Suspicion over £20k offer from council to vacate green space

Wildflower meadow: what used to be playing fields has been transformed into a much-cherished and much-used green space by the Friends of Love Lane Green

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Community group suspects council is accepting money from developers to help them build on a piece of protected open space

A community group that through years of hard work has transformed a piece of Woodside ward wasteground into a park, children’s playground and productive veg plot fears that Croydon Council has been working with a developer to help them build on the protected green space.

Love Lane Green has planning protection after being designated as Metropolitan Open Land, but that has not stopped the council from offering the local Friends group what some see as a £20,000 “bribe” to vacate part of the site to allow it to be built on.

Metropolitan Open Land has the planning status equivalent of Green Belt, so there’s very little that any developer would normally be allowed to do with it.

Locals say that the land, a patch of green space near the tram tracks, used to be playing fields, but has been vacant for perhaps 40 years. Young children play there in their free time, families hold picnics there, and the Friends have created a wildflower meadow there, too.

Community spirit: the FoLLG stage events throughout the year which bring their friends and neighbours together on the Green

The Friends group went to Croydon Council last year to begin the process of having the property declared as an Asset of Community Value, which will have given them five years to raise the cash to buy the plot from its current owners.

The Friends of Love Lane Green – FoLLG for short – were suspicious of the council’s role in the matter when, earlier this year and after receiving advice from Fisher’s Folly during the ACV process, council bureaucrats ultimately refused the application following an appeal by the landowners, brother and sister Anthony and Hilda Morris.

“In the past, Love Lane Green was a playing field. In the future this pocket of Metropolitan Open Land could again become a place for outdoor recreation, one that can be maintained by the community, with the continued support from Croydon Council, for the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community,” one of the Friends, Emma Hope-Fitch, wrote on this website four months ago.

But now, the council’s collusion with developers has put Love Lane Green under real threat, potentially to concrete over a much-cherished piece of open space in a built-up corner of the borough.

Public appeal: how the Friends of Love Lane Green have called for help

The Friends have issued a public appeal.

“Love Lane community garden is under threat again,” they wrote, ominously.

“Situated on Metropolitan Open Land, we have been informed that the landlord will seek to remove MOL status.

“After FoLLG successfully obtained Asset of Community Value status for the whole site the owner of the land appealed. Disappointingly, despite our best efforts to reapply and following the council’s advice, the [council’s] community relations department refused again. Their reasoning was the owner might evict us.

“Fast forward a few weeks and another member of the council contacted us with an offer: Accept this little bit of land and the council would receive £20,000 from the landowner to ‘establish a community garden’.” Which seems odd, since a community garden is exactly what the Friends, after almost a decade of dedicated hard work, have already established, rarely with any assistance from the council or their councillors.

The tweeted appeal continued: “The committee have been trying to understand why the council staff would support a development where the landowner is yet to submit a planning application.

“Needless to say, we didn’t take the deal as there is absolutely nothing for the community that use this space.

“Right now we need your support. There is a real possibility that the landlord will end his agreement with the council and may seek to evict us from Love Lane Green and prevent access for everyone.”

The Friends say that they will be organising a campaign, and appeal for support from the wider Croydon community to help protect their piece of precious public green space from the landowner, and from Croydon Council.

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5 Responses to Suspicion over £20k offer from council to vacate green space

  1. When standing for election to become Croydon’s first elected Mayor, Jason Perry wrote this for his manifesto promises about planning:

    “Labour have repeatedly failed to protect our green spaces with many local parks reliant solely upon national policy for protection. Despite many fantastic Friends’ Groups looking after parks across the borough Labour failed to properly consult and partner with them to ensure that all our precious local spaces were protected in the Local Plan.

    “Labour have even put forward proposals to build on great swathes of the green belt – destroying precious green spaces for future generations forever.

    “I will protect our green spaces – our parks, fields and woodlands have lived under constant threat since Labour took control of the council in 2014. I will do all I can to give them greater protection.”

    The Friends of Love Lane Green should hold him to those words

  2. Thomas Windsor says:

    The old maps show that this piece of land was allotments.

  3. Jess says:

    I think we can safely say at this point, that if the Planning Team is involved then there’s something dodgy going on.

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