Keeping our history alive

Have you ever noticed the old gates on Black Prince Road between Vauxhall and Tyers Streets? Thanks to Geoff Roche from Lambeth Community Works team (born and brought up in the area) these gates are now straight, and restored as far as is possible in their frail state. I went to check them out and practice looking serious.

This site holds a lot of local history – once upon a time it was the site of one of London’s worst workhouses. From 1726 -1881 (thanks Wikipedia) it took in the poor of the area. An enterprising journalist spent time there undercover and reported on the abuse and neglect. As a result the Doulton family built a new one that now houses the Cinema Museum and became the extensive Lambeth Hospital.

But these gates commemorate the building of Vauxhall Gardens Estate in 1927 by Lambeth Metropolitan Borough Council. It was a huge estate part of the ‘Homes for Heroes’ policy.

In the 1970’s faced with a decline in the local population and the need for social housing, (imagine that) the council pulled down blocks on the estate to create more space and the mound behind these gates are all that remain of two of them. I sometimes bump into people who lived in them as children. Here is how the area looked in 1945 taken from the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps:

And here is a PS from Jon Newman Lambeth’s Archivist:

We actually have a great deal on the original blocks of flats, acquiring the papers of their Lambeth architect, Donald Wise, back in 2012 from his daughter.

I reckon they were the first substantial piece of slum clearance undertaken by Lambeth council (hence perhaps the rather proud gates) and the significance of building them on the hated site of the original workhouse was undoubtedly not lost on people.

Cllr. Jon Davies.

The best side of our community

Pics from Angus Aagard at St Anselm’s and the people who have been collecting for the Ukranian refugees. He told me: ‘A few more photos as we take goods collected from local residents from the lavs to van for journey to the border for Ukrainian refugees. One street raised 2k to buy sleeping bags’

If you want to help contact Angus at St. Amselms: angus.aagaard@gmail.com

Cllr. Jon Davies

Electrical disruption digging

You may not have noticed that a new electric mains is being dug from Montford Place (commenced) right through the middle of the area via Black Prince Rd to the embankment near Lambeth Bridge.

This is to supply electricity to new electrically powered river boats.

If you have any issues this is the contact for the project at UK Power Networks – she is very helpful:

hannah.harris@ukpowernetworks.co.uk

Cllr. Jon Davies

Knock me over with a feather (recycled) but…

Lambeth residents really want to recycle.

Lambeth residents are inner London’s best recyclers

Lambeth’s recycling rate has rocketed to 36.4 per cent, up from 31.7 per cent, in the latest figures released by Defra following a series of new initiatives to boost the borough’s rates. The figures cover from April 2020 to March this year, and the increase almost five per cent makes Lambeth the fourth most improved out of all 338 local authorities in England, making Lambeth’s residents officially inner London’s best recyclers.

It still seems quite low to me but to put it in context when in 1986 I was the councillor in charge of, amongst many things, refuse, recycling equalled bottle and paper banks. Full stop.

I challenged this, I was and am one of nature’s recyclers, and asked why we could not do home-based recycling. I was told ‘ this was the sort of thing Germans did – it would never work here!’.

36 years later we have made significant progress but day-to-day our systems are still catching up with way we have too few recycling bins as compared to the general waste collections. This leads to the communal bins on estates and roads filling up rapidly next to empty ‘general waste’ ones.

So lots of room for improvement.

Postal issues

I have had complaints about post not being delivered. I believe this is owing to Covid illnesses and the resulting lack of staff. Getting news from the Post Office is impossible but today, after a few days of no deliveries, I received about twenty letters – OK so most of them were for my three neighbours (duly delivered) but it offers hope.

Cllr. Jon Davies.

Life in the old lavs yet

Sadly the Artslav project in the Kennington Lane Lavs closed four years ago when the council let the premises to a cocktail bar. And even more sadly nothing happened owing to paperwork, lawyers and then Covid.

But a little happiness at last in that Abraham from the Coffee Stall outside St. Anslem’s has taken it over (at least until May) for storage and plans he thinks might be quite exciting.

And here is a lovely photo of Abraham opening up for the first time,

Cllr. Jon Davies

Alford House development

This is a statement about the development from the ward councillors:

Planning App Ref 21/04955/FUL – Alford House 

I am writing on behalf of the three ward Councillors for Prince’s ward. We wish to submit a letter of support for the above planning application for the redevelopment of the car park at Alford House. 

Alford House is a vital community asset which has been on site since the 1950s. It provides essential youth services and engagement work with young people on the Vauxhall Gardens Estate, but also more widely across Lambeth. Vauxhall Gardens Estate has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the borough, and indeed London. The centre offers a huge range of activities for young people, designed by them and for them. These activities keep young people safe, active, engaged, and equip them with the skills to achieve their fullest potential, often amidst some very challenging personal circumstances and home lives. 

The continuation of these youth services is under serious threat as like for all charities and voluntary organisations, grants and funding have dwindled during Central Government’s austerity programme. Some revenue is made by hiring out the centre for rehearsal space, but this is not sufficient to secure Alford House’s long-term sustainable future. 

Since 2018, Alford House and its governors have actively engaged with Lambeth’s planning officers to develop proposals which would be acceptable in both planning terms, whilst also ensuring the development delivers the enabling element to secure the future of the centre. This has been quite a challenge, recognising the local heritage constraints of Alford House itself, the need to protect neighbouring amenities, and ensuring a development which is financially viable enough to ensure the financial future of the club. 

It is my belief that the revised planning application for consideration addresses the planning concerns previously raised by officers, noting in particular the reduction in the overall massing of the new dwellings and their set back at first-floor level from properties on Courtney Street. I am also supportive of the loss of car parking, given that this is a site within Zone 1 central London where discouragement of car dependency is not only a planning aim but a key aspirational strategy of the Council as a whole in light of the Climate Emergency. I hope that the local knowledge that the applicant puts forward, namely that this is a local youth club whose volunteers also live locally, serving local young people whom both statistically and in reality are unlikely to be car owners, will be considered as part of the overall planning balance when assessing the transport impacts of the scheme. I request also that the planning officer ensures that the development provides sufficient cycle parking and that EVCPs are utilised. 

Overall, we consider this to be a positive scheme which would deliver three significant key public benefits: 1) securing the long-term sustainable future of a vital youth and community service in one of the most deprived estates in Lambeth, 2) ensuring the continued viable use of a local heritage asset, Alford House, as well as funding essential internal and cosmetic works to protect and enhance its 

architectural and historic significance, 3) delivering net housing which will contribute towards Lambeth’s housing targets, as conferred upon it by the London Plan. 

For the above reasons we hope that planning officers will assess the application favourably and would like to thank the case officer for taking our letter of support into account. 

Best wishes, 

Jo 

Councillor Joanne Simpson 

Councillor David Amos 

Councillor Jon Davies 

Labour Councillors for Prince’s Ward

Denby – some questions answered

Thanks for the feedback from the blog on Denby and our statement. There were some questions and here are the answers I received from Homes For Lambeth who are the developers:

  1. Why refurbishment and/or phasing was discounted

A comprehensive redevelopment of the site was considered the most appropriate approach for Denby Court. A wider redevelopment, as opposed to refurbishment, allows for the delivery of more affordable homes of a higher quality for Lambeth as well as new and improved public realm across the site.

  1. Results of daylight / sunlight studies
  • The scheme has undergone detailed daylight / sunlight analysis from an early stage and was subject to extensive peer review and consultation by LB Lambeth’s appointed expert. The detailed report was prepared by eb7 and submitted on behalf of Homes for Lambeth that was submitted as part of the current planning application. 
  • In terms of impacts to neighbours the scheme demonstrates a high level of compliance with the BRE guidance with any deviations generally being minor. The only area where concern was raised by the LBL expert related to the properties across Lambeth Walk. This resulted in further design development work reducing the western block by a storey and maintaining a setback to improve retained amenity to the Saperton Walk flats to an acceptable level. 
  • Internal amenity within the proposed homes is also considered to be of high quality. Overall compliance is excellent at c.98% compliance against the ADF targets of their specific room use set out in BRE guidance. These positive results are driven by the scheme maximising the number of dual aspect homes, resulting in good internal daylight levels even to the lowest floors of the proposal. Where there are a small number of shortfalls against BRE Guidance his is a direct result of the provision of access decks or balconies providing private amenity areas, which further enhance the apartments and provide well-lit external spaces.
  • An assessment of shading effects shows that the courtyards within the proposal  achieve excellent levels of sunlight availability. The spaces are oriented to the south east with over 95% of the courtyard areas meeting the BRE 2+ hour sun on ground assessment on March 21st compared to the target 50%. This will only improve during the summer months and residents will also have the benefit of the immediately neighbouring doorstep green. In terms of wider area shading the proposal causes some shadows when compared to the existing low rise blocks but any additional shading moves transiently such that no sensitive neighbours or the doorstep green experience additional permanent shading. The doorstep green itself is a large space that is open to the south such that it remains well-sunlit throughout the year. 
  1. What steps were taken to rehouse existing residents and progress report on

·                Denby Court is currently being used as “meanwhile” temporary accommodation pending the redevelopment of the site rather than leaving the building empty.  The residents are people towards whom we have a duty to provide temporary accommodation under the homeless legislation (Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996).  There are 42 flats at Denby Court which were occupied in this way, and over the last few months we have moved almost everyone to suitable alternative accommodation.  There are currently only five households left, all of whom have been offered alternative accommodation.

  1. Why existing residents are not being prioritised for return ?

·                The residents are not secure council tenants so do not have right to permanent rehousing if the building they are living in is demolished, but instead have a right to alternative temporary accommodation.  They therefore do not have priority for new permanent homes being built on the site. Residents in temporary accommodation are of course on the waiting list for permanent social housing, so can apply for any new homes alongside other people on the waiting list. There are currently in excess of 3,000 households living in temporary accommodation waiting for permanent social housing.

On the building heights 

I understand that concerns have been raised around the reporting of different building heights within the application. I believe that the confusion here relates to the difference between reported ‘block heights’ (i.e. the actual heights of the blocks) and the corresponding ‘Above Ordnance Datum (AOD)’ heights (‘Ordnance Datum’ being the height of mean sea level). The table below confirms the maximum block and AOD heights of the five blocks.

BlockMaximum Block HeightMaximum AOD Height
Block A32.475m37.075m
Block B13.715m18.315m
Block C14.015m18.615m
Block D37.800m42.400m
Block E17.175m21.775m

In terms of the tallest block (Block D), this is part 10 storeys, part 11 storeys, with a plant room on top. The different heights are confirmed within the table below.

Block DMaximum Block HeightMaximum AOD Height
Top of the 10 storey parapet32.475m37.075
Top of the 11 storey parapet36.150m40.750
Top of the plant room37.800m42.400m

This should hopefully clarify where the different figures have come from.

As ever contact me if you have any questions jdavies4@ambeth.gov.uk

Cllr. Jon Davies.

Woodlands redevelopment statement

Cllr. Amos and I have discussed the most recent application for the development of the old Woodlands nursing home next to the Cinema Museum and will in due course be making more detailed representations in cooperation with our colleague and planning expert Cllr. Simpson.

For the moment we would like to state for the record the following:

As local councillors we welcome some of the changes from the original plans but still feel it is too big a development for this site. We will not, therefore, be supporting it.

This is an illustration from the local Stop The Blocks campaign website. If the developers Anthology/Life Story would like to offer a similar perspective we would be happy to add it out of fairness but we could not find one on their site.

If you would like to see the detailed plans and make your own observations go to the Lambeth Planning site. The official deadline is December 31st although comments can be made later if necessary.

Cllrs David Amos and Jon Davies

Defending Denby

As local Councillors we have to make daily decisions that affect our neighbours. Some seem quite minor, where should a new electric charging point go? Others are major and new building often fits into this category.

Sometimes we are leading opposition to developments we consider inappropriate but sat other times we are supporting new buildings particularly when it leads to new sustainable social and ‘affordable’ housing.

And this matters to us. Day in day out we meet the people living in temporary, overcrowded homes struggling to bring up families in tiny flats where it is far from uncommon for six people to be sharing small two bedroom accommodation.

Our current government will not offer us the funding to build our way out of this and so, like a lot of boroughs, we pay for the new council flats through mixed developments with homes for sale. None of us on the council would choose this but it does mean we can create new homes like the ones on Renfrew Road that have just opened on the Knight’s Walk estate.

Princes Ward is full of people desperate to move or find a permanent council home but in Lambeth we have several thousand families in temporary accommodation and over 20,000 people on our waiting lists. The chances of a transfer are minute.

And when we do propose schemes that will bring social housing we encounter resistance and even organised campaigns. Anya Martin, director of PricedOut, England’s campaign for housing affordability  expressed this very eloquently in the website OnLondon in December:

It is not hard to understand the complaints of these campaigns. Much-needed as new council homes are, residents who already live next to where they are to be built aren’t set to personally benefit from them – by definition, they already have homes. Building is noisy and disturbing, especially when it’s right next door. But this takes us to the ultimate problem behind England’s internationally sluggish housing supply: everyone thinks new homes should go elsewhere; and the neighbours of elsewhere don’t want them either.

As local Councillors we have to balance the needs of our local residents with the interests of our borough in general and that will include considering the needs of people who don’t have a vote or say in local campaigns as they are homeless or on our waiting lists.

We have to weigh up whether new homes for our most needy families is a price worth paying when it can create shadows over a green space, obscure a view of a parliament tower, or mean trees have to be cut down even if they are to be replaced.

As politicians we need to show leadership and not just be led by public sentiment. We need to consider the bigger picture and decide what is best for our borough and the future. These decisions are rarely simple but we hope our colleagues and I have the courage to do the right thing.

That is why, for example, we support the Denby Court development which will provide new sustainable council-rent homes for between 90 and 180 people (depending on family sizes) and 22 ‘affordable’ flats as well.

We will argue its case but also make sure that as far as possible we protect local people from the negative effects of the project particularly during construction.

Here are the details: https://www.homesforlambeth.co.uk/our-places/project-denby-court/

Cllrs David Amos, Jon Davies and Jo Simpson.