Lambeth council has outlined £7million of improvement works to Brixton’s parks and open spaces before 2019, while committing to provide only a fraction of the funding from its own funds.
Cabinet councillors last night approved the Parks and Open Space Capital Investment Plan, which details how millions of pounds could be spent on boosting green spaces across the borough over the next four years.
The plan outlines how the council will provide two extra officers to help parks and open spaces – run by independent ‘friends groups’ – to apply for external funding.
In the Brixton and Herne Hill area, cabinet councillors last night did guarantee £150,000 for a new playground on Rush Common, Brixton Hill, £750,000 for the refurbishment of a stable block in Ruskin Park and £350,000 for a new education and support building in Windmill Gardens.
Friends of Windmill Gardens chair Jean Kerrigan told the town hall meeting that she welcomed the plans, especially those for Windmill Gardens, but that it would be “naive for any park user or group not to recognise that this plan is driven by cuts affecting council spending.”
Kerrigan added: “The onus has been put on us [friends groups] to raise £9million [across the borough] and we’re mindful that they have not put in place how they’re going to raise £7million of their £9million. Only £2million is guaranteed.”
Brixton Windmill, built in 1816, is a “heritage gem” restored by the friends over recent years. Kerrigan also called on the council to provide a heritage officer to help protect and support important landmarks, and to support smaller parks under the plans.
The plan also outlined £5.8million of other work to Brixton parks, but these are, as yet, almost entirely unfunded.
Proposals include regeneration of Brockwell Park’s hall, new facilities and landscaping in Windrush Square and work in St Matthew’s Peace Garden. Nine other parks and spaces in the area were mentioned.
One open space overlooked entirely by the parks plan is Stockwell Skate Park. A new group of concerned users has been formed to helped maintain the “world class” facility.
Adam Watt, secretary of Friends of Stockwell Skatepark, told the town hall meeting: “We’re not sure what the status of the park is because it’s not recognised as a park or an open space.
“The park has been overlooked considerably since its inception, it’s one of the first concrete skateboard parks in the country. Considering the footfall and the benefit to the community it takes very little money from the budget and I feel that its grossly overlooked both presently and in the past.”
The skatepark needs constant maintenance, including resurfacing of the concrete every five years. There are currently no toilet facilities in the area for users, and the major regeneration of Stockwell Park Estate could seriously impact the park.
Councillor Paul McGlone, ward councillor for the skatepark area, said he had previously helped support the park users, adding “I entirely understand the lack of clarity around who’s responsible for it.” He offered to speak more with the new friends group around securing the park’s future.
In the report presented to the meeting, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, Jane Edbrooke, said she would “wrap support” around parks friends groups, adding: “Our friends of parks and communities have shown us time and time again the value of our parks, and this plan as demonstration of our commitment, is in response to your efforts.”
Read the Lambeth parks and Open Spaces Capital Investment plan in full here.
More reports from Lambeth’s Cabinet meeting last night will be published later today.