Lewisham Council is inviting feedback on its plans to put an astro-turf football pitch in the middle of the athletics track in Deptford Park. There's a month of consultation which started last week and goes on until 22 November by means of an online survey, with plans also due to be presented at the Evelyn Assembly at the Evelyn Community Centre in Kingfisher Square this Saturday.
I'm not far from Deptford Park but I rarely go there - probably because it's not very permeable, being surrounded by a big fence; it's not on the way to or from anywhere I want to go, and by and large it's quite well hidden from general view. It also has a rather old-world, forgotten feel to it, and certainly seems to have been well down the list for improvements over the years.
In 2008 a masterplan was developed and some changes were implemented, such as improvements to the entrance off Evelyn Street, but it has been slow progress. I haven't been back for some time so I'm not sure how many of the things that were highlighted on the plan have seen improvements. The fact that the map uses the word 'forlorn' is probably a good indication of the general feel of the place at the time.
On the plus side, it's tucked away behind houses that shelter it from the worst aspects of Evelyn Street, and mostly surrounded by quiet residential. It has a lot of mature plane trees, open space and benches for anyone wanting a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Deptford; there's a playground for kids as well as the athletic track and a path all around the park circumference for runners. The 'secret garden' which was presumably created on a former bomb site where a gap was left in Evelyn St, is most definitely secret!
Does it need a flood-lit astro-turf pitch? It might be a good idea, if there was a clear shortage of such facilities in the local area - however I don't agree that that's the case.
For a start, it's just a stone's throw from the 'New Bermondsey' redevelopment on Surrey Canal Road where we are promised 'Energize Sports Centre & Onside Youth Zone' as part of phase two, which will include 'an indoor 3G football pitch that can be used by the Millwall Community Scheme (reproviding the Lions Centre), as well as for hockey and rugby and available to divide into 5-a-side pitches for hire to the leisure market'.
This is a huge development that was given outline planning permission three years ago but has yet to start on site. The fact that Boris announced earlier this year that New Bermondsey had been adopted as one of his new 'Housing Zones' might give it a rocket; if, like me, you've just read press release I linked to you'll be none the wiser about how these housing zones actually work. There's a bit more info here if you want to read further, but basically points mean prizes (and being chosen as an HZ makes you/the local authority eligible to bid for funding).
As his brochure says:
'The Mayor has made £400 million of funding available for Housing Zones. The funding can be used flexibly, from financing infrastructure to supporting individual schemes. This will maximise the number of new homes built and address the unique challenges at each site. The focus is on recovery and recycling investment, rather than conventional grant.
Housing Zones are adaptable
in terms of both funding and planning. That means it is up
to London boroughs and their partners, to agree with the Mayor just what each Zone needs. in addition to investment, Housing Zones will offer focused planning, place-making and intensive engagement with a wide range
of delivery partners important
to making things happen, from utility companies to network Rail and Transport for London.'
But I digress. The park is also not far away from Deptford Green school, which coincidentally has a full size 4G astroturf pitch for hire (none of this 3G rubbish!). I think it's safe to say that demand is quite well addressed in this part of Deptford - especially when you take into account all the outdoor pitches that continue to be used throughout the year.
I'm not convinced it would be wise to do away with such a large area of wildlife habitat, carbon-dioxide-guzzling plants and a natural solution for soaking away rainwater without some serious consideration of the impact a football-pitch-worth of plastic would have on the ecosystem of the park.