Book Report; Markeaton Park and Mundy Play Center

Markeaton Park is Derby’s most visited and heavily used park and one of the most visited destinations in the East Midlands area, with a wide range of recreational and sporting facilities and attractions. The Park is owned and run by the Leisure Services Department of Derby City Council. However there has been a lack of investment in the park’s infrastructure over many years, with the park becoming tired and worn out. Many of the facilities on offer no longer meet the needs of today’s visitors, with increasing competition from other attractions. Despite this the park still retains a good reputation as a place to visit, but a continued lack of investment could lead to a self-perpetuating spiral of decline.
The park faces many challenges to halt the slow decline and to retain and build on its city and regional standing as a visitor attraction. Some of the key issues and features of the park include, but are not limited to:
1. Reduced takings at the Mundy Play Centre, possibly indicating a fall in visitor numbers, reduced availability of facilities through restricted opening hours and less willingness of visitors to pay for below quality facilities and attractions
2. Intermittent and irregular opening hours on a number of the park’s private concessions, meaning that visitors are not sure what will be open when they visit.
3. Declining budgets available to maintain and manage the park, leading to reduced levels of staff and possible closure of facilities or further reduced opening times.
4. Slow decline in horticulture standards and features such as loss of herbaceous borders and bedding, indicating a reduced level of care by the Council.
5. Poor visitor experience when entering the park, in particular from the A38 leading to the main car park.
6. The park itself is a 20th century park set out within an 18 century historic parkland and remains an attractive place to visit for informal recreation, such as family picnics. However many people are unaware of the size and extent of the park as access is poor, with few footpaths and lack of signage.
7. Its size allows for the staging of major city events, such as the annual firework display and funfair. However this increases the pressure on the parks infrastructure and historic parkland.
8. Deterioration in the parks historic fabric, such as the listed Orangery, coupled with some poor quality spaces such as the stable courtyard that detract from the visitor experience.
The Challenge

To halt the slow decline and restore the park’s standing as a visitor attraction.
To increase visitor numbers
To increase income that can be used to reinvest in the park in improved maintenance and management and provision of higher quality of facilities.
To protect and improve the parks historic and natural fabric

A Way Forward?

The Council has submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund under the Parks for People programme The Council has been awarded a Stage 1 pass, which provides a grant to develop the project in more detail, with the aim of submitting a Stage 2 application for substantial capital and revenue funding.
It is expected that the bid will be for a grant of around £2.4 million towards a project costing around £3.0 million
The grant can only be used for specific purposes and the project needs to deliver the following 5 outcomes set by the Heritage Lottery Fund:

1 How will you increase the range of audiences using and enjoying
the park?
2 How will you conserve and enhance the heritage value of the park?
3 How will you increase the range of volunteers involved in the park?
4 How will you improve skills and knowledge about parks through learning and training?
5 How will you improve management and maintenance?

The project is not expected to address all of the issues facing the park, but it is hoped that the investment will provide a major stimulus to improving the park.

The bid includes both capital works that will improve and restore the park’s physical infrastructure and landscape and the preparation of an activity plan that will detail how the above outcomes will be delivered. The activity plan is an important document as it will set out proposals that will meet the 5 outcomes to include evidence of need, project proposals, costs, who delivers, a timetable and the project’s long term sustainability– in effect a business plan.

The Council needs to carry out a substantial amount of work to develop the plan so that it is realistic, deliverable and measurable. The Council will need to evaluate the plan as it is delivered and demonstrate how it is meeting the targets set.

Background Information

A key part of the work is to support any proposals with evidence of need and demonstrate how the proposals meet this need. This requires the compilation of background information that provides a baseline from which to develop proposals and then evaluate the success (or otherwise) of the project. The Council has already collated some background information, but it is recognised that there remain gaps in knowledge on how the park is used, for example quantitative information on where people access the park, move around it, congregate and use particular areas of the park.
Background information that has been provided includes:

• Results of a public consultation exercise
• Information on local and city wide population and information on the profile of park users
• Broad figures on income earned from car parking and park activities
• Broad maintenance costs
• Outline project costs for the HLF project, outline project masterplan and HLF Stage 1 application form
• Details on park facilities offered and opening times

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