Thornton Heath’s parks are not ‘special enough’ to warrant protection from being built on.
Grangewood Park, along with Thornton Heath Rec, Trumble Gardens and Whitehorse Meadow are among 70 of 127 open spaces in Croydon which the planning inspector has drawn a red line through indicating that proof is required to show why it is important to retain these as green spaces.
The Local Plan, which has gone through numerous drafts and changes since work began on it in 2012, was reviewed by the government-appointed inspector at an inquiry earlier this year. His findings have been put out for consultation and the deadline for comments is Tuesday (October 10).
Among the amendments the inspector has recommended to the Local Plan is to take away protection from more than 70 of Croydon’s parks and open spaces. According to the inspector, they are just not “special” enough.
Andrea Perry said: “This is seriously ridiculous. Speaking as the chair of The Friends of Grangewood Park how can a park which was designed by the same man who designed Kew Gardens and is part of the Great North Wood which is being revived as part of a Heritage Lottery bid being led by the London Wildlife Trust not be ‘special enough’? The historical, environmental and social value of all these parks and open spaces is beyond special.
“This just shows how nonsensical this process is and how the inspector has no connection with this area and clearly has no understanding of the importance these parks have to our community and to the people who use them everyday.
“I know this is really short notice but I would encourage any one who uses Thornton Heath’s parks to write vehemently defending their importance and telling the Inspector in no uncertain terms just how ‘special’ they all are to our community.”
Worse still there was no consultation directly with any of the local friends groups or residents about this. Many parks groups only learned when the Croydon Parks and Open Spaces Forum met last week.
Cllr Alison Butler, cabinet member for development and housing and the council had proposed designating a raft of parks and open spaces with a new planning status, “Local Green Space”. But the inspector was unimpressed with the case made by the council for many of the parks and spaces.
The inspector has drawn a red line through 70 parks and open spaces – to the disbelief of residents’ and friends’ groups. They fear that without some form of planning protection, it will be all too easy to build on their park.
Most of the open spaces listed do already have other designations, such a Historic Garden, Metropolitan Open Land or sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), but some have no designation at all.
Local Green Spaces are defined, among other things, by ‘how demonstrably special they are to a local community, or if they hold a local significance’.
The inspector dealing with Croydon’s Local Plan has de-classified the Local Green Spaces, saying that the council did not provide sufficient, demonstrable evidence that these places are of importance.
Inspector Paul Clark states: “I accept that official designation as an Historic Park or Garden recognises that a site is ‘special’ or ‘significant’ to a degree.
“Likewise, designation as an SNCI gives objective recognition that a site is ‘special’ or ‘significant’ to a degree.
“I also accept that cemeteries, churchyards or burial grounds have special significance to individuals but, to be designated as a Local Green Space, ‘particular’ significance is expected, going beyond the everyday reverence which is paid to such places.
“The other categories appear to me to be entirely commonplace. Without additional evidence of their ‘demonstrable’ or ‘particular’ significance or special characteristic, my concern is that these designations may not be justified.”
Peter Underwood, the chair of the local Green Party, who chairs the Parks and Open Spaces Forum, said: “I know local people are furious about this and I would ask them to write in to the consultation and demand that the council put the protection of our green spaces back into the Local Plan.
“We know that greedy property developers are looking for more sites to build on.
“Croydon Council could have used the local plan to defend our green spaces but it looks like they have given up without a fight.”
Cllr Butler, says that the Labour-run council will be contesting the inspector’s findings
For more information: https://www.croydon.gov.uk/planningandregeneration/framework/localplan/clpreview
If you want to write to the Spatial Planning Team please add
· Why any/all of these places are special,
· What makes them special, plus add
· Why a de-designation and possible loss of these spaces would be detrimental.
You can send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org It might be worthwhile to copy your local Cllr into the reply to do this email@example.com
Deadline for comments is Tuesday 10 October 2017.
PICTURE: Shows Grangewood Park