Aliens invade Burgess Park

Park users were shocked to suddenly see a large encampment in the middle of Burgess Park springing up without warning 22 and 23 February. The lack of information led to various suggestions as to what it could be for. Was it a music festival or a refugee campsite?  

FOBP contacted the council and discovered that it was all part of a film set; aliens invade the city and Londoners are in a refugee camp. Burgess Park frequently features as a location for films and commercials. However, the size and scale of the area of the park fenced off for the film – several football pitches as well as the sports centre astro, and the length of time on-site – 3 weeks – is unprecedented in recent years.  

There have been numerous comments on Twitter and FOBP Facebook Group and other social media on the pro and cons of filming and what it means for the park and park users. 

  • Loss of green space for park users – including regular football/keepfit players  
  • Queries about the impact on the grass – particularly as one of the areas had had extensive drainage work and been fenced off with no public access for about 2 years  
  • Impact on wildlife – geese graze the grass extensively; a swan was trapped inside a fenced area without space to take-off 
  • Recognition of the filming fees and where this money was going, what it was used for 

The film company statement about opportunities film work experience and donations to local organisations is all great, but feels a bit last minute, with so little information up-front to warn park users and park groups. 

The key issues are that park users were not consulted – if this had been an event there are arrangements in place. The impact on the park and park users, the local benefit of the filming the social value are not transparent, which has to be a feature of using a public asset and removing that use from local people. Finally the impact on the park itself and the wild-life. There are horror stories from parks across London of damage done and poor-quality remedial work.  

The full cost, including environmental and loss of amenity, of any event whether a music festival or filming needs to be part of the “value” assessment with an emphasis on the additional social value that can be offered.  

This filming took place just as the sports centre and open land around it has also been fenced off for the building work. Now the filming has finished the main park site is being refenced off again and other grass areas are not fit for use and will need time to recover.

Southwark Council is strapped for cash like all local authorities and park budgets are under pressure. We understand that but as a park friends group we are focused on the impact on the park and standing up for the park. Burgess Park is not a bit of space which is available for any alternative use; it has an intrinsic value as a green space, a public amenity and a haven for wildlife.​