Fears revamp of park may be rushed

Concerns have been raised that £250,000 improvements to a Worcester park are being rushed through.

The leader of the city council has denied a deadline to finish the impending work at Fort Royal Park by the end of March has been set in a bid to attract votes ahead of the local elections.

A new £110,000 playground, high-powered binoculars and better signage are planned while a programme to eradicate a growth of Japanese knotweed on the London Road wall and carry out repairs to the structure of the Wyld’s Lane boundary wall will also be carried out after senior Conservative councillors rubber-stamped the project on Tuesday.

However Labour Councillor Paul Denham said: “By rushing to get this thing finished this side of the next local election there are inherent risks.

“I’d rather it’s all done properly than meet a particular deadline.”

Councillor Simon Geraghty, leader of the Conservative-run administration, hit back and said: “We are always working to improve Worcester’s parks regardless of elections and this is just another one we are improving.”

Councillor Francis Lankester, cabinet member for safer and stronger communities and Cathedral ward member, did see it as delivering a promise to the electorate, though.

Consultation is due to take place in the near future with children and adults about how they would like £110,000 spent on a playground similar to the Power Park in St Peter’s which cost about half the money to create.

Meanwhile, £25,000 has been set aside to pay for an officer with a good track record of compiling successful Heritage Lottery Fund applications.

That bid will include schemes that reflect the historical significance of the site which was a key location during the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and was visited by the second and third Presidents of the United States of America, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, to see where democracy was effectively born.

Councillor Andy Roberts said it was important that moments in history like that are highlighted.

“We have a worldwide responsibility, I really mean that,” he said.

If a lottery funding bid is successful the amount of money invested in the park could top £1 million and the city council has set aside £60,000 to cover any match-funding requirements.

The council hopes to submit its bid in August, with a view to all of the works being completed by spring 2014.

A £17,000 contingency fund has also been kept back.

Councillor Roger Knight, deputy leader and cabinet member for cleaner and greener, said: “This is an excellent project, very worthwhile. The site deserves it, in fact it is crying out for it.”

Councillor Denham said that while he backed the project he had concerns a boost in the park’s popularity could cause parking problems in residential streets but he was told there are plenty of car parks nearby.