CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Perhaps they should pay local people as a consultancy

21 January, 2021

The Phoenix Road Greening project: ‘A glorified corporate retail park – not what we had in mind’

• SOME £295,000 was spent on external consultants on the Phoenix Road Greening project by Camden.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information request by Cllr Paul Tomlinson in Somers Town we were left pondering what this spend was on.

Certainly not for those of us who spent hours in workshops sharing ideas, for free, and didn’t hear back; the school whose input was reduced to one line in the resulting report; the stunning insight in the finding that the road is “easy to cross” (depends where… hellish at the Cock, for example)… so we are wondering: what exactly was this spent on?

Many locals could be forgiven for thinking just get on with it and do something – anything.

The latest we hear is a prototype year is planned. Forgive the phrase, could have “told you so”. Others have suggested other words such as “obvious” and “bleeding”.

And when an idea for this prototype is proposed, the fairly well-established community group (local unpaid volunteers) are told to “go find funding”!

You would think they’d welcome “ownership” by the community – the rhetoric of their codesign.

I long ago thought our over-consulted locals should get together and set up a fancy consultancy – “Insights” has a vague enough ring to it to impress even the most institutionalised community engagement (PR) officer, and charge ourselves out to be paid to consult for ideas. It would certainly help the local unemployment figures.

There’s been a long-held ambition for a Somers Town museum or a history space to celebrate the area – we could have paid for it by now.

Given the need for preservation of cultural memory in the face of and rapid rate of demolition of heritage along the site – three (er… Camden) locally listed buildings have gone down; 81 stolen 1930s Gilbert Bayes artworks still not replaced; why didn’t this consultation collaborate with the Somers Town History organisation?

Along the flyer, eliciting yet more to-be-ignored community ideas, we see, again, LDA Design; Global Generation – all outside consultants and not residents.

Let’s hope don’t end up with the proposed vision (pictured above) in that Design Agency’s own document – a glorified corporate retail park. Not what we had in mind.

DIANA FOSTER
Somers Town History Space

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