Historic London skatepark saved from retail redevelopment (Wired UK)


The iconic skate park has been saved from
becoming yet another conclave of chain restaurants

© Sam

The culture wars are over — and skateboarding has won. London’s
Southbank Undercroft, one of the UK’s most historically important
skate areas, has been saved from being “redeveloped” into another
conclave of chain restaurants and retail outlets.

The 17-month battle between the management of the Southbank
Centre and Long Live Southbank (LLSB) — an activist group
comprised of the skaters, BMXers, graffiti artists and other lovers
of urban culture that call the undercroft a second home — has come
to a surprising end: everyone wins. Both factions have settled and
withdrawn respective legal actions, with the result being the skate
park remaining as and where it is, while the Centre renovates its
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery without
evicting the skaters.

“Following talks that have taken place over the last three
months, Long Live Southbank and Southbank Centre are delighted to
have reached an agreement that secures the Queen Elizabeth Hall
undercroft as the long-term home of British skateboarding and the
other urban activities for which it is famous,” the Long Live Southbank
campaigners announced
. “The agreement has been formalised in a
binding planning agreement with Lambeth Council. In the agreement,
Southbank Centre agrees to keep the undercroft open for use without
charge for skateboarding, BMX riding, street writing and other
urban activities.”

The Southbank undercroft has been the home of British
skateboarding for over 40 years. The area itself is something of an
accident of architecture though, the result of several surrounding
developments and elevated concrete walkways birthing a space that
came to be perfect for skating. Pro skateboarders including Nick
Jensen and Geoff Rowley are lovers of the spot, and the location
has even made its way into the Tony
Hawk’s Pro Skater
video game series — Hawk himself
being another famour skater who called for the undercroft to be

Although Southbank Centre had proposed moving the skaters 120m
along the Thames, offering a purpose-built skate park under
Hungerford Bridge, Lambeth Council received over 27,000 complaints
at the suggestion. Even London Mayor Boris Johnson, who’s likely
never even gingerly placed a single foot on a skateboard, objected to the park being relocated.

The movement to save Southbank has been a true example of
grassroots activism, and the victory against far richer and more
powerful organisations is as historical as the skate park itself.
Largely guided by film maker Henry
, the LLSB campaigners had publicised their plight
online, produced
, and gotten all walks of London’s community
involved in efforts to save the small but beloved patch of
concrete. The result has been a win for culture over capitalism,
with the Southbank Centre dropping its challenge to the
registration of the undercroft as an “asset of community value”,
and LLSB abandoning its application for village green status for
the undercroft.

Lib Peck, Leader of Lambeth Council, which has had to evaluate
all the planning applications, protests, and cultural
considerations on both sides, said “I’m pleased that Lambeth
Council was able to work with both sides and find an imaginative
solution to resolve this. Shared public space in London is precious
and Southbank Centre is a great asset to the country’s cultural
life. This agreement is a sensible way of protecting both and we
can all now look forward.”

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19 September 2014 | 2:33 pm – Source: wired.co.uk


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