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Caledonian Park clock tower gets go-ahead after winning £2m in Heritage Lottery Fund cash

PUBLISHED: 18:02 01 December 2016 | UPDATED: 18:31 01 December 2016

An artist's impression of how the clock tower and visitors' centre will look. Picture: Islington Council

An artist's impression of how the clock tower and visitors' centre will look. Picture: Islington Council

Archant

Controversial plans to build a visitor’s centre at the foot of the Caledonian Park clock tower have won £2million in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Caledonian Park clock tower protest after Islington Council granted planning permission for the centre last year. Picture: Mike PowerCaledonian Park clock tower protest after Islington Council granted planning permission for the centre last year. Picture: Mike Power

This afternoon’s decision effectively means the £2.8m building at the north gate of the park, which includes a heritage centre, toilets and a cafe, will go ahead. The town hall will stump up £921,000, while Southern Housing have ploughed in £33,000.

The council also expects to get £6,000 from hiring out the venue and selling refreshments at the cafe.

It comes at the end of a bitterly-fought campaign by Save Cally Park and the Clocktower Residents’ Group, who fear the centre’s design means it will be a magnet for anti-social behaviour and spoil views across the park.

Clocktower Residents’ Group vice-chair Mike Power told the Gazette earlier this year: “It’s a wonderful opportunity for drug dealers, drug users and prostitutes. This all goes on in the park at the moment. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but now it could get worse.”

An artist's impression of the visitor centre buildings next to the Caledonian Park clock tower. Picture: Islington CouncilAn artist's impression of the visitor centre buildings next to the Caledonian Park clock tower. Picture: Islington Council

The plans also involve restoring the Grade II-listed clock tower itself.

Final designs were submitted in February, angering campaigners who said their fears had been “consistently and arrogantly brushed aside”. Islington’s environment boss Cllr Claudia Webbe disagreed, saying the plans had been altered to take into account some of the group’s concerns. They were given planning permission in July.

Cllr Webbe said today: “I am delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund recognises the strengths of this project and the invaluable opportunities it offers to celebrate and preserve our history for future generations.

“This clock tower is a jewel in Islington’s crown, and the new heritage centre and refurbished clock tower will pay a fitting tribute to the iconic status of the tower and the former market.

The Save Cally Park group in front of the clock tower in Caledonian Park.The Save Cally Park group in front of the clock tower in Caledonian Park.

“With the help of volunteers, we can bring this history alive in an engaging way for the 21st Century, and put the park and clock tower proudly back at the heart of the community in a new way.

“We are committed to working closely with all residents to create a truly sustainable heritage centre that also offers all park visitors a warm welcome thanks to a new café and toilets.

“I look forward to working with local residents and the Heritage Lottery Fund to make the project the success I know it can be.”

In January, leaked documents revealed more than 60 per cent of responses to public surveys were against the plans.

"The council will work with residents and stakeholder groups on a construction management plan to keep disruption to a minimum during the build process, and also help shape guidelines for managing the centre once it’s open"

Council spokesman

Campaigners also hit out at the council’s consultation, which cost more than £330,000, claiming further cash would be lost because not enough people would want to volunteer at, or visit, the project when it was complete.

But the town hall vowed today: “The council will work with residents and stakeholder groups on a construction management plan to keep disruption to a minimum during the build process, and also help shape guidelines for managing the centre once it’s open.

“Together we will ensure the centre is the best possible neighbour.”

What do you think? E-mail gazette.letters@archant.co.uk

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