Pledge to protect Leyland green spaces from future development

Protests took place at Strawberry Valley on Bent Lane at the prospect of it being used for affordable housing
Protests took place at Strawberry Valley on Bent Lane at the prospect of it being used for affordable housing

Two small Leyland parks will have their long-term futures secured after plans were unveiled to protect them from development.

The open spaces on Bent Lane and at Balcarres Green became the focus of a major public consultation earlier this year after the then Conservative administration at South Ribble Borough Council said that it was investigating the possibility of releasing the sites for affordable housing.

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Residents were invited to drop-in sessions where they laid out their preferences for the plots of land on huge 3D models of their neighbourhoods.

The results of that exercise were not available before May’s local elections, but the Labour opposition group made it one of their main campaign pledges to rule out development in the two locations.

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At the now ruling group’s first cabinet meeting since they took control of the authority last month, members made good on that promise – and also moved to investigate the most “efficient” way of protecting the sites in perpetuity.

“It’s an all round success story for our local communities – they demanded action on these spaces and we delivered,” council leader Paul Foster said.

The Conservative former cabinet member Colin Clark accused the ruling Labour group of "over-egging" the situation.

"When I took over the portfolio for assets in November, I said I would have a consultation with the residents - and this is the outcome of that consultation," he said.

The authority has also pledged to invest £50,000 in each of the two parks to improve what they have to offer. Currently, the Bent Lane site – known locally as Strawberry Valley – is defined by a single tyre swing and some basketball hoops.

The decisions were welcomed by Strawberry Valley campaigner Nicky Peet, who is part of a group which has been seeking funding for new equipment for the popular spot.

“Obviously, we want to say a huge ‘thank you’ and the money that has been promised is a good start,” Nicky said after the meeting.

“However, we have had quotes ranging from £75,000 to £200,000 for the kind of things we want to see brought to the area – so we will still have to look to other sources of funding to make that happen.”

The consultation period meant the group became ineligible for bids which it had already submitted to several organisations – and which could have secured them twice the money now on offer from the council if they had been successful. Some of the applications were one-time only opportunities.

“Our hearts and souls – and a lot of time – have gone into this, so hopefully the council will now also support us in making fresh applications,” Nicky said.

“Lots of what is in Strawberry Valley currently is in disrepair, so that should be replaced anyway. A lot of equipment has been taken away over time and we just want to see it replaced – it’s not like we’re setting out to build to Camelot.”

The results of the consultation have also now been published, with three themes emerging – improving nature in the area, creating play areas for children and making the sites more accessible.