Although the original idea was to form a group of people who represented societies and organisations, who could consult their members and represent their views, the stakeholder meetings have been open to anybody, and most of the opinions expressed at them have been personal. It is clear to anyone who has read the Conservation Management Plan and the Options Appraisal that very few of the participants at these events have even bothered to take the time to read what are now the two key pieces of research and policy about Gunnersbury. Much of the time is taken up having to listen to people who have shown no previous interest in the unfolding crisis at Gunnersbury but who are now angry about some aspect of the proposals. This purpose of this article is to give those members of the Friends who have not attended any of these meetings an idea of what ideas are being expressed.
“The Rothschilds gave the Park to the people of the area, in perpetuity, and it cannot be touched”. Unfortunately they did not – they sold it a full market price (more valuable as the Great West Road was being built along its south side) to Ealing and Acton, who took out a loan from the Government, sold parkland for housing in Popes Lane and Lionel Road, and paid back the loan.
“The proposals are too expensive to do all at once. It would be better to raise money for each building in turn.” That is what has been happening at least for the last 30 years, and it has not worked. We have lost the Dairy and the East Lodge, and the Stables are on the brink, the PotomacTower is a ruin and the two Mansions are in a state of advanced decay. English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have said they will only support a once-for-all total solution.
“The consultants have not done a proper job – there are other ways of raising money than selling land.” Jura are one of the best and most respected heritage consultancy firms in the country. They brought a major commercial property advisory firm, Montague Evans, into their team to conduct all the valuations work. This team has the confidence of both Councils, English Heritage and the HLF. They have extensive experience of finding ways to finance heritage projects and if there were viable alternatives they would have offered them. One of the most important elements in their report is how they revealed that – if we want to maintain public access to the buildings – none of the other schemes on offer would succeed.
“The buildings are OK, this is a lot of fuss about nothing, the park is fine as it is, all that is required is maintenance.” Almost every building in the Park is on the English Heritage “Buildings at Risk” register. The condition of the two mansions has deteriorated so much that the Councils will have to spend many millions to get them into a fit state even to give them away.
“Let Nature take its course – let the buildings fall and leave the landscape to become a wilderness.” The whole of the Gunnersbury Estate is a man-made landscape, created either for beauty or for income (sometimes both). Is this current generation of citizens so unable to govern ourselves that we cannot even act together to keep a Park in good order?
“We should sell Carville Hall Park North for building land and leave Gunnersbury as it is.” This is not a very good argument from people who had previously objected to building on park land in principle, and a very poor way to stay on good terms with neighbours. As Gunnersbury is jointly owned by Ealing and Hounslow, it would be inequitable if Ealing was not also expected to find a patch of land it could also build on. Part of the historic problem is that Ealing bought Gunnersbury (then one-fifth of Brentford) partly to prevent Brentford using it for council housing or other developments in the 1920s. Since then, every time Ealing wanted to cut back, Hounslow has had to match the cut (and vice versa). Resolving today’s crisis by dumping it on the residents around Carville is especially unfair in the same year that Ealing Council has returned £6m to its voters as a cash gift.
12th August 2009
Dear James – With all due respect, as a Friend of Gunnersbury Park and a resident homeowner in Ealing, I am against selling ANY park land or green space (whether within Gunnersbury Park or Carville Hall Park North) to fund any redevelopment/regeneration of Gunnersbury Park full stop.
on 12th August 2009 at 22:29 PM
In lieu of any real democratic process offered by the Stakeholders’ Meetings or the so-called consultation, I would like to take the opportunity to promote two web forums which will help residents and Park users express their views and discuss options:
on 12th August 2009 at 22:36 PM
As a lifelong user of the park I was aghast to read the consultation document and less than happy about loaded questions (which are not supposed to be in these public consultations anymore)
I am more than disappointed to read the rationale of the Friends group as I would have thought that they would be safe guardians and maybe have been rather complacent because of that aura.
If the park ever has to be built on then it should only be for the benefit of the people. It should be nice almshouses or sheltered homes for the elderly of the immediate district to live out their final years in the safe and peaceful surroundings.
The costings are typical of E.H. as is that of the kind of consultants engaged with their lack of creativity. To embrace it is at least, rather naive.
To suggest scrapping the pitch and putt. That’s the last straw. ludicrous.
Clearly too much has been going on in cosy back rooms and this is not acceptable for the future of a major integral public amenity.
Mark Kehoe on 15th August 2009 at 18:09 PM
This is a reply from Bela Cunha who asked me to post this for her.
As you know, James, I too disagree with your conclusion that it is inevitable to sell the family silver. Selling off part of Gunnersbury Park to developers to solve the financial crisis is an unthinkable and unacceptable to me as killing off my wealthy grandmother to pay my debts would be. It is simply not an option that I would ever envisage. We have put forward an alternative site for development, if indeed housebuilding there must be – Carville Hall Park. It’s just across the road, there are few residents and there are no trees to be decimated there. I counted that at least 210 mature trees would have to be cut down in the Park if Jura’s plans were to go ahead – and that is counting only up to the Potomac Lake. That area is heavily wooded, so the number would double if it were involved. Also instead of the political stunt Ealing are planning with their eyes on the next council elections, they should be shamed into contributing at least part of their £7 million surplus to atone for their share in the mismanagement and failure in the duty of care to the Park that has brought us to this dire situation.
nick22 on 17th August 2009 at 15:10 PM
I have re-named the Google Group, so the link above is no longer valid. Here’s the new link:
The FaceBook Group remains the same:
on 28th August 2009 at 17:22 PM
If I may, I’ll take the points of your note seriatim.
I’m a little discomforted by dismissing those who have taken an interest in GP since the publication of the consultation as “people who have shown no previous interest in the unfolding crisis at Gunnersbury but who are now angry about some aspect of the proposals” or having merely personal points, or who may not have read the consultation properly or thoroughly.
It is no less valid for an individual to stand up and communicate their feelings having been startled into action by the circulation of the consultation document.
Some may have no immediate access to the Friends or their work, nor are stimulated into action by the ongoing process of decay suffered by GP over many years of neglect. Some may have moved to the area relatively recently but view GP as part of their future. Whatever the circumstances, to intellectually disenfranchise anyone for taking the time to articulate their concerns simply because they may not fit a set criteria is not a valid reason to dismiss their views so casually in a single sentence.
I would agree that passion of the subject and ignorance of the facts might combine to be unhelpful, but generally speaking, it would be useful to embrace the ardour generating the responses.
“The Rothschilds gave the Park to the people of the area, in perpetuity, and it cannot be touched”
It’s not strictly true that the park was sold at full market price. It was sold with the intention of the park being a permanent memory of Leopold de Rothschild and upon the conditions of the covenant that the place should always be held for leisure purposes only. Subsequently, due to the pressures of rate payers, surrounding councils and demand for housing, it became politically appeasing to sell of some of the land for housing. The original price paid to the Rothschild’s took no account of development potential and was in essence discounted to enable fulfillment of Leopold de Rothschilds widows’ wishes.
“The proposals are too expensive to do all at once. It would be better to raise money for each building in turn.”
I would agree with your contention here.
tbc: lack of characters.
“The consultants have not done a proper job – there are other ways of raising money than selling land.”
The consultants can only have done as good a job as they were allowed. In other words, the scope of their brief should be examined. I have no doubt that Jura are quite excellent in their thoroughness, but there is the niggling doubt that a more lateral approach might throw up alternatives.
“The buildings are OK, this is a lot of fuss about nothing, the park is fine as it is, all that is required is maintenance.”
You are quite right, such a statement is clearly ill informed.
“Let Nature take its course – let the buildings fall and leave the landscape to become a wilderness.”
I would heartily concur with your views on this.
“We should sell Carville Hall Park North for building land and leave Gunnersbury as it is.”
I’m not at all sure that this would be necessary, let alone an option. In any event, there is the covenant to overcome which ought to have some validity and substance to it.
In summary, I feel that GP has enough in the way of resources to have the potential of generating sufficient income to run the park as a stakeholders trust. The LA’s ought, in my view, be encouraged to hand the park over to such a group whose aims are broadly that of the Friends.
No one is saying that is would be easy, but with grants available, strategic partnerships in certain areas of leisure facilities and the mansion/house, it could be possible to lift GP from it’s prone position to one of a stand out local facility widely used and enjoyed for a great many purposes.
RBezza on 18th September 2009 at 17:25 PM