Category Archives: Information

PLANTING & WEEDING – Thursday 10th November

Following the success of the volunteer working party in collecting litter and other rubbish in Westminster Park as part of the ‘Clean for the Queen’ campaign earlier in the year, another volunteer working party is being held to plant spring bulbs and to tidy some of the shrub beds in Westminster Park.

We will be meeting at the café in the centre of the park at 10.00am on Thursday 10th November and working for about a couple of hours.

Please come along with family and friends to do your part in brightening up Westminster Park. Wear working clothes and stout boots or shoes and with gardening gloves if you have them. Some equipment will be available but it would also be helpful if you could bring gardening tools such as hand or border forks, spades, secateurs and loppers for your own use if you have them.

Please email if you are able to join us, so that we have an idea of numbers – we would like 20-25 helpers if possible.

We are fortunate in having Westminster Park with its wide range of sporting and recreational activities. With your help we can keep it looking at its best.

See you there!

David Guyton

Travellers have moved on

I am pleased to report that the travellers have now left Westminster Park.

A new padlock has been fitted to the gate into the playing field and the Council will be cleaning up the rubbish left behind and repairing any damage.

We extend our sympathies to local residents and users of the park who have been disrupted by the unauthorised incursion by the travellers and to Golfstorehouse whose golf course and cafe business have been adversely affected. At the same time, we are very grateful to the Council and to the police who have dealt with the incident very promptly and efficiently.

We shall be arranging a meeting shortly to review any lessons from the event and to consider any implications and means for reducing the risk of future incursions.

David Guyton

Chairman
Friends of Westminster Park

TRAVELLERS IN WESTMINSTER PARK

Many residents and park users have been asking about the unauthorised encampment in Westminster Park by a group of travellers who arrived on Sunday, 3 July.

The matter was reported promptly to Cheshire West and Chester Council and to the police who are actively dealing with it. Notice has already been served on the occupants to vacate the land by Tuesday, 5 July. If this is not carried out, the Council will apply to Chester Magistrates Court for an eviction hearing.

In reply to a number of questions, trespass on land is not a criminal offence and has to be dealt with through well established civil processes. The removal of trespassers is the responsibility of the landowners and the role of the police is to preserve the peace and prevent crime.

Two councils that we are aware of have produced general Q&A statements. These can be found at:

Cheshire East: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/housing/strategic_housing/gypsies_and_travellers.aspx

Devon: www.devon.gov.uk/gypsies_land_rights_and_issues

Equivalent documents have not been found on the Cheshire West and Chester website but the same general principles apply.

David Guyton – Chairman

‘Clean for the Queen’ 5 March 2016


As part of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, a nationwide ‘Clean for the Queen’ campaign has been launched to clean up public spaces such as parks, waterways and beaches by removing litter and other debris.

The Friends of Westminster Park with support from Cheshire West and Chester Council will be holding a litter picking and clean-up session in Westminster Park on Saturday 5 March starting at 10.00am at the cafe in the centre of the park. The Council will provide gloves, black plastic sacks and litter pickers.

Please come with family and friends to do your part in sprucing up Westminster Park. Litter tends to congregate at the bottoms of hedges and in long grass so do wear working clothes and boots or stout shoes.

We plan to split into small groups to tackle the boundaries, working inwards to the car park/ central area.

Update February 2016

The new operators of the golf course and café, Golfstorehouse, are continuing to work hard to improve the facilities they took over in April 2015. Repairs to leaks in the roof have enabled the walls and ceiling of the café to be redecorated and new kitchen equipment has been installed ready for the new season. Plans to refurbish the changing room area for use by local sporting groups and a new Golf Academy and to re-instate a putting green are being developed and applications are being made for grant funding by Sport England and other organisations. New junior, public coaching and corporate golf sessions are planned for 2016, all with the aim of raising the level of interest and activity in golf and restoring the golf course to a prime facility in Westminster Park. Golfstorehouse have also taken over management of the public toilets on behalf of the Council and regular daily opening and cleaning are much improved.

Continuing discussions are taking place with Cheshire West and Chester Council about park maintenance and catching up with a backlog of repairs. The overall quality of the park and its enjoyment by a wide cross-section of the local community remain very high and continuing attention to outstanding issues will help the park to retain its position as a premier sporting and recreation location. Meanwhile all the clubs that meet in the park are continuing to thrive and are offering a wide range of activities for all ages and abilities. There is something for everyone – make the most of it during the coming spring and summer!

David Guyton

AGM – Wednesday 25th November 2015

Notice is hereby given that the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Westminster Park will be held on Wednesday 25th November 2015 at Westminster Park Community Centre, commencing at 8.00pm

A G E N D A

1. Welcome by Chairman – David Guyton

2. Roll call of Members present.

3. Minutes of meeting dated 26th November 2014

4. Report by Chairman – David Guyton

5. Treasurer’s report – Jenny Szczyglowska

6. Election of officers – Chairman
Vice Chairman
Secretary
Treasurer
Committee members

7. Present and on-going activities – General discussion

8. Any other business

Update on Golf Shop & Cafe

We are delighted to welcome Golfstorehouse as the new operator of the golf course and café in Westminster Park. The owners live locally and two of them grew up learning to play golf in Westminster Park and now play off handicaps of two and scratch. They are strongly committed to reviving the golf course as a family-friendly community golf course with a strong emphasis on providing coaching and playing opportunities for junior golfers from the locality and from local schools and colleges. They also plan to reinstate the putting green. They are keen to develop the café and to make it a more attractive venue with a wider offering of food and beverages for all users of the park. After several years of drift and neglect, these improvements are bound to take some time to implement in full but the new owners have been working hard since they took over responsibility for the facilities at the beginning of April. Your support will be much appreciated.

Despite much needed refurbishment last year, the public toilets have continued to be a source of frustration and disapointment with regard to cleanliness and irregular opening hours. Although they are located in the same central building, the toilets remain the responsibility of the Council rather than the operator of the café and golf course. Following a mounting series of complaints and intervention by our local councillors, we have recently received assurance from the Council that new and improved arrangements are being put in place for further refurbishment, more frequent cleaning and more regular opening hours. We shall continue to watch the situation closely as clean and reliable toilet facilities are essential for a public recreation area that is as popular and well used as Westminster Park.

David Guyton

Chairman

WESTMINSTER PARK GOLF COURSE AND CAFE

The Council has announced that Golfstorehouse has been selected to manage the golf course and cafe in Westminster Park in succession to Brio with effect from 1 April. Norman Trott and I have met the directors of Golfstorehouse. We have expressed our keenness to help the new venture make a success of both the golf course and the cafe and are planning to meet them again shortly now that their appointment has been made public.

As with Brio, the arrangement does not include responsibility for the public toilets.

David Guyton
Chairman FOWP

PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON BRIO LEISURE AND COUNCIL LEISURE SERVICES

Response from Friends of Westminster Park

Introduction

The Friends of Westminster Park would like to offer the following contribution to public consultation regarding Brio Leisure and the recreation and leisure facilities provided or supervised by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

 The Friends of Westminster Park were formed in 2001 and comprise representatives from all the main sports and recreation groups that meet in Westminster Park, local residents associations, and … private residents who pay an individual subscription. A full list is attached. Through these contacts, the Friends are in close touch with a wide range of interests and views of local residents and users of the park.

Westminster Park

Westminster Park is a widely appreciated community outdoor recreational facility and is busy throughout the year especially at weekends, during school and public holidays, and in fine weather. It offers a wide range of organized and informal activities for all sections and age groups in the community and attracts many visitors.

The Friends of Westminster Park have actively supported many improvement projects over the years and have helped with obtaining substantial external funding. Since the Friends were formed over £1m has been spent on upgrading facilities and the generally high standard of the park has been recognized by successive Green Flag awards since 2009.

There is a high level of voluntary involvement by members of the local community through the various clubs and groups that meet in the park and there is scope for greater public participation if more activities can be suitably defined and structured. For example, there is no golf club or focal point for golf players such as can be found at the successful municipal golf course at Walton Hall in Warrington. Other possibilities are dedicated clubs for the BMX track, outdoor gym, and perhaps basketball or volleyball and hockey. The Friends have been and will continue to be active in organizing volunteer working parties for ad hoc tasks from time to time such as bulb and tree planting, making and installing bird boxes, and helping with park family fun days.

At various times the Friends have expressed willingness to participate more fully in direct management of the park but there has never been any constructive response when this has been raised. However, because of the size and nature of the park, voluntary participation is unlikely ever to extend to assuming full financial and management responsibility for the park and undertaking regular park maintenance and repairs to physical assets. The view of the Friends is that the park is essentially a major municipal facility shared by many sections of the community and has to be funded and managed as a single entity. This has not been the case for some time and responsibilities have been fragmented between several council departments (Greenspace, Streetscene, Property Services, Regulatory Services, Legal Services and probably others as well) and quasi independent entities (CADSART and Brio). The is no overall budget, no unified process for determining options and priorities, and no systematic framework for setting targets, managing tasks and monitoring progress. As a result, much the same list of issues rolls over from year to year and, where new external possibilities have been identified, for example, a new putting green, running the golf course or developing the café, they have been lost in a seemingly interminable rounds of council reorganizations and strategy reviews.

The Friends have heard from council officials on many occasions the desire for greater community participation in managing local facilities in the context of continuing constraints on public funding. The Friends are sympathetic to these issues and are willing to consider what possibilities might be feasible. However, unless and until the council are able to offer relevant data and models for consideration or are prepared to engage in exploratory discussions when the Friends put forward their thoughts, there is unlikely to be any progress.

Brio Leisure

When Brio Leisure was formed as a community interest company by Cheshire West and Chester Council in 2011, it assumed responsibility for running the nine hole golf course (but not maintaining it which remained the responsibility of Streetscene) and the café (but not the building which remained the responsibility of Property Services or the public toilets and changing room area).

For several years the Friends have been concerned about the deteriorating state and poor usage of the golf course, the very narrow and unimaginative offering of food and refreshments at the café, and the poor state of the public toilets. The Friends’ view has been that Westminster Park would benefit from the creation of an active and enterprising golf club along the lines of the other successful sports clubs in Westminster Park and that the central café building is capable of being developed into a much more attractive and popular focal point in the park. At the same time, the Friends have felt that if these facilities are allowed to decline any further, the point will be reached sooner rather than later when both facilities become unviable and at risk of closure in the face of continuing constraints on local government spending.

Despite initially positive intentions when Brio assumed responsibility for the golf course and café, it has been a matter of considerable disappointment that there have been no improvements in the quality and attractiveness of the golf course, no initiatives in promoting public participation and membership through fostering an active golf club with local competitions and coaching, and no improvements in the range of food and refreshments on offer at the café. Day to day service has been perfunctory and anything but friendly and welcoming. The contrast with other active and thriving organisations is Westminster Park is striking. In addition, Brio have shown no interest in co-operating with other aspects of park management such as collecting fees from the public tennis courts or potential new developments such as a putting green or supervising the public toilets which the public inevitably and rightly regard as being part of the central hub of the park.

Sadly, it has become increasingly evident that Brio have no real interest or commitment in the Westminster Park aspects of their activities and it is desirable to find an alternative and more promising way forward as soon as possible in order to avoid further deterioration.

The Friends are aware that a ‘soft marketing’ exercise has been undertaken by the Wirral and Cheshire West and Chester Councils for their eight municipal golf courses including Westminster Park. The outcome of that exercise is not known but present arrangements with Brio are clearly unsatisfactory.

Immediate issues which have been outstanding for some time include the following:

  • The golf tees are in very poor condition and signage and measurements of distances to holes are seriously deficient

  • Gaps in the perimeter hedging around the golf course have not been filled and this has been exploited by users to obtain access without paying course fees

  • The present physical configuration of the golf service counter and café means that there is no view or oversight of the golf course and people playing on it.

  • Maintenance of the golf course is determined and managed entirely separately (by Streetscene) from issuing tickets for play (by Brio). The golf course is not seen or managed as a holist whole and there is no focal point of interest in developing a golf club with its own competitions and coaching to attract and encourage local players

  • The central café block is in a poor state of repair with leaks in the roof and catering facilities that do not meet standards for environmental health. These deficiencies have been allowed to emerge while the facilities have been in council ownership and any potential arrangements with new third parties must take a realistic view of the state of the assets and not set unreasonable expectations for financial contributions and leasing terms on the part of potential new operators.

Way forward

Based on information and local knowledge and judgements available so far, the views of the Friends may be summarized as follows:

  • The best prospect for Westminster Park is that it is managed as a single, integrated entity with a dedicated management and budget and that it actively fosters the creation and development of sports and recreation clubs based in the park which can engage more voluntary participation through membership drawn from the local community and can have access to dedicated funding from relevant regional and national sports associations.

  • A more assured future for the golf course is likely to involve strong local participation and the formation of an active and enterprising golf club comparable to other sports clubs in the park.

  • The Friends are aware of at least two local expressions of interest in this area and these should be pursued as an immediate priority rather than waiting another year for the outcome of a renewed contract with Brio Leisure or a composite solution involving all eight local municipal golf courses.

  • With regard to the central café block, there is considerable scope for developing the café as a more attractive and popular venue offering a much wider range of food and refreshments and a more congenial meeting place for visitors to the park.

  • As with the golf course, the café is likely to benefit from strong local participation and canvassing third party interest should be pursued without delay.

  • Combining the golf course and café within a single within a single out-sourcing framework, as has been the case with Brio Leisure, is unlikely to be successful as the focus, skills and experience that are needed are fundamentally different.

  • The central café block forms the physical hub of the park and careful thought needs to be given as to how the café might operate in relation to other central functions such as first aid for accidents (several of which have happened on the BMX track), supervision of the public toilets and collecting fees from users of the golf course, public tennis courts and a potential new putting course.

  • When Brio Leisure was formed it took on a rag-bag of activities from Cheshire West and Chester Council in addition to the main flagship leisure centres. Starting from scratch, it was understandable that Brio would need time to assess what facilities they had acquired and to draw up credible plans for how they would be managed and developed. That stage is now passed and any future contract with Brio should be tested for realistic business plans for those assets that Brio may continue to manage so that marginal activities, as they may regard them, such as Westminster Park, are not allowed to drop off the edge in a renewed contract.

  • Sadly, Brio’s involvement in Westminster Park has been a huge disappointment as none of the initial expectations have materialized.

  • As it seems unlikely Brio will wish to continue with their involvement, no further time should be lost in pursuing other credible candidates to operate the golf course and café who have already registered an interest and any others that might be forthcoming.

  • If the council is serious in looking for greater local participation in running and developing community facilities such as Westminster Park, it must start to engage in a constructive way with relevant local organisations and be ready to define and explore potential models for organisational structure and funding.

David Guyton / Norman Trott

Chairman / Secretary

27 August 2014

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Friends of Westminster Park

representatives from

Sports & Recreation Groups  in Westminster Park

 Chester Croquet Club

Chester Road Runners

Dog walkers

Glan Aber Tennis Club

Westminster Park Bowls Club

Westminster Park Cricket Club

Westminster Park Junior Football Club

Westminster Park Walking Group 

Local Residents Associations

Curzon Park Residents Association

Hough Green Residents Association

Kensington Green Residents Association

Westminster Park Residents Association

Lache

Private residents who pay an individual subscription