The blight that has been imposed on Brixton’s town centre, with the hopelessly stalled development of its historic arches by absentee landlords, Network Rail, is set to continue into the foreseeable future.
This is because there is little to no hope of removing the last of the existing tenants in the arches any time soon, particularly William Hill and N&T Pawnbrokers.
This categorically needs to occur before any serious refurbishment works are able to commence, providing Network Rail intend to comply with Lambeth’s planning conditions.
Since planning permission was granted over seven months ago, all that Network Rail have achieved to date has been the premature eviction of many well-loved and long-standing businesses along with the erection of some disruptive hoardings that have seriously damaged community harmony and access to the remaining traders within the arches.
This has also had a dreadful impact on the other local businesses and services in the area, including the recreation centre and its shopping parade on Brixton Station Road as well as Pop Brixton and the external market.
Network Rail advised the community some weeks ago, (via this site), that various pre-development enabling works were due to commence to the arches they are in possession of, but despite this announcement, there is still no evidence of anything actually happening.
There has been some news however from Planet Lambeth as the responsible planning officer has now qualified an earlier statement made over the restrictions imposed on the commencement of this project, now confirming that internal enabling works are not actually subject to planning conditions.
This effectively gives a green light to Network Rail to undertake any internal works they wish without the need to consult with the community or emergency services about the nature of their operations.
It also frees them up from having to consider any temporary arrangements for safety management in areas where there is full public access within the viaduct itself and potentially
hundreds of train passengers on the platforms above.
Perhaps the recent and very bizarre removal and re-fixing of the meaningless information panels, installed to the hoardings earlier this year, is a sign that something is about to start, but it is certainly not what the Head of Lambeth’s Capital Programmes & Highways meant when he stated, on 25th January and 11th February, that Network Rail had been instructed to re-fix the disruptive hoardings closer to the arches in order to improve access on Atlantic Road and Brixton Station Road.
Lambeth Council also continue to fuel ongoing concerns over the nature of their relationship with Network Rail, especially after a Democratic Services Officer (sic) at Lambeth recently rejected a request to commence an on-line petition querying the current state of the arches development and proposing that Lambeth Council and Network Rail consider entering into a dialogue over how best to provide desperately needed support for the local market and other traders who have suffered the most throughout this process.
Other legitimate questions about this project remain unanswered particularly due the absence of any meaningful communications from Network Rail’s less than efficient PA Team, their negotiators and now their contractors.
It is also inexplicable that Lambeth are seemingly content for the centre of Brixton to remain boarded up and inactive for an extended period with nothing happening and for the businesses and services they are responsible for, along Brixton Station Road, to be damaged by Network Rail’s underwhelming project management.
Some of these concerns would go away if only Network Rail would be more open and consult with the community about how and when this development will occur as well as the long term objectives for the arches and the immediate area.
But the absence of any up to date details about the development from a company such as Network Rail is both shabby and unacceptable.
[This article by a local resident who has elected to remain anonymous]
Brixton Arches background & resources:
The vote to redevelop Brixton Arches: smear campaigns, doublethink and foregone decisions
Brixton’s A&C Deli: the inside story of a small business destroyed by gentrification, Network Rail & Lambeth Council.