Skate park protests resort to double-think


Anybody who doesn't know that politics is crime has got a few screws loose.

- James Ellroy

Having lost the debate at the Telegraph Hill Assembly, opponents of plans to site a small skate area next to the football and basketball courts in the Lower Park have resorted to anonymous leaflet campaigns, urging local people to derail the project by contacting local politicians.

When the popular vote had been cast in favour of the project, we wrote that we hoped the opponents would accept the will of the people with good grace. Like hell they will. Because it's not about reasonable argument and never has been. Look at the hopeless, illogical and contradictory arguments that have been put forward against the plans:

- First it was unacceptable because it would be used by gangs from all over London. Then it was unacceptable because it would be used exclusively by middle class children.

- It's not popular enough as a sport to justify the public money and yet the facility will lead to so many children using it, that there will inevitably be car accidents on the roads outside the park.

- Kids are perfectly capable of trekking to Ladywell or Peckham if they want to skate, but the protestors must have a park just as they want it, right on their doorstep (no walking to Hilly Fields or Peckham Rye park for them!).

- The Upper Park has special acoustics which would have made the noise unacceptable. But the lower park, which is a completely different shape, also has "unique" acoustics which make it unacceptable.

And so it goes on. No amount of compromise (moving the site from the Upper to the Lower park was a sensible concession) will suffice.

Look at the claims now being put forward:

1. "There has been very little consultation..."

The consultation process has been going on for months. There have been Assemblies, leaflets, open days, articles here and on the Telegraph Hill forum. There have been compromises and votes. To say there has been little consultation is simply not true.

2. "The vote does not give a fair representation of local views. Adverts... encouraged children as young as 11 from all areas of London to attend the Assembly meeting and vote in favour."

The vote was won by a large majority in a very well attended Assembly meeting, that had been widely publicised. The votes are overseen by Councillors and officers who would have taken action had there been obvious vote-fixing, such as hordes of 11 year olds turning up to vote for the first time. Note the campaigners don't actually say that any of these people did turn up - you can be sure they would have kicked up a much bigger stink if there'd been any evidence of that. All they can point to is one comment on an internet forum and one article about the issue (not advert) in a skate magazine. The vote was fair and they lost.

3. Noise and the unique acoustics.

Every park's acoustics are unique, but there's no evidence or reason why this park's acoustics should be uniquely problematic. The park is separated from houses by roads on all sides and the area proposed is right next to a basketball court that has existed happily in the park for years, despite being noisy. The area will be tucked below the line of the hill, which will absorb much of the noise. The materials that will be used for the skate park are specially designed to dampen noise.

4. Environment and overcrowding and the change in "feel of this Victorian park."

As stated before, this is next to a very un-Victorian basketball court. Telegraph Hill is a lovely park and will remain so, all the more because children will have a new way to play in it. As for its historic character - perhaps this is relevant to the Upper Park, given the site's historic role in communications, but adding a skate park to a play area will in no-way change the park's character.

5. Community division

It certainly has been divisive, thanks to these campaigners, who've accused the campaigners of variously being gangsters, spoiled brats and more. Sending anonymous leaflets like these is hardly helping matters either.

6. Misuse of public funds designed for "disadvantaged children" - the site should go to another area.

This is either deluded or disingenuous. Telegraph Hill is a very mixed area and easily accessible to a wide range of children. It also contradicts point 4, which suggests the park will become overcrowded, presumably with children from all over London...

7. Erosion of democratic rights.

Oh please. What they mean is erosion of their right to impose their will on the community.

75 comments:

b. said...

what is wrong with people. seriously, they're the worst.

Monkeyboy said...

I've just started a Philosophy course at Birbeck. This particular rant would suggest that they do not subscribe to argument od "Equal Consideration of Interests" as espoused by Peter Singer.

They are of course MAD.

Having said that I'm only two chapters in and he's already questioning the moral basis of a bacon sandwich...bastard.

Sue said...

@Monkeyboy You haven't been reading Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, have you?!

Anonymous said...

bin them.

Anonymous said...

bit dramatic - anyone would think the skating is going to take over the whole park.

Headhunter said...

Although I don't agree with everything these opponents have said I still think a few of those points stand:

The skate park was originally suposed to eliminate the problem of kids skating in the street after dusk/dark. Locating the skate park in the lower park does not solve this problem as it's locked at dusk.

Use of the word "trekking" to Ladywell and Peckham is ridiculous, it's about a mile? May be 2? There are also buses.

At a time when Lewisham BC is considering closing public libraries useful to everyone from 8-80 of both sexes, it's considering blowing £40? 50k? on a skate park, which will provide for teenage boys and erm, that's about it... Doesn't seem a useful application of funds.

Headhunter said...

I see Nick's coverage of this has steadily moved from fairly neutral to downright condemning of opponents!

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - well spotted!

I respect that some people might think it not a particularly good idea, but I think this campaign has become absolutely scandalous.

I think the public money argument is a bit of a red herring. The money was secured some time ago and has been allocated for sports provision for kids. This does what was intended.

There is a whole different consultation going on about public spending priorities right now and it's valid to question whether similar projects should be funded in future, but you can't retrospectively take away funding.

NIMBY said...

Just glad it's not in my back yard.

Tamsin said...

The prospect of diverting funds from this project to saving a library is immaterial. Everything is so ring-fenced that local authorities simply do not have this flexibility. You will recall from the Your Lewisham Your Say presentation (if you've been to a Ward Assembly) that the capital spend for the next few years is a part of LBL's budget that is set aside as untouchable.

It does, however, have to be said (or at least, I want to say it) that the skateboard area promoters have also exhibited some double-think. I have gone boring on about how I personally believe that the patch of land on the corner of Dennetts Road and Mona Road should at least have been considered to the extent of having a full consultation with residents and the local residents assocation, but it seems this never happened.

The answers I was given as to why the idea was dismissed at so out of hand were firstly that it was not central enough - but, hang on, it is closer to what I understood to be the original problem area of on-street skateboarding (i.e. the juntion of Arbuthnot and Waller) than either of the parks. The second argument, also adhered to by the Ward Councillors, is that it is not suitable because this is already an area of crime and anti-social behaviour. So either the presence of skateboarders would make it worse - which rather contradicts the constant contention that skateboarding does not encourage or give rise to anti-social behaviour - or that these middle-class kids would be scared to go there, thus undermining the plea that skateboarding is all inclusive and breaks down such barriers.

It also seems a wasted opportunity to provide an outdoor informal activity that would bring with it a promised CPSO casual presence and opportunities for NXDC Trust funded outreach youth-work. But so be it. The chap from the Somverville Residents Assocation and talked of it between ourselves at the last Ward Assembly but have given up on the notion.

PS @ Monkeyboy. Bacon and coffee are both immoral because they smell so much better than they taste. They taste good enough (unlike burgers) but don't live up to their false promises.

Brockley Nick said...

@Tamsin - the "perhaps it could be somewhere else" argument is also a valid one and there has been plenty of time for options to be weighed and measured.

But it is not a reason to oppose these plans.

Ed said...

I think there is a good argument for not spending this money, ring-fenced or not, but dislike the anti-skate camapaign to such an extent that I am now fully behind this.

Anonymous said...

There are some very angry NIMBYs on Telegraph Hill

Tamsin said...

Yes, and I don't oppose the plans. I'm neutral on the issue and as I said publicly at the Ward Assembly meeting, a skateboard area in the Lower Park - child and play oriented as it is - is an asset. I have also since been convinced that certain remaining qualms I had about safety can most of them be met.

It does, though, remain in my view a pity that in the whole long consultation process the only sites in the Ward ever seriously considered were the Upper Park, the closure of Kitto Road and now the Lower Park, and the Mona/Dennetts corner never got a look-in.

But, boring, boring, I must shut up now and get on with some work.

drakefell debaser said...

Oh, someone is bitter all right.

Those in favour just need to email the mayor and councillors to voice their support for the park.

Given the wild accusations of 11 year old ringers asking mummy to go to New Cross to sway the vote, amongst other nonsense, I almost wish I had access to the mayor’s inbox so I could read the drivel coming in against it.

Anonymous said...

Cant remember when I last saw a kid on a skate board.

DJ said...

Yesterday, 4pm Hilly Fields. Last time I saw a kid on a skateboard.

Vesta Curry said...

These divisive local issues always lead to hot tempers and intemperate words. Historically I have generally felt a bit negative towards SPAG - I do think they represent a vested minority interest in a small, already crowded recreational area.

I feel fairly neutral (even possibly positive) now, towards the project and think I can hear both sides reasonably objectively. Both sides seem to be losing it a little, but on balance at the moment I think those in favour seem to be losing it the most (the reproduced leaflet doesn't seem *that* wild-eyed or accusatory) - and there is something really embarrassing about 30 and 40-somethings wanting to appear 'down with it' - SPAG do seem to adopt a haughty moral tone that probably infuriates those who for all sorts of reasons (some good) feel negative towards the whole idea.

And, for the record, I live on Vesta, comfortably less than 300 metres from the park and have never (ever) received any leaflets from SPAG or had anyone visit to talk through the issues.

Brockley Nick said...

"In a survey of 11-14 year-olds it was found that rollerblading and skateboarding were the
highest in terms of participation, for both genders."
- A report to Sport England about Lifestyle Sports (2005)

Kevin Costner said...

If you build it.... they will come.

Matt-Z said...

The opponents have missed a trick by not titling their leaflets 'Spag Balls'.

Anyhow, as local campaginers who have fought many local battles, winning some and losing some, they should realise when they have lost.

tyrwhitt ali said...

Last time I saw a kid on a skateboard was Sunday morning at Brockley station. He was trying to go down the small slope at the side of the steps (what is that for?) rather unsuccessfully.

Being up near Hilly Fields I've not had particularly strong views about the skate park, but I do wonder why people can't just accept graciously.

Brockley Nick said...

@TA - I don't suppose this is what the little ramp is for, but you can just about wheel a normal size pushchair up and down it, which is quite handy.

Mouse said...

@TA I assumed the little ramp was for pushing your bike up

Headhunter said...

"In a survey of 11-14 year-olds it was found that rollerblading and skateboarding were the
highest in terms of participation, for both genders."
- A report to Sport England about Lifestyle Sports (2005)

That's surprising to me but it's still only 11-14 years olds, still a pretty limited audience...

Brockley Nick said...

That doesn't mean that they're the only ones who do it!

I'm sure if there was research of young people aged between 8 and 18, you'd find it in the top five participation sports (outside of school), somewhere below football, cycling and swimming, but higher up than rugby, athletics or cricket.

max said...

I love that the leflet speaks of "children as young as 11" being encouraged to vote.
It makes it sound like someone has been corrupting young minds, there's most definitely a seedy undertone there.
I'm happy to bet a small sum that the author is a Daily Mail subscriber.

Name said...

PPH at BBK is FAB.

max said...

And when it mentions "a small group with outside assistance" it uses the most classic fear of the alien tecnique.

Brockley Nick said...

I like the way it says "If you value your park and don't want environment" oppose these plans.

max said...

True, so evident you don't notice it.

mintness said...

11- to 14-year-olds don't actually exist and are merely a skateboarding, ciggie-smoking, barbed-quip-wielding construct invented to scare reactionary old folks. Now that is scientific fact. There's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact.

drakefell debaser said...

..and there is something really embarrassing about 30 and 40-somethings wanting to appear 'down with it'..

That is the sort of comment you would expect from someone squinting at 40 through a rear-view mirror.

I imagine lots of the 30-40 year olds in favour are parents or just remember what it is like to have fun.

Ed said...

Minty you sound like Dr Fox!

Cristiana e Francesco said...

I am against the skate park, but as you said, the popular vote was in favour of the project.
So that is it.
Personally i think it is waste of money but maybe one day my children will enjoy the skate park.
Francesco

Cristiana e Francesco said...

I am against the skate park, but as you said, the popular vote was in favour of the project.
So that is it.
Personally i think it is waste of money but maybe one day my children will enjoy the skate park.
Francesco

Anonymous said...

they do have a serious point about noise.

Anonymous said...

why wasn't Friendly Gardens considered?

Anonymous said...

if it is that popular why not have one in each park that is large enough for one?

Hilly Fields?

Ladywell Fields?

Brockley Nick said...

Um... There is one in Ladywell Fields.

Anonymous said...

as Telegraph Hill (lower park) is so narrow there may well be a noise issue.

Anonymous said...

Suddenly everyone is an acoustics expert. It's a park, kids play in parks, kids are noisey. Get over it.

Sarah said...

Why doesn't the council just do a test for noise levels? That way it's sorted and it stops all the debate, it's either at acceptable levels or it's not.

I live opposite, I have no problem with kids being noisy and I haven't voted against the skatepark. I'm hoping the noise will blend into all the others. A test would show if this is likely, I hope it is.

It is, however, really bugging when people who probably don't live as close and so are less likely to be affected by noise say just get over it.

Westsider said...

Doesn't need the council to do that. A reasonable test would be for someone to take a skateboard to the basketball court while someone else stands out of the park on the other side of the street to see how much noise there is.

Bearing in mind that people affected will have further sound insulation thanks to the walls of their homes and that the skatepark has a sound-damping surface the actual noise should be even less.

Anonymous said...

We live in an inner city area - yet people want the privelige of living opposite a park, and peace and tranquility at the same time?

The sound of kids busting ollies, is nowhere near as noisy as estate cars pulling out to do the paper run.

THRoses said...

The lower park is my back garden. I have spend many sunny afternoons reading the paper or just enjoying the sun in there and I think I would find the noise quite irritating. I'm thinking of the skate area in the South Bank, if the same materials are used they don't really seem to insulate the noise that well. That said I have never noticed the kids or the baketball court being particularly loud, although I'm not sure it is the same kind of noise.

max said...

The skating area on the South Bank is a resonance chamber, I think a more appropriate comparison is with Ladywell Fields where you don't have to walk much away from it to stop hearing it.

Tamsin said...

@THroses - there is an alternative back garden (and with better views) in the Upper Park to which you could retire if you find the Lower Park noisy when you get there. And moves to keep the peace and tranquillity of this park did get public support at the June Assembly. SPAG then graciously compromised their ideas and pitched on a smaller area with more limited access in the Lower Park.

This park is already noisy at times with (o horror!) children and young people playing on the five-a-side / basket ball area. A skateboard area banana-shape around it will not make much, if any, difference to that.

It is not fair to judge the noise of the boards (as opposed to the children) by comparisons with trundling over the present tarmac paths or even with facilities at the South Bank or Ladywell. From the beginning it has been made clear that it is a different type of concrete being used. Go to Croydon (or Bristol) to assess it.

Drakefella said...

My understanding is that the park was supposed to eliminate the problem of kids skating after dusk, endangering themselves, other's and annoying local residences.

I think that this aim might have got lost somewhere in the "we want it"..."well you can't have it" debate.

Who will be in charge of making sure the skate park is not used when the park is locked?

Also at all the meetings I have attended representatives of SPAG have referred to taking a zero tolerance stance to graffiti and misuse of the skate park and therefore lower park, may I ask how they plan to do this?

Anonymous said...

"In a survey of 11-14 year-olds it was found that rollerblading and skateboarding were the
highest in terms of participation, for both genders."
- A report to Sport England about Lifestyle Sports (2005)" - Brockley Nick.

On the one hand you accuse someone of putting forward "hopeless, illogical and contradictory arguments", and then you selectively quote from a 5 year old report. You numbers come from the "extreme Sports" section, and you clump rollerblading in with skateboarding. It looks like SPAGs opponents aren't the only ones who are prepared to stray from the straight and narrow to push their views forward.

Ross said...

but both rollerbladers AND skateboarders can use the park. not to mention BMXers. i can only imagine that all those sports have increased in popularity over the last five years

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - what Ross said. Plus, I made it perfectly clear that the study is from 2005 - it's the most recent one I could find. I suspect, as Ross said, that the participation rates will have risen over the last five years.

In 2007/08 I did a small bit of work for Sport England, around their focus on lifestyle sports, which they said were vital to maintaining a sporty young population. Skating is popular and growing in popularity, precisely because it is so easy to play - you can do it on your own and in small groups in small bursts, you don't need huge pitches, referees or lots of expensive equipment, which make many other sports relatively inaccessible. Skateboarding is very popular - there's no denying that.

Anonymous said...

Ross said...

but both rollerbladers AND skateboarders can use the park. not to mention BMXers. i can only imagine that all those sports have increased in popularity over the last five years

Hang on a minute - this park is now designed for rollerbladers, skaters and cyclists to use? No mention of any of that on the SPAG comms?

M said...

Why does that matter? Surely the more people that use the facility the better value for money it is. Plus, rollerblading and BMX are a lot quieter than skateboarding so that should please you too.

Fear Cyclists said...

No cycling is allowed in the lower park - for good reason.

The addition of a skatepark shouldn't be allowed to change that.

drakefell debaser said...

fear cyclists?

I sincerely hope you manage to pull your face out of the daily mail soon enough to breathe :)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Since Herne Hill Velodrome is under threat once again it is good to know that we can now use Telegraph Hill Lower Park instead. This is good to know. Excellent!

Vesta Curry said...

Debaser ... I did appreciate (and smart somewhat) from your earlier response about how I may have slipped into becoming a post-40something curmudgeon (though, indeed, it is not too far distant in the rearview - and I might possibly be a groovy libertarian lefty (?)).

But the "Daily Mail" joke is as bad as the equally specious "mung"-based jibe. There is a completely fallacious assumption that those who don't think the skatepark is a particularly inspired idea in the geographical context are somehow boring,stuck-up, old, right-wing, nimbyists ... this position seems to be missing the complexities and subtleties of the situation ... and it's a shame to miss things.

However, I don't fear the skaters (though would be pissed off if any wheeled person knocked down my children on the hill) - and the debate seems to be one ... so best of luck to the SPAGsters.

Vesta Curry said...

... 'Won' I meant ...

Anonymous said...

This is is an age issue for some, a cultural divide for others and a class war for a minority of opposers. The parents of those skateboarders should be applauded for their support - and I witnessed a lot of support at the assembly meet.

Many parents still - in the age of the X-Games and skateboarding being used in TV ads and the like -still, do not 'get skateboarding' and are dissapointed their kid is not on the football/rugby/cycling team (like they were - and failed at).

Street skating does not allow parents to come and sit and watch the 'team' play and cheer their offspring winning a medal or award and that is a hard fact for many to deal with - even in these enlightened times.

Anonymous said...

It's white middle-class parents wanting to provide a controlled facility where their white middle-class kids are doing a white middle-class approved activity

see the common theme here?

Anonymous said...

You'll be in the 'class war' section then.

Grow up.

drakefell debaser said...

Perhaps you are a groovy left-leaning libertarian Vesta Curry, just as any 30 or 40 something in favour of the skate park isn’t necessarily trying to be ‘down with it.

Did you pen the name ‘Fear Cyclists’ as well?

To be clear, my response to the name wasn’t intended as a joke, I think the name ‘Fear Cyclists’ betrays an astonishing lack of reason, so typical of the many articles that the daily mail churns out, destined to aggravate people it doesn’t like. Swap the word cyclist for Irish, Gay or Blacks and suddenly the name is not only offensive but completely irrational.

I am not sure why you have chosen to conflate the issue of riding a bicycle with the skate park, NIBYISM, right wing politics etc... Cycling is not allowed in the lower park and, as far as I know, no one does cycle in the park so I cannot see the problem.

And to be clear, I too would be pissed off if anyone knocked me or my, as yet unborn, children to the ground but I would rather live and hope that doesn’t happen than spend my time finger wagging at various groups of society that I believe may be out to get me.

drakefell debaser said...

It's white middle-class parents wanting to provide a controlled facility where their white middle-class kids are doing a white middle-class approved activity

see the common theme here?

I must go and see the optician because I keep seeing a tall black teenager skating around the hill. Thankfully for him, the lack of any discernible chip on his shoulder to weigh him down means he is also able to do tricks.

Harry Hill said...

I like white middle class skateboarders and I also like white middle class nimby people, but which one is better? There's only one way to find out.... FIGHT!!!!!

hilly dogger said...

would it be possible for someone to say something so I can bring this theme around to dogging?

Vesta Curry said...

I'd just like to say I'm not "Fear Cyclists" ... but my name is Lobby Lud and you can claim your fiver.

I was only conflating to the same extent as you. i.e. if you don't really fancy the skatepark you must be a curtain-twitching Mail reader - and the cyclist comment was, I think, because someone started saying that BMXers would use the area too ... I'm gonna duck out now ... it's all just getting too crazy, man ... zzzzzzz

drakefell debaser said...

No, the mail retort was in response to the 'Fear Cyclists' name which to me is a completely separate issue to the skate park. Same thread, different beef. I’m sorry you cannot see that.

I was against the facility in the upper park so can understand some reasons to object/ be concerned however, in my view, objections on the basis of anti - social behaviour, minority interest group, class, back ground etc scrape the barrel somewhat.

I can’t collect the fiver because I never knew what the password was.

Vesta Curry said...

It's a fair cop ... I promise I'll shaddup now

Vesta Curry said...

It's a fair cop ... I promise I'll shaddup now

drakefell debaser said...

My apologies for implying you were old by the way.

Vesta Curry said...

... look in most people's eyes I am freaking old (but thanks) ... I do love my bike and cycling too by the way ... though a lot of cyclists freak me out .... zzzzzz

SE-Bore said...

Noise- I assume skateboarding is still largely a daytime activity and the no flood lights are proposed. As such, no night disturbance.

As for during the day.... It's a bloody park for goodness sake.

Anonymous said...

I don't get this white middle class thing that people keep bringing up. My boy is a skater and involved with SPAG and he's mixed race and I don't think we are middle class. I work like a dog and live in a housing association place. His best mate, also a spagger, is muslim. People should take a close look at the photographs of the kids involved before making offensive remarks.

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