25 January 2010

Peckham Rye Common Toilets and a new Community Council Group

This evening, Victoria went along to the sub-group set up at the last Nunhead and Peckham Rye Community Council. This group was initially set-up to discuss how the closed public toilets on Peckham Rye Common might be put to a more appropriate use than that originally suggested by the council. Between the decision to set up the group and tonight's first meeting, things have changed significantly

To cut a long story short, the council's preferred commercial tenant pulled out and a much more attractive bidder (in local community terms) in the shape of "Peckham Rye Projects" moved to the front of the queue of potential tenants. Peckham Rye Projects are a not-for-profit gallery offering outreach programmes to local schools and groups. Their intention is to restore the building, maintain the gardens and to open the gallery toilets to the public.

It was confirmed tonight that Peckham Rye Projects (PRP) have now signed the lease on the building. However, this does not quite mean that the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. PRP are still waiting for the outcome of their bid to the local pot of "cleaner, greener safer" money and still need planning permission to be granted. We've e-mailed Anna at PRP to see if she can give us any further details on PRP latest plans.

With the the issue of the public toilets largely taking on a life of its own, the sub-group tonight widened its remit to discuss how the council consults local communities on the use of their assets. It also tried to identify key projects or developments that community groups and local residents would like to play a role in shaping. A brief summary of the actions arising from these discussions is as follows:

1. The group will formally request a list of all council owned properties in the Nunhead and Peckham Rye Area.

2. The group will also ask for a list of empty properties, both private and council owned properties, in the same area.

3. A request will be put in for the council to allocate a senior level council officer to coordinate the development and regeneration of Peckham town centre and Rye Lane. Senior officers will be invited to next the sub-group meeting to discuss upcoming projects for this area.

4. Keen that the group doesn't just talk about Rye Lane, Victoria suggested that the group also look into the development of smaller shopping parades in Peckham Rye and Nunhead. These small parades could become focal points for the communities around them and improvements could help them avoid being blighted by empty properties. The group will ask if the council can allocate an officer to the various smaller shopping parades in Nunhead and Peckham Rye.

5. The group wants to try to alter council processes so that local residents and community groups are consulted at an earlier stage in the planning and development process - many conversations take place between council officers, developers and businesses before planning applications are submitted. The group will ask that the Community Council meeting on 8th February supports a proposal to amend the council's constitution in May so that council officers are required to consult community councils before talking to developers about local community buildings. The change would give the community council an automatic right to formally comment on possible uses for the buildings.

6. Finally, the group will investigate how it might change the council's 'Statement of Community Involvement' which in reality involves a lot of statements and little community involvement. A better policy could again ensure an increased voice for local communities.

I'll give another update soon on the prospect of Peckham Rye Projects taking over responsibility for the old toilets building.

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