The potential benefits of our controversial green spaces

By - Tuesday 12th December, 2017

The second in a series of posts about the importance of Croydon’s parks and open spaces

Photo public domain.

Both political parties are currently preparing their election manifestos. It would be good to see them both include the following promises:

Firstly, that they both commit to not sell any open space and parks to developers, including the council’s own Brick by Brick development company.

Secondly, that in future all contracts contain a clause that the winning company has to fund the employment by the council of a contract monitoring team.

A specific sum of money is needed to protect our local parks

Thirdly, that a forum that looks in detail at funding and other issues around our parks is set up between the council and friends’ groups, similar to the Schools’ Forum.

Fourthly, that Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds generated in a local area are put into a fund for that area – including a specific sum to maintain the local open spaces and parks.

Of course, both parties do not need to wait for the election to do some of this. They could agree a joint resolution at the council meeting that accepts the final version of the Croydon Local Plan to commit to not allowing any building development on open spaces and parks. The other issues could be addressed when the council considers the report on the Parks Vision exercise.

We have the potential to benefit from our incredible city

Finally, all councillors and the council could declare their support for the Greater London National Park City Initiative.

The initiative started as a movement, and has now registered as a charity. It is run by people who believe that ‘we have the potential to benefit more from our incredible city and that, in turn, our city has the potential to benefit more from us, too’.

London is incredibly rich in terms of the diversity of its green spaces: 1,000km+ of signed footpaths; 850km+ of streams, rivers and canals; 13,000 species of wildlife; two Special Protection Areas; three Special Areas of Conservation; four UNESCO World Heritage Sites; two National Nature Reserves; 37 Sites of Special Scientific Interest; 142 Local Nature Reserves; and 1,400 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.

The London Assembly says it will support the initiative

In just one year, the initiative has gained the support of more than 100 organisations, ranging from small community groups to universities and large companies. The London Assembly has unanimously agreed to help develop the proposal.

While London meets many of the requirements to be designated as a National Park, it cannot be because it is not an ‘extensive tract of country’. However, it could be a National Park City, operating outside of current legislation, built on a partnership of public, friends, conservation, health and sports groups, councils, businesses, universities, museums, art galleries, and many more.

It does not depend on government approval. As long as at least the councillors in two-thirds of London’s 649 electoral wards and the Mayor of London support the idea, it can be achieved.

Labour councillors seem confused about the proposal

In Croydon, there is a clear party political difference: most Tory councillors have signed up; only a few Labour councillors have done so (in Addiscombe and Bensham Manor). Labour councillors seem confused about the proposal, if the following view of one of them is representative:

“I note that the wards where councillors have signed up are already very green and represented by Tories. The problem is that the proposition is 50% land to be open green land. That is unrealistic if we are to build houses. As it stands at present, we are being asked to give up on housing permissions. The Croydon Labour council policy is to protect existing green spaces. We are not expecting to lose any… green spaces in my ward.”

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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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article!

  • Mark Johnson

    Just signed up. Thanks for doing this.

  • GreenPeter

    “Both political parties”? There will probably be at least five parties standing in next spring’s election. It’s this kind of blinkered binary thinking that creates the political problems in the first place.