This meeting was the first meeting of the Bermondsey area alone (as opposed to Bermondsey and Rotherhithe). Although the group was small we had good discussions on what is needed to help people to get involved in their community and find out what is going on and also key things affecting in the area.
We also focused on how the structure of the meeting could be improved and what more we needed to do to engage with people.
Thanks to the Links Community centre for providing the venue – it’s a great space!
Getting people involved in the running of their communities and estates is particularly difficult. For example one of the attendees was heavily involved in the running of their Tenants and Residents Association (TRA). She told us about a function she had organised last summer that was really well attended with around 200 people joining in. The TRA AGM was three days later and three people turned up.
This led to a conversation about a general disconnection within communities and how people have become disengaged with where they live. Something as simple as saying hello to a neighbour has almost become an endangered species.
We also discussed the problem of hearing the issues and concerns of people of are isolated and don’t have the will or capability to turn to the traditional sources.
One attendee was particularly keen to become more involved in learning about and attempting to solve the issues that affected their local area. They believed that their first port of call should be the Southwark council website. As many have commented it was difficult to find out how to get involved in your community, as well as find out about key decisions made by the democratic structures (it is surprisingly easy to pay fines and/or council tax!).
This led to a broader discussion about how important access to information is – often if you have an issue it is too late. This is where Southwark CAN could really serve a useful purpose.
Old Kent Road Area Action Plan
Attendees didn’t know an overwhelming amount about this important development that will shape the future of the area over the next 20 years. There were concerns raised as to whether Southwark council would learn the lessons of the Heygate regeneration (amongst others) and engage in meaningful consultation with residents and allow their views to genuinely affect the redevelopment of the area.
- Community Involvement needs to be prominent on the council website.
- Southwark CAN need to get out and about and engage with people face to face. This should involve making contact with people and groups that are already involved in their communities. Lots of door knocking and flyering to inform people about the Community Action Networks.
- It was suggested that the structure of the CAN meetings is changed so that the first half is dedicated to a particular issue or theme. This could be voted on after the more general open discussion that would make up the second part.
- As a result it was agreed that we will provide attendees with information about the Old Kent Road redevelopment and that this would form a key discussion area at the next meeting.
- Attendees felt that the meeting was a very good start and it was important that people got to know each other. Any opportunity for people to get together and talk about the issues that affect them is always positive.