Developer blocks access to woodland much-loved by Lewisham schoolchildren

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

A developer has blocked safe access to woodland used by schoolchildren for outdoor learning in Grove Park.

Two weeks ago it emerged the gates to the council-owned Ringway Community Centre were padlocked, while a sign was erected saying “private land, unauthorised access not permitted”.

Local primary school children use the woodland beside the centre, sublet to and run by the Grove Park Community Group, as part of Forest School, which promotes learning outdoors.

To get to the Grove Park Nature Reserve safely – not via main roads – the children walk through privately-owned land, which they are legally allowed to do after being granted access.

But now, as schools reopen, the owner of the land, Stuart Oldroyd, of 3242 Investments Ltd/Tilco, has removed the chain and lock on the gate and replaced it with his own.

Cllr Liam Curran, chairman of Lewisham council’s sustainable development select committee, blasted the move as “unlawful” and “shocking”.

He said: “He has unlawfully padlocked the bit behind the Ringway Centre because we have community access to it.

“The land behind the Ringway Centre and the Ringway Centre itself are used for Forest School and outdoor learning and hundreds of school children have benefitted from that in the past year.

“We were just about to resume with the schools going back but now we can’t.”

Stephen Kenny, of the Baring Trust said: “This vital site has been used by schoolchildren for vital outdoor learning and activities and our plan is for it to be part of a 30-acre natural park that the community has campaigned for many years now.”

The developer has not responded to a request for comment.

The land is part of the wider railway corridor land, made up of the Grove Park Nature Reserve, private land and allotments, Northbrook Park, and some Network Rail land. It includes various priority habitats including wet woodlands.

The Grove Park neighbourhood forum was set up in 2011 – the group created a neighbourhood plan which, if adopted, will go into local planning law, which includes a plan to make the land the ‘Railway Children Urban National Park’.

Pictured top: The padlock on the gates of the Lewisham council-owned Ringway Community Centre

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