Lewisham: Beckenham Place Park Regeneration

Sponsor: London Borough of Lewisham LewishamD16_Photo
Sponsor Liaison: Alison Taylor and Laura Harper
Student Team: Alexandra Czamara
Andrew Dunne
Carl Everette Pierce III
Alexis Sturgis
Abstract: The Lewisham Council is currently regenerating Beckenham Place Park to increase its social value for the surrounding community. Our team assisted the Council in this process by determining the current social value of the park, harnessing the best practices for volunteerism, and justifying investment in the park. Based on the findings from our methodology, we created an argumentative brief to justify current and future investment in Beckenham Place Park, while also providing recommendations to the council for enhancing the regeneration and incorporating volunteer efforts.
Link: Final Report (LewishamD16_report)
Final Presentation (LewishamD16_presentation)

Executive Summary

Beckenham Place Park is the largest green space in the London borough of Lewisham at 96 hectares. The park dates back to the 18th century when John Cator owned the estate and built the Beckenham mansion. Today, the park contains an 18-hole golf course and ancient woodlands, and the mansion functions as both a cafe and clubhouse. In 2014, the Lewisham Council received £4.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to regenerate Beckenham Place Park to increase its value for the community after previous studies showed that there were net losses associated with the golf course because of maintenance costs and low visitation. Since then, the Lewisham Council secured an additional £3.9 million from other funding sources for the regeneration project, for a total of £8.8 million. The regeneration plans involve adding new amenities to the park to attract a wider variety of visitors and make the park inclusive to all segments of the community. The goals of the regeneration project are to increase the social value of the park for the community and encourage volunteer efforts in the park, as well as justify future funding for the renovation of the Beckenham mansion.

Social value relates to how organizations add to the social, economic, and environmental prosperity of a community. The concept of social value is vague and is measured differently depending on the type of analysis being conducted. Combining qualitative and quantitative information regarding social value allows for multiple perspectives, which is useful for evaluating a park environment. Volunteer efforts are significant for parks because they engage the community while also compensating for low park budgets. In order to increase volunteerism, it is necessary to understand the motivation behind the practice and the factors that contribute to successful volunteer work. Historic buildings like Beckenham mansion play a significant role in adding to the overall social and cultural value of a community, making renovations a productive investment.

Our team sought to propose a strategy for the Lewisham Council to evaluate how the public values Beckenham Place Park, with particular consideration to social value and volunteerism. We created three primary objectives for this project:

● Establish and implement a method for assessing Beckenham Place Park’s evolving social value.
● Identify beneficial practices for harnessing volunteerism in Beckenham Place Park.
● Justify short-term and continual investment in the park by highlighting the park’s value for the community.

To achieve these objectives, we collected and analysed data using four methods:

● Observational studies in Beckenham Place Park
● Survey distribution to residents in the surrounding boroughs
● Interviews with volunteers
● Situational analysis incorporating other park and historic building regenerations

We used a combination of observational studies and survey distribution to accomplish the first objective of assessing the park’s social value. The observational study allowed us to assess who currently comes to the park and the activities that are popular among visitors. The survey enabled us to get direct information from the public regarding attitudes towards the proposed park regeneration plans. We conducted the observational study on different days throughout the week and weekend, and recorded information during non-consecutive hours. We distributed surveys at consultation events organized by the Lewisham Council where we discussed regeneration plans with surrounding residents.

For the second objective, we organized interviews with volunteer groups involved in both Beckenham Place Park and other organizations. Interviews elicited detailed information from primary sources regarding the factors that contribute to successful volunteer efforts. By targeting outside organizations, we assessed how external sources view Beckenham Place Park and discussed their suggestions to encourage volunteerism in the park.

In order to justify short-term and continual investment in the park, particularly regarding the Beckenham mansion, we conducted a situational analysis. We conducted the situational analysis by assessing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) for an organization. This method allowed us to determine how successful the park currently is and anticipate future opportunities and setbacks that will affect the park’s advancement.

After we completed data collection using these methods, we utilized Microsoft’s Excel software to create visual representations of the results, which enabled us to find patterns and connections in our data. Results were cross-analysed to determine the association between responses to specific survey questions. Using this information, our team drew conclusions regarding how aspects like gender and age influence attitudes toward the park. In terms of demographics, the results from both the survey and observational study showed that the park is used primarily by white residents in the age range of 60-74. From the observational study, we found that because of the lack of amenities in the park, the two main activities are golfing and walking. These results show how underutilized and selective the park currently is; the demographic data received from our studies shows that Beckenham Place Park is only engaging specific parts of the community. The survey results showed that in terms of future added amenities and events in the park, most residents prefer walking and observing wildlife, and show little interest in large-scale events like concerts. In terms of the overall community attitude toward the park, which relates to our analysis of social value, we found that 71% of the survey participants are in favor of the plans and claim they would visit the park more often post-regeneration.

For volunteerism, our survey results showed that while the majority of participants are not interested in volunteering at all, those respondents who indicated that they were interested in volunteering expressed preferences for wildlife and habitat conservation. During interview analysis, we found three keywords that repeated in each interview: ownership, leadership, and organization. Volunteers stay motivated when they feel a sense of ownership over the area in which they are contributing their efforts. Leadership is essential for a volunteer organization to succeed, because it supplies the structure and organization needed for volunteers to complete projects. Overall, we found that a successful volunteer organization in Beckenham Place Park needs to have a strong leading figure and thorough event organization to keep volunteers motivated and interested in work.

Discussions with the public during consultation events revealed that many are concerned over the lack of funding established for the mansion, which needs significant renovations before it can be repurposed. The £8.8 million currently secured for the park is not being invested in the mansion. While 71% of survey participants support the regeneration plans, further investment in the park can increase this number, particularly if the funding goes toward making the mansion an asset to the community. In order to justify current and future funding in the park, our team created an argumentative brief by compiling the results from each of our methods and our situational analysis into a PowerPoint presentation. The Lewisham Council can use this brief to show stakeholders and investors both quantitative and qualitative data about the park and mansion and therefore make a case to acquire additional funding for Beckenham Place Park.

Based on our results and background research, our team created a list of recommendations intended to produce a more successful park regeneration for the Lewisham Council. We divided the recommendations into three categories: enhancing design stage III, harnessing volunteer efforts, and justifying funding for the park regeneration. Design stage III is the next phase of the regeneration for the Lewisham Council and involves finalizing the plans and incorporating them into the park. For enhancing design stage III, we made recommendations in relation to:

● Improving access and signage around the park for both walkers and bikers
● Incorporating small-scale events and activities in the park
● Adding a driving range by the Foxgrove building
● Creating conferences for business and organizations to get involved in the park
For harnessing volunteer efforts, we made recommendations in relation to:
● Creating a strong sense of leadership in the volunteering community
● Maintaining organization with volunteer work
● Encouraging volunteer efforts among the community
For justifying funding for the park regeneration, we made recommendations in relation to:
● Advertising the park improvements post-regeneration
● Communicating the value and future of the park with stakeholders

A complete list of recommendations is found in Chapter 5. For each recommendation, we discussed why we believe it will benefit the Lewisham Council, and how the Council can incorporate it into the current regeneration plans.
Our project will enable the Lewisham Council to maximize the success of the regeneration plan and justify future funding for Beckenham Place Park. By providing a summary of our survey and interview results in a deliverable brief, the Council can present the information easily to stakeholders as a means of advocating for investment. Park budgets are increasingly being cut in the United Kingdom, which may result in poor quality green spaces with minimal amenities. Our results show that investment in the park will have a positive influence on the surrounding community positively by adding social value and engaging a larger variety of residents. Supplying the Council with a tool to display these results will allow it to continue advancing the initiative with Beckenham Place Park.