.  It would be great if these could be low-rent and accessible to small independent businesses, but that may be too much to hope for. Also, I favour using the site to open up the railway arches from Wandsworth Road to the river.  I'm hoping that the Sainsbury's might offer a gateway through to the New Covent Garden market as well.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Is Mutuality privatisation by the back door? Co-operative Council Q and As - (KOV meeting update - Part 3b)

This post is a commentary and write-up from the KOV meeting that took place on 1st November at Vauxhall Gardens Community at which the Council Officer, Mike Wiltshire, was present to explain the purpose and end of the proposed co-operative Council for Lambeth.  The first post (which is basically the Council's elaboration of what the Commission have been reviewing) can be found here.  This post is a compendium of questions that were put forward by bemused Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall forum audience members (otherwise known as the Kennington Massive) to Lambeth Council about how the co-operative council might eventually appear.

Questions are often unclear and mumbly, and like in all public meetings, consist of the half-baked views of some quite strange people.  I've ruthlessly cut, summarised and de-waffled so that broad summaries are in single quotes, and direct quotes are in doubles...

Qn: 'I'm concerned... There was a lot of jargon....  You're consulting on things you should really be doing any way... You're looking at spending money on consultation on answers that should be relatively obvious...'

Mike Wiltshire:  'I wouldn't disagree that we should be doing this as a matter of course.  When we speak to people from different parts of the Borough, the ways they want to be consulted are different.  The point of this piece of work is to find the ways that people want to work.  Some prefer using area forums. Others want something more innovative eg. a local community group to come and manage a process.'

Questions: 'It would be useful to have more information about how this will run in practice and how we could contribute to the ideas about how it could be run... Could we hear about how local people get involved?' and 'We can organise collectively in neighbourhoods, but what does the council think we can personally and collectively contribute... What sort of interaction do you want between the public and yourselves?'

At that stage, you can see that the questions above (and more) concerned what a co-operative Council might look like, with all of these services effectively sub contracted-out, and poor Mr Wiltshire, who had suffered at the hands of the Kennington-massive was looking a bit drained, so Cllr Jane Edbrooke jumped to the rescue...

"These Co-op ideas were in our Labour manifesto.  This officer is taking a lot of questions, and I hope to come in with some answers... We're trying to say that we don't assume that services are run in the best way that they can be run.  We know that there's some great expertise out there.  We're saying that if you can run a service better, we'd like to catch that... It's about making people realise that services might not be run by the Council any more or that they can run them themselves...."
And then, controversially, Cllr Edbrooke went on to note that we have an excellent co-operative venture in our midst, at the heart of the Oval Ward...

"I know that people have been speaking to those that run the [Triangle] Adventure playground.  It's a controversial subject at the moment, but the playground is run very well.  How can we run that elsewhere?"
Controversial subject?!  Well, yes.  For those that don't regularly read this blog, you ought to know that Lambeth Council are currently taking legal action against the Triangle Association to evict them from the site, in order to make room for a school expansion.  So, that might not have been the best example to choose re. co-operative working!

But before anything further could be said, Mike Wiltshire grabbed the reigns again:

MW: 'At the moment, we provide youth services through youth clubs in the Borough.  The new process would be to review available funding and decommission the service if it's ineffective.  We'd then begin a new commission process and say to residents; "This is what's currently provided.  This is how it's working and these are the problems with it.  What expertise and what knowledge do you have to improve youth services, and how would you like youth services to operate in this area?"'

And then a question about whether any of our services are protected...?

Qn: At what point would the Council welcome applications?  Are there any no-go areas, or is any Council service open to that?

MW: Lambeth Council are currently drawing up a list of pilots to commence in February 2010.  The mechanisms of applying haven't been worked out in detail, but each year the council should be looking at specific service areas as part of the Council's budgeting cycle.  The last word from Steve Reed was that there are no no-go areas, including social care.  If you have an idea as to how a service can be delivered better, the Council want to hear about it...

And then somebody raised the question about whether the Emperor was wearing any clothes...

Qn:  What if the community don't step up, and they say "we'd like to see the Council continue to provide the service they have been providing.  We don't think, on any given matter, that we can do any better".

MW: 'Then that's fine.  That's part of the conversation."

But I wonder... is it fine?  If the community don't step up, and the Council don't have any money, then we're not going to have any local services.  Could we end up, I wonder, in a position where 3rd sector organisations (or, more likely, the private sector) run everything with just a thin layer of accountability connecting them with the Council?  I'm astonished that this move is coming from a Labour Concil since I cannot see how it's any different from Conservative/Lib Dem central government policy.  Today's Financial Times notes Unison's position on public sector workers being given the "right to provide" by selling back services. "Unison, the health union, attacked the ideas as a route to 'backdoor privatisation', claiming big business was likely to take over mutuals that failed or move in as contracts were renewed".  Well, precisely.  Here's what I think will happen.  Lambeth Council will make all (or most) youth service (or whatever) employees redundant.  The employees will be invited to form not-for-profit mutuals and put together ad-hoc youth provision.  The on-the-ball types will form small organisations, sell their services back to the Council, but won't have to pay their workers anything like minimum wage, and will have to reduce their services to skeletal because the Council will end up under funding them.  If the mutuals fail to perform (or make a living), the Council will not be easily held responsible, but will re-tender and the service will privatise.  Naturally, larger providers will be preferred because they're better able to keep costs  low.  I hope I'm proved wrong.

Mike Wilkinson clarified that the move towards co-operative working is more complex for statutory services eg. education.  Non-statutory services such as arts, culture and sports services offer more co-operative flexibility.  One of the "big ideas" that the Commission undertook to review was "time banking".  Apparently, in Cardiff, you become involved in the local children's centre, health service or youth service and then, as a result of giving time, you accrue credits on discounts for leisure services, cinema and theatre, "so you can have a menu of rewards to choose from.".

Val Shawcross who was also present (not sure why, but we had no Hoey) stood to made a quick comment.  She acknowledged her membership of the Co-operative party, and added that she felt the word "mutuality" had been absent from the conversation. She added that the presentation had been wrapped up in traditional "officer style speak" about consultations (she was right there).  But then she amusingly noted, "There are lots of goods models of how people run things amongst themselves.  Some of them are officer models.  Greenwich Leisure, one of the most well known leisure providers in Lambeth was set up from amongst the staff of Greenwich Leisure Services department, and was set up as a co-operative..."

At that point, I couldn't believe my ears!  The second suggestion for a co-operative (after the Triangle, which Lambeth are trying to close) was Greenwich Leisure, who are not exactly flavour of the month at the moment.  A quick glance at their website reveals... the Astroturf in Kennington park is still not fixed.  The Onionbag was not happy, having bought their leisure card, only to find many GLL leisure centres closed.  It might not be GLL's fault, but leisure would not have been my first choice to illustrate how co-operativeness might work..

Val Shawcross finally added, "We've got some great models of co-operatives in Lambeth."

I think here that it might be worth highlighting a piece questioning the co-op that I glimpsed back in the Streatham Guardian in August.  I quote, "...Jeff Jeffers, chairman of Lambeth co-operative development agency, said of 49 co-ops formed in the borough in 1971, only three still existed."  I don't necessarily doubt Val's word, but we probably need to ask questions about longevity.  Perhaps 1971 is too far back, and institutions aren't meant to last that long.  Perhaps the co-op route is a reasonable option for short-term initiatives.  My fear is that co-operative groups and mutualisation is just privatisation by the back door.
I don't want to throw a spanner in the works.  I'm not against co-operative working or co-operative societies.  The Council may well be /opting in/ to a very positive model of working.  It would be great to have local people taking additional responsibility for the wellbeing of their communities, but...  I don't want the Co-op Council or Big Society rhetoric to prevent people campaigning against cuts.  I'm afraid that the word "co-operative" is being used to cover up a covert privatisation without even those who are passionately involved realising that they're on a hiding to nothing.  Take a look at the words of.the Chief Executive of the Co-op group, Peter Marks, who admitted to the Guardian last year that he was a capitalist...
"At heart I am a capitalist as we have seen that other systems don't work. But the trust in banks has gone. The Co-op was not deemed sexy - we were old-fashioned because we took deposits before loaning money. But old-fashioned is the new cool in banking."
With one breath, it seems that "old fashioned" is cool again, both in banking and in local authority government, but in the next breath (same Guardian article)...
"If another person says to me 'I can remember my granny's divi number', I could get arrested for physical violence.  That's old baggage, people are always looking back. We are a modern business now."
The question is, can Lambeth Council be "cool" and "old-fashioned" without "looking back" at "old baggage"?  Cam Lambeth be a modern co-operative Council, or will it end up ushering in a greater era of privatisation under the noses of an unsuspecting public, who think that co-operative means, well, co-operative.

Is the Council Opting-In or Selling out? The Co-operative Council - (KOV meeting update - Part 3a)

Several months ago, Jason Cobb, prior to his move, highlighted the risks of the co-operative council for the entire Borough.  Now that he's left for the wilds of deepest Essex, I'll try and keep tabs on how it will affect our hyperlocal patch, but trust me, this won't be the most exciting of posts...

I was hoping for clarification when I learned that Lambeth Council Policy manager, council officer Mike Wiltshire addressed was to address the KOV on the co-op proposition at the beginning of November.  Mr Wiltshire clearly knew his stuff, having been involved with the co-op council project since its starting point in February 2010.  After he had given a run-down of work performed so far, I'm not sure that anybody was more practically informed about what the co-op council might look like.  Question time proved a little more illuminating, but only a little...  Here follows a summary of what we heard (with my commentary added later in square brackets []):

The co-op idea was introduced due to Labour's desire to change the way services are provided and develop them more collaboratively, as well as being a way to provide quality services, despite the budget cuts from central government.  A white paper was published in May 2010 showing the Council's initial thoughts.  After that, a committee was set up chaired by Head of Lambeth Council, Steve Reed, which consists of residents, other councillors and members of national organisations. [I'd have said it's a little light on residents, but never mind...] They've received evidence from community groups, national bodies, private/public sector companies etc. to learn how the co-operative council should be delivered and are now deliberating on that evidence.  A final report, setting out the Commissioners' recommendations is due to be published in January 2011.  That report will start another 3 month consultation process.  At that point, they'll say, "when we talk about the Co-op council we mean these specific things" and see whether their recommendations are supported.  Lambeth Council will produce its response to the commission in May 2011 and will set out any recommendations it might want to accept, reject or amend.  [Any the wiser?  I wasn't.  But it seems to work quite well if you're involved in providing "consultation" services, something that's probably quite lucrative in these times...]

According to Mr Wiltshire, the commission has obtained evidence on 5 key areas, as follows...

1.  Leadership:  Two important questions have been asked: "What type of leadership should the council provide politically?" and "How can the Council be a better leader of civil society?"  The majority of people who have responded to the Commission have provided a clear message.  I quote...
"You're fine giving political leadership, but actually, you're not a particularly good community leader.  You don't listen particularly well...  If the Council are serious about this, there has to be some fundamental change to the way the organisation works... in partnership, as opposed to an organisation which attempts to consult, but doesn't do as well as it should do".  
It is thought that addressing such a matter will be a major challenge for the Council.

2.  Services:  At present, there are problems with the way services are commissioned.  Partnership is not handled well.  Commissioning and  procurement processes would need to be changed, so that the Council could be a "co-producer".  Questions arise about whether the council should be providing services themselves or whether they should be moving to different providers?  Might a social enterprise, charitable or 3rd sector organisation be more effective at delivering a service?

If an organisation shows they can deliver a service more effectively eg. youth services, under a co-op model, the council should support the organisations as opposed delivering it themselves.  To give an example, the Council has commissioned a gang intervention service named Exit.  Apparently, having a third sector organisation working intensively with children has been far more effective in drawing them away from gang involvement than traditional youth services, so the council are asking whether, if a 3rd sector group can be far more innovative, the council might commission such providers directly?  [It all sounds great, but one wonders what will happen to traditional youth clubs that are not "in vogue" at the moment, but are valuable because they're institutional and not fleeting.]

3.  Incentivisation:  People need to be encouraged to become more involved in local public service provision.  The Council want to know whether more citizens can be involved in such delivery and are trying to identify a "range of mechanisms" that would suit people.  Mr Wiltshire admitted this would be challenging because surveys so far have shown that a lot of people are already quite active in the community and the people that aren't have made the choice not to be involved for various reasons.  Consequently, it was acknowledged that trying to find a way to incentivise such people will be tricky.  [It does beg the question of whether, in the end, it might not be quicker, easier and cheaper for the Council to just run the services themselves.  But I suppose the answer to that is that there will be no money... I really dislike the idea of incentivising for voluntary work, as it seems to me akin to bribing.  Perhaps the Council would claim it's just a way of saying "thanks".]

4. Public service management:  How can the Council  manage services more effectively and enable front line officers to innovate and find new ways of delivering services?  At the moment, apparently, Lambeth Council  have "quite a controlling risk-averse culture".  The commisioners are looking at ways to try and change the culture.  They're also looking at joint-management, and asking questions such as; how can the Council more effectively join up services with the police or health providers?  Much work is already performed with Lambeth First partnership, but the Council seek to integrate services more widely.

5.  Financing:  At present, the Council try to co-ordinate budgets with other public service providers. The co-op council hope to try to centralise funding so that council, health services and  police don't just align budgets, but pool them centrally.  It seems that some of the ideas coming out of central government are broadly supportive of the notion.  [Which makes me wonder whether it's all just about cuts, cuts and more cuts].  The Commission is also looking at alternative way of funding/financing services considering a reduction in public sector funding. The Council are looking at ways of drawing in social and private sector finance to continue to fund services.  [All Council services will have to be financed somehow.  Note today a report that suggests Lambeth will consider proposals for an "opt-in" paid-for garden waste removal service and charges for bulky waste collection.  I fear a return to fly-tipping, so I'm hoping they've some kind of social finance scheme up their sleeves.  I've not a clue what "social finance" might be!]

I've split this post in two because despite editing, once I've added the question-time and some of my comments, we're looking at an essay-length write-up!  Continue reading if you want to see the questions that were asked as a result of this presentation....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

28 - 34 St Agnes Place Kennington - Request for Planning Permission

An application has been submitted to Lambeth for the development of 28 - 34 St Agnes Place.  It's reference 10/03840/FUL and if you follow that link and click "submit comments", your views will be emailed directly to Lambeth Council.

The 18 units for which permission has been requested above are for the Family Mosaic development for which consultation was held earlier this year.  For more information, see the purple boards shown halfway down St Agnes Housing Development post (not the green boards, since these are for the as yet unsubmitted London and Quadrant development).  For more info. on the history of the site and SLP's protest article on retaining the full Kennington Park Adventure playground, there's a post here.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Trouble at the White Bear Theatre / Pub?

On Saturday, I decided to skip a week at the awesome Oval Farmers' Market, which you must visit if you haven't because the food is good, prices reasonable, stall-holders friendly and it involves considerable less effort than trekking up to Borough!  I dared to leave Kennington, a mistake, considering that I was then unavailable to investigate Tweets about trouble at the White Bear Theatre. 

It must be stressed that trouble at the White Bear is very unusual.  There are generally regulars drinking outside and people watching sport, but it's a pub in a residential area with a theatre attached.  How rowdy can that be?  Considerably, it seems:

Does anybody know what happened?  Were there any witnesses?  Was it planned?

Consultation re. Nine Elms Parkside (Royal Mail Sorting Office)

I didn't actually go to the Nine Elms Parkside (Royal Mail sorting office) consultation as I opted to have non-planning fun at the weekend.  I have, however, emailed the chaps who were running the exhibition to check whether they displayed any additional material than what is already available on the Nine Elms Parkside website.  Other than a 3D model, which could be viewed at the event, all of the other material is available online.  My main complaint is that the website eg. interesting map detail is just too small to view properly (however, some of it is probably available in public documents and viewable elsewhere) and the website is simply not particularly informative (and is full of general VNEB and "other landowner" info. that is already in the public domain).
I wrote a previous post with some background on the unhappy Royal Mail workers and their potential job losses, as I want this blog to form a kind of history for the area, so feel free to read that.  Additionally, we now know...

The Nine Elms Parkside development will be located at the centre of the new development, split either side of the linear park, with a landscaped public square, "Tideway Green" at the centre of both the Parkside development and the linear park itself.  Tideway Green will be linked to Nine Elms Square (another public square) on Nine Elms Lane.  The Nine Elms Parkside buildings will range in height from 7 to 13 storeys (it sounds more pleasant than some of what Vauxhall might end up with) and car parking and cycle parking will likely be located underground underneath the park/green land.  The masterplan shows that the east of the development appears to link up with the new US embassy and Ballymore land

As you'll know, I'm always a huge fan of pictures of faceless people that don't really tell us anything useful eg. how much of the development will be affordable or given over to local housing associations?  Will there be playgrounds for children built anywhere?  Will the housing be for families or "young professionals" eg. is it studios or 3 bedroom flats?  What are the transport options if the Northern line tube extension isn't put in?  How will Royal Mail use the site for its "retained" operations in a way that allows for quiet living for the eventual residents?  What will Section 106 money be spent on?  All we have are a few key facts... 2000 units, 600 parking spaces, 2000 bike parking spaces (that sounds positive), over 2.5ha of public space and the fact that it will be sustainable. 

I'm a bit disappointed by the lack of architectural information available compared with the excellent detail provided by Kylun's Vauxhall Island Site PR team where it's clear from the plan exactly how the buildings will be laid out.  To be fair, I didn't go to the consultation, so feel free to leave comments if you did attend and have more information about what size the flats are likely to be, how they'll be laid out, how Royal Mail operations with co-exist on the site, and how much affordable housing will be provided.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Planning permission sought for Cycle Hire dock outside Broadgates Court (Cleaver Street)

(Image taken from and (c) Google maps)

I've just spotted that a planning application 10/03858/RG4 has been submitted for the installation of 17 docking points on Cleaver Street opposite Broadgates Court (a post-war block of flats).  This was one of the sites that several locals suggested and the land is owned by the council.  The Council are also considering performing some beautification on the surrounds too, so presuming that residents don't think it a terrible idea, we ought to gain a few more docks in the centre of Kennington soon, hopefully relieving congestion on the Post Office and Sancroft Square docks somewhat.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Prevarication on 20 Albert Embankment - planning permission extension sought

(Image taken from Lambeth's Planning database)

Following October's attempt to tweak the 20 Albert Embankment planning consent and today's request to extend the time limit on the already-granted planning permission, it doesn't look as though we'll be graced by the presence of three new towers (including another hotel) on the Albert Embankment any time soon.  The current permission is set to expire in March 2011.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Planning new Boris Bike docks in SE11 and SW8 - impressive feedback from Lambeth Council

Every so often a member of the public sends off an email to Lambeth Council, regarding consultation, in the vague hope that there'll be somebody that might read it and take the comments on board.  Last week, however, I watched as two comprehensive responses from Dawn Rahman (nee Haines) on the placement of Boris Bike docks bounced into my inbox.  Dawn had responded, in detail, to my (and others) suggestions for London Cycle hire bike docking points in Lambeth.  I'm delighted by the responses to the suggestions (some of which were provided to me in Twitter via readers) as it enables me to give you an update.

One issue with suggesting docks was that we were told that they had to be within the "existing area boundary", but I was unclear exactly where that boundary lay, so I suggested some for Oval.  I want to see these docks go to Peckham, Camberwell, Stockwell, Brixton and down as far as Clapham (at least), but I didn't submit sites for these area as it would have been rather counterproductive.  Those places do not lie within the existing area.  So, our suggestions...

1.  Kennings Way (a small road opposite Kennington tube station) which was suggested due to an absence of docking stations on Kennington Park Road between Kennington Post Office dock and the Hampton Street dock.

Lambeth Council's response: "Lambeth have had a look at this site as we're aware that there is a big gap in the network. Taking away car parking is always difficult but not impossible. However, I think I have found an easier location to progress opposite the shops on Kennington Park Road - just a short distance from Kennington tube. This could potentially be located on the very wide footway and allow us to remove some of the unsightly bollards that we have had to put up to prevent cars parking on it."

My response: Thumbs up.  That placement would be great, without having to remove parking, and might benefit the shops too.

2.  Cleaver Street (opposite Lambeth county court)  - I noted that some residents may object about this suggestion as that piece of land and its use has previously come under disupute (I can't remember why).  It's also quite close to the Sancroft Street (St Anselm's) dock, but since that one's often full/empty, another one within close proximity wouldn't do any harm.

Lambeth Council's response: "This is one that we started progressing back in July [2010], and it is due to be put forward for planning approval next week. The land is owned by our housing department and they are fully on board. It also means we can tidy up this area and put in some additional cycle parking and benches which hopefully will help improve the feel of the place."

My response:  Excellent news.  That ought to relieve the congestion in the central docks and if it can be used as an opportunity to beautify the area, that's even better.

3.  Cleaver Square (south side, near to the City and Guilds of London Art School) - I noted that I didn't know whether there would be room, but somebody suggested it to me, so I sent it on.

Lambeth Council's response: "Lambeth have looked at this and the pavement in front is a bit to narrow... In view of the above two suggestions we think that if we can go ahead with these, this will help with network coverage in that area - as both of the above are in close proximity to this site. There is also some highway land to the side of the Art school however this would require taking away motorcycle bays which we don’t tend to have too many of so again this would probably receive quite a few objections."

My response:  That's reasonable.  I'd object to removal of scooter/motorcycle parking for cycle docks because I agree that there isn't enough of it.  If both other docks are implemented (particularly the one near the tube), there would be less need for one here.

4.  Extension of the docking station at Kennington Park Post office - (I noted that the dock is always full or empty, being that it represents the souternmost boundary of the scheme).

Lambeth Council's response: "Unfortunately TfL have said that due to the cost involved, they can only extend existing docking stations if we can put in at least 15 more bikes. I've had a look at this site and I just can't see how we can accommodate that many bikes in that space. Hopefully though if we can progress some of the other sites this will help with capacity issues."

My response:  That's annoying.  However, Lambeth Council are clearly restricted by TFL on this point so there's not much that could be suggested.  Does anybody think that there's room on the same side of Kennington Road slightly further up, near to the bus stop for a dock??

5.  Island site opposite Oval station between Brixton Road, Clapham Road and the top of Camberwell New Road - (The island contains only a piece of circular seating furniture at present, and the site is sometimes used by Lambeth Council for bike repair workshops.  I never really understood why this wasn't an obvious site in the first place).

Lambeth Council's response: "We did get planning permission for a site on this piece of land. Unfortunately we lost it at the construction stage due to problems when they dug the ground up. However, we are now looking at progressing a site outside of the Oval cricket ground ticket office which takes up existing car parking bays. This is being looked at currently with TfL.  Again hopefully this will help with the gaps in the network."

My response:  That's an excellent clarification, but a real shame.  I wonder what problems were found when the ground was dug up?  I guess a site outside of the Oval circket ground is an acceptable substitution, but I think the island site would be better.  There's more room and it wouldn't take parking spaces.

6.  Albert Embankment - (nearer to Lambeth Bridge) - Permission has been requested for a dock opposite 4 Albert Embankment at present, so this might come to fruition anyway (hopefully)...

Lambeth Council's response: "TfL have progressed one in close proximity to Lambeth Bridge and that hopefully we will get a response from planning as to whether it has been approved on the 22nd November. I think there are plans for a site on Guys and St Thomas' land a bit further up..." (Edited due to correction sent from Dawn on 16th Nov 2010)

My response:  Great.  Let's hope that the site on 4 Albert Embankment is approved.

7.  Kennington Park

Lambeth Council's response: "See comments above"

My response: I'm not sure that the comments above would apply to a site at the back of Kennington Park, say nearer to St Agnes Place, but maybe that's outside of the existing area.

Incidentally, Mrs Rahman noted in an email to Cllr Morgan that all sites have to go through planning and transport regulations which means that if you live near to a dock for which planning permission is sought, you'll get the opportunity to provide comments in support or against.

I'm interested in reader feedback on this as many of my readers fed in suggestions for sites, and if you'd like me to go back to Lambeth with further suggestions, I think there's still time!  I didn't suggest any near Vauxhall Station as I imagine that that will be addressed separately, but I'm sure you can all think of more that you'd like.

Update on schools (and their websites) in Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall

Ever since I attended the Angry Parent meeting at St Anselm's church a few months ago, and compiled the list of schools and their recent Ofsted reports, I've been getting a lot more hits from people searching for local primary schools.  It made me wonder whether the subject matter of my area coverage was unbalanced.  I write a considerable amount on planning, but very little on the arts (community meetings seem to squeeze out theatre trips, but I've tried to address arts via the new calendar), and a lot on community groups, but very little on education...  I thought it might be worth redressing the balance every so often...

One particularly impressive part of the Angry Parents meeting was the fact that two members of staff from Henry Fawcett Primary School showed up and spoke about the measures that they'd put in place to bring their school out of Special Measures.  I thought it was a particularly brave move, at a meeting set up for parents who were concerned about their being enough places at "good" local schools to meet the needs of their children.  Consequently, it seems timely to note a document on the Henry Fawcett home page that demonstrates the steps they took to bring the school out of those measures in a very short time.  From that document, we learn that there's been a complete restructuring of staff, a new curriculum, the implementation of a database to monitor students' progress, report cards for misbehaving children, new sports coaches at lunch time, improved lesson planning etc. etc.  Wow.  Fantastic work!

Also, I wondered whether it was possible for parents and neighbours to learn what was happening at their children's schools locally.  St Mark's C of E school do have a rather slow website, but that doesn't look as though it has been updated since 2005!  Crampton Primary School have a website whose "recent" newsletter hasn't been updated since 2006.  [Edit 11/2/2011: Vauxhall Primary School have a new website.]  Walnut Tree Walk have a promising website with little content.  Charlotte Sharman share the same website host as St Mark's which is slow to load and hasn't been updated since 2007/8.  St Anne's Roman Catholic Primary appear to have no website.  Lilian Baylis Technology School have a site, but it's down (I'll check again in the morning).  Henry Fawcett have a bright website, which is only a few months out of date, and last updated approx. July 2010.  Archbishop Tenisons School have a website updated this month and Archbishop Sumner Primary School have a website that was last updated in October.  I wanted to make this post one about the positive news of local schools, but it will seem too biased if I do so without including a full range of schools.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Archbishop Sumner also have outstanding Ofsted results.  It's not true to say that the website makes the school, but it might be true to say that if you have within the school the resources (be that staff, parents or friends) to create and update a website, then you have the voluntary capacity required to run an outstanding school.  The problem is (and this is my uninformed guess), that many (not all, but many) parents with money and resources wish to send their children to Archbishop Sumner.  I'm not making this up, because this fact became clear at the meeting earlier on this year.  The parents at that meeting (95% middle class, professional, and, incidentally, white) wished to see that school expanded.  However, unless parents choose to run their own free schools (can't see Lambeth Council being excited by that idea), the likelihood of the school structure changing in its entirety is low.  The difficulty is trying to figure out how to share and spread levels of high attainment.

School staff (at least, according to the news) have to work longer hours, teach children with English as a second language in schools where multiple languages are spoken, provide discipline where parents fail, subject children to continual SATs testing, satisfy the demands of the National Curriculum and stay sane.  Maybe it's not their job to create and maintain websites.  There's a possibility that website are unnecessary when parents speak to teachers at the school gates, and newsletters always make it home in children's bags.  Should schools be producing websites and keeping the wider public informed of local education?  I don't know.  Is this the task of the Local Education Authority?  Maybe, but how will they know exactly what's happening in a school?  Is it their task, in an era of "shrink the state" governance?  It seems to me that maybe it's the task of school governors, but they have to ensure children are safeguarded, enable a school to support children with Special Educational Needs, decide on policies of exclusion and manage the staff in a school, all in an unpaid capacity.  It doesn't leave much time for managing a website.  It seems that perhaps it's the task of the parents, but when one IT-savvy parent's child leaves a school, the website could be abandoned.

School websites are a small and insignificant matter that simply demonstrate commitment.  Updating people with news is one of the ways that schools can appeal to the wider community and share their joys and concerns.  Sharing news and enabling local "ownership" of services is part of creating the Big Society, right?  The absence of up to date news from schools feeds into fears that I have concerning our impending Big Society.  The volunteer culture needed to update school websites is precisely the volunteer culture required to visit the elderly when the State is forced out through spending cuts.  Some people will argue that it should never have been the State's job in the first place.  I'm agnostic on that matter.  But even if it isn't the State's job, a sudden removal of  front line carers and visitors is not going to create a situation where volunteers are immediately able to fill the breach.  If that were the case, all of our schools would have up-to-date websites.

Label Cloud

Blog Archive