I am writing to urge you to reject the application by Lambeth Council for permission to carry out restricted works on London’s Clapham Common in order to hold large-scale, ticketed, commercial events this summer.
I have lived near the Common for 30 years; my young adult children also live locally in rented flats without outdoor space. For all of us, like hundreds of thousands of others across south west London, the open space of the Common has been a lockdown lifesaver on which we have depended for our wellbeing almost every day.
Lambeth Council has made itself judge and jury in giving itself blanket planning permission in recent years for a growing number of commercial events on the Common. The number and scale of these events is now doing irreparable damage to the very fabric of the Common and restricting public access to what is supposed to be common land for weeks at a time.
The plans in the application you will be considering seek permission to bring heavy vehicles, rigging, fencing and staging on to a much loved 17-acre area of grass that is the most popular part of the common for general relaxation and recreation.
This grassy area is already so heavily degraded by previous commercial overexploitation that even a £200,000 investment has not repaired it, leaving the reseeded grass fragile, the biodiversity of the pasture decimated, and the ground far too soft for any heavy use. It has already been fenced off to the public for 8 months through the Covid lockdown, corralling local visitors into a diminished space at time of maximum need.
If you grant permission, this precious area will be enclosed and unavailable to the public again for weeks during the time of peak local need – the summer holidays, and again after the event for many months to try to repair the damage. It will be an act of vandalism by Lambeth not forgotten quickly by voters.
This is the precise opposite of the public interest in nature conservation and public rights to the land you are being asked to consider. It is the precise opposite indeed of the Conservative party’s own agenda to build back greener after Covid.
Lambeth argues that large crowds, in this case an estimated 160,000 people, will bring important business to local SMEs. We support local SMEs wholeheartedly but the reality is different. Clapham Common is very well established without need of further events as a destination that is once again throbbing happily with outdoor bars, cafes and restaurants – so much so that the area of Clapham Old Town and High Street adjacent to the site designated by Lambeth for these events is already “a saturation zone”, ineligible for more licensing, at the request of police.
What people are desperate for is open space. The Common has legal status as common land and should be afforded the highest degree of protection.
I urge you to refuse Lambeth’s council’s request and uphold the rights of the public over the Common.