Friday, 7 October 2011

Boris bikers beware - cycle accidents in Kennington on 6th and 7th October

Cyclists, motorists and pedestrians, please be careful on the roads. I noted some time ago that I intend to blog about all cycle accidents, mostly because I think it's very important to offer evidence to TFL on improving road safety for all users, but particularly cyclists and pedestrians.

Yesterday on 6th October 2011, at around 10:15am, a female cyclist (possibly Boris Biker) in her 20s was taken to St Thomas' hospital with minor injuries after having been involved in an accident on Albert Embankment with an ambulance.  The ambulance was flipped on to its side, but both crew members escaped with minor injuries.  It resulted in the closure of Albert Embankment for several hours yesterday.

Today (7th October 2011), a male Boris Biker heading south on Kennington Road near Kennington Cross was involved in an accident with a car.  A witness on Cycle chat noted that the cyclist was knocked unconscious, but came to by the side of the road.

Additionally, I didn't report it at the time, but on 20th September, a male cyclist was involved in an accident with an HGV lorry in Vauxhall Cross near the tube station, in which he suffered serious injuries.

Please be careful cycling through SE11.  There are some very wide and busy A-Roads running through and around Kennington, and we have numerous cycle lanes, a Cycle Superhighway and stacks of London Cycle Scheme aka. Boris Bike docks in the area.  Vauxhall Gyratory and Elephant and Castle roundabout are particularly difficult.

Ale Festival, Apple Day, Incredible Edible Festival, Urban Bees, AGMs - events this weekend and beyond

This is a late post, but I'm hoping some of you might catch it in time to attend some of the following events.  This weekend is a good one to stay south of the river unless you're inclined to join demonstrations because it's going to be tricky to get north of the river by road.  Trafalgar Square and surrounds will be unpassable on Saturday due to the Stop the War Assembly, and Westminster Bridge will be blocked on Sunday due to the anti-Health and Social Care Bill Block the Bridge event.

But there are plenty of autumnal ways to eat, drink and be merry in Kennington this weekend:

There's the Garden Museum's Incredible Edible Big Harvest Party.  The Garden Museum is over in SE1, in the old church next to Lambeth Palace.  They're celebrating local food growing with community stalls, seed bomb making, an Incredible Edible scrapbook(!?) and the opening of an insect hotel.  Visit (and bring your own seeds) on Saturday 8th October from 10:30am - 4pm

Then there's the annual autumn Roots and Shoots Apple Day 2011 where there will be over 100 different types of apple to sample, along with juicing and fruit preservation workshops.  That's at the top of Walnut Tree Walk, just off of Kennington Road.  There will also be activities for children; apple bobbing, corn dolly making, story telling etc. - This is one of my favorite days.  Go and visit on Sunday 9th October from 11am - 4pm.

Then the Old Red Lion pub (42 Kennington Park Road) Ale and Food Festival with stalls, music, a hog roast and a fine selection of ales.  It's held on Saturday 8th October and Sunday 9th October from 12 noon.

Also, some future dates for the diary...

Don't forget on Monday both the Kennington Association and the Vauxhall Civic Society are holding their AGMs on Monday 10th October (oops!).

The Kennington Association AGM will be held at the Durning Library, beginning at 6:30pm.  Their special guest is Val Shawcross, member of the London Assembly for Lambeth and Southwark.

The Vauxhall Society AGM will be held at St Stephen's Church, St Stephen's Terrace, SW8 1DH at 6.30pm to begin at 7pm.  The guest speaker will be Sue Foster, Lambeth's Director of Housing.  She'll be speaking on regenerating Vauxhall.

On Saturday 15th October, there's an Urban Bee open day and Foragers Walk, starting at noon from St Agnes Place Keeper's Lodge (in one corner of the park).

Then, on Sunday 16th October, Keyworth Primary School in Kennington (that's Faunce Street in SE17) is to be turned into a pop-up restaurant by food writer Philip Dundas in aid of "Magic Breakfast".  You'll need to book, but for £30, you'll receive a three course meal (with wine).  To attend, please RSVP or call 07764 336 220.  Magic Breakfast is a charity that provides free health breakfasts to schools in which over 50% of children receive free school meals and who might not otherwise eat a health breakfast.

A Little Bit of Art - Gallery in Iliffe Yard open Saturdays from 10am - 3pm

There are a number of artists studios in Iliffe Yard, just off Crampton Street in SE17.  One of them, A Little Bit of Art, is opening (alongside GAS Art Agency) on Saturday mornings, beginning tomorrow, Saturday 8th October 2011, from 10am - 3pm.  I presume they'll continue to open on Saturdays as long as there is interest.

A Little Bit of Art specialises in affordable printed artworks and you can go and visit them at 20A Iliffe Yard, SE17 3QA.

Kennington and Vauxhall are stuffed full of galleries and artists, and you can't beat visiting the places in which beautiful things are created.  Do drop in to the Electric Elephant Cafe, a tiny alternativey-feel venue that serves great coffee.  We visited ages ago, and chatted happily with the staff.  Iliffe and Crampton Streets both have a strong community spirit.  And whilst you're there, and if it's open (2pm-6pm on Saturdays), consider dropping in to 56a Crampton Street, where there's an anarchist cafe and library.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Nine Elms Sainsbury's submit plans for seven blocks of tall housing with larger store

I'm running a number of other projects in different places, so am find it difficult to keep Lurking about SE11 updated.  I'm going to try posting shorter updates with less analysis, and will run a series of quick updates...

Back in early September, Sainsbury's submitted planning permission for a huge development on their Nine Elms site, comprising seven new buildings (including 3 towers of 19, 28 and 37 storeys).  They hope to win permission for 671 residential flats and a gym, but it sounds as though it will be an entire complex of mixed-use space.  The firm plan to demolish the existing building containing the food shop (although a temporary store will be open whilst the works are taking place).  The new Sainsbury's would occupy two floors and be much larger than the previous store.

There's more information on the Sainsbury's website for the Nin Elms project here, and you can read the full planning submission (if you have a free fortnight) on Lambeth Planning database under 11/02326/OUT

Sainsbury's are including within their submission a space for a children's tutoring facility as well as an "energy centre" (clues anybody?), community floorspace (1,860 square metres), office floor space.  When I saw the original plans, they hoped to provide retail space for other non-Sainsbury's related businesses.  There will also be space for a children's playground and a new route linking Wandsworth Rd with New Covent Garden.

Tradescant Road also wrote a brief post on the submission.

Crucially, what still appears to be missing, of course, is any form of public green space.  That's how the Bondway was defeated.  But perhaps Sainsbury's is too far away from the Bondway to fall under the same ruling.  Anyhow, because I'm so late with this one, it's theoretically too late to submit comments.  I would suggest, however, that it would be worth doing so anyway, because Lambeth Council quite often consider and accept comments up until a proposal comes to be considered  by the Planning Committee.  Just click on the reference number above, and then click "submit comments".

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Beaufoy Site to become housing and Lambeth Council U-turn on Shelley site - KOV September 2011 update

The Cllr Mark Harrison (Prince Ward) had plenty to say on behalf of Lambeth Council at KOV last night, which I've broken down into six main points, as follows:

Beaufoy site
Lambeth Council had hoped the Beaufoy sale would be concluded by last night, but since it hasn't, the developer couldn't be present at the meeting due to commercial confidentiality issues. Local residents still don't know who the developer is to be. Cllr Harrison informed the meeting that the Beaufoy would be brought back into use and restored with housing brought to the site (40% to be affordable). The Beaufoy Trust will gain capital receipt to help young people into training and education, and a portion of the money they receive will be spent in the immediate area. Due to central government cutting the Council's capital grant budget by 60%, the Council are having to bridge the gap by selling off assets.

Until last night, I was optimistic that the site could be developed as part of a mixed-use education/housing site, but that is clearly no longer possible. I'm afraid I can't think of anything positive to say about this, so I will refer you to a statement made in 2006 by Cllr Sam Townend (old Labour councillor in Princes Ward) who said that Lambeth Council wanted to see:

(1) Ownership [of the Beaufoy] being taken away from the Council and handed back
to local people as trustees (obviously under the supervision of the Charity
Commission) if there is sufficient interest by local people to make this viable.
(2) A modernisation of the objects of the [Beaufoy] Trust to reflect the
educational needs of people living in Kennington and Vauxhall now.
(3) The deployment of this community asset towards the educational needs of people
living in Kennington and Vauxhall now. The way this would be done would be a
matter for the new trustees in consultation with residents of Ethelred TMO,
Vauxhall Gardens and Kennington.

I don't think there's any doubt that this represents a failure on the part of the Council. Yes, it could certainly be argued that there has been a major financial crisis and a change of government, but the Beaufoy has been empty for over 10 years, well before either the financial meltdown or the ConDems.

Shelley Site
As well as a U-turn on the Beaufoy, Lambeth Council have conceded to local pressure from the Save the Shelley School campaign and will be adding an additional 2011-2012 school class on the site, to be run by the Archbishop Sumner administration. You may remember that Lambeth Council argued the case that school places were needed in the south of the Borough, and made a statement accordingly in May 2011:

As there is no projected demand for an educational use for the Shelley site we
propose to sell the site to raise funds to help every child in Lambeth have a
primary school place in the future.
A common sense reading suggests that Lambeth Council have changed their mind. Fair enough. But in an amusing manner, the expansion is not a straightforward concession to local pressure. Indeed, the 2011-2012 Archbishop Sumner primary class is only being added because excess pressure in the south of the Borough has meant that two "bulge classes" had to be added at schools in the centre of Lambeth (it wasn't possible to add classes in the south itself), which in turn put pressure on the centre of the Borough, and pushed the "bulge" upwards, creating a "domino" effect. So the Shelley site pressure group parents' have got their own way, seemingly against the wishes of the local councillors! Feel free to read the September 2011 Scrutiny Committee minutes if you're interested.

The Scrutiny minutes even state that the VNEB expansion won't require significant additional places until 2021, but who knows? Cllr Harrison did note that the Council was taking the Shelley site's population projections very seriously. Anyhow, having added a bulge class for 2011-2012, the bulge has to progress upwards throughout the school, so it will be nearly impossible to free up the Shelley site for six years! The Council are clear that there's no permanent funding for expanding Archbishop Sumner, but Cllr Harrison noted that it does keep the options open for the time being, and that much depends on what Southwark Council have planned because Archbishop Sumner could also be affected by a domino affect across the border due to the development of Elephant and Castle. All very complicated predictions...

Also, read those minutes carefully, and note too that a German-English bilingual free school seem to have made an application/expression of interest on the Shelley site, of which an outcome will be made known this month. Could it be that Lambeth Council is adding the bulge class to Archbishop Sumner (rather than, say Vaxuhall School) to prevent their site being purchased by a free school? If a Free School wanted to purchase the site, the Council would not be able to sell and claim their sought-after capital receipt, as the site would be tied up in Free school battles for years. Hmm. Very interesting, eh?

Black Prince Trust
The Black Prince Trust is close to finalising their lease on Site A of the old Lilian Baylis school. Site A comprises sports facilities which will be run by Sports Action Zone, which was handed over by Lambeth Council into a public trust earlier in the year. Work will start on the new gym once the lease has been finalised. The Council is concluding its selection of the developer for Site B, (that part of the school site to be sold off, including listed buildings). Work is being undertaken with community groups using the current site to help find them alternative accommoddation. eg. Your Story will be housed in the shops at Lambeth Walk.

Stock Tranfer for Ethelred Estate
There will be a ballot on Stock Transfer to a Housing Association for the Ethelred Estate which, if it went ahead, could unlock £100 million of investment into the Ethelred Estate and other Lambeth estates. The Association proposed is the only tenant lead housing association in the country.

Linear Park for Tyers Street
Cllr Harrison is, with VGERTA, looking at the posibility of turning Tyers Street into a linear park. This would certainly ease some of the green-space deficiency in the north of the Borough, and since all of the coaches were moved on, the streets seems to be under-parked. The proposal is still at a very early stage. Email your thoughts to Cllr Harrison or Chrys (VGERTA Secretary)

VNEB Manifesto
Finally, Lambeth Labour have assembled a VNEB "manifesto". Technically, that's party-political, so I'm going to direct you to the document that was handed out by Councillors at the KOV meeting and likely say no more until election time.

Planning updates on Kylun Towers and 8 Albert Embankment - KOV meeting September 2011

Tall Building and silhouette Image taken from
A full agenda for the Kennington Oval Vauxhall Forum, which kicked off with apologies/reasons for absence from TFL and Treasury Holdings.

Absence by TFL re. the Vauxhall gyratory plans:
Lambeth Council are leading on a visionary exercise which will precede any other work by TFL. Carolyn Dwyer, Divisional Director of Public Realm, is the contact concerning the visioning work at Lambeth Council. Once the Council have undertaken their consultation, TFL will be able to present further on the future of the gyratory. [You can read my last post about Vauxhall gyratory options here.]

Absence by Treasury Holdings re. the Northern Line Extension:
Treasury Holdings' current consultation on the NLE finishes at the end of September and they can't release information prior to sign off and analysis, so there's nothing to add until that point. [The most recent statement on the NLE adds little to the discussion, but can be found on the TH site.]

Vauxhall Island Site - Kylun Towers
In other news, the developer Kylun have appealed, concerning their proposed Towers, to the Secretary of State against Lambeth Council on account of non-determination. To read the plans for the Kylun Island site in the middle of Vauxhall, see here. Vauxhall Society recently wrote a rather withering post on Lambeth's inability to come to any decision at all about the site for a whole 13 months. The Kylun discussion will go to committee on 18th October and there's still time to make submissions. Apparently, the hearing won't be held until April 2012.

Cllr Jane Edbrooke emailed me a few weeks ago with Lambeth Council's "official line" on Kylun which comes from a Lambeth Council "spokesman":

"We have already made clear to the developer that we are refusing their current application and we’re surprised by their comments and actions. Senior Cabinet Members met with the partners of Kylun Towers in July and were very clear about Lambeth’s expectations for the site. It is crucial that the development is to the benefit of the established local community and general public realm and these aspirations must be met in any planning application."

8 Albert Embankment - Fire Brigade Site
I posted back in August about a re-submitted planning application for 8 Albert Embankment which contained a few changes on the previous application. However, it often takes a while for community groups to notice certain applications and to get organised, and as you can see from the comments of the August post, that is the case concerning 8 Albert Embankment and Whitgift TRA.

Last night at KOV, we heard an eloquent and impassioned plea from the residents of Whitgift House of Whitgift Tenants and Residents Association who are concerned about the impact of the 14 and 22 storey towers on their homes and Lambeth High Street Recreation Ground. Whitgift House is the building which would be most impacted by the re-development of 8 Albert Embankment. In winter months, the ground floor and first floor of Whitgift House would only get one hour of sunlight each day. Their "anti"campaign is, they noted, supported by Cllr Mark Harrison, Cllr Steve Morgan and Kate Hoey MP. All residents in Whitgift Hosue have signed up to the campaign against 8 Albert Embankment, and indeed, every resident (excepting one) has put in an objection to the development.

The TRA's main objections concern over-shadowing, blocking of the light, too much parking and low levels of social housing in the development. Whitgift residents wanted a third assessment on the light issues, but after speaking to Planning Aid, they've been told there's no point as Lambeth Council have performed their own assessment. The Council's assessment says the minimum standards have been transgressed but that that's fine for Whitgift House because they're within an urban environment! There are only 25 flats in Whitgift House. Additionally, residents are arguing that 8 Albert Embankment falls within Vauxhall Conservation area, containing amongst other bits and pieces, the Royal Daulton Building and thus arguably constitutes a separate area from the rest of "main" Vauxhall where tall building has been ear-marked by the Mayor. (Whether this will work is debatable on account of the permision granted to 81 Black Prince Road, but we shall see...).

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Funding awarded to Lady Margaret Hall Settlement and Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre

Well done to Lady Margaret Hall Settlement (north Lambeth charity, currently based at Mowll Street in SW9) and Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre who have been granted monies from Capital Community Foundation to run various projects in the area. Take a look at the news section of their blog for more info.

LMHS won their monies to run a business training course for their All Sewn Up students to enable them to set up their own businesses. They'll also be running ESOL food/hygiene courses in conjunction with the currently centre-less Portuguese Community Centre.

Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre have won a grant to enable them to run a Memories Project in the area, aimed at older people. I look forward to being able to link to their findings.

Readers might also might like to know about the following LMHS courses running this term (all cost £125). If you're not personally interested, you might consider forwarding these to members of the local community whom you think might benefit:

Clothes Making courses:
6.45pm - 9.15pm (Monday evenings) beginning 19th September and running for 11 weeks
10.00am - 12.30pm (Friday mornings) beginning 23rd September and running for 11 weeks

Soft Furnishing courses:
10.00am -12.30pm (Thursday mornings) beginning 22nd September and running for 11 weeks
1.00pm - 3.30pm (Thursday afternoons) beginning 22nd September and running for 11 weeks
6.45pm - 9.15pm (Thursday evenings) beginning 22nd September and running for 11 weeks

For further information on any of the courses, call 020 7793 1110 or email are based at Unit 1, 11 Mowll Street, SW9 6BG. Nearest tube Oval.

One Nine Elms in Vauxhall by Green Properties: New development of the week

Hello, good morning, and welcome to, yes.... another tower consultation!

Today's new development is brought to you by the owners, Green Property, and imaginatively titled "One Nine Elms" on account of it being placed on the site of the current 22-storey Market Towers at 1, Nine Elms Lane.   The building will be a re-development as it's not currently an empty site, but the leaflet below indicates that the office tower has become "outdated", and I think most would agree that it is a bit dingy:

© Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I cannot mask my excitement about another tower, but sadly, there aren't really any published details on the development as yet.  All they say is that they hope to be a gateway to the new linear park, which is similar, I think to something Vauxhall Square developers claimed, what with their proposed twin towers appearing to form a mouth at the entrance to the linear park.

All we know is that Green Property hope their proposals will create an "urban oasis" which will deliver new homes, jobs and local amenities.  Since 30-60 South Lambeth Road already suggested the swimming pool (in what is already likely to be an interesting battle), and Vauxhall Island site proposing the cinema (although the developers their have suddenly gone quiet), One Nine Elms will have to come up with some even more interesting amenities.  Perhaps a bowling alley!  Ha!  We'll find out soon, since Green Property intend to submit a planning application to Wandsworth "later this year", which doesn't leave a lot of time to consult.

Anyhow, the dates/times as follows:

Thursday 15th September, 4pm - 7pm
Saturday 17th September, 10am - 2pm

Venue will be Ground Floor, Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane, London, SW8 5NQ

Once the consultation has taken place, they'll have a website which you'll be able to visit in case you can't make it, along with the usual crew, to scrutinise shiny posters and point at miniature plastic models of Vauxhall.


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Un-co-operative Lambeth Council: Friends of Lollard Street Adventure Playground, Kennington found it closed this morning

Playground closed sign taken from
I'd just like to draw readers' attention to a letter on Lollard Street Adventure Playground published on the Kennington Association news blog this morning from Anna Tapsell who is both chair of the Kennington Association (KA) and Treasurer of the Friends of Lollard Street Adventure Playground (FOLSAP).
FOLSAP have been working for some time to prevent the closure of Lollard Street Adventure Playground and to think about how it might be run in future, given the reality of Council cuts.

It seems, according to the letter, that the Council agreed at a meeting on June 16th that £45,000 was available to potentially be allocated to a local management group were they to put forward a viable business plan.  FOLSAP report that they did develop a business plan, but were later told at a meeting on 18th August that, contrary to the previous information, £45,000 would not be available to a local management project. 

Clearly the Lollard Street Adventure playground project had to go to tender, but FOLSAP are alleging that their experience with the Council has not been one of co-operation.  Given that our Co-operative council are not appearing terribly co-operative, perhaps constituents of other councils should take heed.  FOLSAP say the process began too late and that councillors/officers have presented mixed and non-transparent messages.  They raise a question as to the "propriety of the tender process"

In Lambeth, the letter asserts, having such playgrounds open is a "safeguarding issue", given that many parents leave their children there in place of after-school care.  Most worryingly, when Ms Tapsell visited the playground this morning, she found:
"just a scrawled ungrammatical note pinned to the gate saying that it would be closed this week. No explanation or other information about when it might be open. Two little boys were there with their table tennis bats. Their parents were back at work."

Additionally, the playground will now, according to the letter, only be open for one session on a weekday!  It won't be open on Saturdays at all.  Back on 7th April, at the KOV meeting, Cllr Harrison re-assured local residents that Lollard Street Adventure Playground would not be closing.   Arguably, one could liken a playground that runs for only one session a week to a closure in everything but name. Moreover, there are still questions to be asked about why it's closed this week, and why no information is available concerning its re-opening.  Indeed, opening the playground for such limited hours is likely to lead to it becoming less popular.  See the case of the Kennington Park Adventure playground in which two playgrounds will merge on to one smaller site to make way for housing, given alleged non-use of the land... where is it?  Ahh, yes, this is what I wrote back in September 2010:
The defence offered (by the architect) in favour of consolidating the [Kennington Park] site was that the One O'Clock club only opens for 3 hours per day for 4 days per week.  The One O'Clock club is apparently "not well used" (at peak times, the architect suggested that 20 children use it)...
Even more worrying, given recent civil unrest near these parts, is Lambeth's failure to understand that adventure playgrounds are a public place off the streets for children and young people to gather.  To fail to allow local organisations any say in the supposedly mutual process of running facilities is distinctly un-co-operative and short changes residents.  Short-term cost cutting of youth services will likely only lead to further social unrest.  A recent report from the Department of Education notes that a quarter of excluded primary school students expelled in 2009-2010 were from Lambeth.  There's no point in having police officers visit primary schools to warn children away from gang life if no alternative facilities are in place for their use and their parents are not at home to supervise on account of being at work.

It would be really good to see whether our MP still has any teeth when it comes to influencing the local authority and working for the good of less-affluent north Lambeth residents.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Consultation for Vauxhall Swimming pool and student apartments on 30 - 60 South Lambeth Road

(Image retrieved from Google Maps 22nd August 2011 ©Google 2011)

(Image taken from developer Downing's Vauxhall site)

A two day consultation event will be held in September concerning a planning application on 30 - 60 Lambeth Road, SW8 for 580 student apartments and leisure use, including a 20m x 9m swimming pool!! The site is waste ground at present and used for car storage, so it won't be missed. The complex would be located almost opposite Vauxhall Park.

The suggestion of a swimming pool has been raised repeatedly by local residents and is an exciting possiblity, but we know from other sources that swimming pools are very expensive for local authorities to run (with real costs per visit in the region of £12) so we'll have to see what happens... It's not clear whether it would be a council-run facility or a private facility which would be open to local residents.

The commerical property developer, Downing would be developing the site, and according to Oval News, want to submit a planning application in Autumn 2011. The good old Labour councillors of Oval Ward didn't mention the swimming pool aspect on their blog, which is strange, but maybe they didn't spot it... The developers even have a Vauxhall blog up and running for plans concerning their new site:

According to the information I've seen, the swimming pool would be at lower ground-level, visible from South Lambeth Road (could be interesting if they move the bus station there), with the student housing on upper floors. The information I have doesn't mention how high the planned building will be (it mentions the fourth floor, but no higher). They'd have to go some way to beat proposals such as the defeated Bondway and the St George Wharf Tower... I think the development falls within the VNEB development area.

The consultation will be held at Vauxhall Christian Centre (105 Tyers Street, SE11) on Thursday 8th September (4pm - 8pm) and Saturday 10th September (11am - 4pm).

This is a consultation not to miss! Perhaps they're hoping that the swimming pool suggestion will entice locals so much that we will completely fail to notice that student accomodation can be disruptive for local residents... To be fair though, there isn't much residential housing nearby (Langley Lane and Lawn Lane perhaps). Surely it wouldn't present residents with greater disturbance than that currently presented by patrons of Fire though?

Edit 22:02 on 22nd August: Vauxhall Society have since published their article on 30-60 South Lambeth Road which is apparently proposed at "32-storey or so" (would be useful to have that clarified). I didn't know that the building was proposed to be that high when I wrote my article so I have not put their negative slant on it. I'm sort of resigned to Vauxhall turning into Sky Scraper corner now. I reckon Downing will ask for 32 storeys and be granted about 25. Obviously, a tower that tall is likely to cast shadows over Vauxhall Park, which will probably cue a renewed "shadows over the park" debate. However, I'm inclined to think more local people will be swayed by the swimming pool than they will be the shadows argument, so kudos to Downing for being quite clever with this proposal. Kylun want the Triangle site to contain a 41 storey tower, and all we'll get is a cinema and champagne bar. Downing only want 32 storeys and local residents will get a whole swimming pool...! Anyhow, readers MUST go and check out Vauxhall Society's article because somebody has a lovely way with words. They say:

"Isn’t the ‘street scene’ perhaps animated enough around Vauxhall Cross, some might ask, without drivers being distracted by kerbside vistas of aquatic romping?"
I'm rather in favour of a slightly reduced tall tower (25 sounds reasonable, right?) but I definitely support the aquatic romping. Vauxhall rather lacks aquatic romping at present...

New St George Wharf Pier at Vauxhall to open mid-September

I had a nice little post planned for this morning on the new pier at St George Wharf in Vauxhall, but the lovely Tradescant Road blog has pipped me to the post, accusing me of *horrified shriek* edging my way into his SW8 patch! I am so naughty... But who wants to let a small matter of a postcode interfere with interesting local goings on? So, do go and read his post, where he has purloined some photos taken from the pier itself looking back towards St George's Wharf.

You'll see above two unique photos, (captured by my fair hand on Friday night in the face of hundreds of bemused drinkers from Oval cricket ground). The pier isn't quite finished yet and is still boarded off from the general public . I think it needs a few finishing touches as there appeared to be a bit of building detritus still in place. Naturally, I've done a bit of digging and have been told that the pier is to open officially in the middle of September.

Thames Clipper Services will run from the pier and frequency of boats will also be announced in mid-September. Oyster Pay as You go card holders will receive a 10% discount on Clipper tickets and travelcard passengers are entitled to 1/3 off of Clipper prices. I've not been able to determine whether any other services will use the pier, but I'm pretty excited about its opening...

Friday, 19 August 2011

Working out in Kennington and Oval: New gyms and things

The Gym Group probably consider that their budget gym in Vauxhall has performed well beyond their expections. Last I heard, the £15 per month Vauxhall gym (tucked at the bottom of the St George Wharf building) was completely full and even had a waiting list.  Poor Paris Gym (men only) must have felt the squeeze, since they were the only gym on the block in Vauxhall for a long time.

Due to over-balancing the books in Vauxhall, it's not surprising that The Gym Group have applied for planning permission (11/01811/FUL) for a gym on 131-143 Clapham Road in (what I think is) the new Galliard development (near Caldwell Road).  That's quite a long way down for SE11 residents, but might be useful for readers in SW8 or SW9.  Permission has not yet been received, but I'll keep an eye on that one.  I don't imagine it will be contentious.

To date though, the SE11 heartland of Kennington has been without a gym.  I've often felt that was a missed opportunity because it's a bit of a trip up to the Fusion Centre on the Elephant and Castle roundabout... Most residents seem to trek across to Vauxhall.  But in March this year, I was really pleased to see that a rival budget gym, Pure Gym, announced they'd be opening a branch in Kennington Park Business Centre (opposite Kennington Park and Oval tube station).

The Pure Gym planned for Kennington Business Park opposite Oval Station has moved its opening date from Summer to Autumn and have announced an official launch date of October 27th.  That's positive news, and I imagine a gym there would be very popular.  It's a busy junction hub.  I've had contact with a representative from Pure Gym, and thus can confirm the following details:

The gym will measure 20,000 square metres with 220 pieces of equipment and they claim to run over 40 free classes each day.  Kennington/Oval Pure Gym will be priced at £24.99 per month with a £25 joining fee.  BUT... If you join during the promotional period (usually up until a week before opening), you'll pay £19.99 per month and a £15 joining fee.  Certainly sounds like a good deal although slightly more expensive than its rival's offering.  If you're worried about joining a gym before it opens, they offer a seven day money-back policy so if you don't like it when it opens, you can get your money back within that time period.

So, a new bike shop (Balfe's bikes) for Kennington and a new gym for Oval.  Not bad for an area which used to be very empty.  I suppose that's gentrification (of which I have mixed views) in action.  I know people keep asking when the Waitrose will arrive (and there were rumours that seem to have died down about one near Vauxhall Station), but I think independent shops and restaurants are just as important and should be celebrated.  What I'd really like to see is a new lease of life for Lambeth Walk...  Any takers?

Another cycle accident in Oval: Cricketer pulls across bus lane hitting cyclist

(Image taken from Precision claims website on 19th August 2011)

The Sun reports a cycle accident in Oval yesterday as England cricketer, Andrew Strauss was involved in a car accident with a passing 25 year old cyclist.  An eye witness estimated that the cyclist was travelling at about 20 miles per hour when he hit Strauss' Jaguar.  According to the Sun, the accident likely wrote off the bicycle in question and left a hefty dent in the car.

Fortunately, neither the driver nor cyclist was injured.  It's not entirely clear from the Sun's article who was at fault, although the Sun does report that Strauss pulled across the bus lane. 

The accident took place not far from Oval station where cyclist Catriona Patel was tragically killed in an accident involving a lorry in June 2009.

I'm trying to keep a close eye on accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists in and around SE11 (Kennington, Oval or Vauxhall and outskirts).  I'd be grateful if readers could leave a comment or inform me on Twitter @SE11_lurker of accidents witnessed in the area.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Unattractive column and landscaping at Spring Gardens cost over £300k and approved on delegated authority

Freedom of Information requests have become an increasingly valuable tool in the armoury of inquisitive locals.  Last month, following a brief Twitter discussion concerning who might have agreed to the recent installation of the large unattractive columns outside Vauxhall Spring Gardens, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Lambeth Council asking for project costs and a list of consultees.

I received a response today confirming the total cost of the pillars was £181,586 (construction cost £134,908 of that).  The total cost of the landscaping at the base of the columns was £137,376.  The grand total project cost was £318,943.  The money was taken from Section 106 contributions, so, unfortunately, it is unlikely that the cash could have been spent on local jobs or services, but even still...  Do readers think that is a reasonable cost for the job?  That's a genuine question.  I've no objection to the landscaping (only the pillars), and I believe in paying people a fair London wage, but does that justify the total project cost?

Eight local community groups were theoretically consulted.  Letters were sent to 27 neighbouring properties.  Although the Lambeth Planning reference 09/02510/RG3 indicates that there were 19 consultee comments, the FOI notes that only one objection was received within the deadline (objecting to potential height of trees).  One objection was received after the deadline concerning replanting the mulberry trees, but wasn't taken into consideration due to being received late.  One indication of support was also received, but details weren't included in the FOI response. 

Local readers might also remember the furore surrounding the felling of the Mulberry Trees related to this project that even attracted national press attention, but which was then vigorously refuted by Eamonn McMahon of Friends of Spring Gardens.

Hyperlocal media will hopefully continue to act as a means of ensuring accountability on the part of local authorities, councillors, officers and also local organisations.  But lack of apparent response from some organisations shows that even with the levels of concerned residents that live in the area, it is still possible for some bad design decisions to be pushed through.  Of course, I say "decisions", but this particular planning application was decided on delegated authority, which means it would have been rubber stamped by an unelected officer.  It's not a good example of local democracy in action.  A positive response from only one local group and an officer's report appears to be all that were needed for the spending of over £300k.

The groups the FOI correspondence listed as consulted were:

Association of Waterloo Groups - No comment received
Vauxhall Society - No comment received
Manor of Kennington Residents association
Waterloo Action Centre - No comment received
Waterloo Community Development - Chose to make no comment
Kennington Association - No comment received
Friends of Spring Gardens - Support was indicated
Vision for Vauxhall -No comment received

It's hardly surprising that the three Waterloo groups either made no comment or didn't respond.  I can understand why Waterloo residents wouldn't be interested in Spring Gardens and I'm not sure on the reason for their being consulted.  It's not surprising that Friends of Spring Gardens responded affirmatively, but one wonders whether they actually viewed the plans for the columns before their installation.  I have checked with Kennington Association and Vauxhall Society about whether they received consultation documents as I was surprised to see that they didn't respond.  Vision for Vauxhall no longer appears to exist, so checking with them is now impossible.

The most recent correspondence received from Ruth Smithson (who responded in a good and timely manner) notes:
" colleagues within parks wish to add that the works were funded by S106 monies. These are funds obtained through legal agreements commonly referred to as Section 106 Agreements (S106), after the relevant section in the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act..."
The delegated officer's report, sent to me as part of the FOI response indicates in the top left corner "S106 Agreement Involved:  No".  (Edit: 19/8/2011):  Cllr Mark Harrison has clarified in the comments that  no Section 106 monies were needed as a contribution from the building of the columns.  Thanks to Cllr Harrison for clearing up my confusion.

For more information, you can see the full FOI request and associated documents here.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

8 Albert Embankment - planning application resubmitted

(All photographs in this post taken from (C) Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands drawings on Lambeth Planning portal)

Plans for demolishing and replacing the Fire Station at 8 Albert Embankment have been resubmitted and consultations sent out locally.  The original 2010 Fire Station consultation (complete with photos of the display boards) on the 8 Albert Embankment proposal can be found here.  The plans for 8 Albert Embankment will significantly change local landscape on account of the fact the development involves seven new buildings.  If you wish to comment on the new proposals, you can click "Submit Comment" from the 2011 application here, but you must comment by the 16th September 2011.  The proposal has received 84 comments to date.

The 2010 planning process stalled when, amongst other objections, local Princes ward councillors noted that the plans submiteed by developers proposed only 10% affordable housing (Lambeth target is 40-50%).  Lurking about SE11 hosted the original discussion on the proposal and Transport Mark and I had a discussion over whether any additional transport was required for the development.  Also, I seem to recall that some Londoners objected to adding an extra layer on top of the current building on account of architectural aesthetics and the potential view from Westminster.

The original 2010 proposal can be seen at 10/00318/FUL and the current 2011 proposal is 10/04473/FUL.  Let's see if there are any superficial differences.  Initially, we had:
"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...  To provide a total of 360 residential units, 7,214sqm of commercial floorspace and 181 parking spaces."
Now we have:
"Demolition of the brigade workshop/office buildings to the rear of the fire station. Construction of 7 new buildings ranging in height from 5 to 15 storeys for mixed use purposes... The development would provide a total of 276 residential units, a 2,721 sqm fire station, 8,554 sqm of commercial floorspace (use Class B1), 696 sqm of retail/A Class floorspace and 161 car parking spaces."
It appears that they've lopped off a storey, so the building has been reduced from 16 storeys to 15 storeys.   84 residential units and associated parking spaces have been lost.  It seems that they're making up for a loss of residential housing with 1340sqm of commercial floor space.

Indeed, the fine print confirms as much, since the associated Addendum notes:
"In broad terms, the revisions include a significant increase in commercial use and a reduction in residential use from the scheme submitted in December 2010.  These revisions are as a result of discussion with the Council with regard to the appropriate balance of uses across the site."
Also, following discussion with English Heritage, the width of the roof on building A (the fire station on Albert Embankment) will be decreased.  The section in the orange boxes on the photo below will be removed:

The additional storey was removed from building D, which will sit behind the Fire Station (building A) and poke over the top when viewed from the north.  Removing a storey will improve this slightly).  Floors one and two in the orange box below will be residential, instead of commercial as in the original plan.  There are more diagrams in the Addendum showing how the commercial space has been replaced and added on a different building.  Here's how Building D will now appear next to the beautiful Royal Doulton Building.

Any throughts from readers here?

Letter from Princes ward Police Sergeant concerning recent riots

The chair of VGERTA passed to me a letter from Robert Lockyer, the Police Sergeant of Princes ward Safer Neighbourhood Team. 

Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall are spread across Princes, Oval and Bishop's Wards (and a bit into Vassall ward too).  I'm afraid I don't have police letters from any of the other wards, but if you have one, feel free to send it on if the contents are significantly different:

Princes Safer Neighbourhood Team
Kennington Police Station,
49-51 Kennington Road,

11th of August 2011

Dear resident and member of community,

I write you to as the Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant on the Princes Ward, which is the local
Policing team dedicated solely to policing your area.

As you will no doubt be aware London has suffered unprecedented occurrences of
spontaneous crime and disorder over the past few days, which has unfortunately been
caused by some people who live within the borough of Lambeth and may be local residents
within your ward.

You will be pleased to know that there have not been any such incidents within your
community, but I am appealing for your help to bring the perpetrators to justice and to inform
us of any criminal activity or disorder you feel may occur within the near future.

The persons responsible have caused much pain and suffering to many people, businesses
and business owners across London, and any assistance you can give in identifying anyone
that you believe was involved will be greatly appreciated.

In particular if you saw or see any members of your community carrying or offering for sale
any electrical or clothing items or any goods that did not look like they were procured in the
usual manner, please let us know.

I encourage you to contact us directly or indeed via Crimestoppers, which you can do anonymously.
Crimestoppers can be contacted either online at or by telephone on 0800 555 111.

As a reminder all emergencies or incidents of crime which are happening ‘now’ should be
called through to Police on 999.

All other non-emergency incidents can be brought to the attention of us on the dedicated
Princes Safer Neighbourhood Team mobile on 07920233835 or landline 0208 721 2627.

You can also call the dedicated Metropolitan Police non-emergency number on 101.
Please report anything suspicious to us and help look after your community.

Yours sincerely,
Sergeant Bob Lockyer 59LX

Musical face of youth in Kennington: defying the stereotypes

This Friday (19th August) at 7pm at St Anselm's Church, there will be a performance of music, written by young local community members.  If you want to attend, email 

The event is organised by Pathways SE11, whose mission is to divert Kennington youth away from crime.  More info here on Pathways SE11.  Click on poster above for more details.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Vauxhall Gyratory: Greed, irresponsibility and entitlement.

(Photo taken from Tradescant Rd blog)

In a post-riot London, whilst our current Prime Minister is waxing lyrical on greed, irresponsibility and entitlement, Lurking about SE11 continues to think about local matters.  "Local" names where we're brought up, how we're socialised, who we talk to and how we learn to interact with others.  Smart phones, iPads and technology aside, our built environment, communities and neighbours are where we learn to discover shared goods.  On a positive note, I'd like to point to a great photo from Vauxhall City Farm, applauding the efforts of Clapham residents to repair their local community.  But just over a mile away from Westminster, in Vauxhall, decisions will need to be taken that speak into what sort of city we'd like London to be.  The future of the Vauxhall gyratory remains a tiny decision for politicians, but a massive concern for drivers and residents, cyclists and businesses.

Listening to the voices on the ground is something that both politicians and decision makers will need to do in the days to come.  Readers might suggest that it is fatuous to try and draw links between riots and city planning, but much of the issues boil down to who is being heard.  Anybody who has attended a local consultation will understand that the question is always whose voice counts?  Concerning our own gyratory, we must ask "who is being greedy given the current road layout?",  "who is being irresponsible in the face of death?" and "to whom is entitlement owing?".  These are the questions David Cameron wants us to think about concerning rioters and bankers, but they affect ordinary people in their daily routines too.

Plans concerning the Vauxhall Gyratory, are slowly chugging through the wheels of local government.  Val Shawcross (chair of Transport Committee on London Assembly) confirmed at the end of July that Lambeth Council are now to work with TFL to carry out a "Vision for Vauxhall" exercise on an improved public space and transport plan for Vauxhall to add to the VNEB OAPF.  Val Shawcross is "hopeful" that this might lead to a "better pedestrian and cycling environment" for the whole area, as opposed to it remaining a "motorway blighted backyard" (private email).  There are currently no dates for the proposed consultation.  At present, we know that Lambeth Council and Val Shawcross both support the removal of the gyratory, but there are concerns about Boris' "traffic smoothing" policies.  When you read "traffic", in that phrase, you need to think vehicle rather than pedestrian or cyclist.

Ms Shawcross may well be hopeful, but I am not, mostly because the exercise is to involve TFL.  I regularly drive through Vauxhall, tube underneath it, bus into it, walk across it and wheel a Boris bike through it (I daren't ride through the interchange) so I  know my subject.  We all know that there are bad cyclists and bad car/lorry drivers.  It is the latter that tend to be involved in accidents that kill people.  Cyclists very rarely kill other road users.  And yet, despite their road use, they are not given anywhere near the amount of road space they require at Vauxhall.  Cycle London has pointed out that 20% of Vauxhall southbound traffic between 5pm - 8pm and 20% of Vauxhall northbound trafiic between 7am-10am is cyclist traffic.  Cyclists are not given 20% of the space, and this gyratory remains nasty, brutish and full of traffic looking to escape the congestion charge.  Something has to give, so let's raise David Cameron's first point.  Who is being greedy?  Before we move on, I urge you to read Cyclists in the City's post on the proposed cycle superhighway to pass through Vauxhall from Peckham to Victoria and the followup after his walkaround with TFL.

A number of angry emails continue to pass through my inbox, and one (or maybe several) anonymous commentators want me to oppose options concerning removal of the Vauxhall gyratory!  I am not clear that any of us fully understand the proposed options, but I cannot see that retaining the gyratory aids anything other than vehicular traffic.  It is time for south Londoners and residents (especially those that live on the gyratory) and cyclists to ask for their requests to be heard.  Vauxhall interchange is a blight upon Vauxhall, particularly given the pollution levels in the area.  Nobody wants it in their backyard.

I remain unhopeful because we know that even with cross-party support and London assembly support and a huge recent protest, Blackfriars' bridge cyclists were not heard.  So, here perhaps is a good time to raise David Cameron's second point.  Who is being irresponsibleLondon Cyclist weighed in with a good answer concerning Blackfriars Bridge when he noted,
"I’m proud to live in a city where despite the Mayor saying “more needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge”, despite unanimous support from all the political parties of the London Assembly, despite expert recommendations for 20mph speed limits on all of London’s central bridges, despite growing pollution levels and despite mass protests by cyclists, we have a transportation authority that can override them and do what it knows is right for London." 
The most recent published info. on ideas for the Vauxhall Interchange from TFL is found in TFL's Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersa report, catchily named, "Public Realm & Highways Modelling Study".  The relevant pages are p40 - p48.

There are seven options outlined in the report. Four options concern removing the gyratory and returning it to two-way working.  The other three options propose leaving the gyratory as stands...   My guess is that TFL will push for one-way working because even the minimum two-way working plan requires 31% reduction in morning peak-time vehicular traffic.  Despite the fact that it is clear that vehicle drivers are the greedy party, and despite the fact it is clear that TFL are the irresponsible party when it comes to addressing cyclist and pedestrian concerns, the question remains concerning entitlement, and those to whom is's owed.  Is entitlement owed to cyclists?  Residents?  Commuters?  Pedestrians?  Public transport users?  This is an eminently political question and there is no one good answer.  But I suggest politicians and TFL planners ask themselves the question, "would I be prepared to live and raise children on the Vauxhall gyratory?"

I have provided a summary of sketchy TFL options for Vauxhall gyratory, but it's rather difficult to imagine unless you know the roads and their names exceedingly well.  The diagrams in the document are not currently helpful (unless zoomed in closely) and contain too much detail to see traffic flow.  Ideally, diagrams would show basic arrows indicating traffic movement.  If anybody wants to email me simplified diagrams, I'll add them.

Removing the gyratory and return to two-way options

1) Remove South Lambeth Rd from gyratory and relocate the bus station to South Lambeth Rd.

Advantages summary:  
A new public square at the Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with option 2, 3 and 4), simplification of Vauxhall Bridge and other junctions (helps cyclists) and additional public realm at Southern end of Albert Embakment. 

Disadvantages summary: 
31% reduction of traffic required in morning and 21% reduction required for the evening, affecting network capacity and increasing congestion.  (Not clear if that's car/lorry traffic or bus capacity?).  Also traffic delays, bus delays and reduced bus station capacity.

2) Two-way with simpified layout at Nine Elms Lane / Wandsworth Road
You're going to have to go and look at the document diagram for more info. on this!

Advantages summary: 
Link between interchange and new linear park.  Carriageway reduction on Wandsworth Rd. New public square at Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with options 1, 3 and 4).  Changes to Wandsworth Rd and Nine Elms Lane, Albert Embankment and Vauxhall Bridge would reduce accidents and improve cycling conditions (same as option 3).  Wouldn't need to move the bus station. 

Disadvantages summary:
Traffic reduction of 40% of current capacity in morning and evening which would produce congestion and delayed bus journeys.  But...  the bus station structure (is this the ski slope?) would need to be removed (as with option 3) and the bus station capacity would be reduced. 

3) Two-way with Buses and Cyclists only in Parry Street

Advantages summary:
Improvements for pedestrians crossing Parry St and other junctions, due to two-way working.  A new public square at Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with options 1, 2 and 4).  Changes to Wandsworth Rd and Nine Elms Lane, Albert Embankment and Vauxhall Bridge would reduce accidents and improve cycling conditions (same as option 2).  New uses for arches in South Lambeth Place.

Disadvantages summary:
Traffic reduction of 36% required in morning and 31% in evening, affecting network capacity and increasing congestion. Buses experience delays. Bus station structure would need to be removed (as with options 2 and 4).

4) Two-way with Buses and Cyclists only in Wandsorth Rd

Advantages summary:
Improvements for pedestrians crossing Wandsworth Rd.  Reduced carriageway improving public realm. A new public square at Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with options 1, 2 and 3). Simplification of Vauxhall Bridge junction which will help cyclists.  Improvements for pedestrian crossings.

Disadvantages summary:
Vehicular traffic reductions of approx. 50% required in both morning and evening(!!!) affecting network capacity and increasing congestion. Buses experience delays.  Bus station capacity reduced and structure would need to be removed (as with options 2 and 3)

Options for one-way movement

5) One Way:  Do Minimum

Advantages summary:
Improvements to pedestrian movements by adding pedestrian crossings, introduction of contraflow cycle lane on Harleyford Road and a nearside bus lane on Vauxhall Bridge to benefit cyclists.  Has negligible impact on traffic or bus station capacity.

Disadvantages summary:
Loss of one bus stop, no improvements to public realm or increase in public space and increased pedestrian congestion.

[Hmm, that options looks atrocious really, doesn't it?  Might as well be called "do nothing"!]

6) One Way:  Do something
This involves moving and relocating the bus station next to railway viaduct, replacing existing buildings. 

Advantages summary:
Improvement to cyclists by simplification of Vauxhall Bridge/Albert Embankment Junction.  Consolidated public realm and new public square at Undegeround station entrance.  Removal of buses from South Lambeth Place, making it a shared cyclist/pedestrian route.  Widened footways on South Lambeth and Wandsworth Rds.  Introduction of contraflow cycle lane on Harleyford Road and a nearside bus lane on Vauxhall Bridge to benefit cyclists.

Disadvantages summary:
10% reduction of vehicular traffic required in the mornings.  Existing buildings would need to be removed.  Bus station is completely separated by entry and exit routes from Underground station.  Bus station structure would need to be removed and capacity reduced.  Increased pedestrian congestion.

7) One way: Do something (else)
Consolidation of Public Square at Vauxhall undeground station, but with retention of bus station.  Bus station will become shorter to allow buses to enter from Kennington Lane.  New pedestrian crossing on Wandsworth Road.

[Option 7) should probably be looked at carefully.  The study notes that parts of this option were added at quite a late stage, making it a likely strong contender for TFL]

Advantages summary:
Improvement to cyclists by simplification of Vauxhall Bridge/Albert Embankment Junction.  Consolidated public realm and new public square at Undegeround station entrance.  Improved conditions for cyclists by reduction of left turn from Wandsworth Road on to Vauxhall Bridge Rd.  Increased public realm.  New crossing from St George Wharf to central gyratory area.  Lots of additional pedestrian crossings. Introduction of contraflow cycle lane on Harleyford Road and a nearside bus lane on Vauxhall Bridge to benefit cyclists.

Disadvantages summary: 17% reduction of morning vehicular traffic, and 8% reduction of evening vehicular traffic.  Reduced bus station capacity.  Pedestrian congestion likely to increase in vicinity of Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth Road  and bus station.  Train station entrances remain separated by carriageway.  Bus station separated from underground station, requiring pedestrians to cross busy carriageway (ARGH!)

Now, those are my written sketches.  If you've managed to make it this far, I congratulate you.  I think it's time for a public consultation, but I challenge people to continue to keep asking the question of entitlement.  Who benefits from what you propose, both concerning Vauxhall gyratory and in wider society, and do they deserve to benefit?

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Beyond Kennington: A roundup of rioting

A quick roundup for posterity.... This morning, I along with hosts of other Londoners, are rubbing bleary eyes and wondering how to make sense of it all. Kennington was mostly clear of violence, but due to the difficulty of accurately naming places in London, you'd not have believed it from reading Twitter.

A cleanup of Walworth Road is being organised (is underway), although one report suggests there's not as much to do as was previously imagined.  If you're nearer somewhere else and you have some free time, you can take a look at your nearest cleanup from the cleanup map here.

I was first aware of trouble last night when I was driving through the Walworth area at approximately 18:55.  As I pulled out of Manor Place and into Browning Street, I saw hordes of people running north up Walworth Road towards Elephant and then more scared people running up Browning Street.  I turned the car around further up the steet as I was trying to get down Walworth Road, only to see the flimsy orange police barrier knocked to the ground, and a number of police on Walworth Road milling around.  I decided not to stay around and gawk so I have no photos, and I headed back to SE11.

I spent much of last night on Twitter, trying to establish where/if we had any trouble spots.  The problem with Twitter is that completely untrue rumours spread very quickly, so much time was spent reassuring people that there were no real problems in Kennington.  On the whole, that's correct, although there's an area to the east of Kennington tube station slightly south of Walworth Road which some people call Kennington.  I've no idea what it's called, but some trouble over there gave the impression that we were over-run with rioters, when that was not the case.

After I returned home, the first Tweet I saw at 19:13 was:

At 19:32, @meccleshall Tweeted from Tesco on Kennington Lane to say that it was closing early and that shoppers had been asked to pay and leave.  At 19:33, @Nooskibooski noted that they'd seen two masked teenagers loading a TV into a black BMW in Kennington, but I was unable to discover which road. 

At 19:47, we saw a worrying Tweet about youths with ammunition in Kennington, but you'll note they were headed to Walworth Road, so can only assume that this was east of Kennington tube station.  Nobody else corroborated:

At 19:49, somebody Tweeted to say that Argos in Kennington was being looted.  I informed them that there was no Argos in Kennington, but from that we assumed that the Argos in Walworth Road was being raided.  Of course, that and other Tweets just sparked off more tweets about trouble in Kennington which various people disputed.  Kennington Park Road (A3) was said to be running smoothly with no traffic or queues.

At 20:06, we learned that "they" were now in Kennington, but since I couldn't get information on any given road, it was unclear to discern precisely where.  However, some Tweets at 20:07 and 20:10 re. Kennington tube station cleared up any misunderstanding.  I can only presume that trouble briefly escaped into Kennington Park Road because these were the only tweets about any issues escaping from Southwark over the Lambeth border (in Kennington) all night.  I retweeted to say that the tube station was closed:

But at 20:18, @Slicktony3000 (who was very helpful with information last night) reassured everybody that the only people he could see on Kennington Park Road were joggers!  So you can see that it was very difficult to determine whether any trouble was occurring at all (in the meantime, lots of panicky Tweets were all saying that trouble had reached Kennington).

At 20:31, after my request that people specify road names when they claimed problems in Kenington, @acediscovery said it was quiet in Alberta Street (just north of Kennington tube).  But at exactly the same time, @MsWildThyme tweeted to say that 8 riot vans and black armoured vehicles had been seen headed down Penton Place.  Other than that, it was quiet around the Pullens Estate.

I believe that's probably what generated these somewhat bizarre videos of riot vans on Walworth Road.  What on earth were they doing??

Another video was available here with some very scary screaming.  The video looked as though it had been taken from within the riot, with a voice asking the officers to "please calm down".  Unsurprisingly, it has now been removed. 

I kept Tweeting that we were experiencing no issues in Kennington, and that problems were acknowledged in Walworth Road when I caught a Tweet saying a stabbing had been reported on Kennington Park Road.  This turned out to be untrue and unfounded.  At 20:39, @msraddi said that riot police were running down Manor Place.  More messages were received to say that Kennington Cross, Kennington Road and Kennington Lane were fine (as they were all night).

At 21:11, @gilboise tweeted to say that Kennington tube was open, but at 21:13, @igster noted "kids in hoodies" screaming past Kennington tube.  At 21:34, @TheRealJimShady said that he'd driven from Clapham South to Kennington and noted no problems.  Was just breathing a sigh of relief, and wondering if there was time to take a break for dinner when alarming reports of a shooting appeared at 21:41:

Established that an exchange of gunfire was taking place somewhere on the Alberta Estate.  Various Tweets were flying around which generally corroborated problems in the area.  At 22:18, @Deskibel said a friend had heard gunshots on or around Alberta Street.

At 22:26, the Guardian issued more detailed reports about what had happened on Walworth Road.

At 22:54, Cllr Mark Harrison (@SE11) Tweeted that we should strongly support our emergency services at times like this.  I agreed, and re-tweeted. @Uber0ut noted that pedestrians were back on Walworth Road.  From there on in, we started to hear reports that Walworth Road had been entirely trashed.  Tweets came in suggesting that both Stockwell and Camberwell had escaped any trouble bar an attempted-car jack on Coldharbour Lane.  (Although this may nto be true because there appears to be a cleanup taking place in Camberwell this morning).  At 23:27, @JustinPDJ reported large numbers of police headed from Kennington towards Clapham (the rest we know about from the TV).  For the rest of the night, Kennington (which houses large numbers of police buildings and vehicles) was sirens as usual.

At 00:14, BT issued a Tweet only to call 999 in an absolute emergency due to immense pressure on the number.  We learned that a few riot police were guarding the remains of the looted shops in Walworth Road. 

Finally, I received alarming reports at about 01:02 from @SW8guy and @CarolineFW that there was a fire at Southbank club on Wandsworth Road.  There was a lot of smoke, but no flames visible.  The Fire Brigade were able to bring it under control. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Former head teacher James Walker wins unfair dismissal claim against Lambeth Council

Back in November 2010, I ran a piece observing that the former head-teacher of Henry Fawcett Primary School, James Walker, had launched an unfair dismissal claim against Lambeth Council and the school's executive board for his dismissal in November 2008 shortly after he returned from work following a battle with cancer. 

Mr Walker was dismissed from his job as head-teacher on account of allegations of bullying and harassament from a staff member (Penny Bermingham), who was found by the Employment Tribunal not to be a credible witness.  Last Tuesday (2nd August 2011), Mr Walker (who represented himself) won his case, but the Evening Standard is reporting that he is giving up teaching and moving away from London.

The case was heard at the Employment Tribunal Court in West Croydon, and the Tribunal considered Mr Walker to have been treated with an approach that "bordered callousness". 

Mr Walker had worked in education in the Borough of Lambeth for 18 years (both as a Deputy Head and Head teacher), but the Tribunal found Lambeth Council had painted him in the most damaging light.  Mr Walker reported to the Tribunal that Lambeth had undertaken actions such as clearing his office, destroying his files and failing to specify their allegations agaisnt him.  The tribunal noted that Lambeth had failed to act impartially.  Mr Walker submitted that he was threatened with disciplinary action if he refused to resign the day after his first CT scan.

The judgement (Walker v Lambeth) accepted Mr Walker's evidence that he had not been aggressive towards Penny Bermingham.  A former staff member observed, "I witnessed Penny to be cruel during James's absence, humiliating staff and attempting to make them feel insignificant and worthless."

Beyond the injustice that was perpetrated upon James Walker, there is the matter of the effect upon Henry Fawcett school, which was taken out of special measures in June 2010.  Mr Walker said, "...Experienced and talent teachers have left, parents have lost confidence and needy children have been neglected.  It is a disgrace that Lambeth has used public funds to push me out of my job and I hope the actions of those responsible for this waste will be thoroughly investigated’".

The experienced teacher had previously been enjoyed a successful role at Lambeth, having been placed in charge of the Children's Centre attached to the school in 2005.  Indeed, his success in raising achievement at Henry Fawcett had previously been praised by the executive director of Children and Young People’s Services, Phyllis Dunipace and former secretary of state, David Milliband.

Unfortunately, by February 2009, Ms Dunipace wanted to remove Mr Walker from his post, and, it has been alleged in a press release issued by the family, commissioned a strategy for so-doing.

Interestingly, Ms Dunipace retired from Lambeth Council in summer 2010.  Penny Bermingham remains a teacher at neighbouring Ashmole Primary school in Oval.

One can only hope that Lambeth Council has measures in place to ensure that no case like this one can recur.  Nobody appears to have been painted in a particularly positive light, and Mr Walker is said to be leaving teaching and leaving London.  Our local children deserve better.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Lambeth Council axes Vauxhall Nine Elms community forums in favour of expos costing £7500

If you want to know more about the VNEB and the intensive development to take place in the area over the next 20 years, I recommend you take a look at the gigantic Mayor's Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area Planning Framework.

Back in May, I wrote a post about why the Kennington Association Planning Forum think the VNEB proposals are fatally flawed.  Essentially, they think they've identified a £588 million funding blackhole in the infrastructure. £200 million of that is the value of land that the developers might have to purchase to ensure the area is brought up to Lambeth's minimum green space standard.  We've yet to hear how the issue of green space might be addressed...

In the meantime, a community forum for consulting the local community about the whole VNEB area was launched by Lambeth's Nine Elms Vauxhall Strategy Board.  An initial wide-area-community forum meeting was held in Jan 2011.  It was discussed briefly at the Kennington Oval Vauxhall (KOV) meeting in April, where Maureen Johnston noted that she'd been involved in discussions on behalf of KOV about the possible shape of the forum.  Later, a second community meeting took place in May 2011, (announced by Princes Ward Labour councillers) here.  I didn't make it to that, but the minutes indicate that much of the meeting was taken up with strongly worded requests by residents to remove the Vauxhall gyratory (more on that in the next post) and residents' opposition to the Northern Line Extension.  The Friends of Vauxhall Park also wanted to engage with working groups on the matter of the linear park. 

In the meantime, PAPER NO. SB 11 - 35 from the VNEB Strategy Board meeting in June allows:
"The previous approach for community engagement presented by Lambeth to the Strategy Board on 26th January 2011, involved setting up an area-wide community forum that would meet a number of times of year."
Sounds good.  Sounds sensible.  Area-wide meetings ensure that lots of stakeholders meet together to ensure that no area is getting a better deal than another.  And even better, as was agreed by the earlier forums...
"The proposals also suggested establishing themed community working groups alongside the strategy board’s working groups, that would then have representatives from the community sitting on them."
Perfect.  It would be possible just to go to meetings about areas of the strategy that you felt affected you eg. transport or school or health.  The experts in the community in each area would be able to attend specific themed working groups.  But, that is no longer to be because...
"There would... be an onus on community representatives to attend numerous working groups covering technical matters that may not deal with key policy issues and concerns they are most interested in."
Umm, no.  That was the whole point of the themed groups.  The report does note, correctly, that community groups don't work according to strict borough boundaries (thank goodness). It also cites resource issues, but aren't we all trying to learn to do things co-operatively and on a shoe-string?  The new idea doesn't look cheap.  Consequently...
"It was agreed that establishing a formal Community Engagement Group with community representatives and others partners should not be progressed."
Oh dear.  What might the real reason be?
"The likelihood is that such a Group would involve a small number of the more active community groups." and "it would risk excluding hard- to-reach groups."
Well, yes.  That's democracy.  That's co-operation.  If you're active and engaged, and attend meetings, and track what the council is doing, and submit feedback on planning matters, and attend library seminars etc. etc. etc. then, yes, a group is likely to contain engaged citizens who have something to contribute to their local community.  How dangerous!  How radical!  I acknowledge that the Council needs to work hard to contact and dialogue with hard to reach groups, but that shouldn't be at the expense of those who conscientously show up to meetings and participate...  So, what's the new plan?

"Therefore, an alternative approach is recommended where the Working Groups would present to the community at a variety of ‘events’ in or close to the Opportunity Area."

A long-term die-hard community activist friend of mine said to me, "oh yes, councils love Expos, where everybody turns up at different times and note inconsequential views on little post-it notes that people stick up on a board. These are often off-topic and later ignored.  It allows the Councils to say that they've consulted, but not have to sustain any deep level of engagement, participation or criticism with community groups".  Does that sound about right?
"The events would tend to be more informal than a conference or committee meeting with presentations but more like a ‘symposium’ with the aim of collecting the views on a key topic from a wide range of people..."
We can now look forward to two tiers of events.  Cross-borough VNEB expos and community style events costing £5000-£7500 a time (tier one).  Tier two (at least at the Lambeth end) seems at first to be slightly more acceptable, with a localised "Lambeth Community Forum" which will be shaped by existing forum leaders (probably Kennington Oval Vauxhall forum) until you find out that attendees are a rather select band of people... "by invitation to existing forum leaders and leaders of recognised community groups."  Great.

The Lurker isn't impressed.  Anybody know what's going on?  Well word on the ground is that it was due to Cllr Sally Prentice's move from Regeneration and Planning to Employment and Enterprise.  The new Regeneration and Planning Committee member is Cllr Nigel Haselden, so perhaps he's the one to ask.

Can anybody offer a defence?  The expo idea appears to me to weaken community group input and atomise attendee participation.  It will be difficult to establish consensus or disagreement, as people will just turn up and leave again without having to listen to one anothers' views.  Difficult questions and hedging answers won't be heard by an entire room of people, and it's not exactly possible to minute conversations at the Expos.  Very convenient.

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