Guy Manness-Abbott and Richard Reynolds (Photo: Reem Akl)

The Elephant and Castle Urban Forest campaign was conceived in June 2011 by Guy Mannes-Abbott and Richard Reynolds. It was born out of a community visioning day hosted by Elephant Amenity Network as a way of popularising the work of the Balfour Street Residents Association and other local residents’ surveying of the forest assets. Throughout summer 2011 the Elephant and Castle Urban Forest raised the profile of the green infrastructure that was vulnerable to the comprehensive redevelopment through the creation and promotion of forest events and establishing partnerships with other campaigning groups and professionals working in urban sustainability. Guy and Richard set up the Elephant and Castle Urban Forest Community Interest Company to underline the significance of the campaign and to be able to take up the opportunities of managing interim uses within the estate so that the informal events of 2011 could be continued once the land became less accessible. Guy and Richard secured meetings with the developers, their consultants and the council to make the case.

As a result of the campaign in October 2011 the developer’s masterplan was changed so that a significant proportion of the trees were retained. Lend Lease were able to declare that the development would be the creation of central London’s largest new park for seventy years. Guy and Richard were offered a portion of the estate at Wansey Street to manage as a community garden during the redevelopment.

With this milestone achieved Guy left the campaign, reticent of collaborating with the developer further and anxious about the responsibilities of formally managing interim use. To take up the opportunity of a community garden Richard found Paul McGann with whom he created the new Mobile Gardeners Community Interest Company. In spring 2012 the remaining resident of the Heygate Estate, Adrian Glasspool, facing eviction requested that future promotion of informal events in the forest would be more low key to prevent aggravating his negotiations with the council for compensation so this campaign reduced its activity. He was evicted from the estate in November 2013.

In May 2013 Guy re-emerged as a local campaigner and launched the Forest Bank project, resuming the pressure of appreciating the trees at the Elephant and Castle that remain vulnerable during the redevelopment. Richard continues to raise awareness of the pressures on the existing infrastructure at the Elephant and Castle both through this campaign and other projects including a lecture at TEDx Newham in May 2013.

Comments are closed.