Historic nature reserve in Stoke Newington faces uncertain future
- Credit: Archant
A nature reserve faces an uncertain future after the 21-year lease belonging to the trust running it came to an end.
Town hall chiefs are now considering what to do with Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington High Street and have commissioned an external report which considers all options including selling off the park and closing it.
Hackney Council insists that it would not sell the 300-year-old park or close it, but many people including staff and volunteers at the Abney Park Trust, which is still running the green space despite the lease expiring in May, are concerned about what the future holds.
Chairman Bernard Bourdillon said: “We had a 21-year lease to run the cemetery.
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“Our landlord Hackney Council was uncertain what to do when our lease ended and did not know whether they wanted to renew our lease or set up a new management structure.
“We do not know what our future is until we sit down with the council. We are just carrying on regardless. Somebody has got to keep the cemetery running.”
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The trust runs the park with two paid staff members and a group of 15 volunteers, as well as six trustees who also volunteer.
Mr Bourdillon added: “I’m very worried about the future because it’s a park that belongs to the borough of Hackney but the council does not put as much money into it as is needed to keep it up.
“The trust has been raising money on the cheap.
“Improving it will require money from somewhere and there’s a good chance that the council will become willing or able to make that money available.
“Despite its status as a nature reserve, it does not currently have any rangers or a biodiversity officer.
“Managing the trees properly will cost an estimated £10,000 to £15,000 per year.
“My main concern is that we get money to improve the chapel which has been fenced off since last October.
“The grade-II listed chapel, which was built in 1840, is dilapidated and according to English Heritage is one of the top 10 listed heritage assets at risk.”
Mr Bourdillon also raised concerns about the effect of the adjacent Wilmer Place development where a Sainsbury’s store with flats above it has been given planning approval.
He added: “The park is one of the few tranquil and peaceful places in London where you can forget you are here.
“It will be harder to find that peace and tranquillity with a five-storey building looking over you. We still oppose it and will be helping the community fight it.”
A council spokesman said: “The council is not considering the closure or sale of Abney Park Cemetery.
“We are currently undertaking a strategic review into its future management.
“A public consultation is not taking place during the initial stages of the review, however, we are consulting with key stakeholders within the community.”