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.
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.
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].”
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.
“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.”
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