CROYDON COMMENTARY: With a background in landscape architecture, and an interest in getting a BMX track for Coulsdon, LEWIS WHITE went along to the council’s community engagement day in Norbury Park on Saturday to see what is really on offer
Having seen the Inside Croydon article, and being interested in the possibility of a BMX and skateboard facility for the young people of Coulsdon, I went along to check out Norbury Park, take a look at the impact of the proposal on the park, and hopefully meet people from the Parks Department to get some info on the ideas.
Norbury Park itself is large, generally open in feeling and seems unfinished rather than bleak. With Norbury Brook cutting throughto the south-west, the park is extremely wet, as it sits on clay, in spite of which welly-shod dog-walkers and their canine friends were enjoying the Siberian cold. There is quite a lot of litter, mainly accumulated among the bushes along the sides of the park. I wondered why we as country don’t use the probation service to pick litter from places like this.
The proposed site for the BMX track is quite large, and I wondered why it had not been placed nearer the boundary and the entrance from Green Lane, as it extended out into the park further than seems necessary. I asked why, and was told by a council officer that residents had objected to its being placed nearer to their houses.
A BMX track is solely used by young people on bicycles, not motorbikes, and is more or less silent. As the area will not be lit, it does seem a bit of an unwarranted worry to place the track where it is proposed, but the council have listened to the residents’ concerns, so perhaps I shouldn’t be critical.
I don’t think it will be an ugly construction– the one in Southwark’s Burgess Park looks very nice. The banks are green, and in the Norbury Park case, there is bags of space around to plant groups of new trees on and around the mounding.
I was impressed with the council officers, who were clearly very experienced in the fields of landscape design, park management, sport and working with the community. I also met some Croydon councillors, Maggie Mansell and Sherwan Chowdhury, and mentioned the litter. They undertook to get this removed.
The proposed track is next to a large and very dilapidated “pavilion ” building, which I would hope gets some funding to “do it up” big time. Truth be told, it needs a new one. Some hope, under our current “Age of Austerity”. When will the national Government wake up to the fact that new public buildings like this are built mainly with British-made materials, by small and medium-sized British firms? These much-needed new buildings are thus keeping money in the country, not exported to tax havens. The firms who make them are not tax-dodgers, and all of them serving the public sector (you and me) are not having an easy time at the moment.
I can’t imagine that there will be groups of noisy youths drinking at night as a result of the facility.
I have seen the Burgess Park track which is only about two years old. As far as I know, it is trouble free, and is a popular feature. It looks attractive, with green banks and golden-buff coloured surfacing. Far from an eyesore.
On balance, and looking at Norbury Park as a whole, my personal feeling is that as long as the proposed track is integrated into the park landscape with groups of medium-to-large growing trees – maybe some evergreens as these are lacking in the park — the new track will settle in to the landscape pretty well.
Having met some local parents and their children (even the dads had BMX bikes) I started thinking about the benefits to health for the users, and also about the social aspects of “hanging out at the track”. These young people (mainly boys, but some girls, mainly under 12, but some over 20) will be engaged in a good activity, and no doubt will also meet their friends here.
No doubt about it – BMXers are decent young people, and so are their parents.
I will be writing in to the council to offer support for the project, and I just hope that the project gets funding.
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