It was billed as the Big Conversation by the park’s department with claims of an ‘ambitious plan’ for the borough’s parks but the reality is the badly orchestrated consultation has turned in to an embarrassing shambles.

Despite boasting having more parks, open spaces and woodlands – 127 – more than any other borough; less than one per cent of  Croydon’s 300,000 plus population responded to Croydon Talks Parks consultation.

The council’s Big Conversation, wanted to hear from everyone who uses or would like to use Croydon’s parks or green spaces: asking we want to know what’s important to you, what you value in our parks and open spaces and what suggestions you have to improve our parks?

The response saw just 1,125 people respond to an on-line survey. The numbers were only boosted to 1,425 by 300 face to face interviews which were conducted with random participants.  

The cash strapped parks department, which falls under the directorate of District Centres Regeneration,  has employed at least three firms of consultants to create the ambitious parks strategy which includes looking at: income generation, contract management, asset mapping, improving health and well being as well as developing a sports and events strategy.

One of the consultants Tyrens, has been responsible for putting together a Masterplan for six parks but it emerged at the Croydon Parks, Open Spaces and Woodlands Forum last week that despite spending a year working on the project the firm hadn’t contacted any of the Friends of Park groups selected to take part in the pilot.

It’s unclear how much of the budget has been spent on employing at least three firms of  consultants while little effort or resource appears to have gone in consulting directly with users in parks.

• The Campaign Company based in Croydon is putting together the research for Croydon Talks Parks. The company says on its web site it: ‘delivers top quality research….from one-off in-depth interviews.. to population surveys’.

•Tyrens,  a Swedish based consultancy, is overseeing the park’s Masterplan pilot. Six parks described as ‘destination’s parks were selected on the criteria ‘political, strategic or geographical’. These are: Ashburton, Happy Valley, Lloyd Park, Park Hill, Norbury, and South Norwood Lakes. 

• 4 Global, is undertaking the sports provision strategy including cricket sand says on its web site: ‘it gives expert support in major event consultancy, sport intelligence and sports planning consultancy.’

The original report titled Ambitious for Parks and Green Spaces in Croydon – working with our communities was presented to the Labour cabinet in March 2016 by the lead officer Jo Negrini who was then  Executive Director of Place. Three months later she was appointed Chief Executive of the council.

The report stated: “The feedback gained from that engagement will be taken into account in shaping and implementing the Parks and Green Spaces Delivery Plan, the report.”

It went on to describe Croydon’s parks, open space and woodlands as “key assets for the community” but the council only spends £1.8million on its parks considerably less than other boroughs.

Timothy Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Sport said last year: “This is about pushing parks up the agenda and finding out what residents really want from Croydon’s green spaces.”

Last week officers presenting an update on Croydon Talks Parks to Croydon Parks, Woodlands and Open Spaces Forum attended by Friends groups admitted that the low level of responses was ‘disappointing’.

The only real engagement with parks was a Croydon Talks Parks banner  but none of the parks In Thornton Heath had a banner or notifications. It was only because of the campaign by The Chronicle, and Friends groups that many local people even knew about it.

Despite this our three parks contributed over 10 per cent of the overall consultation results.

The Chronicle has learned that those who actually responded to the survey about Thornton Heath parks want:

  • Trumble Gardens: investment in the outdated play equipment and the tennis courts. Trumble Gardens has more tennis court than any other park in Croydon.
  • Thornton Heath Rec: improvements to facilities and tarmac surfaces for football and running.
  • Both wanted increased safety and less litter.
  • Grangewood Park users praised the events and activities organised by The Friends and asked for an outdoor gym or trim trial but the majority wanted better grounds maintenance and horticultural management.