Dear Sir / Madam
Application 10/AP/1650 - 10 Dickens Square SE1 4JL
We respond on behalf of the Trinity Newington Residents' Association (TNRA) to the Council's application for changes to Dickens Square park. TNRA is the association representing tenants/residents of the Trinity Newington Estate (covering Trinity Church Square, Merrick Square and parts of Falmouth Road, Trinity Street, Swan Street and Cole Street).
We regret that TNRA has not been consulted during the briefing and design process and that the application is the first notice we have seen of these proposals. We advise that involving all the community at an early briefing stage is important to the success of such projects. We advise that we were not approached by Market Link Research, council officers or Farrer Huxley in 2004 or since then. By contrast, we are happy to note that the Rockingham Estate Play Association (REPA), the mosque and residents on the Rockingham Estate have been consulted.
We do not, however, find references to their responses or views in the Design and Access Statement or elsewhere. For example, currently the users of the mosque park their cars in the Dickens Square approach road. What is their view about losing this parking? What do the adventure playground organisers feel about moving the adventure playground? What is the view of REPA on these proposals and how have their views been accommodated? All these points should have been covered in the Design and Access Statement.
We regret that we have not been able to contribute to the development of the proposals for this valuable local open space and wildlife area. Our detailed comments are below:
1. Sightlines: The Design and Access Statement document is quite right that use and circulation will be especially encouraged by creating good sight lines between the park's entrances. Two of the measures proposed will be key to that: the land swap on the northern boundary and the opening up of space around the entrances - particularly necessary as regards access from Harper Road between the Primary Care Trust and REPA, where at present there is an area of nettles, brambles and small willows. If this were removed or much reduced (nettles are a valuable source of food for butterflies), the green areas of the park would be a great deal more accessible and inviting to passers-by.
A sight line and connectivity between the Butterfly Walk and Falmouth Road entrances can be created without relocating the adventure playground. The land swap and the removal of some barrier rails that there currently are along the edge of the square will restore to use the space north of the REPA building. Moving the adventure playground into that space would actually block this sight line.
2. Relocation of the adventure playground: There is little or nothing to be gained by the move of the adventure playground from the point of view of REPA (but we would be very glad to hear their views) and at least two significant drawbacks:
a) the playground building faces south and so would have to be partly reconstructed;
b) the current adventure playground site contains usefully mature trees which form part of some of the play features and also give shade to the children using it,whereas the main body of the northern section of the park does not.
These points present a strong case against the proposed relocation of the adventure playground, and so we hope that they will be given very serious consideration.
3. Inappropriate use of Japanese Rose: In Butterfly Walk the Planting Plan PL-L03 rev D the Areas 1 and 2 have a shrub mix to the rear including Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose) which we advise will be too dominant and so outgrow and subdue the other shrubs; we advise substitution of a wild native rose, e.g. Rosa canina, as being more suitable. The comment on the substitution of a native for a Japanese Rose also applies to the rear of border area mix in areas 4, 6, 8, 9 and 10 on the south eastern, Falmouth Road, side of the park.
4. Non native tree planting and introduction of only one tree species We note the eighteen new trees proposed on the Planting PlanPL-L03 rev D are Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos "Sunburst")which comes from the Eastern United States and is not native and advise that the current park lacks sufficient native tree species which would support a greater number of insect species and therefore other wildlife including birds.Children also would benefit from nature and botany studies that native trees would enable. Advice can be sought from the Borough Ecology Officer but we would like to see at very least native oak (Quercus robur) and ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and lime (Tilia x europaea) and indeed elm (Ulmus) could be considered if regularly coppiced.
Alternatively,the Design and Access Statement (5.2) refers to use of Carpinus betulus(hornbeam) which is native and so would meet our concern and yet also permit an avenue along the Butterfly Walk approach which is the landscape architect's intention. If, as we request, a native tree such as Carpinus is used, please also ensure it is not cloned.
5. Poplar and sycamore trees: One of the existing tree species is Black Poplar (Populus nigra) and there is an argument for cutting them all down in view of the problems with poplar pollen and flowers in the spring. There is, however, the contrary argument that early exposure to such irritants is important to develop asthma resistance. Has the Primary Care Trust been consulted? We welcome the proposed removal of self-seeded sycamore but the retention of a number of sycamores will require active maintenance to avoid further self-seeding.
6. Resin bound gravel: We note the proposed use of resin bound gravel in the main NW-SE path and advise an unbound gravel would involve less embodied carbon and would therefore be more sustainable. Aesthetically,resin bound gravel is a landscape architects' cliché and use of an unbound gravel would make the park more real and less Disney-like. It is nice to crunch along on gravel.
A narrow bark chip path is proposed adjacent to the Primary Care Trust. Such paths have a very short life and unbound gravel would also be preferable here.
7. Oversized paths: The paths are of a regular width, and that from Brockham Street is oversized at 3m wide, oversized compared with the present one metre wide path. This changes the scale of the spaces and diminishes the perception of spaces in the park. The point about the concern of the area being secluded and feeling unsafe can be met by planting and maintaining the low border mix as proposed in areas 1 and 2.
8. Management and maintenance are critical to the success of any park or garden, therefore we note with concern that the Design and Access Statement has just five lines on Maintenance and Management (section 8)and includes the statements that
"materials that are unsustainable or difficult to maintain, including water and sand have been omitted from the design"
These are not statements that would be acceptable in,say, Denmark which initiated the adventure playground movement. They indicate alow ambition in terms of management and maintenance. One area which is indeed missing from the proposals is a dog free area.
We ask that there be much more detail of the proposals both for the management of the capital works and the subsequent management of the park. Is there to be the conventional 12 months defects liability period including maintenance, will trees have a 24 months defects liability period and is there provision for bowser irrigation in periods of drought? Is there provision for establishing a Friends of Dickens Square and involving the community in the management of the park?
We also ask for the assurance that no pesticides or herbicides be used in the works or the future management of Dickens Square.
Finally on using Dickens Square today (Friday 7 January 2011) one walks across a rotting mess of wet leaves covering all the grass areas; these are unsafe given the slippery wet soil and are unpleasant. This is representative of a failure of current maintenance. This needs to change.
9. Meadow grass planting: we note the mention and illustration of wildflower meadows in the Design and Access Statement (image15) as a proposal for introduction of wildflower meadows. We also note these are not mentioned on the Planting Plan L01 rev D.
We would welcome introduction of wildflower meadows but advise that these require low fertility soil (or preferably a sandy subsoil with no topsoil at all) and also will require active management, i.e. two cuts a year in June and October and removal of grass cuttings. We enquire whether these are still proposed and ask what management proposals are also proposed?
10. History of the site: The consultants appear ignorant of the history of the site (ref section 2.1): nearly all the buildings in Dickens Square survived the War intact and they were demolished in 1971-2 because of the council designation of the area as Public Open Space. A photograph of how it was in 1964 can be seen at:http://www.southwarkcollections.org.uk/code/emuseum.asp?collection=562&collectionname=Elephant%20and%20Castle%20historic%20images&style=browse¤trecord=1&page=collection&profile=objects&searchdesc=Elephant%20and%20Castle%20historic%20images&sessionid=9E483065-5DEE-42A0-813A-260AA4217407&action=collection&style=single¤trecord=6
Further photographs are held at the John Harvard Library in Borough High Street.
A brief history of the earlier buildings is in the Survey of London volume 25, St George's Fields (The parishes of St. George the Martyr Southwark and St. Mary Newington),available online at:http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=65448&strquery=%22dickens%20square%22
Finally, we advise that we would be happy to be involved in the future development and management of Dickens Square.
3 Merrick Square
London SE1 4JB
On behalf of the Chair, Simon Webster, and the Committee of the Trinity Newington Residents' Association (TNRA), SE1