Back in the late 1990s a senior Lewisham Council officer suggested that Beckenham Place Park be renamed Lewisham Country Park. His rationale was that such a change of name, together with some judicious promotion, would attract more visits from Lewisham residents from all over the borough, to supplement those who lived on the border with Beckenham/Bromley and, indeed, a big community from that neighbouring council.
Oh, and the golfers, of course. Let’s not forget the revenue generating public golfers!
However, the Lewisham powers-that-be decided against it.
Nowadays social media is a powerful tool in promoting just about anything. Strangely, one rarely sees posts or comments on Lewisham social media pages about Beckenham Place Park, compared to it having been promoted by Lewisham Council on the Beckenham Appreciation Facebook group (over 4,200 members) and it is intermittently a hot topic for discussion there.
Beckenham Place Park is now undergoing a *regeneration* courtesy of Heritage Lottery Fund’s gravy train. Sir Mayor Bullock of Lewisham has approved the transformation of the public park and sport amenities, originally provided by London County Council in the early 20th Century, into a new landscape to mimic when the the estate was in the private ownership of a rich 18th Century gentleman.
Seems a strange concept to me. Indeed, social media activists are familiar with the term “regeneration”, often scorned as it is all too often a euphemism for gentrification and/or social cleansing. Surely Labour’s *Sir* Mayor wouldn’t allow Beckenham Place Park to become gentrified.
According to Lewisham’s application form to HLF, the closure of the public golf course for the regeneration of Beckenham Place Park is supposed to specifically benefit those Lewisham people judged by the Council and HLF to be deprived.
Yet there doesn’t seem much evidence of that happening.
Indeed, if the users of the mansion house are a microcosm of what is happening in the wider park, it appears that people other than the deprived are the main beneficiaries.
The successful business that leases the Beckenham Place Park mansion is based in Peckham. Businesses renting rooms in the mansion offering mainly fee charging activities are from … erm … Beckenham. Recently a planning application was lodged for a Bromley based private school to open in the mansion. I won’t even talk about the Beckenham tweep running the @BeckenhamPark Twitter account.
As for the parkland, instead of 90 acres out of 240 being used for revenue generating public golf, it has now been reserved for that well known egaltarian sport of mountain bike racing, much loved amongst the deprived people of Lewisham. Are these some of them?
I wonder how much revenue last Saturday’s MTB event generated for Lewisham Council – compared to, say, public golf? Enough to repair the tracks across the coveted 18th Century rich gentleman’s parkland?
Or, in the alternative universe inhabited by Lewisham Council and Heritage Lottery Fund, do 21st Century bike tracks complement an 18th Century landscape?
And do the tracks encourage growth of the twigs … I mean whips … I mean trees?
According to Lewisham’s leaflet available in the mansion house cafe (and statement on their website) “the woodland edge is particularly valuable habitat – providing an important transition zone between the forest and the grassland where many species forage and lay eggs.”
Well, it may not be the egg laying season, but if any species were foraging in that transition zone with MTB cyclists whizzing by they might have experienced their last forage!
The leaflet also refers to ecologically maximising the value of the zone – hmm? With MTB racers going hell for leather over it?
Yet the council were never interested in maximising the revenue generating golf course, despite many offers of help and constructive suggestions from the golf campaigners.
Do you know, I’m beginning to think Sir Mayor and the Heritage Lottery Frauds have been taken for a ride!