A royal charter could prevent Greenwich Council from closing the animal centre at Maryon Wilson Park, according to the head of its users’ group.
Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks chairman Tim Anderson told local podcast In The Meantime the parks were given to the council’s predecessors under the condition that it kept the park’s deer in place.
Council officials have drawn up plans to withdraw £43,000 of funding from the centre, which risks closure if outside funding cannot be found. Cuts to government grants have left the council with a £62m hole in its budget.
“It has to retain its rural nature, it has to have access to the public, it has to have toilets, and the Maryon Wilson family also gifted the deer,” he explained.
“We understand this was done under a royal charter. I’m not sure how aware the current councillors are of this, but [a council leaflet] states a royal charter exists, signed by Henry VIII, stating the deer must remain. It could well be the deer are protected along with the rurual nature of the park.
“It’s a special place, and it was gifted for a special purpose. As the friends of the park, we’ll work with the council on whatever they come up with, but we’re saying to the council – don’t give a closure date, we can work and solve the problem. We want the council to take the initiative – and they may have a legal imperative to do that – and listen to what people are saying.”
Mr Anderson said he was not consulted about the plans, and had first read about them on The Charlton Champion – even though a member of the council’s cabinet, Woolwich Riverside councillor and culture spokesman John Fahy – is a member of the group.
He said he feared the park could become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour without the animal centre, which he said was “unique in London”.
Greenwich councillors are due to formally vote on next year’s budget at a meeting on 2 March. Charlton councillor Allan MacCarthy, who sits on the council’s scrutiny committee which is dealing with the cutbacks, told a Charlton Central Residents Association meeting on Monday it was difficult to persuade those unfamiliar with the animal centre of its worth when there were competing demands on the council’s agenda.
“It’s very hard when you’re talking about people’s jobs,” he said. “Especially when they don’t know the facility and what it does for the neighbouring schools, and even people who are just walking past.”
At that same meeting, fellow Charlton councillor Janet Gillman said her husband – Kidbrooke with Hornfair representative and mayor-to-be Jim Gillman – had asked officials to drop a £30,000 “mayor making” ceremony in his honour because of the financial situation.