Plans for Ruskin Park Stables

Update – June 2019

Last year the Friends of Ruskin Park set out a new vision for the disused stable block in Ruskin Park, based on feasibility work supported through a grant from Power to Change Trust. You can read our original blog below.

Discussions have been ongoing and we are pleased to report that Lambeth Council is now moving ahead with plans for the building largely based on our vision for the space.

They have said “Subject to formal approvals and consents, Lambeth Council is planning to refurbish the currently disused stable block in Ruskin Park. We are actively working with the Recovery College at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and the Friends of Ruskin Park to develop the Stables as a flexible space that can be used for inclusive courses, community activities and events promoting health and wellbeing.”

What’s next?

We will continue to attend regular meetings with Lambeth Council and SLaM as the plans progress. We will report further details as they are confirmed.

We would like to hear from our members, other residents, partners and stakeholders. Please let us know what you think about the vision, your ideas, and if you would like to be involved in some capacity. We are a volunteer-run group so we appreciate your patience as we work through this process.

Email us at stableblock@friendsofruskinpark.org.uk


Our Vision – July 2018

Background

The old Stable Block in Ruskin Park, near to Denmark Hill, is derelict and unusable. It is partly hidden behind bushes and undergrowth. But it has huge potential and is an important part of the park’s heritage.

The building is owned by Lambeth Council. However, for at least the past five years the Friends of Ruskin Park have been making the case that it should be brought into use to the benefit of the local community.

We recognise the challenge. Public finances are stretched and the building needs substantial investment to make it fit for use. And once it is brought back into use, the building needs to generate an ongoing income, value for the local community, and other benefits for the wider park.

In 2014, we were awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which enabled us commission a feasibility study. A survey of park users showed broad support for bringing the building into use – perhaps as a cafe and community space – but limited progress was made in taking the plans forward.

In 2017, we were awarded a grant from Power to Change Trust’s Bright Ideas Fund to help develop our ideas and a possible business model for a community business that could operate in the Stable Block. Since then we have:

  • Been supported by community asset experts Locality to help us speak to potential partners. We held a Discovery Day in May 2017 where local organisations could visit the site, and in total we spoke to more than 25 interested organisations.
  • Engaged local architects CarverHaggard to help us develop realistic plans for how the building could be designed and renovated for different uses.
  • Worked with Locality to develop a financial model for a community business operating in the space.
  • Carried on speaking to Lambeth Council officers, our local councillors and other stakeholders.
Proposed Vision

Any decisions about the Stable Block will ultimately be taken by Lambeth Council who own the building. We see our role as being to influence them to bring the building back to life for community benefit, as soon as possible.

Through our work we have developed a possible vision for the space based on our wider aspirations for Ruskin Park as a ‘health and wellbeing park’ for the whole community, including for people with long-term health conditions.

We are carrying out further business modelling, but based on work so far we consider the most viable community option to be based around three core uses of the building:

  1. A hub for wellbeing activities, working with local health services and other organisations as well as arts and therapeutic practitioners with a strong social mission. Some services would be provided at market price, while others would be free to use or at very low cost.
  2. A venue for events and pop-up cafes, taking advantage of good transport connections and a unique location, generating an income for the park.
  3. A flexible space that can also be used by different park groups for meetings and activities.

This vision is based on refurbishing the Stable Block to a good standard. We are proposing the main building could be reconfigured to provide two well-sized spaces (approximately 40m2 each) on the ground and first floor, with a kitchen, refurbished toilets, and a separate meeting room. The option shown here replaces the existing ‘shed’ with a canopy which could be used for a lot of different activities, from meetings or children’s play, to yoga or a cafe.

This plan creates an option of operating a cafe from the building, possibly a part-time community cafe modelled on the Happy Cafe movement, or for pop-up events or residencies . We are not convinced the Stable Block is the best location for a sustainable, full-time, general park cafe because it is located away from the main play and sports facilities.

We have had some encouraging preliminary discussions with the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust who deliver community wellbeing activities through their Recovery College. This could provide an income for the building.

We believe the Stable Block could be operated by an existing organisation, or by a new social enterprise set up for this purpose. As the Friends of Ruskin Park, we don’t expect to run the building ourselves, but are looking to work in partnership and support other organisations to take forward a proposal in line with this vision. However this works, we will need to maximise the potential to attract funding for the capital works and ensure there is an ongoing income.