Councillor Sally Prentice will raise a Green Flag in Vauxhall Park at 11am on Saturday 7 December. Might a more appropriate pennant be white, denoting Lambeth councillors’ surrender of this public park to private privilege and wealth? Cllr Prentice is Lambeth’s ‘Cabinet’ member for Culture and Leisure, and the Green Flag is the latest award from Keep Britain Tidy for helping make the Vauxhall Park one of the best green spaces in the country.Lambeth councillors have given way time and time again on planning applications for silos in which to store students or for skyscraper apartment blocks in which to stack the rich.These buildings will shade Vauxhall Park , while their gardenless inhabitants will overcrowd it and stamp flat the park’s green spaces. Now, to add insult to injury, councillors are diverting to other uses the community benefit payments from these developments that The Friends of Vauxhall Park were expecting.
This is one of London’s hidden gems – except it is rightly becoming rather famous. The garden sits in the site of WW2 bomb damage and although at one time it had a children’s playground half-heartedly placed there, it was only in the 1990s – when a builder put in an application to use it as storage – that a residents’ committee was formed to create today’s beautiful sanctuary.
My best find (thanks to Time Out London) was Bonnington Cafe (11 Vauxhall Grove, www.bonningtoncafe.co.uk), not far from the Kia Oval cricket ground, which puts it off the path. But I did have a sit-down lunch of vegetarian squash/chickpea curry over rice and a nice green salad for $8 (also open for dinner). It’s about the dishes, not the decor, at this community-run eatery. Afterward, stroll around the square and you’ll see Bonnington’s pocket park (and head over to the Harleyford Road Community Garden while you’re at it). Because especially in the coming weeks, London promises to be anything but an oasis of calm.
My best find thanks to Time Out London was Bonnington Cafe 11 Vauxhall Grove, www.bonningtoncafe.co.uk, not far from the Kia Oval cricket ground, which puts it off the path. But I did have a sit-down lunch of vegetarian squash/chickpea curry over rice and a nice green salad for $8 also open for dinner. Its about the dishes, not the decor, at this community-run eatery. Afterward, stroll around the square and youll see Bonningtons pocket park and head over to the Harleyford Road Community Garden while youre at it. Because especially in the coming weeks, London promises to be anything but an oasis of calm.
Residents have launched their own crime-fighting night patrols after a string of violent muggings and a carjacking in their south London neighbourhood.Up to a dozen neighbours in Bonnington Square, Vauxhall, have patrolled the area with lanterns and created a telephone helpline which lone women can call to be escorted safely home.
Organised by resident Marie Johnson, they decided to “reclaim the streets” after reading in the Standard about patrols to beat the so-called Pimlico prowlers, street robbers who prey on women.Latest police figures show a rise in muggings in all but two London boroughs, while burglary rates are also rising across most of the capital. Bonnington Square has a higher crime rate than the London average. Police and a local councillor joined the neighbours patrol last week and helped them to install a new security light. Charlie Boxer, proprietor of the local Italo delicatessen, said: “Theres a real display of willingness to stand up to the muggers through people power.
“Quite a few young women have been punched in the face and had their bags snatched. We’ve got a very active community who were very troubled and wanted to do something.”
Resident Draeyke van der Horn, 42, a chef, said: “The incidents happened in areas that were quite well-lit. One lady was attacked as she walked into the square. Two men were trying the handles of cars and then they robbed her of her bag. Then last week a couple were held up in the same place. They think the mugger had a gun.
“It seemed like we had a whole spate of thing that happened in a short period of time. Pizza delivery men were also attacked and the food was stolen.
“On Thursday night, everybody came out with candles and hot drinks. We’re not going out there to catch people,
In 2004 Bramley’s Housing Co-Op threw a party to celebrate 20 years of life in the redeveloped Frestonia. Many of the original citizens, and their now grown-up children and grandchildren still live there today, or like me, returned to visit.
The communal garden remains a core of the community, only a great deal prettier. There is now a commemorative spiral walk beneath a willow tree, for Nick Albery who died in 2001 and whose crazy idea the Declaration of Independence was.
The event was recognisably a Frestonian cultural event : a really good band playing loud enough to cause an international incident, no food but plenty of booze (there’s still no money), and disorganised to perfection in the traditional manner. Still, you could catch an occasional, faint, patchouli-scented whiff of idealistic freedom of spirit on the evening breeze, as out of time and place in London now as it ever was. In 1978 Sir Horace Cutler, then the exasperated head of the GLC, wrote to Frestonians ‘if you did not exist, it would be necessary to invent you’. He was not wrong : the Frestonian constitutional principle ‘We are all one family’ certainly merits wider adoption. Globally would be a good place to start.
Against a backdrop of high unemployment and a reported million empty properties former squatter Robert Elms charts the history of squatting. He assesses the ideology and mythology that has surrounded this subversive search for a home. As the Government consider new legislation to further criminalise squatting, could it soon be a thing of the past?
BIKE theft hot spot figures show more than two a day are being stolen from some neighbourhoods. The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act this month, showed the number stolen by postcode since 2008.
The SE1 postcode, an area including Borough, Bankside, Waterloo and parts of Bermondsey and Elephant & Castle, had the highest number of thefts – with 2,419 since 2008 and 779 alone in 2010/11.
The thefts have prompted Lambeth council to introduce so-called “bike boxes” in Bonnington Square, Vauxhall, and Crimsworth Road in Stockwell.
The boxes were originally used in bicycle-loving Holland and this is the first time they have been put on Britain’s streets. They have been funded by Transport for London.
Cyclists will be given keys to lock their bikes inside for £5 a month. Councillor Nigel Haselden, Lambeth’s transport cabinet member, said: “Many residents in flats are put off owning a bike because they worry about it being stolen and don’t have the room to store it safely inside at night. “These new bike boxes solve that problem and I’m really pleased to see them being introduced.” The town hall is considering introducing more of the boxes if it can secure funding.
Last week, as happens quite a lot on the Bike blog, we lamented a problem and wondered about a solution. In a slightly unexpected move, someone then emailed me one.
My post about the best ways of ensuring your bike is safe overnight touched on the difficulties when you can’t, or don’t want to keep it indoors, and where you haven’t got a lockable shed or garage, a theme continued in quite a few comments.
Unknown to me, on the very same day a local council was announcing its own particular answer to the problem. Lambeth, a local authority in south London, has just installed its very first public bike boxes, as shown above.
The idea is, apparently, that locals with nowhere indoors to keep a bike pay £5 a month to rent a reserved spot inside one of the boxes, which appear to be a fairly standard set of bike racks with a lockable roll-top cover. In theory, thieves will be put off by having to noisily wrestle off the cover before even getting to work on the locks inside.
Bike Boxes have been introduced by Lambeth council in order to quell fears about bike theft and storage concerns.The units will allow residents who have limited space indoors to store their bikes safely without fear of them being stolen. Two bike boxes have been introduced to Bonnington Square in Oval and a further two have been installed on Crimsworth Road in Stockwell. The Transport for London funded bike boxes have been placed on the street, in what is thought to be a UK first.Residents who want to use them are given a key so the box can be securely locked once the bike is inside. They will pay £5 a month to hire a dedicated space. Cllr Nigel Haselden, cabinet member for regeneration transport, and strategic planning said: “Many residents in flats are put off owning a bike because they worry about it being stolen and don’t have the room to store it safely inside at night. These new bike boxes solve that problem and I’m really pleased to see them being introduced in Lambeth. There is a huge demand for cycle parking in built up areas like Lambeth and by helping more people get into cycling we can cut pollution and congestion.”
The first squatters came to Bonnington Square in the early 1980s. At the time, it was owned by the Inner London Education Authority, and had been condemned. As the original tenants moved out, the council gutted the houses, bricked up the windows and put up metal gates. After a few years we formed co-operatives and housing associations and lobbied the council to buy the houses. From my co-operative alone I have seven big boxes of paperwork … Now a 10th of the properties are privately owned while the rest are organised in housing associations with affordable rent.
When I arrived, there were only two houses left, which no one wanted. This house was full of rubbish. All the floorboards, bannisters and doors were missing, the electricity, gas and water pipes were all gone, the ceilings had collapsed and there were two gaping holes in the roof. Those first years were very, very difficult. We salvaged everything. These are standard Victorian houses, so if I found a window in a skip, I knew it would fit somewhere. The window frames were still there, so I just had to figure out how to install the sashes and have the panes replaced.