Launch day of new Friends Group a success

A reports of today events from Sean Fitzsimons.

Following the walkabout and meeting on the 12th March 2011, local residents have agreed to work together to help set up a Friends Group for the Addiscombe Railway Park and that their first task is to find out from local residents, who live near the park, what improvements they want for this green space. The aim is to get out a leaflet and questionnaire to local residents over the next couple of months.

With Meike Weiser from Croydon Council, a small number of residents carried out a 1 hour walkabout around the park to inspect the park and to try and understand issues or concerns residents or members had, and what needed to be done to improve the area. The Croydon Advertiser took pictures of the start of the walk, which may be in next week’s paper.

At 3.00pm we retired to the Addiscombe Baptist Church Hall (thank you Stephen) to bring together our ideas and agree some actions.  A number of ideas and suggestions were made and discussed and some of the highlights were.

We heard from residents who live on Dalmally Road, whose neighbours have been recently burgled, and who also have concerns about privacy for them and their neighbours, especially as the long mound in the 2nd half of park built by Croydon’s contractors reduces both their privacy and security. They made the point that the 2nd part of the park, is different from the wider and bigger 1st half of the park and so may need to be treated differently.

We also heard from a resident of Blackhorse Lane,  who has a lot of gardening experience, and has ideas about which flowers and plants may work with the different terrain within the park, which goes from very boggy to very stony.
Patricia, one of the local councillors, was keen to see some sort of children’s play provision, and the group agreed that there needed to be some space for informal play and kicking a ball around in the larger 1st section. Also to work with local schools and children to make the area an educational resource about wildlife and plants, but also the history of the area before it was a park, especially the railway.
Another participant stressed that we need community buy-in and that we don’t impose our vision for the park too early, and we needed to talk to local residents to get their views.
Mark Watson, local councillor, was keen for there to be a community orchard, planting of fruit trees and bushes, and made the point that a Friends Group was probably the only way funding for improvements could be got from non-council sources, such as the lottery or from businesses or charities. Funding from the Council was considered unlikely.
Residents from Davidson Road made the point that for many in the area this Park was their only local green space. That it needs to be improve if it was to attract more residents to use it.

Meike Weiser, the community participation officer with Croydon Council, gave us an overview of what her job entails, which was to support groups such as this. If this group successfully sets up it will be the 27th such group in Croydon. This group has a lot in common with other North Croydon Groups as we are dealing with a more urban environment. As a group she advised that we need to identify a lead person amongst us for her to work with, to aid communication flows.  We will need to get a small working group who can lead on issues such as setting up a back account, review the proposed constitution, work out how we can get some quick wins to aid community involvement.

Stephen, pledged support from Addiscombe Baptist Church, and has allowed us to use the hall for meetings, if available, and that some of his congregation are keen to get involved as they are local residents. Stephen suggested some ideas about what plants we should think about planting in the park.

Some of the issues/ideas that the residents identify about the park during the afternoon were
1) lack of privacy and security for adjoining neighbours of the park
2) Issue of the banks along the paths, especially in 2nd section along Dalmally Road
3) Thin soil in much of the park, may restrict the type of plants we grow
4) No quick fixes, takes a long time for a tree to grow, or for bushes to establish.
5) New area around Amberly Grove, work started on this with planting but more needs to be done to improve the surface as currently stony and uneven.
6) How do we make the park a bit more pretty to help attract users?
7) Want the park to be used all year round so want planting that is attractive in spring and autumn.
8) In some places a clean-up is needed.
9) Need to work with Woodside School to see if we can make their entrance into the park more attractive.
10) Needed to take residents with us, and not impose our views.

At the end of the meeting it was felt that we couldn’t set up the Friends Group formally until we had properly consulted local residents, we could do this by way of a leaflet/questionnaire, and we would explain that it was from a group of local residents who want to improve the park, we would set out our values and stress that we wanted to hear all local residents views first before starting making decisions or actions. Sean agreed to circulate some minutes and actions points, and start putting a draft questionnaire together. Meike agreed to give advice on this.

About Sean

Councillor for Addiscombe Ward, 1994-2006, re-elected in May 2010 along with Mark Watson and Patricia Hay-Justice. Since May 2014 Chair of Scrutiny. Lives locally in Addiscombe.
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