Community turns slum clearance to parkland – Sheffield Telegraph

Posted on May 15, 2010 by

Published Date: 29 April 2010

“THIS is the best thing that ever happened here,” says Peter Holland, looking out over the rooftops and minarets of south western Sheffield.
“It’s a lovely place to walk in and these lads do a grand job looking after it and improving it every day.”

Peter goes for a walk in Heeley Millennium Park every morning following advice from his doctor and remembers how the hillside has changed from rows of terrace houses, then a slum clearance wasteland knocked down for a new road that never came and then finally a park, put together thanks to the inspiration of local residents and the Heeley Development Trust.

“It’s unrecognisable compared to what it was,” he says. “Now you can’t do nothing better than go for a walk round here.”

Every morning Peter has a rest at the viewing platform above the Heeley white horse carved into the hillside.

As he talks, several gardeners are hard at work clearing litter and weeding nearby, formerly unemployed young men from around the city getting themselves back into work via an employment scheme based at the park.

Heeley Development Trust director Andy Jackson has been “scrabbling money together” as he puts it for the Millennium Park for years.

When the council granted a 125 year lease to the trust for the former slum clearance land around ten years ago, it was a mixed blessing: the park still needed maintaining, weeding, planting and developing according to how locals wanted it to look.

But at the start of this month, news finally came that the park had been awarded nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund Community Spaces programme.

“When I heard we’d got it, I actually cried,” says Andy. “It was a team effort of two years’ work, so I was really chuffed.”

The Heeley Millennium Park will become an official flagship for the Community Spaces programme, says Andy, and the idea is that the refurbished park will attract visitors from all over Yorkshire and Humberside (and possibly further afield).

“We’ve got lots of projects planned and people will be able to come to see how community parks can be maintained and what can be achieved,” says Zander White, Millennium Park development worker.

The original consultation with locals showed that people wanted a park that was 50% formal and 50% wild, says Andy.

Two thousand trees planted over the last ten years have now grown into proper woodland areas with daily jays and occasional visits from incongruous urban visitors such as pheasants and partridge.

The new community orchard planted in February will eventually provide locals and passers-by with apples, pears, damsons, strawberries, raspberries and cherries and the fruit tree leaves will also provide a ‘carbon sink’ to help clear some of the pollution (and carbon) from the nearby commuter roads.

Everyone likes community green spaces but the challenge is to make them pay for themselves, says Andy Jackson.

The plan in Heeley is to help cover the upkeep of the park by using the trust’s work on local buildings including the development of Anns Grove school and turning the buildings in Ash Tree Yard into a base for small local businesses.

The latter proposal still needs planning approval but he adds the time is right, now everyone’s election manifestos are talking about community empowerment.

“We want to provide a base for all the local people who are trying to set themselves up in business and at the same time generate enough income to cover the basic maintenance of the park.”

Local businesses means people within walking and cycling distance, he adds.

The incontrovertible fact is, that if the park is to continue to provide a beautiful green space for the local community it needs paying for, Andy Jackson says.

Peter Holland adds that the park – and Heeley City Farm – have made a huge difference to the improvement of the area. “Houses are flying over here now. A friend of mine only had their house up for two weeks and it was gone.”

He takes a last look at the spring landscape from the Heeley downs and begins his walk home.

“I’ve lived here 54 years and I’ve seen a few changes. I remember looking at this area from the bus and it was just a load of bricks. I’d never in a month of Sundays think it could look like this.”

A residents’ campaign to create a park and orchard in their neighbourhood is paying off handsomely.David Bocking reports


The Big Lottery Fund grant will be spent over two years and the new work will begin in earnest this autumn (the park is already developing a new community orchard site near Albert Road funded by a separate grant from the local area assembly).

Proposals for the refurbished nine acre park include:

– Revamped playground including natural play areas (including trees), swings and an adult exercise trail;

– A new ‘boulder field’ for climbing to include four or five boulders designed for different climbing levels, including real and man made rocks. A ‘mini Fontainebleau’ says Andy Jackson, referring to the famous French climbing region;

– Solar powered lighting to make the park feel safer at night;

– Overhauling flower beds to provide more colour and lower maintenance planting, including more wildflowers;

– More festivals and events on the top field, possibly including music and beer festivals involving the Sheaf View pub.

– A ‘Not Shore’ mountain bike trail including balance beams and jumps.