Mike Biden addressed the Forum on this item. In summary, he made reference to the following points:
· Spoke regarding the role of volunteers, as referred to in section 5 of management plan. In December 2020, following the suspension of the successful green flag working parties due to resident’s concerns regarding public liability issues, information was provided by the former Natural Environment and Recreation Manager advised in writing that the only way to overcome these concerns was for residents to set up a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) to organise any future voluntary working parties. However, it was noted that a residents’ association could not become a CIO as it was not a charitable organisation and the matter had not been resolved due to Covid.
· Since Councillor Radcliffe initiated the preparation of a new management plan, interested residents had been encouraged to form a new charity to be known as ‘Friends of St Giles Hill Park’ which was now in hand. Whilst there was some way to go before it was registered and up and running, steps were being taken by founding trustees to start to form ‘friends’ working parties during this Summer.
· He and other founding trustees welcomed the new management plan which was an important step towards. It was hoped that with the close collaboration between council officers and the friends group, it would be possible to give the park a brighter future.
Councillor Learney introduced the report which provided an update on the St Giles Hill Management Plan, outlining the background and history of the park and the importance of open space on the health and wellbeing of residents, particularly those who reside live in flats or built-up areas without access to outdoor space. The plan, set out in Appendix 1 of the report, set out the planned and aspirational actions for the five-year period from 2023 to 2028 to bring about outcomes including increased biodiversity, carbon sequestration, improved public access and utility, increased community engagement and improved information about the park’s heritage.
The Natural Environment and Recreation Team Manager thanked Councillor Radcliffe, Mike Biden and other residents who had contributed to the plan to enable this to be brought forward.
The forum proceeded to ask detailed questions on the following matters which were responded to by the Cabinet Member and the Natural Environment and Recreation Team Manager:
(i) The range of management of St Giles Hill Park is varied so this needed to be broken down into a number of areas due to its diversity and to organise contractors etc.
(ii) Working with volunteers and residents – Works will be based on the management plan and involve the groups on activities for leaders to head of various element. A number of tasks have been identified for volunteers to work on and there are expertise within the group to assist on this. It was noted that the St Giles Hill Graveyard Group had already been working successfully on graveyard and it was recommended that members of the forum take a walk there to see the sustainable works that had taken place in that particular area.
(iii) Tree management stakeholder engagement.
(iv) The encouragement of biodiversity.
In conclusion, the forum thanked Councillor Radcliffe, the trustees and volunteers involved in the ‘Friends of St Giles Hill Park’ and officers. The forum welcomed and supported the St Giles Hill Park Management Plan, the formation of the volunteer group and its partnership work with the council going forward.
1. That the St Giles Hill Managament Plan 2023-2028 be endorsed and the comments raised by the committee, as summarised above, be noted.