More than 200 people staged a protest on Peckham Green on Saturday to oppose plans to turn the beloved park into a new housing development.
Last week we detailed how Southwark Council had purchased the formerly privately owned land, once earmarked for a later-shelved tram link, in the 1990s and had long held aspirations to use it for new housing.
In the intervening years the commercial space was given a temporary designation as a park, and has been used by residents as a park ever since.
There are now only days to save the patch of green space nestled near Sumner Road, with hoarding expected to go up in under a week’s time.
In recent weeks the campaign had gathered in momentum, fuelled in part by the growing opposition to ‘infill’ homes within existing estates.
A spokesperson for the Save Peckham Green campaign told the News the event went ‘incredibly well’.
“Just two months ago few people in the borough – let alone the immediate community – knew about this horrendous plan to destroy our public park.
“Now they know. And now we are letting Southwark Council know that we know. We are planning more demonstrations. We are asking residents to communicate to their councillors, MPs, and the local media to demand that Southwark Council stop the planned building on the Green. We do not support direct action in violation of the law.
“We want Southwark to announce that they will not be building on the park, that they will ‘designate’ it a park to protect it forever, and begin to work with the community to make it more available.
“Our community supports public housing but not at the cost of parks. The fight to save Peckham Green has broad support across party lines.
“Greens, LibDems, and even the vast majority of Labour voters are against building on green spaces and specifically against building on Peckham Green.
“The only people who support it seem to be the Southwark Labour councillors and they have circled the wagons.”
Southwark Liberal Democrats have come out against infill developments and last week the local Green Party has said it only supported sensitive developments on brownfield sites; highlighting the environmental imperative for protecting green space and mature trees.
A number of trees are due to be felled as part of the Peckham Green developed, including the ‘twisted tree’, pictured below.
Last week we asked Southwark Council’s new council housing boss Stephanie Cryan why estates were being given the right to a ballot on regeneration projects but not infill homes.
In a statement, she explained: “I understand the concerns of the campaigners, but there is a difference between large-scale estate regeneration projects where existing social rented homes are demolished and replaced with large numbers of new homes, and our smaller new homes projects.
“The Greater London Authority’s (GLA) criteria for holding ballots on estate regeneration projects applies to any scheme seeking GLA funding that involves the demolition of social rented homes and the construction of 150 or more new homes.
“It is always a difficult decision where to build new council housing, but as a council we have a duty to act in the interests of all residents in Southwark, thousands of whom are living in unsuitable or overcrowded accommodation, many with young children.
“We are in the midst of a national housing crisis, and with more than 15,000 households on our waiting lists, half of these including children, it is absolutely vital we build more council homes.
“With limited space in the borough we are having to be inventive and innovative in where and how we build these essential new homes.
“We work closely with our residents to shape the way we deliver all our new council homes, from site identification through to consultation, design, planning, and delivery.
“Where we are looking at building on existing play areas or open spaces these are being replaced – and often improved – as part of the proposals and residents are given the opportunity to take an active part in shaping the look and feel of new homes and amenities that help make their communities stronger, safer, and more rewarding places to live.”