Residents have 48 hours to save 70 parks and open spaces

Addiscombe Railway Park, one of the Croydon open spaces under threat in a dispute over planning protections

The people of Croydon have 48 hours left to try to save more than 70 of the borough’s parks and open spaces from being put at serious risk of being handed over to developers to be built on.

Alison Butler, Labour’s cabinet member for development and housing, is calling on the public to make sure that they respond to the planning inspector’s consultation on the Local Plan, which closes on Tuesday.

The Local Plan, which has gone through numerous drafts and changes since work began on it in 2012, was reviewed by the government-appointed inspector at an inquiry earlier this year. His findings have been put out for consultation.

Among the amendments the inspector has recommended to the Local Plan is to take away protection from more than 70 of Croydon’s parks and open spaces. According to the inspector, they are just not “special” enough.

As one member of a parks friends group told Inside Croydon this week, “The crux is that a lot of these open spaces that we take for granted will be one step closer to getting built on soon unless enough people protest by Tuesday October 10.”

Butler and the council had proposed designating a raft of parks and open spaces with a new planning status, “Local Green Space”. But the inspector was unimpressed with the case made by the council for many of the parks and spaces, including Rotary Field, Purley, Biggin Wood, Addiscombe Railway Park, Millers Pond, Coulsdon Coppice and even All Saints churchyard in Sanderstead.

The inspector has thus drawn a red line through all these open spaces, and many more, to the consternation of residents’ and friends’ groups. They fear that without some form of planning protection, it will be all too easy to bulldoze their park for the next batch of flats.

This is how the planning inspector returned the council’s list of protected open spaces – with red lines through many parks, as if the council had got its homework badly wrong

“The designation of Local Green Space was proposed by the council as a way to offer added protection to spaces that fall under the definition or currently have no protection at all,” according to Andrea Perry, the chair of the Friends of Addiscombe Railway Park, who is trying to rally an eleventh-hour campaign to save Croydon’s open spaces.

“Most of the open spaces listed do already have other designations, such a Historic Garden, Metropolitan Open Land or sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), but some have no designation at all.

“Local Green Spaces are defined, among other things, by ‘how demonstrably special they are to a local community, or if they hold a local significance’.

“The inspector dealing with Croydon’s Local Plan has de-classified the Local Green Spaces, saying that the council did not provide sufficient, demonstrable evidence that these places are of importance,” Perry said.

The vacant playing fields next to Duppas Hill Park has already been earmarked for development

Reading the inspector’s report, it seems he has struggled to come to terms with the fact that Croydon is actually blessed with a high number and rich variety of open spaces.

The inspector, Paul Clark, states, “I accept that official designation as an Historic Park or Garden recognises that a site is ‘special’ or ‘significant’ to a degree.

“Likewise, designation as an SNCI gives objective recognition that a site is ‘special’ or ‘significant’ to a degree.

“I also accept that cemeteries, churchyards or burial grounds have special significance to individuals but, to be designated as a Local Green Space, ‘particular’ significance is expected, going beyond the everyday reverence which is paid to such places.

“The other categories appear to me to be entirely commonplace. Without additional evidence of their ‘demonstrable’ or ‘particular’ significance or special characteristic, my concern is that these designations may not be justified.”

The inspector might also be a little confused about Croydon Council’s somewhat selective attitude to green spaces, too. The council has encouraged one developer to build on a section of Queen’s Gardens, in front to the Town Hall, in the redevelopment of the Taberner House site. Queen’s Gardens is the only green, open space in the town centre.

A neglected scrap of playing fields at the bottom of Duppas Hill Park also looks like it will be built on for a school and housing, while the green acres of playing fields at Coombe Woods have been recommended for bulldozing to make way for a selective free school.

Peter Underwood, the chair of the local Green Party, said today, “I know local people are furious about this and I would ask them to write in to the consultation and demand that the council put the protection of our green spaces back into the Local Plan.

“We know that greedy property developers are looking for more sites to build on.

“Croydon Council could have used the local plan to defend our green spaces but it looks like they have given up without a fight.”

Butler, however, says that the Labour-run council will indeed be contesting the inspector’s findings

Alison Butler: wants residents to submit objections to the inspector

While any sites which were formerly protected by the National Planning Policy Framework retain that protection, Butler has told Inside Croydon, “We will be responding to this modification and in support of the Local Green Space designation and have encouraged local residents and communities to do so.”

Perry, a member of Croydon’s parks forum, said, “We know more housing is needed, and that’s an absolute priority.

“But we maintain that there is enough brownfield space and offices that could be converted into housing in Croydon already to not necessitate the loss of potential protection for all these green and open spaces.”

Perry says that, because the council’s parks department has been shut down, no one in Fisher’s Folly with experience or knowledge of the borough’s parks was alert enough to get the many friends’ groups to respond to the inspector’s consultation. “It seems that hardly anyone in planning knows about the friends’ groups either. I’m sure the inspector didn’t.

“That needs to change.”

Residents making representations about one or more park or open space in the consultation need to outline:

  • Why any/all of these places are special,
  • What makes them special, and
  • Why a de-designation and possible loss of these spaces would be detrimental.

You can download a representation form here.

Once you have filled in the form, save the document and email it to, and copy the email to and your ward councillors.

The deadline for the consultation is October 10, so you need to act promptly.


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This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Coulsdon, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Duppas Hill Park, Environment, Friends of Addiscombe Railway Park, Friends of Ashburton Park, Friends of Croham Hurst Woods, Friends of Farthing Downs, Friends of Grange Park, Friends of Grangewood Park, Friends of Haling Grove, Friends of Heavers Meadow, Friends of Marlpit Lane Bowling Green, Friends of Millers Ponds, Friends of Selsdon Woods, Friends of South Norwood Country Park, Lloyd Park, Peter Underwood, Planning, Queens Gardens and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Residents have 48 hours to save 70 parks and open spaces

  1. greenpeteru says:

    It is good to find out that the council will be contesting the inspector’s findings. However I would like to know when and how Cllr Butler ‘encouraged’ local residents and communities to respond to this consultation. The Friends of parks and woodlands groups had not heard of this until we raised it at our meeting last week and I haven’t seen any communication from the council to these groups or residents’ associations asking them to raise any objections to the inspector’s findings.

    • julieandtess says:

      I have spoken to so many people today who are angry about this – they want to do something but there is such little time, and the process to complain is tedious. Who wants to write an essay after work today?!
      What can we do? There needs to be a proper consultation with the public not lip service.

  2. Rob Steel says:

    Wow, they are de-designating all local Green spaces…a Machieavellian move if ever I saw one. Croydon council seem to be trying hard to join other shit Labour councils in the ‘Ten worst Labour local councils in the UK’ league table. They are up against stiff opposition (Sheffield, Lambeth, Haringey, Birmingham, Liverpool etc) but with Newman in charge they are giving it all they’ve got.

    An absolute outrage…will the people of Croydon let these bandits get away with this? With friends like the Croydon Labour party our open spaces need no enemies…the Tories must be thinking they don’t need to bother any more: Labour are rolling out the red carpet for the developers themselves…

    • Bob: the de-designation is the government inspector’s idea. The hired staff in the planning department didn’t do a very good job in making the argument for giving these open spaces protection.

      Try reading the article.

      • julieandtess says:

        I understand Rob’s frustration – if our local council is so keen for us to complain, then why don’t we know about it? There should have been signs and leaflets.

        • It’s not “frustration”, as such, but an attempt at political point-scoring by a Tom Brake activist from Sutton.

          The thing is, the removal of planning protection from these parks and open spaces has been recommended by the government planning inspector, and not as Steel has disingenuously tried to suggest.

  3. Lewis White says:

    THANK YOU Inside Croydon, for reporting this. I am sure that we need a proper review of every open space in Croydon, including Metropolitan Open land and Green Belt, to assess their landscape quality, use, and importance to the community, and for wildlife and as a pollution “air cleanser” and assess their potential for improvement, and– the hard one– to see if any of these areas should be developed in full or part for new housing.

    To have a single Inspector impose a far-reaching decision on the future of all these parks and spaces, within a short space of time, and without such a study, seems incredible.

    The council’s decision to get rid of the parks management team was likewise, incredible, and the absence of consultation with Friends groups, inexplicable.

    So– thanks for alerting us– I can see that a lot of people will be using he useful links your article includes before the deadline .

  4. Rob Steele, it isn’t just Labour councils trying to build on green belt. Just over the border from you in Warlingham TDC/SCC (Tory!) are trying to build on green belt as well. By the way, build on All Saints churchyard in Sanderstead? – thought churchyards were designated sacred ground, partly due to human remains, & couldn’t be built on.

    • RJ Newman says:

      I’m not sure what the law says about building on churchyards and graveyards but it happens all the time so must be fairly easy to get permission.

      Addington Road was slapped right across the graveyard of All Saints. I doubt the bodies were moved first.

  5. marieowyn says:

    Ok, so I am not a Croydon resident, but living only just over the border in LB Bromley, I regularly go to Croydon for dog walking, shopping, meeting friends, etc – and, as it happens, to work as garden designer and consultant.
    The timescale here is critical. Is it possible to request an extension of the deadline on the basis that Friends groups were not included in the process?
    The human health, wildlife and consequential economic benefits of green spaces has been proven. They should not be built on as a first resort. Think flooding for starters!
    I would have thought a fuller consideration of the available brownfield sites, including those being held /owned by developers with no immediate plans for building on, was a higher priority.

    Also – re that form – what is the reference number that should be used?

  6. Rod Davies says:

    Isn’t this the inevitable outcome of the choices that the majority of Croydon made during the Local Plan consultation process. The majority opposed medium to high density development outside of the town centre, and wanted their area characters preserved. It was known at the time that there was, and remains, an acute shortage of housing which is driving the cost of housing up beyond the reach of the average person. Thus the only way to provide some housing in the borough to meet demand is to build on green spaces.
    Lots of people have benefited from the house price rises and made vast profits. In the last 3 decades there has been a 6 fold increase in house prices. Had salaries kept pace, this would mean that the most junior council officer (PO1) would have a salary of £98,571, up from £15k in 1990. Clearly had salaries kept pace, either the council would have stopped functioning or council tax would be a lot higher than it is now.
    Partly Croydon is the victim of decades of national government policy that encouraged investment in the Southeast and allowed the former commercial & industrial areas in the Midlands and North to decline after WW2. This inherently drew wave after wave of people into the Southeast, and London prospered superficially.
    The choice is either to develop green spaces for low density developments; scrap the Local Plan and build good quality medium to high density developments; or initiate a programme to divert commerce and industry away from London and the Southeast with the hope that people will follow the work and reduce pressure on space.
    The people of Croydon, and elsewhere, have for too long run away from making the tough choices and accepting they will have to compromise somewhere.

  7. We need help in filling in the form. Please can someone make it easier by filling in Part B question 9 in the word document. We could do with the Main modification ref, policy, paragraph and table references for partial review and details policies and proposals.

    The document isn’t making it easy for locals to make their voices heard.

    It would also help to get a better understanding of what the answers should be in Q10-14 to object to the changes in the plan. I’m afraid that I’ll be emailing the document in a partially filled in state, when all I want to do is state that Norwood Park should be kept as a local green space

  8. Pingback: Today in London history: riot against enclosure of One Tree Hill, 1897… and open space under threat in Croydon… | past tense

  9. Pingback: Loss of ‘Local Green Space’ Protection in Crystal Palace & Upper Norwood | CP Neighbours Forum

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