PLEAS for the public to draw up their own ideas to improve Portsmouth’s Victoria Park have fallen on deaf ears.
Council leader Donna Jones decided to push ahead with endorsing an action plan produced by senior un-elected officers for the public space – which includes proposals to axe the park’s aviary and turn the area into a ‘multi-functional bandstand’
...the sensible thing to do would be withdraw this and start a consultation with residents, with a blank sheet of paper.Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem leader
It comes despite huge opposition over the suggestion the wildlife spot should go – with more than 2,600 people signing a petition demanding the plan be axed.
Lib Dem councillors called for Cllr Jones to take out the plan to axe the aviary from the master plan.
She dismissed their suggestion, yet insisted ‘the animals and birds would stay’ – unless the public ends up deciding they should go once the action plan is consulted on.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem leader, said: ‘Victoria Park was once known as the people’s park. There are monuments at the park that are there as resources for the people of the city. When the seafront master plan was produced, there was extensive public consultation before it was produced. Many thousands of people had a say. So the sensible thing to do would be withdraw this and start a consultation with residents, with a blank sheet of paper.’
But Ukip’s planning, regeneration and economic development spokesman, Cllr Colin Galloway, said: ‘I will take the opposite view.
‘A blank canvas will take too long to make any decisions over this scheme.
‘Council officers have been in the game longer then us mere councillors have been.
‘So I see no harm in producing this, as a form of advice to the city.’ Cllr Jones was also called to give a commitment that the Lodge Arts Centre should stay and was asked to guarantee the venue would not become a cafe for vulnerable adults to get back into work. But she ruled nothing out, stating the facility could instead be transformed into ‘one of the best adult day care facilities in the city’.
Cllr Jones added that current Lodge Arts Centre tenant Mark Lewis could apply to run the new cafe, should that plan be approved.
Cllr Jones said: ‘This document before you today is not the council saying, this is what we are doing. This is a set of ideas, a springboard for consultation. There will be extensive public consultation on how Victoria Park is opened up.’ The Lodge’s future remains uncertain after it was told last month it had eight months to leave and find a new home.