Green campaigners say a string of South London parks and open spaces are under threat of development and demanded they be protected.
The Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England (CPRE) is calling for borough councils to take action as local elections approach.
It has highlighted a string of green spaces which could be at risk:
*QUAGGY FIELDS SPORTS GROUNDS (Greenwich)
Alice Roberts, head of campaigns at CPRE London said: “Developers are buying up land, particularly playing fields, fencing them off and leaving them to become derelict, so they can apply for planning permission down the line.”
Catherine Ashcroft, local campaigner “We’re really worried about playing fields between Lee and Kidbrooke which have been bought by developers and fenced off.
The owners have removed public access and made it impossible to book them for training or matches. They hope the council and local people forget they’re important public sports amenity spaces, with a view to gaining planning permission to make huge sums of money through future development of land that was put in trust for public use.
We’ve already lost one field so we’re now fighting for the other sites to be brought back into public use.”
*WIMBLEDON PARK (Merton)
Alice Roberts of CPRE London: “Meanwhile, in Merton, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs the Wimbledon Tournament, is making a bid to take over neighbouring Wimbledon Park.”
Iain Simpson, Chair Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association: “Precious Open Spaces like Wimbledon Park are the lungs of our great city; irreplaceable habitats for thousands of creatures; views and vistas appreciated and enjoyed by all.
The AELTC’s proposals will destroy this with 8 years of building works to create an industrial tennis entertainment complex for the use of elite players 18/365 days, just 5% of the year.
We are enormously grateful for CPRE’s support to ‘Save Wimbledon Park!’.”
* SOUTHWARK INFILLING (Southwark)
Alice Roberts of CPRE London “And councils under pressure to deliver housing are building ‘infill’ developments on housing estates green spaces all over London.”
Lewis Schaffer, local campaigner, Southwark: “Southwark Council is building on green spaces and play areas all over the borough, infilling with private and social housing.
In these developments, the Council is both landowner, developer and local planning authority all rolled into one, so it does what it likes with minimum scrutiny or accountability.
For years, Southwark has been selling estates off to developers for private housing, ignoring the Mayor’s 35% minimum social housing inclusion. Their approach is disrespectful and undemocratic.”
Arora, Chair, of Friends of Chislehurst and Walden Recreation Grounds in Bromley said: “In 2016 we won protected status for this remnant of ancient woods, an area of importance of nature conservation including wet woodland and open scrub.
We were delighted, even though we had to relinquish about 20% of the original area to Bromley Council for educational purposes.
But Bromley Council has now decided the site is the only one in Bromley suitable for a much-needed SEN school and we are bitterly disappointed the proposal will mean loss of a further 10% of our open space.
The decision was made without consultation or public notification, or recognition of its status as important habitat.” Barbara
* TOOTING COMMON (Wandsworth)
Ben Jackson, local campaigner said of plans for Tooting Common: “Wandsworth Council is planning to fence off and charge for access to a section of Tooting Common as part of a new commercial football facility.
The plans will lead to the enclosure of 38,500 square foot of land, fencing it off and commercialising a public space.
The floodlighting and 15 foot high fence mean the proposals will also impact a much larger area of protected land.”
Alice Roberts added: “Nothing is safe: all kinds of green space – from public parks, including historic and even royal parks, to vast areas of Green Belt, sports pitches, recreation grounds, open fields, nature reserves and green spaces in housing estates – are coming under threat. Many of the sites have protected Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land status.
“Developers and borough councils are often behind the threats. And even Premier League football clubs Spurs and West Ham are in on the act, looking to profit from deals with councils – Spurs to build a training facility on Whitewebbs Park in Enfield, West Ham to build a new development centre, kicking out grass roots football club Bealonians’ from playing fields in Redbridge.
“This situation is extremely alarming. London only has half the green space it needs for a population its size and the limited green spaces we have are coming under more pressure since the start of the pandemic despite their growing importance.
Meanwhile, attacks on Green Belt threaten loss of countryside around London while leaving rundown brownfield sites unused.
“Threats nearly always relate to money one way or another because land is worth much more if it can be developed.
This is exacerbated because there is currently no mechanism that provides robust legal protection for parks and open spaces in London.
“The planning system doesn’t seem provide adequate protection anymore either.
Despite welcome policies in the London Plan and positive action by some Boroughs , the national reforms in 2012 have opened the system up to greater challenge, so if you can argue that building on a green space is ‘sustainable development’ then that seems to trump all protections.
Obviously that is arguable but it just creates a bonanza for lawyers and puts the party able to pay for legal support in the strongest position.
“As a result the protection of London’s green spaces ultimately falls to local communities who are prepared to fight for them. Often they don’t have the necessary expertise or resources.
Even so, there are many local groups prepared to campaign – and we, and others like the London Gardens Trust, help them as far as we can.
“Urgent action is needed to address these growing threats. We now want all those standing for election to Borough Councils to commit actively to identify green spaces under threat; and positively plan, with local groups, to save those spaces. Where a borough council is actively involved in creating a threat, we are urging them to think again.
“Ultimately, we need effective legal and planning policy protection for our precious green spaces. That may well mean new legislation and changes to the National Planning Policy Framework.
Until effective protections are in place – your local park is only as safe as the communities who befriend it and are prepared to fight for it.”
Pictured: generic open space