Proposals for a £5 million Heritage Lottery Fund bid to improve Watford’s Cassiobury Park are on display outside John Lewis in the Harlequin Centre today. This morning I went to town and stopped by the exhibition.
The area of the bid which would have the greatest impact on the park is the plan for a large new “hub” building, or visitor centre, north-east of the paddling pools and playground area approximately where a wooden toilet block currently stands. This would house a park ranger base, cafe, indoor events space and education facilities. No details were given on the scale of this building, the only real visualisation being a photo of a wood-cladded building in another park. In general I think this is a good idea as the current facilities are rather dated and inadequate, though I wonder what kind of events would take place in the events space.
The 5 angular buildings directly adjacent to the paddling pools would be demolished and replaced with another building of similar size servicing the paddling pools.
There are in addition plans for the Shepherds Road entrance to the park. The Cha Cha Cha cafe could be extended and the nearby council unit demolished. A suggestion is made possible new playground for older children in the area between Cha Cha Cha and the basketball and hard tennis courts.
The bandstand, currently located outside Watford Central Library, could also return to the park from where it was removed several decades ago.
Also proposed is “landmark” for the eastern entrance of the park. Watford residents of more than about 40 will of course remember that the Cassiobury Park Gates once stood here which were unceremoniously and unpopularly demolished for the widening of Rickmansworth Road. From the rough sketches on display the Harlequin we are looking at something far less substantial and impressive – seemed like some concrete-looking pillars engraved with “Cassiobury Park” and adding more flower beds.
The consultation seemed very vague with ideas for improvements scattered throught the park and woodland area with only outline details on each individual proposal. My opinion from is that the council/design agency behind the proposal appear to be seeing how they can use up £5 million of money rather than aiming for any specific much-needed improvement.
For instance there is a plan to entirely re-do the Paddling Pools area with two larger paddling pools and fountains taking up a slightly larger area that currently – these were refurbished just a few years ago.
Other ideas include the restoration of Lime Avenue (sounded like cutting back of trees and undergrowth) and work to better link up Whippendell Wood with the rest of the park as well as work near the canal and improvements to other park entrances.
More unusual suggestions included the possible reintroduction of cattle(!), apparently this popular in London now, and a hydro electric power generation near to the weir in the nature reserve.
I didn’t see it on any of the display boards but talking to one of people presenting the proposal to shoppers today revealed a possible plan to remove the car park extension from the end of the tarmac car park and replace it on the lower side. Whether or not this would be a permanent concreting over of parkland I don’t know.
Apparently some .pdfs of the proposal will be available on the council website however they don’t appear to be online yet.
All in all I was rather dissapointed with the vague nature of what was on display today. Hopefully they’ll take the ideas that are best received and flesh them out in more detail before showing them again to local people before February when the proposal will be submitted for funding.