Thursday 30 November 2023

Commercialisation of our parks in Brent Council's budget proposals

 The Council's proposals for Barham Park included plans to commercialise the buildings to include a  boutique hotel and supermarket along with charging market rents for some of the voluntary groups and charities that presently occupy them. The proposals resulted in a massive campaign, a petition and council debate.

Undaunted Brent Council is now consulting on its 2024-25/25-26 budget that includes (page references are the budget document that can be found HERE) :

1. Increase in events in parks to generate income - review (increase) for those organising their own events in parks.  (p130)

2. Commercialise existing ‘under-used’ property space within parks to generate income (p132)

3. Market commercial advertising within parks to generate income  (p134)

Letting of parks for events - Income generated 2024-25 (my highlighting)

The new grounds maintenance contract with Continental includes a requirement to support the council in creating, advertising, and facilitating a programme of commercial events in parks and open spaces. This can be supported by a revision of fees and charges for those applying to organise their own events in parks.

How would this affect users of this service?

There would be no impact on service users, other than there being a more comprehensive programme of events and activities in our parks. Those seeking to organise their own events in parks would be required to meet a higher cost for that access.

Key milestones

Revised fees would be submitted for consultation and decision as part of the corporate budget setting process for 2024/25 and would be implemented from April 2024. 

 I would challenge the zero impact on service users as parts of the park would be inaccessible to residents (remember Fryent Country Park when used for car parking and Barham Park for funfairs). The Council thinks that there is a trade-off as the events would be attended by paying customers from the borough.

Commercialisation of parks is already a problem for community groups/voluntary organisations that  being charged rates they find difficult to meet including Daniels Den, Roundwood Forest and Families, Bush Farm collective)

 Commercialise existing ‘under-used’ property space within parks to generate income (£30,000 2024-2025)

This proposal would seek to raise income from commercialising existing unused property space within parks.

How would this affect users of this service?

There would be minimal impact on users of the service other than some benefit from the upgrade of unused facilities and the opportunity to make use of property space for a variety of purposes.

Key milestones

Oct 2023: Survey of existing unused space.
Oct 2023: Schedule of usable space drawn up.
Oct 2023 - March 2024: Any adaptations agreed and undertaken. April 2024: Vacant space advertised and offered for use.

There are empty buildings in a number of Brent parks including Roundwood (Bowls Pavilion) and King Edwards VII. Bowls Club pavilion and the football pavilion. Utilisation for charities and non-profit organisations would be socially useful but commercialisation (market rents) is the intention.

Market commercial advertising within parks to generate income - £40,000 2024-25

 This saving is based on a new offer of space for commercial advertising in parks

How would this affect users of this service?

There would be no impact on service users other than advertising being more visible at locations within parks.

Key milestones

Oct 2023: Survey of suitable space.
Oct 2023: Schedule of usable space drawn up.
April 2024: Vacant space advertised and offered for use.

Key consultations

Awareness of this intention should be raised to any Friends of Groups that are relevant to any park in Brent to which this saving might apply.

This raises many questions not least the aesthetics of advertising banners etc within parks and the nature of the advertising.  Advertising along Olympic Way in Wembley may give us a clue.


Anonymous said...

Which Friends of Barham Park group will they consult with???

Anonymous said...

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Labour in Brent and commend Councillor Butt's leadership for the visionary proposal to commercialize our parks. Their foresight in seeking to inject additional revenue into community resources demonstrates a commitment to enhancing the vibrancy of our public spaces. This initiative, rooted in Labour values, not only aims to upgrade facilities but also promises to broaden the scope of events, creating a more dynamic and engaging environment for residents.

As we embark on this journey of commercialisation, it is uplifting to witness the dedication to transparency and inclusivity. The careful consideration given to maintaining accessibility for diverse community groups and individuals reflects a thoughtful approach that aligns with the principles Labour holds dear. I express gratitude for the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between economic growth and social inclusivity, ensuring that the benefits of this initiative are shared equitably among Brent's residents. Once again, thank you to Labour in Brent and Councillor Butt for their unwavering commitment to shaping a progressive and thriving community.

Paul Lorber said...

If the objective is to generate an extra £40,000 a year this can be very easily achieved by charging and collecting the correct charges from the Funfair Operators already using Brent Parks. The daily rate for hiring our parks for funfairs is over £1,000. The 'contract' is badly written and the Council only seems to collect rent for the days the Funfair is open to the public - despite the fact that the Funfair operator comes on site (and takes over part of the Park) a week before and often takes 4 or 5 days to leave.

If the daily charge was levied in full for each day the Funfair Operator is on site (and not just for days when the funfair is open to the public) then across all the funfairs and all the Brent Parks used and extra £40,000p.a would be collected - as it should be in any case.

Paul Lorber said...

The views of Planning Officers on the issue of advertising in Parks will be very interesting.

The suggestion to allow advertising in Barham Park was made in around 2010 when Labour Councillors decided to close the Barham Park Public Library. At the time it was suggested that advertising (two advertising hoardings) could generate around £20,000 to help fund the Library.

The Planning Officers in 2010 were adamant that NO advertising would be allowed in Barham Park either near the railway bridge in Sudbury Town end of the park or the other entrance to Barham Park towards Copland Avenue.

Of course, now that Advertising is being proposed by the Labour Leadership all the 'principled' planning reasons for refusing the idea (as so clearly stated in 2011) may well be forgotten about.

The independence of the Planning Service in Brent is to be tested again. The Planners were surely consulted before the idea was made public?

Anonymous said...

How can residents object to this commercialisation of our shared spaces?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 30 November 2023 at 21:11

You are delusional in the extreme.

Anonymous said...

Seems like these comments are generated by AI - so not an actual human being who lives in Brent amidst the tower blocks and the pollution, not someone who understands the pressures local people face. Escaping to a local park away from traffic and crowds and seeing green open spaces is so important, particularly for those who live in tower blocks without a garden.

We don't want our green spaces cluttered with advertising and off limits because of more events.

Anonymous said...

Whilst commercializing parks is contrary to protecting green spaces the wildlife and increasing bio diversity, any
revenues received from commercial activities in Parks should be put back into the budget of the Parks depr. for use on maintaining and improving our parks.

Martin Francis said...

Anon 08.04 This is a link to the budget consultation where you can give your views:

Anonymous said...

And do you seriously think that will happen in Brent???

Don't forget that Brent Council gave £17.8million of our NCIL money, which was supposed to be spent on vital local projects, back to multi-billion pound developers Quintain for their vanity project steps outside Wembley Stadium - if they do that openly who knows where the odd £40K from a park event might disappear???

Anonymous said...

Some of us support our Labour councillors and that doesn’t make us ‘AI’. You are either with us or Tories.

Anonymous said...

Brent Council continues its d(r)ive towards bankruptcy both financially and strategically. It is time for a change; surely even the Tories, LibDems or Greens couldn't do a worse job than this bunch of ne'er-do-wells.

As for those that think the problem sits with the council officers, think again, it is the politicians that select the senior officers and direct them to fulfil the political agenda set by the Leader and his personal selectees on cabinet, planning, audit and standards.

The great London Borough of Bent who's aim appears to be to make a fortune for property developers, land owners and their funders at the expense of the borough's residents and especially those in need of suitable and affordable homes. Bent is great at building Council properties which they pretend are suitable homes at social or affordable rents. Then of course there are all the student rooms making substantial profits for landlords and developers. Do Butt, Tatler and the others supporting them think we are fools? Obviously they do, either that or they have extremely poor cognative abilities.

Anonymous said...

Brent built a new park in South Kilburn 6 years ago and it is already dilapidated

It’s an “award winning” park and the councillors all got their photo op - but there is no money for maintenance

This is governing by announcement and press release

Anonymous said...

Long gone are the day's when Brent Parks had Green Flag awards. I would hope that Brent would see fit to invest some CIL monies to bring all of their municipal Parks up to decent standard, i.e provide Toilets/Cafe's/Drinking fountains, regular maintenance and cleaning before thinking they will attract and generate income from Event Management/Promotional and Private companies to hold events in their parks like other boroughs.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 December 2023 at 00:38 said...
“Some of us support our Labour councillors and that doesn’t make us ‘AI’. You are either with us or Tories.” - why do you assume that anyone who objects to your ridiculous comments is a Tory??? Not every one lives their life in petty brain washed but politics - most people are interested In their local community and how any changes will impact the area where they live.

Barham Park is a vital green space for recreation, a refuge from our busy surroundings - we do not want to see advertising in our local park - there are enough unsightly advertising banners on our local streets.