Thursday, June 13, 2013

What's going on with Mountsfield Park?

View from Stainton Tea Rooms
Originally uploaded by clogsilk.
Mountsfield Park should be one of Lewisham's best parks. It's big, it has wonderful views, a good (if a little tired) main playground, football pitches and tennis/bowls.

What it doesn't have is a permanent cafe. Stainton Tea Rooms opened a couple of years ago out of a portacabin in a lovely location under a beautiful old tree. It started well, and, despite the slightly dodgy toilet facilities, I enjoyed many afternoons there with my kids and friends.

Look at places like Manor House Gardens and Hilly Fields and you can see the benefits of a permanent cafe. They bring more people into the park and make the parks feel like places you'd want to spend time, rather than secluded no go areas.

Last year GroundWork London ran a consultation about Mountsfield Park for Lewisham Council, looking at what people wanted from the park. A cafe had strong support from 83% of respondents. I'm also led to believe that there is a ring-fenced budget of perhaps £400,000 to fund it.
So why did we hear (me via the medium of twitter, I wasn't actually at the meeting as I was listening to Boris waffling on at the State of London debate) at a meeting of the the friends group last night that another feasibility study is to be carried out on siting a cafe in Mountsfield Park? Now, call me silly if you like, but this seems like a monumental waste of money in these times of austerity. If we have that money waiting lets get the cafe built. Build it and they will come as the saying goes.

Manor House Gardens got its cafe in 2000. It's 2013 and Mountsfield Park is still waiting. Come on Lewisham Council, what's going on?


Anne said...

Thanks for this. Last night was extraordinary- it was the first meeting with real news since the Consultation last autumn.

We were there to meet with Sergio Olivares of the Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency at the request of Lewisham. (He is part of the team behind the fantastic MVMT cafe in Greenwich and provided training for the stall holders at the very new Deptford Market Food Court). We genuinely thought we were there to hear about the next phase of development except it rapidly became clear he hadn't been told about the Groundwork consultation or the recently announced appeal for 'Expressions of Interest' to run a new community food growing in the park.

The GCDA were invited to bid for the feasibilty contract just weeks ago. So Without any explanation we were back to square one.

It seems a mess; the council appear reluctant to move forward with a cafe in Mountsfield and are not being candid about their concerns. Why the new study? And why send a great guy into a meeting so unprepared? It was awful.

The Friends of Mountsfield Park did an incredible job of rallying people last year, hundreds attended the consultation in the park. Groundwork said it was their most successful consultation ever. It cost almost £10k, so why have the emphatic results been set aside without explanation?

Barry Mizen of the Mizen Foundation and the Cafe of Good Hope was also at the meeting last night and spoke about having gone to Catford Boys and used the park all his life. Several other locals also spoke of their long history with the park since before the War.
Barry offered his Foundation as a potential partner for any social enterprise set up to run a community cafe. The team behind the development of the new Abbotshall Fields cafe and community space were also represented and are eager to assist. There is an obvious wealth of experience and talent rooted in the area, why is that not enough?

If the answer is no, then let's have a straight no instead of trying to surveying everyone into submission!

Mark said...

You might be interested in developments at Ladywell Park see:

Clare Griffiths said...

Thank you Mark, the comments on that piece are a bit depressing!

Lewisham Gardens said...

Thanks Mark.
I hadn't seen that thread.

In this climate business models do need looking at. I have no problem with caution, its the lack of information which exasperates me.

Pricing is a serious issue, not everyone has a fiver to blow on coffee and cake. But its also more than that- Hither Green needs a community hub that opens in the evening for the use of local people and groups.