The Future of Whalebones Park

Representatives of the BRA have had a meeting with the trustees of Whalebones Park in Wood Street regarding the future of the site as we had become aware that changes were afoot.

The Trustees explained that the Trust was running out of funds to maintain the site and that "a radical solution" was required, albeit one that as far as possible respected the wishes of the late Ms Cowing, . They said their intention was to dispose of the site and wind up the Trust.

They told us that they have had preliminary discussions with a property developer with a view to initiating an element of housing focused on the west field near the Elmbank development. They stressed that their intention was to retain all 60 or so trees on the site, that the farmer would be allowed to remain in his cottage in his lifetime, and that a new building or buildings would be provided to accommodate the Guild of Artists and the beekeepers. They also hoped that some of the income raised could be used to provide an endowment to maintain the remainder of the site as parkland with an element of public access, though how this would be managed and by whom had not been addressed. The separately-owned Whalebones House and its grounds, which includes the entrance arch, would not be affected.

We need to stress that these appeared to be very tentative proposals and consequently it would be too early to offer a response. We listened to what the Trustees had to say and made no commitment as to how we might ultimately react. The whole site is in a Conservation Area which the Council has a legal duty of care to ‘protect and enhance’. We will therefore be taking a very close interest in how the Council might seek to reconcile its protection responsibilities with its aspirations to facilitate development. We are aware that previous approaches to the Council to consider building on the site, the most recent being last year, did not meet with a positive response. We anticipate it will be some time before a viable scheme emerges that might command support from the Council and the community.

8 March 2017