Report of the Superintendent of Hampstead Heath.
The Queen’s Park Manager provided a verbal update to those present on the following issues:-
He advised those present that the park had experienced a very wet winter since the last meeting, which resulted in the main field being deemed unusable for formal sports activities for a period of five weeks due to extreme amounts of rainfall. He further advised that St. Jude’s Storm had not had a severe impact on the park.
Members were advised that there had been 1 million visits to the park in the 2013/14 financial year, compared to 1.2 million visits to West Ham Park over the same period despite Queen’s Park being roughly half the size.
Ecology and Environment
Perennial planting had replaced seasonal bedding in the Quiet Garden, which was in a good condition due to the recent mild weather. This had reduced the spend on seasonal planting. Lawn maintenance would be carried out by Hampstead Heath staff; this had been postponed due to the recent wet weather but would start soon.
It was reported that Amey were still the park’s waste collection contractors but the London Borough of Brent also provided a service for green waste collection and recyclables at no cost to the City of London Corporation.
Sports and Recreation
It was noted that the tennis courts were cleaned and sprayed to reduce moss during winter. Additional funding for further improvements, particularly to courts five and six, may be available in 2015/16.
Members were advised that pedestrian signage and banners had been placed in the park to promote the tennis coaching sessions. The Queen’s Park manager added that he would provide an update on the tennis coaching sessions at the next meeting.
The Pitch and Putt course remained open during winter whilst maintenance took place. There was an even split between use of the tennis courts and the Pitch and Putt course with 9,000 games of tennis and 7,000 games of golf; each generating approximately £23,000.
The installation of new equipment in the play area was running on schedule, with support being received from the Assistant Operational Services Manager of Hampstead Heath. The play area had generated positive comments from users but there had been some concern over the shortage of equipment for under-fives. It was noted that suitable equipment for this age group would be added to the play area during the Third Phase installation.
The Brent Sports Development Team would provide a free multi-sport Summer Sports Programme in summer 2014, which would be free of charge to users and have little impact on staff resources and time.
Members were advised that the Queen’s Park Manager, together with other officers from the Open Spaces Department, was seeking legal advice from the Comptroller and City Solicitor’s Department regarding the licensing of commercial activities at Queen’s Park. In response to a member’s question, he advised that Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club would not be providing coaching sessions at the park this year as limited revenue for the Club was anticipated.
It was reported that the storm-damaged Weeping Willow tree on the Pitch and Putt course had started to grow back successfully following pollarding and two further Willow trees would receive the same treatment. Reduction work had also been completed to the Laurel tree hedge along Kingswood Avenue.
The Conservation and Trees Manager provided a verbal update on tree disease. He explained that tree disease was a concern at Queen’s Park due to the threat of Ash Dieback, Massaria of Plane, and Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) close to the site; whilst Ash Dieback was being monitored, it had not yet been discovered in Central London. An industry guidance document had been produced to help manage the threat of Massaria of Plane. The disease had affected limbs of trees in Queen’s Park but had not killed any. He reported that Queen’s Park was currently on the edge of the OPM risk boundary. This was the second year of spray treatment against OPM financed jointly by the Forestry Commission and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). In response to a member’s question, the Conservation and Trees Manager advised that spraying aimed to reduce collateral damage of other species.
The Queen’s Park Manager reported that the budget could be reduced significantly by 2017/18 as part of the Service Based Review. Whilst small events at the park would be useful for income generation it would be difficult due to licensing restrictions in respect of commercial activities.
It was noted that the process of booking tennis courts and Pitch and Putt could be improved by the introduction of an online booking system.
A member of the group added that additional funding for sports development could be requested through the Wembley National Stadium Trust fund.
With reference to the Children’s Farm and the introduction of four Giant Rabbits, which had proved very popular with visitors, the Chairman suggested that a voluntary donations box might generate some income. Following some discussion, the Superintendent advised that some donations boxes at the Hampstead Heath ponds had been successful. However, a member of the group expressed their opposition to a voluntary donations box as visitors to a park expect its facilities to be free of charge. The Chairman suggested this case was different as the Children’s Farm’s animals needed to be fed and housing needed to be maintained.
It was noted that repair works to the Paddling Pool were currently underway.
Visitors and Community
It was reported that the Whitsun Bank Holiday Weekend event had not been as successful as anticipated due to the inclement weather.
The Queen’s Park Manager advised that a local school had recently visited a pilot session at the Children’s Farm, with a view to generating income by holding education days at the farm for schools in the future.
RESOLVED – That the Queen’s Park update be noted.