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Jubilee Gardens revamp: concrete replaces granite as 2012 deadline looms

London SE1 website team

The designers of the new-look Jubilee Gardens have revealed their pared-down proposals for the South Bank park as the countdown is on for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games in 2012.

Jubilee Gardens
Jubilee Gardens is curerently flat but the new-look park will have an undulating landscape with a greater sense of enclosure

Dozens of local residents attended a public meeting at St John's Waterloo last week to get an update on the latest plans for the riverside open space.

The meeting heard that the gardens had been laid out to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 and a revamped Jubilee Gardens is intended to be the main physical legacy of the Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Dutch firm West8 was selected to resdesign the park in 2005 and their scheme received planning permission in 2006.

A lack of cash and a series of legal problems meant that the design failed to get off the drawing board.

Earlier this year the work to improve the gardens received new impetus when the Mayor of London, via Transport for London and Lambeth Council, promised £1.5 million towards the cost of the work.

At last Wednesday's meeting Maarten Buijs of West8 said that the aim is to get the park finished in time for the Queen to perform an official reopening ceremony during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

The park will also play an important role in the London 2012 Olympic Games, both as a venue for Cultural Olympiad events and as a 'live site' where Londoners can follow the sporting action on a big screen.

Mr Buijs spoke about the challenges of designing a park that, by virtue of its location by the river and next to the London Eye, has a very high footfall.

"We don't have to attract people; they are already there," he said, adding that the new-look open space had to be a world-class park that met the needs of local residents, visitors and workers.

Whereas the current park is virtually flat, the revamped version will have an undulating landscape and dozens of new trees.

The 2005 design used granite edging around the lawns and granite setts for the paths, but cost-cutting means that concrete will now be used for the seating which will mark the edge of the grassed areas, and large parts of the path network will be surfaced with decomposed granite, similar to the surface used on The Mall.

Jubilee Gardens suffers from poor soil quality and a new layer of topsoil will be added. New irrigation will also be installed.

He confirmed that West8 is currently investigating a new location for the Spanish Civil War International Brigades memorial within the gardens.

A new playground will be incorporated into the redesign using natural materials to create an exciting play environment. However in the short term some of the existing equipment may have to be re-used until further funding becomes available.

Landowners, covenants and neighbours

Jubilee Gardens suffers from a complicated ownership structure. When the Greater London Council was abolished in the 1980s the freehold was passed to Arts Council England who in turn lease the park to Southbank Centre.

A further complication is the fact that the owners of County Hall, the Shiryama Corporation, have the benefit of a 900-year covenant giving them the right to place a car park under Jubilee Gardens.

The future of the adjacent Hungerford Car Park is another sticking point; the Friends of Jubilee Gardens (and others) want to see the park extended across the whole car park, but until recently the British Film Institute had planned to develop a new film centre on part of the site.

Government funding for the film centre was recently cancelled, and earlier this month the Evening Standard reported, as part of an interview with BFI boss Amanda Nevill, that "interest has currently been withdrawn" from the Hungerford Car Park.

Southbank Centre's Mike McCart confirmed that West8's design has been drawn up to ensure that it works whether or not the car park is developed and whether or not the green space is extended.

Jubilee Gardens and the 2012 Olympics

Mr McCart explained that Jubilee Gardens will be one of the sites used for the World River event to be held on 21 and 22 July 2012 immediately prior to the opening of the Olympic Games.

Five stages will be erected along the river from Battersea Park to Potters Fields Park, each representing a different continent. Jubilee Gardens will have an Africa theme.

Further events will be held in the park until the close of the the Paralympic games in September 2012.

Future events at Southbank Centre

Shan Maclennan highlighted the opportunity for local residents to get involved with Southbank Centre's celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain next summer. She explained that the events in 2011 will provide an opportunity to forge new partnerships in advance of the Olympics-related events in 2012.

Jubilee Gardens Trust

Ted Inman, interim chair of the shadow Jubilee Gardens Trust, explained the process that is under way to transfer the leasehold of the park to an independent body.

The Jubilee Gardens Trust will draw its members from four groups: landowners, local residents' groups, local small businesses and social enterprises and interested individuals. Each group will appoint directors to run the park.

Even though the trust will not take on responsibility for the park until after the Olympic Games, it is hoped that the trust will be up and running by the end of this year.

Next steps

Ted Inman told the meeting that £4.6 million funding is guaranteed, and fundraising is ongoing to try to push the total up to the £5.5 million it is generally accepted is the minimum cost of a decent refurbishment.

A planning application for the latest design will be submitted to Lambeth Council in mid-October with a decision expected in January. A construction contract will be let straight away to allow the park to be completed in the early months of 2012.

Calling local businesses

The recruitment drive for local enterprise members to join the trust has already begun. Local businesses and social enterprises who would like to join the trust are invited to express their interest by 15 October by emailing [email protected] with their contact details including name, address and telephone number.

Businesses must be based in the South Bank and Waterloo which is defined as the area bordered by Blackfriars Road, Lambeth Road, St George's Circus and the River Thames.

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