The growing political conflict over green spaces


By - Friday 8th December, 2017

The council’s plans for green spaces has numerous issues


People walk around Rotary Field in Croydon

People walk around Rotary Field in Purley.
Photo by Paul Gillet used under Creative Commons license.

Concern continues about the possible threat to some of the parks and open spaces in the Borough. This is because the council has failed to provide evidence under the national criteria for them to be included in a special list of Local Green Space.

As a result, the Local Plan Examination Inspector deleted the list from the draft plan. It will not be known for a few weeks whether additional representations by the council, residents associations, friends groups and individuals will enable the inspector to reinstate at least some of the list.

This leaves 31 spaces which would only have some protection under national planning and London Plan rules

A large number of small open spaces are under threat because they have no protection at all. This has become clear because Brick by Brick wants to build housing on the green space on the corner of Coombe and Edridge Roads, next to Ruskin House, the labour movement centre, where Croydon TUC is based. It was precisely because of its concern about potential loss of such spaces that the Croydon TUC Croydon Assembly Environment Forum argued for protection in its submission to the Local Plan—rejected by the council.

Analysis shows that 56 spaces have other forms of special protection, as Metropolitan Open Plans, Sites of Nature Conservation, Historic Parks and Gardens.

This, however, leaves 31 which would only have some protection under national planning and London Plan rules. Among them are several playgrounds: Allders Way, Apsley Road, Boulogne Road, Little Road, and Roke playspace; and recreation grounds: Canterbury Road, Dartnell Road, Higher Drive, King George’s Field, Northwood Road, Selsdon, Shirley, South Croydon, and Wilford Road.

Rotary Field in Purley is a good example of an open space with a special historic significance along with being an important local facility

Three sites are connected with churches: All Saints Sanderstead graveyard, St. James’ Church, and two memorial gardens at St John’s Church. The last group contains Ashen Grove, Bourne Park, former Goldstone Road allotments, Green Lane Sports Ground, land at Castle Hill Avenue’s and north of Honeysuckle Gardens, Normanton Meadow, Pollards Hill triangle, Rotary Field, Shirley Oaks playing field and wood, Stamborune Woodland Walk, Temple Avenue’s Copse and Trimble Gardens.

Rotary Field in Purley is a good example of an open space with a special historic significance along with being an important local facility. The council could have submitted evidence about it because its website states:

“Rotary Field was given to the people of Purley by the Purley Rotary Club in 1925. During the first half of the 19th century the “Worlds First Railway Line” ran through the ground. Laid down in about 1803, its course from Coulsdon to Purley was parallel to the Brighton Road, near the Swan and Sugar Loaf it followed Southbridge and Church Roads to Pitlake, where it turned west and north to Wandsworth. The Surrey Iron Railway was the first public railway in the world, and its line was intended as an iron way worked by members of the public using their own horses and wagons on payment of tolls, in a similar way to the canal system that had served the public in the past. The wagons were drawn along iron rails, bedded on stone sleepers, one “horse‐power” could pull over 50 tons along the rails, as against only one on the roads of the period. There was a surge in traffic at the time of the Napoleonic Wars when the railway was part of a system used to get supplies to Portsmouth for the fleet engaged in the battles. Parts of the old railway, which was eventually abandoned in 1846, can be seen in the grounds of Wallington Public Library as well as Purley Rotary Field. Relics of the lines in the form of stone sleepers in rockeries and walls of gardens can be seen along the old route.”

Some friends groups fear that general protection for the 31 spaces is too weak

It could have strengthened this evidence if it had consulted the Purley and Woodcote Residents’ Association. The size of the fields has also meant that it is an important site for events in the Purley Festival.

Some friends groups fear that general protection for the 31 spaces is too weak and that the council could in the future sell them off to developers for housing.

Friends are also concerned about the way in which the council welcomes the formation of friends groups, but then doesn’t keep them informed of what it plans e.g. commercial event lettings.

Friends believe contracts were given to the lowest bidder, one who does not have enough people to carry out the work properly

Several have problems with the inadequacy of the services provided by litter picking/collection and gardening contractors. Given the run down of the parks team to one person by the council, it is difficult for the council to monitor whether the contracts are being carried out properly unless Friends raise concerns. But not all parks and open spaces have friends groups.

The Friends believe that the contracts were given to the lowest bidder, one who does not have enough people to carry out the work properly. The apparent inadequacy in monitoring may be due to the weak provision in contracts negotiated when the Tories were in control. A key question is whether the contractors are expected to pay the council the funds to employ a monitoring officer.

While the council wants more people to use parks, the Friends identify litter and lack of toilets as the two main reasons why many, especially those with children, choose not to use them. There is a danger that commercial events are already damaging some parks and causing friction with nearby residents because of noise, traffic and litter.

Parks are going to be an important issue in the run-up to the Croydon Council elections in May

Parks are going to be an important issue in the run-up to the Croydon Council elections in May. Labour will say that it is committed to good quality parks and open spaces, that they are important facilities for health and well-being, and that they need the help of friends groups to raise money given the continuing cut in funding from the government.

The Tories will argue that the council has been incompetent in management and contractors performance monitoring for the parks and open spaces and that it has chosen to spend money on other projects instead.


Discussion of this topic will be continued in a series of posts regarding Croydon’s green spaces.

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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  • http://www.thegreenstoryteller.com Charles Barber

    What Friends of the Parks groups need is a bit more support and information. If we are given the means and encouragement to do so, we can help revitalise our parks and get the local community more involved in using and looking after them. We shouldn’t be solely seen as a way of the Council offloading some of its responsibilities, but as an asset that should be cherished. If we work together with the Council and local councillors, we should be able to make Croydon’s green spaces something local communities can take pride in once again.