Private events in parks "nothing new" say Tory councillors

First published in News by

Passionate pleas were heard from the public gallery at Hendon Town Hall last night as Labour councillors called for the withdrawl of plans to hire out parks for private events.

Councillor Kath McGuirk moved a motion for cabinet to “remove these proposals from their budget”, but while the bid was unsuccessful, campaigners have vowed to fight on.

Brian Plen, of Finchley, a member of the Say No to Victoria Park Events campaign, said: “It’s not the end. Primarily we’ve got to change our tactic. We’ve got to maintain pressure on the Tory caucus”

His wife, Noreen Plen, said the difference between this proposal and the events they already endure is the type of event.

She said: “There’s been plenty of trouble in the past but we’ve tolerated it because they’ve been open events for the community.

“The difference here is that it would be for a select group who are paying for it for private use.”

Shouts of “shame” from the public gallery interrupted Tory councillors as they defended the proposal.

Cabinet member for environment Councillor Brian Coleman defended the plans, saying the council had hired out its parks for years.

He said: “There is much misinformation on this. The council has the right now to close any park in the borough for five days of the year. We have the power to rent them out to commercial events now.”

Cllr Coleman said the areas that were being considered were small, such as five per cent in Victoria Park. A statement from Cllr Coleman said: "Our consultation has been about making our parks available to a wider community while raising deperately needed revenue in order to keep our parks in first class order."

A further statement from the council denied that whole parks would be considered for private hire, but the response to the same query at a residents' forum this week said: “If it was appropriate to close a park (this is the current position practise also) for a large event this would be considered.”

Councillor Dean Cohen said: “I think we need to put things into perspective here – indeed the parks are not for sale. The proposal is to rent them out.

“This is nothing new, it’s been happening for years.”

The proposal names eight pilot sites to be hired out for functions such as weddings and bar mitzvahs between April and July each year.

The predicted revenue from this proposal is £30,000 - an amount campaigners say is not worth the damage and disruption the events could cause.

Consultation on the proposal ended on January 16.

Comments (1)

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4:20pm Wed 25 Jan 12

rosemary canning says...

I do hope that people will remember the way this Conservative Council has behaved over the last year. Many, many community events, buildings, and service have been DRAMATICALLY cut. And now it is the turn of OUR PUBLIC PARKS.

There were over 700 objections, to what will in effect be the privatisation of the parks - the results of the 'consultation' will now be IGNORED renedering the whole scheme a money-wasting sham. The TORY council is not listening to the public that it serves.

Cllr. Coleman said: 'Our consultation has been about making our parks available to a wider community while raising deperately needed revenue...'

First, the parks can't be made available to a wider community because they are already available to EVERYONE in the community.

Secondly as noted in a report by Mike Gee, Secretary, Finchley Society, Environmental & Transport Committee, 'The financial case is nonsense, if hired out 23 times per season Victoria Park would generate only £7,860 gross revenue which would then be subject to operating costs. The scheme could well end up actually losing money. The real raison d’etre must surely be political will to commercialise our parks. This thinking has already led to loss of valuable public open space within the borough.'

Thirdly, let's not forget that Barnet has now been made a preferred creditor and will get most of the original 27.4 million lost in the Icelandic Banks fiasco. We're not as poor as Government and local councils are making out.

And finally, there is a lot of history associated with our parks, Victoria Park, N3, was opened in 1902 and was intended to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and was Finchley’s FIRST PUBLIC PARK.

I will end this comment with another note from Mike Gee's report: 'The idea that part of our public parks and green spaces would have restricted public access and revert back to the privileged few is totally wrong and totally unacceptable and should be strongly resisted. Our parks are now public property and should remain as they were created- places explicitly and solely for public use.'
I do hope that people will remember the way this Conservative Council has behaved over the last year. Many, many community events, buildings, and service have been DRAMATICALLY cut. And now it is the turn of OUR PUBLIC PARKS. There were over 700 objections, to what will in effect be the privatisation of the parks - the results of the 'consultation' will now be IGNORED renedering the whole scheme a money-wasting sham. The TORY council is not listening to the public that it serves. Cllr. Coleman said: 'Our consultation has been about making our parks available to a wider community while raising deperately needed revenue...' First, the parks can't be made available to a wider community because they are already available to EVERYONE in the community. Secondly as noted in a report by Mike Gee, Secretary, Finchley Society, Environmental & Transport Committee, 'The financial case is nonsense, if hired out 23 times per season Victoria Park would generate only £7,860 gross revenue which would then be subject to operating costs. The scheme could well end up actually losing money. The real raison d’etre must surely be political will to commercialise our parks. This thinking has already led to loss of valuable public open space within the borough.' Thirdly, let's not forget that Barnet has now been made a preferred creditor and will get most of the original 27.4 million lost in the Icelandic Banks fiasco. We're not as poor as Government and local councils are making out. And finally, there is a lot of history associated with our parks, Victoria Park, N3, was opened in 1902 and was intended to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and was Finchley’s FIRST PUBLIC PARK. I will end this comment with another note from Mike Gee's report: 'The idea that part of our public parks and green spaces would have restricted public access and revert back to the privileged few is totally wrong and totally unacceptable and should be strongly resisted. Our parks are now public property and should remain as they were created- places explicitly and solely for public use.' rosemary canning
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