The Croydon parks getting lost under Labour


By - Monday 30th April, 2018

Thirty-one of Croydon’s parks and green spaces are under threat


Photo public domain.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the Local Plan that was recently signed off by Croydon’s Labour council. One of the most controversial elements was the lack of protection for some of the town’s parks and green spaces.

There are thirty-one parks that have no special status in the Local Plan, which leaves them vulnerable to development. So how did this come about?

The simple fact is that the council, under the direction of Labour councillors, failed to make a strong-enough case to justify the protection of these parks. They didn’t realise their mistake until the process was nearly over, and their last-minute attempts to get them designated as ‘Local Green Spaces’ were unsuccessful.

Local residents’ views were often ignored

Labour’s lack of interest in the Local Plan has been evident throughout the process and it was in stark contrast to the attention it was given by local residents and other local councillors. Thousands of residents responded to the consultations, but their views were often ignored.

Just what has happened to Croydon’s parks as a result of the Local Plan? And are the thirty-one unprotected parks worth saving?

I decided to find out more about the parks that have no special designation, and see for myself what might be lost if they are built on.

Some of the parks are big spaces that I’d assumed would be automatically protected

I have visited twenty of the parks. The first thing that struck me was that the majority of them have children’s playgrounds. I had imagined that they would be little-used spaces with few facilities – but that simply isn’t the case.

In fact, some of ‘The Thirty-One’ are big parks that I would have assumed would automatically be protected. Amongst these are Rotary Field in Purley, Selsdon Recreation Ground, Shirley Recreation Ground, South Croydon Recreation Ground, Green Lane Sports Ground and Higher Drive Recreation Ground.

During my tour of the unprotected parks, I came across some hidden gems. There was Pollards Hill Triangle, tucked away behind the houses off London Road in Thornton Heath, which had a wonderful display of daffodils. Then there was Normanton Meadow in South Croydon, which is a delightful small green space used primarily by dog walkers. Temple Avenue Copse was another surprise. A small woodland area that is beautifully cared for by Spring Park Residents’ Association and comes complete with nesting boxes.

Some of the parks have an air of neglect about them

There are also smaller parks and these are likely to be the most vulnerable to development. The ones in the north of the borough such as Dartnell Road, Canterbury Road Recreation Ground and Boulogne Road Playground have an air of neglect about them. They are the ones I am most worried about. The Boulogne Road Playground appears to have been left to decay. The play equipment that is there is minimal and not fit for purpose. Some of the park is already behind hoardings and has been handed over to a neighbouring development. Most of the Canterbury Road Recreation Ground is also behind hoardings. This leaves very little recreation space and a very small playground. It is hardly surprising that people feel these parks could redeveloped for housing.

The neglect is not confined to the north of the borough. Parks in the south are also in a sorry state. Bourne Park is in great need of attention. And the green space that used to be the allotments near Godstone Road in Kenley has been left to become overgrown and inaccessible.

As the number of residents in our town increases, the demand for green space can only increase too. With more and more people living in flats without a garden, they will need access to parks for themselves and their children. So we will need more parks, not fewer.

We can’t rely on friends’ groups to manage our parks – that’s the council’s job

The parks in our borough that are the best maintained are those with friends’ groups. It was clear that many of ‘The Thirty-One’ do not have the support of friends’ groups and they receive very little attention from the council, too. It demonstrates that we cannot rely on friends’ groups to manage our parks – the council needs to take more ownership and actively manage them.

The recent council consultation about parks only included six parks. In theory, the six masterplans will be adapted for use by other parks. But will they? The council is expecting friends’ groups to bid for grants and secure funding for the implementation of the masterplans. This is a big ask, even when many of the six parks have friends’ groups. So what chance is there that the smaller parks will benefit from future investment? They will have to rely on a council that is already failing to maintain these important assets.

It is clear that we need a new strategy for parks. The council needs to stop consulting and put some serious effort into securing the funds to ensure the future of our parks. Already we are seeing some under threat and this trend will only continue if we don’t manage our parks effectively. The current state of some parks, and the lack of protection under the Local Plan, means that there is a very real possibility that we could lose some of these precious green spaces.

Helen Pollard

Helen Pollard

Helen has been a councillor since 2006 and is standing for re-election in Selsdon and Addington Village Ward in May 2018. In May 2016, Helen was appointed Shadow Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport. She is a marketing professional with experience in the financial services industry and education. Her interests include playing tennis and spending time at home with her family.

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  • Ian Marvin

    It’s somewhat alarmist to say that the parks are getting lost or even under threat. This was an attempt to gain additional protection for ALL the parks in Croydon however small. I agree that there are some surprises on the list however ultimately the decision was with the government appointed inspector. It’s also worth pointing out that the totally inadequate iDverde contract to maintain the parks was implemented during the last Conservative administration. Hopefully this will eventually go the way of the Carillion Library contract soon.

  • trypewriter

    ‘It demonstrates that we cannot rely on friends’ groups to manage our parks – the council needs to take more ownership and actively manage them.’
    Wasn’t this outsourced in 2014 by the previous council?

  • Sean Creighton

    Ian is right. It was extra protection. I have previously discussed the mess the Council itself into at

    https://seancreighton1947.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/council-fiasco-over-parks-and-open-spaces-please-act-now/

    https://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/growing-political-conflict-green-spaces-part-1/
    and

    https://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/the-potential-benefits-of-our-controversial-green-spaces/

    In my view the Tories failed to persuade the Council political leadership to have an agreed revised submission to the Inspector. My attempt to have the Secretary of State to require the Council to add a Local Designated List failed because he had no power to amend the decisions of the Inspector.

  • Janet Smith

    This is rich, coming from the wife of the man who sold – Croydon Libraries, The cream of the Riesco Collection, closed the Clocktower, Braithwaite Hall and David Lean Cinema, refused the small grant needed to allow the Warehouse Theatre to continue, ended Summer concerts in the parks. Don’t forget Croydon Tories hate the Arts don’t let them do it again.