There is an upsurge of grass-roots interest in how our parks are run, which co-incides well with Lewisham’s need to renegotiate its parks management contract in 2009.
Friends of Parks
Sydenham seems to be seeing an upsurge of grass-roots interest in how our parks are run, with the creation of new ‘Friends of’ parks groups playing a leading role.
For many years there has been a ‘Friends of Mayow Park’ and the Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group. This year the ‘Friends of Alexandra and Cator Park’ and ‘Friends of the River Pool Linear Park’ were also started, while a ‘Home Park Strategy Group’ has emerged from the newly established Fairlawn Park Residents’ Association’, which may well develop into a ‘friends’ group in 2009.
Friends of parks groups exist to represent the views of park users to their salaried managers, to channel voluntary efforts for improvements, and to encourage people to use the parks, sometimes arranging social events in them. With the exception of Alexandra Park, all our parks are in Lewisham, where the maintenance contract was awarded to Glendale under a Private Finance Initiative that expires in 2010. Being in Bromley, the contractors for Alexandra and Cator Park are English Landscapes under an arrangement that started this year and in which the Council takes a more direct control. FRPLP are liaising with Lewisham Council and Ward Councillors to improve access for disabled persons and helping to clean up the River Pool.
The Challenges and Rewards
As always in the voluntary sector, there are challenges as well as rewards for members of Friends groups. The challenges are balancing the need, on occasion, to keep the managers on their toes with being able to work with them to get the improvements park users want. Another challenge is sometimes to represent fairly the interests of different groups of park users. The rewards are to see the improvements that can be achieved, and the sense of engagement that comes from working with others and together getting things done. With the upcoming renegotiation of the management contract for Lewisham parks, there is a particular challenge now to help make the next contract as flexible and responsive to park user requirements as possible.
It may be easier for contractors to work to fixed schedules treating all parks in much the same way, but working out how to engage the energy of volunteers will deliver better value. We would also like to see a plan for each park, setting out not just how money will be spent on it, but also a vision of what other developments would be welcomed. If park users through their ‘Friends of’ groups can subsequently point to ways of realising these ideas, or delivering any other new and compelling vision for the park, the arrangements should be flexible enough to allow these, and so deliver best value.
- Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group : Alma Hunt – 8291 7027
- Friends Of Mayow Park: Hilary Jarrett – 8778 9560
- Friends Of Alexandra and Cator Park: friends.cator-and-alexandra at live.co.uk
- Home Park Strategy Group: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Friends of the River Pool Linear Park 8699 5510, frppusergroup at googlemail.com
- Glendale: 8318 3986
Where else are Friends of Parks Needed?
There are also several smaller bits of park and open spaces that do not have their own Friends of groups (that we know of) – for example Baxter’s Field, Beaulieu Avenue Gardens. We would be interested in hearing from such groups if they exist, or sharing ideas with anyone who would like to start a group. Please contact me on 8659 6137 and I’ll try to put interested parties in touch with each other.
Chair, Sydenham Society
Friends of Mayow Park
The good news on the horizon for Mayow Park, noted in my report in the Sydenham Society Autumn Newsletter, has moved closer. The proposals in the business plan for sports in the Park, produced by Peter Ranken of Envirowork, have been accepted by Lewisham’s Green Services. We hope that organised cricket, i.e, available to schools and youth clubs (and later, possibly football) will start in the not too distant future in both Mayow Park and Hilly Fields.
This still leaves the provision of accommodation for the Bowls Club to be resolved, as the original planning application has been withdrawn. Green Scene has commissioned Groundwork to plan a consultation exercise concerning the future of Mayow Park. As part of this, there will be a ‘walkabout’ in the park on November 15th from 10.00am to 12noon. Local residents and other interested parties are invited to discuss what they would like to see in the park and how it might be made a better place for the enjoyment of all. One interesting suggestion already made is to use the bowling green as a skating rink in the winter as happens elsewhere! Another welcome initiative is the Lewisham consultation concerning dog control orders in local parks and open spaces.
The Sustainable Communities Act was passed into law on 23rd October 2008 giving central government a legal duty to assist local authorities in promoting sustainable local communities. However, local authorities have to opt in to the legislation and readers may wish to lobby their local councillors on this (see www.localworks.org.uk). The Act also specifies that local authorities cannot make suggestions to central government without involving ‘local people’. With the growth of user groups involved in parks and open spaces, I hope that the new legislation will provide such groups with a say in the way parks and open spaces are managed. This is particularly relevant in that the contract for Parks and Open Spaces management is due for renewal/renegotiation in February 2010. Could it be that this time local voices will be heard? Are other models of management to be considered? Is the current emphasis on Green Flag status the best way forward for all parks and open spaces? How can local groups /volunteers be engaged in this process?
Finally, FOMP and Glendale plan a Tree Dressing to mark National Tree Week on Saturday November 29th from 11.00am to 12.30am. All are welcome.
Chair, Friends of Mayow Park
Sydenham Wells Park
Two years on and the sensory garden is still incomplete. Once it was clear that solar panels could not be made to work the water feature, a trench had to be dug to carry a cable to the nearest power supply. Now this has been connected and the base secured, so trickling water should be there for all to see and hear.
Better links between the wildlife/nature reserve and the rest of the park were recommended by the Green Flag judge and, after careful consideration, it was agreed that a wildlife corridor would be useful along part of the Longton Avenue boundary and extending further into the park. The first community working party will take place towards the end of the winter when hazel, hawthorn and other trees and shrubs will be planted. This is also the site chosen for the bird cherry (Prunus padus) to mark Pat Trembath’s 14 years as Chair of the Sydenham Society.
It is vital that all Lewisham’s parks and open spaces should be considered when the new contract begins in 2010. Ahead of borough wide consultations the Sydenham Society has convened a small preliminary group to consider what park plans should contain and to find out what local people want. Early in 2009 meetings will be arranged giving anyone who wants to become involved the opportunity to contribute their ideas and express their concerns.
Chair, Sydenham Wells Park Improvement Group
Local Nature Reserves in Lewisham
Our nature reserves have been attracting a lot of interest lately, and two of them, Dacres Wood and Devonshire Road, are both on sites of the old Croydon Canal. The former nature reserve belongs to Lewisham, and the latter to Railtrack, who lease the site to us.
Dacres Road has not been open to the public since 2003, due to extensive fly-tipping and vandalism, but our future plans include setting up a user group for the site, and also looking at the BCTV Green Gym relocating from Creekside to the Field Study Centre Building. Creating a user group would mean that they would act as champions for the site, and could ensure greater public access; and if the relocation of BCTV is successful their officers could facilitate and supervise regular weekly openings. Since 2004 the site has a designated ‘Local Nature Reserve’ status and many school nature study visits involving hundreds of local children have taken place.
Devonshire Road Nature Reserve has been developed and managed by the Friends of the Reserve since 1998; their key objective is to ‘promote, maintain and enhance the indigenous wildlife and botanical value of the reserve and its educational use for the public.’ The reserve was awarded a Green Pennant National Green Flag this year, and was recently nominated for a Biodiversity Protection Award, but was unsuccessful – maybe next year!
A chalcidid wasp, Brachymeria tibialis, (Walker) has also been confirmed as a species new to Britain when it was discovered last year as a resident at the Grove Park Nature Reserve at Hither Green. Brownfield nature reserves are being increasingly recognised as important sites for invertebrate fauna, and we are fortunate in Lewisham to have them in the corridors provided by the local railway system. I hope this gives you a flavour of the nature reserves in the borough, and encourages you to visit them. Further details can be found on the Lewisham Council website
Cllr Susan Wise
Perry Vale Ward and Cabinet Member for Customer Services.
Crystal Palace Park update
The Strategic Planning Committee determining the London Development Agency’s (LDA) Masterplan for the park is postponed until 9 December (presumably Bromley Planning Department is drowning under the sea of paperwork £- 10,000 plus supporting documents!). The decision, if approved, is likely to be the subject of a call-in. It is known that English Heritage, as statutory consultees, have written an ‘almost unprecendented’ glowing endorsement of the Masterplan.
Following the May 2008 London Mayoral elections the LDA is undergoing a major ‘re-structuring’. Whereas previously there had been a firm commitment that the LDA would take a 125-year lease on the park if the Masterplan is agreed, this position cannot be confirmed at present, although Mayor Boris Johnson has committed himself to protecting green spaces generally.
Refurbishment of the National Sports Centre (NSC) is ongoing. Originally due to be re-opened in October, this date has been postponed on two occasions and the latest date being given for the re-opening is April 2009. The delay has caused major financial problems for the country’s diving team which is having to travel great distances to practice its sport.
The Modern Pentathlon Games World championships are being held in Crystal Palace Park in 2009 and, in 2010, the ‘Senior’ Modern Pentathlon Championships will also be held in the park. There is pressure from some quarters for the Olympic Modern Pentathlon Games to be wrested from the current chosen venue, Greenwich, for various reasons:
all the sports could take place on one site within the NSC (except for the cross country running which would use the whole park). Based at Greenwich the different disciplines would have to be spread as far as Stratford (swimming) and Woolwich (shooting).
the opening of the East London Line will mean that Crystal Palace Park will be within 45mins of Olympic Park and will fall within the travel boundaries set by London Olympic Games Organising Committee. Work on upgrading the East London Line at Crystal Palace Station has already begun.
over the past six months there has been a financial revue of the organisation of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Crystal Palace will have proved its worth by 2009 and 2010 with the two major international events so why not the Olympic event? If the park were to become an Olympic venue this would be very much to the Park’s benefit for future funding and refurbishment.
The Girlguide Maze centenary project is going apace. A public exhibition was held on 6 November as part of pre-application public consultation for a planning permission for the project, which is fully supported by Bromley Parks Department. The deadline remains for completion by early September next year in time for the centenary rally.