Thursday, 30 September 2010

Proposals for a new Vauxhall hotel at 1-9 Bondway and 4-6 South Lambeth Place

The excerpt from the plan above has been cut and paste from Lambeth Planning Database under the section for Application 10/03151/FUL, "Indicative Facade Section - Bondway".  Copyright Dexter Moren Associates.

My good bloggy commentator, Transport Mark, pointed to a planning application submitted in mid-September for a new 148 bedroom Travelodge in Vauxhall.  (It's 10/03151/FUL in the Lambeth Planning case the link doesn't work).  The first submission was invalid for some reason, but now it's definitely back on the table and residents have until the October 20th 2010 to respond.  Salmon Developments Plc own the land, and you can see a vague sketch of how they think the hotel might look on their site here.  Although Salmon plc have suggested the hotel will contain 155 beds, permission has been sought for only 148.

The application has been submitted for a 6 storey (and additional lower ground) building which would comprise a hotel with bar/restaurant, along with a variety of commercial units (retail, financial services, restaurants/cafes and drinking establishments) as well as a "roof level plant".  (I'm presuming that's some form of machinery).  It sounds as though they've hedged their bets somewhat, hoping for a complete range of planning permission for different types of establishment, but it looks the type of application that could be amended were they unable to find a particular type of tenant.  The hotel makes a change from the high rise proposals, which is good.  I imagine they'll have to replace what's currently in place, so it doesn't make sense to build up. I vaguely wonder whether there's a risk of over-hotelling, considering the level of hotel building currently taking place in Waterloo, but no doubt these companies know what they're doing!

There's currently a budget Comfort Inn hotel in Vauxhall, but it's some distance from the tube down South Lambeth Road.  There's a Park Plaza at 18 Albert Embankment (quite close to Lambeth Palace).  Lambeth Council granted planning permission for a new 168 bedroom hotel at the Oval (eventually, once the area was deemed "safe").  A hotel will form approx. half of the lower portion of one of the Vauxhall Island Site buildings (see here).  And I've this vague feeling that we had another hotel proposal suggested for Vauxhall, but I can't remember where, and I've searched my archives with no success.  Anyhow, none of the proposed hotels are huge, so there's probably no reason that the hotels can't happily co-exist.

I can't think of any reason not to support this application, although I'm wondering whether the proposal includes the land currently occupied by the Big Issue offices.  I don't think I'd be thrilled to stay in a hotel opposite Vauxhall bus station, (maybe they'll open up the South Lambeth Place side too), but I think retail units opposite the bus station would perform well and improve the area no end, and you can't beat the transport links!

Accident on Kennington Park Road near Kennington Park Place

An accident occurred at approximately 6:30am this morning causing commuter chaos in Kennington.  The accident occurred on Kennington Park Road (the A3) at the junction between Ravensdon Street and Kennington Park Place and appears to have been between two cars (a mini-style vehicle and a range-rover style vehicle).  The collision looks to have been head-on and one witness reports seeing ten men removing the roof of the smaller vehicle to rescue one man from the wreckage.  The injured man was reportedly not unconscious at the time of rescue, so we're hoping there have been no fatalities.  The smaller car looked to have been entirely decimated, and large amounts of plastic/metal debris are strewn across the road and pavement.

Large sections of Kennington Park Road were closed off (between Braganza Street and Kennington Road), causing the surrounding roads to be flooded with traffic.  The police expected the road to be closed for a couple of hours whilst the aftermath of the accident was cleared, and I noted about 15 police personnel at the scene. 

Quite a few people seem to have googled the incident this morning looking for more details, as is always the case when there's a road accident.  If you have more details eg. you witnessed the accident, or you know the outcome of any of the people involved in the accident, and wish to confirm their condition, feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

How Cllr Steve Reed let down local children and Kate Hoey or The Triangle (ongoing saga), Part 3 or

So, you'll know (if you've kept up with the Triangle Playground saga) that the Triangle Adventure Playground is a community playground, whose removal is desired by Archbishop Tension School because they wish to use the land to expand their premises. Lambeth Council seem to have made it their goal to evict the Triangle Association from the playground (see Part 1 here) in anticipation of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) expansion at Archbishop Tenison.  Unfortunately, many BSF projects have since fallen through (ConDem cuts) and so the school expansion can't take place, but the Council still wish to evict the Triangle Adventure Playground.  Why?

In part 2 of the saga, I explained that of the six school expansion options drawn up by Atkins architects for Lambeth Council, the Council had opted for the only plan which involved the removal of the Triangle Adventure Playground.  The playground site did not need to be used to expand the school, as the 5 alternative options attest. The playground is a much loved play space and resource for local young people, desperately needed, I'd argue, in an area with high levels of urban deprivation where there isn't much room for creative, adventurous play.  (It needs also to be made clear that much of Archbishop Tenison's intake is drawn from the borough of Southwark, so whilst it's a good local secondary school, it doesn't /necessarily/ benefit its Lambeth neighbours).  Again, I'm not convinced we've got to the bottom of the matter of why Lambeth Council chose option 6, the playground removal option.

Today we are going to move on to part 3 of the saga.  This was the very interesting piece of news that I mentioned on Twitter last week.  I agreed to allow the South London Press to print it first, so you can go and read the full article (it's not behind their pay wall) just here.  But it boils down to the fact that local children from the Triangle Playground went with their parents and Kate Hoey MP to present a petition to Cllr Steve Reed (the leader of Lambeth Council) against closing their playground.  And Cllr Reed failed to show up.  So the children (who had received permission to leave school early) stood on the steps of the Town Hall with their parents to present their petition.  And yet no Council leader appeared in order to receive it.  Shame on him.  It was Steve Reed's office that had specified the time of the meeting and he gave no explanation or apology for his absence whilst he left everybody waiting for half an hour.  Kate Hoey was kind enough to tell the SLP that she didn't see it as a snub to her, considering the children and their parents to have been the ones snubbed, but make of that what you will.

Feel free to try and defend the name of the good Councillors of Lambeth (and we do have some), but letting down local children who've been let out of school early to meet with you is unacceptable behaviour.  If Mr Cobb is right that Cllr Reed is climbing the greasy pole to stand as the next Labour MP for Vauxhall, his failure to receive something as simple as a petition from the community should be highlighted on account of what it says about him as a politician.  The odd thing (no surprises there) is the slant given to the whole matter by the South Lambeth Press.  No mention there of the lovely leader's absence.  Oh, no, October's Lambeth Life (p3) just reports; "Parents and children from the Triangle Adventure Playground have been collecting signatures for the petition and handed it over to the Council Deputy Leader Jackie Meldrum last month."  Wonder why that might have been, then!  Lambeth Life even has the temerity to argue that there's another adventure playground in Kennington Park, with no mention of  their proposed reduction in the size of the One O'Clock club or closure of Kennington park's Children's Centre.  This is where accusations of Lambeth Life "propaganda sheet" rightly abound, (and I'm no fan of supporting the SLP's sex ad rag either).  Thank goodness for local blogs :-) :-)

But Lambeth Life seem to assume that the Triangle Adventure Playground has actually closed.  Cllr Pete Robbins says "We appreciate that this is a much-loved play area, so it was a difficult decision to close it.".  I was unaware that the Triangle had closed (there'll be protests before that happens, no doubt).  But more importantly, I don't understand why the Council are claiming that the Triangle Playground has closed all the time they do not have any money to expand Archbishop Tenison School.  There is no longer any BSF money, so there's no reason to evict the playground.  There was and is no "difficult choice" to be made in light of the fact that the school simply cannot expand at present.  But the Lambeth Life article also seems to invent a kind of double speak.  In Cllr Robbin's mind, the Triangle has closed, since "it /was/" a difficult decision to close it", but Lambeth Life's anonymous columnist maintains it's still open, after all, "A spokesman said there were no immediate plans to close the playground down...".  So what's it to be?

We still have no explanation from  Lambeth about why they can't use any of the other 5 designs by Atkins that do not require the eviction of the Triangle Playground.  Answers on a postcard, please.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Consultation and Thames Tideway Tunnel Consultation

Remember that if the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea (VNEB) development goes ahead, even in outline form, it's reckoned that over the next 20 years, a town with the population equivalent to that of Welwyn Garden City would spring up between Battersea Power Station and our own beloved Vauxhall (or VoHo, as we're now supposed to call it, darlings).  That's a sizable increase in population that will affect services and infrastructure for those living on the edge of the area.  If you live in SE11, SE1 or SW8 , you might be interested in attending the largest event yet (in Wandsworth), where Wandsworth Economic Development Office will present a number of boards laying out the proposals in more detail.  The poster (above) says that the Embassy Quarter, Battersea Power Station, New Covent Garden Market and others will all be present on the day (which has never happened before).  We might even find out what would happen to the Nine Elms Sainsburys.  I'm told that a 3D model won't be present at the exhibition, but that the boards will include details of the VNEB development at the Lambeth end, in Vauxhall.  (It would be useful to actually have a consultation in Vauxhall, but considering that the development is mostly taking place in Wandsworth, I imagine that's too much to ask).  It's a much needed regeneration for Vauxhall and Nine Elms, but I'd recommend careful scrutiny, and I'm still not convinced that locals are aware of the size of what's to come.

I've spoken to the chaps at the Development Office who've also confirmed that a number of Lambeth Councillors and Lambeth planning officers should be present.  This is a chance to ask questions about whether Vauxhall Underground Station has the capacity to carry all of the extra residents at peak time, and also to ask who would be funding the proposed Northern line extension.  If nobody can be found to fund the extension, you might like to ask whether alternative modes of public transport have been considered.  The organisers have asked for people to register for the event, but I think it's still possible to show up on one of the days.

In my last post, I mentioned the Thames Tideway Tunnel and suggested why I think local residents should not oppose it.  However, I didn't give details of where the consultation will take place.  I really don't know how many readers attend local consultations.  I do, but then I'm a bit strange :). 

One commentator pointed out that the nearest events are in Covent Garden, Bermondsey or Battersea, which is not really useful for Lambeth residents.  To be fair, there are are two preferred sites around Battersea, so I can see a good reason for consulting over there, but I don't see why Bermondsey (which only has one site, the same as Vauxhall) was chosen.  Still, I'm sure there's no conspiracy, is there? :-)

The Battersea public exhibition will take place from Thursday 7th October - Saturday 9th October (10:30 - 20:00 Thurs and Frim and 10:30 - 17:00 on Saturday) at Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, Battersea, SW11 5TN.

The Southwark/Bermondsey public exhibition will take place from Monday 11th October - Tuesday 12th October (10:30 - 20:00) at Berodmund Community Centre (Main Hall), 177 Abbey Street, Bermonsey, SE1 2AN

Feel free to peruse the list of other Thames Tideway consultation events if you can't make these two...  And thank you to the person that pointed out that the Tideway Tunnel would not be necessary if human sewage was trated at point of generation in each household, and everybody dug holes in their gardens and installed the necessary plumbing.  There's a risk that that would take considerably more effort than building the tunnel itself! :-)

Friday, 24 September 2010

What is the Tideway Tunnel, and how does it affect Vauxhall?

The Tideway Tunnel is a new sewer project proposed by Thames Water to replace the old Victorian sewerage system, which is at capacity.  At present, when there's heavy rain, the existing sewers are entirely filled up (with rain water and sewage), causing the Combined Sewerage Outlets (a type of over-flow tunnel) to discharge sewage into the River Thames. 

The Tideway Tunnel would be an alternative tunnel, used to redirect sewage away from the Thames to Beckton Sewage Works in East London and it would run under the Thames.  In the event that the Tideway Tunnel was built, the Combined Sewerage Outlets (CSOs) would remain in place, but due to the extra capacity granted by the new tunnel, they'd very rarely cause sewerage to leak into the Thames (or, that's the hope, in any case).

Thames Water claim that, at present, 39 million cubic metres of untreated sewerage overflows into the Thames each year (remember, lots more goes in once it's been treated).  Any idea how much that is?  I tried to calculate it in 2 litre coke bottles, and 4 gallon water bottles, but the figure was too large to comprehend.  The best I can translate it into is Olympic Swimming Pools.  So, 15,798 Olympic Swimming Pools worth of untreated sewerage hit the Thames each year.  Eww.  That sounds like a very large figure, but then one has to work out how much water actually flows through the Thames each year to decide if it's as a bad as it sounds.  I'd be interested to hear from anybody that knows.  The EU are not too pleased by the volume of untreated human waste entering the Thames, so the European Commission are taking the UK to court on account of threat to human life and adverse effects on marine environment in the river.  London residents may well have very little choice in approving the Tideway Tunnel plan to improve the health of the river.

Anyhow, on account of all of this, Thames Water are holding a huge London-wide consultation on whether or not to build the new sewerage Tunnel.  The reason it concernes Vauxhall is because Thames Water wish to use Vauxhall as a site for permanent strctures required by the Tunnel and we have two local Combined Sewerage Outlets nearby (clevererly labelled "Clapham" and "Brixton") .  (This fact is slightly confusing because when viewed on this Thames Water map, these CSOs are actually both already located in Vauxhall!  Who knew we had two sewage discharge pipes in our locality?  It's probably not mentioned on the marketing brouchure for Vauxhall Tower :o) ).  The proposal is that a new structure be built at Vauxhall to connect both of these CSOs to the main tunnel.  It wouldn't need to use any existing land because Thames Water are cleverly hoping (at least in three of the sites under consideration) to extend the river wall!

Thames Water have chosen four sites on which they'd like to construct, site 1 (in front of St George Wharf flats on the foreshore), site 2 (in front of MI6 on the foreshore), site 4, the preferred site (outside of 89 Albert Embankment, to the side of Tintagel House) and site 3 (this one would cover the communal gardens and car park of a block of flats in Claylands Road!!).  Site 3 would be an appalling choice, since it takes away a communal garden, and it's miles from the river!  St George's residents and MI6 likely wouldn't approve the other two options, so I'd agree with the proposal document that the favoured site (in front of offices) is preferable.

Take a look at their map:

The Vauxhall site is the only one within the Borough of Lambeth, that would be used for the proposed new tunnel.  Obviously, were it only Lambeth or Southwark that would be affected by the project, nobody would worry too much.  However, multiple sites of work for the Tideway Tunnel have been proposed for boroughs such as Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Richmond, and they're none too happy.  The Guardian's Dave Hill weighed in again today with comments in his roundup, Metropolitan Lines, pointing out that the leader of Hammersmith & Fulham's Council had become especially perturbed by the proposals.  The Councillor's view is that, since only 18 people have been made ill from drinking the water over the last 15 months (we presume they capsized in canoes, rather than willingly drank the water), there's probably not much need to act.  A somewhat short sighted view one might think, if the sewage problem is due to get worse as London's population increases!  But then I might suggest residents protest if I thought the new structure would emit neasty smells!  Since we've already got two CSO outlets at Vauxhall that nobody knew about, I'm not sure whether the proposals will make any difference.

Thames Water point out that if they do use their preferred site (outside of 89 Albert Embankment, to the side of Tintagel House), there will still be an impact on the Albert Embankment Conservation Area and some disruption on the Thames Path during construction.  Construction would take place for three years, after which the site would be vacated as far as possible, although some permanent structures would be installed.  These include a 10 metre tall ventilation column and a small box with electrical equipment in it.  There will be another round of consultation, so hopefully we'll learn more about how the new structures would look if the proposal ever reaches the second round!
There's a document here, Albert Embankment Foreshore, which contains additional information from Thames Water about the building work on the Albert Embankment, as it would affect Vauxhall and shows a visualiation of the small ventilation column and surrounding area.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Kennington Park Children's Centre (or, When "consultation" risks being lip service)

(All pictures of Kennington Park Children's center (above) attributable to and copyright 2010 Google Streetview)

On 22nd July, I attended a meeting with Kennington parents at which Kate Hoey, Cllr Peter Robbins and Cllr Mark Harrison  (among others) were present, to discuss primary school provision in the area.  At least twenty minutes of the meeting were dedicated to discussing Kennington Park Children's Centre (a Lambeth day care centre for those aged from 6 months to 5 years old), which is useful since the issue of its potential closure is still under dispute.

One parent at that meeting spoke up to say (roughly, as my notes aren't perfect), "I'm a mother of a child who attends Kennington Park Children's centre..  There is a proposal to move the Children's Centre to Henry Fawcett Primary School.  How will that impact on what you're able to do for the rest of the school?  Will the space be sufficient?  It seems to me that if the school is so under pressure then to add to that might not be the right thing to do."

Claire Nuttall (Associate Head Teacher) of Henry Fawcett answered by saying, "At the moment, it's not... it is a consultation.". 

But more tellingly, somebody from Lambeth Council said as follows.  (I'd be delighted if Cllr Robbins or Cllr Harrison were able to tell me the name of the speaker, as what follows is a shorterned transcript of their remarks (my highlighting)).:

"We are proposing to move Kennington Park Children's Centre to Henry Fawcett School and we are consulting on that over the next couple of months.  We've got a number of meetings with parents next week.  Children's centres... are hugely succesful and... we've got 30 in Lambeth and... we've had a history in Lambeth with having children's centres placed in schools.  We've got 5 in the voluntary sector in Lambeth and 5 in place with nursery schools.  The other 20 are in primary schools.  The advantage is that the school can work with families and children from a young age.  Head teachers who have a children's centre say they find it hugely advantageous to do that.  They get to know parents and work with families and they work with issues and problems the families have.  It's a universal access service which is a huge advantage of children's centres.  If families do have special needs, they can be targeted with additional services." 

"We don't know what will happen in the future, but we hope we'll be able to maintain a children's centre service.  We've found having children's centres in schools provides a strong leadership for the children's centre, so a head teacher will know clearly what they want to happen with the school and provides leadership for the children's centre as well. On the whole, that model has worked very well in Lambeth.  It's difficult for a head teacher to manage a children's centre which is off site because the staff are at arm's length and I think clearly it's better to have that flow of children and activities... within the building and outdoors.  There is the space at Henry Fawcett and we're hoping that we'll have some capital...  We've earmarked some capital to put into the building, and the ground floor of the Henry Fawcett School provides a lot more space than there is at the Kennington Park children centre.  It's not quite as much outdoor space, but is perhaps a better quality outdoor space / learning environment for the children, but that's a proposal.  We've got 4 meetings next week with parents where we want to hear your views on that and we know that parents who use the childrens centres have some concerns about is, so we'll be consulting you over the next couple of months about whether you want that move to happen, but also, we think there's a very strong case for it and if it goes ahead, we can then start consulting on plans, and what the plans look like and what services would be delivered in the children's centre.

Kate Hoey:  "When you say consulting, are you going to listen to what they say?"

Lambeth Council person: Yes, of course we're going to listen to what people say..."

Hoey: "You haven't made your mind up in advance?"

Lambeth Council person:  No, we haven't. We haven't. But there are strong financial worries as well.  Within the children centre model, the health and family support is funded separately, but the childcare has to pay for itself.  The childcare is not subsidised.  We can't use the children's centre funding to provide cheap childcare places and that particular aspect of it is not working well at Kennington Park Children's Centre and we've talked with Claire and the Chair of govenors at Henry Fawcett School and produced an improved model for childcare to work at the school site because, to be frank, we can't afford to have a childcare business which is losing money.  It's just not possible in our current financial climate. 

Claire Nuttall (Associate Head at Henry Wafcett):  "Just to answer your specific question as far as Henry Fawcett School goes if [the Children's Centre] came and the impact that would be on it...  The Children's Centre was a part of Henry Fawcett School until a year ago.  When we took on the school [after it entered special measures], because it was on a different site, we went to the LA and said "we can't manage it there" because we couldn't see it every day.  We had to walk across the park and we weren't able to effectively manage it.  At the time we said, "unless it's on our site, we can't manage it" and the LA took it back... I think it would be very positive for the parents to be able to access the kind of extended provision that we get because it would provide a real hub for the parents... There are health visitors and groups for the parents to come to.  We already have our own version because we think it's important, so we run a Reading Cafe for weekender(?) drop in.  It would be positive. It wouldn't take away from our resources or our capacity because it's separate and it has its own manager.  But it's under the overall leadership of the school, so the impact, I think, would be positive."

Council person: , "what we do want to do over the next couple of months is talk to parents across the area as a whole, not just the current users of the children's centre".


Anyhow, today I received an email, addressed to Princes Ward councillors, Kate Hoey, and a number of other folk, suggesting that there are plans afoot to close the Kennington Park Children's Centre.  You'll note from the above dialogue that the consultation was somewhat farcical, even from that first meeting.  I've highlighted in red that funding appears to have been earmarked to move the Centre, even prior to the consultation about whether to move it or not.  When pressed by Kate Hoey about whether the consultation was genuine, the speaker was forced to concede that "there are strong financial worries".  I'm not too sure whether there's much point in Lambeth Council pretending to consult, if they're just going to close something anyway, but perhaps it has to happen for statutory reasons.

It appears that staff and parents have come up with a number of ideas about how to make the Children's Centre profitable eg. by using it for other events, such as yoga/gym/creches etc. but the correspondent who has written to me has suggested that Lambeth Council has been running down the building on purpose, in order to reduce intake and undermine staff morale.  That's a harsh criticism indeed, and (being that I have no children and even little experience in day care centres), I can't back it up.  I'm sure that Lambeth would dispute that claim!  There don't seem to be enough people to fight for all of the services that we're going to need to preserve, but there appear to be at least 137 people who want to save Kennington Park Children's Centre.  There's a Facebook group here (which seems to be open to all), where they've advertised all of the consultation meetings.  Discussions on there seem to be quite active, so I'd advise you to join if you're interested in retaining the centre on its current site.  137 people can be wrong, but they represent a significant body of concern, and from the meeting I attended above, I was already concerned (as was Kate Hoey from her remarks) about the legitimacy of any such consultation.  I'm not at all surprised that Lambeth are leaning in the direction of closure, since they've already allocated the budget!!

The Associate Head Teacher of Henry Fawcett was enthusiastic (at the above meeting) about having the children's centre on the Henry Fawcett site.  Cynically, I presume it means that the school would receive more money.  But positively, it improves the educational life cycle of children if the school get to know them from their earliest years.  (Early intervention is also a significant help in reducing likelihood of delinquency in later life).  All I'd add is that the Henry Fawcett school is landlocked between two roads.  I doubt that the space they could provide the Day Centre is equivalent to the amount (and quality) of the space they've currently got, based in the middle of Kennington Park. 

I say that, despite being deeply impressed by the quality of the presentation from Claire Nuttall (Associate Head of Henry Fawcett) at the Kennington Parents meeting.  I'm not too sure that continuing to refer to Henry Fawcett as a school that has "just emerged from special measures" is productive.  Two members of staff were present from the school at the meeting on 22nd July, and they spoke very positively about wishing to remain under council monitoring so as to improve their school even further.  I'm not saying it's perfect, but if I were a parent, I'd have been the first to visit the place.  My guess is that they'll achieve a "good" Ofsted rating very quickly if their level of enthusiasm and commitment was anything to go by.  By contrast, no member of staff from Vauxhall Primary was present at the meeting at all.

But, I've been lurking in this area for some time now, and I've a wider remit than merely young people and education.  I'm just the tiniest tad suspicious that the real reason for relocating the Kennington Park Children's centre is because of the St Agnes redevelopment to take place in the park. The park land on which the centre is based could be sold off for considerable profit by Lambeth.  And once again, there's a risk that the Kennington Park Children's Centre would be lost from the public domain, just as Bolton Crescent (Southwark) and St Agnes are redeveloped with family housing, causing an inevitably increased intake at the local Henry Fawcett, Crampton Street and St John the Divine Primary schools (not to mention the others further into Kennington) and an increased need for daycare places.  I'm concerned about reducing the footprint of a school at a time when Lambeth parents are fighting like crazy for places in the south ot the borough (and the ones in the north are showing rumblings of discontent).  How great is the benefit of a children's centre on the site of a school, if that reduces the size of a landlocked site for current primary school students?

Cottington Community Garden open day on 25th September

Cottington Community Garden are holding an open day on 25th September from 11am - 4pm on Cottington Estate, Opal Street (just off of Kennington Lane).  There will be a cake stall, a fire engine and a raffle.  There will also be a chance to try grass head making and lavender bag creation and you'll be able to meet some of Lambeth's Master Gardeners.  Apparently, there are still some spaces available for table top sales, so people are welcome to sell crafts or old bits & bobs, but check first (call 07912 883 970).

Also, you can take a look at their Project Dirt site, which gives more information about their members, and what they're growing.  It sounds like a good way to improve your urban gardening skills or continue cultivating your green fingers.  I didn't know that the Cottington Estate had a community garden, so it was obviously a reasonably well kept secret!

See Rosie Boycott's Evening Standard article on the Gardens here...

New Pier at St George Wharf Vauxhall and new shops in Kennington Road / Kennington Park Road

(Image taken from Lambeth Planning database and Copyright 2010 Beckett Rankine on behalf of St George).

Heads up to Vauxhall Society for mentioning a new pier at St George Wharf, Vauxhall.  Due to the vagaries of the Lambeth Council planning system, I don't get an auto alert for every new development / shrub pruning etc. taking place in SE11.  It's particularly difficult when this Lambeth patch is split into Princes, Oval and Bishops wards, and sometimes developments of local interest to residents are proposed for the Albert Embankment or down even as far as Vassall ward.  Parts of SE11 are even under the remit of Southwark Council, so tracking it all is tricky.  Consequently, I missed (and I'm sorry I did so) the planning application for a taxi pier at St George Wharf.  It's presumably another transport method to serve the new tower, but it should provide a fantastic service for local residents too.  It turns Vauxhall into a mega 5 pronged transport hub (train station, tube station, bus station, Boris Bike station and river service station).  I'm a huge supporter of the idea, and would have promoted it thoroughly here had I happened to notice it earlier (the consultation is now over).  Anyhow, take a look at the application on the Lambeth Planning database here here - 10/02300/FUL.

As you may remember from my "whatever happened to Vauxhall pier?"  post several months ago, I could never understand why this wasn't built when the main section of St George Wharf was constructed, but I'm delighted to see it might arrive (depending on outcome of Lambeth Planning Committee).  It appears that would be partly located on St George Wharf land, but only the edge.  The rest of it floats in the Thames:

In other news, a new Londis shop (if the banner is anything to go by) is to be opened at 228 Kennington Park Road and somebody has applied (10/02931/ADV) to put an illuminated sign outside of 220 Kennington Park Road (which has been a very sad and sorry looking empty laundrette for some time).  I need to check I've got this in the correct order as I'm not 100% sure that the Londis sign isn't in 220 Kennington Park Road.  Can anybody confirm? 

236 Kennington Park Road (the old Corine's Cafe) was meant to be turning into a chiropractic practice, but I've not seen any sign of it yet.

I noticed a man (on Sunday) busy refurbishing what was formerly Supreme Motorbikes at 113 Kennington Road next to the Grand Union bar.  I received an email from a reader to say that the unit will be taken over by Chas Bikes, a firm that is currently based at Great Suffolk Street in SE1 and which has been providing service there for 20 years.  If the testimonies on his website are anything to go by, he'll be a fantastic asset to the area for local bikers.

And finally, as one Tweeter noticed, the Kennington Road tattoo parlour (Tattoo end) has opened (after a ridiculous debarcle, involving somebody objecting and pretending to be Gary Phillips, the Lilian Baylis head teacher, reported by the SLP).   The tattoo parlour should fit in just nicely with the estate agents, but be careful not to go to the wrong place after visiting a local pub.  It might be difficult to get the "For sale" tattoo removed in a falling London housing market :-)

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Pope came to Vauxhall... and all I got was this rather extraordinary video footage

The footage above was shot from a wall about 3 metres from where Pope Benedict chose to greet the crowd.  Whether you're a devotee, a protester, or something in between, there's no denying that this is an unrepeatable local event.  Most of the people in the crowd appeared to be locals, and there weren't vast numbers, so it wasn't that difficult to get close.

Somehow, I believe Kate Hoey managed to get in on the act too (I didn't see her there), but I'm not sure whether she managed a direct audience with the Pope.  We'll know soon, no doubt :)  Edit:  I've also managed to find the text of the Pope's short speech at St Peter's here on the Vatican Radio site, which was spoken inside the care home.

I was surprised that there wasn't more opposition, but I think there was another protest taking place at 10 Downing Street, which left only about 20 protestors at Vauxhall.  I wrote another post on the Pope's visit over here.

An assortment of other photos too:

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Triangle continued. Why are Lambeth Council seeking to evict the playground in the face of alternative options?

In early August I wrote an article, The Triangle playground vs. Archbishop Tenison School, on Lambeth Council's refusal to renew the playground's lease, despite the fact that Archbishiop Tenison has had its Building Future Schools project scrapped by the ConLib government.  In that article, I mentioned that the Triangle Playground have set up a petition that readers could sign to support the playground, but I noted that I couldn't understand why the Triangle Association thought the Council wanted to turn the site into a car park, when the Council had denied their intentions in this FOI request.  I have now obtained a little more information to make sense of the issues.

In the meantime, there have been further developments.  Clare Casey of the SLP has covered the story pithily.  The SLP noted on 26th August that Jim Clancey was summonsed to court in August and asked to return in October this year.  According to Casey's article, Lambeth Council are "determined to press ahead with plans" and Cllr Robbins has added his view to the mix, 'It’s sad that the pupils at Archbishop Tenison’s do not have enough space to play in.'.  I can't understand why, if the school expansion has not yet taken place, the pupils don't have the space to play in.  Does that mean that the school has increased its intake without first ensuring that they had enough space?  The Evening Standard picked up the story a week or so ago in a paragraph here, so it seems an apposite time to explore the the matter further.

In July 2008, when Lambeth Council were considering how they might expand Archbishop Tenison, they had architects (Atkins) draw up a number of documents to show what the expansion might look like.  (All of the drawings are shown below).  As you can see, out of 6 options (including the control option), only the final version of the drawing requires the swallowing up of the ground upon which the Triangle playground sits.  So the question is why the Council opted for that version and not one of the others...  Why did Lambeth Council choose option 6?

I've received information that suggests that one of the incumbent Oval ward councillors (one who is said to have close ties with Cllr Steve Reed), has not responded to any of the letters sent on the issue of the Triangle playground.  Is there anybody on the Council prepared to stand up and defend the borough's playgrounds?  The One O'Clock club in Kennington faces losing land, the Triangle faces eviction and Lollard Street Adventure Playground have had to set up a Friends group to ensure that it is well supported.  In the meantime, I'd be particularly pleased to hear from anybody that could point me to a report on when the Ethelred Youth Centre was last inspected?  Who owns the lease on that piece of land?

Perhaps somebody (councillor or otherwise) could shed some light here on why the BFS (Building Future Schools) team chose option 6 when there were 5 other perfectly good options for the school expansion?  Perhaps I'm wrong.  If the Council do not intend to turn the Triangle playground into a car park, as they remarked here, then why exactly is the Triangle land needed for the expansion of the school?  I think there are probably more questions than answers on this particular matter.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Pope is visiting Vauxhall... and then he'll be off again

The Pope is visiting Vauxhall, twice.  Firstly, he'll be off to see Archbishop Rowan (he of the fluffy eyebrows) at Lambeth Palace, just outside of SE11.   Technically, Lambeth Palace isn’t Vauxhall (unless you work for TFL Cycle Hire), but never mind.  It is anticipated that the Pope will make conciliatory ecumenical efforts (perhaps in an effort to appease the Anglican flock) with talk of a shared brother, Cardinal Newman.  No doubt a public statement will be made, and then he'll be off again.  A few days later, the Pope will visit a St Peter's care home for elderly people in Meadow Road, where he's likely to say some prayers, greet the faithful and hold a private meeting.  A comment on the Stockwell News blog indicates that it will be difficult even to sneak a peek at the pope, as the roads leading to the home will be closed.  And then he'll be off again.

Unbeknownst to many, much of the organisation for the ecumenical visit at
Lambeth Palace will be undertaken by members of the Anglican Community of the Holy Name.  The Lambeth branch of the community comprises two  nuns, who have been based in a cottage within the grounds of Lambeth Palace since 1994.  When they’re not preparing for Papal visits, their other work is simple; leading prayer, looking after church fabric and pastoral care for staff at Lambeth Palace.  It sounds very routine, and in many respects underwhelming, but those that live as nuns or monks bear witness through their lives of simplicity.  Time spent in prayer, they would argue, is not an escape from the world, but a manner of drawing close to God in order to better embrace one’s neighbour.  The virtue of peace is practiced through the avoidance of distraction and the continual stilling of one’s heart.  A people willing to advocate and practice peace in such a manner are becoming fewer, and thus I consider their presence more necessary.

I'm afraid I'm still unable to work out exactly how many Roman Catholic nuns work at
Meadow Road elderly people's care home.  I saw a few of them when I visited Vauxhall Park Fete, but their exact number remains a mystery.  Their order’s web page doesn’t say; neither do the papal visit documents.  Perhaps it will remain a mystery even to the Pope, as the old joke goes.  Maybe numbers don't matter that much.  The Roman Catholics have been on site since 1863 (probably not the exact same nuns) and their work is also simple, but difficult.  Anybody that has borne the presence of those with dementia for long periods of time will know the toll it can exact upon the human spirit, but also, I suppose, the joy that might be received through giving the gift of time to others.

It's easy, far too easy really, to name the horrendous and despicable child sex abuse of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and to talk about the church's failure to promote condom use in countries riven by AIDS.  It is also important to declare those truths and not muffle the voices of the victims.  It is not difficult to consider instances of misogyny in the church or to bring to mind people who cannot conceive that "gay" is a label that many human beings rejoice in.  Am I offering a defence of gross exploitation or acts of uncharity?  No.  There can and should be no defence of injury to others.  I'm as stumped as the next person upon being asked to prove there is a God, to argue how evil can exist in the presence of said God, or to prove that the generic good of religion outweighs the generic bad.  The best I'll probably ever manage is to point at a healthy order of nuns who give up their lives to serve the needy and undeserving in the face of a sometimes obdurant hierarchy and a similarly baffled world.

In the meantime, there has been some Tweeting about the Pope's visit to Vauxhall, the sacred beating gay heart of
London.  There's obvious potential for protests at the presence of somebody that many people consider has worked against the dignity of human beings and who does not deserve a civic State welcome.  The broadsheets have taken sides, pitting the Anne Widdecombes of the world against the Polly Toynbees, and they’ve granted Johann Hari column inches to do his thing.   The British will (and should) always value the freedom to speak truthfully.  Free and open speech has been conducted in the newspapers and the votes have been cast.  The "nays" seem to have won on this occasion, if the number of unsold tickets Papal visit tickets is correct.  Maybe numbers don't matter that much after all.  In any case, who is counting?  I don’t suppose the Pope is.  He’s just visiting Vauxhall, and then he’ll be off again.

But when the Popemobile (will it be sponsored by Barclays, we wonder?) has been retired to its garage, when the jet departs and the faithful return to their dioceses around the country, who will be repairing the fabric of beautiful church buildings?  And who will be holding the hand of an elderly person who hasn't got long to live?  And who will have a faith that's strong enough to maintain that human beings have dignity, even when they're drooling and incontinent and scared?  Maybe it will be the secular humanists and the agnostics and the "don't knows".  I'm pretty certain that it won't be the State, not after the October public sector jobs cuts.  The Pope is visiting Vauxhall, and then he'll be off again.  So it won't be him.

If I had to choose who'd see me off in my last days, it probably wouldn't be Anne Widdecombe or Johann Hari or the Pope, for that matter.  I'd hope to be accompanied by my friends.  I'd want to walk with the people who'd kept some semblance of faith when the Pope had departed, and Monday morning had arrived again, as it inevitably does.  And next week, when Monday morning comes around again, when the Pope and protesters have left, when we cycle the rosary beaded blue tarmac of
Kennington Park Road and we’re left with the unpaid papal bill, the elderly will still need all the friends they can find.  After all, the Pope is visiting Vauxhall... and then he'll be off again.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Vauxhall Civic Society AGM tonight

Vauxhall Civic Society are holding their AGM tonight (7pm for 7:30pm) at St Peter's Church, SE11.  A representative from the US Embassy will come to the meeting to speak about their plans. 

Vauxhall Civic Society have a fantastic new website with a very comprehensive and amazing archive of historical material about Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall.  Take a look here.  They're also running an excellent news section, with snippets of information about events in the area.  (I wonder how they heard that the Queen Anne pub was to become a theatre) :-)

Another London Cycle Hire docking station - 4 Albert Embankment

Further to my post in late August to suggest that planning permission was requested for docks in Oval Way and Vauxhall Street (SE11), I can confirm that a planning request has also been submitted for a docking station on the pavement outside of 4 Albert Embankment (the International Maritime organization) (just into the SE1 border).  Could I ask Boris/Ken Bike riders to submit positive comments in favour of this location?  The South Bank employers group have often made negative noises about cycling on the South Bank and Kennington People on Bikes has a longish post here on suggested amendments to the SBEG cycling recommendations for North Lambeth.  Also, see the KPOB post here on how difficult it was to lock a bike during the Thames Festival.  It occurs to me that since the previous request for a docking station (the Fire Station Pier) was turned down, there might be people that don't want to see one on the South Bank.  It will probably need some support!

This is good news and (if successful) would substitute for the would-have-been Fire Brigade Pier station that never received planning permission.  One of my anonymous commentators said that I always seem to see bad news!  That is likely to be a true accusation, so I would like to take the opportunity to say that I think more docking stations are fantastic news.  Fabulous.  I love Boris/Ken bikes etc etc.

Whilst we're on the subject of bikes, I'd urge you to go and fill out the GLA survey on the Cycle Hire bikes and the new cycle routes superhighways.  The one that passes through Oval and Kennington is the CS7.  Submit your feedback and tell them how much you love/hate their cycling initiatives.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Kennington Park to lose play area to new housing (see plans) - is this the best deal for local children?

Further to Friday's post re. the development on St Agnes Place, Kennington Park, I had a chance to attend the planning consultation.  There's no positive way of putting the playground news.  The consolidation of Kennington Park Adventure Playground and the One O'Clock club would reduce the size of the One O'Clock club site quite substantially.  There are good arguments on the side of consolidating them and other good arguments in favour of retaining the land. I had some long conversations today which I'll summarise below.  In the meantime, here are the boards:

I assumed that the proposed development was London and Quadrant only.  Actually, there are two separate proposed developments (London & Quadrant and Family Mosaic), which happen to share an architect.  The 58 proposed new units which I mentioned yesterday (and which are shown above on the boards headed in green) are those that would be developed by London & Quadrant.  As you can see from the Masterplan, there are a number of positive features eg. the proposed cycle route (it's not clear from the diagram whether this runs from Bolton Crescent/Camberwell New Road) or whether it starts abruptly on St Agnes Place, but it's a good idea if extended to Camberwell New Road.  Also, the new development would form part of an attempt to join the northern section of Kennington Park with the southern section (without forcing people to walk all the way around the edge).  That's something that has been advocated for a long while.

50% social housing is the Lambeth Council target, so one can't complain (although that includes both socially rented and part-ownership).  I like the fact that the building seems sensibly proportioned (not too high) and would fit into the park well (there seem to be no nasty quirks that might grate in 50 years time).

The exact layout, flat size and has been made known at the time of consultation (something some of the other developers might adhere to).  One might point out that the four bedroom houses are considerably larger than the three bedroom homes, and are only available on the private market.  But that would be quibbling, right?  I mean, as the architect pointed out, it's just not possible to build social housing these days without having it paid for by private money.

I haven't got any immediate ideas how the Section 106 money from this development should be spent.  Since much of the housing will be aimed at families, there's a sense in which it might be useful to put it towards strengthening local schools.  I can't think of how it would be invested in transport in any useful way (since the proposed cycle route is already built in to the plans), but would be interested in comments, as usual.

The boards above (bordered in purple) now outline the Family Mosaic scheme, which is much smaller (18 proposed units) and would occupy the space that formerly belonged to the Rastafarian Temple.  I was told by the developer that Family Mosaic have a block further north in the park, and so they'd be performing a land swap with Lambeth Council to move the new housing closer together.  

As you can see from the board entitled "Housing", 100% of the development will be shared ownership.  There's not a lot more to say about the Family Mosaic development as far as I can see.

The next boards all relate to the playground itself (of which I have more to say below).  

From the board (above top), it's immediately clear that transposing the red area (on the left) on to the red area on the right that an immense amount of green play space is lost.  Clarification from the architect confirmed that 50% of the One O'Clock land would be lost (it looked like more to me).  However, this figure is the result of a clever little work around.  Apparently, during the One O'Clock club opening time, a special fold up chain link fence can be unrolled and so the club can be "extended into the green link" so that parts of the green link are taken over for the benefit  of the One O'Clock club.  If the special folding extension is /not/ included, the core One O'Clock club land on the /new/ site would measure 350 metres squared.  The old site offers the existing One O'Clock club 1600 metres squared.  You do the maths.  Is it worth losing the land?  

I really like the designs for the new playground (particularly the building that you can climb into via a ladder, and then climb through, and exit using a slide), but it perhaps doesn't make up for the loss of actual land.  The architect was particularly excited about these points, and they'd also considered the security of the building very carefully (appropriate use of steel shutters).

The defence offered (by the architect) in favour of consolidating the site was that the One O'Clock club only opens for 3 hours per day for 4 days per week.  The One O'Clock club is apparently "not well used" (at peak times, the architect suggested that 20 children use it), but that's somewhat convenient, considering that the council controls both the club and the land!  It's in the Council's interest to ensure that the One O'Clock club doesn't get enough funding/publicity so that it can then be claimed to be underused so that nobody objects to the new development.  Another more intriguing argument offered runs along these lines...  Theoretically, even less space is lost because "for most of the year, the two playgrounds are not even open at the same time".  The conflict occurs because in the holidays, the One O'Clock club opens in the middle of the Adventure playground day.

A further defence (again, from the architect) was offered such that the loss of land would be counteracted by using the new (smaller) site more efficiently.  The new building would occupy a corner spot (to be shared by both clubs) so that land use is maximised and so that there'd by more space for young people to play.  For modern needs, apparently, the One O'Clock club site is "just excessive".  But for future needs, who knows?  

Additionally... (again, from the architect), "the idea of bringing these two functions into one building is reducing maintenance and running costs and securing the long term future of the site."  "It's also cheaper to build a bigger building than two smaller ones so that more money is left to put into external space provision".  Such candour from an architect is quite extraordinary!  I must have looked a little surprised, so the architect suggested that the dispute wasn't so much their issue, but a matter for the council and the developer.  A conversation with the developer was in order.

How was it that two developments proposed in partnership with Lambeth Council resulted in less playground space for local people?  The developer noted that the entire St Agnes Place site is brownfield and designated for housing purposes in Lambeth's UDP.  But Lambeth didn't like the idea of just sticking a new housing development in the middle of the park, so they suggested performing a land swap which would swap the Adventure playground land with the land for new housing.  I pointed out that it wasn't exactly a swap, which the developer conceded and admitted that initially some land would have been lost from the Adventure playground.  However, the initial plan didn't go ahead because feedback from the planners suggested that the Adventure playground should not be separated  from the One O'Clock Club, and that ideally the two youth facilities should share a building.  Welcome to the future everybody.

The developer felt that the wooden play equipment on the sites was rotting and that there's not the money to reinvest (highly likely).  The local children have been consulted and they're quite in favour of the new proposals.  The developer admitted quite openly that there would be a loss of play space, but not a loss of open park.  That's possibly the best argument in favour of consolidating the land, but I'd be interested to hear what other locals think.  Is it less important to lose a youth facility that is located in a park?

What concerns me is not the fact that the One O'Clock club is currently under utilised as space, but that once a housing development is embarked upon, the land can never be returned to the public domain for the use of young people.  I /like/ the housing plans.  I /like/ the newly designed playground and building.  But I don't like the fact that the new play space is significantly smaller than it ever was and that land won't be regainable for young people in years to come.  Residents will need to decide if it's a sacrifice that they're prepared to make.

The architect and the developer agreed that the space to be utilised by the new playground was still a question open for debate.  It was agreed that hearing residents views was indeed the reason for consultation, so pressure put on the council or providing feedback into the consultation might still lead to revised plans.  The question is whether it's worth the fight.  Increasing the amount of playground space could potentially reduce the amount of social housing.  If the same number of units were to be built, and the playground space increased, the units would end up being smaller.  When one comes to ask how the common good might best be served, there's a sense of being presented with a question that has a "lose/lose" answer, and the upcoming cuts will only serve to sharpen this problem.

Friday, 10 September 2010

St Agnes Place (site of old Rastafari Temple) housing consultation & playground space

London and Quadrant are holding a consultation on their proposals to build 58 homes on St Agnes Place.  I'm afraid I'm rather late with this post, but there's still an opportunity to view the plans tomorrow (Saturday) at St Agnes Church (SE11 4BB) between 10am and 1pm.

St Agnes Place has a disputed and intriguing past, with the first house on the street squatted in 1969.  According to the wikipedia entry here, the council obtained a demolition order for the street and evicted the residents of 21 properties back in 2005.  However, that still left in place the Rastafari temple which was forcibly closed by the Council in 2007.  The residents were removed and subject to a police raid due to allegations of the site being used for drug dealing.  When the police raided, very little evidence of drug possession (other than marijuana) was found.  However, that conveniently left the temple free of residents and the council were then of course able to demolish it.   I'm not sure whether the worshipers of the Rastafari Temple were ever able to find another site to rent.  Does anybody know?

One pertinent matter at issue is the question of the One O'Clock Club and the Kennington Adventure playground.  We all know that cuts in youth provision from Lambeth may well be pending, but most people would not agree that developers would be allowed to build over the sites of an existing playground without agreeing to the provision of a new playground area of equivalent size. 

There is a possibility that some of the play space on the current Kennington Adventure playground site would be lost to a new housing development, which I'd contend should not be allowed to occur.  I'm unclear from the leaflets available so far (I'll scan and post these ASAP) whether any new playground would be of an equivalent size and contain the same facilities.  Note that in 2008, some of the local residents and children protested against the Council's plans to move the playground to a smaller and less suitable site.  I'm not sure (before anybody starts to shout) quite whether the new plans would mean the replacement of the current playground with one of a smaller size, so I think clarification from the Council about their plans in this regard would be useful.  (This matter bears a worrying resemblance with the Council's attempt to allow Archibshop Tenison School to build over the Triangle playground in Oval, and I've another post about that shortly.)

Edit:  See here for a more recent post on St Agnes Place consultation with accompanying plans and proposals.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall (KOV) community expo and Tweetup

If you've not seen it yet, the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall (KOV) forum will be holding a community expo on Saturday between 12:00 and 17:00 in Spring Gardens (the park).  A community expo is a cross between a family fun day and a competition to see which community organisation can hand any given individual the most pieces of paper about local matters.  Lots of local organisations will be in attendance, including representatives from the Friends of Spring Gardens, Lady Margaret Hall Settlement, the Kennington Association, Vauxhall City Farm, the RVT, The Eagle and  no doubt many more.  The expo has its own website here and it seems it will be possible to get your dog repaired, get your bike chipped, learn Brazillian football and look at some farm animals.

The event's theme (according to the KOV post here) is "changing Vauxhall:  How it has changed, how it might change, and how you would wish it to change. Changing the environment, health, housing, educational opportunities etc."

Even more exciting is the fact that Jason_Cobb of the excellent Onion Bag blog is suggesting a *shhh* Tweetup.  If you're on Twitter and want to drop by Spring Gardens from 2pm, you'll be able to meet various other Twitter folk with interests in the community.  I'll amend this post with a time it might take place once that's known.  This is partly as a followup to the rather excellent tweetup held at Oval market recently. Obviously, in order to preserve my anonymity, I'll have to send somebody that will pretend to be the SE11 lurker :)

Brand new Tesco due to arrive at 38 - 40 Kennington Park Road

Further to my speculative posts, here and here, I can definitely announce the arrival of a brand new Tesco at 38-40 Kennington Park Road.  Tesco have taken a 15 year lease on the building from 19th April 2010 so I imagine that they'll open it as soon as the refurbishment is finished.  Tesco do not own the freehold.  I'm afraid I don't know whether Shakra services will remain (maybe someone else has more info.), but I suspect not.  Considering that we're now nearly 5 months into a relatively short lease, I imagine Tesco will be trying to open it ASAP.  Oddly, (but this is probably what attracted Tesco), it looks as though the land also has a right of way (including vehicles) over Opal Street.  That means (I suspect) that delivery to the building will take place at the back (which may well disturb residents of Opal Street) and it's close to a children's ball court.  What I'm not clear is whether the Opal Street residents will be able to enter the supermarket from their street or whether they'll just face the inconvenience of extra traffic without being able to gain easy access.

If Tesco manaage to open the proposed 216 Kennington Road branch, that will make 3 Tescos in SE11, which must be something of a monopoly, considering that we're a tiny postcode.  Still, Tesco is one of those shops that everybody likes to complain about and then inevitably ends up purchasing from.  It should benefit local residents at the north end of the road, and there's a dearth of shops in SE17 near Penrose Street, so I'm sure they'll receive plenty of custom.  Perhaps it will increase business at the Old Red Lion too, and I'm hopeful that Mansion House pub might be either re-opened or used by another business.

There's a huge amount of local news and goings on at the moment.  Expect further updates soon.

Update (1/10/2010) - as well as the signage application (see comments below), there's now an application (10/03220/FUL) for installation of air conditioning and fridges etc. so it's moving forward slowly.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Rumours about the Queen Anne in Vauxhall... a possible theatre?

For the last month, the snippet I wrote on the sad death of Denise D'Courtenay, (the publican of the Queen Anne in Vauxhall), has been receiving an inordinate number of hits.  I've no explanation for that, since it was a churnalism post where I just pushed readers to the Sun and the Mail.  The pub must have been much more popular than I realised for what I consider to be a deserted (in a metropolitan sense) area.

Last Saturday, I noticed that the bright orange facade of the Queen Anne had been boarded up and it was looking rather sorry for itself.  Today, however, I heard from a reliable source that the pub has been sold and is to be turned into a mini-theatre.  That's all the news we have so far, but do check back for further information...

Edit 1st September 2011: For more info. on what became of the Queen Anne pub, you might want to read my review of the Tea House Theatre that replaced it.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The two faces of Vauxhall

The Evening Standard article naming Vauxhall as the "Knightsbridge of the South" raised a few laughs on Twitter a few weeks ago.  "Which PR agent dreamt that up?" was the inevitable response of @thelondonagent, a central London estate agent.  And the rest of us chortled away merrily, unconvinced that a new Pret a Manger was quite enough to elevate our beloved Vauxhall  to the splendid(?) heights of a Knightsbridge or a Chelsea.  The reason for the silly comparison was the news that the Penthouse flat in the new St George Tower (which looks to be several years away from being finished, even if it's erected at the same rate as Strata aka "the Lady Shave") is to be worth £50 million. 

The article also informs readers that "Vauxhall was known for decades as a rundown area... but is now being gentrified." Most folk who have been reading this blog will know that I favour a gentle regeneration for Vauxhall; the provision of new property that will include social housing, the removal of the gyratory, the addition of diverse shops, and improvements to the landscape. What we're likely to get is a new city, the size of Welwyn Garden City, between Battersea and Vauxhall. But that's another story. The point is, Vauxhall could use some work. We all know that. The clubs around Vauxhall have turned Vauxhall and Kennington into a bit of a residential gay mecca, even for those that never frequent them, but we wouldn't want to be entirely rid of them in the name of gentrification, even if their presentation and noise leaves something to be desired:

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic
(Credit to @markvauxhall for this recent image over the Bank Holiday)

More importantly, Vauxhall is home to people who live in flats that have views like this:
(Credit to Moving Space for the image)

and flats that look like this:
(Credit to Luxury Apartments for the image)

as well as views like this:
(Credit to the Guardian's article on the Improving Face of Vauxhall for the image)

and flats that look like this:
 (Credit to Boidus for this image)

We are an area, a city even, of the "haves" and "have nots".  For better or worse, in a somewhat acrimonious marriage, we are forced to live alongside one another.  I can't see that changing, £50 million penthouse or otherwise.  But what does seem to be happening is that the "haves" are able to afford goods that would previously have been shared by a community as common goods.  £50 million might buy you the best flat on the block, and access to "an infinity pool taking up all the ground floor", but it would also pay for a public leisure centre.  There will always be disparities in income and access to resources, but must they always be such large disparities?  I've supported the nebulous entity of "political liberalism" for some years, but I'm not alone in wondering whether our current form of economic liberalism might have had its day.  And no, I don't have an alternative system.  I'm not envious or jealous of the £50 million flat owner.  Having that much money, I suspect, might lead to one living quite a lonely existence.  Being able to afford anything from anywhere or pay for every service from everybody means that one is no longer dependent on anybody.  You might be able to swim in peace and quiet in the early mornings, but you'll never see a child make their first splash or watch an elderly person swim more gracefully than they can walk. 

A very expensive flat and trappings will probably mean that you never need to walk past the front of Vauxhall Station or use the tube, but perhaps you won't quite be able to escape the alcoholic fumes of those who are not so fortunate.  Just across the road from your luxury penthouse (which I don't doubt, you've worked hard to own) exist a number of sanctuaries for the homeless.  Vauxhall is privileged to house Vauxhall Cross - Centrepoint (accommodation for 27), Graham House - ThamesReach (accommodation for 69) and St Mungo's, who sometimes set up an emergency winter shelter in Vauxhall. At the station, the familiar logo of the Big Issue offices bears down upon those who wait for the buses.
That there are issues with alcohol in Vauxhall is apparent to those who are in the habit of night time wandering. Readers might be forgiven for wondering (looking at the picture above) whether those issues are present inside or outside our clubs. That's not a non-sequitur. The pursuance of the previous government's liberal social policy has resulted in 24 hour pub opening and the ever-increasing availability of cheap booze. For some gay folk, that liberal social policy is important. It keeps the clubs open and the alcohol flowing. But the head of Thames Reach is concerned to highlight the other side of the picture.  Homelessness is far less sexy than housing, so whilst plenty of articles mention up-and-coming VoHo, they don't usually acknowledge the presence of those that don't have shelter.  The little known issue of super-strength alcohol in Vauxhall hasn't had as wide a mention as the £50 million pad, but nevertheless, still causes the Guardian to produce headlines such as "Super strength alcohol is killing more people than crack and heroin". 

Thames Reach are currently running a campaign to increase the price of cheap, high alcohol drinks.  These are not drinks that many discerning folk would order from the bar on Saturday night, but they are the drinks that are killing the homeless, our homeless.  Mike Nicholas, spokesman for Thames Reach said in the Guardian, "the vast majority of homeless people living in Thames Reach's 59-bed hostel in Vauxhall, south London, are there because of problems with super-strength alcohol.".  Jeremy Swain, the chief executive of Thames Reach noted, "Of course, alcoholism among the homeless is hardly new. But what is different is the speed of the deterioration caused by the super-strength drinks. Consuming them is akin to pushing the fast forward on your life.".  A can of super strength cider can be bought for as little as 59p and contains 4.5 units of alcohol.  Consequently, Thames Reach are campaigning to persuade the government to increase the prices of super-strength alcoholic drinks (not anything that would affect small cider distributors, since most super-strength cider doesn't go near real apples), and despite considering myself a broad defender of the aforementioned political liberalism, I think I support them.  As I was chatting to a new Vauxhall barber last week, asking him how he liked South London, he lamented "I'm forever being bothered by people asking for 20p or £1, or requests to buy alcohol for somebody who has been banned".

We can't have been the only party to have our sumptuous feast at the Vauxhall Tavern sports day crashed by a couple of homeless folk.  And why should the homeless not be party to the celebrations within the area?  We had enough food and drink and were happy to share.  The event was free, and anybody could walk in the park.  But as we were all sitting there enjoying the sun, I wondered whether those folk would still be around in a few years time.  Might they have pushed the "fast forward" button on their lives through super-strength alcohol?  I don't have an answer or the perfect policy to balance paternalism with liberalism, but I think it's important to keep pointing out the presence of those who are homeless, damaged through addiction and those who are poor.  It matters that we live alongside one another or we'll just end up with ghettos on the edge of central London for those we'd rather not see.  So welcome, £50 million flat buyer, whoever you are, to London's second Knightsbridge.  Your existence might well never be disturbed by the poor, but that does not mean that the poor should not be disturbed by your existence.

Label Cloud

Blog Archive