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Will common sense prevail?

One of our news pieces this month is concerned with the potential overuse of Clapham Common as a summer events space.

It may have only hit our headlines this month but it seems to me that it’s an issue that’s been a long time in coming, ever since the area’s demography began changing 20 years ago. The first change was the gradual gentrification of the area with middle class families moving in, attracted by reasonably-priced Victorian properties near green space and good schools. But there was also a second wave of immigrants; young graduates, attracted by the cheap flats, good commute and abundant nightlife.

Initially, all was harmony itself, but like teenagers and parents living under one roof, tension was inevitable. At first it was the amount of late night bars and clubs that sprang up on Clapham High Street that annoyed the established residents (well, that and having their doorsteps used as toilets). The young then counter-complained about the high cost of housing and the fact that they couldn’t get over the threshold of a coffee shop for the traffic jam of designer double buggies. The tension then moved to the common where the space taken up by football, cricket and Aussie Rules began to grate with other park users. And then came the events. At first these were welcomed as putting Clapham on the map and earning Lambeth some much-needed revenue to (hopefully) pump back into preserving the common. However, as demand for the space grew, one event per year grew into several, until we find ourselves in a situation where Clapham Common will host more big events than Hyde Park.

Clapham Common, as the name suggests, should be for everyone and the current situation does not seem to reflect the needs of both camps in our gloriously cosmopolitan metaphorical Clapham household. Perhaps it’s time to bring in the family mediators.

Jon Watt is editor of the Clapham & Battersea and Fulham editions of Time & Leisure Magazine.