The diversity of the local population was regularly mentioned as an asset and many raised the problem of inadequate community facilities, particularly a ‘whole-life hub’ which provided for people of all ages, to serve them. Social inequality between those north and west of the station and those to the south and east was seen as pronounced, with railway tracks acting as a physical and metaphorical barrier to opportunity.
Schools were seen as community anchors, important in a transitory area, but school places were said to be in particularly short supply. A number of participants reported anecdotal evidence that people had left the area as a result of not being able to send their children to school locally and this is supported by the new Oasis South Bank Free School figures which suggest that 450 applications were received for 120 places. New development was seen as likely to exacerbate the problem.
Community spaces and sports and leisure facilities including a swimming pool were also needed, particularly for young people who were underprovided for in the neighbourhood. Because of the lack of open space on which to develop sports pitches, new schools would need to provide play space and sports pitches on roofs.
A new space and improved facilities for the library were also called for and new development would create pressure on GP and dentistry provision in the area, where these were already viewed as stretched. It was seen as the responsibility of developers to provide such facilities on site, and for the use of the whole community.
Participants were concerned that homelessness endured as a problem so many years after the development of the bullring (now the IMAX Cinema), though it was stressed by some that homelessness had reduced a great deal and in their view the problem was street drinking, drug abuse and begging. A combination of management of these behaviours and support for those in need was suggested. Many felt that the street population was simply displaced from one neighbourhood to another.
Work units and training to access jobs created via development (e.g. in the construction phase or in the hotels, offices and shops being built), were viewed as a useful step in reducing unemployment, particularly among local young people. Large employers also had a responsibility to ensure there were employment opportunities for local people.
Drug sales around Waterloo Station and estates to the South and petty crime associated with tourism and were raised as a problem at debates. It was suggested that police numbers were too low for an area with such high footfall. It was also suggested that a unique licensing regime might be developed to manage any issues created as part of the night time economy, whilst recognising the unique part licensed premises (including cultural institutions) had to play in supporting the local economy.
Local people recognised the contribution cultural institutions made to the local community but some felt that more could be done to ensure culture was brought into estates.