The Lancashire Evening Post, Saturday, 24th May 2008
Work to spruce up Preston green spaces may be halted By Chris Visser and David Coates
1.4M "Black Hole" May Hit Parks Revamp
TWO Preston parks under going massive revamps could be left high and dry - because of a 1.4m black hole.

Money needs to be found to restore parts of Avenham and Miller Parks by the end of the year or the work will be aborted.

Council leaders today admitted the next stage of the parks' makeover could grind to a halt.

Fears were growing today that time is running out to find someone to bankroll the threatened scheme.

Councillor Anthony Gornall, the regeneration member on the council's cabinet, said: "The second phase of work is not a foregone conclusion.

"We have this shortfall of 1.4m that will need to be found by Christmas this year. If we cannot find this remaining money then the second phase will have to be put on hold."

City leaders have said they will try to find the missing cash through bodies including the European Regional Development Fund, Northwest Development Agency, the Greenspace Fund or Lancashire County Council.

But they admitted that "at this stage no commitments or indications of support have been received".

Around 5m has already been splashed out on the first phase which included a 1m new pavilion and refurbishment of the Swiss Chalet and Belvedere monuments. The second phase would see the restoration of the Japanese gardens and resurfacing of roads and paths in the park, costing 3.4m.

The cabinet agreed to put 36,850 to match a 63,000 grant given by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to pay for drawing up a plan for the second stage.

It is hoped the HLF will fund 1.75m of the scheme and the cabinet has agreed to put up a further 200,000 if this goes ahead.

But a report into the plans said: "It should be noted that HLF have advised that there is no guarantee that the submission will be successful." An application for funding is due by March 2009, with a decision expected by October and work to start in September 2010.

Councillor Gornall told a meeting of the council's cabinet that the first phase of work on the parks had been "quite challenging" and vowed to keep a tighter grip on the purse strings should Phase Two go ahead.

Father Timothy Lipscomb, chairman of the Friends of Avenham and Miller Parks, said: "Phase two is very much about the greenery side of the park such as looking after the trees, shrubbery and planting.

"I remain optimistic, having done so well with the rest of the park, we can finish it off."

Councillor Matthew Brown, deputy leader of the opposition Labour group, said 79,000 cuts in the parks budget last year might not have helped.

He said: "They cut the amount spent on the parks budget and that may affect the opportunity to get money."

A spokesman for Preston City Council said: "If there are businesses who want to get on board, we will be delighted to have them.

"We have done phase one - we have got an amber light (from the Heritage Lottery Fund) to move on. It would be looking for a commitment for funding from the council and its partners.

"If we were struggling, we could look to see if we can amend the scheme and it wouldn't be so big."

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© The Lancashire Evening Post, May 2008