'Forgotten' Leyland playground to undergo £200K decontamination ahead of huge facelift

A playground in Leyland is inching towards a revamp longed for by locals after plans were revealed to remove a contamination risk uncovered on the site last year.

Friday, 18th June 2021, 12:49 pm

It will cost South Ribble Borough Council £200,000 to make the plot on Bent Lane completely safe after it was found to have had an historic use as a landfill.

However, the remediation looks set to be the final hurdle in a three-year battle by residents to breathe new life into the play area in a park known locally as Strawberry Valley. It was last fully refurbished back in 2002 and the equipment available has gradually been reduced to a tyre swing and some basketball hoops.

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How the new playground in Strawberry Valley Park will look (image: South Ribble Borough Council)

South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet has now approved plans to spend £145,000 on new kit to create inclusive play spaces for children aged 2-6 and 7-12, along with a ball court games area. Members also recommended that a forthcoming meeting of the full council gives the go-ahead for the decontamination work to be carried out beforehand.

The Friends of Strawberry Valley Park were successful earlier this year in their bid to secure £30,000 from the Lancashire Environment Fund to go towards the refurbishment aspect of the project.

Jo Hindle-Taylor, one of the founder members of the group, says that it finally feels as though the facility is no longer “the forgotten playground”.

“There’s an immense amount of support for the park now. I think when members of the community show how much something is needed, it really can become a reality – support from the community can really pay off,” she said.

The equipment is in need of an upgrade at the Strawberry Valley playground - and it could happen before the end of the year

Fellow friends group member Nicky Peet added that everybody involved in the campaign was “over the moon” that work was finally poised to begin.

“Our community is getting more and more excited as we go along and I cannot wait to see the looks on children’s faces when they see the final outcome. It’s something we’ve all worked hard together to achieve.

“[The cabinet decision] means that we are on track for the timescales in place. Procurement of equipment can begin sooner rather than later to ensure there are no hold-ups further down the line – and as soon as that remediation is completed, it’s all systems go,” Nicky added.

The Post understands that it is hoped the clean-up can be completed in around two months, with the new playground in place before the year is out.

Jo Hindle-Taylor and Nicky Peat have been pressing for the park to get a refurb for three years

The remedial work will include the installation of a layer of ‘clean’ soil over areas where chemicals have been identified to ensure that the current small risk is entirely removed. A sheet of high visibility specialist material will be placed below the new earth layer to warn anybody who disturbs the site in future that it is potentially contaminated.

Cabinet member for finance Matthew Tomlinson told the meeting that ground investigations had revealed issues that could not just be ignored.

“We have a duty of care to people who currently use [the site] and certainly to the young people we want to be playing on there in the future.

“I was brought up on Bent Lane and I can see the famous blue bridge from my back garden where I live now – but even I had no idea that this site had previously been used as a landfill site.

The playground sits within a park off Bent Lane

“There was some local consternation when the previous Conservative administration back in 2018 decided to consult on the future of this play area with a real possibility of allowing at least some of the land to be made available for housebuilding," said Cllr Tomlinson.

He also praised the friends group for the "great job [they] have done" and paid tribute to ward councillors Sue Jones and her late husband Ken for their “unstinting” support for the project.

Jo and Nicky expressed the group’s mutual gratitude to the authority.

“I have nothing but good things to say about our local councillors,” Jo said.

The £200,000 cost of the decontamination work will be met using £61,000 worth of contributions from developers who have built houses in the borough and agreed to fund local infrastructure projects, with the rest coming from a form of long-term borrowing.

A consultation was carried out earlier this year into the kind of equipment residents wanted to see in the play area. New seating is also planned for the wider park.