Leyland playground plans confirmed - and you can have your say

Campaigners are celebrating after learning that their longed-held vision for a revamp of a playground and park in Leyland will finally be realised this year - and that the project has received a cash boost to boot.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 11:02 am

A group of locals have been pushing for the past three years for the rejuvenation of the facility on Bent Lane, known to many in the area as Strawberry Valley.

The play park has been bereft of equipment for much of the last decade - and is currently reduced to a solitary tyre swing and a set of basketball hoops.

It was feared back in 2018 that the land - which is also popular with dog walkers - could be earmarked for affordable housing, but South Ribble Borough Council has since committed to preserving the plot and investing £175,000 to refurbish it.

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Sad sight - a single tyre swing is the only piece of non-sporting equipment left at the Bent Lane playground

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That prospect appeared to be jeopardised late last year when it emerged that the area would need remedial work because of contamination beneath the surface. However, the authority has now confirmed that the process will be carried out over the summer, with the redesign taking place later in the year.

Meanwhile, the Strawberry Valley Park Supporters Group has also secured £30,000 from the Lancashire Environment Fund to add to the pot being spent on the refurbishment.

The community is also going to have its say on exactly how the area should look as part of a public consultation launching this week.

Jo Hindle-Taylor and Nicky Peet have been campaigning to bring some life back to "Strawberry Valley"

“For me, the most important thing is that the playground brings real benefits to the kids using it, as well as enjoyment - so it should give them mental stimulation or build strength,” said Jo Hindle-Taylor, one of the supporters group’s founding members.

“It’ll be such a great thing to have, especially with kids having had to spend so much time indoors over the last year.

“Now we want to hear everyone’s opinion about what to include - because the more people who get involved, the more fresh ideas we’ll get.

“It's not really sunk in yet that it's finally happening after all this time. My daughter Isabel was only six when we started this campaign and now she’s nine - and when I was getting all excited about the latest news she was telling me not to get my hopes up,” Jo laughed.

The wider park area beyond the playground is popular with dog walkers

It is understood that the playground is likely to target 7-12-year-olds and one of the ideas is for the wider park to have a seating area for older residents.

Group members have spent recent years trying to bring some colour back to the area, regularly planting bulbs to spruce up the site.

South Ribble Borough Council’s cabinet member for finance, property and assets Matthew Tomlinson said that preparatory work on the site should begin in May.

“I’m pleased to say that with the help of a local remediation specialist we have now agreed the most cost effective and safe way in which to treat the land on Bent Lane to ensure it is ready for the future play area development and use by the public.

“The works should take around two months to complete depending on weather conditions once on site. Once the remediation works have been completed, work on the play area can begin.

“We’re also pleased to hear that the Strawberry Valley Park Supporters group have successfully bid for additional funding to go towards the park’s development. We look forward to working with them moving forward,” Cllr Tomlinson said.

The public consultation will run from 22nd March until 12th April and can be accessed here.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

When work on the new play area and park is completed, it will be officially known by the name that many locals have called it for years - Strawberry Valley.

Supporters group co-founder Nicky Peet explains that its origins go back more than a century, to when her ancestors first arrived in what was then a rural area.

“My late grandmother told me how wild strawberries used to grow where the park is now - and the kids used to sneak out in the night with little lanterns and go along the hedgerows, picking them as a bit of a dare.

“Then when they got to a certain age, they were given a vegetable patch for their birthday.

“She used to talk with such fondness about growing up around here,” added Nicky, who says she hopes new generations of Leylanders will be able to make equally happy childhood memories once the refurbishment is complete.