Protestors launch campaign to ‘save Shirley’s green spaces’

By - Tuesday 2nd February, 2016

Green space is under threat, say campaigners in Shirley. Sean Creighton reports

Shirley Windmill.
Photo by Adam Burt, used under Creative Commons licence.

On the evening of Monday 25th January, a group of Croydon residents opposing the local council’s plans to remove Metropolitan Open Land protection for Shirley came to the town hall to raise its concerns. In particular, the group fears that this would result in ‘intensification’ of development, loss of the area’s character and green space and an increase in the number of travellers’ site.

Central to the concerns that the Shirley Oak campaigners have raised in their protest against council proposals to build 751 homes on green spaces is the fact that part of the land is owned by a community organisation, Shirley Oaks Management Ltd. So the council which supports the ideas of co-operation and mutualism appears to be attacking this form of common ownership.

The fact that hundreds of people from Shirley Oaks lobbied the council’s meeting highlights the importance that residents place on the green nature of areas they live in. It is an example of a one-off campaign, just as the Purley leisure centre and the garden waste collection petition protests were: the only large scale campaigns mobilising hundreds of people in the last couple of years.

Petitions are an important campaign tool, but it’s numbers on the streets and outside the town hall which can have the real impact. We have yet to see this happen on the programme of council cuts in general, against the private developers who are dominating Croydon and producing homes that most Croydonians cannot afford to live or rent in, and against the prospect of a dead town centre while the Whitgift Centre is demolished, the new centre is built and Fairfield Halls stands closed for refurbishment.

What makes for a good campaign?

This is a difficult question to answer as the methods to be used will depend on them issues involved and the history of past experience. But whatever you do, you need to plan very carefully in order to maximise its potential influence on how the issue is resolved. It is always good to remember that while you may not win, the politicians may think twice about their next set of proposals which could upset large numbers of people; they may modify them to reduce the adverse effects or abandon them.

Key elements for campaigning 

  • Being well-informed: You need to find out as much about the proposal that you object to as possible. Talk to the officers in the relevant council department. If the proposal has come from a private organisation, business or developer, write a letter expressing concern, asking for further information, and for a meeting. Keep in regular touch with the council officers and the proposal’s backers
  • Co-operation with other concerned organisations: other local community, welfare, environment and conservation organisations, businesses and schools that might also be concerned about the proposal are worth contacting. Suggest a joint meeting to discuss the issues and work together

  • Publicising concerns and activities: there are many ways to broaden the campaign to the general public: leaflets (houses, bus stops, railway stations, outside shops), press releases (local, regional, national), articles in citizens’ journals like the Croydon Citizen, public meetings, fliers in people’s windows and in shops, petitions, social media, street stalls

  • At public meetings you can ask people to become involved in helping with campaign activities, by asking them to write down their names, addresses and phone numbers so that they can be sent further information, and indicate whether they will help with letter writing, leaflet delivery, street stalls, collecting petition signatures

  • Fundraising: campaigns need money to pay for the booking of halls for meetings, and to print the leaflets, newsletters and petitions. The full range of fund-raising activities can be arranged, such as requests for donations, jumble sales, sponsored walks and swims and so on

Changing direction and ending the campaign

There will always be a need to assess when it might be necessary to change campaign direction. Your criticisms may have been accepted or you may be invited to take part in detailed discussions on formulating the proposals. You may need to compromise in order to minimise the proposal’s damage.

And of course, if you win, you may need to offer to continue to work to find a solution to the problem that led to the proposal being made in the first place.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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