A PARK which showcased the North East’s biggest ever visitor event was today awarded £2.4m towards its revitalisation.
The money from the Heritage Lottery Fund is a major development in a community drive which began 12 years ago to upgrade Exhibition Park in Newcastle.
The HLF cash will pay for improvements such as drainage, electricity, water and sanitary provision so that the park can continue its tradition of hosting major events.
There will be new tennis and basketball courts, conservation of the listed bandstand, boathouse and croquet pavilion, work to improve access, an Edwardian-style entrance off Claremont Road, improved planting and the lake will be dredged of silt and cleaned.
“This is a very big step forward and a great community achievement,” said Keith Pimm, secretary of the Exhibition and Brandling Parks Community Trust.
The trust has already played a leading role in upgrading nearby Brandling Park and creating a sensory garden in Exhibition Park.
Work has also just started on the trust-led £96,000 Lakeside Explorer scheme at Exhibition Park to turn the Town Moor end of the site’s boating lake into a mosaic of habitats to attract wildlife and provide a leisure and learning asset for visitors and families.
The venture will see the creation of a diverse range of habitats, including deeper and shallower water levels, marsh areas, reed beds which will also filter water run off from the moor, boardwalks over the wildlife areas, dipping platforms, a viewing deck, seating and new native species planting on the lake banks.
The park has a history of hosting major events, including a mining, engineering and industrial exhibition, which attracted two million visitors, to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887.
And in 1929, it was the setting for the North East Coast Exhibition, which pulled in 4.3 million visitors, including the King of Spain and the Sultan of Zanzibar.
Tony McKenna, Newcastle City Council head of leisure services, said: “The park has a rich heritage and this has been recognised.”
He said that work would start in September on a separate £500,000 scheme, funded by the Government, which would see a new play area created, using natural features to help it blend into the landscape.
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the North East, Ivor Crowther, said: “We are very lucky in the North East to have so many green spaces in our towns and cities and Exhibition Park is a fantastic example.
“Alongside the physical changes, it’s great to know that local people will be given new opportunities to get involved with various aspects of the project. Over the last 17 years, every local authority in the North East has had a park in their area revitalised – HLF are dedicated to continuing this support and we hope that today’s investment will make a real difference”.
Henri Murison, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for quality of life said: “Green spaces are at the heart of our city, and will only become more important to families social, play and health opportunities.”
A consultation exercise will be held to allow people to submit suggestions for improvements.