Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Lottery bid rejected

The eagerly awaited decision on the city council's bid for £3.3 million of lottery money to revamp the green has finally been made.

It has been rejected.

While opinion has been split on the merits of this bid, most members of the JGA have been vehemently against it. At our AGM on the subject, eighteen spoke against it and only one gave it partial support

The main concern was that the £4.4 million of changes would radically alter the character of the historic unspoilt green space, turning it into a 'theme park' consisting of segmented amusement areas(high wire zone, ornamental gardens, ponds, adventure playground). It appears the lottery committee has had similar concerns about the 'heritage' gains of the bid. Our argument was the high concept ideas behind the bid ran contrary to the historic 'countryside in city' character of Jesus Green.

Other concerns included plans to fell 59 trees for aesthetic reasons - they were deemed rather randomly placed compared to the landscape architect's vision of trees in straight lines. (Cllr Smith informed the AGM that they are not decaying or diseased, as she previously thought)

Over-development was also a major concern, with many members raising doubts about the suitability of a two-storey cafe on the green, a large piazza, expanded pathways and new paved areas. These will no longer happen.

The main question must now be the future of the green. What will happen to the promised £1.1 million of match funding promised by the council? And if there is any money, how should it be spent.

There is currently not enough cash to roll the grass tennis courts this summer (as they have been in the past), making them increasingly unplayable. How much would it cost a private contractor (or a nearby college) to roll them? Several hundred pounds at most.

Will there be money to fix the crumbling footpaths, the cracks in the skate park or refurbish the toilets? Or will cash only be available to grand schemes, like the proposed MUGA (multi-use games area), which have proved unpopular with users of the green.

And how will the council consult on these plans, given the less than impressive communication with us in the past.


Bizarrely, the Cambridge News has not posted its story about the decision on its website, so here is the council's press release on the subject

Press release from Cambridge City Council

Jesus Green, Heritage Lottery Fund Application

In December 2007, Cambridge City Council was awarded a Project Planning grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to work up a project for improvements to Jesus Green. Following widespread consultation, a stage one application was submitted to the HLF in September 2008. The bid, which comprised initial proposals and outline plans, has now been assessed along with 43 other projects competing for the £20 million of funds nationally available.

This week the Heritage Lottery Fund announced to the Council that the application has been unsuccessful. The HLF panel concluded that whilst the scheme had a number of merits, the proposals did not provide for the greater range of activities they sought and they were unconvinced of the rationale for heritage lottery funding to support the development of the proposed new buildings.

The Council is very disappointed to lose out on this opportunity for external investment in Jesus Green and will be seeking further clarification on some aspects of the HLF notification letter. The Council’s bid placed great emphasis on retaining the character of the park, in rationalising buildings and creating greater accessibility. However, the Council anticipates that further dialogue with the HLF will be beneficial in understanding the decision that has been made, and is grateful to HLF for funding provided to develop the scheme to date. In particular, the Council believes considerable benefit has been gained from the project development process via the engagement and interest of so many groups and individuals.

The initial HLF Project Planning Grant funded the consultations alongside the development of a master plan for the park, an ecology survey, archaeological report, audience development plan and tree planting proposals. These plans provide high quality information that will greatly assist in determining future approaches to Jesus Green.

In preparing the bid the Council made provision for match funding. This funding is still available to take forward some elements of the bid, such as improvements to the children’s play area, the renovation of the tennis courts; removal of the old bowls pavilion and a planned programme of tree planting.

Other key elements such as improving the drainage, improvements to the paths and the refurbishment of the toilets, will need to be given careful consideration and may take considerably longer to implement as alternative funding streams may need to be sought.

During the next few months the Council will be meeting with residents and stakeholder groups to consider how to progress those improvements identified as important during the preparation of the bid. This discussion will concentrate on priorities and solutions. Our focus will be on preserving the character and enhancing the amenity value of this historic and important public open space.

Quote from Executive Councillor, Cllr Julie Smith
"While it is naturally disappointing that we weren’t successful, the HLF project planning grant did give us the opportunity to do a lot of background research, not least in developing plans for future tree planting for Jesus Green. We will make use of such reports as we work with residents and others with an interest in the Green to ensure that Jesus Green remains the fantastic open space that everyone cherishes so much.’

Quote from Labour Spokesperson, Cllr Miriam Lynn
“It’s a real shame for all Cambridge residents that this bid was unsuccessful. However, I am pleased that the Council has prioritised further consultation with residents in order to make sure that future improvements to the Green can meet the City’s needs”.

Quote from Cllr Tim Bick, Market ward councillor:
“The failure to win any outside funding is not good news for lovers of the Green, which does need new resources to continue to meet aspirations. The important thing now is to work together locally to spend what money the Council can make available to the best possible effect."

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