For a number of years discussions have been happening around the future of the site of the Kennington Park Estate Community Centre. We have always been told Hyde Housing hoped to use the site for infill housing, something we are not in against in principle. Always, as part of these discussions, was the promise to re-provide the community centre.
We wholeheartedly oppose the closing of the centre and reduction in community space in the area.
We would like to draw attention to Policy S1 'Safeguarding existing community premises' in the 2015 Lambeth Local Plan.
"Existing community premises, and land formerly in use as community premises, will be safeguarded unless it can be demonstrated that either: (i) there is no existing or future need or demand for such uses, including reuse for other community services locally, and adequate alternative accommodation is available to meet the needs of the area; or (ii) replacement facilities are proposed on or off site of the same or better size and quality to serve the needs of the area; or (iii) development of the site/premises for other uses, or with the inclusion of other uses, will enable the delivery of approved strategies for service improvements."
We are dubious that Hyde will be able to gain planning permission to redevelop this site without the re-provision of community space.
Poor management of the existing centre
Councillors and residents have been told that one of the reasons for the lack of investment in the community centre over the years was because of the long terms plans to rebuild it. We have seen the running down of the community centre and a lack of outreach to put on activities.
We originally, from 2010, held our surgeries in KPE community centre but had to move our surgery because we would often arrive to a closed building - unable to get in.
The use of the centre was run down seemingly as a specific policy presumably to produce low use figures. Groups have been unable to make bookings booking it. The figures are therefore inaccurate.
As a council we appreciate the impact of the short sighted government policy of reducing social rents by 1% and the pressure this brings. However, we are about to start a public consultation on the CLIP process, where we will decide the local priorities for spending the local element of CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy). Councillors have already set youth opportunity and access to jobs as a priority. This is exactly the time Hyde should be pulling together projects to be run out of the community centre and seeking financial support via the CLIP process.
KPE is about to be on the door step of one of London's (if not the UKs) biggest developments - the Oval Gasholders development. Residents should be able to benefit from this and Hyde needs to look to lever in additional funding at this crucial time, not taking away a community facility.
Inadequate and flawed consultation
Local Councillors were not contacted regarding the consultation. It was brought to our attention by the TRA. The only initial consultation with residents we could see was a poster on the community centre door. No leaflets or letters, before Christmas, had been put through residents doors drawing their attention to the consultation. We note letters were delivered after Christmas when many residents are away.
We are very confused by the mention of Tate South Lambeth Library as a ‘close community hub’. This is in fact a library run by the Council and not, as stated in the consultation, run by the Friend of Tate South Lambeth Library. The space is not available to hire by community groups during the day because the small building is in use as a library. It is not suitable to hire for the large scale dance and exercise classes currently taking place in the Kennington Park Community Centre. It is not even the nearest library to Kennington Park Estate – which would be Durning Library.
Demand and need
Only recently on a Saturday, whilst conducting our regular roving surgery, we were able to see the community centre in use by children for a dancing class. It is clear a variety of groups use the centre.
KPE is the only community centre in the area for residents.
KPE has been on SNP promise list for the last four quarters due to youth anti-social behaviour. Hyde should be employing more community engagement to support and facilitate young people to use the centre. Closing it will increase ASB on the estate. They are doing the opposite of what is required and therefore breaching their promise of what they would provide when taking over the housing stock.
Health outcomes for our poorer communities are unequal. We have a growing youth obesity challenge and a looming diabetes epidemic. Access to affordable keep fit activities is essential. Residents are unable to afford more commercial classes. Less mobile residents unable to walk long distances to access classes as are children.
It discriminates against the disabled and poorer residents remove this facility.
It is worth noting that many parents are reluctant to allow their children across to Kennington Park because of the busy main road and gang rivalries with Southwark. They feel safer allowing their children to go to the community centre on the estate.
Creating a more cohesive and united community.
Getting together in classes at the centre increases not only physical well being but also mental health and community cohesion and prevents loneliness. Having a focal point in the community centre creates a sense of ownership of the estate encouraging residents to feel part of the community and look after the estate.
Having a civic centre is essential to a well run estate. Removing it prevents access for residents, not only to groups but to a meeting space to contribute and express their civic roles and responsibilities. It therefore speaks to a systemic failure of Hyde and indicates they are merely a commercial organisation that has now moved from their own covenants and purpose as a housing association. Therefore query the legitimate basis for them to describe themselves legally how they do if they go down this route.
Cllr Jane Edbrooke, Cllr Claire Holland, Cllr Jack Hopkins
Ward Councillors for Oval Ward