Save All Hallows appeal to Archbishop Tutu as BBC Ground Force's Tommy Walsh joins the campaign

19/09/2009 14:09

South London residents appeal to Archbishop Tutu to intervene in row with Southwark Cathedral as BBC Ground Force star joins campaign to save hidden gem

A small community in south London is publicly appealing to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to intervene in a bitter dispute between its residents and the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, Colin Slee.

For the third time since 2005, locals have been forced into battle with the Cathedral to stop large-scale development at the site of All Hallows Church and Community Garden on Copperfield Street in Borough. The Cathedral’s proposed development threatens to destroy residents’ community and quality of life.

The proposed development will affect hundreds of residents, blocking out the light to their flats and taking away their privacy. It will take place in a key conservation area, a short walk from Southwark Cathedral. Two people will also lose their long-term home if the Cathedral’s proposal goes ahead.

Campaigners also believe the development will eventually restrict public access to the award-winning, walled garden on which the church stands. The garden was created by residents out of the rubble of a Nazi bomb site 35 years ago. Since then, the garden has been maintained and managed voluntarily by locals with little help from the Cathedral.

Local residents voted overwhelmingly against the Southwark Cathedral proposal at two public consultation meetings held during the summer. At one of those meetings, Colin Slee told the gathering that if Southwark Cathedral did not get permission for this latest proposal, he ‘would just submit another one’.

The Save All Hallows Campaign says:

“Colin Slee’s latest proposal, and his indications about submitting more until he gets planning permission, threatens to destroy the community that generations of our residents have helped to build.

“In the interests of peace and reconciliation we are appealing to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a world-renowned authority on conflict resolution, to use his influence with Colin Slee – who is the chairman of the Tutu Foundation UK – to withdraw these plans and work with the community on finding a solution acceptable to both sides.

“We are asking Desmond Tutu to appeal to the Dean to put people and community before profit.”

Residents believe there is no financial or legal justification for the latest Cathedral proposal, as the Dean claims.

On Wednesday (9th September 2009), residents presented to the Cathedral an alternative proposal for the All Hallows’ site, which they believe has the potentialto deliver as much, if not more, income to the Cathedral as the Cathedral’s scheme. The residents’ proposal mainly comprises a community and cultural centre, and will preserve the garden.  Furthermore, it will allow residents on the Winchester Park estate to the north of the development to retain their light and privacy.

Residents believe that under the Cathedral’s proposals, the community garden will eventually be blocked off, because the Dean has refused to put into writing his claim that it will remain open to the public. The nature of the garden, which has been described as ‘an oasis of calm in central London’, will be changed forever if it is turned into the front lawn of a block of flats.

The Save All Hallows Campaign is also being backed by Tommy Walsh from the popular BBC gardening series, Ground Force.

Tommy says: “There is very little community breathing space in central London. Small oases such as All Hallows Community Garden should be cherished, and preserved, allowing local communities to relax and interact. I'm surprised the church chooses to ignore the value of these places against the public will, in pursuit of property development and profit.”

For further information on the Save All Hallows campaign, and for further details on the residents’ alternative plans, please visit www.saveallhallows.com, or contact Gifford Olney, Save All Hallows Campaign. Ph: 07970 804295. Email: saveallhallows@gmail.com

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Residents’ Case

In the past four years, residents have twice successfully campaigned to have similar planning applications by Southwark Cathedral for the All Hallows’ site turned down.

Residents are not against development taking place on the All Hallows’ site. Their concerns centre on what the Cathedral is proposing under the current scheme and the effect it will have on people's well-being.

Of particular concern is that two people, who helped create the garden 35 years ago, will lose their long-term home. They have also been instrumental in preserving, for future generations, the unique nature of the conservation area that has increasingly come under threat from developers since it became an attractive place to live and work. They are valued members of the community.

There is no practical justification for creating a new development to house the Canon Pastor and provide a community space when accommodation for both currently exists on the site.

There is no financial justification for the Cathedral scheme. Southwark Cathedral has admitted it will take as long as 20 years to realise a return on its investment under the current proposal. The alternative plan put forward by the residents indicates there are equally, if not more, profitable uses to which the site can be put.

There is no legal justification for the Cathedral development. Colin Slee claims he is legally obliged to optimise income. However, legal advice secured by the residents suggests this is open to interpretation.

There is no justification to demolish All Hallows Church. The building is not derelict. It is only in disrepair, and that is because the Cathedral has allowed it to run down. Residents who inspected it recently remarked on how dry and damp-free it is inside. They believe the building should be repaired.

There is no justification for the Cathedral choosing to build up instead of down in order to preserve people’s light and privacy.

Southwark Cathedral Proposal

Southwark Cathedral has signaled its intention to submit plans to Southwark Council to demolish and redevelop All Hallows Church, Church Hall and Community Garden with a four-storey development of nine private flats. The development also provides for a worship and community space that can expand into an external amphitheatre and a house for the Canon Pastor.

Residents’ Alternative Proposal

On 9th September 2009, thirteen local residents met with representatives of Southwark Cathedral, where alternative plans for All Hallows Church and Community Garden on Copperfield Street in Borough SE1 were presented.

Residents have suggested to the Cathedral that they create a community and cultural centre with a garden, instead of the nine flats that the Cathedral has proposed. Residents believe the proposal could provide as much, if not more, income to the Cathedral as the Cathedral’s own scheme.

The residents’ proposal would preserve the current garden. What’s more, the plans stick to the profile of the existing church’s roof, which means that residents of the Winchester Park estate will not lose light and privacy as a result of being boxed in.

In the residents’ plans, the basement of All Hallows will be turned into a soundproofed music, dance, rehearsal and fitness studio. The ground and first floors will contain workshops, studios and small offices.

Next to these rooms, there will be two spaces. One of these spaces might incorporate a gallery or a recital room that could be hired out to companies and used by the local community. The other could accommodate a café, restaurant, nursery or crèche.

Residents’ plans keep, rather than demolish, the existing vicarage and hall. With refurbishment, these buildings would provide living accommodation for the Cathedral’s Canon Pastor and a worship space.

This inspiring example of local community activists challenging developers by producing alternative plans was made possible by Christopher Hill of Linedota Architects.