Croydon Council has received something that is far removed from a love letter for Valentine’s Day, as residents are demanding urgent action to help protect Grangewood Park.
The much-loved public open space, which includes ancient woodland on a hillside between Thornton Heath and Upper Norwood, is suffering from the effects of long-term neglect and under-spending by the council, prompting a chain reaction from the Friends of Grangewood Park.Broken gates at one entrance have been reported to the council repeatedly over more than a year, during which time the park has been left vulnerable to fly tippers, vandalism and joy riders speeding around its pathways.
The chair of Friends of Grangewood Park, Andrea Perry, posted an ultimatum to the council on their Facebook page last week, threatening to chain the gates shut in the absence of any council action.
The plea for help comes at the same time that other parks friends groups around the borough are waiting on the council to finally issue its report on the future of Croydon’s gardens, commons and open spaces, with one public park – Queen’s Gardens, right outside the Town Hall – likely to have large parts of its bulldozed and concreted over to make space for a housing scheme.
The National Federation of Parks and Public Spaces has recently been running a campaign to protect public parks, which it sees as being vulnerable to disinvestment and neglect caused by the Conservative government’s on-going austerity cuts to local authorities. They call it “a slide into crisis”.
They say, “Our local green spaces are vital for everyone and every community, and for all age groups and interests. They are an essential and unique service promoting relaxation, recreation and play, wildlife and bio-diversity, green jobs and skills, heritage, flood control, health and social well-being, and community cohesion.
“However, there is growing alarm from the public, from Friends of Parks groups, and from parks managers, about the serious long-term damage being caused by dramatic cuts to green space budgets for staff and maintenance, and the lack of funding and investment by local and national government. If not reversed, this neglect will cause them to go into decline and become problem spaces abandoned by park users and plagued by vandalism.”
Last month, Inside Croydon reported how Croydon’s parks contractors had been making staff redundant, and then filling the vacant positions by offering less than the London Living Wage, because it could no longer fulfil the contract on the tight budgets the company had set itself to win the competitive tender.
The parks federation wants the government to ensure adequate public resources and protection for all green spaces and to make it a statutory duty for councils, such as Croydon, to monitor and manage its spaces to Green Flag Award standard.
All the Friends of Grangewood Park want from Croydon Council right now is a set of gates by the Wharncliffe Road entrance, at the northern, Upper Norwood end of the park, which can be closed securely at dusk to help protect the interests of park users and residents.
The Facebook posting, written by Perry as the chair of the friends group, says: “In 2015, the Wharncliffe gate was repeatedly left open in Grangewood Park and this lead to frequent fly tipping in the park.
“In December 2015, after complaints about the gate being left open causing a particular fly tip, action was finally taken and the left gate was locked and only unlocked by council staff coming in and out of a park.
“In October last year the gates were left intermittently open again and I complained fearing again about fly tipping as well as the park being accessible to travellers particularly as the council has put in measures at The Lawns and Upper Norwood Recreation Ground to prevent traveller access.
“I was told some welding repairs were required to the gate to enable staff to secure the gate properly. This the contractor said was the responsibility of the council not the contractor. I continued to complain.
“Now the gates are open day and night and random cars are frequently driving in to the park and we’ve received complaints about cars driving around the paths with pedestrians and dog owners fearing for their safety. I have challenged some car owners but as they quite rightly point out the gates are open and there isn’t a sign on the gate saying no access unless council staff.“I’ve complained about my fears about the gates being left open to numerous council officers to director level and local councillors, and other councillors up to cabinet members.
“So if the gates aren’t fixed within seven days and shut as they had been ensuring the safety of the park and park users then I, as Chair of the Friends of Grangewood Park, will chain them shut and council staff will have to access the park via the gates on the corner of Ross Road and Grange Road. It is worth bearing in mind that it has taken eight months, including a site visit in June 2016, to get the council to do three repairs to fencing at the Hythe Road/Grange Road entrance in to the park and then they have only fixed two of the three requested repairs.
“Compare this with the firm who have been carrying out tree works in the park who damaged a section of railings on Grange Rd while felling a tree. Within 10 days the section of fencing had been replaced by one of their employees.
“The council has until Tuesday February 14 to fix the gate.”
Inside Croydon tried to contact Timothy Godfrey, the Labour council’s cabinet member responsible for the state of the borough’s parks. He had not returned our call by the time of publication.
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