Streatham Soapbox - "Our" Streets Neighbourhood Enhancement Programme

It took three years for Tesco to tear down the Streatham swimming baths, the original ice rink and the bus garage then build the existing leisure centre, flats, the Tesco store and all the various bits around it. The entire development cost around £175m.

It’s taken about the same amount of time for Lambeth Council to decide how to spend £750k on projects in three of Streatham’s wards. Mind you, time must slow down in the south here, as it didn’t taken nearly that long to do much more than that in Brixton, Oval, Herne Hill and Stockwell. And Lambeth spent budget money in these places whilst here in Streatham, we get only a small slice of the Section 106 cash Tesco paid to Lambeth. You see, as a condition of being allowed to do their development, Tesco paid around £2.5m to Lambeth in Section 106 contributions (now known as community infrastructure levy or CIL) to, amongst other things, make disruption for nearby residents acceptable and help re-develop areas nearby. 

So now that it’s finally here, what does Streatham get for it? Glad you asked. We looked and at time of going to press only one ward, the St Leonards ward on the programme, had any details announced. Streatham Wells and Streatham South are still to be updated (Streatham Hill isn’t included). Additionally there’s an underwhelming 150 trees* that will apparently be planted around somewhere, and raised beds will apparently be built somewhere else after consultation with the community. As Lambeth hired consultants to do this over a year ago (I know, I spent a day with them), you might be forgiven for thinking this was in the bag. 

You might also think with all the horticultural expertise, not least the amazing talent keeping the Rookery in fine fettle that Lambeth might think what a great idea it would be to make this a local initiative. Sensible? No. Some of the cash will subsidise a social enterprise from Brixton to do the work. Again. Lambeth & the Mayor did this to Streatham with the Outer London Fund as well. Plus ca change…

But the most astounding aspect to it is the “plan” for St Leonards. It seems Lambeth’s preferred plan is to convert the parking spaces in front of the Greyhound to benches and cycle parking for people to relax on. Never mind the diesel fumes, traffic pollution and noise from two main roads converging, who would ever think a better (and free!) idea might be using the huge great park across the street to do all these things in comfort?

It’s bad enough taking so long to get to this point. It’s worse being fobbed off with our own money and having outside firms doing the work, but the disappointing nature of the design doesn’t inspire confidence that Lambeth knows where Streatham is, much less that it cares.

* We say "underwhelming" - a few years ago a local resident arranged funding and management for a project to plant 300 trees around Streatham in his own time, and all over a few weeks. When you understand this, you'll see why the council's plans seem reluctant and unambitious.