Control to be passed to charitable trust
Substantial improvements have been made to the park under the current arrangements
The next cabinet meeting of Hounslow Council on 11 January will be asked to consider a proposal for a radical change to the way Gunnersbury Park is managed.
It is proposed that overall responsibility for running the site be given to the Gunnersbury Museum and Park Development Trust which in turn will take over ownership of the Gunnersbury Estate (2026) CIC.
At the moment Ealing and Hounslow Council’s jointly own the CIC. Ealing's cabinet will also need to approve the changes. Under the new arrangement the councils will have board representation on the Trust which will be given a 25 year lease on the park.
The aim of the reorganisation is to allow the management of the park to operate in a unified way with a parent charity and a wholly owned trading subsidiary.
In particular it is hoped that this new structure will remove impediments to fundraising and so help to address the forthcoming significant capital restoration and infrastructure challenges, and at the same increase prospects for financial viability.
These current arrangements have led to rejections from some significant grants makers (e.g. Esmee Fairbairn Foundation) and in cases where funding has been made available some funders have signalled that further funding would depend on improvements to governance arrangements (e.g. Garfield Weston Foundation and Foyle Foundation).
Some funders have said they expect to see a reduction in hands-on control by the local authorities, and a greater level of strategic and operational independence for the park’s management.
The changes are also intended to achieve greater public transparency and community engagement which it is acknowledged have been deficient under the current arrangments.
The extant lease would be transferred from the Gunnersbury Estate (2026) CIC to the Gunnersbury Museum and Park Development Trust for a term of 25 years commencing from the adoption date of the new governance arrangements which are expected to come into place in May or June of 2022. There would be an ability for the term to be extended by agreement if required to improve the ability to raise capital funding.
A monitoring mechanism would be established for Hounslow and Ealing Councils to meet regularly with the parent charity (the Trust) and trading subsidiary (the CIC) to review progress.
Under the new arrangements the CIC would no longer be a local authority controlled company. However, the two councils would have formal representation on the parent charity Board, and other safeguards would be in place to ensure that the local authorities can continue to exercise their stewardship function.
The change would allow the project to refurbish the Small Mansion and Stables to be managed by the Trust. Previously this was excluded from the responsibilities of the CIC because it was felt that the estimated £19million cost was too large for it to take on.
With other projects such as the restoration of the Potomac Lak , the derelict farm site and the Japanese Gardens, the total cost of outstanding works is estimated to be in the region of £30-35 million.
At the moment the councils pay an annual management fee of £355,000 to the CIC. This would be paid to the trading subsidiary of the new charity if the changes are approved.
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