Discussion Synthesis 2013: Lee Valley Park funding

3.  Lee Valley Regional Park    At the last meeting we heard how Lee Valley Park’s current funding arrangement is contributions averaging £300,000 per annum from each London Borough, Herts & Essex. Councils’ contributions represent 50% of the running costs. This is a growing issue for cash-starved Councils and their underfunded parks departments, and some are beginning to campaign against the precept payments. But are there better alternatives for the funding for this vital green lung into the heart of London, and should the LFGN take a view and get involved?

We invited Laurie Elks from the independent user lobby group, the Lee Valley Federation, to address the matter. Laurie explained the history, extent and importance of the Lee Valley, its management structures, its issues, and its funding arrangements.  He outlined details of the 1947 Abercrombie Plan (Green Belt) in which the Lee Valley was identified as part of the regenerative urban plan. In 1961 Lou Sherman & the Civic Trust picked it up. The 1970’s saw a review of the masterplan. The 1980’s identified additional green spaces to be included. The Lee Valley Park Authority management has done some good things with the site, but has also presided over some awful failures and poor policies. Its governing body is made up of one member from each London Borough, four from Herts and Essex. Something of a lucky dip.

An act of parliament has set a precept for statutory annual contributions from London boroughs, Herts and Essex. Most contribute around £200,000 but some as high as £411,000 based on rateable values. Total = £17.5 million per year. None from the Government. In comparison current Government funding for Royal Parks is £11.7 million.Currently governance and management is a baggy monster and unwieldy. Marketing could be better and there is scope for different emphases. The LVPA is poor at raising money as it doesn’t have a landscape policy for joint initiatives. Needs to improve – could still manage the site effectively if it was receptive to users & user groups like LVF.

There then followed further contributions and a general discussion:
– If it is an Act of Parliament, shouldn’t the Government fund it? Should be less of a burden on London Boroughs. Needs a more astute funding body. Is it realistic to call for a Public Inquiry?
– Leisure facilities always lose money.

– LVRA must improve their land strategy – some land owned by utilities with accessibility problems
– Propose a vote of no confidence in the LVRA
– Propose an alternative funding model – even the Royal Parks make money
– Mount a public awareness campaign
– If the precept was scrapped would the money be ring-fenced for the use of local green spaces?

The issue was very complex and, whilst all agreed that borough park’s departments desperately needed their own additional funding, we didn’t wish to rush into an ill-informed policy on the matter which could undermine the need for the Lee Valley to be managed and financed effectively. It was agreed that a small working group of interested members would be set up to consider these issues and report back to next meeting.

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