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Controversial Caledonian Park visitor centre wins go-ahead

Illustrations of how the clocktower visitor centre could look

Illustrations of how the clocktower visitor centre could look

Illustrations of how the clocktower visitor centre could look

Published: 2 December, 2016
by JOE COOPER

THE controversial Caledonian Park project was given the go-ahead last night (Thursday) when almost £2million was pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The park’s Grade II*-listed clocktower will be refurbished and regularly opened to the public for the first time in its history. Free guided tours will offer views across London from its 40 metre-high balcony.

And a visitor centre will be built at the north gate despite more than two years of wrangling between the council and residents over its location. The centre will chart the history of the area and include toilets, a café and volunteers room.

Environment chief Councillor Claudia Webbe said: “I am delighted that HLF recognises the strengths of this project and the invaluable opportunities it offers to celebrate and preserve our history for future generations.

“This clocktower is a jewel in Islington’s crown. The new heritage centre and refurbished clocktower will pay a fitting tribute to the iconic status of the tower and the former market. With the help of volunteers, we can bring this history alive in an engaging way, and put the park and clocktower proudly back at the heart of the community.”

Almost 900 people registered objections with the council before the planning application was approved in May. There were 354 messages of support, along with much backing from schools.

Clocktower Residents’ Group vice-chairman Mike Power said: “Once again our community has been completely ignored. The Heritage Lottery Fund has put £2million into what will be a white elephant as Islington Council will not be able to maintain the £90,000 a year annual costs of running the centre. 

“Our community is very angry at this decision and we will continue our campaign.”

The council is to work with residents on a construction manage­ment plan to keep disruption to a minimum, and also help shape guidelines for managing the centre once it’s open. 

Preparation will now start for the work, which could begin as early as autumn 2017.

The total cost of the project is £2.8m, with the rest of the cash made up of a council contribution of £920,000, including £768,000 from the section 106 developer contributions fund and £33,000 from Southern Housing Group.

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