Long Live Southbank – Community rights used to campaign to save skatepark

The Long Live Southbank campaign aims to save the Southbank skate park for all by using the community rights.

In early March 2013, The Southbank Centre unveiled designs for a £120 million redevelopment of its Festival Wing that revealed their plan to transform the iconic Southbank Undercroft skate park into retail units.

The Southbank Centre proposes to relocate the revered and popular skate spot further down the river, beneath the Hungerford Bridge and build a new skate facility there.

Locality spoke to Rose Ashurst a campaigner for Long Live Southbank to find out how they have been using the Community Rights to campaign to save this famous space which is well known as the birthplace of British skateboarding and has been well used by many local skateboarders, BMX riders and graffiti artists for the last 40 years.

12 July marked a monumental step in the Long Live Southbank Campaign. Lambeth Council accepted our application for the Undercroft skate area to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

It offered the confirmation that this concrete haven is as much a community park as those green spaces dotted around the city. The Undercroft may not be a typical ACV, not being a leafy picnic space, village pub or local shop, but it is still recognised by the locals, the public, and internationally as a concrete idle in a chaotic London.

After the Southbank Centre (SBC) revealed their £120 million Festival Wing design plans in March of this year the Southbank community quickly came together with the sole aim to stop the filling in and relocation of the skate area.

Whilst we collected objections forms to oppose the SBC plans we also went ahead with the ACV application. Ahead of deadline by a day we presented over 12,000 objection forms to Lambeth Town Hall on 4 July. The same day the SBC released a statement advising that the council had provided them with further time so that they could find the ‘very best balance of opportunities for current and future generations’. The suspension of the planning application combined with the ACV has given the campaign and our supporters the hope that the plans can be reconsidered.

Under the Localism Act 2011 the ACV allows communities the time to collect the funds to purchase treasured buildings and spaces. The Act was set up in September 2012 once it became apparent that something had to be done to stop the loss of public and communal areas being consumed by big business’ that could quickly move in and renovate in a blink of an eye. Initiated by the Government’s community empowerment agenda it provides an alternative to losing a well-loved and appreciated space. Under the Act it means that if a space comes up for sale the community is given time to come together and raise the funds to purchase the space.

Currently at around 50,000 members, our support continues to climb as we raise awareness for the preservation of this historic space. But support has not only come from those who have used or currently use the area; we have had a huge response from spectators, tourists and others who are simply proud that London has such an iconic spot – because that’s what’s really important. Knowing that at any point anyone can go to the Southbank and have the opportunity to get involved in London’s ever-fluid community.

The SBC subsequently released a statement advising that they had no intention of selling the Undercroft area. What many may perceive as a disappointing outcome we can only see the positives. The passing of the application demonstrates that when the community comes together we can make a difference. The public outcry presented in the objection forms put pressure on Lambeth Council to recognise the Undercoft as a space that needs protection. It not only shows the success of we are progressing forward and raising awareness for the Undercroft but the importance of all community spaces. Its an example of what we can achieve when we work together to work for the greater good.

Just by making a stand and signing and becoming a member you can let those in ‘power’ know who really has the final say.

Image thanks to Joanna Poe