The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has hit back at suggestions that the near-complete £6.2m restoration of the first public park in the UK, funded by the body, is a failure.
East Midlands in Bloom judges criticised Arboretum Park in Derby for its “completely municipal” planting. Judge and former parks official Geoff Spate said: “For many years, Derby had a good reputation for parks, but the city council’s hand has been forced by the HLF.”
Former city parks and recreation officer Frank Constable added that there was no imagination used in the planting.
But HLF senior grants officer Jeremy Fenn replied: “We’re ann-oyed — and so is the council.” He said the judges may have mistakenly thought the restoration recreated a late Victorian garden, rather than the 1840 John Loudon design.
He added that because the project faithfully held to Loudon’s original plan, the absence of bright colour in the planting could be considered unimaginative.
A parks ranger, who did not want to be named, said the judges were not supposed to judge the park, but simply to look at it: “They totally trashed everything.
“I have no idea why they said it. It was definitely money well spent.”
Lincolnshire-based Anderson & Glenn researched the council’s HLF bid for the park between 1996 and 1998. Partner John Glenn said it was worrying that people of the calibre of Constable and Spate were complaining.
Glenn added that the row fuelled the debate on whether historically accurate garden renovations were what the public wanted.
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