London Wildlife Trust associates itself with Lend Lease at Heygate. Why?

heygate canopy

We just sent the London Wildlife Trust a letter. They are ‘the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London’s diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and outdoor learning‘. Yet they seem happy to associate themselves as both a charity and membership organisation with Lend Lease in a somewhat smug and rather ridiculous video promoting the Elephant Park development on the site of the old Heygate Estate. In this video environmentalist Chris Baines and LWT Chief Executive Carlo Laurenzi OBE discuss how great the development will be. Baines, a famous broadcaster and environmental consultant, and ‘is retained by developers Lend Lease to advise on green infrastructure for the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle‘, hence the video. We wonder if the ‘National Parks or the countryside‘ will really be coming to Heygate as part of the Elephant Park ‘regeneration’. We doubt that the new development will offer the same biodiversity let alone the amazing tree canopy that Heygate Estate offered in and around it’s site (see photo above).

 

Seeing as one of their ‘core values‘ is ‘Integrity: Our actions and decisions should be open, transparent and just‘ we asked them the following questions in the spirit of their own transparency:

- Do you think it’s right that your CEO Carlo Laurenzi appears in a video by global property developers Lend Lease promoting their development at the Elephant and Castle?

- Does your membership have any say on this implicit support for a development that is currently felling hundreds of mature trees on Heygate site and also some quite rare trees such as the Black Locust?

- Was Carlo paid for his appearance in this video?

- Was the video scripted?

- Is it acceptable to associate the LWT name, a membership organisation, with a giant property developer?

- How can such a decision to associate the LWT name with Lend Lease be made accountable to your membership?

- If the LWT name is being associated with this development and video, why was the video not posted up on the LWT Twitter timelines where many LWT updates and messages are posted normally?

You can also contact them with questions about this questionable activity here:

http://www.wildlondon.org.uk/contact-us

We will publish any reply we get from them.

(19th April: No acknowledgement or reply to our letter yet. Sent a follow up reminder)

 

Image

Lend Lease and these ‘environmentalists’ seem to have forgotten than it was only the work of local people who produced an independent survey of the trees and their community value that got Lend Lease to finally see them as an asset and not as stumpy green and brown things in the way of building all those eco-homes. Here is a recent picture of the Lend Lease sustainable development in Heygate as hundreds of mature trees get axed to make way for private homes and er..a new park! In the video they ramble on about the mature trees that will be at the heart of the London Park development urban idyll.

Image

Pent-Up Housing: Definition of A Top-Floor Flat

At Southwark Notes, we motley collection of council tenants and private renters and mere mortals often fail to understand the very local world that we spent too much time researching. Here is one good example.
One of our favourite Elephant property developers Oakmayne were responsible for one of the first new expensive apartment blocks in Walworth when they made the South Central building off of Steedman St. It was finished by 2005. After this time, Oakmayne acquired the Elephant Rd site, closer to Old Kent Rd for a large set of three towers and other amenities  plus zero social rented homes. To cut a long story short and as we understand it, they didn’t do too well on the financing side and the site remained a desert for years. Saga is here! In late 2012, the site was taken over by Delancey.

Oakmayne Penhouse Magicsm

Now, when one buys a top floor flat of a new swanky apartment block off Walworth Rd (as you do!), do you expect that the ‘top floor’ part of it has meaning. Doesn’t that really mean you are at the top of your game. There are no mere mortals like ourselves thumping up and down on your ceiling on our mini-trampoline or jogging circuits round all that luxury space and making a right earful of racket. Anyhow, as you can see in our picture, the last year has seen the mushrooming on top of the top floor of a new penthouse at South Central thus making…arghhh…a new top floor! The company responsible for this are Fisherking who for all extents and purposes judging by their announced portfolio being the same as the old Oakmayne one, one and the same, minus a few directors here and there. Chris Allen, one time of Oakmayne and living in Monaco fame (as was or is?), is one of the the main cheeses again. Price is a cool £1,350,000 for the new top floor flat! Unsurprisingly, as we no longer have any surprise credit left, is that it has been bought, subject to terms, already!

steedman penthouse please

Is there no limit to this? In five years time will financial urgencies demand that a new set of penthouses be added on top of those that have just been built. It’s a never-ending regeneration funny! Unless you live in the flat formerly known as ‘the top floor’.

postcard
The usual answers on a postcard to our email if you can provide us with any logic to this!:
elephantnotes (at) yahoo.co.uk

Southwark Dump Heygate Pyramid, Feel Relieved

camel rip off

FALL OF THE GREAT HEYGATE PYRAMID
Today is the longest day of the year but it witnesses the shortest campaign in Southwark for a long time. Dismay, outrage, scorn and disbelief had greeted the art commissioner’s Artangel’s plans to build a pyramid from the material structure of one of the now empty blocks on Heygate Estate. Artangel were working with ‘famous’ artist Mike Nelson to bring this public art to the finally emptied and fenced off Heygate Estate. They had been searching for a site for nearly three years and were looking for a post-war site of some social significance that was in a transitory moment. After some false starts, they thought they had there dream ticket to art success when they found Heygate. The Council seemed up for it and also Lend Lease (kind of).

As soon as this idea was made public there was a quick response to it on various websites and networking places roundly condemning Artangel’s ignorance and insensitivity in thinking that the Heygate site was a good site for a monumental piece of ‘public art’. We ourselves at Southwark Notes were pretty furious at the plan and contacted Artangel with a long letter outlining our dismay at their project (see below). We even met up with Artangel at a cafe in the Shopping Centre and spent an hour and a half politely but firmly pointing out how live, raw and pointed the decant and the subsequent social cleansing of that site remains.

We also spoke of how local people had been arguing and also putting into practice temporary community benefits on the site regardless of Council threats and occasional police hassle. What made Artangel so special that after the Council had finally cleared the site that they could then have access for a monstrous spectacle? Not only this but what gave them the privileged position to invite an art audience into the site of one of the most poorly executed decant programmes in housing history and a site of massive gentrification? In the end, despite our offers to put Artangel in touch personally with the numerous housing and amenity campaigns active locally in The Elephant, they chose to go for planning permission and tough it out. After some prompting they finally sent us a weakly argued letter of justification that brushed all our concerns to one side entirely. That was the red rag really.

heygate art no road sign

COUNCIL STUFFS THE GREAT HEYGATE PYRAMID SIDEWAYS
To cut this longish story short, in the last few weeks, the growing opposition to the Artangel Heygate Pyramid was becoming more public especially when The Guardian published a great article on local people’s feeling of betrayal and outrage. There was also a good Open Letter To Artangel published late last week. There was also the new Twitter site Artangel Go Home: Pyramid A Go Go that was ramping up opposition slowly. Anyhow, by Friday 20th December, the Council pulled the plan and sent the Pyramid packing. This was a shrewd move as at Southwark Notes we know there was a large and international campaign being established by all sorts of ex-Heygate residents, housing groups, academics, artists and local people that was feverishly but quietly being worked on to launch in the New Year. Now those people can have a bit more of a chilled New Year and enjoy the non-Pyramid.

At Southwark Notes mansions, we presume that the Council had started to see that they were staring into an abyss of a massive negative publicity drive where the Pyramid project would only be the starting point for a load of facts, truths, personal histories about the Heygate and the Elephant regeneration to come again to public attention. Maybe they realised that nothing that good could really come out of the Pyramid and that any hopes they had of using such a prestigious public art piece by Artangel as a PR puff for the regeneration scheme were never going to be realised under these circumstances. Maybe even Lend Lease were on the blower to Tooley St. We just don’t know the real story yet. If you do, then drop us a line at our email address: elephantnotes@yahoo.co.uk

PYRAMID SENT PACKING
It was Artangel who actually let the cat out of the bag when they somewhat discretely but pointedly released a terse Press Statement on their website on Friday 2oth Dec:

ARTANGEL Statement on Southwark Council’s decision regarding Mike Nelson’s proposed project on the Heygate Estate

20 December 2013

“Artangel’s proposal for a major new artwork by Turner Prize nominee Mike Nelson on the Heygate Estate is a thoughtfully conceived project that would have created a powerful and challenging free public artwork.

London is one of the world’s great cultural centres with a long history of presenting elegaic and thought-provoking public sculptures – from Edwin Lutyens’ Cenotaph to Rachel Whiteread’s House, produced by Artangel 20 years ago.

Over the past few months, we have had productive conversations with Southwark councillors, officers, and different interest groups in the borough. We are very disappointed by Southwark Council’s decision to stop Mike Nelson’s proposal progressing. We feel a great opportunity has been lost.”

Artangel Co-Directors James Lingwood and Michael Morris

We were somewhat surprised when we came across this today almost by accident. Still, ‘result’ as we might say. Well done to all who were working on spreading the discontent and the intent to not let this pyramid pish be built. Of course, this is small fare considering how few battles have been won against the regeneration / gentrification of the North Southwark area. But it does stand as a useful reference point for what can be done and how when people started talking to each other and then get inspired to act together. It is also a testament to the power of refusal rather than polite dialogues. Many many people were adamant that this dodgy Pyramid scheme should not be allowed to happen at all. It was simply a case of not accepting Art’s liberal plea that art is ‘thought-provoking’. Whose thoughts? Whose provocation? As ex-Heygate resident John Colfer said in The Guardian piece: ‘We were the first people in, at the start of 1974. My father made the home a home, fitted new floors, everything. My parents never planned to leave the estate. So when you’re talking about using those same materials to make a pyramid, you just think: what is there to show that this was a well-loved home? These are our memories being turned into an artwork.”

Artangel say ‘We feel a great opportunity has been lost‘. Opportunity really for who? That is a very interesting question.

heygate art no road sign

We feel obliged to post here our entire communications to Artangel. It contains our letter that caused them to meet with us, their eventual reply and a short series of back and forths going nowhere:

Southwark Notes – Artangel Communications PDF

We have a lot more to say on this matter but it’s Xmas and we have better things to do right now than write all that stuff up. We are sure you can wait if you are interested. Well done all! Forward to the mince pies and some sherry in celebration!

Heygate Estate, Artangel, Mike Nelson = Pyramid, No Thanks

heygate art no text

We will be writing more on this gross insensitivity from the desks of art commissioners Artangel and artist Mike Nelson soon. For now if you missed it, here is the link to our first public words on the serious matter at hand that were published in an article in The Guardian:

Heygate pyramid: London estate’s evicted residents damn art plan


pyramid container

We’ve written a lot in our time doing this site on the dodgy nature of any joint working that comes from artists, Councils and developers scheming together to furnish local communities with art works. You can read our long critical chronicle here on Art and Regeneration in North Southwark.

heygate art no road sign heygate art no road sign heygate art no road sign heygate art no road sign

Regeneration Seeks Amnesia (1): The Artworks

SUMMARY: Public park taken away then given back under false pretences in the guise of community use – Southwark Council, The Artworks, Lend Lease.

Tribeca Se Locked
Yes, it’s another long post ahead!

Here at Southwark Notes mansions, we have been following the unbelievable saga of the planned The Artworks ‘arts and creative enterprise community‘ for Walworth with er….disbelief. Long before the large yellow and green ex-shipping containers arrived at the old Shell Garage site in front of Swanbourne block of Heygate Estate, long before before the invention of the Flat White coffee and probably long before even Picasso died. Well it does seem that long to us as Artworks has been rumoured, planned, delivered, amended, delayed and now hoping to move to a new site.

We have a lot of things to say on this proposed Lego-land labyrinth of creative types and market-as-theme park for urban adventuring amongst the, by-now everywhere, ‘Pop-Up’ Street Food places. (A fellow traveler of ours describes these places as ‘Throw-Up shops’!). We are also wondering whether Artworks are renting the land from the Council and on what sort of lease? However, we are gonna set those opinions aside as we prefer to begin our first exploration of what we are calling Regeneration Seeks Amnesia.

heygate allotments 2

ONCE UPON A TIME IN WALWORTH and ELEPHANT RD’s

When the Heygate Estate was almost finally cleared of residents, some local people began muttering about how the site itself should not be just put behind hoardings for years and years. As the land is still publicly owned those trees and garden areas are still considered ours, so the public spaces within and some of the buildings should be use for temporary benefits to continue to offer something to local residents rather than being a walled off non-space that waits on the developers profits.

There was even a day long gathering organised by Elephant Amenity Network of local folks to discuss and plan what sort of interim uses they wanted to push The Council and developers for. A large report of the days wishes and desires was published with an emphasis on people being able to still both enjoy the green spaces of the estate and also to focus on future gardening, food growing, space for community gatherings, space for creative endeavours, space for sports and recreation and even a call to maintain short life housing within the estate if the flats were to be empty for another 2 or three or more years.

Heygate Enclosed

It must be said that despite this engaged and positive forward thinking, the battle with The Council and Lend Lease for temporary uses has not resulted in many real gains. There is the Mobile Gardeners project on Wansey St and there is also the giving over of the old Doctors Surgery on Heygate to Reuben Powell, a local artist.  The battle for continued access to the lovely Rose Garden is still a sore point and the new fencing-off of the estate has meant access to the community pond, poly-tunnel, allotments, occasional Heygate cinema and growing areas has been stopped.

shipping containeradd

HAS THE WORD ‘ART’ IN IT SO MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU
The proposed Artworks container park scheme was the 3rd item of ‘give’ that Lend Lease had finally committed itself too. Between September 2011 and June 2012 various small meetings and consultations were held to generate interest and discussion on the scheme. It was suggested that the soon to be empty site where the old Shell Garage was on Walworth Rd would be a suitable site for what was dubbed the ‘box park’ (after the trendy container ‘pop-up’ mall in Shoreditch). In May 2012 the Council sought tenders for the scheme and by March 2013 Artworks became the ‘preferred partner‘ to run the scheme at the ex-Shell site. In late March Artworks presented their proposals at a Lend Lease-run Community Forum.

Artworks View 1

Although such a project needs planning permission and has to be subject to many and varied considerations and conditions stemming from Southwark Planning policies, strangely enough Artworks were able to deliver 48 containers to the site.

walworth rd desist
You can contrast this un-permitted dumping with the recent flurry of warning notices to named businesses on Walworth Rd who use the pavement for a couple of chairs outside their caff or to display a few wares or two. Bearing in mind the desperate retail crisis facing those traders and the truly independent nature of those small businesses, you’d think the Council would try and support them out rather than getting all heavy and pedantic!

Artworks Shell Site Plan 1Artworks Shell Plan View 2

It was a month later when Artworks applied for permission for the ‘Erection of 48 modular units to accommodate business/workspace, retail, markets, cafe/restaurant, gallery, community, and stay-work uses (Use Classes B1, A1 to A5 inclusive, and D1) together with ancillary structures and the change of use of the existing former petrol filling station kiosk to cafe for a temporary period of 5 years’.

The planning application was very loose and free with many of the requirements for such a large development. Artworks argued that as it would be a temporary development community benefit contributions should not be applicable. They were also light in detail on how the Southwark Plan that requires ‘training, employment, childcare facilities, public realm improvements for those with disabilities‘,  and sustainability would be fulfilled as planning obligations as part of their scheme. Submitting a later Addendum to this Planning App, they attempted to flesh out their original plan based on its numerous oversights, missing fulfillments and vagueness. Restating a desire to have the benefits overlooked as their scheme brought no ‘adverse impacts‘ they wrote:

‘The Development provides a number of key temporary benefits to the local community to off-set the need for any planning obligations’.

“This Development provides an opportunity for the regeneration benefits of the wider Heygate Masterplan scheme to be delivered at an early stage in one of the early, and visible, interim uses on the Site”.

Here it is still not actually clear what ‘benefits‘ they are being to the area with this unexpanded statements. Answers on  postcard once again please!

COMMUNITY IS WHATEVER THEY WANT IT TO MEAN REALLY
Around the time of the dumping of the containers, it was clear that the notion of community interim use was slipping slowly away as rumours of the containers becoming ‘Live / Work’ units with rents of £200 per week were starting to be heard locally. The ‘Live / Work’ units were then mutated into Artworks specially invented ‘Stay / Work’ units when they realised that residential studios would trigger an affordable housing requirement of them. Then the whole ‘live in a box and create art’ schtick began to slowly disappear from their promotions in favour again of non-residential studio, retail and market space.

In April 2013, some very switched-on local artists, journalist Paul Coleman and some of Southwark Notes who happened to be passing by, were able to see the containers close up as the developers were inspecting their investment. Keen to show folks around, both the artists and we lot were hardly impressed that a metal box could be a ‘live / work‘ unit for £200 per week despite it having a ‘kitchenette‘. The whole stacking of the containers created a weird and unappealing dingy inner space that didn’t seem conducive to public hanging out or a sense of retail headspace or an inviting market. Also strange was that the mysterious developers who were unwilling to provide any details of who they were beyond names seemed entirely clueless about artists needs space-wise, about the area itself or the history of the Heygate. (See very below for who they are)

The artists were on that day conducting their own cheerful consultation with tea and cakes on what local people thought about the containers and getting them to fill out the official consultation form. Have to say that overall out of about 100 conversations most passersby thought the scheme was a bit useless and also unworkable both as a site and with those rental rates. Paul Coleman wrote a nice piece about this spontaneous site visit.

Artworks Shonky Ad

FROM COMMUNITY USES TO BUSINESS USES
Months later, in September 2013, with nothing happening at the site and still no planning permission yet granted and with very little fanfare other than a dismal Twitter campaign (“Happy Friday people! What’s everyone got planned for tonight?‘ or ‘Good morning people of twitter! We hope you have a great week!!‘*) and some fading A3 posters in a few of the containers, there was an Artworks Tweet bombshell. The whole thing had suddenly gone interstellar.

Yes, the game was well and truly upped when Artworks announced that due to the fire at Cuming Museum next door to their planned site, they would be moving to a new site at Elephant Rd instead to ‘facilitate repairs to the Town Hall that was seriously damaged in the fire‘. This is a somewhat disingenuous statement. Garland Court TRA in Wansey St although not against the scheme had objected to their planning application on the basis of possible noise and lack of proper consideration of public toilets, impact on local views, parking and litter among other things. Lend Lease had also announced a change of the phasing of the Heygate development that meant that the Shell site and environs would no longer be vacant for 5 years. Any road up, the new project now ups the number of containers to 56.

elephant-rd

WE DON’T FORGET WHAT WE ALREADY LIVED
Anyhow, after this long starter, we get to the main meal of our disgruntlement which is that we live here, we know what’s going on, we haven’t forgotten what’s happened so far and so we won’t be taken in by the Spin.

What is it about regeneration and in particular, ‘regeneration’ at The Elephant, that attempts to erase what is both in front of our very eyes and what is a trusted series of memories in our heads?


elephant_park_2

With this attempted amnesia in mind, we say again that the proposed Artworks site at Elephant Rd was the well-used open space that contained a large expanse of grass, large mature trees and a small kids playground. On Sundays, it hosted football between different local Latin American teams. In February 2011, the well-used site was hastily fenced off by Southwark Council without any consultation to enable Oakmayne, the then developers of this long empty site, to function as a extra site compound for the development. This public land was then unaccountably enclosed to facilitate the future building of a private development (that funnily enough contains no social housing). Particularly galling was then how nothing happened and nothing is happening at that site with the proposed Tribeca Sq development. That space, those trees, that football, that community resource has been denied local people for two and half years now at the whims of a arrogant Council and a non-developing developer. No wonder we continue to question when the benefits for all of this regeneration will see something for us long term locals.

Artworks Site Trees In Prison

So it is even more upsetting and rage-inducing when, once again, with no public further consultation (other than a paper one that is statutory for planning applications), Artworks now seeks to open up a public space that was taken away from us to run what is essentially a private business that then pretends to provide or will provide minimal community uses. Planned rental costs will be: £180 per week  for a 320sq ft container workshop / retail space. Electricity not included. £180 per week, including all bills, except electricity.  Or smaller retail units at £80 per week (64 sq ft). There are also ‘hot desks‘ for £35 a week ‘for businesses whether it be a small company starting out or a large corporation on the go‘. Large corporations are probably about as far away from community interim use as we can imagine it. Will Artworks be renting a few hot desks to junior Lend Lease executives?

So these are not cheap units really ‘predicated on affordability and aimed at business start-ups and incubator units‘ as was set out in their planning application. Comparable space in well-established studio buildings made of bricks and with actual large windows costs considerably less. Long term reputable studio companies such as Space or Acme are offering spaces well cheaper than Artworks (£720 approx) with studios for £300 or £400 a month (although it is not easy to get these). Commercial (non-metal) studios are also available for £500 a month for about 300 sq ft.

artworks new elephant

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY QUITE NICELY
The fenced-in box park scheme will provide ‘open space within the Development for use by the general public, other than when it may be used for specific and occasional private events‘ so public access remains provisional to the management’s decisions. However, there is one more insult to add to the utter absurdity of the situation. Contained within the new planning application for Artworks at Elephant Rd is the proposal to use the once-public land now turned into a hollowed out community interim use for the siting of a marketing pavilion for Lend Lease:

“7.19    The Development seeks temporary planning permission for 2 modular units to be used as a ‘pavilion’ to house an information centre and marketing suite (Use Class Sui Generis) for Lend Lease.

7.20    The pavilion will be used by Lend Lease to provide a early presence on the wider Heygate Masterplan development site in Elephant and Castle during the initial demolition and construction phases, and a facility for the public to find out further details of the wider Heygate Regeneration and information on the new residential units that are for sale as part of Lend Lease’s Heygate Masterplan, Trafalgar Place, and One The Elephant developments…

7.22    The information centre and marketing suite will have a separate entrance and opening hours to the rest of the Artworks Development and will be managed by Lend Lease.”

Artworks Shell Pavillion LL

Here Lend Lease gains a nice marketing suite to market their new buildings to the undoubtedly investment-happy Buy To Let landlords and the numerous overseas investors that will be snapping up places in Trafalgar Place and One The Elephant. How do you negotiate that one under the notion of community use?

AN ELEPHANT NEVER FORGETS AND OTHER TALES
Here at Southwark Notes palaces we are endlessly critical of the ‘regeneration‘ that we are suffering at The Elephant but it is tiring to feel like we have to do our best to document these abuses and downright cynical behaviour from The Council and developers.We document it in the hope that at some point The Council and the developers might take seriously the fact that local people have a long and deep knowledge of the history of this shameful regeneration project. We have an acute and critical eye for detail when the hype and lies they spread tries to erase from the public mind the losses of council homes, public space and valued communities.

However, in this instance, we base our argument not solely on slagging off how this regeneration is being run or how it is being sold to us as if we have no memory or anything to say on what is plain to see before our eyes. These rip-offs are so blatant yet the Council just spins it’s vile fairy tales in the press as if nothing was wrong or no-one was saying anything other. We also base our concerns on the roots that are local people who have come together repeatedly and put in their precious time to seek that genuine community benefits come to the area. They have put forward serious considered proposals for creative uses, employment chances, health matters and maintaining public spaces. But most of this has been ignored except where it suits the needs or a developer that can easily use a few small and heavily sanctioned projects to talk up it’s own accountability and working with the locals. Yet the battle of the local community with Lend Lease has been one long hard fight to gain very little. If the very first things you finally see getting built from the Lend Lease Masterplan is One The Elephant (starting price £325,000) and some wonky overpriced pseudo-trendy designer retail outlets in a metal box, you probably are wondering where you fit in to all this regeneration lark.

—————————–

CONTAINER PEOPLE MEETS MARKETS PEOPLE DOWNTOWN: ARTWORKS – WHO THEY ARE
We couldn’t resist a bit off simple detective work to understand this seemingly shonky outfit that can get away with no planning permission for the arrival of 48 containers, cannot update it’s own website to say that the project is no longer on Walworth Rd and is able to make deals with The Council to get a new and much better site in the infamous enclosed Elephant Rd Park. All this from essentially a quite small scale and risky business plan.

As we learnt from our long years doing this, business like this (i.e not Lend Lease or St Modwens) is a fairly boring and everyday affair of people knowing other people who can set you up with something or sort you out, go into partnership with etc. Here at Artworks, the Sam Minionis side is a kind of shipping container enthusiast with business connections to a property developing family who have a vague connection to some Oakymayne property thing from way back. He is a big part of the company My Space Pod that seeks to containerise building developments with a passion for re-using shipping boxes. Charlie Fulford is the markets side of things and also more of a property developer with a father who is both a serious market developer (establishing Camden Lock market in 1971 amongst others) and a Professor of Philosophy. What a carry on!

artworks directors daig

Regeneration Seeks Amnesia Part Two Coming Soon!
Heygate Vacant Possession Secured, Comes With Major Public Art Spectacle

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* Our favourite Tweet from Artworks:
Artworks Kissinger Of Death
We remember how Henry Kissinger signed the orders for the illegal bombing of Cambodia in 1969, a policy that led to an estimated half million civilian deaths. He also had a large hand in the legitimating via US foreign policy of military coups, death squads, disappearances and repression in several Latin American countries. A perfect and creative act and especially sensitive to the Elephant Rd Latin-American community.

Elephant Neighbourhood Plan Conference Sat 28th Sept: All welcome!

Southwark Notes wishes much success to this sturdy endeavour by local people that builds on the back of lots of hard work over the last few years and more by local campaigns. Top work! Get on down there and get involved.

Nay Forum Poster FINAL

Elephant & Castle
Neighbourhood Plan Conference

Rockingham Community Centre
Falmouth Road, SE1 6RQ.

SATURDAY 28th September 2013, between 10:30am and 4pm


What will the conference involve?

• We will be revisiting the work that has already been done over the past year and the policy framework for starting up a Neighbourhood Forum.

• We will present our boundary and constitution in preparation for our submission to Southwark Council. This should result in us being recognised officially before the end of this year.

• We will also be deciding how we make decisions and how we can develop working groups to tackle issues which concern us: Green Space, Local Businesses, Heritage, Community Assets. Facilities for Walking and for Cycling, Housing, and “Meanwhile”/Temporary Uses for development land.

We are looking for active members who can contribute to the running of the Neighbourhood Forum. Please invite others in the community, your TRA or local community organisations. The Neighbourhood Forum is also a space for us to learn about what each group or area is doing, so do please bring leaflets or details of your own interests and activities.

Check website for details:

http://www.elephantneighbourhoodforum.org/
Vegetarian lunch, tea & coffee will be provided.

If Someone Gave You £100,000, Would You Keep An Eye On It? The Curious Case of Regeneration, Section 106, Strata Tower and Public Art

Strata Public Art Clause

Way back in the day of 2006, our tired eyes at Southwark Notes perked up when, on reading the very exciting Section 106 Agreement between Southwark Council and Castle House Developers Ltd, we spotted the following clause:

8 – PUBLIC ART
8.1: Prior to Occupation, the Developer will commission and install within the Development the Public Art. The value of the Public Art (including the cost of installation) shall be approximately £100,000

Strata Section 106 Agreement PUBLIC ART (definition): A work of art to be installed within the entrance area of the Development predominantly of glass unless otherwise agreed.

As you probably know Section 106 (S106) agreements are more commonly known as ‘planning gain’ or ‘community benefits’. An S106 agreement between a developer and a Council usually acts as some kind of payback from the profits the developer will make on their new building towards local good. Examples from a S106 agreement could be that money is negotiated for the renovation of a local children’s playground or that monies are given over to the funding of a community health centre or that cash is given up to supplement the construction of ‘affordable’ housing units.

In this instance, the Strata developers Brookfield Multiplex, as part of their S106 Agreement with the Council, had gone down the  well-trodden ‘Public Art as Community Benefit garden path’ and promised to us locals that £100,000 pounds of their profits would bring us some culture. Now, Southwark Notes loves as much Public Art as the next person (see here for our appreciation) but we immediately sniffed out that there was something well iffy about this one!

First and foremost there is the question of what is public art and what isn’t? The original intention of Brookfield was to install something arty ‘within the entrance area of the Development predominantly of glass‘.  Something sculptural made of glass put in the actual public realm of The Elephant isn’t going to last the half hour so we can only read this line as meaning spending £100,000 on a fancy glass thing in the foyer of your building. That’s having your glass cake and eating it. In the end, the fabled thing ‘predominantly of glass‘ bit the dust and by 2010, the Public Art had turned into a much more slippery and dubious affair.

Strata Art Ad
Screenshot from Brookfield’s now offline StrataLondonArt.com site, 2010

WHOSE ART IS IT ANYWAY?
With some fanfare typical of developers, by April 2010, the Public Art had mutated into a whole new bag of tricks. With the intention of adding the usual ‘vibrancy‘ to the local area and ‘support and developing local talent‘, Brookfield announced that the public art at Strata would now come from a competition held amongst students at Camberwell College of Art. They announced that the art would now be fixed up on ‘either side of the main entrance doors to Strata‘ and that the art would be housed on ‘two large glass panels enclosing the foyer area‘. Such art would be ‘integral to the development but accessible to the public eye at all times‘ as ‘these panels formed the ideal palette for the Public Art‘.

Essentially this is another version of the ‘predominantly‘ glass thing that never was. Southwark Notes would argue that any art ‘integral‘ to the development i.e constructed as part of the entrance is not a genuinely public piece of art regardless of whether it can be seen by the public. We would call that a design feature of Strata that benefits residents and potential buyers of the flats. If everyone at Southwark Notes painted their front door’s green with yellow spots, we would not argue that this was done for the public benefit. Any public enjoyment of our yellow spots is purely secondary.

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WHOSE S106 MONEY IS IT ANYWAY?
36 Camberwell students submitted works to the competition on the theme of what Brookfield told us was ‘’community and sustainable leaving’. Surely a Freudian slip if ever there was one! On 19 May 2010, ‘a panel of four judges shortlisted 13 pieces as finalists to be created and then the finished artworks were judged and on 24 June 2010 six bursaries were awarded to the winning students‘. Over the course of the next year, four artworks were displayed on the glass panels on either side of the entrance foyer.

On July 1st 2010, at the official launch of Strata Tower as an investment and housing option, all the finalist works were exhibited in the empty commercial space at Strata ground floor. Brookfield reported that ‘all finalists’ work…was then auctioned. All monies raised from the action went back to the community and the Camberwell College of Arts‘. Here and subsequently as you will see, it has not been possible to find out how and also how much money went back into the community.

Curious as we were with this strange tale, we decided to submit a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) to Southwark Council to ask them details of how £100,000 of S106 money negiotiated for local benefit was spent. We couldn’t see how four panels displayed throughout one year could add up to such a large figure. We were also concerned that the public art was not really public at all.

THE LONG WAIT FOR WHAT WE ALREADY KNEW
On 1st Febraury 2012, we sent off our simple FOI request:

Can the Council show a breakdown of total expenditure so far for the Strata Tower S106 contribution of £100,000 towards a public art commission“.

On March 20th 2012 we received a detailed reply that told us that ‘The Council can confirm that Clause 8.1 of the section 106 agreement has now been fully complied with“. The Council reckoned that the ‘set up cost and judging panel for this public art programme included bursaries; artwork reproduction; exhibition set up cost and consultant fees‘ added up to £100,000 well spent. The Council even stated that ‘the installation costs, the public art programme and the value of the artwork itself together can be attributed a value which is in excess of the £100.000 required by the S106 agreement‘. Firstly we wondered whether the undefinable value of an artwork can be considered as part of a financial contribution to the local community. We also thought that it didn’t sound like £100,000 had been spent for the local community. As S106 is serious financial agreement between parties, we wrote again asking that the Council provides a breakdown of expenditure for this S106 contribution. We wanted figures for how much each bursary was, how much consultants were paid, costs of installation and production of artworks etc.

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Alina Petrenko’s winning design up on Strata 2010

To try and cut a very long story short, we wrote again for this expenditure on March 8th 2o12. The Council said they didn’t have the information and maybe DP9 had it. DP9 is a partner planning consultant on Strata development. We asked for names at DP9 to write to but got no reply. By May 2012, we requested an Internal Review on this matter as no further information on the expenditure had come our way from The Council. We wrote that the request for an “internal review is based upon asking whether the Council, after securing £100,000 Section 6 money for public art, is able to then account for the expenditure of this money“.

In June 2012, the Council assured us that ‘this obligation was monitored in the same way it would be for any other non-payment s106 obligation and is satisfied the obligation in the provision of the public art worth £100,000 has been provided. We have requested further information from the development and will pass that on in due course‘. Nothing was heard so in August 2012, we requested another Internal Review.

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GOING NOWHERE FAST
Dodging the request for the Review, the Council replied in September 2012 that
with regard to the process for confirming the S106 condition for public art at the Strata Tower, I can confirm that upon investigation the confirmation of the fulfilled condition was undertaken by the then S106 officer. This process involved receiving confirmation from the developer that the funds had been transferred together with confirmation from the college that the funds had been received. The college also confirmed how the funds were spent, which was provided in the original response to your request. The council confirms that in this instance a site visit from an officer did not take place and on reflection, a site visit should have been conducted, but due to resource constraints and the fact both the college and developer confirmed the fulfilment of this obligation, the council was satisfied that this met the condition as set out in the S106 agreement‘.

We can summarise this as Council S106 Officer asks developer if they done what they supposed to do and developer says ‘Hell yeah!‘. Council Officer says ‘should do a site visit but couldn’t be bothered‘. Council says ‘yeah, we should have done a site visit but we didn’t‘. In light of this fact, the Council says “In order to complete the council records in relation to this agreement, I can confirm that the S106 manager is still seeking this information” which seems like an admission that some major slackness is taking place.

As no actual expenditure figures have been received despite what the Council reply says, we wrote again in November 2012 asking for another Internal Review and then we heard nothing. In February 2013 we wrote again ‘Happy Birthday! We are 1 year old today! Do you think you will ever be able to answer my request for a proper breakdown of all expenditure relating to the S106 Public Art at Strata Building that I submitted on 1st Feb 2012?’

I.C.O – A-GO-GO!
In March 2013, we took the next step after the failure to gain an Internal Review and wrote about this case to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the folks who are ‘the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals‘.

In May 2013, prompted by the weak boot of the ICO, the Council finally sends us a reply in which they pointlessly re-send to us the original reply they made to us in March 2012 saying again that this provides the info they have. They then write what we knew all along that:

‘I can confirm the council conducted a search of its records at the time of the first request and established that a full breakdown of the information was not held by the council…As a final response, the council is able to confirm we do not hold a breakdown of the information that has been requested and all information held in relation to this request has now been provided’.

Which is a brilliant way of saying ‘we have supplied you with the information that we do not have’!

We replied with an leaving salvo:

“Dear Regeneration & Neighbourhoods,
Thank you for the update and the letter from DP9 both of which confirm that the Council does not know how £100,000 of Section 106 money was spent. As S106 monies are negotiated by councils from developers profits to be used to benefit the local community, it is vital that such money can be accounted for if local people are to have any trust that the council is looking after their interest”.

pink ele rip off

IF WE GAVE YOU £100,00, WOULD YOU KEEP AN EYE ON IT?
As we write this, the overall winner of the competition Julie Bennett still has her panel displayed at the front of the Strata Tower despite her expectation that it would be displayed only ‘until 30th June 2011‘. We found out that the bursaries to the four winning students were only £1000 quid each. Here, as we scratch our weary heads, we can’t see that this is a genuinely spent £100,000 of community benefit!

We also wonder if the publicised Brookfield Trust that the developer was to set up at Camberwell from money raised at the Strate Official Launch auction to provide more bursaries ever materialised. We were certainly unable to see this in action when we asked and searched around. The website Stratalondonart.com which featured this claim and all the winning designs and promotional guff for Brookfield’s heavy interest in art was only online for one year from June 2010 to Sept 2011 before getting the boot. We also question the dubious practice of getting students involved in the dodgy regeneration practice of designing decorative panels that act as an asset to developments whilst pretending to be pieces of public art.

southwark notes front door
The whole sorry saga can be found here in the form of letters from us to the Council and the letters from the Council to us.