Social enterprise to run Gunnersbury

Ealing and Hounslow councils are to set up a new social enterprise to manage the Gunnersbury Park Estate when its restoration is complete in 2017.

The social enterprise; which is also known as a community interest company (CIC) will be jointly owned by Ealing and Hounslow Councils.

Setting up the CIC means that there will be a dedicated company with its sole focus being the operation and success of Gunnersbury Park, with the two councils retaining the freehold and an interest in the site.

Managing the estate through a CIC, say the councils, will secure the future of the newly regenerated site, as the CIC will have the ability to operate on a commercial basis, making its own decisions on the day-to-day operational running of the site, without having to involve the two councils.

This model will also ensure any surplus income generated by the newly developed Gunnersbury Park is re-invested back in the site to improve facilities; as well as paying for ongoing enhanced maintenance.

Both boroughs found out in July that they had been awarded £4.7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to go towards the project to make major improvements to Gunnersbury Park. This award was shortly followed by another from the HLF of £4.1million to go towards improvements to Gunnersbury Park Museum.

The entire project aims to make the 186 acre park into a sustainable, high quality public space and turn the museum into a visitor attraction.

Work to restore Gunnersbury Park has already begun. Planned improvements include a new café, restoring the Orangery, archways, terrace and other listed structures, and reinstating lost park features such as the Horseshoe Pond.

Visitor numbers to Gunnersbury Park and Museum are expected to increase from 600,000 to over one million people per year once the entire project is completed and the museum reopens in spring 2018.

Ealing Council’s leader, Councillor Julian Bell said: “This new management arrangement is really great news for Gunnersbury. It means that both Ealing and Hounslow Councils will be able to ensure that all long term plans for the estate can come to fruition. The future of the park is pretty much protected if it’s managed in this way, as it won’t be subject to any fluctuations in council budgets going forward.”

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