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The way forward for Rush Common

A Lambeth Council Scrutiny Commission has published its report on Rush Common, a historic area of open space to the south of Brixton town centre.

The commission, chaired by Councillor Imogen Walker, examined the issue of the erosion of Rush Common land and sought to establish how the council could ensure that the Rush Common Act is enforced.

In doing so, the commission looked at who was responsible for enforcing the Act and how the Council could restore and prevent further erosion of Rush Common land.

The Rush Common Act 1806 was an Enclosure Act, which enclosed and divided certain common lands into private ownership. Subsequent legislation amended the Act, providing powers to take enforcement action.

These powers, to take enforcement action or consent to buildings on land south of Coldharbour Lane, passed to Lambeth Council in 1988.

The commission met with officers from relevant council departments to discuss enforcement, and the reasons why enforcement had not been undertaken. The commission also held a public meeting at which residents with concerns about the erosion of Rush Common land were able to voice their opinions.

The report states that officers explained that court cases were needed to define legislation and there had been difficulty in finding judgements on which to define the Rush Common Act.

The commission’s main recommendation is that “the council’s legal officers and planning officers be instructed to identify and pursue at the earliest opportunity a test case that would provide definitive rather than speculative case-law in relation to the enforcement of the Rush Common Act”.

The report also called for a Rush Common “hub” to be established on the council website providing information on the Common, the Act and all related issues, together with a dedicated email address for residents to report suggested breaches.

The commission’s report will be considered by the Environment and Community Safety Scrutiny Sub-Committee on 13 July 2010. Subsequently the Cabinet’s response to the commission’s recommendations will be made at the cabinet meeting on 13 September 2010.

Scrutiny Commissions are small cross-party groups of councillors established to undertake in-depth pieces of work on particular areas of the council and its partner’s work. When they have completed their work they submit evidence-based reports with recommendations to the relevant decision-makers who are obliged to respond. Commissions are established in an ad-hoc manner by the council’s standing scrutiny and scrutiny-sub committees to investigate areas of concern to councillors and to contribute to the improvement of public services in the borough.

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