Nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition raised in Thornton Heath to call on the council to stop the auctioning of Heath Lodge, a former park keeper’s house in Grangewood Park, together with a chunk of parkland.
A Friends group has accused the Labour-run council of acting in “an underhand and disingenuous way” to “bulldoze through” this flogging off this public amenity.
Heath Lodge is one of the “asset disposals” which the Labour-run council is undertaking to help pay off the massive interest on loans and other borrowing incurred from a government bail-out following its financial collapse in 2020.
Locals are staging a protest at the park at 3pm today to demonstrate to the council the strength of feeling against the sell-off of this and any other public open spaces.
“They need to be stopped in their tracks otherwise it will give them the green light to sell off more green spaces and parks as they wish,” according to the organisers.
The council recently pulled another park building, in Ashburton Park, from its planned auction in order to give the Oasis schools foundation an opportunity to raise funds to buy and refurbish it as a youth centre in memory of murdered teen Zaian Aimable-Lina.
The Friends of Grangewood Park group want the council to give them a similar dispensation so that they have first refusal to buy Heath Lodge and adapt it for community use, too.
On their petition page, the Friends group says, “Croydon Council previously gave an undertaking that they would never sell off any part of our parks and green spaces. There was no consultation with the Friends Of Grangewood Park, or the London Wildlife Trust, who have identified that a Grangewood Park is one of the last existing parts of the ancient Great North Wood.
“In February 2020 the council issued a press release following protests saying it would no longer sell the lodge and would engage with the community about future use.
“No consultation was forthcoming.
“In November 2020 the council went bankrupt and in 2021 the council revealed it would be selling community assets including Heath Lodge and a larger strip of land of 225sqm.
“Despite extensive objections and a 4,500 petition presented to the full council meeting the administration has ploughed on with these proposals. This is the third time the council has tried to sell off the Lodge.
“There is an area of ancient woodland right next to where the land is to disposed of thereby directly threatening the future of this special area. Croydon Council is also acting in direct contradiction to its own policies on increasing the green areas in the borough…
“Additionally there hasn’t been sufficient proof that the council actually owns the land it is planning on disposing of.
“The council has acted in an underhand and disingenuous way in order to bulldoze this proposal through.”
The Friends group want to be given until May to set up a management board and set out plans for the lodge.
They are looking at a range of possible community uses for Heath Lodge:
- A nursery/creche/forest school
- A co-working space which is desperately lacking in Thornton Heath
- A community cafe (using resources from the park’s edible garden)
- An art gallery/performance space
- Creating an outdoor food/craft market
“This community asset would serve its residents so they feel part of their environment, offer a sense of belonging, support mental well-being and an active lifestyle with the ability to serve local families whilst supporting the maintenance of the park,” they say.
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