FRIENDS OF MOUNTSFIELD PARK (FOMP ) – RESPONSE TO LATEST COUNCIL (LA) PROPOSALS FOR OUR PARK
6 AUGUST 2014
- Following concerns raised by FOMP, Councillor Rachel Onikosi, the Cabinet Member for the Public Realm at Lewisham LA, convened a meeting on 31 July. This meeting gave the opportunity for FOMP to raise our concerns in person and for the LA to present revised proposals for the redevelopment of Mountsfield Park.
- The LA made clear its view that the available budget will not stretch to cover the three main elements of the redevelopment plans – the community garden, the cafe, and the playground – and reaffirmed its belief that the cafe should be removed from the current phase of work.
- The LA has asked for comments on the revised proposals, and for these to be given by 8 August in order to influence the final decision to be made by Councillor Onikosi, which has placed FOMP in a very difficult position. We have discussed the proposals and other options within FOMP and across the wider community.
- Although there are naturally a range of views about how best to proceed, one fact remains unequivocally clear – there is deep disappointment that the latest LA proposals still fail to include a café in this phase of work, despite it being the most important issue during the last public consultation in 2012, and despite repeated requests by FOMP that a café be prioritised. The temporary solution proposed – a canopy between the existing container units, showed a dismissive lack of imagination.
- At the same time, FOMP are pleased to see that the LA has listened to concerns about the proposed improvements to the Children’s play area. Through making more sensible design and budgeting decisions, the LA has achieved a proposal that replaces the dangerous and obsolete pieces of play equipment, and introduces brand new pieces of good quality play equipment. FOMP are pleased to have the opportunity to influence the final choices over pieces of equipment.
- The LA also reaffirmed its desire to push ahead with the community garden. Whilst FOMP have always agreed with this in principle, we have been concerned that the LA is determined, as part of this work, to knock-down the old wall and toilet block, both of which we feel could potentially be of use in the future.
- According to the LA’s plans, when the above work is done, there will be around £56,000 remaining. There is also a £40,000 contingency in the LA budget which might be available at the end of the project. The figures, as we understand them, are set out in more detail in Annex A.
The FOMP response
- FOMP remain committed to an ambitious vision for Mountsfield Park. The LA proposals, whilst an improvement on the current amenities, fall short of doing justice to the potential of a much valued and well used green space. We have had to weigh our disappointment in the failure to deliver a café against the pressing need to see improvements in the playground area.
- Regardless of the outcome of this phase of work, FOMP continues to be determined to mobilise the enthusiasm of the local community and seek ways to raise funds to deliver tangible and long-lasting improvements to Mountsfield Park. FOMP are determined that this phase of work does nothing to undermine any future ambitions.
- After careful consideration of the LA’s proposals, and discussions with other local groups, FOMP believe that the best course of action is to offer qualified support, but only if a number of conditions are met:
- First, work on the community garden should press ahead, and we can see that the LA is determined to knock-down the old toilet blocks. But we ask that the LA does not knock-down the wall that runs along one end of the area before further conversations with FOMP. All or part of the wall could be a valuable asset in the future, for example as part of the community garden itself, or as a backdrop to other work (e.g. greenhouses, etc.), and FOMP would like the opportunity to discuss these options further.
- Second, we have lost all confidence in the ability of BDP to deliver a café. Their processes of design and tendering have failed, and their attempts to offer a basic canopy between the existing containers were derisory. We want the LA to ringfence £50,000 so that FOMP can consider ways to use this money more effectively to deliver the café that the park deserves, and for Councillor Onikosi to give a public commitment that this money will remain available until a café is delivered. Based on some promising initial conversations, we believe that, taken away from the LA’s unwieldy procurement processes, this money could help us to quickly generate additional funds, to build a cafe that will become an iconic local space within the next 12 months. In the first instance, FOMP want a discussion with the current operators to consider options.
- Third, we are pleased that the LA has listened to FOMP concerns about the playground, and have made improvements. FOMP will engage with BDP to influence the final selection of pieces of play equipment.
- Fourth, it is critical that the LA improves the park’s toilet facilities in the short term, until the new cafe is ready.
- Fifth, we ask that the LA undertakes a commitment that the contingency of £40,000 only be spent where necessary to deliver the plans as specified, and that money is not transferred to other projects within the park. As much of the £40,000 contingency as possible should be added to the £50,000 ringfenced for the cafe, on the same terms. To give FOMP confidence, the LA should agree to be transparent about when and why it intends to use the contingency.
- Finally, we believe that, in order to continue to improve the park for all users, it is important that information about activities and plans are properly advertised. So we ask that the LA uses some of the money remaining to place lockable poster boards at each entrance to the park. This is something that FOMP have asked of the LA previously.
- FOMP now asks the LA to respond quickly to confirm that the conditions set out above can be met, before FOMP is willing to offer public support for the latest set of LA proposals. Without this assurance, FOMP remains concerned that the redevelopment of Mountsfield Park will continue to represent a missed opportunity.
- Once the LA has agreed to ringfence £50,000 (to be increased dependent on the use of the contingency), FOMP undertakes to lead conversations with potential partners – starting with the current operators – to deliver the café that users of Mountsfield Park have lacked for too long.
LA building costs, as set out on 31 July 2014
|Park Area||Anticipated costs|
|Community Garden – includes demolition of WC block and general clearance||£94,140|
|Preliminary and set-up costs||£37,806|
|Amount remaining for café||£56,053|
The total budget for the project is circa £525,000, with around £100,000 set aside for non-building related costs.
On several occasions, the LA has referred to the ‘abortive costs’ of not proceeding with its recommendation and returning to the drawing board. The LA have now confirmed that these ‘abortive costs’ – in other words costs that would be incurred from the overall budget if it fails to move forward with activity as proposed – will total £78,497.