Mountsfield Park Cafe and Toilets – we have until 3 August 2016 to make a difference!

MOUNTSFIELD_PARK_CAFE_INTERIOR_2_0

We want a cafe in Mountsfield Park. We have been campaigning for a cafe for years, and have been promised one by Lewisham Council – including as part of the Council redevelopment of the park that created the Community Garden and revamped the play area. But the Council were unable to follow through on their plan to build a cafe at that time. Since then, we have worked with them to identify some funding – £50k – to launch a tender process to encourage an outside investor to build a cafe in the park.

A viable and attractive cafe plan is in front of Lewisham Council for approval right now – made by a local businessman who has worked closely with the Friends of Mountsfield Park. You can see the plans and some pictures of the new cafe here.

But the planning department at the Council is making unreasonable demands:

  • they are demanding that the new design have a ‘biodiverse living roof’ to replace what they claim is a living roof on the existing, abandoned container units. In fact, the current ‘living roof’ is around a dozen unmaintained planters. We have offered to move these and add them to the Community Garden, so there is no loss of natural habitat, but the Council says this isn’t good enough.
  • they are demanding that the new design meet the ‘BREEAM’ environmental rating of ‘exellent’, even though the Council was prepared to waive this requirement for the cafe they planned to build in Mountsfield Park! In other words, had the Council actually managed to deliver the cafe they promised in 2014, we would now have a cafe that didn’t meet these very high standards. The current proposal meets the ‘BREEAM’ environmental rating of ‘good’ with an aim to achieve ‘very good’. This means the current plans exceed mandatory standards by some margin.

If Lewisham Council turns down the current proposal – for what we think are spurious reasons – it could be years before another option is available and the money we fought to get the Council to commit to support the project – £50k – will be at risk.

We want the Council to take an intelligent approach, to look at the benefits a cafe would bring to Mountsfield Park: it will bring in revenue, encourage people to stay in the park longer and enjoy the Community Garden and play area, improve security by making the park more attractive to families, provide a place for dog walkers to get a cup of coffee, and it will mean that maintained toilet facilities are available in the park. These are far more important that a handful of planters!

We have written to the Planning Department to outline our concerns, but here’s what you can do to help:

  • add your signature to this petition by 3 August 2016 to let Lewisham Council know you agree that we’ve waited long enough for a cafe and toilets in Mountsfield Park.
  • Email mountsfieldpark@gmail.com by 3 August 2016 with any further comments, thoughts, and experiences. All evidence is good evidence and will help us to make the case.
  • Tell your friends and neighbours! Share the petition, share this blog post

We want a cafe. The park deserves a cafe. It needs functioning toilet facilities. A local businessman is willing to invest to create an amazing cafe. Short-sighted planning decisions shouldn’t stop it happening.

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6 comments on “Mountsfield Park Cafe and Toilets – we have until 3 August 2016 to make a difference!

  1. Michael Orgles says:

    I am not sure that a cafe is absolutely a necessity but toilet facilities are a must considering the size of the park. I lived and grew up in the area and used the park on many many occasions, I never at any point thought what this park needs is a cafe, but have thought it needs toilet facilities.

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    • mariaconyard says:

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment.

      We agree that toilets are a necessity, but in the current climate, where the Council have cut back on park keeper time, the only way a proper toilet is going to be available is as part of a cafe, so that the cafe owner has the responsibility to maintain it. So, for us, the two things go hand-in-hand.

      In addition, a cafe tops the list of the things that local park users have asked for when surveyed – 83% put it top in fact. They want toilets too, but a cafe has been a long desired – and promised – wish.

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  2. Mat Young says:

    I think if you get the cafe, they also provide toilets for all park users? That’s what seems to happen in other Lewisham Parks. Why don’t they just put a green roof on. They are great on so many counts and are not a major expense. Some argue that they insulate the building. I thought it was in the Lewisham Planning Advice and we want things to improve not stay as 5 years ago. Also helps with your drainage issues.

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    • mariaconyard says:

      Hi Mat,

      Thanks for your comments. As you say, the toilet in the cafe means a toilet for everybody in the park, which will make a real difference.

      A green roof could be a good idea, but ultimately this is a decision for the person putting in the money to build the cafe. We are not aware of any other cafes in Lewisham parks that have a green roof, and we certainly don’t think that the unkempt planters currently sitting on the container units count. It just feels a bit rich for the Council to demand a green roof in these circumstances.

      The plans that have been put forward are a massive improvement on what is currently there. If the Council approves them, we will finally have a modern cafe, the design of which responds directly to the wishes the Friends of Mountsfield Park put out when the tender process started. We think it will have a very positive impact.

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      • Michael Lant says:

        Pistachios on Hilly Fields has a green roof. They also maintain the adjacent toilets. Not sure what BREEAM rating they achieved but the additional capital expenditure should be paid by reduced running costs.

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      • mariaconyard says:

        Thanks Michael,

        That is useful information and we will make the potential operator aware.

        Ultimately it is their investment and they feel that making the changes to include a green roof would be prohibitively expensive for them and, even though we might like one, we don’t agree that it should be a requirement. As you say, there is the possibility of reduced running costs with a green roof (although other roofs can also be energy efficient), but that doesn’t remove the need for up-front investment.

        We now have a viable proposal in front of the Council, securing outside investment, which would create an attractive cafe in Mountsfield Park. If the proposal doesn’t go through, it could be years before another proposal comes forward, and the money that has been invested to-date could be wasted. This might not be a perfect proposal, but it is a massive improvement on what is there at the moment.

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