Improvements to historic park enters final funding phase

Stafford Borough Council has now submitted its final bid for cash for Victoria Park from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The authority was successful in securing an original 185,800 pounds National Lottery award from HLF to draw up detailed plans for the park.

And people can now see the proposed improvements with a virtual tour of Victoria Park from www.staffordbc.gov.uk/hlf.

The restoration work will concentrate on the historical section of the park which boasts a bowling green and aviary along with historical features such as the Mottram Shelter and County War Memorial with the River Sow running through the centre.

Feedback from residents and community groups has revealed the majority of those using the park would like an enhanced catering facility, a better aviary and have a horticultural learning centre- among a number of ideas put forward.

The funding for the 2.5 million pound project will be made up of 1.7m from HLF with the additional 800,000 pounds from the Council's capital budget. If the bid is successful then work is expected to start in January of next year.

The virtual tour shows plans for an improved entrance to the park, a new covered seating area overlooking the river and bandstand, and improvements to the Edwardian path, historic structures and toilet facilities. The scheme would see enhanced landscaping across the park and restoration of listed structures and ornate railings.

Victoria Park is more than 100 years old and has been awarded the 'Green Flag' - as one of the best parks and open spaces in the country - for the last nine years. In 2011 the Council transformed the play area of the park which has proved an enormous success with families and young people and it was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by online travel review site - Trip Advisor - for its great customer feedback last year.

Parks are a priority for HLF. HLF and the Big Lottery Fund have invested over 850million pounds of National Lottery players' money into parks since 1996.

The Environmental Partnership (TEP) has been commissioned to work with the Council on the plans. They have previously worked on the largest National Lottery funded project, and most visited heritage attraction, in Wales.

Councillor Mike Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure, said the authority had an excellent track record in improving facilities in the borough.

He said: "It is great to hear we are entering the final funding phase of a very exciting and important project. Victoria Park is a jewel in the Stafford crown and an important gateway to the town for visitors arriving from the railway station. We want to ensure it will continue to be a beautiful haven for local people and visitors to enjoy for many, many years to come.

"This work is about restoration. We want to bring back and restore historic features so they are not lost for future generations - while improving on existing facilities using the feedback from residents, park users and those who play an important role within the park."

Councillor Smith added: "The health and wellbeing of our community is one of our top priorities and investment in our open spaces and parks is key to achieving this."

To take the virtual tour go to www.staffordbc.gov.uk/hlf.
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