Lambeth Green Party calls on council to involve residents, be more transparent over costs of park events

6 May 2019

 

The Green Party has called on Lambeth Council to allow residents a greater level of involvement in events held in parks - including Lambeth Country Show.

 

In its response to Lambeth Council’s Events Review Strategy Survey [1], published today, the party insists that current proposals for increased levels of engagement and transparency do not go far enough. The council is proposing that community engagement takes place only once an application has been submitted, in parallel with the technical assessment. The Green Party says that community engagement should take place before any commercial event has submitted formal application, and then afterwards as well, once the health and safety and environmental surveys have taken place.

 

At the same time, as it was revealed that Lambeth Country Show made a net loss of more than £800,000 in 2018, it also emerged that the cost of so-called “steel shield fence line”, referred to by some locals as the Great Wall of Brockwell and introduced for the first time last year, was £26,800. This information was released in response to a members’ enquiry submitted by Councillor Jonathan Bartley (St. Leonard’s).

 

In addition Lambeth Council’s own post-event survey reported a sharp reduction in the percentage of respondents classing the show as Very Good. Only 47% of respondents said they would definitely return in 2019 compared to 91% in 2016. Last year (2017) 75% rated it Very Good compared to only 24% this year (2018) and Very Poor increased from 1% to 11%.

 

The Green Party’s councillor Becca Thackray (Herne Hill) said:

 

“The process for community engagement needs to be significantly more than the box-ticking exercise it is being presented as. It needs to be a genuine consultation.

 

The costs and benefits of any event but especially large ones in our local parks, need to be put to the community far in advance, both to inform and to achieve the greatest level of resident response.

 

Take the Wall of Brockwell for example, erected for the Lambeth Country Show. There was a wall of silence as to the reason, followed by whispers and a whole load of theories as who sanctioned it, how much it cost, what income was generated and what that went to.

 

If Lambeth was really serious about transparency it would not have taken a members enquiry and almost a year to find out how much it cost.

 

When the council picks and chooses what it is open about, it is not surprising residents are aggrieved. And it is then not surprising if residents feel it's pointless bothering to give feedback or contribute or attend or fundraise or volunteer or vote or any number of community actions which involve effort, from which the borough benefits.

 

Earn local trust and listen to the excellent suggestions of 'friends' groups and residents and Lambeth Country Show might avoid a descending spiral of financial loss.”



Full response of Lambeth Green Party to Events Review Survey

 

Question 1. We are proposing to increase transparency about how much income is generated from events and how it is spent, by publishing the total annual income as well as an annual report showing the allocation of the Parks Investment Levy, on the Council’s website.

 

To what extend to you agree or disagree with this proposal?

 

Lambeth Green Party response: Agree

 

 

Do you have any further comments about this proposal?

 

On the face of it, The Green Party is inclined to strongly agree with this proposal. There is the danger, however, that the data published will increase the quantity of ‘noise’ that could be used to obfuscate and obscure the real costs and benefits of opening up our green spaces for commercial events. It seems reasonable to imagine that at least part of the reason that this proposal is being made is to justify opening up Lambeth’s parks to outside commercial events, by increasing the public’s awareness of the costs of their maintenance.


We would therefore require that all costs and revenues be published in as clear a manner as possible.

 

This must include, for example:

 

  • The revenue earned and costs incurred by each park from commercial events, as well as the overall amount earned from all events across Lambeth.

  • The cost to individual parks over and above the discrete period of the events themselves E.g Ongoing maintenance of any plants or trees that must be replaced, drainage damage etc

  • The time spent and resulting costs incurred of all Lambeth council staff on the application including but not limited to the events team, marketing, health and safety, community outreach activity and licensing

  • An estimate of the opportunity cost of holding the events at the given time in the particular park i.e. Reduced footfall from regular park users, events/activities/services that will be limited or not able to take place at all while these larger commercial events are taking place

 

Ultimately the public needs to be comprehensively informed as to how profitable these commercial events that are being held in their parks are, in the form of all the costs and benefits (direct and indirect). This is the only way that they can reach a decision as to whether they should support or oppose them.


We would also require that Lambeth actively reaches out to local residents to provide them with this information, rather than merely publishing on a website and expecting residents to seek it out themselves, as far as is reasonable to do so.

 

Question 2. Currently, event organisers are required to pay a Parks Investment Levy (PIL) that is ring-fenced for enhancements in parks. We propose to set the PIL at a set percentage of total income from every event, simplifying the current formula, and at a level which increases the amount of events income spent on enhancing our parks.

 

To what extend to you agree or disagree with this proposal?

 

Lambeth Green Party response: Disagree

 

Do you have any further comments about this proposal?

 

While it is entirely logical that events which generate higher ticket sales should pay more for the privilege, it’s important that the Parks Investment Levy not play an outsized role in determining whether or not a commercial event’s bid to take place in any park should be accepted. The likely follow-on to this proposal is that it will encourage the council to be more likely to accept bids from larger events. At least as important as the amount of money an event can generate for the council is the impact an event has on the parks. It does not necessarily follow that a larger event will incur proportionally greater costs on the park and surrounding area.

 

Instead we would encourage the council to devise a formula based on a combination of earnings and impact. This would incentivise organisers to reduce the impact and costs their event/s impose/s on the park.

 

Question 3. In order to try and diversify events income and reduce the pressure on grassed areas, we are proposing to devote more time and effort to marketing non-grass areas such as in and around buildings, town squares and on parts of unused all-weather sports pitches.

 

To what extend to you agree or disagree with this proposal?

 

Lambeth Green Party response: Strongly Agree

 

 

Do you have any further comments about this proposal?

 

Lambeth Green Party strongly supports this proposal. Non-grass areas are much more durable than grass and recover more quickly. This is particularly important in the summer when those grassed parts of the parks are in greater demand and it is important to minimise the time that they are unavailable to the public.

 

Question 4. Currently, an event application process goes to Health and Safety Assessment before Community Engagement. We are proposing that Community Engagement happens earlier in the process:  

 

Current Process:

Stage One – Application & Technical Assessment

Stage Two – Health and Safety Assessment  

Stage Three – Community Engagement (including ward cllr engagement and applying for a license)

Stage Four – Final Decision & Event Permit  

 

Proposed Process:

Stage One – Application & Technical Assessment; ward councillor consultation and community engagement (as agreed by ward councillors)

Stage Two – Health & Safety Assessment

Stage Three – Final Decision & Event Permit

 

To what extend to you agree or disagree with this proposal?

 

Lambeth Green Party response: Disagree

 

 

Do you have any further comments about this proposal?

While the new process clearly represents an improvement on the old one, Lambeth Green Party feels it does not go far enough. In particular it does not include the community at an early enough point. In our revised version of the process - see below - we propose involving the community and beginning outreach as soon as an event organiser makes contact and declares an interest, and ahead of any formal application. We would then favour including an additional period of community engagement at a later stage, once the technical and health and safety assessments have taken place.

 

We would also request that more detail be entered into as to the form the community engagement will take, and what in particular the community will be consulted about. For example, will it be required that there is agreement on noise levels, curfew times, and areas of the parks that will be in/out of use at which times? Communication in a way people understand, at an early stage, when it comes to technical details about noise, would held residents know what to expect.

 

We would also require that event plans are made available publicly in an accessible venue, such as Brockwell Hall and/or Herne Hill Station Hall for a reasonable period of time as far in advance as possible.  We’d also request that it be possible to respond to plans via an online survey (similar to this one) with a requirement that individuals include their postcode, so it can be recorded whether respondents live in the borough & live near the event.

 

Green Party Proposed Process

Stage One - Preliminary proposal and negotiations including (initial) ward councillor consultation

Stage Two - Identify and inform stakeholders e.g. ‘Friends of’, TRAs, Trader assocs - consult on the basics

Stage Three – Application & Technical Assessment;

Stage Four – Health & Safety Assessment

Stage Five - Revisited stage ward councillor consultation and community engagement



Question 5. Please let us know any other comments you have on Lambeth’s approach to managing events. In particular, feedback relating to specific parks will help us tailor our policies appropriately.

 

With regards to the Lambeth Country Show, we request that the council make publicly available the full cost of the so-called “steel shield fence line”, also known as the security wall. We would also request that the council disclose all police/fire/health and safety advice, recommendations and requirements, particularly with regards to changes that will affect the fundamental nature of the Lambeth Country Show.

 

Ultimately we believe this simple survey is too limited in the scope of its inquiry, omitting key questions which might be expected to be included on certain areas. For example around the share of space within the parks that commercial events can take up, the number of days the events will be allowed to occupy the spaces, noise levels, capacities and curfew times. We therefore expect that these issues will be covered on an event-by-event basis during the community engagement period.

 

We are also disappointed that the survey does not ask for a postcode, which might improve the likelihood of the responses coming from local residents and impacted stakeholders rather than outside parties.






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