As Lambeth scrambles to re-monetise the Events Site, words of wisdom fell on deaf ears at last month’s Planning Meeting, where all but one member of the committee voted to push ahead with a summer season of multiple events.
Despite pleas from members of CCMAC, the Clapham Society and the Friends of Clapham Common, all advising against such a move, Lambeth elected to go for the money and chance it with the health of the grass.
The site has been fenced off for the last 8 months in a hasty push to re-seed the whole area and ‘reinstate’ a hard wearing, football-pitch-style surface. Although it is hoped the new seed mix will withstand everything Events Lambeth can throw at it, only time will tell if this remains a reach beyond their grasp.
Any regular user of the Common can see the grass is far from ready for heavy use. It remains thin, sparse and has yet to become properly established – it has only been cut once this year. Yet, with just 3 months to go before a planned 40,000-strong crowd descends for a six day event, the Planning Committee overrides Mother Nature and insists “it will be ready because it has to be ready”.
Only Cllr Ben Kind stood in opposition, pointing to the cyclical problem of chronic overuse, followed by increasingly long recovery periods with evermore drastic action required – this time at a cost of £200K. Cllr. Kind said it doesn’t matter whether you call it a ‘reinstatement’ or a ‘regeneration’ of the site, we are simply asking too much from this piece of land.
Lambeth currently remains in denial about this truism. It believes that if it can only just get the formula right – using the right seed mix, de-compacting the ground and drilling bore holes – this year, things will be different.
Well let’s see. The committee made much of learning lessons from the past with this problem, so we now ask that they stand by their bravado and supreme confidence and commit to a NO MORE FENCES policy, if indeed the site fails once again.
Clapham Common is already one of the most overused green spaces in London and the consequences of repeatedly fencing off 17 acres of Metropolitan Open Land means there is unacceptable pressure on the remaining grass from sports and heavy footfall.
We simply cannot afford to be caught in a cycle where so much of the Common is repeatedly stolen from us by Lambeth for turning a profit.