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.
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.
People living, working, or studying within the London Borough of Richmond can sign the petition at:
Neil Hankey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.