THE next phase of a £3.5 million project to improve Poole Park will start in the New Year.

From January 14, contractors will dredge areas of the saline lagoon (boating lake) and freshwater lakes to make them deeper. All the dredged material will then be used to create new islands and other features for the benefit of wildlife.

Some of the new features will be created below the water line to allow vegetation to establish.

Research over the last few years has revealed the sluice-controlled lagoon can support rare and specialist species. The increased water depth will provide shelter for fish and insects, and the islands will provide roosts for birds.

Work on the lagoon and lakes is expected to be completed by the end of May.

The sediment from the dredging work will also be used behind rock gabions and boulders to form a new landscaped lake edge. This, in turn, will be planted with shrubs and trees or re-surfaced to replace the existing paving.

Public access around the freshwater lakes will be restricted at various times throughout the works.

From January 21 until March 29, contractors Avon Construction will carry out work on the bridge over the sluice channel.

The temporary scaffold structure and condemned concrete deck will be demolished and replaced with a new fibre-reinforced plastic bridge.

Later in the year, from September until March 2020, work to resurface the Park Drive and car parks will be carried out.

A new shared space will be created at the Seldown Gate entrance, and crossing points will be installed. The ultimate aim is to reduce the dominance of vehicles in the park.

While the number of parking spaces at Westfield car park, near to The Kitchen, will be reduced, Norton’s Gate will be opened up for formal parking for the first time.

And from January 2020, there will be a complete re-design and re-build of the Westfield play area, alongside improvements to Cygnet play area (next to The Ark).

The four-year Poole Park Life project has already seen the restoration of the war memorial and maintenance work at the old swimming pool site at the end of Park Lake Road.

Most of the funding for the scheme (£2.7 million) has come from a successful Heritage Lottery Funding bid.

Martin Whitchurch, Poole Park Life project manager, said there would be opportunities for volunteers to get involved in the project in the New Year. "Ebsford Environmental Ltd will commence dredging of the lagoon and freshwater lakes and make wide-scale landscape improvements, including the construction of new islands, lake edges made of gabion baskets and new accessible surfaces to the lake edge.

"This will benefit both the park’s rare wildlife, such as endangered anemones that live in the lagoon mud, and improve views and access for park users.

"In other works there will be some trees removed around the freshwater lakes and the Rose Garden is being prepared for a new sensory planting scheme, to be opened in April and planted by the garden volunteers. All the details, news, volunteering opportunities and project calendar can be found on the project website.”

Councillor John Rampton, cabinet portfolio holder for environment, said: "It’s great that we’re able to do all these improvement works in Poole Park as part of the National Lottery’s Heritage Grant. "The recent restoration of the war memorial had a really positive impact in the run up to Remembrance Day, which was a hugely successful event. The work that’s being undertaken now is helping to shape Poole Park into an even better public space for the future generations who use it."