The current refurbishment of the area - written about recently on the Love Clapham blog - aims to liberate some of the space around the area known as the Polygon. Right now it is a hell of mess - you have to pity people living in that charmed pentangle, which is now a mud bath surrounded by hideous green and orange and white and red plastic barriers, with workers' loos housed in curious zebra-striped huts-on-wheels.
It seems an enormous disruption for what, looking at the plans, is a chiefly cosmetic operation. OK, the Polygon was a wasted space - a lovely bit of the Old Town, a gently sloping triangular space ruined by the busy roads bounding it on all sides with a bus stand taking up much of the apex.
Check the (lovely shiny all-new) Lambeth Council site for what the finished project will be like. Clearly, the traffic side is improved, but it looks to me like the pleasingly scruffy patch of grass - the last gasp of the Common - just south of the pub - is to be sacrificed on the altar of tidiness and conformity, to the deity of tasteful paving slabs.
It's truly entertaining to look at the architect Marks Barfield's computer-generated images of the completed project. It's a clever montage of photos of real people - a perfectly representative sample of the men and women and children on the Clapham omnibus - clearly amazed by these vast new wandering areas! Some of them look quite stunned to be there, to the point where they don't notice the person they're about to bump into.
Strangely, we don't ever quite see what is going to happen to the notorious old public toilet block - once a hotspot on the south London cottager's personal A-Z (I know this for certain as I once wander in there innocently in about 1986 and was astonished by how crowded it was, and how many men seemed never to finish their peeing).
Passing there today I noticed that what was once a public toilet is now "to let" - yes, the old schoolboy
|A lovely cottage on the Common, yours for a price. The old public |
loos at the Polygon, Clapham Old Town, are now up for rent as
another big Lambeth regeneration project nears completion
BUT - let me end on an immensely positive note. Maybe as part of all this work, the council contractors have done something beautiful. In a stroke, they have liberated an area imprisoned by iron railings for decades.
The removal of the railings around those sad patches of grass between the tube station and the Common is a revelation - suddenly;y, we have real space. Please, don't bother to landscape this - just think of it as
a bit of the Common that never managed to cross the road. Love.