A MODEST PROPOSAL

Background

Havering Council is currently reviewing a whole series of its policies including those on planning and parks and open spaces. The Friends of Dagnam Park are submitting the attached proposal to the council for consideration, if you feel that you can support this proposal we hope you too will make your views known to the council. We will be attempting to enlist support from all Friends Groups, Political groupings, Community groups and ordinary residents, in fact anyone who is fed up with the gradual and never ending urbanisation of Havering should join us. Pass the proposal on and if you want more info please don't hesitate to contact us.

THE PROPOSAL


The sale of so called surplus Council owned land has always been contentious. It is never clear what use is made of the receipts from these sales.
In the past Havering Council has purchased land for various purposes. Rainham Marshes was originally purchased as an investment with a view to commercial development. More recently when Pages Farm came up for sale the Council purchased it, I think to protect it from "unsuitable development". That proposal emanated from the then Conservative administration in the mid nineties. The proposal as we recall was supported by all political groups and the then Director responsible for planning matters, Denis Tyson, was also very supportive. Not particularly surprising, as he owned and lived in a property overlooking the site. That purchase was very successful and Pages Farm is now part of Thames Chase.
In recent years we are unaware of any significant land purchases but there have certainly been numerous disposals under administrations of various hues. There are currently proposals to sell off more "surplus" land including some in Harold Hill and Noak Hill as well as a proposal to remove one large Council owned site from the Green Belt which will inevitably lead to a significant increase in its value.
With the pressure on Council budgets it is always tempting for the Councillors responsible for setting the Council tax to use one off receipts from sales of capital assets to ameliorate the rise in Council tax. Obviously this is a short term palliative and leads to a gradual disposal of assets, often highly visible ones.
We are strongly of the view that the current policy on disposals and the subsequent use of funds is not in the long term interest of the public. We propose that all such receipts should be ring fenced and used solely to purchase land within Havering that would be used as replacement public open space.
Such a fund could have been used to purchase Maylands Fields (and still could) it could have been used to purchase the land at the corner of Straight Rd and Noak Hill Rd currently the site of an illegal caravan encampment (The Council is currently engaged in a legal planning enforcement battle with the occupants of this site in which hundreds of thousands of pounds will be spent in what, may prove to be a fruitless effort)
How much more sensible to have funds available to secure the sites before contentious planning proposals arise. We are confident that such a policy would receive wide public acclaim in Havering, which one would imagine is what our elected representatives desire.
We are not expressing support or opposition to any particular new land sale merely pointing out that any sales or rationalisation of land usage may well be more acceptable to the public if the losses in some areas are offset by gains in others.

Del Smith................. delsmith444@btinternet.com