Friends of Burgess Park Audit
The FoBP met on Sunday 6th July 2008 to walk around the park and survey the general appearance and condition of the park.
GeneralPutting aside larger design and major improvement issues, which will need addressing at some point, our general impression is that the park at present is very poorly maintained – in fact there are many areas that appear to receive no maintenance at all, with ornamental shrubberies and planting beds choked with bindweed and other weeds, insufficient or inappropriate pruning, rubbish, dangerous paving and broken furniture.
What maintenance there is appears purely functional, with no attention placed on enhancing the aesthetic value of the planting or the park as a whole.
The lack of maintenance contributes considerably to the general air of neglect and desolation, hardly encouraging users to take any pride in the park. It means that parts of the park are inaccessible, unusable and threatening.
It may also encourage crime.
There are numerous areas where there are health and safety risks, still open to the public with no warning.
There are areas where fly tipped rubbish is never removed and blown rubbish is left to fester in the less visible areas and minor pathways.
We wonder if there is any strategy for park improvements, as projects undertaken are so piecemeal and fragmentary.
We questioned whether Quadron are actually fully complying with their maintenance contract.
- The park is poorly signposted, with nowhere for public information, contact numbers of park managers, wardens etc. There is no ‘face’ to the park – who is in charge? Where are the wardens? Where would one report trouble / crime etc. The few workers there are elusive. There is no evidence that any existing rules are enforced, eg lighting of barbeques.
- No visible, labelled facilities for park users eg toilets. No obvious directions to those existing facilities.
- Broken down, un-maintained facilities are still open (e.g old children’s playground) but dangerous.
- This is still advertised on the council website as a functioning play area.
- Lack of any sort of identity or focus within the park – a general air of tired neglect and being unloved and uncared for. The emphasis and expenditure on Chumleigh Gardens only serves to highlight the lack of interest in and quality of the greater park.
- The park is poorly defined, with little encouragement to entice people to use and explore different parts. The fragmented nature of the park means that many areas are ignored and bypassed, without sufficient signage or maintenance to encourage people through.
- Many of the original trees planted need renewing.
- Inaccessible areas - such as in the long rough grasses where wider mown paths might encourage (for example) dog users away from picnickers. Copses are dense and overgrown, woodland areas filled with excrement and rubbish.
- A lack of biodiversity, with a lot of monotonous planting that is really just overgrown and un-maintained self seeded Buddleia. Many of these areas are now used to dump rubbish / public toilets etc.
- Self-seeding sycamores are establishing themselves in many ornamental planting areas, potentially damaging built structures (eg the walls of the canal bridge under Wells Way).
1. Camberwell end
Entrance is scrappy and poorly maintained.
Pathways and seating areas with ornamental planting are poorly maintained, and not planted up.
Water pipe debris left abandoned.
Wildlife area - has benefited somewhat from a recent tidy, although brambles have been cut down reducing food for birds and cover for young foxes, and allowing free rein for Japanese Knotweed. Question the appropriate time of year for this kind of work. Could volunteers be used at right time of year?
Recently created wildlife area opposite St Georges Church - no signposting, overgrown.
2. Tennis Courts
3. Lime Kiln
No maintenance, covered in weeds, rubbish left scattered. The ornamental grasses planted a couple of years ago by Groundwork receive no seasonal maintenance, are left weedy and unkempt. Looks a mess.
4. Bikes / karts / old playground.
The playground - A great resource left to rot, shrubs overgrown and dense, infrastructure collapsing, yet still accessible to all. Has poor visibility but could make great dog free picnic spot / teenagers playground etc. Couldn’t this playground be re-instated in some way for use by older children / teens who might not be interested in the new play area by Chumleigh Gardens which is aimed primarily at young children.
Access to the bike and kart area is gloomy and dark, with a narrow entrance and litter strewn around. It is dirty and unwelcoming. It was also deserted on a summer Sunday, and on subsequent weekends – why?
5. Chumleigh Gardens
Maintenance stops at gate! The bed (outside railings) is poorly maintained with gaps in planting, weedy, no soil dressings etc despite being the first thing in sight as you approach Chumleigh Gardens. Could maintenance extend a little further out?
Chumleigh Gardens World Garden is also poorly maintained.
The relatively good maintenance at the front of Chumleigh Gardens only highlights how poorly the rest of the park and the World Garden is maintained.
The Café is under - publicised and doesn’t connect with greater park. No access for those out walking the dog.
6. Car park
Recycling bins are great, but there could be more encouragement for football / sports players to transport their rubbish to them at the end of the day.
Used as free park and ride to city. Parking charge could generate income for the park and leave the car park free for park users.
7. Football pitch
This area is very well used, especially for football on the main playing field.
The condition of the field is very poor, with an uneven surface. We met one player with an injured foot, having tripped in a pit whilst playing football.
The weekend league players have large audiences and many teams, but there are no toilet facilities nearby, meaning that the shrubberies and long grass areas adjacent to the pitch are littered with toilet paper and human waste.
Insufficient and wrong type of bins, allowing rubbish to blow out or be thrown out by foxes and crows means the Quadron staff spend much of their time at the beginning of the week clearing litter.
Very poor infrastructure around the lake, and not many seats or bins. The ornamental planting areas are derelict, brick walls are crumbling. The cascade is broken, dirty and dangerous, and filled with foetid water. Surfaces are not weeded or repaired.
Gates are left padlocked with no explanation, reducing access to path around lake. Present water levels are very low.
Water filtration and recycling is not in operation. Bird life on lake has dwindled in the past couple of years, despite the lake being an important sanctuary.
9. Nature reserve (Cobourg Rd)
Littered and fly tipped. Rubbish irregularly cleared. Completely overgrown, no signage. No maintenance.
The area leading out of here to Trafalgar Avenue also receives no maintenance, and there is no seating or bins. The entrance here from the park is simply a broken gap in the fence – it needs formalising. This might encourage more use through the garden and a greater feeling of safety.
The entrance needs to connect more with the main park to encourage use.
10. New sports facilities
Meadow on earth banked building poorly maintained. No publicity for public toilets here. Lead flashing stripped from new building.
The new facilities are great, but wonder if the considerable amount of time spent on their upkeep means the rest of the park now gets even less maintenance.
Lawns mowed in front of the new building, despite having no use and no public access – could they be opened up for more playing space.
11. Canal walk (in main park)
There are not enough seats or bins. In the central area by the road bridge and the old library, the paving stones are broken and cracked, setts are not weeded, and the seats are broken.
The shrubberies here are overgrown and covered in weeds.
12. Copses / nature
Dark, overgrown and dense, and filling with self-seeded sycamores. These areas are narrow, with poor visibility and threatening. Various individuals have set up camp in this area throughout the summer, leaving refuse uncleared in the copses.
The area of long grass by Neate Street is totally inaccessible – mown paths could encourage dog walkers down. The woodland here is dense and overgrown, littered with rubbish and excrement.
The other rough grass areas receive no maintenance, meaning grasses are taking over wildflowers, leading to lack of biodiversity.
There are not enough good quality wildlife habitats established throughout the park.
13. Surrey Canal Walk arm
A very busy route at rush hours, it is too narrow for both pedestrians and cyclists, with a dangerous blind corner. Minimal maintenance means it looks unkempt and scrappy. The derelict area above path has un-cleared fly-tipping, drinkers, broken glass and needles strewn about.
- Very poor lighting.
- Very overgrown with weeds.
- Poor quality of seats, surfaces and bins means the area messy even though it is a popular spot to sit.
- Fencing here seems arbitrary, and creates un-necessarily enclosed spaces.
- The entrance to both sides of the park here is poor, despite this being the main link from Peckham.
14. ‘Peace’ Garden (behind St Georges Church)
Un-maintained and overgrown with bindweed. Poor maintenance of existing shrubs and overgrown elder trees create a visual barrier. Not welcoming. Yews need clipping.
Other areas / issues
- Old Kent Road main entrance - overgrown shrubs provide cover for ‘drinking schools’, it doesn’t welcome people in. Poorly designed, old fashioned signage looks very tired.
- General entrances - are poorly defined with no signage or bins. No noticeboards.
- After festivals – for months afterwards the park is still littered with debris, food debris (bones) etc encouraging rats. Clearing litter focuses on the main areas but ignores byways and denser growth.
- The old roads – contribute little to park.
- Fencing – a lot of unnecessary fencing closing off and dividing up areas.
- Dog users – clash of use, could be encouraged around periphery (precedent - Dulwich Park). Lack of encouragement to pick up mess. Not enough dog bins strategically placed.
- Lack of visible staff means aggressive dog problems, training of dogs for fighting (plenty of tree and branch damage).
- Poor lighting. Feature lighting – for example the old bridge could provide visibility and visual interest.
- Tons of bark mulch and manure were deposited in the park in spring, but very little of it was actually used in the park itself.
- Depot on Waite Street storing bins and picnic tables – could some of these be placed in the park for local users? There are not enough of these facilities for use in the park.
Finally,We are keen to see the park improve and flourish, and understand that this takes considerable time and finance, but feel that the poor maintenance is an issue, which if addressed promptly could considerably improve the quality of the park for all its users before larger funding becomes available.
Without a clear vision and focused lead, it appears that the park lacks direction, and that improvements are generally too small to have any impact on the park as a whole, creating a cycle of piecemeal, poorly maintained projects that contribute to an impression of money poorly spent.
The focus on Chumleigh Gardens further highlights the neglect throughout the rest of the park, and lack of signage here creates a remote enclave separate from the park that doesn’t relate to or open up to the wider park.
The park needs a clear strategy to take it forward, or it risks floundering in piecemeal regeneration that further fragments an already fragmented park, when there is an opportunity to allow the park to become the living heart of the regeneration around it, and a focus for the wellbeing of people in the local area and beyond.
The Council response to Friends of Burgess Park audit
The Council fully acknowledges that Burgess Park does not achieve the high standards of maintenance and infrastructure that it has achieved in its other three major parks.
Burgess Park was created incrementally by the GLC over a period of 50 years and was handed over to the Council upon its demise as an incomplete project and without any form of dowry. The park has struggled to establish an identity of its own ever since.
It has long been the Council’s view that a substantial investment is needed to bring Burgess Park up to the standard that it achieves in its other parks and the Council has made three unsuccessful applications for substantial funding over the past ten years. The Council has been successful in attracting considerable resources into its other major parks through grants obtained from the Heritage Lottery fund. Unfortunately, the HLF does not consider Burgess Park to be a repository of sufficient heritage value to make it worthy of a major grant and as a consequence, the major source of parks funding available to the park has been closed to it.
Since this date, we have attracted, opportunistically, funding into the park to develop facilities such as the football centre, the tennis centre and the Surrey Canal Avenue. But as you correctly identify, these projects have not addressed the fundamental issues that the park faces – redundant roads, poor footpaths, poor lighting, inadequate signage and overall, a lack of a sense of place.
The Council as a whole and the parks service as part of this operates in a very constrained financial environment. The parks service and its contractors, we would argue, do generally perform in respect of the relatively low impact but nevertheless, vital daily work to keep the park in order – cutting the grass, picking up the litter, emptying the bins, sweeping the paths and undertaking repairs that are necessary to keep the public safe. Where our contractors fail to deliver what is required of them (and we acknowledge that they do fail on occasion), they are penalised for this financially (see below).
However, the limited amount of money available to maintain the park and keep it safe cannot address the issues of dereliction that your report and photographs identify. We will respond to the issues that you raise for each area in detail, but in general terms, the Council does not leave areas of the park in a poor or un-maintained condition through neglect. These areas are in this condition because the Council does not have sufficient resources to address these problems – problems which are fundamentally a result of its having inherited an incomplete park 20 years ago.
Burgess Park continues to present huge challenges. But in the context of all the regeneration that has been taking place or is about to take place in North Peckham, The Aylesbury and the Elephant and Castle, the Council recognises that Burgess Park cannot simply be left to fester in its current condition and continue to fail to address the needs and aspirations of local residents.