There is some concern that Waterlow Park is about to fall victim to privatisation. Fortunately for all of us this is not the case. Waterlow Park is legally protected as a charitable Trust, and will not be ‘sold off’ in whole or part.
There has been a recent consultation on a proposed change of use of a wooded area which has raised various questions. The Friends of Waterlow Park will keep us all updated as this proposal is reviewed in the light of the consultation. Visit www.waterlowpark.org.uk to find out more.
The fact that the Park is held in Trust provides the opportunity for the community to be involved in the Trust itself and influence decisions about the Park.
Community involvement in the Waterlow Park Trust
Local people representing different stakeholders committed to the life of the Park as a place for all to enjoy, are involved in governance matters through the Waterlow Park Trust Advisory Group (TAG). TAG exists to support the Trust and works to maximise public benefit. TAG has an advisory role of ‘think tank’ for the Trust, working on strategic matters. It also works on policy and operational oversight. You can read more about how TAG is constituted, see its minutes, links to Charity Commission annual reports and find other key documents on the Advisory Group page.
We are fortunate in having a large community of concerned park users ready to defend the important principle of public access and protest any perceived threats. Many park users are also actively engaged through the Friends of Waterlow Park and various Volunteer Groups covering gardening, sports and leisure, biodiversity and much more. (See http://www.waterlowpark.org.uk/the-park/volunteering/ )
Responsible for active engagement with the public the Friends of Waterlow Park support the work of the various Volunteer Groups and are the primary point of public engagement and information about the life of the Park. The Friends also have a permanent position as part of TAG.
Consultation on change
Sometimes Groups will suggest a project which involves a material change to the Park which may impact on how some area is enjoyed by the public. Where this is the case Camden Green Spaces who manage the Park on our behalf may suggest a public consultation.
In the normal course of events following a consultation any proposal is revisited by the Group concerned, with the support of the Friends and Camden Green Spaces, and assuming there is still a desire that it proceeds it is submitted to TAG for evaluation. Advice from TAG will then be provided to proceed or not as may be the case. If a proposal has undergone significant change or there are other circumstances which warrant it, then it may be appropriate to solicit further public engagement before TAG takes a view.
Contextual information around a consultation is not always as complete as might be desirable at the outset. Issues and questions may arise as the consultation proceeds. It may be impractical or even impossible to immediately address queries as they arise, especially if some conditions remain to be determined following the consultation itself. From a governance perspective it is important to keep learning from consultations and consider how improvements may be made to improve clarity and meaningful engagement. As part of its work on policy areas TAG expects to produce new guidelines to support future consultations.
At the time of writing a consultation on a proposal for a new nature exploration area (which prompted this piece) has just closed. The Friends will be working with Camden Green Spaces on this. TAG has asked that as much information as possible is made available via the Friends website on the responses received. Further contextual information may also be made available. Subject to potential changes to the proposal it is also possible that further public input will be sought.
It is important that the many different Groups and individuals involved in the life of the Park know the value each and every one of us contributes is appreciated. The Park is not just for visitors, but also for those who want to actively engage with it.
If you are not already a member of the Friends do consider joining. This will ensure you are kept informed and also help you to engage with the various Groups in the Park. See https://www.waterlowpark.org.uk/