(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.