Portsmouth's original 'people's park' has been awarded just over £2.2m of National Lottery funding for a bold plan to revitalise it as a beautiful, historic community space at the heart of the city.
The plan for Victoria Park can go ahead after The National Lottery Heritage Fund announced that a bid for funding by Portsmouth City Council had been successful.
The plan includes a new community hub, a nature-inspired play area and the restoration of the park's Victorian fountain and monuments. Also planned are events, activities and community projects.
Created from farmland in 1878 after the old naval city walls were demolished, the park is a much-loved haven for people living nearby, as well as for those working and shopping in the area.
The council's plan was drawn up after more than 2,500 park users, residents, local organisations and community groups shared ideas for the park through a city-wide survey, focus groups and interviews. These ideas were developed into detailed proposals that were submitted to The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The plan will cost about £2.9m in total, with the rest of the funding sourced by the council.
Cllr Chris Attwell, Cabinet Member for Communities and Central Services at the council, said: "This is wonderful news. Victoria Park is such a special area, and it has a treasured place in the hearts of Portsmouth people. Many of us have childhood memories of the aviary, which is still very popular. We want to make the park an even more attractive space, where people relax together, experience events together and share its natural beauty and heritage."
Councillor Ben Dowling, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development, said: "We're so excited to receive this funding. Guided by what residents have told us they want to see, we plan to enhance the park for visitors of all ages and for wildlife. Victoria Park is the oldest public park in the city and a real jewel in our crown. Our plans will enhance the park without affecting its special character."
Stuart McLeod, Director, England - London and South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we are pleased to support this project which puts people, nature and wellbeing at the heart of the future of Victoria Park. The importance of access to green and open spaces has become ever more evident over the past couple of years so we are excited to see these plans open up this heritage gem for even more people."
Ros Kerslake, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, creating economic prosperity and supporting personal wellbeing. All of these are going to be vitally important as we build back from the pandemic."
Work will begin next year, with a new events and activities programme launching in early 2022. Restoration and building work is due to get under way later in the year, with the project expected to be completed by early 2026.
The plan includes:
improving the aviary to make it a better environment for the birds and animals, and a better experience for visitors
two new areas of natural planting to help increase biodiversity
encouraging volunteer projects, community events and exercise
a community hub with accessible toilets, a meeting space, a kitchen and an outside sheltered area. It would be on the site of the current council depot, meaning no loss of parkland.
restoration work on the fountain, and on monuments where needed
an exciting play area for younger children with a climbing fort and other equipment
enhancing the park entrances
To find out more about the Victoria Park project, the history and heritage of the park, and how to get involved in park life:
sign up to the Victoria Park newsletter (see the form on most pages of the website)