Features

Restoring Wanstead Park

35486439262_0a90b00137_o©Christian Moss

In the sixth of a series of articles looking at the developing plans for restoring Wanstead Park, John Sharpe from the Friends of Wanstead Parklands takes a look at the recently published Parkland Plan. Photo of Perch Pond by Christian Moss

In the October edition of the Wanstead Village Directory, in his article on the lakes of Wanstead Park, Friends of Wanstead Parklands member Richard Arnopp referenced the development of the Parkland Plan, which sets out in detail the vision for future restoration and management of the park.

The latest version has now been published and sets out how the work aspires to improve the park environment and the user and visitor experience.

The intention of this article – and the next instalment planned for the December edition – is to summarise these planned developments, which aim to regenerate Wanstead Park (which since 2009 has been on Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ register) and put it on the map as the main ‘Southern Gateway’ to the wider Epping Forest landscape.

The Friends of Wanstead Parklands have worked with the other major stakeholders to best represent park users within the developing framework. However, it is the main landowners – the City of London, Wanstead Sports Grounds Limited, Wanstead Parish and the London Borough of Redbridge – who will have the responsibility of delivering the project. Part of the strategy will be to improve co-ordinated management by these independent parties, with support from the Friends.

In order to deliver this long-term vision, the conceptual options are varied and range from one-off major capital expenditures, such as restoring the lakes to stabilise water levels, to relatively simple actions, such as re-focusing on-going maintenance in the various parts of the park. The large size of Wanstead Park and the potential need for significant funding means the plan and its delivery is a long-term commitment with some actions more readily achieved than others.

The key objectives of the Parkland Plan are:

Addressing visitor needs to provide an accessible and legible historic landscape. This will include clearing and restoring selected historic features and improving entrances and paths. As well as heritage, the park’s natural aspects would benefit from better management to promote biodiversity and nature conservation.

Improving visitor facilities around the park, including developing the surroundings of the Temple as a visitor hub with improved access, an enhanced catering offering, flexible space for events and a new children’s play area. It is hoped this will also bring future activity and income generation benefits, which will ensure financial sustainability.

Improving water management and ensuring the major package of works to the lakes (designated as ‘High Risk’ in 2018) both respect and benefit the historic significance of the waterscape and surrounding landscape.

Conserving the boathouse Grotto. A Conservation Management Plan has just been completed, which is intended to guide the future care of this unique building.

Promoting research into Wanstead Park, its history, management and biodiversity.

The Parkland Plan also supports increased community and volunteer involvement in the park.

Although the ‘shopping list’ for Wanstead Park’s future is largely settled, some questions over funding and timescales still need to be resolved. Plans and priorities for phasing, including those that can be covered by existing staff and budgets, will first need to be approved. This will enable both capital and corresponding revenue costs to be broadly agreed, prior to the submission of a bid of up to £5m to the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF). The NHLF have only recently revised their funding criteria for projects between 2019 and 2024. Competition for funding is strong, and it is not yet clear how or when this element will be integrated.

Agreement and adoption of the Parkland Plan will then need to be endorsed by the Steering Group, and formally by the Wanstead Park landowners.

The most recent costing for all the planned work is around £14.5m, and it is currently unclear as to which parts of the plan will be fulfilled if, for some reason, there is a shortfall in funding.

A further frustration for the Friends is that the latest starting point for major works to be carried out is further down the road than anticipated. This is said to be due to the requirements of the City of London’s required internal processes for planning and funding major projects, with work on the capital projects now due to commence as late as 2024.

In advance of this, the Friends will continue liaising and working with the City of London and other project partners to establish what work can take place to improve the visitor experience and the overall state of the park and its lakes while plan development is in progress.

If you wish to be involved in the ongoing development of the Parkland Plan, and actively contribute to the thinking behind it and the local community, please consider joining the Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

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John Stewart