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.