You may have heard some worrying-sounding noises recently about the apparent removal of animals and birds from Victoria Park. Portsmouth Labour would like to set the record straight on the park’s future.
Victoria Park in the heart of our great city was opened on 25 May 1878, and was the first public park to be opened in Portsmouth. As well as the animals and birds the 15 acre site also has a number of monuments and a play area for children.
Back in July a high level action plan with a range of options for the park was agreed at the city council’s Planning, Regeneration and Economic Development (PRED) meeting. At this stage, the plan is simply for guidance. Next we are told we can expect consultation on what the future will look like.
Some things are certain. The future of Victoria Park will include the much-loved aviary, animals, and unlimited community access. Your Labour representatives on the council have sought, and received, assurance on this from the council’s administration.
It could also see some innovative services for adults with learning disabilities, who will have the opportunity to get involved in animal welfare and horticulture.
One question about the future of Victoria Park that has proved controversial is – what will happen to the Arts Lodge?
The council has decided to serve a contract break on Art and Soul traders, who are the current tenants of the Arts Lodge. This decision was taken to keep options for the future use of the venue open for both parties, rather than committing to a long-term lease.
At Full Council in July, your Labour Group supported a Liberal Democrat motion to support the Art Lodge. Members of Portsmouth Labour have also been working with the Art and Soul traders on their fundraising efforts.
Cllr Stephen Morgan, deputy leader of the Labour Group, explains Labour’s views on what’s next:
“Given the lack of public open spaces in our dense city environment, we welcome the council’s efforts to produce an action plan for Victoria Park. We want to see the park not simply protected, but also enhanced, for the benefit of all local people.
“We like the sound of creating opportunities for residents with learning difficulties, and we are pleased that the action plan recognises the importance of community access to an upgraded public space.
This consultation will be key to make sure changes made are what the public want. I urge everyone to have their say when the council consults”.
Portsmouth Labour also want to see a secure future for the Art and Soul traders. They have invested time and money into the Arts Lodge, where they deliver important work with widely appreciated benefits for the community.
“Whatever happens next, it is important that the Art and Soul traders receive assurance that they can continue their great work. They deserve to be able to plan for their future,” Cllr Stephen Morgan added.
“If a decision is ultimately made to change the purpose of the current Arts Lodge to bring about a different community benefit, Labour will ask the council does everything in its power to support the traders in finding suitable alternative premises.”