Thursday, 23 June 2011

Lambeth Council turn down £2.7 million Community bid to purchase Beaufoy Institute

(Photo taken from a thread on Beaufoy Institute on Urban 75 here)

Lurking about SE11 has learned that a "community" bid to purchase the Beaufoy Institute on Black Prince Road from Lambeth Council for £2.7 million has failed.  The Heart of Kennington Ltd represented the coming together of a number of local organisations, The School of Communication Arts, Lady Margaret Hall Settlement, South Bank Mosaics, Stark Investments Limited and two other potential arts based schools learned on Monday that their bid had not been successful.  Since the bidding process was largely anonymous, the winner has not yet been announced and the local community are beginning to ask questions.

At a Kennington Oval Vauxhall forum AGM meeting on 7th June, David Toothill, (Southbank Mosaics) introduced Marc Lewis who runs the School of Communication Arts and he introduced the bid to all present.  You can see various community messages of support recorded and videoed, and the Heart of Kennington Ltd were the only people who appeared before the local community to discuss their bid.  Local councillors were present at the meeting, but perhaps felt that another company's bid would be more beneficial for Kennington and Vauxhall.  Or, more likely, it was felt that somebody else's bid would put more cash on the table.  Is a much-loved community building being sacrificed for short-term financial gain for the Council, as it rapidly attempts to shed its assets?  Or, does the would-be purchaser have plans for the local common good of which nobody is aware?

The School of Communication Arts, we were informed at the meeting, are a not-for-profit social enterprise organisation funded by the advertising industry, preparing young people for a career in the creative sector.  Whilst a private enterprise, a large percentage of their students are backed by grants and scholarships.  The school is currently based in Worgan Street in the Methodist Church hall, but is Vauxhall based with roots in Graphite Square.

The Heart of Kennignton partnership were hoping to take the building at the back of the Beaufoy and build 250 student rooms, in clusters of six and make it the only dedicated art student accommodation in London, where students and artists could work together.  The accommodation was intended to fund the rest of the enterprise.  Once the main 1907 Beaufoy Institute had been brought back to Grade 2 standard, it would have been gifted to the Lady Margaret Hall Settlement.  LMHS would have guaranteed a place for the London School of Communication arts in the building so that the school (about 50 students) was ensured a lasting legacy in the area.  LMHS would then have helped choose two similar schools in areas pertaining to the arts eg. design, photography, acting, journalism to bring three creative schools under one roof.  Space was to have been ensured for other partners such as the Southbank Mosaic project and it was envisaged that the partnership would provide creative arts services for the community.

The project might never now come to fruition.  The community and all involved would probably do well to wait for further details to be announced, but at present, nobody has publicly identified the successful bidder (or even whether they exist).  I will say one thing.  If this is the way that the co-operative Council intend to work, with utter lack of consultation and reception of community views, its methods are not to be favoured.  Lambeth residents would do well to advise residents in other areas not to advocate the Co-operative Council vision.  It may just be that the Council have chosen a bid partner with whom to develop something that will benefit locals, but they have shown complete disregard for involving the local community in a frenzied last-minute sales process.

See Vauxhall Society's article on the Battle of the Beauyfoy here.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Northern Line Extension to Battersea: There are drawbacks, but a defence must be made

I've been meaning to comment on the Northern Line Extension for a while, but I've been taking time to formulate a view.  This may prove controversial locally (and I'm reserving any full support until the positions of temporary shafts are known), but I'm broadly in favour of the Northern Line Extension provided that the developers agree to certain stipulations around minimising disruption which are likely being hammered out at present.  (Clearly, the developers won't listen to me, but the local community is calling for relocating certain shafts, which may prove necessary!)  I will obviously blog about and publicise the campaign groups who are arguing the other point of view, but as a local blogger and public transport supporter, my view is generally favourable.  Before you go any further, you may wish to read further information on the NLE proposals at Treasury Holdings' Northern Line Extension site and/or complete their online questionnaire by the deadline of 17th June 2011.

The Northern Line Extension would see the Northern Line Charing Cross branch splitting at Kennington (it terminates at Kennington for all intents and purposes at present) with two new stops added to the branch, one at Nine Elms (on Sainsbury's site) and one at Battersea Power Station.  I like the idea of being able to get the tube from Kennington Park to Battersea Park, and of expanding the underground to overlooked areas in South London. 

My major criticisms of the scheme strategic and don't pertain to the developers.  The main issue that I have is that the proposed extension is not a TFL strategic transport decision, but a developer-funded initiative.  Ideally, for any extension, the tunneling equipment hire expenses should be allayed through a wholesale expansion, rather than a one line extension.  The Battersea stretch of Northern line could branch north of the river to Victoria.  The Northern Line tunnel should be expanded west beyond Battersea (which could receive two stations, not just one) to link with Clapham Junction rail station and then onwards to the district line.  Finally, the Bakerloo line is would prove a much more worthy candidate for expansion than the Northern line.  Camberwell, Peckham, Dulwich, Upper Norwood, Beckenham, New Cross, Lewisham and Catford should receive underground linkup with their overground railway stations.  The money is not there, but it seems that this is possibly through years of overlooking south London's Underground requirements, and it's a shame that this window of opportunity can't be made to do more than a minor two-stop extension.  This seems to be one of the criticisms made by a ranty-Anonymous insider on Vauxhall Civic Society, but the fact it would have been better to do a wholesale strategic expansion does not remove the good of expanding and adding two stations to the Northern line.  I remain unconvinced that everybody is so busy focusing on the Olympics that they're overlooking VNEB.

There is also a related issue that the proposed Northern Line Extension is of major benefit to Nine Elms and Battersea, and of less benefit to Kennington, which will experience quite high levels of disruption.  The money being used to fund the NLE could be put to better use to improve Vauxhall (and will result in the Vauxhall-end developers facing a heavy levy for a line less accessible to their residents).  Tradescant Road also makes the criticism (as does David Boardman of the Kennington Association Planning forum) that the NLE will be funded with private money that would have otherwise entered the public purse for amenities such as libaries, schools, health etc.  I think that criticism should indeed be admitted, but the NLE clearly costs above and beyond normal Section 106 costs and the developers must by statute provide certain public services.  I suspect that whether or not you see the NLE as a good thing will depend on how much you value the expansion of the Underground tube network into South London and whether you think this balances the disruption that will inevitably result.

We are hoping that Lambeth Council will ensure that Lambeth doesn't lose out and that Vauxhall gyratory issues are resolved (more on this in a later post).  I think that arguing that Kennington will be disrupted is a NIMBY issue rather than a major criticism of the plan to expand the NLE.  (Mind you, we haven't yet been told how long/if they'll have to close Kennington tube station for the development, and *that* might irritate a greater number of people than at present, but I suspect those people won't pay any attention to the issue until it arises, by when it will be too late to stop the closures!)  Wapping became a distinctly undesirable place to live for some commuters when its tube station as closed for an age a year or so back. 

I do sympathise with people who will be inconvenienced by the permanent or temporary shafts at Kennington but a straightforward utilitarian "greater transport good" argument can be made to support the NLE.  Successful oposition to the NLE would ensure that the development could not proceed at Battersea.  I cannot see that there is enough opposition at present, considering that most of it emenates from Kennington and Oval residents, to stop the very determined Treasury Holdings from regenerating their building.  I suspect that wider London sentiment would fall favourably with the dilapidated iconic Battersea Power Station owners to avoid the loss of a much-loved building.

I intend to write a second post re. the developers contribution at the KOV meeting that took place last night, and answered many questions that will be of interest to local residents unable to attend.

Community rallies around single mother from Vauxhall: Donations to Vauxhall City Farm

(Image taken from an article in Get Surrey about Pimms arriving at the Rehabilitation Centre)

Yes, you read that right... Horse and Hound (a publication unlikely to be read by anybody around here, except maybe the Countryside Alliance) are reporting that our local Vauxhall City Farm in Tyers Street last year acquired a 5 year old pony (Pimms) who, unbeknownst to them, was pregnant.

On discovering the pregnancy, Vauxhall City Farm sent the pony away to a Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey (this reads as a story from the 1950s!!).  Her foal was born on Friday 27th May and has been named Saphie (after Bombay Sapphire).

Unfortunately, this has meant that the farm has had to pay for vet costs for Pimms and Saphie.  Obviously, this was not in the farm's budget for the year, and like almost all charities, they run a tight ship.  Vauxhall City Farm are thus appealing to the public for funds.

Local residents tend to be very generous towards the farm because they do some fantastic work with local young people and with disabled children, teaching them to ride and take care of animals.  If you want to continue the tradition of generosity, it's possible to donate securely to Vauxhall City Farm here.

2011 Summer fetes and festivals around Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall

Last year I wrote a post about summer fetes, festivals and bazaars in Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall, which proved quite popular and may help you to plan what you'd like to attend...  I always recommend North Lambeth Parish Fete as it's a great opportunity to look around Lambeth Palace.  Anyhow, in chronological order, here goes:

Albert Square and St Stephen's Association Summer Fete - Saturday June 5th.  
Oops...  I missed this one (sorry!!) as it was last week, but hope they had a good time anyway.  Also, I sadly seem to have missed a Roots and Shoots June Open Day, last Saturday too.  It seems they're not taking part in "Open Garden Squares" this year so I hope they'll do another open day later in the year.  Obviously summer arrived, and I failed to notice...

Portugal Day - Sunday June 12th - 11:00 - 18:45
Kennington Park (Yay... It's back.  This was lots of fun last year, and open to absolutely everybody for free).

Harleyford Gardens Open Day (part of open Gardens weekend) - Sunday 12th June - 14:00 - 17:00
Entrance from 37 Bonnington Square/Harleyford Road, SW8 1TF

Friends of Vauxhall Park Summer Fair - Sunday June 19th - 14:00 - 17:00
Vauxhall Park

North Lambeth Parish Fete - Saturday June 25th - 14:00 - 17:00
Lambeth Palace Garden (Entry £3.00, concessions £2, families £6)

Kennington Association Table Top Sale - Saturday 2nd July - 10:00 - 13:00
Outside of the Doghouse Pub (This replaces a summer bazaar and should complement the KGS Summer Show)

Kennington Gardens Society Summer Show - Saturday July 2nd - 09:00 - 15:30
Roots & Shoots, Walnut Tree Walk, SE11 (Plant/flower entry fee at £0.50 per entry with cap of £3)

Cleaver Square Fete - Sunday July 10th - 12:30 - 16:00 (approx. times only, taken from last year)
Cleaver Square, SE11

Lambeth Country Show - Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July - 11:00 - 19:00
Brockwell Park, SE24 0NG

GMFA / Royal Vauxhall Tavern Sports Day (or Gay games) - Usually held on August Bank Holiday, but not yet announced so don't know if it's happening this year.  Will amend this if more details emerge.

Zippo's Circus (opens spreadsheet) - Thursday 1st September - Tuesday 6th September 12:00 - 21:00
Kennington Park

Kennington Association Charity Art Auction - Thursday 22nd Sept - 18:30 - 20:30
City & Guilds of London Art School, 124 Kennington Park Road

(Sponsored by Kennington Estate Agents, Winkworth)

You can see from the above that it would be possible to spend your entire summer in and around Kennington / Vauxhall, having a perfectly wonderful time, sipping wine and eating cake.  

I'll be at some of these events, but do feel free to email me your best photos from Portugal Day, as I'm not sure I can make it, and the costumes are something to behold!

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