Work is about to start on the £3 million refurbishment of the battered riverside park at Potters Fields.
With the growing popularity of the SE1 riverside as tourist destination and the recent More London development to the west of the park, visitor numbers have expanded rapidly and are now estimated to be in excess of one million annually.
Crowds gather in Potters Fields during David Blaine's endurance stunt in Summer 2003
The works to the park have essentially already started as the widening of the river path will be completed before the main works start on 24 April.
While the extensive renovations are taking place the park area will be closed to the public. It is anticipated that the principal elements of the park will be completed in December 2006 but to allow for the optimum planting season for the gardens and a bedding-in period for the lawns to establish themselves, the park will reopen at Easter 2007.
The £3 million project to renovate the park will be funded and managed by the Pool of London Partnership, More London and Southwark Council. The new park has been designed by Gross Max landscape architects.
On completion of the works, the management of the park will transfer from Southwark Council to the Potters Fields Park Management Trust on a 25-year lease. The Trust is a new not-for-profit organisation comprising of representatives from the local community, Southwark Council, PLP, More London and the GLA.
"The lease enables us to ring fence funds generated through the park to provide a long-term, high-quality and dedicated maintenance and management service that such a unique local and simultaneously international location demands," said Alan Chapman, Chair of the Tower Bridge and Tooley Street Community Association, speaking on behalf of the Trust.
A twenty-metre seat inlayed with English Delftware patterns – drawing on the site's historic links with the pottery business – will provide new seating.
Closer to Tooley Street, a tranquil area will be established with seasonal herbaceous planting by world famous plantsman Piet Oudolf to provide year-round interest. This section of the park was particularly important to local residents looking for a private contemplative space.
Blossom Square is the name given to a new riverside space planted with blossoming cherry trees. The existing food and refreshment outlets will be replaced by a smart purpose-built facility with outdoor seating.
The Bowl is a sunken lawned area sheltered by trees, ideal for parents with young children. A new kiosk nearby will provide additional public conveniences for the area.
The park will also gain new entrance gates; a new cast iron decorative screen alluding to the park's pottery history will be installed on the Tooley Street side of the park.