Council’s Brockwell Park partner says giant events must be reconsidered

Written by on December 13, 2017 in Community, Council, News - 2 Comments
Children's tug of war at a Community Greenhouses event in Brockwell Park

Children’s tug of war at a Community Greenhouses event in Brockwell Park

Brockwell Park Community Partners (BPCP), which recently agreed with Lambeth council to take part in a “partnership board” to oversee the running of the park, is the latest organisation to question plans for two major events in the park in summer 2018.

In a statement today (13 December) it said ordinary life in the park, seen widely as a green lung for Brixton, would be impossible for two summer months and that there appeared to be no benefit to the community as a whole from the events.

BPCP – which has been involved as a partner with the council in obtaining multi-million National Lottery grants for the park – also said that there was to be a “more structured” consultation on the plans after Christmas.

Both established groups like the charity Friends of Brockwell Park and spontaneous campaigns have been infuriated by the plans and the fact that tickets for one event were for sale online before any formal announcement, let alone consultation.

BPCP said its stakeholders and members of the public were “broadly against” such large paid events in the park.

It said the size of the events, both of which are expected to attract more than 40,000 people a day over two three-day periods, was a “step change” from earlier events.

Yet even these, with audiences of up to 20,000, had seen “problems including damage to the park, littering, drug-dealing, anti-social behaviour, crowd control and disruption of ordinary park activities, all of which have been reported by us to Lambeth Events”.

Opposition was also based on the effect of large paid events on the wider community, on local access to shops and other amenities, on anti-social behaviour and on crime.

“Although our remit is Brockwell Park, we cannot ignore these concerns,” BPCP said. “The park is at the heart of this community and there is an overlap between damage to the park and damage to the community.

“At present, although there may be additional funding for the park, there appears to be no benefit from the events to the community as a whole.”

As the proposals stood, the park would be “more or less occupied by these events and the Lambeth Country Show for a period of nearly two summer months, at a time when people use it most”.

BMX racing in Brockwell Park, Brixton

Use pf the park’s BMX track will be ‘much more difficult’

The ordinary life of the park would become “impossible”. Access to the children’s playground; the water play area; the walled garden; the recently restored BMX track; and the community greenhouses would all be “much more difficult”.

During the set-up and break-down of the events, the park would be unsafe for small children and dogs because of vehicle movement.

The park’s miniature railway would be unable to function; St Matthew’s Project would lose its football space; access to the Lido and the Lido café would be restricted; and there would be little space for informal games.

“We are very concerned that the new sports platform, that is now being well-used, will be swallowed up inside the event sites for the duration of both events,” BPCP said.

“Both the surface of the platform, which is not suitable for heavy use and the table tennis table, which has been bought and installed by the community, will be at risk of damage.”

Event organisers and Lambeth council have suggested that the events will occupy about a third of the park. But, says BPCP, “When the access space is added in and the fact that some areas of the park will be marooned behind the event site and inaccessible, then the loss of space is much larger and more significant.

“The park’s topography does not suit the organisation of these large events. The events structures are visible from most areas of the park and from outside and the fencing and stages are highly intrusive. The hilly nature of the park makes sound carry further.

“Events therefore strongly affect all the park, park users and anyone living close by.”

BPCP said that police had been concerned by what happened at earlier, smaller events and went on: “At the Sunfall Festival this year (2017) there were serious problems of crowd control caused when people were queuing for admittance to the event site such that the police had to take action.

“We have no guarantee that ‘gates’ of up to 40,000 people can be handled any better.”

BPCP said at the first Found Festival [2015] there had drug taking and drunkenness over a wide area of the park because people attending the event, knowing they would be searched on entry, pre-loaded in the park.

“At one point someone brought an SUV into the park, parked on one of the paths and dealt drugs from the back without anyone trying to stop them,” the organisation said.

It is also concerned that people attending a three-day event may try to sleep in the park.

BPCP said that even when – as in the case of the recent paid-for fireworks show – organisers were conscientious, damage to the park was “inevitable”.

Many drivers who brought large equipment to the park were commissioned at the last moment and had no knowledge of the park or of any of the arrangements made for its protection.

Cygnets in Brockwell Park ©SHauensteinSwan

The first cygnets for decades were raised in Brockwell Park this year

BPCP said it had worked with the Friends of Brockwell Park and others for many years to improve the biodiversity of the park, succeeding in turning “a desert of municipal greensward” into an enriched environment for many species.

It cited the Brockwell Hedge, the wildflower slope at the Lido, the Community Greenhouses garden, the pollinator garden at Norwood Lodge and the meadow on the Cressingham ridge as examples of investment in biodiversity by the Parks Team and volunteers.

Endangered species found in the park include house sparrows and stag beetles, as well as many amphibians, bees, dragonflies and unexpected species of birds.

“Large crowds, large vehicle movement and the kind of major noise and crowd disturbance that will accompany these major events are inimical to wild life and the volume of attendees is something that urgently needs to be reconsidered,” said BPCP.

It said it hoped councillors would be prepared to reconsider the proposals and act to protect the community and the park.

The policy of the BPCP, agreed at a general meeting, is that there should be no more than two major events a year in the Park, including the country show.

BPCP added that it was “very concerned” that planning for the park and, in particular, the proposed restoration of Brockwell Hall would be compromised by demands generated solely by events.

About the Author

Alan Slingsby moved to Brixton just as the 1981 uprising began. His nearest pub was the Effra and nearest off licence the Frontline — long gone in an earlier wave of closures of treasured community establishments. Has edited newspapers for the National Union of Students and National Union of Teachers. Now makes a living designing magazines and books and anything else people will pay him for.

2 Comments on "Council’s Brockwell Park partner says giant events must be reconsidered"

  1. Dino December 14, 2017 at 2:55 pm ·

    Peace Dave. The “do gooders” you mention are ordinary people like us, who use the park for the purpose it was left to the local people in the first place. That is: a public green space open to all, without being charged £$$£ to get in.

    They also contribute their own time and money to make sure the park is kept well for others to enjoy. They’re not trying to turn Brixton into a “sleepy village”. It’ll never be that. They just want to ensure there’s a place where people can retreat from the noise of the city for some rarified peace and quiet.

    I like to go to festivals and gigs, but even I know a ‘Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) of Borough Importance’ (Grade I) isn’t the right place for these types of events.

  2. Dave December 13, 2017 at 9:46 pm ·

    Not true that the public are ‘broadly against’ such plans. These events are good for Brixton. It puts us on the map and is great for the local economy. This group does not represent me nor the people in my local community in Brixton. I wish the do gooders would stop trying to turn Brixton into a sleepy suburban village.

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