CROYDON COMMENTARY: Contractors working for the council have had the bulldozers in one of the borough’s much-loved, and too often neglected, public parks. Old Coulsdon resident SALLY ANN VOAK shares her concerns
On Monday morning, residents in Old Coulsdon woke to the sound of heavy barriers being erected in their much-loved Grange Park, a precious public green space in our village.
An asphalt pathway, set inside the park’s tree-lined perimeter and near a busy road, is being constructed by civil engineers Loughman.
I was shocked because I could not understand why there had been no open meeting in Old Coulsdon to discuss these works.
I was horrified when I saw the diggers in action.
This treasure of a park in a leafy area is a calm oasis opposite our beautiful St John’s Church. It is used by football clubs, fitness groups, by families for parties and picnics, and by dog walkers.
Grange Park has Centenary Field status, through an initiative led by Fields in Trust, and is supposed to be legally safeguarded in perpetuity against development.
The park is owned by the council but the funding for this daft reduction of an open space has come from a trust via the Friends of Grange Park, and has somehow dropped neatly into the council’s coffers.
Three years ago I, together with a group of residents, tried to halt this plan, then in its early stages, until a proper consultation with could organised.
Our worries included danger to kids and disabled people because of the proposed track’s proximity to the road and nearby playground, the reduction of space for football and other games and the possible addition of buildings in the future by the council.
The idea of an open meeting was trashed by the Friends group. When no work was done, we thought they had seen sense. Our residents’ association – which is a separate organisation from the Friends – did not even know that work was to commence in the park this week.
It is all very sad, as well as undemocratic.
The council’s vow to preserve open spaces seems at odds with putting a digger though healthy, lush green grass and pouring 300 tons of asphalt all over it.
Residents fear that the Mayor of Croydon’s vow to use “disposable assets” to help pay of the council’s debts, by selling off such as libraries, might soon include our parks.
- Sally Ann Voak is a former Fleet Street journalist
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