Enough is enough: Let’s put Ashburton Park first

By - Thursday 28th November, 2013

Stephen Mann uses the Citizen to respond to Gareth Streeter’s article on Wednesday

I was saddened to read Gareth Streeter’s very personal attack condemning the Friends of Ashburton Park as a “front group” and agree whole-heartedly with Bieneosa’s comment that the article “does come across as a ‘political game’”.

I do not want a petty tit for tat on a public forum. Such tit for tat puts the entire project in jeopardy and I for one am not willing to let that happen. I have always been happy to talk, cooperate and set the record straight if needs be. So have Maddie, Andrew and everyone else who has been involved in this to date.

I would, however, like to take this opportunity to use this public platform to discuss the Friends of Ashburton Park, as well as some of the claims Gareth made in his article.

Since the last meeting, the community has gathered well in excess of the 21 signatures required for the letter to the council. This has now been sent off. We have also been hard at work researching how we can get this group formally set up as the residents-led group we all want to see. We hope things will be in place for this meeting very soon so we can move forward. Progress is being made by the community for the community.

Before I respond directly to the claims Gareth makes, in the interests of openness and transparency, let’s be absolutely clear: Ashburton Park is an issue that we have campaigned on for a very long time. It is true to say that the local Labour Party have been campaigning on this issue – we are also local Ashburton residents who care about the Park. Fellow Ashburton residents of all political colours and those with none have been lobbying us for some time to act. We understood that this is a sensitive issue and that a very diverse group have an interest. That is why we went to the trouble of getting Arnie Graf along to the public meeting. Arnie’s contribution was very much appreciated and very powerful. We want this project to succeed for the benefit of Ashburton and for Croydon at large.

I would now like to clear up some of the issues raised in Gareth’s article.

1) He states the first meeting did not present the council’s plans accurately. No one knew what the council plans were, as they would not answer public questions at council or FOI requests. All the information we had was the sale documents. Why the secrecy and the mention of residential upper parts? This worried residents.

2) In my previous article I stated “this is the second public meeting in the space of a week that the local councillors have failed to show up to”. the first Friends meeting was in mid-September, the second was in late October. The meeting I was referring to was a council led meeting regarding the Arena School site. Gareth was there.

Gavin Barwell attended after attending business in the House. It would be absurd to say that this meeting was not of interest to Ashburton residents considering the proximity to Arena tramstop and the Longheath and Tolgate estates. Cllr Kellett has had a long standing interest in the site in the past and I was shocked to see none of the three in attendance.

3) 7 days notice was fine for the 50+ people who attended, and the press. We had trouble finding a venue as with Arnie attending we had to keep to one date, that’s why 7 days notice given. There are three councillors so one could surely have made it. No apologies or application to be keep informed were made by them.

4) This offer to meet with Labour is not relevant as the Friends of Ashburton Park is a residents’ group. This has been stressed from the start. As stated above, we hope to make this formal by agreeing a constitution and officers at the next meeting. I sincerely hope this will be made up of residents, not political activists.

It would be presumptuous of the Labour Party to say we speak for the Friends of Ashburton Park, so a party meeting is both unnecessary and wrong. Members of any political party (or no party at all) are welcome and that has been made clear to local residents groups such as ASPRA. Peter Staveley of UKIP in the comments of Gareth’s article has declared an interest in working together and we are happy to cooperate. The Lib Dems were at the Arnie Graf meeting, again we are happy to cooperate for the greater interest of Ashburton Park.

This is why I am confused regarding Gareth’s suggestion of mediation. Typically, mediation is required if there are disputes and open hostilities. The fact that we are happy to work together and have tried to work together shows this. We all have common ground on seeing this back in use.

As far as I am concerned there is no dispute here and we remain very clear that we are happy to work with all interested parties

5) The Friends was the idea of, and has been facilitated by, the Labour Party. However, surely making things better in the local community is what local politics is all about? If anyone has turned this into a political football then sadly it’s Gareth through his article. Hopefully, following this response, we can now call the final whistle on any Friends related football and get down to dialogue.

Again, as far as we are concerned, the only issue up for debate is Ashburton Park. We have a common objective and something that unites us.

We’re all adults and want this to work. Let’s move forward together, and leave political hostilities in the Town Hall. It’s time to put Ashburton Park and the Friends first.

Stephen Mann

Stephen Mann

Born in Addiscombe bred in Ashburton, Stephen is a local Labour activist seeking to both improve the local area and develop Croydon's community facilities. He will bea Labour candidate for Ashburton at the 2014 local elections. He also works in cricket development, covering youth engagement, and has a past in politics, disability support and communications. A keen sportsman, he is often found either at the football or on a cricket pitch.

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  • gbsblogs

    May I repeat my offer: I would like to meet with my equivalent from Labour Ahsburton to form an agreement to protect this issue from party politics. Surely is you feel that there is no party politics involved than there is no impediment to our meeting, perhaps in the presence of the Croydon Citizen.

    I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding but if we were to meet I would be able to talk you through how I feel you have attempted to make political capital out of this issue and we can agree an approach that stops this in the future.

    • Anne Giles

      That sounds like an excellent idea Gareth. I am still unsure as to why the Friends of Ashburton Park blocked me from their Facebook page, but are happy to have my dog on it.

    • bieneosa

      Out of interest, when is the next public meeting?