And so it came to pass…
No, not the re-telling of the Christmas story, but the local council flogging off a packet of park land in Thornton Heath.
The sale of the land, plus a Victorian parkkeeper’s lodge in Grangewood Park, was determined by the council earlier this year, but kept a secret from the local community and park friends group because, according to internal council documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, council officials feared a public outcry. No shit Sherlock.
As the secretive council officials planned, the formal notices of the land sale appeared just after Christmas, a move seemingly intended to blindside local opposition, and described by residents as “sly” and “sneaky”.
The land sale is further proof, if any were needed, that undertakings offered by the Labour-run council, and the council deputy leader, Alison “Lying Cow” Butler, that they will protect the borough’s parks and open spaces are completely worthless.
The council claims that the lodge building is now too badly derelict for it to be able to afford to repair, maintain and re-purpose it (Croydon had at one point promised to turn it into homes for supported living).
The reason the building is so derelict is because the council has neglected to conduct proper maintenance and security work on the property over several years, despite repeated calls from the Friends of Grangewood Park.
So their solution now is to flog it off to the highest bidder, probably for lucrative private housing, together with a slice of parkland which they claim is needed for “access”, but which residents say is entirely unnecessary since the lodge leads directly on to the pathway outside the park. Of course, the council well knows that the smaller the site for development, the less attractive it might be for property speculators.
The notice, published in a little-read local freesheet, is a requirement of the law when a local authority wants to dispose of public property such as parkland.
As the ad makes clear, the packet of land is 195 sq m. Objections have to be lodged with the council’s estates assets office by January 13 – a very short period at this time of year for community groups to galvanise opposition, although that is what the Friends of Grangewood Park is attempting to do, encouraging as many people as possible to lobby the council, as well as the ward councillors and local MP for Croydon North, Steve Reed OBE.
According to one concerned resident, “There is also a Local Plan consultation which consults on Grangewood Park and the pretence of protecting it, which ends on the same day. The council would not have time to analyse the results before deciding on the sale of the strip of land.”
On the council’s own website, it describes Grangewood Park as being “identified as demonstrably special and of particular significance to the local community”. Grangewood Park, the council states, “is a quiet secluded oasis in the heart of a busy local area”.
A “secluded oasis”, cherished by local people for nearly 200 years, but which the council is also trying to sell off, piecemeal, to profit-hungry developers.
The only reason that the park does not already have firm planning protections in place is because two years ago, when Butler and her husband, architect and council cabinet member for development, Paul Scott, put together their submission to the government planning inspector for the Local Plan, they made a complete pig’s ear of it and their submission was rejected as providing inadequate evidence.
And now, it seems, the Labour-run council wants to exploit that planning loophole they have created in order to flog off more public assets.
Another resident told Inside Croydon, “The Friends Of Grangewood Park group haven’t even been consulted, a disgusting lack of respect for generous volunteers who do the community a favour (and some of the council’s job) by taking care of the park and hosting community-building activities.” According to the resident, those living on Ross Road and other adjacent streets have also not been contacted about the proposed development.
“It is a beautiful park with historic little woodland of ancient oak trees which has seemingly had little investment from public funding for years. I am saddened and outraged that the council now seeks to sell off parts of the park, rather than maintaining it.”
Residents wishing to object to the sale of the land or the Heath Lodge building need to write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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