Murky Depths

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Greenwich borough

See which Greenwich Parks will benefit from £1 million funding

Parks across Greenwich borough will share £1 million in funding to improve their surroundings and facilities, with details of what parks now made available.

2,609 residents contacted the authority with suggestions, with east Greenwich seeing most respondents and Abbey Wood close behind. A full list of parks to see funding is below:

Bostall Gardens saw the highest number of requests for improvements by far.

The report does not have a breakdown of spending per park or project.

The funding is welcome, though earlier this year the total provisionally allocated was £1.5 million which has now reduced. Over the past decade funding from new developments across the borough has almost always been allocated away from parks, reaching a low point of just 0.3 per cent total spend in 2018/19.

Plumstead Gardens is crumbling away – and has been for over 20 years now.

This will hopefully turn the tide, though some aspects are a worry and aren’t perhaps a great improvement. Plumstead Gardens will see a disused children’s pool dug up with soil laid over the area and grass laid. This is similar to what happened in the 1990s when a rose garden and ornamental pond was unceremoniously flattened. Those hoping for the pool to be refurbished are not in luck.

Long broken cricket nets will be removed. A shame as this could prove popular if maintained. In their place will be concrete and two table tennis tables.

Click to enlarge. Money from Plumstead development was spent elsewhere

So in keeping with the past, facilities are being lost as new ones introduced, or in the case of the pool, covered over.

Many improvements could, and should, have been enacted in the area when local developments brought funds to the authority in recent years, though Greenwich sent money for “local community” to Cutty Sark Gardens and money for “open space” was spent in Eltham.

Plumstead Gardens = regularly flooded and crumbling

If they had, money could now improve other parks such as on Abbey Wood estate. Alas, it misses out now as do many others. It also missed out when new housing development agreements nearby were signed which will bring in £1.1 million – with almost nothing to improve the local area.

Bostall Gardens in Abbey Wood will see funds. On the flip side a building in the park is in line to be sold.

To be sold

The council state that “Central government budgetary reductions have led to a reduction in hard infrastructure maintenance investment in the borough’s parks over a number of years” which is true, but does overlook that many parks saw minimal investment in the “boom” period during the 2000s. Areas like Plumstead Gardens and Bostall Gardens saw cuts from the 1990s. Neglect cannot be blamed on external factors alone.

Work was undertaken around 2012, which was often one step forward and one back. A BMX track was lost, for example, in Plumstead Gardens.

I know, as I used the parks regularly from the 1990s. And it’s not all rose tinted memories, as Flickr photos from the time show. Systemic neglect took hold.

While £1 million is welcome, it does follow many years with minimal spend. I’m often reading documents from various London councils when researching posts for this site, and the total that Greenwich are allocating this year – after years of minimal spending – is what some councils, such as Southwark, spend every year.

Parks with crumbling buildings such as Southwood Road miss out:

Canopy now gone

Still, we shouldn’t can’t grumble overall if this is catching up with other areas. Hopefully it’s not a one-off and then back to square one – though of course we are in new territory now.

The borough does still has much unspent funding from Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy payments. Last year saw £3,494,119 in CIL income unspent and around £1.5 million from Section 106.

There has also been ample funds derived from new builds in a scheme called New Homes Bonus, which begun in 2011 and has seen £87 million since:

  • 2011/12 – £924,000
  • 2012/13 – £3.15 million
  • 2013/14 – £5.8 million
  • 2014/15 – £7.6 million
  • 2015/16 – £10.8 million
  • 2016/17 – £13.5 million
  • 2017/18 – £13.7 million
  • 2018/19 – £12.2 million
  • 2019/20 – £11.1 million
  • 2020/21 – £11.9 million

I don’t want to be too down about this much welcome new funding, but simply highlight that I’ve seen first hand the impact of 20 years lack of interest in crucial open space, and to then read the council report’s tone portraying the authority as doing all they can in previous years is a bit rich. Especially when comparing to other authorities.

It should be noted that another fund has seen modest work at various parks. That is from the Greenwich Neighbourhood Fund – and is 15 per cent of total income from the Community Infrastructure Levy. It’s now a legal requirement to do so, and spend is capped at low amounts, so is not much use for substantial improvements. To do that, the authority needs to use some of the remaining 85 per cent.

The report overall is light on detail. No monetary figure is given for each park, and planned work is vague. Hopefully more light is soon shed but at least this is a big step forward from what was seen in previous years.

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2 Comments

  1. Roy

    I’m surprised the buildings in Bostall Gardens aren’t down for Demolition….not yet anyway….
    I seem to remember a £1 million being spent on it a few years ago…not that you would notice.
    As usual the buildings should be opened and used for some Community purpose as they are surrounded by housing….but as usual we have a Council with their own Agenda
    The buildings have been closed for as long as I remember and I have lived in the area 25 years…so no attempt to do anything in that time

  2. Nick

    It would be amazing if rather than bmx tracks etc one park in the borough could host something like cycloland at Cyclopark https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/go-ride/article/20201009-Gravesend-Cyclopark-opens–CycloLand–play-area-for-kids-thanks-to-Places-to-Ride-boost-0 they could get a decent grant towards it from British Cycling too.

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