Thursday 8 June 2023

The story of Chalkhill Park as we mark 10 years since the official opening

This post reflects my personal involvement but of course the most credit must go to the Chalkhill Residents' Association and especially their chair Kathleen Fraser who held on to the vision through thick and thin and played a much larger part, as well as Brent Council Parks Department and the local councillors at the time.



Early Plan 25.03.2010


The official opening of the new Chalkhill Park was on June 8th 2013, 10 years ago today, but as you will see there were other 'unofficial'openings.

The park resulted from a 'pay-back' arrangement when Asda took over some of the estate land for its superstore and the the site of the medical centre and car park on Chalkhill  Road was ear-marked for a park.

There were hitches on the way and at one time there were rumours on the estate that the site would be used for flats rather than a park.


 The site in 2011

In October 2011 I wrote:

 I think my readers deserve some (fairly) good news in the midst of the recession gloom and the closure of half our libraries.

I attended a meeting last week in my role as a school governor regarding the proposed new Chalkhill Park. The Chalkhill Residents' Association have been concerned about the park and a proposed Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) in St David's Close on the estate. The Chalkhill Pupil School Council had written to ward councillors to expression concern about the lack of progress on the park and had been told work would commence this month. In fact nothing seemed to have happened and the weeds were getting taller and taller.

We were told that work was behind schedule by 4-6 weeks and may fall further behind if soft planting is delayed by poor weather. However we were assured  that the park should open in May 2012. Bids are still awaited from contractors who will construct the park.

The residents' concerns about the budget for the project were not fully answered. It appears to have reduced from £1.3m to something over £0.8m and there was some confusion over whether the money was from planning gain following the building of Wembley ASDA on a section of the estate, and whether the money had originally been held by Metropolitan Housing Association, the managers of the estate, and late handed over to the Council.  If the latter is the case there may be an issue over the reduction in the amount.

Putting that aside, we were assured that the promised children's playgrounds (one for older children and one for younger) and an exercise area for adults would be built. There would also be a 'kick-about' area rather than a formal football pitch and a wildlife nature garden.

 Residents asked questions about the 'water feature' that had incorporated into the plans. They had never asked for one and it appeared to be an expensive item. They said that if anything had to go because of budget constraints the water feature should be abandoned. It appears to have been added as a landscape features that would extend the vista from Brent Town Hall steps, down the avenue of trees, and into the park. It was unclear whether it was purely ornamental or something the children might play in: echoes of the fiasco over Lady Di's Memorial Water Feature! 

As by 2013 the Town Hall will have been replaced by the new Civic Centre, and may have been converted into a hotel, it does appear to be redundant. It would also use electricity to generate the pumps which would involve an ongoing cost. We were told that solar panel electricity generation for the pump wouldn't be suitable. Not very green...

When the MUGA came under discussion we were told that existing installations at Poplar Close Youth Centre and Chalkhill School's play area which was shared with the community, made a new one unnecessary. However Gerry Kiefer, the new head of parks and sports services, said that she would like to 'start a conversation' about St David's Close open space. Previously that had not been developed because it was not overlooked by housing and therefore deemed unsafe for unsupervised play. However, the newly built flats in the close were now occupied and this objection no longer stood.

Ms Kiefer offered to look at the possibility of:

1. Erecting goal posts for a football pitch (size to be decided after a survey), levelling the surface and marking out the pitch. Future mowing and marking out would have to be borne by the users who were expected to be the Chalkhill Wanderers football team.
2. Restoring the overgrown BMX cycling course with help from local youth.
3. Looking at the possibility of building a skateboarding facility in St David's Close.
4. She also undertook to look at the Poplar Close MUGA, in particular the state of the pitches and whether the floodlights were working.

 The meeting was facilitated by Councillor Shafique Choudhary (Barnhill ward councillor) at the request of Kathleen Jackson, Chair of Chalkhill Residents' Association.


 Looking at those undertakings the BMX track was restored and a circuit installed for cycles and scooters in St David's Close (both were consulted with Chalkhill Primary pupils). No skateboarding park was built although some children use skateboards on the BMX. Unfortunately after drug-taking and other anti-social activities in the Chalkhill School community playground during out of school hours, the police advised its closure for unsupervised activities.

The water feature was abandoned although some parents told me this week that they'd love to see at least a paddling pool in the park.


The rain-swept site in January 2012


In January  2012 with little sign of progress I blogged again (extract):

 Earlier in 2011 children from Chalkhill School Council had lobbied ward councillors after repeated delays and this was taken up by the wider community of children and youth on the estate during the summer holiday. They were all angry that once again Chalkhill young people had been deprived of a park during the long summer holiday. They were determined that they would have a park by Summer 2012.

When I saw that no work had started after the forecast delay of 4-6 weeks I started nagging the ward councillor in my role as Chair of Governors of Chalkhill Primary School. 

Chris Walker, head of planning wrote to all the interested parties yesterday, January 12th 2012 ( to say that it had been anticipated that work would start in December 2011/January 2012 (more than 4-6 weeks behind) but that now the contract will be not be awarded until March 2012 with a six month contract to completion. On my reading this means that the park will not be completed until at least September 2012 leaving the local kids with no park for yet another summer.

Mr Walker explains that this is because all the tenders submitted in the autumn were unaffordable without reducing the park specification and that it became apparent that they did not fully comply with the Council's internal standing orders - so they are going out to tender again 'and hope that this time we will receive affordable and suitable tender submissions'. Even that sounds pretty uncertain...

Chris Walker  says he realises the situation will be a big disappointment but says that the Council is doing all it can to minimise delays.

Eventually a contract was awarded and there were some delays due to bad weather but the new park began to take shape. Progress was eagerly watched by children on their way to and from school, bothe primary and secondary. 


 The wait was too much for some and on April 25th 2013 I wrote:



25th April 2013


I was greeted by whoops of excitement and shouted greetings as I passed Chalkhill Park at 6.15pm this evening. As you can see the children have taken it over and made it their own.  It is not yet officially open and a pensive child outside whispered, 'You know this is illegal'.  But a parent said, 'How can we tell them they can't go in. They have been waiting for the park for 3 years and here it is now and they just love it!'

A decision will be made tomorrow about a possible earlier opening. There are concerns that the grass sown between the gaps in the safety matting of the children's playground, which is at an early stage of growth, will be damaged but anyone wanting to keep the children out now that they have had a taste of the park  will have quite a job on their hands!

Garth McWilliams who designed the park should be thrilled by the children's reaction.

This was followed by another post soon after:

The recent warm weather has resulted in children and families making use of the new Chalkhill Park despite it not yet being officially open and still surrounded by builders' fencing.

The temptation of green grass and exciting play equipment proved too much of a temptation after three long years of waiting. A bit of low key spontaneous direct action resulted in an unofficial entrance being created.

I recently saw parents sitting chatting while their children played, a teenager doing her homework on a laptop at a picnic bench and young people chilling out. It demonstrated to me how badly the park was needed and how keen people are to get in there and use it.

Today there were 10 labourers working on the park. I checked and was told that the play equipment has received its final safety check and that a decision will be made tomorrow on whether the park should open now with any uncompleted areas being fenced off temporarily,

I think that would be a sensible decision as public use by families would be likely to deter any misuse of the park and why on earth shouldn't it be open if it is largely complete?

The official opening by the new Mayor of Brent will be on Saturday June 8th and plans include special activities, performance, bouncy castles, talent show and much more on the Saturday, outdoor gym equipment training on Sunday and Chalkhill Primary School pupils will take it over for a Carnival procession and other activities on the afternoon of  Monday June 10th.


Following April's activities the Council decided to open the park to the public on May 3rd 2013 ready for the Bank Holiday.


May 3rd 2013

Builders' fences were removed from Chalkhill Park today after a final surge of activity to get the park ready for the Bank Holiday.

News reached Chalkhill Primary School at lunchtime and spread like wildfire around the playground to cheers from the children.

The weekly School Walking Club were the first to officially use the new facility.  A landscape gardener, stripped to the waist and pushing a laden wheelbarrow, stopped me and said, 'This makes it all worthwhile. The children's faces as they swarmed into the park were wonderful. It was amazing It was worth all the work.'

Parents and children rushed to the park after school and there was widespread praise from the former for the design. Children were too overcome with excitement and breathless from trying everything out to say very much but their big smiles told their own story.


June 2013 preparing for the opening


The plans to build a new park close to the school presented a great opportunity for work across the curriculum. More than three years ago children were involved in submitting  possible plans for the park with ideas for the kind of equipment that should be installed. They had to think about provision for all ages and safety issues.

The School Council got involved when plans for the park were delayed. They wrote letters to local Brent councillors, e-mailed them and spoke to them face to face to urge action to complete the park, emphasising how important it was for children on the Chalkhill Estate to have somewhere safe to play and the importance of exercise and play in adopting a healthy lifestyle.

When  completion neared they were again involved in putting forward ideas for the opening ceremony and pupil delegates went to one meeting where activities, within budget constraints, were planned. In School Council they came up with the idea of a Junior Friends of Chalkhill Park to litter pick and take care of the equipment. Within the school there was a competition to make posters to urge the public to look after the park, pick up litter and clear up after dogs. The best of these were placed on the park notice boards.

For the opening ceremony the children and staff worked with Mahogany Arts to create carnival costumes, the staff steelband rehearsed, a pupil samba band was formed, Bollywood dances created and the school choir chose pieces to sing on the day.

Meanwhile Year 3 pupils collaborated with the Brent and Kilburn Times  to produce a page of the newspaper about the park:

 As you can see there was the 'direct action' by school pupils that opened the park on April 25th 2013, and then the council opened it to the public on May 3rd 2013. Finally the official opening was 10 years ago today on June 8th 2013 with the Mayor attending and performances by community groups and school children. Those childen are now at work, college or university!


Chalkhill Primary involved the whole school the following Monday, June 12th 2023 with a Carnival Procession around the park in costumes they had made with the assistance of Mahogany and were accompanied by the staff steel pans band.


By August 2013 the park was contributing to the life of the estate:

August 2013

It was good  today to see Chalkhill residents enjoying their first summer in the new park. The Chalkhill Champions' Summer Camp was in session with children learning how to put up a tent. The Camp for children on the estate takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 1-4pm. It will culminate with an entertainment put on by the young people on Friday August 30th.

Chalkhill Residents' Association have organised a Family Summer Trip to Littlehampton later in the holiday.

Future 'Happy Dayz Family Fun' activities  in the park for Chalkhill residents include:
August 10th  3pm Scavenger Hunt
August 11th 3pm Family Rounders
August 17th 3pm Family Beat the Goalie
August 18th 3pm  Family Picnic/Campsite
August 24th 3pm Family Treasure Hunt
Look for the Green Tent in the park this weekend and sign up.

The new park is having a really positive impact on the local community according to one resident I spoke to. He lives opposite the park and apart from some occasional late night rowdiness, he described a friendly atmosphere where adults accompanying their children and others using the park for chilling out or exercising on the outdoor gym, are getting to know each other, chatting and then greeting each other in Asda or elsewhere in Wembley.

For me it underlines the importance of safe and beautiful public spaces which everyone can enjoy at no cost and where informal social contact can develop in a natural way. With increasing development and the privatisation of existing public spaces it is important to safeguard such neutral free spaces.


10 years on June 2023 


 I popped into the park earlier this week and talked to parents and their children about the park.  They were very positive about the facility but there were two main concerns. One was anti-social behaviour of the type that led to the closure of the school community playground to the public. Parents were used to seeing alcohol misuse but were very uneasy about drug-taking and possible dealing. I had heard that the police had been clamping down but it was evidently still happening in a thicket of trees and shrubs. One parent said that she felt safe if there were lots of others in the park but not if there were only a few people.

Another concern was maintenance of the park and especially the flower beds. Although these are not formal there were too many brambles and tree suckers amongst the flowers. There is an ongoing problem with litter.  A new parks maintenance contractor comes in this summer so it will be important for residents, the residents' association and ward councillors to monitor performance.

The park is too precious to be allowed to fall into neglect or to be taken over by one age group.


Kathleen Fraser, now a councillor for Barnhill ward that includes the Chalkhill estate said:

It was hard work for the Residents' Association to move the Council to give us trees and hills in the lovely park we have now.

A true demonstration of People Power.


David Walton said...

Great work and exactly what Brent tower hundreds population needs to support human life, community, health and wellbeing.

What next, Brent Riverside Park? South Kilburn Park?

If Brent Master Developer is only brownfield/grey growth/towers zoned agenda 2023, then why not equitably enable all Brent local communities to run and green grow their precious local parks instead from now on? New York takes this approach and supports according to communities needs be it a 'right' place park or 'wrong' place park.

With developers, if your public park amenity is not at the conservation table, then its on their brownfield towers menu.

Anonymous said...

I find this story of Chalkhill Park to be an intriguing reflection of the struggles and contradictions inherent in our capitalist society. Thank you editor for sharing the history of this over the years.

While it is commendable that the Chalkhill Residents' Association and individuals like Kathleen Fraser fought tirelessly for the realisation of the park, it is important to critically examine the underlying dynamics at play.

The opening of Chalkhill Park was made possible through a "pay-back" arrangement with Asda, a corporate entity that took over some of the estate land for its superstore. This raises questions about the commodification of public spaces and the role of private corporations in shaping our urban environment. The fact that there were rumors of the site being used for flats instead of a park speaks to the profit-driven nature of capitalist development, where the needs of the community often take a backseat to financial interests.

Furthermore, the budget constraints and delays in the construction process highlight the inherent contradictions of a system that prioritises cost-cutting and profit maximisation over the well-being of the people. The reduction in the budget and the abandonment of certain features, such as the water feature, demonstrate the sacrifice of community needs for the sake of economic efficiency.

It is also worth noting the concerns raised about anti-social behavior and drug-related issues in the park. These issues are symptomatic of the social problems that arise from the larger systemic issues of inequality and alienation within our capitalist society. Instead of addressing the root causes of these problems, we often find ourselves resorting to policing and restrictive measures that further marginalise and criminalise certain sections of the community.

While the opening of Chalkhill Park may seem like a positive development on the surface, it is crucial to analyse it within the broader context of capitalist society. The struggles, compromises, and contradictions that emerged throughout the process shed light on the deeper issues that we must confront in our pursuit of a more just and equitable society. It is our duty to challenge the capitalist system and strive for a society where the needs and well-being of the community are prioritised over profit and private interests.

David Walton said...

Referring to the London Planning Data Map and its London Plan protected designated open spaces mapped, is this the green space west of Roundwood Park below the allotments? As apart from that, no Chalkhill Park is London Plan GLA strong protected.

This London Plan Data Map used by decision makers is also interesting for how all small public open spaces however tiny are strong protected in Westminster and RBKC, yet in Grey Climate Emergency Brent they are not and are mostly GLA cancelled instead?

Given Brent's towerisation policy- 4 bedroom flats in the sky, surely a London Planning Data Map green levelling up is 2023 urgent in the interests of basic equity and fairness to all London taxpayers in this green transition?