A new network of champions is on a mission to improve Lambeth’s streets.
Lambeth council’s Street Champions scheme aims to support people who want to improve the physical and social environment where they live.
Street Champions can do a whole range of things to help their community, whether it’s organising street parties, increasing greenery, encouraging others to recycle properly or even just introducing neighbours to foster a greater sense of community.
After a small pilot of the scheme in 140 randomly chosen roads saw nearly 500 people express their interest, Lambeth Street Champions is being rolled out across the whole borough. It’s now open to everybody, whether you are renting, living in an estate or even a business owner.
Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Lambeth’s cabinet member for Environment & Sustainability, said: “We know there are some fantastic people out there, constantly looking at ways to help others and improve the environment for the wider community.
“We want to make it easier for those people by giving them the tools and support they need and hope that they will inspire others to do the same.
“The Street Champions scheme will give people the means to improve their own neighbourhood the way they see fit and build a wider network of people who want Lambeth to be a clean, safe and neighbourly place to live.”
As well as championing those residents who are doing the right thing in the borough, Lambeth is also cracking down on the minority whose anti-social behaviour is harming the environment.
New powers are being used to issue on the spot fines of up to £80 for littering, dog fouling, fly tipping, spitting and urinating on the street. Last year, council officers issued more than 1,000 fixed penalty notices for anti-social behaviour – with more than half for littering.
Signing up to be a Street Champion couldn’t be easier – residents just need to fill out the online form – and they can receive:
- Advice and guidance on setting up community activities such as street parties and play streets;
- Access to tools and equipment for cleaning and greening their street;
- Opportunities to connect with fellow Street Champions on other streets;
- Access to council knowledge and expertise;
- The chance to increase their knowledge on subjects such as fundraising or horticulture;
- Posters, stickers and letter templates
Before the Street Champions scheme was rolled out borough-wide, the pilot scheme invited residents in 140 randomly selected roads to take part. A staggering 470 people got in touch to show their interest.
Here are some of the stories of those who have already signed up;
Claudette Morrison, Trent Road:
“The reason why I felt the need to support the Street Champion Scheme was to bring some community spirit back into Trent road. It’s a lovely old Victorian street in Brixton and we have a really diverse mix of residents. Some of us, including me, have lived here for many years, and at least one was born in the house they live in. Unfortunately, the road has deteriorated of late due to litter and rubbish.
“Change doesn’t happen by itself, and we can’t always leave it to other people. When I heard about the Street Champions project I felt that this was my cue to step forward and begin trying to bring about change myself. I quickly realised that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to get the road back to its former glory. I have invited my neighbours into my home for meetings and there are plenty of others who feel the same way.
“I believe that bringing people together will bring many benefits for all residents, which is why I welcome the scheme and feel very happy to be a Street Champion. Working together to achieve change for our local environment and supporting the needs of Trent Road residents makes me feel like I am making an important contribution to my community.”
Kellie Matheson, Craster Road
“I believe that people who rent can play just as much of a role in their neighbourhood as people who own their own homes. I helped to organise a street party where I lived before; it was really successful and so I got a taste for helping my community. When I moved into my new flat I wanted to get to know my neighbours, so I ended up going door to door to drum up support for getting bike hangars in the road!
“I think it helps to have a cause. The bike hangars are such a good idea anyway, but they also gave me a reason to go and introduce myself to everyone. Now I’ve got over 70 people on an email list, just from three streets, and some of them wanted to get more involved so they help me out. Coming from Australia and having no family here, it really helps to make me feel a sense of belonging that would be difficult to achieve any other way. We’ve created a little community garden already and have bigger plans for the future.
“My advice to others? Even if you rent, you can still make the most of where you live for however long you’re there. You need to just get yourself out there. Most people are really nice and will appreciate the fact that you’ve gone out of your way to say hi, and to try and make your street a better place. Don’t be shy!”
Jane Duncan-Ribeiro and David Chambers, Mervan Road
“We’re lucky, as we already have quite a thriving community in our little network of streets, which is held together by our ‘hyper-local’ blog: Effrablog.com. When the Street Champions project came along we both applied, and the council introduced us and suggested we join forces. Having two Street Champions means that there’s always someone else to bounce ideas off.
“Since joining up we’ve held a Community Freshview event which went really well; we’re already planning the next one, in which we’ll build some planters to go at junctions where fly-tipping sometimes occurs. We’re looking forward to the area’s annual street party, and we’re also looking into a communal yard sale/swap meet.
“An idea that grew out of the Freshview was to organise a ‘knowledge share’. There are rich veins of untapped talent in the street, so the idea is to share skills and learn from each other. Suggested topics include planting from seed, cooking Italian food, life drawing and bike maintenance.
“It doesn’t have to be all about bins and rubbish. We believe that strong communities take pride in where they live, and that by providing neighbours with opportunities to get to know each other we create a climate in which people will naturally take more care of their surroundings. Having Street Champions also enables us to communicate with the council as one voice – reinforcing our sense of community and making us more likely to be heard.”