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Meet our community #2 - SOWN

Giles Goddard, Honorary Treasurer of the South Bank and Waterloo Neighbours (SOWN) and vicar at St John's Waterloo, tells us more about the story and the function of this vital local group.

What is it?

You might have heard talk of SOWN and wondered what it is. Or you may be receiving the excellent SOWN emails, giving regular corona virus updates for Waterloo and South Bank.

SOWN was formed in response to the Localism Act (2011). The Act gives local neighbourhoods statutory powers to help shape their communities, by creating a Neighbourhood Plan. The Plan is then put to a local referendum.

Here in Waterloo and South Bank, more than 500 people were involved in the plan. Ideas came together across workshops, public debates, walking tours, social media, school assemblies, social events and more. At a stall in Lower Marsh Market, a giant map indicated what’s best and worst about living and working here, as well as hopes and dreams for the future. We asked how streets could be designed differently, how developers could help vulnerable people and, against soaring property values, who’s being priced out of the neighbourhood. The answers were whittled down into themes and priorities discussed. Then we produced the plan.

Lengthy discussions with both local councils – Lambeth and Southwark – followed, and finally an independent examiner pored through the detail. Eventually the plan was agreed, and put to a Referendum. 91% of residents and businesses voted for it.

There are five themes in the plan: open air and green spaces, development and housing, community facilities, streets and transport, and shopping. Each one has a set of policies which have to be taken into account when any planning application is made. For example, we have specified that all new office blocks should have, where possible, green roofs. Developments on Lower Marsh should include improvements for the market. And if more local hotels are built (which we are not keen on) they should include jobs for local people.

What’s happening now?

SOWN has a steering group, chaired by John Langley of the National Theatre. SOWN is unique among neighbourhood plans because it is careful to ensure that businesses/cultural organisations and local residents have equal representation. The Steering Group is made up of 50% residents and 50% business/cultural reps. We are responsible, along with the South Bank Employers’ Group, for the South Bank Forum. We are working out how to implement the plan, working alongside the many local community groups which thrive in Waterloo and South Bank.

We are working together for a better Waterloo and South Bank, and trying to envision what life might be like after lockdown. How can we build on the many good things which are happening around here, in response to the current crisis? How can we make Waterloo and South Bank better for everyone? For further information, visit the website - or contact me, Giles Goddard. I’m the Hon. Treasurer for SOWN as well as the Chair of the Waterloo Festival.

Hope to see you at SOWN soon!

Can. Giles Goddard

Hon Treasurer, South Bank and Waterloo Neighbours

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