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Saturday, 31 July 2010

Compromise reached on Cotton Gardens playground proposal

A useful meeting was held on Thursday evening between residents of the Cotton Gardens Estate (pictured) and residents of Vanbrugh Court.

Developers have given money to Lambeth Living to build a children's playground in the area surrounding the Cotton Gardens towers. The initial proposal was to renovate the ball court and build a new children's playgound on the grassy mound closest to Vanbrugh Court.

Some residents of Vanbrugh Court complained that this was too close to their homes.

During the onsite meeting we looked at some other possible locations, and everybody agreed that a site for the playground further into the grassy area, away from Vanbrugh Court, would be preferable. Everybody agreed that renovating the ball court and locking both facilities overnight would be a major improvement.

Lambeth Living officers will now consult with their architect about the feasibility of building the playground on this new site.


Vanbrugh said...

Compromise? This is a gross and significant misrepresentation of the outcome of the meeting and one that does not represent the strong local opposition to the proposal that was clearly evident there. It should be pointed out that that opposition may well have been even stronger had the democratic process been properly respected and more than just a small part (i.e. only those from Vanbrugh Court and Cotton Gardens) of the affected community been informed about the proposal and invited to attend the meeting. The democratic process is clearly not being respected in this case. The vast majority of, as yet uninformed, people, both adults and children, who on a day to day basis use this oasis of green as an escape from the surrounding concrete jungle would arguably be appalled were they to be informed of these plans. You only have to ask the people who use the space but Lambeth Living does not seem to have done this. As for the meeting itself it is certainly accurate to state that 'everybody agreed that renovating the ball court and locking both facilities overnight would be a major improvement'. However, as was clear from the meeting, many if not most residents from Vanbrugh Court, as well as some from Cotton Gardens, are strongly opposed to building a playground on any part of the green, open space in question. That is why sites away from the green, open space were considered – but seem to have since been summarily dismissed. In an effort to reach compromise one site on the green space, the ‘third hump’, did meet with general consensus between both sets of residents but it has seemingly also been dismissed with little coherent consideration from Lambeth Living. Consequently for Lambeth Living to state that there has been compromise may satisfy its own conscience but in reality it’s a meaningless and disingenuous statement to make.

On a recent meeting with the architect collaborating on this scheme, the architect stated that we were lucky to have such a beautiful green space and that unless we submitted to having this playground foisted upon us then we stood in danger of having the whole area developed and built upon, which of course would involve the consequent loss of ALL existing trees. Can Lambeth Living confirm that this really is the case? If not, was this just an ‘idle threat’ aimed at coercing our community into submitting to Lambeth Living’s will? It seemed strange that we could be threatened with having all the trees chopped down with one breath and then told that the main reason the ‘third hump’ could not be considered was because three or four or so trees would have to be removed. How is this contradiction explained?

To position the fenced playground on the 'new site' now under threat (i.e. to take up the best part of the main central area) would radically impact on the totality of this tranquil, beautiful, much-loved and much utilised recreational space, not to mention the already limited habitat available for local fauna. It would be an ill-conceived and unenlightened act of environmental vandalism that would, once the local community becomes aware of what Lambeth Living is planning, no doubt be vigorously opposed. Piece by piece the few remaining green areas of London are dying at the hands of irresponsible developments –. Lambeth Living should know better and should think again.

As Joni Mitchell no doubt would have sung, had she been a Lambeth resident…

“Doesn’t it always seem to go
You don’t know what you’ve got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up yet another playground!”

Mark Harrison said...


This is my view of the meeting (though I imagine one that Lambeth Living officers and most others at the meeting would agree is fair and accurate).

The primary argument from residents of Vanburgh Court at the meeting was that the proposed place for the playground was too near their homes. By agreeing to move the playground to the second or third hump from Vanburgh Court Cotton Garden residents and Lambeth Living are clearly compromising, and in a way which met with approval from most residents of Vanburgh Court.

One or two residents of Vanburgh Court objected entirely to the principle of the playground being built anywhere in the green space. This is a perfectly respectable view, but was not the majority view of the meeting (even of Vanburgh Court residents at the meeting). Every resident of Cotton Gardens at the meeting was strongly supportive of the proposal to build a playground, and there is a large petition supporting it. Since the meeting I've attended meetings of residents at Limelight House and Cottington Close Estate and all residents there have been strongly supportive. In fact, most residents I have talked to feel the grassy area is currently unwelcoming, shadowy, under-used, and basically used as a dog toilet. A playground has the potential to change this - and most people living around the site who I have talked to support this.

I've yet to see LL's revised proposals - they promised to look into the feasiblity of both the second and the third hump - I'm not aware the third has been ruled out.

Vanbrugh said...


Thank you for taking the time to respond. It is appreciated. As there was no show of hands at the meeting its difficult to know what VC residents views really were. I know for certain that five of us who were there were opposed to building anywhere on the green space - I know because I’ve spoken to them. I can’t claim to have enquired of the others from VC who attended as it was actually the first time I’d met some of them so you may or may not be right about them! There are also other opposed who were unable to attend and we do not know the opinions of those who are yet unaware of the plans. Most of those from VC who attended were just pleased to hear that it would not be sited just yards form their balconies - but surely that was a non-starter from the beginning. If an air of compromise was given of it was on the understanding that four other sites would be considered and would have plans drawn up. However, having met the architect, she made it perfectly clear that three of those sites had been instantly dismissed without it appears serious consideration (I can only assume that she has not made you aware of this). This made me feel that the whole meeting had been something of a sop, hence my posting. If there was an element of compromise it was really only over Hump # 3 - many of us think that even this would be a great shame, but to position it where it is being considered, Hump # 2, would be a catastrophe, and definitely not an enhancement, for the integrity of the whole green space itself.

Furthermore, although its always useful to first demonise that which you are about to kill, to characterise the area as ‘unwelcoming, shadowy, under-used, and basically used as a dog toilet’ is, with all due respect, just plain ridiculous. If you came and spent some time here on a summer’s day or summer’s evening you would see for yourself all those who use it for all kinds of recreational purposes - if you don’t believe me or can’t make it there yourself then we would happily provide photographic evidence to back this up. As someone who has lived with it as my beautiful backyard for close on 25 years I find this stance by Lambeth Living Ltd and others as particularly galling. Its just not true. A dog toilet? Yes, if you look hard enough you’ll find examples of dog excrement, but so would you in Regents, Hyde , Kennington or any other park in London - its not an excuse to go building there though. And on this point most owners are responsible and clean up, but if they don’t part of the reason is that there’s only one dog waste receptacle available and even that is regularly overflowing because whoever is responsible for emptying it quite often doesn’t. Also, although there are plenty of playgrounds in the area it’s a long walk the nearest park and there are very few areas to exercise dogs. As for ‘shadowy’ that’s of ourse what trees do, give shade, unless of course you chop them down (an argument for Hump #3 ?) - actually a fenced playground will just create more shadows; as for ‘under-used’, under-used by whom - plenty of people do use the area for picnics etc and there’s nothing to stop others from doing the same; as for ‘unwelcoming’ do you really think a fenced, playground plonked in the middle would make it more welcoming - certainly not to dog walkers, certainly not to the people, many of who don’t have gardens, who come here for a bit of quiet contemplation, and certainly not to the many residents who you may well not have spoken to whom already feel perfectly welcome here.

Finally, no ones opposed to there being a new playground. I have a 1 year old myself. But the need for a playground does not override the greater need to protect our precious environment. And to plonk it right in the middle of this green space is just plain crazy and as you will find will only meet with growing opposition. With a little will and imagination it must be possible to find a more reasonable, suitable location, Hump #3, and I hope that Lambeth Living Ltd. will make that effort.

Respectfully yours,

Promoted by David Amos and Joanne Simpson of Prince's Branch Labour Party (Vauxhall Constituency and Lambeth Borough) all at 264A Rosendale Road, SE24 9DL