Saving Havelock Rec – Thank you to all
The Friends of Havelock Rec – like all local residents – are pleased that Bromley Council decided in late March 2015 not to lease a large proportion of the Recreation Ground for a school to be built. Thank you to all those who spoke up for our treasured open space, our local Bromley Town ward councillors and our MP.
But please keep your posters up for a little longer – we want to ensure that our Recreation Ground remains protected for all local people to use and enjoy.
Here’s a look back at the successful campaign:
As the Friends of Havelock Rec began to get organised in January 2015, little did any of us know that we were about to be engulfed in a campaign to save our open space from development. Our first activity was bulb planting on 31 January, where a group of local residents braved the cold weather to enhance the beauty of the Rec.
It was not until 4 or 5 February that word began to spread round the community of a serious threat: on 11 February 2015 Bromley Council Executive was due to have voted on a plan to build a 630-place primary school, La Fontaine Academy, on nearly half of the Rec. (The site already houses 78 pre-school children in Little Learners nursery.) On the left is the first draft of the plan for the school on our field:
Under this is an artist’s impression of what the school might have looked like:
According to the agenda item for the 11 February 2015 meeting (HAVELOCK ROAD RECREATION GROUND BROMLEY – LA FONTAINE FREE SCHOOL), the Education Funding Agency (EFA, an executive agency of the Department for Education) had “identified Havelock Road recreation ground as its favoured option for the location of the school”.
The Council noted that the Rec is “allocated in the saved policies of the UDP [Unitary Development Plan] as urban open space”. It also noted that because of the Rec’s previous use, “there could be ground conditions that will add considerably to the cost of development which might make the use of the site by the school uneconomic”. Despite this, the Executive were poised to approve the use of the land for the school.
Residents were initially gob-smacked by the plan, given the potential loss of treasured open space, the existing traffic congestion in the area at the start and end of the school day and the limited vehicular access to the Rec. This then turned to anger, then to a steely determination to fight to preserve this community asset. On 6 February, the chair of the Executive decided – given the storm of protest – to withdraw the contentious proposal from the 11 February agenda (Supplement WITHDRAWN FROM AGENDA Item 14 Havelock Road Recreation Ground Bromley – La Fontaine Fr)
Residents did not sit idly by. At a packed meeting on 9 February at the Chatterton Arms, at which the formation of the Friends of Havelock Rec was approved, everyone realised that the first of the group’s tasks was to fight the threat. Residents stressed that the campaign was not against the school – everyone recognised the local shortage of primary school places and the difficulties of finding sites – but that the focus was on protecting the Rec as an open space.
The Friends and numerous local residents contacted the Council, the EFA, and local politicians, through phone calls, emails, the Friends website, Twitter and Facebook pages. With a great logo (thanks to Julie Twydell) and 1,000 signatures on our petition (see change.org), 5,000 window posters were quickly printed. The News Shopper took up the story.
On 7 February, a group of residents attended Cllr Michael Rutherford’s surgery at Bromley Library. He tweeted that day: “Good points made by both sides on regeneration and on Havelock Rec.” He and the two other councillors then launched their own survey. “We are getting an overwhelming response to the survey about Havelock rec – keep them coming! We are still going through them all,” Cllr Nicky Dykes tweeted on 15 February.
On 14 February, Valentine’s Day, many local residents poured onto the field dressed in red, gathering round a heart shape to express their love for the open space they have long enjoyed. The video was posted on YouTube.
The local MP, Bob Neill, backed the preservation of Havelock Rec on 16 February, noting that the plans to build a school on the Rec had “quite understandably, caused deep concern amongst residents”. “I remain unconvinced that Havelock Rec offers a suitable alternative for anyone involved, including pupils, staff, or indeed local residents. At the end of the day, we have precious little green space in the Borough, and what we do have should, I believe, be protected wherever possible.” Neill visited the Rec with the three councillors on 21 February.
Hatty Collier of the News Shopper gave the campaign coverage in her 20 February 2015 article: “Residents fight against plans to build La Fontaine school on Havelock Recreation Ground”. She quoted Cllr Will Harmer as declaring that their “door-to-door survey had shown more than 90 per cent of residents in the surrounding area objected to the proposals”. And she quoted Donna Klander of the Friends: “The residents here are really upset. We just want to keep our field as it is because we all use it and love it. It’s not the school’s fault. We are not against the school. I really feel for the children.”
After its withdrawal from the 11 February 2015 Council Executive meeting, the plan to build a school on the Rec was never returned to the agenda, to the relief of local residents and the Friends.
“Due to considerable opposition from Bromley Town Councillors, local MP Bob Neill and the local community, the Council has informed the Education Funding Authority (EFA) that they will not lease them the land to build the school. Instead they are working with them to find an alternative site for the school which they are confident they will be able to do.
Commenting on this decision Cllr Michael Rutherford said: “We were very concerned about the loss of this valuable recreation ground as well as the large volume of traffic it will bring to an already busy area. A traffic survey conducted by the Council confirmed these fears. We were happy to join residents in forcefully opposing the EFA’s plans to build on this valuable green space”.
Friends of Havelock Rec warmly welcomed the news, it allows us to devote all our energies to enhancing the Rec for the enjoyment of all local residents.
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