A time of waiting…

The deadline for writing to Defra has now passed.

This site was created as a way of encouraging people to write to Defra objecting to Lambeth Council’s plans for Clapham Common. The deadline was 23rd May.

We are now awaiting their decision. Some people may have received an email from Lambeth saying the application has been “Granted” but this just refers to Lambeth’s own planning application meeting a few weeks ago.

Many thanks to every one of you who wrote to the Secretary of State expressing your views about how you use Clapham Common and how these big commercial events affect you.

The Friends of Clapham Common, the Clapham Society and the Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC) also submitted written representations to the Secretary of State. We will post their submissions here when we get their permission to do so, along with any updates as and when we know what’s happening next.


Sample Letter 9

I write to object to the approval of Planning Permission for Temporary Use of Clapham Common for a range of events in 2021. I attach below my previous objection prior to determination.

1. Common land was established to stop enclosure. The application contravenes the principle of common land.

2. The area designated by Lambeth for Events has increasingly been used. Applications for planning permission have been misleading in excluding the periods of re-instatement.

3. The damage due to its use for large events necessitated the renewal programme currently unfinished. The area has been fenced since September 2020. Due to the poor quality of the renewal works and inadequate drainage, the area is still fenced and the period has been extended from April 2021 to an anticipated, but unconfirmed date, of end of May 2021.The area will have been inaccessible for a period of 9 months during the most used period of its use in history due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. This is a significant loss of amenity. 

4. Future use for large events will lead to further damage and negate the value of the works currently undertaken. 

5. Another large section of the common to the west of the “events ground’ is used by schools for football pitches further reducing the areas available for the general public. 

6. There are two areas to the west of the pond with hardstanding used for fairs. These areas are little used by walkers or those picnicking and are eminently suited to events by the nature of its surface. 

Sample Letter 8

I write in respect of the application for permission by Lambeth Council under Article 12 of the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967 to carry out restricted works on Clapham Common, London SW4. I am a local resident and daily user of the Common.

I urge you to reject this Application, on the grounds that Lambeth Council are effectively changing the status of Clapham Common from being an open common to being a regional centre for commercial events.

We do not object to Community Events. The Common is a much loved community centre, and few people object to occasional events that serve the local community. Fun runs, bands playing at the bandstand, and semi-organised sports training are all part of the fabric of local life.

We do not object to light-footprint Commercial Events The Common also sometimes hosts major charity/sports events that bring the community together – the Moonwalk for breast cancer and the London to Brighton cycle race. These are welcomed, not least because they have a light footprint – the organisers set up and take-down in a few days, don’t make lots of noise, and don’t leave lasting damage to the Common. 

Lambeth is encouraging mass scale commercial festivals that have a heavy footprint and cause parts of the Common to be fenced off for months.

These festivals have a very heavy footprint – the music festival planned for August will fence-off a major part of the Common for 25 days (despite being only a four day festival) and they are expecting up to 40,000 visitors per day. They also leave lasting damage to the Common – after the Winterville festival two years ago, the grassy area where it was held had to be fenced off for months, whilst £200,000 was spent repairing the grass. That same grassland is now the proposed site for the festival in August.

Lambeth Council is changing the Common into a permanent regional events centre.

It has even renamed one piece of common land as the “dedicated events zone” and written a five year plan for events. Who has given them permission for a permanent “dedicated events zone”?

The only rationale for these events is that Lambeth is putting profit above the needs of the Community

The Council’s prioritisation of profit over Community is demonstrated by its attitude towards commercial 5km runs. Clapham Common already has one of the biggest free “Parkruns” with up to 1,200 weekly runners. These events are free to enter, and very inclusive of all abilities. In recent years Lambeth has periodically shut down these free-to-enter Parkruns, so that it can host commercial pay-to-enter 5km races instead. The same distance; the same track; the same day; but this time you have to pay. It is worth repeating that: it is withdrawing permission for a free Community event, so that it can host an identical Commercial event. How can this be serving the local community? It only serves profit.

Similarly, the areas of grassland that have been fenced off since October will finally reopen in June. In July they will build a cinema on that very grass. Clapham already has a much loved independent cinema less than 500 metres away. Why is the council using the Common to undermine Clapham’s own businesses? Profit. 

 Between now and the beginning of January there are commercial events on the Common for 75% of the time: paid-entry, walled-in events on the Common for over 200 days. It is only a true “Common” for a quarter of the year.

Only the Secretary of State can give permission for these events. Lambeth cannot grant permission to themselves.

Please stop our Common becoming a permanent regional event centre.

Sample Letter 7

I am writing you an impassioned plea in respect of the application for permission by Lambeth Council under Article 12 of the Greater London Parks and Open spaces Order 1967 to carry out restricted works on Clapham Common, London SW4.  PLEASE REFUSE LAMBETH COUNCIL’S REQUEST TO USE OUR COMMON FOR REPEATED EVENTS.

I live near the Common and have done for 35 years.  I am on the Common every day for exercise. This email is a personal entreaty from me, from someone who loves the green open space, and who is keen to preserve our rights to use the Common freely.  I have watched the degradation of soil over the years and I believe it is now almost beyond saving if large events are allowed to continue annually on the Common.

Whilst I understand Lambeth’s need to raise funds, these long commercial events are disruptive and destructive.  Heavy equipment, structures, machinery and vehicles cause extensive damage, usually exacerbated by rain.  They cause safety issues with heavy goods arriving on roads round the Common.  

Large parts of the Common are fenced off for longer and longer periods while the events are set up and derigged.  In the past year, during lockdown when the Common has been a lifeline for so many residents, the events space was fenced off to allow the land to recover.  It is still fenced off, but not recovered.  Lambeth has announced a climate crisis, and yet continues to destroy our green open space.

During events, there are short term but unpleasant consequences: noise, litter, anti-social behaviour, alcohol abuse, drug taking, urinating, defecating and sexual activity.  These are unacceptable but of less concern than the damage caused long term to the land and also to the wildlife – birds, bees and small animals whose habitats are destroyed.

If Lambeth succeed in securing the go ahead, this will set a dangerous precedent, which can only lead to more and more damage done to our Common each year and further loss of amenity.  There are arenas, sports stadia and the expensive O2 all designed for noise, crowds and events.  This is where these events should be held.

I would urge you to refuse Lambeth Council’s request, and in so doing, feel good that you have secured the future of an important piece of Common land for the public to use freely.

Thank you in advance.

Sample Letter 6

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. 

Sample Letter 5

I want to register my strongest protest against Lambeth Council’s mismanagement of the precious resource that is Clapham Common.  In particular, at the way in which they allow commercial enterprises to profit from holding events on the Common which are only open to those who pay and result in large areas being out of bounds to local residents who rely on this open space for their wellbeing (and sanity in recent times).  Moreover, by allowing the Common to be overused in this way extensive repair and restoration becomes necessary which is used as an excuse to cordon off significant parts of the Common.

Accordingly, I urge the Secretary of State to refuse approval for Lambeth’s application to fence off areas of the Common during the summer holidays from 21 to 26 July and from 19 August to 9 September.

Sample Letter 4

As a resident of Lambeth and user of Clapham Common I forward my letter of opposition to the planning application 21/00180/RG3. I also copy before that my summary of the state of the work sent to Lambeth Council two weeks ago when they announced a delay of a month in taking the fence off returning the site to the rightful users of the common. 

In those two letters I explain my opposition to the use of Clapham Common for events. 

What I would ask you to check are the following points: 

1. Correct and common sense use of financial resources by Lambeth Council (they spent £210k on the “events” area when the rest of the common is totally unkempt and in need of urgent work). Lambeth Council replied to this saying that the money comes from the event organiser and can only be used in the events area but this makes things worse showing the incompetence of Lambeth Council to write an agreement which may be beneficial for the common.

2. Competence of Lambeth Council to supervise the works delivered and of the contractors to deliver it (the delay and the fact that the grass is missing in many areas besides the utter failure of the drainage works which they are attempting to correct is an indication of possible incompetence which must be determined and acted upon).

3. Contradiction between the aim of Lambeth Council to increase biodiversity with flowers and pollinators and the expense of 210k to produce a single variety of grass after having disturbed the soil and killed the essential earth worms. Lambeth Council has never replied to my requests to see the budget they have for trees. I believe they didn’t plant a single tree for many years. 

4. Misleading wording of Lambeth Council when presenting planning applications. They constantly refer to agreements with CCMAC and other associations of volunteers in Clapham common as if they are the initiator of the application. From my contacts with those associations I understand that this is not correct. I would ask you to check this aspect.

5. I accept that the users of the common have increased in numbers and more money is needed to maintain it but as I explained the financial resources may be spread in smaller project easier to manage and the area for sport hasn’t been reduced as the area for pleasure so a rebalancing is required.

I’d be happy to expand on the above points or forward evidence of my claims.

Sample Letter 3

I’m writing to object to Lambeth Council’s proposed use of a significant area of Clapham Common as a dedicated events site for ‘large and major events’.    This includes plans for a major 4 day music sent in August 2021 hosted by Festival Republic which 160,000 people are expected to attend.

My objections are as follows.

  • Clapham Common is there for the use of people as a green space where they can exercise and play with their children.  I’ve witnessed that when crowds of people move through it to attend large events they disrupt people who’ve come to the Common for some peace, family picnics and football games.
  • The public should have rights of access to the entirety of the Common and parts of it should not be kept exclusively for those who’ve paid money to attend commercial events.
  • Each time there are music events on the Common one can see drug dealers operating in a space where children are playing.
  • The Common is an essential green area in South London and the environment should be safeguarded.  Local volunteers have been planting areas with wild flowers and plants to increase species diversity and these get trampled on when large crowds walk to events.   Noise pollution is another factor which damages wildlife.

I’m sure you agree that nature conservation, the conservation of landscape and protection of public rights of access should be safeguarded in any planning decision regarding common land, particularly in a crowded city where green spaces are essential.

Sample Letter 2

I am writing to you to object to Lambeth’s use of Clapham Common and its application for a blanket permission to host a series of large scale events on Clapham Common.

Local residents, including our family and neighbours have already had their enjoyment of the common significantly impaired by Lambeth’s actions.  Lambeth insists on using a large part of the common for events which has had such a severe impact over the years that the events site has had to be closed for six months to effect much needed repairs to the grass surface.  These repairs, however have forced users of the common onto a smaller space, thereby increasing wear and causing more damage to the surface in adjacent areas.

Many of us in the community are sympathetic to Lambeth’s need for income to support the common.  However, the financial benefits from these large scale commercial events (which are attended for the most part by those outside the local community) do not compensate for the exclusion of the local community from the amenity for large parts of the summer months (when the common is at its most useful) and the damage caused by heavy footfall.

Despite individual objections and opposition from those organisations working with Lambeth to manage the common, the council appears determined to press ahead.  There are alternative ways of raising revenue that do not cause so much damage and disruption and Lambeth should be asked to think again.

I urge you, please, to reject Lambeth’s application.

Sample Letter 1

The Planning Applications Committee (“PAC”) of Lambeth Council on 20 April voted to approve the planning application by “Event Lambeth” – which is part of Lambeth Council – for a series of events on Clapham Common in 2021. This approval still needs to go to the Secretary of State for DEFRA for consent. I understand that the Planning Inspectorate will determine the application on behalf of DEFRA. I urge you to reject it. 

I am a resident of Clapham and have lived some 200 yards from the Common for 25 years. I spoke at the Lambeth PAC as an objector to the application. The text of my submission is attached. Suffice it to say that there was no discussion at all at the meeting about the results of the public consultation. The fact of the matter is that of 318 comments on the consultation website, 315 were objections i.e. 99%. It also noteworthy that at the PAC meeting three objectors spoke and two supporters. The objectors were all local residents. The two supporters turned out to be Lambeth Council employees. It could not be clearer that residents of Lambeth do not want these series of huge events to take place. Yet Lambeth is ignoring the message; it is almost a case of “let’s have a consultation because we want to show how open and democratic we are, but we don’t have to take any account of the result”. On top of which Lambeth is effectively marking its own homework by having one arm (the PAC) opining on an application by another arm (Event Lambeth).

I recognise that you are looking at a planning application and not opining on matters of local democracy, but I would suggest you should have regard to the criteria set out in section 39 of the Commons Act 2006 and on these grounds I submit that consent should be withheld. They are:

  • The interests of persons having rights in relation to, or occupying, the land (and in particular persons exercising rights of common over it)
  • The interests of the neighbourhood
  • The public interest, which includes the public interest in nature conservation, conservation of the landscape, the protection of public rights of access….

I think the first two points can be taken together. Residents and indeed any member of the public has rights to use the Common and this cannot be distinguished from the interests of the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood has said unequivocally that it did not want these events taking place. As regards the third point, many respondents to the consultation noted that resurfacing/reseeding of the part of the Common where events take place had been undertaken over the winter of 2020/21 during which time the area has been fenced off. There are certainly some voices questioning the way this work has been done but nonetheless it has been done with a view to sustaining the Common – at a reported cost of £200,000 – and this will now be wasted if the surface is trashed by several hundred thousand feet and all the heavy equipment that is an inevitable concomitant of these big events. Lambeth could scarcely do a better job of NOT conserving the landscape.