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:
"...my 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.