An update on work to improve Clapham Common by Simon Millson, the Chair of the Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC).
There can be little doubt now that our parks, woodlands and beaches play a crucial role in our health and wellbeing, especially for those who have no access to a garden at home. Green open spaces like Clapham Common have become a major focal point for huge numbers of people to exercise, relax and socialise during this pandemic.
When everything is closed, we still have our Common and it’s free to use. However, this does not come without any costs. Based on last summer’s experience, we know what is going to happen. As lockdown eases and people begin to congregate on the Common, we can expect more litter, double what it would normally be, and a need for more toilets. Anti-social behaviour also rises.
Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC) – membership includes This is Clapham, Friends of Clapham Common, the Clapham Society, Bandstand Beds, three ward Councillors and ten elected community representatives – is working with Lambeth Council and the police to prepare for the inevitable.
We can also expect some friction between winter sports like football clamouring to finish an interrupted season, clashing with summer sports like cricket, keen to start playing as soon as they can.
These are short-term issues that can be managed if planned properly. Long term, we need to invest more in our open spaces, not just to preserve them for future generations but also to improve them for people today.
Until recently, Clapham Common suffered from under-investment. It had been treated like a cash cow by hosting money-spinning events, yet receiving very little in return. Over the past few years CCMAC has worked with Lambeth Council to put Clapham Common near the top of the table for redevelopment.
Together we have achieved the following –
- Refurbished the bandstand, a heritage asset
- Upgraded both playgrounds, with a significant capital investment in the Windmill Drive playground
- Reintroduced the bandstand summer concerts
- Closed Windmill Drive to through traffic
- Reconditioned the ‘event’ site near Long Pond
- Planted more designated wildflower areas across the Common
- Redeveloped the Polygon following the dismantling of the toilet block
- Improved litter management including the introduction of weekend winter collection
- Installed over 50 bird and bat boxes across the Common
- Improved biodiversity through a more relaxed grass-cutting and -mowing regime
- Started the re-landscaping of Battersea Woods
- Introduced netball onto the basketball courts, creating more female sports facilities
- Brought back into use the sports changing rooms, with both male and female sections.
CCMAC has also been instrumental in urging the Council to develop woodland, litter, biodiversity and tree management plans.
As a result of these improvements, the Common has been awarded a Green Flag, Gold at London in Bloom, and a Bees’ Needs Champions Award.
There are always disappointments – Transport for London has shelved plans to transform the deep-level air-raid shelters and Rotunda Cafe by Clapham South due to escalating costs.
On a controversial note, the team behind Putt in the Park, a collection of mini-golf courses and clubhouse cafes set in some of London’s open spaces, has had to resubmit its plans to redevelop the pavilion and bowling greens located beside the tennis courts due to concerns of noise from local residents. The revised plans can be viewed here.
CCMAC welcomes announcements that Pear Tree Cafe in Battersea Park is to take over the bandstand cafe and Megan’s is redeveloping the Rookery Road cafe. Both will open in April after lockdown restrictions are eased.
Longer term, the children’s paddling pool needs a complete overhaul and the paths, toilets and signs all need improving, especially for people with disabilities. CCMAC is working with Lambeth Council to draw up plans for all these issues.
We want to ensure our valued green space is a welcoming place for everyone, balancing the needs of all people who use Clapham Common.