Since our last update in September 2020 visitors to the park now at least have an uninterrupted view of the river following the repair of the sections of fencing and removal of Heras fencing along much of the riverfront last October as promised. However, other works advised last September are delayed. Last week Jane Dickinson, Ian Coates and I met representatives from the Council and TfL and Cllr Guy Lambert remotely and can provide an update as follows:
- we will now see the wrecks in the river start to be broken up and removed from 1 March with works to be completed by 15 May 2021.This has been delayed from last autumn because Hammersmith Bridge was not open to river traffic and even now will only be open to essential pre-booked river traffic for a few hours each Sunday. Breaking up the wrecks requires equipment to be moved upstream and materials to be moved downstream. We understand this stage of the works does not include the removal of the vessel Lis which is close to the Arts Centre.
- it is now expected that an eastern entrance will be opened up again for pedestrians by the end of March 2021, delayed from end February because of a Covid infection among the contractors. Access to the park will be by steps at the side of the car park / facilities building that is being constructed behind the hoardings.
- the plans for the moorings include a gap roughly half-way along the park riverfront and the first phase of the development will be from the east up to the gap. This phase for 14 moorings is to be completed by end September 2021, delayed from end July 2021. The second phase up to the Arts Centre will be considered later.
- TfL will complete their design plans of the westbound cycle track of CW9 which will pass through the park by end April 2021.You may remember that in March 2020 the Friends held an open meeting at the Arts Centre to discuss the implications of CW9 in the park with representatives from the Council’s transport team and TfL. Many views were expressed at the meeting in particular relating to cycle speed calming features and planting a low hedge alongside the cycle track to improve safety, routing the cycle track as close to the wall as possible and avoiding the removal of a mature tree and lighting along with other comments. TfL had responded positively to the comments raised which now we expect to see incorporated into the design. However, TfL advise that the construction of this section of CW9 in the park is not yet funded. There is therefore no agreed timing for the construction of the cycle track.
A key element of the 2016 planning consent was that in addition to the moorings development there would also be enhancements to the park. Indeed, the planning consent requires approved plans to be implemented before the moorings are operational. Those proposed enhancements outlined in the planning documentation need to be reconsidered and updated because CW9 post-dates the planning consent.
For a long time the Friends have strongly recommended to the Council that a landscape architect be appointed so that changes to the proposals can be made in a coordinated manner and take into account the needs all users of the park. However, to date there has been no progress and neither the Council’s parks and transport teams nor the Friends has been able to engage with the developer and their landscape architect to discuss options. The timeline for submitting proposals to satisfy the planning consent conditions has not yet been advised but must be fast approaching if the riverworks proceed to the revised schedule (and we note the Marine Management Organisation has yet to issue a licence for any works in the river). At our meeting last week Stefania Horne, Head of Parks and Leisure, agreed to liaise with the developer and proposed monthly meetings commencing in March attended by representatives of all interested parties.
There is some good news to report. In December 2020 the Council approved 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.
You may remember that under the 2016 planning consent, and noted in our September 2020 news update, the damaged wooden walkway in the park is to be replaced and the area taken over by a reed bed. At the 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 with the developer and the Council and along with other matters 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. 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.
Despite the delays we still remain cautiously optimistic that there is a realistic prospect that the park will be improved after many years of neglect.
Friends Annual General Meeting
The first Friends Annual General Meeting is long overdue and will now take place on Tuesday 30 March 2021 at 7pm by videoconference. The meeting will be an open meeting at which anyone interested in the park will be able to attend.
An agenda for the meeting will be circulated, along with login details, by close Tuesday 23 March 2021.