A remark by Canada-based commentator, Russ on my most recent post about the Nelson Arms, reminded me that sometimes us Brits aren’t prepared to be shoved around and see our much loved institutions, or local beauty spots taken away from us.
Russ’s comment was, "Good to see locals (in the UK) stepping up to preserve something they feel strongly about". To which I informed him that the same group responsible for obtaining the ACV on the Nelson Arms, also ran a campaign to save the River-Lawn; an area of parkland in Tonbridge close, to the river, which the local authority wanted to sell off for development.
The land, which fronts the River Medway, was originally bought by the then Tonbridge Urban District Council in 1919. Out of work, servicemen, returning from the Great War, were employed to clear and then landscape the site, turning it into a pleasant green area, overlooking the river, for the townspeople to enjoy in perpetuity.
Fast forward to 2017, and the now greatly enlarged Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, decided to sell off the River-Lawn to a developer, who wished to erect houses and offices on the site (madness on a floodplain and close to a river which is prone to bursting its banks). The local authority claimed they were strapped for cash, which is probably true, and the sale would generate some much needed cash; but to sell off an asset that has been enjoyed by local residents for the best part of a century, was foolhardy, and flying in the face of local opinion.
Various protest meeting were called, culminating in a march through the centre of Tonbridge on 23rd September, last year. Along with many other local people, I became involved, and joined the protest held by the group, as we marched through the centre of Tonbridge.
It was a great day, the sun was shining and we brought the town centre to a standstill. The march culminated in a rally, held at the River-Lawn, at which various speeches were made opposing the sell-off of this much loved green space with its magnificent, mature horse-chestnut trees.
The protest attracted masses of support from local residents, shoppers and trades-people, but despite the intense opposition of local people, the council still went ahead and sold the land. TMBC were able to do this because councillors from parts of the borough, many miles away from Tonbridge (the borough extends right along the Medway, almost as far as Rochester), voted in favour of the proposal, as it didn’t affect their “patch”.
I understand an appeal has been raised against the decision, but in the meantime, here are a few photos I took on the day, which demonstrate local people protesting against a measure they consider as both unjust and detrimental to their town.
ps. Thanks to Russ for reminding me of that sunny weekend, back in September last year.