Labour's 'expired' parks funding
03/03/2019 15:30:00......Posted by Helen Pollard
In 2014 I was elected as the ward councillor for Fairfield. The old Fairfield ward included the lovely town-centre Park Hill Recreation Ground. I immediately got to know the Friends of Park Hill, the enthusiastic and dedicated team that works hard to help maintain the park at a time when the Council is cutting funds for parks maintenance. Park Hill Park has a rich heritage but unfortunately its current state does not reflect its former glory. Many areas of the park have been neglected and are run down including the pavilion and the rose gardens.
Before 2014 around £100,000 was allocated for investment in the park. This 'Section 106' funding was allocated to the park from the levy on developers who built blocks of flats near the park, the occupants of which are likely to use the park.
In the four years I was a Fairfield councillor I regularly requested that this money was spent on park improvements. Sadly I failed in this quest. The reasons for this are that the Council wanted to put together a masterplan for the park so the money would be invested as part of a considered overall plan for the park. This was a laudable objective, but it took two consultations and four years for the Council to produce the masterplan. The masterplan was completed in January 2018 and it was the end of 2018 before the Council had recruited staff to implement the plan.
In April 2017 I asked Cllr Godfrey, Labour's councillor who was responsible for parks, to confirm how much money would be available for Park Hill Park once the masterplan was completed. His answer was that £99,950 was allocated and that it is intended that the funding would be rolled forward.
In January 2019 I was advised by the Council that the £99,950 set aside for Park Hill has expired.
In five years this Labour council has done nothing for Park Hill Park. During this time more and more flats have been built in the surrounding area and the park is increasingly heavily used.
Going forward there will be greater reliance on Friends Groups to help maintain our parks. In Park Hill Park, they are the ones fighting the corner for the park. In return this Labour Council seems to be doing everything it can to stop them.
I worry for the future of our parks.