Historic forest in Hainault left waiting for funds after housing Olympic staff

L-R: Volunteers Martin Purkiss, Gorge Cairn, John Golds and Lisa Gardner.

L-R: Volunteers Martin Purkiss, Gorge Cairn, John Golds and Lisa Gardner. - Credit: Archant

A “neglected” ancient woodland in Hainault, which housed 4,000 Olympic staff, has been “left in limbo” after the council “dragged their heels” on informing the park it would get £250,000.

Volunteers believe Redbridge Council has shown a “lack of commitment” towards Hainault Forest Country Park (HFCP), Romford Road, after it was paid £650,000 by Snoozebox for housing security personnel there.

There had been “rumours” of a larger sum on top of £50,000 for “superficial” improvements, but no one had been told for certain.

Member of the Hainault Volunteer Steering Group, John Golds, said: “We have never been told that we would definitely be receiving any money on top of the £50,000. If we got the full amount we could make a significant difference to the farm and park.

“It was the park and visitors that were inconvenienced last summer so something should be given back.”

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Vision Redbridge, which runs the council’s leisure services, has designated the money to be spent on CCTV, new fishing areas, benches and signs as well as a number of other improvements.

Mr Golds said: “I can sense the frustration from everyone about the lack of commitment from the council. It has an opportunity to do something here, as the park is starting to look sad and neglected.

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“It has taken this long to get this money, now we will have to wait even longer for a decision.”

Volunteer Anita McCarthy said: “There have been rumours that some money would be coming across, but it has been such a long time, the park was left in limbo. The council have really dragged their heels.

“It seems as if they have been shamed into giving the park the money it was owed. Staff have been unable to make any plans because no one knew what was happening.”

A council spokesman said: “There has not been a delay in the park receiving the funding. The Friends Groups, volunteers and staff are aware that there will be an investment of £285,000 into HFCP but before this can happen, the development options need to be considered.

“These options involve looking at the long term plans for the farm/zoo, visitor centre and associated buildings. Managers have spent time looking at similar facilities in neighbouring boroughs to see what is out there in the market.

“Most importantly, the park users will need to be consulted on the long term development over the next few months.”

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