Here's what happened when Leyland residents mapped out the future of its green spaces
Six-year-old Isabel Hindle-Taylor has plenty of ideas about what do with the green space opposite her home in Leyland.
She wants the site known locally as Strawberry Valley, on Bent Lane, to offer something for everyone.
“I’d like some monkey bars, a big slide and space for my doggy to run around – I don’t want my dog left out,” she says firmly.
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Isabel and dozens of other residents were attending a drop-in session at South Ribble Council’s headquarters – and it was not only the children who got to write a wish-list.
The event was the latest in a series being run by the authority to get the public’s opinion on plans to better connect the borough’s open spaces. But the focus of the consultation so far has been on the future of five sites identified in letters sent late last year to residents living close to them
The authority said it was considering ”appropriate uses” for the land, including the possibility of plugging a shortfall in affordable homes in the borough.
Petitions were raised calling for parks like Strawberry Valley – and Balcarres Green a mile away – to be protected. But the authority insists that no decisions have been taken and that it wants the public to have its say first.
And so it was was that residents living close to Bent Lane gathered around what looked like a giant Monopoly board depicting their own small corner of Small Ribble.
An array of colour-coded cards presented them with options about what they would like to see in the area and any existing problems. The options were wide-ranging and occasionally random – from art clubs for children to wild flower meadows.
Dog mess was highlighted as a particular problem on the Strawberry Valley field, but there was another common theme.
Just in case there was an issue not captured by the cards, blank versions had been provided which residents could write for themselves. Many took the opportunity to register their opposition to housebuilding on the site.
There was widespread agreement that the concept was a clever one – but most were more interested in how the process would influence future decisions.
“If we’re listened to we’ll be very happy – but if houses get built on my green space which I’m overlooking, I won’t be,” said Janice Topping.
But in a sign of the contradictions with which planners and politicians have to contend, she was also keen that more social housing was brought to the borough. “There should be fewer private companies making profits”, Janice added.
South Ribble chief executive, Heather McManus, said the job of the council’s officers was to put the opinions into some coherent form so that councillors could decide what steps to take next.
“The more information we get, the better and the more informed the decision which members can make. It’s important to get as many people involved as possible,” she said.
As two residents mused about the importance of retaining – and improving – Strawberry Valley, they both reminisced about another green space in Leyland which they recalled from their childhoods – a site known as Mayfield.
“That was supposed to be left for the children of Leyland forever, but it was sold when I was at school,” Martin Brown said.
“It was sold from under people,” he added.
“It was an absolute disgrace,” Andrew Bickerstaffe agreed.
It seems when residents in Leyland lose loved areas of open space, their memories are long.