Bloomsbury Squared Programme

Rethinking Parks logo
The Bloomsbury² Programme is looking at new and innovative approaches in the use, operation and management of nine of the Bloomsbury Squares.  We hope that it will also enable local people to come together to support these historic and important features of our local urban landscape.

Like many other public services our public squares are under increasing pressure with limited resources available for maintenance and management. We need ambitious new business models and partnerships to ensure that our historic squares are protected and continue to thrive in the future.  Camden Council is one of 11 ‘park trailblazers’ awarded funding from the Rethinking Parks Programme run by Nesta, the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund to investigate and rethink our approach to managing public spaces.

We are working with local communities, residents, businesses, and the Commissioners and Friends of nine of the Bloomsbury Squares to explore alternative funding sources which could be harnessed to support the Squares in the future. This includes exploring the income generating potential of the Squares, but also recognising the need to retain local residents amenity and to maintain the Squares for public enjoyment.

The nine Squares in the programme

  • Argyle Square
  • Bloomsbury Square
  • Brunswick Square
  • Queen Square
  • Red Lion Square
  • Regent Square
  • Russell Square
  • St George’s Square
  • Tavistock Square 

Baseline Analysis Results

At the start of the project we commissioned consultants Shared Assets to prepare a baseline analysis for the nine Bloomsbury Squares. This analysis identifies the key issues in respect of the use, operation and management of these Squares, and ways in which they could be managed more sustainably. The consultant’s executive summary provides details of the findings and recommendations.

Red Lion Square Gardens

Red
                     Lion Square

We carried out some initial pilot work with the local community in Red Lion Square Gardens to test ideas for sustainable fund raising. A voluntary group of local residents and organisations organised:

  • activities to encourage business support and sponsorship
  • a volunteer community gardening scheme to tidy and brighten up the square
  • work to support Red Lion Square Café
  • local research to identify the history and famous personalities associated with the Square

The group have had some very successful results and they have now formally established themselves as The Friends of Red Lion Square. Contact Chairman Jim Walsh, c/o The Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL or phone 0207 405 1818 for further information.

Bloomsbury Squares Partnership Interim Board

Bloomsbury Square

A Bloomsbury Squares Partnership Interim Board has also been established for all nine squares in the wider Bloomsbury area. This is taking forward the recommendations of the consultants Shared Assets to take a strategic approach to the Squares management and it is exploring a range of differing funding mechanisms to help investment in the squares, including:

BID concept

The Bloomsbury Squares Partnership first explored the potential of a Business Improvement District (BID) approach to raise funding to invest in the Bloomsbury Squares. In theory a Squares focused BID had the potential to raise significant levels of funding. In practice, however, there was insufficient business support to justify going ahead with a Squares only BID – the Bloomsbury Squares did not, on their own, offer sufficient return for businesses to justify investing their monies through the levy process. An October 2015 report (below) by Helen Santer Regeneration Consultancy provides further information on the research into this.

We did find that there was interest in a BID which would tackle wider issues such as public realm, business marketing and networking, however these items are very similar to the offer of already existing BID organisations in the Camden area and it would not have been appropriate to go forward on this basis.

Trust Concept

Work is now being progressed to investigate whether a charitable Trust could be set up for the Squares to assist in their management. The Bloomsbury Squares Partnership have received an initial discussion report on a Trust option and they are currently carrying out further research into this possible approach.

Further information

Find out more here about the national Rethinking Parks programme and the other pilot projects.  

For further information on the Bloomsbury initiative please contact Parks Services Manager, Supporting communities directorate, London Borough of Camden, 5 Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG or email andrew.wright@camden.gov.uk

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