And deception and they
Knowingly fabricate and
That’s Lewisham Council with regard to Beckenham Place Park for you; liars. Especially about the lake (which is actually, officially, a large pond, so even that is a fabrication; but that is another story).
Compare and contrast! BPP and Bedfont.
The last Full Council at which public questions are dealt with took place on Wednesday 24th July 2019, four days after the grand opening of the “lake” and a day after it was closed again. Who would have thought we would see an air ambulance and the fire service attending a near drowning so soon after it was opened? And that was only the worst example of several incidents.
How unfair was that, nipping the crowing triumph of the executive mayors of Lewisham, Damien Egan, and London, Sadiq Khan, in the bud!
Oh dear, I can just imagine the congratulatory speech Damien was going to give at Wednesday’s Full Council about the wonderful opening the previous Saturday. Oops!
Gosh! And my question to Full Council, about the lake’s beach, submitted a couple of weeks before the grand ceremony, found its way to number 77 out of 77 and priority 12! Hardly surprising, given that there is only 30 minutes for supplementary questions and they wouldn’t want me to challenge the garbage provided in reply. Sorry, I mean equivocation.
Not that I attended anyway, I might have got myself arrested for heckling.
So, here again is the question and reply from Cllr Sophie McGeevor. (Needless to say Sophie has blocked me on Twitter.)
I asked where in the planning permission was a sandy beach approved for the lake. I know the answer, there is no permission, the sandy beach was an afterthought long after permission was granted and the officers did not reapply. Cllr McGeevor (or rather the officer that supplied the answer) has lied by omission. There is no answer given to the question asked.
The response that has been provided is unintelligible and contradictory. Or maybe it’s just me.
The lie in the reply – or maybe equivocation is a more gentler word – is “what currently looks like a sandy beach”. Erm … it looks like a sandy beach because it is a sandy beach and has been promoted by Lewisham Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Mayor of London as a sandy beach!
The fact that Cllr McGeevor says that the sandy beach is only a temporary measure is risible and a wheeze to try and get over the fact that this is a massive design, build, oversight and promotion cock up. In any case, there was still no planning permission!
She refers to the lake needing to be full – but hang on guys, you got a licence from Environment Agency to extract enough water via a borehole pump to fill the lake/pond (whatever). And that was another lie – the fact that we were told the borehole pump, to extract from the water table, was only to top up the natural springs feeding the lake. What a load of old bull, as the response from Environment Agency to my Freedom of Information request proved.
But I digress.
So, here we have another more recent information/promotion board which, admittedly, does not refer to a beach but does refer to a paddling area and illustrates a beach.
First point: any such information board presumes that people will walk up to it, read it and that all such people are capable of reading it and absorbing the information.
But, perhaps I am nit-picking.
Seems like Joe (Cllr Joe Dromey) didn’t bother reading it. LOL. The rules don’t apply to them. Nit picking again, I suppose. Was it a dive or a dive-bomb?
Secondly, even allowing for the fact that there is an independent lifeguard service, note how Lewisham Council absolves itself of all other responsibility – water quality, information and advice, no contact telephone number, just 999.
Look, also, at this Full Council response to a question about disabled swimmers – in other words, not our responsibility, guv.
Oh and look, any problems and it’s your fault if you don’t visit the website … and a Third Party one at that!
Third, there is just one orange, round rubbery thing (Lewisham Council project officer’s description) AKA a life ring. Now placed for optimum performance outside of the fencing that has just gone up (because of the accidents) and don’t you just know that no high-spirited person would ever try and breach the fencing.
Fourth, the illustration clearly shows a paddling area and implies a beach plus, most importantly, shows (with a straight line, rather than one that follows the curve of the beach) a steep slope under water from the paddling area.
And here is the steep slope (photo taken November 2018) before the bore hole pump got pumping to FILL the big pond, which then disguised the drop.
How did the Mayor of London’s office think this was safe?
I don’t know what other warnings and safety measures were put in place to delineate that sudden deep dip from the beach/paddling (whatever it is called) area into deep water, but clearly it did not work. I can’t think why an air ambulance and fire brigade would have attended otherwise.
Here we have a load of old bull from Lewisham claiming the lake is a victim of its own success. Seriously! That’s why kids have been left severely distressed and one taken to hospital, not because of any unthought out safety issue?! More deceit.
I suppose it’s appropriate that the fire service was called to the lake/pond (whatever) in view of the fact that Beckenham Place Park project officers have been fire-fighting every single issue to do with the lake, ever since someone came up with the stupid idea to build one. Such issues as:-
1. Size (plan B saw a reduction in size from plan A i.e. the original Cator lake, with a so called wet woodland substituted for part of it instead)
2. Cost (see 1 above)
3. Heritage Lottery Fund discussed with Lewisham about not having a lake
4. Further reduction in size and differing footprint because of asbestos contamination
5. Water supply and water quality
6. Conflict around its usage, with dog owners aggrieved that there is no area for them to use (despite so many assurances that the new whizzy park would be accessible to all)
7. Disappointment of many users regarding the small size, no actual “wild” swimming, charges for use, lack of supporting facilities and the usual expected infrastructure in a park e.g. small number of bins, no toilets close by, no changing or security facilities. Disappointment that has turned to outright derision on some social media sites
8. Dangerous beach, paddling and safety issues because of the need to make it inclusive.
And number 8 is the nub of the issue folks. Lewisham BPP project officers wanted a swimming lake and a wider park for their mates and peers who enjoy the activities of outdoor swimming, cycling and running.
They were never interested in just having a stylised reproduction of an 18th Century design lake, as per the Lottery Fund’s heritage ethos i.e. an ornamental (and probably fishing) lake. All other considerations than swimming were mere irritating detail to be swotted away. And that has been their downfall.
They weren’t going to have a lifeguard service (because, after all, experienced triathletes don’t usually need lifeguards and clubs using the lake would provide their own). Lifeguards for the lake/pond are a recent new player to the scene. Seems like some authority (who obviously could not be ignored) told them they had to have lifeguards, hence the charge for swimming.
The free paddling was a later introduction too – I’m guessing because some other authority, that they also could not ignore, told them the lake had to be inclusive. Doh! How annoying is that when all you want to do is get on and provide a wonderful new facility for your mates who are quite happy to pay to jump off a jetty.
How’s that deception looking now? That one where we were told at public meetings (oh, and the message reinforced by social media trolls working on behalf of Lewisham Council) that the radical changes to the park were justified because all of the parkland should be freely accessible without charge? (And we won’t even talk about the ticketed concert area!)
Isn’t the lake part of the parkland, then?
And now they are even going to charge for paddling – because of the clear and present danger presented by the sudden deep dip requiring safety measures (yet to be declared).
Now the Council is between a rock and a hard place on so many issues:-
1. Not only is it doubtful that a lake on the estate of 18th Century gentry would have been used for swimming, it also would not have been fenced off (what say the clever folks of Heritage Lottery Fund?)
2. But if you don’t properly fence off the imitation lake, how can you ensure safety?
3. This new whizzy park was supposed to be inclusive.
4. How can charges to use the lake/pond make for inclusivity?
5. The lake/pond is a purpose built imitation; not a reproduction, not a restoration. As a built structure it is subject to any rules and regulations applicable to any construction project, both permission and in respect of its usage once built. It is not a naturally occurring body of open water that just happens to be on council land.
6. Lewisham project officers and expensive design consultants have had little regard to five above. What are the consequences?
Hopefully we will find out when Lewisham Council provide a response to the Freedom of Information request about the Health and Safety assessment they carried out.
Finally, before some sanctimonious, perfect parents put comments on this blog about parental responsibility, don’t even go there. The issue is safety of children, not parental responsibility. Young kids have no control over what safeguarding is in place for them in a municipally owned, artificially constructed outdoor swimming facility and one of the safe guarders is the Council – not just the parents.