A bit of local news for a change… If you spend a lot of your time immersed in global issues, it helps to be able to do a bit of really local campaigning to keep things in balance. In my case, it’s Transition Luton and my local resident’s association, which is currently leading a campaign to save Abbotswood Park.
Abbotswood Park is a small green space with a playground, a couple of hundred yards from my house. It was a sweeping crescent until 1994, when a wedge was taken out of it and six new houses were built. Now Luton Borough Council has put the remainder of the park on a list of spaces around the town slated for housing developments. Despite the number of derelict properties and unused industrial space around Luton, that list includes a number of green spaces – and this in a town that has 30% less green space than the UK average.
Under current proposals, nine new houses would be built on the park, leaving just the playground. We don’t think that’s necessary. There’s a derelict clinic adjacent to the site, and a condemned row of shops with flats above. That’s more than enough space to redevelop the area and make the park attractive again. The developer and the council disagree.
We’re out to defend the park, the only public space or community asset in the vicinity. So at the weekend we held a protest festival. It was organised informally through neighbours and friends, and drew a considerable crowd. There was food, games for the children, a football tournament, and some fund-raising yard sales. Households living next to the park kindly let ran cables out their kitchen window so a local DJ could set up some music on the front drive. More intrepid protestors pitched tents and stayed the night on the grass, although with a baby and a house 200 yards away, I was not among them.
That was Saturday, and the afternoon went very well, despite a really wet start. It was great to see the park celebrated and valued, and to see so many people mixing together, teenagers and toddlers and grandparents all milling about in the sun.
This week we’re after some media attention for the story, contacting the local press and hopefully ringing some alarm bells at the council, who don’t seem to take us particularly seriously right now.
Consultations on the development begin properly in the autumn. I’ll let you know how it goes.