Bromley Council has agreed to hand over the management and governance of Crystal Palace Park to a community-led trust.
The decision has been described as “one of the most important decisions in 30 years”.
The management of the Grade II-listed Crystal Palace Park was handed over to Bromley in 1986 after Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council. The park is on the borough boundaries of Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark and according to Bromley, “it is one of the largest parks in South London and one of the most significant parks in Britain”.
With the park came the responsibility for the maintenance of development of all facets of the park, including its children’s farm, its concert bowl and lake, the impressive dinosaurs, and also the National Sports Centre. The burdensome nature of these city-wide responsibilities on a borough council were quickly evident.
Only in the past couple of years has some role in the running and planning for the park fallen to the Greater London Authority, under Tory Mayor Boris Johnson. But that has not always run smoothly, either.
Handing over responsibility for the park to the Crystal Palace Park Community Stakeholder Group, or CSG, represents a fresh start for this key south London public asset. The decision comes with £495,000 towards the park’s regeneration in keeping with the approved Masterplan for the area.
Martin Tempia, the CSG’s chair, said, “This is very good news for the park. After the uncertainty caused by the ZhongRong proposal, we now have the opportunity to plan for its future. The fact that Bromley has agreed to a new form of independent governance for the park and provided funds to establish it, is a recognition of the work of community organisations and other stakeholders. They have shown their ability to undertake and deliver regeneration projects in the park and they will play a leading role in its future.
“We can now plan a sustainable future for our park without the fear of an unexpected proposal stymying its regeneration. The recent Zhong Rong Group ‘scheme’ was the fourth commercially driven proposal the top of the park to be made in the in the last 25 years. Regardless of their desirability, they were all undeliverable.
“The challenges ahead are daunting. The new trust should be operating by 2017 but this is a remarkable opportunity.”
The CSG will be holding a series of drop-in sessions at the information centre in the park to keep the public updated with developments.
Councillor Stephen Carr, Leader of Bromley Council said, “We have been working alongside local residents for many years now and this proposal has always been part of our vision.
“There are many considerations which need to be examined and naturally, finance will be part of this. The Masterplan proposals will need to be carefully assessed to ensure that a viable plan comes forward. Improving and sustaining this much-loved park remains at the very heart of what we are looking to do and the long-term governance proposals are part of this.”
The CSG news follows the completion of the first round of community grant fund applications which are now being assessed, with grants of up to £20,000 available for community or resident groups to deliver specific projects and activities in the park.
This plan will build on the momentum established by the £2.4 million improvements being conducted in the park which are being funded in partnership with the Mayor of London.
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