The council is forging head with plans to sell Heath Lodge in Grangewood Park despite almost 4,500 people signing a petition opposing the sale of the green space, which will be auctioned in the summer by the council along with the historic building.
The lodge and part of the park were included in a list of council properties for disposal, part of interim finance director Chris Buss’s fire sale of public assets towards paying off some of the council’s debt.
The intention is to sell exactly the same strip of land, so 195sq around the Lodge as was previously advertised on Boxing day Day 2019. The council is due to advertise the disposal of the land (in accordance with Local Government Act 1972 s 123), which invites public representations..
The sale reneges on a public statement the council made a year ago that it would NOT sell the lodge and would instead work with the community over the future use of the property. This is the third time the council has tried to sell the Victorian park building. Previously the council had assured the Friends of Grangewood Park that at least 25 per cent of any sale would be ploughed back in to improving the park.
Deputy leader Stuart King, who is Cabinet Member for Croydon Renewal and the council’s head of assets and estates Stephen Wingrave met with The Friends of Grangewood and said there was no ‘flexibility’ over the sale of the lodge, park land and or any proceeds from the sale being used to improve the park because of the council’s financial position
Cllr King explained the difference from when promises were made previously is that the council is in a ‘dramatically different’ financial position.
The capitalisation from the government comes with conditions which they say includes the asset disposal programme with the proceeds used to fund the cost of borrowing the £120m and not going in to other general fund activities
The council say this is a small slither of land and that without it being attached to the sale it is unlikely the lodge could be sold and that it may, given its deteriorating state and lack of investment, otherwise be demolished. By selling this land to provide pedestrian access from Grange Road it minimises the impact on park. They also contend this section of parkland is not presently used by park users and so its sale won’t have a detrimental effect on the use of the park.
The council leader Hamida Ali, giving evidence to a government select committee last month was asked: Does the direction require you to dispose of assets?
She responded: “I think I am right in saying that, in the conversations the interim chief executive and other officials were having with Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government officials, the assets, what our approach would be and reviewing our assets to make some contribution in that way was a feature of those discussions. It is fair to say that it is an expectation, if not an explicit condition.”
The petition against the sale of the lodge, garden and parkland will be presented at the next council meeting by ward councillor Karen Jewitt.
The council has already indicated it will put a covenant on the site to prevent development other than as a family home.
To sign the petition