"This decision has done nothing but divide communities. Now we’ve got the haves and the have-nots."
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
At OneOval we know the Oval Triangle 'low traffic neighbourhood' (LTN) is about much more than road closures. We spoke recently with Audrey, a long-time resident of south London, who told us what the LTN means for her.
"I’m known as Audrey, otherwise known as ‘Sister A’ in the community, I’m an activist in my community before this situation has occurred, as somebody who is a UK-national, I fight, and have always been fighting, for black African issues in the UK. So, that is something I've been doing for over 30 years, so I’m well-established with those groups and organisations in my community, actually know who I am, AKA Fire, they call me the Fire Woman, because I say things straight, and I’m quite honest about the politricks that goes on in our community, and my biggest concern is that as for somebody that’s spent nearly 50 years or more living in the heart of south London - Brixon, Clapham, Stockwell, Vauxhall - I think it's utterly disgusting that, in the middle of coronavirus when we’re supposed to be working and in harmony as community, community members looking out for each other, we’ve got a clear-cut division going on here.
The new rules about roads that need to be shut off, people that are campaigning to close particular roads in our community clearly don't realise the impact that is having on people that live in our community. We’ve been here a lot longer than those people here that are making that decision. Now, recently, I’ve got members of my family who are black taxi drivers and have been for over 15-20 years, and since the closure around Fentiman Road, Albert Square, Carroun Road as well, that’s had an impact just to get to our doorstep, it took me an extra 10-15 minutes to get to my door. Having passed my door, I then had to drive all the way down to Kennington to get me to my door. Not only did that cost me more money, in that journey, but it caused me distress to know that I actually could’ve been home 10 minutes earlier, and I had to sit in a taxi and watch the poor taxi driver get distressed, about what road he could turn down, and when he did turn down there he couldn’t go any further. That has a negative impact on people who live in the community.
I’m young. Young enough to know that I’m relatively healthy. That I could walk, and I could take a bus. But I’m also aware that, as somebody that has worked as a keyworker for individuals in this community who have learning difficulties, and actually are disabled. My background is caring and working ex-employee for Lambeth Council. My background is working in social services and caring for those who are most vulnerable in our communities. Now, those are the the people in our communities that are going to be impacted by this decision-making. Those are the people who don’t tend to have a voice, or their voice is not heard because we’ve got elite little groups in our community that want to be half-a-percenters. They want to be the half-a-percenters, an exclusive club. This is inner city London. It's always been inner city London. Those small half-a-percenters that want to be special and want to create an elitist group, move to the countryside. Move to the countryside. No-ones got a problem with you moving out. We want people who want to be part of our community, and harmonise the community. This decision has done nothing but divide communities. Now we’ve got the haves and the have-nots. [pauses] And that is a big deal for me, because on one side of the road you’ve got the haves, and directly opposite you’ve got the have-nots. And it seems that the have-nots don’t have a voice. It seems like the have nots don’t have a voice, and I’m really disgusted that our local Cllr’s who have recently been elected into our Vauxhall ward are actually supporting this, and maybe those Cllrs should talk to some of us who have been in our community for 50-60 years, longer than she has, to actually know how our community has survived adversities in the past.
I remember the days when Dorset Road, this government put Dorset Road as a no-go area on their website. Where were these one-percenters and half-a-percenters then? Where were they then? When they were saying ‘don’t go to Vauxhall, because it's a black community and it’s not safe’. It’s the same black community has turned it into what it is today. We’ve stayed put. We’ve built our community and we’ve made it safe and secure in our community. We worked in partnership with local police forces or community projects to cut down crime and all the rest of it that affects everybody in the community. So it’s not a black issue. For me this is a class issue. This is specifically about class, power and status, and as usual, when the half-a-percenters, cause that’s what I’m gonna to refer to them, for want of a better description, when the half a percenters, who want to be the one percenters of rich people in the UK , the half-a-percenters want something, they throw their money, they throw their status, and they think because they’ve got money and status they are automatically entitled to it. You haven’t earned that. You haven’t had the right to make decisions in the community that you haven’t lived for over 60 years. You haven’t helped to get from nothing to something. You’ve just bought a house in that area. And particularly for me, Cllrs, need to look at the impact of Grenfell Tower. Now Grenfell Tower, that incident at Grenfell Tower came out of an incident like that. The haves and the have-nots. They built a development for rich people, affluent people to feel secure in the heart of a local community with hard, working class people. Now, that put the rich people on one side, and right opposite their window were people that were non-rich people. And that created a disharmony in that community. The results of that, was that, poor cladding, lower-class people were given the worse quality of material to live in, right opposite the most richest and affluent people. That’s what we’ve got going on right here in our community. So when our local Cllr’s and our local MP’s claim that they’re ‘learning lessons’ from incidents places like, incidents like Grenfell Tower, then clearly they’re not. Clearly they don’t know the background prior to Grenfell Towers fire. They don’t know that this was the same foundation on which it caused a problem of the have and the have-nots. We've got money and class so therefore we’re entitled to anything and everything that we want and you’re working class poor people, are not entitled to anything. This is the problem that caused Grenfell Towers foundation, and were now repeating the same mistake in a community that has always remained harmonious with each other. We’ve never had a problem with anybody living in our community, where my property’s located its right opposite Richbourne Terrace, so I look at all of those rich affluent houses every day. They don’t bother me, I play my reggae music same way, I’m probably one of the loudest people that play, and enjoy my own space and my visitors, and we’ve never had a problem. If someone stands on their doorstep over there and waves to me, I wave back. I’m a human being. I’m courteous. But, clearly, that’s not the same feeling they’ve got for us on the other side of the community. They don’t have that kind of love, and they clearly don’t have that kind of compassion, to realise that the people that are being affected are those that are more in numbers than them.
So, what are we talking about, if we talk about democracy in the UK, usually democracy is based on statistical numbers, majority rules. Well, the majority of people that are going to be affected by these road closures clearly outweigh those people that are aksing for it. Statistically it has to outweigh, because, there are more people living in local community estates that are living in Richbourne Terrace and living on Fentiman Road. Count the properties on Fentiman Road, and count the estates that are in these areas. They might look like so-called council estates, but a lot of those affluent people need to know that I’m paying your mortgage, because my property is a mortgage. I might live in Lambeth borough Council, my property is a private housing association, which means to say that I’m paying £50-£20 a month for my service charges, which isn’t cheap, which is probably equivalent to what you’re paying in your £2m house, your £2m flat. My monthly rent is £500 a month, which is the equivalent of half of your mortgage, or even your complete mortgage. So, we might live in estates and flats, but we're not actually living on the poverty line. We’re working class people who are educated, with degrees and diplomas, working in 90% of your mainstream industries, whether that’s in your public, private or voluntary sector. We’re not sitting at home on the dole, We're not getting universal credit. We’re actually qualified in all kind of fields, and we're working as professionals. It just so happens that some of us don't want to be in a position where we divide ourselves by status.
So, we’re not about status, we're about people. But it's clear that the people on Fentiman road, and the people on Richbourne Terrace, are not about the community, they’re about themselves. They're about their little half-a-percent, unique club that they want to create. Albert Road [means Square] also, you want to create an environment that really doesn't exist, so it's like having a community within a community, and therefore you treat the outer community less, and treat your inner communities as than more valued than everybody else outside, and I think that is utterly disgusting, considering in a time when coronavirus should be having us looking out for each other, caring for each other, making sure that, I don’t care if you live in Richbourne Terrace, but if I walk past you I can say good morning, do you need a cup of milk? What this has done for me personally, is I really don’t care for those people that live in those environments. If they were to fall, where I would normally help you, I would just look at you, and that shouldn’t be happening. That shouldn’t be how I should be feeling about this. What I should be feeling is that we’re all united in making sure that our community stays as a community. We are so lucky that, compared ot most inner-city environments, that we actually live in such a beautiful area. We’ve got a beautiful park, that is used by everybody in the community, you’ve got beautiful areas, Richbourne Terrace, Ferndale Road [intends to say Fentiman Road], Carroun Road is one of the most quietest environments to be in. Usually the people that make the most noise are actually the people that are living in it, not the people that are walking through it or driving through it. It’s us that make the most noise because we are happy and joyous in our community. We bring joy in our community. And what this has completely done is destroying that principle, and I think Cllr’s should stop supporting elite groups, and support the majority of community members that actually voted for them. How many people in those environment actually got our new MP, Miss Florence, Florence the new MP, how many of them voted for you, and how many of us voted for you? And how many numbers statistically, got you in your position? I’m sure majority of that was from people living in estates. people living in these so-called ‘second class positions’, ‘second class’ homes. I’m sure there wasn’t enough number on Albert Square, Richbourne Terrace and Carroun Road to get you in your position. So, I’m quite surprised to hear that you haven't really consulted with the ordinary, working class people of our community to find out how we feel and how it has impacted us, our relatives. There’s a lot of elders in this community and if I see an elder standing up because she looks tired, she can’t carry her shopping, I automatically say ‘Mum, do you want some help, let me take you shopping for you’. Simple. It’s not complicated for me, 'cause that’s the generation I come from, I’m an old-school principle generation where we actually cared about our communities. What we’ve got going here is an uncoded regentrification programme going on here. And its uncoded because it looks like its being done in a nice manner, in the best interest of the environment, but our environment was never at risk. We don’t have loads of traffic flowing through our roads. It’s the most quietest road at night. It's peaceful. I have so many friends and relatives that come and visit me, and they literally, sometimes, when they stay over for the weekend, we sit on my balcony, 3 o'clock in the morning, say, ‘oh it's lovely and quiet round here’. No traffic flow. So why is this necessary? Why are these roads necessary? These road closures are not necessary, it’s not needed, and to me these are just about a selfish group of people who think that their status and their money are more important than the majority of people that not only have established these communities and these areas, before them. They need to be thinking about everybody else. Because this is about class, power and status."
This is the latest in a series of first-person interviews with people affected by the Oval Triangle LTN. If you would like to speak to us about your experience, use the contact page of our website: https://www.oneoval.co.uk