Call for closure of playing fields to be delayed until after lockdown

Some local residents are calling for the closure of a park to be delayed as the open space is more important to them than usual during the current lockdown.

Browns Lane playing field, near to Summerfields and Adlington Road, closed today (June 1st) and will remain closed to the public until the autumn or winter of this year whilst construction works are carried out.

Ansa's scheme to improvement the playing fields at Browns Lane includes the provision of a path network, a new play area, a new drainage system, a multi-use games area (MUGA) and a football pitch, as well as new seating and fencing. The proposed play equipment includes a basket swing, spinnee roundabout, turtle springer, two multi use climbing units and cradle swings.

A resident of Thistledown Drive said "These construction works have been mooted for years. Just when lockdown restrictions are easing and the public are being encourages to take exercise outdoors, why do Cheshire East decide to close down a park with two days notice?"

Another local resident who regularly visits the park said "Public open spaces have never been more important than they are right now. Even those of us lucky enough to have gardens still need to have room to play, exercise, and meet friends whilst maintaining social distance.

"Though the plans to improve the park are known in the area, the closure over the summer came as quite a shock, with very little notice. We are worried that local people will travel to other open spaces such as the Carrs, and exacerbate the overcrowding seen over recent days, or gather in gardens that are too small to safely accommodate groups. In light of the need to maintain social distance, we would welcome a rethink on the timing or phasing of the park works."

She added "Having looked at the proposed layout, it seems perfectly feasibly to implement the works in phases to keep at least half the park open to the public. There are at least two vehicular access points and so a phasing plan to segregate the construction activities is absolutely possible."

In response, a spokesperson for Ansa Environmental Services said "Unfortunately we will not be able to phase the works to partially close the site. There will be large and dangerous machinery on site and more than one activity going on at once to enable us to develop the site within the proposed time scales and whilst working within the distancing guidance issued by the government.

"I appreciate that the timing of the project is not ideal, however, the site suffers from terrible water logging during periods of wet weather and we need to take advantage of the recent good weather while we can. This will enable us to put a system in place to start positively draining the site if the weather should turn.

"A good local alternative greenspace is Bollin Park just off Adlington Road."

Updated: Tuesday, 2nd June

Councillor Toni Fox, Dean Row Ward, said "This open space serves a large, and increasing, number of residents in the local area and over the last 5 years I have been contacted by many residents, on numerous occasions, wanting to know when the improvements would be implemented. Following planning permission in late 2020 it was anticipated that work would start on site last month.

"I am aware that some residents are concerned about the closure of the site however on balance, as the country moves out of lockdown and more travel for exercise is permitted, the decision was made to implement the scheme now, rather than postpone it for 12 months. The heavy machinery that will be needed on site cannot operate in heavy waterlogged conditions and to ensure that the significant and lengthy works can be completed in the shortest time possible the only option is to start the work in spring/early summer.

"I do appreciate and sympathise that this will cause inconvenience and disruption to residents in these difficult times, however the overall feedback that I have had from residents who I have spoken to supports the decision to start the works now rather than delay it until 2021.

"Whilst I had hoped that areas of the site could remain open during the works, unfortunately I have been advised that the site will have to be closed to the public for health and safety reasons. It is estimated that the closure will be for approximately 22 weeks however this will be dependent on a number of factors including potential unforeseen issues when work starts on site, the weather and any revisions made to the current Government advice on social distancing."

She added "The installation of a sustainable drainage system will be the first stage of the process to improve drainage across the entire site, this will incorporate a fenced wildlife pond in the central area that currently regularly floods.

"The improvements will also include an accessible path circumnavigating the site, suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs, seating for rest and relaxation, a play area with many inclusive play opportunities, a multi-use games area and an informal natural turf 'kick about' pitch.

"The project is being funded entirely from S106 Contributions (legal agreements) from developments that have taken place over a number of years in the Dean Row area that were secured, and can only be used, for this specific project.

"Whilst I understand and acknowledge the concerns raised by some residents in these difficult times, at the same time I am finally, after 5 years of campaigning, very much looking forward to seeing the transformation of this underutilised, and often inaccessible and boggy field, into a neighbourhood park that is suitable for people of all ages, all year round."

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Browns Lane
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

John Fallows
Wednesday 3rd June 2020 at 4:19 pm
Yes it's a pain but everything that Toni Fox says is reasonable and sensible and impossible to argue with. As anyone will be very aware if they have made the mistake of trying to cross the field when it's wet. Given the hot weather the fact that the pond has only recently dried up tells you all you need to know.
Paul Maddock
Wednesday 10th June 2020 at 4:04 pm
So, close a park, during the summer months, when children are not in school and in need of play areas, when more people are taking outdoor activity and using open spaces as well as just generally being outside more (respecting social distancing of course).

As an alternative, delay for a couple of months, to September or October, when children are back at school, the nights are closing in, dog walkers and other exercisers are generally sticking to better lit areas and all parks / open spaces are less in demand and less used.
In addition, this would be the best time of year for the initial works on the drainage to be carried out - when it is wetter - what is the point of installing drainage in summer only to find out it is not sufficient for the needs of Autumn/winter, and having to close the park again to remediate.

Its not rocket science - allow the space to be used when demand is highest, carry out works when demand is lowest...... or maybe its just me??

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