Beckenham Place Park – New Plans Published

Long awaited plans for the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park have been published by Lewisham Council. A full planning application is open for consultation and comment until 2nd February 2022.

The improvement of the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park was to be delivered as part of a flood alleviation scheme in partnership with the Enivornment Agency.

The major flood plans included a 10 site flood alleviation scheme which sought to protect Lewisham and Catford town centres from river or fluvial flooding. Beckenham Place Park was to be the holding reservoir for flood waters in times of exceptionally high flow. However, in summer of 2018 the EA concluded that the cost of the scheme they had designed had risen too significantly from initial cost estimates to be cost effective or deliverable within the government funding protocols they must work within. As a result, the scheme was cancelled. Lewisham Council had committed up to £2million for this.

Also, the Heritage Lottery Fund had expected that the whole of the park would be restored, and the funding bid to the HLF was made on that basis, however none of the HLF project budget was committed to the eastern side of the park.

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“Beckenham Place Park is Lewisham’s largest park by far; indeed it is the one
of the largest parks in London, and South east London’s biggest open space.
At 95 hectares it is 30% bigger than Greenwich Park. It boasts ancient
woodland, meadow, parkland, a river and several historic buildings. It was
originally acquired by the London County Council to be the key amenity space
for the new estates of Bellingham and Downham”
– Lewisham Council Sustainable Development Committee report April 2017

Beckenham Place Park is full of history. There are listed buildings including the Mansion House built about 1773 for John Cator (1728-1806) . Cllr Alan Hall has called for a ‘root and branch‘ review of of the park’s financing in the past.

Funding for the restoration of the Grade II* Mansion House remains to be secured.

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Please take time to examine the planning application and write to planning@lewisham.gov.uk with any comments.

Beckenham Place Park International Photographs

Christopher Muttukumaru CB, DL is a regular walker in Beckenham Place Park. He contributes to The Foundation for Research on Law and Business (Fide) based in Madrid on current legal and economic topics. Their website describes their primary purpose is to be a meeting place for companies, public administration and independent professionals in civil society. These photographs were exhibited as part of an international discussion on Covid-19 and lockdown.

The first collage was an experiment. It shows aspects of the lake as it filled from the autumn of 2018 onward. In a sense, it is a set of “before” and “after” pictures of the same scene. Thus the top left image shows a digger on a winter’s morning as the lake began to fill. The sequence takes the reader from the winter of 2018 to a few verdant summer scenes in 2019 ; and finally to the autumnal colours that are reflected in its waters.

Beckenham Place Mansion is seen from roughly the same place, near Summerhouse Hill Wood, first in heavy snow after the “Beast from the East” left Bellingham like a winter wonderland and secondly in the autumn of 2019.

During the Covid 19 lockdown, the park was a haven of tranquillity. The bluebells in Summerhouse Hill Wood were especially rich in colour. It was poignant to spot this juxtaposition of the NHS key worker rainbow motif and the gentle invitation to look out for the bluebells. Regular walkers know how attractive the woods are . Now, as a result of Lewisham Council’s foresight, the park has attracted new visitors.

The top row shows the bluebells in Summerhouse Hill Wood during the Covid 19 lockdown.

The lower row shows three buildings. At bottom left, there is Foxgrove Lodge, a Grade II listed building. The wisteria in 2020 has been sumptuous. Along with Southend Lodge (centre) , also a listed building, these were two of the gatehouses to Beckenham Place Mansion. The mansion (lower right) was built for John Cator in the period between 1760 and 1773. The house, a listed building, was built on a rise called Stumps Hill. Cator was a MP between 1772 and 1793. He was responsible for planting much of the estate, including some exotic species.

Thanks and Credit: Christopher Muttukumaru CB, DL, is a resident of Bromley. He has been walking in Beckenham Place Park each morning since 2012. As an amateur photographer, he has photographed the park over many years. He was a senior civil servant in the Government Legal Service. He is a barrister, a Bencher of Gray’s Inn and, in retirement, a part time consultant at a City law firm. He has shared these additional, technically innovative and artistic compositions of Beckenham Place Park exclusively here:

A young coot with ornamental plumes – these are thought to give an advantage to chick with parental, preferential feeding
The Mansion – Beckenham Place Park

Future of Beckenham Place Park – public consultations

Beckenham Place Park is the largest green space in the borough of Lewisham, covering 98 hectares. It contains a Grade II* Listed Mansion, large areas of ancient woodland and there are numerous events held in the park. It was described as London’s new lung in 1926 when it was purchased for the benefit of local people in Bellingham & Downham.

London’s new Lung – Westminister Gazette September 1926

There are a number of consultations open that affect the park and the future uses.

Lewisham Council has identified that the eastern side of Beckenham Place Park – the Common and Summerhouse Fields – need improvement. The consultation stresses that the Council are very keen to engage the local and wider community at an early stage in the design process to help understand the qualities and character of this part of the park and what needs to be improved.

There is a short survey on the Lewisham Council website and this can be accessed here

Lately, there have been a number of larger music events in Beckenham Place Park. Local residents have expressed concerns about the scale and transport links.

It is interesting to note that Blackheath has a well established procedure whereby elected Members, amenity societies, two London Boroughs and others review, regulate and consider events on Blackheath. This is extensively detailed in the Joint Blackheath Events Policy.

In the section, Premises Licences there is an explicit reference: “These licences should only be applied for once the applicant has received the authorised officer’s in-principle approval to hold the event.” There is a further section on how to apply using the Joint Blackheath Events Policy.

Lewisham Council, as the Licensing Authority, has reviewed its statement of Licensing Policy. The new revised version for 2020-2025 aims to set out a clear set of principles that the Licensing Authority will uphold and promote in everything it does in administering the licensing regime in the borough.

The ultimate aim of this policy is to promote the four licensing objectives as set out in the Licensing Act 2003:

  1. Prevention of Crime and Disorder 
  2. Prevention of Public Nuisance 
  3. Protection of Children from Harm
  4. Public Safety

Beckenham Place Park is larger than Blackheath. Residents from Lewisham and Bromley are affeccted by events in the park. The parallels are stark. So, why doesn’t Beckenham Place Park have a bespoke policy?

Lewisham Council is seeking the views of local residents, businesses, responsible authorities and community organisations on this revised policy.

Perhaps, it is time to respond and request that Beckenham Place Park has a similar events policy to Blackheath.

Cllr Alan Hall has responded to the Licensing consultation saying:

“The draft policy contains the reference at 2.17 that  Lewisham has a number of popular open spaces and parks including Blackheath and Beckenham Place Park which are experiencing an increase in demand for use to host large cultural and entertainment events.

The aim of the Statement of Licensing Policy is to promote the four licensing objectives as set out in the Licensing Act 2003.

In Blackheath, there is a well established procedure whereby elected Members, amenity societies, two London Boroughs and others review, regulate and consider events on Blackheath. This is extensively detailed in the Joint Blackheath Events Policy.

In the section, Premises Licences there is an explicit reference: “These licences should only be applied for once the applicant has received the authorised officer’s in-principle approval to hold the event.” There is a further section on how to apply using the JBEP.

Beckenham Place Park is a larger area than Blackheath. There are two London Boroughs – Lewisham and Bromley on the perimeter of the park. Transport and policing is covered by both Lewisham and Bromley.

I would recommend that the Statement of Licensing Policy is amended to include both Blackheath and Beckenham Place Park explicitly and that similar licensing arrangements – as those for Blackheath – be made for Beckenham Place Park.”

Lewisham Council is asking that responses should be sent to licensing@lewisham.gov.uk.