Burgess Park masterplan — not everyone’s happy

The Masterplan report for Burgess Park has been announced; there’s a low-res summary or several high-res chapters available to download as PDF:


The Burgess Park Action Group are not happy with the proposals — I’ve included their list of grievances at the end of this post. If you agree with them or want to add your own opinion, there’s an emergency stakeholders meeting this Tuesday 8th June 2010 at 6pm at the Sports Centre in Burgess Park.

The rest of this post is taken from an email sent by the BPAG.

List of previous park investments and wild-life sites to be bull-dozed by the latest LDA/Council “masterplan” (DRAFT)

  1. Landscaping paid for by Groundwork Southwark in front of Library – now mature to be bulldozed.
  2. The landscaping and re-tiling and new lighting installed by Groundwork Southwark in Wells Way underpass to be bulldozed. (This is the only safe connection crossing a road that is so busy it carried 50% of the Old Kent Road – essential for parents and very popular with cyclists.)
  3. The 20 year old woodland and hill between the lime kiln and library to be flattened.
  4. The newly installed Borough’s first LED ultra-efficient park lighting scheme installed on path between Southampton Way and Albany Road to be removed completely.
  5. The large and formerly very popular toddler and teenage playground on Wells Way – to be bulldozed and landscaped instead of being repaired, installed by Southwark Council about 15 years ago and which the council had no money to repair even the swings.
  6. About 400 meters of the popular cycle and pedestrian Canal Avenue where it passes under the old canal bridge is to be dug up and a pond put in its place, paid for by Groundwork Southwark about 8 years ago.
  7. Entire side of the dual line of cherry-blossom trees planted by Groundwork Southwark at same time as laying of Canal Avenue is to be bulldozed for its entire length between the canal over-bridge and Glengall Road on St Georges side of Avenue.
  8. The cycle track by the lime kiln is to be bulldozed – part funded by Southwark Cyclists just over two years ago.
  9. The woodland, wildlife site and hill at east end of Burgess Park Lake which was planted by Southwark Council rangers service about 15 years ago and now mature to be flattened.
  10. A second woodland, wildlife site and hill on other side of closed Calmington Road to be flattened.
  11. The wildflower meadow by the Canal Avenue – been colonised by range of wild-plants and flowers for over 10 years and been undergoing meadow management for over 10 years to have the Cycle/BMX track built on it.
  12. The mature wildlife woodland sections along St George’s Way which was planted by Groundwork Southwark about 12 years ago and now mature, is to be split up with a complex maze of paths.
  13. The landscaping between Lake and Old Kent Road to be bulldozed to allow lake to be seen from the Old Kent Road (disastrously this will allow traffic and pollution from Old Kent Road to be seen from the currently peaceful lake).
  14. The entrance at Old Kent Road installed by Southwark Council about 13 years ago to be completely bulldozed rather than revamped.
  15. LDA “landscape architects” have been unable to provide a number of mature and semi-mature they intend to kill and remove. Initial guestimates are well over 1,000. Nearly 50 years of planting and growth of trees is threatened in large swathes of the park.
  16. In the words of the architects the Canal Avenue mature wildflower meadow will be replaced by “A purpose built space for some of the largest festivals in Europe with amphitheatre style viewing for over 100 thousand people, a floating stage, and a dedicated cultural hub;
  17. The wildlife site beside the cricket pitch is to be bulldozed. This is well over 30 years old and is on the site of a garden that predates the park.
  18. An area the size of THREE football pitches is to be removed from open space and instead fenced off for polytunnels and allotments.
  19. The existing cafe that overlooks the beautiful multi-cultural Chumleigh garden is to be closed and moved inside the building to overlook the Aylesbury Estate and Albany Road. The outdoor tables instead of being placed in a beautiful sheltered
    Arabic garden with the cafe furniture designed in line with the Arabic heritage of the garden will be on a concrete site exposed to a wind-tunnel funnelled from adjacent buildings.
  20. Two sets of paths are to be placed through the existing RSPB maintained special house-sparrow meadows.
  21. The 30 year old wildlife woodland and nesting area by the Albany Road side of the lake to be bulldozed.
  22. The largest and most mature section of wild woodland along Albany Road at other side of path near lake looks to be bulldozed.
  23. Mature shrubbery in front of St George’s Church at junction of New Church Road to be bulldozed –planted by international student workshop 14 years ago.
  24. The avenue of mature trees between entrance at corner of Wells Way to the Canal Avenue all look likely to be removed, along with the path installed by Groundwork Southwark about 8 year ago.

LDA architects and the current council proposals are classic 1960’s style bulldoze and start again disposable landscape school of architecture. The financial, ecological and community investment that is proposed to be destroyed will be painful to the thousands of local people who have watched our park gradually and organically grow from the collection of bombsites and scrap yards that plagued it 20 years ago.

It need not be like this. The existing park is a loved, living and breathing entity in its own right already, with some already beautiful corners already thriving. With careful nurturing and investment, this community led organic growth and investment can continue, so that it continues to provide a green haven and lung for the tens of thousands of people who live within walking distance of the park and the hundreds of thousands of people who play sport, walk or simply picnic in it every year.

An alternative vision to the LDA nightmare would be a national quality Eco-Park designed for the 21st century and based on eco-friendly principles of working and developing the best of what we have already and creating a dream of a zero waste, zero-carbon, green ecological oasis, where people can escape, relax and play, to recharge from the densely built surrounding city – a Hampstead Heath that South Londoners can be proud of.

Burgess Park needs to demonstrate the best of environmental sustainability principles, so that it can act as a beacon of hope in the midst of the threatening environmental crises our children are facing as they grow up. Telling them that the way to treat their own homes and gardens is to bulldoze them every ten to twenty years fails this crucial test of sustainability – the first test of which should always be – is it necessary? LDA’s ecologically disastrous proposals fail this test and are a major crime in wasted carbon terms to boot. Lets show our children instead that there is a different way – one based on community ecology and respect for their future and respect for the wildlife and investments that previous generations have nourished and created.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

109 thoughts on “Burgess Park masterplan — not everyone’s happy”

  1. I’m absoluteley DISGUSTED and LIVID — this is exactly what I feared would happen. We can’t let these plans go ahead — everyone needs to get behind the ‘call to arms’.

  2. Sounds like carnage.

    Wonder what Boris makes of this? I’m sure this is not what was envisaged when Burgess Park was awarded that extra funding.

    Also wonder how much LDA has spent already? Criminal!

  3. Such a shame that we live in such a disposable society, with so little regard for previous investment, good work and valuable features of the park. And completely bizarre that they favour crossing a busy road in the middle of the park rather than a nice tunnel under it! If it upsets them so much, is it impossible to have both options? I feel irritated at the thought of trying to cross that road on my bike already.

    On a more positive note, Spark storytelling week at the Blue Elephant Theatre got off to a brilliant start last night. If people want to go (nightly til Friday at 8pm) they should book tickets though, as it is an intimate venue and last night was pretty busy… Let’s try to convince them to make this a regular Camberwell night! I saw there was a blog about it on this website last night which has now disappeared!

  4. You might be interested in the presentation the Friends of Burgess Park did during the consultation on the new plans. It can be found on this page:


    The Friends share many of the concerns of the Burgess Park Action Group, but have to handle things sensitively because we represent a wider range of views and need to maintain constructive working relationships with the Southwark Council Officers in charge of the park.

    I hope people will get involved with the Friends because the more volunteers and skills we have available the more we can do.

  5. I really like some of the decisions — like reopening a stretch of the canal — but there does seem to be an awful lot of revolution and not a lot of evolution. Also: two cafes? The Chumleigh Gardens cafe barely seems busy as it is, and that’s in a beautiful spot.

    @RozofGayCamberwell — There is a post about Spark which will go live this evening; I just delayed it to give this urgent meeting a little more exposure.

  6. james, how much of the fobp feedback has been incorporated or changed any of the masterplan? also, i only just read that the deadline for feedback to the masterplan is 10th june?!?!?!?! this has not been publicised at all.

  7. Liliana, There have been some changes as a result of the consultation, but not a great deal. The whole system for choosing a design company and devising a masterplan already presupposes that big, radical ideas are preferable to organic development or even just spending the money on good maintenance and horticultural management.

    There was no public consultation to devise the system for choosing how the money was spent. Once you have competition to find a design company that can come up with an exciting masterplan for Burgess Park, you are inevitably going to end up with a design-led plan to solve Burgess Park’s problems. You are excluding the options of making gradual minor improvements and spending money on a talented head gardener and team with a dedicated park manager.

    Having chosen a winning design and invested a million quid in the masterplan, the Council have committed themselves to a particular approach. The consultation has really been on the finer points of the masterplan. We have succeeded in getting more play areas more widely distributed around the park, softening the design which was previously very angular, and delaying the removal of the underpass. In the main however, the consultation has been treated as means of verifying and justifying the existing LDA vision for Burgess Park, rather than attempting to come up with alternative visions. Alas, this is usually how consultation works.

    Actually, the Aylesbury NDC has had a major impact on all the plans for Burgess Park because they have been the ones funding most of the revitalisation and have put certain conditions on their contribution. Conditions that allegedly include spending £16,000 on giant purple advertising boards around the park.

    The NDC had almost no democratic accountability as far as I can tell, but as it had plenty of money it could wield huge influence. They arranged and funded the giant CCTV cameras in the park without consulting with anyone. We did at least successfully oppose their plans to convert the old William IV pub into commercial offices.

    Still, arguing about some of the finer points of the masterplan is something of a distraction. It’s unlikely that it will ever come to fruition in its entirety. The Friends’ major concern is what is going to happen in the first phase of the plan, given that this is the only part that is funded and guaranteed to happen. We want this to be a step forward using the best of the masterplan and avoiding the worst, so that if phase two never happens we will still have a better park than we have now.

    Tonight, I believe that the Friends of Burgess Park, the Burgess Park Action Group, the Camberwell Society, and maybe also the Peckham Society are going to be putting up a united front as a last ditch effort to influence the consultation process.

  8. thanks for this, james, i simply have not had much time to keep track of it — we’ll be there too as well as quite a few other people

  9. Looks like a potential waste of public money. Who appointed the planners? If it was the previous administration I’m not surprised; Private Eye has covered their ineptitude and corruption for several years.

  10. Never underestimate the capacity for ‘planners’ and ‘consultants’ to waste, overspend, and undervalue. It’s all part of the lovely regeneration jobs-creation merry-go-round. More stakeholder consultation anyone?

    But hang on a minute, I remember comparing the two pitched plans months back with everyone else here and I don’t remember any of this stuff. Is this the ‘devil in the detail?’.

    Sounds like loads of overengineered OTT ‘visionary’ shit that’ll unpick good work already done only to spend more. That’s local government all over.

  11. Southwark Council

    Rotten Borough © Private Eye

    It was so in 1977 — when my family moved here and it’s worse now…

    The problem is that with the rise and fall of each economic cycle the poorer parts of London tend to jump on the money bandwagon just before the wheels are about to come off — So, the grand masterplan never becomes a reality and a poorly-conceived hotch-potch of architecture/town planning is always the end result — usually by whoever is left around still willing to invest (which is many small parties rather than 1 or 2 big players who can collaborate on a clear,logical, methodical vision which stands a better chance of working properly)

    So it was for Elephant and Aylesbury in the 60’s/70’s…so it is now

    If you don’t believe it then I suggest you all take a look at the hoarding on Sumner Street to the rear of Tate Modern — “Unofficial Deposited Records” ‑from the Southwark Archive Library

    A real eye opener…trust me

    I Drink my Tea

  12. @Liliana: Comments get held in moderation if they contain multiple links, as that’s a common pattern of spam. You don’t need to post them all again individually, just wait for me to approve them.

  13. Are they really going to fill in the tunnel linking both sides of the park? That’s not good.

  14. I wouldn’t get to hear about stuff like this if not for this blog. Good stuff.

    Fwiw, the site looks a bit squished today in Chrome and my phone browser.

  15. @florian: i bl*ody hope not. a lot of people are against it, and, as far as i know, no acceptable alternatives have been offered.

    council are, as usual, not really listening to people, as people do not have ‘visions’, can’t understand how complex things are and are not local.

  16. Lili

    Historically Southwark Council have always been this way…

    It’s full of complacent people who do plenty of empty posturing and lip service…and think they know better than all the thick ignorant proles who actually live here…

    That has and continues to be the collective attitude of this council down to a tee…It goes back to the 1960’s — when they were the most distructive and wasteful of all London Councils and it STILL runs through the heart of the organization to this very day…

    This situation has never been addressed

    sad but there we are 🙁

  17. Dear All

    Thank you for posting our list of concerns about Southwark Council’s proposals to turn Burgess Park into “Europe’s largest music festival venue with an open air amphitheatre accommodating 100,000 people” in your blog.

    The Burgess Park Action Group negotiated an agreed motion between ourselves and a number of local amenity groups including the Camberwell Society for what was supposed to be the last “consultation” meeting prior to the “masterplan” being signed off.

    The motion indicated in broad terms what we supported and what we did not agree with.
    The chair refused to allow us to table the motion. They also claimed the groups were not “representative”.

    We are now seeking as many local groups as possible to formally support the agreed text to demonstrate to the council that the bulldoze and start again approach is not supported by our communities.

    The full text of the motion is on our Facebook page, as is the list of groups who have already supported it.

    Groups supporting the statement can send it either directly to our Facebook page or email it to contact@​3acorns.​co.​uk

    Many thanks
    Donnachadh McCarthy
    Burgess Park Action Group
    07947 884299

  18. urgent update: (from Burgess Park Action Group)
    At what was supposed to be the last “consultation” meeting on the proposed master-plan to bulldoze large sections of Burgess Park on Tuesday , the chair refused to allow the agreed position negotiated by Burgess Park Action Group with 5 other local amenity groups to be voted on.

    BPAG is now seeking the support for the agreed text from community groups across Southwark.

    If you are member of a local group, it would be great if you would show your support to the text — we have about 4 weeks to persuade the officers who dismissed to stakeholder groups as “unrepresentative” that there is wide opposition to the proposals and to save numerous woodland and wildlife areas in the park.

    please show your support via the facebook group http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=207854545018&ref=ts
    or email Donnachadh McCarthy at contact@​3acorns.​co.​uk

    The full text is on our Facebook Page.

    The text has already been agreed by:

    Friends of the Earth Southwark

    Friends of Burgess Park

    Friends of Victory Square Park

    Camberwell Society

    Peckham Society

    Growing Southwark

    Burgess Park Action Group

    Southwark Cyclists

    Albany Road residents

    Pepier Mews Residents Association

    People’s Republic of Southwark

  19. Eh up, the graphic designers and web piskies have started talking fonts. There’ll be no stopping them now, they’ll still be nattering on about it loudly during England’s failed World Cup penalty shoot-out.

    It reminds me of a joke a social worker once told me, about some deaf-and-dumb people meeting in a pub. The punchline is: “Oh, no, they’ve started singing.”

    Found the biggest ever heroin spoon in Lucas Gardens, yesterday, so big it was the dish ran away with the spoon big.

    Some already murdered 17-year-old was incinerated in a parked Rover 600 in Jowett Street, the South London Press headlined yesterday.

    However one of their hoardings declares something like, MILLWALL FANS GIVE MOST TO HELP FOR HEROES.

    They raised more for the armed forces charity at their playoff final than Chelsea and Portsmouth did at the cup final. They gave far more than the Swindon, Wiltshire fans, apparently


    Mind you, a lot of the ‘Wall at Wembley were on their way to being legless…

    Arf! arf!

  20. The blandising of Burgess Park is a more serious matter.

    On the one hand, there are the trees, who make only a gentle susurrous rather than a big noise about what is going to happen.

    On the other are the blue-sky planners, dark politicians and park product providers who know how to handle urban projects to deliver leisure and recreation services to a variety of users other than vague vegans, water diviners, twitchers and carp men.

    Burgess Park is not very safe. The trees hide muggers but cannot disarm them.

    The football element is excellent. This provides a mass of fit, black and Latin white van men who would kick a mugger from Burgess Park to the Elysian Fields.

    There is the question of whether Burgess Park should be a venue for incomers — concert goers, lake boaters, cockney ice cream lickers.

    There is a lot of minestrone to be strained and examined to see what the pasta runes read.

  21. Angels & Gypsies last week for dinner with family; fantastic food again. Completely solid well balanced seamlessly excellent meal.

    This week FM Mangal carry out lamb & chicken garlic shish’s with salad and flat bread — staff charming, smiley, well presented and really well informed, fluently talked through the menu. Simply excellent all round and the food to match. Eleven quid the lot.

    Silk Road sit in last night. Yet again extraordinarily good food, unusual, spicey, well balanced flavours and textures served by quirky down to earth and sharp staff. Lamb noodle soup wow!

    And forgot to mention a takeaway from Falafel a month or so ago. Great flavours and presentation and good value.

    Camberwell really IS, finally, really getting there at least on the food level. It’s not on the map though.

    WE must work to make sure the rest of London knows about it.

  22. Talking of pubs, talking of vegans…

    They’re serving vegan beer at the refurbured Wishing Well on Bellenden Road.

    Micro-brewed at The Florence in Herne Hill, apparently.

  23. @gabe: that’s very good to know although i don’t actually drink. im sure there’s vegans who do.
    @dagmar: have i gone vague then? :S

  24. Yes, delightful service in Mangals isn’t it. I like them lots.

    A+Gyps went back there the other week for 1st time in a while. It’s OK. It’s Camberwell. Wasn’t as roused by it as I was the 1st time. Also the tiny tail end of mackerel we had for £7 or whatever was really bad value. Yes it’s tapas but this one really stood out.

    Cinnamon and Ambrosia looking empty. Come on folks.

    For all you foodies — I noticed Peckham Morrisons sell carp. This is v interesting as it’s not commonly eaten in the UK but is popular in Europe and Asia.

  25. Crime scene outside betting shop a door down from Mangals. Another betting-shop inspired event, it seems.

  26. Will cous cous be on the menu for Friday night’s match? Good to see that the S&D (and its genial host) get a mention in Saturday’s FT, though they left out mention of Camberwell.

  27. @SouthLondonJohn I’d appreciate a copy of it if you can. Missed it entirely yesterday. Wow! In the FT! I got a call from Pan Yuk as I was making breakfast the other day… she was looking for quotes from publicans about how they thought the football would affect their fortunes. I was a little lost for words. “A quote from me about football is a bit of a problem. I’m not exactly football’s greatest fan although I’ve spent the last thee weeks working my socks off getting the pub ready for it. What are you getting back from other people you’ve spoken to?” — “I’ve only spoken to big corporates so far and they’re all ‘it’s not going to make much of a difference in the long run’. — “Well that’s what its’ really like for me I reckon — no matter how much we make in the next few weeks it’s only going to help pay off debts we can’t pay anyway’.

    We agreed the quote should be along the lines of: “the last eighteen months have been very tough and if the weather, and England, hold up through the world cup it will give the business a lease of life for another three months”. Was it something like that?

    @Eusebiovic — we’re showing ALL matches throughout. The more observant observers passing by The Sun and Doves will have notice that our ‘International, all thirty two nations taking part in the world cup represented, plastic not fabric, bunting’ in fact has not one African or Asian nation, nor Portugal (why not Portugal?) represented. I was ripped off. I will complain.


    Food for the next England Algeria match is a good idea. TAGINE. Cous cous. Grilled meats. Perhaps. Depends on stuff.

    Next Friday, particularly if the weather is good, will be a night to remember. We’ve got the horns, and the drums, and the flags, and the kazoos ready already.

  28. Mark

    As we live in Southwark and Lambeth it shouldn’t be too difficult to source a few flags for Ghana,Nigeria and Portugal!

    Maybe a trip to New Malden will result in some North and South Korean flags? They have some good restaurants down that way, you know…


  29. @Mark Dodds

    Yes, that was pretty much as it was in print. I’ll drop the paper in early this week.

  30. Mornin’ all — so any news on what happened outside the betting shop?
    There was quite a bit of blood when I walked past …

  31. I am shocked at the level of scaremongering on the Burgess Park issue on this website. If any of you used the park half as much as you purport to, you’d know that — for example — the new cafe at Chumleigh Gdns is already being built. It has nothing to do with LDA or Boris’s millions. I don’t agree with where it’s been sited either, but stop blaming everything on “The Masterplan”. I fear you media-literate bloggers have no idea what the majority of people actually want. My husband’s been mugged in the park; my children have seen torched vehicles and appeals for witnesses to killings; our friends have been chased by dangerous dogs… if this is what the softly, softly “organic” approach to development has achieved, then I for one can’t wait for the new and ambitious vision.

  32. A great deal of the BPAG points are simply plain wrong, grossly misleading or needless scaremongering.

    Incessant use of the word “Bulldozing” to instill fear. How else do you expect to re-landscape a park? Buckets and spades?

    Endless mentions of ‘Wild areas’ and ‘meadows’ which in reality are unkept mounds of not-a-lot that only serve to highlight how abysmally piece-meal and inadequate the approach to the park has been thus far. Go to any other major London park and you’ll see that Burgess Park’s ‘Wild areas’ are really just an embarrasment of mis-management that need severe change. Not to mention being a magnet for litter and fly tipping.

    Trees — report clearly states the quantity of trees will remain the same, but due to PUBLIC OPINION there will be more native trees and less imported varieties.

    LED Lighting — is not that new, is badly designed, gives out extremely poor light, (diffuse instead of direct) does nothing to stop people getting mugged. Another example of embarrasing piece-meal development.

    New Cycle path — is also an embarrasment and does not deserve the name. It’s so narrow that if a pedestrian is on the path cyclists has to bunny hop onto the grass to get by. Pathetic. It doesn’t look like a cycle path and has nothing to indicate it as thus.

    Existing cycle way — as the plans show, it’s not going away, it will still be there.


    Children’s Play Area — HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LDA PLANS. Council should have fixed it but it was in disarray before the park even bid for Boris’ Money.

    And for everyone endlessly complaining about not being consulted, the people have been consulted to death over the past two years; public forums IN THE PARK, endless posters requesting comments IN THE PARK. There was even a round of public consultation before developers were even shortlisted. If you haven’t noticed then you probably haven’t used the park, and can’t really complain about not being consulted.

    This ridiculous amount of whinging by a bunch of minority interest groups who don’t seem to represent the needs of ordinary people who use the park on a daily basis seems to be borne of an inability to see anything from anyone else’s point of view. The ordinary people who use the park want a park that works, and provides the facilities you’d expect from a major london park, not a few bits of wild shrubland and nettles largely unnoticed due to lousy landscaping and a hotch potch of bits and pieces wodged into the park over the years.

    Burgess Park is broken, it needs fixing from the ground up, not a sticking plaster.

  33. Finally — some sanity! It wouldn’t be Camberwell if after years of work, a small group didn’t risk ruining progress by shouting “we weren’t consulted”. My favourite is how a very small group at an informal info meeting suddenly thought they could move a motion to vote against the plan! Uh my mates down the pub may just “move” to change a law, but we can hardly be outraged that it doesn’t become the law of the land. Unbelievable. No wait, it is Camberwell after all.

  34. oh we all like sanity indeed!
    on a serious note, when did sharing information become ‘scaremongering?

    also, when did they give out xrayvision equipment? so many people seem to be able to, having one look at another person/group of people, know pretty much everything there is to know about them? i keep missing out on all the good stuff! was this IN THE PARK?

  35. Sharing information can become scaremongering when it’s actually mis-information, factually innacurate, or misleading, or when information is shared in a highly selective way, or distributed out of context. Tends to happens quite a lot actually.

  36. Hi Terry

    I respect that there are some people who think that bulldozing large sections of the park and starting again is the way to go.
    There are also some people who think having a venue for Europe’s largest music festivals with a permanent stage is also a good idea.
    However, in my experience most people that I have spoken to do not favour this approach. Rather they prefer one that values the good things currently in the park and wish to see the money that we have to be spent on improving the park.
    But I generally like people to form their own views on the plans, which is why we put a direct link to them on our Burgess Park Facebook page.
    Nearly everyone who looked themselves came back outraged as the destruction involved.
    Dismissing others as “whingers” or “minority interest” is not helpful in my opinion. I respect your opinion and hope you respect mine and feel that helps to have a constructive debate.
    thanks Donnachadh

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