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Lambeth throws out 'village green' bid to protect Southbank skateboard undercroft

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Skateboarders battling to save the skatepark under the Southbank Centre from redevelopment have failed to win ‘Village Green Status’ for the iconic undercroft

The skateboarders had hoped to frustrate the £120 million overhaul of the south London landmark by seeking protection for the space beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall through the Commons Registration Act 1965.

However Lambeth Council has now announced that the application for the underscroft, which is earmarked for commercial redevelopment to help fund the wider regeneration plans, was invalid (see below).

A spokesman for the Southbank Centre welcomed the decision. He said: ‘We invite the skateboarders now to get behind the design process for the alternative skate space 120m upriver at Hungerford Bridge to ensure the future of skateboarding at Southbank Centre.’

Yet campaign group Long Live Southbank said it ‘remained of the opinion that the village green application [was] valid’.

A spokesman added: ‘We are interested to see that the Southbank Centre are continuing to push their unpopular relocation plans, completely ignoring both the local skateboarders and 130,000 total objections from the wider public.’

In July the group succeeded with an application to list the undercroft as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act. The move means the group can bid to purchase the undercroft if it were to come up for sale - which remains unlikely.

And earlier this month the campaigners were offered an intriguing lifeline by the Southbank Centre which agreed that if at least £17million could be secured in time, it would look to preserve the area which it claims is currently needed for shops to pay for almost a third of the larger scheme’s financing.


The council’s decision in full

‘The decision that the application is invalid is based on the legal principle that the right to apply to register land as a town/village green is excluded where a ‘trigger event’ relating to the land in question has occurred without a corresponding ‘terminating event’ having occurred. ‘Trigger events’ can include prior planning applications and local planning policies. 

‘The council has reached its decision after taking independent legal advice and conducting a detailed examination of the relevant legal issues. Long Live Southbank and the Southbank Centre were given the opportunity to comment on how the law should be interpreted. Long Live Southbank has been informed of the Council’s decision, as has the Southbank Centre.’

Previous story (AJ 16.07.2013)

Campaigners win bid to list Southbank skatepark under Localism Act

Skateboarders have moved a step further in their bid to protect the Southbank’s undercroft from development

Lambeth Council has approved the application to list the undercroft as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act. The new status for the skaters’ haven under the south London landmark will have to be considered as ‘material consideration’ in any future planning decision.

The campaign was launched by a group calling themselves Long Live Southbank, who have also launched a petition, amassing more than 59,000 signatures against the development.

Simon Ricketts at SJ Berwin, who is representing Long Live Southbank, commented on the decision: ‘From before the Festival Wing application was made, [we have] pointed to the importance of the role that the undercroft plays.

‘Lambeth’s decision to list it as an asset of community value obviously brings with it a welcome acceptance that the undercroft meets the legal test that the use “furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community”. Separately English Heritage, in its objection to the Festival Wing scheme, indicated that the planning application showed “insufficient understanding of the communal value of the undercroft area”.

‘Plainly, we see retention of the undercroft area as a prerequisite of any scheme that emerges from Southbank Centre’s current scheme review.’

The approval means that, under the Localism Act, campaigners can bid to purchase the undercroft if it were to come up for sale.

This decision makes no difference to our plans for the Festival Wing

In a statement, the Southbank Centre said: ‘As there is no intention of selling the Queen Elizabeth Hall or the undercroft, this decision makes no difference to our plans for the Festival Wing. We have asked Lambeth Council for the reasons for their decision, and will examine them before deciding whether to ask for it to be reviewed.

‘We have always recognised the importance of skateboarding at Southbank Centre, as recognised by our plan to provide an alternative, permanent space 120m away that has also been used for skating. And our request to Lambeth Council for more time was granted earlier this month to allow us to review the scheme – specifically the skate space - with our communities.’

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ plans for the Southbank Centre, which included creating a new space for skateboarders under the nearby Hungerford Bridge were submitted for planning in May. The 28,000m² Festival Wing project proposes a new glazed ‘liner’ building and semi-transparent sky pavilion above the Brutalist concrete complex.

DCLG policy on ACVs suggests that this kind of listing can affect planning decisions, but that it is up to the local planning authority to decide whether it constitutes a material consideration.

The campaigners have also applied for Village Green Status for the skatepark. The decision on this had been recommended for refusal by local planning officers but Lambeth’s corporate committee decided to delegate the decision to the council’s director of governance and democracy.

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