SARAH JONES reports from last night’s first meeting of the Friends of Ashburton Park, as they considered the sell-off of the old library
Sometimes, the world is a hard place to be. Times are hard, money harder to find and politics a race to the bottom. Which political party can scare you enough to vote for them, which party can buy you off? We’re not in this together.
Then you hold a public meeting. In a park, in the rain. About an old building that used to be awesome but has stood empty for years.
Nearly 50 people came to Ashburton Park last night to offer their views about the glorious Ashburton Library building. Most people know the story: Croydon Council is selling it off and there has been no conversation with the public. But the public has a view and they spoke last night.
Standing under a great tree, next to this inspiring but boarded up building, with the “For Sale” sign displayed, we started a conversation. People want us to consider a café; a meeting place for older people; a community venue where sport can be enjoyed – in and outside the building itself. A place where people can learn. Could we get a grant from a heritage organisation, or a sports body? Could it be a museum – a home for Croydon’s heritage?
There was only one naysayer in the pack. We had to remember how much money this would all cost. “Tosh,” was the response. A powerful lady said she has done this kind of thing before. She believes we can be self-funding. And why not?
So we planned our next move. A meeting – indoors this time – to work up a plan. People were offering venues.
Timothy Godfrey, a Labour councillor from Selhurst ward, thinks we can pull together as the Friends of Ashburton Park and delay any decision by six months, which could buy us some time. Talking continued well after the meeting ended even when the park keeper was trying to lock the gates and go home to his tea.
There’s much more to be done of course – this was the very beginning. And I won’t say we must keep the politics out of it. Because politics is at the heart of this – like it or not. But it’s good politics, where we all want to get something good done.
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- Sarah Jones is Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central
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The cause is a good one, but I am concerned that a would-be MP has jumped on the bandwagon. She will turn understandable community concern for a fine old building into a party political dogfight in which the cause will become less important than progress up the greasy poll of politics.
If Croydon Central were not a marginal seat and a General Election were not 20 months or so away, I doubt Ms Jones would be interested.
That’s a point of view, David.
But this was an open meeting, organised by concerned residents, which anyone could attend.
Where were the ward councillors? And where was the local MP? Perhaps he had got lost on his latest walk around the constituency, wandering off into Bromley…?
We elect people to represent us and our views, not simply to pocket their allowances and expenses and implement whatever their party leaders tell them to do. Councillors and MPs, even wannabe MPs, can only represent those views if they actually bother to listen to residents.
So how would you suggest a wannabe MP listens to residents without attending such meetings?