Hornfair Park shows Greenwich Labour’s neglect

Local residents will have noticed that the Council opened a new BMX track at Hornfair Park at the start of September; however, Greenwich Conservatives Leader Councillor Spencer Drury writes that the park tells visitors much more about what is wrong with Labour’s policy for parks around our borough. 

Spencer writes “In Kidbrooke with Hornfair Conservatives are very lucky to have an active ward Chairman in Matt Hartley and an enthusiastic and determined campaigner in the form of ward secretary Toni Hale.  As a local resident, Toni has been a passionate campaigner against the installation of the new BMX track, a point of view which has been endorsed by people who live close to the park even in Council surveys.  However, aside from objecting to the Council’s latest set of plans to build on green space in our borough (as they are planning behind Shooters Hill School and with a new equestrian centre on the borough boundary) Greenwich Conservatives have been concerned that the Labour Party seldom allocates enough funds to maintain the equipment it installs.  On Saturday, in the unexpected heat wave, a quick stroll around Hornfair Park made our point vividly.

To start with, I visited the closed and still derelict Hornfair Lido.  This building was closed and the volunteers who had maintained it for years thrown out so the Council could install a £10m private development which was so clearly a fantasy from the moment it started that Conservatives seriously questioned it from the start.  Eventually, the developer stepped aside and the Council is now putting £2.5m of tax-payers money into redeveloping the lido, so hopefully it will be open for next summer.  However, the chaos means that a facility maintained by volunteers is now ruined by Council intervention, locals have been without their pool for years and taxpayers are having to fork out a substantial amount to sort out Labour’s mistakes.

Moving on, I came to a bowls green.  This appeared to be slightly overgrown with another derelict building along one side which was fenced off with metal barricades and the obligatory graffiti along one side. 

To be fair there was a clearly new building at the head of the bowls green, but this was firmly shuttered.  However, adjacent to the green was a set of three tennis courts, two of which still had nets up (tatty though they were) and a third without a net which was over-grown and cracked with weeds.  I think it fairly clear even from the photo here that these courts have not been maintained in recent months, if they have been at all over the summer.  This was a once useful facility for residents left to decay.

Further on, it was possible to walk across the newly lined pitches towards what was clearly a very popular facility with children on bikes flying up and down the BMX track.  The children appeared to be enjoying themselves on this unseasonably hot day. 

So I returned down the other side of the park, heading back towards the bowls green and the deserted children’s paddling pool, flanked by a building with sad, battered look to it.  Nearby a mostly empty children’s play park featured equipment which was old, stained and often with graffiti covering it.  There was a bench with missing struts where nails had been hammered down so visitors could sit and another with a hole in it, however, despite its rather tatty appearance, the park did look usable.  Next to it though was another, more serious, example of the decay which was a feature of the majority of installations in Hornfair Park. 

A basketball court (deserted once again in the sunshine) featured a lot of graffiti, boards where there should have been wire, holes in the wire where it still existed and substantial weeds poking from the tarmac.  Near the basketball court was an overgrown concrete gap, which must have had a purpose once, but I don’t know what it was. 

As I left, I reflected on the sign which welcomed people to the play park.  There was a beautifully manicured hedge protecting what were a range of old, tatty and poorly maintained play areas.  Hornfair Lido raises a number of questions which I think our local Council needs to answer.  Among them are ‘Is it going to maintain any of the facilities which are being installed or will the BMX track go the same way as the basketball court?’ and ‘Do you think parks should actually have any grass in them?’  From a personal point of view I was fascinated to note that this facility and the pitches which were laid out on the decreasing amount of green space in this park were basically devoid of people – maybe organising a coach and some basketball sessions would have been more effective than building yet another facility where the writing is likely to be on the wall (literally if the graffiti artists get their way) and it will decay into a concrete whole which future generations will struggle to divine a use for. 

In my opinion, Greenwich Council are failing to look after our parks, woodlands and commons.  I fear for Woolwich Common once the Olympic shooting events are over and as a Councillor will continue to keep up the pressure on the Council not just to install new facilities but also to maintain them.   How Labour can advertise Hornfair Park as a place they would like visitors to go is beyond me – they have to improve the whole area, not just the bit they want to photograph for Greenwich Time.”