On May 3rd it's the Community that should be the winner
When people say that an area has a really strong community it is a tribute to the hard work by countless individuals and organisations. It happens organically, not through some formal design or agreement. Herne Hill has built up a really strong community over the years, great initiatives have created real change in the area.
In Herne Hill we had a huge success with the changes to the traffic layout to allow the creation of Station Square, proving that making places where people have priority is a real win. Added to that came the Herne Hill market, set-up and run as a social enterprise by the local community. It took years of work in the background by volunteers to get everyone on side, to work with the local authorities to make it happen. It brought in much needed external funding to the community that was re-invested in projects that reached out to the wider community, provided for infrastructure changes, environmental improvements and activities. Initially the market provided a real route for enterprising start-ups, helped musicians and local organisations get much needed exposure.
The market was part of the town centre changes that the community initiated. It included a more flexible way for how traders could use the pavements, murals, marketing of the area along with numerus activities and events in the area. It helped galvanise the local traders to work together to help promote the area. The DCLG (Dept of Culture and Local Government) recognised what had been achieved as real Town Centre innovation and awarded the Herne Hill community a substanbtial grant, one of only 7 in the UK.
Sadly now the market has been handed over to a private contractor, a decision supported by the local councillors. The changes to how the town centre operates have been reversed, valuable external funding now goes to the contractor, not the community. A real kick in the teeth to all the local volunteers who worked so hard to create something good. All the work that was recognised as a real achievement by the DCLG has been systematically dismantled in an act of social vandalism.
The message this sends out is that the councilors are just not interested in community enterprises, local initiatives or what local people really want. The way large scale events in Brockwell Park should be handled, the future of our local library, social housing development and so many more key issues seem to be done with scant regard for those who really own the assets, the local community. Our local councillors are the stewards of the community assets, nurturing them on our behalf and for future generations, or at least that is what they should be.
The biggest asset that we have is a strong community. This message needs to go out to all the candidates, lose that at your peril, it will take years, sometimes generations to build it up again, if at all.
So on May 3rd, when you go to vote, and please do make sure you do vote please think about how our community would be best represented, who would champion the efforts of local people and fight for the real issues we are facing.
A personal comment by Giles Gibson, local resident in Herne Hill.