Croydon’s ambition to safeguard and protect its 127 parks and open spaces is now developing into a practical vision for how they can be made sustainable and attractive to future generations.
Six parks have been identified representing different types of open space and these are being examined to see if they can become pilot projects for new approaches to how parks are managed and used. This work is being carried out by a team from Tyréns, one of Europe’s leading integrated urban planning and infrastructure design consultancies with a wealth of experience dealing with the care and protection of green spaces. At the same time a range of work is already underway to deliver a variety of immediate improvements and upgraded facilities. These include a new play area and other enhancements to South Norwood Lakes, where contractors are already on site to get the park’s playground ready for the summer. The fundraising for this was led by the Lakes Play Action Group, who raised the money themselves to renew the play space.
Locations are also being identified for a series of ‘active spaces’, which, if external funding is confirmed, will see further investment in free-to-use fitness equipment installed across the borough. This will further the goal of using parks and open spaces to improve resident’s health and wellbeing. This is part of a borough-wide ‘play pitch strategy’ that has been funded to review facilities and opportunities to participate in a range of sports such as football, cricket and tennis. Once complete this will inform how the council can strengthen the sporting offer across the borough.
Additionally, park users, community organisations and friends’ groups can now put in bids for up to £4,000 as part of the ‘ambitious for parks’ small grants fund to spend on projects of their choice that would enhance their local green spaces – click here for more information. Parks also offer a safe and inclusive environment for people to try out new activities or build confidence. As an example, South Norwood Country Park is currently being used as part of a new pilot project to help get those who need a little extra help get to grips with cycling.
All of this work follows on from the recent ‘Croydon Talks Parks’ survey, in which 1,500 people expressed their views on what could be improved to encourage more people to make use of public parks in the borough. The findings of the survey showed that as well as more information being wanted about what was going on, people also wanted to see more facilities for sports and recreation and a wider choice of organised public events. There was also a general feeling that better maintenance and cleansing would be a good thing – and also that more could be done to pay for this through looking at ways of generating income from space hire and sponsorship.
There are already 40 locations where friends groups are actively improving playgrounds, putting on events or taking practical action to improve facilities or protect wildlife. As a result over 5,000 volunteer action days take place each year in Croydon’s parks, woodlands and meadows. A significant number of those who took the survey said they would be prepared to get more involved with managing and maintaining their own local parks if there were even more opportunities available.
Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “We’re making real progress with our plans to transform the way that Croydon’s parks are used and maintained. The survey last year was really valuable as its results are being used to inform the direction we take from here. Every Park, green space, woodland and nature conservation site is important to its local community and our borough. It’s great that we’re already seeing investment in projects across Croydon’s parks alongside the new plans getting underway at six of our key open spaces.”