Speech to protect green spaces
15/07/2019 20:56:00......Posted by Helen Pollard
Debate motion that was proposed by Conservative Councillors:
This Council recognises the vital role that green spaces, trees and gardens play in providing a sustainable and healthy borough and is committed to protecting Croydon’s green spaces that do so much for our environment, our health and our well-being.
This Council will use the Local Plan partial review as a means of protecting these vital spaces by changing policy to ensure their protection. This will include measures such as protecting garden space from encroaching backland development, and a greater protection for trees and biodiversity.
This Council will also use its development company Brick by Brick to lead the way and cease developing on green spaces. This Council will, therefore, remove its proposals to rip up and develop on valued land like the grass and trees on Shepherds Way where the community of Monks Hill holds its fun day, the green heart of the estate at Farnborough Avenue which was central to its original design and the green space at Covington Way in Upper Norwood that local residents are fighting to protect.
This Council also recognises that it was wrong to develop over green spaces and play areas in Montpelier Road, Heathfield Gardens, Longheath Gardens and Tollers Estate to name but a few.
Green spaces should not be destroyed as they provide a vital lung in our suburban environment and once they are destroyed they are lost forever.
Speech by Helen Pollard in support of the motion
When I became a councillor, I did so because I wanted to get more involved with the local community and to help shape the way the Council provides services for the people of Croydon. And, in particular, in my case, Selsdon and Addington Village. As their elected representative, I take very seriously my duty to act on behalf of residents and to represent their views.
And that is why I am speaking about this motion tonight.
The Council's approach to green spaces has been at best shambolic and at worst, disingenuous.
How else can you explain what has transpired over the last months and years.
In the 2 years leading up to the adoption of the Local Plan for Croydon in 2018, the Council had the opportunity to make submissions about the green spaces it wanted to protect. It failed to do so. This meant that around 30 green spaces did not have any protection. Unbelievably, many of these spaces are parks and they were left vulnerable to redevelopment.
On 4th June the Council belatedly decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to try and protect these and other green spaces. However, they are relying on residents to do their job for them. The implication being that if residents do not do this, perhaps because they are not engaged with the Council's procedures, these green spaces will be fair game for developers.
Around about the same time, at the beginning of June, a paper was published proposing the sale of green spaces to the Council's wholly owned subsidiary Brick By Brick. Within a week, the current administration had approved plans to pass this land over to be developed.
When I first saw the list of sites I was shocked. I couldn't quite believe the Council would choose to concrete over areas that quite literally sit at the heart of their communities. Only the weekend before, I had attended a community fun day on one of the sites on Monks Hill.
I quickly alerted residents to the threat and they were equally shocked and outraged that the Council would do such a thing without even attempting to talk to them. I set up a petition and within a few weeks had the 1000 signatures required to prompt a debate at a Council meeting. Cllr Butler has now said she will meet residents on Monks Hill to discuss alternative sites. But only last week, letters were sent out to residents saying that work is about to start. That's not a sign that the Council is going to change its mind.
So what about the petition?
I submitted this in good faith and was told that the Constitution says signatures must be from people who live, study or work in the area. The Council has decided the petition is not valid because some of the signatories don't live in the area. They have not allowed for the fact that many of them will study or work in the area. This is a Council that is prepared to bend and flex the rules to suit themselves. This is a Council that on the one hand asks residents to protect green space and yet at the same time sells off the very space they want to protect.
This weekend I had a call from a resident who lives in Foxearth Road, where there is a green space that will be concreted over. She is here tonight with many of her neighbours. They, and countless others who live in Croydon are completely fed up with the Council ignoring them. They feel betrayed and have no trust that the Council is acting in their best interests. Time after time they attend planning meetings, respond to consultations and sign petitions and it never makes any difference. This is a Council that doesn't care and it's about time they started listening to the people who live in Croydon.
Thank you Mr Mayor