The golf course closed on the 31st October 2016. But we still believe we have a last ditch chance to protect it from damage and save it for future generations.
The campaign has relied upon reasoned argument and public pressure to try and persuade Lewisham Council that this decision was flawed on several grounds – financial, social, sporting and environmental. However Lewisham Council does not appear to respond to any of these arguments – in fact the Mayor, its officers and councillors appear to have stopped responding at all to our appeals for a rethink.
Which means we have been forced to consider legal action – something we had thought, in our reasonable and civilised way, would be unnecessary if only Lewisham could see the light.
Members of the ‘Save the Beckenham 18’ campaign group have sought legal advice from a Barrister with experience of this kind of litigation. Carole Hope has served Lewisham Council with a ‘pre-action’ letter to require them to desist from damaging the golf course in any way up till the time the Heritage Lottery Fund make their decision AND planning permission is sought and agreed. She is currently awaiting Lewisham Council’s response to this letter, if they refuse to consider it we will proceed to seek an injunction enforcing our request.
For this to succeed we need a significant ‘fighting fund’ – to cover our costs and to prepare in case we lose the case, as we may be required to cover Lewisham’s costs also. Please email email@example.com if you would be prepared to contribute and he will let you have our bank details.
Heritage Lottery Fund
In the meantime, just a reminder that The Heritage Lottery Fund should announce their decision on the funding of the scheme by December 2016. We hope that, when making their decision, they will consider the volume of public opinion, as well as the ‘reasoned arguments’ we have made that the application from Lewisham addresses the wrong issue (the park, not the buildings). We hope that they will see that there is a significant irony in a Heritage Fund application that may result in the closure of an historic golf course, and that there is a huge upwelling of public opinion against the proposals, for which there has never been any evidence of public support.
We have asked the HLF to consider a compromise pragmatic solution whereby they fund the scheme, but with the proviso that the golf course stays and that the Beckenham Place Park Community Trust is charged with letting out contracts for the golf operation and running the Mansion House for community benefit, run from the income generated by the golf course.
Lewisham will need planning permission for individual elements of the scheme, and these were due to be announced in October, however there is no sign of them yet on the Lewisham website. There is a legal duty to consult the public as part of any planning process, so please do comment on the proposals which will be found on the Lewisham Planning website at: http:// www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/find-comment-planning-applications/Pages/default.aspx
Tree planting and removal
The Council have posted notices in the park about their plans to plant new trees (we understand these will be small saplings known as ‘whips’) and remove hundreds of existing trees which were planted to define the golf fairways. This is all intended to remove the ‘shape’ of the golf course and create the restored ‘faux’ 18th century landscape. We believe that many of the ‘fairway’ trees are mature and have ecological and environmental merit, and also that they are beautiful and add to the aesthetics of the park. However Lewisham disagree! This side of the campaign which still requires lots of momentum, so please do lobby on this issue and engage any experts or organisations you think may be able to help.
Environment Agency plans
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency have met with two of our campaigners regarding their plans for the East of the park: here are the key points from that meeting:
- Toilets in the east of the park are very much on their agenda near the children’s play park and BMX track.
- They say they want to make the east of the park as pleasant as possible for users. To that end it is the intention to retain riverside walkway and access to the river.
- The EA are expecting £2m match funding from Lewisham.
- Ground investigations will start imminently , note previous initial tests reveal asbestos.
People before Profit
The People before Profit organisation have started to campaign independently to save the Mansion House and golf course. They organised a protest on the lawn at the Civic Centre and (as this is being written) have occupied the Mansion House. We should stress that they act independently of the Save the Beckenham 18 campaign, though of course we share some common objectives.
Twitter (follow #savebppgolf and #beckenhamplacepark and #savebeckenhamplacepark) and Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/SaveBeckenhamPlaceParkGolfCourse and https:// www.facebook.com/groups/285749678279839 (aka Protect Beckenham Place Park Golf Course)
This website (https://savebppgolf.wordpress.com/)
Beckenham Place Park Community Trust
If you would like to become a member of the Community Trust, please email Lee Witherall at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is currently at over 7,500 signatures (if we can get this to 8,000 we can get a Cabinet debate in the Council). Here’s a link: Petition sheet.
If you can please print off a copy (or copies) and then scan and send to email@example.com (or contact her to arrange hard copy mail).
And encourage anyone who cares about the park to sign these as well.
Continue to write to your local MP and the Mayor, Mayorsteve.firstname.lastname@example.org even if you have done so before, try again. Ask the Mayor to reverse his decision to close the golf course and work with local people on constructive future for the park. Even if they ignore us, we need to ensure they are making their decision with their eyes open and know how unpopular it is.
Also contact the Heritage Lottery Fund care of Stuart Hobley at email@example.com. It is important they hear the voice of local residents and park users and they have agreed to collate any feedback and ensure their Trustees are made aware as they consider the application.
Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions about the campaign.
Many thanks for your support!
Jenny Kay (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Save the Beckenham 18
November 2nd, 2016