Hub Hindrance

Two days after Tesco finally agreed a ‘renewed commitment‘ to continue to work with @lambeth_council on the construction of the Streatham Hub project, details are now starting to emerge about the finer points for the plan to regenerate leisure in Streatham.

First off is confirmation that cabinet will meet to rubber stamp the deal on Monday 29th March. Beware the Ides of March ‘n all that – also beware the rather tricky start time of 5pm. This certainly rules me out.

Speaking rights at cabinet meetings are extremely limited:

Anyone wishing to speak must advise the Secretary to Cabinet before the day of the meeting, advising what aspect not covered in the report they wish to cover.

Heckling is at your discretion (although to be honest, it ‘aint great for democracy, or your cause.)

The papers for the cabinet meeting have now been published on the @lambeth_council website. Heads up @streathamaction for the diligent spot.

And so the morning (or two) after the celebrations held to signal that Streatham Hub is back on schedule, what are the finer details contained within the cabinet report?

@LambethLibDems had hinted of “sour news” in a tweet, commenting that “the whole thing seems to be unravelling one day later.” I asked for clarity over the cryptic tweet. @LambethLibDems have gone rather quiet on twitter over the past forty-eight hours.

I can’t find any evidence in the cabinet report that would leave me feeling “sour” over the Hub announcement. I would have been far from sweet if Tesco had decided on Wednesday to walk away from the whole project.

But there still remains questions that need answering. Hopefully cabinet will be able to clear these up on 29th March.

First off, the papers confirm that the existing Streatham Leisure Centre is a dead duck. It would require a £3m spend to re-open, a figure that @cllrstevereed confirmed to me on Wednesday (although GLL quoted £1m at the Brixton Rec Users Forum the day before.)

Either way, it’s money that would be a drain on council resources, especially so with all parties looking at how to make cuts to the overall council spend after 6th May.

The Hub is (hopefully) coming – investing £1m – £3m on a temporary project that would have a lifespan of three years max, makes no sense. It will still be sad to lose the lovely old pool at Streatham High Road though.

But let’s look towards the future. Staring deep into the Streatham crystal ball and I see… retail. An awful lot of retail. You can’t get too ostentatious about a project that is being fronted by Tesco.

The floor space for the supermarket itself has increased by a massive 50% form the original plans:

The revised scheme is for an increased retail floor space from 40,000 to 60,000 square feet. This will need to be assessed as part of a new planning application.

It is unlikely that @lambeth_council is going to refuse planning permission, such is the flagship nature of the whole Hub project (not to mention the political credibility that it has now come to represent.) This is still no reason for the due process to residents, and the wider environment, to be ignored.

The cabinet paper recognises that:

The increased retail floor space will require a new traffic impact assessment including a Green Travel Plan.

There is no mention specifically of cycling provision in the document, but one would hope that this would form an extensive part of the planning for the Hub. Leisure and cycling have a direct correlation. Witness the success of the wonderful provision for bicycle parking at Brockwell Lido following the refurbishment.

But forget about the shopping, it’s all about the swimming and skating, stooopid.

Isn’t it?

One of the key principles in the whole historic planning for the Hub has been the guarantee of the continuity of ice provision. This essentially means that Tesco cannot close the old High Road rink, until a new one is open.

The original plan was to clear the site stage by stage, building a new rink first, and then bulldozing the old barn. A decade of dithering however has meant that Streatham needs a new rink and leisure centre as soon as possible.

The agreement that was reached between Tesco and @lambeth_council this week is to flatten the entire site in one fell sweep of the wrecking ball, and then build from scratch. I agree with this principle – the sooner the better as far as I am concerned.

But this approach leads to a slight problem when it comes to the all important continuity. How to house the hockey players, the skaters and, um, even the swimmers in the interim?

Once again the ‘temporary’ solution is back on the agenda, and open to ridicule with more questions than answers coming out of the cabinet paper.

First off is the intention for Tesco to manage a temporary rink. The supermarket may be good at selling baked beans, but running an ice pad and accommodating the many varied interest groups, is a very different proposition.

This is precisely why Tesco, who currently owns the existing old High Road rink, has allowed Starburst Limited to run the rink on its behalf. Will this management arrangement still be in place for the temporary facility? And who can be trusted more to provide the level of service expected – the supermarket chain or the company that has run down the existing facility, albeit under testing circumstances?

But as ever with all construction projects, it’s about location, location, location.

The immediate problem facing our friends @lambeth_council is where the hell do you place an ice pad in what is already an incredibly over-crowded town centre?

The accepted rink size for ice hockey is a pad of 26m x 61m. Such a size would require planning permission, even for a temporary facility:

Planning permission for the temporary ice rink would be required. Whilst it is noted that Streatham Common is designated as public open space and Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) in the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) and it is thus protected from unsuitable development it is accepted that there may be very special circumstances to justify an exception for a temporary period of about three years after which the land would need to be reinstated.

Why mention the possibility of a three year life span for a temporary rink, when the stated completion date for the entire Hub project is two years and nine months away?

The document details the following timeline for the management of the project:

July 2010: submit planning application for temporary ice rink

February 2011: start on site for temporary ice rink

August 2011: opening of temporary ice rink

Therefore, for the all important continuity of ice to be upheld, the document implies that the Redskins will play all of the 2010 – 2011 season at the old High Road rink. By implication, demolition of the old barn won’t start until August 2011 at the earliest.

The temporary tag is still on the agenda when it comes to swimming. With Future Clapham running two years behind schedule, Brixton Rec will remain the only pool open in Lambeth (just about) until 2011.

Now that the old Streatham pool has officially been mothballed, @lambeth_council seems to have finally recognised that the Rec alone can’t cope with the demand for swimming in the borough.

Time for a temporary pool…

With the Lambeth Lego Pool over in Kennington seen as little more than an election friendly stunt, common sense seems to have prevailed with talk of a 25m temporary pool for Streatham.

But yet again, the cry of location, location, location can be heard rattling around the planning department at Lambeth Town Hall.

This size pool and its housing occupy a considerable footprint and although considerable work has been done on assessing potential sites only two are considered to have any degree of viability, and both, would require an expert and detailed site survey.

There is no mention in the cabinet document as to where a 25m temporary pool could be located. Time and tide wait for no local council candidate, not with the election clock ticking down to 6th May.

There is more detail in terms of location when it comes to a temporary gym structure, ahead of the December 2012 Hub opening:

A number of potential sites have been considered for this facility, with two options considered more viable in terms of location and suitability. These comprise the Rookery car park, at the top of Streatham Common and Stockport Road playing Fields. The former, however, being part of the Common, may well present a number of planning and consultation issues.

Elsewhere in the lengthy document and other issues still nag away regarding Streatham Hub.

Transport was originally viewed as being just as important to the project as skating, swimming and shopping, when the Hub idea was first floated almost a decade ago. Times have changed since, and so has @lambeth_council’s own strategy towards transport.

The cabinet paper makes a fleeting reference to a:

car park and TfL bus stand.

Maybe the 50% increase in shop space has taken over the land put aside for improving transport links?

And what of the original development agreement guaranteeing a ‘public town square?’

The scheme still includes a new square and public realm investment, which will enhance the environment. The scheme includes provision of an upgraded paving and seating scheme across the whole development area.

Sounds like a mini-me Windrush Square, which may, or may not, be a bad thing.

Finally…

In addition, every effort has been made to ensure that other centre users have been made aware of alternative facilities in the borough.

Debatable.

And so in summary:

Hurrah! …for @lambeth_council for finally holding Tesco to account in their promise to build a new leisure centre and ice rink facility. 2012 can’t come soon enough (neither can 6th May.) But questions of location, location, location need to be answered by cabinet members when it comes to swimming, skating and gym use.

One thought on “Hub Hindrance

  1. Hurray indeed…finally Streatham gets much needed investment. A few points though…I can see nowhere that could house an Ice Rink, certainly not as some have mentioned, a space “on the Common”.

    The Common (and I’m biased as a resident of the area) is open and much needed public space. That should over ride any need to provide an Ice Rink, sorry skaters. If Lambeth presented any plans for a Common-based temp structure they’d meet a lot of local opposition, after all the area around the Common is a Conservation Area which limits what windows we can have on our property!

    The temporary gym is also an interesting debate – the car park at the Rookery is also too small for a decent sized gym (and changing/showering) facilities.

    The whole plan is a bit of a mess. So while it’s great the Hub is going ahead it merely highlights the utter incompetence of Lambeth’s Lesiure facility planning.

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