The Big Society and Jubilee Gardens

Dear David Cameron

Jubilee Gardens is at the very centre of London, right by the London Eye. It is Britain’s most visited plot of turf. For many of us it is a virtual blank space noted for litter and being sodden after rain, a shame on our culture. For thirty years it has been controlled by corporate organisations on the South Bank, who failed to properly maintain it or improve it.

The Garden itself was started by local activists, objecting to the amount of space given to car parking rather than human leisure. They and their successors have always wanted to make this a beautiful garden in the heart of London. After sustained pressure from them the corporate world agreed six years ago to an improvement plan and a Trust to run the Gardens to be drawn from all sectors of local society. To be sure we have had public consultations, but the corporate world still insists on tight control and continues to be aghast at the notion of natives playing an active part in designing and making a place of tranquillity and repose. We find our enthusiasm dismissed, and our ideas that the garden should have a theme like celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee and the great role of women in English history, treated with arrogant disdain. The local community is fobbed off with more “consultations” and presentations. The current bland and dull scheme on the table, seeks to parachute in a mono-culture design, whereby you could find yourself in any through-route in Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong or Las Vegas.

Jubilee Gardens could symbolise what the Big Society means. Local residents already have a track record of building and maintaining on their own similar sized parks nearby, notably the Millenium Green by Waterloo Station and Bernie Spain Gardens on the riverside and these are hugely popular with residents, workers and visitors alike.

We want to work as ambassadors and designers to help transform this space into a unique haven, a tranquil and memorable place, full of flowers, trees and an aesthetic informed of the diverse heritage of England. We are happy to work in partnership with the corporate sector, but they in turn must include us fully in making the Gardens
a world class destination. The funding is from “planning gain” agreements and ironically it was the local residents who secured it. Can you please give direction to the corporate side, to reverse their attitude and to utilise the enthusiasm, commitment and skills of active citizens to engage in this project. It is unacceptable for our minority representatives on the current committee to be continually marginalised.

Yours sincerely

David Tootill
South Bank Mosaics and Friend of Jubilee Gardens

cc Nick Clegg
Boris Johnson

Harriet Harman
Kate Hoey