Croydon celebrates its parks – but omits Queen’s Gardens

A press release plops on to the news editor’s desk here at Inside Croydon Towers.

It arrives via a PR agency called Grey Label.

Haling Grove: one of Croydon's highly regarded parks

Haling Grove: one of Croydon’s highly regarded parks

And it announces that earlier this week, no fewer than 11 of Croydon’s open spaces were included in a list of Britain’s best parks, “in recognition of their maintenance and excellent facilities”, say the nice people at Grey Label, who receive hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in contracts from Croydon Council each year.

As is often the case, however, it is what a well-paid PR agency’s press release does not say that is the real story.

Grey Label tell us that, “Seven of the parks honoured by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy are owned and maintained by Croydon Council. They are South Norwood Lake, Western Tree Garden, Coulsdon Memorial Ground, Coombe Wood, Lloyd Park, Happy Valley and Haling Grove.

“The other four winners, which come under the auspices of the City of London Corporation, are: Coulsdon Common, Farthing Down and New Hill, Riddlesdown and Kenley Common.”

Grey Label then manage to get Phil “Two Permits” Thomas to speak on this monumental news.

Tory councillor Thomas is the cabinet member for highways and environmental services. Perhaps it is because he is in charge of the borough’s highways that Thomas somehow requires two free parking permits (how many flash, red sports cars can a rugby-loving boyo from the Valleys manage to drive at any one time, we wonder)?

“This achievement shows how much hard work council staff are putting in to make sure residents and visitors benefit from green spaces of the very highest quality,” Thomas said, unwittingly making a very good case against his Conservative-controlled council’s policy of laying off ever-increasing numbers of council staff, or outsourcing the work to often unmonitored and apparently unaccountable contractors.

The people of Grey Label then underline the importance of parks to people’s quality of life. “Quality green spaces are essential to happy, healthy communities,” they quote Paul Todd, the Green Flag Awards scheme manager, as saying.

“They are fundamental to our quality of life, whether in cities, towns or villages.”

Indeed. Couldn’t agree more.

Two things the Grey Label press release fails to mention.

1, The Green Flag scheme in fact asks local authorities to enter their parks for consideration. This strongly suggests that the scheme, which is “owned” by Eric Pickles’s local government department at Whitehall, is little more than a glorified self-back-slapping exercise, of a sort in which Croydon Council excels.

2, Apparently unentered by Croydon Council is Queen’s Gardens, right on the doorstep of Croydon Town Hall, a rare oasis of open space in the centre of our town.

Might this have anything to do with Croydon Council’s latest act of cultural vandalism, with plans to hand over a huge chuck of Queen’s Gardens to John Laing to build flats on it?

Open spaces, remember, are “fundamental to our quality of life”. Until, in Croydon, it comes to giving away public property to private developers to help them to bolster their profits.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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