With plans underway to revive Victoria Park, over the past few months Portsmouth City Council has heard the views of around 1,700 park users, local residents, organisations and community groups to find out how they use the park and what improvements they’d like to see in future.
The research, which involved a city-wide survey, focus groups and interviews with local organisations and communities, found that Victoria Park is regarded as an escape from city life with lots of people visiting to ‘enjoy a quiet space’ and ‘experience nature’. Another extremely popular reason to visit is to see the aviary and see the birds and animals that call Victoria Park home.
Looking to the future, people are keen to see more facilities like toilets, accessible spaces and areas where people can shelter from the weather. Park users are also keen to have more opportunities to get involved in park life through community events and activities in the park, volunteering and work placement opportunities.
Many people said that they would like to find out more about the park, its social history, trees, wildlife and monuments. There is a particular interest in the use of the park during the two world wars, when the space was used for military drills, as a TB dispensary, to house air raid shelters and as the site for a Ministry of Food British Restaurant.
In recent months, the reviving Victoria Park project has spoken to young people, parents, older residents, multi-cultural support groups, mental health service providers, and groups representing those with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, veterans and the LGBTQ community. Local schools, adult education providers, employment projects, voluntary organisations, health and social care providers, faith groups and social housing providers have also been consulted.
Councillor Steve Pitt, deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “It’s been fantastic to hear the views of so many people in the local community as we embark on plans to revive this historic park. The park was created by the Victorians to provide a green haven in the centre of the city. The feedback we’ve had over the past few months shows that the park is still very much a place where people can escape to and enjoy being in nature – something that has been especially valuable to people’s mental and physical health during the pandemic. All the views and ideas shared will help us shape the restoration of Victoria Park and we look forward to sharing the plans with the community for their feedback.”
The initial plans for the revival work will be shared with the local community for consultation later this year before the council submits an application for a £2 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. If successful, the grant will help fund the restoration work in Victoria Park and bring residents’ ideas to life.