One reason planning officials are so well-paid is that occasionally they are sent out to face the voters while their political masters skulk in the shadows until it’s safe to show themselves.
That could be some time, given the rough ride at the 14 January Kennington Oval and Vauxhall Forum (KOV) accorded to Alex Williams, Director of Borough Planning at Transport for London and Sandra Roebuck, London Borough of Lambeth’s Assistant Director, Neighbourhood Investment. Mr Williams and Ms Roebuck were eventually sent home with a note from KOV’s new chairman, Whitehall insider Malcolm Russell.
The TfL man and the LBL woman were at KOV, it seems, to explain why TfL and Lambeth want to spend £25 million or so knocking down Vauxhall Bus Station, only ten years after it has opened. The bus stops will then be scattered so people can cross roads to queue at the roadside in traffic fumes. It is all something to do with making the Vauxhall Gyratory two-way while at the same time creating a ‘High Street’.
There was a record turnout for this KOV public meeting, at which the mood seemed to be, ‘Play what games with the traffic if you must, but leave the Vauxhall Bus Station well alone’. Private enterprise, as Vauxhall Society members and pro-bus station activists Pauline Gaunt and Helen Irwin pointed out, is already creating a ‘High Street’ of shops, bars, cafes and hotels around the bus station. The meeting voted to retain the station.
But as Pauline and Helen also pointed out, TfL/LBL seem about to ‘consult’ only on proposals that envisage the destruction of Vauxhall Bus Station.
If you want to keep (or destroy) Vauxhall Bus station, there isn’t much time. ‘Consult’ all you like, but it’ll just be massaged to support what the politicians want. Council elections are in May 2014, so now’s the time to tell the politicians – your sitting and would-be councillors – what you want, and how you’ll vote if they don’t seem to be listening?