Tuesday, 23 February 2010

St Anselm's Church Project - an exciting adventure or a questionable risk?

I'm aware that I'm a month or so late with this one, but it has taken a while to get hold of the video files.  St Anselm's Church (in the heart of Kennington, SE11) offered a short consultation to local residents in January about the possibility of turning the church into a large local hub that would contain a variety of extra organisations, whilst still retaining space for the church.

I've finally obtained the videos, the first, a walkthrough of the proposed site, and the second, a kind of local commentary on the project.

The proposal is that the site would be developed so that it could contain several organisations:

1.  Into University - Organisation that works with local young people to encourage them in their studies.  It targets those who might not otherwise consider higher education or know how to access it.

2.  A restaurant and deli, to be staffed by ex-offenders, who would receive training and accommodation on the site.

3.  Small offices for local businesses that could offer basic facilities and would be hired out for an initially low rent to both those who had developed business plans from inside prison, and to local disadvantaged people who wanted to start an enterprise that could not otherwise afford the space.

4.  The Pelican Nursery - they are already on site, but their presence would complement the work being performed by the local organisations, and they offer a number of subsidised spaces.

5.  Community Hall - This would replace the Centenary Hall, which is in Cottington Street.

6.  Church - the top of the building would still contain a church, suitable for several hundred people.  Also, there would be space for a separate lady chapel and a prayer garden

7.  Accomodation - for ex offenders, ex-offender's live-in supervisor, assistant priest and caretaker

I'm generally in favour of the project.  I know there have been some mutterings about ex-offenders being accommodated on site, but actually I tend to think that the difference with this project is that there will be good supervision and training on offer as well.  I understand that it would be supervised accommodation, rather than people just left to their own devices.  I'd also hope that the into-university and young offender projects would benefit and offer a renewed lease of life to the church building.  It would certainly offer a kind of "centre" to Kennington where the community and the church could meet, with restaurant, deli etc. and there's nothing else like it around here.  Certainly, the project promises to be hugely more viable and uplifting than a more questionable unsupervised arrangement, such as the alcohol drop-in centre, currently disliked by residents on Brook Drive.

Anyhow, that's my take... But, the person that put together the video etc. has said that they would welcome comments from blog readers, and local people, so that they have information that they can feed back and further develop plans for the site...

Monday, 22 February 2010

Free chipping for cats and dogs on Thurs 25th February in Kennington

This one nearly slipped under the radar.  I know that Lambeth Living aren't able to resolve your service charge queries, but it appears they're better with pets.

According to a Gumtree ad,  Lambeth Living and RSPCA are offering a free microchipping event for dogs and cats at the North Lambeth Area Housing Office on Thursday 25th Feb (this week), from 16:00 - 18:00.  No appointment is required.

North Lambeth Area Housing Office is at 91 Kennington Lane, SE11 4HR

The ad. doesn't say that you need to be living in Lambeth Living accommodation.  It appears that anybody can bring their dogs / cats along.

Event is supported by Lambeth Council Environmental Services.

Bendy bus accident (not in SE11)

I decided to take a little jaunt away from SE11 to visit the British Museum today, and on the way, I encountered a bendy bus accident.  Bendy bus incidents (with pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles etc.) occur at a much higher frequency than ordinary bus incidents, but I doubt that anybody much notices them unless people are killed or  injured.   Since I blogged about a bendy bus incident involving a bollard some time ago at Vauxhall station, (although I never elicited any further details), I've been getting a number of hits on the matter, so I thought I'd satisfy the very few readers that arrive at the blog looking for bendy bus accidents!

I figure that this was probably 90% the fault of the badly / illegally (I think) parked car, but it just goes to show why bendy buses are somewhat problematic vehicles, given various tight corners in London.  I don't know how the  driver/police recovered the situation, since I couldn't see any way the bus could go forward or backwards...  At the back, the bus was utterly jammed against the silver car.  In front of the bus (you can't see this) was a correctly parked motorbike and various other cars.  Even if the cars at the front could have been moved, I couldn't see how the bus could be unjammed without further damage to the silver car.

I've blurred the face of the guy at the back, in case he was involved in any way.  The other thing I didn't quite manage to photograph was the policeman who arrived at the incident wearing a machine gun!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Former Lilian Baylis costing tax payer £380,000 per year. Election Looming. Answers please.

So, I may not be the South London press and I might not get paid, and I haven't been to Journalist School (see Jason Cobb's recent comment battle on the SLP), but this blog has a fair old readership now, so I think it's fair to point out, once again, that the former Lilian Baylis site is costing Lambeth taxpayers £380,000 per year to maintain, there's been no progress in terms of developing it or selling it to a community organisation or private buyer, and there's an election coming up.

Back on October 22nd 2009, I sent a query about the former Lilian Baylis site to Steve Reed, asking, "Has the council issued statement on status of former Lilian Baylis bid by ANC? Rumour says the bid is off, but pls confirm."  I received a Direct Message from Steve Reed, advising that the council were, "Still negotiating a consortium to run the old school site, details public soon, intending it shd represent the whole community not just part".

Fair enough.  I can wait, I thought.  After all, the thing only kicked off in 2005, so we wouldn't want to rush matters.  (For a comprehensive post, and history, see my catchup on the definitive history of the former Lilian Baylis.)

Eventually, on the 14th December 2009, Lambeth council issued a decision to decommission the project from having as its focus the All Nations Church (ANC).  Reasons as to why they did this vary slightly, depending on whom you ask.  There was some local opposition to the ANC (a faith group) having the "lead partner" stake in buying a Council building that is currently essentially a community resource.  However, there are also rumours that the ANC were, by last year, only able to buy the building for a considerably smaller amount than they had originally offered (bear in mind that the Council would have given them a favourable rate, compared to the land's market value).  The Council state in a report dated 14th December, (this one is quite an interesting document which I'll dissect below), "Ultimately, the terms of the offers by ANC presented an unacceptable risk of challenge to the council and other elements of the proposed leasehold terms were also unacceptable in principle." and also, "The offer proposed by ANC entailed a substantial discount below market value, which the council could not justify through demonstartion of public benefit."

Remember back in February 2009 (see old council .pdf here) that the "hub" group were to comprise the ANC, the Sport's Action Zone (SAZ) and Ethelred Nursery.  It appears now that the ANC have been "dropped" from official plans (although, apparently, "The decision not to progress negotiations with ANC does not prejudice or preclude ANC’s involvement in alternative delivery arrangements.").  However, the new December 14th plan is to try and move forward with both Sports Action Zone (Kate Hoey is the patron of this organisation) and the Ethelred Nursery.  It is highly unlikely that either of these organisations have any money (SAZ isn't even a legal entity), so...

What might Lambeth Council do?

Let's see what facts are laid out in the December 14th plan:

1. "Pursuit of a maximised social and community outcomes approach is likely to be an overall capital cost to the council council, i.e., the cost of development would be greater than any capital receipt."

Translation: It costs money to pay for community facilities, when we wouldn't make money from those facilities.  And in any case, we're not terribly interested in providing Leisure facilities.  See Jason Cobb's post on the privatisation of Lambeth leisure facilities.

2. "The overall capital gain to the council would be maximised if the site were disposed on the open market."

Translation: Actually, we'd make more money (and we don't have much of this right now), if we were to sell the development.

[I can see that this one is going to be a bit troublesome, come the election, since the Lib Dems wanted to sell the building off, before they changed their minds, a few years ago...  So, you can see the accusations flying, Labour: "you wanted to sell", Lib Dem: "you said you'd develop, Lab: "you changed your mind", Lib Dem: "we didn't exactly... but in any case, you want to sell now", blah, blah, blah, let's pre-empt that boring old battle...]

3. "Potentially, the overall capital gain might be greater if other sites in the area were included in the redevelopment process allowing for the reconfiguration and consolidation of community outcomes on particular sites and realisation of the full development value of other sites."

Translation: We could make even more money, if we were to sell off some other bits of land. (This might allude to the Beaufoy, Lollard St playground and Kerrin point (or all of them). Would be useful to know the proposals because it's a far reaching statement.

4. "Note that the listed building status conferred on the site restricts the scope for development and agree for officers to investigate how this might be addressed in order to enable suitable development options." and "The listing of buildings of this period is not without controversy and presents a number of problems and constraints in this instance."

Translation: Let's try to get the building delisted, because then we can sell it off for more money, and don't have to worry about English Heritage. Interestingly, even the car park is listed (a result of some kind of ancient Council vendetta). We need to get all of this stuff delisted ASAP, so that we can get this building off our hands.

5. "To date the council have resisted pursuing the possible delisting of the site on the basis that there is little prospect of the Secretary of State agreeing. The council failed to stop the listing originally and no new evidence has been forthcoming to challenge the English Heritage assessment of the building’s special interest."

Translation: We're a bit doomed, really! 

6. "Increasing this estimate by construction inflation and factoring in the likely further deterioration in the condition of the property, a capital investment of as much as £10m may be required to bring the buildings back into an acceptable condition."

Translation: We're even more doomed. These buildings cost a fortune to repair, we have no money, and nobody will pay enough for them, considering that they're listed, and we can't figure out how to delist them, and the Secretary of State will never do it.  Wah!

7. "The site and buildings are insured as part of the council’s building insurance contract which includes a regular programme of health and safety inspection. It is possible that future inspections will identify works which would need to completed in order to ensure continuity of use and as a consequence may affect the Council’s ability to maintain the continued insurance of the property."

Translation: If the building fails a health and safety inspection, we don't have enough money to fix it, and nobody will be able to use it at all. We need to sell it off really really quickly.

8. "Since 2005 SAZ have been successful in attracting considerable external investment (Nike, Barclays Spaces for Sports, Football Foundation) and voluntary investment which has helped to transform the complex into a successful community facility. SAZ is negotiating currently to bring in up to £4m of capital funding for a community basketball initiative, with an ambition to provide a basketball facility and venue of international standard."

Translation: Even though the building might fail a health and safety inspection, we really like this SAZ organisation, and they're good for the area. Also, they're backed by Kate Hoey, so it would be politically embarrassing to try and dispose of them.

9. "Over the past month more detailed work has taken place across Council departments to specify the outcomes sought from the site, in particular with Cultural Services with view to a significant sports/leisure focus of activity on the site and with CYPS around education, young persons and play facilities, including provision for a new ENCC."

Translation: We installed a 12 metre (yes, that is right) swimming pool. What else do you want?


To be fair, at the 14th December meeting, Cllr Ashley Lumsden (Opposition leader), ask whether the Council outcomes stated in the December 14th 2009 report were the same ones as desired by the residents. Well, you may indeed ask! I certainly would.

Make of that what you will, but I doubt any movement (in terms of either sale or significant development) will be made in, ooh, let's say, the next 12 months (even with a change in administration). I'll write another post next year, around February 2011, keeping you up to date.

The question is, Cllr Reed, who is the consortium you said would be running the old school site?  The clock is ticking, and the election looms....

[Believe it or not, I had not read Peter Walker's Guardian article here, in which he seems utterly unaware that the current administration has suggested selling the site (and possibly other sites) to maximise capital, but it's a prime example of why hyperlocal bloggers do possess a much broader picture than some of the national press.]

Added China Walk TRA to the map and a few blog changes

At the suggestion of one reader, I've added China Walk Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) to the map at the top right corner, very near the boundary of SE11. Apparently, they have a community resource, the Chandler Community Hall (and very smart it looks to), which is available for hire. They charge between £15-£25 per hour, depending on what type of group you are. Here's a pic, and see their website for more details:

I'll also add VGERTA, but not sure where they're based in order to put the pin in the correct place. Can anybody advise whether VGERTA have a headquarters?  Does anybody else know of (or belong to) any other TRAs that they might want me to link to the blog or add to the map?

Eagle eyed blog watchers who are not reading through an RSS reader will notice that I've been making a few changes to the blog. It's my eventual aim to move from Blogspot to Wordpress, but I'm terrified of losing my Google positioning as it has taken ages to get to this stage, so in the meantime, I'm just making use of various blogspot features to add bits and pieces.  I've added user comments to the main page, as some of these are lengthy and worth reading for their own sakes.  I've written a Yahoo Pipes mashup that should gather details of everything currently for sale in Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall, SE11 and SW8 on Gumtree, which might be useful if you'd buy items that are available locally (it does seem to change very frequently though, since the Gumtree RSS feed only gives access to 100 items).  The link to that is under "Kennington and SE11 items for sale" at the top of the blog.  I've also swapped the embedded map with a picture of a clickable image which will take you through to the Google map, so that the main site doesn't take so long to load.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Bovril award money - vote for Vauxhall Playground facelift

VGERTA (The Vauxhall Gardens Estate Residents and Tenants Association) have reached the final round of Bovril's "Outdoor revival" to receive some money for a playground.

However, they need lots of votes to help them be chosen as a winning project. I would urge you to vote for them on Bovril's site here. It would be really good to see some money going to a local project (bearing in mind that sadly, neither Kennington nor Vauxhall park achieved enough votes to win Boris' makeover), and the VGERTA playground is slap bang in the heart of SE11. The Bovril site is a bit Flash-ridden, but if you can manage to get in to vote, please do.

Their spiel is as follows:

"We live on a deprived housing estate and we have a neglected playground for kids that is used constantly by families with young children. The play equipment has worn out over the years and there has been no refurbishment to the playground. It has been left to deteriorate but that it is still used. It could do with a face lift and some new safety flooring, some new picnic tables, swings, roundabouts climbing apparatus but it needs a make over. Vauxhall Gardens Estate Residents and Tenants Association (VGERTA) represents more than 2,000 people that live in the estate. The playground would be key to revive our local community and give kids a place to play and have fun safely."

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Brief note on KOV public meeting and Mayor's Plan

I was somewhat disappointed by the KOV public meeting this evening. There were some good representations made by local community members re. loss of industrial land for local employment. We heard about issues relating to the cost of building public transport (and how this may not help overcrowding on the Northern Line). There were notable remarks about the need for family accommodation and discussion about avoiding high density residential housing. There were comments from various locals who are not in favour of high rise buildings and a high degree of concern about the lack of open space in Lambeth. Somebody wanted to know whether the consultation would even go anywhere, and how local concerns would really be heard and a local resident was concerned that the local estate was just seen to exist to 'do something for' in a kind of ghetto. A number of people had read and commented on the whole document (well done!), and I'm hoping their preliminary remarks might be published soon... I had hoped to write something myself, but the document is huge, and there may be too much to say.

The man from the Mayor's Office seemed disappointed with (most of) the residents, who weren't impressed by the plan, and he wants to hear alternative ideas because, as he said (and I tend to agree), the developers will just proceed inevitably because, as somebody else said, Lambeth are just a huge soft touch when it comes to granting planning permission. I wanted to ask why Lambeth Council have to consider planning permission requests before the Vauxhall Supplementary Planning Document is even finished, but it all seemed a bit pointless because everybody knows that money talks loud.

A number of local politicans spoke (Kate Hoey dropped in, which should be noted, since I'm sure there are less depressing evenings to be had), but none of the politicians or residents really sounded convinced that this inevitable lumbering project could be persuaded to change direction. Some people even seemed to think that the cost of transport would cause the developers to increase the density further, and one person said the proposed development would place a population the size of Welwyn Garden City in one sixth of the space.

Participation in the evening (as with many other consultations) seemed unrepresentative. I spotted no BME residents at all this evening (surely that must be wrong... this is Lambeth). There were too many bumbling old people who just burbled on and took ages to get to any semblance of a point (but that's just public meetings, I guess). A sense of defeat hangs heavily in the air (but that might just be my mood).

The Mayor's office want comments, but didn't invite the audience to visit County Hall and sit around the table and start drafting documents. I don't know who believes that it is possible to make any kind of difference. Everybody knows that something needs to happen in Nine Elms. There is a haven of opportunity in front of us, but nobody seems to think it's an opportunity for them.

Ahh well, tomorrow is another day.

Proposal to ban coaches from Vauxhall Gardens

I've seen an email forward from Cllr Steven Morgan to say that after a petition and resident complaints, the council are proposing the banning of coaches from Vauxhall Gardens in April 2010 (the email doesn't say what happens after that, but I'm presuming it's intended to be a permanent ban).

Here is a draft map of the proposed area that it will cover. It's comprehensive, with the South boundary being Kennington Lane and the East boundary being Black Prince Road.

Comments should go to Akin Akinrujomu.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Nine Elms Mayor's Plan - Public Meeting Tonight

Just wanted to send out a quick reminder that there is a public meeting tonight at St Peter's Church (Vauxhall) - 310 Kennington Lane, which begins at 18:30 for a 19:00 start to discuss the Mayor's Plan for Nine Elms. At the last meeting, there were representatives from the Mayor's office to present the plans, and I imagine a similar presentation will take place. It's organised by Kennington Oval Vauxhall forum.

The last meeting was huge (and I suspect this one will be quite large) since there are a lot of positive and negative comments that people wish to make about the development.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Cycle Superhighway CS7 - blue paint oil slick to hit SE11

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but can't find it in my archives. Part of Boris' masterplan for London is to build a bright blue cycle lane around central London (rather like a sort of environementally friendly version of the M25), with arterial roads leading in from far flung places (such as Balham). Each of the routes is to be called a Cycle Superhighway, but in reality, it will just be lots of (hopefully) well-maintained streaks of blue paint across certain London roads! (I am quite excited, really! I might even start cycling to work!)

The best news is that the first one to be built is going to arrive from far flung Merton, Balham, Clapham etc. and zoom into SE11 past the Oval, up Kennington Park Road, past Kennington tube and provide (at last), a safe route around the Elephant and Castle roundabout. It will go over Southwark Bridge and take you safely to the City. Check out the exact route here.

The piece of paper in my letterbox informs me that the work is due to begin "early in 2010" and that it will be launched in Summer 2010! When it starts, we'll be able to see construction works here, but in the meantime, there's just a Boris video about how much fun it will all be!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Improvements at Tesco Kennington?

I've been away for a week or so, and in my absence, the comments seem to have proliferated. One of the most popular posts /ever/ on the blog is the one with all my photos of the empty shelves at Tesco Kennington.

This is demonstrated by an extended comments section on that page, detailing all of the experiences of various residents at the store. However, some recent comments suggest that there's a new Deputy Manager, different staff, new loos (not seen this one) and new tills that work.

I'm vaguely concerned that lots of the staff have suddenly arrived here to make comments and talk it up, but I think we need to be fair. I want to give them a chance to get it right, so let me know if you've spotted any differences yet or whether you think things are improving!

Label Cloud