urbanforester response to masterplan pt two; next six steps…

Masterplan Response Pt 2 – next six steps… [Ph. G Mannes-Abbott]

NB: reposted from original ECUF site [now defunct] 17 November 2011 with permission of its author.

There are a number of further responses with a series of steps which will roll out in the weeks, month, even years ahead.

Ones that relate most directly to our Urban Forest are as follows;

1. Phase 1; it remains THE test of the regeneration. The trees already destroyed -and which as yet there have been no proposals to replace within the site despite an obvious and proper solution- are THE test of Phase 1. Other issues; massive car capacity and new infrastructure, private podia replacing public amenity, monstrous building heights, wilful ignorance and blindness to built form and context, etc., mean that Phase 1 is a beacon. It will either expose the nasty, polluting, contemptuous truth of Lend Lease’s actual intentions [with Southwark secretly signed up to even worse, of course] or illuminate a development process ahead that has regeneration as it’s guiding principle and which understands its relationship to an existing place and the people of that place…

We have high hopes and expectations. Lend Lease have a long and exacting decade ahead; their reputation stands or falls at Phase 1. They know it, we need to stand firm, or let the same excesses roll out over the whole scheme once a sugar-coated Masterplan outline has been agreed…

2. Details of existing tree retention. This needs elaborating OPENLY, taken tree by tree through every square metre of the site to ensure that every single tree has been fully and properly considered -against a context whereby at present hundreds of trees and their continuous canopy will be obliterated and, if replaced at all, replaced with decorative junk-trees. This is very urgent; as things stand the great majority of mature trees will be destroyed. LL, with Grants need to engage in an open, honest, dialogue about this… The time for it to begin is NOW.

3. Forest Bank. Once existing trees have been protected to the absolute maximum and each one at a time, the replacement of trees that are destined for obliteration requires urgent attention. This is not something that will be imposed by the developer nor their chosen landscape architects. There needs to be a mechanism/body/panel which involves all parties, including residents and anyone else with a direct interest, so that agreements on how many trees, which trees, where they will be replanted [within the Heygate site wherever possible, otherwise radiating out from its centre along linked arteries], when they will be planted and who is involved in making joint decisions is clarified and locked-in. The trees are ours. Their value resides in public welfare benefits in ways that overlap with obvious and incontrovertible ecological ones, which have a political context bigger than Southwark. Proposals/agreements for the Forest Bank must be invested in the Outline Masterplan Application to demonstrate that it has been taken seriously. Otherwise we withhold our consent…

4. The proposed new public park is to be warmly welcomed however we need to know how public it is proposed to be. The trend towards private parks/green and open space, named ‘public’ in order to push through planning, is now well known and entirely exposed. With respect, the line to adopt is that we will press as far and long as possible to make the publicness of the park mean something instead of it meaning very nearly nothing. Simply put, if Marks and Spencer/Starbucks are paying for it in service charges, they will decide what you do, drink, eat and wear there… eventually and inevitably. There may be something in-between LA-maintained public and developer-policed ‘public’ which guarantees public rights [those rights be covenanted in the Masterplan Application obviously] while LL retain some of what they are not saying they want yet.

Or an arrangement in which the three parties; commercial, new residential and existing residential [the public] share rights to the publicness which would militate against commercial interests being dominant. Indeed, as new residents grow up in and ‘own’ the neighbourhood, this militates towards residential interest, i.e., the publicness of the park. This question will determine whether this is a private development scheme or a regeneration project as described and invested in broadly; it is claims to the latter that will get the scheme through planning. Or not. A new park is either public. Or it is a private park.

5. The issue of accessibility to the ground, park, trees now, in the interim period and subsequently is all one. If there is to be a park running through the scheme where today there is an open Forest, we, the public, require continued ongoing -albeit adaptive to actual demo and actual build but these to be discussed honestly, in contrast to recent and present LA behaviour- access to the ground. There is no good reason why anything less should be considered. The trees in our Forest have long guaranteed this very particular degree of accessibility…

6. Other large issues and ideas about the broader context, new character, principles, Forest-wide relations and ethics. Contact enquires [at] g-m-a [dot] net for more on these and/or continue coming to monthly walks; first Sunday in every month [except January 1st 2012; please email!].

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