Ashburton’s sorry tale of park life in a council with no cash

No ‘NoMowMay’ here: council contractors were busy in Ashburton Park earlier this week

It’s not a good sign when, less than a month into the new administration of £81,000 per year Conservative Mayor Jason Perry, residents are already getting restless.

Perhaps inevitably, the complaints of the Friends of Ashburton Park involve the cutting of grass. Or lack of it.

But with park staff and council gardeners being laid off by the cash-strapped council, a summary by a member of the Friends group of the plight of the increasingly neglected park provides a sad and stark reminder of what having a bankrupt borough means for the majority of residents.

That the park happens to be in a ward represented by a member of Perry’s Tory cabinet – Jeet Bains, the ex-director of a string of failed businesses – may serve to highlight the impotency of even some of the most senior councillors at the Town Hall under the new Mayor.

Slow progress: Maddie Henson (left, with former Mayor Toni Letts in 2017) looked to take credit for Ashburton Hall’s £1m refurbishment

It’s also true that the friends group was formed during Sarah Jones’s campaign to get elected as a Labour MP, and one of its leading members then was Maddie Henson, now Bains’s co-councillor in the split Addiscombe East ward.

Henson was a favourite numpty under discredited former council leader Tony Newman, and she was much to the fore over projects in the park, in particular over the refurbishment of Ashburton Hall.

The refurb took almost four years to complete, cost more than £1million and suffered a series of false starts over the choice of operators until handed over to the council’s sports and parks contractors, Greenwich Leisure, or GLL. But after investing all that money in community facilities, now the council has nothing left to follow up and deliver the kind of services around the Hall that might have been expected.

Thus the tirade of frustration and anger launched at the council by the park’s Friends group, which could prove particularly awkward for the two biggest parties at the cash-strapped council.

The park, Mary Guruparan of the Friends of Ashburton Park wrote on social media “is barely maintained with rare cycles of grass cutting and the old Pavilion becomes more dilapidated”.

Guruparan goes on to recount why there’s been so little progress since 2017, around the time when Ashburton Hall finally re-opened and Henson and her Labour colleagues, when in control of the Town Hall, were promising so much.

Centre of attention: now renamed Ashburton Hall, the old library has never quite delivered the “vibrant” “Village Green” that was promised

Guruparan writes, “In May 2017, Tyrens Landscape Architects, appointed by the council, engaged with users and local residents, about the possible future vision for the park. The outlook was positive.

“However after that exercise, progress was slow.

“In the summer of 2019 the Friends of Ashburton Park, with the support of the council, launched a fundraiser… Monies were raised and the council was to identify and secure funds to finance the improvements to the children’s playground.”

Guruparan then says that the covid lockdown and the council’s financial collapse in 2020 saw all plans stalled. “It has often felt we were going backwards,” she said.

In Croydon in 2022, the upkeep of a public park has now largely been abandoned by the council.

“These past months a number of key parks staff have left the council. The grounds maintenance team has been greatly reduced over the years and is struggling to manage.

“It has meant that the team rely on park users to report on any issues as well as litter picking when possible. It can be argued that this should be done by the parks team. Yes, but if there are not the staff and some users continue to litter, there is little option.

“The goodwill of some becomes vital to maintaining a clean and tidy park. This has also meant the car park is no longer opened and closed by parks staff. GLL have taken on this task but the opening hours are very much limited to when their staff are on site.

“The council has most recently committed financially to the upgrade and improvement of the children’s playground and has confirmed this will take place later this year.” Around £600,000 in total was earmarked last December for playground upgrades in five Croydon parks, including Ashburton. There are to be public engagement events (note: the council is avoiding calling them consultations) for Ashburton Park next month.

Playground plans: the public engagement events for Ashburton Park’s new facilities are due to be held next month

But in the main, it is Council Tax-payers who are having to pay again to maintain their public space.

“FOAP are also working to identify and source funding for the improvement of the wider park.

“As the owner of the park, it will be for the council to submit any application for external funding and FOAP will continue to work to make this happen. Once again, local residents and users will be consulted.

“It has been a slow and often tortuous process for FOAP. While to the casual observer it may appear that not much has been happening, work has been going on in the background to ensure FOAP maintain a presence to remind the council that the park deserves to be loved and cared for as well as it being a vital green lung for the physical and mental well being of local residents.”

The playground engagement dates are June 15 (3pm to 5pm) and June 18 (noon to 2pm), the assumption being that these will be staged in Ashburton Hall (there’s nothing yet on the council website to confirm the arrangements).

And council contractors were spotted earlier this week, driving their tractor and cutting the grass in the park – despite any injunctions for “NoMowMay”.

Not every park user was happy, though. “Now the grass is shorter, it means you can see more of the rubbish spread everywhere.”

Become a Patron!

About insidecroydon

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
This entry was posted in Addiscombe East, Community associations, Friends of Ashburton Park, Jeet Bains, Maddie Henson and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ashburton’s sorry tale of park life in a council with no cash

  1. Andrew Pelling says:

    The usage of the coffee shop is very limited.

    It is beautifully refurbished inside the Hall.

  2. Jim Bush says:

    It is only Wednesday today, and it rained no both Monday and Tuesday after months of dry weather. But that sounds typical of the hapless Croydon Council, ignoring months of dry, suitable days for grass cutting and turning up on a rare wet day when the grass is wet !

  3. Lewis White says:

    It’s very good to read that the play area at Ashburton is to be renewed. A good investment in 5 lucky but no doubt, needy parks, with a total of £600,000 overall is probably better than spreading the money too thinly. A playground like this with high quality equipment should give vast numbers of children a great deal of pleasure over some 10 to 15 years, after which some items of equipment will still be in good shape, but others might have become worn out. Manufacture of original spare parts is often discontinued after 10 years, but some items soldier on for decades. In 1995 I designed a playground with new items plus some reused late 1970’s items. Many of these went on to be reused when my playground was itself renewed around 2010. 1978 to 2022 is….. er…….. 44 years ! How about that for value for money !

  4. Timothy Horgan says:

    This is what happens when the wrong people are running the council. One of the saddest things about Ashburton Park is the way the pagoda was left to rot in the last few years made worst by vandals. I remember when you could get a nice cup of tea or coffee and something to eat there. We used to have park keepers in them days who were in control of the public and could call the police in emergency. I could go on and on but what’s the point.

Leave a Reply