15 June 2008

Redevelopment of Horniman Gardens

The Horniman Gardens have developed on a rather ad-hoc basis over the last century since they were first opened to the public. Now the Horniman Museum is developing a 'Masterplan' to guide the development of the Gardens for the next ten to twenty years.

Janet Vitmayer, Museum Director, and Kirsten Walker, Head of Collection Management and Special Projects provided an update on the current state of development of the Masterplan at the AGM of the Tewkesbury Lodge Estate Residents' Association on 27th April.

The Museum has applied for funding from a number of sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund to support their plans. At the time of the meeting, the Lottery Fund was unable to announce the outcome of the bid because of a pre-election embargo. However, it was stressed that getting the funding would mainly affect the speed with which any development could be implemented, rather than what would eventually be achieved.

The current proposals have been drawn up by an independent consultancy, Land Use Consultants, after consultation with users. The Museum is seeking feedback on the proposals over the next few months with a view to coming up with revised proposals by June. Copies of the outline proposal map with a form attached for comments are available from the Museum. Those responding will be invited to take part in the next round of consultation and it is expected that the Masterplan will be finalised in around nine months time.

Work is not expected to start until 2010. The main elements of the current proposals are:

  • Moving the boundary of the Gardens to encompass the nature trail, where it adjoins the Gardens, with the footpath between Westwood Park and London Road re-routed to run along the line of the railway and into Wood Vale (rather than London Road). The nature trail could become part of a Green Chain Walk from Crystal Palace.

  • Creation of a reed bed and pond area at the northern corner of the gardens with areas managed to increase their nature conservation value. The pond area would be used by school groups for pond dipping.

  • Creating a 'Wild Play Area' using natural materials at the southern end of the nature trail and a 'kickabout' area to the north.
  • Considerable rearrangement of the area around the bandstand including restoration of the bandstand and the Dutch Barn, the provision of high quality surfacing to replace the current asphalt, moving the compost area between the top of the animal enclosure and the Horniman Drive entrance to open up views and improve sight lines from the Avenue and the construction of an education building in line with the Dutch Barn.
  • Restoration of the Sunken Garden and the use of the current African Garden as a 'living collection' area complementing exhibitions in the Museum – this area might be closed outside Museum opening hours.

Some members of the Residents’ Association thought the proposals to construct the Education Building and to close the Sunken Garden at times were controversial. There were other concerns raised at the meeting - the possibility that the developments might encourage rodents near housing and the fact that the proposed Wild Play Area was adjacent to the South Circular, possibly the most polluted area of the Gardens. However, there appeared to be general agreement that the concept of a Masterplan was a good one and The Horniman Museum was really trying to take on board comments made during consultation.

So, if you feel strongly about the future direction of the Horniman Gardens, do make sure your voice is heard.

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