Fraught relationship with council makes future presence in park uncertain
Friends volunteers L-R Lauren Walsh, Carol Lamb, Linda Massey, Gordon MacGowan
After an 18 year presence in the urban green space, the Friends of Boston Manor Park may be on their way out.
They have operated from a café building in the park but uncertainty over Hounslow Council’s plans for its redevelopment has meant the group feel unable to commit to returning.
From now until the end of March they will be opening the Pavilion café from 10am every day but will then close the doors to make way for refurbishment work to begin.
The group was formed in 2003 and is an entirely voluntary organisation which puts any revenues earned back into the park. In addition to running weekly projects with the Community Payback scheme they have helped maintain the park.
However, they now believe that much of their accumulated hard work is being undermined by the Hounslow Council project team which is using Heritage Lottery funding to make changes to the park.
The Friends claim that blossoming plum trees have been cut down unnecessarily with the project team claiming they were rotten and dangerous but this was contradicted by the opinion of others who believed only one of the trees was rotten and couldn’t be classified as dangerous.
It is asserted that the council plan to remove the flowerbeds in the park and work on the former allotments site has reduced bio-diversity in the area and created an unplanned lake.
Friends volunteer Linda Massey said, “One dog walker said to me today that she was down there when this was happening and if you could have seen the amount of rabbits that were fleeing to safety. In one breath they are saying that they are doing this work to increase biodiversity yet the removal of the hedges has meant that the birds do not have anywhere to nest.”
Of the council’s plans for the café she says, “With us as a group – the council wish to renovate the building known as the pavilion. They wish to create an area for meetings for volunteers, an office space for park staff and will provide a café area. To do this they will extend the building slightly which is the first reason we have been asked to move out (even if temporary). It is to be noted that on the café, we are struggling to find out the exact plans for the café area as we do not accept what their architect came up with as the first outline but also that the council plan to have a café in Boston Manor House (149 metres away) which we felt was not supporting us.”
The group doesn’t rule out a return to the café but says it won’t be back for at least a year and then only if it can return on its own terms. They will continue to run the tennis courts and membership as they can do this remotely but will not be running any projects for the next year.
A community building is planned in Blondin Park where the Friends hold the Brentford Festival which will open before the summer. They describe Ealing Council as ‘incredibly supportive’ in helping make this happen.
Councillor Samia Chaudhary, Cabinet Member for Leisure Services, said:
“The Reconnecting Boston Manor Park project aims to restore the park, highlight its history as the estate for Boston Manor House, and improve its links to the River Brent and Grand Union Canal and to the people who live nearby.
“We are working with independent contractors to plant new hedges, 120 new trees and improve habitats, in addition to on-going park management.
“As we move into spring and the planting stages of the project, it will be clear that our aim is to increase biodiversity at Boston Manor Park as well as significantly improve its appearance. The removal work has been carried out during winter to reduce the impact on wildlife and natural habitats.
“The assessments of the park’s ecology and tree stock by independent specialists tell us that the site’s natural features have suffered because of limited woodland management resulting in dense and inaccessible areas. This has limited the opportunity to improve the park’s natural habitat.
“The opening up of the woodland will provide long-term benefits by creating differing age groups of trees, and extra sunlight will rejuvenate ground flora and increase the long-term success of this habitat.
“Within the amenities area, the purple plum trees were showing increasing signs of disease and decay exhibited by bracket fungi, hollow trunks and branch die back. The hedge has been removed to showcase the historic walled garden and the shrub beds below the wall will be replanted as a mixed herbaceous border.
“Since the start of the project, the Council has been consulting with Friends of Boston Manor and other stakeholders through a dedicated steering group. Discussions are already underway with the Friends group regarding the opportunities the renovated café building will provide, as well as other project activities in the park.
“I urge all residents interested in the plans to visit the Council’s Boston Manor Park website at Hounslow.gov.uk/BostonManorPark, where we are blogging regular updates and advertising volunteering opportunities. We are also holding regular consultation meetings which all residents are encouraged to join. These are an opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and speak directly to the ecologists and tree specialists we’re working with.”
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March 5, 2021