On Friday 30th January 2009 the Gunnersbury Park Regeneration Board held a Special Meeting to consider the Options Appraisal. The quality of the discussion and the behaviour of some of the councillors was so dreadful that it confirmed once again that this model of managing Gunnersbury can no longer continue.
Paul Jardine of Jura Consultancy outlined the five scenarios which his team had developed, and what might be the implications of each one. It looked as though he was hoping for debate around the principles behind them. The first was “Do Nothing”, and it was interesting to hear how expensive even this approach might be. The other four scenarios were “Do the Minimum”, “Maximise Community Benefit”, “Maximise Commercial Opportunities” and finally “Develop Gunnersbury as a Destination” (“Destination” in the leisure industry buzz word for somewhere which attracts users from a wide area).
If there was an outcome of the discussion, it was that the Board was not inclined to follow the first two (doing nothing or the minimum) and would like to see further work done on the options which emerge from seeing where the last three overlap. This requires detailed valuations, costings for refurbishments, and market testing to see who might join in partnership – that is the work which Jura are now doing (Feb 2009).
It was a cold evening, the room was losing heat quickly, there were drug users hanging around outside. Tempers flared – “It’s as much my park as yours”, “It’s as much my park as yours” was one high quality exchange. One councillor left early saying it was a waste of time. Some councillors kept asking for the detail, and yet when illustrative suggestions were offered, they were only too quick to knock them down. Very little of the discussion matched the seriousness of the situation.
Although it was an open meeting, the only public were three of the Friends Committee. This Board started by holding its meetings in private and the minutes had to be forced out of them by using Freedom of Information legislation. Those minutes and this meeting show that this Board – like the Joint Committee before it – simply cannot do the job expected of it. How will we get a sensible public debate when this Options Appraisal report is published?
(23rd February 2009, James Wisdom)
The Minutes of this meeting are available here
The document which gave the five scenarios can be read in the papers for the subsequent meeting on 26th February 2009. It is Item 4.