The Stockwell neighbourhood that was once home to Vincent Van Gogh is to be turned into a ‘green oasis’ using trees and plants the artist included in many of his paintings, thanks to a £400,000 scheme led by local residents and Lambeth Council.
Hackford Road was home to the Dutch artist from 1873-4 during the time he spent in London working at an art dealership. Now more than a century later, local residents are helping transform the area by creating a new ‘community play street’ dominated by people, trees and play facilities, instead of cars.
Cypresses, Almond trees and lavender bushes will be planted, and a new children’s play area and benches will take the place of traffic in a pedestrianised Isabel Street, which lies off Hackford Road, at the end of Morat Street.
Local residents are also hoping to see the newly ‘greened’ Isabel Street renamed ‘Van Gogh Walk’ in his honour.
The ‘Grass Routes’ project has seen residents work together with Lambeth Council and local primary schools to design a series of environmental improvements, tackle traffic problems and make the neighbourhood more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.
Work is due to officially start this month and should take around four months to complete.
Once completed it will see:
a new 20 mile an hour zone introduced covering a number of streets around Hackford Road. A range of traffic calming measures will be used including new trees planted that are ‘built out’ into the road to slow down drivers.
a pedestrianised Isabel Street that is ‘greened’ with new trees, plants and herbs, and an area for ball games for young people, play equipment for younger children, and benches for people to meet and enjoy the space all introduced.
better cycle parking facilities.
The scheme has been entirely funded from planning agreements with local developers, and funding from Transport for London.
Elaine Kramer, chair of neighbourhood group Streets Ahead, who lives in Morat Street, said:
“I am really delighted to see the on-site start of this resident led transformation of the neighbourhood. We have been working with Lambeth Council on Grass Routes since the Section 106 funding became available in 2009. It’s fantastic that our built up neighbourhood is being greened with trees and plants all referred to in van Gogh’s paintings and will also be more pedestrian friendly. Our community street means neighbours will have a chance to meet each other and kids with no gardens will have a safe place to play.”
Cllr Nigel Haselden, Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “This is a really exciting scheme that will reclaim the neighbourhood from traffic and make it a place when people are the priority, where they can gather, play and socialise with their neighbours.
“When Van Gogh lived here he wrote that the neighbourhood was so peaceful that he regularly forgot he was so close to the centre of London- this scheme should bring back some of that tranquillity and peace and quiet.”
Cllr Lorna Campbell, Cabinet Member for Environment, said:
“The whole project has been a really great example of Lambeth’s ‘cooperative council’ in action, with residents playing a key role in planning and developing the improvements, with support from the council and local schools.”
The Grass Routes project was initiated by Streets Ahead a neighbourhood group set up in 2005. Streets Ahead’s main aim has been to prioritise pedestrians and bring environmental improvements to a neighbourhood that has no public green space and very where few residents have gardens. The project is being managed through a steering group including residents, all ward councillors, local school representatives, council officers and local housing associations. Streets Ahead have set up a blog to keep local people informed about the project and latest developments. See www.streetsaheadenews.blogspot.com
The scheme has been funded with £300,000 from Transport for London and £130,000 in Section 106 contributions from the developers of the old Freemans site between Liberty Street and Clapham Road.
The council undertook a series of consultations, with key findings showing support for:
• more greenery in the area (89% in favour of this proposal)
• a 20 mph zone in the area (82% in favour of this proposal) and traffic
calming around the local schools (69%)
• closure of Isabel Street and the creation of a community space (64% in
favour of this proposal)
• secure cycle parking storage in the area (58% in favour of this
The Cooperative Council is Lambeth’s big idea for local government. To learn more about the plans visit: www.lambeth.gov.uk/cooperativecouncil
Grass Routes is a good example of Lambeth Council’s plan to work more ‘cooperatively’ with local people and involve them much more closely in taking decisions that affect them.