“London’s last public golf course” set to close

Beckenham Place Park golf course. Pic: Carole Hope

Beckenham Place Park golf course. Pic: Carole Hope

Campaigners have slammed plans to close London’s last public golf course, as external funding is set to accelerate council plans.

Lewisham Council have been provisionally awarded a £4.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund, to help restore Beckenham Place Park to its eighteenth century roots. The scheme includes plans to remove the existing golf course.

The proposal, which includes a new café, outdoor sports facilities and the restoration of the park’s original lake, has passed the first stage of approval.

The council has already been given a development grant of £270,500. They will receive the full amount once they pass the second round of the application, which involves presenting more detailed plans, including evidence of wider public consultation.

David Hansom, 66, a Sydenham resident and secretary of Braeside Golf Club, said: “This [eighteenth century landscape was] designed for the easy lifestyle of the rich. The only time the park has enjoyed any public access has been since the laying out of the golf course. This is the historic public landscape of the park.”

It is believed the Beckenham Place Park was part of an estate owned by John Cator, a timber merchant in the latter-half of the eighteenth century. The park is currently home to both Braeside and Beckenham Place Park golf clubs.

Campaigners from the ‘Save The Beckenham 18’ campaign say that the Heritage Lottery Fund were not informed that only 175 people were surveyed to obtain figures used in their application to gauge public support for the course.
Figures given to Eastlondonlines show that around two-thirds of those surveyed wished to keep the course in some form, while approximately a third were in favour of demolishing it. Lewisham council did not respond to these claims when contacted by Eastlondonlines.

Carol Hope, 58, another campaigner from Lewisham said: “175 is a laughable number of people to base a decision [about the golf course] on given the size of Lewisham’s population, and also the population of those who live close to the park.”

Campaigners say the golf course is an important part of the park's heritage. Pic: Matt Brown

Campaigners say the golf course is an important part of the park’s heritage. Pic: Matt Brown

Lewisham had a population of 275,900 in the 2011 census. The park is also close to the borough of Bromley, which had a population of nearly 310,000.

A spokesperson for the Heritage Lottery Fund said: “As part of their first round application, [Lewisham] Council provided us with percentages demonstrating the support of local residents from their initial consultation.”

“This level of information is in line with what we would expect at this stage in the process.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund will require more information to be submitted for the second round of the application process, including a conservation plan. This will involve further consideration of the golf course’s future.

Lewisham Council plans to provide the Heritage Lottery Fund with updated proposals by spring 2016.

A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said: “We have a lot of detailed design work to do to develop the plans over the coming months, and there will be plenty of opportunity for people to get involved in that planning.”

Lewisham Council estimated that 300 people were spoken to throughout the initial consultation process. The council also said around 80 per cent of the local community believe there would be greater “public enjoyment” of the park if it were “not so dominated by Golf,” according to consultations they carried out last year.

The golf course was laid out in 1907 when the park was in private hands and when London County Council bought the park in 1920’s, the golf course remained on the site. Lewisham Council assumed responsibility for the course in 1971.

If the second round of applications proves successful, the new park should be open by 2018.

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