As a charity, Friends of Brockwell Park is not party political, but it is ‘small p’ political, in that it campaigns vigorously in support of its aims and objectives, as set out in our constitution. As the local elections approach on May 3, we approached the four main parties standing in Lambeth—Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat—for their views on parks. Each party was first asked for its general policy on parks and to comment on FOBP’s three ‘red line’ park policies:
– There should be no gated / ticketed events in Brockwell Park with more than 10,000 participants;
– Any gated / ticketed event in Brockwell Park should have a limit of 65 decibels;
– Parks should be funded on a statutory basis by local authorities.
Below are the results, as collected by Rose Montgomery, in alphabetical order. All gave their general policy on parks. Labour failed to give an answer on the FOBP’s three ‘red line’ park policies.
Lambeth Conservatives have opposed the Events Strategy from the start, because it basically gives Labour councillors the power to have as many huge events as they like on our parks and green spaces. We have ‘called in’ the strategy for a two-and-a-half- hour scrutiny commission, challenged it at Cabinet, challenged it at full Council meetings, and will continue to do so.
The fact that these events still cost residents £481,000, after so much opposition from residents, is a sign of how incompetent Labour councillors are. We would reorganise the Events team to ensure that any event made money that could be returned to the community hosting the event, to compensate for any disturbance. In Clapham, we have had huge issues around litter, noise, loss of amenity for weeks and months, dam- age to the environment, and anti-social behaviour.
Below is a preview of the part of our draft manifesto, not yet published, which deals with parks and green spaces. So this deals with your first point around our general policy on parks and open spaces.
Manage parks and green spaces better
5.5.1 Reduce the number and duration of outdoor events on green spaces. This year, Labour councillors made a staggering loss of £481,000 staging outdoor events in Lambeth. Many residents are fed up with the environmental damage, loss of amenity, noise, litter and anti-social behaviour they create.
22.214.171.124 Properly consult residents who live in and around our parks or green spaces, to find an accept- able balance between staging outdoor events and the needs of residents (Lambeth Conservatives Alternative Budget 2018-19, Para 8.7).
126.96.36.199 Stop allowing ‘blanket’ planning permissions for events on parks and green spaces.
5.5.2 Set up a staff mutual from the in-house parks maintenance service to manage parks and green spaces more effectively (Lambeth Conservatives Alternative Budget 2018-19, Para 8.5. This should generate savings of around 20% a year which can then be put back into funding our parks and green spaces).
5.5.3 Commit to updating and improving amenities in parks and green spaces within 2 years, including but not limited to upgrading and renovating children’s playgrounds, toilets and paddling pools (Lambeth Conservatives Alternative Budget 2018- 19, Para 8.6).
5.5.4 Protect established communal activities on parks and green spaces, including the Clapham Model Yacht Club, which are being threatened with closure by Labour councillors (Labour councillors recently tried to increase the rent for the Clapham Common Model Boat Club by 17,500%).
5.5.5 Lobby the Labour Mayor to keep his promise to plant 2 million trees in London by 2020 (no new tree planting has been funded since the beginning of the Mayor’s administration in 2016).
So, specifically to answer your other questions in relation to the proposals for Brockwell Park.
What is your party’s response to these Friends of Brockwell Park policies:
i) There should be no gated / ticketed events in Brockwell Park with more than 10,000 participants; Under 188.8.131.52 of our manifesto, if the representatives of the community using the park felt that under 10,000 was an appropriate number of participants, we would be committed to support that policy.
ii) Any gated / ticketed event in Brockwell Park should have a limit of 65 decibels;
As above. If 65 decibels was considered appropriate, we would support that policy. Last year, Conservative-run Wandsworth Council took Labour-Lambeth to court to enforce lower noise levels.
The idea from Labour councillors in the Events Strategy that base levels should rise to 90 decibels is completely unwelcome.
iii) Parks should be funded on a statutory basis by local authorities.
Yes. Parks and green spaces have an essential part to play in improving our quality of life, and in improving our mental and physical health. We have proposed spending £1.4 million (from savings of £12 million) to upgrade all playgrounds, toilets and paddling pools across Lambeth. That proposed amendment to the 2017-18 budget was voted down by Labour councillors.
I hope that clarifies our position. Our Conservative candidates in Thurlow Park – Kelly Ben Maimon, Elia Carvahlo and Jack Kelly – have been extremely active in opposing big music events in Brockwell Park, and will continue to listen carefully if elected as councillors.
Cllr Tim Briggs
What is your party’s general policy on parks and open spaces in Lambeth?
The Green Party is fundamentally opposed to the privatisation of public spaces. We commit to protecting them against commercial exploitation and to give the community a full say in what takes place in them.
As places where people from the many sections of our community come to meet for free, Lambeth’s public spaces make an immeasurable contribution to people’s lives. The parks need to be protected against corporate exploitation and treasured for the immense benefits they bring to our community, in particular for our mental and physical wellbeing.
The Green Party disapproves of the treatment of our public spaces purely as assets to generate in- come. To fence off large portions of our parks for long periods of the summer is to take them away from the people who rely on them: as a place for people of all ages to play, exercise and relax.
The council’s event strategy says its first aim is to ‘enable the community to lead and own community events’. As a party that prioritises grass-roots democracy over top-down decision-making, we believe that this aim is admirable. However, the public engagement, both from the council or festival organisers, has not lived up to that lofty goal. It has been reactive, rather than proactive, in response to the hard work of local campaign groups. Lambeth Council has a long history of not listening to concerns and comments, however constructive they can be, when making damaging decisions such as closing libraries, demolishing estates or selling off public land. We are very grateful to the groups of residents which have organised to voice their concerns in such a way as to ensure they could not be ignored.
The Green Party urges the council to be more open about the information they hold, to be more honest with the answers they provide to the public and to be transparent with their long-term plans for Lambeth’s parks. Only by doing those things will they be able to say they are engaging with the community in a meaningful way.
What is your party’s response to these Friends of Brockwell Park policies?
i) There should be no gated / ticketed events in Brockwell Park with more than 10,000 participants;
The Green Party is strongly opposed to such large- scale events being allowed to take place in Brock- well Park. Festivals of up to 40,000 participants are entirely inappropriate for the size and nature of this park. In July 2017, we witnessed the damage caused on the day of a much smaller and shorter event.
There has been no indication that lessons have been learned from those incidents, with some of the damage still visible six months later. We will be urging the council not to license further events of similar capacity, and certainly not larger ones.
We do not sit in blanket opposition to cultural and sporting events taking place in Brockwell park. When such events are planned, however, their size, scope and overall impact must be proportionate to that which the park and surrounding area can accommodate. Local residents, park users and the wider Lambeth population must be invited to give their views on such events at the earliest possible point in the process, and their views must be given proper, not merely token, consideration.
We strongly support the Lambeth Country Show, which meets each of these criteria. It is a fantastic free annual event. It is positive, open and inclusive. It is an occasion which allows the whole of Lambeth’s wonderfully diverse community to come together.
ii) Any gated / ticketed event in Brockwell Park should have a limit of 65 decibels;
According to neighbouring Southwark Council’s ‘Noise Conditions for Open Air Events in Southwark’, outdoor festivals should conform with the Code of Practice on Environmental Noise Control at Concerts 1995. This details that music noise levels measured or predicted at 1m from the façade of noise sensitive premises shall not exceed 65dB over a 15-minute period.
The Green Party has no reason to believe there is a biological difference between the ears of Southwark and Lambeth residents. As a result, Lambeth Council should follow statutory guidance to preserve the health and wellbeing of its population.
iii) Parks should be funded on a statutory basis by local authorities.
The Green Party strongly supports statutory funding for our parks and open spaces. This is the only way to prevent such spaces from being exploited.
To fail to see the non-monetary value in our public parks inevitably leads to short-sighted, false economies. As stated above, these spaces have huge posi- tive impact on our populations’ physical and mental health. It does not take a leap of the imagination to see how this could help reduce pressure on our over- burdened health and social care system, and how privatisation will have the opposite effect.
This is signed on behalf of all 61 of our Green candidates standing for election this May 3.
Lambeth Labour are extremely proud of our track record in protecting and enhancing the borough’s 70 parks, commons and green spaces. Over the past four years, we’ve put an enormous amount of work into maintaining, improving and promoting our borough’s green spaces. The highlights being:
1 Investing £10 million in parks improvements works, which has included a new managed sports facility at Archbishop’s Park, a complete re-build of the playground on Streatham Common, restoration of the Flower Garden in Kennington Park and restoration of the Listed Portico in Ruskin Park.
2 Saving £2 million by bringing our parks maintenance contract back in house and at the same time improving the service.
3 Winning a record 14 Green Flag Awards – placing our parks as some of the very best in both the United Kingdom and the world.
4 Secured investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund to make much needed improvements to West Norwood Cemetery and to make it an attractive visitor destination of historical importance.
5 Topping the league table in the recent ‘Good Parks for London’ report, which rates how well local authorities in the city are protecting and managing parks.
6 Keeping the ever popular Country Show in Brock- well Park a free, family-friendly event, which at- tracts over 150,000 visitors and places Lambeth firmly on the map as one of London’s most welcom- ing, diverse and vibrant boroughs.
Lambeth Labour firmly believes in a collaborative approach to managing parks and the successes over the last four years wouldn’t have been achieved without the ongoing commitment from you, our Friends of Parks and other community groups.
Our key stakeholder groups have so much to offer in terms of improving the way parks are managed. We’ve demonstrated this through the creation of the new strategic partnership board for Brockwell Park and the creation of management agreements with the local community for three of our parks.
Lambeth Labour are committed to continuing to protect our parks, despite huge cuts to council’s funding – a staggering 56%.If re-elected on 3 May, we promise to:
Continue to protect and champion our parks and open spaces and support the Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in his campaign for London to be a National Park City.
Continue with our record investment in planting trees by planting another 1000 by 2022, many of which will be in our parks and green spaces across the borough.
Pilot a new programme of ‘Health Parks’, starting with Ruskin Park next to Kings College and Maudsley Hospitals and roll out innovative health, recovery and fitness projects across other Lambeth parks and open spaces.
The popularity of our parks also means they are desirable locations for music festivals and other major events. We are a welcoming, diverse borough and we are proud to celebrate this, as we will see later this year with Windrush 70. As you will have seen, The Field Day event was recently granted a licence with conditions, including enhanced security and a reduction in opening times. We recognise the importance of striking the right balance between hosting cultural and music events, which bring in much needed income into the borough, with making sure our parks are tranquil spaces for residents to enjoy all year round.
All our events in our parks are carefully managed and need to follow strict guidelines around safety noise, planning and licensing.
We introduced and have recently increased the Park Investment Levy (PIL) for events in the borough’s parks. The PIL is a payment by event organisers (based on how many people attend the event, up to 50p per person per day) that the council directly reinvests in the park, allowing us to protect our open spaces.
The council’s current events strategy has built in an annual review mechanism and we will always undertake this with Friends groups to review how events are impacting on our parks so we can balance the needs of residents with being an open, vibrant and welcoming borough to all Londoners.
Liberal Democrat Party
Our ambition is to make Lambeth the most innovative borough in the country when it comes to environmental action.
Any political party that is serious about green issues has to be committed to parks. For me, this means signing up to two key principles:
– Park users should be put first. That can only be achieved by ensuring parks are properly funded and maintained, and not exploited for commercial gain by private companies.
– Parks should be valued for their intrinsic social value, particularly in a dense urban borough like Lambeth. There is now overwhelming empirical evidence that they promote wellbeing, social cohesion and are vital to communities where there is socio- economic disadvantage.
We are open to parks being a place for events and activities, as this can encourage public visits and community building. They do need to be appropriate to, and sustainable within, their environments, and be inclusive of the whole community. This should, however, not be seen as a restriction by event organisers, but a challenge to create innovative events.
The Lambeth Country Show is one such use of our park. It’s a highlight of the year for our community and it should hold pride of place. Threats to the future of the event should not be used by Labour and promoters to manipulate public opinion in favour of large-scale paid events.
The Field Day/Lovebox affair has shown up the general lack of progressive thinking in Lambeth Labour. Part of the problem is that Lambeth Council’s cultural policy needs rethinking. It lacks ambition, takes a very limited and narrow view of culture, does little to encourage participation and removes power away from local residents into the hands of private companies. It offers little in the way of interpretation of Lambeth’s cultural history and heritage, education outcomes or personal development. There are almost certainly creative ways to come up with a revenue-generating model for events and culture, that includes events in parks without requiring large swathes to be closed off. I work in the cultural industry and I don’t believe that the only options are huge one-off events or to ‘sell’ the park to private companies who will take the profits rather than the council itself perhaps being the promoter.
In terms of size, I think the question to be asking is what types of event will work in Brockwell Park? It is important to gather as much expert opinion as possible and to hear the voices of those who use and know the park best before settling on a number. The Friends of Brockwell Park would certainly be a valued part of that decision-making process. There is a good case for a 10,000 capacity being a logical starting point; we’ve seen events of just under 20,000 go wrong, but at 10,000 it would still be possible to produce viable and unique events.
Local sound engineer Rory Huston has made a very convincing case for limiting noise levels to 65 decibels (experienced in people’s homes). That is the level of a normal conversation – most of us would not want someone turning up in our homes and shouting, so I’m not sure residents should be asked to tolerate more than 65dBA, even if infrequently!
The idea of making funding parks a statutory duty is an interesting one. Our understanding is that this would require a change in the law from Parliament. In a 2017 report, the Communities and Local Government Committee, while stopping short of calling for a statutory duty, did appear to endorse using other mechanisms to effectively achieve this aim.
Lambeth Liberal Democrats would certainly support any initiative to push this further up the government agenda. In the meantime, we do not believe there is any obstacle, financial or otherwise, preventing local authorities, including Lambeth, being proactive in their parks policy and committing to provide funding so that our parks can be maintained and improved for residents’ enjoyment.