Residents worried after the council padlocks Selhurst park*

Locked park gates and a dismissive and “insulting” response from the local authority have caused concern among a community group in Selhurst that the cash-strapped council might try to flog off their children’s playground.

Locked and bolted: this is what parents found when they brought their children to Boulogne Road Rec yesterday, during half-term

The Selhurst park which has been closed (*note the use of the lower case “p” there; very important) is the Boulogne Road Recreation Ground.

Yesterday, volunteers from CASSA – Community Action for Selhurst and Surrounding Areas – on finding the park gates padlocked, tweeted, “We’ve been down to the park and there are no signs or any information to say why it is closed. Nothing about this (apparently) being temporary. Or any information on what is being done to get the space reopened. Just locked gates.”

CASSA described Croydon Council as “being very questionable right now”.

CASSA’s concerns stem from the council’s history, in trying to off-load the park in the last couple of years, and its bankrupt state which means it could consider “sweating its assets” to pay down its £1.5billion debt mountain.

Children were locked out of their local park during half-term

Plus the council has had no compunction in the past about signing over kids’ playgrounds and community green spaces to Brick by Brick for housing schemes often of dubious merit, and with little consultation with the neighbourhoods affected.

The land had been offered to the Legacy Youth Zone, the council’s £6million flagship development which opened in September 2019, but they didn’t want it.

With the play equipment in the recreation ground tired and in need of repair, two years ago, the CASSA community group offered to organise some fund-raising to pay for replacement, calling on the experience of their volunteers and trustees. The council rejected that offer, suggesting that locals should look to raise funds for a different park.

More recently, a council official from the “parks liaison team”, sent an email to residents which referred to “the many problems at Bolougne road”.

They offered an assurance that “the closure of the playground is just a temporary measure”.

They added, “The council has the duty of provide play facilities in a safe and clean environment unfortunately this conditions [sic] cannot be guarantee [sic] at Bloulogne [sic] road playground any more due to a combination of several factors, among them: the age of the equipment, the large amount of broken glass left behind by the antisocial behaviour that takes place at night and the constant misused [sic] of the playground by dog owners that take advantage of the lack of access points to allow their dogs to roam free within the playground, in clear contravention of the parks and open spaces by-laws, leaving behind an unsafe and unhealthy environment cover [sic] with dog excrements [sic].”

No entry: the council made sure all entrances to the park were locked

The official claimed that the council’s different approaches to meeting its obligations to maintain the public open space had all failed, blaming “the lack of cooperation”.

“Closure,” the council official wrote, was a “last resource”. Sic.

“Until a more pragmatic approach is found we must close the playground for the children’s safety.”

A resident said, “I can’t begin to tell you how insulting that response is to the community.”

In a statement to Inside Croydon today, a spokesperson for CASSA said, “The play equipment in Boulogne Road Playspace has been neglected by the council for many years.

Multiple complaints from local residents to get this equipment fixed have been ignored as far back as 2015. We contacted the parks office in 2019 and offered to raise funds for it, but were met with some resistance, mainly due to concerns around new maintenance costs.

“In 2020 we were successful with some funding for a community day in the space which was unfortunately postponed due to the pandemic. It’s safe to say we have been trying to improve it.

“Learning that this space has now been locked to the public with the parks team claiming they tried ‘different approaches but all failed due to the lack of cooperation’ is just shocking. This is the first time we have heard of any suggestions of closing it, and by no means have we been part of the ‘different approaches’ the council claimed to have made.

“With the site now also no longer on the council’s playground list and the current financial position the council is in, it raises serious questions as to what the council are trying to do with it.”

Read more: Council starts the biggest fire-sale ever seen in south London
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Read more: Council company struck-off over admin error

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8 Responses to Residents worried after the council padlocks Selhurst park*

  1. CentralCroydon says:

    And the director responsible is?

    • Hazel P says:

      There is a simple answer to this..
      The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) play equipment guidance can’t be adhered to at the moment. The Council does have the resources to undertake the weekly, monthly and yearly inspections to limit their liability from compensation claims. The cost of play equipment is not just the installation & repair maintenance it’s the inspection regimen, IT data base for the inspection & insurance claims. The Council does have the systems to limit their liability therefore it’s more cost affective to remove the play equipment. Remember parks and play equipment aren’t a core and/or statutory activity for the council to undertake. The Council has to cut its cloth to its budget.

      • Lewis White says:

        Surely, It is about time that Parks and playgrounds ARE made a statutory service, setting out minimum standards for maintenance?

        A core issue is that councllors and officers–quite naturally-like to be assocated with big spending “Capital Projects”.

        Revenue monies — which pay for maintenance– have gone down and down over decades, under Labour and Conservative/ Lib Dem and now Conservative. Maintenance is a bread and butter subject, where the butter is now microscopically thin. Even the bread is thin.

        I would love to see some sort of chart showing budgets for councils, and how they were spent, for the decades 1960 -2020 and see the patterns.

        North Sea Oil was probably a source of a lot of money in the last 30 years of the 20th Century.

        Unless space scientists find a large number of magic money trees hidden under the dusty surface of Mars, the answer to local authority finance is probaby taxation. Hit the tax dodging–sorry–“avoiding” corporations who deprive the UK treasury of tax on goods and services rendered here.

        That would be good for starters.

        • Hazel says:

          There was a Parliament investigation that asked this question in 2016/17. There were many Councils that argue against this they wanted flexibility in setting their own budgets for local priorities .Given the reduction in the central government grant over the years many Council have other priorities other than parks. The parks in Wandsworth & Newcastle City Council have been placed into a mutual/trust organisation. This might be the way forward for Croydon parks & green spaces.

  2. Nick Davies says:

    Surely the council has a PR department which, inter alia, helps those who, perhaps due to dyslexia, need assistance with writing material destined for public consumption? Or am I missing something?

  3. Ian Ross says:

    Capability in any capacity doesn’t seem to be a priority for Croydon Council.

  4. Lewis White says:

    Just looking at this site on Google street view, the Boulogne Road open space or Recreation ground seems to be an expanse of grass with tarmac paths, two items of play equipment remaining. Not a lot seems to be there.

    It would be interesting and informative to see a webcam over the course of a week in various weathers to see who uses it. It looks like the sort of place that people take their dogs for “exercise”. If so, this might in fact reduce the amount of dog walking andf fouling in the bigger park across the road, the Whitehorse Recreation ground, which looks a lovely place.

    The playground has clearly been run down over years— is there another one in the Whitehorse rec?. My guess is that local teenagers congregate in the Boulogne rec at night to meet their mates and consume fizzy drinks, beer and smoke h…..y b…….y. Let’s hope , not use the silvery metal laughing gas bulbs.

    A really exciting playground is a “must have” for the area, would be my guess.
    BUT……. maybe it should be inside the bigger park, where children enjoying the park could run around freely, then pop into a playground to use the equipment ?

    One thought would be to stop up the street and join the two open spaces to make one bigger park. That would be a very big project and might not be the best.

    Another is to make part of the the Boulogne open space portion into artificial grass playing pitches. These are really popular in various parts of London.

    On a greener agenda ……. is there a demand for more allotments locally?.
    If this were in Holland or Germany, it would be a good candidiate to be “Leisure gardens”–allotments with little chalets like beach huts, where the family comes to escape the summer heat. Grape vines and fruit trees as well as vegetables.

    I can see the possibility for housing. But once built on, the open space is clearly lost for ever.

    I can also see the logic of making all or oart of the Boulogne space as a “back garden” to the new Youth centre, but, for that to make proper use of the open space, the centre would have to have a real vision for a purpose for it. It is no good having land if it is not managed properly. IT quickly becomes derelict.

    If this were the only open space in the area, the way forward would be much clearer- probably, to invest in a new, exciting playground, plus a 5-a-side pitch with basket ball goals.

    The optimum use for Boulogne rec is closely bound up with its bigger sister park across the road. You cannot look at one without looking at the other, as one overall design.

    I would recommend that the residents ask for an urgent site meeting with the relevant Cabinet member, the ward Councillors, the most senior person in parks, and police, to look at both open spaces, and get a double commitment from the council.

    First, reopen the Boulogne space, and ensure that the litter is picked up and bins provided and emptied. Get the police to pop in at night.

    Second, to get a Landscape architecture practice with proven in depth experience of Parks, to design up some achievable design options for both parks as a single open space. Then submit a Lottery Bid.

    I think I am right in saying that currently, Croydon does not have a “Head of Parks”. This role seems to me to be an essential.

    It certainly needs a vision for parks–a sensible one– and renew a commitment to providing modern parks for the people of Croydon.

    That also means money–but money invested in Parks, with their playgrounds and pitches, and their carpet of green green grass and trees– is an investment in the social cohesion of society, in physical and mental health.

    Far cheaper too, than dealing with the problems that arise as a result of not investing in them.

    If the councillors and council officers are not agreeable to entering into a sensible dialogue with residents, that would be very wrong.

    Let’s hope that they agree, and engage.

  5. Lewis White says:

    Sorry, re my comment above, the article clearly mentioned free-running dogs and dog fouling. Free-running dogs would not be a problem IF the open space were subdivided, with a fence to enclose an area as a dog extecise area. These are a feature of a number of London parks, but there has to be a provision of dog excreta waste bins, which need to be emptied.
    It is not a pleasant subject, especially for the person mowing the grass.

    Some Councils have–or had–pooper scooters, where a member of staff rode round on a scooter, equipped with side tanks , and a vacuum wand. If only EVERY dog owner bagged the poo–and took the poo home, and binned it.

    At the risk of being accused of being “anti-dog” (whch I am not, but I am “anti anti-social dog owners”) I would refer readers back to the days of the 7 shillings and sixpence “dog licence” which I recall up to the 1960’s.

    There is a good case in my view to bring back the dog licence at a modern level which will allow local councils to provide and empty dog bins and employ dog wardens. Dogs could be “chipped” to show ownership, vaccinations and licence fee payment.

    Not a vote winner perhaps.

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