Inspired by Charlton’s new skate park but want some lessons before you take to the bowl? STUART HOPPER has been in touch to tell us about the lessons School of Skate has been running in Charlton Park since the skatepark opened.
I’ve been part of the group campaigning for the skatepark for the last 8 years, so it makes sense to carry it through and try and get the local community involved now the park is here.
We helped out at the opening event, but weren’t able to do the public participation for Greenwich Council because of Storm Brian. We did then offer 20 free places at skate school, the following weekend to make up for that, but the curse followed us through and we had to postpone again because of bad weather.
We’ve been testing the water at the skatepark in November, and the response has been great.
We started doing Saturday mornings but there was so much demand we started Sundays and we’ve had to turn people away, unfortunately.
We provide skateboards and safety equipment and let the kids have a go. We cover the basics, riding along, and turning.
It’s mainly been the kids getting involved, I think this is because I’ve been letting people know through parents’ groups on Facebook (I’m a parent too).
We’ve been charging a moderate amount so it’s accessible, but we’re hoping to find funding so we can offer it to those who maybe can’t or won’t be able to spare the cash.
Once the kids get into skating, it’s a relatively inexpensive pastime.
If you can find £40 for a secondhand setup, it can give you literally years of no-cost use, what with the many free outdoor skateparks in London now.
The skatepark in Charlton Park is probably the best in south-east London, until Crystal Palace opens in a few weeks. We had the mantle for a while, though! As skateboarding will be in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics it’s really going to be highlighted in the public’s consciousness.
We’ve managed to get some indoor space on Tuesdays at Aircraft Circus in Woolwich. Unfortunately they are closing down for a refurb during January and February, but we’re hoping to be back at the skatepark after February half term offering a more diverse range of lessons; for those progressing beyond absolute beginner, also for adults, and we’ve had calls for a girls-only class run by a female instructor.
Greenwich Council has dismissed a 728-signature petition protesting at the planned skate park in Charlton Park, insisting the controversial proposals will benefit the local community.
The recently-set up Friends of Charlton Park group submitted a petition in July, claiming the skate park would “blight the area”.
“We believe that Charlton Park is not an appropriate venue for a Skateboard Park. In particular, the site chosen would be too disruptive to other activities and may make the park less safe. We do not believe that Greenwich Council should proceed with plans for a Skateboard Park in Charlton without proper consultation and proper funding,” the petition read.
The skate park is being built with £365,000 from Berkeley Homes, which is destroying an existing skate park in Royal Arsenal Gardens, Woolwich, to build housing, and £15,000 from the council.
Points made by the council include:
“The boundary of the proposed site is 50m away from the nearest property in Mulberry Close, 65m from the nearest property in MacArthur Terrace and 200m from the nearest property in Canberra Road. This will help ensure the skate park does not cause an increase of 10 decibels or more above existing sound levels for its closest neighbours, including the Old Cottage Cafe. An independent Noise and Vibration Impact Assessment will be carried out and measures to mitigate noise – such as partial sinking below ground level, planting of trees and turf bunding – will be incorporated into the design.”
“The skate park design process must observe the unique character of the park, preserving its amenity and historical importance. The appearance and aesthetic of the skate park will be developed in the context of open space and sympathetic soft landscaping will be a primary feature. This will soften the impact of hard materials and help make the facility in keeping with the park environment.”
“Planning permission is in place for floodlighting to be on until 9:00pm and this area is used by sports teams during the winter months. The addition of a skate park is likely to increase the demand for floodlighting but we will develop a lighting plan to minimise the impact to neighbouring properties. It may mean that use of the skate park after dark is limited to certain days of the week or the cut-off time is before 9:00pm.”
“The new facility will be constructed out of sprayed concrete, which is durable and resistant to damage. Parks, Estates and Open Spaces has a budget for maintenance and cleansing of parks facilities and this will be used to maintain the skate park and surrounding park environment.”
“Parks Rangers work up to 11:00pm at the peak of summer and visit sites across the Borough. This means staff are able to call into the skate park late of an evening during the summer months if required. Wardens will also undertake routine patrols in parks including Charlton Park. There are no plans for new fencing to be erected around the skate park but there is 1m high fencing around the perimeter of the old athletics track with a gate near the park entrance. This gate remains open at present but it can be locked in order to restrict access to this area.”
“Formal on-site supervision is not commonplace at open, free-to-use skate parks and there are no plans for this facility to be permanently supervised by council staff. Skateboarders are usually very keen to take ownership of space they use and facilities of this tend to type self-manage successfully. There are many examples of buddying schemes and clubs that have been set up around skate parks to encourage participation and look after new members, such as the ‘skate mates’ scheme in Haverford West. Given the investment participants have in their sport, the users are likely to also deter and report nuisance behaviour.”
“Various CCTV options are being explored for the skate park.”
“We understand that some people may feel fearful about change but actually parks should also welcome everyone. The skate-boarding fraternity are serious about their sport, and not usually given to anti-social behaviour. There are examples of where that the presence of skate parks actually help to reduce anti-social behaviour and promote social cohesion, for example Strathclyde Police found a 34.9% reduction in youth disorder levels within three years of the skate park in Dumbarton opening in 2003… The majority of local authorities and skateboard operators we have spoken to state that there have been no reports of anti-social behaviour in connection with their skate parks.”
“There is evidence to suggest that skateboarding promotes social inclusion and can have positive effect on well-being. Strathclyde Police found that a new skate park offered activities for other groups ‘such as autistic children and children who are cared for’ as well as ‘local youths’. Overall, it found the skate park was a success in ‘providing a safe, well run alternative which kept youngsters of the streets’. Similarly, Ealing Skateboard Association describes their user group as aged 6 – 60 plus and includes members with special educational needs. They also offer free coaching to female participants.”
“The project team will continue to work with users and stakeholders in order to develop a skate park proposal that is safe, fit-for-purpose and suitable with its surroundings. Direct involvement in the project is open to anyone that registers an interest.”
Perhaps if the council had been this detailed in its arguments in the first place, instead of merely expecting residents to fall into line with what’s effectively a scheme to help Berkeley Homes make lots of money out of Woolwich property, then it wouldn’t have found itself facing a hostile petition in the first place.
Indeed, the most curious thing has been the lack of overt political backing for the project – barely a peep from local councillors. It’s as if they’re entirely helpless about what goes on in their own wards. It’s worth pointing out that some of the leading lights in the anti-skate park group are longstanding members of the ruling Labour party.
The lack of honest, open debate about the scheme has said volumes about the political culture in this area – none of it good.
That said, behind the scenes, there have been local people, getting on with it, and talking to the council officers about making the best of the proposal. And the council’s response suggests they may well be on the right track. If you want to join them, visit www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/charltonskatepark to find out how.