Open and green space was highly valued in the South Bank and Waterloo neighbourhood and many people were concerned that development – and particularly high rise development without gardens – created pressure on these amenities. Many thought that more open space was urgently needed.
As reflected in discussion around Archbishops Park, the proportion of space given over to particular types of activity such as sports, play space for different ages, quiet contemplation, cafe, public toilets, food growing, flower beds and events was contentious.
Where the expectation was that development often resulted in a net loss of open space, it was felt that development could either increase or maintain the amount of open space through providing roof gardens, access to new space at ground level, or compensatory space off-site. Roof gardens were seen as a particular opportunity given the success of the South Bank Centre’s spaces above the Queen Elizabeth Hall, however concerns were raised over problems gaining access to spaces in developments which were guaranteed at planning stage to be public.
Local residents and workers sought out and valued quiet green space away from visitors to the South Bank and it was hoped that further such sanctuaries could be created.
It was generally recognised that space did not need to be green to be valued and that there was more to greening than open space. The riverside walkway was regularly brought up as a key asset, although one which some locals used less frequently due to increasing footfall. Also, many felt that street trees, green walls and other forms of green infrastructure should be integrated at every opportunity as part of development and public realm improvement.
Although opportunities for creating new space were seen as limited, they do exist. The developable space underneath, or above, Waterloo Station is the size of ten Trafalgar Squares. Organisations like Make Space Studios have taken advantage of seemingly unusable land beside railway tracks to provide over 80 artist studios. Some felt that more could be done with the foreshore of the Thames, including using the beach at low tide or developing a lower walkway similar to that alongside the Seine in Paris but which rose or fell with the tide. The temporary use of development sites for sports pitches could be considered and the reduction of road space, though unlikely to create enough room for a park, could increase the functional space used by pedestrians to sit and rest.
Places of particular concern were:
i) Hungerford Car Park – many people were aware of its designation as Metropolitan Open Land and repeated the desire to see it developed as an extension to Jubilee Gardens, at least in part
ii) The Garden Bridge – despite the calls for new open space, the plans for the bridge were received with caution. Many argued that the space would attract further footfall (estimated 7m annually) and further erode the opportunities for peaceful riverside promenade. Management of litter on routes between the Garden Bridge and the Station and the impact on views from Waterloo and other bridges were also raised as concerns. It was felt that the area needed more pocket parks and places of sanctuary rather than further tourist attractions.
In response to the question of community management of space, feelings were mixed as to the sustainability of this model. Local management would require a regular income stream via a mechanism such as the London Eye revenue S106 agreement and the oversight of a trust rather than a loose collection of volunteers. Other potential sources of income including private grants, events, cafes and the renting out of sports pitches could also be used.
The social and educational benefits of the local management of space, food growing and bee keeping were recognised. Volunteer interventions such as guerrilla gardening, neighbourhood management of pocket parks and estate gardens and arrangements which helped vulnerable local people (such as the putting down roots maintenance of St John’s Garden) were popular and seen as of great value to the neighbourhood.
It was generally recognised that air quality was poor in the area and two contributing factors cited in addition to general traffic levels were taxis queuing for Waterloo Station, often from as far as York Road, and the bus garage at Cornwall Road.