Work is set to start on the £5.5 million revamp of Southport’s King’s Gardens. The historic seafront gardens were awarded more than £4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) through their Parks for People programme.
It is one of the largest current park restoration projects in the UK and is entirely externally funded. Contractors Casey’s are moving on site next week and have already met with the Friends of Kings Gardens and the Kings Gardens Steering Group. The 12-month scheme will see the transformation of nearly 20 acres of parkland, restoration of the iconic Venetian bridge, a new visitor information centre, new children’s play area, a community and events space, and reconstruction of the historic seating shelters.
There will also be new paths and seating, a refurbished cafe and toilets, new lighting, and access improvements, especially for wheelchair users. The scheme has been programmed to cause as little inconvenience as possible to local people and holidaymakers during the peak summer period. Sefton Council has stressed that all businesses in the park, and in the vicinity, will be open as normal. In the early stages of the project, work will begin on the restoration of the nine ornamental cast iron shelters.
These will be removed and restored in groups of three and returned to the park throughout the project. The Venetian bridge will be closed to pedestrians between spring and early autumn so it can be returned to its former glory. Cllr Peter Dowd, Leader of Sefton Council, said: “During this difficult financial climate we are delighted to still be able to press ahead with a scheme that benefits from ring-fenced, external funding. “Thanks to Heritage Lottery funding we have also been able to set aside money for the ongoing maintenance of the gardens for the next 25 years. “This is obviously great news for Southport residents and visitors and protects this major investment for future generations.” Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Children, Schools, Families and Leisure, said: “There has been significant investment in the Southport seafront area over the last decade thanks to a range of public and private investment. ”
The Kings Gardens restoration builds on these achievements and adds another reason to visit the resort in what promises to be an exciting 2013.
“There will inevitably be some inconvenience during the construction project but we hope that people will bear with us and look forward to a fully-restored Kings Gardens in a year’s time.” Tim Timmerman, chair of the Kings Garden’s Steering Group, said: “From the outset, we have tried to involve the local community and people of all ages in the vision and design of this fantastic scheme. “The gardens will be as open as possible during the construction project and the contractors will do their very best to answer any questions or assist the public where possible. “Kings Gardens are a wonderful part of the heritage of Southport and the new look park will provide an all year round attraction for residents and tourists alike.”
Christine Kerr, chair of the Friends of King’s Gardens, said: “We want the new gardens to become a real community focal point and we are always on the lookout for more members and volunteers. “Even during the construction phase we will be working with the contractors to stage some events and of course there will be even more going on once work is complete.”
Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “We at HLF are delighted to be able to support King’s Gardens with an award of £4,079,000. “This park is both an important part of the lives of many local people as well as offering an attraction to visitors from further afield, and therefore plays an important part in the economy of the town. ”
This grant means that many of the historic features will be fully restored and new facilities provided so that this wonderful greenspace can be enjoyed by people for many generations to come.” To find out more about the scheme, or join the ‘Friends of’ group, visit www.sefton.gov.uk/kingsgardens
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