Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A potential new tattoo parlour for SE11 (and other news from Lambeth Life)

I frequently hear people moaning about Lambeth Life as a propaganda rag par excellence, and there are many denouncements of free council run newspapers, which take advertising business away from other noble enterprises eg. The South London Press. (I think it's highly likely that Lambeth Life will go under when the next administration (whoever they are) come to power because of the huge shortfall in public funds, but we shall see.) Then it will be back to the SLP and numerous "massage" offers. Joy.

I don't read the freebie (as noted in comment on last post) because Lambeth don't deliver it to me, even though I live in Lambeth! (Should I complain?) However, in not reading it, I might be missing juicy snippets! I've just realised that it is stuffed full of SE11 related info. Here's a run down of items pertinent to locals (notice that I don't mention how wonderful the council is at all):

1. 319 Kennington Road (the old Field and Sons Estate Agent that briefly became a solicitors) is considering change of use to a Tattoo Shop. (A potential first for SE11, I believe.) [Edit @ 17:16 - I love having readers. Apparently, we used to have a tattoo shop near the Vauxhall bit of SE11 that closed down a few years ago, so this will be the second one ever (don't sound as impressive), if it gets planning permission.]

2. Classical music in St Peter's Vauxhall (£5) on 6th Feb from 7.30pm. Call 07951 488 220 for more info.

3. Plays at both the Oval House Theatre and White Bear Theatre (these you can generally discover in Time Out).

4. The second KOV meeting re Nine Elms (I already mentioned this a few days ago).

5. A bellydance party at The Doghouse on Feb 12th, £5, proceeds to Great Ormond Street. Call 07863 560 219 for more info.

6. The new olympic sized swimming pool (mentioned yesterday).

I can't decide whether the Belly Dancing party or the potential tattoo shop is the most exciting.

It seems I shall have to start reading Lambeth Life unless I'm to miss out on extra local news, or you could just email me with your events, and I'll advertise them for you for free (with the added bonus that you don't need to read about why the council are so fantastic) and the environmental benefit. My blog is totally green and printed on recycled web-pages.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Olympic swimming pool opens in Kennington

Ha ha!

Thanks to Mr Onionbag for flagging to my attention the fact that because Lambeth doesn't currently offer any indoor swimming pool facilities (other than Brixton), the Council have decided to open one in Kennington. I hear you excitedly clammering and exclaiming "where, where?". You'll want to don your swimming gear and head for the former Lilian Baylis School, and go for a dip. All of those people who google this blog for keywords like kennington gym, gay gym and swimming pool in Kennington will now finally be satisfied. It is /such/ good news indeed that it has made it on to the front page of Lambeth Life, right alongside the clamp down on prostitution...

[I ought probably to mention that the pool is only 12m long. This will be a relief for those who have yet to earn their 10m swimming badge. But it's only fair of me to warn you before you get your swimming trunks on... Just make sure there's nobody else in there first :) ]

See, this is another reason why SE11 is a fabulous and spiffy place to live. It seems we have our own swimming pool.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Notice of a new KOV Nine Elms Discussion Meeting on 10th Feb at 19:00

Just a quick note to say that I've received notification of a new KOV meeting to be held on 10th February at 19:00, which will take place at St Peter's Church, Vauxhall in order to discuss more fully The Mayor's Framework for Nine Elms. (Tea and coffee will be available from 18:30, if you want to meet others there). At the previous KOV meeting on 19th Jan, a second meeting was requested in which the Mayor's Plan would be the only item on the agenda, so it looks as though that will now take place..

Also, it's worth noting that KOV (Kennington Oval Vauxhall Forum) have a new website here and will upload meeting notes there once available. They also have a new blog here, which I've added to my own blog roll on the right hand side of the screen.

The deadline response for comments on the Mayor's Plan has been moved back to 28th February 2010 so this ought to be a useful meeting to attend if you want to ask the Mayor's representatives some further questions before you make your own comments.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Boris' secret masterplan and Student accommodation in Vauxhall

Thanks to Markvauxhall on Twitter for the heads up re. yet another request for planning permission in Vauxhall (student accommodation). I'm surprised nobody raised it last night at the meeting, but it's only about four storeys high and the design probably won't be contentious (view the application here) and an external drawing here. We don't have much (any?) student accommodation in Vauxhall (not having a university on our doorstep), so in principle, there might seem to be no objection. (Students can hardly be more disturbing to residents than the late night revellers at Fire, can they?). What it would be useful to know is whether there will be any other requests for student accommodation. I mean, I can see that people would think that 92 student units are not a major problem, but how do we know whether there are more to come? Could there be 500 units or 1000 units, once the big buildings have gone up? Would that make Vauxhall a student hub, in the same way parts of Borough and Elephant will be?

As raised by several people at the KOV meeting yesterday, it seems that there is an ongoing issue pertaining to the requests for permission lining up with the Mayor's Plan for Nine Elms and the Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document. Each time a developer submits a request for planning permission for a new building, the transport and infrastructure questions are only considered for the building in question by the local council (in this case, Lambeth). Does this mean that the developers will keep having planning permission granted because "just one more building" won't affect the underground tube congestion? As long as Lambeth Council are seen to be proceeding on a building by building basis, there is less need for anybody to consider the overall area, and the effects that new buildings will have on older buildings and the surrounding townscape. Indeed, it's rather impossible for residents to object, approve or comment on each new building because it's so time consuming to work in this manner. Please could we consider multiple buildings and their effects on one another, before we have to comment on the next in the series?

It seems to me that nobody holds a master plan... Or perhaps they do... The problem is that the masterplan is secret. My journey to work reading this morning revealed that the Mayor knows something that we don't. Look carefully at p30 of the Mayor's Plan, which states, "In relation to the broad land use strategy, the planning framework estimates in the region of 20,000 - 25,000 new jobs in the Opportunity Area... This estimate is based upon the development capacity study and a review of planned schemes in the OA (which cannot be shared for confidentiality reasons). Does this mean that Boris Johnson holds a masterplan for the area, but can't tell us about it, in case local residents are able to orchestrate an effective campaign that will call for sensible building and community development, rather than "increased density" and "intensification"? How do local residents discover what the "planned schemes" for the OA are until we're given a very short amount of time to comment on them? And if we don't know how all of the buildings will fit together, how is the consultation meaningful?

Thanks for the comments on the earlier post. I do agree with the commentators that there are large parts of the area that would benefit from development and regeneration. Improved transport infrastructure in the area would be great for all Londoners. It is important that we retain industrial space for small businesses, that unattractive frontages be removed and replaced, that commercial space is balanced with residential space, and that residential space is properly mixed, with affordable housing being provided for workers and their families. All of this is good, and public discussion must ensue. Unfortunately, the Mayor's plan is about "potential sites" and "predicted heights", but we need to see a master plan of proposed developments in order to make useful comments and ask probing questions. Without that, it's as though everybody else is being kept in the dark.

Consider this a public request for transparency... Please.

KOV meeting fall out re. Boris and the Nine Elms plan

The last Kennington Oval and Vauxhall forum meeting I was present for was attended by about 20 people. Last night's meeting was closer to 200, and the entire agenda was derailed. Why? A small (heh) 174 page document from the Mayor, dated "November 2009" with the catchy title "Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area Planning Framework" (or OAPF) was presented by some people from the Mayor's office.

The OAPF is a major document from the Mayor about the future of a huge span of the river, detailing opportunities for the "intensification" of the area from Lambeth Palace to Battersea Power Station, and thus encompassing both the London Borough of Lambeth and the London Borough of Wandsworth. I am going to try and summarise that document over the next few days, and the Kennington Oval Vauxhall forum (KOV) have agreed to put on another meeting for local residents, in order to give people a chance to read the document. If you want to read the document without navigating the Mayor's site, click here.

Suffice to say, rather large numbers of people at last night's meeting were very cross. People felt that there had been little publicity about the documents or the consultation. The Mayor's office had not brought copies of the document with them to show people. The Mayor's office could not show views of the proposed buildings, as they would look from Stockwell or Vauxhall itself. The Mayor, it seems is in favour of tall buildings of up to 150m in Vauxhall itself. How tall is that exactly? Well, Strata (the big razor shaped on in Elephant and Castle) comes in at 147m, so that should give you an idea. Various questions were raised about family housing. How exactly are children meant to play, when they live on the 39th floor, you might wonder? The helpful man from the Mayor's office thinks this could be sorted by providing large gardens at the bottom of the flats, designing a new park, and possibly through the use of roof terraces! One lady was concerned about the increased traffic congestion. This is not a problem, the Mayor's office stated last night, because very little car parking is expected, so traffic shouldn't increase too much (contrary to what the document itself seems to say). This lead to questions about transport (the document is rather scathing about the fact that there is no currently viable finance scheme for public transport), so the audience were concerned to note that buildings should not be erected prior to public transport being in place. (And who funds the public transport...? That would be the private developers.) So, somebody asked, how will the transport infrastructure be in place before planning permission is granted for the new buildings? Sadly, being the Mayor's office, and not Lambeth/Wandsworth Council, they couldn't really answer because (as somebody else noted), buildings such as 81 Black Prince Road have been granted planning permission already, on the basis that there is plenty of accessible public transport. The Lady from the Mayor's office did state that public finance initiatives (rather than just the developers) would be investigated re. funding public transport. One lady was concerned that she couldn't get on the trains at Vauxhall underground station at the moment, so how was it really going to be possible to do so when the 20,000 - 25,000 proposed jobs had been added to the area? A local vicar wanted to know whether there any thought had been given for small shops in the Opportunity Area? Another man wanted to know how the "green link" would work, and which bridge the Cycle Superhighway would cross. The best explosion came from a lady from one of the Vauxhall Tenants Associations who demanded to know why nobody had been informed with letters through their door and other information etc. about the project. Well, quite. A very good question. One gentleman was very upset about the American Embassy getting to dictate the terms of their presence in the area, and generally turning the road into a "no through zone". And finally, a young man who somebody thought might be a candidate at the next election was very cross on behalf of everybody in the room, that nobody had been consulted, and that everybody was rather angry. Lots of people clapped. Somehow, I doubt that this will lead to a series of Lambeth Tory victories, but one never knows...

Many of the questions asked are actually answered in the document, but they are couched in strange planning jargon. "Intensification" means, for example, "how to cram more people into a small place". But as I mentioned above, I will try and do a summary of the document so that you know what the Mayor is proposing.

There was lots of shouting, and protests, and objections at the meeting until eventually I felt rather sorry for the Mayor's representatives. Somebody seemed to remember that Boris did once oppose tall buildings, but nobody was quite sure that they had remembered correctly. The main problem is that the Mayor's office just sent people to do the presentation (the kind of people who get excited about anaerobic digestion opportunities at the new market), and everybody at the meeting wanted to know how to pause the plan in its tracks in order to consult everybody. It's quite clear the area will be redeveloped in some ways, but since it's Lambeth/Wandsworth that grants the planning permission, and the developers that have the money, everything generally continues at their pace, and not the pace of the residents.

I am very excited that the proposals might lead to a united group of Londoners getting together to talk sensibly about common good and transport infrastructure and town planning. But I am afraid that it will probably just result in the kind of frustration and disquiet that has taken place in Elephant and Castle.

Leave some comments if you were present at last night's meeting.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Elephant and Hippo and squatting and Olive Morris

A year or so ago, I noticed that 1 Bowling Green Street (Elephant and Hippo pub) was mentioned in various legal news articles re. the question of regaining possession of the property. I didn't mention it at the time, and the case really only came to any attention because it involved a point of law (whether /any/ court could grant a stay of execution re. gaining possession of a property). The eventual ruling was that any court may indeed grant a stay of execution, but I'm afraid I have failed to figure out who exactly has possession at the moment. I presume that eventually the claimant (Admiral Taverns (Cygnet) Ltd) did win the possession back, (irrespective of how the case went re. the point of law), but I suppose that the question of possession might have had to wait for the Appeal court ruling, and if that's the case, the defendant still has possession.

The pub has theoretically been boarded up for the last year or so. I only noticed because the fabulous elephant and hippo 3D model seemed to disappear from the front. But even before that, it looked rather quiet deserted. In any case, I have heard on the grapevine that the pub is currently squatted. Can anybody advise whether there are plans to turn it into one of those squats that offers community services, in the same vein as The Library House in Camberwell? It seems the Library House have a day in court tomorrow (Jan 18th) and their blog indicates they have asked for supporters to attend an 8am breakfast, if anybody feels like going along... Anyhow, I have often wondered whether the other old pub (the pink one) (formerly The Cricketers) on one side of the Oval is squatted too as have seen movements that might indicate so. If there's lots of squats in SE11, it's all good news, as [notice the badly designed plug], Olive Morris would have agreed.

Who was Olive Morris I hear you asking? (Some people try to answer that question here). She was an amazing, right on lady from Lambeth! She was a campaigner who was well ahead of her time, promoting groups for black women in Lambeth (Brixton specifically) and at the forefront of the Black Panthers and black rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Central to her life at one period was the squat at 121 Railton Road she started occupying in 1972 (and which was occupied by squatters until 1999)! If you want to find out more, why not pop into the Gasworks art exhibition named, "Do you remember Olive Morris?" or check out the Remembering Olive Collective blog, from which I've drawn the above information. The Gas Works gallery is open from Wednesday - Sunday. I went today, and it's great to see that this very important woman is not being forgotten, but it made me wonder how many other brave women from this Borough are waiting to be rediscovered. I know that Olive Morris has a whole administrative building to her name, but I wonder whether she has a blue plaque anywhere...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Cllr Mark Harrison refutes Lambeth Leaseholder Service Charge Increases

Cllr Mark Harrison has asked me to publish a comment below from him, in order to avoid the Lurking About SE11 blog being used as "a mouthpiece for Lib Dem distortions". It seems to me that he is seeking to refute the views contained in the post I made earlier, entitled Proposed Service Charge Increases for Lambeth Leaseholders.

I'd certainly be interested in getting to the bottom of the matter. It would be very useful to be able to see the minutes, taken at the Labour Councillors Meeting on Monday evening, since those should clear up the matter of whether service charges were raised. It would also be interesting to see comments on this post from anybody with any further information about what took place at the meeting. I do not want this blog used as a mouthpiece for any political party, but I do wish to promote quality discussion about community issues. Cllr Harrison's statement follows:

"The Chair of the North Lambeth Leaseholders' Forum (a prominent Liberal Democrat activist) has put out a misleading statement about rents and service charges which we need to correct.

At Monday's meeting of the Labour Group of councillors the Cabinet member for Housing explained what officers have recommended as a rent and service charge rise for tenants (there was no discussion about leaseholder charges).

A rent rise of around £4.13 on average (5%) has been floated as possible; and an average of 83p (8%) service charge increase for tenants.

This is the very first stage in the rent setting process. At the moment, all figures are estimates, because the government has not yet confirmed what Lambeth's final financial settlement will be. The next step in the rent setting process is a series of scrutiny meetings and Tenants' Council.

Lambeth's Labour councillors will be looking to keep this year's rent rise as low as possible. We are looking for savings from Lambeth Living and Lambeth Council as well as greater investment in areas such as repairs which needs more money. However, councillors have a legal duty to balance the Housing Revenue Account, so our room for manouevre is limited.

To be absolutely clear: no decisions about the level of rent have been taken. And there was no discussion of charges to leaseholders at Monday's meeting. Leaseholder charges are set precisely according to the contracts between leaseholders and the Council.

Labour councillors are working tirelssly to try to achieve value for money, decent homes, good robust management and action on ineffective staff and processes. Transforming Lambeth's housing services takes time. Setting a fair, affordable rent which covers the cost of the service is part of that process.

Your Labour councillors in Prince's ward

Contact Mark Harrison:"

Goodbye Cafe Van Gogh and Welcome to Sirenas Restaurant

I heard on the grapevine recently that Cafe Van Gogh (based out of Christ Church at the top of Brixton Rd in SW9) has closed. I know it's not strictly in SE11, but it seems a number of Kennington locals venture out in this direction quite often, and say that it will be sad to see it go.

On the other hand, apparently Sirena's (a popular Italian restaurant, with a branch in Black Prince Road) have opened a new branch in the Kennington Park Business Centre. The Business Centre is at 1-3 Brixton Road, London SW9 6DE. I believe Sirenas is only open Monday - Friday (8am - 5pm), making it rather tricky for me to drop in and sample the fare. No doubt some of you will do it for me...

It occurs to me quite regularly that if you're fortunate enough to be Lurking about SE11 during the day, it is a very different experience from Lurking About at the weekend and in the evenings. A different set of people live and move and have their being. One could almost go as far as saying that the area becomes an entirely different place. If you've observed anything noteworthy that occurs during the day that you'd like to see mentioned, drop me a line, because I probably don't know it's going on.

Proposed service charge increases for Lambeth leaseholders

I've received some interesting news which suggests that Lambeth Councillors held a meeting (it's not quite clear to me what group was represented) on Monday night in which they voted to increase management charges for Lambeth leaseholders. It seems that this is not a Lambeth executive decision, but just a vote by certain councillors in favour of increases in rent and service charge. A motion would still need to be voted on by the Council, but perhaps some residents might want to take action before the proposed increases take place.

Proposed service charges for leaseholders would be set to move from the current 10% to 18%, and for those who rent, a 5% rent increase is on the cards. These increases are proposed at a time (as many of you are aware) in which the standard of service provided by Lambeth Living to residents has been despicable.

Those of you who are affected might like to email your local councillors to ask for a transcript from the meeting or to protest the rises. SE11 comprises Princes, Oval or Bishops wards, but you can just enter your postcode here to check who your councillors are. Alternatively, you could email your MP, Kate Hoey, (who I hear is very sympathetic to Leaseholder concerns) at

Keep an eye out for this week's article in the South London Press which might contain further information...

[Please also look at the post entitled Cllr Mark Harrison refutes Lambeth Leaseholder Service Charge Increases. Mark Harrison (one of the Princes Ward councillors) has provided his view of what was stated at the meeting which took place on Monday, as he does not think that any rise in Leaseholder charges was discussed. It would be good to see some reasoned debate taking place about how we appear to have two divergent views on what took place at that meeting.]

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