Victoria Park’s bid for lottery gold

Soon to be a beach? The pond at Victoria Park. Photo. Laurie Whitwell

Soon to be a beach? The pond at Victoria Park. Photo. Laurie Whitwell

Organisers behind a projected multi-million pound revamp of Victoria Park will soon be crossing their fingers for luck as they bid to win £5m of National Lottery funding.

The final plans for the rejuvenation of the 150-year-old park will be submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) at the end of the month after they were scrutinised by park users at an open session on Saturday.

Over 200 local visitors were invited to ask the landscape architects and project manager questions about the new design, which includes a waterfall and an urban beach as its standout features.

A skate park, a wildflower meadow and improved sporting facilities are also contained in the blueprint that was drawn up after 5,000 people responded to an online survey on what aspects should be improved.

In total the work would cost around £12m with Tower Hamlets council, which owns and maintains the site, providing £7m. Planners will hope the originality combined with functionality of the project will be enough to convince a panel at Parks for People – the HLF venture which administers bids – to part with the maximum £5m grant.

If Victoria Park gets the thumbs up for the funding it would be the highest amount ever secured from a pot of £90m made available by the nationwide scheme.

Concerns over plans

While the final masterplan was drawn up with the help of much user input those visiting the park on Wednesday still warned over complacency with its implementation.

Ellie Robinson, 35, a local mum, thought that many aspects of the plans were beneficial to the community but some areas had been over looked.

“I like the wild flower areas because the park’s used by loads of kids for educational value and it’s great for them to look at beasties,” Ms Robinson said.

“I really like the allotment spaces because they’ve lost a lot round here with the Olympics taking sites away from the community.”

She continued: “Some of the headline grabbing stuff I wasn’t so keen on because it’s a lot of money it’s quite capital intensive. I’d be tempted to put the lido back in more long term.”

Abu Choudhury, 28, a Transport for London legal officer from Hackney said that sport, and in particular cricket, was his main concern. Mr Choudhury plays in a cricket league at the park every summer and said: “One big benefit we’d really like is actual pitches with a little bit of grass on because all we have right now are Astroturf pitches.”

He added: “It would make a huge difference as there are no real pitches around here. It would be nice to have at least one real pitch out of the three we have.”

“I’m quite happy with the way it is”

Andrew Harvey, 28, a freelance photographer from the Victoria Park area said he appreciated the park for its simplicity.

“To be honest I come to Victoria Park not because of the little ornaments but because of the wonderful open space,” he said. “It’s great that they’re doing these things to improve the area and lots of people will enjoy that but for me I’m quite happy with the way it is really.”

Councillor Abdal Ullah, Lead Member for Cleaner, Safer, Greener at Tower Hamlets Council, said: “These improvement plans have been shaped from start to finish by the local community. They are wide-ranging and aim to open up the park to a future generation of users.”

HLF will announce their decision on Victoria Park’s grant bid in June 2010.

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