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