CROYDON COMMENTARY: The Labour-run council promised that the borough’s parks and green spaces would be safe in their hands. On Wednesday, part of a public park in Thornton Heath goes up for auction. PETER UNDERWOOD explains why he is protesting to stop the sale
On Saturday, I joined a crowd of local people in Grangewood Park demanding that Croydon Council halts this week’s planned auction of part of their park and Heath Lodge.
Despite questions over the legality of the sale and huge public opposition, the council is putting the property up for sale on Wednesday. Surprisingly, Savills have chosen to risk their professional reputation by hosting the auction.
This is not the first time the Council has threatened to sell off this part of Grangewood Park, despite having promised that they weren’t going to.
After that last attempt to sell this site in February 2020, the council even issued a press release saying it would no longer sell the Lodge and it would engage with the community about future use. But at the end of last year, the council announced again that they were going to try to sell this part of the park.
Understandably, everyone at the demonstration on Saturday was seething about this. This is no way for a council to behave, especially one that claims it wants to be working with the volunteers who help look after our parks. The petition that the Friends of Grangewood Park have set up to stop the sale has already received over 5,000 signatures.
Saturday’s protest crowd heard from a wide range of residents: from those who had lived nearby for more than 50 years to those who had recently moved to the area; from small children who wanted to turn the lodge into a wildlife centre, to older residents who quite liked the idea of a café where they could get a drink and stop to enjoy the park.
There were a wide variety of other suggestions as well – such using the Lodge for a nursery, or a recording studio, or a youth centre, as has been proposed for another park building, in Ashburton Park, which the council did withdraw from auction.
But there was one recurring theme: the community wanted to be involved in deciding what happens to the Lodge.
As the Friends group say “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.”
People were being realistic about what they might be able to do.
We all know that Labour has bankrupted the council. We also know that the Conservative government is punishing Croydon residents by forcing the council to cut services and sell off assets, instead of providing the funds the council needs to keep going. But the community still deserves the opportunity to discuss and plan for the future of Heath Lodge, not just have it sold off without the council even talking to them.
Given there is an election coming up in May, there were also a number of political candidates at the demonstration. Not surprisingly there were none from the Labour Party. Someone commented that some of the local Labour councillors did support the protest but they weren’t allowed to do or say anything to support it by those who control the Croydon Labour Party.
I have a longstanding interest in our parks and green spaces, but I will be honest that I was also at the demonstration as the Green Party candidate for Mayor of Croydon.
When it came to my turn to speak I made clear that just waiting until May’s election would be too late. We need to act now to stop the sale going ahead on Wednesday.
This is why I have asked Inside Croydon to publish this article.
I would also like you to contact your local councillors and your MP and ask them to step in and stop this sale.
The Friends group aren’t asking for miracles, they just want to be given until at least May to set up a management board and set out plans for the Lodge.
That’s why I would like you to join me in calling on the council to stop the sale going ahead on Wednesday and give local people a chance to have their say.
- Peter Underwood is the Green Party’s candidate in the election for an executive Mayor being held on May 5
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