Eliot pits – playground proposed

There’s a plan afoot to build a playground on Eliot Pits. (Eliot Pits is not a kid that went to the same school as you). It’s that really picturesque valley from where you can look down across the whole of London, on the edge of the Heath. It’s also been left relatively unchanged and wild for centuries.

The funding has come from a strange place. Boris has proposed a quite sensible idea to increase the number of “pocket parks” in urban areas, so that more people can enjoy green spaces. Which is a great idea! The problem is that this is already a green space, and it is being seen by some as a way to sneak development into this area by the back door.

A website opposed to the proposals has been created.

There’s a petition to stop building on the site.

And a campaign leaflet.

It seems like this should be a core issue for the Blackheath Society over the next few months…


Filed under blackheath, blackheath common, planning, politics

41 responses to “Eliot pits – playground proposed

  1. Jessica

    interesting. this has actually beed talked about at the balckheath assembaly for the past 9 months. perhaps people should attend or read the notices!

    • I’m sure you’re right. I try and attend when I can, but it’s not always possible. I actually saw a poster hanging in a shop window, then went and looked online. Sorry I didn’t spot it earlier!

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately people didn’t (and still don’t) know about it. I live near to the site and didn’t know anything about it until by pure chance the day before the Blackheath Assembly meeting in January at which Eliot Pits was identified as being the only site under consideration, and a vote was taken to allocate funding for the project, which suggests that it had been under consideration for a long time. We had not received a leaflet advertising the meeting. The one or two Blackheath Assembly leaflets we had received well in the past mentioned a general proposal to put childrens’ play facilities somewhere in “Blackheath Ward” or in “Blackheath”- both of which are very big and could have been anywhere! When I eventually did get hold of the leaflet for the January meeting I saw that it still did not identify Eliot Pits as being the site- it simply mentioned a playspace somewhere “on Blackheath”- which is 270 acres! Again, Eliot Pits was not mentioned.

      • Jessica

        I don’t agree with the location for saftly reasons and these are all being addressed at the meetings.
        If you don’t want to go or can’t get to the to the meetings there are contact details on the BA leaflets that allow you to get more information about anything that is mentioned.
        The location has been suggested as well as others for nine months or three meetings.
        There is time to discuss this rather then wage an online campaign.
        Mr Bugle – perhaps speak with the councillers and get the correct information as you are more and more getting a reputation for causing disruption in the Blackheath community.

      • It’s not disruption to mention something seen in a shop window. And my reputation has always been in tatters…

      • Anonymous

        I think that the Eliot Pits site was only identified publicly for the first time in the January 2013 Blackheath Assembly meeting. I did read online the minutes of the previous Assembly meetings and they did’t mention Eliot Pits- they simply referred to a site somewhere in “Blackheath Ward” or “on Blackheath” or “in Blackheath”, so local residents had no way of working out where the proposed site was. Unfortunately I am not able to attend the Blackheath Assembly meetings so I can only go by the information that is minuted and put online.
        Unfortunately the documents describing the playground are not online- you had to be at the January meeting to get a copy. I will try and scan these and send them to the Bugle.

    • Frances Busy Mum of 3

      Can you help with this ? how do I get to see the application made to the Mayor’s fund? I have not been to the Assembly meetings but this will inform me about this project. It must be quite detailed enough to have trigerred funding and then people can make an informed comment
      Do you have a link you could post ?

  2. Anonymous

    Thanks for making us aware of this. I cannot believe anyone would want to spoil this fantastic spot. Surely The Blackheath Society is aware of this and as Guardians of The Heath, it will not allow it.
    Blackheathbugle thank you for alerting us

    Heath User

  3. Anonymous

    That was my playground swinging on a rope, searching for Stag Beetles, collecting Grasshoppers in what we called The Dip. Leave it alone as nature intended. No H & S, if you got hurt your problem. We didn’t have much just our friends and were happy in Hollyhedge Bungalows pulled down in the 60’s

  4. Alex Grant

    To be honest I have little sympathy for the petitioners.

    Families in Blackheath (both on the north and south sides of the Heath) have been asking for a playground in Blackheath for years – the only proper ones nearby are in East Greenwich Pleasuance or in Greenwich Park at the bottom of steep hills.

    Subject to the full ecological study that Lewisham are doing, I’m all for a small, environmentally friendly playground. There are lots of myths being spread – it is actually a man-made landscape (an ex gravel pit) and far from being the “only wild area left” (look at Vanbrugh pits ). What’s wrong with a few bits of well-designed wooden play equipment?

    I don’t think Greenwich is giving a formal reply to the proposal, but I am certainly raising no objection.

    Alex Grant (Labour councillor for Blackheath Westcombe ward, Greenwich)

    • Why does a playground have to mean climbing frames and swings? Why can’t it be precisely what is at Eliot Pits now?

    • Anonymous

      Please look at what is being proposed, as presented to the Blackheath Assembly in January and in the application to the Mayor Of London for pocket park funding. It is an extensive scheme and not a “small environmentally friendly playground” (as Eliot Pits is the perfect example of at the moment, by the way!). If the scheme has now changed then Iocal residents have not been told and we can look at the publicly available details. I also think that after two centuries of not being actively mined and now having been reclaimed by nature, it is accurate to describe Eliot Pits as “natural”.
      One fact- Eliot Pits may be a level walk for some, but for children living around Lewisham Road at the bottom of the very steep Lewisham Hill it is a very steep and long walk.

    • Anonymous

      Owsabout putting a playground in Vanbrugh pits? Or is that a bit too close to your voters?

      • Please don’t even suggest it, I bet they would!!

      • Alex Grant

        Sorry but I don’t understand your comment, anonymous – why would I be reluctant to see a playground “too close” to “my” voters in Blackheath Westcombe ward. You seem to assume that a playground, and the children that use it, are a nuisance that no-one wants to have near their homes. A pretty depressing world-view.

        There is demand for better playground provision on the north side of the Heath as well as the south. It is a great that Greenwich council recently abandoned plans to put play equipment in the grounds of Mycenae House Gardens, as it proved impossible to reach consensus with the Friends Group there about the ideal location and type of play equipment,

        As a result the money is being diverted towards improving the play facilities at John Roan School, the rebuilding of which is underway.

        I agree with many other people who have commented. How depressing it is that as soon as either Lewisham or Greenwich council propose improving play facilities for children, the first reaction of some people is to misrepresent the proposals and loudly object, without actually listening to children and their parents, grandparents and carers.

  5. I’d never heard of Eliot Pits or the proposal, so am now Googling to see where it is and if I’m annoyed by it, or not.

  6. Tina

    I have been to a number of local assemblies that cover this subject and spoken directly to local counsellors. The website opposing this is scare-mongering and bears no resemblance to the discussions. All that is proposed at the moment is a survey to see if this site is suitable then there will be consultations with the community to find out if a play area is needed and wanted here. If it goes ahead the design will also be based on what comes out of the consultations.
    Initial ideas/ discussions were suggestion a small naturalistic play space that blends into the environment. I for one think that this area is desperately in need of somewhere like this, it gives preschooler’s mums a place to meet other local parents and kids a place to explore and enjoy. Rather than trying to derail this why don’t we see what is actually proposed and let the community decide based on fact rather than conjecture.

    • Anonymous

      Can someone tell me if this is for young kids, toddlers or teenagers?
      These 3 groups have very different needs. I am a mother of 2 young children who needs reassurance that my children will be safe when they play. This area is not going to be fenced and it is surrounded by busy roads.

    • just found out about this. I don’t want my kids attracted to this hole on the health far too dangerous for them on their own. I want something near my estate not in the backyard of these posh white mums who do little work and want to chat with friends. This is not for workers but privileged people again.

  7. Emily

    There is no play area in Blackheath, despite the fact we clearly have a huge number of families. I think its quite depressing that when the Assembly voted to use some funding to set up a playspace for the use of the village there is an immediate Nimby style outcry about it. Having looked at the space I think it works. It wasn’t particularly nice or safe to begin with. It would mean we could have a space on the heath without it being visible for miles around and spoiling the look of the ‘heath’ proper which people might say about one right on the main heath itself – I wouldn’t want my kids to play there without me but that was true of how it was already. I think it would be ideal for a few naturalistic pieces of play equipment.

    Yes children love playing on the heath but they also love playgrounds and the ones nearby are at least a half hour walk from my house. It would be really nice to have a playspace for the village. I was really shocked when I read the leaflet from the Pitstop group as it was so misleading. It talked about development and used really scaremongering language. It didn’t even mention that they were talking about a playground until the second page. No wonder its hard to get people involved in their local communities when they get such a backlash for trying to create something positive for the area. I think if people want to influence where it is or what it looks like then they should come along to the assembly meetings and talk about it like adults – not create a ridiculous scaremongering campaign.

    • Anonymous

      It’s important to realise that the first time the Eliot Pits site was identified in public was at the 29 January 2013 Blackheath Assembly meeting, which I only heard about the day before. I had not received any information prior to that meeting which stated either what was being proposed or where it would be.The Council has admitted that it has problems with the delivery of the leaflets which advertise the meetings. Residents just do not receive them. Going online after the meeting the only information I could find were references to ” play spaces” or alternatively “play facilities” or a “playground” either ” in Blackheath Ward” , ” in Blackheath” or ” on “Blackheath”‘, which is extremely vague and could have been anywhere.
      Crucially, the Council had already applied for funding for the specific Eliot Pits site before the public were told where the playground was going to be! So it had already decided upon the site and applied for funding for it before it told the public on 29 January.The timetable decided on by the Ward Councillors promoting the scheme describes the extent of public consultation as being on the detailed design only, not on the proposal itself or the site.
      As to being a Nimby, I already have a childrens’ playground in my backyard- it is called Eliot Pits. I am prepared to forgo having play equipment on my doorstep because of the natural beauty of Eliot Pits itself and the 270 acres of Blackheath which I feels more than compensates for not having whatever is being proposed there by the Council. As to that, it would be useful if the Council could put on its website the documents it handed out at the 29 January 2013 meeting and its application for Pocket Park funding, which are the only documents which describe what it is proposing and on the basis of which it has secured funding. If those proposals have now changed, no one has bothered to tell local residents.
      Emily, the ” the few naturalistic pieces of play equipment” which you refer to is not what is being proposed in the documents I mention above. You seem to know more than local residents about this so could you share with us what you believe is now being proposed and how you came to learn about it?

      • It would certainly be good to see some more info. I don’t think my article was overly in favour of the idea, just pointing out that it seems like there are many parts of Lewisham more in need of green spaces than this one.

    • Anne

      Emily, I think you’re being a little unfair. There was no “immediate Nimby style outcry” against a proposed play space on Blackheath. The objections only started when the actual location was very belatedly revealed to local residents at the end of January this year.

      The problem with Eliot Pits is that the site is permanently waterlogged, will not have funding for staff and – unless the proposed development is even more intrusive than “scaremongerers” envisage – will not include loos or other facilities.

      Worse, in my view, is the difficulty of access for the people who most need a safe, nearby play space. Eliot Pits is a 20 – 30 minute steep climb for people living on the Orchard and Lethbridge estates. Once there, they will find there is nothing to prevent children running out onto Wat Tyler Road or vanishing out of sight over the top of the Pits as – being common land – the site cannot legally be fenced off.

      Rather than hurling insults at people who can see the problems associated with a play space at Eliot Pits, it would be more constructive to work together to see if there is a more suitable location for such a facility elsewhere on Blackheath. Ideas, anyone?

  8. Maggie

    We need a play area for children , if everyone complains then nothing will happen and the children lose out .

  9. richard

    Attention older residents. We are in the midst of a baby boom in London so I guess you should prepare yourself for more playgrounds. Dont worry though these children will be paying for your pensions and healthcare that you didnt get around to funding. Maybe you should stick your NIMBY complaints and let them have their fun eh?

  10. Simon

    People without gardens need play areas, there is only so much you can do on the Heath with small children .

    • Anonymous

      Families in Catford South may not be very sympathetic to that comment! There are many places in the Borough which are crying out for “play areas”. This isn ‘t one of them. And what the Council is proposing is not for small children.

  11. Emily

    I apologise – not intending to hurl an insult – just wanted to describe the campaign itself as ‘nimby-style’. I used that phrase because I believe the information distributed is misleading.

    The information I have comes from going along to the Assembly meeting and talking to the councillors when there was a recent community event at the Age Exchange.

    I imagine various sites were looked at but if those opposing the current idea have other ideas perhaps they could share them with the Assembly? I can’t think of anywhere more suitable near the village but others might have more ideas.

    Personally having looked at the site I would be quite happy to take my children there if there was some play equipment there. I would want it to be really natural and nicely designed, and it wouldn’t be a proper playground with loos and a cafe, but I see it as a space that is nearer to the village, where you could pop to for an hour or so with the kids, rather than the longer excursion involved in getting to manor gardens or Greenwhich Park with a buggy and a toddler.

    As far as I understand it the design of any playspace, the age appropriateness etc hasn’t been decided yet so I would suggest people go along to Assembly meetings or get in touch with the councillors and help with that process- or even suggest other ideas. I think that would be more constructive than simply a campaign against the idea.

    • Anonymous

      In order to suggest an alternative site people need to know what is being proposed. The Pocket Park funding application and the documents handed out at the January 2013 Assembly meeting did not show a playground for small children. In fact, those giving the presentation in January mentioned the Ladywell Fields playgrounds several times and the current proposal – and the one for which funding has been applied for and secured-is for a Ladywell Fields style adventure playground for older children. The two sets of documents describe school and youth club trips to the site, an outdoor classroom,a Trim Trial around the top edge of Eliot Pits, sensory equipment, boardwalking from the road to the centre of the site for accessibility, describe having to “lift” trees (ie remove them) and show various photos including one of brightly coloured play equipment with a safety surface. A scheme of that type would require a certain type of site. If the proposal has now changed from that then perhaps our Ward Councillors could properly inform all local residents of this and give details of the new proposal. Then people might have a chance of suggesting alternative sites.

    • Anne

      Goodness! An apology! No need to go that far, Emily. I do however worry that a lot of wool is being pulled over a lot of eyes with regard to this scheme. I honestly don’t tthink there is a campaign against the idea of a play space on the Heath per se; the campaign as I see it is against the use of this particular site.

      Believe me, a lot of us have attended the walk-in sessions at Age Exchange and are in contact with Cllrs Maines and de Ryk (and even Cllr Bonavia who has yet to pronounce) about this issue but the truth is we all seem to be getting different replies. Cllr de Ryk insists this will be a space for younger children but as Anonymous points out, the information so far available points to something altogether grander: certainly not the occasional piece of tastefully designed play equipment which you hope for.

      One of many matters of concern is the decision by Lewisham council to restrict the initial study of the area to a Phase 1 survey. All this requires is that the various types of habitat be mapped, Individual species of flora and fauna will not be listed, so if this scheme goes ahead, we shall never know what we might have lost. The Pits may not be a natural formation, but nature has certainly taken over big time over the past decades and we should surely think twice before forever altering the character of this unique (for Blackheath) site.

      It should also be pointed out that, according to Boris’s scheme for Pocket Parks, these are intended “to improve public areas by greening existing, underused or forgotten areas of space, close to where people live and work”. What this development will achieve is the un-greening of Eliot Pits: the very opposity of what the Mayor of London intended.

  12. Diana Starte

    Who’d like a treat?
    Read all the blogs? But still not sure about playgrounds. Or The Dips, or, as they’re officially known, Eliot Pits. Remember, they are just below the Territorial Army buildings, near the pinch-gates which block the lorries getting to the Heath.
    Pick a sunny morning and here’s what you do:
    Visit the loo, because there aren’t any where you’re headed! Stock up with a sandwich, drink, maybe an old rug, a bird book if you’re keen, then walk to the Dips.
    Spread the rug, up the slope a bit, not down the bottom, where it’s always boggy!
    Now, if you’re sitting comfortably, close your eyes and think back. Go on, just for a minute.
    Slowly open your eyes, and as you blink in the sunlight you’re dazzled by all the green.
    Focus, and you spot the apple blossom on one and then two trees. Every type of bird is singing. Or squabbling. It’s warm. Wild flowers poke through the new grass and bumble bees make their weird way around.
    You see a tiny bird hopping. A wren ? Mouth crammed full of tiny stuff. It disappears into brambles.
    Looking up, you hear a breeze before you see it arching the top of a tall Poplar. Down where you are in the Dips, there’s barely a breath of wind.
    The odd car passes, but you’re too busy wondering excitedly as you walk towards it, if the dirty looking rope tied to an old car tyre left dangling from a branch would take your weight… without snapping.
    You give it go. And Wow! It lets you swing. Back and forth, back and forth. . Not high. But enough.
    You catch yourself smiling and thinking, “I’m 56, my two are at Uni. And I’m still playing in Eliot Pits!

  13. Well said Diana! Please don’t let them build on this land

    • Anonymous

      There is now a link to the Mayor of London’s Pocket Park Funding Application for this scheme on Pitstop’s website http://www.eliotpits.org.uk which show what is being proposed, although the photos are not quite the same as the ones handed out by the Ward Councillors in January 2013.
      Interestingly, both the M of L funding application and the one to the London Marathon Charity Trust which is referred to appear to have been made by Lewisham Council weeks before local residents and the public were told what was being proposed.

  14. Claudio R. Abbott

    The funding has come from a strange place. Boris has proposed a quite sensible idea to increase the number of “ pocket parks ” in urban areas, so that more people can enjoy green spaces. Which is a great idea! The problem is that this is already a green space, and it is being seen by some as a way to sneak development into this area by the back door.

  15. Anonymous

    Is this a late April Fools day joke? On one hand people are asking for swings for kids to exercise on the other the walk through the park is too far? The Dips are a create play area for slightly older kids with bikes. Climbing trees and playing Cowboys and Indians (the other name for the area). All in all a joke and I hope it is treated as one.

    • Anonymous

      I couldn’t agree more. The report showed a beautiful green
      space, open to everyone to play in and enjoy, and a little girl using her imagination and playing very happily there. But her mother said that children like her need a ” centre” to play in! It didn’t look that way to me.

  16. Blackheath Bird

    According to Steve Bullock’s office, the idea for using Eliot Pits as a pocket park was initially suggested by none other than the Blackheath Society. Unbelievable but true. That’s the same people who threw away £80K trying to stop a two-day pop concert just yards away from the one place in the area where urban kids can play as they would in the country. What are these people up to!

  17. Kate B

    I can’t believe that anyone in the Blackheath Society would suggest such a thing. If they did, I’d be truly appalled. (Though it might explain their curious reticence on the matter)

    What I don’t understand is who this playground is for. Part of the money available, I gather, comes from the redevelopers of the Heathside and Lethbridge estate who didn’t manage to include a children’s playspace in their massive new building plan and who have shoved the responsibility onto the council. If this is really so, to put the missing playspace in Eliot Pits makes even less sense – it’s an incredibly steep walk uphill from the estate and involves crossing at least one busy road.

    There’s plenty of flat, overlooked, convenient, tatty lawn space on the edges of the Conington Road estate, right in the area that needs this facility – why couldn’t that be considered before taming the Pits wilderness?

    Finally, the pitstop website does the cause no favours at all – it’s a pity there can’t be some really informed discussion about this. Though for that we’d need plans. Where are the plans?

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