Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Community Forum for Vauxhall Nine Elms - April KOV Meeting (Part 2)

As you might have observed, the VNEB discussion at April's KOV meeting was extensive. The second section consisted in an update from Maureen Johnson about the part KOV will be playing in consultation, and questions from the floor to Cllr Mark Harrison.

Community Forum – April 2011 Update
Ms Johnson noted that since the January 2011 community meeting on the future of the VNEB Community Forum, she (on behalf of KOV) had met with the Stockwell Partnership. There then followed a meeting with Sandra Roebuck, Paul Ewing (Regeneration), Clive Fraser and the chair of a tenants' forum to map out the shape of a Community Forum. No decisions were made, but an exploration about informing residents took place and proposals were suggested in outline form. KOV and Stockwell Partnership have begun the process, although Ms Johnson was at pains to state that neither body will be the VNEB Community Forum. KOV/Stockwell Partnership will circulate the proposed Aims and Terms of Reference for the new Forum, which will be open to community groups, but won't contain Lambeth officers.

Structure and future of VNEB discussions
The VNEB project will be led by a Strategy Board. Underneath the board, various working groups will exist. The working groups won't be open to the Community Forum as they're technical bodies that must contain Council Officers. Cllr Harrison interjected that the Strategy Board has committed that all officers in working groups will have a duty to report to the Community Forum. Ms Johnson noted that the VNEB project/forum will be part of a twenty year process!!

I really dislike audience members making long observations that ramble ever onwards with no constructive end, especially when people are badly informed. Consequently, I've not detailed all of the observations and those that appear as follows are in outline...

Qn Audience member 1: 'The removal of the gyratory must happen first because otherwise the regeneration will be rubbish.... I also recommend the monitoring of pollution around Vauxhall. Accessing technical information is a priority. A rough comparison between infrastructure in place at Canary Wharf compared with that proposed for Vauxhall would be instructive.”

Answer from Cllr Mark Harrison: 'Removing the gyratory as soon as possible is the priority. The reason CLS proposed their raised walkway, which we're not keen on (and probably won't happen) is because they say they can't develop their site until pedestrian flow is resolved. Sorting out the gyratory is essential for that site... Vauxhall Cross has terrible air pollution which points towards the necessity of sorting out the gyratory...'

Anna Tapsell (Kennington Association) made a brief representation on the lack of consultation or inadequacy of consultation on health and community policing on the Lambeth side.

Cllr Jack Hopkins (Oval Ward) observed re. policing that an original study had proceeded down Wandsworth Road to Clapham, including many of Lambeth's poorest estates. Yet, apparently, when the study was returned, it had a much smaller geographical footprint, since the cost of policing infrastructure for the original footprint would have been too great. On health, Cllr Hopkins added that he'd recently spoken to a Stockwell GP, who had observed that only certain parts of Lambeth PCT had been consulted on VNEB, and that there is massive NHS strain existing at present on Wandsworth Road.

Qn Audience member 2: 'How will we stop the Northern Line Extension sucking Section 106 monies from Vauxhall developments? Residents are being harassed by endless planning applications which indicates that developers, and not Lambeth, are setting the agenda...'

Answer from Cllr Mark Harrison: 'Ultimately, Lambeth is still the Planning Authority, and will request the infrastructure Lambeth needs. Local infrastructure will be funded before money is used for anything else. Lambeth will have to make a contribution to the Northern Line Extension if it takes place, but money won't be pumped into it if Lambeth doesn't get school places or Vauxhall Cross isn't made liveable. Lambeth is still the Planning Authority and can still negotiate its own Section 106 agreements.

One reason that so many Lambeth planning applications have been submitted is because the VNEB levies haven't been set, so developers are rushing in early. With every planning application processed, Lambeth are negotiating a Section 106 agreement (some of several million pounds), with all monies going to Lambeth. In future, the VNEB levy might raise money that would also go to Wandsworth. So, for Lambeth, early planning decisions might be good or might be bad. It's debatable.'

Finally, ex-Wandsworth Councillor Jeffe Jeffers observed that VNEB was “a 1970s plan being built in the 21st century” that was based on developer needs without an in-depth strategic analysis of London needs. He noted particular concern about the lack of industrial space in the proposal because the proposed Thessally Rd industrial space is tiny. He added that VNEB will consist of a series of high rise buildings for which the nearest lift repair business is 23 miles away!

Lambeth Council have put the Beaufoy Institute up for sale - anybody want a school?

So, as was widely predicted, Lambeth Council haave instructed an estate agent, Lambert Smith Hampton, to sell off the Beaufoy Institute in Black Prince Road, SE11. Selling off assets is obviously something Lambeth are doing in an attempt to raise funds, but it's a real shame they couldn't find a use for it in conjunction with a private partner. In cash-strapped times, the Council would probably maintain that public interest would not best be served by giving the building away for free, but does stripping North Lambeth of its assets serve local residents well in the long-term?  It rather depends on whom the Beaufoy is sold to, and to what end.

So, if you want to buy a Grade II listed building for, err, an undisclosed amount, you can use it for any D1 purpose - medical/health service, creche/day nursery, art gallery, educational establishment, museum, library (ha ha!), public hall or place of worship.  In 2006, the beaufoy was estimated to need £2 million spent on it to bring it into usable condition.  Any purchaser will also need to contribute to the Council's costs and submit a tender by 8th June 2011.  It looks as though it would be possible for one buyer to purchase the Annexe Extension and another to buy the Beaufoy building itself.

I'm not sure whether there's a covenant on it that would prevent it from being bought and then requesting a change of use, but if my memory serves me correctly, it has to be used for some form of arts/educational purpose.  I wonder if there's a possibility that the extension might be sold first for housing, with the building itself languishing for want of a buyer to inject the necessary capital to turn it into a viable public building.  Time will tell.

Excitingly, it is possible to view the building through the Estate Agent.  I wonder whether they'll accept enquiries from random members of the public.  I've always wanted to look around.  Anybody want to join me? ;-)

Campaign to remove Vauxhall gyratory and Lambeth commits to 40% social housing in Vauxhall Nine Elms Area (Part 1)

The main part of the April KOV meeting concerned the future of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area and plans for a Community Forum to work with Lambeth Council and other VNEB partners.

Cllr Mark Harrison (Princes Ward) spoke first by announcing his appointment on the VNEB Strategy Board to represent Lambeth Councillors. Cllr Harrison remarked positively, “We don't have a choice in the matter [of VNEB]; it will happen whether we like it or not”. The Strategy Board consists Wandsworth Council, Lambeth Council, the Mayor, TFL and the various landowners in Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea.

For ease of reading, I've divided Cllr Harrison's remarks into several sub-headings, so you can just read the parts you're interested in...

New Lambeth Officers for VNEB
Cllr Harrison reflected that, for the last few years, Lambeth Council had neglected VNEB and left it to Planning Officers. Lambeth have now appointed an executive director (Sue Foster) and a new officer (Sandra Roebuck) to focus on VNEB issues. The project, Cllr Harrison noted, should now gain strategic direction and focus upon Lambeth's regeneration.

Community Forum
Back in January 2011, local residents were invited to an initial meeting on establishing a VNEB Community Forum for Lambeth. Since then, Cllr Harrison noted that there had been a lull at Lambeth as the project was transferred from Planning to Regeneration. Lambeth Council hope that Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall (KOV) forum and Stockwell Partnership will work with Lambeth on community engagement. Indeed, the Community Forum will meet again in May [it was unclear whether this is high level members from KOV/Stockwell or all residents] to discuss a community engagement proposal from the Stockwell partnership, and be provided with an update from the Strategy Board.

VNEB Consultations Soon to Launch
Consultations are about to begin, one from TFL on the Northern Line Extension (9th May), and one by Lambeth Council on the finalisation of Vauxhall's Supplementary Planning document.

VNEB Strategy Board transparency
Cllr Harrison remarked that he had persuaded the Strategy Board to publish all of their papers online (very good news!) so that residents can access information and the discussions will not exclude them.

Northern Line Extension Funding Paper
Cllr Harrison observed that the Northern Line Extension is pushing forward... An audience member interjected that the NLE represented a disadvantageous “split” on account of having to change lines, rather than an “extension”. [Actually, most trains on the Charing Cross branch seem to effectively terminate at Kennington at present any way.] Cllr Mark Harrison argued valiantly that the NLE was an advantage on the basis of increased train frequency, and reiterated, “It will happen whether we like it or not”. According to Cllr Harrison, a NLE paper has been commissioned on alternative funding options to Section 106 contributions. One idea is for tax incremental funding so that future business rates in Wandsworth could be used to pay for the NLE.

VNEB rebranding
More controversially (KOV audience members were in uproar), a branding exercise for the area has been commissioned at the behest of Wandsworth landowners. The Vauxhall Nine Elms Opportunity Area is felt to be a terrible phrase, so they want a better way of describing the area. Lambeth Council have made it that they will not be tied into its recommendations. Cllr Harrison felt that any branding produced would need to be acceptable to existing communities, which already have strong identities and histories, and cannot just be rebranded.

Social housing
Since the last strategy board, the Homes and Communities agency (social/affordable housing) has become involved in the scheme. The HCA will work out what government policy will mean for VNEB and enable Lambeth to deliver social and affordable housing. Cllr Harrison stated forcefully, “Lambeth is fully committed to 40% affordable housing target in all developments.” [The DIFs study says Lambeth is committed to 15%, but more of that in a future post.]

Future of Vauxhall Gyratory and Public Realm
Finally, the public realm working group chaired by Lambeth is under way. It will focus on improving Vauxhall Cross and “hopefully” removing the gyratory system as well as ensuring the Linear Park is a decent width and size. Lambeth Councillors have met separately about options for Vauxhall Cross gyratory. Cllr Harrison stated 3 options; “do nothing”, “do something”, and “remove the gyratory all together”. TFL have apparently put together a “do something” proposal [not one that residents are privy to, so that's something to request]. The councillors found it “quite impressive”, with plans to narrow roads, widen pavements, add pedestrian crossings, and improve public realm with trees etc. Cllr Harrison slightly hedged his bets saying that he thought [the TFL plan] “would make a big difference,” but then noted, “we're still going to push hard for removing the gyratory altogether.” The local councillors think that there will need to be a fundamental shift from Vauxhall being a motor vehicle junction to being a public space that prioritises people, bikes and buses. Cllr Harrison then admitted, “The Northern Line Extension doesn't particularly benefit Lambeth so at the Strategy Board level, we need to say, “you're [Wandsworth] getting your Northern line, we need Vauxhall Cross transformed”.

I hope to get Part 2 of this post written this evening; an update from Maureen Johnson (KOV Chair) and questions from the floor.

Also, there's a lot more local news to publish, but I'm currently on a short break so it will happen a little more gradually than usual!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Carl Beatson Asiedu murder trial under way

On 1st August 2009, Carl Beaton Asiedu and Peter Lama were stabbed in Goding Street, Vauxhall outside the night club, Life, after their group, Kid n' Play had performed at the venue.  Peter Lama recovered from his stab wounds, but tragically Carl Asiedu did not.  I reported the incident several years ago here and here and mentioned back in March 2010 that an Independent journalist had gone behind the scenes to examine the way police work on murder cases.  I also noted that one man accused of stabbing Carl had fled to Nigeria.  This week, nearly two years later, two men are appearing in court, one charged with Carl Beaton Asiedu's murder and the other with Peter Lama's stabbing.  I've been receiving a number of blog queries about the progress of the case. 

Junior Ademujimi-Falade, 20, is accused of the murder of Carl and has been on trial at the Old Bailey this week.  He denies murder.  Unfortunately, a second man accused of murder, Jeffery Okafor, fled to Nigeria using his brother's name and passport and has effectively disappeared.  Back in July 2010, various members of Jeffery's family were accused of aiding his escape... more info from the Croydon Guardian on the matter.

Abu Mansaray, 20, is accused of stabbing Peter Lama and has also been on trial at the Old Bailey this week.  He has denied stabbing Mr Lama.

See the BBC article on the stabbing too.

Update on New Covent Garden - A local alternative to Borough Market? - KOV Meeting April 7th 2011

Helen Evans from the Covent Garden Market Authority came to speak to the KOV forum about the future of the New Covent Garden Market in Vauxhall.  She first reminded everybody that the 3rd public exhibition on the market had been held in March, but wanted to give the key highlights on the plans for redeveloping the site.

Unbeknown to many, there are 200 companies and 2500 people on 57 acres between Wandsworth Road and Nine Elms that remain a "hidden secret" of the area behind a brick wall.  The site is being redeveloped because the building is older than 20 years and much of it is no longer fit for purpose, but there are many vibrant firms that need their futures secured.

* The northern site will be given to a private development partner to give Covent Garden the money to build on the rest of the site.

* The whole site is part of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area Framework

* For the people that live in the area, one big pluses will be that part of the site will be developed into a "food focus for London".  There's an opportunity to showcase the amazing range of fruit, veg and flowers to the wider community.

* The second advantage is that the market site will be opened up and access provided through to the river.  Pascal Street (off the Wandsworth Road), which Sainsburys exit comes on to is a dead end that can be opened up.  There are two routes that could be opened up with holes punched into the railway arches.

* The whole redevelopment will be named The Garden.  The market has always been known as "The Garden" in the trade, and Helen Evans wasn't entirely sure about being the "new" Covent Market because it sounds rather like a washing powder.  In future, it will be referred to as The Garden.

 * The Covent Garden Market would be the start of the proposed linear park/road for the Nine Elms area.

One question was asked about the Northern Line Extension, to which Helen Evans responded, "to us, as a business, it brings absolutely no benefits whatsoever because... we have 200 businesses moving large boxes, and most of the business is vehicular... a tube station doesn't benefit us... it is not something we're particularly keen to have... it is being driven by other businesses in the area".

Another question concerned the width of the linear park which Helen Evans clarified would be 40-60 metres at that point.  (I feel on this point that it rather depends which document you read, but more of that in a later post).   In addition, the Sunday market would probably not be continued, but part of the Garden could be turned into a retail market.  It would likely be less of a general market, but with a stronger food focus.  Somebody asked whether it would be like Borough, but the response indicated that what was sold on site would be authentic to the local community eg. Portuguese .  Borough Market, it was pointed out, is held to be a tourist destination and somewhat expensive, but the heart of New Covent Garden market is fresh produce so it could be that the business built on site would be more accessible to the public of the local area.  It would thus likely have a different emphasis to Borough.

A number of questions were raised from the presentation.  I felt that Helen Evans was rather unfairly attacked, especially since she presented as a local business representative instead of sending the usual big name developers.  He presentation was extraordinarily clear and unrushed.  Unfortunately, people laid into her somewhat on matters that concerned the wider Vauxhall Nine Elms area rather than the New Covent Garden market, but her speech was remarkably clear and her vision for the market and passion for its involvement with the local community shone through.  The only point on which she was unable to provide clarification was the height of the tall buildings that would appear on the site that was to be given over to residential development.  (I always assumed that this would be sold to developers, but perhaps not).

Black Prince Trust formed to manage SAZ on Lilian Baylis site - KOV meeting April 7th 2011

I'm going to write a brief series of update posts because I've written up KOV (Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall) forum meetings in the past and I don't feel that the detail is necessary when minutes are available.

First up were the Sports Action Zone (SAZ).  Brian Dickens came to show a video of what's happening on their site (lots of aerobics and basketball) and testimonies from site users.  He spoke about how SAZ, with the help of Kate Hoey have set up a trust named the Black Prince Trust (incorporated March 14th 2011).  SAZ won the £2 million funding (I wrote about that here) that it needed to be able to set up the trust, lease the land from the Council and use the parts of the former Lilian Baylis as a sporting base.  That's very good news, as it least ensures that much of the site remains for the use of the general public.  The Black Prince Trust will have the job of overseeing the way SAZ makes its mark on the grounds of the former Lilian Baylis school.  Of course, the rest of the school will be put on the open market, but given that everything (including the car park) is listed, I'm not sure buyers will be chomping at the bit.

Kate Hoey noted that she, Cllr Lorna Campbell, Patricia Moberley (former Chairman of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS foundation), Brian Dickens (SAZ) and Ann Bodkin (governor at Ethelred Nursery) have been appointed trustees of the Black Prince Trust.  There might have been some others, but the naming was rather haphazard.  Apparently, there is room for more trustees, but the trust had to be set up in a hurry so there wasn't time to consult.  The other "interested parties" (these weren't named), but I'm guessing maybe the Ethelred Nursery is one such have, according to Kate Hoey, formed themselves into a co-operative.

Anna Tapsell, representing the Friends of Lollard Street adventure playground felt that Lollard Street had been absent from discussions and that they'd not been incorporated into the plan.  She also noted that the future of the playground was precarious under the Council's plan to hand the playground to the voluntary sector.  Whilst Anna acknowledged that SAZ had spoken to somebody on site at Lollard Street, she felt that no discussions had taken place in a more official capacity.  Cllr Mark Harrison responded that Lollard Street won't be closing, but that ownership and management of the plaground would be transferred to the voluntary sector.  Kate Hoey noted that people would be angry if Lollard Street adventure playground closes and noted that whilst there are funding difficulties, these are nothing that "can't be sorted".

So... good news for SAZ... I'm still hoping to hear more from them about what they are offering in terms of being able to advertise their programs to readers here, but they do a fantastic job at supporting local children in fitness and health and encouraging them to further their study and stay of the streets.  Also, the above frank exchange of views seems to answer a previously unasked/unanswered question on Lollard Street Adventure Playground.  It 's not due to close, but it will be moved into the voluntary sector.  Not a bad way to go, as long as the voluntary sector doesn't just turn into privatisation by the back door.  At least it's a way to continue providing services in the wake of Council cuts...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Parents protest Lambeth Council decision to sell off of Wincott Street school site for housing

Two days ago I received a press-release stating that local parents would protest on the 5th April at the Shelley School Site on Wincott Street about Lambeth Council's decision to sell the site.  The schools issue is quite complex in Lambeth.  Essentially, Lambeth maintain that in the north of the borough (which includes Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall), there is no shortage of school places.  Whilst I imagine that's technically correct, the problem for local parents is that they perceive that the quality of schooling on offer in the north of the Borough is not up to scratch.  Whilst Archbishop Sumner School and Walnut Tree Walk have Ofsted ratings of Excellent and Good, some of the other local primary schools in the area have only just emerged from special measures.  (I've updated my post on the most recent Ofsted reports for SE11 schools).  To be fair, it must now be maintained that all local schools are rated "Good" or above except for Charlotte Sharman and Henry Fawcett, which are both judged Satisfactory.  But "Excellent" is excellent, and Kennington parents are presumably incredibly aspiring.

Archbishop Sumner and Walnut Tree Walk are both "one form entry" schools, and have a total of 60 places each year between them.  Govenors at Archbishop Sumner are hence carrying out a feasibility study on extending their premises and making Archbishop Sumner a two form entry school in order to meet "demand" for places.  Lambeth Council of course maintain that there is no pressure on places because there is plenty of room at other schools.  Unfortunately, (according to the press release I received, and whose roots I've failed to trace), that means Lambeth are apparently unwilling to wait for the outcome of the fesaibility study and have put the Shelley Site up for sale.  Parents received notification about whether their children received school places on April 5th and protested at the Wincott Street site on the same day.  Many parents think that there is both demand for an expanded Archbishop Sumner School and the building in which to expand into.  It should be noted though that a 2006 Lambeth site review concluded, "The main block is brick built and of single storey construction, dating back to 1972. There are significant condition issues with the external fabric, internal electrical and mechanical systems."

Cllr Pete Robbins responded on the SE11 Action Team blog by acknowledging the frustration of parents whose children missed out on places at Archbishop Sumner, but noted "However, other good primary schools in North Lambeth are not oversubscribed and have places to offer."  Cllr Robbins argues that pressure for school places in the south of the borough is high due to an "explosion" of pupil numbers in Norwood and Streatham and that assets must be sold to fund extra capacity in the south of the borough.

There are a number of sites that the Council plans to sell (the Shelley site, the Beaufoy Institute, the parts of the former Lilian Baylis not being used for Sports Action Zone etc.) that could be used for primary education were there a will, but without capital funds (most of those buildings are in a bad state of repair) and the agreement of Lambeth council, nothing is likely to happen.  Of course, if local anger were particularly focused, parents might attempt to start up a local free school, but it would probably still need council backing.

The issue of quality of education is fraught in Lambeth.  Such questions always are, because everybody wants the best for their children.  However, it's not clear that income from the sale of the Shelley site would directly fund schools in the south of the borough (why not sell off the former Lilian Baylis first?) and consequently, the sale of the Shelley site need not be considered a "done deal" if parents were to campaign hard enough.  Alternatively, of course, parents could put their energy into helping improve the "Satisfactory" schools in the area.

However, one question remains; do the Princes Ward Councillors (Steve Morgan, Mark Harrison and Lorna Campbell) support Pete Robbins and the Labour administration's line that money from the sale of assets in north Lambeth should fund south Lambeth, or do they support Princes ward residents who want to see a local school expanded?  This is an important question.  Residents vote for councillors who will support them and argue their case before the Council, rather than simply acceding to a party line.  If the Princes Ward Councillors are merely supporting the party line, then many local parents will find that their views are not adequately represented.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

City & Guilds London Art School to support Japan and Tsunami Relief Fund

The City & Guilds of London Art School on Kennington Park Road (just off Cleaver Square) are to host an art event (Art / Unity / Hope) to raise funds for the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund.  It will be held on 14th April from 5-8pm with the sale of art to begin at 6pm. 

It's organised by Takayuki Hara, a graduate and tutor of the college.  Artists have been invited to donate works, and they will all be for sale at £50 each.

It has its own Art / Unity / Hope Facebook page, if you want more info.

See poster for further details:

Royal Wedding Street Party at Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

The yet-to-open Tea House Theatre will be holding an all-day (9am - 6pm) Royal Wedding Street Party on Vauxhall Walk on Friday 29th April.  There'll be tea, cake, jelly, icecream, cricket, special guests, animals from Vauxhall City Farm, bingo and free entry to the after party at the Black Dog pub.  What more could anybody possibly want?  Oh, and local residents are invited to bring a cake for the cake-judging competition.  (The day is held in association with VGERTA, The Friends of Spring Gardens, The Vauxhall Society, Black Dog pub, Vauxhall City Farm, PJ Frankland (our local butcher) and Blueberry Hill Cakes.)

The Tea House Theatre is situated on the corner of Laud Street and Vauxhall Walk and can be accessed from Kennington Lane by strolling across Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens (formerly Spring Gardens).  The theatre is based on the site of the old Queen Anne pub.

See poster below for the same info in a more attractive format:

I also understand that there's a Royal Wedding Street Party taking place in Cleaver Square, but it's only open to those who hold tickets, and tickets were only distributed to neighbouring residents associations, so if you're looking for something open to the public, it would be better to head to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Film at Roots and Shoots, pub quiz at Old Red Lion, Free Tai Chi and volunteer bus-painting in Kennington Park

There will be a screening of Forest of Crocodiles at Roots and Shoots this week on Wednesday 6th April at 7pm. Entry fee is £5 and you'll need to book (call 0207 587 1131).  It's a 52 minute documentary on the fears of white South Africans.

A once a month quiz night is now taking place at the marvellous Old Red Lion pub on Kennington Park Road.  I think it's probably my favourite pub in the area.  They have an outside yard, and a naturally-lit conservatory area for when it's colder, and little cubby holes off to the side for small groups, and food...  I believe the Campaign for Real Ale people support it as they're visiting in April.  The quiz will take place on the second Thursday of the month, at 8pm (but arrive at 7pm onwards to be guaranteed a table) and the next quiz will be held on April 14th.

Anybody interested in volunteering to repaint the children's bus in Kennington Park in the playground this Saturday should contact:  chloejocasta (then insert the at symbol) gmail (then insert a full stop) com.  The Friends of the Park are also eager to review the new children's fitness equipment in the park, and they'll be there on Saturday to collect people's views.

And finally... on a related note, Free Tai Chi (it's free, thanks to funding from the Kennington Association, but donations are welcome), will recommence in Kennington Park on Thursdays from 14:00 - 15:00 and Saturdays from 11:00 - 12 noon.

Photos from the Unveiling of the Royal Scarecrows at Cottington Gardens

On Saturday I dropped by the Cottington Gardens community garden to visit their new royal scarecrows and had the opportunity to meet some very small Cottington gardeners!  It's great to see people gardening and growing flowers and vegetables in an urban setting, and the community garden has an immense variety of wildlife, flowers and herbs.  Feel free to visit, as it is open to the public!  The weather was unseasonably warm, and the Cottington Gardens residents enjoyed a barbecue :

Meet the bridge, Kate Middleton, the Royal Scarecrow.  Look carefully and you'll see a chain around her waist.  She's chained to the lamp post with her back to William.  A subtle comment on the state of marriage today or a security precaution?  There's no getting out of it now...

And here's William, not looking terrible comfortable, preparing for the big day.  I do love this subversive SE11 commentary on the Royal Wedding:

Lovely flowers in one of several "allotment" style community boxes:

Pink tulip close-up.  Beauty with a concrete backdrop.  This box belongs to the Little Starz nursery on Whitehart Street:

And here, there's an entire herb garden:

The sparkling, shiny new green house, opened on Saturday will allow the community to cultivate their plants:

This is a willow house (funded by the National Lottery).  The willow will grow up around it, and provide a tiny green space for children to play:

It looks like an load of old crates, but this is actually an upmarket bug hotel.  Diversity is taken seriously in this garden in this thriving haven for bugs...

Friday, 1 April 2011

Spring 2011 Lady Margaret Hall Settlement newsletter and call for Committee Members

The Lady Margaret Hall Settlement has a long history within the SE11 area and was set up in a house in Kennington Road back in 1897, with the intention of being an organisation that would "help bridge the gap between rich and poor and the parochial and other organisations operating in North Lambeth and the Vauxhall area".  At the moment, they're based a little further south, working from the Co-op centre in Mowll Street and particularly focused on an adult education programme, All Sewn Up.  This year, they also helped complete the sale of Vauxhall Gardens Community Centre at 100 Vauxhall Walk.

They're currently recruiting for new Council of Management members, so if you're interested in supporting local projects (meetings are reported to be about once a month) and helping a local organisation, there are several that you might consider.  Lady Margaret Hall Settlement is one of them.  They're asking for anybody "with passion who cares about South London" to give them a call on 0207 7931110.  (To be completely fair, I should note that there are at least 3 local organisations that could use committee members, so I'm happy to promote others too.  Just ask!)

In the meantime, do draw the organisation to the attention of Lady Margaret Hall graduates, and take a look at their new Spring 2011 newsletter.

The census 2011: to complete or not to complete, that is the question.

About a month ago, I received an email from Mr H13208 who is our local 2011 Census Co-ordinator for Stockwell North and Vauxhall, whose job it is to "maximise coverage" of the census to ensure that Lambeth get their fair share of central government cash.  He asked me for ideas on distribution and publicisation of the census.  I note that the Prince's Ward SE11 Labour Action Team blog did a quick promotional "Remember to fill in your census form" post a few weeks ago and I've been pondering what to say (hence the delay).

Lambeth Council believes that it has historically missed out on central governent cash, recording only 272,000 people in the Borough in the last census in 2001.  Apparently, Lambeth had the 10th lowest census completion rates at 79% for 2001.  I'm speculating that there are a variety of reasons for that... Lambeth has an annual 20% population churn, multiple languages are spoken throughout the borough, I suspect that literacy may not be high amongst recent migrants, and finally, Lambeth residents likely avoid filling in official government forms, especially if they don't have leave to remain or do not wish to draw their presence to the attention of the Council, fearing that the central Government is not their friend for one reason or another! 

Even the Office of National Statistics noted that "the population, particiularly in London, is less compliant and less likely to respond to surveys than it was 10 years ago".  All in all, the Lambeth population is not an easy one to count and that doesn't bode well for Lambeth Council in its efforts to ensure that it receives a fair share of the central government pot.  But if the Council can get an extra 10,000 people to complete the census, Lambeth could receive something in the region of £60 million over the next 10 years.  Consequently, the Council has been putting on a variety of events to try and persuade a whole variety of groups (elderly, Portuguese speakers, Muslim mothers, youth, African language speakers etc.) to fill out their forms.

The problem is that whilst I really want Lambeth to receive all of its cash, I'm am not happy that our previous Labour government awarded part of the contract for the 2011 census (and the 2001 census, although I didn't know it then) to one of the world's premier arms dealers, a US company named Lockheed Martin.  This presents two issues; firstly, the profits made from the completion of the UK census will go to Lockheed Martin and could contribute to furthering weapons production.  The second issue is that the US Patriot act makes it possible for the US government to obtain information from any US company, and the UK government has not done much to reassure citizens that UK census data couldn't end up in the hands of the USA.

This presented me with something of a quandry when it came to mentioning the census on Lurking about SE11.  Whilst I very much want to ensure that our local services are not cut back any further than they should be, I did not wish to support Lockheed Martin.  The Guardian ran a useful article on Boycotting the 2011 census.  What to do?  I've not said anything at all until now (and I'm presuming that quite a number of readers will have submitted already).  Fortunately, I was sent a useful "how to fill in your census form" link from Peace News which suggests a multitude of fun and annoying ways to submit the census truthfully, help the local authority collect its money and at the same time reduce Lockheed Martin's profits and encourage them to employ people for additional hours (a good thing in the current economic climate).  If you've still to submit your census form, and benefitting a major arms producer is a concern for you (which I recognise it won't be for many), do consider their suggestions

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