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:

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(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.


An economist said...

An interesting article, but your comment that liberal social policy is "important to some gay folk" is perhaps a bit (unintentionally, I imagine) patronising. I would venture to guess that a 'liberal social policy' at a macro level is important to a great many among the urban intelligentsia: gay or straight.

You also seem to suggest that someone buying a £50 million apartment is somehow "taking goods which would previously have been shared by the community as common goods". I am not sure this is right. We can argue about whether a £50 million apartment next to some of the poorest social housing in London is necessarily tasteful, but the idea that by either building or buying such a flat you are depriving others of local resources is wrong. This is the money of a private individual, and not of the state. Indeed, just think of how much stamp duty the buyer will be paying (£200k, by my reckoning). Whilst this will not necessarily be spent in Vauxhall, it will be used to fund some public projects somewhere (or pay off some of Gordon Brown's debt, of course).

An economist said...

Or £2 million of stamp duty, even.

SE11 Lurker said...

Thank you for your response. It's very useful to receive constructive criticism.

I agree with you that a liberal social policy is "important to many of the urban intelligentsia: gay or straight" (and, indeed, important to the not so intelligentsia and the not so urban). The reason for my comments re. gay men in particular was three-fold.

Firstly, the article was about Vauxhall. Whilst I appreciate that many queer (non-gay) and some straight folk go clubbing in Vauxhall, I don't think it's an understatement to consider it a gay mecca. I try to write about local pertinent matters. On a related, but second point, I wanted to draw the two scenes together; that of the homeless "scene" and that of the gay scene. I was trying to do this subtly by pointing to the detritus from Fire, and linking it with the high-alcohol in drink problem (associated with the homeless). I'm trying to point out the "down side" of social liberalism. If I were going to write about the "down side" of the straight scene, I might contrast the highs bought by cheap alcohol with the damage alcohol seems to be exerting on women, and the violence that women suffer as a result. But I was writing about Vauxhall so it's a bit less relevant.

Finally, I've been trying to combine some theoretical reading with writing. I've recently been perusing Pat Califia's, "Speaking sex to power: the politics of queer sex", which I (unsurprisingly) didn't have with me at work, when I was crafting this article. In his chapter, "Like Cats and Dogs: Why Fags and Dykes Can't Stand Each Other", he notes "Because gay men often have more sexual partners than the average lesbian and more direct experience with police harassment, they are more likely to respond to a politic based on opposing the stat's attempts to regulate or repress sexual expression. Civil libertarianism is to gay men what feminism is to lesbians". So if I've written in a way that was unintentionally patronising, it was indeed unintentional. (Of course, there may be more to be said. Califia doesn't explore at this juncture, the notion that many feminisms draw on some versions of liberalism.)

Your second point re. my implication that the wealthy person is taking previously shared goods is interesting. I'm not an economist, but I'm wondering whether this point of dispute is one about how much currency there is to go around. I was presuming that there's a fixed amount of currency to go around in the UK, and so the wealthy person possessing such a large share means that the community lose out. Now I'll obviously concede that they'd be paying a huge amount of tax, but I'm not sure that paying tax (however high the amount) is a sufficient good compared with the good of having a society in which wealth distribution is more equal (and the balance that's consequently restored to such societies). I don't know that all economists think that there's only so much currency to go around, so perhaps you could clarify. You might perhaps argue that the wealthy person is "creating" wealth that would not have existed prior to their generation of it.

I'm not sure that I said that the wealthy person's wealth would deprive the community of the swimming pool, since I agree with you that the wealth belongs to the individual. But actually, I can see that my sentence, "the "haves" are able to afford goods that would previously have been shared by a community as common goods." does seem to imply that. Perhaps I should rephrase with something like: "the 'haves' are able to afford goods that would previously have been unthinkable as the preserve of the individual.".

The main point I was trying to make was not to suggest that some people shouldn't be wealthy, but the disparity that exists at present.

rjs said...

interesting, thoughtful article, sums up the many dichotomies of living in the area very nicely

No longer Anon said...

I fear your thoughtful theme boils down to “if we take money away from the haves, we will solve the problem of the have nots”. Sadly, history has shown it won’t work – not least because a)the haves don’t actually have enough and b) when we redistribute, everyone will actually end up worse off. Having a very, very small percentage of mega rich is the cost of lifting the overwhelming majority up to a better standard than they would achieve otherwise.

The UK is horrible for targeting their angst at the small number of haves – dreaming up ways of punishing them for aspring to greater wealth rather than figuring out how to encourage them to use their abilities to help everyone else, all while accumulating more wealth.

If I had a child, I would want them to read your post and come away thinking: I want to work hard to ensure I live in the nicer flat, instead of the crap one. Too many people round here would rather teach their kids to hate the wealthy. As an aside, I doubt the state of that horrible flat is due to rich people going around and trashing the place.

I, too, was hit up for cash at the RVT sportsday. It annoys me. Call me heartless. The poor and vunerable I do feel for were not at sports day. They were in council flats around the edges of the park, struggling as single parents (mostly mums), working two jobs and doing whatever it takes to give their kids a better life. You could house all the homeless beggars in the 50m flat and within a week, it would look like the crap council flat and they would be begging for more. I don’t have all the answers, but giving them more money is not the magic bullet.

The gay man v lesbian is an interesting topic. (STEREOTYPE ALERT). As a gay man, I tend to agree that we are more hardened to sob stories. Not because we don’t empathise, but because we do. I grew up with little support, was turfed out, beaten up, pursued by police, etc. Poor pitiful me. Not. I learned quick how to work even harder and was determined to get back at them by succeeding. If I can do it, anyone can. So when I hear the sob stories, I say “right, let’s make a plan to use the safety net provided to pull yourself up”. Lesbians, at least the few I know (because we hate each other and don’t socialise, of course), tend to hear a sob story and want to create a utopia by pulling the wealthy down and producing some commune where we can all be equal.

The coalition Government is interesting. Most gay men are quite conservative (lower case “c”) because they are generally high earners with no kids and would prefer Government tax less and leave them alone. They associate with more leftist parties, traditionally, solely because of the gay equality issues. With the centre right parties less hung up on the gay issue, you are seeing gay men come round (or come out, if they have buried their homosexuality as a trade off for pursuing the conservative politics they support, excepting the gay issues). We believe in “fairness” (help, but coupled with personal responsibility) over “progressiveness” (policies judged solely on giving more money to the poor, not necessarily requiring they do anything to help themselves, and bemoaning the gap between rich and poor without acknowledging the poor are still better off than they would be if the gap were narrowed).

Finally, the whole post and reply smells of middle-class guilt. “How oh how can I live in my nice home and afford to go to the Farmer’s market and a nice holiday when all these poor people are sleeping under the arches”. For me, I have explored and engage in charitable causes proven to help those who help themselves (or help those who cannot help themselves, genuinely). And I choose to be proud of having worked hard, made (mostly) good choices and reap the rewards. Life is short, I am going to enjoy the fruits of my labours, while helping those less fortunate, and not waste precious time feeling guilty. But yes, God bless those who sacrifice their short existence carrying the burdens of the less fortunate.

SE11 Lurker said...

@No Longer Anon

The intention of my post was not /solely/ to suggest "taking money away from the haves", but to discuss the possibility of more equally distributing wealth. (That need not translate into an instant policy of taking from the wealthy). I was trying to acknowledge the reality that there will always be "haves", but I was seeking to question why the "haves" need to have so much more than the "have nots". I was thinking along the lines that societies in which a more even wealth distribution is achieved tend to be happier.

I tried to make it clear that I don't have the answers, but I think it's important to point out the inequalities. You may well be right that the price of lifting wealth levels in any given country is a resulting mega rich. I'm just wondering whether there is an alternative. I'm going to keep pointing to the poor because they're an unpopular cause.

If I had a child, I'd want them to read the article and think, "I wonder how I could be a part of a society in which people who live in the top flats share their gifts with those who live in the bottom ones". I'm not saying that the top flat people should give their money away, merely just be prepared to meet with those that have less. I wouldn't want to teach kids to hate anybody; the wealthy or the poor.

What was interesting at the RVT sports day is that whilst we were hit upon for cash, we refused. This did though give us an opening to invite several people to eat and drink with us, which they did. A one-off meeting maybe, but sometimes that kind of opportunity leads to a chance to think about the formation of friendship.

I agree with you that many poor people were not at the sports day, but living in flats on the edge. I don't think I've argued at all that giving homeless people money is a solution to anything. Indeed, it's often a bad idea. The homeless charities tend to encourage giving to them so that they can pay for health checks, counselling etc. which tends to be the line that I take.

Thanks for the stereotype alert! I wonder whether one of the differences between gay men and lesbians is that, as women, lesbians are closer to those who are (most often) caring for the disabled or elderly and bringing up children. However hard you work at that sort of task, and however you measure success (dignity in life for the disabled? dignity in death for the elderly? children who are responsible members of society?), you're unlikely to become any wealthier.

I've heard the lesbian commune idea quite frequently, but then I've also spoken to some of the lesbians who've tried living in them :). I'm not sure that pulling the wealthy down is a good way to proceed, but I'd like to look at ways to pull the poor up.

The new move of gay men towards the right is interesting and possibly inevitable. If the right remain socially liberal (and there's no guarantee of that, of course), it makes more sense for those without dependents to support lower taxation and freedom for the individual as opposed to any type of family unit.

I hope the post doesn't reek of guilt. I'm a charity supporter, and a very happy one. I don't have any guilt over my attendance at Famer's Markets or holidays! In general, I write because I enjoy writing. But I also write to draw peoples' attention to what I see locally. I'm happy with the effort which I put into work, but I've had some tremendous opportunities made available to me, so I'm always asking about the chances of those that haven't had those opportunities. Not guilt, but a feeling that, "yes, I am my brother's keeper".

No longer anon said...

Completely agree on what to teach a child - my point was the original post seemed to set up the choice between "good" and "bad". I would want my child to dream, aspire and know they can do and be what they want, always respecting people of all ilks.

I also agree regarding the diparity issue - again, I would want the mega rich (and mildly comfortable) to help those less fortunate out of goodwill, not via Government. I think the billionaires giving away half their wealth in the US is an intriguing development. Bill Gates not only gives away his wealth, he uses his proven ability at innovation to make things happen. Government is rarely innovative.

Yes, I think women are better at helping the vunerable, putting less emphasis on accumulating wealth, at least at the expense of harming other people in order to do it. Believe it or not, as a gay man I have always believed women the superior sex. Men, generally, are pigs.

An economist said...


I think No Longer Anon has spelled out exactly the point I was making re. the role of the better off in society, so I leave that where it is.

I will though pick up a couple of your other points. Firstly, Vauxhall did not become a gay hub because of socially liberal government policies (which you seem to equate to 24 hour drinking). After all, these were not only applied in Vauxhall. Vauxhall has recently become more of a gay hub for various reasons, which I imagine include bars and clubs being priced out of Soho (in part due to the lack of suitable venues there), its relatively central location, the availability of venues - what else are railway arches used for - and the fact that, with the RVT, there was already some gay community in the area. I understand that Westminster did not extend many alcohol licences in Soho, and so perhaps this did contribute towards some of the drift towards Vauxhall, but I would imagine it to be only a fairly marginal factor.

Secondly, I am not sure what you are implying when you say that, "it makes more sense for those without dependents to support lower taxation and freedom for the individual as opposed to any type of family unit". It seems to suggest that you believe the Conservatives are somehow against the 'family unit', which I don't think is right.

I would hazard a guess that countless gay men will have voted Conservative in the last election. I was one of them. I didn't do it purely because I believe in lower taxation (although I do). I did it because I believe in a fair, just and prosperous society and came to the conclusion that it would be more likely to be delivered by a new government. I also recognise that a top-down statist solution is not the only way of delivering such a society. Lastly, family units come in all shapes and sizes: gay, straight, with and without dependents.

Sid Boggle said...

Lots to think about here...

If you've been the area since the mid-80's, (I grew up round here), there's been some gentrification going on since the Duchy of Cornwall sold off all the old workers' housing and it was refurbished and put on the market around 1985-87. We knew things had changed when we got a supermarket and a Pizza Express. Once upon a time you could go from the Elephant & Castle to Wandsworth Road without finding a Big Six (at the time) supermarket.

Still, how much further it can go is unclear - I don't know how many units of social housing there are in Kennington and Vauxhall, but none of that is going anywhere and so there'll be an extremely 'mixed community' for the foreseeable future. Not conducive to the sort of ethnic cleansing seen in some neighbourhoods of New York, for example.

As for highly-priced housing. While it's evident that the demographic changes over the past 25 years have resulted in changes to the retail offering (certainly in Kennington), it would perhaps be unproven to observe that these people actually 'live' in the area. When the Vauxhall Manor girls' school was converted to a gated community, people used the flats Monday to Friday and cleared off for the weekend. Where did they live? They might as well have been living in Narnia for all their engagement with the locale. Drive out in the morning, drive in at night. And a lot of the St Georges' apartments are used for the same purpose. I know at least one Govt department in the area which rents flats in there for that reason.

As for this canard about the ills of 24-hour licensing causing excessive street drinking. Again, if you've been around the area, you'll know that street drinking pre-dates the law change. Nobody but retailers (not the on-trade) benefit from that law change in the areas, as far as I can see, and some of those (especially along S Lambeth Road near Vauxhall Park) were selling booze to the street population when I managed a building down there through the 90's, when it was still illegal.

Centre Point's presence, the old Bondway hostel and now the new place, St Anne & All Saints church, have always been reasons for street people to congregate in Vauxhall, and while those facilities are in the area, so will their 'customers'.

Still, all interesting stuff...

SE11 Lurker said...

Mr Boggle, thanks once again for your fascinating take on the area.

The history is absolutely vital for thinking about the changes currently taking place, so I highly value the comment.

I'm not sure that the 24-hour licencing laws caused the street drinking (it's much older than that), but it's interesting to think how more liberal licencing laws fit into the picture.

Anonymous said...

are people aware that most of vauxhall population is not gay!!
Are the so called 'gay community' aware of their negative impact on life for families around here. They put on events that mean people do not want their children playing on the park therefore further degrading the quality of life for youngsters in this area, they make no attempt to integrate. Hetrophobia is rampant.
a general ignorance of non gay life seems apparent throughout your blog :re the queen annes . it is an incredibly well known pub and notable for being possibly the only strip venue run by a woman .

Sid Boggle said...

Hullo Lurker: re: the licensing laws, that's what I meant. Shops used to sell tinnies to street people at all hours when I worked around Vauxhall. All the law change has done is legitimise their business...

Anonymous: There's been a gay scene around KOV for as long as I can remember - way before the White Bear was a theatre pub, it used to put on gay cabaret. The Vauxhall club scene has been there for some time, too. As for degrading quality of life in the area, I suggest you look elsewhere for likely suspects. The council and private developers who are trying to shut residents who can't pay off from the river, for instance, or the lack of investment in new green and play space, or the parents who put their kids on the streets for the summer holidays.

No longer anon said...

Wow! Now that is an interesting cat among the pigeons - perhaps worthy of a main post.

Has the "gay community" been bad for Vauxhall? Do the hoards of men partying all hours - especially in quite a "state" on Sunday morning/afternoon around the RVT - really portray a bad image and damage vunerable children?

I must say the tone of the email is really off-putting. And my gut reaction is to laugh and tell them to move along. But isn't it an elephant in the room issue....Ummmm....

SE11 Lurker said...

@Anonymous - I'm sure that most people who live in Vauxhall are not gay, but Vauxhall has one of the highest gay populations in the UK. I'm not sure about percentages because the question isn't asked on the census.

On account of the gay population, local businesses and organisations do put on events in the park (two a year, if I recall correctly) and one of those is a "family friendly" event. A sports day is not an open air orgy! I cannot see why one's children would be damaged through attending or playing in the park. And most events don't take up the entire park anyway, so I don't accept the argument that the children's quality of life suffers. The park in question is Spring Gardens, which leaves the entirety of Vauxhall Park (very near) and Kennington Park open for children to play in any case.

Integration is an interesting point. My main issue (it's one of the reasons I run the blog) is that I don't think residents integrate very well anywhere in London. I'm involved in a significant number of local groups, all of which have (or have had) a significant number of gay people on their committees or at their events. Yes, I do think the gay community can be insular, but so can the middle-class white community, and the local minority communities.

It's ludicrous to suggest that I'm unaware of non-gay life. I've written two posts recently on the Queen Anne (one to announce the owner's death, and one to note it's turning into a theatre). I've written one post on a local playground (with another coming up) and one on Lollard Street adventure playground. I've written a post recently about schools (Crampton School). I've covered the Boris Bikes (available to use for all), and I've blogged about the advantages of a local swimming pool for the young and the old. That's hardly what one might call a gay agenda!!

What's interesting is that, in my experience, the RVT have shown themselves to be very effective in engaging with the local community and fund raising for the Vauxhall City Farm. I've attended meetings there that have had nothing to do with the gay community. I do not accept that the gay community are bad for Vauxhall; many gay people have extra time on their hands to dedicate to committees, TRAs, local projects and volunteering. Some do, and some don't. Just like the straight community really! I'd like to see considerably more gay involvement, but then, quite frankly, I'm always pleased to see civic engagement from anybody.

I've had no such contact with the Queen Anne pub, and I actually received an email from one reader who said that they considered the pub to be ill-placed so near to a playground, since patrons were found to urinate in(!) that playground and on local streets. I wouldn't use the Queen Anne pub as an example of a venue that would encourage local families to use the park!

I do admit, I never went to the Queen Anne, but I don't find strip pubs or pole dancing to be engaging (gay, straight, or whatever), and I've never attended an event at Hoist either! As a feminist, I've never been sure about whether to embrace stripping as liberation for women or to consider it demeaning to women. I'd much rather engage in community meetings that involve a little less uncovered flesh :) :)

BTW, if any of my readers are interested in being involved in some way at a local level, there are a couple of committees I know that could use a few more members for certain small tasks. Drop me a line!

Mark said...

£50m flat - well, we live in a free market economy, and I really don't think it would be right for the government to intervene and set minimum prices. In any case, putting aside the fact that the price seems to be deliberately set to generate headlines and interest in the tower (and I wouldn't be surprised if at the end of the day it sold for less), the revenue generated from selling the top floor flat will be helping to subsidise the affordable housing further down the tower. If the developer wasn't getting that £50m revenue, I would be willing to put money on there being fewer affordable homes in the building.

As for the future of Vauxhall... quite frankly, there's no government money coming our way for years to come. If you want more affordable housing, and public realm improvements, then you have to accept more private accommodation, and rely in the provision of affordable housing as part of these developments.

Yes, they may all be dormitory blocks of corporate flats (seeing as companies have a penchant for having secure, newish, well-maintained blocks), but to be honest, I think it's going to be a necessary evil in the coming years. I disagree quite vehemently that the new developers are shutting local residents off the river though - St. George Wharf has opened up the Effra Site for everyone to enjoy the river, and no other development in the area is actually adjacent to the river / blocking off the river footpath.

Finally - as a straight guy living in Vauxhall - I can't say that I feel especially persecuted, or shunned.... it's a bit of a ridiculous notion in the first place. Last time I left Vauxhall tube station, I'm pretty sure that I didn't find myself being chased down Bondway by a group of gay guys holding pitchforks. Yes, I've been hit on, but I always just take it as a compliment...

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