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By mute, 23 August 2016

Across the UK parks are under threat from local councils desperate for land to develop into schools and homes.

Even in Hackney, where the Council made billions from regeneration in the past ten years, it is steadily building on parkland and leisure areas in a series of emergency education measures. 

But schools are no longer community assets which arguably take priority over parkland. Through a combination of PFI and the Academy system, they have become profitable enterprises.

Haggerston Park in Hackney is a case study in regeneration borne development that will culminate when a new Mayor is elected September 15th. The Council has built four separate school facilities in the park over the last 10 years and locals are determined to prevent another site being taken from public use when the decision comes up before the planning committee in September.

Meanwhile a UK-wide Parliamentary Enquiry into development on Parks has set a deadline of September 1st for submitting evidence

The story of Haggerston Park typifies a stealth land grab going on in many boroughs across the country. Hackney Council first built a SureStart in one corner of the park, then an Academy School changing rooms in another area, and leased off the Astroturf to the nearby Bridge Academy, along with the tennis courts. Both Bridge and Haggerston Schools use the park for all their PE lessons, and now the council wants to add another school.

The election was called when former Mayor for Hackney, Jules Pipe, resigned in July to become Deputy Mayor for Regeneration for Sadiq Khan: Is Jules Pipe planning to do the same for London as he did for Hackney? Redevelopment under the guise of regeneration? Is that a good thing?

At stake in Haggerston Park is a local community which is about to be dispersed because

the council wants to build a four story temporary school in a newly designated Conservation Area, on what is also registered parkland classified as a site of Special Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC).

The final date for planning objections is 29th August.

As the candidates line up for the election to replace Jules Pipe, on September 15th, Haggerston Park has become a key battleground.  Green Mayoral Candidate Samir Jeraj has said he would reverse the decision. Acting Mayor Phil Glanville, who is also Labour candidate, has not commented publicly yet.

Local resident Dr Ashok Kumar, lecturer at Queen Mary University said,

                “I think Haggerston Park is one of the best parks in the city. I don’t want to see

                even another inch of it eaten up.”

Local resident Nick Bridge said:

“I believe the space was used as a temporary school in 2008 for one year, after which time the Council failed in its duty to return the area to park land. How can we now have any confidence that the land will not be lost to the park forever after the latest proposed development, which would be in place for a much longer period? 

It goes without saying that there is nothing as important as the education and schooling of our children, but we must not create a false trade-off between the proposed school site and London's irreplaceable green space - both are vital and must be protected. “



Write to before 29th August 

Guardian feature on our national parks under threat

Save Haggerston Facebook Page

Check the campaign's Facebook Page to see a short film by Iain Sinclair on why he loves Haggerston Orchard and Community Garden