Report on Project Update Presentation, 11 February 2014

At this meeting in the Terrace Room of the Small Mansion, several members of the Project Team spoke about the project to regenerate Gunnersbury Park and Museum, and in particular about the plans which will soon be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The plan for the Park will be submitted later in February and the plan for the Museum in April.

The event relied on a detailed slide show presentation which can be downloaded here.

The presentation emphasised that the current applications only represent the first phase of a programme of regeneration and refurbishment which they aim to complete in 2026. Later phases are as yet unplanned and additional funding will be required.There was some new information, and questions and answers about a number of issues, such as:

The condition of the Large Mansion has been found to be worse than expected (and therefore more expensive to restore) whereas the condition of the Stables has been found to be better than expected. £280,000 has been allocated to spend on the Stables, and the work is under way. There are no plans for the future use of the Stables, and the Project Board are considering a marketing exercise (as they did with the Small Mansion). A further £330,000 has been spent on the roofs of the two mansions, the West Lodge and the North Lodge.

They propose appointing a Head Gardener, one of whose tasks will be to integrate Capel Manor more into the life of the Park. Despite recognising that cycling in the Park is a divisive issue like Marmite (either love it or hate it) the Project Team’s view is that they can manage it well, get London Mayor’s funding for restoring two main paths for mixed pedestrian and cycling use, and integrate the Park into the London Cycle Network. The Project Team is trying to bring the major sporting bodies together to fund the reinvigoration of sport in the Park, including building a “hub” somewhere on the west side, now identified as the sports side of the Park.

The Project Team were challenged on the honesty of their public consultation process when it was clear that the major decisions had already been made (in order to support the Lottery bids). Only 69 people responded to the consultation, and you can read the report here.

Putting a small kitchen to support functions at the back of the Orangery is too expensive and has been dropped. £120,000 will be included in the Parks for People bid to re-landscape the area around the existing cafe. However, they are considering completely replacing the cafe with a building which might also house the carriages. HLF does not give funds to replace what should be commercial investment (though it might support the carriages part) so money will have to be found from elsewhere.

Six species of bat have been identified around the Potomac Lake, and future plans are to conserve it as a wildlife area.

Despite the future governance of the Park and Museum being critically important for the success of the two Lottery bid, plans are still being worked out. The two leading proposals are for a joint venture company set up by both boroughs, and a development trust to lead on fundraising.

On the future business plan, it is clear that about £1m per year of additional income will have to be earned, through events, functions, a better Museum shop and so on, if the quality of the work is to be maintained beyond the life of the Lottery funding.

12th February 2014