London Council in ‘unprecedented’ move to exploit open space

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A London Council has made an ‘unprecedented’ move to make money out of holding events on a flagship open space.

Lambeth Council’s planning committee on Tuesday evening (4 July) gave blanket approval to a 110-day schedule of music festivals and other events on the 35-hectare half of Clapham Common it owns.

Clapham Common: the aftermath of a major music-festival

The Town and Country Planning Act allows temporary use of land for not more than 28 days without planning permission.

Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook has described Lambeth’s action as ‘driving a coach and horses’ through legislation designed to protect open spaces.

The Council had received numerous objections to intensified use of Clapham Common for events, which have caused serious damage to the ground and close off huge parts of the common to public access, as well as causing a torrent of complaints about noise.

The Council itself earlier said the planning application—which its five-member planning committee approved unanimously—for a ‘full calendar year of events on an area of public open space’ was ‘unprecedented, and Lambeth Council is a forerunner in this regard’.

During the planning committee, after questions were asked why the application was only now being made, it became clear that the Council has been holding events on Clapham Common unlawfully by not obtaining planning permission.

There was discussion at the committee of damage to the ground and soil structure. The committee added a number of conditions to its approval, including the requirement for tracks to be laid for vehicles on the common for big events.

On top of the 11-day schedule of events there is in the pipeline, for the Lambeth part of Clapham Common, the 42-day Winterville major event starting in November plus another 64 days of events on the part of Clapham Common owned by neighbouring Wandsworth Council.

The Open Spaces Society has repeatedly complained to Lambeth Council over the use of Clapham Common and has also challenged the Council over the legality of structures being built on the common without consent.

Major events have badly degraded the ground, with particularly severe damage being caused by a recent SW4 music festival when a large area of the common was churned up and turned into a quagmire, with deep ruts in the ground.

The ground never properly recovers, even after so-called restoration work, and the land is closed off to the public not just during the event, set-up and derigging periods but during any ‘recovery’ time.

The enclosures required for some of the major events do not just reduce public access to this important space, many during the summer period, but the impact of the enclosure and activities within it affects the peace and tranquillity of surrounding areas of the common, and beyond, and their enjoyment.

Kate Ashbrook commented: ‘The society is alarmed that this application has been approved. The council has apparently ignored the legislation designed to protect open spaces.’

‘The Council seems to be inviting other local authorities to follow its example, which is deeply worrying.’

Our local correspondent, Jeremy Clyne, added: ‘The Council boldly proclaims that this application is “unprecedented”. The abuse and exploitation of Clapham Common has to stop rather than being intensified and institutionalised.’

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