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Bowring Park

Investing in Bowring Park

by Gemma Melling

Bowring Park in Huyton is a well-loved and important local attraction of historical significance for Knowsley.

It is widely used by residents from both inside the borough and further afield, so it’s important that the council invest in its ongoing maintenance and improvement for the enjoyment of everyone.

It’s recently been reported that Knowsley Council has given the park a much needed cash injection, including a loan to the company that has been appointed to run it. Here’s why the council has invested in Bowring Park.

What has been happening at Bowring Park in recent years?

Bowring Park has benefited from extensive renovations in recent times. £3.7m has been invested in repairing, renovating, and restoring key infrastructure and heritage areas of the site.  The investment included a direct contribution of £1.8m from Knowsley Council.  The council has also successfully bid for funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (£1.9m), the Landfill Trust (£50,000), and £25,000 from the Government’s Pocket Parks Fund.

Following the collapse of the private sector company which previously ran the golf course in 2018, the council stepped in to run the golf course itself – saving the employees from redundancy and also ensuring that the popular golf course – which is one of the oldest municipal courses in the country – could continue to operate. The council had no budget to run the golf course itself, and has since 2018 had to find £464,000 to keep it open and available to the public. This was always an interim measure until an operator with specialist skills could be found to run both the golf course and Bowring Park.

What are the plans for the future of Bowring Park?

The council is committed to securing the future success and sustainability of Bowring Park. Following a tender exercise completed in 2021, the council’s Cabinet agreed on 13 October 2021 to appoint Oneday Limited to become the Managing Agent for Bowring Park.  Oneday will take on the responsibility of running both the golf course and also the whole of the Bowring Park site. They are expected to complete the handover process very shortly, and will be signing a lease agreement, which will in turn enable them to generate significant sums for investment into the site.

Why can’t the council continue running Bowring Park?

Following a decade of Government cuts to local authority budgets, Knowsley Council alone does not have the financial ability to invest in Bowring Park to the extent which the facility needs and local people deserve. The alternative to creating a partnership with a commercial organisation would be to witness the deterioration of Bowring Park, and nobody wants to see that.

Who are Oneday?

Oneday has been appointed as the Managing Agent for Bowring Park following a tender exercise.

Oneday is an independent company established in 2018 and is completely separate from the council. As well as a core team, Oneday work with specialist partners, which they will be doing for Bowring Park.

Oneday is looking at a “whole park” improvement offer which includes:

  • A new club house and golf course improvements
  • A new visitor centre and heritage interpretation
  • Social enterprise development space in the Stables Building)
  • Community gardening in the walled garden
  • New food and beverage offer in the Coach House
  • Events space and activities
  • Educational and training facilities

While Oneday is a relatively new organisation, the people involved in the business have proven experience in commercial retail and leisure management, hospitality services, golf course development and maintenance, community cohesion, and cultural/heritage celebration. They have experience of working on a range of heritage projects, including Conway Castle and an array of church restoration projects across the country, they have developed regeneration strategies for retail, including working with Liverpool One and the development and operation of a food and drink offer in Liverpool.

Where required, specialist partners will also be working with Oneday to drive forward the improvements. Oneday are already in discussions with an experienced golf partner on plans for the Golf Course. They are working with Myerscough College on the educational offer and also working with local community groups including the Friends of Bowring Park to help shape the plans for events and activities at the park.

Why was Oneday chosen as the managing agent for Bowring Park?

Oneday share Knowsley Council’s vision for the future of Bowring Park and the company has the commercial acumen, investment potential, and social and environmental credentials to be able to run the Park as a successful commercial venture and sustainable community asset. Oneday’s appointment followed a robust tendering process, during which the Council carried out due diligence on the company’s proposals, believing them to be realistic and deliverable. Bowring Park has a bright future ahead and Oneday’s plan lies at the heart of that future.

Why is Knowsley Council making a loan to Oneday?

Oneday developed their proposal for Bowring Park prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In view of the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic, Oneday wanted to be certain that they could deliver the financial elements of their offer for the benefit of Knowsley residents during the lease period. To provide them with increased certainty, the council has agreed a commercial deal, including a loan of £535,000 which will enable Oneday to deliver the outstanding heritage restoration works.  This loan will be paid back in full to the council.

Will Oneday be investing in Bowring Park?

As well as fully repaying the £535,000 loan, Oneday will also invest a further £3,461,000 into Bowring Park to provide a new food and beverage offer, a new children’s play area, a social enterprise incubator space, educational/training facilities for Myerscough College, a community event programme, and significant improvements to the golf offer (including a new club house).

In total, Oneday will be bringing around £4,000,000 of investment into Bowring Park. This investment could not have been secured through the council and is excellent news for everybody who uses Bowring Park, and everybody who will use it in the future.

Is this loan making good use of taxpayers’ money?

While any loan comes with an element of risk, the council is satisfied that this is a reasonable and balanced investment in a well-used and much-loved local facility. The loan will be repaid in full, so the money will become available to be used again in due course. It will be followed by substantial further private investment – just as envisaged when this project was first developed.

The alternative was to see Bowring Park deteriorate. Using taxpayers’ money on a temporary basis will deliver the future which Bowring Park deserves.