Plans for Chiswick House Make Progress

But Major Restoration Work may not begin for Two Years

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Further details of plans for Chiswick House have been revealed this week. A report to be presented to the Chiswick Area Committee shows that even if the necessary funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund is forthcoming the main part of the restoration work will not start until the end of next year.

It is now acknowledged that split ownership of the site and lack of funding for maintenance have caused a substantial decline in one of London's most beautiful urban parks. However, Hounslow Council in co-operation with CiP and English Heritage are now working towards a unified management team for the park.

The Heritage Lottery fund has already given a grant of £50,000 for project planning and consultants were hired to undertake this work. A second bid for lottery money will be made this Summer to be followed by a further bid next year. Assuming these bids are successful the restoration programme will begin at the end of 2005 at the earliest.

English Heritage have secured a financial pledge to the project from a private donor which will provide a substantial proportion of the partnership funding for the lottery bid.

Work is underway to set up a Charitable Company to be the vehicle for future unified management of the site and a draft lease is now under discussion. A Business Plan is being drawn up to deliver enhanced maintenance, facilities and management. The Council now have a dedicated officer, Adrian Cook, appointed in agreement with CIP, to act as their representative.

The strength of local feeling on this issue was demonstrated when over 150 people responded to a consultation conducted on about the future of the House and Grounds. That feedback was incorporated into the current strategic plan for the site.

An ambitious scheme is being considered to create a ‘Chiswick Heritage Regeneration Area’ in which work at Chiswick House would be co-ordinated with other heritage and landscape initiatives in the area, including Dukes Meadows, St. Nicholas’ Church and Hogarth’s House. This may involve a marked route, enhanced presentation of local history and connections, and promotion locally and beyond.

An Education and Outreach Strategy for the site as a whole is being developed by English Heritage in consultation with LBH and CIP. This aims to develop links and projects with schools and a wide variety of local groups. English Heritage will be leading on this. The first phase is intended to run from summer 2004 to summer 2005.

A volunteer programme has been operating in the park since August 2003, run jointly by the Development Manager and CIP. At present there is a regular team of about 8 volunteers on Monday mornings, undertaking work in support of the project objectives, and covering tasks beyond the scope of CIP’s contract. Options are being pursued to find resources to support further recruitment and sessions.

The community-inspired ‘Parkwatch’ initiative to improve park security is ongoing. This encourages regular park users to act as additional ‘eyes and ears’ for the responsible bodies, and has also created a forum for interested parties to cooperate on security issues. The Police have reported a 40% reduction in reported crime in the park since this initiative began.

May 11, 2004