Estate regeneration, ‘library-gyms’ and a controversial festival licence are hot topics ahead of the Lambeth council election on May 3.
The current Labour-dominated council will be confident of retaining their majority, but don’t rule out a signifcant shift in a very politically active borough.
Residents of the 21 wards will each vote for three councillors to fill the 63 seats of the council.
The 2014 election saw a turnout of 32% and Lambeth’s Labour storm to victory, picking up a staggering 59 seats.
Just three seats were won by the Conservatives, while the Green party – after a recount – picked up one.
The Liberal Democrats suffered a huge defeat on the night, losing all of its 15 seats.
Current Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck is under pressure to defend accusations of a ‘one-party state.’
Come Thursday, the Conservatives will be looking to branch out of their Clapham Common wards and spread influence across the borough.
The Liberal Democrats hoping to poll well in Streatham Hill, Thurlow Park, Bishop’s Ward and The Oval and regain some seats after their poor 2014 showing.
One of the most contentious pillar of the Labour manifesto is the ongoing commitment to tackle the housing crisis in the Lambeth area.
Lambeth council have launched the biggest housebuilding programme for a generation – committing to at least 1,000 extra homes for council rent by 2019.
In achieving this, six housing estates in the borough have been earmarked for regeneration – with current dwellings essentially demolished and rebuilt.
Only, not everyone agrees with this.
Many residents of the Cressingham Gardens estate in Tulse Hill have protested against regeneration plans.
Two residents, Andy Plant and Gerlinde Gniewosz, have been so aggrieved at the council’s handling that they are standing themselves as Green party candidates for the Tulse Hill Ward.
Leader of the opposition, Conservative councillor Tim Briggs, shared his party’s position on the housing issue.
He said: “Labour promised a 1,000 new council homes but have provided 17 in four years, pretending this is somehow the fault of the ‘evil Tories’ in central government – yet Wandsworth has built 1,000 new homes on council land.”
Over on the Fenwick Estate, part of the Larkall Ward, resident Nahied Attique, is campaigning with group ‘Fenwick against Demolition’ and argues estates should be refurbished rather than regenerated.
Ms Attique said: “This place is our home and our community and we will not let Lambeth Council destroy it.”
The Liberal Democrats join the Greens and Conservatives in promising a ballot for residents on the estates.
Another pledge that all three parties share is to revisit options for the closing or modification of Lambeth libraries into gyms.
Carnegie Library in Herne Hill is currently having a private gym installed in the basement, and the library will be staffed by leisure assistants, save from a two-hour daily librarian session.
Helen Thompson, Liberal Democrat candidate for Streatham Wells, said: “The staff from the libraries put forward a fully-funded scheme to save the libraries, and it’s outrageous that Lambeth Labour never seriously considered that option.
“Labour’s huge majority on the council means they don’t listen to the needs of local communities and push through decisions against the wishes of the people that those decisions affect.”
Elsewhere in Lambeth, candidates are jumping on a controversial licence the council has awarded that will see outdoor music festival, Field Day, being held in Brockwell Park.
Residents have expressed fears about the noise, crowd size and environmental impact of the day – as well as the three-week period that organisers need to set up and dismantle the festival infrastructure.
In response, Councillor Peck said: “We have ensured that local residents’ views have been heard throughout the process of deciding to host festivals like Field Day.
“That’s why the proposed Lovebox event is not going ahead in Brockwell Park and why significant licensing conditions have been placed on Field Day to balance the plans for the event with the needs of local residents.”
WHAT THEY SAID
Councillor Peck said: “We’ve been ambitious for Lambeth by attracting new investment into the borough, creating thousands of jobs for local people (with the highest employment rate in London), more affordable housing, new schools and kept our award-winning parks as great places for our residents to enjoy.
Councillor Tom briigs, leader of the opposition, said: “We will ensure that all estate demolitions are halted to allow for a proper, balloted consultation of residents to take place.
“No secure tenancies will be demoted or taken away, no leaseholders or tenants will be in a worse position financially.”