A Good Walk Spoiled?

Fulwell Park in Spring

MARCH 2012 UPDATE: The gates have now been locked to keep the public off this land. See the comments section for more info and to have your say.

The game of golf was once described as “a good walk spoiled”. The American writer and humorist Mark Twain is attributed with that remark although whether he actually said it is the subject of debate. Not huge debate admittedly, but debate nevertheless. On the Twickenham / Hampton border we have our very own version of “a good walk spoiled” but this time it appears to be the golf club that seems to be trying to spoil the walks of others. More than a century on from the musings of Mark Twain, golf is big business and it’s not unusual for questions of rights of way and land access to be debated in connection with it.

In our case, we’re talking about access to the land at Fulwell Park and the attempt to restrict it by David Lloyd Leisure on Staines Road. Vandalism and “general public safety” (whatever that is) were cited as the reasons for a proposed closure in the summer. Although it was never implemented there are now rumours that David Lloyd are seeking to change the designation of the golf course land from “public open space” to “private open space”. This change of use could see the permanent removal of the public’s longstanding right of access to this piece of green space.

In this item local resident Neil Hankey gives his view on the subject explains what you can do to show your support for keeping access open to all – sign his petition.

Neil writes:
Fulwell Park is a delightful place to walk, jog, or exercise your dog and I have enjoyed its beautiful greenery and relative quiet since moving to Twickenham in 1988.

Since 1965, it has also been used as a 9 hole golf course; walkers and joggers keep to the side during playing hours, and accept that they are taking the same risks with mis-hit stray balls as the golfers themselves.

I first became concerned about the public’s right to walk in Fulwell Park in 2001 when the Council were looking for private health club companies to improve the course, replace the somewhat run-down club-house, and run the whole operation. After a public consultation, a proposal was selected and a formal planning application lodged; it showed improved paths for walkers around the course. Great! No need to worry – despite the 125 year lease.

The improved paths never arrived but a 5 foot steel perimeter fence did, and again I became concerned; but there were gates for public access.

It’s a lock out
New owners took over the lease, and in June 2011, they placed notices by the public-access gates saying that they will be permanently locked. On reading them, I felt outraged at the injustice, and, unusually for me, decided that I must become an active campaigner for the rights of my (council-tax paying) neighbours. Examination of the lease and legal covenants give encouragement; but some work is needed to ensure our future rights are protected.

The petition is in important first step, it will test the resolve of the neighbourhood, and strengthen the hands of supportive councillors against those council officers who would cede more benefits to the leaseholder – or even favour redevelopment as housing. So far, we have around 400 signatures to the paper equivalent, but we need far more – both to secure time in the council chamber, and to give a clear mandate for more progressive steps – maybe such as those used at Coatham Common in Redcar or at Buckingham Fields adjacent to our own Hampton Community College.

Sign Up
People living, working, or studying within the London Borough of Richmond can sign the petition at:
http://www.richmond.gov.uk/received_petitions

Neil Hankey (hankey.neil@gmail.com)

The petition states: “We are most concerned to hear that Lloyds Health Club are in the course of applying for a change of designation of the public Golf Course land in Fulwell Park to Private Open Space from Public Open Space. Should such a change be approved, it will result in removal of the public’s right of access.” The petition wants the Council to cease any discussions about change of use.
The petition is live on the Council website until 24 January 2012.

Fulwell Park notice

7 Comments

Filed under Council, Local Issues & News

7 responses to “A Good Walk Spoiled?

  1. Word is that the the gates have indeed been locked and the public’s access to this land ended. The public footpath bit remains open. It’s been suggested that the agreement to continue to allow public access to this land as its use morphed from the public to the private domain was part of some kind of unwritten agreement. A statement of intent or a “gentleman’s agreement” perhaps? Who knows? Perhaps it’s time for an Freedom of Information request to find out a bit more…

    UPDATE to the UPDATE: Word is that the gate near 6th Cross Road / Staines Roads is open (or at least was yesterday) but the one near the main entrance was locked.

  2. Longford Close Resident

    the gates are bolted so no public access
    Is this legal?

  3. P Lewis

    I hear today that the extra gates have been locked.It seems D Lloyd has got his way, bet he would have moaned if someone had done it to a tennis club.We must all fight this and find out who sold the rights to what is a public park and if they made money out of it.If they did it illegally then a few months in jail would put them right.

  4. Copthall Resident

    Well done for publicising this. Petition signed. I walk my dog there from time to time and the areas between the greens are pleasantly wild, it’s particularly atmospheric after “bad light stops play” and probably provided a sanctuary for wildlife exiled from Crane Park by Thames Water’s effluent. Certainly a useful wildlife corridor. Doubtless if David Lloyd gets it’s way they’ll be exiled, along with the public from there too so it can be manicured into Japanese stone gardens…. easier to retrieve their balls.

  5. Ann H

    Well done Neil – absolutely critical that we keep the public rights of way, not just for us locally but as a principle for others in similar situations elsewhere. Keep up the good work with the petition and I urge other people to sign it.

  6. Simon H

    If they do turn it to private land, just continue to walk on it. Make a mockery of their stupid decision. See if they try and stop you.

  7. SGdB

    I must admit that, living as I do in a different part of the Borough, I do not know this piece of land, but I still feel that I may comment on the general principal involved. I just cannot understand how a piece of publically owned land can be redesignated as private, and taken away from those who use it. Surely, public land is owned by us all with the council as our representative to manage it for us. If this change of designation should be allowed, it would make a most ominous precedent and threaten all public land anywhere. We are most fortunate in this Borough to have many open spaces which we can enjoy, but that is no reason to effectively give any of it away. It is these wonderful amenities which bring residents here, and we should not be deprived of them. I will certainly sign the petition, and I urge others to do so.