What has happened to inner London's last public golf course since it closed?
Lewisham Council have been under constant scrutiny over the past year mainly due to their poor handling of a compulsory purchase order on ground around Millwall’s stadium – which could have seen the club forced to move away from their South London home.
But, a story that has attracted less media attention hits just as hard for the people of Lewisham.
In October 2016, the council closed Beckenham Place Park golf course, stating low income, as part of a £5m renovation of the 240-acre park with the view of making it a ‘park for people’.
Carole Hope started writing to Lewisham Council in July 2014 after hearing rumours of the closure and since its closing has not seen any overtly positive changes to the course.
She said: “From my own perspective, I am a dog walker, and I’m not here all the time obviously.
“But when I come over here for my daily walk, I see quite a few dog walkers maybe that I hadn’t seen before, so there may be extra dog walkers using the park now.
“At weekends, I do see family groups but they’ve nearly all got a dog.
“So it looks to me that so far, the result has been extra dog walkers who either had been using the park before but were in other parts of the park that aren’t the golf course – because, of course, the golf course is only 90 acres and the whole park is 240 acres.
“Or they are people that have been using other parks and have decided to come here because the golf course has closed.
“That is the main change I have seen other than a one-off cycling event that took place in December.”"I don’t really have very much confidence in Lewisham council”
The Beastway Lewisham YuleCross event on December 27 was the first event post-course closure at Beckenham Place Park and was also the first chance for many to criticise council for its 'park for people' standing.
The event saw large parts of the park closed off to the public and it hasn't reassured some of the park's users that the council are going in the right direction.
“I don’t really have very much confidence in Lewisham council,” she added.
“Hopefully it will be a park that’s well used and will be well maintained in the future for generations of people but I don’t have any confidence that will happen.
“For decades before they closed the golf course, they neglected the park and let it run down.
“Alright, when it’s reopened as the whizzy new park that they want it to be, it may be well-maintained for a while.
“But I don’t have any confidence that it will be long term because of the fact they’ve taken the main source of income out of the park and they’ve still got the same maintenance costs because they’re not reducing staff members and that is the biggest maintenance cost for the park.”
As it stands, the future isn't too bright for Beckenham Place Park and Lewisham Council have a fight on their hands to win back the people's support and trust.
Lewisham Council's provisional plans for the park include:
- 5km running route within the park
- All weather and walking rails giving better access for those with limited mobility and for buggies
- Open water swimming
- A new BMX track and better cycling facilities
- Enhanced skate park
- Lots of space for informal sports, eg football, cricket and rounders.
- Restored natural lake
- Wet woodland area
- A new cafe in the restored listed stableblock
- An education centre
- A volunteering hub
- Two new children's play areas
- An orchard