Instead of joining his fellow Ealing residents online at Ealing Today to debate the merits of spending £4.4 million on Walpole Park, Conservative Councillor Phil Taylor has just referred us all to his blog. His reveals his anger at myself and Arthur Breens in questioning Ealing Council’s spending plans for the park.
I recently attended a presentation of how these millions will be spent. Amongst the changes are demolishing the café and building a new one somewhere else in the park. Filling in one of the ponds and building a new one somewhere else in the park. Closing the children’s play area and building a new one somewhere else in the park. I needn’t go on as you get the picture. (During the public consultation phase I requested that money should be found to add toilets at Spencer’s Café. This way the toilets would be monitored and supervised. The current location of the café seems to be liked as it is clearly well frequented).
Councillor’s Taylor’s early ‘own goal’in his polemic, is that Walpole Park is the most used park in Ealing. As such it shouldn’t take a genius to conclude that as so many people use the park they must like the park a great deal. Walpole Park is a protected area – protected as it is now. ‘Restoring’ the park to what is was like in the 18th Century or even what it was like in 1901 when Charles Jones set out the tree lined avenues with plants and shrubs is an irrelevance – especially at a cost of £4.4 million.
Councillor Taylor’s views on spending other people’s money are also interesting and to be fair shared by others. The £2.4 Heritage Lottery money is money we have all gambled over recent years. So it’s our money that is being wasted in fixing something that is not broken. The £2 million S106 money comes from property developer St George. S106 is intended to offset the negative effects of developing a property. Walpole Park is nowhere near physically adjacent to Dickens Yard but it is Dickens Yard S106 money that is being spent on gold plating the grass in Walpole Park. Dickens Yard was public land and instead of building mostly private for sale flats there, it could have been used to build a new school, healthcare centre, care home for the elderly or even a new Police Station. So in order to offset the fact that something socially useful wasn’t built on Dickens Yard the £2 million S106 money should have gone to supporting one or other of these social or community services.
In his rant Councillor Taylor lapses into architect-speak saying that ‘The current park is a mish mash which has built up over time ignoring the relationship between the house and the park and destroying views with a random collection of structures.’ There has been no ‘relationship’ between the house and the park for over 100 years! As for ‘mish mash’ or ‘random collection of structures’ have a good look at the mish mash of styles of neighbours Ealing Town Hall, Perceval House and Dickens Yard along Longfield Avenue – there’s almost more eclectic architectural styles there than at ‘The Prisoner’ location at Hotel Portmeirion. Do you Councillor wish no to knock down all such random collections of structures in Ealing? Well knowing you, worryingly, you probably do.
The genuine disdain that Ealing Council has shown for Walpole Park in recent years is in the summer when the festival and fairground folks come to the park. The power to run the fountains in the pond is diverted to these commercial enterprises (and this year to their live-in caravans), and the fountains die. Two years ago hundreds of fish died in the fountain-less pond and even now with no power to the fountains for months the water is foul and unsavoury. It has taken months for the Council to conclude that £2,000 is needed to repair the fountains’ motor. But the money can’t be found. However there is £4.4 million for restoration of the park…….
Finally I must remind Councillor Taylor that the grandest part of his ‘magnificent’ plans were for Pitshanger Manor in the park. The plans would have turned the Grade I building into what it looked like in the early 19th Century and would have involved demolishing newer parts of the buildings. Heritage Lottery said no on the grounds that there was insufficient community support. And this was in spite of the Council’s efforts in quickly throwing together a Walpole Park Friends group as a manifestation of community support for the plans.
I don’t blame Councillor Taylor or Councillor Stacey for this waste of money. The Conservative Council and the Labour Council conceived and endorsed these plans. I blame myself, Arthur Breens and 1,000s of other Ealing residents for allowing both administrations to get away with doing such silly things.
2 October, 2011