Locals to protest in Thornton Heath over sale of parkland

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.

Heath Lodge: locals are furious at the way the council has conducted itself over the proposed auction

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.

The council has been looking to sell Heath Lodge since at least 2019 – long before its financial collapse – and despite promises that no public open spaces would be sold.

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.

Going cheap: the council wants to flog off Croydon’s heritage, such as Heath Lodge

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.

To sign the petition, click here.

To find out more about the Friends group, click here.

Read more: Cash-strapped council to sell part of Grangewood Park

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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8 Responses to Locals to protest in Thornton Heath over sale of parkland

  1. Grace Onions says:

    What you need are ‘friendly’ squatters.

    Or if you are lucky enough to get there before the 5am bulldozers sent in to start ripping things up, you can sit in front of them.

    These are ways to actually stop them tearing it down. Otherwise you will be left standing beside the rubble saying ‘we did what we could’ …………. (did the petition to the council work then?)

  2. Surely if it wasn’t possible to adapt for the other uses, it could provide useful housing. Perhaps even a mixed use – anything has to be better than breaking up the unity of the public area.

    • The council wants to sell to a developer who would get permission to demolish the heritage building and build on the enlarged footprint provided by the added parkland.

  3. Adrian Lee says:

    This may already have been covered as due diligence by the Council’s legal dept, but is it possible that there are covenants in place that prevent the sale of property assets in whole or in part within the Grangewood Park estate? I recall similar complications arising when public bodies have sought to sell off assets that had been gifted to the public by wealthy benefactors on condition that they remain in the ownership of a public body and for the use of the general public in perpetuity. Is it possible that such covenants might apply to the lodge and its grounds but this has been overlooked? It may be a slim chance to stop the sale but might be worth looking into.

  4. Lewis White says:

    To demolish this fantastic, characterful building and let a developer replace it by …what? –a block of flats??? would be a massive act of premeditated municipal vandalism.

    To sell ut off, to a private owner would save the building, but would mean a wasted opportunity for a useful PUBLIC use.

    To leave it empty, and open to vandalism, is an act of municipal vandalism by neglect.

    Councils are very good at the latter. There must be dozens of such boarded-up park Lodges–once inhabited by Parks Superintendents or Assistant Superintendants– around London alone.

    Well done on the Friends group for coming up with a list of what seem to include commercially and socially viable options for re-use of the building.

    Maybe a couple of uses could be combined, utilising the ground floor for child-based activity, and upstairs for something else.

    A general comment — how many “creches” and “pre-schools” have a pathetic, tiny bit of treeless tarmac as the open space for the children to use ? Probably ….thousands in the urban UK.

    This Lodge offers real green grass. OK, a well designed fence would be needed, to stop people peering in. So maybe– a childcare facility is viable, financially and use-wise.

    Let the children play !!!…. in fresh air, on real grass, and under the dappled shade of real trees where birds sing and squirrels indulge in aerobatics.

    Not keep the children starved of daylight, in a hermetically sealed, artificially ventilated steel and phenol-saturated MDF clad, concrete box, like a certain School on the P…. W…..y

    I hope that The Council and Frends can arrive at a use that pays for ther maintenance of the building, and provides a genuinely needed social use.

    Not sure about galleries— I have seen too galleries in public parks that just end up as subsidised exclusive preserves for the elite few. But a shared community gallery / studio / garden space could avoid this pitfall.

    ps…… surely this Park has two Lodges ? What is happening with the other ?

  5. Eve Tullett says:

    I remember this being a beautiful house when I was young with lovely well kept gardens. I never knew who lived there but walked past it every day when I was walking my dogs. And the one at the other end of the park too. Typical of the council to allow it to get in this state. Trouble is it will only get worse if this isn’t resolved and then they can say it needs to be torn down for safety reasons.

  6. I would love to buy this house and keep it as a family home. Make the gardens look amazing again.
    I hope they don’t sale it to someone who will pull the house down. this will be sad

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