Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Kennington Black Mobb SE11 and other local gangs

Ever heard of Kennington Black Mobb SE11?  Or, Cripset SW8?  Or, 031 Bloods?  Thought not.  And Google won't give you many clues either.  Apparently, they're all gangs that are relatively local to the area that this blog covers, although only the Kennington Black Mobb SE11 are actually based within the postcode.

Thanks to Londonist for the Twitter heads up on somebody who claims to have accurately mapped all of the gangs in London.  Lambeth, apparently, have around 24 gangs (which includes all of the subsets) and you can view them on a Google map here.  Southwark, by comparison, appear to only have about 9, also mapped here

In general, I wonder whether this kind of mapping will result in the creation of additional gangs?  Will this information actually generate fear and cause people to stay at home? Will this data mean we keep pathologising / criminalising the young people in our communities?  Rapid online communication exists for good and for ill.  But what's remarkable is how little of the internet appears to be marked by gangs in the same way.  It might be argued that perhaps I don't look at the correct forums, or I miss the markers.  Recent emails/Twitters from local bloggers have led me to think that local gang members probably just comment on existing sites, rather than creating their own online sites...  But, I'm still led to wonder whether there is something important about physical territory that allows it to be claimed in a way that virtual territory cannot be?  Do we risk spending so much time online or performing "virtual" activities that we actually contribute to social unrest and stratification by refusing real-life flesh and blood meeting?

What has happened to the idea that it take a village to raise a child, and how does that apply to inner-city London?  Certainly, the people that created the maps attracted the attention of a writer in the Telegraph, but if the tabloids pick it up, will they attempt to use the information to scaremonger?  For generations now, young people, often (but not universally) men, have formed close friendships and bonded together to create an identity by choosing to wear particular clothing, adopting a languge and "marking" an area.  At what point does this become a problem?  Is this something related to class or race?  Are local gangs split along classist or racist lines? To what extent do we criminalise local young people by referring to their form of assocation as "gang membership"?  When young people at university create these kind of bonds, we call them "university societies" or fraternities/sororities.  Now, I accept that most members of university societies are not going out and wreaking havoc on a neighbourhood, and causing trouble...  But, really, how much is crime a badge of gang membership?  Do we have turf wars on our hands, or are we just labelling people for the sake of it?  Does having a gang near to where you live affect you negatively, or do you know the members as neighbours?

Rather than just criminalising young people, or writing them off as "gangs", I'd really like to know what the community could do on behalf of local youths, what kind of facilities they need, how they can be kept safe, whether they feel excluded or marginalised from mainstream education, and their reasons for belonging to gangs.  I'm well aware of local civic organisations eg. Vauxhall Society, Kennington Association, and of TRAs. but I have questions about how much these organisations can represent the entire local community.   It's easy for educated and connected people to form organisations, but are they made inclusive?  How do we meet one another?  Do we have spaces in which we could all meet together, and talk about being neighbours?  Are you a member of a gang?  Do you read local blogs?

I'm endlessly googled by readers, desperate to find out whether Kennington is dangerous.  I have no idea!  It doesn't feel dangerous to me.  The longer I live here, in general, the safer I feel.  But that's possibly because I'm not likely to be targeted by gang members...

Ongoing former Lilian Baylis saga

This morning's offering comes to you via Jason Cobb's Onion Bag blog over here, where he is querying Lambeth Council's ongoing commitment to Leisure.  I've weighed in on the argument with some hefty comments because I'm fed up with Lambeth Council's ongoing suggestion that it was their idea not to sell the site when they simply adopted the Lib Dem UDP, which, by then, reflected the fact that the site should be used for leisure.  To top the matter off, Labour then nearly sold off the site to the ANC, who are not primarily a leisure organisation.

For the record, I'm not a Lib Dem (I'm not really an anything), but I get very cross when the historical record is misrepresented and mis-interpreted.  And I'm even crosser that Cllr Steve Reed is using the much despised Doon Street Tower as an example of Labour pro-activity.  Check out this post on London-se1 for the community disquiet caused by the fact that Labour thought it was fine to provide 0% community housing in that development, in exchange for a swimming pool!  For what it's worth, whilst I'm angered by Cllr Steve Reed's responses, I do think he should receive credit for his online participation because so many councillors still fail to interact well with their constituents.

I would appreciate it if readers could weigh in over there.  I know that the comments are rather long, tedious and rather dull, but the turning cogs of local democracy are often found in the detail.  It's very important that the Council are held accountable up to and after the local elections.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Good estate agents in SE11?

I received a query last week from one reader about good estate agents in the SE11 area.  I know that we're desperately trendy (Ha! Ha!) and everybody wants to live in Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall (well, once they work out that they can't afford to rent in Borough), so I'm guessing that some of my readers must have used estate agents to buy/rent their properties.  Judging from the piles of agents on the "High Street"(!), who appear to have resisted going bust in these economically challenging times, there are plenty to choose from...

I do realise that in making this request, I'm opening myself up to Estate Agent spam, but can anybody (unrelated, please) recommend an estate agent that they've had a good experience with for either letting/renting or selling/buying in the area.

The White Hart pub - explanation for renaming

Being well-connected online sometimes pays off.  Shortly after the post I made yesterday, I was followed on Twitter by somebody who owns a group of pubs, amongst them, The White Hart.

Here is a slightly cut down version of why there is a proposed name change for The White Hart and why the White Hart is planning to close and re-open as The Tommyfield:
* The White Hart is a very large modern space on a very busy junction. The primary argument for retaining the name would be that it is a wonderful old pub, and changing it's name would be like ripping its soul out. However, it's not felt that this is a strong argument re. The White Hart due to the fact that the pub's original interior has not been retained.

* In order for a pub to thrive, it needs a very distinct identity, in order to differentiate itself from the multitude of pubs in the area and draw people from further afield. "The White Hart" is apparently the fourth most popular pub name in the country. The owners think it makes sense for a pub to have a unique name to mark it out. A name change is recognised not to make a pub better, but it's one change among many that can galvanise a business. The White Hart will change on a multitude of fronts, and a new name is the single most direct way of communicating this change.

* The pub is in need of more significant refurbishment than originally anticipated and considerable income needs to be generated to facilitate this. Unfortunately, turnover at The White Hart has been in decline for several years (partly due to its own shortcomings. Consquently, the owners have had to take a "hard-nosed commercial view on the issue". Pubs have come under enormous pressure in recent years: the smoking ban, ever-increasing duty on alcohol, big business rate rises, escalating cost of good quality meat & fish, rising minimum wage etc etc. All of this squeezes profit margin and forces the focus to be on creating the most appealing pub possible.

The question for local SE11 residents, of course, is whether what makes a pub appealing to the general public is the same as what makes it appealing to them?

Cllr Mark Harrison has commented on the previous post on the issue of extending licencing hours that, 'The Doghouse and the Little Apple both have 1am licences on Fridays and Saturdays. People who want to object [to the extension of hours] will need to demonstrate that problems will result from the extension. Objections from the immediate neighbours of the White Hart will carry the most weight.'

On a related note... Please do check out a wonderful photo blog here, as somebody has painstakingly photographed a number of open (and closed) pubs in the Kennington and North Lambeth area, in what should prove a useful historical record (if pub closures continue at such a steady rate).

Bondway - Ongoing pollution, and student accommodation turned down

Whilst there is focus on the topic of Bondway and the Bondway Tower, I should also note three other points of interest for readers in the area:

1.  Back in January 2010, Markvauxhall mentioned on Twitter that an application had been put in for Student accommodation in Vauxhall.  I didn't think it was contentious, since the night time revellers already cause lots of noise and I thought students couldn't make it worse. The proposed building was quite low-rise but it seems to have been rejected on the grounds of:

* It being unknown whether intensification would have an impact on existing residential development
* Failure to provide mixed dwellings
* Failure to provide affordable housing (a bit of a joke for the poor residents who might have to live alongside the students!!)
* The residence not being near to the University it would serve (contrary to Council's UDP)

2.  Air quality results at the Bondway monitoring station seem to be significantly worse than for other parts of London for at least some portions of the day.  That's rather concerning, considering all of the new residential development that is likely to commence in the area and the increase in traffic likely to take place. 

The folks at London air have more details (I obtained the graph from them), and I confess that I've no idea what exactly PM10 Particulate is, but I hope it's not /really/ bad for humans because we seem to have a freak peak of it on the 23rd(ish) of March.

3.  A new Pret-A-Manger has spawned at the bottom of Aquarius House (the affordable section of St George Wharf) and appears to be opening soon in SE11.  That's two new sandwich places in the space of as many weeks (remember Deep Blue is new too).

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The White Hart pub, Kennington seeks to extend licensing hours

Thanks to SE11 Action Team (Labour blog) for publicising the fact that The White Hart pub, in Kennington, SE11 is seeking to change its name to The Tommyfield and extend its opening hours on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 1am.

From what I can gather, this is generating some consternation from the fine upstanding people of Cleaver Square, and other locals, who do not support extended licensing due to the fact that the pub is in a residential area.  If you want to support or object, you must do so by 19th April. 

Whilst we're on the matter, I dislike the industrial sized dustbins that seem to congregate outside the pub, turning the corner between Cleaver Street and Kennington Lane into a pinch point at which pedestrians and cyclists struggle past one another in an uncouth manner (but I can't really see anywhere else they can go).

For advice on how to comment on the licensing proposals, see Lambeth Council's advice for residents and local businesses.  You'll need to email, write, telephone or fax :

Address: Licensing, 2 Herne Hill Road, London, SE24 0AU
By telephone - 020 7926 6108
By fax - 020 7926 6130.

Quite why the attractive name, "The White Hart" is to be changed to "The Tommyfield" is beyond me. It seems that the name "White Hart" has some kind of historical significance for the area, evidenced by the fact that it was also the name of a pub in 35 Belvedere Road, Lambeth (but maybe that's just coincidence). See here.

Additionally, there's a map here showing The White Hart Fields between 1792 and 1799 (presumably prior to residential expansion). But then perhaps we should not maintain an emotional attachment to such changeable names, for it appears that in the early 17th century, the White Hart Fields were previously known as both "eight acres" and "Coney Warren" .

I actually think "Coney Warren" would make a great pub name (think cozy, fire-lit, local and friendly), but perhaps not for the type of establishment that The Tommyfield seeks to become!  In the meantime, do pop into The Black Prince.

Bondway Tower - Council Refused Planning Permission

Stockwell News has already commented and I'm rather behind the times with this one, but contrary to the permission granted to Vauxhall Sky Gardens last week, the revised Bondway planning permission application was refused by Lambeth Planning Committee.

Various community groups turned up to make representation on some of the following grounds:

* Density (building would be more densely populated than allowed in the London Plan)

* Building is too wide and too tall, and thus detrimental to the public realm

* Not enough employment use floorspace is provided for (as specified in the Lambeth Plan), considering that the building would be within the Vauxhall Key Industrial and Business Area

* The development is located within an area of public open space deficiency, identified in the Lambeth Plan. The Lambeth Section 106 report asks that enhanced contributions to park/open space projects from commercial and residential developments in these opportunity areas. Unfortunately, no contributions were sought.

* Lambeth schools are unable to accommodate the demands placed upon them by population growth

* No parking is provided for the block, which would mean the friends and family of visitors would try to park locally, exacerbating a difficult parking situation in Vauxhall. (This is a no win situation... if parking is provided, people complain about traffic and extra pollution).

* Overcrowding and gate closure at Vauxhall underground station.

* The building's huge shadow (due to its size) would cast a shadow on surrounding residential areas after 3pm - 4pm, and I doubt the current residents are happy about that.

Guess who was still recommending that the building be granted planning permission? That would be Lambeth Council Officers.

It seems, somehow, that Lambeth Councillors suffer from what I might label an "impotence to influence" that nonetheless allows for an ongoing expansion of the Lambeth empire. The views of local Councillors have no more weight than those of the local community. In any case, the Council know that, if there is no local objection (or local objection is not organised), the officers will just go ahead and recommend any new building, however inappropriate. The Councillors get to look good and say things like "we consulted the local community, and then we opposed the development", in the knowledge that the officers will recommend and the Borough will grow anyway. It matters not whether Labour or the Lib Dems are in power because the officers don't change, and the Borough's empire expands indefinitely. Fortunately, Lambeth Planning Committee, although presumably heavily influenced by the officers report, do still act independently (as in this example), but this won't be the last of this one....

Apparently, the developer only sent one spokesman along to the meeting, who declined to respond to the above criticisms, made by members of the public. Additionally, the Planning Committee were somewhat concerned that the officers still recommended acceptance, despite the Planning Committee's advice about what needed to be changed.

I get the impression that this one will be back on the table at some point with minor modifications re. open space and density (which will result in the reduction of public housing), and the whole thing will kick off again. Watch this space.

[I'm aware that some objections were made by David Boardman, of Kennington Association Planning Forum, and Michael Ball of Waterloo Development Group, and I'm sure that the Vauxhall Society must have made their views known.  However, I'd appreciate additional comments about others present so that I can give credit to those who put considerable effort into preparing and turning up for these meetings.  Also, if anybody spoke in favour of the building, it would be good to add that info. for the record and for balance.]

Friday, 19 March 2010

Oval and Kennington Job Fair - Sunday 21st March

Oval and Kennington Job Fair
11am – 3pm
Sunday 21st March 2010

Oval House Theatre café
52-54 Kennington Oval
London SE11 5SW

The job fair is for everyone and will include info and advice on volunteering, employment, job vacancies, training and specialist support.

Please pass on to anyone you think might benefit.

Call 020 7926 8096 for further information.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Kennington Gardens Society Spring Show 20th March

Spring is in the air.  I smelt it this morning, even despite London's fetid and filthy air, and the fact that the Nitrogen levels on Brixton Road are rather scary.

That means it's time for Kennington Gardens Society Spring Show, at St Anselm's Church Hall, Kennington, SE11 on Saturday.  Entry is 50p, and the show opens from 14:30.  There will be plants for sale, plants for viewing, tea, cakes and a raffle.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

36 storey Vauxhall Sky Gardens - permission granted despite failed consultation

Do you remember hearing about Vauxhall Sky Gardens, the 36 storey tower, planned for the heart of Vauxhall?  You might remember that the developer actually succeeded in gaining planning permission for it, but then went back to the drawing board to amend the design.  Viva Vauxhall blogged about the new plans in January 2010, but since then I've heard nothing further from any source on the matter...  Normally, I'd expect to hear about planning permission applications through a variety of local channels, and often an eagle-eyed person will spot it on the Lambeth Planning Database.  Not this time.

Today I received an email from the Chair of Kennington Association Planning Forum who only learned, by accident, last week, that Lambeth Council  were re-hearing the application last night!  In addition, both the Kennington Association and the Vauxhall Society were listed in the officers' report to councillors as having been formally consulted.   Both organisations claim not to have been formally consulted.  Are the officers lying to the councillors, or have two organisations made administrative errors?

Anyway.  Guess what?  The amended building proposal was approved.

It was approved despite the fact that representations were made at the meeting, as follows:

1.  The density of the development was wholly excessive (three and a half times higher than the Mayor's upper limit for areas of this sort).  [Do the Council have a duty to listen to the Mayor?  Boris... are you watching, or is it ok for them to do as they please because this is South London?]

2.  The Section 106 contribution for public open space, calculated by Lambeth's current formula, geared to historic levels of Lambeth (under) investment in open space and parks, was wholly inadequate to generate the extra 1.6 hectare per 1000 new residents aspired to by the Lambeth Supplementary Planning Document.  [Do the Council have a duty to listen to observe their own guidelines?  Clearly not.]

3. Neither Kennington Association nor Vauxhall Society had been consulted, contrary to what the Councillors were told in the officers' report.

The Chair of KA Planning Forum asked me to write that excellent representations were made against the Vauxhall Sky Gardens by Michael Ball of Waterloo Community Development Group, who focused on density, overall design and the failure of the employment generating floorspace, and Cllr Rob Banks of Oval ward (Lib Dem) who focused on a failure to provide local amenities.

So much for consultation and the democratic process.  I mean, really, why bother?  The Council is not going to listen to local residents views.  Why should they?  The councillors are powerless against their own planning committees.  And it seems the planning committees just do as they please.

Perhaps the Kennington Association Planning Forum and the Vauxhall Society will try to appeal the permission on the grounds that they were not formally consulted.  I don't know whether that's even possible.

Obviously, now that this building has been granted permission, Bondway is more likely to be given permission within the next week, on precedent.

According to Skyscaper News, on Vauxhall Sky Gardens, (hardly an unbiased source),

"One reason the council will have given planning permission to the original design was because it was a good quality building. It seems however that planning law allows the developer to use that permission to set a precedent for height in the area and then propose something else that keeps within the previous building envelope that would perhaps, have never originally been allowed.

This way they have defused the issue of height preventing it from being attacked on those grounds. It should be interesting to see if this approach is successful and, in time, if Lambeth Council approve the new application."
So, it appears that Lambeth Council have approved the new application.  I wonder whether the officers noted that Vauxhall Station is over crowded, and that approval of additional tall buildings in the area is going to place heavy strain on the Underground capacity in the area.  I wonder if anybody noted that there is no funding in place for any Northern line Extension.  Probably not.  Lambeth Council don't care about infrastucture, only housing targets.  And the Mayor doesn't care about finding money for South London transport infrastructure, because it's only South London, afterall.

The developers can do whatever they please in Vauxhall and Nine Elms because the Council will never listen to local residents pleas to be more reasonable.  Most people recognise that there is room in Vauxhall for regeneration and development, of course there is.  But surely local people should have some say about what that development might look like?  Obviously not.

We're screwed. 

And I'm meant to remain politically neutral...

LGBT Community Safety Questionnaire

The police are currently doing some work in trying to find out what LGBT residents, workers and visitors to Lambeth are looking for from the police on the issue of community safety.  Working on the basis that SE11 is the pinkest area outside of Soho (sadly, I don't have stats), I'm hoping this will reach a fair few LGBT people in the vicinity.

If you're LGBT, consider filling in a questionnaire (it's very short) and letting the police know whether you feel consulted and included, and how they might improve, if necessary.

Click here for questionnaire.

More on Carl Beatson Asiedu's death from Independent

There's an interesting piece from the Independent today, giving further information about the murder of Carl Beatson Asiedu, who was killed back in August in Goding Street.  I briefly mentioned the incident at the time,  here and here. The article is written by a journalist who went behind the scenes to understand how police work on murder cases.  It's not clear when it was written, but must be fairly recent because it refers to the police watching the Winter Olympics.

I had no idea that police would still be actively working on the case, but progress seems to be being made.  One of the men that police suspect killed Carl has apparently fled to Nigeria, from where there has never been a successful extradition.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Political stripes revealed - will not remain neutral in face of Labour smear campaign

A few days ago, after a bit of Boris-bashing, I was accused of being politically non-neutral.  That is probably true.  I'm deeply non-neutral, despite my best efforts.  I have now written in the "About me" link that:
"Politically, I'm generally on the side of the people who do not currently hold power in local or national government."
The problem is that my non-neutrality tends to reveal itself under the guise of dislike or disgust of some policy or lack of action.  I am not a member of any national political party, and I'm a true floating voter.  I tend to vote for people, rather than parties as I tend to think you're better off with local politicans who act on your behalf, rather than those with whom you might agree on every issue.  I thought I'd give you a guide to my current general South London political feelings so that you can see that my non-neutral feelings are not particularly uni-directional.

Boris Johnson - Unimpressed by super highway that, in reality, is just blue paint.  Unimpressed by abandonment of cross-river tram.  Unimpressed by attempts to close the South London line.  Unimpressed by refusal to turn Vauxhall into a high-rise mecca, despite supposed dislike of tall buildings.  Unimpressed by attempt to regenerate Nine Elms by "intensification", without having any funding plan for Northern line extension or solution to overcrowding on Victoria line at Vauxhall.  Unimpressed by attempt to include Elephant and Castle in the Crossrail levy, despite it not being anywhere near Crossrail.  Unimpressed by money being found for Crossrail in North London, but no equivalent South London transport investment.

Local Labour lot - Pleased that none of current Labour councillors have run off to Bristol like the last one did.  Pleased to receive regular email updates re. planning consent and bike plans.  Unimpressed that former-Lilian Baylis project still has no legs, and refuse to be fobbed off by the SAZ occupation.  Unimpressed that Beaufoy project was scuppered by insiders at Lambeth Council and is also going nowhere.  Accept that current Councillors appear to do their job adequately, but would be pleased to see a bit more vision and "fight" for the local area.

Lambeth Labour lot (in power) - Deeply deeply unimpressed that the campaign to re-elect Labour is proceeding on the basis of "slag off the Lib Dems" and videos that contain no policy content.  Not impressed by the level of leisure facilities available (or rather, unavailable) to Lambeth residents (particularly re. swimming).  Not impressed by the number of Lambeth leaseholder service charge queries that I(!) have received due to the outsourcing of accommodation management to Lambeth Living.  Annoyed by general Labour smugness.  [I have said on Twitter, in recent days, that unless the Lambeth Labour lot clean up their act, and cease publishing antagonistic videos, that I will refuse to be non-neutral in the next election.  Haven't decided who I'd publicly support, but I despise dirty campaigning.]

Lambeth Lib Dem lot (not in power) - Unimpressed that they only seem to pop up with vigour near to an election.  Unimpressed that, if not carefully watched, they could launch into an aggressive anti-Labour campaign, without detailing their own policies.  Quite impressed by local Oval councillor who spoke up persuasively at recent Nine Elms consultation meeting.

Lambeth Conservative lot (not in power) - Again, tend not to think they do very much outside of local election time.  Neither impressed nor unimpressed by them, but think they lack gravitas locally.

Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem London Assembly member)- Quite impressed that Caroline Pidgeon is so re-active when it comes to local SE11 issues.  Quite impressed to have received timely and relevant emails from Cllr Pidgeon when questionned.

Kate Hoey (Labour) - Generally impressed by Kate Hoey, as am in awe of anybody that can topple a speaker.  Particularly approve of Kate Hoey's anti-war and anti-trident stances.  Secretly admire Kate's public disavowal of the whole of Lambeth Council.  Deeply impressed to see Kate Hoey at a number of very small local meetings that couldn't really be used for political capital.  Unimpressed by Kate's occasional attempts in campaign literature to claim that the work of local organisations are somehow all attributable to her in the end.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Whatever happened to Vauxhall pier? (or when will Boris Johnson notice South London?)

Today I received a response from London Assembly member, Cllr Pidgeon about the historical representations she made re. a Vauxhall pier (once proposed outside St George Wharf), and the re-zoning of Kennington tube.  The tube re-zoning was covered thoroughly yesterday and can be summed up by saying, "Boris will not rezone Kennington or Bermondsey because the gainers would be South Londoners, and the losers would be North Londoners".

However, the matter of a proposed pier at Vauxhall has been rather forgotten, and deserves further investigation:

First, remember what Boris said about river trail in July 2008, when he was visiting Merton and Wandsworth:

"I was very pleased to have able to see for myself the opportunities that river transport can provide. The Thames is a great alternative to the bus or the Tube and fits very well with my administration's desire to see many modes of transport used to travel about London."
Secondly, remember what Boris said about river travel in November 2009 when he was Oysterizing the river:

"Our aim is for the Thames to become an integral part of London's transport network, which is why we're also working to provide clearer signage to the piers and services that are available, in order to make using the river much easier for Londoners and visitors to the Capital."
Clearly, Boris' river strategy does not seem to include putting Vauxhall on the river just yet.

Back in September 2009, Cllr Pidgeon raised, as follows::

"The LDA in the River Thames Pier Plan has indicated that a pier near Vauxhall Station as part of the St. George's Wharf development would bring significant advantages to the local area... while simultaneously reducing pressure on local [transport] services. Can you disclose (a) what progress, if any, has been made on facilitating the eventual construction of a pier at Vauxhall, and (b) whether discussions between TfL River Services, the LDA, the London Borough of Lambeth and the developers of St. George's Wharf have taken place over this proposal?
In his response, Boris disagreed that the River Thames Pier Plan indicated that a pier near Vauxhall Station would bring advantages (which makes me wonder about Cllr Pidgeon's choice of this document).  Boris quoted the plan here (see appendix G) which says:

"It is clear that public transport access to this site is already very good. The provision of an additional travel choice, in the form of commuter river services, would therefore bring about limited benefits, and is unlikely to be attractive in comparison with the frequency and journey times of the range of other modes available at Vauxhall Cross Interchange. 
The role of the pier in serving the leisure market is considered to be limited due to the lack of major attractions in the Vauxhall area. Leisure visitors travelling to London by rail are also unlikely to access the river via Vauxhall, with Waterloo station forming the most likely gateway into central London. Based on these potentially limited benefits for commuters and leisure visitors, the Pier Plan does not therefore advocate a pier at this location."
BUT... I went back and checked the River Thames Pier Plan.  What Boris didn't quote in his appendix, even though it's on the end of one of the paragraphs in question is:

"However, the potential role of River transport in serving the development proposals which emerge from Battersea/Nine Elms/Vauxhall Opportunity Area Planning Framework should be reviewed."

I can see this one working out really well.  What's the likelihood that nobody can secure funding for the Northern Line Extension to Battersea? Instead, somebody will have the bright idea that if we place a pier at Vauxhall and one at Battersea, we can transport commuters from Battersea to Vauxhall by boat, and then they can use the already over-crowded Vauxhall Station!

The Mayor's Vauxhall Nine Elms Opportunity Planning document says...

p97, "New piers to be provided within the OA at appropriate locations i.e. at Battersea Power Station"

On p117 (and following), maps are provided with various pier locations on them, including Vauxhall.  However, suggestion for a pier at Vauxhall is nowhere explicitly stated in the document.

Waiting for the Nine Elms expansion is not satisfactory.  We're already looking at over-crowding at Vauxhall Underground station, which would indicate commuter demand is very high.  Additionally, the current expansion of residential developments on the Albert Embankment would mean that the pier proposed at Embankment Park Plaza Hotel could be built long before Nine Elms gets off the ground.  When is Boris Johnson going to notice South London?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Impressed by London Assembly - focus on puddles & transport

Somehow, the question and answer database for London Assembly members has utterly eluded me until today.  In it, I discovered the answers to loads of questions (puddles in Kennington, pier at Vauxhall, re-zoning tube stations) etc.  Here's a sample of some of our ongoing issues:

Q. 17/3/2010 - Cllr Shawcross - "There is a gap in the bus network between Waterloo and Vauxhall Stations. An easy solution to this issue is the extension of Bus Route 381 from County Hall to Vauxhall Bus Station. This would also vastly improve access to St Thomas’s Hospital. Will the Mayor please ask TfL to investigate the feasibility of this proposal?"

A. Answer forthcoming after meeting.

[This is very interesting.  I wonder who submits the questions.  Maybe SE11 lurkers could start tabling some questions.  I recall hearing somebody ask very recently why it's not possible to get a bus from Kennington to Chelsea.  I suppose you could walk/bus to Oval, bus to Vauxhall, and then bus from Vauxhall to Chelsea....  On the other hand, I wonder who actually designs the routes.  Who actually decides whether Lewisham gets connected to Hampstead?]

Q.  27/1/2010 - Cllr Pidgeon - "What work are TfL doing to prevent the pooling of water on Kennington Park Road –particularly by the crossings?

A. Mayor Boris (shortened) - "TfL has arranged for its highway maintenance works contractor to cleanse the adjacent drainage system, which will involve emptying the gullies and cleaning out the culverts to allow the water to freely disperse. The works are due to be complete by 28 January."

[Has this happened? It was still pooling by the tube station, last time week.]

The only thing I can't find on the Assembly web site is an RSS feed, otherwise I could just pipe everything through to Twitter and we could be automatically informed of whenever Val Shawcross or Caroline Pidgeon mentioned issues affecting us.  Anyhow, I'm really impressed that they actually ask Boris about puddles!!

Possibility of rezoning Kennington tube from Zone 1 to Zone 2 - any progress?

Long term residents may be aware that every so often, a general call is made, to rezone Kennington tube station from Zone 2 to Zone 1.  There are various reasons proposed for this:

a.  Geographically, it makes sense.  Vauxhall (currently zone 1) is further south than Kennington, although the traditional tube map gives the impression that this is not the case.

Once you view the proportional tube map, you can immediately see that based on geography alone, there is no reason that Kennington should ever have been placed in Zone 2:

b.  Wikipedia already states that journeys from National Rail stations to Kennington or Oval, via Waterloo are charged on the assumption that both Kennington and Oval are Zone 1 stations.  Clearly, National Rail don't consider it fair to assume that either Kennington or Oval are in Zone 2.  Why is that?

c.  Zone 1, south of the Thames, is a much smaller zone than zone 1 north of the Thames.  This is because the tube map assumes its centre around Tottenham Court Road.  If the centre were instead assumed to be the river, much of the area that counts as Zone 2, south of the river, would fall into zone 1.  Also, Kennington is considered central enough to make it worth including in part of it in the congestion zone.  The entirety of the rest of the Congestion zone is in Zone 1.

Happily, SE11 residents, works and commuters have Cllr Caroline Pidgeon's office on their side.

Back in April 2008, when making election pledges, Caroline stated that, if elected as a GLA candidate, she would:

"also work to secure a pier at Vauxhall Cross with a river bus to take pressure off the tube and rail networks, ensuring we use river transport more. I will also continue to press TfL to rezone Kennington Tube Station so it is a boundary 1/2 station and to be more responsive to local needs."

On the Vauxhall Lib Dem blog, in February this year, she stated, "It is simply wrong that Kennington Tube Station is in Zone 2 when it is clearly central London. We will continue to make representations to the Mayor of London which will make travelling cheaper for local residents"

I can't actually imagine that the Mayor will grant these requests (especially not in these difficult economic times), but I do think it's important to note that petitions are being made on the matter.

Edit:  What I love about Twitter is how quickly you can generate a response.  LambethLibDems have helpfully pointed me to questions from a meeting of Southwark Council Assembly (I think) on 28th January 2009, when Cllr Pidgeon was tabled to ask as follows:


In the light of the recent increases in tube fares, can the leader reaffirm his commitment to the rezoning of Bermondsey and Kennington tube stations, which would result in significant savings for Southwark residents, and will he write to the Mayor of London urging him to consider this option?"

Edit: Additionally,  on 28/1/2009 at a different meeting (is it just coincidental they're on the same day?), Cllr Pidgeon asked the Mayor two questions:

"In any review of the fare zone boundaries you may be contemplating, will you examine the case for moving Bermondsey and Kennington so that they become boundary zone 1/2 stations?" and "Are you planning a review of the fare zone boundaries for Greater London, and if so, when will you be able to report its results?"

Boris' responded (my highlights):
"London TravelWatch have identified a number of stations on the boundary of Greater London, including Epsom and Potters Bar which they believe could appropriately be included in the zonal area...
...In addition, the recent meeting between Kulveer Ranger, my Director of Transport Policy with the local MP, Ed Davey, he confirmed my strong support for this proposal to rezone Kingston and Surbiton stations. I understand that Ed is now raising the issue with South West Trains who are the primary decision makers on this.

I do not anticipate a further general review of station zoning within the London area. To maintain TfL’s revenue the losers and gainers from such a review would have to balance. This approach would be deeply unpopular with the losers in the present financial climate. However, Transport for London is always willing to consider any specific proposals for local changes on their merits."

Thanks also to edwinloo for helping me track this down. Obviously, I spend a fair amount of time Googling, but I can't always locate good results, so being given the links is very useful.

I guess that answers the question though.  Boris Johnson, as usual, considers only "the losers" of North London and not "the gainers" of South London.  So, erm, Ken Livingstone for Mayor anybody? ;-)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Accident in Vauxhall this morning

I saw tweets this morning re. an accident in Vauxhall, and have had a few people googling for further details.  From what I can ascertain, there was an accident at around 8.30am this morning, involving a motorcycle, on Parry Street, between South Lambeth Road and Wandsworth Road.

This blog always get extra hits after road accidents or stabbings... Not sure if this is through concern or curiosity.  Needless to say, since I'm not based in SE11 during the day (sadly), I haven't any further info.  I hope the motorcyclist is ok.

8 Albert Embankment - planning application submitted - councillors already oppose

If you need some background, or were unable to attend the exhibition re. 8 Albert Embankment (and associated land), you can view the history and photos, courtesy of this blog, here.  This will be a huge riverfront development, and if you've taken no interest in local planning matters before now, this is the one to focus on, bearing in mind its impact on SE11 (it's on the SE1 boundary, but will affect residents further south too).

I nearly fell off my chair in shock last night as I received a forward from Cllr Steven Morgan[1] about 8 Albert Embankment.  The shock was caused by the fact that the Princes ward councillors have said that they plan to oppose the planning permission request already, even prior to hearing community feedback!  Why might this be?

"As your local councillors we shall be objecting to the plans as they currently stand. We find that we cannot support an application that will provide less than 10% affordable housing when our target in Lambeth is between 40-50%. Whether you agree with us or not, please do make your own comments to the planning department so that they know what the views of the local people are before making a decision on whether they think the scheme should go ahead or not."
It seems likely that the community would support the council on the matter.  Less than 10% community housing is unacceptable, but shows that in the current economic climate, the developers are really going to bid low.  What would normally happen would be that this application would be turned down, and the developers would resubmit, suggesting 20% community housing.  The council will fall at their feet, very grateful, and when the building is halfway through development, there will be some kind of setback that will eventually mean that 12% is agreed.  Call me a cynic.  I say that we should demand a 50% quota, and let the bidding war commence.  At least we'd get 30% that way :)

Take a look at the actual planning permission request from the Developers on Lambeth Council's Planning database here.

The proposal in outline is as follows:

"Refurbishment, reconstruction and extension to the grade II fire station to provide a new fire station and associated functions for the London Fire Brigade (sui generis) on part basement and ground floors, with residential (class C3) above, including demolition of the communication mobilising centre. Demolition of the brigade workshop/office buildings to the rear and construction of 7 new buildings ranging in height from 5 to 16 storeys for mixed use purposes, comprising residential (class C3); business (class B1) to include offices and studio workshops; shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, and drinking establishments (class A1, A2, A3, A4) and ancillary facilities. Refurbishment and internal alterations to the grade II listed drill tower associated with the new fire station. Construction of basements to provide servicing, parking, energy centre, plant and storage. creation of areas of open space, and alterations to existing vehicular and pedestrian access and highway arrangements within and around the site. To provide a total of 360 residential units, 7,214sqm of commercial floorspace and 181 parking spaces including a 6 storey building on the corner of Black Prince Road and Newport Street.

This application is a departure from the adopted Lambeth Unitary Development Plan (August 2007)."
Now, don't be too shocked, but actually (subject to seeing the drawings), I think that this is quite a good preliminary proposal summary.  I'm impressed that they've limited the tallest building to 16 storeys (bearing in mind that 81 Black Prince Road will have 23).  I like the idea of mixed height buildings and particularly mixed use development.  I think it will be great to have some offices, shops, restaurants etc. along that stretch of the river (that portion of the South Bank is quite impoverished in terms of facilities, and so people tend not to visit).  I think that good eating/drinking establishments could rejuvenate and complement the existing pubs and options currently on Black Prince Road and Albert Embankment.  Also, it seems to me that 360 residential units is ambitious, but not foolish.  So, if they get knocked back on this attempt for low provision of community housing, I don't see any reason not to permit the development once the council have obtained their allocation.  This is, of course, subject to viewing the building drawings...  If it is going to look hideous or they've neglected to provide sufficient green space, I might change my mind...

I'm struggling, at the moment, to view all six pages of plans on the Lambeth planning database.  Quite frankly, the database technology that Lambeth are using is not really sufficient to view significant numbers of documents.  During the day, it's so slow as to be useless.  As soon as I can get some pictures, I'll paste them here, so that we can an idea of how the thing might look.

My only query, and I wonder if one of the developers or readers of the blog might be able to answer is the line on the proposal which states, "This application is a departure from the adopted Lambeth Unitary Development Plan (August 2007)."  Does anybody know why?  I know Cllr Harrison reads the blog, so perhaps he might be able to fill us in with how the application is a departure from the UDP and in what way?  It might be a minor matter, but it seems an interesting statement.

One point that I will continue to keep making, until people are really sick of it, is that this is yet another building that is likely to raise the number of commuters using Vauxhall Station, and, as yet, we have no guarantee that anybody will fund the enlargement of the tube station or additional tube provision.  That is all.
[1](I ought to say in passing that Cllr Steve Morgan is quite good at sending timely emails to the community on planning matters...)

New Covent Garden Market - the procurement begins - is it premature?

I'm not too sure about the timing of the announcement, given that the Mayor's Nine Elm Plan has had its deadline response extended until the end of this month (and therefore, the consultation is still technically under way), but the FT is reporting that Jonas Deloitte are already working on the procurement of a development partner, starting this week.

I realise that the New Covent Garden already finished their consultation, so I am perhaps wrong in thinking that, whilst the Mayor's plan is still being consulted on, the NCG people are rather premature.  However, given the current comprehensive objections/suggestions that I know will arise from the Mayor's consultation, I'd have expected them to wait until all of the responses had been submitted. 

What happens if an objection to the Mayor's plan is significant enough to affect the NCG Market?  Wouldn't the developers need to be aware of that before they begin bidding?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Deep Blue Subs, and Ways into Work - supporting people seeking work

Apparently, a new sandwich shop - Deep Blue Subs - is opening in Vauxhall.  My new SE11_jobs Twitter feed that sources jobs around SE11 (except when it gets confused by somebody mentioning unrelated "Ovals" informed me that they are hiring.  I've not noticed this shop, but my spies tell me it's somewhere near Vauxhall Station.  (What else have I missed recently?)

On that note, if you're unemployed (or maybe just under-employed), Lambeth Council are running a group for people looking to get back to work.  The group is open to all (not just young people) and will be taking place for 10 weeks, from 22nd Feb.  Go along on Mondays from 10:30am - 12:00.  What's quite unusual is that it's meeting at Alford House Youth Club (kind of tucked away opposite Kennington Tesco), which is impressive because I do occasionally think, what with the still empty Beaufoy and the under-utilised (and badly maintained) former Lilian Baylis, that Lambeth Council sometimes brushes North Lambeth under the carpet.  In this instance of employment and jobs, it does appear not, so let's try to use the services whilst they're on offer! 

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Kennington Association Bazaar (and Million Women Rise march)

Kennington Association Bazaar (11am - 1pm, St Anselm's Church Hall
Please see yesterday's post on the Kennington Association blog for advanced notice of one of their fundraising bazaars on Saturday. The bazaar will be held from 11:00 to 13:00 on the 6th March at St Anselm’s Church Hall.

If you have items that you want to give away to raise funds for the Kennington Association (for local projects), you'll need to bring the items to the Church Hall on Friday evening from 18:00-20:00 or before the bazaar begins on the Saturday itself.  If you currently have a house full of saleable clutter, the Kennington Association is a worthwhile cause (their costs are low and they are entirely staffed by volunteers) and since there are no charity shops in Kennington, it's a greener option than driving it all to Walworth Road.

Million Women Rise March (Meet 12pm, Park Lane)
Somewhat off topic (and non-SE11), I know, but it's the third (I think) Million Women Rise march on Saturday.  The march is a gathering of diverse individual women, and their representatives from the Voluntary/Community sector. It's a demonstration against continued male violence enacted against women worldwide. The march is open to women and children only.

The crowd attending the march has been growing in size and strength from year to year, but it's nowhere near the size it should be. Male violence against women is a matter that I feel needs to be denounced strongly, and having marched for the last two years, I'll be going this year too. I would ask you to consider attending for women who are unable to speak out.  If you had considered attending, but want somebody to accompany you, please drop me an email on: and we can arrange something.

Black Prince pub and a visit to the Cinema Museum

I had a spiffingly SE11-esque day on Sunday...

First, we went to lunch at the Black Prince pub (6 Black Prince Road). I heard that it had been refurbished back in December, and the effort appears to have paid off. The interior is lovely, all dark wood, with two fires at either end of the pub. Service was impeccable and all of the bar staff were really friendly. There appears to be a variety of beers on tap. Food was mid-range (think prices similar to The Bear, Camberwell), but good. We ordered two roast dinners (I strongly recommend the cheese/quince tart veggie option), and our only foodie complaint is that the veg. were rather al dente. However, I'm aware that that's something of a fashion statement at the moment so I'm inclined to charitably assume that they weren't just undercooked. I noticed a number of nice touches eg. pie evening on Tuesdays at more than reasonable prices. Mmmm. Pie. I love pie. We will definitely be back for pie night.

Anyhow, the Black Prince is a really lovely pub (I have no connection), and it's definitely cheaper and quieter that The White Hart, and has none of the "ick" of the Dog House. My one issue with the whole experience is actually my fault. The pub markets itself (even on the outside) as a "live sports" venue, which I failed to notice. But even with that knowledge, I feel that there's a slight clash of aims. In order to satisfy both the patrons who are eating, and those who are there for the sport, the TVs show the football without volume and pleasant classical music plays in the background (somewhat frustrating for fans, you might think). Even with that huge concession, it felt a little bit uncomfortable to be surrounded by cheering football fans when trying to eat a roast dinner! My advice to diners is to try and sit in the cove at the other end of the pub, away from the screens. I couldn't quite decide whether the pub was aiming for the monied gay folk of SE11 or trying to be a kind of "local" for football fans (not that these two groups need be different, mind). I'm not convinced that it manage to pull off either as well as it should, but I will definitely be back, and I recommend it to readers!

The second part of the afternoon was spent visiting The Cinema Museum in Duggard Way. I'd never been before, and wanted to go and check it out, especially as it's currently in danger. It appears the site has been bought by a property developer, who will probably eventually want to turn it into flats. On the one hand, I have some sympathy for their plight, but on the other hand, the museum does come over as a kind of private collection for a select few individuals. It's rarely open to the public, but since they were holding a fund raiser at the weekend, it seemed worth popping in. I'm glad I did. The building that houses the collection is the administration wing of the old Lambeth Workhouse, and it's an exquisite building. I've taken a few photos so you can see what I mean (apologies for quality, but they were taken on my mobile phone camera as I forgot the other one).

The upstairs room is wonderfully light because of large windows on all 3 sides:

The Chaplin figure fits the space perfectly:

Some of the museum memorabilia:

Posters for sale:

This item particularly caught my eye.  Although it was taken on the Old Kent Road, it captured a particular era in London when small (though dangerous) cinemas could be opened up in shop fronts.  Made me feel quite nostalgic for a time I never knew...

There are better photos on The Cinema museum's website here and here.
According to their website, the Cinema Museum are looking to move once again (and indeed open the collection to the public) and are considering venues...

Label Cloud

Blog Archive