Thursday, March 08, 2012


Camberwell Online Blog

As vice chair of SE5 Forum I was, along with other ‘Stakeholders’ in SE5 / Camberwell such as people from Camberwell Society, asked by Southwark about the plans to move the prefab building from one council site onto the Magistrates’ court piazza to be used as a temporary library space.

When I asked what plans were afoot for final relocation of the library at the end of the temporary period the Officer indicated there were no plans.

When I asked what plans were afoot for re-letting the shops and above accommodation where the library is now the Officer indicated not a lot of thought had gone into it. I seem to recall maybe Costa Coffee being mentioned. That’s when I asked if anyone at the council had considered asking local people, residents and existing cafe owners, whether they thought YET ANOTHER coffee shop was a good idea — and why did Fusion have a Chain Coffee outfit from Leicester (? I think they are based there) doing their cafe rather than a local being invited to run the concession and why were there plans for ANOTHER cafe in the new library to be put on the piazza when it’s completely unclear as to what is NEEDED locally.

When I asked if the council thought putting a library, temporary or not, on one of the rare open spaces in Camberwell, a project I guessed MUST be at least £1.5million, when there are obvious opportunities to get developers to pitch for putting the library into a local project (such as at the JobCentre site, which is due for being vacated before June 2012) the Officer said ‘Look, you should be getting behind this project and asking your networks to get behind it too. We know there’s support for a new library, this has been signed off already and frankly if Camberwell can’t get behind this it’s the last chance it’ll get and there won’t be another chance to get any investment here in the foreseeable future’.

I paraphrase the quote, I did not have a recorder running, but assure that this reflects accurately the tone the statement was delivered — it was intended as a threat. That’s not what ‘Stakeholder’ involvement demands: ‘We’re doing this, what do you think? By the way, you better LIKE IT or bloody well LUMP IT MATE because it’s ALL YOU LOT ARE GOING TO GET’.

I encouraged the Officer to encourage the Council to have the courage to open up a discussion with people rather than telling them what is going to happen. This suggestion got a harrumph and the ‘stakeholder contact’ broke down into an awkward rest of meeting only smoothed over by my making light of what had happened. Pathetic.

I’ve kept quiet about that comment publicly until now out of a misplaced sense of duty toward our elected representatives. But my point is that this was a clear insight into the culture of ‘community engagement’ so enthusiastically adoptedand adhered to by Southwark administration and so beloved by the Serfs who are victim of it. It’s public body arrogance beyond belief and what the notion of Localism is meant to combat. Where IS democracy?

I’ve seen so much profligate nonsense and waste and utter aimlessness in vision, policy and strategy around Camberwell for so long now I find it increasingly difficult to keep my fingers away from the keyboard.

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