Sir William Hart Dyke, who lived at Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, last century donated St Mary’s Recreation Ground, in Swanley, to the town for recreational purposes in 1900.
And 110 years later, members of the town council’s policy and resources committee unanimously voted against proposals from developer Jersey No. 5, which owns Swanley Centre, to extend retail facilities on to the land.
Sir William’s grandson Guy Hart Dyke said: “In 1984, a man called Frank Parker told us developers were after it and I said that my grandfather gave the land to Swanley for recreational purposes. He organised a referendum in Swanley and they voted overwhelmingly to save it from development. So it’s a real victory that we have saved it again.
“I’m delighted. It’s very important that we don’t use up all the green spaces. The developers are always at it, you have to watch them like hawks!”
The nine-acre site, off St Mary’s Road, Swanley, includes two football pitches, six floodlit, all-weather tennis/netball courts, a large play area and a roller blading and BMX park, which benefited from a £60,000 redevelopment. It is also used by residents and pupils at the nearby Swanley Technology College.
Sir Guy’s son, Tom Hart Dyke, who lives at the castle, off Lullingstone Lane, Eynsford, set up the popular World Garden in the castle grounds and is a ‘self-confessed’ plant nut.
Mr Hart Dyke, who wrote the Green Man column for the Times, said: “It’s just so good that it’s been saved, because that land was designated as recreational land for the town and it should stay that way. I know that the people in Swanley will be pleased. It should retain the purpose it was originally intended for.”
Councillor Robert Woodbridge, a former leader of the town’s Labour party, and now a Lib Dem member and candidate, led the fight to save the land. He said: “It was and remains a great victory for the people of the town. It was a difficult situation, but by speaking very plainly at the council and arguing the case and finding out all the information and the history, we saved it once again.”
Robert will continue to defend the Rec against any Tory land grabs and depredations. That is his firm pledge to the people of Swanley.