Governance At Gunnersbury Park Museum

The Friends discuss the planned management changes

Related Links

View of the Round Pond at Gunnersbury Park

(View of the Round Pond at Gunnersbury Park, which will host boating once again)

Another Boost For Gunnersbury Park Restoration

Latest On Gunnersbury Park Restoration

Sign up for weekly email newsletters from,, and

As Gunnersbury Museum has closed for renovation works until 2017, the Friends of Gunnersbury have highlighted some of their concerns over the proposed new way of managing the Museum.

The closure will allow the £21 million refurbishment of the Park and facilities to get underway. The entire collection of the museum is to be put into storage and the premises will be closed to the public.

The proposal now agreed by both Ealing and Hounslow Councils is to establish a Community Interest Company, a body of Directors drawn from council nominees and members of the public, wi th particular skills, experience and interests.The establishment of a new governance model was a requirement of the HLF grant.

However in the latest issue of their magazine, the Friends have highlighted potential challenges and difficulties involved in having a CIC.

They say that the CIC is a new and untried model and presents various risks-perhaps the biggest future hazard for this scheme is the “democratic deficit”.

"The CIC will be a private company, with no formal obligation to engage with the public and the users of the Park and Museum."

It would be a company (with a memorandum and articles of association) registered at Companies House, “for the benefit of the community”. It would not be a charity registered with the Charity Commission and would not get the tax benefits of a charity.

The following is the text of the article in the current issue of the Friends magazine:

The expectation is that it (CIC) would exist as a shadow organisation until the Councils have completed the two HLF-funded projects, and then in March 2017 it would take over the running of the estate and the employment of the people working in the Museum and the Park. It would receive financial support from the two councils - both Councils have had to agree to maintain the restored estate for 25 years.

"The next news we expect on the CIC is for a draft of its memorandum and articles to be approved by the Councils. This will be important because it will provide a description of its objectives and the powers it intends to take to discharge them; it will effectively be the constitution of the new body. We then expect an advertisement to go out for Directors, though this may happen the other way round - Directors recruited before formation – so they can have a say in writing its constitution. The timetable is intended to be the first quarter of 2015.

"This CIC is a new and untried model and presents various risks. The number and power of members is an issue – a CIC can be formed with the number of members limited to the number of Directors, and Directors can have the power to appoint or re-appoint – so the model of a large membership annual general meeting need not be used. Directors can draw salaries. Fortunately, a company limited by guarantee has no shareholders wanting dividends. If the business plan for the estate is too optimistic and if the Directors are not able consistently to commit the time and energy, then a CIC is going to be hard to rescue. Residents of Hounslow have lived through something similar with Community Initiatives Partnerships which ran its leisure and cultural services.

"Perhaps the biggest future hazard for this scheme is the “democratic deficit”. The CIC will be a private company, with no formal obligation to engage with the public and the users of the Park and Museum. Of course, it would be foolish not to do so, but its meetings and records will be confidential and we will learn of its intentions through its announcements. This is especially troubling because there seems to be no long-term future for publicly-funded non-statutory services through local authorities.

"The hope for Gunnersbury will lie with the people who visit it and enjoy it, who engage with it and feel responsible for it, whose lives have been enriched by the Park and the Museum. To ensure longevity, the Directors are going to have to be very clever in handling notions of ownership and commitment between themselves and the public.
When the CIC takes over running the estate in 2017 the 1960s agreement between the councils will be terminated.

"At their last meeting the Gunnersbury Park Joint Advisory Committee (of councillors) requested that the Panel should remain in existence until this 2017 handover.
In the meantime, a second body has been formed. This is the Gunnersbury Museum & Park Develop-ment Trust (DT); a company has been formed in this name but it has not yet been registered as a charity. It will be a fundraising body and the papers relating to the funding strategy show that its first task will be to raise £1,470,000 towards the Museum restoration project. The two councils have recently invited applications for trustees. The following text comes from their formal announcement:

"Up to four appointments will be made to join the board of what will be the Gunnersbury Museum and Park Development Trust. Trustees will play an important role contributing to the multi-million pound redevelopment; ensuring the Grade II listed, 186 acre site fulfils its potential to become a major heritage destination and community asset. Trust members will be expected to use their skills and networks to raise donations and funds to help conserve, transform and make more accessible the heritage, landscape, park land and sporting legacy of the estate. The Trust and its members will be supported by the combined professional bid-writing team from Ealing and Hounslow Councils. Applicants will need to demonstrate a commitment to West London, passion for Gunnersbury Park and its spectacular heritage and have the ability to network and raise funds. As the Leader of Hounslow said: “The role will require heavy-duty fundraising skills”. Read more about this at, but if you wish to apply, don’t delay – despite Christmas, the deadline is 5 January.

"Drawing on earlier documents about this Development Trust, we expect the aims and objects to be something like: “The Development Trust will advance the educational, community and public benefits at Gunnersbury through fund-raising for activities and projects related to Gunnersbury. The Trust has been established for public benefit to advance education, the provision of facilities at Gunnersbury available to all sections of the community and other charitable purposes consistent with these aims.”

"These aims would be similar to those of the Friends, which are: “a) for the public benefit to secure the preservation, protection and improvement of Gunnersbury Park and buildings of historic interest therein, b) to advance the education of the public in the history, geography, natural history and architecture of the park, c) to advance the education of the public by promoting, supporting, assisting and improving Gunnersbury Park Museum, and d) to provide, or assist in providing, facilities for recreation or other leisure-time occupations in the interests of the social welfare of the public.”

January 9, 2015

Bookmark and Share