City of London "bombshell" over Wanstead Park grant process - a press release from Wanstead Parklands Community Project

Local activists in the Wanstead Parklands Community Project have expressed "shock and frustration" at the decision by the City of London to postpone a decision on applying for a lottery grant to help restore the much-loved open space.

After months of work, and a public consultation in which hundreds of people took part, it had been widely expected that the City would apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the current round, which has an August deadline. A landmark Conservation Statement, with local input, was published recently. This set out high level priorities for the park, and was expected to be the basis for the bid.

However, Epping Forest Superintendent Paul Thomson last week informed the group that the application would not be going ahead at this stage.

"The report requires further work to fully brief the relevant City of London committees on the substantial projected costs of the Conservation Management Plan, and importantly the capital and onward revenue implications of any potential Heritage Lottery bid.

The City of London remains committed to finding a solution to the many issues raised in the Conservation Statement. This solution must be based on a identifying a viable and sustainable way forward for the Park, which undoubtedly will require a significant coalition of local and national partners," said Superintendent Thomson.

WPCP spokesman Ralph Potter responded -

"We feel incredibly disappointed and let down - particularly as the Conservation Statement is a fine piece of work that many local people contributed to creating. At a time when the government is promoting its concept of a "Big Society", stressing local people taking more responsibility for their communities, this announcement feels like a real kick in the teeth - especially given the huge local interest this project has generated.

The Superintendent has said there are particular concerns about the significant cost of match funding, the unknown cost of repairing the lake system and the long term management costs of the park. Of course, these are valid points. However, none of them can have come as a surprise, which makes this last-minute volte-face particularly concerning.

I'm told that the City will seek funding internally to produce a detailed Conservation Management Plan which will identify the costs. Of course, we will seek to make a constructive input to this. Unfortunately, as yet we have no information about how, or on what time-scale, this is now to happen. Our fear is that, if momentum is lost, it could take years to secure the funding let alone actually produce the plan.

Recent history is littered with the bleached bones of plans for Wanstead Park which never came to fruition. There are undoubtedly many people who will suspect that, once again, the issue of what to do with this unique historic landscape has been kicked into the long grass. The Superintendent and the consultants running the project have sought to assure us that all is far from lost. I look forward to seeing some evidence soon that they are right."


12 May 2011

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