Bromley Council wants to hand over control of the historic Crystal Palace Park to a people’s trust by April 2023.
The park has been seen as a “problem” for Bromley ever since they were “gifted” the responsibility for it when Thatcher closed down the GLC in 1986. Previously a London-wide responsibility, despite being located close to the boundaries of five boroughs, including Croydon, it was Bromley that was asked to shoulder the responsibility.
As one source who has worked closely with the park’s heritage projects told Inside Croydon, “It was a ‘gift’ Bromley didn’t particularly want and could well have done without.”
And it is a widely-held assessment that the state of the park has suffered in the 36 years since. The demands of a listed 200-acre public park, with a diverse range of landscapes, a host of listed heritage assets (including the Grade I-listed dinosaur statues), and a 1960s sports arena slap bang in the centre of it, was beyond the means of any one London borough to manage, let alone maintain or improve.
The Crystal Palace Park Trust was formed in 2016. Last year it was granted charitable status, and appointed Val Shawcross as chair (a position she relinquished on becoming Labour’s candidate for Croydon Mayor).
The Trust now has co-chairs, Philip Kolvin QC and Martin Tempia, plus chief exec Bill LoSasso, who have continued to work towards what is, effectively, a people’s takeover of an important public asset.
In a statement issued by the Trust, they say, “Following several years of successful collaboration on the implementation of the Park’s regeneration plan, and recent positive discussions on the planned handover of the Park, a target date for the handover of the Park to the Trust has been agreed.
“On 1st April 2023 it is planned that the Trust will be granted a long-term lease to the Park and will assume responsibility for its management and maintenance, as envisaged in Bromley’s 2015 committee paper.”
Formal approval is still required from Bromley’s executive cabinet, but it is probably fair to assume that they can’t get shot of Crystal Palace Park soon enough.
The Trust, meanwhile, is gearing up its full-time professional staff, adding a park manager and a volunteer manager to the team of CEO, events manager and company secretary.
The Trust has this week also announced the dates for the 2022 Wireless Festival, expected to draw more than 150,000 concert-goers to south London’s version of Glastonbury in July, the second year of a money-spinning three-year contract with the organisers.
In the handover from the council, it is the Trust which is now looking at procurement for contractors for parks maintenance, horticulture and heritage conservation.
“When the community petitioned the London Borough of Bromley in 2014 to jointly establish a Park Trust, few realised how complex and challenging this proposal would be,” Tempia, a long-standing campaigner for improvements in the park, said.
“That we are now close to achieving this goal is a testament to the hard work and determination of everyone who has been involved in this process. From April next year, the park will be governed by the Trust. It will have a dedicated management team, new funding streams and workable plans for its restoration and sustainable improvement.
“This beloved park will benefit from the devotion and creativity of so many people for years to come.”
There is an abiding sense that, taking responsibility for what was once the site of one of the wonders of the modern world, is very much a seen as a mission for those involved.
“The Crystal Palace represented a turning point in world architecture, set in one of the greatest Victorian park landscapes,” Kolvin said.
“The Crystal Palace Park Trust looks forward to working with our community and the many expert park groups to tell that story to a new generation, preserving and enhancing the heritage of this wondrous place, while creating a park which meets the recreational and ecological needs of this generation and those to come.”
The Trust says that it will announce its first physical improvements in the park later this spring, informed by a public survey.
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Bromley handed over an asset they may not have been able to afford, however they did not sell it off. This will remain available to the public in trust for for Grandchildren.
What is Croydon doing with it’s own parks? How many will be available to our Grandchildren?
In fact a cautionary word of warning to any philanthropist, or basically anyone thinking of bestowing anything to Croydon for the use or enjoyment of residents and visitors. It might be useful to do what Bromley has done and put it into a peoples trust and avoid untrustworthy bodies that seek to flog off those assets.