Monday, 18 October 2010

Kennington Park Astroturf and Flower Garden closed. Midnight path under threat.

What on earth is happening in Kennington Park?  A few weeks ago, I received a tip-off that the Astro turf pitch had been closed.  I'm not sure about the date of its exact closure, but by process of deduction, I think it has been closed for about 2 months now.  A park-ranger/sports coach that I spoke to on site (last Saturday) said that the pitch had been closed due to the hockey players complaining that the pitch was not flat.  The anonymous email I received claims that the pitch has been closed for health and safety reasons on account of a "stretching" of the pitch (opposite the tennis courts).

If you go and view the pitches when they're open, you'll see that they're in almost constant use.  I'd guess that up to 1000 people use them each day (taking into account day and evening use).  According to the Friends of Kennington Park, there's been some sort of dispute between Lambeth Council and GLL over an expired warranty which has caused a delay in fixing the pitch.  Repairs are due to take place any day now, but according to Lambeth Council, they require dry weather.  A 2 month closure is unacceptable, but that's not the park's only closed facility...

The Old English flower garden is also closed.  The photo above shows the wire fence that has been erected not only around the entrance, but around the entire garden!  I discovered this particular piece of news at the memorial for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Kennington air-raid shelter.  The flower garden contains several benches, dedicated to people who died in the blast and people who've died more recently, but nobody has been able to go and view any of them.  The flower garden, like the park, is meant to be open to the public.  Unfortunately, it was closed in May 2010.  It then opened once or twice in June, but has been closed for the rest of the summer and remains closed.  The local rumour mill (I can't guarantee accuracy) puts this down to being a dispute between the general police, and (guess who?), the Oval Safer Neighbourhood Team.  The SNT, apparently, consider the Flower Garden to be dangerous.  Personally, I've never had a problem with either the squirrels or the drinkers in the flower garden.  I always say "live and let live",  but it seems that maybe the police are closing everything they deem poses any risk.

I was going to suggest a public insurrection to reclaim our common land (the Flower Garden), but it seems that the Common Land of Kennington Common was abolished in 1852 (how dare they?) when the Common became a Park for public recreation and apparently, "extinguished all rights of common".  But let's not let the detail prevent us from gathering to free the Flower Garden!  Who is interested in a bit of late night wire cutting?  And whilst on that  topic of the Oval SNT, and their activities, I'd  just like to remind you of the generally unpublicised threat to Midnight Walk.  When I went to speak to the police at the informal consultation, they maintained that most of the people they'd spoken to on the night of 13th October 2010 (it was just ticks on a clipboard), were in favour of closing the Midnight Path.  I'd generally keep quiet if I felt that such a view represented public opinion.  I'm not sure that it does.  Thanks to the commentator, Mark, I've been told that Kate Hoey had to step in to prevent the path's closure back in 2002.  The problem back then was that men who used the park at night (when it was closed) were sometimes mugged, and since they were not meant to be in the park in the first place, they claimed that muggings had taken place on the Midnight Path.  Is this what's happening on this occasion?  Can anybody who has been mugged on this path provide any additional information?

The Friends of Kennington Park Facebook page notes the following:

"The path has been a public right of way since 1899. It is not part of the park, but used by many people living in Lambeth and Southwark at all hours.

The Friends' committee have urged Lambeth and the Police to consult widely, particularly with Residents' and Tenants' Associations and ward councillors. If there are only a few objections, the closure can be sanctioned by Lambeth officials; if there are many, the issue has to be heard in court."

I imagine that the "public right of way" legislation trumps the Kennington Common Inclosure Act of 1852.  If a public right of way has been granted, then it can't easily be removed.  Consider emailing the Oval Safer Neighbourhoods team or Hannah Wadey, the Lambeth Community Safety Officer to left them know your views about the proposed closure of the Midnight Path.

I'm not sure how many Kennington Anarchists would be interested in using bolt cutters to gain entry to the flower garden under the cover of night, so I suppose it might be better to resort to a more democratic means of dealing with the issue.  If you'd like to see the Astroturf re-opened, and nothing happens (or is happening) on that front, or you'd like access to the Flower Gardens, or you'd like to prevent the Midnight Path being closed, do feel free to contact your local Oval Ward Councillors:  Cllr Ishbel Brown (Lib Dem), Cllr Jane Edbrooke (Labour) and Cllr Jack Hopkins (Labour).


Anonymous said...

Very true. I noticed the garden was closed. It is a shame as there is a very similiar garden in King georges Park in Wandsworth, which also has a midnight path.

I am really sad that everyone wants to close things, and talk of "health and safety".

The thing about the astro is that it brings people into the area, and does what SNT cannot do... and that is put people on the street and the area safer.

Shall be contacting the Councillors about the negative approach.

Sid Boggle said...

Not sure if the astroturf surface is similar or the same as originally laid in the 80's, but back then they had regular (every few years) problems with 'joins' in the carpet sections overlapping and creating trip hazards - sounds similar to this 'stretching' matter you mention. IIRC, it's laid in 3 sections.

Since the pitch has been in place in various incarnations for all these years, I can't believe LBL wouldn't have suitable remedial or maintenance contracts in place for known faults. Still...

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