The Croydon Mayor has reassured residents that land in the south of the borough will not used or sold to a golf club for the development of a new driving range.

This comes following suspicions that the Council and golf club were planning to sell the Green Belt land for development. 

In a statement published on X on Tuesday evening, Mayor Jason Perry said: “I want to reassure residents that the golf club’s aspiration to manage parts of Shirley Heath and Addington Hills and to build a driving range is not happening, and will not happen as long as I am Executive Mayor, as I know how important these spaces are to all of us as Croydon residents.”

The plans for a driving range on 56 hectares of Shirley Heath and Addington Hills were first revealed early last week in a brochure published by The Addington Golf Club.

The brochure, which was ostensibly for residents’ associations, showed plans for an extensive redevelopment of the protected heathland.

The emergence of these plans prompted a huge backlash from residents and campaigners who demanded firm commitments to the protection of these registered Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.

This opposition was backed up by a petition against the plans, which attracted over 5000 signees, including Croydon Council’s Conservative finance lead, Jason Cummings. 

Despite the huge response, information from the Council and golf club was not initially forthcoming.

When the local democracy reporting service (LDRS) approached the Addington’s owner Ryan Noades for comment, he responded by saying: “We have no plans to build a driving range.”

While Croydon Council did not deny the existence of the plans, they insisted that they had no intention to sell the Green Belt land throughout.

In a statement on X last Friday, the Council stated: “We’re aware of rumours about Addington Golf Club and plans to turn Shirley Heath into a driving range.

"We’d just like to clarify we do not, and have not ever had, any intention to sell this land.”

Perry added: “I met the golf club owner to discuss their proposals on May 18 2023, and had a site visit on August 17 2023. These meetings were not an endorsement or agreement of the golf club’s plans. 

“No discussions have taken place since and I have no intention, and never have, of selling, leasing or entering into any other agreement which would give control or use of this Green Belt land to the golf club. These meetings were also not attended by any representatives from the Council’s asset disposal team.”

Perry reassured residents that this type of meeting was routine and that it was not part of a wider plan to sell land as part of the Council’s efforts to address its financial challenges.

He also spoke of his continuing commitment to transparency and clarified he was not a member of The Addington or any other golf club.

Despite this, the revelation that Perry initially met with the golf club on two separate occasions has raised concerns from campaigners like the Green Party’s Peter Underwood.

Underwood, the Green’s candidate for Croydon East, has led the opposition to the plans since they first emerged. Underwood, who set up the petition, believes that while the Mayor’s statement should be celebrated, a number of questions remain.

Underwood told the LDRS: Peter Underwood: “The Mayor has finally admitted that he did have secret discussions with the Addington Golf Club about their plans.

“Apart from the Mayor’s statement, there is no public record of what was said or agreed at those meetings. Perry has said that he never had any intention to allow the Golf Club to go ahead with their plans but this raises two questions.

“Why did he have a second meeting with the Golf Club, including a site visit and why did the golf club then feel that they could carry on with their plans and arrange a meeting with local residents’ associations to discuss the plans further. I will let you make your own mind up about what the answers to those questions might be. 

“Perry has made a commitment that the plans will not go ahead during the remaining two years of his term as Mayor. I want to thank all of you who signed the petition and contacted your Councillors to raise your concerns – I believe it was only through that public pressure that we got the answer that we all wanted. 

“Personally, I think it is disgraceful that Jason Perry thinks he can have private meetings with developers and businesses about plans for Croydon while leaving us all in the dark about who he is meeting and what plans they are discussing. 

“This is the exact opposite of the honesty and transparency we have a right to expect from elected politicians. I think we should celebrate our achievement in saving Shirley Heath and Addington Hills from development and keeping these precious spaces for people and nature. But I also think that this case should serve as a warning. 

“We do not know what other plans Mayor Perry has been discussing in secret and we need to keep a watchful eye out for other threats to our town. Finally, I want to thank you again for all of your support to save these sites and I hope you all get a chance to visit and enjoy them over the coming months and years.”

When approached for comment on behalf of the Mayor’s office, councillor Cummings said: “The Mayor and officers hold meetings with a wide range of businesses, organisations and residents. They come to discuss their ideas, aspirations and hopes.

“It would be both ridiculous and counterproductive if the Mayor were to publicise every suggestion and idea put forward. No group would feel safe coming forward for fear of people like Peter Underwood taking political advantage.

“The Council and the Mayor will continue to listen to ANY plan to develop Croydon but will always be upfront and honest about such plan’s likelihood of support or success.

“On the reason for meetings: Firstly, they were requested by the club. Secondly, their plans relate not just to Shirley Heath and Addington Hills but also to their own property.

“Even if there was no prospect of their wider scheme going ahead the other elements needed to be looked at and considered. Peter Underwood is a candidate in the forthcoming elections and has deliberately misrepresented these plans and the Mayor’s response for his own ends.

“The Mayor was never going to agree to them and will not be doing so in the future.

"The petition has had no impact on that. The Mayor respects the views of residents wishing to protect our green spaces and agrees with them 100% but is saddened and disappointed by the Green Party and them seeking to manipulate and deceive for their own political gain.”

The Addington is yet to publish a response regarding the plans.