Archive for the ‘Local developments’ Category

Improvements to St Marks Churchyard path

02 Mar

At a meeting yesterday, the Friends of St Marks Churchyard recommended proceeding with repairs/improvements to the 105m of churchyard paths used by the Oval Farmers’ Market.  The work is expected to be paid for by City and Country Farmers’ Market/Oval Partnership/Friends.

At the moment, the churchyard path on the Oval Triangle side of the churchyard is 2.1m wide.  In contrast the path used by the market on the Prima Road side is 1.5m.  The plan is to widen the path to match the other side and to repair the 70 or so broken pavers

The red line in the following images illustrate the approximate line of the expanded path way.



Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign at Oval Farmers’ Market

02 Mar

The community stall at the Oval Farmers’ Market has always been a good place to canvas views of the local population on a variety of issues.  Yesterday, it was being used by the Save Vauxhall Bus Station campaign. Activity at the stall appeared brisk.

I wasn’t directly involved (too busy doing follow up consultation on the Oval Triangle and attending a Friends of St Marks Churchyard meeting) but understand the  majority canvassed were not aware of the proposal to demolish the bus station and were against it once they had heard.  A minority had no opinion on the matter and only a small minority were content for it to be demolished.

There can be little doubt that the Vauxhall gyratory area needs to be improved.  However, Lambeth and TfL appear to have polarised local opinion by ‘promoting’ what they think the solution is before they had asked the local community.  Now there seems to be some back tracking going on but the damage has already been done.  My preference would be to get behind a positive vision for  Vauxhall gyratory and I haven’t seen one yet.

Let’s not forget that the TfL/Lambeth legacy to the area has been three of the top 10 most dangerous junctions in London for cyclists (Vauxhall gyratory, Oval junction, Elephant and Castle).   Vauxhall Bus Station opened in 2004 and ten years later it is threatened with demolition by those responsible for putting it there in the first place.  Their past record does not instil me with confidence that a sensible vision for Vauxhall will emerge from this process.  Perhaps it is time to let the local community try.


Laws of Physics in the Vauxhall alternative universe

12 Feb

For those not familiar with Vauxhall,  it is best considered as an alternative universe in which the normal Laws of Physics do not apply.  To assist the unwary traveller who ventures into the area, here are some of the laws as they might apply in the Vauxhall alternative universe.


Vauxhall law of conservation of energy:
“Social housing can neither be created nor destroyed”


Laws of Vauxhall-thermodynamics

  • 1st Law: “The increase in social housing in Vauxhall is equal to the investment supplied minus the investment. “
  • 2nd Law:  “The height of buildings must always increase”
  • 3rd Law:The benefit to the community in Vauxhall-dynamic equilibrium approaches zero as social housing approaches zero”


Newton’s Laws of Vauxhall Motion

  • 1st Law: “When viewed in a planning framework, a development is either at rest or moves at a constant velocity towards planning permission, unless acted upon by  external objectors”
  • 2nd Law: “The acceleration of a development depends directly upon the planning farce acting upon the development, and inversely upon the social housing of the development”
  • 3rd Law: “Every bus station development has an equal and opposite re-development”


Kepler’s laws of Vauxhall gyratory motion

  • 1st Law: “The orbit of the Vauxhall gyratory is an elipse with the pissoir at one of the two foci.”
  • 2nd Law: A line joining a car and the pissoir sweeps out equal parking restrictions during equal intervals of time.”
  • 3rd Law: The square of the orbital period of the Vauxhall gyratory is proportional to the cube of  Lambeth’s half-a-high street”


Schrödinger’s Vauxhall Wave Equation

In the standard universe,  Schrödinger’s Wave Equation is very difficult to explain.  In the Vauxhall alternative universe it is much simpler:

“Every development In Vauxhall can be represented as a wave function: Wave hello to the developers and transport infrastructure and wave goodbye to social housing.”  


And here’s something for mathematicians…

Pythagoras’ Vauxhall Theorem

“The square of the Vauxhall high street [will never be] equal to the sum of the squares in the other developments” 



Half a high street or a whole high street – Lambeth plans for Vauxhall

01 Feb

I don’t claim to be an expert on high streets but as a former shop owner I do have some insights on the matter. The ‘High Street'(on the site of Vauxhall Bus Station) that Lambeth are planning could never be one. Yes, you could throw money at it – build yet more residential accommodation and put shops underneath – but it still wouldn’t be a high street.

A high street is typically the main street of a town – the place where most shops, banks, and other businesses cluster. Most date from the late 19th century. Clapham and Brixton certainly have ‘high streets’ linked into town centres but do Kennington Oval and Vauxhall have them? Kennington Cross is certainly a candidate but the mix of shops is not that of a typical high street

What about the following commercial areas?

(i) South Lambeth Road (Little Portugal)
(ii) Oval parade
(iii) Kennington Park parade
(iv) Brixton Road (from the Oval)

One thing these areas have in common is that they all have shops on just one side of the road not dissimilar to what is proposed at Vauxhall. Such commercial areas face particular challenges due to the footfall and traffic patterns. Much as we might love and support some of the local shops there, they are not high streets. Let’s call them aspiring high streets or ‘half a high street’ in the sense that they don’t have the mix of shops found on a typical high street.

The great irony is that if Lambeth had a proper plan for Vauxhall before developments like St George Wharf came along they could have had a proper district centre. The Vauxhall island site could have been that but the Kylun Towers have put an end to that possibility. It seems to me that Lambeth have arrived for dinner when everyone else is putting away the plates and then decided to take out the cooker (bus station).

Let’s be positive though. No one can doubt the need to improve the public realm area around Vauxhall for pedestrians, cyclists and those who live and work in the area. It is unfortunate that some senior officials in Lambeth have got it into their heads that the only way to do this is to demolish the bus station and build what could only ever be half a high street. Looking at the membership of the Board (TfL+Lambeth) that will oversee the project gives me no confidence that the right solution will emerge for Vauxhall. Perhaps they should consider having community representatives on that board rather than the current bilateral TfL/Lambeth arrangement.


Battle to save Kennington Park Crown Post Office hots up

25 Jan

I first wrote about the plans to ‘close’ Kennington Park Crown Post Office last year. The Post Office would have us believe that it is a ‘merger with Walworth Road Post Office’. The only thing that needs merging is the Post office PR machine with an extensive course on plain English. I say to the Post Office “Call it what it is. You are planning to CLOSE Kennington Park Crown Post Office. If you think there is no social cost to this think again. The elderly and vulnerable will suffer if this goes ahead.”

Anyway…The local Labour group had a stall outside the Post Office today getting signatures to help save the Post Office. Local councillors (existing and prospective candidates) from Oval and Princes Wards were there and trade at the stall was brisk. The battle to save Kennington Park Crown Post Office is now hotting up. Let’s see what proves to be more important, shareholders’ dividends or local people and businesses as they they are the ones who will lose the most.


Fallen capital at St Marks Churchyard update

11 Jan

On Saturday 21st December 2013, a high sided delivery vehicle visiting the market dislodged the ‘capital’ of one of the St Marks Churchyard entrance pillars causing the capital and its capping to fall to the ground (‘Capital’ is an architectural term for the ornate part at the top of a column). Fortunately, no one was hurt but the capital, its capping and concrete paviours below sustained some damage. As Christmas and New Year have intervened, progress in getting the damage repaired has seemingly been a little slow but the work is not trivial and it will probably take a few months to sort out. It is expected that the works will be organised by Lambeth Parks but will be paid for by the relevant insurance company.

The Friends of St Marks Churchyard met today and undertook to chase progress. For posterity, below are some photos taken on the day of the incident and 21 days later.


St Marks Church war memorial upgrade

20 Dec

St Marks Church war memorial has been upgraded and people will now be able to approach it more easily. I do have some reservations about the upgrade though:

(1) It might have been better if they used traditional York stone to match the traditional church pathways. Perhaps the new paving stones might look better when they age but at the moment, the churchyard hard paving areas are becoming a patchwork of different materials,

(2) As a point of principle, if a grass area is paved over, it would be nice to offset that by freeing up some existing hard paves areas for planting/grassing over (That misnamed “Kennington Oval greenspace” opposite the Oval Station).

I understand some benches will be coming but in the mean time, here are some pictures to mark the progress so far.


Northern Line Extension Agreement with Lambeth

12 Dec

In cross examination at the Northern Line Extension Public Enquiry  (see Transport for London (TfL) revealed that they will be paying nothing for the use of Kennington Green and Park.  Although they are paying nominal amounts for the subsoil rights – £50 in the case of Kennington Green – they will be paying nothing to occupy the land as such.

The following link shows a copy of the NLE agreement dated 12 November 2013 between Lambeth, Transport for London and London Underground

TFL17 Lambeth and TfL agreement Nov13

The agreement includes money for “Relevant NLE Sites Consideration” which I interpret as TfL paying Lambeth for the following:

  • £50 for Kennington Green permanent land/subsoil interests
  • £800k for the acquisition of the Kennington Park Keeper’s Lodge including permanent land/subsoil interests throughout Kennington Park
  • £24k towards Lambeth legal and surveying expenses


A further £50k + VAT towards costs of relocating Bee Urban will also be paid. Additional costs associated with re-instating the spaces once the NLE work are complete would be required regardless.  For example, Lambeth require a deposit and would charge community groups/commercial users for any damages to the green spaces on top of any daily rate.  Page 49 of the following guide indicates Lambeth’s charges for commercial events

The financial aspects of the NLE agreement appear to be very favourable for TfL so much so that I commended them on their negotiation skills.  On the other hand, Lambeth residents appear to have been short changed by up to £2.9M based on the following analysis.

  • Sale of Lodge at under market price £150k  (£950k-£800k)
  • Kennington Green Charges  £547,500  (£500 x 365 days x 3 years)
  • Kennington Park Charges  £2,190,000  (£2,000 x 365 days x 3 years)

The precise amount will depend on what is a fair market price for occupying public green spaces.  Community groups would be charged several hundred pounds per day for occupying such land and commercial operations even more.  TfL are proposing exclusive access 24 hours per day for several years and there should be an appropriate daily charge for that occupancy.

As far as I am aware, Lambeth did not consult with the public on the contents of the NLE Agreement and if there is some ‘benefit in kind’ at work here this must be made transparent.  The tax authorities would not take kindly to public bodies using sleight of hand to avoid paying what is due and this seems to be the case with the current NLE Agreement

 I would not wish to suggest for one minute that anything illegal or improper has gone on here. I’m sure officials on all sides would have been acting with the best intentions.  However, there is a rather large financial shortfall that needs to be accounted for. 

With this in mind,  I have in the first instance written to Lambeth asking for the matter to be investigated and have also raised the issue with the NLE Public Enquiry.


[Declaration of Interest:  Although the NLE tunnels pass near my house, I am personally in favour of it.  My interest is mostly about the impact on local shops and businesses.  At the Enquiry I was making representations on their behalf particularly those around the Kennington Oval area.  Unfortunately TfL seem willing to sacrifice local shops and businesses in these areas (in the short/medium term) for what they think will be a long term benefit.  I disagree with their analysis. There is an existing commercial imbalance in the area caused by the congestion charge zone and ill thought out parking restrictions.  The NLE will add to the imbalance. I will continue to press for rebalancing and improvements to the public realm in commercial areas a I believe this will help local shops/businesses to flourish.]






Is Kennington Station on the right side of the road?

26 Nov

The simple answer is no, Kennington Station is on the wrong side of the road or at least it needs another entrance/exit on the other side of Kennington Park Road.

There has been much debate about Kennington Station with the local community wanting to have it upgraded as a pre-requisite of the Northern Line Extension.  TfL on the other hand don’t want to upgrade it, at least not yet.  There has been a lot of technical discussions about the need for upgrade but one thing I haven’t seen discussed is the above ground pedestrian flows so I thought it worth doing one of my ad hoc surveys to see what the patterns are. The following survey is not intended to be statistically robust but it does seem to indicate a need for an entrance/exit on the other side of the road.

Standing opposite the Kennington  Station for one hour (from 17:10pm), the numbers entering and leaving the station were counted. Of those leaving the station, their direction was noted Here are the results of the survey:

448 exited the station and 35o entered

Of the 448 who exited the station:
* 150 (33%) stayed on the same side of Kennington Park Road as the station and 298 (67%) crossed over.
* 215( 48%) went towards Elephant and Castle (both sides of road), 135 (30%) went towards the Oval and the remaining 98 (22%) along Braganza Street.

In 2012, the average weekday exit figures for Kennington Station were 6,737. Assuming 67% cross Kennington Park Road we have  approximately 4,500 making that crossing each weekday (each way) and this is just those using the station.  If other pedestrians are added the figure would be much higher.

Kennington Station was built in 1890.  With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better if the entrance/exit to the station was built on the other side of the road thereby reducing the numbers of pedestrians needing to cross the road.  The current pedestrian flows above ground do seem to support the case for modernising Kennington Station.




Oval Station upgrade?

28 Sep

Last Friday some local business people and myself met with TfL to discuss the Northern Line Extension (NLE) which is expected to have a negative effect on some local businesses (particularly for the three years or so while the NLE tunnelling works are going on). The possibility of increasing the amount of commercial space at the Oval Station was raised as this could help make the area more attractive to shoppers. One possibility was to convert the lower area of the offices to the left of the station entrance (see picture below). There are no plans to do this at the moment but any developments which help increase foot fall in an area tend to help other local shops/businesses.

The Oval Station was partially upgraded in 2007/08. The upgrade did not include a much needed cash machine and local residents have to pay to withdraw their cash nearby. In contrast, St James Park Station (TfL/London Underground offices) has three cash machines. Although that station is busier, the Oval Station is sufficiently busy to merit at least one free withdrawal machine. The station currently has a small café, shoe repair shop and news vendor. However, the flower seller that had been a feature of the station for many years has now gone.

Oval Station and offices
The Oval Station opened in 1890. In 2012, there were 6.1 million entry and exits making it the 114th largest of 268 tube stations. On a typical weekday, some 10,000 passengers enter and 9,000 exit the station. No doubt there is some reason for the difference – perhaps people are more likely to leave the area by tube but use other means of transport to arrive. Those who use the station regularly will know about the ‘Oval Station thought for the day’ that appears on a notice board near the top of the escalators. If you don’t go to the station often then you can always try following them on twitter @Oval_Station to see what the latest thought is.