We have objected to an application from Lambeth Borough Council for fencing on Clapham Common.
The council wants to erect temporary steel fencing around the ‘events site’ on the common for three weeks, from 15 August to 5 September, with the intention of holding festivals there. Because the land is common, it must have the consent of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (via the Planning Inspectorate) under article 12 of the Greater London Parks and Open Spaces Order 1967.
Lambeth Council has made the application following complaints and legal advice obtained by the Clapham Society and the Friends of Clapham Common, supported by the Open Spaces Society, which endorsed the requirement for the council to obtain ministerial consent for any such works. Last year the council conceded that it would obtain such consent.
The current application is for 1,050 metres of solid, SteelShield fencing, 3.4 metres high. Inside the fence there would be a mainstage, big-top style tents, toilets and other structures.
We question whether any of the proposed events are likely to take place, given the coronavirus crisis and whether, in any case, the Planning Inspectorate can determine the application in time, especially as it will need to conduct a site visit, which we would wish to attend. With events such as Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Festival cancelled it seems bizarre that Lambeth is still planning to go ahead.
There are legal problems with the application which the society has pointed out. Notwithstanding those, it argues that the application does not meet the test that it must have regard to the effect on the neighbourhood’s and public’s interests.
The society considers that the application is strongly against both interests.
- It will result in the loss of public access to a large area of Clapham Common, Lambeth’s flagship open space, not just during the events, but during the setting up and derigging.
- There would be noise disturbance from events on the site.
- Experience shows that the structures are likely to cause serious physical damage which are costly to repair and leave a mess, and mean a continuing and lengthy closure to public access while the ground recovers.
- Little of the income from this commercial exploitation would be put back into the common but instead would go into Lambeth’s general fund, so there is not much payback.
The society recognises that the events bring pleasure to many people but common land in London has always had exceptional protection in law, that protection makes it almost impossible legally to hold such events on Clapham Common, and the council should find an alternative site for the events. The society has asked the Planning Inspectorate to reject the application.