Hear how a group of neighbours and friends in South Norwood is fighting to save their community gardens from Mayfair-based property developers, as featured in our latest Under The Flyover podcast
The strength of the council’s commitment to protecting Croydon’s green spaces is about to be put to the test, as property developers are making a move to get a community in South Norwood to move out of their lovingly created gardens and play space.
A letter was sent last week to residents living near the Love Lane community gardens, giving them until August 5 to get all of their equipment, garden sheds, fruit trees and flower pots removed from the site because the site owners want to fence off part of it in order that Transport for London can conduct works on the tram lines nearby.
The community group has since discovered that TfL have no need to fence off any part of their community open space, and they suspect that the landowner was trying to intimidate the locals to get off the land before submitting a planning application for lucrative housing.
The land is reckoned to be worth about £140,000, but that would soar to at least £2.5million if it is ever granted planning permission.
Love Lane community gardens straddles two wards in SE25, and council leader Tony Newman, a councillor for Woodside, was this week repeating earlier pledges to the community that he will “100 per cent guarantee” that the land is never built on. It was Newman who contacted TfL to establish the truth behind their plans for the area.
The strip of land was originally part of playing fields, some of which were used when the tram network was built. What was left on the Love Lane side of the tracks was derelict for more than a decade and became a dumping ground for fly-tippers and builders.
“It was so dirty and toxic, you almost felt your children might need a tetanus jab after they’d been on it,” says Emma Hope-Fitch, one of the Love Lane gardeners who has helped to create a little oasis of nature in their corner of suburban Croydon.
“Now it is all clean and clear, no one worries about their children playing there any longer at all.”
Hope-Fitch has been talking about the existential threat to Love Lane community gardens in the latest episode of Under The Flyover, our occasional podcast from Inside Croydon, which is free to listen to for supporters of the website.
Hope-Fitch and a small battalion of other mums and dads, cubs, scouts and guides, and some council workers, spent days hard at work clearing the Love Land gardens site four years ago, and they have since seen it blossom into a real local asset.
Indeed, they have obtained Asset of Community Value for the gardens, which means that should the land owner ever wish to sell the property, they will need to give first refusal to the community group.
And that would be at the basic land value price, not the value it might have with planning permission.
Hope-Fitch and her friends and neighbours in the local community are confident that, with the support of Newman and his ward colleague, the de facto chair of the council planning committee, Paul Scott, there’s little chance of planning permission ever being granted: as former playing fields, the land already has Metropolitan Open Land status, which is as good as being part of the Green Belt for warding off profit-hungry developers.
That hasn’t stopped a company called Global Acquisitions Group, based alongside their asset management colleagues in offices in swanky Mayfair, from distributing letters to households around Love Lane last week warning them, in effect, “to get orf my land!”
The letter, dated July 18, was in the name of Nevyan Markov, the director of the company which owns the land. It advised that Global had “granted a license” (sic) to Transport for London “on the full footprint of our land. This will also include the space which some of the area [sic] residents are currently using.”
Markov wanted the gardens to be removed before August 5.
But the Love Lane gardeners and community have called Markov’s bluff.
In her Under The Flyover interview, Hope-Fitch says, “The letter was littered with inaccuracies and taken with a pinch of salt.
“TfL is aware that the land is an Asset of Community Value and has no intention of asking us to leave.
“This is entirely the property developer wanting it to go back to being derelict land and eventually build homes on it.”
Indeed, TfL has now written a letter of their own which completely contradicts Markov’s threats issued barely a week before.
The TfL letter is understood to have been drafted in response to questions from Newman.
The TfL letter states: “Please be assured, the land we have an agreement to occupy does not include the area in which the community gardens are sited, and therefore we have no obligation, or intention, to erect a fence between the community garden and Love Lane.
“We are aware of the ‘asset of community value’ status of this area and have no need or wish to interfere with this, or for residents to remove anything from land that is not included in the licence we have negotiated.
“The area Mr Markov refers to in its letter is on the western perimeter of the property boundary, and therefore we reiterate, is unaffected by our plans.”
Which sort of suggests that when issuing his own letter last week, Markov was being less than truthful.
Today, a spokesman for Global Acquisitions Group Asset Management, when challenged about the TfL letter, told concerned locals, “Please understand we have no motivations to intentionally upset local residents and cause uproars; we are, like yourselves, reasonable people and simple landowners who wish to put our land to use.”
Said the man in a suit in a simple office somewhere in Mayfair.
- Listen to the full Under The Flyover interview with Emma Hope-Fitch, about the trials and tribulations of creating a community garden from derelict land, and hear more about slowworms, pirate books and cake-baking: click here to find out more
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