Gunnersbury Park management needs shake-up says Cllr Joanna Biddolph

Councillor Joanna Biddolph has called for a shake-up of the management of Gunnersbury Park.  She has renewed her call for the Gunnersbury Park Community Interest Company to establish a formal consultative committee to give local residents and organisations a say in the management of the park.  She has also called for local councillors from all three wards that border the park to be represented on the community interest company (CIC), the equivalent of a board, to ensure that local views are represented at a strategic level, as well as for transparency and accountability to underpin decisions and management actions.

Joanna made her first formal call for local representation on the CIC and for a consultative committee in March, before the community interest company took over the management of the park.  She had raised them before that, direct with David Bowler who was waiting to take over as CEO of the CIC, after meetings of the park’s joint advisory panel.  She was worried that the management team was acting secretly and high-handedly and without concern for local residents.

“It was clear that decisions were being taken that would have an impact on the park and our enjoyment of it, without any regard for local’s views.  My suggestion for a consultative committee was based on experience and best practice – it works well for other public open spaces including Hampstead Heath which has had a consultative committee for over 20 years.

“During the Lovebox/Citadel festivals, numerous issues arose that should first have been considered by residents and businesses, particularly those on the route to the festival.  It’s clear that a change in management structure is urgent and overdue,” Joanna said.

“Information about events or changes to the park are slipping out on the sly. Residents are being kept in the dark and expected to accept what comes, no matter its impact on them or the park.  There is no transparency and no accountability.  We’ve had to push hard to be heard.  Our opinions should be sought, not resisted.  And there should be no surprises about what is going on and when.”

Community engagement was mentioned briefly at the Hounslow Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 17th July, including that councillors from Ealing council’s Ealing Common ward should be involved so that all wards that surround the park are represented. This led to Joanna strengthening her original recommendation.

She has also asked for feedback on events and management issues to be extensive and taken seriously so that lessons are learned and changes made, starting with feedback on the Lovebox/Citadel festivals.  “I have already been in contact with the organiser who has responded positively to my suggestions.  I want a formal feedback session with local councillors whose residents were significantly affected by the festivals; a formal public feedback session for local residents; and a comprehensive questionnaire for those who cannot come to a public meeting.  The CIC should not only be present at these meetings but also take part; and should look in detail at the questionnaire comments,’ she explained.

Joanna is compiling her feedback report for the organisers. “If Lovebox/Citadel returns to Gunnersbury Park next year, big changes are needed,” she concluded.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  • Gunnersbury Park is in Hounslow’s Brentford ward. Hounslow’s Turnham Green ward borders its eastern boundary.  Ealing council’s Ealing Common ward borders the park’s northern boundary.
  • Councillor Joanna Dabrowska, Ealing Common ward, is available for comment on: dabrowska@ealing.gov.ukand 07988 992264
  • Consultative committee members should include: residents’ associations, neighbours’ associations, park users such as the Park Run, dog walking groups, representatives of local businesses, the Friends of Gunnersbury Park, wildlife organisations, relevant specialists such as heritage grops and local councillors from all neighbouring wards.
  • Joanna was head of press for the Corporation of London, which owns and manages Hampstead Heath on behalf of the public, from 1992 to 1995 including during a major consultation exercise on the management of Hampstead Heath. That consultation led to a consultative committee being established specifically to comment on how the Corporation manages the heath.  It still exists.