Council still sitting on funds provided for improvements to Ravenscourt Park

Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s leadership has been boasting for the last three years about the the vast extra sums it has supposedly negotiated from property developers in Section 106 payments – where funds are provided for community projects in return for allowing new buildings to appear. Not much of the money has materialised in reality. Furthermore a lot of money that was paid over to the Council from earlier periods sits ring fenced in the bank account still unspent.

Specific undertakings for improvements to Ravenscourt Park, yet to materialise, give an illustration of the wider story of mismanagement. Funding from the 282-292 Goldhawk Road are an example already documented on this site.

A year ago I wrote to the Council’s Planning Change Manager. I queried the sums the in the Section 106 schedule current at the time:

By my tally we seem to be sitting on £591,906 of Section 106 money due
to be spent on parks that came from developments near Ravenscourt Park
(see my list below).
Please may I have an update on when and how this money is due to be spent.

Best wishes,
Harry

684 Goldhawk Industrial Estate, 2A Brackenbury Road £90,000.00 Parks

 684 Goldhawk Industrial Estate, 2A Brackenbury Road £100,000.00 Parks

805 258 – 264 Goldhawk Road £10,000.00 Parks

725 Ashlar Court, Ravenscourt Gardens £75,000.00 Parks

784 282 – 292 Goldhawk Road, W12 9PF £76,221.00 Parks

784 282 – 292 Goldhawk Road, W12 9PF £20,685.26 Parks

805 258 – 264 Goldhawk Road £70,000.00 Parks

830 271-281 King Street, W6 £150,000.00 Parks

He replied:

“The contributions above are received to enable the Council to mitigate against the impact of each of those developments which would include improvements to the park together with enhanced operation.  The Council’s parks team and residents groups are aware of the funds and proposals are being put forward for consideration by members as to how the funds can be spent.”

A year later and the new schedule shows nothing much has changed.

Yet there is no shortage of work that is needed. The Friends of Ravenscourt Park are never short of ideas. Neither am I. Better drainage would be welcome. So would more litter bins. So would enhancing the condition of the lavatories.  Or smartening up the lake.

Of course dealing with bureaucratic delays is something we are all familiar with but this really is pretty hopeless. Especially when the Council’s dysfunctional leadership is so quick to complain about “austerity”…

Opening up the lake in Ravenscourt Park?

I have noted before that the lake in Ravenscourt Park used to used for boating.

A resident has been in touch to say that “cordoning this lake off so nobody can use it in any way is terrible – simply giving up on an area of our park which is so much loved and used.”

He doesn’t think a return to boating would be viable but says: “My idea entails a natural swimming facility for the public to use…there are some amazing self cleaning natural swimming lakes/ponds which look good with all the plants and associated landscaping  and enhance the natural environment. It also enables people to swim naturally and get some exercise. ”

The Parks Manager has responded:

“I do think there may be scope to make the lake more open and inclusive of the park.  I don’t know why it was originally fenced off, I am making an assumption that this was for H&S reasons.  My colleague Sarah is working on the park masterplan so we can certainly include some proposals for the lake within this to seek public opinion.  Delivery of anything following the consultation will be subject to us identifying funding.”

What do you think?

Beware of the Ravenscourt Park terrapins

The Friends of Ravenscourt Park report that someone has unfortunately released terrapins into the lake at Ravenscourt Park. If they are allowed to grow they can bite off a child’s finger – as well as biting off the legs of ducks and harming other wildlife.

The Parks Manager tells me:

“Parks Police, as promised at the friends’ AGM made contact with the Barnes Wetland Centre who in turn advised that terrapins are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  This means if we do manage to catch it we cannot kill it but will need to arrange for it to be taken to a suitable centre.  A bigger job is going to be catching a small animal in a large pond.  Terrapins are not easy to catch so this will need to be an ongoing aim.”

I’m afraid that really isn’t good enough, is it?

There was the same problem in Hampstead Heath’s bird sanctuary pond and other ponds on the Heath a few years ago. They have managed to set traps and catch them. It seems it wasn’t always easy – “the Steve McQueen of terrapins” kept tearing away at the chicken wire. But the City of London Corporation (which owns and manages the Heath) persisted. Delay just makes the problem worse.

 

Ravenscourt Park tennis courts to be upgraded

The tennis clubs in Ravenscourt Park are being upgraded with the improvements being funded by the Lawn Tennis Association in a deal between Queen’s Club and Hammersmith and Fulham Council

The Council’s Parks Manager tells me:

“I can confirm that the LTA will be funding the improvements in Ravenscourt Park.  The works will consist of a new surface, and new exterior fencing and access gate.  The proposed improvements are still to be tendered but we’d anticipate the works commencing in early 2018 and being completed in time for the summer rush of tennis players.  In terms of priority booking, this is only applicable to the courts at the Virgin Active centre in Normand Park.  The link to Queens Club for Ravenscourt Park, is that in working with the LTA at the Virgin Active centre, this allowed us to bring in additional funding from the LTA to deliver the proposed improvements at Ravenscourt Park.”

Good news.

Where are the wood chips?

The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Ravenscourt Park will take place at 7pm on Tuesday 26 September 2017, in the Lower Hall at Holy Innocents church, Paddenswick Road. New members are welcome – you can join here.

My biggest concern is drainage.

At last year’s AGM there was a discussion about muddy paths. A council officer “undertook to investigate whether wood chipping would alleviate the problem, but the chipping would need to be contained.”

In March the Parks Manager told me wood chips would be a “very short term” solution.  That would be a reasonable objection if the proper drainage work was being done. But instead the problem is just allowed to continue. The wood chips work effectively on Wimbledon Common – and they would surely be better than nothing.

I’m now told that the Council is “waiting for a quote to come back” from a contractor for wood chips for the path.

It is quite unacceptable that years go by without these problems being dealt with.

Ring-necked parakeets: Is it time to act?

A resident emailed me recently to say:

“Hi Harry,

I went for a walk in Ravenscourt Park the other day and there were literally hundreds of these green parakeets flying between the trees.

It was quite a sight.

But I wondered if the council has any plans to eradicate them?

They are really bad for indigenous flora and fauna and you can see all the bark they are stripping off the trees.

I would be grateful if you could have a look into it.”

The Council’s Parks Manager responds:

“Dear Councillor Phibbs,

Thank you for your email.

I’ve looked for the ring-tailed parakeet as referenced in the article but can only find information on the ring-necked parakeet in the UK; looking at the Latin name (Psittacula krameri) I think they are one of the same.  Ring-neck parakeets are an ever growing sight in our parks and open spaces and having done some research it appears they are recognised at the UK’s only naturalised parrot.  You can find more information here.

Despite being an introduced species they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 so if the council were to start controlling them (which it has no plans to do) a special licence would be required; these however do seem to be aimed at more where birds are damaging crops, etc.  Additionally, the council acting in isolation would have little effect as another flock of parakeets will simply move into the area so any control of this bird (and given its protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1984 this seems extremely unlikely) would need be done at a strategic/regional level.”

Of course they are beautiful. But then so are the native birds and the trees which are threatened. If nothing is done won’t the problem get out of hand?

Council refusing to keep the Ravenscourt Park paddling pool open

Last year I called for the Council to keep the paddling pool in Ravenscourt Park open into September.

This would be a very modest cost for the amount of pleasure it gives to residents. In good weather the pool is full of young children happily splashing and laughing. Of course the weather in September is unreliable – but then it is the rest of time too. On average September is warmer in London than June.

But this year the pool will close on September 10th.

I am also campaigning for the lavatories next to the paddling pool to be kept open longer. At present they close at 5pm.  In practice they are sometimes closed earlier. The Council says they are “quite secluded and likely to suffer from anti-social behaviour and/or vandalism.” That is an argument for keep them closed the whole time. Pretty feeble.