£2m lottery boost for park restoration

Plans to restore Helensburgh’s Hermitage Park to its former glory have been given a lottery boost of more than £2m.

An initial award from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out the initial phase of the project, first revealed here, was confirmed today.

Argyll and Bute Council has been working with the Friends of Hermitage Park on the project to restore the park’s heritage, undertake repairs, reconfigure the recreational space and increase visitor numbers.

The bridge and waterfall in Hermitage Park
The bridge and waterfall in Hermitage Park

This award, totalling £2,087,200, will go towards the development of a whole park plan, including proposals for the ‘A’ listed monument and memorial gardens, community consultation and investigative works to deal with flooding and erosion.

The funding awarded will pay for 90% of the cost of preparing a professional project plan for the regeneration of Hermitage Park. The remaining 10% will be raised by public donation and from the council itself.

As well as bringing it back to life the project aims to make the park accessible to all and to increase the range of activities to be enjoyed there.

Chris Packard, chairman of the Friends of Hermitage Park said: “We are delighted with the award.

“It starts another major improvement project for Helensburgh and when completed Hermitage Park will become, once again, a popular magnet for residents and visitors alike and a tremendous asset for the town.

“Whilst celebrating its unique heritage, the park will also meet the needs of twenty first century Helensburgh.”

Hermitage Park was created in 1911, from the grounds of the now demolished Hermitage House and extended in 1919 to include the former Millig Mill.

The park takes its name from the Hermit’s Well, a Victorian garden folly containing a spring and reputed to have therapeutic powers.

This project was initiated in 2010 when a few local residents expressed concern about the park’s deterioration of Hermitage Park over many years from aspects of both maintenance and safety.

The gardens look set for a new lease of life.
The gardens look set for a new lease of life.

The Friends of Hermitage Park Association set about tackling some of the park’s problems through a programme of action days, with the council helping clear overgrown areas, open up the Millig Burn and clear flower beds.

Although this produced a noticeable improvement it was clear that further action was needed.

The council and the Friends submitted a joint application for grant funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund in February 2013, but it was turned down.

Despite this lack of success and in view of the warm reception the application received, a second and improved application was submitted at the end of August 2013, which has now been accepted

The council’s policy lead for amenity services Ellen Morton said: ‘“This has been a real partnership project between the council and the local community, by way of the Friends of Hermitage Park Association and is a great example of Argyll and Bute Council’s commitment to engaging with our local communities

“This award is a very promising indicator of future success and everyone Helensburgh will be wishing the project well at the next stage’’

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in Scotland, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to start the New Year with good news for Hermitage Park.

“The only urban park in Argyll and Bute, it contains some outstanding remnants of the area’s history.

“But it’s not just because of its heritage that we have given this project our initial support. Its transformation and the introduction of new events and activities will make a huge difference to the quality of life for the people of Helensburgh as well as bringing a new confidence to the town for the year ahead.”

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