Letter to Cllr Caliskan with questions about the Tottenham bid 31st October 2021

Dear Councillor Caliskan

The recent decision paper regarding the proposal to proceed with the bid from THL for the lease of Whitewebbs Park raises many questions that need answering.

Many issues have been raised before – lack of information, failed promises, misleading statements from council officers and failure to consult in a proper manner with the community. Answers have been unsatisfactory to say the least  and the issues are still open.

1.       The paper continues to confuse the park and the golf course. Right from the point when Enfield Urban District Council took on the 999 year lease it was clear that the park consisted of the ancient woodland, the open space, the buildings and facilities. The golf course was not a separate entity and should it or any occupied part of the park (cricket pitch, tennis courts and the like) be discontinued the land would be restored to open space for the enjoyment of the public for recreation. Officers have attempted to imply that the park is part of the golf course which it is not.

2.       The reason given for the marketing of Whitewebbs Park  – erroneously referred to as Golf course and adjacent land, was that the course was running at a loss. The moment that you closed the course at the end of March 2021  this reason lost all validity. From that point the park continued to generate rent from the social golf club building and the café, not to mention whatever rental is paid by the Toby Carvery. All costs associated with the golf course had gone and all that were left were those common to all parks in the borough.

3.       The income from the THL bid. The total amount over a 25 year period  is £2million. There is something seriously wrong with a marketing exercise that produces such a derisory figure – roughly equivalent to the allowances paid to 5 or 6 councillors a year. You have chosen not to share real details of the bids so it is difficult to make an assessment. The financial contribution of the preferred bidder is so small that it does not warrant the  score given to it. It may well be that work that would have been put into the maintenance of the park and the woodland by, for example, bidder A would be equivalent to or greater than the cash value of the THL bid.

4.       You will be aware, or should be, that the café in Beggars Hollow has been very busy for the last two years even with its limited facilities and size. The rent is, I believe, about £10,000 a year. Small cafes in other London parks attract rents of £30,000 and more. The social club building, while a little tired has potential for functions and other activities. With 25 year leases entrepreneurs would be prepared to invest in these facilities and pay rents  that would cover over half what you will receive from THL. Then there are the old golf course buildings with their commercial space, facilities , large storage  capacity, yard and car parking. No doubt your estates department has assessed the potential for development and rental of these.  I believe that the income from  Beggars Hollow facilities and the golf office facilities would far exceed the anticipated rental from THL.

5.       Net, THL would appear to be getting the site for practically nothing.  The site is very valuable to THL – its size, its proximity to existing facilities thereby saving on staff, plant and machinery, travel, common facilities and administration make it so. For reasons that are not apparent  you are giving it to them, a wholly owned subsidiary of a multi billion dollar offshore company, for nothing (net).

6.       The one concession I can see is that you have confirmed public access to the area south of the planned pitches.

7.       On the other hand, it is not clear that there will be public access to the area around the Lake.

Specific questions

1.       Does THL have any track record of running a public park with free access?

2.       Other than occasionally cutting grass paths through the meadow area and planting wildflowers around the pitches what specific obligations does THL have to maintain and enhance the park?

3.       Please supply a map of the footpaths that will be maintained and open to the public in the area leased by THL.

4.       In the brochure issued by THL there are pictures of high quality footpaths, is this the standard to be enforced by the lease?

5.       In what way will the golf course be modified to look like 19th Century parkland? At present the whole golf course has the appearance of 19th Century parkland. Please supply a schedule of work that is to be done.

6.       What protection will be afforded to the old course of the New River which loops through the golf course and is part of the industrial heritage of Enfield? There is no mention of this in the documents.

7.       Will THL have responsibility for the maintenance of Cuffley Brook (overgrown with Himalayan Balsam every summer) and for the flooding that affects both the golf course and the area identified as 3 on the map?

8.       Will THL be responsible for the provision of improved café, WC facilities and a visitor centre  in Beggars Hollow car park?  The visitors centre is mentioned in council documents but not by THL.

9.       Will car parking continue to be free?

10.   Reference is made to  improvements to the bridleway (I exclude the part along the northern border of the pitch area as this will be part of THL boundary construction work).  What work will be done in the council areas and the leased areas e.g fencing  repair, surface repair and at what cost?
There is reference to an additional 3Kms of bridleway. There is already  4Kms which the Council has failed to maintain.  Where will this additional 3kms be located, how much will it cost and  what financial provision will be made for maintenance over the length of the lease? 
Usage of the bridleway by horses appears to be very light. How many rides take place each week? 
It is not entirely clear from the maps which parts of the bridleway are in the leased area. As the north south stretches are statutory bridleways who will have responsibility for maintenance?

11.   There is reference to cycle track creation. Where will this be? What will be the cost ? What will be done to ensure safety and to avoid conflicting patterns of use between horse riders, cyclists and walkers? This is already an area of concern within the park.

12.   Will existing park byelaws apply to the whole park or just to the  council retained areas?

13.   What is the annual estimated cost of maintaining the Council retained areas of the park?

14.   Why has the Council been through such a long marketing process that has resulted in no real financial benefit? Had the process resulted in a £100 million cash income for the borough it might just be possible to justify the process to some. As it is the only real  beneficiaries are the ENIC corporation.
Where does the responsibility for this debacle lie? Bad advice from your agents, incompetence from council officers, poor political decisions………..?

Rewilding – this is causing some confusion.
The document refers to tree planting along Cuffley Brook and to planting native species in the open areas in the council retained  open areas to the north and south of Cuffley Brook. Anyone who has visited these areas will be aware that  both  have hundreds of young trees growing there – oaks, sycamore, alder, willows, maples, hawthorn, blackthorn, ash and many more. Cuffley brook is lined by very large mature trees as well as a range of smaller species and shrubs. There are many different species of grasses and wild flowers which attract butterflies  and insects. Birdlife is abundant and there are reports of adders and toads as well as deer and other mammals. Through a sensible policy of benign neglect the areas have rewilded in a natural and attractive way. Footpath maintenance and drainage are required and have been for some time.

1.       What ecological analysis of these areas has taken place and what “rewilding” is seen as necessary?

2.       Please supply a schedule of work and associated costs.

The Golf Course – the golf course was laid out in the 1930s by a skilled and experienced team that followed the existing landscape. As can be seen from pre 1930s OS maps and the current editions of Google Earth there has been extensive planting of trees which have complemented the  established trees on the course. Since the cessation of grass cutting  this year it is obvious that there are a great many species of grass and wildflower growing on the course. The view that the course is a monoculture of rye grass does not bear closer examination. The golf course is home to many birds and its mix of trees and open areas makes it a healthy hunting ground for  the many bats  nesting there and for the birds of prey.

There is already evidence of native trees establishing themselves this year, through the agency of jays, crows and squirrels.

3.       What “rewilding” features are being planned for the golf course that are not happening naturally?

Financial matters

The Leader of the Council is quoted on the council web site as saying “ If these proposals are approved we will use the rental income to reinvest an extra £100,000 a year into grassroots sport for young people across the borough.”

This statement refers specifically to the rental income as the source of  the £100,000 a year investment. As most of the (averaged out) £80,000 a year rental  will cover little more than the running and maintenance costs of the park this statement makes no sense at all.

1.       Would you please explain how the planned work for the council retained area of Whitewebbs – footpaths, bridleways, general maintenance, rubbish clearance, rewilding plus the £100,000 a year for grassroots sport are covered by an income of £80,000 a year?

Biodiversity and climate action

I estimate that about 100,000 cu metres of earth will have to be moved to create level pitches in area 4. Two of the pitches will be Astroturf. The remaining ones are described as grass but I suspect that they will be of the hybrid variety with plastic reinforcement. The grass will be carefully selected  and be of one type.

1.        How will the construction work and the artificial and hybrid pitches contribute to biodiversity and the climate emergency?

2.       This facility has no access to public transport. Has an analysis been made of traffic generation?

3.       How will those without driving licences get to the facility?

Employment and Training

1.       Capel Manor College runs sports turf courses – will the Turf Academy complement or compete with these?

2.       How many new full time jobs will be generated by this project?

3.       How will community groups gain access to the facilities without the presence of public transport?

 Yours sincerely,

Sean Wilkinson  (Chair of the Friends of Whitewebbs Park)

Some additional points and comments with pictures

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