Friends of Dukes Meadows a 'model' group

Government Minister lavishes praise on Chiswick activists

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A Government Minister has held up the Friends of Dukes Meadows as a model for community action after visiting the park this week. Local environmental quality minister Alun Michael was visiting this week after being alerted to the work of the group by local MP, Ann Keen. The scheme to regenerate the popular park was praised as a model for others to follow.

Mr Michael, who is steering a Bill through Parliament aimed at cleaning up public places like Dukes Meadows, said its regeneration should be applauded.

"This is an excellent project which has been highlighted for me by the local MP, Ann Keen, who was very keen for me to see what has been done locally," he said.

Neglected for many years, buildings in the park became a target for vandals who broke windows and daubed graffiti. Rubbish was fly-tipped, the community centre fell into disrepair and the whole area became a focus for anti-social behaviour.

But tired of seeing an important amenity become run-down, the local community got together to save it. Local residents formed Friends of Dukes Meadows and set about to restore the park to its former glory.

New benches were built, litter collected and graffiti removed. Meanwhile, a strategy was drawn-up for the long-term sustainable regeneration of the area and there are now plans to improve access and to renovate play areas.

Mr Michael added: "I applaud the hard work the Friends have put in turning Dukes Meadows round. Chiswick residents should be proud of what has been achieved. Vandalism and graffiti is now almost non-existent and the anti-social behaviour that goes with it has been reduced. People need to be involved in taking ownership of open spaces in their area and not expects government or local government to do it all."

He said a new bill, currently at the committee stage, will improve local authority powers for dealing with fly-tipped rubbish, dumped litter, graffiti and other environmental crimes, for example, allowing local authorities the flexibility to set fixed penalty levels themselves and widening the range of officers who are able to issue them.

Kathleen Healy of the Friends of Dukes Meadows, added: "It is great that the Government is acting to tackle the problem of degraded public spaces. Having access to good quality parks is really important to a Community's sense of well being.

"Many parks, including ours, also need funds to make overdue capital improvements and we hope that this will become available either from central or local government in the near future. Government alone can't create great parks, however, the people living around and using them need to be involved to make parks reflect the needs of a particular neighbourhood or town and to make them feel safe and cherished."

Ann Keen said, “The area has been completely transformed through the hard work and dedication of local people. I will continue working with Kathleen and her team and support them as they develop and expand even further. “

January 26, 2005