All posts by SusanC

FOBP Civic Awards

Thank you Southwark Mayor Cllr Barrie Hargrove for the 2022 Discretionary Award for FOBP’s “ongoing & successful commitment…thinking of the park’s welfare first & foremost”. Massive thanks to all our volunteers, past, present, & more importantly, future ones. Join us!

Aliens invade Burgess Park

Park users were shocked to suddenly see a large encampment in the middle of Burgess Park springing up without warning 22 and 23 February. The lack of information led to various suggestions as to what it could be for. Was it a music festival or a refugee campsite?  

FOBP contacted the council and discovered that it was all part of a film set; aliens invade the city and Londoners are in a refugee camp. Burgess Park frequently features as a location for films and commercials. However, the size and scale of the area of the park fenced off for the film – several football pitches as well as the sports centre astro, and the length of time on-site – 3 weeks – is unprecedented in recent years.  

There have been numerous comments on Twitter and FOBP Facebook Group and other social media on the pro and cons of filming and what it means for the park and park users. 

  • Loss of green space for park users – including regular football/keepfit players  
  • Queries about the impact on the grass – particularly as one of the areas had had extensive drainage work and been fenced off with no public access for about 2 years  
  • Impact on wildlife – geese graze the grass extensively; a swan was trapped inside a fenced area without space to take-off 
  • Recognition of the filming fees and where this money was going, what it was used for 

The film company statement about opportunities film work experience and donations to local organisations is all great, but feels a bit last minute, with so little information up-front to warn park users and park groups. 

The key issues are that park users were not consulted – if this had been an event there are arrangements in place. The impact on the park and park users, the local benefit of the filming the social value are not transparent, which has to be a feature of using a public asset and removing that use from local people. Finally the impact on the park itself and the wild-life. There are horror stories from parks across London of damage done and poor-quality remedial work.  

The full cost, including environmental and loss of amenity, of any event whether a music festival or filming needs to be part of the “value” assessment with an emphasis on the additional social value that can be offered.  

This filming took place just as the sports centre and open land around it has also been fenced off for the building work. Now the filming has finished the main park site is being refenced off again and other grass areas are not fit for use and will need time to recover.

Southwark Council is strapped for cash like all local authorities and park budgets are under pressure. We understand that but as a park friends group we are focused on the impact on the park and standing up for the park. Burgess Park is not a bit of space which is available for any alternative use; it has an intrinsic value as a green space, a public amenity and a haven for wildlife.  

https://www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/whats-been-going-on-at-burgess-park/​

Peregrine Falcon

Birds of Burgess 2021 Review

Blog: Dave Clark

Writing this in January 2022 the focus of birding interest centres around the lake at Burgess Park. Geese, gulls and cormorants increase their numbers at this time of year as they battle to survive the natural elements and human impositions before the high energy sapping spring arrives. Spring, when the days are longer, spring, when optimism fills the air, spring, when not just the lake but the whole park resonates to the natural sounds and movements of birds. Spring is when the lifestage focus shifts from one of survival to breeding; finding territories, finding partners, building nests, laying eggs and having kids…………well chicks. With this in mind and the short winter days and long nights providing an opportune mental space for human reflection it `s appropriate to mull over and review the multitude of bird highlights that over the 2021 seasons Burgess provided.

Mediterranean Gull - Josep del Hoyo

Mediterranean Gull                                                                              Josep del Hoyo Macaulay Library

Common Goldeneye Adult male

Goldeneye                                                                                               Dorian Anderson Macaulay Library

Eighty five species were seen across the year by twenty two observers who provided hundreds of important records of these sightings. There were twelve different long distant spring migrants recorded, either staying for a few days, using the park as a feeding stepping stone or remaining until summer to breed, nine different species of warbler, seven different species of gulls, five different species of birds of prey, two different flycatchers and a partridge in a pear tree………..ahem, not really,  but a pheasant was indeed seen!

Common Redstart - eBird

Common Redstart                                                                                 K. Al Dhaheri Macaulay Library

Spotted Flycatcher - Saurabh Sawant

Spotted Flycatcher                                                                                S. Sawant Macaulay Library

However these numbers are pretty, lifeless and unemotive without context. For the true importance of Burgess Park as an avian hotspot and green performer to be understood we should compare these figures and the interest that they have engendered to other green spaces. Eighty five is a tick list that would be expected in more `wilder` and `natural` areas or rural arcadian idylls not in an urban park, indeed in these traditionally more cosmeticized environments forty to fifty species would be a more likely expectation. Neither are these numbers just birders ticks in a little black book or competitive markers but more importantly denote what can be achieved in urban green spaces at a time when 67% of the UK`s bird species are deemed of conservation concern.

These heartening results do not come by chance. Burgess Park has locational advantages; it is not far from Thames and is characterised by superb vistas which allows birds sightlines of the lake and green areas. But it is the considered management and provision of various habitats which are the key factors in attracting the abundance and diversity of birds,  ……scrub, long grass, wild flower meadows, richly planted gardens and ofcourse the important water feature. It is no surprise that many of the rarer species encountered were found in the less sterile environments, environments which we have been institutionalized to believe as rough and unkempt. These pejorative terms mask the positives, we should be thinking rich, diverse and life affirming. Scrub is good is the mantra.

For these birds, several of which are long distance migrants, wintering south of the Sahara, to continue to be attracted, these habitats need to be retained and maintained by diligent management and hard work. Management that does not have dominion but understands that nature is at the apex of importance of any green space.

If anyone would like to take part in citizen science by recording bird sightings, the references below should help and if a full annual bird list is required check out this link:

https://ebird.org/hotspot/L7578420

or contact me at: dave@mailbox.co.uk.

Peregrine Falcon                                                                                      Joshua Stacy Macaulay Library

Resources:

London Birders Wiki

GIGL

BTO

ebird

Diving into the details

Burgess Business Park planning inquiry appeal

By Susan Crisp, FOBP Committee (Long read)

I’m in at the deep end of the planning world. Over the last five months I’ve been preparing evidence and fundraising so that local groups can be represented at a planning appeal inquiry for a new development.  There are a multitude of community concerns about the large-scale mixed-use scheme on the Burgess Business Park industrial land. For me the specific issues are the impact on the local park and the wider scene setting for future development (emerging context).

Burgess Business Park development
Burgess Business Park development

Community groups can be given permission to join the planning appeal and take part in the presentation of evidence and questioning of witnesses.  Formally known as a “Rule 6 party” we are imaginatively called “The Local Group”.  The six groups involved represent the local park, residents, campaigns on affordable housing and loss of industrial space.

To prepare for the appeal inquiry we’ve had fantastic support from Southwark Law Centre. They’ve been on top of the vast number of reports produced by the appellant (the developer) and the council (defending their decision to refuse planning permission).  The Local Group has also had to provide evidence for the issues we want to be discussed covering industrial land, design, density, height and transport. Local people have provided a lot of useful information to help make our case.

I have written an “environmental proof” as a formal paper for the appeal, setting out environment related planning policy and relating this to my local knowledge about the park and my opinion on the impact of the scheme. It has been incredibly empowering to realise that as a local person with knowledge about the area I am in a position to provide both factual information and opinion about the impact of the development.

The Local Group raised over £5.5k to pay for a barrister and expert witness costs. We used a crowdfunding approach with CrowdJustice, who specialise in raising funding for legal cases. Our fundraising campaign launched in June. Six groups working together was very effective; each group used their own networks to raise awareness and ask for donations. Some of the local community groups were able to make large donations and we reached our first mission critical goal of £2.5k in a month.

This planning appeal inquiry is over 8 days. It’s a detailed behind the scenes look at the planning system in action, covering both planning policy and the specific merits of the scheme.

Week 1

After a few sessions I’ve seen how the specific wording of a planning policy influences the development proposals. Balance has been a key factor so far — meaning balancing the demands of different planning policy objectives across the scheme as well as balancing the merits of the scheme details and identifying where it falls short not meet planning policy. In other words, there is always an exception to the rule; but deciding when this can happen seems to me to be very subjective. It is down to professional opinion and judgement as to what is the right balance for the scheme.

At one point the council planning officer was asked about the new local plan and the impact of consultation responses on a specific policy. It was very powerful to hear the planning inspector ask that question and see the importance of responding to local consultation since most of the time the process of influence is invisible.

More expert witnesses will be called as the inquiry progresses, including experts for The Local Group on transport, daylight/sunlight impact on local neighbours, and townscape and character. It must take nerves of steel to be an expert witness; it’s a formal process of presenting evidence with tough questions and then cross-examination on written statements and professional opinion. There is quite a bit of point scoring from what I’ve seen so far. Inevitably the main point is to demolish the other side’s position. However, even bearing this in mind, the inquiry is really getting into a lot of detail covering the issues identified as most important or most contentious. It is far more detailed than any planning committee discussion or council officer’s report.

Inquiry Day 1 with our legal team
Inquiry Day 1 with our legal team

Week 2

Residents got to speak at two roundtables. Local people were able to explain the impact of less sunlight and daylight due to overshadowing. The Local Group expert witness reviewed all the technical details and identified that a number of the new flats would not meet “exemplary” design standards like room sizes and access to daylight.

The second roundtable covered townscape and local character of the area and how well the design fits into the area. I am surprised at the importance given to views of St George’s Church. Right from the initial officer’s reports to the planning committee which included “agreed views” through to the inclusion by the inspector in the roundtable discussion. I was able to explain that the church tower is a key feature of Burgess Park, seen from all directions. The Local Group’s expert witness pointed out specific design aspects like height and bulk are not characteristic of the area compared to other new developments.

Public transport is also important to residents. There are two local buses, both very full in the mornings. Even with more people cycling an extra 499 homes is a lot of extra bus journeys. Transports accessibility is rated low, (measured as PTAL 2 and 4, the highest is 6). The Local Group’s expert transport witness put forward alternative projections for passenger numbers and the developer has offered to pay for more buses.  This is a very significant concession and probably wouldn’t have happened without The Local Group putting forward community concerns. If the scheme is approved this additional funding will be a planning condition.

Across the whole Inquiry the key issue has been “planning balance”. This is the balance between planning policy aims; what the proposed development delivers, as well as the relative weight to be given to different areas outcomes of planning policy. This is subjective and balancing harms v benefits is the essence of assessing the planning balance.  The current planning policy does not allow tall buildings on the site so in order to be approved the scheme must be exemplary and align to the new Southwark Plan policies which are currently being developed. The Inspector again asked about what weight should be given to the New Southwark Plan policies and what representations had been made about the Tall Buildings policy.

Site visit

The Inspector visited the Burgess Business Park site, toured all the buildings and walked around the surrounding area including Burgess Park and the planning committee agreed viewpoints of St George’s Church.

What happens next

There’s one more day to go when each party will sum up their arguments in final statements on Monday 23 September, 9.30am at the council offices 160 Tooley St, SE1.

After this the Inspector will write a report and recommendation for the Secretary of State for Housing who makes the decision. This is not a quick process. The outcome probably won’t be known until 2020.

The six groups are:

  • Friends of Burgess Park
  • Wells Way Triangle TRA
  • Brunswick Park RA
  • Camberwell Society
  • Vital Old Kent Road
  • 35 Percent