Thursday, 26 May 2011

Local Tesco smashed to pieces and 281 Kennington Lane refurb

Some of you might have missed the great Tesco-drink-and-smash, being that the store is at the north end of Kennington, but the new Tesco Express at 38-40 Kennington Park Road had its windows decimated at about 1am on Thursday 19th May. 

I assumed from the damage that it was a van job where a gang had tried to steal the cash machine (on the far left of the top photo, you can see the window has been entirely boarded up).  Apparently not.  Tesco may regret their decision to open next to a pub!  It turns out that the extensive damage to all of the front windows is just the work of one very drunk man!  Somebody doesn't like Tesco...

In other news, some of you may have noticed that big gay Tesco on 281 Kennington Lane is currently being refurbished and is consequently closed.  It's going to be re-arranged and presumably enlarged somewhat and will reopen on Monday 30th May.  I've no reason to assume that stock control will improve in any way or that they'll fix the freezers, so it might just be a re-arranged disaster zone as usual, but you never know...

Tell Lambeth Council what you want from the Durning Library in the future

I've not posted on libraries since Vauxhall Civic Society began a campaign in mid-March to persuade Lambeth Council to provide facts and figures on budgets re. libraries in Lambeth.  Lambeth accidentally turned the Society's general correspondence/questions into a Freedom of Information Request, and Kate Hoey appeared to back the Vauxhall Society's request for information).  However, it transpired that the Council had made an "administrative error" re. the FOI request, and so reclassified their correspondence as a "General Enquiry" which would receive a response by 25th March.  On the 25th March (presumably no longer bound by the more stringent requirements of the FOI request), the Council promised to publish the requested information as part of a "general information hand out" promised for April.  The contents to be released would need to be confirmed at a 4th April meeting with the new Head of Libraries in Lambeth, John Pateman.  Unfortunately, John Pateman was in office for precisely... 1 day... before resigning on account of "a sudden family crisis".  So it must have been quite a surprise for the Vauxhall Society to receive last week (now May!) some of the information they requested.

Unfortunately, I'm not at all clear quite where the information they requested is located...  There are some general documents available at the bottom of "The Facts" page here.  Perhaps that's what's meant.  The Vauxhall Society say that the budget figures have still to go online, so that will be interesting and I await their analysis with interest.  Vauxhall Society have pointed readers to various pages on the Lambeth Council website that mention a new "Libraries Commission".  Lambeth  inform us that they've set up a Libraries Commission to "gather evidence" and "make recommendations" to the Council.  The Commission will be headed by Cllr Nosegbe, cabinet member for Culture, Sport and the Olympic Games. 

In the meantime, the Council note that they have to make "£1.2million of savings from the Cultural Services Division in 2011/12 and... restructure posts across the division".  It doesn't sound promising for the staff in question.  However, Lambeth also state on their website, "the intention... to continue staffing the nine existing libraries with their current opening hours".  One wonders how fewer staff (or perhaps less experienced staff) will continue to provide the same level of service.  It would be possible to cynically conclude that they will be unable to do so, which could result in worse "customer service" (since when are library users customers??), which will provide good reason to actually close a few libraries.  As I say, that would be cynical.  We will await the results of the Commission.

I saw it asserted back in February (in a variety of places) that the Durning Library (our local in SE11) was on a list for potential closure.  The Council denied the speculation was true and quashed the rumour hard, but not prior to it being printed in the South London Press.  The Vauxhall Society noted back in March that Cllr Steve Reed, Leader of Lambeth Council, promised a "review of the options", and it appears the time has come.  I'm slightly unclear why, in light of the promise to keep the nine libraries open for the same hours, a commission is actually needed, but perhaps it's sensible, given the fact that Lambeth's libraries appear to be underused, causing visits per head to be very expensive.

So... time for action.  There will be two "open space sessions" (Saturday 4th June, 10am-1pm, Lambeth Town Hall and Tuesday 14th June, 6:30pm-9:30pm, Lambeth Town Hall) where residents will be able to "design their own working agenda". That should prove very interesting, and is presumably a Co-operative Council working method.

To write to the Commission, giving your views (in case an open space session is not your thing), you can email: .  The consultation closes on 1st July 2011.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

(Very) Little Kickers - Football classes for children from 18 months to 3 and a half years

Again, this one has been in my inbox for far too long, but back in April, I received info. on Little Kickers classes, which were due to start (and I presume have done so) at Kennington Park Community Centre, 8 Harleyford Road, SE11 5SY on Friday May 6th.  The weekly football is bookable in blocks of 6 (£48) or 12 sessions (£96).

The 9:30am-10:15am Little Kicks class is for children aged  18 months to 27 months.
The 10:30am - 11:15am Junior Kicks class is for children aged  2 years to 3.5 years.

You can sign up and find more info from the Little Kickers website.

£588 million funding black hole in Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea infrastructure

Ok, so I've been a bit of a bad blogger recently, but sometimes I find I can't fit my real life work and spare time projects and activities into 24 hours so I periodically have to drop a few things. In light of all the cuts and planning and development etc. I'm going to try and catch up from where I stopped, so be prepared to be inundated for the next few days.

I left off back in April with a KOV meeting, focused somewhat on the Strategy for the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area, but as one commentator noted, I failed to cover an impromptu note from the floor detailing work performed by David Boardman (and others) from the Kennington Association Planning Forum.  I know that planning matters can be dull, but the big story here is that the KA Planning Forum claim that the funding gap in the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area (mostly on account of the Northern Line infrastructure) is not £58 million, as highlighted by the Development Infrastructure Funding Study (DIFS) (commissioned by the GLA and developers), but a whopping £588 million.  This is a major regeneration news story that has not (as far as I know) been noticed by the mainstream press at all.

I was going to try and write it all out to explain where the money is missing, but it was easier to develop the graph produced by KAPF and add a few explanatory notes.  As you'll see, the first graph shows an admitted £58 million funding gap, but the DIFS study didn't make it very clear that developers were refusing to fund £62 million of required police, health etc. spending and that £63 million funding was supposed to come from borrowing, despite the fact that Wandsworth Council don't like to borrow on account of it being costly to tax payers.  That means that the original deficit was closer to £183 million. You can see it all detailed on this first graph. See the penultimate page of the revised chapter 12 VNEB OAPF for the figures used in Graph 1:

Once the document had been out for a while, KAPF analysed it and found significant weaknesses.  They specifically  sympathised with the company asked to write the DIF study (Roger Tym and Partners) on account of their being asked to "believe a number of implausible things".  So here's a few reasons that KAPF think the developers are wildly optimistic on spend:

*  When working on funding for any transport project, the Department of Transport ask that an optimism bias be added.  This is to account for the fact that major engineering projects are unwieldy and expensive.  In the VNEB OAPF, £800 million was allocated for the Northern Line Extension.  But by the time the DIFS emerged, the optimism bias had been removed and the NLE had been reduced to £564 million (shaded light pink).  KAPF chose to add £130 million (a 23% optimism bias) back into the costs (shaded bright orange).

* Affordable housing was reduced in the DIFS to 15%, despite the fact that Lambeth's Affordable Housing targets are 40%.  If only 15% of the housing built was affordable, the developers would be able to raise a levy of £40k per dwelling.  If  40% of housing built was affordable, a levy of only £25k per dwelling is possible.  High levels of affordable housing would reduce the funding, leaving costs at the same level.

* By assuming lower levels of social housing, there has been an economizing of both healthcare and education costs.  In order to estimate numbers of children for schools, Wandsworth assumed a 10% child yield (1 child in every 10 properties), but child yield in Lambeth is currently 20%.  Wandsworth also removed 25% of children from their calculations on the assumption that they'd be educated privately.  KAPF think that if the midpoint figure of their estimates is used by both councils, a secondary school is definitely required.  That's another unanticipated £74 million (shaded bright yellow) on top of current education provision (shaded light green).  If KAPF are correct in their estimation, they also think that a primary school will need to expand to being four form entry.  If a new primary school is required, the costs go up further (this is not shown on the graph).

* The KAPF review of the infrastructure report goes into plenty more detail over other issues, but I want to provide a broad overview.  By far and away the largest problem is the lack of green space in the VNEB.  It is certainly deficient, and this was proved by the refusal of the Secretary of State to permit the appeal of the developers on the Bondway.  In the Mayor's Planning Framework, the linear park (a long green strip running from Vauxhall to Battersea) was intended to be 1500m long and 50-100m wide, a total of 11.3 hectares.  By the time the developers had finished with their Infrastructure study, they had reduced the total park space to 3.5 hectares!  Assuming it was still to be 1500m long, it would only be approx. 23m in width.  

The national standard for green space is 2.4 hectares of open space per 1000 people,  Lambeth's open space projections assume that the entire Borough will eventually have 1.44 hectares of green space per 1000 people.  If the VNEB were to be constructed with a park of only 3.5 hectares, the area would be unproceedable.  To reintroduce the missing hectares, and bring the VNEB up to the level of Lambeth's most space deficient ward (Ferndale), would cost the developers, by KAPF's  estimations, £200m (shaded bright pink).

So, on a basic reading by a local planning forum, you can see that the sums don't add up.  A deficit of over £588m is not something that can be papered over.  I know that there have been more developments on the VNEB (including the leader of Lambeth Council coming on board for the project) since I updated last month, so I'll blog about that in due course.

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