Free Vauxhall Park walk on Friday 3 October, 12.30pm

Vauxhall Park

Vauxhall ParkHelen Monger of the Friends of Vauxhall Park is your guide for this walk around this award-winning gem of a park which dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria.

That is when the love of women’s rights campaigner Millicent Fawcett for her late husband, the environmental pioneer Henry Fawcett, inspired his widow and her women friends to commemorate his life by turning the grounds around the Fawcett home into a public park for the benefit of industrial Vauxhall’s poor. Helen can tell you this story and that of the volunteers who lovingly tend Vauxhall Park today.

Meeting place

12.30pm at the Parco Café in Vauxhall Park, where you can buy Vauxhall: A Little History as a souvenir.




‘We’ve now gone from being ruled by Barclays Bank to being controlled by Berkeley Homes’

St George Wharf Tower by Rafael Aleixo

St George Wharf Tower by Rafael AleixoIs Lambeth Council allowing property developers to fund the salaries of council planning officers who are put to work on fast-tracking a developer’s planning application?

If so, how many developers have bought their way into Lambeth planning? Who are they, what are the developments, and how often were the eventual applications successful?

If Lambeth does not allow developers to buy in, has the council allowed the practice in the past, and may it yet do so in the future?

It’s already happening in London, so these are good questions to put, not to Lambeth councillors but to the council’s Chief Executive, Derrick Anderson.

That’s because according to an unnamed planning officer from a London borough ‘suffering from a spate of towers’, council chief executives ‘will allow schemes to be pumped up as much as they can go before they get political push-back from councillors.’ The worst schemes happen where there is no political resistance at all.

‘Spate of towers’? ‘No political resistance at all’? Remind you of anywhere? Lambeth/Vauxhall Nine Elms and Battersea’s planning free-for-all figures widely in a spine-chilling Guardian article entitled The truth about property developers: how they are exploiting planning authorities and ruining our cities.

The author, Guardian design and architecture critic Oliver Wainwright, argues that property developers have taken over control of London from the banks. He quotes former chief planner of the City of London Peter Rees as saying, ‘Never trust a bank with property, or a property developer with money,’ and ‘We’ve [London] gone from being ruled by Barclays Bank to being controlled by Berkeley Homes.’

Developers, Wainwright argues, are like the banks before them, running riot. They’re botching not the financial system but London itself.

Developers find vast sums are available from the ‘dazzling wealth’ of Russian, and the Middle Eastern investors, and this foreign money is being spent on the ‘wilful destruction’ of the capital. Like the banks, developers too will come unstuck, but the mess they made of London will remain.

Developers get their way through a ‘Faustian pact’, a system ‘not far from legalised bribery’ by which councils get a rake-off under a negotiable levy on agreed developments under Section 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act. The bigger the scheme, the bigger the rake-off.

A whole new industry has now spring up advising developers on how to claw back councils’ S106 rake-off by subsequent negotiations, always secret, to add extra storeys and reduce ‘affordable housing’. That, we know, happens in Lambeth. Any planning officer who dares to argue is denounced as being ‘anti-growth’.

If they don’t get their way, the big developers sidestep the local authority and get the OK from a ‘growth’-mad minister or mayor. Which takes us back to Vauxhall where, argues Wainwright, the then deputy prime minister John Prescott personally approved a Berkeley Homes development, the Vauxhall Tower.

Prescott OK’d the Vauxhall Tower against his own planning inspector’s advice and warnings from ministerial advisers that ‘it could set a precedent for the indiscriminate scattering of very tall buildings across London’. And, it would seem, for the Lambeths of London to rubber-stamp this ‘scattering’ because if the council doesn’t, then the mayor or the minister of the day will, regardless of political affiliation.

Derrick Anderson to step down at end of year

Law and disorder in Vauxhall

Image credit: St George wharf tower © Rafael Aleixo

South London clergy call for retention of ‘existing Vauxhall Bus Station’ to protect parishioners

vauxhall at night by greg mccormick

vauxhall at night by greg mccormickThe clergy of churches throughout South London have signed a letter of protest to Lambeth Labour Leader Lib Peck at her party’s policy of demolishing Vauxhall Bus Station.

‘How can it be right that Lambeth chooses to remove an essential local amenity [Vauxhall Bus Station] depended upon by the poorest members of our community [...] to satisfy the aspirations of a select demographic of affluent incomers?’ the churchmen and women ask.

The bus station protest letter is signed by the Rev Fraser Dyer, priest in charge of St Anne and All Saints South Lambeth, Vauxhall. His co-signatories are priests of churches in Battersea Brixton, Clapham, Kennington and Waterloo whose parishioners rely on Vauxhall Bus Station.

The Vauxhall Society, which is backing the campaign to save Vauxhall Bus Station, was asked to publicise the letter. Copies have gone to Kate Hoey MP, Alex Williams, Transport London planner, The Bishop of Southwark and to the Archdeacon of Lambeth, meaning that the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be aware of the protest.

‘We feel [...] that Lambeth Council are not balancing the needs of the poorest residents with the drive for regeneration, the protest letter continues.

‘Faced with the harshness of daily life, often including antisocial working hours, and unable to afford any other mode of transport, the bus station is one local facility that eases daily life for the least well off.

‘The proposed redistribution of bus stops around the gyratory system will increase the time it takes to change between buses, expose passengers to increased risk (especially at night) and remove shelter from the elements provided by the current bus station.’

Lambeth is urged to ‘think again’ and redesign the gyratory, retaining the ‘existing bus station’. To do otherwise, the clerics say, would be to make life even harder for poorer and less mobile people.

The protest letter’s signatories:

Rev Fraser Dyer, Priest-in-Charge, St Anne and All Saints South Lambeth
Rev Penelope Rose-Casemore, Vicar, Christ Church and St John the Evangelist Clapham
Canon Stephen Coulson, Vicar, St Mark Kennington
Canon Giles Goddard, Vicar, St John with St Andrew Waterloo
Rev Tim Jeffreys, Vicar, Christ Church Brixton Road
Rev Alison Kennedy, Team Vicar, St Peter Vauxhall
Rev David Longe, Associate Priest, St Anselm Kennington Cross
Rev Pearl Luxon, Lambeth Mission and St Mary, North Lambeth Methodist Circuit and Parish
Rev Louise Seear, Asst Curate, St Peter Vauxhall
Rev Andrew Sweeney, Asst Curate, Christ Church and St John the Evangelist Clapham
Canon Geoffrey Vevers, Vicar, Battersea Fields

There is still time to sign the petition calling for the retention of the bus station.

10.30 am, Saturday 27 September: Come and have your say about a newer and better children’s playground in Vauxhall Park

vauxhall park children's playgroundVauxhall Park is about to lose its children’s playground, now over 20 years old and well-hammered. Happily it’s to be replaced by another, but nobody’s yet sure what. Some idea of the options will emerge at a public meeting at 10.30 am on Saturday 27 September in an adult playground, the upstairs room of The Fentiman Arms, Fentiman Road. It’s organised by TVS member group Friends of Vauxhall Park to discuss the current revision of the London Borough of Lambeth’s masterplan for the park, last looked at eight years ago. This was before LBL let it be known that it would go along with Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson’s plans to block out light and sun from the park with one gardenless skyscraper after another, thus directing thousands more pairs of feet , big and small, to trample this tiny gem of a park. The Friends of Vauxhall Park are on the LBL steering group revising the masterplan and redoing the playground, and the 27 September meeting is a chance to hear from and speak to Lynn Kinnear of Kinnear Associates who have been appointed to do both. It’s the first item up, so children can come along and have their say about the playground and then push off if they’d rather not stay for the rest of the agenda.

Vauxhall Nine Elms & Battersea, Helicopters and Air Turbulence: the high price of high-rise living already includes two deaths – could there be more to come?

helicopter crash vauxhall 2013

helicopter crash vauxhall 2013Well, there you have it. The Vauxhall Society has all along warned Lambeth councillor and planners that they have been asleep at the wheel in allowing so many skyscrapers to cluster at Vauxhall Cross end of Vauxhall Nine Elms & Battersea ‘Opportunity Area’. Now comes the report of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch into the 16 January 2013 helicopter crash at Vauxhall Cross when a helicopter clipped a crane at St George Tower, killing the pilot and a pedestrian in the rush-hour streets below but, this time, missing crowded trains and buses.

Guess what? The accident, it appears from the AAIB report, was built in from the moment John Prescott pushed through the construction of the St George Tower.

One lot of planners didn’t tell another lot of planners that there were skyscrapers going up at Vauxhall Nine Elms. These structures, together with high buildings on the other side of the Thames, whittled down the H4 two-lane ‘helicopter highway’ along the course of the river. Came a foggy morning like that in January last year and…
“Two-way traffic along helicopter route H4 is no longer possible in certain circumstances using current procedures following construction of the building at St George Wharf,’ AAIB concludes, adding ‘The building at St George Wharf was not included in the helicopter’s obstacle databases. There is no effective system in place to anticipate the potential effects of new obstacles on existing airspace arrangements when the obstacles are outside ‘safeguarded’ areas.”

Now of course even more and higher skyscrapers are sprouting yards away from the fatal tower. Nobody’s going to widen the Thames or do away with fog. But there is another accident hazard being built into Vauxhall Nine Elms and just waiting to happen: air turbulence. You get fog on rivers, as well in planners’ minds; on rivers, also you get wind, sudden gusts of. Air turbulence around a single building much lower than St George Tower has already killed in Leeds, as The Vauxhall Society has warned. That wind scooped up a lorry and then dropped it on the pavement, killing one pedestrian and gravely injuring another.

The helicopter crash report in full:.

BBC Reports:

Air turbulence; the case of the flying lorry:

Photo: ofnetsandthings used under a Creative Commons licence

Wake-up call to lawyers who leave their brains in the office when they troop home to South London – time to help your elderly or disabled neighbour?

Are you, Ms or Mr Lawyer, clued up on legally-compliant consultations and impact assessments, yet not in the pocket of Transport for London or the London Borough of Lambeth, or hoping to be so?

If the answer is ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘no’ in that order, why not contribute to a new critique of consultation/impact assessment as it operates in Vauxhall? This critique, backed by The Vauxhall Society, may suggest to you that what TfL/Lambeth are up to with Vauxhall Bus Station is more ‘con’ than ‘sultation’, as full of holes as a string vest. But which are the best holes to pick?

Your contribution will help hold TfL/Lambeth to account if they try to pull another fast one, with a forthcoming ‘consultation’ that, like the last one, defies local opinion in excluding an option of keeping the bus station.
If TfL/Lambeth get their way and tear down the bus station, the bus stops will be scattered around Vauxhall Cross. The old, the poor, the sick as well as young schoolchildren from all over South London will be forced to cross roads seething with traffic. Then they will queue on narrow, congested pavements amid the pollution. And return to the situation of ten years ago, to the mercy of the muggers, drunks and druggers. Except that there are now many more muggers, drunks and druggers than ten years ago, stalking the dazed youngsters that issue from the all-night clubs that now cluster at Vauxhall Cross, clubs that weren’t there a decade ago.

Vauxhall Cross Consultation: The Critique:

Public meeting to discuss consultation issues, Thursday 25 September:

Have your say on the new New Covent Garden Market

globe courgettes - photo by mermaid

globe courgettes - photo by mermaidWhether the proposals for the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market make you want to hand bouquets to the developers or pelt them with rotten fruit, you have until 26 September to have your say. At least you’ll get a new retail market out of it.

2014/2810 – New Covent Garden Market, Nine Elms Lane, SW8

Planning application for part outline, part detailed planning permission for:

(a) Demolition of existing wholesale Fruit and Vegetable and Flower Market and ancillary buildings and structures, and residential building on Nine Elms Lane (apart from the existing multi storey car park);

(b) Construction of mixed-use redevelopment comprising: a new Fruit and Vegetable Market and Flower Market and ancillary uses, including temporary and permanent façade; refurbishment and extension of existing waste collection area (including rooftop sports pitches); residential dwellings; flexible commercial uses, including retail, financial and professional services, café/restaurant, bar uses and hot food takeaways and offices; non-residential institutions; assembly and leisure uses; temporary storage and distribution buildings and associated works; associated car, cycle and motorcycle parking and servicing and new vehicle accesses, energy centres; and landscaping public realm and open space including part of the Linear Park. All matters reserved apart from access, details of all new markets and supporting buildings, and details of Building N8 and associated landscaping);

(c) Site clearance and enabling works.

An Environmental Statement has been submitted with the application under The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011.

The application documents can be viewed and comments can be left on the Wandsworth Council website by clicking on the following link:

If you wish to comment on this application you can email

Download the New Covent Garden Market consultation newsletter

Photo (cropped): Mermaid used under a Creative Commons licence

English Heritage listing sought to protect Vauxhall Bus Station

Vauxhall Bus Station courtesy Impact

Vauxhall Bus Station courtesy ImpactThe Vauxhall Society has applied to English Heritage for the endangered Vauxhall Bus Station to be given listed building status to protect it for Vauxhall and for all Londoners. Despite demands from TVS and other community groups to keep the Bus Station, Transport for London’s latest series of options for the redevelopment of the Vauxhall road-rail-Tube interchange still excludes the option of retaining the Bus Station. The Vauxhall Society is campaigning for the interchange to be retained in its present configuration, the most convenient, safe, and efficient transport interchange in London. The Bus Station, the second busiest in London after Victoria’s, is also an iconic building, revolutionary when designed by Arup Associates just over ten years ago. It is still entirely fit for purpose, and campaigners argue that it would be a scandal for the Bus Station to be torn down to make way for a row of shops. TfL and Lambeth’s proposed alternative to the Bus Station is a humdrum ‘town square’ ringed by bus stops on overcrowded pavements. Vauxhall, indeed London, deserves better.

Fanfare for Vauxhall Bus Station (The Guardian)

Victoria Coach Station given English Heritage listing (The Standard):

Sign the Save the Bus Station petition


Law and disorder in Vauxhall

vauxhall at night by greg mccormick

vauxhall at night by greg mccormickAmmonia-throwing, ‘whippets’ of nitrous oxide inhalant circulating in Vauxhall’s night clubs and littering the streets, ‘pop-up parties’, ‘anti-social behaviour’, Vauxhall City Farm having to hire security staff, stabbings, Sainsburys’ shoppers robbed and threatened in daylight, a burgeoning Somali street gang, for two years a pest, caught on camera threatening people at knife-point. Staff in local businesses as well as customers and passers-by now feel unsafe in Vauxhall when two years ago they didn’t. Talk about floodlighting Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

All this and more is a documented part of the streetscape in and around Vauxhall Cross.

Business as Unusual
Vauxhall, or this part of it, has always been a rough old place. It’s easy to see how things might be made rougher still by the recently-arrived ‘night-time economy’ of night clubs and the huge crowds these businesses serve with alcohol until all hours, and the violent parasites the revellers and their money attract. Yet club- and publand does much, by its own actions and through its pressure group, Vauxhall One (VX1), identifying wrongdoers and pushing Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police to shape up and deal with this growing disorder.

Uninvolved, clueless
Both police and council officials seem uninvolved or clueless. They are charged with not turning up at meetings of the Licencing Partnership that can discipline clubs or pubs, for example, and with ignoring businesses when they identify persistent troublemakers. Another grouping, the Kennington, Oval and Vauxhall Forum (KOVF) as good as says Lambeth is lying in inferring yet refusing to confirm that the public can vote on an option to retain Vauxhall Bus Station. Without that confirmation, ‘consultation’ is a mockery.

Back to the bad old days
At the time of writing, Lambeth and Transport for London officials are declining to appear and explain themselves before a public meeting (on 25 September) of a KOVF, a community consultation body Lambeth itself set up. Lambeth and its partner, Transport for London, intend to tear down the bus station to make way for further property development. Demolition involves dispersing the bus station’s bus stops all around the Vauxhall Gyratory, making it that much easier passengers to be menaced by Vauxhall Cross’s riff-raff, which is what happened before Lambeth built the bus station only nine years ago. VX1 member-businesses individually can oppose demolition of the bus station, but VX1 itself can’t afford to. VX1 cannot function without the council’s say-so. KOV is also hobbled, because Lambeth set it up, and partly because its Board is terrified of being seen as ‘political’.

The Rotherham Effect
The trouble is that everything has become ‘political’ in Vauxhall. It grows more so every day. The May council elections confirmed Lambeth as an elective dictatorship. Winning 54.9% of the votes cast, Labour emerged with 59 of the 63 seats, the Tories with three and the Greens with one. The percentage of the electorate voting slumped from 58% to 34%. Labour now has a firmer grip on Vauxhall than it does on Rotherham, where both police and council have a lot of explaining, it wasn’t me-ing and pension-protecting to do. The point is not that the Labour Party is in charge of Lambeth or Rotherham, but that where any political party rules unchallenged for any length of time, the people suffer. Politicians wax even more overbearing and wasteful, officials sloppier and higher-handed. So too do the police. This is the disorder we’re now seeing in Vauxhall. Injustice flourishes.

One-party corporate statelet?
Lambeth is now a sort of one-party corporate statelet. Its policies with regard to Vauxhall are indistinguishable from that of Tory Wandsworth, or of the property companies bent on exploiting the Nine Elms–Vauxhall Cross development free-for all. Central Government now ‘encourages’ local authorities to rubber-stamp planning applications by paying Town Hall the proceeds of a tax on developers, the ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’. Nowhere is now more enthusiastic about pocketing CIL than Lambeth, even to the point of giving ground in subsequent secret negotiations in which developers claw back CIL by extracting reductions in the agreed level of ‘affordable housing’.

A cash-cow called Vauxhall
Vauxhall, epicentre of the property gold rush on the South Bank, is become a Lambeth cash-cow. Councillors spend the cash not in Vauxhall, but in their own wards or wherever else in Lambeth the party thinks fit. Vauxhall’s all-Labour councillors (in the Oval and Princes wards) meekly fall into line. Their rise through the party ranks is what it’s all about, not the electorate, much of which doesn’t vote anyway.

The London Borough of Lambeth, as it operates in Vauxhall, is now functionally corrupt, ‘corrupt’ in the sense that here the system of local government is breaking down, spoiled, debased. In Vauxhall there may be law but there is now disorder, and not all of it is on the street.

What Lambeth United Housing Co-op has to say:

Bang goes council scrutiny:

Kennington, Oval & Vauxhall Forum Public Meeting, 25 September:

Will yours be the 2000th signature on the Save Vauxhall Bus Station online petition? Sign here:

Join The Vauxhall Society on Facebook

Photo (cropped) by Greg McCormick used under a Creative Commons licence


What happened to Vauxhall Gardens (Manchester), and why it’d be useful if local historians did some some spadework

A map of Green Park, St. James's Park and Buckingham Palace in 1833

The success of the Vauxhall Gardens pleasure resort in the 18th century encouraged scores of copycat ventures, few lasting long and most now forgotten. One long-gone ‘Vauxhall Gardens’ was in Manchester, a public pleasure gardens attached to the Grape and Compass Coffee and Tea House. Scholes’s Manchester and Salford Directory (1797) lists the site as belonging to a Robert Tinker. The resort was renamed ‘Vauxhall Gardens’ in 1814, but by 1895 was shown as waste ground, probably a quarry. The site itself is now lost, but appropriately enough was in what is now Vauxhall Street, Collyhurst, M8 8HN.

A sad tale, and one of many on the Parks and Gardens UK database, which welcomes help from local historians in updating and expanding entries as well as adding previously-overlooked historic gardens sites. One group that is encouraging its activists to pitch in and help is the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS), which recently came to Vauxhall, London, for a session with Vauxhall Gardens historian David Coke and The Vauxhall Society (TVS).

The NADFAS visit came as part of a drive to encourage members and non-members alike to add to a publicly-available online database of historic parks and gardens. The idea is to alert people not just to the existence of green spaces but to tickle their fancy with the history and stories that surround them. The Association of Gardens Trusts and |York University set up the database, Parks & Gardens UK, eight years ago. Managed by a charity, Parks and Gardens Data Services, the P&GUK database is free to the public, lists over 6,500 historic gardens sites, past and present, and offers more than 2,000 biographies of people connected with them. But that still leaves many gardens sites to tell P&GUK about, and some of the existing entries need improvement. Many parks and gardens were demolished when the land was sold in the 19th century, and too often the records lost. Our own Vauxhall Gardens was sold for housing in 1859 but happily enough material survives to make this pleasure resort live on in books and guided local history walks such as the Vauxhall One/Vauxhall Society walk to be led by David Coke on 9 September. The untold stories behind many other lost gardens here and elsewhere, together with images – lurk in local archives, just waiting along to be ferreted out by local historians. Besides Vauxhall Gardens, there were , large and small, in our district and a new TVS project plans to list them.

There’s a ‘secret garden’ in the quadrilateral bounded by the backs of houses facing onto Heyford Avenue, Dorset Road and Old South Lambeth Road. It’s a former builders’ yard, now totally overgrown. This little wilderness is said to be zoned for storage only, but if your place backs on to it, do keep an eye open for sudden activity there or at the developers’ friend, Lambeth Planning Department.
Vauxhall Gardens, Manchester
TVS walks