Isle of Dogs parks private hire to be approved
Tower Hamlets' Mayor Lutfur Rahman is to allow corporate and commercial events in three Isle of Dogs parks sparking fears that local communities will find their access restricted.
Millwall Park, Sir John McDougal Gardens and Island Gardens are among a number of parks in the borough to be hired out, raising up to £200,000 a year for the Council.
The plan will be approved under executive powers by the Mayor and his Cabinet this evening, despite a full Council meeting last September rejecting plans.
Residents and community groups, including Millwall Park and Island Gardens User Group, oppose the plans and are demanding more consultation. The Group's chair Lorraine Cavanagh cited the Council's firework display in Millwall Park on November 5 as an example of the problems the plans could cause.
She said: "The fireworks caused all kinds of damage and disruption. It was a 20 minute display but it took three days to set up and three days to take down afterwards.
"There were lorries all over the grass, churning it up, so not only were we not able to use parts of the park for almost a week it was a real mess when we could access those areas again. They even put temporary toilets right next to the children's playground.
"The Council didn't take their sign for the fireworks down. It was eventually taken down by us last week. We're still waiting for answers from the Council's arts and events department about the display.
"If that's an example of how they will run things, what can we expect when the park is used for commercial purposes? Who cleans up? Who supervises? How long will park users be denied access to parts of the park each time and how often will it happen?
"This is all profit led and not taking into account the local community. Why have a local green space if the Council are just going to rent it out to the highest bidder?"
Millwall Rugby Club have their clubhouse on Millwall Park and play many of their games there.
Club spokesman Andrew Hessleden said: "The club is not against commercial events but we do feel they should not infringe on the enjoyment of local residents or clubs and sports associations using the park.
"We would expect the council would only ever hire out the parks for events that are free of charge for the local community or enhance the lives of local residents and certainly do not prevent them using the parks for things such as sports fixtures or recreation."
Millwall councillor David Snowdon said the fight would go on.
He said: "There are various things we will be looking at to see if we can prevent the parks being used. This will not be the end of it. It's disgraceful the Mayor is riding roughshod over the feelings of local people. It's wrong that he's using his powers in this way.
"The full Council has been clear that the parks on the Isle of Dogs should be used by local people. Commercial events have no place in our parks. The Mayor should think again."
The Council said parks will remain accessible for community use, with 10 per cent of income used for park improvements.