What has happened to the pavilion?
The current pavilion was opened in 1958 as a replacement for the older one which was destroyed in the Second World War by a parachute mine. After 62 years of service it is now in a sorry state and is in need of renovation inside and out.
Some parts are still in use as a police office, changing rooms, for occasional meetings, and for office space, and it was also occupied by the contractors building the London Road cycleway. But it is a long time since it provided any service to the park or park users. For some years the catering side of the pavilion was leased to company whose main concern was running an evening restaurant rather than providing a refreshment service for park users. The only refreshments available to people on the park were ice-creams when the ice-cream van visited, and more recently coffee from Ernie – the converted milk float. But even that has now finished as there was not enough trade to keep it going.
Although it might now appear dated the pavilion has an architectural style which has some historical interest. If given a sympathetic external renovation it could be a valuable asset to the park again. But to achieve this it will need a lot of work. The rear of the pavilion, which faces London Road, looks forbidding and semi-derelict as the picture below shows. If this is to attract people from London Road and the new park area planned to replace the bowling green, it will have to look a lot more attractive than this.
The front of the pavilion is little better as the following picture shows. This also needs a lot of work for it to be a place where people will wish to congregate and have teas, coffees and something to eat as part of their experience of the park.
What are the plans for the pavilion?
In 2018 we spent some time with local councillors working to set out what the pavilion should do for the park and for local people. It needs to provide a catering service for park users. It should also serve the local community by offering facilities for meetings and for groups to use, or to be based there. Ideally it should become a vibrant local community hub creating stronger and enduring links between the park and local people. But creating this will take time, and it will cost a lot of money.
We think there was general agreement that this would make for a positive future for the pavilion, but there are constraints. Probably the main one is the need for the pavilion to be financially self-sufficient – it cannot rely on any continuing subsidy from the council to keep it in business. The other main constraint is finding the money to do the renovations which will be essential for its success. Just providing a catering service will require the complete re-equipping of the kitchens and eating areas.
Following the initial discussions all has been quiet for quite a time. We are about to start discussion with the council again to try to establish their intentions regarding the pavilion and how they see it progressing. We will report back on these discussions when we are in a position to give an update.
A proposal from Carib SSFC
There is one group of which we are aware which has expressed an interest in using the pavilion as a base for a community project. Carib SSFC is a local group which has worked on the park for many years with children and young people. Their aim is to create a sports academy which will engage young people in football, and also support them through additional education and training to help equip them better for their years after leaving school. Importantly, though, it is not just focussed on sports and young people – the plan also sees the pavilion developing a wider community role with rooms and facilities available for older people and other groups who need a base for their activities.
The Carib SSFC proposal looks very promising to us and we have offered to help them develop their ideas and plans. We understand the council is planning to have a consultation with interested parties about the pavilion from April this year. We will be working with Carib SSFC to help ensure that they can take an active and productive part in the consultation process when it gets underway. We will report back on the consultation and the progress made by this proposal.