1. Chair & Treasurer’s Statement - review of activities since formation
2. Re-election of Jane Dickinson & Sara Novakovic as Committee Members
3. Other business
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1. Chair & Treasurer’s Statement
The principal purpose of the Friends Group set out in its constitution is to help protect, conserve and enhance Watermans Park, its environs and access to the River Thames for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors.
This statement is a summary of Friends activities over the period from 29 March 2019 to date.
Marina and landscaping in the park
Shortly after being formed two years ago the Council announced that the moorings development, for which planning consent had been obtained in 2016, was to go ahead. The Friends have engaged with the Council to ensure the interests of people who use the park are represented.
In March 2019 a number of Non-Material Amendments (NMAs) to the planning consent were submitted to the Planning Authority and subsequently approved. The stated purpose of the NMAs was to allow scheduling of works, in particular, to allow the commencement of the marina development in advance of satisfying conditions relating to hard and soft landscaping of the park. The Friends were concerned that this might have the effect of postponing any landscaping and improved facilities for all users (new landscaping with distinct areas, paths suitable for those with limited mobility, play areas, seating and viewing points, tree planting to replace those lost to the marina development, new planting and etc.) beyond a reasonable timescale. We are comforted that the planning consent requires approved plans to be implemented before the moorings are operational (the contractual date we are told is end 2021) but after 2 years it is disappointing that as I write the detailed plans, which need to take account of CW9 which post-dates the planning consent, have not yet been progressed.
The 2016 planning consent requires the damaged wooden walkway in the park to be replaced and the area taken over by a reed bed. At a Friends Group meeting in March 2020 strong views were expressed about whether a reed bed was now (or ever) appropriate and that restoring the timber walkway would give back usable space to pedestrians. This has been raised many times with the developer and the Council. Whether this is achievable may depend on whether the planning consent can be changed as an NMA. The Council is seeking to clarify this point. Other matters raised with the Council including the children’s playground, provision of water points, cycle racks, removal and planting of trees and will be taken up by the Friends again as part of updating the park enhancement proposals. We have an undertaking from the Council to be consulted but there is still no clear plan of how the landscaping is to be achieved by the end of the year. Once there is greater clarity on how the park enhancement proposals will be progressed we will seek input of people that are interested in the park to reflect their views.
There is some good news to report. In December 2020 the Council’s Parks team sought and obtained approval for the award of £150,000 funding from the Community Infrastructure Levy to finance improvements to the park. Of course, the Friends are concerned to ensure this money is spent on improvements that are in addition to the obligations of the Council and developer set out in the 2016 planning consent to enhance the park.
There have been some other successes which the Friends have lobbied for:
- together with the River Thames Society we successfully objected to the Operational Management Plan that had been submitted by the developer.If approved as submitted this would have allowed extra-large multiple-storey houseboats dominating and blocking the view for users of the park across the river especially at high tide given the proximity of the marina to the park
- we consider that the site has an important history and would like this to be drawn to the attention of those using the park. This could be though display panels and artefacts such as the 'GLCC BD 1930' (Gas Light & Coke Co.) cast iron plates on dolphins in the river. The developer has agreed to ensure the plates are saved for display in the park. Brentford Voice have proposed a heritage trail from Kew Bridge to Brentford Bridge which will pass through the park with some interpretation boards which we fully support. We understand Brentford Voice will seek funding from the Thriving Communities Fund once the Fund is re-established after moneys were diverted to support Covid recovery activities in 2020. A metalwork heron from the eastern entrance is in storage and will be re-sited in the park when landscaping takes place
- new rubbish bins were installed in June 2020. Perhaps not as many bins as needed but an improvement on the unusable rusted bins left without liners for so long
- the riverfront fencing was repaired and much of the unsightly Heras fencing finally removed in October 2020
- works to open a stepped eastern entrance have begun in earnest – now likely to be by the end of the first week of April 2021.
Watermans Arts Centre redevelopment
Kew Gardens and Historic England objected to the proposed riverside housing development on the site of the Arts Centre and adjacent office building. The Friends Group also made a submission to the Planning Inspectorate in June 2019. We considered that an enhanced Watermans Park would complement and be available to the Arts Centre to provide local residents and visitors with different and interesting reasons to visit. The proximity of the park and Arts Centre is an asset that would be diminished if the Arts Centre moves location. Given the increasing housing provision in Brentford, for example around the nearby new football stadium, public spaces become ever more important.
We understand an appeal took place in October 2020 at which the arguments of Kew Gardens and Historic England were heard. The outcome is still awaited.
At a Friends Group meeting in January 2020, Jim Storrar of Brentford Voice gave an interesting talk on the history of the Brentford Fountain and its hoped-for journey from the Western International Market in Southall back to Brentford. Jim was seeking Friends Group support for the Fountain to be re-located in the Park.
While there was much support for bringing the Fountain back to Brentford the Friends considered that the park was not the right location. The scale of the Fountain and space needed for it to be properly appreciated, even more green space would be lost on top of that to be lost to the marina infrastructure and CW9.
Flowers in the park
400 Bulbs courtesy of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association and Taylors Bulbs were planted by a group of us in the park in December 2019. Some were planted in a neglected raised bed on the ramped entrance to the park that the Friends have taken over. Sadly, the raised bed still looks bedraggled, albeit with colourful spring bulbs, as Covid restrictions have limited activities in the park. Hopefully that will change soon.
The area of the park from the western entrance between the path and wall down to the children's playground is not being mowed (again) this spring / summer 2021 to allow wildflowers and grasses to grow. There hasn't been any special planting - we would just like to see what grows and hope for colourful spring flowers that will help support pollinating insects and can be enjoyed in their own right Many thanks to Elizabeth Morton for her suggestion. Elizabeth will monitor the patch and keep a record of what grows over the season and we'll display photos on the Friends website.
Friends Group finances
The Friends Group Committee made a decision when it was set up not to require members to pay an annual subscription for the time being. While Friends Group activities are primarily lobbying activities requiring time and not money this remains appropriate.
A bank account was been opened with a donated deposit of £150 in July 2019. There have been no other transactions to date.
Friends Group Committee
The other members of the Friends Group Committee are Kal Watrobski (Secretary), Lee Seabourne, Jane Dickinson and Sara Novakovic. The Committee has also had strong support from Hilary Pereira (who is also Chair of the River Thames Society Upper Tideway branch) and Ian Coates. Heritage & Habitats (formerly SWELN) were a great help establishing the Friends Group.
At the first AGM, Committee members other than the Chair, treasurer and secretary step down. Jane and Sara will seek re-election on 30 March 2021. It was Lee’s drive and inspiration that led to the formation of the Friends Group and although sadly no longer able to be actively involved as part of the Committee will still keep in touch.
If other Friends Group members wish to join the Committee please get in touch.
2. Re-election of Jane Dickinson & Sara Novakovic as Committee Members
Members of the Friends Group are recommended to approve the re-appointment of Jane Dickinson and Sara Novakovic as Committee Members.
If a member is not able to attend the meeting and wishes to vote please send a note of how you wish to cast your vote by email to email@example.com by 7pm 28 March 2021.
3. Other business
Members will have the opportunity to raise any other matters at the meeting.
Chair, Friends of Watermans Park
23 March 2021