In early January Argyll and Bute Council, working with the Friends of Hermitage Park, received confirmation from the Heritage Lottery that their bid for a grant of up to £2,087,000 to regenerate Argyll and Bute’s only urban park had received first round approval.
This first round approval includes a grant of £169,700 to carry out the development phase of the project.
This initial grant will pay for the development of a whole park plan which will include proposals for the A listed monument and memorial gardens, investigative works to deal with the problems of flooding and erosion and a community consultation process.
Ultimately the aim of the project is to restore the park’s significant heritage, carry out major repair work and reconfigure the recreational space for the benefit of the public. Input from users of the park is hugely important and will inform the long-term regeneration plans.
The development phase will end with the submission of the stage two application which, it is hoped, will be in February 2015 round of submissions. However, both HLF and the council agree that this is ambitious and it may be the case that the second stage application will not be submitted until August 2015.
In order to be in a position to move forward with a second stage submission significant work must be done in the background to ensure the project is on a firm footing and can deliver the ultimate goal – regeneration and development of the park.
The process for the development phase includes: the recruitment of a dedicated park officer (this role is currently advertised, with a closing date of April 4th), issuing of tenders for consultants, the appointment of consultants, the development of a conservation management plan, the drafting of a masterplan, public consultations on the draft, the finalising of a masterplan and the development of activity, business, funding, marketing and management plans.
Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Amenity Services, Helensburgh-based Councillor Ellen Morton, said: ‘’The first stage approval from HLF in January was very welcome news indeed. This is such an exciting project and I for one am eager to see the project move forward. People are, as I am, keen to see work beginning, however, I would encourage patience. Just because there are no workmen on site does not mean there is no work ongoing. Projects like this are like icebergs – much of the work can be unseen.
We are committed to getting this project right and I can assure you we will be working hard to do just that and to keep the public informed at each stage as the project develops. We are also eager to hear from members of the public with any ideas they might have for the park’s future development. Their input is vital.’’
Chris Packard, Chair of the Friends of Hermitage Park, said: ‘’It was encouraging to see the council tackling the initial tasks with urgency and making sure the best people are recruited or hired to make the right choices for Hermitage Park. This is not a process that can be rushed and likewise the whole development phase, an important part of which will be the public consultation, will take time.
‘’Although the main works are unlikely to be completed before 2017, the council and Friends will continue to carry out regular improvements in the park and we hope that new volunteers will come forward to help. There are tasks for all, both heavy and lighter gardening and pruning. Details can be found in the Community Advertiser.’’