Say main challenges are not addressed in consultant's review
The Dukes Meadows Trust has criticised Hounslow Council's plan to improve and enhance the park saying that the main challenges for the area are not being addressed.
Hounslow Council said that a consultant's report had identified key priorities in its review, including; enhancing the landscape character of the site, improving sports facilities; reconnecting the Thames path by exploring the provision of a towpath bridge, and restoring the nature conservation areas.
The council said that it would now look at all options available that could be developed with further consultation set to take place later this year.
Last year the Council promised that the Dukes Meadows Trust would be involved in creating a strategy for the recreational area- which has won a Green Flag for its amenity attractions. A spokesperson for the Dukes Meadows Trust said that the Trust was not part of the consultation. While they welcomed the Council's interest, they believed many of the key challenges were not being addressed by the consultant's report.
The Trust issued the following statement: "Dukes Meadows is a fantastic centre for sport and informal recreation. It has top quality facilities provided by Virgin Active and Dukes Meadows Golf and Tennis, some of the best amateur sports clubs in the country offering; rowing, football rugby, hockey, cricket and bowls. It also has fantastic, free community facilities, including two lovely play areas , which Dukes Meadows Trust built and helps maintain. There are a number of hard working voluntary groups, such as Allotment Number 1, providing activities for disabled people and many of the community sports clubs are largely run by volunteers. We are proud of the area and what we achieve together to make Dukes Meadows very special.
"Dukes Meadows has been a low priority for the council for many years. The area suffers from 40 years of neglected capital maintenance, leaving the infrastructure including; roads, fences and signage etc. in a poor, semi derelict state. It also has inadequate resources for maintenance. This means hedges and shrubs are badly overgrown and many areas are weed ridden. The low level of maintenance and lack of stewardship of the public areas has attracted abuses such as; fly tipping, large unregulated events and unmanaged parking that damage and degrade the public parts of the park.
"We welcome the council's interest now, but are disappointed that the main challenges; the desperate need for substantial investment to repair the parts of the park that the council is responsible for and to find sufficient resources to maintain the area well, are not addressed in the report released today by consultants Around the Block.
"Nor is the further challenge that the council's own park strategy says that budgets will have to be cut even further over the next few years to meet government funding cuts. The council controlled areas badly let down the clubs who maintain their facilities to a very high standard. The clubs are more than capable of developing their facilities. The council needs to take responsibility for the areas under its control. The challenges are significant, but with the input of the many skilled groups on the meadows answers could be found. Dukes Meadows Trust, a small community group, reversed the dereliction of the old play areas to create high quality facilities and has successfully maintained them over many years.
"The report commissioned does not seem to identify anything not apparent before the process started, it is therefore hard to see the value of the exercise, we don't know what it cost. We asked that the council pause before proceeding with this piece of work and listen to the people who have been working to make Dukes Meadows the terrific facility it is for many years. They didn't. A project board is apparently now meeting, and another set of consultants have been engaged. We are not part of the process and don't know who is on the board.
It is a pity that money is being spent without producing obvious value and that the skill and experience of the groups that have made Dukes Meadows the great resource it is are not being used.
"We have great respect for Stefania Horne the Head of Parks who took up post after this process has started. She is doing a great job in difficult circumstances and we will continue to work with her."
Formerly part of Devonshire Estate, Dukes Meadows is made up of 230 acres of open riverside land either side of the railway line that runs from Waterloo to Hounslow and on to Reading. It is a main site for major sports and recreation facilities, hosting an estimated 1m people, both local and from across London and beyond, visiting the park every year.
It also contains a number of historical features, including a pump house which is still used to feed the water level at nearby Chiswick House. It is also the venue for the finish of the annual Oxford versus Cambridge University boat race.
Councillor Corinna Smart, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Leisure, Hounslow Council, said: “We are pleased to be moving into the next phase of what is a very exciting plan for Dukes Meadows.
“The aim is to make Dukes Meadows a sustainable, high quality green open space, which includes a state-of-the art sports hub and will open up the use of the river and riverside for residents, visitors and the community as a whole, for generations to come.
“There is so much that we can do at Dukes Meadows, it is a valuable asset to us and we aim to make Dukes Meadows one of our best facilities in the borough.”
September 23, 2016