National Lottery funding success for Victoria Park

Ashford Borough Council is delighted to announce Ashford’s historic Victoria Park has been awarded a £167,000 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund.

The funding will support an exciting project that aims to place Victoria Park at the heart of the local community, improve local knowledge of the site and make the area around the park a better place to live, work, visit and enjoy.

The HLF and Big Lottery Fund’s Parks for People grant programme supports projects that restore, conserve and transform historic public parks.

In partnership with stakeholders and community representatives, the council has adopted an ambitious masterplan that aims to create an attractive destination that boosts local civic pride, promotes wellbeing and celebrates the rich heritage of the site.

The council applied to the Parks for People programme to help support delivery of the masterplan which includes four themed zones for enhancements; Adventure, Heritage, Sport & Recreation, and Riverside. The National Lottery funding provides an excellent opportunity to develop these areas in more detail and engage the public on a wider scale.

The development grant from HLF and Big Lottery Fund will help the council to reapply for the next round of funding where the project to shape Victoria Park into a 21st century park, and create an exciting flagship destination for Ashford will hopefully receive capital funding of £3.2m.

Victoria Park has one outstanding architectural feature, the iconic and exuberant Hubert Fountain. The funding will support timely and beneficial repairs to the Grade II* Listed fountain and improvements to the surrounding piazza area.

Other works will include replacing the existing play space with sensory gardens, extending the popular community orchard, restoring the secret garden area and creating a paved path into the park. In addition, there are plans to expand activity and recreation within the park with bike ramps and additional play facilities, which will enrich the quality of resident’s lives and contribute towards a healthy lifestyle.

Providing the community with a pleasant environment to visit and enjoy is important to the council and the new funding will help create a well-maintained space for much loved local events such as the ever-growing Create Music Festival and other cultural activities, events and entertainment.

Ashford is experiencing a significant period of growth and substantial new residential developments are proposed, therefore it is important the council provides pleasant leisure and recreation areas for residents to enjoy.

The project supports the council’s Five Year Corporate Plan, specifically Priority 3: Active & Creative Ashford that includes planned improvements to key public space and parks, as well as Attractive Ashford: Environment, Countryside, Tourism & Heritage, which aims to safeguard and conserve local heritage and areas of outstanding landscape.

Cllr Jessamy Blanford, Chair of the Design and Development of Open Space Task Group and Deputy Mayor Deputy Mayor of Ashford, said:

“It is excellent Ashford has been selected to receive National Lottery funding as it will enable us to maintain and protect the borough’s valuable assets for the benefit of our residents, visitors and future generations.

“Our beautiful Victoria Park adds to the character and history of the borough. This bid will enable us not only to celebrate Ashford’s rich history, but also raise the profile of the park with its Grade II* Listed Hubert Fountain, and provide a pleasant and enjoyable place for our residents to visit.”

Cllr Mike Bennett, Portfolio Holder for Culture, said:

“The regeneration of Victoria Park is an ambitious and exciting project that will boost the areas natural beauty and heritage as well as encouraging people to value, enjoy and care for their local park.

“Victoria Park and Watercress Fields are unique, and this funding will ensure the park continues to play a meaningful role in the life and fabric of the town. We look forward to working with our community and key partners to develop the plans in more detail.”

Ashford Borough Council is working in partnership with numerous stakeholders including Heritage Lottery Fund, Kent County Council and the Environment Agency.

HLF’s Chief Executive Ros Kerslake, said, on behalf of HLF and Big Lottery Fund: “It’s difficult to overstate the importance of our public parks. Vital to our well-being and essential to biodiversity, they are highly valued spaces enjoyed daily by people from all walks of life.

“Victoria Park is one of the latest parks to benefit from over £900million of National Lottery funding, which over the last twenty years has played a crucial role in revitalising more than 800 parks across the UK.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund use money raised by National Lottery players to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. The projects they fund vary from restoring natural landscapes to rescuing neglected buildings, from recording diverse community histories to providing life-changing training.