- 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.