Skaters’ dream or council stitch-up? The latest on the Charlton Park skate park saga

The Charlton skate park options - A, close to the mini-gym; B, across the other side of the old athletics track; C. away from homes by Charlton Park Lane
The Charlton skate park options – A, close to the mini-gym; B, across the other side of the old athletics track; C. away from homes by Charlton Park Lane

Paul Chapman reports on the latest meeting of the Charlton Park skatepark stakeholders group:

I went along to a recent skate park stakeholders meeting at Woolwich Town Hall on Friday and thought I’d report back.

Although ostensibly the meeting was to report on the findings of the feasibility study and get feedback, there was also a large amount of anger directed at both the idea of a Charlton Park skate park in general, and specifically at the manner in which the consultation had taken place.

First, the feasibility study.

The initial consultation had given residents the choice of three locations, all within Charlton Park. Amy London, project manager for the Skate Park, went through the various reasons why Locations C and B had been rejected and Location A agreed upon.

The short version is that Location C (in the corner by the cemetery and the hospital) was too out-of-the-way and Location B was deemed too close to homes over the road and the horses at the Riding for the Disabled area. Location A was the preferred option, both by the public and the planners.

Originally tucked into the corner, the location has since been shifted south slightly to form an L-shape around the outdoor gym. That move was to take the park further from homes (the original location was deemed too close) but brings the park into the sightline from Charlton House. English Heritage, and others, had been consulted over the sightline and their feedback was that so long as the skate park was mostly sunken, and was surrounded properly by soft landscaping (that’s trees and bushes to you and me), then the various heritage bodies were satisfied.

At the end of the meeting a quick trip round the table suggested that all present agreed that of the options presented, the only real possibility had been chosen. Nobody doubted the ability and commitment of Amy and her team – including project architect Rob Montague – to deliver.

Sadly, most agreement ended there.

A current running throughout the meeting was anger that (a) Charlton Park was getting a skate park, full stop; and (b) that the consultation had been a fait accompli and people were only asked where in the park they wanted it, not if they wanted it. (The Charlton Champion reported on the limited options available to respondents when the consultation was launched back in November 2014.)

A skate park already exists at Royal Arsenal Gardens in Woolwich. The land has been sold to Berkeley Homes and the council has received Section 106 money with which to replace the facility. Conditions on the money state that the replacement facility must be within 2 miles of the existing facility and the council, at a meeting last year, deemed Charlton Park the only suitable venue. So a skate park we shall have.

To put my own cards on the tablem I would be happy to see a skate park in the suggested location. I have two young children and I think they would love it (figures quoted at the meeting suggest around 80% of users of skate parks are small kids on scooters).

I also think Charlton Park has plenty of space and losing a relatively small amount of grass (1,000 square metres) is acceptable if the facility is of a high standard (nobody wants a bad skate park). It’s also a view shared by many parents I know.

Max-scooter (1)

But others at the meeting disagreed, often vehemently, and argued in particular that a skate park would generate a large amount of noise and would ‘destroy’ the tranquility of the park and specifically the oasis of calm that is the Old Cottage Coffee Shop.

At least one meeting member had signed this petition, raised by a newly formed Friends of Charlton Park group, to oppose the skate park.

I contacted the site via social media asking who exactly these Friends were but received no reply. The coffee shop also has a written petition inside inviting people to oppose the skate park.

The anger felt by some at the meeting at the skate parks proximity to the Coffee Shop was compounded by the fact that members of the public were not given an option to vote ‘None of the Above’ in the initial consultation.

As one angry coffee-drinker put it: “It is as if someone has moved into your house, but given you a choice of wallpaper that they will put up.”

While conceding that consultation had been poor, members of the local skating community at the meeting were quick to point out that Charlton Park was a facility for everybody and at the moment skaters were poorly served in the borough; Royal Arsenal Gardens is the only skate park at present, and that is destined to become flats. To add insult to injury there was talk of a new byelaw (or possibly the use of existing ones, details were sketchy) to stop skateboarders in General Gordon Square and other public spaces.

It’s hard to escape the view that skaters are seen as a blot on the landscape and are being shoved out of view of the shiny new Woolwich.

Another point made by a local skater was that the BMX track at Hornfair Park had attracted similar concern over antisocial behaviour but those fears had not been realised. There was no reason to suggest a skate park would be any different.

And so the meeting wound to a close with a general consensus that the decisions taken so far by Amy and the team were the correct ones.

However, there remained a strong sense that the park was being imposed on residents by a council in a hurry to ‘fix’ a problem they had bought on themselves through their sale of land to Berkeley Homes. There was concern raised that the three local Charlton ward councillors appeared to be doing little to facilitate local concerns.

There will be further consultation on the design of the skate park, with work due to start in February 2016 and the skate park opening later that year.

The “stakeholders forum” is ongoing and a trip is planned to see both a good and a bad skate park in London so people can see for themselves what works and what doesn’t.

Amy would welcome more local people getting involved in the process – to do so please email wheelsports-survey@royalgreenwich.gov.uk.

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14 thoughts on “Skaters’ dream or council stitch-up? The latest on the Charlton Park skate park saga

  1. Damian May 11, 2015 / 20:53

    Skate park aside this is common council practice. When they put a width restriction in a local road the consultation asked if it should go here, there or over there? No option for ‘shove the thing right back up your………….’ was given. Sad as I’m sure as from talking to neighbours it would have been very popular!

  2. Joy Ogden May 11, 2015 / 22:34

    I was one of the three people at the meeting (ie half the people there) who were aggrieved by the lack of democracy that led to the decision to site it in Charlton Park. If you look at the agenda and minutes of the Cabinet meeting you will see they were asked ‘to agree’ to its siting there – the officers having dismissed the other options: Barrier Park, Hornfair and Maryon Park. It did say somewhere in an inaccessible corner that there was an option to choose not to have one at all, but that would mean forgoing the £365,000 from Berkeley Homes (!)

    Here is a link that Amy sent me after the meeting to the consultation that took place in late 2013 on the proposed byelaws re parks and open spaces. https://consultations.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/KMS/dmart.aspx. If that link doesn’t take you to the direct page, then please follow the link to view the consultation database and search for ‘byelaws’ in the ‘Completed Consultations’.
    Here is the link to the cabinet report on the skate park (item 12 on the agenda) http://committees.greenwich.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=119&MId=3422&Ver=4.
    You will probably have to cut and paste them.

  3. Paul C May 12, 2015 / 13:37

    I don’t think anyone at the meeting felt the decision to site a skate park in Charlton Park was particularly democratic Joy, the difference in opinion was over – that decision having been made – whether a skate park was a good thing or not. As I’ve said I like the idea, but I’d rather it was happening with the local communities blessing. The Cabinet decided on this occasion to go ahead without deferring to local opinion, and it’s up to them to explain that decision I guess. If they choose to.

    • Joy Ogden May 12, 2015 / 14:04

      Well, Paul, thanks for replying to me but I fundamentally disagree about the right of the Cabinet to explain their decision – or not. They are our elected representatives, and as such have a duty to consult us properly – if they don’t they must explain why they refuse to do so. If you followed the link to the Cabinet papers you will see that the (unelected) Council officers said: 1.2 (elected) ‘Cabinet is requested to: – agree to Charlton Park as the preferred location for a new wheeled sports facility/skateboard park’. Cabinet members agreed without feeling any need to call for consultation with local residents. There was an option 6.3 ‘not to provide a new skate park.’ But Council officers warned: ‘This is not recommended as: it may mean the RB foregoing £365,000 of funding from the developer…’
      And if you look at the Skate Park Stakeholder Forum’s Terms of Reference it says: ‘This group is not to be used as a means of opposing the project.’ I rest my case – but not my efforts to inject some democracy into the decision making process.I do not want to demonise the skateboarding community in the process – having seen the Victoria Park skatepark and talked to the skateboarders there I know it can work – but from what they said and from what I saw there it is certainly not a safe place for young children to ride their scooters – which is what the skateboarders themselves said – and they certainly would not be safe to go there without supervision – not because the bikers are uncaring but because it can be a very dangerous sport.

  4. JJNSE7 May 12, 2015 / 14:47

    Thanks that’s a really useful update, having recently seen the Friends of Charlton Park petition I was wondering where the project had progressed to. I don’t like the way the decision has been forced through but personally I remain undecided about whether the skate park is a good thing. It will undoubtedly change the character of that corner of the park but that does not have to be a bad thing. What I worry about most is that, even with what seems like a reasonable budget to spend, what will be delivered is a badly though out then badly maintained skate park. Although the park itself is well maintained this is not the case for some of the equipment and infrastructure within it. The gym and play park both have broken equipment that has not been repaired only taped over, this has been the case for months not weeks, and the sun canopy over the gym disappeared never to be replaced. Even the refurbishment of the loos, while eventually delivering a good facility seemed to be an expensive palaver and still has not addressed the issue of the actual fabric of the building.
    The reaction of the ward councillors is disappointing but not surprising; they do seem to have a habit of going very quiet once the election is over. In fact, at the last election Cllr Parker promised an exciting new arts project in Charlton Park. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to follow up with him about this but been roundly ignored – perhaps what he meant was performance skate art!

  5. Joy Ogden May 28, 2015 / 09:50

    Maryon Parks has set up a campaign to keep its own green spaces skatepark-free – it’s called ‘support the proposed skatepark in Charlton Park’. That says something doesn’t it? In your original report of the Woolwich Town Hall meeting, you say that: ‘figures quoted at the meeting suggest around 80% of users of skate parks are small kids on scooters’ but I didn’t hear any figures that supported that view at all. If small children on scooters use skateparks they must be very closely supervised or they risk broken necks at the very least!

    • Andrew Donkin May 28, 2015 / 10:13

      Joy – Just to confirm to you that the petition in favour of the parks is nothing to do with the official Friends of Maryon and Maryon Wilson Parks. I strongly support the idea of a skatepark in Charlton Park as a local parent. I think it will be great for all local kids.

      By the way, the petition in support of the skatepark in Charlton Park has now been signed by 450 people. Massive thanks to all who signed. Most of them are locals to SE7 or SELondon. There is a big demand in Charlton for the facility.

      On your other point – yes, small kids on scooters (I have two) usually do need close supervision.

      Looks like another lovely sunny day.

      Andy

  6. Joy Ogden May 28, 2015 / 11:40

    Andy – just to confirm to you that your petition is in the name of – and I quote – ‘Maryon Parks Hub, Maryon Wilson’ so why do you need to cite them if your petition is disinterested? Why not set up a petition calling for a skatepark in Maryon Wilson Park? I’d sign it, for one! Or one in Hornfair park, where they already have facilities. Charlton Park is the wrong site for this.

    • Clare June 18, 2015 / 17:21

      Having read your comments I am not sure I understand why you would be happy to have a skate park in Maryon Wilson Park or Hornfair Park when you are so against one in Charlton Park. As a parent of a skate boarder I believe the addition of a Skatepark in Charlton Park will be great for the local community, young and old alike. Maybe you should visit Greenwich Park on any weekend and watch the many skateboarders who are welcomed there, you will see groups of adults watching people skate with interest and enjoyment. You seem concerned about injury to the skaters yet you have said you would be happy for a skate park in other parks, would the risk of injury not concern you in the parks you have mentioned. If Greenwich Park welcomes skateboarders why can the same not happen in Charlton Park.

  7. Andrew Donkin May 28, 2015 / 12:11

    Morning Joy:

    The petition in support of a skatepark in Charlton Park is in the names of co-creators Andrew Donkin and Paul Chapman. This is very very clear on the petition page.

    A link to it was tweeted by “Maryon Parks Hub” among many other twitter accounts. Tweeting a link to something doesn’t mean that it’s “in the name of” that account. Only that the account is tweeting a link because it is something that its followers might be interested in.

    “Maryon Parks Hub” is described as “News and views from Lovely MaryonWilson & Maryon Park in Charlton SE7, detailing events in and around the parks.” It’s followed by 524 people interested in local parks and tweets many news items and details of events in all our local parks.

    The “Maryon Parks Hub” twitter account is NOT an official account for any group. It’s just a news feed with lots of photos and news.

  8. s2news June 4, 2015 / 10:16

    I attended that meeting of, I think, 6 attendees, with an equal split between the naysayers, and the pro-camp. I think there is a valid concern about the consultation process, and there not being an option provided in another park, but that said, I do think Charlton Park is the only option. It is the only park where there is significant footfall and amenities in a short distance from the site, which provides a safe atmosphere for young people to partake in these activities.

    Firstly, I don’t see how it will change that area of the park significantly, it already has a muga, climbing wall and table tennis tables. Precisely the sort of thing you see alongside skateparks all over London.

    There is talk about Hornfair park, but I know the BMX track is a no go area for most of the local kids. Certain groups of local kids run that space because there aren’t adults around. There just isn’t enough of a mix of users who frequent it for the average kids to feel safe. I have seen this effect since I was young, where councils site facilities out of the way. A compromise to local residents, but kids are scared to go to these places because they are intimidated. These facilities fail. I know, I lived through it in the 90s and luckily we are now more progressive. You can see the evidence all over London, where modern skateparks are sited inclusively. Sidelining our youth results in anti-social behaviour, and there is clear evidence that facilities such as these reduce anti-social behaviour (google dorset police website skatepark for stats). For me, as a parent, it’s a no-brainer; you see how young kids make a mischief of themselves if they have nothing to do; you give them something to do, and they are happy.

    It makes me sad, because it’s these same naysayers who bemoan the anti-social behaviour. Yet it is facilities such as these that give the youth an alternative to just hanging around, smoking, and causing a nuisance.

    There is a distinct danger that if we make compromises on this project, it will result in a sub-standard end product. This is a lose-lose situation. We need a great skatepark, that will produce a great self-regulating user base.

  9. chris March 9, 2017 / 17:27

    Build the skate park skating is more sporty than swings and slides and skating keeps people fit and healthy and out of trouble

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