Park Maintenance Update

Site Ownership Is A Key Issue

Site Ownership Is A Key Issue

Five foot high grass,  an ugly clay mound that would not look out-of-place in a mining district,  and dog excrement everywhere, is not exactly what the Friends had in mind for the Park in 2014.   Since last  year we have been trying to get something done about all these issues – and at long last may just be getting somewhere.

Park Ownership

The issue firstly is the ownership of the Park.  As is now known,  the papers that gave Parkinson’s Park to the use of  Parkinson employees and the people of Guiseley, that we know existed, have been lost. However, it is important to realize that the Park was never Council run; it remained in the keeping of Crompton Parkinson.  The Parkinsons brothers had seen Guiseley Recreation Ground, given to the local Council for ‘the people’ around 1918, and subsequently used by the Council for housing in the 1920’s – and they didn’t want that to happen to the Park.   The owners of the Park now are Bellway Homes Ltd; it is they who are responsible for Park maintenance.

At this point another issues comes into play.  When the Council approved planning permission for the Crompton Parkinson site, they did not realized that Parkinson’s Park, was a Park.  They thought it was just wild open space, and thus  continued maintenance of the Park as a community facility was not part of the agreement with Bellway.   It was only when the Friends formed and stepped in because of the anti-social behaviour and deterioration of the area, that Bellway eventually agreed to take on maintenance in 2011.

That arrangement is now more or less at an end, as Bellway Homes were due to handover the ownership and maintenance of the whole housing estate, and the Park,  in January 2014, to Meadfleet, an outdoor management company, (of whom Bellway are a major shareholder).  The Friends are due to have a new arrangement for Park maintenance and enhancement with Meadfleet – we have been trying to negotiate this for over a year.

But, the handover to Meadfleet has not yet taken place, and Bellway are still on site; still the owners.  This is down to a number of issues, not least the poor landscaping at the bottom of the Park where it meets the estate,  which is not compliant with planning permissions.  In addition, Meadfleet insist they will not take on the whole of the estate and Park, until it is left in good condition.   The cost of future maintenance work will be paid for by an annual levy on the residents – (whilst the Friends will fund any Park enhancements).

Park Maintenance 2014

This has all meant that the grass cutting in the Park has fallen between responsibilities; although the Friends have made repeated requests for it to be done; we fully realize that the finding of dog excrement in long grass is ‘difficult’.   We have even contemplated having to cancel the Children’s Gala and Lantern Walk, and have reached the stage where we have agreed to purchase strimmers with our own donations,  so we can cut the grass on the flat top, and the grass paths, by hand.  However, last week, we did get a promise from Bellway that they would use the last of the maintenance money to do two grass cuts this year,  one around 16th July and the other around 21st August.  Then,  if Meadfleet have taken over by then,  they will do one in the Autumn of 2014.

Kelcliffe Lane Dog Bin

There is really no excuse for people to leave dog bags at the entrances to the Park.   The issue of why the dog bin on Kelcliffe Lane has been removed to Oxford Avenue by the Council, has already been discussed – the Friends, and in particular Chris Parapia,  have done their utmost to get it back.   We also got the other bins put around the Park.   Leaving the bag by the gate, means that other people are going to have to give up their time to remove them as the pile becomes a festering heap.  It is up to all users to please act responsibly, there are no council employees who are going to come and do the job.

In regards the future of the bin, there is now an agreement with the Council and Kelcliffe Lane residents to repair the lane as far as Kelcliffe Mount.   This is to be paid for by the residents, as the lane is unadopted.   The main reason for the state of the lane,  which is what stops the Council wagon going along to empty the bin (health and safety !), is  drainage.  When the houses were built on the allotments at the top of Oxford Avenue, the dry stone wall, through which the water drained, was replaced with a reconstituted stone, concreted, wall, with no drainage – result 15 or so years later, is the state of the Lane today

Park Landscaping

The final issue we have been battling is to get the bottom of the Park, where it meets the estate, properly landscaped and left in good condition: this has not been easy!   Leeds Planning did not ensure that detailed landscaping plans were done when they should have been, and, the planner who was negotiating the site, left.  To add to this,  Bellway have used the addition of a mound of clay on the old car-park, to help alleviate issues with surface water runoff.   Issue that were always going to be there as the whole site is renown for the spring water that comes off the hill because of the geology – Crompton Parkinson were forever fighting springs, and you can trace that back to when the factory first got planning permission in 1919.   The Friends did, a long time ago,  suggest a wetland area would be more appropriate as a feature to address the issue, but this was not taken forward.

This mound is unsightly for local residents, does not have enough topsoil for plants to thrive (which is why some of the newly planted trees are already dying) , and is not consistent with levels of the surrounding land.  At each end of the mound the level is out of kilter with the ancient and very useful footpath that goes along the bottom of the Park and which needs reinstating if Mothers with pushchairs or people with walking difficulties are ever going to use this route to school and shops – rather than the noisy and busy Netherfield Road.  And, around the back,  is a deep ditch between the mound and the hill, full of rubbish, and where more rubbish and rodents are likely to gather.

There are also issues with the landscaping at the Nethercliffe end and the Greenshaw end, but going into these would make this a very long post.

Bellway, have made some progress on the mound at the front, and have promised to reinstate the path, (and side levels)  but there are still issues with the ditch and the quality of soil.   We encourage residents of the estate to become involved in this, to ensure you get the quality of surrounds you want and were promised.   There is, we believe, a local residents association being set up.  The contact of the local Guiseley and Rawdon Ward Councillor who has been dealing with this issue is Cllr Graham Latty, 07973 323105

The Future

So,   whilst the Park unfortunately does look a mess at the moment, it is not for want of the Friends, a group of local volunteers, spending a lot of time and effort trying to improve things.  We would be grateful for more help and for more local people to take personal responsibility to look after the area; as many do in their own way.  There are no council employees going to do it!!

However, every cloud has at least a sliver of silver lining, and the one in the Park,  is that the long grass is no longer the horrible rough grass that grew as a result of the build up of years of dog excrement left there. Mowing over three years has encouraged the regrowth of both wild grasses and wild flowers – so the area is starting to resemble the hay meadows they used to be.  When we do negotiate the maintenance we will take this in account, and leave a flat mown area at the top ,  and cut grass paths down the hillside for greater enjoyment.   This landscape has been managed since, probably, Anglo Saxon times, and maybe even before.  It is now up to us to move it into its next phase.  Please help us do that, it is everyones’ responsibility to look after this asset if we value it .

About Jennifer Inskip Kirkby

Director and Vice Chair of Friends of Parkinson's Park CIC, Chair of Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum and Facilitator of Inskip One-Name Study. Has a degree in Local History (University of Cambridge), and Economics (University of Leeds). Now retired after a career as a Business Analyst and Advisor.
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