Councillor Guy Vincent, Chair of the Parks Commission, explained that the administration had been concerned about the long lease granted to PlayFootball at Hammersmith Park. They wanted to find a way to ensure that community access to parks was secured permanently, and so had set up the Parks Commission to look at ways of doing this.
The Parks Commission had considered a range of options, including creating a trust for all of the parks in the borough, setting up individual trusts for each park, and legally dedicating the parks to public use through Fields in Trust. The Commission had decided that dedicating parks through Fields in Trust was the best option as it would allow the Council to continue to own and support the parks but would protect them from inappropriate use.
Councillor Hamilton highlighted that PlayFootball’s lease at Hammersmith Park was not the only example of park land being used for sport, noting that Fulham Pools had been granted a Lease at Normand Park, whilst parks continued to be used for a range of events which made the Council money. Councillor Vincent said that he did not know how long the lease at Fulham Pools was; he explained that the Council was starting to consult friends groups and local residents regarding events in parks. He also said that specific deeds of dedication could be adapted to suit what residents felt was appropriate in each park.
Councillor Hamilton said that he was concerned that a veto would be handed to an organisation which, however well meaning, was not accountable to local residents. Councillor Vincent said that control would be maintained by the Council except where the terms of the deed would be broken; then Fields in Trust would have to agree any proposal. He said that Fields in Trust would consider proposals and would not unreasonably refuse permission for any proposal; he felt that the only time that a refusal was likely was if the Council was acting against residents interests, for example, by selling off a park without any benefits for leisure in the borough.
Councillor Dewhirst asked whether access for schools would be affected. Councillor Vincent said that it would not be, the Council would continue to run the parks as they did now.
Councillor Hamilton asked what would happen to those parks where other protections were in place, such as being designated as Metropolitan Open Land. Councillor Vincent explained that Lawyers would be looking at what agreements were necessary for each park. He explained that a similar arrangement to Fields in Trust already operated in Bishop’s Park as the Church of England retained some control over the use of the park.
Councillor Dewhirst asked whether the Council could end the Deeds of Dedication. Councillor Vincent said that any deed could be ended with the agreement of the parties. Councillor Dewhirst asked whether a review of the arrangements could be undertaken after a few years of operation. Councillor Vincent agreed that this would be a useful exercise.
Councillor Dewhirst asked whether the arrangement would cost the Council money. Councillor Vincent said that the only cost would be the time spent by officers in drafting the agreements. Fields in Trust did not charge for their work or their legal expenses.
1) That the Parks Commission recommendation that the Council protect the borough’s parks and open spaces via a Deed of Dedication with Fields in Trust be endorsed.
2) That the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Residents Services and the relevant director be recommended to work with the Parks Commission and individual park groups to progress their specific deed of dedication with Fields in Trust.
3) The positive input from all those involved in the Parks Commission in reaching a common consensus be acknowledged.