Ann Kingsbury, chair of Brockwell Park Community Partners, has given a guarded welcome to a Lambeth council plan to trial for two years a management board for the park that will include elected councillors and community representatives.
It was, she said, “another small step forward in promoting our parks”. It would also raise their political profile.
The new board to run Brixton’s 129-acre Grade II listed historic park is due to be set up before the end of the year and to run until 30 September 2019.
The background to the move is the council’s very tight budget and its events strategy, which allows up to eight “major commercial events” each year in the park, as well as a bid for Heritage Lottery Fund money to restore Brockwell Hall and its stable block.
A council report says that new income opportunities need to be exploited. At least one “major concession opportunity” is already being explored.
The report says that sport competes for space in the park and will need to be prioritised to attract more people to use park facilities and to generate more income.
Income from major events and new concessions “has the potential to be significant and needs to be allocated appropriately and in accordance with agreed priorities,” the report says.
Balancing competing demands and allocating significant financial and other resources “ideally need to be overseen by those with a strong understanding of the needs of park users and who are able to ensure the buy-in of the local community and hold a clear mandate for representing their best interests”.
The new board will be chaired by a council cabinet member and her/his deputy and have as members local ward councillors; senior managers representing Lambeth services; and representatives from the Brockwell Park Community Partners (BPCP) who are elected by community groups linked to the park.
Major recommendations or decisions requiring a change in policy or budgets will still need separate approval through council committees and meetings.
BPCP currently acts as a “management advisory committee” for the park and represents eight active parks groups and many community organisations with an interest in the park.
Current management of the park, which is based on a ten-year-old plan, is fragmented. Grounds maintenance, property services, sports and events are all currently managed from different council departments.
Role of the community
Ann Kingsbury, a former Lambeth Labour councillor, said it had been an ambition of BPCP for some time to win formal council recognition of the role of the community in strategic decisions.
“During the time of the cooperative parks policy, we opted for a partnership role, as did 22 of Lambeth’s park groups,” she said.
“This sent the system into meltdown because – I think it is fair to say – there was no plan for accommodating this response.
“After a time, in the immortal words of Cllr Jane Edbroooke, the cooperative parks policy was parked.”
The BPCP decided not to accept this.
“We had experience of working formally with Lambeth as their community partner for a Heritage Lottery Fund bid to restore the landscape of the park and we did not see why park users and stakeholders should not continue to play a role in the future,” said Kingsbury.
“In a sense, that has been accepted, because the BPCP is on board for the most recent Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the restoration of Brockwell Hall, for which Lambeth do not need a community partner.
She said the council insisted on having the last word through the chair, “but we feel fairly confident that this will be an effective means to ensure that park users’ views are incorporated into decision-making, including decisions on events”.
BPCP believes that involving elected council members “will raise the political profile of parks within the council itself and that we can recruit champions for our parks from among them”.
Brockwell Park contains Brockwell Hall, a Grade II* listed mansion, the Community Greenhouses, tennis and basketball courts, football pitches, a bowling green and clubhouse, a sports platform, Redgra all-weather pitch, BMX track, model railway, the Grade II listed Lido, a walled garden, ponds, a large play area and separate wetplay area and a one o’clock club.