Comment

Whitewebbs Park must remain open to all

Conservative councillor for Whitewebbs David Skelton gives his reaction to last month’s legal verdict

David Skelton was elected in 2022 to represent Whitewebbs
David Skelton was elected in 2022 to represent Whitewebbs

Whitewebbs Park is a very precious part of Enfield. It’s very precious to people across the borough and beyond, who love it for its tranquillity, its open green spaces and its diversity of wildlife, with over 70 varieties of birds, some rare butterflies and ancient woodland.

The park is a hallowed link to the rich and varied history of the borough, with links to the park going back to figures as diverse as Henry VIII and the gunpowder plotters. What has been the case for almost a century, however, is that the people of Enfield have had the unhindered and unimpeded freedom to enjoy the beauty of the park.

This freedom might be set to come to a shuddering halt. Proposals by Tottenham Hotspur and Enfield Council mean that half of the open land in Whitewebbs Park will be heavily reconstructed, laid with manicured grass and artificial turf. This land would be fenced off, being used primarily for the use of elite footballers, rather than local people. Tall fences, patrolled by security guards, will keep local people out.

It’s a deeply symbolic move, given that the park was sold to Enfield Council in 1931, on condition that it was held in public trust and used for the benefit of the people. It should come as little surprise that there’s near universal local opposition to these plans to fence off and privatise public parkland.

Sadly, the council has chosen to ignore the clearly expressed views of park users and local people, and is pressing ahead with its plans to shut out the public from great swathes of Whitewebbs Park.


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This is an issue of great importance not just to Enfield, but to people across London and beyond who value their local parks and green spaces. There’s no point denying that last month’s High Court verdict upholding the council’s decision was a blow to those of us campaigning against this modern enclosure of public land.

Local residents, led by Sean Wilkinson, are right to appeal the decision, which creates a precedent that could imperil the future of public land across the country. This isn’t the place to go into legal minutiae, but it’s worth noting that the judgement, although ultimately disappointing, did acknowledge that the proposals would lead to a “significant” decrease in public access to the park and will create facilities that “are not […] to any significant degree […] accessible to the public for recreation”.

There is, of course, an alternative to continuing to pursue the legal route. Even at this late stage, the council could meaningfully engage with park users to secure continued public access to the whole park. One of the richest football clubs in the world could withdraw their bid and, instead, pursue alternative, commercial, routes that don’t encroach on public land.

The fight to save Whitewebbs Park is far from over. It’s essential that the council lives up to its responsibility to keep the whole of the park in public trust and it’s crucial that the park remains open to all.

David Skelton represents Whitewebbs alongside Hannah Dyson and Reece Fox (all Conservative). Get in touch:
Email
[email protected]


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